A Broadcast Flag Hypothetical

The Silver Lining of the Janet Jackson Incident: A Demonstration of Democracy-Enhancing Technology, And The Need to Fight the “Broadcast Flag” Rule

I’m no fan of increased regulation of speech, but the controversy had at least a small silver lining: It served as a demonstration of the power of innovation to promote the democratic process. In this case, the innovators were the entrepreneurial companies that harnessed the open nature of the Internet to enable users to easily capture, transfer, upload, post, and search for the TV clip.

Even those who missed the game could, because of these companies, easily watch and talk about the incident that was about to be a catalyst for major policy changes at the FCC. Their technologies thus enlarged the marketplace of ideas and influenced public debate.

Shouldn’t government be doing all it can to support technologies and companies that enhance

democracy like this? I believe the answer is yes.

But to the contrary, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is currently considering

new technology regulations that would halt innovation in technologies that capture, manipulate and transfer digital television.

Fox’s Online Woes

Once it hits Fark, I know I’ve taken too long to post something: Fox Employee In Film Piracy Probe [LawGeek’s post]

The piracy wave vexing Hollywood has hit particularly close to home for one studio, The Smoking Gun has learned. Secret Service agents last month raided the Los Angeles home of a Fox Entertainment employee suspected of involvement in an online conspiracy to distribute pirated films like Old School, X-Men 2, and The Matrix Reloaded. According to the below Secret Service affidavit, more than a dozen illegally duplicated movies were actually housed on a Fox computer server (along with pirated computer software and games), where they were accessed by members of a “warez” group trafficking in such bootlegged material. Lisa Yamamoto, the 45-year-old Fox employee whose home was raided, is allegedly a key member of that “warez” group. Last November, in the course of an investigation into an unrelated computer intrusion, Fox gumshoes stumbled upon the cache of pirated films, and immediately called in the feds. Along with unwittingly storing the titles, Fox was also paying for the bandwidth used when ring members downloaded the films. Yamamoto, who has yet to be charged in the probe, did not respond to phone or e-mail messages left for her by TSG.

All I can add is a link to yesterday’s Boondocks cartoon

Promoting A (Still Relatively) Novel Use

But will it mean more sales? Ring tones jump from PCs to CDs

In a first for the cell phone ring tone industry, a record label is now including on some albums software to assemble digital recordings into custom tones.

Once loaded onto someone’s personal computer, the ring tone assembly software works with the tracks on “Palm Trees and Power Lines,” the latest album from Artemis Records artist Sugarcult. People who want to use the software to turn any recording on the computer into a ring tone must first pay $15 for the full software, supplied by Xingtone. Xingtone and Artemis split the revenue. Until now, the only way to get Xingtone software was through a Web download.

The deal is a sign of the increasing importance the entertainment industry has put on using ring tones to market their artists’ products, rather than try to earn millions by selling song snippets to replace a phone’s prepackaged ring. The cost of setting up and operating ring tone sales can’t yet be justified by the relatively few ring tones that are sold each month. But by giving some away for free, as Artemis is doing with Xingtone, labels at least get some marketing bang.

A Refreshing Perspective

This is a bit off-topic, but in the wake of Mel Gibson’s current movie, I found this to be a very important perspective on the whole thing: Jesus as Box-Office Superhero by A. O. Scott

I take “The Passion of the Christ” to be an interpretation of Scripture, while some of my readers take it as something very close to Scripture itself. Mr. Gibson has, if anything, encouraged this conflation, playing the martyr on television and declaring that the Holy Spirit was working through him as he directed the movie. Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrays Christ, has described the cast and crew’s ability to overcome various obstacles during the production as miracles. Of course, the existence of any movie, big or small, devout or profane, can be described that way, but only in a loose, secular sense. The Bible may or may not be the revealed word of God — that is an argument best pursued in a venue other than this one — but in the gospel according to the end credits, “The Passion of the Christ” is “a film by Mel Gibson.” He will also, not incidentally, be the one who profits from it. And, if the law of blockbusters still applies, the box office will drop off significantly on this and subsequent weekends. “The Passion” will subside, and then Fox (one of the studios that declined to release it theatrically) will put it out on video. My last word on the subject is a sentence that, in normal circumstances, should be anathema to a film critic but that here seems both urgent and true: it’s only a movie. [emphasis added]

Datapoint: Info-Tech and Productivity

Balky Old New York Embraces Technology

This is all part of a technological revolution under way in New York City government that is rapidly changing the way that its agencies carry out their functions and provide services to residents. From rationing street salt to sending out daily e-mail messages on parking rules, once-lumbering bureaucracies are adopting the latest scientific advances as a means of cutting costs, increasing efficiency as well as ensuring greater accountability after a series of corporate and government corruption scandals.

[…] William Lehr, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that since the late 1990’s, municipal governments, large and small, have been rushing to take advantage of what he described as a convergence of better and cheaper technologies.

