Don’t Know?

News You Need…

Background: Google’s Journey to the eLibrary

(stock.xchng image)

(stock.xchng image)

What started out as electronic cataloguing exercise four years ago, has ended up as “the biggest book deal in US publishing history” according to the Author’s Guild.

The process began back in 2004 when Google reached an agreement with research libraries in the UK and US, including Oxford University’s Bodleian Library

The original Oxford-Google digitisation agreement was to cover copyright-expired, ‘public domain’ books – in a bid to avoid intellectual property issues.

However in late 2005 the US Author’s Guild filed a lawsuit against the search-engine giant. It which it claimed that a “massive copyright infringement” had taken place, according to cnet.

Google responded, detailing a mission statement promising to ‘make millions of books more discoverable to the world…’ this went on to downplay any suggestion of infringement,

“Let’s be clear: Google doesn’t show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries.”

“Freeloading…” & The Future

The claim failed to break any ground with the AG, whose lawsuit was shortly joined by a similar action from the Association of American Publishers who, according to ZDnet, accused Google of:

“…seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers.”

Google constructed a defense around a policy of ‘fair use‘, but drew a halt to their scanning project as court proceedings progressed.

During this time AAP moved for a court order to prevent Google from scanning complete works without express permission from copyright holders.

Legal wrangling by the involved parties continued until earlier this week, when a settlement deal was finally brokered.

The deal sees a profit sharing agreement come into being, with Google set to take a 37% share of US market sales made through its service.

The decision arrives late in a time of false starts for the book in an electronic marketplace, and the Google service is already being described as “a kind of iTunes for books” by some commentators.

Along with developments like the Sony Reader, and me-too book-scanning efforts from Microsoft in the works the future is looking bright for the printed word.

By Martin Kearney

Find out about the Google deal making ‘publishing history’…

Advertisements

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Google Bring ‘Online Bookshelf’ Closer to Reality

Google has reached an agreement that could see a vast world library sitting on our laptops and desktops in the near future, according to the BBC.

Is Google's agreement going to make the traditional book a thing of the past? (stock.xchng image)

Will Google's deal make the traditional book a thing of the past? (stock.xchng image)

A 125 million dollar (or 80 million pound) settlement deal, will see the creation of a Books Rights Registry allowing authors and publishers to claim revenue from sales and subscriptions – after Google receives its 37% cut.

The Google Book Search site – already operating at beta level, with 7 million titles – currently offers full access to classics and some copyrighted material under a fair-use policy.

If approved by the US district court, the deal will see greatly increased availability of rare, out-of-print and copyrighted material online.

Third level institutions like colleges and universities, will be the first to be offered Google’s services. This is in exchange for institutional fees, as part of a drive to access student and researcher audiences.

The deal looks set to resolve the search-engine giant’s previous legal conflicts with the Authors’ Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

Copyright

The AG first claimed infringement when Google began digitising library collections back in 2005, only for the AAP to follow with their own legal action within weeks.

The case “The Authors’ Guild Inc., et al. v. Google Inc.” has been described by Google on its copyright settlement site as,

“A class action lawsuit brought by authors and publishers, claiming that Google has violated their copyrights and those of other Rightsholders.”

A charge denied by Google since the cases sprang up three years ago.

With success in the US, the organisation has already turned its focus to the international scene, having spoken to right-holders and governments in several countries already according to The Guardian.

Reactions

It has also reported positive reactions from some leading UK publishers, like Simon & Schuster’s Ian Chapman who said,

“It’s a significant agreement, but also has substance for the longer term – it’s ground-breaking.”

Though there is a general air of optimism from those set to benefit from a greater distribution potential, some eyebrows have been raised at the 37% cut Google is to levy on sales.

A move technology correspondent Bobbie Johnson has concluded as inevitable,

“If you want to do anything (on the internet), you have to filter through them (Google)…and they’re going to take their pound of flesh along the way.”

