October 12, 2003

An Excellent Comment on the KaZaA Pay-for-P2P Plan [7:25 pm]

From Kazaa Backs Plan To Bill P2P Music Transfers

Stay Away From My ISP Bill (Score:5, Insightful)

by istartedi (132515) on Sunday October 12, @01:06AM (#7193055)

(http://www.vrml3d.com/ | Last Journal: Thursday April 18, @08:50PM)

Ummm… someone gets a virus on my box, then convinces my ISP that I dowloaded a whole bunch of crap, then I get a huge bill, then I have to prove I didn’t download?

No Thanks.

If that’s going to work, the ISP had d*** well better be sure they are filtering packets on a per user basis, so that I can’t download anything through the Kazaa port unless I really am a registered Kazaa user, and they had better make sure that if “I” try to do that they flag it as a virus and not a new signup or something. No other way.

Look.

The ISP billing right now is “pure”. I get billed for connectivity and that’s it. The last thing I need is for my connection to turn into something like the POTS line, where kids in the house could “dial” the equivalent of a 900 number.

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Today’s Doonesbury [7:16 pm]

So, has Gary Trudeau changed his mind for good? Read today’s strip and guess which side of the copyright debate he’s on: Sunday, October 12, 2003 strip

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Indications of the end of sanity [6:27 pm]

From Doc Searls: Record labels sue God for shipping babies with ears. Not the kuro5hin bit; this one from Glen Reynolds

AT LUNCHTIME TODAY, I moderated a panel discussion on digital downloading and music, featuring a bunch of musicians, songwriters, and industry people from Nashville. Here’s the scary bit: one of the industry guys said that their big legislative priority is to try to create a regime where you have to register with a unique, verifiable ID to access the Internet.

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A Few More Slashdot Tales [3:00 pm]

It’s just been a busy couple of days at Slashdot, in re intellectual property. Here are a few more discussions for your entertainment (the Roland emulation one is particularly fun)

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Sony’s Schizophrenia and a New Market? [2:44 pm]

Wired discusses the much-rumored Sony iPod for video (a personal video player) in this article: Note to Sony: Skip IPod Knockoff . Of course, the legal problems of such a tool are going to get the content division in another fight with the consumer electronics division:

Sony was so worried about piracy, and sapping revenue from its Sony Music division, that it chose to do nothing and let Apple ascend. Apple made boatloads of cash from the iPod, while Sony struggled to remain profitable as revenues from its main cash cow, the PlayStation 2, plummeted.

[...] There probably isn’t a whole lot the electronics giant can do now to unseat the iPod, but Sony does have a chance to leapfrog competitors in the next wave of entertainment gadgets: personal video players.

PVPs are basically hard drives with screens attached for watching videos.

[...] Besides looking good, a Sony PVP will have to make it easy for people to have stuff to watch. But here’s where things get hairy. Because it’s illegal to copy a DVD to a computer, and most people won’t want a PVP to watch home videos, the most likely source of content will be peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like Kazaa, where it’s not too hard to find MPEGs of The Sopranos and The Simpsons.

I’m also guessing Sony higher-ups aren’t thrilled with the idea of a gadget from their own shop that encourages piracy of Sony Pictures movies off the Net. But some recent encouraging movements show some enlightenment: Sony plans to introduce a gadget that can record TV shows onto Memory Stick memory cards for later viewing on a Sony Clié handheld computer. It requires no stretch of the imagination to see how this recorder would be a perfect complement to a Sony PVP.

Slashdot discussion: Wired: Sony Prototyping Personal Video Player

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Another thought [2:27 pm]

The SunnComm Slashdot discussion includes this comment that touches upon something I’ve been wondering about for a while. The comment itself has some inaccuracies, but there is this thought:

Re:Did Jacobs just say something really stupid? (Score:5, Insightful)

by macdaddy357 (582412) on Thursday October 09, @07:52PM (#7178041)

He doesn’t understand the implications of what he said at all. If I purchase a CD, it is my personal property. I have the absolute right to do with it as I see fit. Alex Halderman of Princeton University is only showing us how to take back our rights as property owners. Jacobs, and all the a-holes at Sunncomm are the ones trying to deny us our rights. They are the crooks here. They claim that they are protecting “intellectual property.” That term is a highly offensive misnomer. Copyright is a temporary loan from the public domain, not property. [Ed: emphasis added]

When you boil it all down, Sunncomm is dancing, but the RIAA are calling the tune. It is the RIAA and affiliated labels who need to be boycotted until they reform, or perish. [dontbuycds.org] Sunncomm will die on their own. Sunncomm alredy lost Sound Choice Karaoke as a customer. Using the previous DRM scheme, Mediacloq, caused a backlash that really hurt them, and karaoke is a niche market.

