2002 December 27

(entry last updated: 2002-12-27 10:48:32)

  • British Pathe posts newsreel materials without digital copy protection.

    Yet the success of Pathe’s simple strategy doesn’t surprise the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cory Doctorow. “They’re treating their customers like customers, not criminals. It’s not surprising that they’re thriving,” he said.

2002 December 26

(entry last updated: 2002-12-26 11:42:59)

  • Doc points to a good followup to the Norlin discussion. Plus these from JoHo – A (the Salon quote is right on – somebody’s channeling David Rees) and B

  • (I missed this when it came out in November!) Paul Boutin over at Slate seems to have taken up Declan McCullagh’s perspective: geeks need to get out of politics and just subvert via technology:

    The old saw that the Net routes around damage, including the political kind, has been around just long enough to be unfashionable. That doesn’t make it any less true. For all their complaining, the nerds are way ahead of slow-grinding legislators. The only way Washington can catch up is if the geeks stop to play politics.

    There’s just one problem: as the 2600 prosecutions have shown, geeks already have an image problem. Pursuing this strategy just makes it harder. Granted, the rhetorical battles do not favor the geek, but taking the approach Boutin suggests just makes things worse – real dialog has to happen. Not because geeks can’t out innovate; rather, because the typical sledgehammer approach government will take to "solve" the geek problem will just drive these vitally important innovators to other venues, crippling the economy that these regulators think they are defending.

  • I’m not really a big fan of Charlie Cooper over at CNet/ZDNet, but his PC Wish list commentary includes one vitally important desire, particularly as we face a new year of digital rights management PR:

    The end of the master-slave relationship

    Devices should be made subservient to their owners, not the other way around. The late (great) Michael Dertouzas, formerly director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, told Scientific American that “we made a big mistake 300 years ago when we separated technology and humanism.” He was spot on. It’s about time to put the technology and humanism components back together. Why are we still stuck sitting in front of these dumb machines, staring at screens all day? Beats me; but it’s clear who’s in charge–and it ain’t us.

    However, the idea that it’s the computer that’s seizing control is nonsense – there’s always someone "behind the curtain," Dorothy. (related eWeek piece)

  • And, if you’re feeling strong, you can read this Slashdot discussion on MONO & .NET and the growing IP issues. Warning: lots of acronyms.

  • Pursuant to yesterday’s Washington Post piece on McCain at the helm of Commerce, there’s this article from Business Week (Slashdot discussion) on another set of media distribution – cable TV and recent changes in the rate structure that should allow consumers to purchase subscriptions on a per-channel basis.

  • OTOH, the change from Leahy to Hatch on the Judiciary Committee also gets a look from the Post – with Hatch identified as a strong DMCA proponent.

  • Slashdot posts an article based on a Washington Post report of the next angle on song sales – licensing ring tones. It’s not that new an idea – the Europeans and Asians have been doing this for some time – with the expected controversies

  • The New York Times profiles the top selling records of 2002 to identify something that is already becoming clear – the popstar cycle is coming to an end. Customers have figured out the current marketing game, and they’re not buying.

  • Jack Valenti sounds surprised in this LATimes article on the upsurge in movie attendance. Apparently, movie piracy didn’t have that much effect, while Internet ticket sales did…..

2002 December 25

(entry last updated: 2002-12-25 19:46:58)

  • I shouldn’t be here, and neither should you, but since you are, check out this article from the Washington Post (via Slashdot) discussing the implications of McCain vs. Hollings for IP

    Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti — one of the most vocal supporters of efforts to bolster copyright protection — said the Senate shift wouldn’t hurt that cause.

    “I don’t think it affects the debate at all. The change in chairmanship does not affect the need to protect creative works from piracy,” Valenti said.

    The ITAA’s Miller said the party swap could provide a small boon to opponents of the Hollings bill, but that its supporters still will push hard for it.

    “I never want to underestimate the (MPAA’s) ability to lobby these issues,” Miller said. “If Jack Valenti had been around at the time of Gutenberg he would have organized the monks to come and burn down the printing press.”

    McCain, however, remains the big question mark.

  • Otherwise, The Register puts its spin on the earlier posting stating that only Greece and Denmark met the EC copyright deadline.