By Martin Kearney

Read how Google brought the printed word up to date…

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Background: Paedophilia and the Internet

stock.xchng image

stock.xchng image

The IWF has revealed that there is a dark side to our everyday online lives – and hints at a disturbingly pervasive subculture of internet child abuse.

The virtues of the internet, its freedom and reach, also make it an ideal medium for the distribution of illicit material.

One of the more prominent UK cases has involved Gary Glitter, convicted of downloading over 4000 child sex images in 1999.

Unfortunately Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, is not alone in this. Scotland Yard has recently told The Guardian,

“The escalating problem of child abuse is a far greater threat to society than previously assumed…with “huge” numbers of paedophiles now scouring the internet”

When BT first put Cleanfeed, its UK-wide internet filtration technology, in place, over 200,000 attempts to access child-pornography were recorded in three weeks according to The Register.

Business

The creation and dissemination of child pornography is a business, and like any business it needs to be profitable to stay afloat.

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre president Ernie Allen has commented on the problem of child abuse for profit.

“What’s scary is when organised criminals understand there is money to be made and they don’t care what the product is.”

Russia and the USA are considered the biggest offenders by IWF reckoning, hosting around three out of four abuse sites between them.

While a lot of material is freely available via image sharing peer-to-peer services, some of the very worst is available via paid membership.

An example of this was reported on by the BBC in 2007, where an Austrian paedophile ring hosted material from a Russian source available for a £45 subscription fee.

Abduction & Trafficking

Such operations are light on the ground – playing risk off against profit – prepared to fold, relocate and do it all over again upon discovery.

These sites often create sickening spin-off endeavours involving the abduction and trafficking of children in generating their content.

The alleged involvement of a Belgian paedophile ring in the on-going Madeleine McCann abduction case has raised the profile of these instances.

To date there are an estimated 2755 core child abuse sites operating worldwide according to the IWF.

By Martin Kearney

Internet Watch Foundation reports on internet child sex images

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One In 20 May Encounter Child Sex Images Online

(stock.xchng image)

One in twenty UK adults may encounter images of child sexual abuse online, while three out of four are not aware of how to report them, according to the Internet Watch Foundation.

Images assessed by the IWF indicate that three in ten victims are under the age of six, with one in ten below two.

The statistics were revealed during the IWF’s October 24th Awareness Day, the findings of a survey detailing the experiences of 1000 web-using UK adults were released.

The IWF has launched a domestic hotline service – accessible through their homepage – allowing users to report a range of illegal content, including child pornography.

This coincides with the launch of a new initiative that enlisting help from the public in the monitoring and removal of images of sexual abuse.

Partnerships

IWF chief executive, Peter Robins was quoted in a press release,

Internet consumers should know that if they do stumble across these images then it’s vital to report them to the IWF; we have international partnerships in place to get these websites removed.

In the UK this approach means the IWF working alongside members of the online sector such as BT, Virgin, Sky, BBC and News International, as well as the police force, according to The Times.

IWF spokesperson Sarah Robertson has told the BBC that “…in 2007 the organisation handled 34,781 reports from members of the public who stumbled across illegal content.”

She also detailed how some people stumbled upon illegal material through mainstream pornography sites, unsolicited emails, or sheer happenstance.

“The message is that it’s important that they do report it to us,” she concluded.

Although less than one percent of this material is generated in the UK (down from 18% since 1997), content from the U.S. and Russia can find its way through filters here.

On an international level, the IWF is working alongside bodies like the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Interpol.

It has also establishing an international hotline service spread over almost 30 countries.

Currently, possession of child pornography in the UK carries a maximum sentence of five years, while distribution carries 10.

By Martin Kearney

Find out more about paedophilia and the internet

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Background: Out of the Bedroom

Videogames are becoming the hip, sociable and family-friendly hub of the living room. If a recent Sony endorsed study is to be believed, they may even be good for you.

