March 24, 2004

BannedMusic.Org Launched [5:11 pm]

BannedMusic.org [Via TLA]

Bannedmusic.org is a peer-to-peer collaboration that makes it impossible for the major record labels to ban or censor musical works. When record labels send legal threats to musicians, record stores, or websites, we will post the music here for download and publicize the censorship attempt. There is a clear fair use right to distribute this music, and for the public to decide whether current copyright law is serving musicians and the public, they need to be able to hear what’s being suppressed.

Currently listed are the Grey Album, Black on Black, and the Illegal Art compilation. Ernest will be (actually, is) pleased to note that it’s being setup as a BitTorrent distribution effort - one more reason for me to configure my machine (in my copious free time)

Note that DownHillBattle gives you a chance to participate:

Make this project stronger by joining our network of volunteers. In order to make informed decisions about the direction of copyright law and the future of the music industry, the public needs to hear all the amazing music the current system suppresses. We plan to do everything we can to make these works as widely available as possible, but we need your help. You can share our releases on mainstream filesharing networks, or burn CD-Rs to send to reporters and noncommercial radio stations, or help manage what music appears on this site. Whatever your interests, there’s a way for you to get involved. We expect to put out, on average, one or two releases a month once things get rolling, so however you decide to help, you certainly won’t be deluged with emails.

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DRM In Practice [3:46 pm]

[via LawMeme] E-book vendors fail, Canadian reader left without easy access to books

The headline in the Montreal Gazette tells the story well: Versaware a casualty of Internet crash. Company went out of business in 2001, so software is no longer available to download on the Web. A Gazette reader complains of no longer being able to read the e-books he downloaded from an outfit called Xoom, which in turn relied on coding from Versaware. Both companies are apparently kaput after hard times or at least are very hard to find.

From the cited article:

Q. A few years ago, a company called Xoom offered electronic books coded in Versaware. I downloaded several of these books, but both Versaware and Xoom seem to have disappeared. Search engines often turn up references, but every time I try one I end up nowhere. I would like to get a Versaware reader, or any reader, that would work for the books I have. Can you help?

A. Versaware and Xoom were casualties of the Internet crash a few years back. Versaware built its business on distributing electronic textbooks and reference books encoded in a proprietary electronic format that required their software to read them. The files were known as Versabooks and the software was called Library Builder.

Unfortunately, when Versaware went out of business in 2001, no one picked up the pieces. The result is the software is no longer available to download on the Web. I wasn’t even able to find a copy on any of the many abandonware sites that archive obsolete software.

Your only chance to get a copy of the Library Builder appears to be by purchasing a product that was encoded as a Versabook and includes the Library Builder on CD. One such product is Simon & Schuster’s New Millennium Children’s Encyclopedia 2002. Amazon.com is one of several sites that still sell it. You might also be able to find a second-hand copy on an auction site such as eBay.

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Microsoft’s Other Case [1:57 pm]

It’s been an all-Microsoft-EU kind of day, so I missed this NYTimes article the first time around: Newly Released Documents Shed Light on Microsoft Tactics

Even as Microsoft prepares to face penalties from the European Union, which accuses the company of abusing the Windows monopoly, new details about the tactics Microsoft used to secure a dominant position in software markets for nearly two decades are emerging in a state courthouse in Minneapolis.

[...] Among the documents introduced in court this week was a letter from June 1990 in which Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, told Andrew S. Grove, the chief executive of Intel at the time, that any support given to the Go Corporation, a Silicon Valley software company, would be considered an aggressive move against Microsoft.

Other evidence presented by the plaintiffs’ lawyers at trial yesterday gave an account of how Microsoft violated a signed secrecy agreement with Go and showed that Microsoft possessed technical documents from Go that it should not have had access to.

These are stories that have been kicking around for years, but it’s gratifying to see that they are getting an airing on the record. Microsoft, of course, asserts that these documents have nothing to do with the case at issue, but that’s not really the point, IMHO

Update: Slashdot story: New Documents Shed Light on Microsoft’s Tactics

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Irony in BW Article [12:30 pm]

[Noted prominently in the associated Slashdot article]

Like It or Not, RFID Is Coming

Also, privacy concerns around RFID tags are a little like concerns about supermarket scanners years ago. When the laser scanners were coming out, everybody was saying, retailers are going to collect information about what you buy. And none of that happened. I think the situation with RFID is similar.

Hmmmmm

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What’s Behind The University Focus Of This RIAA Round? [11:39 am]

This latest round of RIAA lawsuits is acknowledged to be directed at university networks. As cited in the NYTimes article:

“We just put a little more focus on the users of university networks so it’s clear that everybody is potentially responsible for infringing acts online,” said Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, which filed the suits on behalf of record companies.

This Slashdot story (RIAA To Subpoena Univ. of Michigan Names) includes links to University of Michigan and University of Indiana reports that the RIAA has requested names to go along with the IP addresses that they have cited.

The text of the articles from the school papers suggest that this approach cannot be even approximately cost-effective for the RIAA.

“We want to be fair and reasonable. The intent here is not to make money, nor is the intent to win a lawsuit,” [the RIAA's Jonathan] Lamy said.

“The goal is simply to send a message of deterrence, that this activity is illegal, that it can have consequences (and) that if digital music is what you want, turn to the great legal alternatives that are available,” he added.

