2003 June 5

(entry last updated: 2003-06-05 16:10:06)

  • An important distinction picked up by Prof. Lessig: Dasta [sic] decided — incorrectly

    The confusion is the failure to distinguish “copyrights” from “authors rights.” As Ray Patterson argued over 30 years ago in “Copyright in Historical Perspective,” the framers understood “copy-rights” to be distinct from “auhors rights.” Authors rights protect the right to attribution, and to some degree, the right of integrity. These rights are related to the “moral rights” the Europeans speak of. They are fundamentally distinct from the “copy-right” — which was a right to control the publication of a work.

    From an originalist perspective, then, it is true that Congress shouldn’t be able to grant a “copyright” — a right to control the publication of a work — for a perpetual time. But the right to attribution is not, from that perspective, a “copy-right.” And thus if there were another power of Congress that could support that right — the Commerce Power, for example — then a requirement of attribution should not run afoul of the copyright power.

  • From today’s Fix column at Salon:

    Natalie Maines’ laryngitis is gone, and the Dixie Chick is speaking out again. “I am so glad I got my voice back for tonight,” she told an audience in Michigan on Monday, the day after a sore throat forced the cancellation of the group’s Cleveland show. “I had absolutely no voice yesterday — and I swear you could hear clapping from the Oval Office.”

    Maines’ comment reportedly drew a few boos from the crowd. More stinging still, Jerry Lewis has started firing spitballs in the Chicks’ general direction. “I’m old-fashioned,” the aging funnyman tells the New York Daily News. “You don’t make fun of the Queen of England, and you don’t make jokes about the President of the United States. I resent those that do. The Dixie Chicks are embarrassed that he’s from Texas? You don’t say that about a sitting President. The First Amendment says you can say anything you want in this country, but it should have an appendage, ‘Try to do it with class.'” Ahem.

    You don’t make jokes about the President of the United States – ??? – there goes a substantial fraction of standup and late night TV comedy.

  • After reading William Safire’s op-ed [pdf] in today’s NYTimes on privacy and digital diaries, I was more baffled than informed – then I saw that Ed Felten has put quite a bit of thought into it to help me on my way.

  • A little ammunition for the next time someone promotes DRM because it will give the artist a viable negotiating position: Dave Weinberger’s post on this extensive discussion of the AOL-Microsoft settlement and agreement to work together.

  • A new datapoint for the argument about the need/desirability of online governance: Mobs move into ‘Sims Online’ power vacuum [pdf]

    An underground group known as the Sims Shadow Government has taken over the fantasy world that is “The Sims Online,” meting out mob justice.

    It’s a violent twist for “The Sims,” the dollhouse-inspired computer game that has long been portrayed as the antithesis to guns-‘n-gore bestsellers like “Grand Theft Auto.” The emergence of a seedy underbelly in the online game may reveal more about the dark fantasies of middle-aged suburbanites than anyone suspected.

    …Mathieson, 34, who lives in Las Vegas and promotes bands, said players turned into racketeers.

    “They show up at your house and they request protection money. ‘You have to pay me 100,000 simolians if you don’t want your house torn down.’ It’s technically harassment.”

    The most popular person in the Sims universe — Mia Wallace, a composite character played by Mathieson and his wife, Jennifer — stepped into the power vacuum and organized the Sims Shadow Government.

    “We weren’t playing the games as hoodlums, we were playing the game as protectors of the city,” said Mathieson.

    At least at first. Somewhere along the line, though, the Sims Shadow Government turned from benevolent overseer to a virtual version of La Cosa Nostra.

    …Wright — the grand puppet master who birthed the bestselling Sims franchise — is both fascinated and frustrated by the emergence of the mob.

    In an interview at a recent trade show, Wright said he logs on nightly to monitor the mob’s exploits. But he said Maxis is powerless to stop it — since all the group’s communications happen outside of the game.

    Game experts say organized gangs are the hallmark of successful online multiplayer games, like “Lineage” or “Ultima Online.”

  • Offtopic: The End of History: How e-mail is wrecking our national archive

    When tomorrow’s historians go to write the chronicles of decision-making that led to Gulf War II, they may be startled to find there’s not much history to be written. The same is true of Clinton’s war over Kosovo, Bush Sr.’s Desert Storm, and a host of other major episodes of U.S. national security policy. Many of the kinds of documents that historians of prior wars, and of the Cold War, have taken for granted—memoranda, minutes, and the routine back-and-forth among assistant secretaries of state and defense or among colonels and generals in the Joint Chiefs of Staff—simply no longer exist.

    The problem is not some deliberate plot to conceal or destroy evidence. The problem—and it may seem churlish to say so in an online publication—is the advent of e-mail.

  • Senators Move to Restore F.C.C. Limits on the Media [pdf]

    The efforts to overturn the decision face an uphill battle, particularly in the House of Representatives, where there is more support for the commission than there appears to be in the Senate. But the political furor, as evidenced by hundreds of thousands of negative comments sent from across the country, on top of criticism from a spectrum of organizations ranging from the National Organization for Women to the National Rifle Association, have given critics momentum on Capitol Hill, which could ultimately lead to a reversal of some elements of the new rules.

    “While Monday’s decision promising further media deregulation may well be celebrated in a few New York and Hollywood boardrooms, it will be remembered as a dark day in thousands of American communities who look to the F.C.C. to ensure that the use of the public airwaves serves the interests of all Americans, not the economic self-interest of a chosen few,” said Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

    ?How did Fritz end up on this side of the debate?

