February 29, 2004

End-to-End? [6:49 pm]

Brainier networking gear to the rescue. Note the list of evildoers in the opening paragraph:

Networking equipment makers are adding “intelligence” to their gear in an effort to protect bandwidth resources from being hijacked by spammers, denial-of-service attackers and peer-to-peer application users.

[...] Traditionally, Internet Protocol (IP) networks have been built for “best effort,” which means that networking devices are designed to simply pump as much traffic through big pipes of bandwidth as quickly as they can. Ensuring quality of service and implementing security are usually done at the periphery of the network.

But as networks get flooded with millions of unwanted e-mail, peer-to-peer traffic, and denial of service attacks, network operators need tools to control how much traffic comes onto their networks.

“Adding intelligence in the network will cause a lot of these problems to go away,” Christy said. “It’s much more effective to simply control who gets access to the resources.”

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Slashdot on a New ATi HDTV Card [11:12 am]

This discussion, HDTV On Your PC - ATi’s HDTV Wonder, shows just how much people are prepared to invest in the latest and greatest video tech — but it takes quite a while to get around to a key issue: broadcast flag transmission/recognition

ATi TV cards are soon to become useless (Score:5, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, @07:49AM (#8422007)

The messages are pouring out of web forums, broadcasters have discovered the “copyright” tag they can send out with their programs when they’re delivered… and ATi very happily kow-tows to the signal and says “sorry, this program is copyrighted and cannot be recorded” (witness last week’s Enterprise).

Pretty soon all this hardware will be worthless, since nothing will be recordable except your home movies.

I need to track down what that Enterprise cite is about…..

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Darl McBride on Darl McBride [10:51 am]

Cowboy Willpower

I am absolutely driven by people saying I can’t do something.

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Copyright Infringement & The Truman Show [10:48 am]

A topical article from today’s NYTimes just before tonight’s Academy Awards show: A Movie Pondered Reality. A Lawsuit Questions Its Originality.

Mr. Mowry, an independent producer, contends that he originated the idea as well as much of the language, setting and characters that made their way into “The Truman Show” in a script he calls “The Crew.” It was written in the early 1980’s and first copyrighted in 1986, five years before Mr. Niccol’s first treatment, or synopsis, for “The Truman Show” was registered with the Writers Guild of America.

[...] Regardless of how compelling the evidence may be, cases of this sort are tough to prove. “You have to show access, how they got the script,” said Otto L. Haselhoff, a lawyer in Los Angeles. “You have to determine how much money or revenue is derived specifically from the similarities in the material.” Mr. Haselhoff said that in 2001 he helped a screenwriter, Bill Van Daalen, attain an “amicably resolved” settlement with Adam Resnick and Paramount Pictures in a copyright infringement case involving the script for the film “Lucky Numbers.”

“Sure, plaintiffs can win, but usually what happens is they settle before they go to trial, and a condition is that the settlement remain confidential,” Mr. Haselhoff said. “That’s why you never hear about them.” He paused. “They are great cases if you are representing the defendants,” he said, because movie studios “can pay a lot of money and have got a lot of defenses and theory under the law.”

The Mowry case appears to be developing an audience among film industry buffs, who see it as a whodunit dealing with the confusing matters of copyright infringement. Joy R. Butler, a lawyer in Washington, has been talking about Mr. Mowry’s case in seminars she gives on legal matters of concern to creative artists. Examining the court documents, she said, she found that “the entire concept of ‘The Truman Show’ is present in the plaintiff’s copyrighted work.”

[...] Though creative concepts and ideas are not protected by copyright laws, the unique expression of the idea is. “I have no personal involvement in this case, but the reason I mention it in my seminar is it represents a very good illustration of the separation of idea, which is not protectable by copyright law, and the expression of the idea,” Ms. Butler said. “If his case was about just another screenplay, his ‘The Crew,’ about a man trapped in a fictitious world, that would represent only his basic idea, and would not be protectable. But Mr. Mowry cites numerous examples of verbatim copying.”

[..] And he still dreams. Lately, Mr. Mowry has begun thinking he might like to adapt his “Crew” script for the stage. Why not?

