2003 July 17 [8:30 am]
(entry last updated: 2003-07-17 22:10:03)
While we’re on the subject of DMCA/copyright enforcement, try this one on for size: DirecTV dragnet snares innocent techies
Targeting pirates for their piracy is difficult, if not impossible, since receiving DirecTV is a passive operation. So instead the company is going after people like Sosa, who have purchased hardware from one of the equipment vendors shut down in the DMCA raids. Critics say that approach is misguided, and is snaring innocent hobbyists and security researchers, some of whom have never even owned a satellite dish. “Innocent people are being caught in DirecTV’s dragnet,” says Jason Schultz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which began receiving calls for help from DirectTV defendants last year.
[...] No one weeps for failed pirates, but some of the equipment that people are being sued over has perfectly legal uses. The clearest example of this is a device marketed as an “unlooper” in piracy circles. Pirates buy it for a “glitching” function designed to repair a satellite TV access card that’s been placed in an infinite loop by one of DirecTV’s electronic countermeasures.
But the unlooper is also a reprogrammable smart card programmer, capable of doing everything a standard ISO-7816 programmer can do, and more.
Slashdot discussion: DirecTV Sues Anyone Who Bought Smartcard Reader?
Laura Hodes argues that the recent Intel v. Hamidi decision means less than has been claimed: The Recent California Decision On Intel and Email:
Less Significant Than It May Seem
On June 30, in Intel Corporation v. Hamidi, the California Supreme Court refused to apply an old common law tort to a very modern problem. Intel had alleged that Ken Hamidi, a former employee, committed “trespass to chattels” when he flooded its email system with messages critical of Intel.
The decision is being hailed as a landmark case for free speech in the Internet age. In fact, though, the decision is limited in scope - much more so than media accounts have generally suggested. Most importantly, even after the decision, Intel may still use other legal theories to go after Hamidi - such as interference with prospective economic relations; interference with contract; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As I will explain, the California ruling also is not entirely persuasive. For this reason, other states may well disagree with California, and rule the other way when confronted with the issue.
John Palfrey concludes that the Microsoft-SCO deal put SCO into the black this quarter, based on the SEC filings for this quarter.
Ed Foster’s latest GripeLog discusses yet another setback for reverse engineering in the recent UCITA discussions in Virginia that were supposed to improve the law: UCITA: No Reverse in Virginia
Even when the work here is less than inspired, though, it’s the artists’ bravery, their willingness to enter this uncertain area of the art world, that commands our appreciation. Copyright law is a dangerous, capricious beast that is almost entirely under the control of big companies, and it doesn’t matter, really, that the artists may be in the right. Under many interpretations of copyright and trademark legislation, both Dwyer and Forsythe stood a good chance of beating the legal rap.
Dwyer’s [Starbucks/Corporate Whore] logo is unmistakably a parody, a form long protected by the courts. But Dwyer didn’t have the resources to fight Starbucks, so he was forced to settle the matter by agreeing not to post his logo anywhere on his site. Forsythe, with the help of pro-bono attorneys, managed to convince one federal judge that his [Barbie-depicting] work was OK, but Mattel has appealed the case.
Some letters to the editor on the Dylan/Plagiarism article (Furdlog ref): Dylan’s Lyrics: Something Borrowed . . . (2 Letters) [pdf]
Advanced scanning technology makes it possible to reconstruct documents previously thought safe from prying eyes, sometimes even pages that have been ripped into confetti-size pieces. And although a great deal of sensitive information is stored digitally these days, recent corporate scandals have shown that the paper shredder is still very much in use.
“People perceive it as an almost perfect device,” said Jack Brassil, a researcher for Hewlett-Packard who has worked on making shredded documents traceable. If people put a document through a shredder, “they assume that it’s fundamentally unrecoverable,” he said. “And that’s clearly not true.”
Hoo-boy - this is a solution? Sure has worked for drugs, I note: Upload a File, Go to Prison (Reuters newswire, pdf). I knew that Howard Berman was 0wz0r3d, but I hadn’t known that Rep. Conyers was, too.
A new bill proposed in Congress on Wednesday would land a person in prison for five years and impose a fine of $250,000 for uploading a single file to a peer-to-peer network.
The bill was introduced by Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.). They said the bill is designed to increase domestic and international enforcement of copyright laws.
[...] The bill, called the Author, Consumer and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003, or ACCOPS, would allocate more money to the justice department to investigate copyright crimes: up to $15 million a year, compared with the current budget of $10 million. The bill would also enable information sharing between countries to help in copyright enforcement abroad.
