October 30, 2004

Another Round, Barkeep [4:43 pm]

RIAA targets 963 alleged file-traders

The Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) this week filed almost 1000 lawsuits this week, all of them accusing individuals of sharing unauthorised copies of songs on P2P networks

Some 750 people are unnamed, with 213 more citing alleged copyright infringers’ names. The latter had all received demands to cease their activities and make some remuneration for their acts, but in each case the deadline for settlement had passed, the RIAA said.

To date, the RIAA has issued over 6200 lawsuits against named and unnamed individuals, most recently 762 complaints filed late September. The first lawsuits were sent out in September 2003.

Billboard: RIAA Files 750 Infringement Suits

Slashdot’s take: New RIAA File-swapping Suits Target Students

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“Consumer” Activism? [4:41 pm]

Digital music firm demands big-name business boycott

Wippit, the UK-based digital music service, has called on the music industry to boycott major British and international firms, accusing them of fuelling “illegal” P2P services with advertising dollars.

However, many of the companies concerned claimed their ads’ appearance on P2P applications - in particular, eDonkey - was cock-up, not conspiracy, with “human error” to blame.

Wippit’s boycott call takes in a number of well-known names, including financial organisations NatWest, First Direct, and Halifax; mobile phone networks Vodafone and O2; cable TV company ntl; airline KLM; car-maker Renault; and MSN subsidiaries Expedia and bCentral. It says all of them have been caught advertising their products and services on eDonkey.

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Sun’s Jonathan Schwarts on Patents [4:27 pm]

Things that scare Sun’s Schwartz

Litigation gone awry Spurious patent litigation was a problem well before Sun settled with Kodak. It’s been going on for years, and lately, it’s steadily gotten much worse. Intellectual property is the foundation of global economies, and legitimate patents are crucial cauldrons in which sweat, brains and dollars can create value. Companies that acquire (often questionable) patents and later wield them against new market participants unleash a destructive force that stifles innovation and prevents participation–the polar opposite of the purpose for which patents were created.

Everybody suffers from the abuse of the judicial system and the detritus strewn around the market by spurious patent suits. My view is that we issue patents too freely, without sufficient regard to prior art or triviality. We need to raise the threshold for patent approval to prevent abuse of the system. This would ensure that we’re safeguarding incentives and rewards for invention while reducing the legions of bad actors stifling competition.

America is at risk of letting cobwebs in our patent system ensnare real innovation, siphoning energy and effort that could otherwise be directed at progress for the planet while the bloodsuckers drain resources.

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Speaking of Point-Counterpoint [4:24 pm]

More on “layers” regulation (followup to this post): How to move the IP era out of neutral

While May’s article questions layers-informed thinking, the framework’s guiding principle seeks to fit our laws and regulations to the ways that the Internet is constructed and operated, rather than the other way around. Moreover, MCI’s layers proposal looks to the existence of significant market power as the chief rationale for economic regulation. Conversely, the presence of competition in a particular network layer means that no such regulation is warranted.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation shares many of the goals of the layers approach–such as eliminating vertical silos, relying on antitrust theory for economic regulation, and removing unnecessary legal and regulatory requirements. Nonetheless, May’s reasons for opposing MCI’s layers proposal fail to pass muster.

For starters, he ignores the fact that network layering is a fundamental organizing principle for all data networks, one that has been used by engineers for decades. As a result, the Internet has been built and operated with layers-based concepts that likely will not change appreciably over time. Moreover, the layers approach should be used as a flexible, dynamic conceptual tool. It is not intended to mirror the current straightjacket of the Communications Act’s vertical silos.

[...] There is more that unites than separates the Progress & Freedom Foundation and MCI visions of the coming Internet-centric economy. We, however, look to the network layers framework as a way to make our communications laws finally begin to match the incredible creativity and competitive spirit at the heart of the Internet. May’s stated concerns aside, the layers framework represents the best opportunity to topple the artificial silos that have constrained the digital marketplace for too long.

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Dropped My Laptop [4:14 pm]

And the new one hasn’t yet arrived - so it’s amazing to realize how dependent I have become on having one to keep FurdLog up to date. Just a busy day (like yesterday), and *poof* FurdLog falls far behind. Luckily, there are plenty of others out there working on this, and it seems like Donna had some fabulous finds yesterday. In particular:

Plus, of course, there’s the new look of Copyfight!

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Changes At The Atlantic Monthly Online [3:48 pm]

Taking a page from The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly has decided to put up a subscription/pay-wall in front of their archives. How soon the pay-wall is erected is not yet clear, but all those great Charles Mann articles on digital copyright (Who Will Own Your Next Great Idea and The Heavenly Jukebox) definitely are no longer generally available online.

