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December 17, 2004

Wow! Talk About A Scorched Earth Policy [3:49 pm]

Red Cross Caught in P2P Fracas

The recording industry will ask the International Red Cross to freeze a trust fund allegedly controlled by the owners of Sharman Networks, an Australian software company.

The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. The Red Cross is the only beneficiary specifically named in the trust, so the recording industry, which is suing Sharman, is asking the organization to voluntarily freeze the fund until a verdict is reached in the Australian Federal Court.

[...] [Music Industry Piracy Investigations' Michael] Speck says [the Australian recording industry] will simply ask the Red Cross to freeze the fund until a legal outcome in the Australian court case is reached, and hopes the charity will cooperate. “It would be incredibly disappointing if we had to sue them,” he says.

“Disappointing” for whom, exactly?

Later: The Register’s Music biz threatens International Red Cross; Letters

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Canadian Ruling on Copyright Fees [9:45 am]

Ottawa’s MP3 fee quashed [pdf] [via Slashdot] [the decision]

A 71-page decision by Mr. Justice Marc Noël found that although the Copyright Board of Canada was seeking to protect music writers and performers from the “harm” caused by digital copying of music when it imposed the MP3 levies last December, the board did not have the legislative authority to do so.

Canada’s Copyright Act gives the federal board the authority to apply levies on blank media such as compact discs and audio cassettes. But the wording of the act has not kept up with the new technology of MP3 players, represented by the wildly popular iPod, which use an embedded memory rather than discs or cassettes, to store digital copies of songs.

“As desirable as bringing such devices within the ambit of [the Act] might seem, the authority for doing so still has to be found in the Act,” Judge Noël said in his decision.

[...] Mr. Audley said the collective is considering whether to appeal the court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, potentially paving the way for a prolonged legal battle over the rights of musicians in a digital age.

For example, a debate emerged immediately after Thursday’s decision on whether copying music onto MP3 players now violates the Copyright Act.

Mr. Audley argued, for example, that the judge’s ruling that MP3 players are not a recording medium could technically place the devices into a kind of legal purgatory.

He said the Copyright Act clearly defines media that legally can be used for private duplication of copyrighted material and MP3 players no longer meet that criteria.

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DVDs for a Buck [8:07 am]

Hot off the shelf: DVDs for a dollar [pdf] [via Ernest]

“Consumers are not dumb. They’re not going to be fooled into thinking they’re getting a premium product for a dollar,” Adams says. “But if you’re just looking for something to watch, it’s a hell of a deal.”

Most dollar-DVD titles are in the public domain, which means the copyright has expired and has not been renewed. That makes them cheap to put on DVD.

The dollar-DVD market arrives after a steady decline in DVD prices across the board. Hot new theatrical releases routinely sell for less than $15 their first week of release, about half what they were going for when the format was launched in 1997. The drop-in prices for older films is even more pronounced: Wal-Mart has huge “dump bins” in its high-traffic aisles filled with DVDs selling for $5.88.

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Susan Crawford; CALEA Giving DoJ Veto Over ‘Net Innovation? [7:54 am]

After looking at the DoJ comments to the FCC over CALEA, Susan Crawford sees some disquieting demands: The Broadcast Flag and CALEA

All IP-enabled services that might be covered by CALEA and that don’t want to go through some post-launch “deficiency” proceeding with the FBI (ark! our service has been enjoined!) will go through pre-deployment review for “compliance” with unstated requirements

That’s right — the DOJ doesn’t know exactly what information it will require, or what form it will need to be in, or who should do what to get it.  All of that will be worked out behind closed doors, with people who are anxious to launch.

That means prior approval of internet services by DOJ.  If you don’t go through such a process, DOJ will penalize you. In DOJ’s view, any service provider must submit their proposed new application to FCC and FBI review “well before deployment of the service in question”; and “DOJ would certainly consider a service provider’s failure to request such guidance in any enforcement action.” (all of this is on p.38 of the huge pdf).

