Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Japan has a process where they make boards and inquiry panels to discuss important issues with experts and the public. These inquiry panels are defined by law and are supposed to be an important part of the law making process, but in fact they are often used to diffuse public pressure and just act like they care. I am often asked to join such panels and I find I learn a lot about what is going on and can usually influence the direction ever so slightly. I usually feel this is better than not doing anything, but I am often citied as having been co-opted. In the past, the issues haven't been so important or public so it hasn't really mattered. This time it does.

A month or so ago, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications which is in charge of the National ID that I have been protesting approached me and asked me if I could organize a panel to review the privacy issues around the National ID. I consulted with our protest movement we decided that if the results were made public and we could fund some privacy research, this was probably a good thing. We are now in the process of organizing a global survey of privacy technology, privacy commissioners and other things that would be useful in considering how to set up the Japanese government privacy policy. We hope to create a recommendation about what Japan should do in creating new system as well as what we can do to minimize privacy invasiveness in the current system. So far so good.

Now I have been contacted again, but this time the request is to be on the board of the National ID committee and be in charge of privacy! Apparently this is a request from the minister. (Very interesting since I practically called him a liar on a live national news program where we debated against each other and I think he called me something that sounded a lot like "stupid." Anyway...) It is probably a move to try to co-opt me. I replied saying that I have no intention of stopping my anti-National ID activity or becoming "quiet." I said I would consider taking the post if I was allowed to be completely open and public about what we discussed in the meetings and if I were allowed to continue to protest the National ID. I think that if I were to take such a post, it would negatively impact the movement. Having said that, as we all know from Karl Auerbach's ability to really be a pain in the ass to ICANN as a board member, I think co-opting doesn't work when one is able to be public with one's comments. So I'm thinking about this. If they come back and tell me that I have to stop protesting or I have to keep the meeting discussions confidential, I will obviously say, "No." On the other hand, if I am able to blog everything that is going on inside, I wonder if they will be able to co-opt me. Anyway, this may end up being quite an interesting test for this medium and my blog...

On the other hand, (since I know my investors, board members and employees are now reading my blog...) I probably don't have to time to do the job properly considering the fact that I have a REAL JOB and this whole thing was supposed to be just a hobby... hmm.... And if I focus my REAL JOB too much on my hobby, it compromises my independence... hmm... All this is SO difficult.

This is EXACTLY the point I'm trying to make. Kenji Eno, my Japanese guest blogger and successful game creator wanted to become a musician, but became a game creator instead because there was more freedom in the game industry at the time. People who used to spend their money on CD's moved to spending money on the i-mode data packet bills. Creators and consumers / participants can switch formats. If the music industry continues to suck as a platform, I'm sure people will be happy to move on for awhile until it basically collapses. Music will never go away, but music can be encapsulated in games, karaoke, ring tones, live performances and many other things that are our of reach of the stupid record companies. Record companies are like pharaohs and their pyramids. You can't have slaves anymore on the Net so stop trying to build and protect pyramids!

Hit Charade
The music industry's self-inflicted wounds.
By Mark Jenkins
Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2002, at 8:19 AM PT

2001 may not be the year the music died, but the pop biz did develop a nagging headache, and it's not going away. The recorded-music industry's first slump in more than two decades continues this year; the number of discs sold is slipping and so is the appeal of last year's stars. Britney Spears' latest album has moved 4 million copies - a big number, but less than half what its predecessor did.


Hit Charade - The music industry's self-inflicted wounds. By Mark Jenkins

I just got a call from a Kyodo News reporter asking for a comment about the Ministry of Finance (MOF) leaking (accidentally?) financial metrics on their web page before the official annoucement date. They are apparently going to make some announcement about their mistake and he wanted a quote from me to run in the story. I can't seem to find anything on the web about this. Does anyone know anything? (I thought it was the FSA, but it was the MOF)

Anyway, the comment I made was that comparing Nippon Ham vs. Worldcom the CFO of Worldcom is taken away in handcuffs and in Japan apologies and some shifting around (although I would agree Worldcom is probably worse than Nippon Ham.) is all that happens at Nippon Ham. When US agencies leak information risking national security, it is treason. In Japan, it is just a breach of a confidentiality agreement and the guy might lose his job. When Yamaichi went bust, the CEO cried and the Ministry of Finance which really guided Yamaichi down their path to death, shook their finger at them instead of taking responsibility. My feeling is that accountability in Japan is weak and that the government's use of IT just increases the damage they can cause. Although The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications is creating the National ID, the risk is to be taken at the local government level. I will be interested to see who takes the blame for this FSA botch up. It probably won't have a huge impact on the economy, but releasing numbers before the official announcement date could impact the market.

