— Ah TSO — MoCoLo Anung un RamaSteampunk sets and garb, gaseous entities, madcap mythology… and Hellboy himself. All shot by Guillermo del Toro, who made Pan’s Labyrinth. It doesn’t get much sillier or better than this. — Hellboy II: The Golden Army promo site Ah TSO Telco industry regulation is a fascinating mix of the bizarre, technologically ignorant and utterly impenetrable. Take the Telecommunications Service Obligation or TSO for example: this is a piece of legislation that has the objective of ensuring that everyone in New Zealand has access to, err, telecommunications services like voice and dial-up from Telecom New Zealand. That’s a great social objective, and to that effect, millions of dollars have been poured into the TSO through levies on the telcos since the inception in 2001. However, nobody believes the TSO has delivered anything much apart from a slow-moving process administered by the Commerce Commission. Basic phone service is still pricey for New Zealanders (there is no “free local calling”; it costs up to $45 a month) and rural customers are still not being serviced adequately. Ernie from TUANZ notes that the TSO has in fact held back the emergence of competition because Telecom was put into a privileged position. In simple terms, each year, Telecom works out that it has x number of commercially non-viable customers (CNVCs) that it is making a loss on while providing telecommunications service to them. The rort in the TSO is that said CNVCs cannot be supplied by anyone other than Telecom. Where are they? Who are they? Nobody apart from Telecom and the Commerce Commission knows. In some areas said to be packed with CNVCs, there are already other providers in addition to Telecom. Communications Minister Cunliffe took his sweet while to wake up to the above, but noted last year that Telecom has invested less in rural areas than it has received in TSO levies from other telcos. The telco carriers’ forum has recommended that CNVCs become contestable and that this doesn’t have to be done via copper landlines. This is about time, but shouldn’t there be some accountability for the past? What were the TSO levies used on, if they didn’t go towards providing service to the CNVCs? How many actual CNVCs were there? We should be told. — Carriers group want TSO opened to competition — Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum: TSO reform should reflect modern landscape
MoCoLo Where is Tex Edwards? There’s a draft determination out for his hobby horse, mobile co-location, and the former Econet head honcho isn’t around to talk about it. That’s just wrong. The mobile phone industry regulation is another anti-competitive mess, which is why we have a choice of exactly two providers in New Zealand. Mobile co-location means existing providers like Vodafone and Telecom have to give access to cell sites for other providers, like NZ Communications, the company that Econet has transmogrified into. In theory, this means more competition and alternative providers for customers to choose from. In practice, the whole thing is still with the Commerce Commission, so goodness knows how long it’ll take to get it sorted and what actual outcome will be. The final determination for instance won’t be out until November this year. One oddity in the MoCoLo process is the apparent dearth of submissions from Vodafone. Telecom, NZ Communications, Kordia, Callplus, Woosh and TUANZ all submitted on the Standard Terms Proposal. Vodafone seems to be keeping quiet, perhaps hoping that in doing so, it won’t be made to share cell-sites with NZ Communications and maybe also Telecom. For an unprecedented sneak peek at how the regulatory process rolls, check out the PDF document linked to below, plus the others, at the Commerce Commission’s website. I applaud the decision to leave the revision editing turned on in the documents, so that the public can take stock of the complex work and process done by the Industry and the Commission. — The Commerce Commission: Draft Standard Terms Determination — Another link — ComCom issues draft co-location terms
Robert X Cringely The RIAA vs the mothers of prevention The recording industry has finally met its match, and it's one bad mother — or, more accurately, several good ones. The first good mother in our saga is Stephanie Lenz, who posted a 30-second video of her son Holden learning how to walk on YouTube in February 2007. In the background Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" is just audible and the toddler bops gleefully to it. Naturally, Universal Music responded to this almost unbearably cute video by sending Lenz a DMCA Takedown Notice ordering her to remove it from YouTube, claiming it infringed the rights of both Universal and the Artist Formerly Known As. After a flood of bad publicity Universal relented and let her repost the video. But that wasn't enough for Lenz. She wanted to keep the record companies from intimidating other innocent Netizens. So with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she sued Universal Last Friday a federal judge in San Jose rebuffed Universal's attempt to have the case dismissed, calling it a "case of first impression" that addresses an issue not yet decided by any court. One way or another Lenz v. Universal could end up establishing a precedent — by either defending the concept of fair use or affirming the divine right of corporations to do whatever they please under the DMCA. But that's hardly the only defeat the industry has suffered at the hands of a determined mom. Last May, an Oregon court ordered Atlantic Records to pay Tanya Andersen more than $108K in attorneys fees after it wrongfully accused her of being a music pirate. The record company dropped its case shortly before Andersen accused them of hiring investigators to stalk her 8-year-old daughter and pretend to be the girl's grandmother to extract information from her. She's now counter-suing them under federal anti-racketeering statutes. In February 2007, Deborah Foster and her daughter Amanda were awarded $66K in court fees after Capitol Records dropped its file-sharing suit against her. (It's unclear whether Capitol has actually ponied up any cash yet, though.) Meanwhile, the judge in last fall's Jammie Thomas trial says he may have erred in telling the jury that making files available in a shared folder was the equivalent of distributing them illegally, even if no one but the RIAA itself downloaded them. The instruction was key to the jury's fining the mother of two $222K for sharing 24 songs. Thomas may yet get another chance to do battle with the RIAA. In its attempt to terrorise the record-buying public into giving up its file-swapping ways, the record industry has committed all kinds of minor atrocities — from threatening 12-year-old honour students and computer-illiterate grandmas to suing dead people. Remember, this is an industry that had close connections to the mob for decades. They may wear Brooks Brothers suits and sport Harvard degrees, but their tactics haven't changed all that much. It's entirely fitting Andersen chose to sue them under RICO laws originally created to bring down organised crime. Free music has been with us for tens of thousands of years — long before the first cave paintings. The concept of selling music to the public has been with us less than a hundred years. More and more musicians are distributing their own music, even offering it up for free and making money through live performances and ancillary products. If record companies suddenly disappeared overnight, would anyone outside that industry truly miss them? I know of a few mothers who wouldn't.