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TR: Week in Review

States are now legislating against emerging technologies…the world of new media expands into the movie business…Apple seeks to stamp out piracy…and more.
March 14, 2005

The States of Technology

With all the recent news about federal-level battles over emerging technologies, it’s easy to forget that states also have a vested interest in these fights. This past week helped refocus the news on the local level.

The Associated Press reported that a University of Arizona student became the first person to be found guilty of illegally downloading music and movie files.

CNN reported on the Ohio law – and its inherent problems – that would require anyone selling items on eBay to obtain a costly auction license.

Advocacy groups are infuriated by a pending Utah bill that would forc Internet Service Providers to block any websites peddling material deemed “harmful to minors,” according to eWEEK.  Ditto for a proposed Illinois law that would bar stores from selling violent and sexually explicit video games to children.

The question of constitutionality was brought up for the last two issues, and it may be useful to note that these types of laws haven’t typically fared well against court challenges.

And speaking of a law not likely to survive, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Gov. Jim Doyle wants to extend the state’s five percent sales tax to all Internet transactions – although since it’s virtually impossible to track these sales, payments into the fund would all be on the honor system.

IT on the Cheap

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Peerflix, an old-school-Napster like system for swapping movies, is picking up business.

In the meantime, reported that McGill University academic and former Clash producer Sandy Pearlman is proposing that selling digital music tracks for a nickel a piece would be more profitable than today’s iTunes model. Rumors are that Apple is listening, maybe as a way of countering the new incarnation of Napster.

Apple Picky

Let’s face it, though, it’s hard to predict what Apple’s up to these days. In the midst of falling iPod sales in early February, the company reportedly turned down a proposal to carry a portable Sirus radio component.

Last week at the world’s largest tech conference, CeBIT, it was announced [ that Apple had joined the Blu-ray Disk Association – largely considered to be the Betamax in the next-generation  battle [] with HD-DVD to become the next standard for high-capacity DVD players.

Of course, this news was largely drowned out amidst the flood of new multi-use mobile devices. The leading edge: new technologies like the 3-D dome display by Mitsubishi Electric  and the “3-D kiosk” developed by the Berlin-based Fraunhofer Institute.

Is Watson a Crick in the Neck?

At a time when many in America fear the recent surge genetics research, one of the science’s founders may be doing more harm than good. James Watson and his late partner Francis Crick have long drawn the ire of creationists because of the pairs outspoken views as atheists.

But The Harvard Crimson reported that Watson raised a few tempers among his own ilk at a Harvard genomics symposium when he openly promoted “preventative eugenics” during his lecture. When implemented carefully, he suggested, it could be used to weed out severe genetic disorders like his son’s schizophrenia.

On a related note, the FDA is expected to approve super salmon, the first genetically-enhanced animal to be sold for consumption in the United States., The fish goes from egg to maturity in nearly half the time of normal salmon, and is a little bit more rugged. Environmentalists and commercial fishermen fear that the fish will somehow escape into the Alaskan wild.

MS Groovin’

Microsoft announced that it will buy “virtual office” software provider Groove Networks to help forward its Office brand into the growing mobile business market. Groove’s founder and co-creator of Lotus Notes, Ray Ozzie, will become one of Microsoft’s three chief technical officers.

LexisNexis Vexes

Just weeks after ChoicePoint fessed up to leaking the personal information of at least 145,000 people to con artists, data giant LexisNexis revealed that it made the same boo-boo with concern to 32,000 of its own customers. Bets are on that similar revelations will soon be made as other data hoarders begin to scrutinize their dealings.

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