April 28, 2005

BitTorrent Users Targeted in HK [3:26 pm]

Hong Kong charges man with online piracy [pdf] (via Slashdot)

Hong Kong customs officials on Wednesday filed copyright violation charges against a 38-year-old man who allegedly uploaded three movies onto the Internet using the popular file-sharing program BitTorrent.

The suspect, who has only been identified by his surname, Chan, faces three charges of attempting to distribute copies of copyrighted material without authorization, the government said in a statement.

[...] Separately, a Hong Kong movie industry trade association said it plans to send letters to 100 BitTorrent users through their Internet service providers threatening legal action unless they stop using the software.

Be interesting to see under what sort of legal theory they will frame their “request.”

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Parody? Exemption? Naah! [12:09 pm]

Wal-Mart targets parody site [pdf] (via Slashdot)

A college student was forced to redesign a Web site satirizing a foundation run by Wal-Mart after the discount retail giant claimed he violated copyright law by using graphics from the company’s Web site.

Daniel Papasian, 20, of West Hartford, Conn., said he was forced to change his Web site — http://www.walmart-foundation.org — after lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sent his Web host a cease-and-desist order last week.

Wal-Mart claimed Papasian violated copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by improperly using images from the real Wal-Mart Foundation’s Web site — http://www.walmartfoundation.org.

[...] Papasian launched the Web site April 16 for an art class at Carnegie Mellon University called “Parasitic Media.” The class teaches students about the political uses of satire in the media. He acknowledged using Wal-Mart’s graphics on his Web site but said he believed he could use the images as part of a parody.

Papsian’s press release

“They’re trying to shut me down by going after me for copyright infringement, but I have a hard time believing that’s what they care about. They didn’t even bother to contact me to ask that anything be removed from my site. They’re not worried because my page has a similar layout or design. They’re worried because my ideas are a threat to them. They’re threatened by my belief that big corporations like Wal-Mart have too much influence on the world. Multinational corporations have won immense powers over governments with recent international trade agreements, so it’s no surprise they’re going to start going after people directly.”

Papasian is not discouraged by the cease and desist, however. He plans on documenting his experience and making it available on his site, www.walmart-foundation.org.

“I don’t want to get sued,” said Papasian. “But I won’t be silenced.”

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OT: Where Has This Guy Been? [9:20 am]

After being missing in action for so long, it’s gratifying to hear him finally speak up — Al Gore’s speech yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Washington: “An American heresy”

Having gone through that experience, I can tell you — without any doubt whatsoever — that if the justices who formed the majority in Bush v. Gore had not only all been nominated to the Court by a Republican president, but had also been confirmed by only Republican Senators in party-line votes, America would not have accepted that court’s decision.

Moreover, if the confirmation of those justices in the majority had been forced through by running roughshod over 200 years of Senate precedents and engineered by a crass partisan decision on a narrow party line vote to break the Senate’s rules of procedure then no speech imaginable could have calmed the passions aroused in our country.

As Aristotle once said of virtue, respect for the rule of law is “one thing.”

It is indivisible.

And so long as it remains indivisible, so will our country.

But if either major political party is ever so beguiled by a lust for power that it abandons this unifying principle, then the fabric of our democracy will be torn.

The survival of freedom depends upon the rule of law.

CNN’s coverage: Gore: Filibuster flap about GOP domination [pdf]

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Once Again, A Little Clarity from Bruce Schneier [9:11 am]

Fight fraud not ID theft

ID theft is a misnomer which is hurting the fight against fraud, according to encryption guru Bruce Schneier. Instead of talking about ID theft it’s better to talk about fraud due to impersonation, he claimed.

The crime exists because identifying information about a person is easy to steal and valuable once it is stolen. Schneier said that rather than focusing on making identity harder to steal it makes more sense to make information harder to use for criminal purposes. “The industry is going the wrong way in the US by worrying about keeping identity details secret. The focus should be on fraud. European countries, such as Holland [The Netherlands], are doing better than the US,” he said.

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So, Are You Inside, Or Outside, The Control Loop? [9:03 am]

And, how can you tell? Ads That Know What You Want

If you’re like many web users, you probably find it creepy that your local paper knows you’re looking for new wheels. Even so, advertisers are betting you’re far more likely to click on the car dealer’s ad than a random banner for a dating site or DVD rentals.

