By Stephen Downes
April 9, 2003

DREL Project Definition Report
The IEEE Learning Technologies Subcommittee (LTSC) Digital Rights Expression Language (DREL) group has just released an update on its public website. The PDF document is somewhat dry but contains the seeds of a looming conflict. The bulk of the paper describes the process for gathering requirements from stakeholder groups. No problem there. But then in the 'competitive assessment' section it describes four initiatives, two of which endorse XrML and one of which endorses the open standard, ODRL. Though its promoters argue otherwise, XrML is widely perceived to be a priprietary format which will involve licensing fees, anathema for those working on open source applications. And while the language may be a free and open standard, there is little doubt that applications using the language will be required to seek approval. I see no easy resolution to this debate, certainly not while one company thinks it owns the entire concept of DRM. You can push the standards through the industry bodies, sure, but you can't force people to use them. By Juliette Adams, IEEE-LTSC-DREL, April 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Is There Life After Silicon Valley's Fast Lane?
The point of this article is to suggest that not only might the pace of development in computer technology slow down, it should. "Forget Moore's law, because it is unhealthy... because it has become our obsession... because high tech has become fixated on it at the expense of everything else especially business strategy." Well, maybe, but don't bet on it happening any time soon. Bet instead on the widespread deployment - only hinted at in this article - of 64 bit (and higher) processors. Are you ready to upgrade every computer and operating system in your enterprise? Put some money aside - it will hit within three years and will be as fundamental as the switch to 32 bit processors (which brought us Windows 95) eight years ago. Note: because this article is covered by the New York Times's repressive and anti-internet policy, it will disappear in seven days; don't delay, download your copy right away. By John Markoff, New York Times, April 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Canada's Music Industry Fires Anti-Piracy Broadside
A new advertising campaign, sponsored by the Canadian music industry and run on the nation's television and radio channels, will seek to dissuade people from downloading free music over the internet. The campaign's theme, 'keep the music coming,' stresses the idea that "by paying for music, artists can create more music and new artists are given a chance to be heard." That would be nice were it not for the listeners' perception that the music industry restricts, rather than encourages, the flow of new music. The Canadian campaign has more of the carrot, and less of the stick, than its counterpart south of the border. But it will still have to deal with issues like reasonable pricing, reasonable access, and reasonable choice - all aspects in which the industry has historically been weak. By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, April 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Download Fiasco a Downer No More
For those of you who were concerned about Glenn Fleishman, who faced a $15,000 bill for bandwidth after he posted his book online for free, you can breathe more easily now. Fleishman won't have to pay any charges after all, as he pulled the plug on his giveaway just in time, staying under his ISP's bandwidth limit. So it turns out to have been a good - and cheap - lesson after all. By Leander Kahney, Wired News, April 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

There's something interesting here, and I think the site has potential, though there remain some implementation flaws. According to the site, it is an "online resource for education specialists, resources and support ... to support school based, further, higher and lifelong learning across the United Kingdom." The idea is that readers can identify and send a request to educational specialists in different disciplines. I got some page load errors, and I'm not sure a means of sending email to every specialist in a given category won't be misused. But as I said, there's some potential here. By Various Authors, The Joint Learning Business, April, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Big Money Guys
The thrust of this article is to argue that in contemporary children's educational programming, shows that do not move merchandise are pulled from the air. This, of course, leads to suggestions that the purpose of these shows is to promote the product. Network executives and producers are quoted with dissenting remarks, but when half the show's budget is equalled by product sales, it's hard to conclude otherwise. By G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor, April 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

An Analysis of the RIAA's Complaint Against Dan Peng '05
This is a detailed analysis of the RIAA case claiming billions of dollars in damages against a Priceton student it alleges "hijacked an academic computer network and installed on it a marketplace for copyright piracy." The analysis is a point by point shredding of the RIAA case, making the strong argument that the student's system was a search engine for shared files and not a file trading service. "The punch line is that search and transfer are distinct. Transfer, which is necessary for indexing and searching, (the converse is emphatically not true) was supplied by the network's users and their computers long before Wake was established. This case differs fundamentally from Napster's, as Napster also supplied a transfer conduit. Wake-like systems merely catalog the information made available in the conduit constructed by Princeton University and populated by Windows-File-Sharing users with software from Microsoft Corporation." By Joseph Barillari, April, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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