The Success of MPAA Screener Protection

Remember, these are the people who are profiled in those heart-wringing pre-movie commercials telling us how much piracy hurts the gaffer, best boy and caterer to the movie: Pre-Oscar Piracy Is Escalating [pdf]

One year after the Motion Picture Assn. of America began its highly publicized campaign against pre-Oscar piracy, the problem is even worse.

There are significantly more Academy Award screeners of movies available on the Internet for downloading than there were last year, according to websites that track online piracy, including all five films nominated for best picture.

[…] This season, the problem of screeners winding up on the Internet “is substantially worse” than before, a person at one studio said. In part, that’s because the studios couldn’t agree on a method for combating piracy. “Some of the companies went their own way and decided to do their own thing,” acknowledged MPAA head Dan Glickman.

More on the Marvel Infringement Suit

The EFF relates more elements of the Marvel lawsuit over gamers “copying” Marvel’s IP to create online characters in a MMOG that “infringe:” Marvel Plays Fast and Loose with Claims of Infringement

[T]he complaint is chilling City of Heroes gameplay. Other accounts indicate that NCSoft is policing its network against characters resembling Marvel superheroes. This is more restrictive on fair use than copyright law requires. Copyright permits borrowers to make parody or criticism, and doesn’t give Marvel ownership of stock elements like stars, claws, and masks that Marvel itself borrowed from the public domain. But Marvel has chilled NCSoft, which has in turn restricted what it allows its users to create.

Science and Policy

An op-ed from Oliver Morton, Biology’s New Forbidden Fruit

Biologists tend to assume that their studies are inherently, if indirectly, beneficial; they think that knowing how life works is the foundation of all medical progress, and thus a pursuit that deserves more or less unquestioning support from society at large. The dark side of their force – the potential for interrupting and subverting life that flows from biological research – rarely receives their attention. Tara O’Toole, who runs the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, remembers seeing a room full of Harvard biologists asked whether they could design a weapon that would kill people in their thousands. Their looks of bemusement – few had ever thought of such a thing – turned to looks of calculation, then to understanding, appreciation and even a touch of shock. That awareness has to be spread as wide as possible if biologists are to assume the crucial role they need to take in discussions about the future.

[…] After Hiroshima, Robert Oppenheimer told an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that “in some sort of crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin.” Biologists have yet to taste that knowledge, and it is not a foregone conclusion that they will. But before the trees of knowledge in their synthetic garden bear their strange fruit, the gardeners should heed the lessons of history. They should start talking to one another, and to the rest of us, about what to do when the serpent turns up.

A Story of Creativity

Turning the Music of the South and the Shtetl Into Bluesy Sophistication

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer dropped “Over the Rainbow” from early prints of “The Wizard of Oz,” in part because it sounded too sophisticated. It slowed down the picture, the doubters argued, and in any case, if a young girl in a Kansas farmyard suddenly broke into a song, it would not be one as philosophical and wistful as this one. “Over the Rainbow” stayed in the picture, of course, after some heated studio infighting, and became an instant classic.

[…] Arlen, who was born 100 years ago next week, was one of the great composers of the 20th century, as well as an unusual kind of cultural alchemist. Long before Elvis or Eminem helped blues and hip-hop cross over into the white mainstream, Arlen fused his own Eastern European Jewish musical traditions with African-American blues. The music that emerged – the product of two groups whose members, at the time, could not check into a hotel in much of the country – went on to assume an improbably large place in American popular music.

[…] Cultural critics, like Jeffrey Melnick, in his book “A Right to Sing the Blues,” point to a variety of reasons Jewish composers may have been drawn to African-American music. Jews, particularly recent immigrants, may have seen a history of exclusion they could relate to. And they may have adopted the rural South as a metaphor for the small European villages, and simpler way of life, their own families had left behind. But racial crossover is fraught today. These same critics point out that there are inevitably questions of exploitation whenever, as in this case, the group doing the borrowing has more power.

