November 22, 2004

Technology Moves On [11:45 am]

It will be interesting to see what happens if the DVR’s DRM restrictions are found to be too stringent. Who will hang onto “old” tech if it’s more flexible? Death of video recorder in sight

Dixons will phase out VCRs due to the boom in DVD players, sales of which have grown seven-fold in five years.

It ends a 26-year love affair with a gadget which changed viewing habits by allowing people to leave home without missing their favourite programmes.

Dixons expects to sell its remaining stock of VCRs by Christmas.

[...] The final nail in the coffin for VCRs is the low price of DVD players, which can now be bought for as little as £25.

The cost of DVD recorders are also falling to a level within reach of many consumers.

permalink to just this entry

Marybeth Didn’t Know What She Was Talking About [11:24 am]

(See this) Nor did Declan, apparently — and the worst parts were dropped: U.S. Senate Passes Scaled-Back Copyright Measure (about S.3021 S.2192)

People who secretly videotape movies when they are shown in theaters could go to prison for up to three years under the measure, which passed the Senate on Saturday.

Hackers and industry insiders who distribute music, movies or other copyrighted works before their official release date also face stiffened penalties under the bill.

[...] The U.S. Senate has voted to outlaw several favorite techniques of people who illegally copy and distribute movies, but has dropped other measures that could have led to jail time for Internet song-swappers.

[...] Left out were several more controversial measures that would criminalize the actions of millions of U.S. Internet users who copy music and movies for free over “peer to peer” networks like Kazaa.

[...] That material was dropped from the bill, but the Justice Department said on its own last month it plans to take a more aggressive approach to policing intellectual-property crimes.

The bill also shields “family friendly” services like ClearPlay that strip violent or sexually explicit scenes from movies. Hollywood groups say such services violate their copyrighted works by altering them without permission.

A section that would have made it illegal to edit out commercials was removed.

[...] Another measure that would have made it easier to sue peer-to-peer networks died in committee last month, though insiders expect Congress to take it up again next year.

Wired News: A Kinder, Gentler Copyright Bill?

Copyfight: Jumping Off the Omnibus

permalink to just this entry

Old News - Great Quote [10:53 am]

RIAA sues filesharing US students

Cary Sherman, RIAA president, said there had been positive developments in partnerships between colleges and legitimate file sharing services. He said: “During the fall, we have seen a flurry of additional agreements between schools and legal online music providers. That’s exciting news for the university, students, and all those involved in the creative chain of making and distributing music.

“The lawsuits are an essential educational tool. They remind music fans about the law and provide incentives to university administrators to offer legal alternatives.”

Note that some universities are taking that particular initiative — D.C. College Students Targeted in Piracy Suit [pdf]:

University officials determined that two of the suspected music sharers were students. They are still trying to determine the identity of the third defendant, who could be anyone with access to the university’s computer network, said American University spokesman David Taylor.

Taylor declined to name the students, but said that the school would give their names to RIAA lawyers. He said the students face several possible punishments, including being forced to attend an educational workshop on file sharing, losing their Internet service or being expelled.

And, there are plenty of other strategies:

The RIAA has not targeted colleges themselves. Rather, it collaborates with them on programs to teach students about the consequences of illegally copying music, movies and software.

Like many Washington, D.C.-area colleges in the area, American has stepped up its efforts to limit file sharing. School officials warn incoming freshmen against illegal downloading during summer orientation before the fall semester. The school also uses technology to curb the amount of illegal traffic on the network by limiting the bandwidth students have available for file transfers.

James Madison uses similar technology, but peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa try to find ways to allow their customers to evade the restrictions.

Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Virginia have Web pages that advise students of the law and their responsibilities online. Georgetown, George Mason University and the University of Maryland also send out letters to students warning against file sharing. Johns Hopkins University forces students to sign a form agreeing not to download pirated material.

