September 17, 2003

Some Other Slashdot [7:09 pm]

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.

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Adaptive Architecture [6:57 pm]

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:

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Dual Disks [10:19 am]

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.

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Time Newsweek on the RIAA Lawsuits [10:01 am]

Via Current Copyright Readings:

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Yay, Derek [9:44 am]

I have nothing more to add than "see this:" The Copyfight: Back to School Edition

I haven’t quite figured out if I can get a role in this effort, but I hope to find a way.

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Forno’s High Tech Heroin [9:39 am]

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.

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Amy Harmon on the Verizon Appeal [8:29 am]

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.

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Eolas v. Microsoft in the Times [8:24 am]

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.

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Bill Safire on MediaCon [8:16 am]

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]

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Slate on Blowing a CIA Agent’s Cover [8:13 am]

Recall that I posted some comments by Al Franken in August as the "fair and balanced" fallout continued. Today’s Slate has more details on what I thought was a disturbing allegation that I had missed up to that point: Did Rove Blow a Spook’s Cover?

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Today’s Salon [8:09 am]

The K Chronicles cartoon suggests that online music sharing is the way to go.

And letters to the editor on the recent Salon articles pro and con file sharing.

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Sen Brownback Offers Up An Alternative Before Today’s Hearing [7:59 am]

In anticipation of today’s Commerce Committee hearing (Consumer Privacy and Government Technology Mandates in the Digital Media Marketplace ), we get this article from Wired News: Senator Takes a Swing at RIAA

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) introduced the Consumers, Schools, and Libraries Digital Rights Management Awareness Act of 2003, a bill that addresses two hot topics in the digital realm: privacy and digital rights management.

The legislation would require owners of digital media to file a John Doe lawsuit to obtain the identifying information of an Internet user, rather than simply requesting a subpoena.

[...] Another part of the bill calls for a labeling system for all digital media protected by digital rights management, “so consumers will know what they are buying when they buy it,” Brownback said.

The witness list for the hearing is pretty impressive, including Cary Sherman (testimony) of the RIAA, Jack Valenti (testimony) of the MPAA, TPP alum Alan Davidson (testimony) from the Center for Democracy and Technology and Prof. Ed Felten (testimony) of Princeton. Should be some real fireworks today - and it’s going to be webcast at 10:00 AM!

More links from Jenny Levine: Restoring Fair Use Rights in the Digital Age

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Free Expression Policy Project Update [7:50 am]

Siva points to an updated summary of the Free Expression Policy Project’s take on copyright today: "The Progress of Science and Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom

From the Executive Summary:

Copyright – our system for protecting and encouraging creativity – has been described as “the engine of free expression.” [1] But copyright can also interfere with free speech – with the public’s right to share, enjoy, criticize, parody, and build on the works of others. Resolving these sometimes conflicting claims requires courts and policymakers, in the words of the Supreme Court, to strike a “difficult balance” between rewarding creativity through the copyright system and “society’s competing interest in the free flow of ideas, information, and commerce.” [2]

A critical component of this “difficult balance” is the system of free-expression “safety valves” within copyright law. Four of these safety valves– the “idea/expression dichotomy,” the concept of fair use, the so-called first-sale rule, and the public domain – provide necessary breathing space for free trade in information and ideas. The free-expression safety valves keep the system in balance and prevent the monopoly control created by copyright law from becoming rigid and repressive.

But the “difficult balance” has become lopsided in recent years. With the advent of electronic communications, and in particular the Internet, the media companies that make up the “copyright industry” have adopted techniques of “digital rights management,” which control the accessing and use of creative materials in ways that are often inconsistent with a free and democratic copyright system.

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From mi2n [7:44 am]

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Billboard Announces Advertising Campaign [7:33 am]

From Billboard Bits: Chemical Brothers, Streets, Anti-Piracy

Billboard has launched a free advertising campaign for artists and industry executives to communicate their experiences with music piracy. The magazine believes it offers a unique forum to convey a message to Capitol Hill, parents and people who illegally download music.

