September 29, 2003

RIAA Lawsuit Statistics for the Day [4:53 pm]

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!

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More on Geer [4:46 pm]

He contends in this article from dc.internet (Geer Says He Knew What Was @Stake ) that his termination from @Stake had nothing to do with the report.

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Screed of the Day [2:37 pm]

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?"

Tragic.

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A Stroll through Patent History [12:57 pm]

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.

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Downhill Battle WWW Site Launch [12:39 pm]

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

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ACLU Helps BC RIAA Target [12:37 pm]

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.”

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Donna Channels Charlie Nesson [12:30 pm]

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

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Jenny Rises To OCLC’s Defense [11:24 am]

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.

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Fallout: @Stake Firing [8:53 am]

A small strike back at the firing of Daniel E. Geer, the @Stake employee whose report was contrary to company interests — a link to the report in question in PDF form: CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly — How the Dominance of Microsoft’s Products Poses a Risk to Security [via BoingBoing]

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Incomplete NYTimes Article [8:06 am]

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.

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RFID in the NYTimes [8:04 am]

How to Find That Needle Hopelessly Lost in the Haystack [pdf] is the NYTimes’ look at RFID in products and the privacy issues. Slashdot discussion: NYT on RFID

But as business’s interest in the technology grows, so do efforts by privacy advocates to place strict limits on its use.

“Very few people grasp the enormity of this,” said Katherine Albrecht, director of Citizens Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a group that was founded in 1999 to protest the use of frequent shopper cards and credit cards to collect data on individual consumers’ purchasing habits.

Ms. Albrecht and other critics say that companies and government agencies will be able to monitor what people read or where they assemble from radio tags embedded in their books or woven into clothing. Unlike bar codes, which cannot be scanned unless a laser has a direct line of sight to them, the radio tags can be read through walls, and multiple tags can be read in an instant.

“R.F.I.D. certainly has value in the supply chain and in inventory management,” said Beth Given, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. But she added that “there are so many potential issues once it gets beyond the point of sale that consumer protections need to be written into law.”

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The CD Price Cuts — Fallout [7:55 am]

Today’s NYTimes suggests that Universal’s CD price cuts are going to be felt in unheralded, but unsurprising, places: CD Price Cuts Could Mean New Artists Will Suffer [pdf] The agonies of industry change, or something more sinister?

Initially delighted by the promise of lower CD prices, Mr. Groeger and other independent retailers quickly soured on the details of the plan, which he says will hurt independent music stores and developing artists. The plan squeezes stores’ profit margins on each CD and ends promotional subsidies to retailers to push new albums like Thursday’s.

“I care about that band a lot, and I care about developing artists more than anyone,” Mr. Groeger said Saturday in a telephone interview. “But I told him it is a two-way relationship. They are hurting me with these new policies. I don’t see why I should help them out.”

[...] In addition to ending various promotional subsidies, these critics say, Universal’s new pricing system further squeezes the profits of the hard-pressed independent music stores and specialized chains like Music- land or Tower — the places that typically give artists their start. Such stores have already been closing in droves, with hundreds more expected to shut down this year.

“Emerging artists are going to be shut out because of the fewer dollars flowing to independent retailers,” said Robert Haber, founder of CMJ Network, which tracks new performers and college radio playlists. “Things that are not good for independent retailers are not good for emerging artists.”

If the policy thwarts the development of new talent, it could boomerang to hurt the major labels as well. Building audiences for the new acts that might become next year’s blockbusters is a growing problem, label executives say. The swift consolidation of the commercial radio business and its use of more scientific market research is making it harder to get air time for unfamiliar artists. Meanwhile, mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart Stores and other chains like the electronics giant Best Buy, which seldom stock any unproven artists, increasingly dominate music sales. Mass merchandisers and chains together now make up more than 80 percent of the market.

[...] But Universal also faces a market dominated by the mass merchandisers, said Michael Nathanson, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein. “It is going to be ugly for the independent stores,” he said, “but the music companies are in a no-win position right now.”

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Salon Reports The IEEE’s Not Doing Much Better on E-Votes [7:43 am]

From Salon: Another case of electronic vote-tampering?

Advocates of the audit-trail requirement claim that the IEEE standards group has been hijacked by a “cabal” representing the voting equipment industry; this industry coalition has systematically attempted to “disenfranchise” its critics by abusing technicalities in the meeting bylaws, these activists charge.

“I think they do want to prevent stronger security methods from going into the standard,” says David Dill, a computer scientist at Stanford who is one of the leading advocates of verifiable ballots in electronic systems. “I feel that we are being deliberately shut out of the process.”