Maryland takes students offline until they purge their computers of pirated material within 24 hours of being notified. The University of Virginia bounces second offenders off its network and forces them to pay $100 before they can get back online.

George Washington also offers students free subscriptions to Napster’s 700,000-song online library.

permalink to just this entry

A Look At Weed [10:51 am]

File Sharing Growing Like a Weed

While the music industry attempts to shutter peer-to-peer services in court and in Congress, one company is using P2P networks to promote and pay artists.

Shared Media Licensing, based in Seattle, offers Weed, a software program that allows interested music fans to download a song and play it three times for free. They are prompted to pay for the “Weed file” the fourth time. Songs cost about a dollar and can be burned to an unlimited number of CDs, passed around on file-sharing networks and posted to web pages.

permalink to just this entry

Declan Raises An Interesting Question [10:49 am]

Outgunned on copyright?

When the Induce Act materialized, however, the tech industry won by calling in the heavy artillery in the form of broader-than-usual alliances. By venturing beyond the usual cluster of Silicon Valley companies, the allies managed to prevent the kind of consensus from forming that has characterized recent copyright laws.

Among the new allies: the Association of American Universities, the American Conservative Union, the American Library Association, BellSouth, MCI, RadioShack, SBC Communications and Verizon Communications. Even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal slammed the Induce Act in their editorial pages. (CNET Networks, publisher of, also is on record as opposing the bill.)

Sarah Deutsch, a vice president at Verizon, said the Induce Act was temporarily defeated because the entertainment industry overreached, not because their lobbyists are losing influence. “It’s very hard for me to believe that either the RIAA or MPAA could be outgunned on intellectual-property issues,” Deutsch said. “If they’re not succeeding, it’s because they’ve drafted an overly broad piece of legislation that’s garnered lots of opposition.”

permalink to just this entry

November 19, 2004

Trivia, But Instructive [7:31 am]

Speaking of mechanisms of control: Dogfight over videos of White House pup

At stake are Webcasting rights to video clips of Barney, the first pooch, and his antics around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The White House has so far denied requests from online publishers seeking copies of the third annual Barney holiday video, insisting on hosting the video exclusively on its own Web site while at the same time freely granting broadcast rights to TV networks.

[...] “The justifications we have been given are that (1) the White House wants to drive ‘eyeballs’ to the White House site and (2) the White House is concerned that the video might appear ‘all over’ if it gave it to and other online news sites,” Feaver wrote last December. “I think you will agree that neither of these attempted justifications is substantial and neither justifies the White House’s discrimination against online news sites.”

[...] One legal twist to the Barney saga is that news sites can probably host the memorable series of videos without the White House’s permission. Federal copyright law does not include videos or any other material created by a government employee “of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties.”

“If this is a work of the federal government, the Copyright Act permits the Washington Post to host it,” said Eugene Volokh, who teaches copyright law at the UCLA School of Law. “It doesn’t require permission from the White House.”

permalink to just this entry

November 18, 2004

Going All The Way [10:17 pm]

Just the kind of Internet2 member everyone is looking to embrace with open arms: MPAA seeks Internet2 tests, P2P monitor role

The Motion Picture Association of America is in talks with the Internet2 research consortium, hoping both to test next-generation video delivery projects and to monitor peer-to-peer piracy on the ultrahigh-speed network.

[...] “The speed of these networks–up to thousands of times faster than ordinary Internet networks—-allows users to obtain copyrighted movies in minutes and music in seconds,” [RIAA president Cary] Sherman told legislators. “Further, the closed nature of these networks, being available only to those engaged in academia, makes it more difficult for copyright owners to protect their works and to notify responsible parties of their infringement.”

