2003 September 2 AM

(entry last updated: 2003-09-02 07:56:47)

A new term starts – and here’s a little AP Wire start to your term: Colleges Move to Stop File-Swapping! [pdf]

  • Kevin Heller points to this TechTV article: Dark Tip: Block the RIAA– "PeerGuardian is a free program that hides your file sharing from known RIAA informants."

  • Julie Hilden on DVD CCA v Bunner: The California Supreme Court’s Recent Decision On DeCSS, the DVD Encryption-Cracking Code:

    Its Reasoning and Significance

    The DVD industry is terrified that rather than buying or renting DVDs, movie watchers will just steal (or “share”) them instead. And they are especially terrified that DVD copies will leak before the movie is even released – thus dampening demand for theatrical showings.

    Because of the California ruling, that won’t happen as much as it might have. In truth, though, this wasn’t so much a case of secret-stealing, as of copyright combat. Once again, as has happened over and over in California courts, anti-copyright (and, to be fair, pro-First Amendment, and pro-“fair use”) forces lost.

    […] The tactic of invoking trade secret law in this context is ingenious. But it’s also a bit weird. Just because DeCSS decrypts CSS, doesn’t mean it must incorporate CSS’s trade secrets. (After all, a can opener doesn’t resemble the can it pries open.) And how secret were these supposed secrets, anyway, if reverse engineering could reveal them?

    However, the California Supreme Court did not address any of this weirdness. Rather, it assumed that, as the trial court found, DVD CCA will indeed be likely to be able to prove a trade secrets violation. Only time, evidence, and further trial court proceedings will show if this is actually true. In short, the trade secrets battle over DeCSS not only has not been lost – it was never even fought.

    […] In the end, it’s hard to argue with the Court’s decision as a matter of law. But as I’ve pointed out in a previous column, decisions that address dual-use technologies like the DeCSS code are always troubling because they tend to apply too broadly. Decisions like Bunner, of course, deny access to would-be copyright infringers. But they will also deny access to those whose only goal is “fair use” – such as film students who want to sample parts of DVD movies for a class project.

    As long as criminal uses of dual-use technologies are the focus, and fair uses are virtually ignored, free speech and thought will be impoverished. Our society – and our courts – should worry about the good guys who want to make fair use of copyrighted material, not just the bad guys whose only goal is misuse.

  • GrepLaw follows up on Ian Clarke’s (founder of Freenet) announcement that he was leaving the US: Ian Clarke on Freenet and his Decision to Leave the USA

    # Why did you decide to leave the U.S.?

    Several reasons really. Firstly, because the work I am doing now doesn’t really require me to be in any particular location, I could probably work from the North Pole if I had a fast Internet connection. Secondly, because I don’t like living in a country where, as a non-citizen, I am considered less deserving of justice than American citizens. Thirdly, because I feel that the direction intellectual property is being taken in this country, such as with the DMCA and software patents, make innovation much more difficult and risky here, particularly in the P2P space. There are many things I like about the US, but it just doesn’t make sense to be here any more.

  • Notwithstanding the Audio Home Recording Act, I’m not seeing an easy future for this: TiVo for Internet Radio!. From the Replay Radio site:

    Replay Radio is an incredibly easy way to record radio broadcasts. Just pick your favorite radio show, or select a station and a time range, and Replay Radio records it for you. It’s like a VCR for the radio. Now you can listen to your favorite radio shows whenever and wherever you like! (Click here for a screenshot tour.)

    Once your show is recorded, Replay Radio makes MP3 files for listening with an MP3 player or your PC. Or, you can have Replay Radio automatically make an audio CD for playback on a home or car CD Player. Everything happens automatically!

    Replay Radio is software that runs on your PC. You can record anything you hear, including streaming audio broadcast from Internet radio stations. Hundreds of shows and stations are pre-programmed, making recording as easy as point and click. You can even use Replay Radio as a general purpose recorder for archiving audio books, saving music, monitoring online police scanners, recording from devices attached to your PC (like cassette decks or radios), or other uses.

