September 23, 2003

First DMCA jury conviction [10:40 pm]

Nothing like finding the right defendant: Jury convicts man in DMCA case

The Los Angeles jury found 38-year-old Thomas Michael Whitehead guilty on Friday of selling hardware that could access DirecTV satellite broadcasts without paying for them, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Whitehead, who was also known by his computer name “JungleMike,” was convicted on one count of conspiracy, two counts of selling hardware that unlawfully decrypted the broadcasts, and three counts of violating the DMCA.

With the six felony convictions, Whitehead faces up to 30 years in federal prison and fines of as much as $2.75 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2004.

[...] In the Whitehead case, the jury found that the defendant had bought software that reprogrammed DirecTV access cards to circumvent their security features. He then sold reprogrammed DirecTV access cards nationwide, violating a DMCA provision that bans the dissemination of technology whose main purpose is to get around copyright protections.

[...] “The fact is that many people believe the DMCA is overreaching in the copyright area,” said Evan Cox, an attorney with Covington & Burling in San Francisco who specializes in copyright issues. “But hacking a DirecTV feed simply to avoid paying for it is not going to arouse the sympathy that you got for hacking an eBook reader that let you put it on a different machine, or making copies for personal use.”

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Acacia Research and its streaming patent [10:36 pm]

CNet reports that Acacia Research managed to exact licensing fees from a network of online porn sites over the weekend. They draw some dire conclusions for other providers of streamed content: Patent holder unplugs porn network

A holding company that has a stack of streaming media patents briefly shut down a network of pornography Web sites over the weekend in an ominous sign for mainstream providers of streaming Web content.

The company, Acacia Research, on Friday said it had used a court injunction to persuade a Web hosting provider to unplug the Go Entertainment network of 42 “adult entertainment” sites.

Acacia said Monday that the network had signed a patent licensing agreement and that the sites were back in operation by Saturday night.

[...] Acacia is one of several obscure patent holders that are alarming Web companies and standards organizations with courtroom victories. Most prominently, a one-man company called Eolas that’s affiliated with the University of California won a historic $521 million patent infringement suit against Microsoft and its Internet Explorer browser.

Acacia is currently in negotiation with “all the major sites that provide audio and video streaming on the Internet,” Berman said. The company has targeted the porn sites in the courts, because those sites have ignored its licensing demands, while mainstream Web companies have come to the negotiating table, he said.

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KaZaA on the offensive [10:31 pm]

From CNet News: Kazaa blasts Hollywood ‘conspiracy’

File-swapping company Sharman Networks filed new antitrust charges against record labels and Hollywood studios, hoping to deflect copyright infringement claims still pending over the popular Kazaa software.

The suit, which claims record labels and movie studios have conspired to drive Sharman Networks out of business in order to monopolize digital distribution, is virtually identical to charges first raised by the file-swapping company in January. Those charges were largely dismissed by a federal judge in July. The new suit, filed late Monday, addresses the judge’s concerns that Sharman was not directly harmed by the labels’ and studios’ actions.

The revised suit lists the precise “conspiratorial” behavior that Kazaa says took place, including names of record executives who expressed interest in peer-to-peer distribution, but who then backed out.

[...] However, negotiations with record companies and movie studios fell through, the suit says. It names executives at Universal Music, Warner Brothers Records, Warner Music and Interscope Music as having been interested in testing the Altnet-Sharman technology. All backed out after being told by lawyers or other unnamed individuals to cut off conversations, the suit claims.

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EU Software Patent Debate [10:21 pm]

Slashdot has an article that links to the Daily Notebook of the EU Parliament, focusing upon today’s debate around the upcoming vote tomorrow on software patenting: European Parliament Clashes Over Software Patents

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Informa Media Says P2P Sharing Will Continue [8:47 am]

Informa Media has a new report, according to their press release, that says that the rise of broadband means that there won’t be any real reduction in P2P music sharing for some time to come. Reuters picked up the story here: Study: Net Piracy Has Five More Years of Growth

The ever-expanding market for pirated music will continue to haunt music executives for at least another five years, outstripping growth for the industry’s own fledgling online businesses, a new study said on Monday.

The report by Informa Media said global Internet music sales, which includes sales of CDs from retail Web sites such as Amazon.com and song downloads from services such as Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes, will reach $3.9 billion by 2008, up from $1.1 billion in 2002.

But the value of lost sales due to CD-burning and downloading free songs off so-called peer-to-peer networks such as Grokster and Kazaa will rise to $4.7 billion in the same period from $2.4 billion this year, the British research firm said.

