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March 8, 2005

Donna on the Latest WIPO Shenanigans [6:01 pm]

Donna’s written about the latest goings-on over at the WIPO and the disgraceful way that the public interest is getting marginalized there: What Happens When You Have a WIPO Meeting…

It’s tough to write about WIPO; you spend half your time unraveling acronyms, the other sending off flares to convey the urgency of the situation. But your voice here is very important. Most “big media” outlets aren’t covering this story, and that’s a huge advantage for the powers-that-be. If you’re reading this post, please take a few minutes to write about how important it is that WIPO abandons these tricks and begins the real discussion about pursuing IP law and policy that serves the world majority rather than only a tiny minority of powerful entertainment companies.

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Smart Alecks: Sometimes It Works, Sometimes It Backfires [6:01 pm]

But I suppose it’s worth a shot: Streamcast Harnesses Power Of Peer-To-Peer Software To Share Supreme Court Documents With Global Audience (StreamCast’s pdf)

As the date approaches for oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of MGM, et al. v. Grokster and StreamCast Networks, StreamCast has underscored the accuracy and importance of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling by putting the unparalleled power of peer-to-peer software to work worldwide to make the full text of dozens of written briefs filed with the High Court today (more than a thousand pages of detailed material) instantly available to the public-at-large. Amicus briefs filed on March 1st supporting Morpheus and Grokster, from groups as diverse as venture capitalists, consumer electronics companies, law professors, consumer groups, economists and technology researchers, are available to search and download through Morpheus beginning this afternoon.

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Intel Introduces 802.11s [8:13 am]

Intel hangs mesh hopes on 802.11s

Although mesh networks are already in use for very large deployments in cities such as Taipei, and in some industry sectors, none of the systems interoperate or are suitable for domestic or office environments, Conner claimed. The 802.11s group, which met for the first time in July 2004, has just issued its first call for proposals, and Intel is keen for the new standard to cover domestic and small business environments.

Intel’s proposals build on top of existing standards, such as 802.11a/b/g wireless transmission protocols and 802.11i security, and is compatible with them. It adds extra functions to allow wireless nodes to discover each other, authenticate and establish connections, and to work out the most efficient route for a particular task. This includes the concept of quality of service, so a broadband video stream might take a different route across a home environment than a Web connection, to achieve higher bandwidth. This level of self-configuration and environmental awareness not only creates efficient wireless networks, Conner said, but automates the entire process of installation and reconfiguration.

The company is also introducing the idea of Mesh Portals — devices that know how to connect complete mesh networks to other, potentially non-mesh systems such as classic 802.11 networks, new standards such as 802.11n, broadband access points or different wireless technologies such as Ultrawideband and mobile data sources.

Slashdot: Introducing 802.11s - Wireless Mesh Networking

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Deceptive Marketing [8:06 am]

U.S. Asked to Probe Music-Download Sites

The Federal Trade Commission is being asked to investigate Web sites that claim to offer legal music downloads for a low price but actually sell popular software that is available free elsewhere on the Internet and is commonly used to steal songs.

[...] A Washington-based civil liberties group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, said it planned to file a formal complaint early Tuesday with the trade commission charging such Web sites with deceptive trade practices. The FTC has acted on previous complaints from the group, including one recent case over Internet spyware.

“They’re fooling people into spending money to buy products that are competing with legitimate products,” said Alan Davidson, an associate director for the group. “These are the people who are really polluting the marketplace.”

[...] The Center for Democracy and Technology said its FTC complaint targets two sites, www.Mp3DownloadCity.com and www.MyMusicInc.com, which the group said did not respond to its requests for information. The sites did not respond to telephone and e-mail inquiries Monday from the Associated Press.

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WaPo Resurrects AZ (c) Infringement Case [8:03 am]

Teen Convicted Under Internet Piracy Law

An Arizona university student is believed to be the first person in the country to be convicted of a crime under state laws for illegally downloading music and movies from the Internet, prosecutors and activists say.

University of Arizona student Parvin Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to possession of counterfeit marks, or unauthorized copies of intellectual property.

[...] “Generally copyright is exclusively a federal matter,” said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology civil liberties group. “Up until this point, you just haven’t seen states involved at all.”

[...] Although Dhaliwal wasn’t charged until he was 18, he was 17 when he committed the crime. Prosecutors charged him as an adult but kept it in state court to allow for a deferred sentence. Garza also said Dhaliwal had no prior criminal record.

The January 14 Maricopa Country press release defends a felony conviction for a copyright infringement as follows:

“Internet media piracy has been considered a victimless crime by some. Nothing could be further from the truth. This type of illegal conduct, which results in millions of dollars of lost revenue to the music and movie industry, victimizes us all. These losses are inevitably passed on to the everyday consumer when purchasing a CD or DVD. This type of theft must not be ignored,” said County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Case information: Case CR2004-023152; change of plea, Jan 7; sentencing Feb 10; conviction under § 44-1453: counterfeit marks, including the following definition:

1. “Counterfeit mark” means:

(a) Any unauthorized reproduction or copy of intellectual property.

(b) Intellectual property that is affixed to any item that is knowingly sold, offered for sale, manufactured or distributed or to any identifying services offered or rendered without the authority of the intellectual property owner.

See Ernest’s thoughts about preemption in Is Arizona’s Counterfeiting Law Unconstitutional or Preempted? - MSNBC (and, apparently, others) didn’t edit the AP wire report as much as the WaPo did, so they included this tidbit:

The FBI found more than $50 million in music and movies on Dhaliwal’s computer. The illegally copied property included movies that, at the time of the theft, were available only in theaters. They included “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Matrix Revolutions,” “The Cat In The Hat,” and “Mona Lisa Smile.”