2002 December 24

(entry last updated: 2002-12-24 14:00:01)

  • Via PeerCast News: this great opinion piece from the Rocky Mountain News on where the music industry is going. Some great quotes:

    This year, many in the industry know the party is just about to end. A high-powered player in the music industry for the past quarter century recently remarked privately that “the music industry is over.”

    Not completely over, but certainly over as we know it.

    People are going to still listen to music and go to concerts, but everyone has finally realized – way too late – that the old way really isn’t going to work, no matter how hard the industry tries to resist change.

    …Downloading and CD burning has won. High ticket and CD prices have lost. By trying to maximize profits, the industry killed them.

  • Got an e-mail from Eric Norlin, who’s taken a look at some of the stuff I posted (via Doc, I expect). His latest posting on the topic of identity and commerce incorporates the thinking of a lot of others, but I’m pleased to be included <G> UPDATE: Doc Searls’ followup posting

  • Not that I’m really surprised, but it’s interesting that the LA Times was actually able to construct and publish this story on just how far the Bush Administration goes to ensure that none of their advisors might offer contrary advice.

  • The Register has an interesting article on WFMU, a non-profit (but not public) radio station in New Jersey. The article covers the strategies that this station is taking in the face of the CARP rulings on webcasting of music.

  • Ernie the Attorney discusses the copyright games around song lyrics, in response to Doc’s posting earlier, which included that great photoshopped picture.

  • Today’s Boston Globe has an article on GNU (local PDF). I know it’s just a sign of a slow news day, but it’s good to see ink devoted to these ideas.

  • On the other hand, the Sun/Microsoft ruling on Java is bound to get lots of ink, all over. The Boston Globe local PDF), SFGate (AP release), CNet, ZDNet, eWeek, Sun’s statement, LawMeme, New York Times, The Register, Slashdot, Wired News. Law.com takes the AP Wire report and gives it a great title: Want Java With That? Judge Gives Microsoft No Choice (More coming) (Surprise! Nothing in Slate as of 8:00AM today)

  • If you’re a Salon Premium subscriber, this rundown on the state of the music industry this year is well worth a look. Notable quote:

    Nothing for me, articulated the year’s tone of drawn-out disappointment more perfectly: Frivolity whilst waiting for the other shoe to drop. And for once in a good long while, that tone was not just a comment on the music industry itself — still stealing souls and now selling fewer $18.99 CDs than last year and continuing to blame it on the Internet — but rather, something that is in the air out there at this very moment, a bad-trip electrical current known not as War, but maybe worse, the Waiting for It.

2002 December 23

(entry last updated: 2002-12-23 15:28:07)

  • Doc Searls notes that the debate on digitial identity and the nature of the Internet is getting testy. I haven’t had time to put any more thought into it than I put here, but I will pick up on one key point that Eric posts:

    Lastly (cuz I’ve been typing for 45mins), AKMA addresses the linking of commerce and reputation and how we should be careful about doing so. C’mon now people! This has been happening for decades — just ask Equifax and TRW. Individual “reputation” (in crude, blunt instrument form) is already foundational in commerce.

    In fact, that’s a little off – reputation is fundamental to commerce. Here’s a little thought experiment that Dave Noble (now a prof at York University – something of his from firstmonday) made us think about 20 years ago: “Suppose that you and I each have a good that the other wants, and that we agree that the exchange of these goods will make us both better off. Assuming that we are both rational, how can we accomplish this transaction?” If you think it through, you realize that the only way such transactions can take place is through the agency of something like reputation.

    Consider: there has to be some point in the transaction where one actor actually possesses BOTH resources. At that point, what keeps that actor from keeping them both? Only the realization that it is more important to maintain reputation than it is to achieve a one-time gain.

    Without something like reputation, transactions cannot take place, because without it, there is no rational reason that an actor will give up a resource in the expectation that the exchange will be completed.

  • Dan Gillmor’s Sunday column on Lik-Sang gets a Slashdot article

  • On a lighter note, Larry Lessig uncovers some distressing elements of his Eldred co-counsel Jonathan Zittrain’s past

  • Reuters has a news story pointing out that the deadline for passage of the EU Copyright Diretive has passed, with only Denmark and Greece enacting its provisions in local law. Telling quote:

    The industry lobbyists have not convinced politicians that technological stop-gaps such as rights management tools, which would ensure a copyright holder is compensated each time his song is downloaded onto a mobile phone or a computer hard drive, would work or are necessary.

  • The New York Times points out that much of the infrastructure necessary to achieve Total Information Awareness was put in place before the program was created.

