August 25, 2004

EC, Microsoft and DRM [3:52 pm]

EC launches Microsoft DRM probe

The European Commission will, after all, launch a probe of the deal between Microsoft and Time Warner to take joint ownership of a US DRM company, ContentGuard. The probe is warranted, the Commission announced in a press conference today, because the deal could lead to Microsoft extending its monopoly in operating systems to the locks and keys for the digital distribution of books, music, movies and third party software.

See also InfoWorld’s EU extends MS, Time Warner probe; and AP’s European Union Extends Review of Microsoft Deal

Later: NYTimes’ Europe Opens Another Microsoft Inquiry

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Tax Dollars At Work [3:45 pm]

And note the use of language: Justice Dept. probes for pirates

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it has launched its federal criminal probe of piracy on file-swapping networks.

Federal agents have searched five homes and one Internet service provider in three states, seeking evidence of criminal copyright infringement, according to a Justice Department statement. The investigation is targeting a specific private file-swapping group called the Underground Network.

“The execution of today’s (search) warrants disrupted an extensive peer-to-peer network suspected of enabling users to traffic illegally in music, films, software and published works,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing intellectual-property laws, and we will pursue those who steal copyrighted materials, even when they try to hide behind the false anonymity of peer-to-peer networks.”

The DoJ press release: Attorney General Ashcroft Announces First Criminal Enforcement Action Against Peer-To-Peer Copyright Piracy; The Register - US DoJ searches homes of P2P evil doers; Slashdot Justice Dept. Raids Homes of File Swappers; Techdirt’s Forget Slamming Spam, Ashcroft Wants Those Evil File Sharers

Note that Richard Posner’s perspective on filesharing is particularly ironic given the resources that the DoJ is bringing to bear:

We are in the presence of an arms race between encryption and copying technologies; if the latter prevails in this competition, copyright law will be ousted from one of its domains.

With all due respect for the interests of the recording industry and the file sharers, I regard this particular interaction of law and technology as relatively trivial in its overall social consequences. I am much more concerned about the ability, or rather inability, of the law and other policy instruments to cope with the issues thrown up by the relentless progress of science and technology.

Oh, yeah! New lawsuits, too - Music Industry Sues 744 for File Sharing [pdf] — The Register has a different count, including 152 who refused to settle — Music labels sue 896 more music lovers; p2pnet; Slashdot’s RIAA Sues More Music Lovers

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Bjork on File Sharing [9:02 am]

bjork.com : medulla special : interview [via Xeni at BoingBoing]

So Bjork is not superstitious then?

“You know, its ironic that just at the point the lawyers and the businessmen had calculated how to control music, the internet comes along and fucks everything up.” Bjork gives the finger again, this time waving it into the air. “God bless the internet,” she adds.

And what about you, then?

“I’ll still be there, waving a pirate flag.”

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Wonder If The Licensing Is Settled? [8:58 am]

CD on one side, DVD on the other

The consortium, which includes major labels EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, said the DualDisc product has a full album on a CD side of the disc and the album in enhanced sound–such as DVD-Audio–on the other side. The DVD side also includes a range of features, such as music videos, interviews, photo galleries, Web links, concert footage and lyrics, the DualDisc Consortium said.

See An Old Issue Heating Back Up for the backstory.

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StreamRipper Primer [8:55 am]

Hmmm - any “INDUCE”ing going on here? Three easy apps to record Internet radio

I have a lot of CDs, and I’ve ripped most of them to MP3 so that I can make my own mix CDs. I always want more music, though, and CDs are expensive. Legal issues surrounding file sharing and the music industry have pushed me to find a new source for music. I’ll spare you my opinions on the subject, but suffice it to say I’d rather find other ways to get new music rather than roll the dice on paying a big fine.

That’s why I use stream rippers , which record the currently playing stream and save it in MP3 format. Fortunately, recording Internet radio still remains in legal limbo, and there’s some precedent for it being legal, since you can record regular broadcast radio. There are plenty of good Internet radio stations if you do a little searching, and you can even find some that cover the exact genre of music you like.

Whenever I find a really good station, I use a stream ripper to save the music on my hard drive. That way, I always have some good music on hand to push me through the rest of my workday. Here are my three favorites–and they’re all free.

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Something to Think About [8:45 am]

Apple continues its moves into the consumer electronics space? Apple iPod team seeks Wi-Fi engineer

Apple is looking for two iPod hardware engineers both with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi experience, opening the possibility that the portable music player may be upgraded with wireless connectivity.

[...] But we suspect Apple has its eye on wireless not as an alternative to the cable connecting the iPod to a host Mac or PC, but to equip the device with the tools needed to communicate remotely with said host and Apple’s AirPort Express music-routing Wi-Fi access point.