OK — the idea that you can do anything with a CD is clearly incorrect, from the DMCA point of view if nothing else. But the idea that copyright is a temporary loan from the public domain suggests that there might be some merit in reframing copyright as something that the creator holds in trust for the public. I don’t know enough law to know if this has been suggested formally in the past, but it seems like it could be used to reframe some of the issue, particularly by suggesting that the caretaker of the trust carries certain positive obligations in exchange for the income received from managing the trust. I am not anywhere near knowlegeable enough about the law of trusts to know if there’s anything worth pursuing, but it’s something I would like to know more about.

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A Patent Story [2:14 pm]

The SunnComm discussion on Slashdot led me to this very interesting Wharton report, Suing Your Customers: A Winning Business Strategy?, itself the basis for another Slashdot discussion: Suing Your Customers: Winning Business Strategy?. The article discusses something I had never heard of, the Selden Patent (#549,160), which was used to tie up the automobile manufacturing industry.

But the U.S. Patent Office had issued the Selden Patent and a group of powerful incumbents had purchased it and formed an association to enforce it. Litigation, then as now, was very expensive — especially for start-up companies with limited working capital. Nearly every car company fell into line to pay royalties to the Association for the privilege of making and selling cars.

Except Henry Ford. The association did not want another competitor in Detroit and it did not like his idea of driving prices down to where average people could afford a car. So it refused to license him. For Ford, it was either exit the industry or fight the Selden Patent in court. He decided to raise a legal war chest and fight the incumbents. The litigation lasted from 1903 until 1911 and along the way, the association launched hundreds of lawsuits against Ford’s customers to scare them away from his showrooms for buying “unlicensed vehicles.”

Most ordinary people of Ford’s era had been content to stand by and watch the automobile makers slug it out over the Selden Patent. It was just an industry cat fight. But when the big “money men” started suing ordinary people who were just trying to buy a cheap car, public sympathy shifted against the incumbents. People rallied to Ford’s side against the bullies. Editorials weighed in against the industry’s heavy-handed lawsuits, and Ford helped his own case by purchasing litigation insurance for his customers. By the time the patent litigation was over — Ford won on appeal in 1911 when the court ruled that the Selden Patent covered only cars made with a special type of engine nobody was using anymore — Ford was a hero, and the largest car manufacturer in America.

[...] As Henry Ford once summed it up, lawsuits against new technologies provide “opportunities for little minds … to usurp the gains of genuine inventors … and under the smug protest of righteousness, work a hold-up game in the most approved fashion.” What the recording industry needs now are new business models, not outdated legal strategies.

Sounds like Lessig’s Future of Ideas nightmare. And it gives some hope for the future. Because greedy people apparently never know when to stop, the public eventually decides to act on clear unfairness — as long as they are allowed to speak.

Suggesting the real dangers come from those who are able to be judiciously greedy. We can only hope that judicious greediness is a metastable state.

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The SunnComm Mess [1:58 pm]

I was away when this all came to a head, but Donna’s put together a good set of reports: Your Shift Key is an Anti-circumvention Device and SunnComm Does Some Thinking, Backs Off (Larry Lessig’s comments: felten II (or jr.))

The Slashdot discussion that Donna points to, SunnComm Says Pointing to Shift Key ‘Possible Felony’, is well worth reading from beginning to end. A few nonsensical rants, but the moderation system has brought a lot of good thoughts to the fore. (The followup, SunnComm Reconsiders Lawsuit Threat)

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Sorry! [1:44 pm]

A lesson I apparently still haven’t learned — never do optional system maintenance on the road without making sure that you’ll have time to verify everything came back online correctly.

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