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October 7, 2003

Four Hot Stories from today’s Boston Globe (4/4) [7:50 am]

"Droit d’auteur" (a natural right to copyright) is being tested locally — and I’m sure that there are some IP attorneys considering new ways to employ the law….. Sculptor sues Fidelity to keep his artistic vision intact [pdf]

For David Phillips, the commission for Fidelity Investments had all the makings of a career-defining project. The artist, who creates work for public spaces, was paid $575,000 to design a sculpture park outside the offices of Pembroke Real Estate, a Fidelity-owned company on the Boston Waterfront.

[...] Three years later, Phillips and Fidelity are no longer talking. The company wants to remove the artist’s work as part of a redesign of Eastport Park.

Phillips has responded with a lawsuit that, if he wins, will help define a pair of relatively new laws designed to protect artists. US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris has issued a restraining order barring Fidelity from making changes to Eastport Park. She may hand down her decision this week.

[...] [Modification of the work] also not allowed, [lawyer David] Epstein has argued, under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act and the Massachusetts Art Preservation Act. Both are designed to protect artists from distortion or other changes in their work.

[...] The Visual Artists Rights Act was passed soon after the dismantling of Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc.” In 1981, the artist was hired by the federal government to create a sculpture in the Federal Plaza in New York City. Some hailed the 120-foot long, 12-foot high steel sculpture as a perfect example of public art. Others said it was ugly, attracted graffiti artists, and should be removed. In 1989, during the night, federal workers sliced it into three pieces and removed it from the plaza.

In 1990, Congress approved the Visual Artists Rights Act, meant to “to prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification” of artwork. The law was tested in 1999 when Jan Martin, a sculptor in Indianapolis, sued the city after it bulldozed one of his works. Martin was awarded $20,000 in statutory damages, as well as $130,000 in legal fees. The Massachusetts Art Preservation Act, also named in Phillips’s suit, has not been tested, Epstein said.

“A restriction on what you’re allowed to do with artwork that you’ve purchased is a novel concept in American laws,” said Daniel Grant, the Amherst author of “The Business of Being an Artist.” “People who hadn’t heard of it probably wouldn’t assume there are these restrictions. They think of art as decoration . . . And half a million dollars isn’t probably a big deal for [Fidelity]. But for the artist, it’s a huge deal, and he has the protection of the state and federal statute.”

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Four Hot Stories from today’s Boston Globe (3/4) [7:44 am]

U.S. Record Stores Get No Satisfaction from Stones [pdf] — shifts in retail distribution

If music retailers needed another warning that their future is imperiled from slackening sales, veteran rockers the Rolling Stones have given it to them.

The British band snubbed U.S. record stores late last week by anointing mass market electronics chain Best Buy Co. Inc. as the only seller of its new DVD, “Four Flicks,” for four months, and independent record store owners are seething.

From Nov. 11, through the holiday rush, traditional music retailers will be forced to watch as potential customers flock to Best Buy to snap up the 4-disc package being sold for $29.99.

As the music industry reels from plunging sales due in part to Internet piracy, they also are facing heightened competition from mass merchants like Best Buy and Target Corp. that control about 55 percent of U.S. music sales.

[...] Such deals are short-sighted and hurt not only traditional retailers, but the music industry as a whole, said Clark Benson, chief executive officer of Almighty Institute of Music Retail, which helps record labels work with music stores.

“The more that a mass merchant like Best Buy ends up having an exclusive, the more it hurts these pure-play record stores,” Benson said. “Those stores are the ones where people are really getting turned onto new stuff, not the mass merchants.”

[...] Some retailers are not only angry, but are plotting revenge.

“The mistake some of these guys may be making is that a lot of retailers are like elephants that don’t forget,” said Mike Dreese, co-founder of Boston-based chain, Newbury Comics.

Best Buy’s two-week exclusive in 2001 for a U2 concert DVD caused Newbury to retaliate by doubling the fee it charged U2’s record label for marketing any of its acts. Newbury ended up with about $15,000 in extra income.

“In essence we issued a speeding ticket to them and they paid it,” Dreese said.

With the Rolling Stones, Dreese expects he will mark up the band’s extensive CD catalog by a few dollars. He expected to lose some customers but said, “we’re basically not going to make it easy for them (the Stones) to easily profit off their brand if they’re favoring a competitor in a permanent way.”

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Four Hot Stories from today’s Boston Globe (2/4) [7:40 am]

Questions about the differences between a communication service and an information service may mean that cable may lose its special position when it comes to sharing access: Ruling deals blow to cable giants [pdf]

Cable giants including Comcast Corp. and AOL Time Warner Inc. could face new pressure from regulators to open their high-speed Internet services to rival providers as a result of a ruling by federal judges in San Francisco yesterday.

[...] The ruling involves the question of whether cable companies must allow independent Internet service providers such as America Online, Earthlink, and smaller local companies to rent cable lines to serve their own customers — just as telephone companies like Verizon Communications Inc. must do.

[...] The Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the Federal Communications Commission was wrong when it decided in March 2002 that cable modem service is an “information service” not subject to federal price or service regulation, not a “telecommunications service” for which the FCC and state regulators can set standards.

Slashdot discussion: 9th Circuit Overturns FCC’s Cable Modem Decision; Derek’s thoughts & links

From the NYTimes: Court Rules F.C.C. Erred in Decision on Net Access [pdf]

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Four Hot Stories from today’s Boston Globe (1/4) [7:37 am]

I’m sure there’s more coverge elsewhere, but I have an 8:30 class to prep for…..

From the Lame Technology Department: Technology that limits CD copies easily bypassed [pdf] - turn off autorun and you’re all set with MediaMax (Are they assuming “trusted computing” will make sure that autorun can’t be disabled on future machines?)

SunnComm Technologies Inc. of Phoenix created the MediaMax CD-3 system to prevent CD buyers from distributing music free over the Internet. The system is supposed to let users make a few copies for personal use, but forbid the production of many copies. Last month BMG, the music subsidiary of the giant German media firm Bertelsmann AG, released its first MediaMax disk in the United States, ”Comin’ From Where I’m From,” by R&B artist Anthony Hamilton.

But John Alexander Halderman, a Princeton graduate student in computer science who obtained a copy of the Hamilton CD, said it’s easy to bypass all the limitations imposed by the MediaMax system. The technology is designed to work only with computers using Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems. Users of Apple Macintosh or Linux computers can copy the disks without restriction.

And so can Windows users, if they disable a standard feature of Windows called ”autorun.” This feature causes a disk to start up as soon as it’s inserted into the computer’s CD-ROM drive. The MediaMax software is installed when that happens. If autorun is switched off, MediaMax will not be activated. If users want to leave autorun switched on, they can bypass it when running a MediaMax disk simply by holding down the shift key for a few seconds after inserting it. This prevents the MediaMax software from loading.

Slashdot commentary from yesterday: Newest Audio CD DRM Proves Ineffective; Ed Felten’s discussion: Halderman Dissects New CD Copy Protection

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