Now It’s Getting Nasty

Microsoft denies threatening Denmark over patents

Danish financial newspaper Borsen reported on Tuesday that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told the Danish prime minister that he would move all 800 jobs at Navision, a Danish company acquired by Microsoft in 2002, to the United States unless the EU adopted the computer-implemented inventions directive.

[…] The European vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, Klaus Holse Andersen, denied on Tuesday that the jobs at Navision were ever at risk.

Hmmm, for those of us who remember phrases like “cut[ting] off [their] air supply,” it sure sounds like something that might get said.

Moreover, Microsoft’s not alone in applying the pressure:

Microsoft is not the only large company that stands accused of trying to influence the debate about the directive. Last month, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the Polish subsidiaries of Siemens, Nokia, Royal Philips Electronics, Ericsson and Alcatel sent a letter to Poland’s prime minister, outlining their concerns about the directive.

The letter implied that the respective companies might reconsider making investments in Poland if the Polish government continued its resistance to the directive, according to a translation of the article provided by antipatent campaigner Florian Mueller.

Hilden on Grokster

The Supreme Court Finally Steps Into The Fray Between Online File Swappers And The Major Movie And Recording Studios [via EEJD]

In sum, the Court in Sony thought it was dealing with a mostly innocuous technology. But the Court in MGM v. Grokster knows it has a rattler, not a garden snake, in its hands. The idea, then, that the Court will blindly follow Sony here would be naïve. No matter how the Court decides this case, it will not be simply by applying past precedent.

[…] Given that Congress has not specifically required the inclusion of such provisions in the relevant contracts, should courts interpreting copyright law take it upon themselves to tell Grokster how to structure its software, and force it to police its own users? Or should the onus be on copyright owners to devise “lockware” that makes illegal uses of particular files impossible?

Reasonable minds can differ on the answers to all these questions, I think – and for this reason, the Supreme Court will likely feel free to make law, rather than to simply interpret it, in this crucial case.

See also: Splitting the Grokster Baby

That Didn’t Take Long

Burn those Napster To Go songs to CD for free — streamripping as a workaround

With Napster To Go you can download as much music as you want and transfer it to a portable device, but it normally costs 99 cents to burn a track to a CD and if you stop paying the monthly subscription fee you lose access to your entire collection. We’re not going to advise you to do anything untoward, but apparently if you install Winamp along with the Output Stacker plug-in you can convert those protected WMA files to WAV files and then burn them to CD without paying a penny. Or at least an extra penny.

See also How To Own Napster Songs; CNN’s Napster To Go gets ripped off [pdf]; CNet: Napster hack leads to free downloads

Later: Slashdot – Napster Has Been Cracked

Stallman Takes A Stab At IP Rhetoric

But, I’m afraid he’s just preaching to the choir: Bill Gates and other communists

When CNET asked Bill Gates about software patents, he shifted the subject to “intellectual property,” blurring the issue with various other laws.

Then he said anyone who won’t give blanket support to all these laws is a communist. Since I’m not a communist but I have criticized software patents, I got to thinking this might be aimed at me.

[…] People who think that everyone should be free to program, free to write complex software, they are communists, says Mr. Gates. But these communists have infiltrated even the Microsoft boardroom. Here’s what Bill Gates told Microsoft employees in 1991:

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today…A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose.”

Mr. Gates’ secret is out now–he too was a “communist;” he, too, recognized that software patents were harmful–until Microsoft became one of these giants. Now Microsoft aims to use software patents to impose whatever price it chooses on you and me. And if we object, Mr. Gates will call us “communists.”

See Someone Had A Bad Day

Later: Slashdot’s Stallman Feeds Gates His Own Words

Related: Bill Thompson’s Copying, content and communism

MotorFM: Another Approach to Cellphone Music Distribution?

Future of Radio Is Downloadable

MotorFM is determined to transform radio in Germany, and it thinks it has the tools to do it: MP3 downloads and songs streamed directly to mobile phones.

