RIAA Lawsuit Statistics for the Day

Also from dc.internet.com: RIAA Settles 63 More Infringement Suits

On the eve of a Senate hearing on the subpoena power provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says another 63 people have settled copyright infringement suits with the music industry. All were accused of illegally downloading more than 1,000 songs through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

[…] Monday’s announcement brings the total number of settlements to 64. Of the total settlements, according to the RIAA, 12 were pre-litigation, meaning individuals who were identified as offering significant amounts of music files and had their information subpoenaed from their ISP, but not had been sued.

Additionally, the RIAA said it received 838 affidavits for its “Clean Slate” program, which offers amnesty to P2P network users who voluntarily identify themselves and pledge to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet. The amnesty program has been attacked as misleading and in California, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the program is a deceptive trade practice.

Note: The hearing is before the Governmental Affairs Committee, and its title is: Privacy & Piracy: The Paradox of Illegal File Sharing on Peer-to-Peer Networks and the Impact of Technology on the Entertainment Industry. Note that Lorraine Sullivan, a target of an RIAA lawsuit, will be testifying. Too bad the committee didn’t give immunity to Sarah Ward — I’d love to hear what she would say!

Screed of the Day

From National Review: Rich Lowry’s The ideological librarians [via Politech/temp link]

This is a truly obnoxious column. The rhetorical twists are particularly nasty. For example:

Librarians have recently let down their hair — usually wrapped in a tight bun, of course — to become some of the most vocal opponents of the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act, prompting Attorney General John Ashcroft to take a public swipe at them. Librarians now constitute one of the country’s main centers of thoughtless and unreconstructed leftism.

Apparently, Rudy Guiliani had it all figured out, but those nasty librarians undercut the forward march of western civilization:

One way to look at it is this: Rudy Giuliani, in the 1990s, effected a revolution in New York City that became a nationwide model for local governance and reflected a new era of public impatience with disorder — the homeless were told to “move along”; smut was squeezed out to the extent possible; and law enforcement was allowed to do its work mostly unencumbered by PC concerns. Librarians in some communities, reflecting the ideological spirit of the ALA, have managed to maintain oases of old-style pre-Giuliani disorder and licentiousness — vagrants are allowed to treat libraries as quasi-homeless shelters; pornography is available on the computers; and law enforcement is a bugaboo.

[…] As The Washington Post recently reported in a dire article on the effects of library budget cuts, “Librarians say the cuts are hurting homeless people who spend their days in the library.” That this has become a de facto public function of libraries is why they are often associated as much with body odor as with the Dewey Decimal System.

This is acceptable discourse? "If only those mousy, smelly librarians kept those ‘jobless recovery’ vagrants out in the street where they belonged, it would be far simpler to figure out how to find terrorists/WMDs/etc?"


A Stroll through Patent History

And a look at how the other side of IP, disclosure to the public, doesn’t always seem to make economic sense — the unexplored question, of course, is whether the actions of these subjects led to a deceleration or acceleration in overall innovation and technological development (a very tough research question in this context, although an examination of trade secret protected domains might be a worthwhile parallel): A Stroll Through Patent History [pdf]

The conventional wisdom among economists has been that a robust patent system helped transform the United States into an economic powerhouse. And this may be true. But, Professor Moser concludes, what was good for America and Britain in the 19th century is not necessarily good for emerging, largely rural economies in countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

“In economics, we are taught that patent laws are what create incentives for innovation,” she said. “But many of the best innovators in what was the high technology of the day came from some of the smallest countries in Europe, and these nations did not have patent laws.”

Professor Moser found, for example, that Swiss inventors tended to concentrate their efforts in watch making and specialized steel making for scientific and optical instruments. Their innovations were exceedingly difficult to reverse-engineer and thus were successfully guarded as trade secrets.

“There were competitions in England to reproduce some Swiss innovations in steel,” Professor Moser said. “But the English just couldn’t figure out how to do it. The Swiss would have been silly to patent these innovations.”

That is because the purpose of patents is twofold: to protect the inventor and to speed technological progress. Thus, patent laws require that an inventor, in a quid pro quo exchange for the limited monopoly that a patent provides, disclose his methods to others. “Countries without patent laws have much larger shares of their innovations where patenting would have been a bad idea,” Professor Moser said.

