Slate on Cleaning It

From Slate: An Offer You Can Refuse

But what about Americans worried about the prospect of a bank-breaking lawsuit? Should you take the RIAA up on its amnesty offer? Maybe not. The “Clean Slate” program promises that the RIAA won’t pursue legal action against P2P pirates who send in a notarized affidavit declaring that they’ve wiped all copyright-infringing materials from their disk drives and who vow not to file-share again. But lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco say there are multiple reasons to sit tight for now, rather than rush to sign and deliver what amounts to an admission of guilt.

Disney getting ready to try single use DVDs

From bIPlog: Self-Destructing DRM on DVDs, Brought to You by Disney:

But get this logic:

Although the disposable DVD format does not make it harder for digital pirates to make illegal copies, Blaustein said by making DVDs cheaper the effort would also undercut the incentive to make such bootleg copies.

Memo to the RIAA: you could work with your customers to provide market solutions to piracy, instead of suing them.

William Gibson on film rights

Via a blog doesn’t need a clever name, this posting from William Gibson’s weblog: Making Short Films Based on Stories of Mine:

Someone mentions planning to do this. Actually this is not such a good idea, as the film rights to most of those stories were sold long ago. What this means is that not only can I not grant anyone any sort of permission (because those rights are no longer my property) but in some cases they have long since been resold by the original buyer, so I don’t even know who currently owns them and have literally no way of finding out.

The smarter thing to do is write your own screenplay and make up your own title, and if the result is after the manner of my early short fiction, I’m not sure where that might get you in 2003 but good luck.

261 – CNet Followup

Is this article is any indication, this is going to get really bloody: Will file traders face the music?

Charles Dumond of San Mateo, Calif., learned that he was targeted in a landmark series of recording industry piracy lawsuits only when reporters started calling his home Monday.

One of 261 people named by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in an unprecedented wave of lawsuits aimed at alleged “egregious” file traders, an angry Dumont said the accusations had taken him wholly by surprise.

“Personally I have not done this,” Dumond said in a brief phone conversation Monday night. “There may be other family members who do this. But the ISP bill is in my name.”

[…] Each suit contains a name and address that has been provided by the alleged file swapper’s Internet service provider as part of an unusual subpoena process authorized by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The RIAA has issued more than 1,500 subpoenas for alleged file swappers’ personal information, but has not said why it sued just 261 people of the larger pool of potential defendants.

But those addresses lead only to a single name on an ISP account. Many of those are likely to be sole account holders. Some, such as Dumond, will have many family members who use the same account. Others may use company computers or even be linked to wireless access points that serve the public without maintaining records of who is logged in at what time.

Mark Lemley, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, predicts the RIAA will encounter problems if it sued someone who shared his or her Internet connection through a Wi-Fi wireless network. “Opening a computer to a Wi-Fi network…is definitely not an act of direct infringement, so the RIAA would need to find the people who actually did the uploading,” he said.

[…] The law says that no lawsuit may be brought alleging copyright infringement based on the “noncommercial use by a consumer of such a (digital audio recording device) device or medium for making digital musical recordings.” The latest generation of multimedia PCs equipped with CD and DVD burners may qualify as a digital audio recording device, the thinking goes, which would mean the AHRA applies.

Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University who testified before Congress when the AHRA was being debated, said it’s “an argument I’d expect to see made, and it’s possible that it will succeed.

“It’s absolutely clear from the legislative history that Congress’ attempt at the time was to protect all noncommercial forms of music copying, period. Consumers were exempt from making noncommercial copies of digital or analog music recordings…The argument hasn’t been made since (Napster), but there hasn’t been a consumer in front of the court. With a consumer in front of the court, the argument becomes significantly more compelling.”

Infringing Actions on Cleaning Your Slate

An analysis of the Clean Slate affidavit: Why I Would Think Carefully Before Cleaning My Slate

First paragraph (non-essential elements deleted for brevity’s sake):

I . . . am executing this Clean Slate Program Affidavit in order to obtain amnesty from copyright infringement litigation supported or assisted by the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) with respect to my unauthorized noncommercial downloading, copying, or “sharing” (that is, uploading/distributing) as of this date on peer-to-peer networks such as [laundry list] (“P2P Networks”). I represent that I am eligible for this Clean Slate Program and meet all the conditions herein and in the Clean Slate Program Description.

Analysis:

Okay, you’ve just confessed in writing, under oath, to committing copyright infringement, which in addition to being popular lawsuit fodder is also a federal crime.

The RIAA has promised nothing. Its signature is not on this affidavit. You state that you are executing the affidavit “in order to obtain amnesty,” but unlike a settlement agreement or a contract the opposing party has not signed the document. While a federal judge would not likely stand for the RIAA going back on its word (at the least you could perhaps countersue for detrimental reliance), you are relying on the RIAA’s good graces that it will forebear from suing you in the future.

[…]

Update on MIT’s RIAA subpoena

The Tech: RIAA Resends Subpoena For KaZaA User’s Name

The Recording Industry Association of America has sent MIT a second subpoena, this time using the procedure requested by MIT, that asks for the identity of a network user alleged to have been illegally “offering hundreds of copyrighted works to the world-at-large” from MIT’s network through the KaZaA file-sharing system.

MIT has indicated it plans to hand over the information of a user believed to be the owner of the computer involved. It was not immediately clear when MIT planned to respond to the subpoena. The name MIT plans to release has not been publicly released, but whoever is named appears likely to be the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit by the Association.

BusinessWeek on VoIP and FCC regulation

Time To Rewrite The Rules [pdf]

More like a sitting duck, say Vonage and a chorus of VOIP evangelists. They argue that the convoluted, often irrational, web of telecom regulations that have evolved over the last century threaten to kill a vibrant new technology and stifle greater efficiency and sorely needed investment in the ailing sector. “To single out VOIP as a telephone service is a terrible misunderstanding of the Internet industry. I would submit that, someday, the phrase Internet telephony will sound as archaic as ‘horseless carriage’ sounds today,” says Vint Cerf, one of the designers of the Internet protocol and vice-president for technology and Internet architecture at MCI (MCWEQ ).

The rush to lump VOIP in with phone services obscures the larger problem: The 100-year-old regulatory structure for telephones is no longer adequate for today’s advanced telecom services. These rules were written in a time when each technology delivered one type of service: Voice traveled over copper wires. Broadcast radio and TV signals flew through the air. Multichannel video journeyed across a coaxial cable.

The Internet has changed all that. Since information now travels digitally — a sequence of 1s and 0s — no distinction remains between a voice call, an e-mail, or a video stream, and it costs no more if that information goes cross-town or cross-country. For voice calls, that means the system of fees that carriers pay each other to send long-distance, regional, and local voice minutes are fast becoming obsolete. “Over time, VOIP will make the telecom system as we know it irrelevant,” says Blair Levin, a former Federal Communications Commission chief of staff who’s now a telecom analyst at investment firm Legg Mason in Washington, D.C.