Access Control

Derek’s Access Controls and Copyright Misuse posting continues the discussion of technological lockup of copyright. The discussion that Derek points to seems ultimately to come down to distinguishing what copyright is supposed to do as compared with what it is that technologically managed copyright enables one to do under the DMCA. Sadly, what copyright is supposed to do is left to generalities like the Constitutional definitions, which then are widely (and wildly!) interpreted according each stakeholder’s particular interests and ideologies of innovation.

Adjudication gives the courts an opportunity to discuss the normative consequences of some of these technologies, but the diversity of these conflicts makes them poor instruments for studying each other. It’s going to be about getting past these specifics and back to the larger question of what copyright is supposed to accomplish.

An Exhaustive Look at Legal Music Downloads from kuro5hin

The kuro5hin article Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads is another description of the fact that the tools for music distribution are really no longer wholly controlled by the record publishers, and that there are new opportunities for distribution out there:

If everyone started downloading legal music instead of violating copyright with the file sharing programs, we would make short work of the RIAA, because people would start buying CDs directly from the artists and seeing their shows instead of enriching the major labels by buying CDs from the bands the labels have chosen for us to listen to. The RIAA would also have no cause to complain – these music downloads do not infringe copyright because the artists give you permission to download them.

Of course, once the record labels realize that spending their time identifying talent, rather than engineering a facsimile thereof, they might retain a workable business model, since few have the time to search the web and test out every band out there. But, until they figure that out, it’s worth thinking about this approach. (Exhaustive links and commentary)

The Economist on the Patent Brouhah

The Economist compares and contrasts US and European software patents in the wake of last week’s protests and the (resulting?) vote delay: A clicking bomb [pdf]

The issue of patents for software and business methods has been causing a stir in America ever since the Patent and Trademark Office started issuing patents on internet business methods in 1998, most famously that for one-click shopping. Proponents argue that these patents provide the necessary incentives to innovate at a time when more inventions are computer-related. Critics claim that such intellectual monopolies hinder innovation, because software giants can use them to attack fledgling competitors. Moreover, as software is often built on the achievements of others, writing code could become a legal hurdle race. By analogy, if Haydn had patented the symphony form, Mozart would have been in trouble.


The European Commission wants to avoid the American situation, in which case law drives authorities to issue computer-related patents all too easily, in particular for business methods and algorithms. Software, say to control an X-ray machine, should remain unpatentable, but the entire apparatus—the combination of software and hardware—could be protected by a patent. In the words of the directive, to be patentable an invention must make a "technical contribution"–meaning "a contribution to the state of the art in a technical field which is not obvious to a person skilled in the art".

Unsurprisingly, this definition is particularly controversial. Larger software firms in the Business Software Alliance are happy. Smaller firms and open-source lobby groups, such as the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, are up in arms. They think the directive’s lack of clarity will make American-style patents possible, and are arguing for a more watertight definition.

Slashdot discussion: The Economist Contrasts American, European Patent Approaches

Some Slashdot Tales

It’s all the same?

The same people who would certainly argue that "guns don’t kill people; people kill people" are nevertheless trying to slam P2P technology by picking on how it’s used: Aiming at Pornography to Hit Music Piracy [pdf]

The industry is trying to enlist broader public support with a campaign intended to show that its nemesis — the peer-to-peer networks for swapping files like KaZaA and Morpheus — are used not only to trade songs but also pornographic images, including child pornography.

“As a guy in the record industry and as a parent, I am shocked that these services are being used to lure children to stuff that is really ugly,” said Andrew Lack, the chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment.

[…] The bill in the House [Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003] backed by the music industry — introduced by Representative Joseph R. Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Representative Christopher John, a Democrat from Louisiana — would require the file-swapping services to get parental consent before being used by children.

[…] “The adult industry, like others, is against the illegal downloading of their videos,” said Gary Kremen, the chief executive of, a directory of sexually explicit Web sites, “but they are much smarter than the music industry. They see p2p as money to be made.”

Slashdot discussion: RIAA Parses ‘P2P’ As ‘Peer 2 Porn’

A New Mistake In The Offing

A Reuters newswire piece from CNet News: Databases–the next copyright battle?

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are circulating a proposed bill that would prevent wholesale copying of school guides, news archives and other databases that do not enjoy copyright protection.

The proposed bill would provide a legal umbrella for publishers of factual information such as courtroom decisions and professional directories. The measures would be similar to the copyright laws that protect music, novels and other creative works.

[…] The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and consumer advocates said they plan to write letters of protest soon, arguing that the bill could dramatically limit the public’s access to information. Database providers can protect themselves through terms-of-service agreements with their customers, said Joe Rubin, director of congressional and public affairs at the chamber.

“We think this is already dealt with under license and contract law, and there’s no reason to extend beyond that,” Rubin said.

More on "Amnesty"

Wired News picks up the discussion of the credibility of the RIAA’s offer of "amnesty" – Peace Offering for File Traders?

“Just as we have been cautious about programs like Total Information Awareness, anytime a giant entity starts collecting information on individual Americans, we should be suspicious of how that information can then be used,” said Jason Schultz, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“Its not at all clear what the RIAA is going to go with that information once they’ve gathered it,” he said. “In the end, this still doesn’t solve the problem.”

Schultz said it’s not clear whether the RIAA has the authority to grant a full amnesty for file sharing anyway, as they don’t represent songwriters and music publishers.

“Before people make their deal with the devil, they should be careful to make sure that, in fact, they won’t get sued by anybody for what they did,” he said.

A New Music Video Accessory

From the NYTimes: Girls? Check. Cristal? Check. iPod? Check. [pdf]

The iPod looks like it belongs in the video. As Microsoft has been cast in the role of Goliath in the personal computing wars, Macintosh has been playing David. And right now the stone in its slingshot is music. Not only is the iPod the top digital music player in the field, but earlier this year Apple’s iTunes Music Store became the first legitimate music downloading service viewed as a success in the business, with one million songs downloaded (at 99 cents each) in its first week. The figure is impressive considering that less than 1 percent of the country’s home computers are Macintoshs that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store.