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April 1, 2005

Ed Foster Having A Little April 1 Fun [11:44 am]

Copyright Decision Deals Blow to New Technology

U.S. Supreme Court

April 1, 1905

[...] Therefore, in the matter of defendant Thomas Alva Edison versus respondent the Book Authors Guild and respondent the Sheet Music Publishers Association, this court unanimously concurs with the lower court’s decree. In inventing and offering for sale his “moving picture” and “phonograph” devices, the defendant induced countless infringing acts against the holders of copyrights for books and music. Defendant Edison’s assets are to be seized in order to make restitution to the respondents. Furthermore, all phonographs, record players, moving picture equipment and similar devices are to be confiscated and destroyed. All “record” companies and “film studios” most disgorge their ill-gotten gains and henceforth cease and desist all operations now and forevermore.

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Some Other Grokster Bits [11:38 am]

Sorry to be so late to pull some of these together — a couple of deadlines and more have converged with my planning to get away (to watch the Master’s Golf Tournament next week) have taken up a lot of my time.

  • The Connection show that I didn’t get to listed to (am now, though) [via Copyfight]

    Guests:

    • Declan McCullough, CNET News Chief Political Correspondent

    • Daryl Friedman, VP of Advocacy for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

    • Lawrence Lessig, Law Professor at Stanford Law School and author of “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity”

    • Fred von Lohmann, Senior Intellectual Property Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, lead lawyer representing file-sharing entities.

  • Donna also points to MGM v. Grokster: Breaking Down the Oral Arguments

    The Grokster oral arguments on Tuesday morning gave us a glimpse into the minds of the Supreme Court Justices. The questions they asked showed that they clearly understood the big picture and the broad implications this case has on the future of innovation. This understanding is undoubtedly good for Grokster and the Justices’ questions made me quite optimistic as to the outcome of the case. Below, I’ll attempt to break down what each Justice is thinking based on the oral arguments. This analysis may give us a hint about the nature of the Court’s decision that will be released sometime in June or July.

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Distribution of Specialty Music [9:13 am]

Smithsonian Folkways to Open MP3 Music Store [pdf] (http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/)

“This is a museum of sound,” says Richard Kurin, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Folkways will offer music that ranges from the earliest American folk songs to contemporary groups doing traditional music from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. The music includes the songs of Woody Guthrie; the music of Mwenda Jean Bosco, the late guitar pioneer from Congo; the sound of the Turkish saz, a stringed instrument similar to a lute; playground songs by Suni Paz of Argentina; and the rich North Indian music of Kamalesh Maitra.

Global Sound will charge 99 cents a song, which are available in MP3 format. The Smithsonian will pay royalties to the artists, as its recording label has done with records and CDs.

[...] “When we saw the blossoming of the Internet, we thought, what if we could use this as a device for opening up the archives?,” says Kurin, who is in charge of the Folkways archives. “People who don’t usually have a voice can have a voice in a democratic, central way.”

With monetary returns to the artists, Kurin hopes the payments establish the ownership of the music. Over the years Folkways has fought to give the original voices their due. “There are world music stars who mine the traditional music, and the question is, what is the ownership, what is the moral commitment and how much is going back? When we give them the money, that establishes the intellectual property rights,” Kurin says.

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A Lifetime Cable Contract? [9:00 am]

Some Pay for a TV Service That They Didn’t Choose

With new subscribers harder for companies to find, more consumers like Mr. Teitelbaum are being locked into compulsory plans. Among the hottest battlegrounds now for customers in the pay television market are planned communities sprouting up across the Sun Belt and apartments and other multi-unit housing blocks in big cities - basically any development where a homeowners’ association or management company charges residents for property upkeep, security and the like.

Cable and satellite providers, of course, love striking these bulk subscriber deals because with one contract they can capture hundreds and sometimes thousands of customers who generate a steady stream of fees for years.

Developers, condo boards and property associations like the deals, too, because they need to work with only one television provider and because the deals can offer homeowners significant discounts for their cable service.

And, on a personal note, I guess I have to choose which of the two categories I fit in here — says something about the industry that visceral hatred doesn’t seem to be on the radar:

“Everyone who is going to pay for TV already pays for it,” said Todd Mitchell, an industry analyst at Kaufman Brothers Equity Research. “The only people without it are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it.”

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Piracy, For Real [8:52 am]

Visiting the Pirate’s Lair

[T]here are two types of expatriates in Shanghai: Those who work for multinational corporations and those who don’t. The former enjoy plush “expat packages,” which include humongous salaries, chauffeurs, maids, and villas in Pudong. The latter pursue creative or “deadbeat” jobs while nurturing entrepreneurial fantasies. What everyone seems to have in common—expats and natives alike—is a penchant for collecting pirated DVDs.

One of the expats at our table had amassed 200. Another, 400. All looked at me funny when I asked whether anyone had any moral or legal qualms about this. Later, in Beijing, when I asked the same question of a business-school professor, the head of a trade organization, and two CEOs—the sorts of serious people, who, in the U.S., might become apoplectic about, say, file-sharing—I saw the same quizzical look, with one of the CEOs adding that having to spend more than $2 for a DVD or $10 for Windows XP was an outrage. At Sasha’s, the expats explained that buying real DVDs wasn’t an option, especially for the Chinese, because real DVDs cost 10 times more and weren’t even available. (The TV producer claimed she knew of a store that carried them, but the others disputed this.) Fake DVDs, moreover, often were real DVDs: The same factories that produced and shipped real ones during the day produced and shipped fake ones at night.

[...] This, of course, reveals one of the two fallacies in the media industry’s assertion that file-sharing and DVD piracy are the same as “stealing”: Some of the supposed damages from “lost sales” would never have been sales in the first place. The other fallacy is that the “theft” of digital property is the same as the theft of physical property—which it isn’t. When someone steals a physical product—a car, say, or a DVD from the shelves of Blockbuster—the owner has lost more than a potential sale; he or she has lost inventory. When someone buys a copy of a digital product, however, for which the owner of the copyright has paid nothing, the owner has lost only a potential sale. This doesn’t make file-sharing or DVD piracy OK—there must be some way for producers and packagers to get paid—but it does explain, in part, why millions of people who would never shoplift are so eager to collect pirated DVDs.

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