“You don’t have to be the C.I.A. or General Motors or Boeing to take advantage of computing and information technology anymore,” he said. “Cheap computing, the Internet and wireless data services now make these capabilities available to small businesses, local governments and consumers.”

[…] The new technology, with its seemingly boundless capabilities, has also raised concerns about privacy. Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer, said employers will increasingly be able to keep tabs on workers at any moment, even during lunch hours or on weekends. “It’s going to raise serious and substantial issues about privacy for city workers as this technology is employed in the workplace,” he said.

CA P2P Bill

[Via BNA’s Internet Law News]

Setting a Trap for Net Pirates [pdf] — Gotta love the value-free reportage of the LATimes!

The Culver City Democrat is pushing a bill that would require California file sharers to attach their real names and addresses to the copyrighted goodies they let others download over networks like Kazaa and Morpheus.

If they don’t, Murray says, they should be jailed for up to a year and fined as much as $2,500.

And what would stop file sharers from just sticking Murray’s name and address on their files? Murray says the point isn’t to take names; his idea is to give state prosecutors, who have no jurisdiction over copyright infringement, a charge they can bring against online pirates.

[…] Murray countered, “There’s one way to maintain your privacy in my bill. That is not to engage in illegal activity.”

Text of the bill

653aa. (a) Any person who is not the copyright owner who knowingly electronically disseminates a commercial recording or audiovisual work without disclosing his or her true name and address, and the title of the recording or audiovisual work is punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(b) Subdivision (a) does not apply to a person who electronically disseminates a commercial recording or audiovisual work to his or her immediate family, or within his or her personal network, defined as a restricted access network controlled solely by that person or

people in his or her immediate household.

Seems like an awful lot hinges on the definition of "commercial"

(3) “Commercial recording or audiovisual work” means a recording or audiovisual work whose copyright owner, or assignee, authorized agent, or licensee, has made or intends to make available for sale, rental, or for performance or exhibition under license. A recording or audiovisual work may be commercial regardless of whether the person who electronically disseminates it personally seeks commercial advantage or private financial gain from that dissemination.

Update: Ernest’s got many more links on the subject: “True Name and Address” Bill for All Filesharers Introduced in Calif

A Little Harmonic Convergence?

A colleague pointed me to this upcoming event at the New America Foundation: A Horizontal Leap Forward: Formulating a Layered Policy Approach to Internet Protocol

U.S. policymakers face a virtual conundrum: how to best incorporate the new Internet Protocol (IP)-centric services, applications, and facilities into the nation’s pre-existing legal and public policy construct. Over the next several years, legislators and regulators will find themselves increasingly challenged to make the Internet adapt itself to the already well-defined bricks-and-mortar, services-and-technologies environment that exists today under the Communications Act and other statues.

In this paper and in his presentation, Richard Whitt will explain that trying to impose the current outmoded legal system onto the Internet and all its IP progeny is flawed, damaging, and ultimately doomed approach. Instead, policy makers should adopt a new public policy framework that regulates along horizontal network layers, rather than legacy vertical silos.

Those of you asked to comment on Prof. Solum’s paper, The Layers Principle: Internet Architecture and the Law, for 5CMI2 might recognize this theme — wonder if Prof. Solum had a part in the report? (Ans: Not directly, anyway) For everyone else, I highly recommend the paper. Note that Mr. Whitt will be speaking May 20th at Telecommunications Law Conference in Seattle on the same subject.

Update: here’s Whitt’s paper, with the following footnote on the first page:

The author would like to thank Vint Cerf for first recommending that I review Professor Lawrence Solum’s cogent paper on the layers principle, as well as for Vint’s unflagging enthusiasm and patient prodding in seeing this white paper to completion. MCI attorneys Dennis Guard and Karen Johnson also provided invaluable research, drafting, and editing contributions. Any residual dubious thinking contained in the paper is solely my own.

MS Talks With EU "Collapse"

Microsoft-EU antitrust talks collapse

In a prepared statement read out to journalists Monti said that despite strenuous efforts by Microsoft to meet the European Commission’s concerns, a settlement of the case “has not been possible.”

“Therefore we will propose next Wednesday that the Commission adopts a decision,” the competition commissioner said.

A lot can happen in a week, so this should be pretty interesting.

See also the NYTimes’ Chances of Microsoft Accord in Europe Dim and Slashdot’s Microsoft and EU Talks End

Update: NYTimes – Microsoft’s Bid to Settle Case in Europe Fails

Quite An Email

Not that it says anything new, but it’s striking to see it all in one place: E-mails give peek at Microsoft strategies

One such document could be a 1997 e-mail note from Jeff Raikes, a Microsoft group vice president, asking billionaire Warren Buffett to consider investing in the Redmond, Wash.-based software company. Some observers have likened Microsoft’s lucrative operating system dominance to a “toll bridge,” Raikes wrote in an exchange that The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday. With a worldwide sales force of just 100 to 150 people, Raikes wrote, “this is a 90%+ margin business.”

The Register: MS exec lists joys of high prices, vast margins to top investor