Slashdot rundown [8:05 pm]
I was too busy to consult Slashdot today, but there are a couple articles to track.
I was too busy to consult Slashdot today, but there are a couple articles to track.
From Bag and Baggage: The Los Angeles Times: The File Sharing Edition - links to the key stories from the LA point of view.
The LATimes’ summary page: Music Sharing and Piracy: Recent coverage of attempts to manage copying and discourage piracy of music, and related controversies about digital distribution.
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.
Sorry about the ambiguity. Willem Dakota Neuefeind Lessig was born yesterday.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
From the BBC: Potter pirate sorry for mistakes
A bootleg Spanish-language version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has appeared in Venezuela - complete with apologies for its errors.
Translation mistakes and poor graphics litter the version of the book, issued five months in advance of the official Spanish volume’s release.
But the author apologises for his or her shortcomings in notes in the book.
[...] The cover is an exact copy of the English-language version, which has been on sale since 21 June. The book is 777 pages long, compared to the 870-page original.
Daily newspaper El Universal reported that two people had been arrested last month and charged with producing the bootlegs.
Wired News; Fear May Not Spur CD Sales
But opponents of the Recording Industry Association of America’s approach say its heavy-handed tactics are unlikely to prove effective over the long run. Rather than give up on file trading, they say, fans probably will either seek more-anonymous ways to swap music or collect tracks from artists not affiliated with the RIAA.
Salon: We don’t need your stinkin’ amnesty! With comments from Lisa Rein and Mary Hodder –
Lisa Rein, a blogger at On Lisa Rein’s Radar
I would not participate in this program under any circumstances.
The RIAA doesn’t have the right to give full amnesty anyway — you could still be sued by the individual copyright owners/song publishers (like Metallica).
So they are collecting a big database of individuals that can be turned over to other individuals who will then sue the file-sharers anyway. And the file-sharers will have admitted to it, thinking they were getting amnesty. Forget it!
Mary Hodder, one of the bloggers at the Berkeley Intellectual Property Weblog, or bIPlog
I would not sign the amnesty, because I do not file-share (up or downloading copyright protected materials — (I) used to pre-Napster decision, but not now), and because the RIAA does not represent all the parties potentially involved, and therefore admitting to the RIAA that you file-share is asking for more trouble. They say you can “wipe the slate clean” in their press release today, but that would only be their slate, nobody else’s.
I would not sign because who knows what they would do with the photos and personal information they will collect. They are not a law enforcement agency, and as such, are not subject to public oversight. They are a private trade group, and have way too much power under the DMCA to subvert people’s rights, without judicial oversight, as it is (the subpoenas are generated by bots and sent out without a judge or clerk checking them out, and they’ve been wrong in some cases, and may be or have already been wrong in more…)
I do think this program will push more people to DarkNet solutions, and will cause the two extremes (RIAA vs. people who hate them and don’t care about copyright) to grow further apart, making it harder to get to reasonable solutions, that don’t criminalize millions, like compulsory licensing or good, well made Web downloading services with reasonable prices and a great catalog.
Not to mention that subtle, nuanced concepts like fair use and the public domain get totally shot. As well as any perspective on the DMCA and why some things in there aren’t quite right. The RIAA is just shouting loudest right now. It’s kind of a guerilla war they will never win. Like Vietnam.
Read more of Mary’s thoughts here: Extremes? It’s All About Them.
From Slate: A Guide to the Patriot Act, Part 1
If you haven’t read all 300-plus pages of the legislation by now, you should. If you can’t, in the following four-part series, Slate has attempted to summarize and synthesize the most controversial portions of the act so you can decide for yourself whether you want Patriot, and the Patriots that may follow, to be a part of your world. Part 1 tackles Section 215, the law dealing with private records. Part 2 will address changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and “sneak and peek” warrants. Part 3 will discuss new electronic surveillance, and Part 4 will discuss miscellaneous provisions, including alien detentions.
The latest Movielink 2.0, released last week, addresses several complaints by early customers.
The service now uses a so-called progressive download system, which allows customers to start watching a movie as early as two minutes after the download has started. Customers used to have to wait two hours or more for the entire movie to download.
