Push Something Hard Enough, It Will Fall Over

Fudd’s First Law of Opposition gets a demonstration in this News.com article: Covering tracks: New privacy hope for P2P

As ants marched with impunity through the Santa Cruz, Calif., home of the programmer, frustration turned to inspiration and Mute was born. The program, which seeks to hide the source of downloads by passing files between computers along twisting pathways, is gaining attention as an interesting solution to file swapping’s hottest problem: privacy.

“If you’re going to be anonymous, you can not use direct connections,” Rohrer said.

Rohrer isn’t alone in developing peer-to-peer privacy tools. In the past six months, the quest for anonymity on file-swapping networks has become the equivalent of a technological holy grail, thanks to a wave of lawsuits filed against individual file swappers by the Recording Industry Association of America.

[…] Peer-to-peer network developers have been working on improving privacy ever since Napster was first targeted by a skittish record industry, but the results have been decidedly imperfect.

That’s because most peer-to-peer systems require some degree of openness to work at all. In order to download a song from another computer online, a file swapper’s computer must make some kind of connection to it. That leaves a digital record that can be traced back to a person’s Internet service provider, and from there to the account holder.

Would you take the RIAA’s bet that this problem is insoluble? I’m not sure that I would. The article makes it look like this is a structural requirement of the network that you cannot program around but, like so many other tricks, there is no reason to assume that programming is the only instrument at the disposal of innovators in this area. After all, security cracks are hard to program, but easy once you take another tack, like social engineering.

Update (Feb 26): Ed Felten’s take — Shielding P2P Users’ Identities

Something to Try: IPMemes

[Via Bag/Baby & Baggage] IPMemes

IP Memes

This weekly newsletter consists of technology-related intellectual property “memes” — IP issues that have just begun to surface and may soon become important legal issues. IP Memes enables corporate counsel, intellectual property lawyers, and interested others to learn about and react to new developments in intellectual property law.

Jenny Sees the Future?

From The Shifted Librarian: Fun with Multimedia

Last night, eight-year old Brent was singing a song he had stuck in his head. He wanted to hear the song, so he went up to the computer and asked, “How do I get to the music thingy?” I was busy doing something, so I asked nine-year old Kailee to show him. She did, and they spent some time looking for the song. Eventually, I finished what I was doing, went over there, and showed them that the song just wasn’t available. Brent was upset.

Out of nowhere, he said, “I want to burn a CD.” I stared at him for a second and repeated what he said. He confirmed it – “I want to burn a CD.” I asked if he had other songs he wanted to get, and he said no. We spent some time trying to find songs he knew that he wanted, but so far we’re only up to two.

I just couldn’t believe he was using that phrase. Even when I told him the song wasn’t available, he never asked if we could go to a store to buy the song. I suddenly realized he’s never bought a music CD and he probably never will. To him, music is a commodity that you slice and dice from home.

A New Eldred Argument?

Lawmeme notes that Larry Lessig has taken an interest in Douglas Keenan’s Is a 95-year copyright time-limited?

In the USA, the constitution gives Congress the authority to grant a copyright for a limited time. The purpose of this is clear from the context: economic benefits. An economic benefit can be regarded as a sequence of cash flows. In finance, the duration of a sequence of cash flows is not measured directly in years; rather, duration is calculated via a formula involving interest rates. At present, Congress has granted copyrights to corporations for terms of 95 years. The duration of 95 years seems not significantly different from the duration of perpetuity. Hence, 95-year copyright terms seem effectively not time-limited. Thus, such terms might well violate the constitution.

I dunno — I thought this argument had already been made. And, despite the power of the economics and law movement, I really don’t think that an argument founded upon discount rate, and the vagaries of defining its socially efficient value, is going to fly, no matter how many equations get used. A succint one pager, but an argument with a host of weaknesses. For example, all I have to do is assert that the discount rate should be 0% (a not uncommon position in some environmental policy discussions, for example), and the argument falls apart.

