2003 January 7

(entry last updated: 2003-01-07 15:21:02)

  • The New York Times also covers an art exhibition, Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age, specifically set up to push — or go beyond — the limits of copyright law.

    All of the pieces either have run afoul of copyright owners in the past or could be expected to in the future. Jane C. Ginsburg, professor of literary and artistic property law at Columbia Law School, disagrees with the view that copyright laws have become more restrictive for artists. “The irony is that most of the stuff that I see on the Web site wouldn’t be considered illegal,” she said.

    But Edward Samuels, a New York Law School professor and author of “The Illustrated Story of Copyright,” estimates that half the exhibition is in violation.

    … The issues that pervade the exhibition are more imperative than they might seem, Mr. Hosler said. “The bigger aspect of this can be literally life and death if you talk about how intellectual property laws could allow a drug company to control the price of an AIDS drug,” he said.

    Meanwhile Ms. McLaren is still waiting to hear from lawyers intent on challenging her show or its pieces.

  • The New York Times has posted an article (rather than a news wire piece) on the Johansen verdict. A notable quote, showing that the rationale for CSS remains a mystery to the public press (emphasis added):

    The motion picture industry, which is lobbying Congress to strengthen copyright laws in the United States, has developed the Content Scrambling System to encrypt DVD’s so they cannot be illegally copied. Mr. Johansen’s program, DeCSS, is only one of a growing number of easily accessible software programs that crack DVD security codes, promising that the Johansen case may be only the first of many battles Hollywood will have to fight in its copyright wars.

  • LawMeme has two articles to note today: one on the Johansen verdict (see below for more), and one on the Slate piece I discussed yesterday.

  • Cory Doctorow reminds everyone (based on this Wired News article) to file a claim in the CD price fixing settlement.

  • It appears that the Madster injunction has been stayed. See Aimee Deep’s weblog entry – also, this NYTimes piece for a little background – or this InfoWorld piece for more details

  • A student from ESD.10 reports on the LivePhish WWW site (the FAQ), where they state:

    Welcome to the latest incarnation of Live Phish. A natural extension of the popular Live Phish CD program, Live Phish Downloads offers high quality, unedited soundboard recordings of select shows in the form of MP3 and Shorten digital music files via a state-of-the-art delivery system. All four of the New Year’s shows will be available via Live Phish Downloads no later than two days after each show.

    All download files are compatible with Windows, Mac and Unix operating systems, allowing for maximum flexibility and ease of use. Once downloaded, shows can be burned to disc, transferred to portable players, or played through your computer. Each show also comes with printable booklets, inlay trays, and labels if you elect to burn your files to CD.

    So, for a price, you can get your digital music – the vanguard of music distribution?

  • Amy Harmon reports that Microsoft is making a major push in their effort to embrace the digital media business by offering Windows Media codec rights for half the price of current MPEG-4 licenses. The closing paragraph summarizes the strategy of developing, and then exploiting, network effects in distribution. The ZDNet article on the same topic suggests that the industry knows what’s going on:

    Despite the lower licensing fees, analysts say Microsoft faces an uphill battle to convince consumer electronics companies to work with it. They say that many companies fear an alliance with the software behemoth because of its competitive ferocity. In addition, many companies are concerned about seeing their products become generic or a commodity.

  • Sony is looking at how to leverage artist exposure on youth-directed TV programs, in this case Dawson’s Creek, through special CD burning options.

  • Salon has a striking article on the role of bootlegs in Bob Dylan’s career, and the peculiar conflicts they raise for Dylan amd his recording company.

    Sometimes the mockery extends to Dylan himself. By general agreement, the rock bottom of Dylan’s concert career took place at a 1991 show in Stuttgart, Germany. Dylan opened with a train-wreck version of “New Morning,” then staggered through a series of barely coherent performances that left fans uncertain as to which songs they’d actually heard. Some wag took a recording, chose the dorkiest possible photo of Dylan for the cover, and issued it as a bootleg under the title “Name That Tune.”

    …Most of the arguments against bootlegging have a way of self-destructing. The recording industry says bootlegs are bad because they cheat the artist and his label of revenue, then says it cannot release the material because it wouldn’t sell in sufficient quantity. Columbia has no problem using unreleased tracks as collector bait; witness “Love and Theft,” which was originally issued with a two-track “bonus disc” in order to goose sales. If there is no market for this stuff, how can the bootleggers be endangering the industry?

    The argument is even weaker with the concert recordings that make up the bulk of underground recordings. The artist was paid for his performance; the audience members paid for their tickets. If no official concert recording was to be released, then how could a bootleg recording be cheating anyone of revenue? The industry’s crocodile tears over fans’ being sold a “substandard” performance aren’t very convincing; if the performance was that bad, perhaps the artist should consider reimbursing everyone who attended the show.

    The strongest line of attack remains that of respecting the artist’s wishes.

  • Another example (from SFGate) showing that, no matter how hard the industry tries, people will find a way to make copies.

  • Wired is reporting on the start of the Third Future of Music Coalition Policy Summitt today.

  • And The Register reports that Jon Johansen (of DeCSS infamy) goes free! (well, ok: is not guilty)

    Norwegian prosecutors, acting largely on the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), argued in court that Johansen acted illegally in sharing his DeCSS tool with others and distributing it via the Internet. They claimed the DeCSS utility made it easier to pirate DVDs.

    The court rejected these arguments, ruling that Johansen did nothing wrong in bypassing DVD scrambling codes that stopped him using his Linux PC to play back DVDs he’d bought.

    Judge Irene Sogn ruled that there was “no evidence” that either Johansen or others had used the decryption code (DeCSS) illegally, Aftenposten reports. Judge Sogn dismissed prosecution arguments that Johansen intended to aid and abet DVD piracy.

    • The Reuters report from the NYTimes (or direct from Reuters)- I’m sure the EFF site will be updated soon.

    • Update: Slashdot has posted their story – with some actual insights into the larger issues. (This posting includes many more news references.) Two key points – the venue was the Oslo City Court, meaning that appeals are possible, and legislation based on the EU Copyright Directive (which expired last year after only two countries enacted legislation based upon it) was NOT the basis for the decision (Norway hasn’t gotten around to this piece of WIPO compliance yet). Johansen was tried under Norwegian data theft laws, hence the emphasis upon intent – something notably absent, for example, in the US’ DMCA anti-circumvention provisions.
    • Donna at Copyfight has added her thoughts, plus some more links.
    • Here’s the Wired News piece – shockingly, it continues to represent CSS as a technology to prevent copying, in spite of the fact that it clearly has been designed to maintain the current motion picture distribution business model by “zoning” DVD releases to specific geographic locations, allowing them to maintain a two-tiered distribution system (cinema first, home playback later).
  • And Larry Lessig is sticking his neck out on a spam management legislation proposal. Slashdot reports and Declan accepts the moderator role

  • Jenny Levine’s Shifted Librarian gives more insight into the Cleveland Public Library‘s plan to launch an eBook systemSlashdot discussion

  • And it appears that Intuit is finding out that, however you name it, implementation of a copy protection scheme when there’s real competition in your market is not a wise move. I switched from TurboTax to TaxCut long ago because of some of TTax’s other, equally arrogant, policies. Surprising that they figured the relative success of Microsoft’s “product activiation” would translate into a product segment with real competition.

  • For those who are following the digital/online identity discussion, Doc Searls’ latest contribution is an important insight.

  • And this site is getting a lot of play in the weblogs I frequent – basically, a new MP3 of a novelty track of one sort or another will be posted daily for the entire year.