Streaming The Inauguration

The Internet showed its limitations on the day Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, as millions of viewers watched the ceremony on their computers.

Never before had so many people received so many streams at the same time. Yet the Net survived, on what may have been one of the busiest days in Internet history.

At 3:30 p.m. (EST) on Inauguration Day, CNN reported it had served more than 21.3 million live streams, nearly a 400 percent increase compared with election day.

In addition to presenting streams on the cable news channel’s home page, the news outlet also partnered with Facebook, thus giving viewers the opportunity to commune with their online friends while watching history.

But CNN was only one of the major news outlets streaming the events live. MSNBC, AOL News, ABC, CBS and Fox plus several other media outlets kept viewers connected with events in D.C. That’s a lot of streams.

However, all those streams meant something had to suffer. In this case, performance. Keynote Systems, which tracks Web site performance, reported the Internet’s Top 40 sites took as much as a 60 percent performance hit when the ceremony started, and many news sites experienced even bigger slowdowns.

And not everyone wanting streams got what they needed.

“There were so many pauses that I missed really crucial moments of the inauguration,” said University of Florida student Lyndsey Lewis. “I didn’t expect it to be TV quality, but I definitely thought it would be a lot better than it was.”


Isle of Man’s Downloading Plan

Will the next battle in the downloading wars take place on the Isle of Man?

The self-governing body located in the Irish Sea recently made headlines when its e-business adviser, Ron Berry, said the territory was considering adding a flat fee to its residents’ ISP bills to cover copyright fees for all content downloaded.

This isn’t the first time an all-you-can-eat ISP charge has been floated. While proponents often describe such a proposal as a sensible method to combat copyright piracy, detractors have spun the issue as an “ISP tax,” and say that people who don’t download copyrighted material, or, for that matter even own a computer will also have to pay.

The Isle of Man could act as a proving ground for such a system. The island’s population is 78,000, and the local government provides broadband services for the entire island. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better locale for experimenting with ISP fees in return for unlimited downloading.

“Anybody can go on to the Internet and access anything,” said Berry. “What we’re trying to do is legalize it and monetize it. Why would you bother to pirate anything if you could do it with the blessing of the rights holders?”

Berry also said the ISP charge would be amount to about one euro (U.S. $1.30) per month. Not a bad price for downloading all the music in the world.

But some copyright owners aren’t all that thrilled with the Isle of Man’s intentions, specifically, the British and European recording industries.

“A blanket file-sharing deal akin to a broadband tax imposed by government, as has been suggested, is not something we’d welcome – and is some way wide of the mark,” Britain’s main record industry lobbying group, BPI, said in a statement.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry echoed the BPI.

The organization said it supported unlimited music deals provided by cell phone companies, providers and ISPs, such as the Nokia “Comes With Music” model, but didn’t believe the Isle of Man’s proposal could be applied on a larger scale, describing it as “quite interesting from an academic point of view.”


Down By The Ol’ Court Stream

The first ever streaming of a lawsuit hearing starring the RIAA and a college student accused of illegally distributing copyrighted songs has been delayed.

The hearing was supposed to take place Jan. 22, but was rescheduled to February after the judge heard an appeal from the trade organization.

The RIAA lawsuit accuses Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum of downloading at least seven copyrighted, major-label songs and making 816 music files available for downloading from his computer.

Tenenbaum originally offered to settle the case for $500, while the RIAA countered with a $12,000 settlement offer.

Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard University professor Charles Nesson, is challenging the constitutionality of the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 – the law under which the RIAA is suing Tenenbaum. Under the law a defendant may be fined up to $150,000 per willful act of infringement.

Nesson asked for cameras to be placed in the courtroom to capture and send all proceedings to the Web home of Harvard’s Berkman Center For The Internet, which would actually stream the gavel-to-gavel action. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner approved the request and ordered that Courtroom View Network, which already Webcasts state trials in New York, to “narrowcast” the proceedings to the Berkman Center.

Gertner originally dismissed several RIAA objections regarding the streaming, and described the group’s worries that streaming the hearing might affect future jurors as “specious.”

However, the RIAA eventually found a hook on which to hang its streaming appeal, noting that Nesson is the founder of the Berkman Center, which would have hosted the stream. The RIAA contended that requiring the public to access the Berkman site for the stream violated “basic issues of fairness.”

Now the hearing has been postponed until Feb. 24. In agreeing to postpone the hearing, Gertner said issues on how the hearing would be streamed caused the delay, not the actual stream itself.