September 2, 2004

Pentagon Video Runs Awry Of Copyright Law [9:12 am]

Pentagon censors ‘Right to Know’ video

The Defense Department spent $70,500 to produce a Humphrey Bogart-themed video called “The People’s Right to Know” to teach employees to respond to citizen requests for information. But when it came to showing the tape to the public, the Pentagon censored some of the footage.

Officials said they blacked out parts of the training video with the message, “copyrighted material removed for public viewing,” because they were worried the government didn’t have legal rights to some historical footage that was included.

Citing the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press asked the Pentagon for a copy of the video nearly 18 months ago. The Defense Department released an edited version of the tape and acknowledged the irony of censoring a video promoting government openness.

[...] The video also includes historic clips from the 1996 Olympics, the exploration of Titanic wreckage in 1986 and Hank Aaron hitting his record-breaking 714th home run in 1974. Those clips and others were copyrighted by organizations that would not give permission to release them, said C.Y. Talbot, chief of the Defense Department’s Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review.

[...] Legal experts challenged the Pentagon’s refusal to release the entire video, arguing it was improper under the Freedom of Information Act — the subject of the videotape itself — for the government to withhold records because they include copyrighted material.

The video lists reasons for withholding government documents under U.S. law but does not mention copyright. It cites seven categories of information that can be withheld, including classified documents and “trade secrets and commercial and financial information given by companies in their bids for contracts.”

[...] “Nobody wants to get sued,” said Jay Flemma, a New York copyright lawyer. “Corporations would be served best by not including such material, but you certainly can make a strong argument this was fair use.”

See also IPNewsBlog’s FOIA’d by the copyright law?

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So What’s Up With NextWave These Days? [8:59 am]

Just continuing their demonstration that there’s something wrong with blindly legislating scarcity into spectrum markets these days: There’s Gold In That There Dead Air

Analysts estimate that the company’s market value, based entirely on the resale value of its licenses, will be $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion. They also expect that once it emerges from Chapter 11, the next logical step will be a sale.

[...] Analysts estimate that the company’s market value, based entirely on the resale value of its licenses, will be $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion. They also expect that once it emerges from Chapter 11, the next logical step will be a sale.

[...] The company would not even exist had it not engaged in a fiercely fought lobbying and litigation campaign in Washington, much of it funded by Wall Street financiers. At times, the company seemed to living from court decision to court decision as it wrestled with the federal government over possession of licenses to frequencies that it won in the 1996 auction but never paid for.

[...] Even in the highly regulated telecommunications market, NextWave stands out as company that was, in effect, a creation of Congress and the FCC. It was founded in response to an FCC auction that gave entrepreneurs a chance to compete with bigger players as the government sold off huge pieces of the nation’s airwaves in the mid-1990s.

[...] In an effort to attract entrepreneurs that lacked the deep pockets of established telecommunications giants, the FCC decided to allow the upstarts to pay for their licenses through an installment plan. But the policy was a failure. Almost every participant ended up filing for bankruptcy before making the first payment.

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An Unattractive Observation [8:47 am]

From the NYTimes, a look at whether there’s a conspiracy to limit the publication of right wing screeds books: Conservatives Cry Foul in Publishing Scrum. The closing paragraph says more than enough:

“As a rule these books avoid any evidence that would contradict their premises,” Mr. [Brad] Miner said. “All in all, the level of civility or lack of it in the campaign of 2004 is reminiscent of 1804 or 1864, except without dueling or civil war. At least not yet.”

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Spy vs. Spy [8:42 am]

Working ever harder to make sure you never actually pick up your telephone again: Software Service Aims to Outfox Caller ID

The service, the first commercial version of a technology known mainly among software programmers and the computer-hacker underground until now, was introduced nationwide on Wednesday by a California company called Star38.

For $19.99 a month and as little as 7 cents a minute, customers can go to the company’s Web site (www.star38.com), log in and then type the number that they want to call and the number that they want to appear on the caller ID screen of the recipient’s phone.

