March 25, 2005

Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Say Going Into Grokster [10:17 am]

Millions still steal music online [pdf]

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, in a report released Wednesday, found that 7 million Americans — or about 9 percent of Internet users — are currently making unlicensed copies of music from someone else’s iPod or similar MP3 device. About 10 million are getting bootlegged music and movies through e-mail and instant messages.

To some analysts, the study offers further proof of the myriad ways that piracy is thriving despite efforts by the entertainment industry to curb it.

Pew’s Music and Video Downloading Moves Beyond P2P

About 36 million Americans–or 27% of internet users–say they download either music or video files and about half of them have found ways outside of traditional peer-to-peer networks or paid online services to swap their files. Some 19% of current music and video downloaders, about 7 million adults, say they have downloaded files from someone else’s iPod or MP3 player. About 28%, or 10 million people, say they get music and video files via email and instant messages. However, there is some overlap between these two groups; 9% of downloaders say they have used both of these sources.

In all, 48% of current downloaders have used sources other than peer-to-peer networks or paid music and movie services to get music or video files. Beyond MP3 players, email and instant messaging, these alternative sources include music and movie websites, blogs and online review sites.

This “privatization” of file-sharing is taking place as the number of Americans using paid online music services is growing and the total number of downloaders is increasing, though not nearly to the level that existed before the recording industry began to file lawsuits against suspected music file sharers in mid-2003.

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OT: Good Old Frank Rich [10:05 am]

Stirring up the pot: The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay

As DeMille readied his costly Paramount production for release a half-century ago, he seized on an ingenious publicity scheme. In partnership with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a nationwide association of civic-minded clubs founded by theater owners, he sponsored the construction of several thousand Ten Commandments monuments throughout the country to hype his product. The Pharaoh himself - that would be Yul Brynner - participated in the gala unveiling of the Milwaukee slab. Heston did the same in North Dakota. Bizarrely enough, all these years later, it is another of these DeMille-inspired granite monuments, on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin, that is a focus of the Ten Commandments case that the United States Supreme Court heard this month.

We must wait for the court’s ruling on whether the relics of a Hollywood relic breach the separation of church and state. Either way, it’s clear that one principle, so firmly upheld by DeMille, has remained inviolate no matter what the courts have to say: American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends. [...]

[...] Next to what’s happening now, official displays of DeMille’s old Ten Commandments monuments seem an innocuous encroachment of religion into public life. It is a full-scale jihad that our government signed onto last weekend, and what’s most scary about it is how little was heard from the political opposition. The Harvard Law School constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe pointed out this week that even Joe McCarthy did not go so far as this Congress and president did in conspiring to “try to undo the processes of a state court.” But faced with McCarthyism in God’s name, most Democratic leaders went into hiding and stayed silent. Prayers are no more likely to revive their spines than poor Terri Schiavo’s brain.

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Fingers in the Dike [9:58 am]

Apple’s Legal Drive to Stifle Web Sites Is Fruitless So Far

So far, the letters appear to have done nothing to reduce Mr. Ciarelli’s enthusiasm. He has continued to publish articles about Apple’s new product plans.

Apple’s continued legal barrage has also stirred up the community of Web sites and Web logs that routinely speculate on the company’s product plans. Several operators said that Apple’s legal campaign does not appear to have slowed the flow of information about details and announcement dates of new Apple products.

[...] “Even though we lost contact with some sources, the rumor flow is still quite the same,” he said. “The fact that there are quite reliable ways to share information anonymously is probably the reason why sources sometimes persist.”

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OT: Cochran’s Gag Order [9:49 am]

Not precisely on point, but truly a bizarre case: The All-Time Gag Order

Mr. Cochran sued Mr. Tory for defamation. He didn’t ask for damages. Instead, he asked that Mr. Tory be stopped from speaking in the future. Mr. Cochran prevailed, and got a court order that Mr. Tory could not say anything about him in any public forum. Mr. Tory appealed, arguing that this sweeping prohibition violated his free speech rights. Incredibly, two appeals courts refused to overturn it.

Supreme court docs (Tuesday March 22 docket)

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IP Ownership of Collaborative Product [9:42 am]

And, while this is a look at a specific case, the general issue of just how much rent one should get for an incremental contribution pertain for almost any creative work — where does the public domain end and personal creativity begin? Marveling at Marvel: You Say Spider-Man, but I Say the Thing

Mr. Lee could yet make mountains of money from the federal court ruling in January, which entitles him to 10 percent of the profits from Marvel films and television productions based on characters he had a hand in creating. But the case has reignited an ugly debate about how much credit he deserves for the comic books that changed the world - and how much should go to artists like Jack Kirby, who collaborated with him.

