March 21, 2005

Apple Strikes Back At PyMusique [7:39 pm]

Apple disables iTunes hack

Apple Computer has closed a security hole that allowed an underground program to tap into its iTunes Music Store and purchase songs stripped of antipiracy protections.

The PyMusique software, created by a trio of independent programmers online, emerged last week as a copy protection-free back door into the popular iTunes store. One of the creators was Jon Johansen, the Norwegian programmer responsible for releasing DVD-copying software in 1999.

Apple released a statement Monday saying the problem had been fixed, and that some iTunes customers would need to upgrade their software.

“The security hole in the iTunes Music Store which was recently exploited has been closed, and as a consequence the iTunes Music Store will now sell music only to customers using iTunes version 4.7,” the company said in a statement.

Also see Apple plugs PyMusique iTunes ‘hole’

For background, see Hacking Itunes/Hacking Copyright

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Drinking the Kool-Ade? [3:20 pm]

An echo of some past revelations from ILAW 2002 - Nesson’s session: Converting Users Into Creators

Yahoo Inc. is buying a year-old photo-sharing site, Flickr, as part of the Web giant’s attempts to open itself up to more user participation, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang said yesterday.

[...] In announcing the acquisition at a gathering of technology executives here, Yang said the move illustrates the company’s eagerness to give Yahoo users more ways to participate in and create content, not just consume it.

“We don’t think we can just be the place you can watch short films or listen to radio,” Yang said. While he acknowledged that his company is licensing plenty of traditional Hollywood fare these days, he said Yahoo is trying to encourage communities where users can discuss and create new kinds of content.

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U. K. Channel 5 Takes The Plunge [2:40 pm]

Five offers programme downloads

TV channel Five has said it will be the first UK broadcaster to offer parts of its shows for sale as legal downloads.

From Monday, viewers of motoring show Fifth Gear can pay £1.50 for “DVD quality” downloads of car reviews.

Legal music download sites have become hugely popular - but TV companies have so far not used the same technology to put programmes online.

But British viewers illegally download US shows in relatively high numbers, recent research suggested.

Slashdot: British TV Station Offers Downloads

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Anther GPL Case Settled [1:54 pm]

A GPL Win in Michigan - DrewTech v. SAE [via Slashdot]

The case involved software written in part by Drew Technologies, Inc., to which others contributed, in reliance upon the GPL. DrewTech, an engineering firm in Michigan, develops custom vehicle communications solutions for the automobile industry. DrewTech released the software at issue on SourceForge, under the GNU General Public License (”GPL”).

I never thought I’d find cars fascinating. But this case changed my mind. It’s a struggle over ownership of software written and released under the GPL but later claimed as a copyrighted work by a publisher of standards for the automotive industry, the Society of Automotive Engineers. But on a deeper level, it addresses a new issue. With cars now being computerized, can manufacturers assert copyright and trade secret rights over software? Over standards? Before you answer, did you know that there is proposed legislation, the Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act?

The Register: DMCA helps Right to Repair campaign score big win

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Good (And Not So Good) for the OII [12:58 pm]

I’ve got to register for something at the Oxford Internet Institute and, as I swung by their WWW page, I found this announcement about “Z:” Jonathan Zittrain elected to Professorship of Internet Governance and Regulation

Internationally-known cyberlaw scholar Jonathan Zittrain will become the first holder of the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute (OII) this autumn.

[...] He will coordinate a significant research and teaching relationship between the two centers, and become the Berkman Visiting Professor at Harvard. [...]

[...] Zittrain has also been named a Professorial Fellow of Oxford’s Keble College, which has developed particular interest in computer science and public policy.

As for the “Not So Good for the OII” side of things, I would have excerpted more, but the OII’s PDF press release will NOT allow me to copy content from the PDF — something that I expect Jonathan will try to do something about when he joins them!

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Interview with Authors of The Future of Music [12:40 pm]

A new interview online with the authors of a book I have not yet gotten (earlier Furdlog posting): The Future of Music - Interview with Dave Kusek and Gerd Leonhard

Copyfight’s posting

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OT: Jack Balkin on Schiavo [12:00 pm]

Now that the Schiavo bill has become law, Jack Balkin’s views are worth another review. (Yes, this is off-topic, but, unlike Jacko’s trial, Congress’ actions really do merit consideration by us all.)