Arlen, though, was not just appropriating. He was mixing several kinds of music to create something new, and wildly successful. Arlen songs like “Stormy Weather” and “I’ve Got the World on a String” made it to the top of the charts, and remain central to the popular musical canon today.

Yip Harburg, the Lower East Side-born lyricist who wrote the words for the Oz songs, once described Arlen’s musical formula: he used “a combination of Hebrew and black music” to create something “typically American.”

FCC Limits Digital Channel Requirements

F.C.C. Upholds Rule on Digital Channels

Federal regulators on Thursday rejected a request by broadcasters to require cable and satellite operators to carry multiple digital-channel offerings from local TV stations.

The 4-to-1 vote by the Federal Communications Commission upheld a 2001 ruling by the commission that cable companies are required to carry only one digital channel per station.

A little more detail: Multicast Ruling Muddies Waters and Digital Conversion to Add Channels

In the coming months, digital technology will allow each of the nation’s local television stations to broadcast several channels each instead of just one. But cable and satellite customers may not see them: Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that local cable companies are under no obligation to carry all of the new channels.

License Relaxation to Promote Helix for Mobile Phones

Real relaxes media player tech licence

RealNetworks has eased the restrictions embedded in its commercial licence in a bid to encourage more device makers to support its technology, in turn to widen the potential user-base of its content services.

Under the new licensing regime, third-parties are able to take any part of Real’s Helix DNA playback system, including the various codecs and protocol stacks. To date, all these technologies have been available only as a single package – if you wanted the RealVideo codec, you had to take the player too.

An “Eyes on the Prize” Screening Report

Putting Eyeballs on Copyright Law

In Berkeley, Eyes on the Prize: Awakenings, covering 1954 to 1956, was screened on a large PC monitor to the rapt attention of everyone squeezed into the living room. The film covered significant events in the beginning of the civil rights movement like the murder of Emmett Till and the Montgomery bus boycott.

“The events, images, narratives and songs of Eyes on the Prize were not written, created or performed by the corporations who now have the copyrights under their lock and key,” said Bruce Hartford, reading from a statement signed by the 20-plus members of the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement group.

“These folks are burying our history,” said Jelinek, who spent three years in the South working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, spending some of that time ducking gunfire. “Copyright law was never meant to interfere with the public’s right to know. We expected that the experiences would be in the public domain…. The people who are barring this will have to pay a price.”

Hands off our Wi-Fi network!

Hands off our Wi-Fi network! – oped from Dianah Neff, CIO, City of Philadelphia (see The Mechanics of Taking Philadelphia Wireless)

Why are Wireless Philadelphia and other city wireless programs such a big threat? More precisely, why do the big boys keep trying to kill our Wi-Fi networks?

Tell me who among incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)–have deployed ubiquitous, high-speed wireless networks that support roaming/mobile capabilities. No ILEC. Who provides high-speed, broadband, ubiquitous services at dial-up rates for the underserved populations? No ILEC. Who is working to get equipment and training into the homes of low-income and disadvantaged portions of our community? Again, no ILEC.

[…] For all the money they’ve spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves. The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications.

Later: A less sanguine view from Councilman Frank Rizzo: Philadelphia’s Big Dig

Logging: The Mixed Benefits

Court: Hollywood gets P2P giant’s server logs

A Dallas federal court has ordered file-swapping site to shut down and provide Hollywood lawyers with access to its full server logs, including data that could expose hundreds of thousands of people to copyright lawsuits.

The Motion Picture Association of America said Thursday that it had won a quick court victory against LokiTorrent, and was launching a new round of actions against other online piracy hubs. The data provided by the onetime file-swapping hub would provide “a roadmap to others who have used LokiTorrent to engage in illegal activities,” the trade group said.

See also MPAA closes Loki and Movie body hits peer-to-peer nets

See EFF Announces New Privacy Tool