The bill “clarifies” that uploading a single file of copyright content qualifies as a felony. Penalties for such an offense include up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In addition, filming a movie in a theater without authorization would immediately qualify as a federal offense.
Although the EFF is quoted, I can’t find anything on their site, yet.
Further update: Cory Doctorow’s take: Two more students subpoenaed by RIAA, new bill to jail fileswappers
Updated, again: And an unearthly number of Slashdot comments in a very short time: House Bill to Make File-Sharing an Automatic Felony - and while I haven’t read them all by a long shot, here’s a thought that I haven’t seen elsewhere - remember the tired analogy that says that P2P file sharing is the same as shoplifting a CD? Well, under this bill, that’s no longer true - shoplifting a CD is only a misdemeanor. A public policy initiative to favor shoplifting over P2P?
The more I think about this, the angrier I get. For crying out loud, copyright infringement is already illegal. And now we have representatives suggesting that we should federalize enforcement, rather than leaving it to the copyright holders? I’m sure that makes the RIAA/MPAA would be happy to see federal tax dollars invested in this - more $$ to the bottom line - " for the artists."
Don’t our federal law enforcement agencies already have plenty to do - I mean, last I checked, we are still worrying about terror threats, for example, right? I am really disgusted by this nonsense. While it’s certainly just a sop to their supporters, the fact that it gets discussed at all is an indication of just how out of hand the consideration of this topic has become.
Copyright is still an economic incentive to create; criminal penalties for infringement? These guys are NUTS!
Yet another update: TechLawAdvisor suggests another wrinkle: students with felon offenses are ineligible for federal support.
A little off-topic: For the creative types, we have Apple’s recent announcement at MacWorld: Apple Introduces Soundtrack As Standalone Product. I am not a user of these tools, but the writeup (granted, a press release) is notable, if only for its claims (see also the related Wired writeup of Final Cut Pro):
“Soundtrack is going to revolutionize music production for the Internet,” said Lynda Weinman, author, trainer and co-producer of Flashforward. “Web developers are currently forced to license background music for their online animation, or hire outside producers to create original compositions. The interface of Soundtrack is so intuitive that even non-musicians can easily incorporate royalty-free audio production into their workflow, which directly translates into lower development costs and faster turnaround times.”
“I’m totally blown away by the extreme music creation abilities of Soundtrack,” said Charlie Clouser, producer, keyboardist and remixer for artists such as Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, The Deftones and Rob Zombie. “From the way it automatically blends musical elements on-the-fly, to its super intelligent loop searching, Soundtrack is more powerful than any other loop-based audio software out there, giving professional musicians and music editors a must-have tool in their arsenal.”
Although I posted this last night, it bears repeating - apparently the NC legislature wants to guarantee your right to fill your printer toner cartridges however you want - irrespective of the DMCA - Slashdot discussion: North Carolina Fights Back Against Lexmark
The Register discusses a Jupiter Media report: ISPs and labels ‘must cooperate’
Since broadband providers and music labels have not shown a willingness to cooperate, European consumers are unlikely pay for e-music anytime soon.
That is the finding of a Jupiter Research report, which included a survey of 5,000 European consumers, 43 per cent of whom said they are not convinced that paying for a digital music service was a necessity.
Indeed, the report said that many European broadband users sign up for their high-speed connections so that they can more easily participate in illegal file sharing. Jupiter added that this motivation is not only bad for labels, but will pose an increasing problems for broadband Internet service providers (BSPs), putting their networks under greater strain.
Since Mark Mulligan is quoted in the above-cited Register piece, I figured I’d better check his weblog - though there’s nothing on this report, there is this nugget:
An interesting sub plot of the IFPI’s piracy report that no one seems to have picked up on is that the illegal CD market is undergoing its own downturn. In fact it is almost mirroring the legitimate industry’s growth, but with a few years lag: the value of the of the illegal CD market has grown by 12% since 1999 yet in volume terms it has grown by 116%. The effective average price of a pirated CD has halved from $8 in 1999 to $4 in 2002.
The legitimate music market immersed itself in a myriad of price cuts and promotions in what was ultimately a futile attempt to stave off declining sales. It looks like the illegal sector is having to do the same. It seems that, as the cost of blank media drops and penetration of home burners proliferates, consumers are feel compelled to pay less and less for CDs. Unfortunately that is not just bad news for the pirates.
The report he cites can be found here: Commercial Piracy Report 2003
"It’s just a matter of a band having the right to protect the chords it uses. I couldn’t start up my own soft drink company using the exact same formula as Coca-Cola.” - Jill Pietrini, Metallica’s lawyer
Of course, since the the recipe for Coke is a trade secret, this is more of the same nonsense, but it betrays, potentially, just how much thought went into this hack.