March 16, 2004

Larry’s Next Book Is Coming [10:01 pm]

Larry writes about the soon-to-be-released book, the reviews that are already available and his pending debate with James DeLong

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Golan v. Ashcroft Continues On [9:49 pm]

From Larry Lessig’s weblog (The Free Culture Movement: A Victory) and Donna Wentworth’s weblog (Score One for the Public Domain) - all about Golan v. Ashcroft - the March 12th opinion

Plaintiffs, who consist of artists or purveyors of art material, filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief regarding two “recent expansions” of the Copyright Act on the basis they are unconstitutional. Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (the “CTEA”), Pub. L. No. 105-298 (amending 17 U.S.C. §§301-304), and § 514 of the Uruguary [sic] Round Agreements Act (the ‘URAA”), Pub. L. No. 103-465 (amending 17 U.S.C. §§ 104A, 109(a)), unconstitutionally remove from, or staunch the flow of, literary and artistic works into the public domain.

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Death of Forerunner of Digital Publishing [9:34 pm]

Part of the path that led to all of us becoming publishers: John W. Seybold, 88, Innovator in Printing, Is Dead

John W. Seybold, a pioneer in the field of computerized typesetting, which transformed the publishing industry, died on Sunday at a hospice in Haverford, Pa. He was 88.

[...] It was Mr. Seybold, according to his son Andrew, who first used “what you see is what you get” in reference to computerized word processing, after watching “The Flip Wilson Show,” on which Mr. Wilson used the phrase to describe his female character Geraldine.

The phrase came to be abbreviated as WYSIWYG and was popularized by computer systems developed at the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox in the early 1970’s.

[...] As an industry consultant in 1972, Mr. Seybold played a key role in the decision by U.S. News & World Report to become the first customer for the Atex Publishing Systems Corporation, a garage start-up created by a group of recent M.I.T. graduates. Atex would go on to become the dominant company in the computer typesetting industry in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

“He had the faith that a few guys in a garage could build a system that would be usable by a major enterprise,” said Richard Ying, a co-founder of Atex.

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Been Out Of The Office [7:01 pm]

After all my meetings, I went to see the inaugural talk by TPP alum Alan Davidson in his seminar series sponsored by the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT : Liberty by Design: The Internet as a Technology of Freedom and Control. Today, it was all about the Pennsylvania Website Blocking Law, a topic that should be familiar to ILaw participants.

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Another IP Language Claim [9:26 am]

Siva asks about this story: Patents: An Effort to Make Arabic Easier

Mr. Abulhab created an Arabic alphabet that replicated some of the simpler principles of written English. He designed letters that took one form wherever they appeared in a word, could be printed in block style, and could appear as separate letters instead of connected in cursive form. That alphabet could then be written from left to right for those more comfortable with the pattern of English, or from right to left in the traditional Arabic manner.

[...] Mr. Abulhab hopes his alphabet will ease matters for Arabic-language students and software programmers. He says he believes that students who learn to read Arabic with his alphabet will more easily progress to reading traditional newsprint, books, signs and other printed script.

“Once they can read my letters, the shapes will stick in their minds, and if they arrange them right to left, it should be good enough for newspapers,” he said. “It’s a good first step. They could learn the shapes and the shapes are pretty universal.”

Mr. Abulhab calls his alphabet Arabetics, a word he says he coined “to be more descriptive and inclusive of people who speak languages other than Arabic, like Persian or Urdu.” He also received a design patent for a font - called Mutamathil, meaning “symmetric and uniform” - based on the alphabet.

[...] He hopes to obtain grants for further work on the alphabet, and to generate interest in his patent from software manufacturers like Microsoft or Adobe. He received patent No. 6,704,116.

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Progress & Freedom Foundation on P2P [9:14 am]

A relatively concise discussion of contributory liability in copyright infringement, and a strong argument in favor of maintaining it in the face of digital networks. In many respects, reading it is a bit like a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole, but it’s important to remember who’s the audience. What I found most striking was the argument that one shouldn’t be allowed to engineer around the specifics of the law in designing a [P2P] program — despite the fact that such games have been played since the inception of the concept. Whatever happened to strict construction of legislated rights?

