Some Other Slashdot

First something old (or, at least based on an old TCS story) :Canada Immune From RIAA? (see the Greplaw comments from August 23)

More interestingly, there’s this one: British Court Issues Bizarre Copyright Ruling. The FT article at the root of this posting says:

In the case, Easyjet is being sued by Navitaire, a subsidiary of the Accenture group, which in the mid-1990s provided a booking system called “Openres” to the low-cost airline.

But two years ago, Easyjet replaced Openres with a different system – called eRes – produced by a rival software house, BulletProof Technologies.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Pumfrey said it was not disputed that eRes was written in a different code to Openres. However, Navitaire was arguing that BulletProof Technologies had studied the Openres system closely and produced a system that operated in the same way.

Parallels had been drawn between appropriating the “functional structure” of a computer system and commandeering the plot of a book, the judge noted. Accordingly, Navitaire was suing for copyright infringement.

The Slashdot discussion includes references to Summerfield’s Letter from 2020 (find alt sites via Google). which itself is a riff on Stallman’s Right to Read.

Adaptive Architecture

This has been percolating for a day or so. This article from The Register suggests that two can play the game: BIND developer blocks Verisign Net grab move

The Internet Software Consortium, the nonprofit body that develops the ubiquitous BIND domain name server, is adapting its software so that those users who enter mistyped domain names would not automatically end up at VeriSign’s Site Finder search engine service, AP reports. The patch could be available as early as today.

[…] The controversy kicked off on Monday, when Verisign added wildcard DNS records to all .com and .net domains – redirecting surfers who get lost on the Net to a search page, called Site Finder, run by the company. Those who type in non-existent addresses will also be served up Site Finder, instead of an error message. Verisign isn’t saying how much it expects to make from selling advertising on this site.

[…] Verisign, unlike Microsoft, has altered a core Internet system. Its perceived abuse of its role as the custodian of the .com and .net address space has also incensed sysadmins.

Incensed may be kind. Here’s the Slashdot traffic:

Dual Disks

From the FT: Warner Music and Sony in dual disc move [pdf]

The global music industry is poised to launch technology that would combine compact discs and music videos on a single disc in its latest drive to bolster faltering recorded music sales.

Warner Music, part of AOL Time Warner, is due to launch the so-called “dual disc” early next year in conjunction with Sony, the Japanese electronics and entertainment group.

The three other music majors – Universal Music, EMI and BMG – support the plan.

[…] Under the proposal, a single disc would combine a music album on one side and a digital versatile disc (DVD) on the other.

[…] “Everyone wants to exploit the growth of DVD and a dual disc is seen as one way to safeguard sales,” said an executive at Warner Music.

Forno’s High Tech Heroin

Declan McCullagh’s Politechbot has an article from Richard Forno called High-Tech Heroin (also at The Register). While the image of a herion addict is compelling, it’s not precisely accurate, IMHO. In fact, what he’s talking about is this concept of technological alienation that I am still struggling with getting across. It’s not that we go cold turkey without our CD players — it’s that these technologies acquaint us with a world in which I can enjoy music in my car without having to carry a string quartet in my backseat. We’re more productive, entertained, etc. because of these technologies, and we come to expect them to function transparently. We don’t (generally) become unable to operate in their absense — we just can’t operate as easily and productively.

And now what we’re facing is the encroachment of controls by interests upon the ways that these technological intermediaries do the things that we expect them to do — a challenge to the transparency that we have always assumed was there.

So, I disagree with the metaphor – but the language does describe the problem effectively.

Yet as we rush to embrace the latest and greatest gadgetry or high-tech service and satisfy our techno-craving, we become further dependent on these products and their manufacturers ­ so dependent that when something breaks, crashes, or is attacked, our ability to function is reduced or eliminated. Given the frequent problems associated with the Information Age – loosing internet connections, breaking personal digital assistants, malicious software incidents, or suffering any number of recurring problems with software or hardware products, we should take a minute to consider whether we’re really more or less independent – or empowered – today than we think, knowing that how we act during such stressful periods is similar to a heroin junkie’s actions during withdrawal.

[…] Whether it is our ability to share available creative products according to existing laws, bring to market new creative works, establish an identity in cyberspace, or otherwise exchange digital information, these groups – with well-funded (read: purchased) government approval – have declared themselves the overlords of their industry-specific fiefdoms that comprise the Information Age. Each industry and vendor wants to assert their proprietary technical and legal authority over who does what, when, how, and under what conditions with their products and services, even if their profiteering desires are incompatible with our law-abiding ones. And if their efforts to maintain law and order according to their proprietary technical standards or legal trickery fail, they can always turn things over to the federal government for action as a backup plan.

Amy Harmon on the Verizon Appeal

A little more on the hearing yesterday: In Court, Verizon Challenges Music Industry’s Subpoenas [pdf]

As Congress intensifies its scrutiny of the special subpoenas that the recording industry is using to track down and sue people who share music over the Internet, a federal appeals court panel questioned today whether legislators had intended the subpoenas to be used in such a way.

But the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also had tough questions for Verizon, which is challenging the record industry’s interpretation of a 1998 law that allows copyright holders to force Internet service providers to identify customers suspected of copyright infringement.

Eolas v. Microsoft in the Times

Setback for Microsoft Ripples Through the World Wide Web [pdf]

“The ripple effect of this could be very dramatic,” said Daniel Weitzner, director of technology and society activities at the Web consortium. “What you have here is the adjudication of a private lawsuit between two companies, and no one thought about the rest of the Web.”

The technology in question enables a browser to summon programs automatically over the Internet. The programs that use this technology include those for playing music, videos and animations and exchanging documents over the Internet. The technology was not only used by Microsoft in its Internet Explorer browsing software, but has become a standard feature in the software for coding Web pages, called hypertext markup language, that has been ratified by the Web consortium.

The court ruling and its potential impact, according to Mr. Weitzner, points to the larger issue of the need to keep the basic software of the Web free of patent royalties.

The consortium, which includes representatives from the major software companies and many university researchers, adopted a royalty-free patent policy in May after three years of debate. “If you try to charge individual companies for patents on Web standards, you risk balkanizing the Web and breaking it,” Mr. Weitzner said.

Bill Safire on MediaCon

From today’s NYTimes op-ed: The Senate Says No [pdf]

Yesterday’s Senate expression of disapproval was a good sign, but will die in the House. The bill already passed by McCain’s Senate Commerce Committee detailing what the F.C.C. must do to protect diversity in TV as well as radio, and to restrict new cross-ownership of TV and newspapers, will not soon get a floor vote as the majority leader, Bill Frist, goes along with White House wishes.

But thanks to the canny Alaskan Ted Stevens, the rollback of the Powell abomination will appear in the Senate appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments. It is already in the House bill funding those departments, and Democrats will not let it be stripped out behind closed doors in conference. Thus even restraint of cross-ownership of newspapers and TV — which those of us in diversity’s ranks thought a lost cause — may be carried along in the wave of resentment against the 45-percent-of-TV-audience penetrators.

“Today’s victory — and don’t kid yourself, it stunned ’em — is just one step in the process,” says Lott. “The final step will be even harder for the president or the leadership to stop. An appropriations bill for Commerce-Justice-State — that would be hard to veto over the issue of a regulatory review.”

The Times’ news story: F.C.C. Plan to Ease Curbs on Big Media Hits Senate Snag [pdf]