April 23, 2021

Archives for April 2008

Future of News Workshop, May 14-15 in Princeton

We’ve got a great lineup of speakers for our upcoming “Future of News” workshop. It’s May 14-15 in Princeton. It’s free, and if you register we’ll feed you lunch.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

9:30 – 10:45 Registration
10:45 – 11:00 Welcoming Remarks
11:00 – 12:00 Keynote talk by Paul Starr
12:00 – 1:30 Lunch, Convocation Room
1:30 – 3:00 Panel 1: The People Formerly Known as the Audience
3:00 – 3:30 Break
3:30 – 5:00 Panel 2: Economics of News
5:00 – 6:00 Reception

Thursday, May 15, 2008

8:15 – 9:30 Continental Breakfast
9:30 – 10:30 Featured talk by David Robinson
10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:30 Panel 3: Data Mining, Interactivity and Visualization
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch, Convocation Room
1:30 – 3:00 Panel 4: The Medium’s New Message
3:00 – 3:15 Closing Remarks


Panel 1: The People Formerly Known as the Audience:

How effectively can users collectively create and filter the stream of news information? How much of journalism can or will be “devolved” from professionals to networks of amateurs? What new challenges do these collective modes of news production create? Could informal flows of information in online social networks challenge the idea of “news” as we know it?

Panel 2: Economics of News:

How will technology-driven changes in advertising markets reshape the news media landscape? Can traditional, high-cost methods of newsgathering support themselves through other means? To what extent will action-guiding business intelligence and other “private journalism”, designed to create information asymmetries among news consumers, supplant or merge with globally accessible news?

  • Gordon Crovitz, former publisher, The Wall Street Journal
  • Mark Davis, Vice President for Strategy, San Diego Union Tribune
  • Eric Alterman, Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Panel 3: Data Mining, Visualization, and Interactivity:

To what extent will new tools for visualizing and artfully presenting large data sets reduce the need for human intermediaries between facts and news consumers? How can news be presented via simulation and interactive tools? What new kinds of questions can professional journalists ask and answer using digital technologies?

Panel 4: The Medium’s New Message:

What are the effects of changing news consumption on political behavior? What does a public life populated by social media “producers” look like? How will people cope with the new information glut?

  • Clay Shirky, Adjunct Professor at NYU and author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.
  • Markus Prior, Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Politics at Princeton University.
  • JD Lasica, writer and consultant, co-founder and editorial director of Ourmedia.com, president of the Social Media Group.

Panelists’ bios.

For more information, including (free) registration, see the main workshop page.

Voluntary Collective Licensing and Extortion

Reihan Salam has a new piece at Slate about voluntary collective licensing of music (which was also the topic of an online symposium organized by our center at Princeton). I’m generally a fan of Reihan’s work, but this time I think he got it wrong. His piece starts like this:

What would you do if a bully—let’s call him “Joey Giggles”—kept snatching your ice-cream cone? OK, now what if Joey Giggles then told you, “If you pay me five bucks a month, I’ll stop snatching your ice cream.” Depending on how much you hate getting beaten up, and how much you love ice-cream cones, you might decide that caving in is the way to go. This is what’s called a protection racket. It’s also potentially the new model for how we’ll buy and listen to music.


Now Big Music is mulling the Joey Giggles approach. Warner Music Group is trying to rally the rest of the industry behind a plan to charge Internet service providers $5 per customer per month, an amount that would be added to your Internet bill. In exchange, music lovers would get all the online tunes they want, meaning that anyone who spends more than $60 a year on music will come out way ahead. Download whatever you want and pay nothing! No more DRM! Swap files to your heart’s content—we promise, we won’t sue you (or snatch your ice-cream cone)!

This idea, that collective licenses amount to extortion – pay us or we’ll sue you – is often heard, but I don’t think it’s a valid criticism of collective licenses. The reason is pretty simple: if this is extortion, then all of copyright is extortion. The basic mechanism of copyright is that the creator of a work gets certain exclusive rights in the work. Exclusive rights means that there are certain things that nobody else can do with the work, without the creator’s permission. “Nobody else can do X” is another way of saying that if somebody else does X, the creator can sue them. When you buy a licensed copy of a work instead of downloading it illegally, what you’re buying is an enforceable promise that you won’t be sued (plus the knowledge that you’re playing by the rules, but that is intimately connected to the lawsuit protection). So the basic mechanism of copyright involves people paying a copyright owner for a promise not to sue them.

To put it another way, if you accept our current copyright system at all – even if you accept only a streamlined, improved version of it – then you’ve already accepted the kind of “extortion” that would be used to sell voluntary collective licenses. The only alternative is a complete redesign of the system, more complete even than a voluntary collective license.

Reihan does recommend a redesign. He endorses Terry Fisher’s suggestion of a government tax on broadband access, with the revenue used to pay musicians based on the popularity of their songs. This system has its benefits (though on balance I don’t think it’s good policy). But if you start out worried about strong-arm extraction of money from citizens, a mandatory tax scheme is an odd place to end up.

This is the fundamental problem of copyright policy in the digital age. It’s easy for people to get copyrighted works without paying. So either you forgo payment entirely, or you give somebody the mandate to collect payment. Who would you prefer: record companies or the government?

NJ Voting Machine Tape Shows Phantom Obama Vote

I’ve written before (1, 2, 3) about discrepancies in the election results from New Jersey’s February 5 presidential primary. Yesterday we received yet another set of voting machine result tapes. They show a new kind of discrepancy which we haven’t seen before – and which contradicts the story told by Sequoia (the vendor) and the NJ Secretary of State about what went wrong in the election.

The new records are from three voting machines in Pennsauken, District 6. We have the result tapes printed out by all three voting machines in that district (1, 2, 3). As usual, each result tape has a “Candidate Totals” section giving the vote count for each candidate, and a separate “Option Switch Totals” section giving the voter turnout in each party. We also have the Democratic vote totals reported by the county clerk for that district (and some others), which were apparently calculated from the memory cartridges used in the three machines.

The county clerk’s totals show 279 votes in Pennsauken District 6. The per-candidate counts are Clinton 181, Obama 94, Richardson 2, Edwards 1, Kucinich 0, Biden 1, which adds up correctly to 279. The turnout sections of the three result tapes also show a total Democratic turnout of 279 (133+126+20).

But the Candidate Totals sections of the tapes tell a different story. Adding up the three tapes, the totals are Clinton 181, Obama 95, Richardson 2, Edwards 1, Kucinich 0, Biden 1, which adds up to 280. The Candidate Totals on the tapes show an extra Obama vote that doesn’t appear anywhere else.

(Everything seems to add up on the Republican side.)

The State claimed, in response to some (but not all) of the discrepancies I pointed out previously, that I had misread the tapes. This time the tapes are absolutely clear. Here are the Democratic candidate totals from the three tapes:

Here are the turnout sections of the three tapes:

(These images are all scans – the original documents Camden County sent me are even clearer.)

This is wrong. It is inconsistent with Sequoia’s explanation for the previously-noticed discrepancies. It is inconsistent with the State’s theory of what went wrong in the election.

It’s time for an independent investigation.