That’s the theory behind behavioral marketing — a growing niche in the online advertising industry focused on targeting promotional messages to an individual’s online activities. Some might call such tracking across websites by a less flattering name: adware. Marketers call it a promising revenue stream.

[...] Targeted marketing is nothing new in the online world, as anyone who’s ever received personalized book recommendations from Amazon.com can attest. However, by recording peoples’ movements over networks of web properties rather than just individual sites, some marketers are betting that they will be able to improve response rates to online ad campaigns dramatically.

[...] “It is probably true that people don’t mind getting more-relevant ads, but there’s a question of what they’re willing to do for it, and whether they understand the bargain at hand,” said Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which supports broader restrictions on online profiling.

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No Surprises Here [9:00 am]

Bush signs law targeting P2P pirates

File-swappers who distribute a single copy of a prerelease movie on the Internet can be imprisoned for up to three years, according to a bill that President Bush signed into law on Wednesday.

[...] The law had drawn some controversy because it broadly says that anyone who has even one copy of an unreleased film, software program or music file in a shared folder could be subjected to prison terms and fines of up to three years. Penalties would apply regardless of whether that file was downloaded or not.

I also posted some links to earlier reports of the signing here

Also, Bush OKs Smut-Stripping Tech; Slashot’s Bush Signs Law Targeting P2P Pirates; see also Susan Crawford’s discussion of the expansive characterization of distribution in the act: What’s “distribution”?

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Would You Buy VoIP From This Man? [8:24 am]

Psst! Want Internet Phone Service?

Woodrow Cundiff is a born salesman. Like many others before him selling the likes of Amway, Tupperware and Avon products door to door, he has been waiting for the “next big thing” to pitch. And like others before him, he found it on the Internet: a newfangled digital phone service offered by a Canadian company.

[...] While established companies and consumer groups often look askance at pyramid selling plans, Mr. Birkeland said there was nothing intrinsically devious about individuals or small businesses selling an Internet phone service. Indeed, hundreds of tiny operations already sell long-distance service, phone cards and mobile phone plans.

[...] Experts doubt that these grass-roots sales efforts will topple the likes of Verizon Communications or BellSouth, which have tens of millions of existing telephone customers and billions of dollars to spend. But like the start-ups that sold cheap long-distance service after AT&T was broken up two decades ago, opportunistic entrepreneurs on the front line are making popular a product that many analysts say is the future of voice communications.

Nearly all of them will die, too. Like the long-distance market that the giant Bell companies now dominate, the resellers are likely to fade away once the Bells, cable providers and other incumbents start selling Internet phone service in earnest. These companies can bundle their Internet phone services with television programming, high-speed Internet lines and other products, while the resellers cannot.

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New Technology, New Ideology [8:15 am]

Slowly, but surely, technology enables a change in operation and ideology — just hope the parallels with telecomm don’t emerge here as well: Paying on the Highway to Get Out of First Gear

[A] narrow river of traffic moves swiftly down the middle of this highway. The fast lanes, the 91 Express, are sometimes called Lexus lanes, first class on asphalt. They can turn a two-hour commute to work into a 30-minute zip. For a solo driver, on-time arrival comes with a price: nearly $11 per round trip, a toll collected through electronic signals.

The freeway in places is no longer free. [...]

[...] It is shaping up as one of the biggest philosophical changes in transportation policy since the toll-free interstate highway system was created under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. It mirrors changes taking place overseas as well. London began charging tolls two years ago to enter the center of the city during weekday business hours.

“It’s a big and important shift, and we in the Bush administration think its time has come,” said Mary E. Peters, the federal highway administrator, in an interview. The administration is trying to make it easier for states to convert car pool lanes to toll lanes, and to allow private investors to build and operate highways - and charge for their use.

[...] Now the era of the big new public highway project is over, federal authorities say. But states are still crying out for new roads - or at least ways to make the old ones work - without any signs that gas tax revenue can meet their needs.

[...] “We already paid for these roads,” said Angela Washington, a teacher who takes the torturous commute from this sprawling bedroom community to a job in Orange County, and uses the toll lanes on occasion. “I guess the idea is you buy your way out of congestion, but you do pay.”

[...] “It’s like everything else: you can fly coach, or you can fly first class,” said Caleb Dillon, an X-ray technician in Riverside whose commute is an hour each way. “I’m not a rich guy, but I like having the option of saving time when I really need it.”

[...] The new tolls rely on radio technology to debit an account instantly, and they are priced to ensure maximum flow of traffic and pay for the road but still make it worthwhile for a driver to leave the free road.

