Another Round, Barkeep

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

“Consumer” Activism?

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.

Sun’s Jonathan Schwarts on Patents

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.

Speaking of Point-Counterpoint

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.

Dropped My Laptop

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!

Changes At The Atlantic Monthly Online

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

Music@StarBucks, Now DVDs @ MickeyD’s

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.

Katie Dean on Lexmark

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.

Hilary Rosen on Larry Lessig

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.