Category Archives: Consumer Rights

MySpace Sucks – Even the NY Times Gets Why

MySpace is trying to tell artists what widgets they can embed on their myspace pages. Think again. The backlash will kill the whole site.
It will be nice to see it happen. (Meaning it will be nice to either see the crappy myspace fail, or a smarter myspace wake up and relax these silly restrictions.)

MySpace Restrictions Upset Some Users

By Brad Stone for the NY Times.

Some users of MySpace feel as if their space is being invaded.
MySpace, the Web’s largest social network, has gradually been imposing
limits on the software tools that users can embed in their pages, like
music and video players that also deliver advertising or enable
But to some formerly enthusiastic MySpace users, the new restrictions
hamper their abilities to design their pages and promote new projects.
“The reason why I am so bummed out about MySpace now is because recently
they have been cutting down our freedom and taking away our rights slowly,”
wrote Tila Tequila, a singer who is one of MySpace’s most popular and
visible users, in a blog posting over the weekend. “MySpace will now only
allow you to use ‘MySpace’ things.”…
The tussle between MySpace and Indie911 underscores tensions between
established Internet companies and the latest generation of Web start-ups.
Without a critical mass of visitors to their sites, many of these smaller
companies are devising strategies that involve clamping on to sites like
MySpace and Facebook and trying to make money off their traffic.
MySpace, meanwhile, is trying to show that it can generate stable revenue.
Google will pay it at least $900 million over the next three years to serve
ads to the site’s users. And last fall, MySpace announced a partnership
with Snocap, a San Francisco-based company, to sell music.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this year, MySpace blocked widgets from Revver,
a video-sharing site that embeds advertisements in its clips, and Imeem, a
music buying service.

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EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry vs. RIAA President Carey Sherman On CNBC

This is from the February 7, 2007 program of CNBC’s Morning Call.

CNBC On Why DRM Should Go Away
(Quicktime – 16 MB)

CNBC On Why DRM Should Go Away
(MP3 – 8 MB)

This story was inspired by Steve Jobs’ recent
campaign to kill Digital Rights Management (DRM) in iTunes
The argument supporting this position was best described when the commentator started off saying:
“Mr. Sherman, your anti-piracy software doesn’t work anyway. What’s the point?”
Long story short:
-DRM is only a hassle for consumers. Real “pirates” hack it anyway.
-DRM doesn’t need to exist for new business models – there are numerous subscription services already without DRM.
-For this reason, a subscription service that doesn’t let you move your music around between your different devices is already “broken” (while also depriving you of your fair use and first sale rights to make legal copies of media you’ve purchased legally).

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PayPal Can Hold Your Money For 180 Days If It Doesn’t Like The Content On Your Website

I had just signed up for a PayPal account too, and was in the process of verifying my bank account. Now I think I don’t want to get involved with these guys.
Mark Perkel learned this the hard way, when PayPal gave his account “limited” status after deciding it didn’t like some of the content on his website. Furthermore, right before it shut down his account, it reversed a deposit that one of his clients had transferred to his PayPal account, but it did not return the money to his client’s bank account after removing it from Perkel’s bank account.
According to PayPal’s User Agreement, (It’s probably the Accessible Use policy regarding adult material that he violated.), if it chooses to make your account “limited,” (PayPal has the authorization to do so at any time based on its own discretion), it can and will hold the funds in your PayPal account for 180 days.
Turns out that money is in limbo until Perkel writes PayPal in a secure email on its website and asks for this to be done explicitly. This is despite the fact that he asked them to do so over the phone. (And why wouldn’t they have already done so anyway? – if they were reversing the transaction, when the money left Perkel’s account, it should have gone back to where it came from.)
PayPal claims that they hold the money for 180 days to “protect ourselves from potential reversals” to the accounts. But there’s a free speech issue here – why is PayPal going around making judgements about it’s customers’ websites anyway? Who’s going to be next? Is your PayPal account something you don’t want to keep too much money in at any one time, since they can freeze your account and hold it up for 180 days?
These are the questions going through my mind after listing to this MP3 of Marc Perkel talking to Paypal.
If you’re listen to the MP3, and in a hurry, the relevant portion is at about 6 min 50 seconds into it. But if you’ve got a minute, listen to the whole thing. It’s pretty interesting.
So Perkel may have violated their user agreement, but closing his account without giving him a chance to take his money out, and then holding on to not only the money he had in his account, but the money his client had transferred to him the day before the account was closed doesn’t seem right.
Marc’s started an anti-paypal website, to let people know about his experience, but I’m not telling you to boycott these guys necessarily. I just want you to know about this so you can make your own decision. Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason why PayPal works for you. Fine.
(This MP3 might also have some great samples in it for you Dee Jay/Audiophile types. Don’t say I didn’t tell ya 🙂
Here’s some information for anyone who is interested in the news story about PayPal and their lawsuit settlement over freezing customer’s accounts:

PayPal settles customer suit

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The EFF Asks: Who Controls Your Computer?

The EFF released the following advisory a while ago. The concerns still stand.
Check it out.

EFF Reports on Trusted Computing
San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Thursday published a landmark report on trusted computing, a technology designed to improve security through hardware changes to the personal computer.
The report, entitled “Trusted Computing: Promise and Risk,” maintains that computer owners themselves, rather than the companies that provide software and data for use on the computer, should retain control over the security measures installed on their computers. Any other approach, says the report’s author Seth Schoen, carries the risk of anti-competitive behavior by which software providers may enforce “security measures” that prevent interoperability when using a competitor’s software.
“Helping computer owners defend their computers against attacks is progress in computer security, but treating computer owners themselves as the bad guys is not,” said Schoen. “Security architectures must be designed to put the computer owner’s interests first, not to lock the owner into the plans of others.”

For the full press release

EFF report: “Trusted Computing: Promise and Risk”

EFF companion commentary: “Meditations on Trusted Computing”

CNET story about the EFF report

Remember To Skip Ticketmaster’s “Print Your Own Ticket” Service

Better yet, skip Ticketmaster altogether, if you actually have a choice. But usually you don’t. Here’s the problem with printing your own tickets:
Ticketmaster gives you an option to print your own tickets on your home printer. It sounds good at first, but let me assure you, it’s just another bait and switch from the “masters.”
Not only does Ticketmaster charge you the same $8.00 service fee (despite the fact that it’s managed to pass on the printing costs on to you and has managed to save itself all postage costs for the transaction), but it also sells large, full color ads on the full page “tickets” that you are required to print out completely (because the “ticket” itself is on the top part of the page, and its corresponding bar code is on the bottom part of the page). So your color ink cartridge takes big hit too.
Entrepreneurs of the world: please oh please overthrow the Ticketmaster regime. It truly sucks.

Info On Microsoft’s Voucher Program (The Result Of The Anti-trust Settlement)

Here’s a clip from KPIX that explains how to claim whatever you might have coming to you as a result of Microsoft’s anti-trust practices. Of course it’s too little, too late. (What a silly question 🙂
Nevertheless, if you are a business that has invested in Microsoft software over the last 7+ years, you could be eligible for some real cash. The vouchers can be used to purchase equipment and software from any manufacturer, not just Microsoft.
Here are more of the details of the $1.1 Billion Microsoft Settlement.
Click here for a settlement form.
KPIX On Microsoft’s Voucher Program (Small – 8 MB)

The Revolution Will Be MP3’d

There’s a revolution going on guys, and it starts today!
Musicians are going to stand up for their right to use the Internet to promote their music.
Listeners are going to stand up for their right to not be spied on and treated as criminals for sharing that music.
Ready, set….GO!
Here’s an awesome MP3 that will serve nicely as its theme song (courtesy of Zug):
RIAA Phone Call