Also, customers no longer need to maintain an Internet connection for at least the first few minutes of a movie, which allowed Movielink computers to verify whether the file was authorized. A different system of verification is now used.
According to the page, this set of Get Your War On strips were posted almost a month ago - but I missed them.
A lighter look from BBSpot: RIAA Says Future of Music is Suing File Sharers
The RIAA announced that they would begin a strategy of profits by lawsuit, which should keep them a viable business indefinitely.
“It’s really a bold new idea that really gets back to the roots of the RIAA,” said new RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol. “We’ll no longer be worried about distributing music. The file sharers will do that for us, but now we’ll just make our money from suing them and that’s really what we’re all about.”
According to a report by The Inquirer it will take the RIAA over 2,000 years to sue every file sharer, which confirms the long-term viability of the business model.
[...] The RIAA could run into trouble with the plan as it is rumored that the SCO Group has already patented the business model of suing customers to stay afloat.
The new plan has been endorsed by the American Bar Association.
The blizzard of lawsuits — which is expected to be followed by thousands more — is a turning point for the music industry, which has sought to avoid direct conflict with its potential consumers as it battles online piracy. But industry officials said they now believe that the only way to stem the widespread file-swapping is to make people realize they will be punished for participating — even in the context of an Internet culture where many forms of information are free.
[...] “They’re hitting the networks in their Achilles’ heel, which is that everybody can share but no one person has incentive to share,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
“It’s not as if people are excited about sharing, they’re excited about taking.”
[...] The record companies said the [KaZaA] decision, which they have appealed, left them little choice but to pursue individual users of those programs.
The litigation strategy was further buoyed by surveys that showed how impervious people are to ethical entreaties.
A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 67 percent of people downloading music did not care whether or not it was copyrighted.
[...] Marvin Hooker, a 39-year-old resident of San Francisco who is being sued by the record industry, offers a point of view held by millions of file sharers.
Mr. Hooker, who works in a bank, said that when he heard music that appealed to him on KaZaA, he typically downloaded the song and kept it, perhaps burning it on a CD. He says he does not believe that such actions violate the law.
“To me, the way I see it, I am not taking anything from them,” Mr. Hooker said. He compared the Internet music download to making a copy of music or a tape for friends.
“I don’t see people getting sued because of that,” he said.
[I think Jonathan fell for making the cool sound-bite rather than explaining the problem - it's not at all clear to me that people are excited about taking - I would argue that they're excited about access, something that they don't have otherwise. The "celestial jukebox" metaphor is a better description of why people participate - the power of the network effect makes the celestial jukebox achievable and that's what's so exciting.]
But interviews with executives at record labels, Internet companies and research companies revealed a much more complex array of problems facing the music business than just digital piracy.
“It’s not all file-sharing,” said Andy Gershon, the president of V2 Records, home to the recording artists Moby and the White Stripes. “I do think that right now, the business is sick but music is great.”
Other record label executives agreed. Among the problems they cited were the consolidation of radio stations, making it harder to expose new bands and records, and the lack of a widely popular musical trend like teen-pop, which relied on stars like Britney Spears and `N Sync to drive young people to record stores.
They also blamed a poor economy and competition for the limited time and money of teenagers and young adults, their main customers, who often find that they prefer buying DVD’s, video games, sneakers and more.
[...] Moreover, analysts said that there are two different types of people swapping songs online.
“We did a survey recently of both adults and young people and were able to identify two groups of downloaders,” said Mr. Bernoff of Forrester. “One that reduced their CD purchases and one that didn’t.”
[...] A similar study by Jupiter Research produced similar findings: a survey of file-sharing users showed that 31 percent said that their spending on CD’s had decreased while 16 percent said that they spent more on CD’s after downloading music.
[...] “Price isn’t the issue,” said Rob Lord, a creator of Muse.Net, a computer media player. “The issue is access, integration and ease of use.”
With the club of lawsuits and the olive branch of an amnesty program, the music industry is waging a campaign against online piracy that relies on both public relations and economics to attack the idea that everything in cyberspace can be free.
