Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism
Arrogance at Apple
CNet: Apple suit foreshadows coming products.

Apple on Tuesday sued the publisher of Mac enthusiast site Think Secret and other unnamed individuals, alleging that recent postings on the site contain Apple trade secrets, according to court documents seen by CNET News.com. The suit, filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Calif., aims to identify who is leaking the information and to get an injunction preventing further release of trade secrets. However, in filing the suit, Apple identifies specific articles that contain trade secrets, indicating that at least parts of those reports are on the mark.

This is disturbing on many grounds. Apple claims (see the end of the story) that it's not trying to suppress free speech. Bull. That's precisely what the company is doing here, well beyond keeping internal secrets.

This reeks of corporate misbehavior. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Apple's only legitimate legal beef is with its employees or contractors who are leaking the information to Think Secret and other rumor sites.

I'm fairly sure of this: If the party leaking information to Think Secret had sent it, say, to the San Jose Mercury News or New York Times, and had those publications run the news, Apple wouldn't be suing them. Both have deep enough pockets to defend themselves.

This is my understanding too. Even if the source is "tainted" if a journalist receives the information unencumbered, they can print it. If this were not the case, there would be little recourse for whistle-blowers who usually are breaking some sort of contract at a local level for a higher good. Going after the news site is "pushing around the little guy" I think.

UPDATE: EFF is stepping in to help according to Boing Boing.

UPDATE with links from Donna Wentworth

Copyfight
EFF Is Not Representing Think Secret (Donna Wentworth)

The mistake is understandable. Here's our press release; EFF's clients are the publishers of AppleInsider and PowerPage. It's important to note that the facts in these cases are different.

Update: The New York Times has clearly written, informative coverage [reg. req.]; NewsFactor also has something solid.

Update #2: The legal documents are now up at the EFF site.

Seth's Blog
Is there a future in selling digital words?

Sanj points me to Amazon.com: e-Books & Docs: Just in Time: Sony Talks About PSP [DOWNLOAD: PDF].

This is a special "flash report" from a reputatable firm. It costs $1,500. According to my favorite review:

If you were stunned by the shocking twist ending of "No PSP for the Holidays," well, you haven't seen anything yet! Quite possibly the best sequel ever written, "Sony Talks About PSP" takes everything you THOUGHT you knew about its predecessor and turns it on its head.

One page of data for $1,500.... certainly there is information out there that's worth that much. I think the interesting question is not "who would have the guts to charge this much?" or even, "who is stupid enough to buy this?" but, "are businesses or consumers willing to pay for a report in a medium that they've been trained should be free?"

Nobody has created a viable channel for selling this sort of information in a format like this. I wonder if they ever will.

I have participated in expensive report writing for companies, but usually it's fairly customized and often full of confidential stuff for limited distribution. $1500 for a PDF on Amazon about one product of one company is pretty amazing. I really would like to know how many of these they will sell.

I'll try to see if I can find a copy this week in Hawaii. Since Mr. Idei Kutaragi and Mr. Kutaragi will also be in Hawaii, I'll see if I can make my own version of "Sony Talks about PSP" here.

Maybe I can pre-sell a $1500 paper called "The market-size for $1500 PDFs" and later send the people a list others who ordered it. They can make a little community or something. Hmm... Maybe the list of people who buy the $1500 Sony report is more valuable than the report itself.

antoin@eire.com
GM: a big company blogging

GM's vice chairman now has a blog. According to Neville Hobson, this is the first Fortune 100 company to do this. The interesting thing is not how revolutionary this blog is, but how ordinary it feels.

It's just a website where a guy who makes cars talks to people who buy 'em. They talk about the things car buyers might be interested in - interior trim, cup holders, SUV, insurance costs, the Saturn range, and so on.

It sounds "ordinary" and I think it's great. It really sounds like a voice. I've been trying to get the Sony execs to blog, so this is a timely example. Thanks for the link Antoin.

Update Oct 29, 2019: The Fastlane blog is now offline, but you can read an article about the history of Fastlane and a summary of some of the most impactful posts.

I'm off to Hawaii to the Sony Open Forum. It's a very small gathering of Sony executives, academics and business people who meet during the Sony Open in Hawaii, a PGA tournament. This is the third year I've been invited to go. I really suck a golf. I think I'm the only participant who isn't going to participate in the pro-am tournament. The first year, I promised I would learn to golf by the next year. Last year I made the same promise. I'm returning again, not a single step closer to being good enough to participate.