Well, said Mr. Heller, his lawyer, there could be a risk in that: “Would Craig’s ‘The Crew’ be subjected to copyright infringement on the part of the people from ‘The Truman Show’?”

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February 28, 2004

I Knew It!! [7:19 pm]

From Slashdot: For Exercise in New York Futility, Push Button

The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined.

Here at MIT there are definitely some "Close Door" elevator buttons like those described above — I’ve always assumed that they were part of some Course 9 experiment to measure the mood/stress levels at MIT.

Followup: Monday’s NYTimes editorial — Press Here to Control the Universe

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Absurdity [1:55 pm]

I’ve ruminated about posting something about this, but LawMeme has done a better job than I could: Paris Hilton And Copyright Law. The Reuters article: Paris Hilton ‘Directed’ Sex Video - Court Filing

In court papers, Marvad’s lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out because Salomon was not the sole copyright holder as he apparently had claimed in registration documents.

“Unfortunately for Salomon, the video also depicts Ms. Hilton participating fully in the creation of the video,” the motion said. “Ms. Hilton offered directorial comments and physically controlled and directed the camera.”

At one point in the video, Hilton even pushed Salomon out of the frame so as to not block the shot, the document said.

James Grimmelmann asks the right question, particularly when dealing with freaks like these:

Really. Is this the sort of factual issue on which anything ought to turn?

See also the TLA writeup: Paris Hilton ‘Directed’ Sex Video

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Online Film Critics [12:33 pm]

Invasion of the Web Film Critics

Though their readership is growing, online film critics remain at the bottom of the movie-publicity food chain — far below daily newspaper critics, magazine writers and broadcast reporters. They are the last to be invited for preview screenings, are seldom quoted in movie ads and remain largely off the radar for Hollywood studios.

“Online critics have nowhere near the kind of respect that is given to other journalists,” said David Edelstein of Slate, who also is the film critic for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and a frequent contributor to The New York Times. “Variety doesn’t take them seriously, skipping them when it samples critics. The New York Film Critics Circle doesn’t allow onliners in. I write for a publication with between 5 (million) and 6 million readers, but most studio publicists make no distinctions between it and any other website.”

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If Ye Fayle To Shoppe, Ye Colonials Shall Wynne? [12:30 pm]

Here’s a provocative history, claiming the shape of American culture lies in the pocketbook: Armies of Consumers: 1776’s Secret Weapon?

Deceptively simple, his argument goes like this: two and a half million strong and scattered along 1,800 miles of coastline, the colonists had little in common besides a weakness for what Samuel Adams derisively termed “the Baubles of Britain.” When Britain imposed stiff taxes on this appetite for stuff — without granting any political representation — Americans responded with an ingenious invention with instant and widespread appeal: the consumer boycott. By the time the First Continental Congress was convened in September 1774, transforming mass consumer mobilization into a successful political rebellion was a relatively straightforward task.

[...] It sounds far-fetched, possibly scandalous: pinning Americans’ success in the war for independence even partly on their common experience in the marketplace. Moreover the notion seems to contradict the long-standing assumption among scholars that lofty ideas elegantly expressed — and a brisk trade in political pamphlets and newspapers — were sufficient to unite the public behind the revolutionary cause.

[...] And while others, including Gordon S. Wood, another Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, who teaches at Brown, predict that Mr. Breen’s thesis will be controversial, they concede his book is important. “I’m not persuaded by the attempt to explain the Revolution,” Mr. Gordon said. But he added, it is the first book about the period “to show the scale and depth of consumption in any kind of statistical detail.”

How long before this set of thoughts becomes a basis for a new interpretation of “Progress of Science and Useful Arts?”

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From One of My Day Jobs (Offtopic) [12:14 pm]

With the TPP applications process drawing to a conclusion (hopefully resulting in a little less weekend work!), here’s an article from the NYTimes that I missed that echoes what I and many others have found particularly notable in this cycle of the process: Decline Seen in Science Applications From Overseas

“It’s really what we’ve been fearing all along,” said Vic Johnson, associate director for public policy at the Association of International Educators. “It’s the accumulation of a lot of things that is just causing a change in the attractiveness of the United States as a destination for students and scholars.”