In The Schiavo controversy, the pro-life movement, judicial restraint, and federalism, Balkin makes this point:

I think the proposed bill is unwise, but that reflects my priors on the underlying policy question. My point is that Congressional Republican leaders seem to have lost any concern about “activist” federal judges interfering with the State of Florida’s legal system.

It is not surprising that Congressional Republicans are fair weather federalists when it comes to these issues, and that they want the federal courts to get involved in right to die cases like Schiavo’s. Few national politicians are seriously interested in federalism or judicial restraint when this would interfere with something they really care about. The Schiavo controversy demonstrates, I think, that pro-life values are likely to trump federalism values and concerns about an activist judiciary when the chips are down; they will even trump them when politicians think they can gain something from grandstanding, which appears to be what is going on here. Cultural conservatives may talk loudly about decentralization and rail against activist judges, but, like just like most liberals, they believe that activist federal judges who decide things they way they like aren’t activist at all. They are judges who uphold important rights.

Finally, the Congressional Republicans’ moves also suggest that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the matter would not be left to the states, as so many pro-life politicians have advocated in the past, but would quickly become a fight over federal legislation outlawing abortion nationwide. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For a useful timeline on the Schiavo case, with extensive online references, see The Terri Schiavo Information Page. Draw your own conclusions.

Later: Reuters News Wire - Poll: Most Think Congress Wrong on Schiavo Case [pdf]; Reuters - Schiavo Case Exposes Political Divide in U.S. [pdf]; Slate - Who’s paying for her care, how long can she live without food, and what’s with the bill written just for her?; Salon - When public opinion doesn’t matter; Scott Rosenberg - Terry Schiavo, political football; this screencap (@1:21) from this CBS News report shows a brain scan comparison [via Mercury Rising's A Tale Of Two Scans].

Later: Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent, if exasperated, Activist Legislators; Judge Whittemore’s March 22 denial of injunctive relief

Even later: GYWO chimes in

March 23 — 11th Circuit Denies request; FindLaw coverage

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TLA’s Annotated MGM v. Grokster (9th Circuit) [11:48 am]

Ninth Circuit Affirms Grokster [via Bag and Baggage]

See also Derek’s Nearing Grokster, with some great links, especially the EFF’s Countdown to Grokster

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ASCAP and Podcasting [11:41 am]

In response to a question from class last week: Podcast Music Licensing Not as Financially Daunting as Bloggers Surmise [via DarkNet]

It is true that podcasters, in order to play popular music in their podcasts, must pay a fee for the right to play these tunes. If you are a podcaster playing popular tunes during your podcast but have not paid for a music license then, yes, your podcast may already be illegal. However, the article’s quote that the cost to obtain a license is more than $750 is over-inflated.

[...] Licensing music for podcasting is a perfect example of how real world legal models must be reformed in the wake of emerging technology. As the Cyberspace community members’ ability to create a podcast increases with time and technology, the explosion of podcasting is imminent. So is the expectation that performing rights organizations would want to tap this new revenue stream for their members.

ASCAP recently added podcasts to their Experimental License Agreement For Internet Sites & Services - Release 5.0. This is particularly telling, as podcasting is still a relatively new concept. “I’m so excited to see a word that didn’t existed barely half a year ago show up in legal documents,” said Podfather Adam Curry. “The terms are debatable, but that fact that it’s shown up now as ‘podcast’ on a license is such good news (for the industry).”

NOTE: I can’t find the word “pod,” much less “podcasting” in the PDF, so I’m not sure what they’re talking about.

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Economics of Piracy [10:52 am]

Fighting video piracy in Russia still leaves much to be desired [via CoCo ]

Q: Why do you think this illegal business has been flourishing in Russia despite the efforts of the government aimed at fighting piracy?