I learned this from a student at Cambridge University, who is ambitiously already working on the reading list for lectures several weeks away. For the moment, I’ve come up with a short term solution but, in the long term, I’m clearly going to have to make some serious (and unfortunate) revisions to my reading list.

A shame

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October 28, 2004

Music@StarBucks, Now DVDs @ MickeyD’s [11:22 am]

Now playing: Self-service DVD rentals at McDonald’s

The fast-food giant has signed a contract with DVDPlay to place the company’s self-service DVD rental kiosks in 13,000 restaurant locations over the next several years, DVDPlay CEO Jens Horstmann, CEO of the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company, said during a presentation at the Consumer Technology Ventures Conference here.

McDonald’s has been running a trial with 157 of the machines in 107 Denver-area restaurants and will install a few thousand machines each year starting soon. Grocery giants Albertsons and Safeway have signed deals to put machines in, respectively, 3,000 and 3,500 locations each. Even rental outlets (and DVDPlay competitors) like Blockbuster will invest in the machines.

“They (movie rental outlets) are in dire need of automation,” said Horstmann.

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Katie Dean on Lexmark [8:01 am]

Lexmark Loss Good for Consumers

“We should make clear that in the future companies like Lexmark cannot use the DMCA in conjunction with copyright law to create monopolies of manufactured goods for themselves just by tweaking the facts of this case,” wrote (.pdf) Judge Gilbert Merritt of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. “Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner, but rather only sought to reach those who circumvented protective measures ‘for the purpose’ of pirating works protected by the copyright statute.”

I finally got to read the opinion this morning (for some reason, The Boston Globe had not been distributed by the time I finished breakfast). Katie’s writeup is good as far as it goes, but there’s a lot to this opinion, and it’s going to take a while for all of its consequences to percolate through the system.

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Hilary Rosen on Larry Lessig [7:57 am]

From dead tree Wired: How I Learned to Love Larry

I was warming to Lessig. He wasn’t defending theft; in fact, he was against it. That’s why he had helped found the nonprofit Creative Commons. If the essence of copyright law is to allow creators to have control, he argued, then there are ways to maintain ownership of copyrighted works and still make it possible for the average person to license the use of those works. After all, what’s wrong with a licensing system that makes music more accessible to more people?

Until that moment, I had dismissed Creative Commons as a sleight-of-hand maneuver, a way to mouth platitudes about the benefits of copyright while in fact joining ranks with the Everything for Free Foundation. But Lessig was making a persuasive case. This is going in the wrong direction, I remember thinking. Had I lost my edge?

Hardly. I’m still cynical about its origins, but I’ve come to love Creative Commons.

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OT: I Think It’s Official … [7:14 am]

The West Wingjumped the sharklast night. (CNN spoilers) (Although some suggest it’s already happened.)

Oh, yeah — and the Boston Red Sox won the World Series!! [pdf] [ NYTimes]

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October 27, 2004

First Peter Pan, Now Scarlett O’Hara [7:14 pm]

Gone With the Wind heirs threaten Project Gutenberg [via CopyFight's Copyright Balance Gone With the Wind?]

The Stephens Mitchell Trusts wants Australian Gutenberg volunteers either to remove Gone With the Wind from their servers or else take steps to prevent downloads in countries where copyright law bans unauthorized distribution of the 1936 classic.

Otherwise, a lawyer for the heirs says in email and a certified letter, “we will take all appropriate steps to protect and enforce our clients’ rights.”

[...] [T]he Gutenberg volunteers face a possible legal trap–in fact, two. If the Australian Gutenberg takes down the novel without a request from the American PG [Project Gutenberg] even though Australian law does not require this, Margaret Mitchell’s estate may just say the two groups are in cahoots with each other. The estate might claim that the Australians were trying to protect the Americans. If the U.S. Gutenberg asks for a take-down, the estate might also claim a close relationship.

A related argument might be trademark. The estate lawyers may use this as further evidence of an actual tie.

[...] Significantly, Margaret Mitchell died in on August 16, 1949. Without the Bono Act, the book’s copyright would have expired in 1999. Now, however, in the States, the book apparently won’t enter the public domain until 2019. With this situation in mind, it is high time that Congress either repealed Bono or at least mitigated it–lest greedy heirs and Doberman lawyers shut down worthwhile efforts like Gutenberg.

Meanwhile Australia, which appears on the cusp of increasing copyright terms past the 50-year mark, would do well to consider the repercussions before letting wealthy American heirs and donation-crazed U.S. politicians dictate law to them. The expected changes in Australian copyright law would not have come out without U.S. pressure by way of a trade agreement.