The General Accounting Office study said the nation’s system for issuing visas for research in sensitive areas was unnecessarily slow and cumbersome.

For example, it said, while the State Department, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are all involved in researching candidates for visas, the three agencies do not have data systems that can work with each other. In addition, the report said, it takes the State Department two weeks just to notify consular officials abroad once it has cleared a candidate to receive a visa.

“Everyone has to be willing to put up with more delays and bureaucracy in the post-Sept. 11 world,” Representative Sherwood Boehlert, the New York Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Science, said at a hearing on the report today. “But we still have an obligation to ensure that we are not needlessly alienating scholars from around the world who could help this nation, and that we are not unnecessarily hamstringing or burdening our universities and research centers.”

As this year’s crop of TMP general exam takers know already, there’s a pretty ambitious RFP (for a really ambitious amount of $$) out there that expects to resolve the problem cited in the second paragraph in this excerpt. As I did for them, I leave to the reader a consideration of Section C and then just how feasible such a program might be from an organizational, computational and institutional perspective.

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February 27, 2004

Not What I Expected [9:03 pm]

When reading an article at Salon about the yanking of Howard Stern from some Clear Channel stations: Pulling the plug on Howard

What got Howard Stern pulled from six Clear Channel radio stations this week? The corporate line is that Howard is too raunchy for the radio giant. Clear Channel president John Hogan went up to the Hill and apologized to Congress for airing Howard’s filth on the great American airwaves.

[...] But some Salon readers and webloggers are wondering if Clear Channel getting religion about Howard has anything to do with Stern’s recent political change-of-heart. It was just recently that Stern started trashing President Bush, who he has strongly supported in the past. On the blog Music Angle Michael Fremer says: “On Tuesday, Stern took a strong stance against Bush, the Republican party and the strong stench of fascism and intolerance in the air when it comes to free speech and gay rights, among other things. John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel is a strong Bush supporter. When the war in Iraq began, Clear Channel organized rallys supporting the action and actually banned John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and anything by The B-52s. Hard to believe, but true. Stern has great sway over millions of listeners. His political stand is what got him thrown off Clear Channel’s network of stations, not his supposed ‘indecent’ remarks towards women and blacks. This is a sickening development.”

If you’ve missed Howard, Robin and friends recently, MarksFriggin.com helpfully paraphrases every Stern radio show for you.

Update: As I come late to this, I see that others have already responded to this suggestion as unlikely.

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Windows Media 9 Enters A DVD Spec [8:47 pm]

Microsoft on every DVD?

The steering committee for the DVD Forum on Friday announced provisional approval for Microsoft’s VC-9 and two other video technologies–H.264 and MPEG-2–as mandatory for the HD-DVD video specification for playback devices. VC-9 is the reference title for the underlying video decoding technology within Windows Media Video 9. The approval is subject to several conditions, including an update in 60 days of licensing terms and conditions.

The DVD Forum Steering Committee also approved a near-final version of the HD-DVD specifications for rewritable discs.

The provisional decision “ends months of speculation over whether Microsoft would be endorsed or not,” said Richard Doherty, the president of Envisioneering Group, a media consultancy. “It’s a good tailwind for Microsoft.”

Update: Slashdot — Microsoft Code in Every HD-DVD Player

Update: The RegisterDVD Forum mandates Microsoft for HD disc spec

Update: A review of the strategic implications in The Register - DVD Forum provokes HDD spec punch-up

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Woo-Hoo2! [5:02 pm]

From Donna with links to others: Bunner Acquitted in DeCSS Case-Again.

EFF’s copy of the decision: DVD Copy Control Association Inc. v. Andrew Bunner Something else to read this afternoon — but see the comments that Donna has already cited.

It is important to stress that our conclusion is based upon the appellate record filed in this court. It is not a final adjudication on the merits. The ultimate determination of trade secret status and misappropriation would be subject to proof to be presented at trial. (Whyte v. Schlage Lock Co., supra, 101 Cal.App.4th at p. 1453.)