Slashdot: MPAA Looks to Sniff Internet2 Traffic for Sharers

permalink to just this entry

Asserting The Freedom To Tinker [7:11 pm]

Collect some free MP3s here

If anything else in the home was as maddening to use as a computer, most people would refuse to use it. Think about it: If your dishwasher crashed, or if your TV’s video driver went on the fritz, you’d lose your patience pretty quickly. The reason we put up with computers, even though they can be so frustrating to use, is that we have complete control over our machines. We use computers because they can do just about whatever we want them to

If the labels succeed in outlawing P2P, what’s next? E-mail? FTP? HTTP? Instant messaging? All of these technologies can be used to trade illegal files. Banning P2P would be the start of one of those notorious slippery slopes. Eventually, computers would come to resemble televisions and other devices with limited capabilities. We will have lost control of our machines. In fact, it’s already starting; an ISP called Shaw has already started deleting some packets sent by its users. It uses a secret set of rules to decide which packets to kill.

I understand the labels’ wish to stomp out P2P technology, but if it means we have to unplug the Internet and cede control of our computers, outlawing P2P probably isn’t the way to go.

permalink to just this entry

“Trust, But Verify” [7:08 pm]

What do you think? Anti-P2P bill may slip past legislative rush

A top government official predicted Thursday that a proposed copyright law that has alarmed technology companies will not be enacted in the last-minute legislative rush before the holidays.

Marybeth Peters, the U.S. register of copyrights, told a conference here that the so-called Induce Act would not be part of the slew of legislation–including key spending measures–that Congress is expected to vote on before leaving for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see database protection,” said Peters, who has been involved in closed-door negotiations this fall over copyright legislation. “Something else you won’t see this year is something known as the Induce Act.”

See earlier Lame Ducks Take Up Copyright Policy

permalink to just this entry

Software Patents — The Idea That Won’t Die [3:39 pm]

Hyperbole? Use Linux and you will be sued, Ballmer tells governments

Asian governments using Linux will be sued for IP violations, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said today in Singapore. He did not specify that Microsoft would be the company doing the suing, but it’s difficult to read the claim as anything other than a declaration of IP war.

According to a Reuters report (which we fervently hope will produce one of Ballmer’s fascinating ‘I was misquoted’ rebuttals*), Ballmer told Microsoft’s Asian Government Leaders Forum that Linux violates more than 228 patents. Come on Steve, don’t hold back - what you mean ‘more than 228′ - 229? 230? Don’t pull your punches to soften the blow to the community. “Some day,” he continued, “for all countries that are entering the WTO [World Trade Organization], somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property.”

This reference is possibly more interesting than the infringement number scare itself, because it suggests that Microsoft sees the wider implementation of corporation-friendly IP law that is part of the entry ticket to the WTO as being a weapon that can be used against software rivals. More commonly, getting WTO members to ‘go legit’ is viewed as having a payoff in terms of stamping out counterfeit CDs, DVDs and designer gear, but clearly Microsoft’s lawyers are busily plotting ways to embrace and extend this to handy new fields. It could be used to throttle emergent OSS companies, and it could conceivably be used to take the new generation of US (and maybe EU too) anti digital piracy and IP laws global.

Slashdot: Ballmer Threatens Linux Patent Lawsuits

permalink to just this entry

Something to Cheer Hal Abelson and Worry Reed-Elsevier [8:50 am]

A harbinger of the advent of open journals: Google Plans New Service for Scientists and Scholars

Google Inc. plans to announce on Thursday that it is adding a new search service aimed at scientists and academic researchers.

Google Scholar, which was scheduled to go online Wednesday evening at, is a result of the company’s collaboration with a number of scientific and academic publishers and is intended as a first stop for researchers looking for scholarly literature like peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts and technical reports.

Google executives declined to say how many additional documents and books had been indexed and made searchable through the service. While the great majority of recent scholarly papers and periodicals are indexed on the Web, many have not been easily accessible to the public.