[...] Yet scaring the customers is a tricky strategy for the music industry. Other industries, to be sure, have sued customers who misuse a product or service. The software industry, for example, has long waged a campaign against people who illegally copy or use software, and the credit card industry has aggressively pursued people who commit fraud with their cards.
But the problem group in other industries typically represents a small portion of potential customers. In the music industry, by contrast, young people are the most active users of music file-sharing systems and they purchase more CD’s per person than older music listeners.
[...] The music industry’s actions yesterday dealt with one side of the economic ledger: raising the cost of illegal file sharing.
But the industry, according to analysts, must pay at least as much attention to its own economics if it is really to address the challenge presented by Internet file sharing.
“The industry has to increase the price of illegal file sharing and make it more attractive to download music legally or purchase CD’s,” said Hal R. Varian, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. “That is the economic gap the industry is trying to close.”
The music industry’s travails, analysts agree, are in part self-inflicted — a result of reacting slowly and ineptly to the challenge of Internet file sharing. Still, other media industries face similar issues. Movies and television programs, though nothing like music yet, are beginning to be distributed over file-sharing networks.
[...] “[The Internet] was never really free,” said Thomas R. Eisenmann, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. “The hope was that advertising would pay for everything. That’s not necessarily a flawed model. It has just been a lot harder than most people thought.”
A contrarian piece from Declan McCullagh: Technology and the limits of media ownership
To hear critics assail the change, which is now on hold after last week’s court ruling, you might think a constitutional Armageddon was at hand. Columnists warned that the decision “wounded democracy,” while The New York Times lauded the old rules as representing “the heart of our democracy.” A report the AFL-CIO prepared before the vote even bears the grave title of “Democracy Unhinged.”
Huh? You’d never know it from all that anguished bleating about imperiled democracy, but the changes to the FCC’s media ownership rules were entirely modest. If anything, they didn’t go far enough.
[...] On Friday, Powell told me that many of his critics seem stuck in the mid-20th century, fighting a battle that ignores alternative forms of news and entertainment that have sprouted in the last few decades. “This is a technology story,” he said. “It’s a changing technology story. It’s one that doesn’t get focused on: Most of the harangue in the daily press you read is a battle you could have had in 1944.”
[...] Today, there’s an information overload, not a lack of it. Families can now choose from 500-plus channels of news and entertainment that are delivered via cable or satellites, in addition to movies on demand, VHS and DVD rentals, satellite radio and nearly twice the number of radio stations as before.
Then there’s the Internet. Families are no longer tied to one or two local newspapers: They can read virtually any news organization’s Web site anywhere in the world.
[...] Given this rich media environment, isn’t it a tad premature to proclaim the death of American democracy? If anything, the marketplace seems to be becoming more competitive, not less.
That’s why it’s reasonable to go even further than Powell and his two Republican colleagues did and deregulate the media environment even more. Deregulated industries, as the United States found out after deregulating the airline industry, become far more efficient and offer customers lower prices than before.
This is a little spooky. Declan seems to have drunk the deregulation "kool-aid." Declan looks, at best, disingenuous as he parrots the standard claim that Internet will solve all these media concentration issues without considering that (a) consumer broadband consumption has not grown as fast as was expected (and some with it are giving it up) and (b) broadband access is still highly constrained/regulated in favor of the incumbents. Similarly, telling me that there are 500 channels without pointing out the paucity of independent sources of content behind those channels is pure sophistry.
CNet News has this Reuters feed: Microsoft to open video standard for review
Microsoft said Monday that it would open the specifications for its video compression technology, which would allow other companies to make products based on its technology.
The world’s largest software maker, which launched its latest video and audio standard Windows Media 9 series in January, said it submitted the standard to the society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) on Monday for review.
Acceptance by the international standards body would allow Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 to be more easily adopted by other companies because the specifications would be open for all to see.
For example, it’s worked so well for Server Message Block/Windows Filesharing, after all — just not to the benefit of third party developers.
How’s this for disingenuous: Apple: Reselling iTunes songs ‘impractical’
An Apple Computer executive on Monday downplayed recent questions over the download resale policy of the company’s iTunes Music Store, saying technical if not legal barriers would largely prevent such transfers from taking place.