I've been asked to make some remarks to kick off the session on "Re-examining Threats and Opportunities of the Broadband Age". Here is a summary of what I think I'm going to talk about.

The proliferation of broadband into the home has dramatically changed the way people communicate and consume content. Hollywood and many copyright owners have focused on the illegal file sharing risk of broadband. They have focused on digital rights management technology and laws prohibiting file sharing and the creation of technology which enables file sharing. My view is that the success of the iPod and iTunes has been due to a focus on user experience and marketing INTO this new behavior. Content consumption has become an integral part of communications and community yet most content distribution systems are still isolated. Amateurs are also playing an increasing role in the creation, distribution and promotion of content. This new mode of creation, promotion and distribution of content is increasing diversity and there is evidence that it is increasing the overall market, albeit probably content in the "tail". Sony and others should shift their attention to the "tail" of the market, focusing on enabling new user behavior and increasing overall usability. The key is better services at lower prices, not copyright protection. In other words - great and cheap can compete with lousy and free.

I will also talk about Creative Commons and the idea that Sony should enable all of their devices with open systems to allow the creation, tagging and sharing of free content and that in the long run, the "sharing economy" may exceed the size of the commercial content industry.

Last year I talked about something similar, which you can imagine sparked a lively debate. I'm sure it will be interesting again this year.

Good article in BusinessWeek about the future of the New York Times. (Requires registration.) The Times is facing a crisis.

...NYT Co.'s stock is trading at about 40, down 25% from its high of 53.80 in mid-2002 and has trailed the shares of many other newspaper companies for a good year and a half. "Their numbers in this recovery are bordering on the abysmal," says Douglas Arthur, Morgan Stanley's (MWD ) senior publishing analyst.

[...]

There are those who contend that the paper has been permanently diminished, along with the rest of what now is dismissively known in some circles as "MSM," mainstream media.

[...]

Advertising accounts for almost all of the digital operation's revenues, but disagreement rages within the company over whether NYTimes.com should emulate The Wall Street Journal and begin charging a subscription fee. Undoubtedly, many of the site's 18 million unique monthly visitors would flee if hit with a $39.95 or even a $9.95 monthly charge. One camp within the NYT Co. argues that such a massive loss of Web traffic would cost the Times dearly in the long run, both by shrinking the audience for its journalism and by depriving it of untold millions in ad revenue. The counterargument is that the Times would more than make up for lost ad dollars by boosting circulation revenue -- both from online fees and new print subscriptions paid for by people who now read for free on the Web.

Sulzberger declines to take a side in this debate, but sounds as if he is leaning toward a pay site. "It gets to the issue of how comfortable are we training a generation of readers to get quality information for free," he says. "That is troubling."

What's a platform agnostic to do? The New York Times, like all print publications, faces a quandary. A majority of the paper's readership now views the paper online, but the company still derives 90% of its revenues from newspapering. "The business model that seems to justify the expense of producing quality journalism is the one that isn't growing, and the one that is growing -- the Internet -- isn't producing enough revenue to produce journalism of the same quality," says John Battelle, a co-founder of Wired and other magazines and Web sites.

Interesting perspectives. Would people pay for the New York Times online? Some. I wouldn't. They have some great stuff and I read the paper version of the IHT and the NYT when I'm offline, like on an airplane, but there are so many free sources of information and ways to get to information online that the incremental value added by the New York Times on my news consumption habits wouldn't be worth the hassle and the price. I really believe there is great value in the brand and the organization that is the New York Times, but I'm not sure what the business model is. I'm sure the world is better off with The New York Times, but how do they survive? People can make fun of bloggers, but blogs are growing and the metrics show that The New York Times is not. Is the New York Times the only "MSM" doing poorly or is everyone in trouble?

I've said this before, but I believe there is a role for MSM and that blogging is not a replacement, but rather something that can support MSM by adding more voices, view points and feedback. On the other hand, from a business model perspective, I'm not sure how blogging can help MSM. It's really an amateur revolution and it's probably going to have to look like the sometimes awkward but sometimes successful dance that Open Source does with businesses in order to be successful.

via Susan Crawford (and NOT via browsing BusinessWeek)