Judge Wilson’s emphasis on the critical distinction between Napster’s “system” and the software distributed by Defendants is consistent with certain aspects of the Napster decision. Similarly his emphasis on the ability of the defendants to take action to prevent infringement is consistent with Napster and with the Netcom decision. However, he errs in refusing to consider how the defendants could modify their software and systems to inhibit infringement, and in treating software design as beyond the scope of the defendants duty to police their systems. This is especially problematic since it appears that the companies designed their P2P filesharing systems to facilitate infringement while avoiding liability.

Judge Posner’s refusal to credit such evasive maneuvers is far more persuasive. The case for requiring defendants to make reasonable accommodations to protect copyright is not only reasonable but compelling where the systems are overwhelmingly used for pirating content.

The report: Liability of P2P File-Sharing Systems For Copyright Infringement By Their Users; Press Release: P2P File-Sharing: Balancing Creativity & Innovation

From the press release:

“Based on the current uses of P2P file-sharing systems, the policy arguments for holding them secondarily liable for the infringements of their users are very strong,” he writes. “These systems are used for legitimate purposes…[but] at present, those non-infringing uses are quite small relative to the use of these systems for widespread Internet piracy.” But “noninfringing uses…are likely to be developed over time.” This means “liability and especially remedies should be carefully tailored to limit interference with the development of noninfringing uses.”

Adkinson hopes legal incentives will create and improve protection and expand remedial options: “If it is possible for P2P file-sharing systems to modify software and systems, or to monitor and police infringements on their systems, imposing such obligations through secondary liability is a potentially attractive option,” he writes. “It can provide protection for content while still permitting noninfringing uses.”

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State Attorneys General On P2P [8:23 am]

States May Be Aiming at Web File Sharing

Mr. Dressler said that Mr. Lockyer was concerned about problems with file-sharing technology, and hoped that the industry would address the issues voluntarily.

But representatives of the industry say that they had done precisely that by incorporating technologies like pornography filters and virus protection into their products. “The issues in this letter, other than copyright, have really been addressed thoroughly,” said Marty Lafferty, the chief executive of the Distributed Computing Industry Association, a trade group affiliated with Kazaa.

Fred von Lohmann, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology policy group, said that the letter expressed a “rather unprecedented legal theory” that, if extended to other products like cars, would require “an incredibly long list of warnings, like ‘Warning! the use of this car to commit a bank robbery might subject you to federal prosecution!’ ”

And an important point that the technical community needs to get over:

“If public officials are taking positions they would not take otherwise, then that is a matter of public interest,” he said. If the officeholder already holds a position, however, “who types up the position paper is not significant,” [former Maine attorney general James Tierney] said. “It happens all the time.”

Donna’s discussion and links: CA Attorney General = MPAA Sock Puppet?; see also this FindLaw posting from the Hollywood Reporter: States Weigh Warning to Peer-To-Peer Networks

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Eolas Patent - Decisions Still Pending [7:52 am]

The Eolas-Microsoft case–patent ending?

The next round in Microsoft’s Web browser patent fight will unfold in an obscure bureaucratic proceeding that offers the company and its allies few, if any, chances to argue their side.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last month issued a preliminary finding that appeared to tip the closely watched case in Microsoft’s favor: A patent licensed by Eolas Technologies at the heart of a $521 million infringement verdict against the software giant may have been wrongly granted, the agency acknowledged.

Microsoft was quick to tout the findings as a victory–an outcome that would save it a considerable amount of money and allow it to avoid rewriting portions of its Internet Explorer browser. Standards body the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has joined Microsoft’s side, arguing that a loss for the company would wreak havoc with millions of Web pages.

But legal experts said last month’s preliminary finding in Microsoft’s favor, coming just months into what will likely be a years-long process, is far from the last word.

“In the long term this doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference,” said Greg Aharonian, editor and publisher of the Internet Patent News Service and a prominent critic of the USPTO. “This will probably wind up in front of the court of appeals at some point. Right now I wouldn’t bet any money on the outcome, because there are too many fifty-fifties all around.”

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iTunes Statistics [7:44 am]

iTunes Music Store Downloads Top 50 Million Songs

Apple® today announced that music fans have purchased and downloaded over 50 million songs from Apple’s iTunes® Music Store, not including songs redeemed from the currently-running Pepsi iTunes promotion. The 50 millionth song, purchased last Thursday afternoon, was “The Path of Thorns” by Sarah McLachlan. iTunes users are now downloading 2.5 million songs per week, which is an annual run rate of 130 million songs per year.

CNet News: Apple’s iTunes sales hit 50 million

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