The first step has seen MotorFM, launched Feb. 1, abandon on-air commercials in favor of generating revenue from MP3 downloads and targeted sponsoring of its programming. The next step will be streaming audio directly to 3G cell phones and letting listeners pay for downloads by SMS text message.

[…] Media analyst Tim Crook at the University of London said MotorFM’s proposal is “an interesting and alternative way to fund radio broadcasting — the internet streaming could fund the analog music output, but this is only feasible if the music with an anticipated demand is only available on a pay-to-listen basis.”

Ultimately the station will become an advertisement in its own right: If listeners hear a song they want to buy, they simply send an SMS text message from their phone and the song will be downloaded, either to an account on the MotorFM website or to the cell phone itself.

[…] But MotorFM’s success is far from guaranteed. At present their MP3 offerings are free of digital rights management restrictions — which will not be popular with major record companies when it comes to making their material available for downloading.

“DRM is about the record companies. We’re about the music and being independent. If we are forced to use some form of DRM in the future, that’s a matter for then, but for now we’re happy without it,” said Rübenstein. “We want to introduce people to a DRM-free world, and we can do this because we’re self-financed with no venture capital.”

Continuing to Protest EU Patent Directive Directions

Patent protest planned in Brussels

On Thursday, antipatent campaigners will march past the buildings of the main European Union bodies–the EU Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament–involved in the controversial software patent directive. The protest is being organized by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a pan-European pressure group that claims to have more than 75,000 supporters.

Earlier this month, a European Parliament committee demanded that the directive be started from scratch. But the EU Council and the European Commission appear reluctant to observe its request, with the Commission stating last week that it was “very disappointed” that the EU Council has postponed ratifying the directive.

Dieter Van Uytvanck, a spokesman for the FFII, said he hopes the demonstration will show the Council and Commission the level of opposition for the directive.

More Wishful Thinking

New copy-proof DVDs on the way?

Macrovision’s new “RipGuard DVD” technology can prevent much of the copying now being done with those tools and can help bolster studios’ DVD sales even if it’s not perfect, company executives say.

“Encryption standards either work or they don’t,” said Adam Gervin, Macrovision’s senior director of marketing, “Now the cat’s out of the bag. (DVD sales) are going to be one of the main sources of revenue for Hollywood for a long time, so why leave billions of dollars on the table when you can do something about it?”

The company could be hard pressed to break into an arena of the content protection market that has historically been managed by companies or industry groups closely associated with the Hollywood studios themselves. However, studios have been deeply concerned by the failure of today’s DVD copy protection and might be willing to experiment with an alternative if it proves practical.

[…] The company’s new product takes a different approach to antipiracy than it has taken for analog or audio CDs. Gervin said Macrovision engineers have spent several years looking at how various DVD-copying software packages work, and have devised ways to tweak the encoding of a DVD to block most of them.

That means the audio and video content itself requires no new hardware and isn’t scrambled anew, as is the case with most rights-management techniques. Someone using one of the ripping tools on a protected DVD might simply find their software crashing, or be presented with error messages instead of a copy.

Later: Slashdot covers the announcement – Macrovision Releases DVD Copy Protection citing this LATimes article: New Steps to Protect DVDs in Piracy War [pdf]; also Macrovision Tries Passive Anti-Copying Technology for DVDs ; DVD copy protection strengthened

Speaking of FCC Work….

Vonage says broadband provider blocks its calls

Vonage recently met with Federal Communications Commission representatives, said Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Schulz, to discuss an instance of “egregious, alarming and harmful port blocking.” Port blocking is when Internet providers prevent traffic of certain kinds from traveling through their Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

Slashdot: Vonage Says VoIP Traffic Blocked By Providers; also Vonage Complaining Of VoIP ‘Blocking’

BPI Acting To Ensure Indies Use Digital Distribution

Help for indies in download sales

The British Phonographic Industry has identified a lack of independent music available for download.

“We want to ensure that independent repertoire is as successful in the download world as it is in the physical world,” said BPI chief Peter Jamieson.

Downloaded singles have now overtaken physical singles in the UK.

Mr Jamieson said his organisation was lobbying music service providers, which include iTunes and Napster, to urge them to promote independent releases.