Rebecca Mercuri, a computer scientist and a research fellow at Harvard who has long questioned the security in electronic voting systems, says that the entire standards process has been shrouded in secrecy. “It’s not just the fact that they have all these rules,” she says. “We could live with the rules. But when someone asks for a clarification of the rules, they change the rules to suit their purposes.”

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Another DMCA Claim — Voting Technologies [7:30 am]

Within the emerging set of issues around electronic voting. Siva has posted a number of stories/links to the dispute between Diebold and BlackBoxVoting.org:

Slashdot’s several articles

Wired News reports that Alameda Country, California, does not plan to reconsider use of Diebold electronic voting machines, despite reported problems cited by the state of Maryland: California County Keeps E-Vote

Among the problems cited in the report were issues that security professionals consider basic to secure computing, such as the use of strong encryption for the transfer of voting data and the use of strong passwords and smartcard authentication for officials and workers accessing the systems. Diebold, it was found, had not designed these features adequately to meet security standards.

The audit, conducted by Science Applications International, or SAIC, in San Diego, stated that if the flaws were exploited, “significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity and availability of election results.”

The report included an “action list” of 23 items that needed to be completed to “reduce the risk to the system” but did not indicate how much the machines would still be at risk after these changes were made. Changes were recommended for policies and procedures for the use of the machines by election officials.

The NYTimes’ coverage: Report Raises Electronic Vote Security Issues [pdf]

Yesterday’s report, by the Science Applications International Corporation, said that Mr. Rubin’s conclusions about the company’s software were “technically correct,” but that the researchers “did not have a complete understanding” of Maryland’s use of the system.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Rubin said he was mystified to see that the state planned to use Diebold machines despite the report.

“It almost seems as though the people writing the Maryland action plan either did not read or did not understand the S.A.I.C. report,” he said. “What they should say is, `We’re going to put these systems on hold until they say that these things are safe to use.’ ”

The EFF points out that the IEEE proposal did fail, after all. And the VerifiedVoting.org site is worth a look.

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Jack Valenti Never Sleeps [7:14 am]

See, for example, this press release [from MI2N] on the sucessful passage of California SB 1032 out of the Assembly committee:

SB 1032, introduced by Senator Kevin Murray passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee today. This bill makes it a misdemeanor to record a movie in a theater without the consent of the theater owner.

“We are gratified that Senator Murray is championing this critical legislation that will be an extremely important weapon in our arsenal to combat camcording of movies in theatres,” said Jack Valenti, President & CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. “We salute Senator Murray’s energy and vision in our efforts to curtail the primary source of the unauthorized uploading of movies on P2P networks for free on the Internet.” [emphasis added]

Piracy is a significant problem with estimated loss of $3 billion annually from motion picture piracy alone. “This bill gets to the real problem by going after the individuals who record the movies,” said Murray. The bill now moves to Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The “primary source,” huh? Guess that’s news to these guys: Piracy as an inside job

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iRate Radio [7:01 am]

One approach to the “how do I find music I like among the sea of material available” — iRate, a Java application that seeks out and downloads MP3s to your machine. You vote/rate what you hear, and it tries to adapt its searches to meet your criteria. kuro5hin has a interview with the creator: Interview with iRATE radio Creator

What inspired/motivated you to do iRATE Radio?

When I used Napster and Gnutella I noticed that if someone had one track that I liked then they usually had several. Often I would download other tracks a user had even if I hadn’t heard them. I discovered good bands this way. Also most “file sharing” systems have a search facility, but they’re useless for introducing you to new music. My original idea was to use iRATE and peer-to-peer technology together. However I thought I’d test it with legal music first. I found so much good music freely available that I’ve never looked back. There are a lot of advantages to co-operating with musicians who want to see change than trying to get music from those who are entrenched in the current system.

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Slashdot on Magnatune - “We Are Not Evil” [6:52 am]

Slashdot has a discussion around Magnatune, a recod company with a different business model: Magnatune - a Non-Evil Record Label?

From the Magnatune WWW site:

We call it “try before you buy.” It’s the shareware model applied to music.

Listen to hundreds of MP3′d albums from our artists. Or try our genre-based radio stations.

If you like what you hear, buy our music online for as little as $5 an album or license our music for commercial use.

Artists get a full 50% of the purchase price. And unlike most record labels, our artists keep their rights to their music.

Founded by musicians, for musicians.

No major label connections.

We are not evil.

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