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The Reg on the KaZaA Suit Posturings [7:29 am]

Kazaa Oz lawsuit wows the crowd

So, has there been a judgement in the Kazaa case? No. We haven’t even heard final submissions yet, so it seems as though ARIA’s application was premature. Yet was it premature? No - not if the purpose of the application was to distract the respondents while they are preparing their final submissions.

There are only a finite number of lawyers working for the respondents who are involved in this case, and if they are working on a response to a Mareva order application then they are NOT working on final submissions. Great litigation tactic - force your opponent to take their eyes off the ball! This Mareva tactic also suggests that ARIA is very confident it will win its case, or it would like the world to think it is very confident. ARIA is so confident about victory that they are not even waiting for that victory before they apply for a Mareva order! Such an expression of confidence is very risky - given that we are probably at least two months from a decision and no one can read Justice Wilcox’s mind.

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SXSW Embraces Filesharing [7:25 am]

SXSW’s Torrent of Free Tunes

Music fans don’t have to be in Austin, Texas, to hear hundreds of new songs from the South by Southwest music festival.

For many years, SXSW, as it’s known, has provided on its website a library of free MP3s of bands participating in the conference. This year, the festival is making it even easier to listen by providing a huge BitTorrent file (2.6 GB) of more than 750 songs. The songs can be downloaded for free using the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing application.

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FEC Commissioner: “Chill!” [7:21 am]

Bloggers, chill out already!

Reports of a Federal Election Commission plot to “crack down” on blogging and e-mail are wildly exaggerated.

[...] It would be ironic indeed if, in the name of campaign finance reform, we were to try to squelch inexpensive online grassroots political rabble-rousing. Fortunately, I’m not aware of any intent to do so. Suggestions to the contrary are simply partisan scaremongering tactics by those attempting to foment false hysteria in the Internet community. Don’t fall for it.

Well — maybe. I would say that the internet response has put the FEC on notice that people are going to push back, so they need to make nice. But that doesn’t mean that one should be complacent, either. I mean, it’s not like the FEC has been that effective an agency — but a sloppy cop can be a great danger to those who fail to pay attention. After all, just because she says:

I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I’m not aware of anyone here who views this rulemaking as a vehicle for shutting down the right of any individual to use their electronic soapbox to voice their political views

doesn’t mean that poorly framed regulation won’t result in a shutdown, to the “shock” of those who may have ulterior motives.

Later: Some senators also step in: Senators reassure bloggers

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Search For Consensus: Whither Sony? [7:09 am]

  • CNet News is fairly careful: Sony breaks the mold

    Richard Doherty, an analyst with research firm Envisioneering Group, said it’s not too late for Sony to become a significant force in digital music. Stringer, a “renaissance man” with experience in marketing, content and, more recently, technology, is the one to make it happen, he said.

    “This is a guy who has a very high social IQ,” Doherty said. “He’s really very well-equipped to go out and better mesh the divisions of Sony that have been grating against each other.”

    “Once Sony gets their resources working in the same direction instead of competing against each other divisionally,” Doherty continued, “they’re going to be quite a force. I think within a year, they’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Apple in digital music.”

    If they are, it will be because the diplomat in Stringer was able to mend the fences and bring Sony together.

  • The Boston Globe, on the other hand, has a pretty blunt AP Wire assessment: Sony strategy likely to shift

    With the appointment of Howard Stringer as chairman and chief executive, Sony has not only turned to a foreigner but to a strong proponent of the ”content” side of the company, a move that could mark a profound shift in its strategy.

    ”Here you’ve had a hardware-based company for whom content had been tangential turning to the guy who spent his entire career doing content,” said Tom Wolzien, media analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. ”It’s rather a remarkable change.”

  • The New York Times also focuses on his diplomacy: At Sony, Diplomacy Trumps Technology:

    By choosing Sir Howard, Sony gave the triumph to the diplomat over the technocrat, the sophisticated corporate manager rather than the brilliant but less polished Mr. Kutargi.

    The groundbreaking Japanese technology and entertainment company had stumbled financially and technologically in recent years partly because of divisions between its engineering and its entertainment units. It needed someone to pull its parts together so that it did not lose more ground to relative newcomers in consumer electronics like Apple Computer and its iPod, or the rapidly growing electronics manufacturers in South Korea and China that are combining next-generation flat-panel television and superclean chip-making operations at lower cost.

    [...] “In my view, he was Idei’s confidant in whatever degree you can become Idei’s confidant,” said John Calley, a former head of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who reported directly to headquarters in Tokyo before Sir Howard arrived at Sony. “He’s the only one I know of who can manage the Japanese and the show-bizzers.”

    The sidebar also has more details: New Man at Top Crossing Oceans to Confront Internal Borders [pdf]

    Sir Howard pushed Sony Music’s piracy fear aside and helped persuade the electronics division in Tokyo to introduce flash-memory and hard-drive players that do play MP3 files. And he created a new organizational structure meant to coordinate player design and Sony’s online music service. This unit is run jointly by Phil Wiser, the chief technical officer of the Sony Corporation of America, and Koichiro Tsujino, a longtime engineer in Tokyo.

    But this strategy has been slow to take off. For one thing, Sony’s player costs $349, or $50 more than the iPod with the same storage capacity. And to the exasperation of many inside Sony and many of its retailers, Sony does not support Microsoft’s Windows Media formats, which are used by a range of online music services like Napster and are currently incompatible with Sony’s players. Sir Howard, according to those who work with him, has been trying to work out a deal with Microsoft, but has met resistance from Tokyo.

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