February 10, 2005

In Case You Missed This (Birthday) Suit [6:52 pm]

Game maker sues over nude volleyball

Game publisher Tecmo announced Wednesday that it has sued users of an Internet message board that distributes hacks for its games, including several that remove the bikinis from players in a popular volleyball game.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Chicago, accuses Web site administrators Mike Greiling of Eden Prairie, Minn., Will Glynn of Davie, Fla., and others of knowingly infringing on Tecmo’s proprietary software for the games, which run on Microsoft’s Xbox console.

[...] “On behalf of the game industry, the gamers and all future innovations in gaming, the protection of intellectual property is a serious issue that affects everyone in the game industry, and can no longer be ignored,” John Inada, general manager for Tecmo, said in a statement. “Ignoring the situation will ultimately hurt future gaming experiences for both casual and hardcore gamers, which is why Tecmo must take action to protect our intellectual property.”

Some of the most popular game hacks circulating on the site were for “Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball,” which features scantily clad women. The hacks created new “skins” for the characters, rendering them naked.

Earlier Furdlog entry includes a link to a BBC news story: 2003 April 1 - note, the directory of screencaps from the revised game is gone.

Also, compare and contrast with id software: Carmack/id Profile

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“Proof” of Evolution *and* Intelligent Design? [6:49 pm]

Certainly one way to look at this development in P2P networks — evolutionary pressures from the xxAA “predators” and design from the developers of these increasingly sophisticated programs <G>: P2P rivals flock to BitTorrent

Once-separate peer-to-peer technologies are increasingly finding homes under the same digital roof, as companies seek to improve their own software by drawing on their rivals’ strengths.

On Thursday, StreamCast Networks added support for the popular BitTorrent technology to its Morpheus software, the company said. BitTorrent has become a favorite of swappers looking to download big files such as TV shows, movies and software, but it does not have a built-in search mechanism like Morpheus, Kazaa and other networks.

“Until now, the only readily available way for users to find and obtain files and content using BitTorrent was both inefficient and, oftentimes, inaccurate,” said Michael Weiss, chief executive officer of StreamCast Networks. “Morpheus is able to provide a far better user experience.”

Morpheus’ move, along with a spate of releases from rival companies in the past few days, is a clear sign that the impending Supreme Court ruling hanging over the peer-to-peer business has done little to slow developers’ scramble for competitive position.

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Legal Penalties and Public Policy [6:04 pm]

Via BoingBoing: Penalties of Stealing vs. Infringing

Cease and Desist letters for people using BitTorrent to download TV shows are becoming more frequent (example). So I decided to read up on the United States Code cited in these letters.

Just out of interest, I also decided to read up on what the penalties for real, physical theft are.

The conclusion is that under our current laws, copying files over the Internet would seem to be more onerous than actual, physical stealing.

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REALLY Sorry I Missed the Start of West Wing [1:49 pm]

Too, too funny — I enjoyed seeing Jim play a constitutional scholar, but missed entirely his introduction — or any reference to his name!! Ready for Your Close Up, Mr. Lessig?

Siva sends word that Larry is on The West Wing tonight — sort of (hyperlinks, mine):

In the second scene of West Wing a character called “Professor Lawrence Lessig” walked in. The president said, “The Future of Ideas Lawrence Lessig?” Yes. Played by Rev. Jim.

Of course, he looked and sounded nothing like Larry. Still, pretty cool.

Heh. It’s at times like these when I wish I had a television.

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Surprise! SCO Judge Smells a Rat [10:11 am]

Judge slams SCO’s lack of evidence against IBM

The federal judge overseeing the SCO Group’s suit against IBM regarding Unix and Linux has thwarted an IBM attempt to defang SCO’s claims, but he also voiced loud skepticism about SCO’s case.

[...] “Despite the vast disparity between SCO’s public accusations and its actual evidence–or complete lack thereof–and the resulting temptation to grant IBM’s motion, the court has determined that it would be premature to grant summary judgment,” [U.S. District Judge Dale] Kimball wrote Wednesday. “Viewed against the backdrop of SCO’s plethora of public statements concerning IBM’s and others’ infringement of SCO’s purported copyrights to the Unix software, it is astonishing that SCO has not offered any competent evidence to create a disputed fact regarding whether IBM has infringed SCO’s alleged copyrights through IBM’s Linux activities.”