Update: Prof. Solum’s take: Limited Times, Eldred v. Ashcroft, and the Future of Copyright

Wired News on Today’s Grey Tuesday Protest

In re today’s Grey Tuesday protest, during which those opposed to EMI’s efforts to stop dissemination of Danger Mouse’s Grey Album will make the album available on their WWW sites (earlier entry — Grey Album Protest Planned): Grey Album Fans Protest Clampdown

Danger Mouse caused a sensation when he released the album last month. But when EMI, which owns the rights to Beatles sound recordings, heard about the popular mix, lawyers for the label demanded that Danger Mouse stop selling his record. They claimed he had not asked permission or paid for the rights to use the music.

According to protesters, the Danger Mouse fiasco is a perfect example of how outdated copyright restrictions stifle creativity. The label’s tactics show that “making money is a higher priority in the music industry than making music,” said John Langton, a student and musician.

“Musicians have a right to make albums like The Grey Album, and when something great and culturally important like this album gets made, the public has the right to hear it,” Wilson said.

[…] The label said it’s simply protecting its copyright.

“There are proper channels to go through,” said Jeanne Meyer, a spokeswoman for EMI North America. “They’ve just been completely ignored in this case. The DJ didn’t ask permission (and he) used the work in an unauthorized fashion.”

“We authorize samples, we authorize remixes all the time,” Meyer said.

Downhill Battle has posted something about the C&D letter they’ve already received from EMI: Monday February 23 7:56PM (see also TLA’s writeup). Here also is Illegal Art’s Grey Album site.

Dissecting (New) Napster Sales

Building its business one litigation-shy university at a time? From The Register: Napster song sales hit 5m

Napster has sold over five million songs since the once infamous file sharing software company was relaunched as a digital music store last October, it said yesterday.

[…] As a Windows PC-only service, Napster claimed it was the first such company to reach the five million download milestone. By contrast, Apple’s cross-platform iTunes Music Store reached 25 million downloads early last December, though ITMS has of course been running since April 2003. Windows users were welcomed into the fold in September.

That yields a (rough) average monthly download rate of 2.78m songs – Napster’s rate works out at 1.25m songs a month, so it has some way to go to catch up.

It hopes its co-operative deals with US universities will help. It has already signed up Pennsylvania State University and the University of Rochester, and claims to be “in negotiations with a number of other institutions across the country”. The deal essentially provides students access to Napster’s bulk-buy Premium service for free – the universities pick up the subscription fees.

Slashdot discussion: Napster Sells 5 Million Songs. Here’s a comment that reflects my attitudes still, even with a new mini iPod in my hands: gripes.

Sorry, but I’m still not turned on to the idea of online music downloads.

  1. To me, $0.99 per song is still a jack. If a track has 13-15 songs per album, that’s $13 – $15 for all the tracks on the CD. Considering that I get no artwork, no packaging, no permanent format, that’s a rip off.

  2. The file format is lossy. I’d be paying for a lower quality representation than what I could buy at a store for the same price.
  3. DRM is a bitch.
  4. I can get the same thing, or a higher quality version online.

Sorry, but there has to be some more incentive for me to buy into the system.

  1. $0.50 a song is a good starting point, $1.00 for a FLAC version of the song.

  2. Printout art available when purchasing all the songs on the CD.
  3. ISO downloads. A lot of CD’s come with extra’s for the PC. Quite simply, it’s one of the things that makes me buy the CD rather than just donwload the song (other than actually liking the band). Add this, and I’ll start reconsidering.
  4. Stop being a bitch about giving this stuff to my friends. Do you know how many friends I’ve turned on to certain groups of music just by giving them a song? *cough* WeedShare [weedshare.com] anyone? Apple and Napster can learn from this.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the arguments are very old in this post, and it’s all been said before. But nothing’s being done, and I’m still not being converted over. Considering how much of a computer user I am, this is rather surprising.

And the responses are worth reading, too