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June 10, 2004

On Our Way to DRM MAD [5:41 pm]

New iTunes, new DRM games — mutual assured destruction of fair use, digital distribution and heaven only knows what else: How to Un-DRM your Un-DRM’d iTunes 4.6 Songs [via BoingBoing and CopyFIght]

Now part of the whole shtick with Hymn is that even though it strips the iTunes DRM, it leaves your email address and other unique purchasing information in the protected AAC file, ostensibly to symbolically signify that Hymn users aren’t trying to spread their fairly-purchased music files to the whole world, but instead to whatever devices they want. I unlocked mine so that I could be sure to play them after I had reformatted my machine. I’m pretty sure Apple has a method of reauthorizing your computer, but that’s a hassle. But now the new version of iTunes has recognized that the DRM-stripped M4P files were purchased from iTMS and is telling me my (reformatted, reinstalled) machine isn’t authorized to play them. So gee, thanks for that, Apple.

[...] The saddest part is this means the next version of Hymn will probably strip out the personal information from the legally-purchased files, since Apple is too beholden to the RIAA to look the other way. I love iTunes, I think it’s a joy to use, but Christ, I get the message. Sorry I tried to play by your rules.

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Chilling Effects in Practice [4:28 pm]

How Liberty was lost on the internet [via Slashdot] Now to see a real experiment, with a little bit larger sample (and without breaking the law) — but he’s asking some of the right questions.

As part of a recent research project, I posted a section of Mill’s On Liberty on the internet (which is clearly in the public domain), then issued unfounded copyright complaints against it. One internet service provider (ISP) removed the chapter almost immediately. This illustrates the problem with self-censorship procedures, which rely on hidden judgements being made by unaccountable bodies.

There is a murky context behind this peculiar form of private censorship. On the internet, millions of websites have been created by individuals who post all kinds of content - and some argue that this justifies the current system of regulation. But there is a mistake in this chain of logic: just because the internet is big, diverse, decentralised and digital it isn’t true that public bodies can’t police it.

Of course, policing would be difficult, but this should not be a reason to be in favour of private governance and regulation. Governments, companies and individuals have taken the easy route to regulation, by relying on ISPs. [...]

[T]he point is not that internet self-regulation is a bad form of regulation in itself. Instead, it is that the power an ISP has over content on the internet necessitates a clarification of the legal and governance framework. There ought to be rules about process. In other areas of governance it matters who governs and under what terms - this is also the case in borderless cyberspace.

Just because it is difficult to regulate the internet, this is no reason to resort to badly crafted forms of regulation, which move the entire burden on to unaccountable actors. Drink driving is also difficult to police, but we wouldn’t shift responsibility for this on to private companies, would we?

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No À La Carte Cable [2:23 pm]

You’ll Never Get Cable à la Carte

But as a consumer, I’d rather lower my bill by paying for only the channels I actually watch.

The myth is that if you pay $60 a month and get 100 channels, then you could buy 50 and cut your price in half. That isn’t how the economics work; there are a lot of fixed costs. You’d most likely end up with people paying the same amount of money for fewer channels. It’s analogous to a newspaper or magazine. Hardly anybody reads every article in the paper; you read selectively. But nobody says, “Gee, you should only buy the sports section if that’s all you want.”

Cable and satellite are in cutthroat mode. Couldn’t à la carte be an opportunity for you to differentiate Time Warner Cable from its competitors?

If that’s what people wanted, yes. But the assumption is wrong. Every time we’ve tried to offer more packages with fewer channels - more toward à la carte - consumers always went for the big packages. People actually like this service, which is why 90 percent of the homes in the country buy it.

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Two Looks At Digitized Entertainment [11:50 am]

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JIT (Vanity) Publishing [11:44 am]

For Budding Authors, a Rapid-Fire Publisher

Take a floppy disk or CD-ROM to Bookends in Ridgewood, N.J., or e-mail the store a file, and pow! - in as little as 17 minutes a perfect-bound paperback version of your novel, family memoir, or favorite Bulgarian desserts can be printed.

Every book comes complete with a customized cover chosen from among several thousand designs. For an additional fee, it can also be trademarked and registered with a machine-readable ISBN number, essential for any author hoping to get the work stocked by a major chain and on its way to becoming a best seller.

[... T]he Bookends store in Ridgewood charges $150 for printing 10 copies of any work up to 200 pages. Larger books are priced higher, and and subsequent 10-book orders are discounted. All royalties are kept by the author. The store also offers editing and marketing services through associates at an additional cost.

Several forms of digital encryption protect an author’s work from being stolen and reprinted without permission. Files can only be read through the Instabook machine. And once the book is printed, the file is automatically erased.

Customers can also choose to print any of 10,000 public-domain titles stored on InstaBook’s servers. Using a high-speed Internet connection, the store downloads the file and prints the title within minutes.

Also includes the costs of other printing services.