IV. DISPOSITION

The order granting a preliminary injunction is reversed. Defendant Andrew Bunner shall recover his appellate costs.

Slashdot: DeCSS Trade Secret Case Comes to an End - Again; News.com — Court: DeCSS ban violated free speech

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Got My Check for $13.86 [4:54 pm]

From the CDMAP litigation:

February, 2004

Dear Massachusetts Music Purchaser:

As Attorney General for the State of Massachusetts, I am please to enclose payment for your claim in the settlement of the Compact Disc Minimum Advertised Price Antitrust Litigation. This lawsuit was brought by the Attorneys General of 43 states and three territories and by counsel for Private Class Plaintiffs on behalf of the puchasers of music CDs. In accordance with the terms of the court-approved settlement, payment is being made to music purchasers who filed a valid and timely claim.

Whether you filed your claim online at the settlement web site, www.MusicCDSettlement.com, or by mail, the attached payment instrument represents full payment of your portion of the Settlement. Please note that the attached payment instrument must be cashed by May 20, 2004.

It is a pleasure to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion and to return value to customers who purchased CDs while the challenged policies were in effect.

Tom Reilly

Attorney General of Massachusetts

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Eben Moglen at Harvard [2:32 pm]

The transcript of Eben Moglen’s presentation at Harvard for JOLT a couple of days ago is available at GrokLaw. While, as Jonathan Z says, it was a bookend to the earlier visit by Darl McBride of SCO, it’s also a fundamentally important look at the notions of Free Software. I won’t pretend that there’s a simple excerpt that summarizes it, but I will give you a taste in the hopes that you’ll give it a read:

The goal of the Free Software Movement is to enable people to understand, to learn from, to improve, to adapt, and to share the technology that increasingly runs every human life.

The fundamental belief in fairness here is not that it is fair that things should be free. It is that it is fair that we should be free and that our thoughts should be free, that we should be able to know as much about the world in which we live as possible, and that we should be as little as possible captive to other people’s knowledge, beyond the appeal to our own understanding and initiative.

[...] If you think about it, it sounds rather like a commitment to encourage the diffusion of science and the useful arts by promoting access to knowledge.

In short, the idea of the Free Software Movement is neither hostile to, nor in any sense at cross-purposes with, the 18th century ambition for the improvement of society and the human being through access to knowledge.

The copyrights clause in Article 1 Section 8 is only one of the many ways in which those rather less realistic than usually pictured founding parents of ours participated in the great 18th century belief in the perfectability of the world and of human life.

The copyrights clause is an particular legal embrace of the idea of perfectability through access to and the sharing of knowledge. We, however, the 21st century inheritors of that promise, live in a world in which there is some doubt as to whether property principles, strongly enforced, with their inevitable corollary of exclusion — this is mine, you cannot have it unless you pay me — whether property principles best further that shared goal of the perfectability of human life and society based around access to knowledge.

[...] We are, as it happens, driving out of business a firm called the Santa Cruz Operation [sic] - or SCO Ltd. That was not our intention. That’s a result of something called the creative destruction potential of capitalism, once upon a time identified by Joseph Schumpeter. We are doing a thing better at lower cost than it is presently being done by those people using other people’s money to do it. The result - celebrated everywhere that capitalism is actually believed in — is that existing firms are going to have to change their way of operation or leave the market. This is usually regarded as a positive outcome, associated with enormous welfare increases of which capitalism celebrates at every opportunity everywhere all the time in the hope that the few defects that capitalism may possess will be less prominently visible once that enormous benefit is carefully observed.

Slashdot discussion: Transcript of Eben Moglen’s Harvard Speech

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Blue Laser DVD Spec Approved/Not? [11:26 am]

Bigger capacity, R/W capability — and a mix of standards. *sigh* Plus ça change. At least this one is backward compatible; otherwise, 321 Studios might have suddenly gotten a new argument in the court of public opinion, anyway: DVD Forum ‘approves’ rewriteable HD-DVD spec

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321 Releases Revised Software [11:19 am]

DVD X Copy re-issued without ripper

DVD copying software developer 321 Studios has made good its pledge to offer ‘ripper-free’ versions of its DVD X Copy range of utilities.