“The reason we’re so downbeat is we think the peer-to-peer problem is going to only get worse. In 2008, broadband will be prevalent around the world,” said Simon Dyson, the report’s author.

[...] Dyson said a host of Internet file-sharing services are now beginning to appear in languages such as Russian and Chinese, potentially dashing the industry’s hopes of building a loyal customer base in these emerging markets.

“This is where the industry’s growth is supposed to come from,” Dyson said.

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How to talk to your kids about downloading [8:27 am]

From Benny Evangelista at SFGate: Parents start to rein in kids downloading music: Recording industry suits put a crimp in another teen pastime

And parents who have trouble enough dealing with teenagers and peer pressure now find themselves scrambling to understand the complexities of computer peer-to-peer programs and copyright law.

“None of this is instinctive, none of this makes sense,” said Parry Aftab, executive director of the nonprofit online safety group WiredSafety. “Copyright law makes even less sense than any other law out there, except tax law.

“But if you’re a parent, you can do this,” she said. “We need to be able to explain shoplifting to our kids, we need to explain drunk driving to our kids, we need to explain drug use to our kids, and now we need to explain to our kids that downloading is illegal.”

One measure of that groundswell of parental angst came last Tuesday, when Aftab appeared on appeared on NBC-TV’s “Today” show to publicize a new publication her organization had just posted, “Talking to Your Children About Downloading Music — A Parent’s Guide.” The free, 23-page guide is available for viewing or download on the organization’s Web site, www.wiredsafety.org.

Within a half-hour of her appearance, the guide was read or downloaded more than 60,000 times. And Parry, an attorney specializing in Internet security, child protection and privacy issues, saw the volume of her e-mail jump from about 400 per day to 2,500 per day.

Let’s take a look at the guide. I figured it would be awful, but I really didn’t expect that it would be THIS awful!! From the section called A Message from Jennifer…

A few years ago, the copyright laws were changed to catch kids and teens who were trading pirated software and other copyrighted computer games. Before the laws were changed, according to WiredKids’ Executive Director, cyberlawyer Parry Aftab, the criminal copyright laws required that someone receive money in exchange for the pirated materials.

After the recent updates, she said, “Now children and teens can be charged with criminal copyright infringement if they receive anything of value in exchange for the sharing of the copyrighted content. For example, if one teen exchanges a pirated videogame for a pirated software application, s/he has received something of value, and can now be charged with criminal activity.”

Interesting argument. Does this mean that all children should be scared sh*tless about the internet, or that there’s something terribly wrong with the way that the law is written? Do we really expect that there’s a single district attorney who’s going to prosecute under criminal statutes — and keep his job?

Here’s how you shoudl explain the Underlying Reason:

Instead, talk about plagiarizing a book report, or copying a video. These examples are more real to them. Then talk about the responsibility of famous brands and responsible companies to safeguard their products and maintain product quality standards. Discuss some famous brands and how they are owned by certain companies and are protected. (Would another restaurant’s food taste the same as McDonald’s if it used golden arches over its restaurant?)

Then talk about the lack of product quality on P2P. Many song files on P2P are contaminated with viruses and other malicious codes, and many are incomplete and low quality copies of the real recordings. Explain that the recording industry has to guarantee the quality of their products. Ask your kids how often they have had problems with the downloads, and ask them to share some horror stories they have heard about corrupted files and viruses from P2P. Ask them if it’s worth it. Then discuss the risk of RIAA’s legal attacks. Does that make a difference? Are your children worried about getting caught? Did they even realize that they were breaking the law?

Also, ask them to name a few famous recording artists (ones they like are better than others). Ask them how they think the recording artist is paid by the record company. Explain how many different entities and other people are involved in the making of a CD…the recording artists, the song writers, the arrangers, the backup singers, the band, the graphic artists for the album cover, the public relations and advertising agencies, the production company, the editors, the retailers, the shippers, the jewel case manufacturers, the printers, the CD manufacturers, etc. Then share how many people are employed by those companies and how their families rely on their income to live.

This is getting really scary — this is not education, this is sheer intimidation and training in corporate consumerism.! I really wonder if people are going to lie down and take this.

It’s clear that Parry Aftab has done great things. See also this Wired article on WiredSafety: Second Coming of Cyberangels. But this one is a little scary.

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Verisign Won’t Change — So BIND Will Have To [8:06 am]

From The Register: VeriSign stands firm on Site Finder

VeriSign is refusing to back down in the increasingly acrimonious row over its controversial Site Finder redirection service.

eWeek has something more on the instabilities introduced by Verisign’s methods: Committee Charges That VeriSign Weakens Web . See this Slashdot discussion: VeriSign Responds To ICANN’s SiteFinder Advisory

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