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Stallman on Intellectual Property [7:08 pm]

Why the term ‘intellectual property’ is a seductive mirage [via IPNewsBlog]

If you want to think clearly about the issues raised by patents, or copyrights, or trademarks, or even learn what these laws say, the first step is to forget the idea of lumping them together, and treat them as separate topics. If you want to write articles that inform the public and encourage clear thinking, treat each of these laws separately; don’t suggest generalizing about them.

And when it comes to reforming WIPO, among other things, let’s call for changing its name.

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“Jane, You Ignorant Slut” [6:42 pm]

A point-counterpoint on broadband policy:

  • High-Speed Internet Policy Failure: U.S. Slips to 13th in Broadband Service Worldwide and Digital Divide Grows Under Bush Administration

    The report, Expanding the Digital Divide and Falling Behind in Broadband, documents the advantages that Internet households, particularly those with high-speed access, have in conducting economic, social and political activities, and concludes that it is critical to aggressively close the digital divide by promoting universal service at affordable prices for all.

    The report notes that in 2001, Chairman Michael Powell and the National Telecommunications Information Administration declared the digital divide a non-problem and proceeded to ignore it, adopting policies to eliminate all public interest obligations for the advanced telecommunications networks used to provide high-speed and voice over Internet service.

  • Broadband by 2007: A Look at the President’s Internet Initiative

    The news on broadband isn’t all bad. We are 10th or 11th, depending on the different data points you look at. Yet broadband take-up has been very rapid in this country. By some measures, broadband pick-up has been faster than color TV, the Internet, mobile phones, VCRs, or PCs–it is moving along pretty well. From 7 million broadband subscribers in 2000, we had 24 million in June 2003. That represents a 230 percent increase. There was an independent research report in the news just the other day. The Department of Commerce is going to be coming out with their numbers soon, which will be harder data points that say, “That’s the number.”

    Just as the President will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job has a job, he is similarly not satisfied with the rate of the broadband penetration. That is why he set this aggressive target.

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A Natural Evolution, I Guess [6:37 pm]

From gold records to gold MP3s

It might not be the same as having a big gold record on the wall, but the Recording Industry Association of America has issued its first gold, platinum, and multiplatinum certifications for digital downloads.

The first obvious winner? Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” is the only multiplatinum single so far, with more than 400,000 downloads. Six songs qualified for platinum, or sales of 200,000 singles, and 45 titles got gold status, for selling 100,000 songs.

These awards “are a reflection of both the commitment of the entire music community to consumer-friendly legitimate digital services and fan appetite for high-quality music,” RIAA Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol said in a statement.

Hmmm, I thought these awards have always been a celebration of a record’s sales volume….

Later: Jenny Levine makes an excellent point: And There Isn’t a Single Library that Can Circulate Any of Them; BBC News: Digital sales honour for OutKast

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Unexpected Problems: DVDs On The Road [2:00 pm]

Speech, safety, decency — who’d a thunk it? When the Car Beside You Is an XXX Theater [pdf]

On-board video has become widely popular with drivers, especially those with children. But while many motorists entertain back-seat passengers with DVD’s like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a surprising number choose racier fare.

Andre Gainey, for example, was playing a pornographic video on three screens in his Mercedes last February as he drove past a police station in Schenectady, N.Y. Mr. Gainey, 35, was arrested and later convicted of a misdemeanor charge of public display of sexual material and other violations. Last August he was sentenced to three weekends in jail.

Few cars are equipped with as many screens as Mr. Gainey’s. But complaints from people who have spotted explicit images on screens inside cars are growing nearly as fast as on-board DVD sales.

[...] Sightings of adult videos by passengers — including children — in other cars “is a vexing new phenomenon,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, a conservative advocacy group in Washington. Ms. LaRue, who wrote an essay titled “Four-Wheel Indecency” for the group’s Web site (cwfa.org), said new laws were necessary as monitors inside cars had gotten bigger (up to 17 inches, measured diagonally) and more visible from outside.

“It’s pretty incredible to have to write laws for people who lack the common sense and civility to think it’s O.K. to play such DVD’s in full view of other people, and especially children,” Ms. LaRue said.

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Speaking of Lexmark… [1:46 pm]

There’s this article from today’s NYTime special Car section on a related issue that could easily end up in the same set of DMCA-related problems: Small Repair Shops Say Carmakers Won’t Share [pdf]

A group of mom and pop repair shops across the country is arguing that such scenes are happening too often in the last few years, jeopardizing their bottom line and sometimes even their survival. They contend that auto manufacturers are deliberately withholding information or charging high prices for repair data that used to be readily available at a reasonable cost.

