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March 3, 2004

IP Justice’s EU IP Enforcement Directive Protest [2:49 pm]

[Via The Register] CODE: Campaign for an Open Digital Environment Rally for Digital Rights, March 8

The Register article paints a pretty dismal picture of this directive:

However, this directive fails to distinguish between commercial counterfeiting, and inadvertent individual copyright infringement. This means a 12-year old P2P file sharer, or someone photocopying pages from a library text book at university, is seen as identical to a large scale piracy operation filtering money into organised crime.

[...] As it stands, this directive grants some very scary powers to rights holders. Consider the Anton Piller orders: these enable rights holders to hire private police to raid a suspect’s home.

This was previously restricted to very rare, large commercial infringers. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) points out that now, anyone who infringes copyright – even unwittingly – may have his or her “assets seized, bank account frozen and home invaded”.

The bill creates a new “Right of Information” that allows rights holders to obtain personal information on P2P file sharers. An ISP’s servers can be seized and destroyed with no hearing if one of their customers is alleged to have infringed a copyright.

It fails to define the term ‘intellectual property rights’, so interpretation will vary hugely from country to country when/if the directive becomes law, undermining one of the main objectives of the legislation: harmonising EU law.

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Progress & Freedom Foundation on Digital Distribution [8:42 am]

A press release over at MI2N led me to this report: The Digital Content Marketplace: Prospects & Challenges for Online Distribution, a transcript of a session from the Foundation’s Aspen Summit. A notable comment from Marybeth Peters:

Additionally, the [Copyright] Office testifies on legislative proposals, and not infrequently. Congress asks us assist and facilitate in the crafting of exceptions. I’ve talked about exclusive rights and exceptions, but there’s another major limitation on copyright owners’ rights, one that people sometimes see as a panacea, the answer to some difficult problems. It’s known as a statutory or compulsory license. Here the copyright owner has his exclusivity taken away from him. Use may be made of his work; the copyright owner cannot say no. Of course, there are specified terms and conditions of use and generally a reasonable royalty.

Let me make it clear the Copyright Office, based on principle, is opposed to compulsory licenses. There are, of course, a number of compulsory licenses in our law. But a compulsory license is a last resort in a dysfunctional market.

[...] The Office will continue to oppose compulsory licenses.

The obvious question — is exclusivity something that is worth keeping in the face of the technological constraints that will be required to sustain it? How far do we want to go in hamstringing our technology to satisfy this particular policy objective?

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Audible Magic’s "Fingerprinting" Tech [8:23 am]

The missing piece of the Fisher scheme? Or re-architecting the Internet? File-swap ‘killer’ grabs attention

A new political battle is brewing over Net music swapping, focusing on a company that claims to be able to automatically identify copyrighted songs on networks like Kazaa and block illegal downloads.

[...] The company’s technology is still being tested and could yet prove unworkable. But limited demonstrations have already turned some heads in legislative offices.

[...] Audible Magic has predictably become a protege of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has helped the company gain entree to official Washington circles. The group says Audible Magic’s technology, or something like it, should be adopted by file-swapping companies if they are serious about not supporting widespread copyright infringement.

The RIAA’s backing, and the month-long press tour, has given the technology new credibility in legislative, regulatory and university circles. After watching a demonstration at RIAA headquarters in late January, University of Rochester Provost Chuck Phelps said he instructed his technology staff to evaluate the technology for use on his campus.

The RIAA isn’t pressing for legislation or enforced usage of Audible Magic’s software, at least not yet. Indeed, in an election year, any serious congressional attention to the issue is unlikely. But peer-to-peer companies are keenly aware of the potential for political strong arming–and of the threat it poses to the world of file swapping.

[...] The company’s main demonstration for the last several weeks has been a version built into a piece of open-source Gnutella software. Similarly, it could be built into any other popular file-swapping package, company CEO Ikezoye said.

[...] [F]or the filtering to work on a large scale, Ikezoye said that pressure–probably through legislation–would have to be put on file-swapping companies, which would be unlikely to voluntarily adopt his technology universally.

“This implementation clearly requires the cooperation one way or another of the peer-to-peer vendors,” Ikezoye said.

Update: See Ernest Miller’s post, with links to others.

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Lexmark Redux? [8:17 am]

Chips let non-Lexmark cartridges print

Static Control Components Inc. (SCC) announced Tuesday it has begun selling three new chips that allow third-party printer cartridges to work in printers from Lexmark International Inc., the latest salvo in a ongoing dispute between SCC and Lexmark.

[...] Last year, Lexmark won an injunction in a Kentucky court prohibiting SCC from distributing its Smartek chips that replicate the signals sent from Lexmark’s chips in the T520 and T620 printers. After reviewing the text of that decision, SCC has come back with three new Reengineered Replacement chips that provide additional benefits such as ink management and maintenance features.

The new chips will allow third-party vendors to once again sell toner cartridges that work with the T520 and T620 printers, and to add cartridges for the T630 printers to their product lines, SCC said.

SCC has been selling the chips for a week, and has yet to hear anything from Lexmark about the new chips, said SCC Chief Executive Officer Ed Swartz in a statement Tuesday.