Much later: See this review

permalink to just this entry

What Will The FCC Reap? [8:31 am]

After the Saving Private Ryan revolt (see this and this) and now the backpedaling over the lead-in to the football game this weekend (FCC Reviews ‘Desperate Housewives’ Football Promo), this discussion of where the FCC is going takes on greater relevance: FCC Crackdown Could Spread

After rejecting 83 percent of indecency complaints received in 2002, the FCC burst out of its cocoon in January after singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” on national television. CBS eventually got socked with a $550,000 fine, and a slew of other radio and TV stations found themselves under fire. Even PBS began leaning heavily on the bleep button, and last week, several ABC stations refused to air an uncut broadcast of Saving Private Ryan for fear that the FCC would issue fines for indecency. (”War is heck,” said one newspaper headline.)

Currently, the stakes are fairly low for major media companies. The top fine is $27,500 per incident, although stations can be fined separately. After Jackson’s exposure at the Super Bowl, the House tried to raise the maximum fine to $500,000, but the move was part of a larger bill — the Defense Authorization Act — and it foundered.

[...] Some critics say the FCC has a death wish. By cleaning up network TV, they’ll only send viewers to cable. “As more people (move) away from broadcast television, the FCC loses control,” said Richard Hanley, graduate program director at Quinnipiac University’s school of communications. “If anything, the FCC is acting to kill broadcast television, and in the process kill any chance it has of regulating content. It’s committing, in effect, suicide.”

But the FCC bureaucracy may try to survive by expanding its jurisdiction to encompass the alternatives — cable TV, satellite TV and radio, maybe even the internet. Earlier this year, a Senate committee barely rejected a plan by Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat, to allow the FCC to oversee some cable programming.

Related: The New York Times seems to be releasing “future” columns from Frank Rich (this one’s dated Nov 21) — and it’s on this topic, expanding it to a question of the role of media consolidation in chilling expression beyond broadcast television: Bono’s New Casualty: ‘Private Ryan’

For anyone who doubts that we are entering a new era, let’s flash back just a few years. “Saving Private Ryan,” with its “CSI”-style disembowelments and expletives undeleted, was nationally broadcast by ABC on Veteran’s Day in both 2001 and 2002 without incident, and despite the protests of family-values groups. What has changed between then and now? A government with the zeal to control both information and culture has received what it calls a mandate. Media owners who once might have thought that complaints by the American Family Association about a movie like “Saving Private Ryan” would go nowhere are keenly aware that the administration wants to reward its base. Merely the threat that the F.C.C. might punish a TV station or a network is all that’s needed to push them onto the slippery slope of self-censorship before anyone in Washington even bothers to act. This is McCarthyism, “moral values” style.

What makes the “Ryan” case both chilling and a harbinger of what’s to come is that it isn’t about Janet Jackson and sex but about the presentation of war at a time when we are fighting one. That some of the companies whose stations refused to broadcast “Saving Private Ryan” also own major American newspapers in cities as various as Providence and Atlanta leaves you wondering what other kind of self-censorship will be practiced next. If these media outlets are afraid to show a graphic Hollywood treatment of a 60-year-old war starring the beloved Tom Hanks because the feds might fine them, toy with their licenses or deny them permission to expand their empires, might they defensively soften their news divisions’ efforts to present the graphic truth of an ongoing war? The pressure groups that are exercised by Bono and “Saving Private Ryan” are often the same ones who are campaigning to derail any news organization that’s not towing the administration line in lockstep with Fox.

[...] The reductio ad absurdum of such a restricted news diet is Jim Bunning, the newly re-elected senator from Kentucky. During the campaign he drew a blank when asked to react to the then widely circulated story of an Army Reserve unit in Iraq, including one soldier from his own state, that refused to follow orders to carry out what it deemed a suicide fuel-delivery mission. “I don’t read the paper” is how he explained his cluelessness. “I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.” That’s his right as a private citizen, though even Fox had some coverage of that story. But as a senator, he has the power to affect decisions on the conduct of the war and to demand an accounting of the circumstances under which one of his own constituents was driven to revolt against his officers. Instead Mr. Bunning was missing in action.

