September 16, 2003

The Senate Votes To Overturn the FCC [5:59 pm]

Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules

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A New Culprit in Software Piracy [5:56 pm]

From CNet News: Study: Students unfazed by piracy

If attitudes on colleges nationwide are any indicator, then software piracy in Kazaa and other file-swapping communities could get out of control, according to a new study.

Nearly two-thirds of college students surveyed said they would download pirated software, according to a study released Tuesday by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Only a third of those students who have already downloaded commercial software have paid for it.

Much of the blame rests on university educators who aren’t discouraging illegal behavior, according to the study, called “Internet Piracy on Campus.” More than 40 percent of educators say it’s OK to share or swap software to cut costs.

Hmmm - surely Microsoft isn’t trying to make it easy for students to access Microsoft Office, so that their eventual employers will have to pay list to keep them productive? Network effects, anyone?

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Verizon Appeal [5:51 pm]

From CNet News: Court scrutinizes P2P subpoena process - as I feared, it appears that the question of "mootness" reared its head - in spite of the RIAA’s claims that they would not make arguments on that basis. They didn’t need to — it appears, based on the article, the court (correctly, probably) raised them all by themselves.

The three-judge panel gave little indication of whether it would continue to permit the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to exploit the law’s turbocharged subpoena procedures in its campaign against file-trading networks. But the judges did seem to lend more credence to Verizon Communications’ arguments than did U.S. District Judge John Bates, who ruled in January that the RIAA’s use of the law was valid.

[...] The three judges spent little time on Verizon’s sweeping claims that the expedited subpoenas could endanger privacy and free speech, instead choosing to examine the minutiae of the DMCA, what Congress intended to say when drafting the law, and whether permitting subpoenas in the absence of a lawsuit agreed with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of an actual “case or controversy.” Scott McIntosh, an appellate lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department, assured the court that “we don’t think the constitutional questions are substantial ones.”

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Our Attorney General - Defender of the Constitution [1:31 pm]

Ashcroft Mocks Librarians and Others Who Oppose Parts of Counterterrorism Law [pdf]

In an unusually pointed attack as part of his latest speech in defense of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism initiatives, Mr. Ashcroft mocked and condemned the American Library Association and other Justice Department critics for believing that the F.B.I. wants to know “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.”

[...] “If he’s coming after us so specifically, we must be having an impact,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the library association’s Washington office.

Let’s hope so!

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The Devil’s Got A Point [11:06 am]

[Via BoingBoing] Today’s Yesterday’s entry in the Devil’s Dictionary defines copyright using notions from Lessig’s The Future of Ideas:

copyright, noun

   The notion that you can protect from the future what you stole from the past.

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Solum & Volokh rundown [11:00 am]

Ernest Miller assembles the relevant links in the recent Volokh/Solum discussion of the economic bases/defenses of intellectual property: Solum and Volokh Discuss IP

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And why do we care, anyway? [9:49 am]

We Got Rhythm; the Mystery Is How and Why [pdf]

Yet the ability to enjoy music has long puzzled biologists because it does nothing evident to help survival. Why, therefore, should evolution have built into the human brain this soul-stirring source of pleasure? Man’s faculties for enjoying and producing music, Darwin wrote, “must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed.”

[...] A leading clue that points to music-specific structures, yet is so far not conclusive, is that many features of music are universal as well as apparently innate, meaning present at birth. All societies have music, all sing lullaby-like songs to their infants, and most produce tonal music, or music composed in subsets of the 12-tone chromatic scale, such as the diatonic or pentatonic scales. Some of the earliest known musical instruments, crane bone flutes from the Jiahu site in China, occupied from 7000 to 5700 B.C., produce a tonal scale.

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Digital Taps [9:45 am]

Live or Digital? The Bugler’s Lips Are Sealed [pdf]

It looks like a bugle. It sounds like a bugle — hauntingly enough to move a funeral mourner to compliment Glenn Hasheider on his rendition of taps last week at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near St. Louis.

[...] It is a bugle discreetly fitted with a battery-operated conical insert that plays the 24 notes of taps at the flick of a switch. It is all digital, with no human talent or breath required. All you do is hold it up, turn it on and try to look like a bugler.

[...] Its advocates say the ceremonial bugler is more reliable than tape or CD players. During hundreds of test runs, including in biting cold and drenching rain, the device worked 99 percent of the time, said William Smith, a retired Army major who is eastern-area supervisor of military honor funerals for the Missouri National Guard.

[...] Some fans of the ceremonial bugler even contend it sounds better than the average human bugler. The device plays a rendition of taps recorded by an expert bugler at Arlington National Cemetery.

Such assertions, not surprisingly, infuriate real buglers. No device, they say, could ever recreate the emotion human buglers convey with their breathing, their crescendos and even their mistakes.

In one of the most famous renditions of taps, an Army bugler, Keith Clark, missed the high note at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral. The mistake — known by buglers as a chip — came to be seen as embodying the nation’s grief.

“When I chip a note, that’s emotion,” Mr. Ladage said with a smile.