[...] Lexmark issued a statement Tuesday.

“The United States District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky has previously enjoined Static Control to cease making, selling, or otherwise trafficking in the Smartek microchip used in the remanufacturing of laser toner cartridges developed for the Lexmark T520/522 and T620/622 laser printers. Lexmark is in the process of obtaining copies of the new chips described in the Static Control press release in order to determine whether they are illegal chips,” the company said.

“Lexmark spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on research and development, and the company intends to vigorously protect its intellectual property rights,” it said.

[...] SCC’s new chips do not contain any Lexmark code, unlike the Smartek chips, said Skip London, vice president and general counsel, on a conference call Tuesday. It now believes the only issue related to the chips are the provisions within the DMCA, he said.

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Wired News on the Pew Study On Internet Use [8:14 am]

U.S. Users Give It Up for the Net

“We wanted to get a sense of what was going on, to get a lay of the land,” says Amanda Lenhart, a research specialist who helped put the study (PDF) together for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “The thing that I think is the real story is the sense of being able to express yourself, and leveling the playing field and empowering the individual. That’s part of the fun of content creation, and that’s part of the reason why the group is the size it is.”

Lenhart and colleagues John Horrigan and Deborah Fallows surveyed roughly 2,500 Americans last spring and determined that fully 44 percent of Internet users in the United States — or more than 53 million people — have had at least a minimal hand in the content available online.

Pew’s study found that the most common form of content creation is posting photographs online. All told, 21 percent of Internet users said they had done so at least once.

Close behind were the 20 percent of users who allow “others to download music or video files from their computers” and 17 percent who have “posted written material on websites.” Also, 10 percent had posted to newsgroups, 7 percent had contributed to the websites of organizations they belong to — such as church or professional groups — and 6 percent had posted artwork online.

See also this press release on the report from Pew

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SXSW Music Sharing Infrastructure [8:12 am]

Indies Stay in Tune With Sharing

Citizens of Austin, Texas, have free wireless Internet access in nearly 30 restaurants and coffee shops around the city. Thanks to the South by Southwest music festival, patrons also enjoy the added benefit of free music.

The city’s well-known independent music festival, also known as SXSW, is providing this year’s library of music for free through an iTunes shared music playlist. The music library will be available during the festival, and possibly after the festival ends. Music fans can access the collection at free wireless hotspots around the city, whether lunching at Guero’s Taco Bar or sipping coffee at the Triumph Cafè.

[...] The annual music festival has made its library available for free on its website for the past several years. However, this is the first year that the music-sharing application is available for free to anyone taking advantage of Austin’s wireless hotspots.

SXSW webmaster David Rose used two pieces of open-source software to get the program up and running. One protocol allows a user to view a list of audio files and then play them. The second piece, a Rendezvous service proxy, makes the service available on an entire local network.

[...] Miles Rubin, co-owner of Camobear Records in Vancouver, British Columbia, said that the idea was a source of free promotion for bands.

“The more people who hear the music, the better,” Rubin said.

[...] Austin Wireless City, the nonprofit organization that deploys and operates a free wireless network in the city, provides access at 28 independent bars, coffee shops and restaurants — with 55 more on the way.

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Wired News’ Take On Dbase Protections [8:06 am]

Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine

Ostensibly, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act (HR3261) makes it a crime for anyone to copy and redistribute a substantial portion of data collected by commercial database companies and list publishers. But critics say the bill would give the companies ownership of facts — stock quotes, historical health data, sports scores and voter lists. The bill would restrict the kinds of free exchange and shared resources that are essential to an informed citizenry, opponents say.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill and the commerce committee is expected to review it on Thursday.

The bill’s biggest backers are the Software and Information Industry Association; Reed Elsevier, which owns the LexisNexis database; and Westlaw, the biggest publisher of legal databases.

Art Brodsky, spokesman for public advocacy group Public Knowledge, says the bill would let anyone drop a fact into a database or a collection of materials and claim monopoly rights to it. This would contradict the core principle of the Copyright Act, which states that mere information and ideas cannot be protected works.

[...] Opponents of the bill include Yahoo, Google, the American Association of Libraries and a host of technology and financial-services companies such as Verizon, Bloomberg and Charles Schwab.

Update: Slashdot discussion: Do You Have A License For Those Facts?

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Metallica Offers MP3s of Concerts [7:31 am]

Moving a long way from the position that led to such classics as the Napster Bad cartoons, we get this announcement from Metallica: MetallicA Live

LiveMetallica.com offers downloads of high quality soundboard recordings of complete concerts throughout the current tour.

34 SHOWS NOW AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER!

Concerts will be downloadable within days of each performance.

This is the next logical step in a process that began back in 1991 when we first implemented the “Taper Section” at our shows, where our fans were encouraged to bring in their own gear to record the show, and then take home their very own “bootleg” of the concert they had just seen. This technology will enable our fans to get the best possible recording of the show, without having to hold a microphone in the air for the entire night!

–Lars

HOW IT WORKS…

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