September 9, 2004

Ahh, Spectrum Regulation [9:19 pm]

Students, college face off over Wi-Fi

A disagreement over public and private wireless networks is stirring up high-tech tension at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The university administration issued a new policy this week that bars students from running their own private Wi-Fi networks in campus housing. The unregulated hot spots are interfering with the university’s own wireless service, which is offered freely to students and staff, campus technology administrators said.

Some students have protested, saying that only federal regulators have the ability to govern how they use the wireless spectrum. The issue remains unresolved as the university waits for students to pull the plug on their Wi-Fi hot spots, and for now, administrators aren’t backing down.

Plowing through the Slashdot discussion, University Bans Wireless Access Points, yields this notable news entry — Airlines win Wi-Fi management battle with airports: The FCC claims exclusive jurisdiction over the unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum

Later: College backs off Wi-Fi ban

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IP and Property [2:56 pm]

Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding [via Slashdot]

Well, ok — standard canard, right? Maybe, but until I finish Landes’ and Posner’s The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law, I’m going to reserve my comments.

Abstract:

Courts and scholars have increasingly assumed that intellectual property is a form of property, and have applied the economic insights of Harold Demsetz and other property theorists to condemn the use of intellectual property by others as free riding. In this article, I argue that this represents a fundamental misapplication of the economic theory of property. The economics of property is concerned with internalizing negative externalities - harms that one person’s use of land does to another’s interest to it, as in the familiar tragedy of the commons. But the externalities in intellectual property are positive, not negative, and property theory offers little or no justification for internalizing positive externalities. Indeed, doing so is at odds with the logic and functioning of the market. From this core insight, I proceed to explain why free riding is desirable in intellectual property cases except in limited circumstances where curbing it is necessary to encourage creativity. I explain why economic theory demonstrates that too much protection is just as bad as not enough protection, and therefore why intellectual property law must search for balance, not free riders. Finally, I consider whether we would be better served by another metaphor than the misused notion of intellectual property as a form of tangible property.

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PDEA Voted Out Of Committee; And Fall Congressional Trends [8:00 am]

House Panel Moves to Criminalize Spyware, Net Piracy [pdf]

The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2004 is one of a handful of measures gathering steam in Congress that target the practice of Internet file sharing, which record companies blame for playing a part in a $2 billion dollar decline in yearly CD sales since 2000. The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure by voice vote, clearing it for debate in the full House.

[...] Congress has done little thus far to address Internet file-swapping, but that could change in the next few months as lawmakers in both houses consider a clutch of measures that target either individual downloaders or the companies — like Kazaa and eDonkey — that distribute the file-swapping software.

Although music and movie piracy is already a crime, existing law makes it difficult for the Justice Department to prosecute Internet file-swappers, since they don’t charge money for the pirated works they distribute online. “There have been no prosecutions against egregious uploaders on public peer-to-peer networks,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who co-sponsored the measure.

Music industry officials have maintained that criminal prosecutions will carry more weight with would-be downloaders than the civil lawsuits the recording industry began filing against song swappers in September 2003.

And I love these kind of statistics, particularly I doubt that there’s any credible basis for them — except the fact that the source has a stake in scaring universities into buying their products

The average college student has 1,100 illegally copied music files on his or her computer, according to a survey of more than 1,000 students published earlier this year by Ruckus Network, a Boston-based company that sells a legal download service to universities.

Finally, there’s the fact that committee members aren’t toeing the RIAA/MPAA line

The bill also makes it illegal to use camcorders to record first-run movies in theaters, a practice commonly used by bootleggers looking to distribute the latest Hollywood hits. Smith angered Berman by amending the bill to also include a measure aimed at protecting the company ClearPlay from infringement prosecution.

ClearPlay makes a DVD player that allows parents to edit violent and sexual references out of movies like “Se7en,” “Purple Rain” and “Laws of Attraction.”

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A Digital Distribution Roundup [7:48 am]

For a Fee, a Stream of Tunes, Talk and Video. The punchline is at the close of the article, though:

Some suggest that in the near term, programming like talk radio and sports, at a low monthly fee, may find more customers on the Internet than music and movies, which require consumers to adjust to the idea of their PC as an entertainment center.

In a recent study, the Diffusion Group, a technology consulting firm in Plano, Tex., found that only 23 percent of Internet users would lean toward paying $9.95 a month for a music streaming service. Consumers were even less willing to pay extra to send that music to their home stereo or cars by wireless technology.

Analysts expect a battle between the video-on-demand services being rolled out by cable TV companies and those companies with a more PC-centered view of entertainment.

