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

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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.

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“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

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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

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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 scholar.google.com, 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

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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.”

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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’

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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

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