A couple of the comments on Slashdot echo my own concerns, which is that the RIAA has decided to go after universities to get them to adopt the Penn State model.

It’s the university they’re after (Score:5, Insightful)

by Chief Technovelgist (759322) on Wednesday March 24, @10:04AM (#8655994)

I don’t think they care about the 8 students, or the fines - it’s the University of Michigan they are after. If they can convince large lawsuit-averse institutions like the UM, with networks serving tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff, to outlaw music-sharing, then they will have achieved their end. More bang for the buck - know what I mean?


Perhaps (Score:1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, @10:04AM (#8656002)

Perhaps this is punishment for not signing a deal with Napster and completely firewalling the campus dorms like SOME universities have done to appease the RIAA.

*cough*Penn State*cough*

RIAA exportion tactics, plain and simple.


no psu students (Score:2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, @10:25AM (#8656250)

I doubt you will see any Penn State students being sued since Penn State President Spanier worked hand in hand with the RIAA to get the students to subsidize the PSU Napster service from their activity fee. Now, all psu students support the RIAA regardless if they listen to music or not.

The Penn State paper has an editorial today that touches on another dimension of this:

Not to burst the happy trustees’ bubble, but wait a second — aren’t there other issues in and around the university community that could use discussion? What about the continued occurrence of sexual assaults on campus and around town? What about continuing to foster a healthy living environment for all students? What about the creeping tuition every year, lack of state funding and threat of privatization?

Not that illegal downloading isn’t an issue for the university, but these other issues merit more time than a big commercial for Napster. Linking Penn State and Napster is little more than an advertisement for the music company, which is having financial trouble competing with other online music services. Penn State already has corporate links with the likes of MBNA, Nike and Pepsi, but these are less prominent than the in-your-face Napster deal.

It may be important for the university to foster healthy relationships with corporations and leading businesses, but it is not necessary to flaunt and spend a lot of time on the Napster deal at a trustees meeting. The only conclusion? Penn State needs to stop applauding its own efforts and look at what matters to the students. We admit, illegal downloading, is, well, illegal. But, is it the huge problem the university and Napster are making it out to be?

No, it’s not.

But as a result, students are losing out because of the university demonizing the situation and acting as a martyr for the all the poor, starving artists.

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Torvalds at BrainShare [10:37 am]

Torvalds: Outside threats to Linux

When asked what he thought was the biggest threat to Linux, Torvalds said he was extremely confident that the operating system itself was robust but admitted problems outside of technical sphere may cause trouble further down the line. “The things that tend to worry me are software patents. When non-technical issues can be used to stop software development–that for me is the scariest part,” he said.

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A Pew Survey In The Making [8:43 am]

I’m not qualified to fill it out, but it’s worth looking at this: Music Survey

Welcome to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s musician survey. The goal of this survey is to measure the impact of the Internet on songwriters and musical performers. Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand how the Internet affects your music, as well as how you communicate with other artists, artists’ organizations, and fans.

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All Kinds Of Suits Out There [7:34 am]

First, another round of RIAA suits (New RIAA file-swapping suits filed, RIAA sues lots more students, Record Industry Sues 532 More U.S. File-Sharers, More Lawsuits Filed in Effort to Thwart File Sharing, Music Group Sues Another Batch), and then a new trademark infringement attack — Super Heroes Sue Super Villains for Infringement (well, not really, I guess)

Escalating an already bad situation between the two high-powered groups, the League of Super Champions took its fight against the Legion of Supreme Crooks to the courts today, claiming that their arch-enemies were causing confusion among loyal readers of the Super Champions’ comics.

[...] The particulars of the lawsuits remain sealed, but are thought to center around the acronym “LoSC,” used by both super-hero groups when referring to themselves in shorthand.

Update: The Slashdot discussion includes a thread that estimates the risk of being sued, with this followup:

Re:Good odds, keep sharing! (Score:4, Insightful)

by panaceaa (205396) on Tuesday March 23, @10:20PM (#8652435)

(http://slashdot.org/)

Given your numbers an illegal file sharer can calculate their monthly financial risk from RIAA lawsuits.

Your numbers are:

Time [T]=8 months

Probability [P]=1/25290

Cost [C]=3000

With monthly financial risk = (P*C)/T, if each month you put away 1.483 cents, you would on average have enough money to pay your settlement fees by the time you were sued.

Now assume that the RIAA gets more aggressive and settles less, and through the courts gets a $1 million verdict in 100% of the people it sues (1977 people / 8 months). The monthly financial risk then is $4.94 a month.

So even if your punishment is $1 million, the financial risk of getting sued is less than any online music service with a monthly fee. It’s also less than 5 songs on iTunes a month, which probably isn’t nearly as many songs as Kazaa users download. Why does the RIAA think their legal efforts will convince people with such a low financial risk?

And here’s an interesting twist — why doesn’t an insurance company insure people against RIAA lawsuits for $10/mo so they can download as much as they want on Kazaa? Isn’t this similar to what Redhat is doing to protect its customers from SCO? I’d much rather pay $10/mo to download whatever I want without risk of being sued than pay the same money to MusicMatch for their inferior service. And if everyone did the same, peer-to-peer services would blossom again with tons of quality content from all genres imaginable.

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