“Where cable has the advantage is delivering content into the living room and not to the PC,” said Greg Ireland, an analyst at IDC, a research firm. “Delivering a movie to a traveler’s laptop is great, but if you are watching a movie in the comfort of your own home, the last thing you want to do is sit at a desk.”

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BK Into The Fray [7:36 am]

Burger King cooks up music deal with AOL

In October, the US burger chain will partner with AOL Music to offer a free song download with every Whopper sold.

The move comes a month after McDonalds partnered with Sony’s Connect online music service to offer a similar ’singles-for-sandwiches’ deal.

So far neither company has said how many songs have been downloaded as a result of the promotion. However, Apple’s early 2004 partnership with Pepsi to give away millions of downloads failed to yield anywhere near the anticipated total, the iPod maker later admitted, though it blamed the discrepancy on the distribution of the promo Pepsi bottles.

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Issues for iTunes In Japan [7:33 am]

iTunes Japan hits ‘inadequate DRM’ hurdle

At issue is the Mac maker’s insistence that consumer should be allowed to burn downloaded songs to CD, a facility offered by the US, UK, German and France versions of ITMS.

Existing Japanese digital music services do not support CD burning. They also charge from ¥200 ($1.83) a song - rather more than the Yen equivalent of the US store’s $0.99 (¥108) download fee.

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CALEA and VoIP [7:30 am]

In Law Fights to Keep Pace With Tech, Wired News looks at the issues, citing a hearing held yesterday by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Law Enforcement Access to Communications Systems in a Digital Age

CALEA requires telecommunications carriers to design systems to meet wiretapping standards set by the government, but the law has long exempted “information services,” which now include certain voice-over-internet protocol, or VOIP, services.

In August, however, acting upon an earlier request by Justice Department agencies, the Federal Communications Commission proposed applying CALEA to VOIP services.

The FCC has already classified cable-modem service as a “telecommunications service,” bringing it under CALEA’s umbrella.

[...] Said Marcus Thomas, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s investigative technologies division: “(CALEA) didn’t have as much agility as we need in the internet environment. It’s going to have to be tweaked.”

Related: Slate’s This Is an Emergency; 911 is a joke for VoIP customers

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A Look At The Details of a Tivo-NetFlix Match [7:23 am]

Picture imperfect for Netflix, TiVo

Before going to market with a video-on-demand product, Netflix and TiVo would need the support of Hollywood movie studios, which hold the keys to all-important distribution licenses. Even if the studios are receptive to such a deal, cooperation won’t be forthcoming until TiVo can offer a viable content security system to protect the downloadable films in transit from being pirated–an area where TiVo has clashed with Hollywood in the past.

[...] For both, movie downloads would provide a distinguishing feature and reduce the chances of their services being commoditized. The move would also help popularize digital video content, something that has happened for audio but not video. However, any download service would face a number of business and technology hurdles.

[...] While content security is a crucial piece of the pie, relationships are everything in Hollywood, and negotiating licensing contracts with the studios can take years.

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Lawsuit v. Lawsuit [7:20 am]

P2P company sues RIAA over patent

The company, a subsidiary of Brilliant Digital Entertainment, contends that the RIAA has been infringing on one of its patents in the course of copyright enforcement efforts inside peer-to-peer networks. Overpeer, a copyright company owned by Loudeye, and MediaDefender, also are named in the lawsuit.

[...] n the summer of 2003, it announced that it had purchased patent rights to the process of identifying files on a peer-to-peer network using a “hash,” or digital fingerprint based on the contents of the file.

Initially, Bermeister indicated the company would approach other file-swapping companies to sign them up for licenses. That proved controversial, but Altnet did send cease-and-desist letters last November to nine companies engaged in businesses related to peer-to-peer networks.

[...] Altnet’s lawsuit says that antipiracy companies Overpeer and MediaDefender are still on the hook, however. Overpeer is a “spoofing” company that posts millions of false or corrupted files on networks such as Kazaa, trying to make real files harder to find. Media Defender uses “interdiction” techniques, which essentially clog networks with requests that block real download efforts.

Both of these services use unauthorized versions of Kazaa and the underlying FastTrack peer-to-peer technology, and so are using Altnet’s patent without permission, the company contends.

In its complaint, Altnet said that RIAA executives had been notified several times in 2003 about the patent, but that the trade group has continued to support Overpeer and to conduct its own enforcement efforts on the Kazaa network without permission.

See also Kazaa colleague sues RIAA

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