The RIAA: the true pirates

It totally amazes me what the RIAA is doing in attempts to retain a clearly outdated business model.

Electronista reports on one of the RIAA’s infamous lawsuits. The interesting thing about this lawsuit? The defendant did not even have a computer!

Combined with the absolutely absurd verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, it makes me wonder what we have come to. And yet the RIAA, like the rest of the copyright lobby, still uses the loaded word “piracy” to describe sharing. And in light of what the RIAA is doing, the hypocrisy is glaring.

Robbing someone for $1.92 million for sharing music? That’s the kind of money pirates take home after boarding and looting a ship. Fleecing the musicians who work their tails off by paying them pocket change for a $15-20 album sale? The RIAA executives should don the eye-patch and a parrot, and fly the skull and crossbones in front of their offices.

The RIAA has a lot more in common with crimes on the high seas than anyone sharing music with friends, or even with random people. This is why the FSF recommends avoiding use of the term “piracy” to describe copyright infringement, and rightfully so.

I think it is unfortunate that those who are against the current copyright establishment have chosen to associate themselves with criminals of the high seas, even glamorizing them.

(Yes, it’s robbery even if one uses the courts to do it.)

Yet more iPhone monkey business from Apple

A Techcrunch article (which references this prior article as well slams Apple yet again for more iPhone App Store idiocy, this time centered around the Hottest Girls app.

It completely confuses me what Apple is thinking here: add parental controls to the 3.0 version of the iPhone OS, then when an application adds nudity to take advantage of this, pull the app from the App Store. Huh?

The addition of a nudity category and then pulling an app that has nudity is at best confusing. At worst, it looks like Apple is entrapping developers, or being selective on what apps get to stay in the store.

I’m not sure I can recommend anyone trust Apple at all for anything anymore.

Miranda warning case headed for SCOTUS

ABA Journal reports on a case headed for the US Supreme Court. The central question posed by the case is this: Do police have to tell suspects that they have a right to an attorney during interrogations?

The case is a felon in possession of a firearm case, which by its nature is usually a cut-and-dried guilty-or-not type of affair. (I was once on a possession of crack cocaine case; we started on a Tuesday afternoon and were done by lunchtime on Friday; contrast this with the O.J. Simpson murder trial which dragged on for most of the summer and part of the fall of 1994.) Even if we get a good landmark decision out of this, I suspect the verdict will stick upon retrial.

I, personally, am hoping the question posed by the case is answered in the affirmative, though I will admit this is something most people should already know.

A flagrant FUD foul on Ogg Theora

Greg Maxwell posted an essay in response to an implausible claim by Google employee Chris DiBona on the WhatWG mailing list. That claim, which can be seen as FUD-filled, in part, reads:

Comparing Daily Motion to Youtube is disingenuous. If yt were to switch to theora and maintain even a semblance of the current youtube quality it would take up most available bandwidth across the internet.

I, like Greg, will concede that Theora has room for improvement, still; Greg characterizes Theora as “competitive” when judging “[b]y conventional criteria” and I would agree.

Greg also states:

I do not believe Chris intended to deceive anyone, only that he is a victim of the same outdated and/or simply inaccurate information that has fooled many others.

Then, he goes on to compare the same video converted to YouTube format versus the same video encoded to a comparable Ogg/Theora+Vorbis file (the Ogg/Theora+Vorbis files are slightly smaller). The reference footage he uses is the first 5 minutes (approx.) of Big Buck Bunny.

I believe the higher resolution Ogg/Theora+Vorbis file to be at least as good as its YouTube H.264 MP4 counterpart; apparently I’m not the only one. (I have not viewed the lower resolution files yet.)

Ogg Theora was in alpha for so long after its initial announcement that many people forgot about it or never took it seriously. As of 2008-11-03, the public release (i.e. production quality) version of Theora is out there; combined with the previous releases of Vorbis, Speex, and FLAC, most needs of unencumbered audio and video codecs are satisfied. The only thing Theora does not do well is high-bitrate/archival-quality video; the future release of Dirac as an Ogg-contained codec is intended to fill this gap.

Some notes for those confused by some of the above:

  • The use of “Ogg/Theora+Vorbis” is a more technical way of specifying what exactly is in a “standard” Ogg Theora file. Theora is a video codec; without Vorbis one would only have a silent movie. It is also possible to create Theora+Speex or even theoretically Theora+FLAC movies.
  • Vorbis is roughly comparable to MP3Pro, AAC (Advanced Audio Codec, used in high-bitrate form on DVDs), and WMA (Windows Media Audio). Vorbis usually outperforms MP3 given identical bitrates.
  • Speex is a lower-bitrate codec used for speech encoding. It can be used with the Ogg container format for storage but is more often directly transmitted over the Internet (via UDP/RTP).
  • FLAC is a lossless codec primarily used for archival purposes. You may find it easier to think of it as a “gzip (or bzip2) for audio.” The reason for FLAC is that Vorbis and Speex are both lossy (the decoded output is not the same quality as the input).
  • Ogg is a container format, similar to AVI, Quicktime, Matroska, etc. In theory one can also embed Theora, Vorbis, etc. in these other container formats; outside of Matroska this is rarely done and sometimes fraught with problems (particularly in the case of Vorbis in AVI).