He is, however, a role model of the compliant citizen the Bush administration wants, both in officialdom and out. In a memorable passage in Ron Suskind’s pre-election article on the president in The New York Times Magazine, a senior White House adviser tells Mr. Suskind that there’s no longer any need for the “reality-based community” epitomized by journalists. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” the adviser says. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

permalink to just this entry

OT: Last Night’s West Wing & Blogging [8:18 am]

I thought the bit last night on The West Wing about blogging (a small part of the humor around Josh bashing a Prius with a monster SUV) was a hoot. The forums estimate that it was probably in recognition of Wonkette, and a little overdone, but still fun to see how the phrase “I’m speaking off-the-record” means something different to someone who’s *not* dependent upon access.

Later: ‘He’s Not A Journalist’

permalink to just this entry

FindLaw’s Copies of the MPAA Complaints [7:23 am]

Findlaw’s coverage of the RIAA lawsuits now includes materials on the MPAA suits, including three complaints and the list of lawyers presently involved.

From the first listed complaint, Universal Cities v. Does, filed in the Southern District of New York, a rather sweeping claim about the bandwidth of the Internet, not to mention the number of people connected:

Each time a Defendant unlawfully distributes a free copy of one of the Plaintffs’ copyrighted motion pictures to others over the Internet, each person who copies that motion picture can then distributes that unlawful copy to others without any significant degradation in sound and picture quality. Thus, a Defendant’s distribution of even one unlawful copy of a motion picture can result in the nearly instantaneous worldwide distribution of that single copy to a limitless number of people. The Plaintiffs now seek redress for this rampant infringement of their exclusive rights.

The MPAA press announcement; Wired News’ Movie Studios Sue File Traders; CNet News’ MPAA touts lawsuits, new P2P-fighting software

permalink to just this entry

November 17, 2004

I’ve Been Swamped…. [6:20 pm]

So see the Washington Post rundown of links on the MPAA lawsuit announcement yesterday: Hollywood’s One Strike Policy

The Post’s article: Hollywood Sues Suspected Movie Pirates [pdf]

Hollywood’s major movie studios started production on their latest epic today, a remake of the recording industry’s aggressive legal campaign to stop the illegal trading of copyrighted works on the Internet. The lawsuits, filed against hundreds of people suspected of trading movies online, are a first for the studios and are paired with an ambitious public education effort aimed at curtailing online piracy before it makes a significant dent in the film industry’s bottom line.

[..] “I wish they would think more about how they’re going to sell movies than how they’re going to sue people,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties group that wants the entertainment industry to develop alternate business models to suit the needs of 21st-century technology.

[...] “These are sales and rentals that are not being made, that’s money that’s not going to the retailer. That’s tax that’s not being collected by governments. That’s jobs that are not being created,” said VSDA spokesman Sean Bersell. “[This] black market is siphoning off market share and what we don’t want to see is it get worse than it already is.”

Someone seems to want to get to make the “Boston Strangler” quote of this dispute, and I would put Sean in the lead at this point….

See also DownhillBattle’s response to the MPAA “education” campaign: KidsSmellBullshit and their CopyrightCurriculum wiki - press release/blog posting

permalink to just this entry

Woot! Trouble for the EU Patent Directive? [5:37 pm]

InfoWorld: Polish rejection may derail EU patent directive

The Polish Cabinet of Ministers, which voted in May in the Council of the European Union (informally referred to as the Council of Ministers) to approve the “Patentability of Computer-implemented Inventions” directive, announced in a statement released Tuesday that it has serious concerns with the proposed law and now “cannot support the text which was agreed upon by the E.U. Council.”

The NoSoftwarePatents (NSP) campaign said that without Poland’s backing, those countries that supported the proposal in May now fall short of a qualified majority in the Council of Ministers.

permalink to just this entry

November 16, 2004

Wippit Wants To Start A Fight [8:04 am]

Row brewing over peer-to-peer ads

Paul Myers, chief executive of Wippit - a peer to peer service which provides paid-for music downloads - believes it is time advertisers stopped providing ‘oxygen’ for companies that support illegal downloading.