It’s a far cry from the dawn of the games industry back in the early 70’s where tentative pokes at the technology materialised in the form of black-and-white TVs married to crude cabinet setups like the Nutting Associates effort Computer Space;

On the back of ports of more popular titles like Pong and Pac-Man, videogames slowly made their transition into homes with systems from Atari and it’s rivals like the Maganavox Oddyssey and Colecovision.

All Change

It was the crash of the early 80’s which began to galvanise the industry into something recognisable by modern standards.

With the early pioneers swept aside, the way was clear for the so-called ‘third generation’ of platforms.

By the mid-80’s the market had been split between two media-savvy Japanese contenders: Nintendo and Sega.

Their blend of innovation in pioneering the first joypads, along with a fresh approach to game design revitalised consumer interest.

Design revolution

Design revolution (stock.xchng image)

As the decade drew to a close, publications like Nintendo Power had begun to appear. The Wizard became a box-office smash due to its videogame product-placement.

Less a sub-genre of toy, videogames were beginning to form a cultural movement.

Connected players

Present day and gamers number in the millions, while the stereotype of the bedroom gamer has began to slip.

Modern controversies haven’t helped. The Columbine Massacre and Doom are still inextricably linked in many minds, and negative coverage of titles such as Grand Theft Auto (“Ban This Sick Filth” – The Daily Mail) seems to be here to stay.

However with the current generation, the focus has shifted from the solitary player to connected players.

Out of the bedroom, into the living room and into the family. Nintendo’s Wii is currently leading this charge,

Battle for the living room

The Wii‘s central conceit lays in its motion detection technology. Along with huge sellers like Wii Fit and Wii Sports, it has built an enviable profile as a fitness promoting, family-orientated platform with inter-generation appeal.

The approach has garnered Nintendo just under half of current console sales worldwide. A number that works out in the region of 34 million units shifted in under two years.

In the face of those kind of numbers competitors are taking note. The battle for the living room seems to have begun and sponsored studies are just the start.

By Martin Kearney

Could videogames be good for kids afterall?

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Videogames Can Contribute to a Child’s Education” say Parents

“Videogames can contribute to a child’s education, improve hand-eye coordination and aid problem-solving skills.”, according to the findings of a Sony Online Entertainment commissioned study, reports Edge Online.

The findings, published in the November issue of U.S. parenting magazine Family Circle, established that 75% of those who took part in the study considered videogame play to possess educational value and to improve hand-eye coordination.

Other key findings included 84% of those surveyed noticing “an increase in their child’s typing skills from playing PC/online games.”, with 72% saying “their kids play games online with other people sometimes or all the time.”

Acceptance

SEO’s own view on the study was reported on Gamedaily.com,

“In addition to basic education elements, the survey suggests video games are teaching children to think strategically. The majority of video games require players to follow rules, think tactically, make fast decisions and fulfill numerous objectives to win. This resonates with the 70% of the parents surveyed who have seen their children’s problem-solving skills improve since they started playing video games.”

The reach of this study marks something of the widening acceptance of gaming as less of an unhealthy fringe hobby, and more of a family experience.

Playing Together

According to the Entertainment Software Association, in 2008 25% of U.S gamers comprise of under-18s, along with the age of the average player rising to 35, with one in four ever the age of 50.

Sony appears to be aware of this trend, with SEO president John Smedley quoted as saying: “…parents are involved with and aware of what their kids are playing. The even better news is that parents and kids are playing together.”

Better news also for the games industry with the apparent convergence of a broadening audience taking place on the back of more family formats like Nintendo’s Wii. These factors have contributed significantly to market growth with this generation of consoles and speculation remaining healthy,

Hardware sales have gone from strength to strength

Hardware sales have gone from strength to strength

With the market’s traditional core of 18 to 34 year old males reaching saturation, the race is now on to mine more neglected sectors like the female and over-34 audiences. Infiltration of a typically skeptical family market is a natural step in reaching them, and one that is set to continue.

By Martin Kearney

Want to know how videogames are getting into our living rooms?

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Background: The Rise of the ARG

(stock.xchng)

Even texting can play a part in ARGs (stock.xchng image)

As a game format the ARG is relatively young, having only been around for the past seven years.