  • The Times also covers the latest RIAA sales statistics. Overall, the industry is seeing further declines in CD sales, which they claim is all due to piracy, even though there are other hypotheses out there.

  • Lauren Weinstein has a commentary over at Wired on the impact of global jurisdiction applied to online publications. Kevin Werbach also has a piece on Open Spectrum

  • CNet has an interesting article looking at Adobe’s plans for the future of PDF and Microsoft’s tentative steps to get involved in one of the industry standards that isn’t beholding to them.

  • Declan McCullagh works through the provisions of the DMCA to examine what the consequences might be for journalists who are able to break the passwords of online documents.

2002 December 22

(entry last updated: 2002-12-22 18:44:45)

2002 December 20

(entry last updated: 2002-12-20 19:32:48)

  • Here we go again – MPAA suing 321 Studios. Here’s Dawn Chmielewski’s piece from SiliconValley.com. Slashdot reports a countersuit.

  • The Register has a great deconstruction of the Adobe public position on the ElcomSoft/Sklyarov case. Of course, we can hear direct from Dmitri in this CNet article (Slashdot discussion).

  • Donna points to an interview with Larry Lessig that’s fun – the recap of the Supreme experience paralleled my talk with Jonathan Zittrain a couple weeks ago.

  • Eric Norlin has prompted a set of online discussions around this set of ideas, wherein he argues that the Internet is a truly destructive/disruptive technology because it eliminates the economically important notion of scarcity, thus ruining the classic forms of business models.

    I would not pretend to be fully up to speed on this idea, but I would point to a couple of related concepts. First, it may be that the problem is the larger one of private property in this space. A key paper that Mike Pollitt uses in the course I work with him on at Cambridge University is the following – “Toward a Theory of Property Rights;” H. Demsetz; American Economic Review; V.57, N.2; pp. 347-359; 1967. Demsetz argues that property rights were created to simplify the process of exchange – property rights facilitate the lowering of transactions costs and are thus a net plus to an economy. Perhaps the Internet reduces the costs of many exchange transactions (particularly in the information domain) to the point that the efficiency afforded by property rights is no longer observed, so the notion of private property is no longer pertinent.

    Which brings me to the other point that I have been chewing on lately as I reread Marx to get a better handle on alienation – Marx’s historic materialism theory of history suggests that economic systems are maintained so long as they facilitate (or at least stay out of the way of) innovation. When the system impedes that progress, it will be subverted and supplanted. Marx uses this theory to explain the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Many have critiqued his example, but it may be that the Internet is affording us the opportunity to test Marx’s theory. Certainly, an argument can be made that many of the constructs of our current economic and legal system are limiting progress in this space today. The test will be to see if the current systems are resilient enough to endure (the current construction of copyright, for example?)

    Something to chew on, anyway (from JoHo the Blog)

  • So, nothing like this sort of article (LATimes via SFGate) to make you worry. Chasing it down, the Wired article suggests that, while some of the hurdles to deployment of HDTV may have been settled, the content providers still haven’t been heard from. The broadcast flag isn’t even mentioned……

  • Here’s a New York Times article to make you worry – the Bush Administration is proposing centralized Internet surveillance (BoinbBoing points to the draft report at the EPIC www site) – Slashdot discussion. As Wired pointed out, there are some local jusridictions aren’t going along with this. And the British aren’t exactly demonstrating that it’s that easy to make operational, either. This opinion piece from SFGate raises a lot of important issues.

  • A propos – today’s Ubersoft cartoon (part of an ongoing series).

  • Weird! MIT’s been cut off from the Internet since about 6:28AM today, which was when my httpd server got its last hit. I haven’t heard whether it’s an attack or we’re just having terrible router, etc problems. I can ping just about anywhere within MIT and the nameservers are working just fine (our usual problem), but MIT.EDU is a no-show – all 4 machines are off the network. NOT the level of service we’re used to here – it’ll be interesting to find out what has happened…….

    UPDATE: Back up at 9:40AM – still no news on what happened. Heading over to the Shifted Librarian, I see that Jenny gave me a plug – maybe MIT just couldn’t take the traffic?? <G>

2002 December 19

(entry last updated: 2002-12-19 18:15:28)

  • EMI Australia announces (Official site statement and FAQ) that all the CDs they release next year will be copy protected.