“You may be surprised to know that current advertisers on the most popular peer to peer service eDonkey who now steadfastly support copyright theft with real cash money include Nat West, Vodafone, O2, First Direct, NTL, and Renault,” he said in an open letter to the British Phonographic Industry last month.

He urged people to follow his lead and ‘dump’ brands associated with companies such as eDonkey.

[...] The reality is that the millions of downloaders represent a very attractive audience.

“Advertisers probably pay a lot less for putting ads here than on more respected sites and they are reaching the perfect target audience,” he said.

“If you put the legality issues aside, not to advertise here would mean missing out on a valuable audience,” he [Jupiter's Mark Mulligan] added.

permalink to just this entry

Barrons/Dow Jones Settles [7:59 am]

Dow Jones Settles Defamation Lawsuit [pdf] [via TechDirt]

The case started after mining boss Joe Gutnick claimed that an October 2000 Barron’s magazine article had portrayed him as a schemer given to stock scams, money laundering and fraud. The article was also published online.

Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Dow Jones Newswires and several stock market indicators, argued that the case should have been heard in the United States, where libel rulings are regarded as more favorable to publishers, because the article originally was published there.

But in a landmark ruling in December 2002, the High Court of Australia unanimously ruled that the case could be heard in Gutnick’s home state of Victoria because people there could have read the article online.

Scholars said the decision the first by a nation’s top court to deal with alleged cross-border Internet defamation created a global precedent that could subject Internet publishers to lawsuits regardless of their geographical location.

[...] The settlement is not likely to affect the precedent already set, said University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, who noted courts in the United Kingdom and Canada have already cited the Australian decision in asserting jurisdiction over other Internet defamation cases.

“The actual Gutnick dispute may be over, but its legacy will likely live on in the world of Internet law for many years to come,” Geist said.

permalink to just this entry

More on MS’ Moves Against X-Box Modders [7:47 am]

Microsoft Cracks Down on Xbox Changes [pdf]

Neil Smith, an intellectual property lawyer with Howard Rice in San Francisco, said there’s little legal risk in modifying a game system for relatively benign personal use, such as making players invulnerable.

But it is important to Microsoft to prevent such cheating on Xbox Live, where multiple players can take part in games. Ferroni said the goal is to make sure there’s a level playing field.

Smith, who has represented several video game companies, said users face greater legal risk - and companies have more leverage - if a person is modifying the system to play pirated or other unauthorized games. That’s especially true if the person is altering their system’s security codes or settings.

Microsoft says it has focused its legal efforts on those it believes are manufacturing pirated games or mass-producing Xbox modifications.

Smith said the legality of modifying other people’s technology remains hazy.

See also LawMeme’s Two Skirmishes in the DRM Wars: Half-Life 2 and Halo 2

permalink to just this entry

Videogame-Movie Convergence [7:40 am]

Half-Life 2’s Real Battle [pdf]

If the video game industry is beginning to rake in revenue that rivals the movie industry, it’s also beginning to accumulate Hollywood-like headaches.

Both industries have to worry about attracting star talent, containing rising production costs and stopping hackers who freely trade their products online. And, of course, there are the lawsuits. [...]

With such hullabaloo surrounding the game, Valve has put in place new security policies for Half-Life 2. For example, magazine reviewers who wanted to take an early look at the game have had to fly out to Valve’s Bellevue, Wash., headquarters to play it. (”It’s spectacular,” said Andy McNamara, editor-in-chief of Game Informer magazine, who made the trek.)

Despite such heavy security precautions, somewhere along the line, a free finished version of the game was leaked again.

permalink to just this entry

November 2004
« Oct   Dec »
newer ·· older

0.213 || Powered by WordPress