What differentiates ARGs from other kinds of media is their use of the real world as the basis for sustaining their narrative.

They can utilise a complex web of communications media to engage with players, where plot can be advanced through an email, a phone call or even a text message.

The Beast, a promotional title, is often credited with being the first ARG. Pre-release material for the Spielberg Sci-Fi film A.I. in 2001 made a cryptic reference to a “sentient machine therapist” along with the usual role-call of actors, and film crew.

Those who picked up on this piece of information, and used a search engine to find out more about the ‘machine therapist’ Dr. Jeanine Salla, would find a fully fleshed out individual.

Product Awareness

Players could reach the fictional academic’s voicemail starting them down a trail involving ‘hacking’ websites, tracking down clues, and even attending real-life rallies (albeit in the U.S.) – all set against the backdrop of the year 2142.

By the time it had reached it’s end The Beast had reached an audience of hundreds of thousands, attracted international media attention, and helped to send A.I. to the top of the box office charts.

In terms of raising product awareness the ARG had proven itself in spectacular fashion, and it wasn’t long before imitators followed.

Paid versions like Majestic and Perplex City emerged to mixed reactions, but promotional ventures like I Like Bees (a Halo 2 tie-in) had greater success, cementing the free, promotional nature of ARGs.

Engagement

With its capacity for high, free and immediate distribution it was a natural progression for the format to become involved in charitable promotions.

Dorothea Arndt, British Red Cross’s media manager has been quoted on New Media Age as saying, “Our objective [with ToH]…was for people to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those whose everyday lives are affected by war, and generate real engagement with the subject.”

Generating engagement? Traces of Hope marks a rare instance where the public actively seeks out involvement with a charitable organisation. It’s a far cry from the evasiveness of the high-street shopper confronted with a day-glo vest and clipboard.

With organisations like Cancer Research UK also following the trend with ARGs of their own, it seems that the format is only at the start of it’s life, and carving a very worthy niche on the way.

By Martin Kearney

Want to find out more about the Red Cross ARG ‘Traces Of Hope’?

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Red Cross Get In The Game

A promotional game for the Red Cross has gone online amid a burst of attention from the BBC and Reuters.

Traces of Hope is an Alternate Reality Game being used to raise awareness of the organisation’s humanitarian work in war-torn Northern Uganda.

Conflict

The Red Cross has high hopes for the title. Editorial manager Charles Williams has said, “It will put players in the shoes of people in conflict situations who have to make difficult decisions.”

Once registered, our 16-year-old protagonist ‘Joseph’ contacts players through email and telephone, asking their help.

“There Are No Easy Decisions”

The catch? Joseph is stranded in fictional refugee camp ‘Hopetown’ in Northern Uganda. The scene set, he leads us on a hunt across the Internet seeking clues that will eventually reunite him with his family.

Williams went on to say, “for a teenager alone in a war zone, it’s very disorienting, very scary, very difficult to know what to do. There are no easy decisions.”

This is something they have been keen to get across with their teaser video:

Authenticity

It is some of these decisions that the game’s creators want the public to interact with in bringing their message home.

Adding to the authenticity, much of the game’s content has been hosted across sites like Flickr and Reuter’s AlertNet service.

Traces of Hope marks the first serious effort where the ARG format has been used to promote a charitable organisation.

Typically promotional in nature ARGs have been around since 2001, with the release of The Beast, a film tie-in to Spielberg’s A.I. (Artificial Intelligence).

That game attracted users numbering in the hundreds of thousands, with coverage from CNN, ABC, and the BBC.

The ARG has been around in several incarnations since then: being used to raise product awareness across the media spectrum. Though most notably in the ‘Halo’ and ‘National Treasure’ franchises.

Traces of Hope is still ongoing, to register see www.tracesofhope.com

By Martin Kearney

(Traces of Hope banner courtesy of Red Cross)

Want to read more about ARGs?

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Martin Kearney - Technology | , , , | 1 Comment