Many of those who worked with Mr. Lee have passed from the scene. But the biographers Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon made what sounds like a reasonable judgment when they wrote, in “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book,” that the work was mainly a group effort, and that “Stan’s contribution to new characters was sometimes little more than a name on a piece of paper or an allusion to a popular movie actor.”

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Jurisdiction and Speech [9:04 am]

Yahoo Lawyers Ask Court for Protection [pdf]

Lawyers for Yahoo Inc. asked a federal appeals court Thursday for legal protection for U.S.-based Internet portals whose content is protected by the First Amendment in the United States, but illegal in foreign countries.

Some of the judges acknowledged the need for a shield for American companies in such situations, but suggested it was premature in the case of Yahoo, which is challenging a fine levied by a Paris court four years ago for allowing the site’s French users to buy and sell Nazi memorabilia, in violation of French law.

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OZ KaZaA Trial News [9:01 am]

Assets in Doubt As Judge Mulls Kazaa Trial [pdf]

The music industry argued that owners of the Kazaa file-sharing software must be liable for millions in lost sales because their program is like putting a photocopier in a library where it clearly will be used for piracy.

Kazaa compared their product to another relatively ancient technology - a cassette recorder - arguing the device has legitimate uses and that piracy ought be blamed on people and not their tools.

Lawyers wrapped up arguments this week in a landmark music piracy case pitting Australia’s top record labels against the entrepreneurs behind Kazaa, the global “peer-to-peer” network that allows online users to download music and other files from each other’s computers.

See also Wired News’ Brouhaha Over Kazaa Means Nada

Bigger issues are at play. Technology is inextricably linked to progress, and progress is seldom reversed. In the end, the people decide; hot showers will stay hot, computers will continue to sit where typewriters did, cars will be driven by engines and not horses, and peer-to-peer networks will operate as long as people want to use them.

While it’s easy to think the music industry has ignored the internet to its peril, it knows a great deal more about the technology landscape, and how to manipulate the public’s perception of technology, than many net-savvy observers will admit.

It may surprise some readers in the United States to know that most uses of an iPod in Australia are prohibited. Making a copy of a copyright sound recording in Australia, even between formats, is completely and utterly illegal. Want to put your CD collection on your iPod? Sorry. Too bad.

Considering the iPod was on sale in Australia before legal music-download sites were launched, it’s fair to assume that most iPod users in the country were breaking the law. It may also be possible for the music industry to argue, in Australia’s courts, that Apple Computer authorized and even encouraged piracy through its marketing and advertising campaigns.

But it’s not Apple in the federal court, it’s Sharman; the music business knows how to pick its battles. It would look silly attacking the iPod, which has become a cultural object, but its attack against a commercial peer-to-peer operator was a predictable move.

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More Runup to Grokster [8:34 am]

Washington Post: File-Sharing Case Worries Indie Artists [pdf]

Recording industry executive Andy Gershon sees opportunity in the online file-sharing networks that most of his rivals decry as havens for music pirates. As president of V2 Records, home to such established acts as The White Stripes and Moby, Gershon mines such Internet distribution channels for new fans and revenues.

“The cat is so far out of the bag and so far gone that it’s pointless to keep fighting it,” Gershon said. “I might as well make as many people fans of our music, whether they illegally download it or not.”

A number of mostly independent recording artists and labels have experimented with and embraced the freewheeling digital distribution that the Internet affords. And many worry that a victory by major recording companies in a landmark file-sharing case now before the U.S. Supreme Court could short-circuit the very technologies that they believe are making a more level playing field of the music business.

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“Relatively Nonintrusive” [8:25 am]

FEC Signals Light Hand on Web Campaigning

The Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that it plans to take what one of its commissioners termed a “relatively nonintrusive” approach to regulating political campaigns on the Internet.

[...] Its “notice of proposed rulemaking,” as it is known, indicates that the FEC is focusing much of its attention on whether to apply federal contribution limits on online political advertising campaigns. It also indicates that the six-member panel has not decided to impose, but is leaning against imposing, restrictions on independent bloggers or bloggers who work for political campaigns.

See also FEC Weighs Limited Internet Activity Rules

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