Slashdot: Judge Slams SCO’s Lack of Evidence

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SecurityFocus Op-Ed On Warrantless Searches [10:08 am]

A little (but only a little) stretch here, but something well worth considering: Of Dog Sniffs and Packet Sniffs

Now here is where things get dicey for the Internet. In upholding the dog’s sniff-search of the trunk, the Supreme Court held that it did not “compromise any legitimate interest in privacy.” Why? Because, according to the court, “any interest in possessing contraband cannot be deemed ‘legitimate.’” The search was acceptable to the court because it could only reveal the possession of contraband, the concealment of which “compromises no legitimate privacy interest.”

The expectation “that certain facts will not come to the attention of the authorities” is not the same as an interest in “privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable,” the court wrote.

In other words, the search by the dog into, effectively, the entire contents of a closed container inside a locked trunk, without probable cause, was “reasonable” even though the driver and society would consider the closed container “private” because the search only revealed criminal conduct.

The same reasoning could easily apply to an expanded use of packet sniffers for law enforcement.

Currently, responsible law enforcement agencies limit their warrantless Internet surveillance to the “wrapper” of a message, i.e., e-mail addresses or TCP/IP packet headers, unless they have a court order permitting a more intrusive search. Looking at the “outside” of the communication has been treated as similar to looking at the outside of a vehicle — and maybe peering into the window a bit. To peek inside the communication — read the content — required that you first get someone in a black robe involved.

The experiences of Mr. Caballes (the soccer mom, or me or you ) changed all that. The government is practically invited to peek inside Internet traffic and sniff out evidence of wrongdoing. As long as the technology — like a well-trained dog — only alerts when a crime is detected, it’s now legal.

Slashdot discussion, with a somewhat inflammatory headline: Precedent for Warrantless Net Monitoring Set

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Speaking of Rules and Rule Changes….. [9:56 am]

FCC Chiefs Want Open Government Law Eased [pdf]

Congress should enact changes to open government laws to make it easier for political appointees on the Federal Communications Commission to discuss issues in private, two FCC members said.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a Republican, and fellow Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, said the law hinders communication between individuals on the five-member FCC because only two members at a time can talk face-to-face outside the confines of a commission meeting.

[...] Newspaper groups and free speech advocates bristled at the request and said it would lead to less transparency.

“It’s basically arguing that it is inconvenient for them to have open meetings,” said Steve Sidlo, managing editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, and chair of the First Amendment Committee for the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

“If you are going to have a transparent government that’s accountable for decision-making, that allows people to understand why decisions are made, then you have to have open meetings,” Sidlo said.

The open government law requires deliberations be public when “the least number of individual agency members required to take action” are meeting.

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Strict Construction: Defined Here [9:53 am]

Well, more specifically, a definition of the role of a judge once an antitrust settlement is in place. Essentially, why it’s always important to remember that courts are not about justice; rather they’re about conflict resolution within the confines of the rules set by a society (equity, one might say) — and why it’s sometimes necessary to ask about what the rules accomplish, rather than what they’re purported to accomplish. Judge: Microsoft Pact Not a Guarantee [pdf]

The federal judge overseeing the landmark Microsoft Corp. antitrust settlement said on Wednesday there was no guarantee the pact will put a dent in the company’s Windows computer operating system monopoly.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said during a court hearing that it was not her job to ensure the settlement gives rise to new competition, only to make sure Microsoft sticks to the agreement it made with the government.

Whether the settlement actually leads to more competition with Microsoft “is an issue that the court does not control,” said Kollar-Kotelly, who endorsed the settlement in November 2002.

Related: Judge questions impact of Microsoft settlement

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OT: Talk About Freedom to Tinker! [9:47 am]

In Computer Years, Apollo Replica’s an Antique

SOME people climb mountains to achieve greatness. Some people try to win championship sports games. John Pultorak built a working replica of a 40-year-old computer.