Here’s more information about it
(Thanks, Jason.)
well i recollect the days when music was free
you could tape from the radio, burn a CD
now the RIAA wants to know about me
my address, my number, my ISP
yo, bitches, ain’t we still got privacy?
why the president be lettin’ you spy on me
how many tricks they gonna be lettin you try on me?
trying to be spying on my MP3s
But you protect YOUR corporate privacy
Keep your phone number hidden from the bourgeoisie
Your customers have to play hide and seek
So here’s the number to call if you disagree
why’s the RIAA starting litigations
the cops should be looking for the real perpetrations
the killers, the racists, the rapists
‘stead of fucking with us for saving to our hard disk
raise your middle finger if you feel me loc
these fucking subpoenas are a fucking joke
leave us alone, throw us a bone
like i did with your mom that time at your home
There’s NO SUCH THING as bad publicity
Even if you giving it out for free
So join us in the twenty-first century
Where we find our new songs on MP3s
Embrace the new technologies
Grokster, Kazaa, and P2P
So call this number now, and help them see
And if you call from work, your call is free!
202 is the area code and we’re dialin’
775 and then we be smilin’
0101-1-cary sherman
well isn’t this fun it’s
you know, they’ve never been fair to the bands.
now the riaa takes a stand?
can’t believe we’re getting preached to by the man
so what’s the plan, stan? I’ve got a short attention span.
they’ve gotta change up the music industry
make it all available on MP3
listen to people like you and me
and make us wanna pay a monthly fee
this song is now my lyrical catastrophe
go ahead and grab it, it’s completely free
aint gotta pay a dime to listen to me
So share this song and fuck the industry

Tell Your Reps That Cell Phone Number Portability Is Important To You

Number portability is supposed to kick in for consumers in November, but there’s a chance that cell phone service providers might find a way to get out of it if we don’t remind Congress how important number portability is to us. You can let your representatives know how you feel — and it takes less than one minute to do so — by going here.
(Thanks, Cory)

Ticketmaster Builds Scalping Right Into Its System

That’s funny, I thought scalping was immoral and illegal, and that there were laws against it and stuff. It sure seems like it when the cops arrest people in front of venues for doing so.
I guess it’s OK when a corporation stands to make the profit from such practices.
What I want to know is: how are the increased ticket revenues going to make their way back to the artists? My guess is that they’re not. Consumers will be hit with exorbitant ticket prices (when ticket prices are already too high for many to even go to concerts anymore). So fewer people will go to shows, and that means smaller crowds for artists. Only Ticketmaster stands to benefit from this system. It will keep track of the auction prices. It will redistribute the profits as it sees fit.
The article says that “venue operators, promoters and performers will decide whether to participate,” but I wonder how many artists have enough weight to have any say in the matter. I wish that artists really did have the power to refuse to play concerts using this auction system. Some of the larger acts might be able to do this. It will really depend on which acts care about all of their fans, and which acts only care about their rich fans. Only time will tell.
Ticketmaster Auction Will Let Highest Bidder Set Concert Prices
By Chris Nelson for the NY Times.

With no official price ceiling on such tickets, Ticketmaster will be able to compete with brokers and scalpers for the highest price a market will bear.
“The tickets are worth what they’re worth,” said John Pleasants, Ticketmaster’s president and chief executive. “If somebody wants to charge $50 for a ticket, but it’s actually worth $1,000 on eBay, the ticket’s worth $1,000. I think more and more, our clients – the promoters, the clients in the buildings and the bands themselves – are saying to themselves, `Maybe that money should be coming to me instead of Bob the Broker.’ ”
EBay has long been a busy marketplace for tickets auctioned by brokers and others. Late last week, for example, it had more than 22,000 listings for ticket sales.
Venue operators, promoters and performers will decide whether to participate in the Ticketmaster auctions, Mr. Pleasants said. In June, the company tested the system for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko boxing match at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The minimum bid for the package – two ringside seats, a boxing glove autographed by Mr. Lewis and access to workouts, among other features – was $3,000, and the top payer spent about $7,000, a Staples Center spokesman, Michael Roth, said.
Once the auction service goes live, Ticketmaster will receive flat fees or a percentage of the winning bids, to be decided with the operators of each event, said Sean Moriarty, Ticketmaster’s executive vice president for products, technology and operations.

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