    EMI's CopyProtected CD Logo

    The “mark of the beast”

  • Donna’s got a good list of DMCA commentaries, plus background for those who aren’t sure what precipitated their generation.

  • BoingBoing has posted Ken Hertz’s ACLU Bill of Rights Award speech. Subject: P2P file sharing and copyright. Well worth a read.

  • Donna mentioned this article from firstmoday a couple of days ago, but I only now got a chance to give it a look. It’s an articulation of some of the ideas that Charlie Nesson floated past us at ILaw this summer on converting consumers into creators (or blocking the process through technological alienation.) In the end, the article gets pretty far into learning and design, but Charlie’s thesis lies between the lines.

    A more troubling article seems to speak to Larry Lessig’s “code is law” thesis, but I’m unconvinced by the working metaphor. In the end, the notion that machine “make” decisions for us is just wrong – such machine behavior is designed in, consciously or otherwise, and to assert otherwise is an abdication of responsibility. But it’s an interesting read.

  • I wasted far too many hours yesterday setting up a new administrative computer for TPP that came with Windows XP. Why, oh why, does Microsoft insist on moving everything around in each new incarnation of their operating systems? (Actually, I’m sure it’s to maintain a steady cashflow in MSCE exams). Anyway, I now see that I need to disable WinAmp, since the RIAA may exploit this buffer overflow problem to take over the computer. Where do you want to go today? (Here’s the Wired News article.) Slashdot also has a lengthy writeup – with commentary from the community, of course.

  • SFGate has a nice article on the Elcomsoft verdict, with some new quotes around fair use and the jury’s response to the apparent lack thereof with the eBook. Dan Gillmor also has an opinion piece, musing on the subject of jury nullification (something I talked about a bit yesterday.) UPDATE: Wired points to this BusinessWeek article. UPDATE 2: This Law.com article has some new and interesting details. It probably is worth watching Judge Whyte’s document list to see when/if the text of the instructions can be found.

  • The recent series of Ubersoft comics has been good fun, sniping at the RIAA & the DMCA.

2002 December 18

(entry last updated: 2002-12-19 09:22:44)

  • Check out LawMeme’s take on how the DVD content scramble system (CSS) should be an exempt technology (“access control device”) when it comes to DMCA protection.

  • Salon has an interesting article on the GNU Radio Project with a provocative thesis – bringing the Open Source ethic to radio might be a pre-emptive strike against legislative constraints on the modifiability of consumer hardware.

  • The Register also has an OS/2 obituary.

  • The ElcomSoft verdict will have many links today, I’m sure. Here’s LawMeme’s article and The Register piece. Donna points to a piece at the Volokh Conspiracy, as well as Lisa Rein’s complete coverage. She also points to two places in the Doc Searls weblog – (a) and (b)

    The New York Times piece takes the odd angle of suggesting that the inconsistencies in a global reach of US copyright law took a blow with the verdict, but I would disagree. The key quote in yesterday’s CNet/ZDNet report is

    Jury foreman Dennis Strader said the jurors agreed ElcomSoft’s product was illegal but acquitted the company because they believed the company didn’t mean to violate the law.

    This quote echoes the conclusions of Jessica Litman‘s Digital Copyright – the law of “intellectual property” has become so arcane and complex, as a consequence of a long cycle of negotiations among selected publishers, that it is no longer meaningful to the layperson. This is not to say the the layman objects to the basic notion of copyright; rather, the layman is unable to reconcile the arcane strictures of current copyright law with his commonsense notion of what constitutes moral behavior when it comes to the treatment of creative work.

    In the digital age, where the barriers to entry have fallen and everyone can be a publisher, the complexities of these IP laws are being viewed by the public in the same fashion that the sodomy laws are seen – arcane remnants of another era, whose relevance is long gone. The jury clung to the word “willful” in the statute to excuse their nullification of the strictures of the DMCA. It will be interesting to see if there will be any further DMCA cases tried before juries.

    Wired finds at least some who think not, and Declan McCullagh points out that the higher standard required for criminal prosecution made all the difference. A purely civil complaint by Adobe would probably have been successful.

  • Slashdot adds a new wrinkle to the article posted yesterday on the subject of the RIAA going after retailers of pirated CDs – apparently some of the stores targeted sell *used* CDs, making this effort a potential attack on the first sale doctrine.

2002 December 17

(entry last updated: 2002-12-17 16:46:02)