Downhill Battle WWW Site Launch

DownhillBattle.org launches their legal defense fund today:

Downhill Battle is very proud to announce the Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund. The fund was created to support the families and individuals that have been sued by the record companies and to help fight the RIAA suits. The Defense Fund’s contribution system runs on a peer-to-peer model: rather than collecting contributions centrally and later distributing them, donors give directly to a family or individual that’s been sued. Our open source software tracks donations and rotates the name that appears in the contribution box so that the person with the lowest contributions so far is presented to potential donors. Over time, contributions are distributed evenly without the need for a middleman.

We hope you’ll join the fight against the RIAA lawsuits by making a contribution to one of the people who’s been sued:

See the flyers

ACLU Helps BC RIAA Target

NYTimes — A.C.L.U. Challenges Music Industry in Court [pdf]

Stepping up its involvement in the legal conflict over file sharing, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to stop attempts by the music industry to get the name of a Boston College student who is accused of being a large-scale file trader.

[…] The civil liberties group argues that the constitutional rights of its client, referred to as Jane Doe, would be violated if her college, which is also her Internet service provider, were forced to reveal her name. The industry subpoena “seeks to strip Jane Doe of her fundamental right to anonymity,” according to the group’s court filings.

[…] “We’re not saying that they can’t ever get her identity,” said Christopher A. Hansen, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re only saying if the industry wants her identity, then they have to do it in a fair way.”

Donna Channels Charlie Nesson

Donna’s Copyfight post over the weekend raises a question that Charlie Nesson has posted to the Pho list: can artists just use standard net hacktivist tools to impede infringement of their copyrights without resorting to changes in the structure of the internet? Or have such methods already been outlawed by other efforts? Donna tracks the discussion here: Let the Music Pay III

Update: Derek points out the obvious problem — at what point are we really ready to give anyone the presumptive right to undertake a DoS? See Raise Your Hand If You Think DoS Attacks Are Good

Jenny Rises To OCLC’s Defense

Jenny Levine unhappily defends OCLC’s suit of The Library Hotel in Make Sure You Hear OCLC’s Side of the Story. Earlier coverage is here (A new trademark suit) and here (NYTimes on the Library Hotel/Dewey Lawsuit).

Although Jenny’s cites of the OCLC press release seem to make a good point, Infringing Actions points out (the Blogger link may not get you there) that a search at the PTO site of the trademarks “Dewey” or “Dewey Decimal Classification” show that the registration is for publications – "periodical publication; namely, an index relating to a system of classifying the field of human knowledge," for example. One registration, "promoting public awareness of a library classification system ," may be pertinent to the Library Hotel, but the others are not close.

Infringing Actions concludes:

But, the OCLC lawsuit does not claim that the Library Hotel has misappropriated the system itself; indeed, while refinements of the Dewey Decimal System are apparently ongoing, the basic system itself has been in existence for more than 100 years. The question appears to be whether, when viewed in the context of hotel services, the references to the DEWEY marks would cause a consumer to believe that the hotel services are somehow sponsored, approved, or sourced by the OCLC. This appears to be a question of fact that may very well preclude a quick resolution of the allegations.

[…] In the end, the Library Hotel may have decided that it made more sense to fight this publicly, enduring the free exposure that news of the lawsuit would bring, than it would have been to settle it quietly by taking a license.

Yes, it may be that the OCLC has to defend the trademark, but I think it’s easy to see that there might be very good reasons why the hotel’s management elected to let the dispute end up in a courtroom.

Incomplete NYTimes Article

The title is suggestive, but the posting is incomplete: Guarding Privacy vs. Enforcing Copyrights [pdf]. I’ll have to look at the dead tree version to see what’s missing.

The issues came into sharp focus recently in two data firestorms. In one, Internet denizens expressed outrage over the lawsuits the recording industry filed against 261 people accused of being large-scale swappers of pirated music. At the same time, equally fierce outrage met news that JetBlue Airways had handed over customer records to a military contractor for a test program to blend the data with personal financial information from another company to spot likely terrorists.