Since I've started bashing the National ID publicly, every time there is a government screwup in IT, the reporters call me for comments. That's how I find out about the incidents early. Now that I have a blog, I can scoop them. ;-)

This is scary in many ways. On the one hand, the Chinese are trying to "cleanse Yahoo". On the other hand, the RIAA is trying to cleanse the US of Chinese copyright pirates. The RIAA is attacking the Internet backbone. Andy Oram and I talked before about the idea that the Internet may break up into a bunch of networks, each with different rules and much less end-to-end connectivity. It feels like it is starting to happen.

Maybe the great push for connectivity is going change to the great push for division. I guess alternative networks may emerge in the way that alternet emerged to carry the Usenet "alt." traffic, but I suppose this is much harder to do in a transnational context. I have a feeling that the Net may turn into a bunch of separate networks. On the other hand, most of the traffic in China is local within each province, I heard, so maybe it doesn't matter to most people. This push for dividing the Internet may be one of the main hurdles for our push for personal publishing, like blogs who don't have the political power to push through transborder doors when the filters come crashing down. Maybe only Time-Warner will be able to "get into" China in the future... And even then, they get banned every once in awhile.

For Immediate Release: Monday, August 19, 2002
Recording Industry Attacks Internet to Stop Chinese Pirates
Lawsuit Would Extend Great Internet Firewall of China to US

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

New York, NY - The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asked a court Friday to order four Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who maintain the Internet "backbone" to prevent access to a Chinese website that provides unauthorized copies of copyrighted music.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposes the RIAA action because it seeks to establish a precedent that anyone alleging piracy could shut down access to parts of the Internet, resulting in inappropriate shutdowns, undue administrative burden for ISPs, and imperiling the basic principle of unfettered exchange of information on the Internet. "This latest lawsuit, along with the recently proposed Berman bill, demonstrates that the major record labels have declared war on the infrastructure of the Internet in their campaign to stop the digital music revolution," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "The Business Software Alliance and software industries, who have for years battled overseas pirates, have never resorted to lawsuits against Internet backbone providers that is both pointless and dangerous to innocent bystanders."

"We shouldn't be copying the Great Firewall of China here in the United States," noted von Lohmann. "Offering U.S. consumers a compelling, fairly-priced alternative to the black market will stop illicit traffic to Chinese websites far more effectively than dragging ISPs into 'whack-a-mole' Internet blocking efforts."

EFF expresses its concern that attempts to shut down parts of the Internet will spread to "proxy services," like Anonymizer.com, which are crucial to privacy and free expression online.

EFF Media Release: Recording Industry Attacks Internet to Stop Chinese Pirates

A great positive article by Dan Gillmor in his column in the Mercury News. Says some good things. Although I quoted Jun saying this just yesterday, it is 30% easier to sound smart being negative. I think it is significant to try to point out some of the good things going on.

I've been thinking and talking a lot about how consumers are waking up from their semi-conscious state where communication was through buying, voting and rioting to a state where customers could think, act and discuss. Here is a quote from Dan's article that makes this point.

CUSTOMERS AWAKEN: Everyday people are starting to realize that they are not just ``consumers'' but customers -- that is, they are becoming serious participants in the marketplace of goods and services. This is a crucial distinction.

A consumer's role is limited to ordering what's on the menu and paying for it. A customer wonders what's not on the menu, asks for something he or she actually wants and then negotiates the terms.

This awakening takes many forms, but a common one is the customer's empowerment. Technology is the catalyst.

Prospective customers ignore press releases and product pitches. Instead, they are heading to Web sites where they can research the reality and see what current customers have to say.

Journalism organizations watch, mostly dumbfounded, as weblogs and other multidirectional media bring new voices to the conversation. They offer new choices to what I call the ``former audience,'' the people who are now becoming part of the journalism process itself -- to the ultimate benefit of everyone.

Mercury News | 08/18/2002 | Dan Gillmor: Behind economy's dark clouds, here are some silver linings