Now, everyone is already required to help law enforcement execute wiretap requests.  That’s built into the federal criminal code.  And there is no evidence that DOJ is having trouble getting these requests carried out.  Zip.  This is a back-door design mandate — negotiated design mandate — that DOJ could never get through Congress.  (I hope.)

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Inside Baseball: Senate Judiciary Committee & (c) Speculation [7:38 am]

Uncertain Landscape For Copyright Protection [pdf]

In 2005, term limits require that Hatch hand over his chairman’s gavel to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — an otherwise routine power shift that could have far-reaching implications for high-tech firms, movie studios, record companies and the future of downloading.

[...] “Hatch has been a tremendous champion of certainly copyright, but also of all the intellectual property issues. It’s not just a constituent issue for him. He’s been just a terrific chairman, so it’s a loss to not have him at the gavel,” said Robert Raben, a former House Judiciary staffer who now lobbies Congress on intellectual property issues on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America and other clients.

Opponents of the entertainment industry in the copyright debate — including high-tech companies, Internet service providers and civil-liberties advocates who have long argued that stiffened protections come at the expense of lost technological freedom — see Specter’s ascension as an opportunity to gain ground in a fight that they say has been stacked against them.

[...] “It’s not clear to me what [Specter's] positions are on these issues but I think he’s generally going to be a little more balanced. Hatch has really been an unabashed friend of the content industry and Specter has no such record,” said Gigi Sohn, the president of Washington-based Public Knowledge.

Wherever Specter comes down on the copyright debate, it’s an issue that will almost certainly take a back seat to other matters, at least at the outset of his chairmanship, former Specter staffers said.

[...] When he does come to grips with the copyright debate, Specter is unlikely to be too heavily swayed by what his predecessors have done, said David Urban, managing director of lobbying firm American Continental Group and a former aide to the senator.

“Everything is on the table. Everything is going to get a fresh look. Everything within the purview of the committee, he’s going to take a big interest in,” Urban said of Specter. “He’s very deliberative. He wades in up to his chest in all the details. He’s a guy who really likes to know all the subject matter.”

[...] But while opponents of the recording industry may be salivating at the prospect of starting the Senate debate from scratch, sources familiar with Hatch doubt the outgoing chairman will cede his copyright role that easily.

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More of the Same [7:22 am]

RIAA sues 754 more P2Pers

The latest round of court filings brings the total number of lawsuits the organisation has issued to 7706. However, there seems little sign that the RIAA’s aggressive, highly public legal proceedings have had any real result.

According to market watcher BigChampagne, cited by Reuters, around 7.5m computer users were running P2P software in November - 70.5 per cent more than the 4.4m who did so in November 2003.

Just need to ramp up that education campaign!

See also BBC’s US music firms sue ‘web pirates’

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A Dialog of the Deaf: More From the FTC Workshop [7:20 am]

P2P Needs a Fix, but What?

As the Federal Trade Commission’s two-day workshop exploring peer-to-peer technology ended Thursday, both sides in the debate expressed a willingness to work together but found little common ground.

[...] Sam Yagan, president of eDonkey, directly challenged RIAA President Cary Sherman to join his call for a new P2P study not funded by either side so government officials can build a definitive record on the effects of P2P.

Sherman seemed to dismiss the idea. “The oldest thing in the book is when you want to delay something, do a study,” he said, arguing that eDonkey should instead work on signing private licensing agreements with content owners. “Work it out so that people can’t take the stuff for free,” he said.

[...] Content industries point to the refusal by most P2P firms to use filtering technologies that would stop the trading of certain copyright files, although many P2P representatives said such filtering would be unworkable. Content owners said P2P services only oppose filtering because they fear losing user traffic.

[...] But others suggested that any filtering efforts by leading P2P software companies would do little to stem piracy because new, non-filtered P2P software would simply crop up to take filtered services’ place.

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