Some stand-alone mechanic shops — which number more than 256,000 nationwide and make an estimated 75 percent of the country’s vehicle repairs — are pushing Congress to pass a law, called the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, to guarantee access to the technical and training data and specialized tools that are required for the shops to make repairs.

Organized by the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, which represents repair shops and auto parts retailers and franchisees, a group testified at a Congressional hearing last month that manufacturers hold back information that consumers have the right to know about once they have bought a vehicle.

The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, a trade association of nine car and light-truck manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors and Toyota, denies that it is doing so, and contends that the bill would require relinquishing proprietary information and cut into revenues that are necessary to pay for the more than $20 billion auto manufacturers spend yearly on research and design.

The car companies also say that disclosing such trade secrets could enable modifications of crucial vehicle operating systems, including emissions and safety. This, in turn, could create issues surrounding the validity of a warranty, and perhaps even the performance of such control systems, they maintain.

[...] But Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director for the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, disputes the success rate, citing the coalition’s national survey of mechanic shops this summer that found that 59 percent of those questioned had problems getting information,r training or tools needed to repair or service cars.

The car industry, Ms. Bass-Cors said, is “trying to monopolize the repair industry.”

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Terry Fisher’s Continuing Dialog on ACS [9:18 am]

As noted earlier, Terry is discussing his alternative compensation scheme for digital distribution of music over at Lessig Blog. The posts so far:

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OT: More Weirdness For Photographers [8:57 am]

Snap photo first, answer questions later (see earlier Once Tripods Are Illegal….)

A physician who says he photographed an AT&T office as part of a research project to develop assistive technologies for the blind is now being targeted for questioning by the FBI.

Stefanos Pantagis, a geriatric specialist at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said he took the photos while driving in Manhattan on Sept. 4 and was surprised to learn Monday that counterterrorism agents wanted to interview him about them.

“My brother called me, hysterical, saying, ‘The FBI has been looking for you,’” said Pantagis, who had borrowed a family member’s car that day. “They researched who had been driving the car.”

Pantagis said he and a friend “were conducting eyetap research for the visually impaired. The idea was to develop a filming system for the visually impaired.”

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The Beastie Boys on Remixing [8:34 am]

The first of what should be several interesting article from the current “dead tree” Wired on digital content and music culture: The Remix Masters

Sampling litigation was rare back in 1989, so you guys got by without much trouble on Paul’s Boutique. But the album is still sold today - have you had to license all those samples retroactively?

YAUCH: Well, I think there’s a statute of limitations on that stuff. If 10 years have gone by or whatever it is and there hasn’t been a problem, then it’s not an issue.

HOROVITZ: At least that’s what we’re hoping. [Laughs.] You know, I’m pretty sure we were actually the first court case that used the word sampling in it. It was in a lawsuit involving a sample of Jimmy Castor’s “The Return of Leroy (Part One)” on our first album.

How is it different to make sample-based music in 2004?

DIAMOND: We can’t just go crazy and sample everything and anything like we did on Paul’s Boutique. It’s limiting in the sense that if we’re going to grab a two-bar section of something now, we’re going to have to think about how much we really need it. But then the flip side is that it pushes us to be creative. We have to look for stuff to sample that is maybe more low-profile. And take what we find and manipulate and recontextualize it in a way that makes it sound totally new. If we tweak it enough and make it our own, then it might not even be an issue.

How do you clear the samples?

DIAMOND: It’s very tedious. We have to sit there and basically break out every single component of every track that we do and make a list of the sources for everything. We go through every little blip of sound and decide what’s significant enough that we need to contact the owner. From there, it’s a whole bunch of lawyer craziness.

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New Hearing in Lexmark v. Static Control [8:30 am]

Lexmark Injunction Overturned

In a blow to printer company Lexmark International, a federal appeals court overturned an order Tuesday that barred a North Carolina company from making computer chips for ink cartridge replacements.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered a new round of hearings in the case pitting Lexmark against Static Control Components, a privately held company based in Sanford, North Carolina.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Lexmark filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Static Control from competing for its remanufactured cartridge business. Lexmark accused Static Control of violating copyright law along with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester issued a preliminary injunction in March blocking Static Control from selling computer chips that match remanufactured toner cartridges for Lexmark printers.

Jason Schultz has all the vital bits from the opinion (including a link to it) over at CopyFight: Sixth Circuit reverses Lexmark DMCA Ruling, Lexmark ruling: Chock Full O’ Nuggets and More good Lexmark quotes.

CNet: Ruling on refilled printer cartridges touches DMCA

Later: Donna’s got links to most of the commenters; sadly, I still haven’t even had time to finish reading the opinion. Ed Felten’s post: Pro-Competition Ruling in Lexmark Case

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October 2004
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