Right now, there’s no way of sitting in a living room in which an AirPort Express unit is hooked up to a hi-fi and to control what’s being streamed off the Mac up in the spare room. If the computer’s portable, you can bring it down, or you can pop into the other room and change iTunes’ playlist. What’s needed is a remote control.

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TechDirt on Verizon and Fiber Buildout [8:35 am]

TechDirt’s take on this CNet News article, Verizon blames federal rules for broadband holdup, is definitely worth reading: Verizon Admits It’s Holding Fiber Lines Hostage Until Regulations Change

If fiber is a “natural monopoly” product, why not view it like the highway system: get it built, and then open it up to everyone. Either way, this seems like pure posturing from Verizon. Later in the article Verizon’s president admits that fiber is going to be the “turning point for our own businesses.” If they realize it’s so valuable, you would think they would see the benefits as being much more valuable than the risk of having to share the lines.

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Posner on Misuse of Copyright [8:31 am]

Fair Use and Misuse

Here is a very worrisome problem concerning fair use. It has to do with a dichotomy long noted by legal thinkers between the law on the books and the law in action. They often diverge. And fair use is an example of this divergence. As I said in an earlier posting, fair use often benefits rather than harms the copyright holder. However, it doesn’t always; moreover, even if a copyright holder is not going to lose, and is even going to gain, sales from a degree of unlicensed copying, if he thinks he can extract a license fee, he’ll want to claim that the copying is not fair use; and finally, because the doctrine has vague contours, copyright owners are inclined to interpret it very narrowly, lest it expand by increments.

The result is a systematic overclaiming of copyright, resulting in a misunderstanding of copyright’s breadth. [...]

What to do about such abuses of copyright? One possibility, which I raised hypothetically in my opinion in WIREdata, pp. 11-12, is to deem copyright overclaiming a form of copyright misuse, which could result in forfeiture of the copyright. For a fuller discussion, see the very interesting paper by Kathryn Judge, not available online but obtainable by emailing her at kjudge@stanfordalumni.org.

The underlying problems are two: the asymmetry in stakes in disputes between owners of valuable copyrights and people who are either public domain publishers or don’t anticipate that the works they’re creating will have great commercial value; and the vagueness of the fair-use docrine. I have suggested that this vagueness can be reduced by a categorical approach, under which types of use are given essentially blanket protection from claims of copyright infringement. If only one could define “glimpse”!

See Donna’s thoughts; and Seth’s JibJab Lawsuit Outcome and Creating A Copyright Lawsuit Downside

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IP and Internet Standards [8:27 am]

Microsoft Quits a U.N. Standards Group

Advocates of proprietary and open approaches to software technology standards had clashed within the organization, which is known as the United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, or U.N./Cefact. Microsoft, a maker of proprietary software, opposes the use of open-source software, which is freely shared.

But Microsoft’s withdrawal on Monday was apparently not directly related to the earlier controversy, according to several industry representatives. Rather, they said, it stemmed from a set of thorny issues over control of intellectual property that is being contributed to the standards-setting effort.

In an e-mail message sent Monday to two officials of the U.N. standards group, Dave Welsh, a Microsoft program manager, wrote: “Microsoft regularly evaluates its standards participation and its available resources for effective participation. Unfortunately, for now, we have made the decision to stop participating in U.N./Cefact for business reasons and this serves as notification of our immediate withdrawal from all U.N./Cefact activities.”

The e-mail message also noted that previous Microsoft contributions to the group were not bound by the negotiations taking place over the control of intellectual property.

Later: Slashdot suggests another rationale — Free Software Day Around The World

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JibJab Settlement Announced [8:19 am]

This Song Belongs to You and Me (press release)

EFF has just announced that the JibJab suit has been settled. The resolution was a complete victory for JibJab, which will be entitled to continue distributing the “This Land” animation without further interference from Ludlow.

Two things made this outcome possible. First, JibJab’s fantastic animation is a clear case of fair use, for the reasons described in detail in our earlier letter to Ludlow’s attorney.

But also important was our other discovery: “This Land Is Your Land” has been in the public domain since 1973.

Note also that the EFF posting suggests that they used something of the emerging GrokLaw model of legal research.

Thanks to everyone who expressed support for JibJab and to the many people who helped us to do the research that needed to be done regarding the history of the song.

Ernest; Seth; Donna; Wired News’ rather oddly titled JibJab Is Free for You and Me; CNet’s JibJab beats copyright rap; Ernest’s got a wrapup; and there’s Slashdot

Later: This APWire story puts quite the spin on the result: Guthrie Publisher Lets Cartoon Use Song [pdf]

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Real Pirates [8:07 am]

Polish Cops Bust Computer Piracy Gang

Polish police have broken up a gang of more than 100 hackers who sold pirated music and films, using academic computer systems around the world to store their wares, a police spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

See also Police cuff ‘international computer piracy gang’

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