For an additional fee, they can also specify names that can appear along with their telephone numbers.

Update: Wow - a surprising reaction and fallout in this Sept 4 article, perpetuating the image of the hacker/technophile as criminal - Citing Threats, Entrepreneur Wants to Quit Caller ID Venture

Three days after the start-up company Star38 began offering a service that fools caller ID systems, the founder, Jason Jepson, has decided to sell the business. Mr. Jepson said he had received harassing e-mail and phone messages and even a death threat taped to his front door - all he said from people opposed to his publicizing a commercial version of technology that until now has been mainly used by software programmers and the computer hackers’ underground.

[...] He said that since he did not know specifically who was threatening him, he thought it would be fruitless to seek help from the police. “I don’t want to go to the cops, who might not know what a hacker is,” he said.

The reaction against Star38 is the type of friction that can arise between for-profit software companies and hackers who resent the commercialization of technology they believe should remain free.

“In most countercultures, there is an aspect of selling out,” said Caleb Sima, the co-founder of Spi Dynamics, an Atlanta-based online security company. “People who make money off technology are deemed to have sold out. Anyone who has a unique idea and is making money is going to get badgered.”

While network security consultants and some other technology professionals are known to have a cottage industry involving the use of caller ID spoofing, Mr. Jepson said the nature of the threats he had received made him conclude they had come from so-called phishers - people who use caller ID spoofing and online techniques to trick people into handing over confidential information.

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Apple Affiliate Program [8:25 am]

A succint description, expanding Apple’s marketing reach: Apple taunts Napster, Real with iTunes affiliate program

The iTunes affiliate program lets web sites place links to iTunes songs, albums and artists and then earn a 5 percent commission for clicks that turn into sales. This program complements existing iTunes deals for bulk music purchase discounts and free site licenses for iTunes at universities. Apple’s unique position in the music download market as owner of the iPod allows it to capitalize on low-margin music sales in ways that companies such as Napster and Real can’t.

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Wonder What The Post-HDTV Plans Are For Analog TV Spectrum? [8:15 am]

Here’s one: Disney delays MovieBeam expansion

MovieBeam uses TV broadcast signals to deliver digital video files to a set-top box in a process known as datacasting. The set-top box can store up to 100 movies, which customers can view at their leisure for between $1.99 and $3.99 per film, plus a monthly equipment rental fee and a one-time activation fee.

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Coverage of the MSN Music Store Opening [8:08 am]

  • CNet News: Behind the music: Microsoft?

    Windows Media 10 has created enough industry buzz that partners are lining up in force behind Microsoft, offering a potential boost for the software giant’s long-standing campaign to make Windows Media a de facto industry standard.

    Call them Microsoft’s coalition of the willing.

    [...] Microsoft has two primary weapons it is bringing to the fight: digital rights management (DRM) and video.

    Windows Media Player 10 incorporates a new copy-protection scheme, formerly known as Janus, that for the first time allows online music subscription services such as Napster to offer rented tracks on portable devices.

  • AP Wire via Wired News: MSN Music Store No Original

    But Microsoft insists it is different. Among other things, the company claims its service will have a different look and feel, and says a main selling point is that songs can be played on more than 70 handheld devices that support its Windows Media format.

    [...] Analysts have said Microsoft also is eager to boost the popularity of its Windows Media technology, which it hopes will become a standard format distributing copyright-protected digital music and video. Apple uses different technology, posing a potential threat to Microsoft.

  • The Register’s Microsoft listens to the music and MS Portable Media Centers to ship mid-Sept

  • BBC News: Microsoft launches iTunes rival

  • NYTimes: Microsoft Challenges Rivals With New Online Music Service; also a look at what MS sees as the next wave that they want to exploit: Is Portable Video Ready for Its Close-Up? and From Microsoft, a First Take

  • Washington Post: Microsoft’s Tune Like Many Others [pdf]

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