When you use it, do you pay a performance royalty or a mechanical reproduction royalty? Digital or analog?

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SBC Holds Out [9:40 am]

SBC Won’t Name Names in File-Sharing Cases [pdf]

Most big Internet providers say that the original decision in the Verizon case essentially validated the subpoenas that the recording industry sent to other companies. SBC, however, has sued the recording industry group in California.

“We are going to challenge every single one of these that they file until we are told that our position is wrong as a matter of law,” James D. Ellis, general counsel for SBC, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

[...] Recording industry officials see SBC’s stance not as a matter of principle over privacy but as a matter of dollars from downloading. They assert that SBC is not concerned about copyright protection because the company uses the lure of music piracy to attract high-speed Internet customers.

A record industry official pointed to a past print advertisement from SBC’s Pacific Bell unit that read, in part: “Download all the music you like. And all the music you sort of, kind of, maybe even a little bit like. Go MP3 crazy. Try new music. Build a song library. Whatever.”

“Sure beats going to the record store,” the advertisement concluded.

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Julie Hilden on the Clean Slate [9:27 am]

From Findlaw: Can the RIAA Truly Give Illegal Distributors “Amnesty”? And If So, Should They Accept?

Worse, the individual’s admission to the RIAA, which was offered in exchange for the “amnesty” - more accurately referred to as a prelitigation settlement - may be used against him or her in a court proceeding by some other plaintiff down the road. Indeed, it could even theoretically be used in a criminal case alleging some kind of fraud; or a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act; or some other criminal claim that might be a stretch, but might still be brought.

So the “free” amnesty may turn out to be very costly indeed - for the individual, now literally defenseless, may pay through the nose in a future settlement, or even conceivably face criminal charges. Getting out of the RIAA suit, thus, may mean you’ve won the battle. But it may also cause you to lose the war.

Indeed, even admitting to the RIAA informally that you’ve downloaded music is dangerous: An “admission against interest” is a classic hearsay exception, and that kind of admission would certainly count.

In sum, the so-called “amnesty” provides much less protection that might at first appear to be the case. But other nonlegal factors may suggest that it might make sense for “distributors” to accept.

[...] [W]hile suing young music lovers has a large public relations cost, suing young music lovers who were led to believe - by an industry association - that they benefited from an “amnesty” will have an even bigger public relations cost. And juries would be unlikely to convict those who believed, even erroneously, that the “amnesty” offered by the RIAA was exactly what it claimed to be.

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Slashdot P2P Stories [9:17 am]

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Advogato on Trusted Systems [9:10 am]

Default to trusting

A sad moment in my professional career came a couple of days ago during a demonstration of our software for a customer. I designed the security administration module. As we were showing the software, my supervisor was explaining the system to the customer team. When he got to the security/user administration screen, we created a new user. As I intended, the user defaulted to having rights to all fifteen components of the system. My supervisor explained “in the final system, of course, we will default to the new user having no rights. You will turn them on as you need them.”

[...] What made this moment so sad is that, once again, our culture demonstrated in clear fashion that we fundamentally do not trust each other. We design systems that express this fundamental distrust, and we do so with enthusiasm, without comprehending the consequences of our assumption.

I write now to point out this hidden assumption, to question aloud for the few out there who will see what I’m saying and rethink their approach to trust. I am pleading with you fellow programmers to consider the consequences of developing systems which a priori do not trust the people who use them. The example I gave above is common: the issue arises at least once per day for me, usually more. Rarely is it so obvious.

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A Cartoon in the NYTimes? [7:24 am]

On copyright - the Copyright Cops - outlining many of the favorite examples of just how pervasive copyright (and copyright infringement) has become in modern life.

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Letters to the NYTimes on Filesharing Suits [7:19 am]

Music Thieves? Or Music Rebels? - with several perspectives

  • While I think that the Recording Industry Association of America should have waited until Apple’s iTunes and other brilliant solutions to the problem were given more of a chance to flourish (and in particular until iTunes became Windows-adaptable), their restraint in pursuing only the most grievous offenders should keep the government and the naysayers in check while this extremely worrisome and complex issue resolves itself over the next few years.

  • The livelihoods of musicians rest in their performance revenues much more than their recording contracts. As Huey Lewis put it, “Bruce Springsteen probably earned more in 10 nights at Meadowlands last month than in his entire recording career.” Exposure is essential and provided by the Internet free of charge.

    Perhaps the music industry presents musicians as victims because they themselves play the role so poorly.

  • The music industry has been quick to blame outside forces for its ills. Downloading, certainly an issue, is the latest scapegoat. It’s time the industry look inward and remember that the most important thing is the music.

  • The real power in the industry lies with distribution groups: Sony, Warner, Polygram and BMG. By placing a stranglehold at the point of access to the consumer, the industry was able to dominate the value chain and dictate terms to all other players.

    The Internet presented much more than the opportunity for consumers to steal product. It also overturned the entire music industry apple cart by eliminating the stranglehold.

    [...] A band can sell CD’s themselves for $10 and still make as much as 15 times the money per unit sold.

    Now if they only could get Clear Channel to play them on the radio.

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