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Synomos v IBM [11:38 am]

IBM faces copyright infringement suit

According to the company, Synomos worked with computer giant IBM from June 2001 to February 2002 to create a standard for writing corporate privacy policies based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), a protocol for exchanging data among computing systems. The standard drew on ZKS’s pre-existing protocol, Privacy Rights Markup Language (PRML), which it shared with IBM under a confidentiality agreement. The resulting technical specification, the Enterprise Privacy Markup Language (EPML) 1.0, was released jointly in February 2002.

That specification formed the basis of IBM’s Enterprise Privacy Authorization Language, which was licensed to the technical standards body World Wide Web Consortium without ZKS’ authorization, according to the complaint. In doing so, IBM violated copyright laws of Canada and civil codes of the province of Quebec, ZKS claimed.

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Making Friends [11:29 am]

InfoWorld: SCO may restrict Solaris, moves to push IBM trial back

Less than one week after Sun Microsystems Inc.’s chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz pledged to open source its Solaris operating system, The SCO Group Inc. has stated that license restrictions prevent Sun from contributing its work to the GPL (General Public License).

Also: SCO revenue takes a tumble

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Some Telecomms News [11:26 am]

  • In Pivotal Case, Bush Backs Off Rule That Eased Phone Line Fees (Following Court Rejects Phone Rule Extension)

    The solicitor general, on instructions from the White House, dropped out of the case on Wednesday after unsuccessfully trying to defend the regulations in the appeals court. The decision substantially reduces the chances that the Supreme Court will accept the appeal, particularly because the Federal Communications Commission, which had been pressured by the administration, also reversed course and said it had decided not to pursue an appeal either.

    Both sides in the matter agree that if the Supreme Court does not alter the appeals decision, a central element of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 will effectively be repealed. The act requires the Bell companies, which have long been criticized for holding near-monopoly positions in local markets, to make valuable pieces of their networks available at low rates to both small and large rivals, enabling them to offer cheaper service than they otherwise might.

    See also: Infoworld - DOJ won’t appeal telecom network-sharing ruling

    Update: A look at the consequences in States’ Big Role in Phone Rates May Be Only a Cameo and Long-Distance Carriers Take a Blow, but It’s No Knockout

  • Bell Canada Seeks to Offer Cable TV on Its Wires

    Brian Sharwood, an analyst at the SeaBoard Group, another Toronto consulting firm, said that Bell’s filing was further evidence of the increasingly aggressive approach by the giant of the Canadian communications industry in seeking to persuade regulators that it should be treated the same as other players.

    “It’s a smart tactical move,” Mr. Sharwood said. “They’re trying to blur the lines.”

    Two months ago, Aliant, a Bell Canada Enterprises unit that is the dominant phone company in eastern Canada, asked the regulatory agency to ease restrictions on its pricing and promotional offers. Aliant wants to be allowed to fight back against a local cable operator that offers phone service and has captured an estimated 13 percent of its share of the residential market in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the biggest city in eastern Canada.

  • And, of course: New Service by TiVo Will Build Bridges From Internet to the TV

    TiVo, the maker of a popular digital video recorder, plans to announce a new set of Internet-based services today that will further blur the line between programming delivered over traditional cable and satellite channels and content from the Internet. It is just one of a growing group of large and small companies that are looking at high-speed Internet to deliver video content to the living room.

    The new TiVo technology, which will become a standard feature in its video recorders, will allow users to download movies and music from the Internet to the hard drive on their video recorder.

    See also TiVo Breaks Into Home Networks

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Fair Use and Eminem [11:17 am]

Lyrical Judge Praises Eminem in Lyrics Fight

Judge Lynch ruled that the publisher of The Source, Source Enterprises, had violated his injunction by publishing on its Web site (www.the source.com) lyrics ascribed to Eminem. The lyrics, which disparage black women, are several years old, written before Eminem acquired his fame. The judge said their publication by The Source carried the potential to impair the credibility of Eminem, who is white. Eminem has acknowledged writing them but described them as a product of adolescent heartbreak.

[...] The magazine cast its publication of the lyrics as a journalistic exposé; Eminem and his record company cast it as copyright infringement, and the parties took their dispute to court. The main copyright infringement claim is still being litigated.

One order issued yesterday released Eminem from responsibility for counterclaims of copyright infringement, finding that only his record company, as the assignee of his rights, was directly involved in that dispute.

A second order found that The Source was in civil contempt for publishing the lyrics on its Web site, where a lawyer for Shady Records found them. The judge stopped short of ruling the magazine company’s contempt willful, and he denied requests for sanctions against it, awarding little more than the costs of enforcing the injunction, which have not been determined.

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Computer Crimes [11:12 am]

Small Business: Fighting Crime One Computer at a Time

OK — anyone else a little worried about the equivalencies implicit in this list?

Right now, the most crowded fields of criminal activity are the digital theft of music and movies, illegal prescription-drug sales and “phishers,” identity thieves who pose as financial institutions like Citibank or Chase and send out fake e-mail messages to people asking for personal-account information.

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