A: Selling pirated CDs and DVDs is probably the second most profitable business on the black market at the moment. Only the drug dealers make more money then we do. You can do your own math while I will give you a few facts and figures. The production costs are very low. A kilo of plastic costs $4. This quantity is enough for pressing 120 CDs. These days the net profit can be even higher because the Russian pirates invented a two-side DVD which can hold a few movies. The films on videocassettes are actually on the way out due to that invention. Besides, the majority of illegally duplicated products on today”s market are manufactured by the same plants that make perfectly licensed copies at “daytime”. I know for sure that at least two of such plants are up and running in St. Petersburg. They kind of work “around the clock” putting out lots of stuff. So the quality of an illegal copy equals that of an licensed product since both are manufactured using the same equipment.

Q: In other words, those who talk about the lousy quality of pirated DVDs are not right?

A: Well, a copy quality may suffer from some irregularities or errors occurring during the duplication process. You know, haste makes waste. Or when some technical requirements are not properly met. But as a rule the quality remains the same. The same goes to the quality of two movies recorded on a two-side DVDs. It is pretty decent as opposed to the quality of those 4 or 5 movies crammed in one DVD.

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DSL Competition and Investment [10:41 am]

Source: FCC to dress ‘naked’ DSL

U.S. regulators are expected to suspend state public utility rules that force BellSouth to let customers buy its high-speed Internet service without having to also sign up for its local phone offering.

As early as Monday, said a source familiar with the situation, the Federal Communications Commission could suspend public utility commission regulations in California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana that forced BellSouth to sell DSL, or digital subscriber line, service separate from its local phone service. In the past, the two services had been inextricably linked.

[...] Among other things, BellSouth and its supporters have warned of the possibility of slightly different naked DSL rules in all 50 states, which would slow broadband growth in the United States and undermine BellSouth’s incentive to invest in the service and the underlying network. BellSouth also points out in FCC filings that some states have opposed naked DSL rules.

Proponents of the state rule believe naked DSL keeps the Bells in check, competition thriving and broadband prices under control.

Naked DSL “protects the ability of consumers to make choices about their local service provider,” Alabama utility regulators wrote to the FCC, in support of the state rules. “Contrary to BellSouth’s claim, the state commission orders are protecting their local customers’ rights to choice among local voice carriers.”

[...]

In its ruling, the FCC is expected to claim sole jurisdiction over DSL, leaving state public utility commissions to fill the role of consumer advocate, the source said. The FCC is also expected to rule that BellSouth isn’t required to provide its competitors with wholesale or retail broadband services on a standalone basis, or as part of phone service the companies buy using FCC rules known as unbundled network elements, or UNE. Under the UNE rules, the FCC, and not BellSouth, sets the rates in order to keep the four Bells’ networks open to competitors.

Later (21 March 2005): Still no formal announcement but - FCC Will Approve BellSouth’s ‘Naked DSL’

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WaPo on the FEC and Online Activity [10:36 am]

FEC May Restrict Online Political Activities [pdf]

“We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part,” said FEC Commissioner David M. Mason, a Republican. “That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn’t used to have to worry about.”

Which people, what activities and where those lines should be drawn, though, have yet to be determined. The rise of the Internet as a political tool, the variety of ways in which it can be used to promote a campaign and the fact that most federal election laws were written long before the Internet became a household word have combined to present the agency’s commissioners with plenty of knotty legal questions to consider.

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A Funny (Pathetic?) Backhand To The USPTO [9:05 am]

For Every Predicament, a Thingamajig to Solve It

But for every Gutenberg and Alexander Graham Bell, there are innumerable people like Ron Popeil (of Veg-O-Matic fame): inventors who don’t really change the world, but just fill it up with gadgets, widgets, thingamabobs and doohickeys. They see electric light and dream of the Clapper sound-activated on-off switch. They wonder why the toaster oven has never been rotisserized. They hook a small umbrella to a can of beer, et voilà - the Beerbrella, to keep the sun off your brewski.

In Japan, the designer Kenji Kawakami promotes wacky gadgetry as an art he calls “chindogu” - literally “weird tools,” but more humorously translated as “unuseless inventions.” Mr. Kawakami and his followers create exquisitely goofy devices that are not entirely useless, but you would not call them necessary, either. “The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions” presents some 200 of these Rube Goldbergian contraptions (most of them collected previously in two of Mr. Kawakami’s books from the mid-1990’s), showing them in use in deadpan photographs that wryly mimic your average kitchen-bath-and-garden mail-order catalog.