The company announced its plan to strip the DeCSS-derived code out of its applications last week after US District Court judge Susan Illston ruled that the programs violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

321 Studios’ press release: 321 Studios Offers "Ripper-Free" Versions of Award-Winning DVDXCopy Software: Offering Complies with Injunction Order

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Slashdot on the EFF Music Licensing Proposal [10:45 am]

EFF’s New File-Sharing Scheme

A succint comment that points out the fact that this discussion has to go on at several levels and, more importantly, that the issue of control remains the great unspoken problem:

I won’t be surprised if the RIAA cold-shoulders it (Score:5, Insightful)

by e6003 (552415) on Friday February 27, @08:12AM (#8406972)

(http://slashdot.org/)

Considering their real problem with file sharing is not the loss of money but loss of control over music distribution, anything that tries to tackle their public complaint whilst not addresing their real beef is bound to be rejected. Kudos to the EFF for trying but I think this is still 12 to 24 months ahead of its time. Congressman Boucher and Congresswoman Lofgren to the white courtesy phone please…

The RIAA can’t publicly assert that control is what they’re worried about (because that’s the foundation of their current business model) and the rest of us are so uncomfortable with control that we don’t speak as carefully about it as we should when we try to talk about alternatives. How do we really want to speak about ownership and property?

Will the notion that ‘property right’ == ‘monopoly right’ survive this conflict? Of course, that’s not really the case even today, but some will tell you that monopoly is a part of the notion underlying the way that property is taught, so it’s a pretty deeply embedded meme.

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Pop Quiz: Internet Memes [8:22 am]

Do you get the punchline of today’s UserFriendly? How does that make you feel?

For those who don’t get it: Zero Wing Intro as Animated GIF; a spooky satirical GIF; the Flash movie; one of many histories; PDF of the Boston Globe article of the era

Update: And looking at that old Flash movie invites obvious contrast and comparison with the Grey Album controversy and the OutKast/Peanuts issues.

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"Echo Chamber" or "Back Alley?" [8:09 am]

What do you think? There have been several discussions around the argument that the Internet is a political "echo chamber," where like meets like and people can fool themselves into thinking that they are part of something substantial when they aren’t. But, then we also get this story: In Politics, the Web Is a Parallel World With Its Own Rules

The one-minute spot, introduced a week ago, did not appear on television, but on President Bush’s campaign Web site. And so a new bare-knuckled political use of the World Wide Web showed its head: the Internet attack ad.

When the Web was in its infancy, Internet utopians envisioned a political revolution, predicting that the new medium would engage and empower voters as never before. Much of what they envisioned has come to pass, with the Internet facilitating vigorous debate this year, most dramatically, giving Howard Dean’s campaign the ability to raise millions.

But part of the Web’s appeal has been its unbridled nature, and it is showing that it can act as a back alley — where punches can be thrown and things can be said that might be deemed out of place, even if just at a particular moment, in the full light of the mainstream media.

“The principals themselves feel like they can act out there in a way that they wouldn’t dare to do in the mainstream media,’” said Jonathan Zittrain, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

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February 26, 2004

LawMeme on the Kerry/Fonda Fake Photo [6:55 pm]

John Kerry, Watermarks, and the DMCA (in re: Speaking of Digital Photography)

But I can tell you a story in which these digital tattletales don’t help. Our PhotoShop expert goes in and strips the watermark. I’m no expert here, but it doesn’t seem all that difficult for someone good enough to make a convincing mash-up in the first place. If the watermark were opaque, that would have been a different matter, but it looks to me like just a matter of undoing an alpha-channel blend with a known image, which is both straightforward and deterministic.

But — says Corbis — that would be a DMCA 1202(b) violation! Oho! Gotcha now! The fallacy is the same one that undergirds many misguided spam solutions: adding another penalty for knavery doesnt, by itself, help you catch the knaves. Every time you stare closely enough at the DMCA, it winds up being either horrirfic or redundant.

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