  • I missed Siva’s posting his latest at OpenDemocracy: Part 4: The nation-state vs. networks

  • Derek’s on a roll:

  • This interview from CNet (Selling your personal data) touches on ideas explained far more compellingly and with clearer discussion of the policy issues elsewhere. See Andrew Odlyzko’s paper instead: Privacy, Economics, and Price Discrimination on the Internet

  • New Office locks down documents. A new "feature" of Office 2003 is unveiled:

    Office 2003, the upcoming update of the company’s market-dominating productivity package, for the first time will include tools for restricting access to documents created with the software. Office workers can specify who can read or alter a spreadsheet, block it from copying or printing, and set an expiration date.

    The technology is one of the first major steps in Microsoft’s plan to popularize Windows Rights Management Services, a wide-ranging plan to make restricted access to information a standard part of business processes.

    See – it’s much easier to have your computer not trust you instead of training your staff to think before distributing data! And, of course, this side effect is completely unintentional:

    The new rights management tools splinter to some extent the long-standing interoperability of Office formats. Until now, PC users have been able to count on opening and manipulating any document saved in Microsoft Word’s “.doc” format or Excel’s “.xls” in any compatible program, including older versions of Office and competing packages such as Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice and the open-source OpenOffice. But rights-protected documents created in Office 2003 can be manipulated only in Office 2003.

    “There’s certainly a lock-in factor,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “Microsoft would love people to use Office and only Office. They made very sure that Office has these features that nobody else has.”

  • A Register article suggesting that one should rethink saving MP3s on cheap CD-Rs: CD-Rs deliver degrading experience

    Keeping data CDs in the dark for two years isn’t a good idea. According to the Dutch magazine PC Active some CD-Rs degrade in months, even at room temperature without sunlight.

  • So here’s an all too-probable joke to start your semester – NBC Announces Law and Order: RIAA Series:

    Lars Ulrich will star as a gritty New York detective and John Amos will play the chief RIAA lawyer. “Since most file sharing cases are civil and only consist of serving subpoenas, we had to take some liberties much like the RIAA,” said creator Dick Wolf.

    Not only will each episode feature a tense tracking and capture of a copyright violator, but also a performance by the artist being violated explained Wolf.

    […] Chairman and CEO of the RIAA, Mitch Bainwol said that he really enjoyed the pilot episode where a 13-year-old boy who downloaded an entire 50 Cent album without paying, receives a summary execution from 50 cent himself. “It’s a great combination of ‘ripped from the headline’ legal stories and music promotion. I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Bainwol.

    […] “In the third episode we’ve filmed we follow several teens who purchase music legally from a Sam Goody, but then are beaten to death and have the music stolen as they exit the store by a band of music pirates,” said Wolf. “Not more than 10 minutes later those legally purchased CDs are made available to millions of file sharers.”

    Bound to be more exciting than Law and Order: Elevator Inspectors Unit

  • Apparently the EU Parliament listens to protests: Protests delay software patents vote; Slashdot discussion: Protests Delay European Software Patent Vote

    From the CNet article

    The European Parliament has delayed voting on a controversial software-patents directive, following protests and criticism by computer scientists and economists.

    […] The directive, drafted by Labor Member of European Parliament Arlene McCarthy, has generated political opposition from the Greens and the European Socialist Party (PSE), among others. The German and French socialist parties are using the delay as an opportunity to raise MEPs’ awareness of the issues surrounding software patents ahead of the late-September plenary session.

    A demonstration last week in Brussels, Belgium, that attracted more than 400 participants was organized by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) and Eurolinux, among other groups, which also persuaded several hundred Web sites to black out their front pages in protest.

  • Digital Vandalism Spurs a Call for Oversight [pdf]

    The Internet has become a vital part of commerce and culture, but it is still a free-for-all when it comes to facing computer meltdowns. As America’s 156 million Internet users brace for the next round of digital vandalism, some experts say that it is time for the government to bolster a basic sense of stability in cyberspace that societies expect from their critical public resources.