[...] While there is a working prototype of each device featured in the book, one of Mr. Kawakami’s Ten Tenets of Chindogu stipulates that none of them may be patented or sold. Clearly Mr. Kawakami understands that there is no gadget so unuseless that somebody out there would not buy it if offered, and that the world is already cluttered with enough chindogu as it is.

Would that the United States Patent and Trademark Office followed this principle. The patent office seems to be a major clearinghouse for chindogu in this country, granting patents for unuseless inventions on a regular basis. Richard Ross, a photographer by trade, found more than enough chindogu in the office’s files of successful patent applications to fill a 160-page illustrated book, “Patently Ridiculous.” (There are sequels in the offing.)

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Finally Getting Around To Selling The Package [8:58 am]

The Music Goes on Side A and the Flip Side Is a DVD

In the last couple of years, some artists have included a second disc with bonus songs or a short DVD in order to win over potential file-sharers. But Mr. Thomas’s “Something to Be,” due April 19 from Atlantic, part of the Warner Music Group, is among the first by a major artist to be released only on DualDisc, a new format being introduced by the major labels that includes a traditional CD on one side of a disc and DVD content on the other. The DVD side includes the same album mixed in surround sound so that it can be heard through home theater systems, as well as about 20 minutes of video - in Mr. Thomas’ case, some documentary footage.

At a time when the music business is still suing illegal file-sharers whom, the industry claims, are causing them to lose sales, the major music labels are hoping the DualDisc format will give them a multimedia carrot that can be used along with the legal stick. Because DualDisc albums have additional content but sell in most stores for only a dollar or two more than traditional CD’s, they are marketed as a better value.

“They’re trying to find some way to add value to the physical product,” said David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research.

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Secrecy as a Marketing Tool: And Threatened By New Media [8:56 am]

Maybe it’s just the project that I’m working on right now, but it’s amazing how frequently the digital community fights these days come back to privacy/secrecy. The Times, for example, argues in this story that it’s the marketing cachet derived from a monomania for secrecy that is challenged by ThinkSecret and others — and that’s what Jobs is fighting about. To Cut Online Chatter, Apple Goes to Court

During the ensuing 24 years, the relationship between the press and Mr. Jobs has remained remarkably consistent: while fostering intense secrecy both at Apple and at Next Inc., the company he sold to Apple in 1996, he has at the same time become a master of orchestrating new product buzz.

Now, however, increasingly concerned about losing control of his product story in the face of the Internet’s echo chamber, Mr. Jobs has chosen to sue several sites that traffic in Apple news in an effort to determine if his employees are leaking product information.

Because the lawsuits could potentially force courts to define what a journalist is and to broaden trade secret protection for corporations, Mr. Jobs has been bitterly opposed by public interest groups and some reporters, who cite Apple’s status as an underdog in the computer industry and the company’s role in creating new avenues for electronic media.

But Mr. Jobs’s decision to go after the operators of the small Internet fan sites is not surprising to many Silicon Valley veterans, Apple enthusiasts and former executives of the quirky computer-maker, which is based in Cupertino, Calif.

[...] Apple’s marketing wizard has deftly used speculation about his next commercial move as an essential component of each new product introduction. The company’s customers spend countless hours chattering about whether the company’s next new portable computer will include the G5 chip or if an Apple cellphone or media center is just over the horizon. And while Mr. Jobs has fired and even sued his own employees in the past for leaking information, the first news about some Apple introduction has frequently appeared in a news account, on a Web site or, occasionally, in business newspapers in China or Taiwan where the company’s products are manufactured.

In the personal computer industry, where Mr. Jobs’s company still has a tiny market share, his ability to attract a disproportionate share of media attention has long irritated his competitors. [...]

[...] The strategy makes sense to many former Apple employees as well. “He’s in the fashion business,” said Randy Komisar, a former Apple executive. “He has to have a new hit every quarter or he goes out of business. The speculation is worth tens of millions of dollars of public relations.”

Related: Dancing Around Journalistic Issues in a Lawsuit Over Apple Secrets

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