“Apple’s position is that it is impractical, though perhaps within someone’s rights, to sell music purchased online,” Peter Lowe, Apple’s director of marketing for applications and services, told CNET News.com in an interview.
[...] Apple’s Lowe left unaddressed the question of whether a transfer would violate iTunes’ terms-of-service contract, focusing instead on technical and other barriers to such a sale.
“They would have to somehow give their account info to the person they were selling to in order to get their Mac authorized to play the music being sold,” he said.
Lowe also said that with songs selling for 99 cents apiece, reselling music could be financially impractical.
“Economically, I don’t believe there is going to be much of a market for resold music…We just don’t see it as that much of an issue,” he said.
And who established the technical barriers? Does this guy not understand that the design of the technology is being used to structure the market, rather than the reverse? IMHO, he deserves to lose his job if this interview is accurate — either because he doesn’t understand what he’s selling, or because he’s willing to dissemble so baldly.
Update: [9:30 AM] I see that Jenny made most of my points yesterday, but she adds a couple of new dimensions, too.
The Boston Globe offers up two, related stories on the RIAA lawsuits. First, front page, above the fold: Group sues 261 over music-sharing: 46 are accused in Boston area [pdf]
Yesterday, the industry group made good on its research, suing 261 individuals it claimed were distributing on average more than 1,000 music files. The association said it planned to sue thousands more in coming months.
With 18 percent of the lawsuits filed in US District Court in Boston, Eastern Massachusetts may have the largest concentration of online music-sharers targeted by the RIAA. The court yesterday made only one of the 46 lawsuits available to the public and said it intended to make the rest available today.
[...] The plaintiffs in the lawsuits are Capitol Records, Elektra Entertainment, Virgin Records America, Arista Records, Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, and BMG.
[...] Sixty-eight percent of young Internet users who share music online said fear of jail time or a fine would stop them, according to a recent report by Forrester Research. NPD Group, a market research firm in Port Washington, N.Y., said file-sharing fell 23 percent after the RIAA first threatened consumer lawsuits, from 852 million files in April to 655 million in June — a sharper decline than NPD Group had expected from students leaving their fast college networks for the summer.
A related story in Life in the Pop Lane, part of the Arts section: Lower CD prices may not be music to downloaders’ ears [pdf]
If the price of a CD falls but no one really cares, does it still make a sound?
[...] In other words, after years of gouging customers, the recording industry is desperate. Sparked by Napster, and continued through such file-swapping services as Kazaa, Morpheus, and Grokster, the free-music revolution has left the major labels reeling and hemorrhaging. And CD prices, which despite promises to the contrary have steadily increased through the years, turned off even those who weren’t inclined to sit at their computers downloading their favorite tracks.
[...] The record labels should have gotten the hint sooner. When they lowered prices for debut albums by Avril Lavigne, Norah Jones, and Ashanti — all widely priced under $10, sometimes as low as $7.98 — the CDs were among 2002’s best sellers. Consumers were willing to try a CD from an unestablished artist because $10 didn’t feel like a big risk. Of course, once the CDs began selling, the prices were increased.
Meanwhile, the industry clung to a business model built on bottomless greed and behaved like a monopoly. With no other ways of getting music, fans had no choice but to pay whatever the sticker price demanded. Looking for a break, some people began to frequent used-CD shops, but mostly they found themselves shelling out more and more money for a CD. (One CD now costs what a double CD went for in the early 1990s.) And it’s not just new CDs; inexplicably, older albums were just as expensive.
[...] “Piracy has trained people to believe they can have anything they want when they want it,” said Josh Bernoff, Forrester’s principal analyst. “Once you’ve given people a bite of forbidden fruit, it’s hard for people to go back. Universal’s price cut will make people who already buy CDs buy more. But people who have slackened or eliminated their CD purchases aren’t likely to come back because of the price cut.” Perhaps if the industry had lowered or at least capped CD prices years ago, if it had found a way to work with those embracing new technologies instead of branding them as criminals, the story would have been different. Instead, the once-omnipotent record labels are fighting a futile battle for survival in a rapidly evolving climate in which their extinction seems inevitable.
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