    […] Proposals for government action being discussed by policy makers and computer security experts include strengthening the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division and offering tax incentives to businesses for spending on security. Another proposal would require public companies to disclose potential computer security risks in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

    Unlike the airwaves or the highways, the Internet is not subject to government oversight. And even the specter of intervention can raise hackles among business leaders and technologists who see the Internet’s openness as crucial to its success as a platform for innovation.

    But the increasing frequency and severity of computer virus attacks — last month’s dual assault cost billions of dollars in lost productivity alone — may have muted the antiregulatory reflex.

    […] But some longtime Internet users worry that decisions about security, if left in private hands, may balkanize a network whose openness is precisely what has permitted it to flourish. Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor who is an expert on cyberspace, says, “There’s an opportunity here for policy that would address the harms of worms and viruses and spam and invasions of privacy, without breaking the Internet.”

    Slashdot discussion: Increased Software Vulnerability, Gov’t Regulation

  • Accompanying an article about whether or not Microsoft is entering its middle age, we get this Bill Gates interview: Virus Aside, Gates Says Reliability Is Greater

    A. Well, we’ve certainly made a lot of progress in terms of creating more reliable software, building tools so that people can stay up to date so that they don’t run into these problems, creating the procedures that make sure that the recovery actions get widely communicated. We’d be the first to say that we’re doing more and more on this. It was very important that we got the company focused on it, made it part of the reviews of all the different employees.

    The fact that these attacks are coming out and that people’s software is not up to date in a way that fully prevents an attack on them is something we feel very bad about. We want the update process to work so automatically that in the future these problems won’t happen. The hackers are attacking not only our systems but other systems, and with the right kind of infrastructure and the right kind of work we can make sure they don’t disrupt things.

    Slashdot discussion: Gates Says Windows Reliability Is Greater

  • Many Voices Enriching the Broth [pdf] – a music reviewer’s lead suggests a cultural shift….

    For the moment the CD album is still the way most music is sold. But its secret is old news by now: the CD is not a fixed artistic form but a data carrier. Individual downloaded songs, hard drives full of homemade mp3’s, soundtrack albums, collections of current hits, handpicked disc-jockey mixes and the shuffle button on every new music player are all dismantling the album in the 21st century, and it could be argued that they all reflect actual listening habits and attention spans better than full-length, single-author CD’s.

    But because CD’s are still the way most music is sold, there are plenty of stray songs around, waiting to join a full-length product. Here are three compilation albums looking for the sweet spot where aesthetics meet expediency.

  • A new channel for distribution offers up hope to an ailing industry, as the US cellphone market catches a European fad: Going Gold? Maybe, if Enough Cellphones Ring [pdf]

    The music industry may be having trouble persuading people to buy its songs online rather than swap them without paying. But the cellphone market is another matter.

    “Ring tones are really becoming what the single was,” said Andy Volanakis, the executive in charge of ring-tone content for Sprint PCS’s mobile phone division.

    Sometimes the ring tone is even more popular than the CD. The dance-hall reggae artist Sean Paul, who records for the Warner Music Group, recently sold more copies of a synthesized digital snippet of his song “Get Busy” than CD singles of the same song. The snippet cost $2.50, compared with about $3 for a CD single.

    […] Yet some people say the labels are already making some of the same missteps that caused them to lose market share to music-swapping services. Some critics say they are overcharging for the use of their recordings, which will limit their use.

    Music labels get 50 percent or more of the retail price when they sell CD’s, Ms. Schloeder of Faith West said. But she said that was too much for the ring-tone market. “There’s not 50 percent left in the ring tone because you’re paying the carrier and you’re paying for the billing system,” she said. Publishers may also get a cut.

    Others say the labels are taking too few risks in the ring-tone market, in the same way they were slow to experiment with distribution on the Internet. “I would like to see someone sell a CD that includes three ring tones for free,” said Jonathan N. Schreiber, a consultant who advises recording companies and artist managers about wireless opportunities. “I don’t know if it would work, but nobody else does, either.”

    If the market bogs down in squabbles between providers and labels, alternatives controlled by neither side could thrive amid the chaos.