Late last year, Mr. Pultorak, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., completed a four-year project, a reconstruction of the Apollo Guidance Computer.

[...] Mr. Pultorak spent close to $3,000 and worked about 10 hours a week for four years, mostly in the evenings and on weekends. When it was finished, in October, he spent two months detailing his travails in documents that totaled over 1,000 pages, and he made them available at his Web site, starfish.osfn.org/AGCreplica/.

[...] When he started, Mr. Pultorak had to dig around for schematics, documentation and any other relevant material he could find. In November 2001, nearly a year after he began, he found that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had a repository of information on the project (hrst.mit.edu/hrs/apollo/public). M.I.T. helped design the A.G.C. nearly 40 years ago.

From there he was able to find parts of the source code - instructions written in a programming language the computer can understand - for the main piece of software that ran on the A.G.C. in the command module of many of the Apollo missions. The program was called Colossus. While working on the A.G.C. source code, Mr. Pultorak found references to Margaret Hamilton, one of the hundreds of programmers who worked on the software. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in the A.G.C. source code, but I remember laughing at those references,” he said. “There would be something Margaret had done - you feel like you’re working with them, you feel touched by it, you feel like a member of the team in some way.”

Related: Retro Rocket

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A MMOG Profile: Blizzard’s Business [9:42 am]

World of Warcraft Keeps Growing, Even as Players Test Its Limits - I loved this description of the complexities of handling multiple indentities, online and off:

World of Warcraft encompasses two huge continents, eight playable races, hundreds of monsters and thousands of quests. And the game’s hundreds of thousands of players have questions, concerns, gripes and outright complaints about just about all of them. The players want answers now, and when they don’t like the answers, the community managers are the ones who hear about it, loudly.

Whether it’s a rant that the rogue class should be nerfed, or made less effective, or the latest discussion on the appropriate manner to tackle the Molten Core, the game’s toughest dungeon, a single popular discussion topic will often be read more than 100,000 times in just a day or two.

And in sifting through all of the messages (or as many as they can get to), the community managers have developed a rich understanding of how people’s real and game identities can intersect.

“You literally can see a 68-year-old doctor arguing with a 13-year-old about some obscure gameplay issue, like how paladins should be nerfed,” Mr. Della Bitta said.

“The only real way to determine status on the message boards is the level of your character. If you’re Level 60, what you say immediately has weight. But if you’re only like Level 5, you could make a perfectly valid point on something and everyone will be like, ‘Shut up, what do you know?’ And if you’re a doctor or lawyer or something in real life, you’re probably not used to that, so we see the frustrations.”

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The Open Source Meme On The Move [9:38 am]

Open-Source Practices for Biotechnology

Researchers from Australia will report in a scientific journal today that they have devised a method of creating genetically modified crops that does not infringe on patents held by big biotechnology companies.

They said the technique, and a related one already used in crop biotechnology, would be made available free to others to use and improve, as long as any improvements are also available free. As with open-source software, the idea is to spur innovation through a sort of communal barn-raising effort.

[...] The new technology-sharing initiative, called the Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, is the brainchild of Richard A. Jefferson, chief executive of Cambia, a nonprofit Australian research institute. Both Cambia and BIOS are supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

[...] Patents also seem more important in spurring innovation in biotechnology than in software, said Arti Rai, a professor of law at Duke University. For that reason, Professor Rai said, it was probably wise of Dr. Jefferson to allow crops developed using the tools from BIOS to be patented.

“It’s a creative way of thinking how to maintain a commons in the biological research space,” she said.

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Measure to Raise Indecency Fines Advances [9:33 am]

Measure to Raise Indecency Fines Advances

Fines for broadcasting material deemed indecent would be raised to as much as $500,000 an incident under legislation that won approval Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The measure, approved by a vote of 46 to 2, would also require the Federal Communications Commission to consider revoking a television or radio station’s license if the broadcaster violated indecency rules three times.

Related: Super Bowl Spot Provokes After Only One Broadcast; also see FCC to Speed Indecency Complaints Process

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