Pre-emption Strategies

From Foreign Policy: Preempting Piracy [via I/P Updates]

First, it was raiding ships on the high seas. Then, with the advent of the information age, it was copying and downloading films and music. Today, the new frontier of piracy is “biopiracy,” when companies in wealthy nations patent indigenous medical and cosmetic remedies that have been used for centuries in poor countries. In 1999, for instance, New Jersey-based Pure World Botanicals obtained U.S. patents on aphrodisiacs derived from maca, an Andean plant Peruvians have long used to bolster fertility. The value of the U.S. market for maca-derived products was estimated to be more than $20 million in 2003.

Hoping to prevent wealthy corporations from staking claim to traditional remedies, some nongovernmental organizations and even a few governments are cataloging indigenous medicines and plant species in online databases. The American Association for the Advancement of Science maintains a database at that is open to traditional knowledge holders who want to preempt patenting by others. Links to similar databases can be found on the Web site of the World Intellectual Property Organization (

Some intellectual property experts, however, doubt that databases can prevent biopiracy. […]

[…] [Devinder] Sharma says that instead of relying on databases of traditional knowledge, developing countries should follow the example of China’s government, which has secured around 12,000 patents on its own traditional medicines.

Skylink Upheld

Landmark Federal Circuit Decision in Skylink Case Creates DMCA Balancing Test. The opinion can be found at the EFF site for the case: Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Skylink Technologies, Inc.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but see Ernest’s take, above. Jason Schultz pulls some salient quotes over at CopyFight: Skylink Wins! Fed. Cir. shoots down Chamberlain’s DMCA claim

From Ernest:

The decision includes a lengthy, at times inspiring, at times frustrating, analysis of the purpose and structure of the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. In the end, the court determines that a strict construction of the statute would lead to absurdities as many of the DMCA’s critics have argued.

Later: BoingBoing’s Garage door openers aren’t copyrighted, don’t get DMCA protection; EFF’s DeepLinks DMCA Doesn’t Lock Garage Doors, Fed. Circuit Affirms; Derek’s Skylink Wins and so too might DMCA Reform Advocates; Ernest’s survey: Commentaries on the Federal Circuit’s Skylink Decision

Later: Declan McCullagh at CNet – Judges OK garage door openers in copyright case


Some questionable economics and policy expressed in this statement by the chairman of the FCC, raising the real question — why should telephones get century-old regulation anyway? And how is monopoly and deregulation consistent with lower prices? High Court Petitioned on Cable Net Access Rule [pdf] [via GigaLaw]

In the past year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco has ruled twice that the Federal Communications Commission erred when it allowed cable companies to bar rivals from their networks. However, those decisions have been put on hold while the Bush administration considered its options. If the Supreme Court rejects the Justice Department’s appeal, cable companies would be required to share their lines with rivals, potentially creating more choice for consumers and a vast new market for independent Internet service providers.

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell issued a statement yesterday praising the administration’s decision. He argued that if the lower court’s ruling stands, the FCC will be forced to treat cable Internet service under the same regulatory framework that applies to the telephone industry. “Applying taxes, regulations and concepts from a century ago to today’s cutting-edge services will only stifle innovation and competition,” Powell said in a prepared statement.

“A successful appeal of this case would ultimately mean lower prices and better service for American consumers,” Powell said.

Rival Internet service providers were critical of the administration’s decision. “They are just delaying the inevitable,” said Dave Baker, EarthLink Inc. vice president of law and public policy. “Instead of fighting to protect cable monopolies, the FCC should recognize that cable modem and other broadband users deserve choice in high-speed Internet providers.”

Fallout From Valenti Interview

I posted a link to TechDirt’s citation of a recent Jack Valenti interview, and the degree to which he continues to push his Welansschaung. Today there’s a Slashdot discussion with some great comments, particularly touching upon how the issue of access has become enmeshed with the issues of copyright in a digital world — and how a failure to recognize the distinction is leading to a host of problems:

Back ups=illegal? (Score:4, Insightful)

by portnux (630256) on Tuesday August 31, @06:36AM (#10116266)

When you buy a DVD you are buying the media AND the right to watch it. When the DVD is damaged, you still have the right to watch, although now it’s unwatchable. Your money bought you both a tangible and an intangible product. You make a backup you are only protecting your right to the intangible product that you paid for. If jack valenti or anyone else wants to deprive you of that right they are stealing from you. I don’t know when the systems of the world shifted to the point where consumers stealing from companies are criminal but companies stealing from consumers is just plain good business, but I for one don’t like it. But who knows, maybe my opinion would change if I was on the other end of all this stealing. :/

You have been brainwashed (Score:5, Insightful)

by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Tuesday August 31, @07:36AM (#10116480)

( | Last Journal: Wednesday June 16, @04:52PM)

When you buy a DVD you are buying the media AND the right to watch it. [emphasis added]

You have been apparently indoctrinated with a great success, but the fact is that you don’t need any special “right to watch” a movie, like you don’t need any “right to read []” a book, at least not yet. The only thing that the copyright law regulates is the right to publish and distribute, not any magical “right to see” which would somehow make illegal the very act of merely looking at publicly available things, which would be completely ridiculous. Please do not spread the FUD. The scums like Jack Valenti want us to think that way, but it does’s make it true. Please try to keep that in mind. This is actually extremely important because if all of people think like yourself, then no one will protest when corporations finally put it into law, because everyone will think it has always been that way, which is simply not true. I wouldn’t have even answered to this post but it was moderated as Score:5, Insightful so apparently there are more misinformed people here.

See also Ed Felten’s dissection of the interview: Valenti’s Greatest Hits; Derek’s It’s a Kind of Magic

Digital Distribution to Cinemas: Progress Report

Digitizing the multiplex

A technology consortium called the Digital Cinemas Initiatives (DCI), created by the major Hollywood studios in early 2002, is finally nearing completion on a set of technical recommendations that is intended to rally the industry around a single technological standard. A few details remain to be completed, largely dealing with securing the files against unauthorized copying while in the theater. But the fundamental technology specifications, based on the JPEG 2000 video format, have now been chosen.

The DCI’s work is expected to be endorsed relatively rapidly by official film standards-setting bodies. Equipment makers such as Texas Instruments and Sony are already scrambling to make projectors and network equipment that complies with the group’s early specifications.

Studios see this as a multimillion-dollar boost to their bottom line. Today they create a film print for every screen that shows one of their movies–about 36,000 theaters in the United States and 150,000 worldwide–at an estimated cost of about $1,000 per print. Indeed, by some industry estimates, the film industry spends close to $800 million every year on printing and distributing film alone.

[…] Industry observers say the fact that studios have been able to agree on a new technology is a tribute to how desperately they want the shift.

[…] The new technology standard could leave at least one major digital media player on the sidelines: Microsoft.

[…] For their part, theater owners believe that the studios will likely bear at least part of the costs of installing digital projectors. In Fithian’s words, the studios’ fund would pay theater owners for a “Chevy” of a digital system. If an owner wanted a “Jaguar,” that money would have to come from the owner’s own pockets.

Theater owners have longer-range worries, however. They’re used to maintaining low-tech film projector systems that last for decades. They want equipment that won’t substantially increase their maintenance expenditures and be simple enough to be operated by minimum-wage high-school projectionists. Most of all, they want to ensure that they don’t buy an expensive upgrade that–like many other products marketed by the high-tech industry–will be rendered obsolete in just a few years.