  • Amy Harmon discusses the Verizon loss yesterday: Verizon to Reveal Customers in Piracy Case [pdf]. Tragically, the article’s title doesn’t include privacy, although that’s really the content of the article:

    While agreeing to turn the names over, Verizon will continue to challenge two rulings by a federal district judge who ordered the company to comply with subpoenas issued by the record industry group under a shortcut aimed at helping copyright owners fight digital piracy. The company argues that the process lends itself to abuses that could result in names of suspected copyright abusers being turned over without good cause. Under the rulings, an Internet provider can be forced to disclose the identity of its users without a judge’s specific approval.

    …”The net effect of a decision like this one is to open the door for use of subpoenas for any purpose,” said Marc Rotenberg, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, adding, “Our sense is that this door shouldn’t be open, at least not this wide.”

    Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, is circulating proposed legislation that would amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to require that a copyright holder file a lawsuit to learn the identity of an Internet user suspected of violating its copyright.

    …”The technology will move faster than the court systems,” said Jorge A. Gonzalez, the founder of Zeropaid.com, a repository of information for file-sharing software. “The new programs being developed are going to mask users. By the time Verizon has to start turning over a lot of names, the identities of users will be unknown.”

  • From Electronic Business: Getting in on the (copyright) act: Electronics industry calls for change in law – a rundown on the consumer electronics industry’s reactions to the growing application of the DMCA

    Brad Williams, director of corporate communications at Gateway, believes that the recording and movie industries should spend less time complaining and litigating and more time innovating. That is what many product manufacturers such as Gateway are doing. In December 2002, Gateway introduced its MusicVault software package—the first time a PC manufacturer put music offerings on a hard disk, according to Williams, so consumers don’t have to spend days downloading songs from dial-up services. Gateway bundles MP3 players and additional digital music software into PCs when consumers request them. “We haven’t talked about it publicly much, but we will be rolling out more digital audio products in the future,” Williams explains.

    Gateway obviously isn’t waiting for Congress to ride to the rescue. It is working with the music industry and within DCMA constraints while pushing the Boucher bill. That’s probably a smart approach, because the Boucher bill has much more tech industry support than it does congressional support. Only nine members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors. That is a small posse.

  • From the BBC Artists call for CD tax cut, a desciption of a protest over European VAT on CDs:

    More than 1,200 international stars including Sir Elton John, Chris de Burgh and Andrea Bocelli have signed a petition being presented to the EU in Brussels on Tuesday.

    They want recorded music to be classed in line with other cultural products such as books, newspapers and theatre tickets – which attract reduced VAT rates.

    … Other European artists involved in the campaign include Johnny Hallyday and Françoise Hardy from France, Zucchero of Italy, Greece’s Nana Mouskouri and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.

    I didn’t know Johnny Hallyday was still alive, much less still selling recordings?!?!

  • Yesterday we learned that Metallica is belatedly embracing downloads; today we learn that they are using their new album to promote an upcoming video game – a new convergence? See also MetallicaVault.com – presently just a countdown (7:30 AM) with 10.5 hours to go…

    Fans who purchase the CD will receive an ID number unlocking the Web site MetallicaVault.com, which will feature 60 previously unreleased live tracks at launch.

    All of the tracks will be downloadable MP3 files, burnable to disc and completely portable. Pfeifer said there is no reason for getting the music from illegal sources, where there is no guarantee of quality or even that the download is what it claims to be. “Why wouldn’t fans go to the faster, better alternative?” he asked.

    Note that today’s Boston Globe puts a different spin [pdf] on this:

    The new CD was supposed to come out next Tuesday but was pushed up to today (and some copies were available at Newbury Comics and Tower stores yesterday) because of fears of CD burning. You just know there’s lingering resentment from fans who didn’t appreciate Metallica’s stand against Napster (even though the band later dropped its case), so some will no doubt make a special effort to get this CD for free.

    As does yesterday’s NYTimes [pdf]

    Striking back at counterfeits, Elektra Records is moving up the release of the new Metallica album, “St. Anger,” to tomorrow from June 10. A statement from the record company said: “Elektra and Metallica have taken this extraordinary measure to ensure that counterfeit copies of the band’s first studio album in six years do not proliferate in the marketplace. Metallica unanimously approved the move, guaranteeing that fans get first crack at hearing the acclaimed disk the way the band intended: loud and unadulterated.”

  • CNet: Contract illuminates Novell, SCO spat. This article suggests that the contract between these two firms is a real mess. Essentially, Novell seems to have sold Unix and Uniware to SCO, but retained all copyrights and patents. Recall that there can only be a single owner of a copyright (see the ITOFCA v. MegaTransLogistics, concurring opinion), although there are specific activities that can be licensed. So, does SCO have a copyright claim, or is this a complaint about licensing (in which case, it’s up to Novell to sue IBM, while SCO can only ask/demand Novell to protect the licenses it has acquired – I think)?

  • Continuing the trend, EMI is now also suing Bertelsmann over its Napster investment; The Register article; CNet News’ Reuters news article – see the discussion of vicarious infringement in Legal Protection of Digital Information and in the EFF’s P2P paper

  • A new Get Your War On is up. In case you don’t know, here’s Human Rights Watch WWW page writeup on Islam Karimov