2003 July 07

(entry last updated: 2003-07-07 18:27:25)

Back from ILaw, although I’m still workigh through a few thoughts. With luck, I’ll have something more to say as recap today or tonight. In the meantime, back to the news.

  • From CNet News: Sharman can’t squeeze antitrust claim

    Sharman Networks, the company behind the popular Kazaa file-swapping software, cannot pursue a suit accusing record labels and movie studios of antitrust violations, a federal judge has ruled.

    In the ruling [referring page], dated July 2, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed Sharman’s argument that major entertainment companies have colluded to drive potential online rivals out of business, saying the company lacks any standing to make such a claim. Sharman does not provide movies and music online but rather distributes software that allows individuals to swap digital files, the judge said.

  • From LawMeme: Patent Bending [pdf] in The New Yorker:

    All patents, of course, stifle competition. That’s why inventors like them. But business-method patents have an especially chilling effect, in that novel approaches to commerce can be ruled off-limits to others. What eBay was accused of copying was a concept, not a computer code. As James Boyle, a law professor at Duke, put it, "Under this logic, one could get a patent on the idea of fast food-not a different way to broil the burger but the idea of fast food itself."

    Although intellectual-property experts like Boyle have loudly criticized the State Street decision, Congress has shown little interest in doing anything about it. (In fact, lawmakers have proposed bills that would make things even worse, such as allowing sports "techniques" to be patented. Imagine pitchers paying a royalty every time they threw a forkball.) That has left the matter of business-method patents in the hands of patent judges and the staffers at the Patent Office-people who spend most of their time working with patent-seekers, and who are therefore more sympathetic to their interests than to the public’s. (Economists call this phenomenon "regulatory capture.") The office says on its Web site that its role is "to grant patents," but surely its role should be to distinguish between innovations that are worth patenting and those that are not.

    […] The new regime’s defenders insist that in today’s economy such vigilance is necessary: ideas are the source of our competitive strength. Fair enough. But you don’t compete by outlawing your competition.

  • Wired News has a writeup on the Illegal Art exhibition in San Francisco: Artists Just Wanna Be Free

  • One of my students came to my office with an e-mail from a friend who has been notified that the RIAA has sent an e-mail to MIT Network Administration including the following text:

    Because many ISPs have requested that we give them advance notice, I am writing to alert you to a forthcoming subpoena which will be issued pursuant to section 512(h) of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. Sec. 512). The subpoena will request the name, address, telephone number, and e-mail adderss of a user, customer, or subscriber of your system or network who has infringed our members’ copyrighted sound recordings. For your information, that user was located that the following IP address: nn.nn.nn.nn on 6/27/2003 at 9:29 a.m. (EDT).

    This student received this notice from the living group network administration, whose records showed that the IP address had been assigned to the student’s computer at the time indicated.

    I am not aware of how MIT has acted in the face of these letters in the past (see this notice), but I cannot imagine that MIT is going to stand on principle (tragically) following the denial of the stay in the ongoing Verizon decision. I wonder how many subpoenas the RIAA is preparing….

  • From early last week, Julie Hilden’s take on the recent libarry filtering decision: A Recent Supreme Court Decision Allowing the Government to Force Public Libraries to Filter Users’ Internet Access Is Less Significant Than It Might At First Appear – a discussion of the filter litfing option and the notions in Breyer’s opinion.

  • Wired News has an article on Last.fm, a webcaster using collaborative filtering to set content. It would be interesting to know how US regulators would view this approach, in that webcasting on demand is more like a performance than a broadcast, with different fees.

  • I see that Donna worked on Copyfight this weekend – I’m afraid I just gave myself a rest, so I’m glad to point to her links: Quotable + Notable

  • Something to think about: New Anti-Piracy Checks On Terminator 2 DVD

    A recent reissue of the blockbuster Terminator 2 contains a DVD-ROM version of the movie with a new anti-piracy technique: 5-day viewing licenses issued over the Internet.

    The new digital rights management (DRM) system also looks up a PC’s Internet address–if the computer has a non-U.S. number, playback of the DVD-ROM will be prevented.

    The Web-checking system means that even if the DVD-ROM is copied, only one PC at a time around the world can play it back–bad news for DVD pirates located in Asia and elsewhere.

    And anyone thinking of copying the movie file from the DVD-ROM onto a hard drive and sharing it online can forget it: The file is only playable from a valid DVD-ROM disc–again, only after online verification.

    Digital Envoy, a provider of rights management technology, and SyncCast, which specializes in media streaming, worked together to create the digital rights management (DRM) system.

  • Read this one on the filght back from SF: Searching for a Dial Tone in Africa [pdf]; Slashdot discussion: VoIP Booming in Africa

  • From Slashdot: File Swappers to RIAA: Download This! [pdf]

    The Recording Industry Association of America’s announcement on June 25 that it will start tracking down and suing users of file-sharing programs has yet to spook people, say developers of these applications.

    “Forget about it, dude — even genocidal litigation can’t stop file sharers,” said Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, one of several systems that allow users to upload and download files — many of which are unauthorized MP3 copies of songs published by the RIAA’s member companies. Rosso said file-trading activity among Grokster users has increased by 10 percent in the past few days. Morpheus, another file-trading program, has seen similar growth.

    From the comments, I learn of the existence of PeerGuardian, a program that apparently is used to block TCP/IP access to a machine from machines within certain IP address blocks – a kind of blackhole program, with IP addresses submitted by members of the community. Opportunity for abuse, I agree, but an interesting response.

  • Today’s Boston Globe has two articles, representative of the continuing escalation of the P2P music wars: an article on file spoofing, Small companies are big in battle against Net piracy [pdf] and Hiawatha Bray on Freenet, The music industry might want to listen to this swappers’ deal [pdf]