“We feel compelled to do our part to make this cause heard on Capitol Hill, in the media, in college dormitories around the world, and in the homes of those who are stealing music,” says Billboard publisher John Kilcullen.

Guess they won’t be accepting material from Brian Jonestown Massacre, for example. According to Billboard’s September 16 Tangled Web column:

But even in underground rock circles, it would be considered a bit odd for a group to give away its entire catalog in MP3 form. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what San Francisco-based band Brian Jonestown Massacre has done on its official Web site.

The site’s “MP3s” section offers the group’s entire catalog, from 1995’s “Methodrone” album (Bomp) up through “And This Is Our Music,” set for an October release from Tee Pee Records. A 2001 live concert from Seattle is included as a bonus. And the entire catalog is also available as a continuous RealAudio stream, for truly devoted fans with hours to spare.

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Aaron Swartz’ Music Plan [7:22 am]

Aaron Swartz set about Fixing Compulsory Licensing through the development of a kind of digital cash scheme that Ernest Miller suggests is akin to Cory Doctorow’s Whuffies (Aaron Swartz Invents Proto Whuffie)

Slashdot discusses: Post-copyright: Digital Cash and Compulsory Licensing? See also this kuro5hin piece: The future of money: private complementary currencies

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Slashdot on some earlier news [7:18 am]

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Orson Scott Card on MP3/P2P File Sharing [7:14 am]

MP3s Are Not the Devil (Part one of a two part series in progress)

Since every penny I earn depends on copyright protection, I’m all in favor of reasonable laws to do the job.

But there’s something kind of sad about the recording industry’s indecent passion to punish the “criminals” who are violating their rights.

[...] In other words, the people complaining about all the internet “thieves” are, by any reasonable measure, rapacious profiteers who have been parasitically sucking the blood out of copyrights on other people’s work.

And I say this with the best will in the world. In fact, these companies have expenses. There are salaries to pay. Some of the salaries are earned.

But remember that huge fortunes like, say, David Geffen’s were made by getting ownership of record publishing companies. Count on it — Geffen got a lot richer than any but a handful of the actual performers. And when their careers are over, the record company owner keeps right on earning.

Not only that, but the digital technologies that allow perfect-quality copying came as a huge windfall to the studios and record companies.

[...] In all the ridiculously overblown “estimates” of how much the studios and record companies are “losing” from “piracy,” nobody bothers to calculate just how much extra money they made from consumers paying full price for music and movies they had already paid full price for only a few years before.

[...] In fact, the entire music business absolutely depends on the social interaction of kids to make hits. You stop kids from sharing music, and you’ve shut down the hit-making machine.

[...] First, most of the people who are getting those free MP3s would not be buying the CDs anyway. They’re doing this in order to get far more music than they can actually afford. That means that if they weren’t sharing MP3s online, they would simply have less music — or share CDs hand to hand. It does not mean that they would have bought CDs to get the tunes they’re downloading from Napster-like sharing schemes.

That’s why I laugh at their estimates of “lost sales.”

Slashdot discussion: Orson Scott Card on mp3 File Sharing

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German Moves Toward EUCD Implementation [7:05 am]

From The Register: Germany preps ’second basket’ of copyright laws

The right to make private copies from digital sources and the introduction of Digital Rights Management are the hot topics in Germany’s reform of its copyright law.

Just a few days after the first part of Germany’s reformed copyright law was enacted, the German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries yesterday announced at a conference in Munich what experts call the “second basket” of copyright laws. Zypries said she wants to see the leftover provisions of the EU Directive of Copyright in the Digital Age enacted into law by next summer.

“There has been a fierce debate on whether a private copy could still be legal if it originates from an illegal source. But finally we had to decide to forbid this,” she told the conference.

The first part of the copyright reform was rushed through last year to meet the EU deadline. Up for discussion still is how to treat the circumvention of copyright protection mechanisms. Provisions in EU and German law make this illegal, which in turn undermines the right to make private copies. This provision, similar to that of the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act, was attacked by Volker Grasmuck, co-founder of, a user organisation.

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