“It’s a big cultural shift for people all of a sudden to get used to paying for roads that were free,” said Robert Poole, of the libertarian Reason Foundation. But, he said, “people are so fed up with congestion” that they are open to change.

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Music Industry Dynamics: Rock Radio Fade? [8:08 am]

Fade-Out: New Rock Is Passé on Radio

Major radio companies are abandoning rock music so quickly lately that sometimes their own employees don’t know it.

[...] Music executives say the lack of true stars today is partly the reason. Since rap-rock acts like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit retreated from the scene, none of the heralded bands from recent rock movements, be it garage-rock (the Strokes, the Vines) or emo (Dashboard Confessional, Thursday), connected with radio listeners or CD buyers the way their predecessors did.

This sudden exit of so many marquee stations has not only renewed the perennial debate about the relative health of rock as a musical genre, but it also indicates that the alternative format, once the darling of radio a decade ago, is now taking perhaps the heaviest fire in the radio industry’s battle to retain listeners in the face of Internet and satellite radio competition. Many rock stations may be in for another blow when the shock jock Howard Stern departs for Sirius Satellite Radio next year.

[...] But many musicians in the newer bands on the alternative playlists “could be your waiter tomorrow night and you wouldn’t know the difference,” griped a radio promotion executive at one major label, who requested anonymity for fear of offending bands on his label.

[...] Some analysts fear that, when radio stations switch from alternative rock to programming aimed at older listeners, they may be making a sacrifice. “Radio has ceded the younger demographic to other media,” said Fred Jacobs, president of Jacobs Media, a radio consulting company in Southfield, Mich., specializing in rock. “I just don’t know how we’re going to get back people who didn’t get into the radio habit in their teens,” he said, adding, “It really becomes problematic down the road.”

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Be Careful of What You Wish For [8:03 am]

While the frustrations of device theft are certainly a problem, sometimes the wished-for cures are worse than the problem. Consider the discussion in this NYTimes article: Combating Gadget Theft

“The detective told me it’s easier to solve a homicide than a burglary,” he said, adding, “I’d give a nickel to anyone who could invent a LoJack system for computers,” a reference to an automobile security device - a transmitter that can be activated by police to guide them to a stolen car.

It will cost more than a nickel, but such programs do exist. And Mr. Yago is not the only victim of theft who is not aware of them. Called track-and-recover software, the technology assumes that the stolen machine will eventually be hooked up to the Internet, and once online it is programmed to send a signal indicating its Internet Protocol address. That may allow the thief to be traced through an Internet service provider.

“If you have our software on your computer you have over a 90 percent chance of getting it back,” said Mr. Kawles of Brigadoon (www.pcphonehome.com), which makes track-and-recover programs for computers called PC PhoneHome and MacPhoneHome.

Related: Ears Plugged? Keep Eyes Open, Subway's IPod Users Are Told and Some Computer Finders, and Their Fees

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More Than A Wrist Slap for MS? [8:00 am]

I’ll believe it when I see it: European Antitrust Official Chastises Microsoft’s Chief

Was it a courtesy call or a charm offensive?

Microsoft’s chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, met with Europe’s top antitrust official, Neelie Kroes, on Tuesday evening, only to be told that Microsoft must comply with Europe’s antitrust ruling “urgently and in full,” her spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said Wednesday.

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Apple Gets Support From Other Industries [7:58 am]

Apple Supported in Online Publishing Dispute

Intel and Genentech filed papers in state court in San Jose, Calif., supporting a ruling permitting Apple to subpoena two online news sites and an e-mail service provider. Apple is seeking to learn who gave the Web sites proprietary information about its GarageBand software, used to record and mix music.

The briefs follow a filing by news organizations, including The Los Angeles Times, arguing that online publishers should be afforded the same protections guaranteed to traditional journalists. Genentech and Intel argue that the case is about the theft of Apple’s trade secrets.

“What happened here wasn’t any kind of protected journalism,” said Steven Hirsch, a lawyer for Genentech. “It was the posting of raw, unmediated stolen property to a Web site. Companies need to be able to take reasonable and limited steps to find out who is stealing their trade secrets and essentially destroying their value by having them posted to the Web.”

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Proving That Anyone Can Get MAD [7:52 am]

More nonsensical escalation in the P2P wars: Program fools peer-to-peer pirates [pdf]

“People who were upset about this threatened to dump a truckload of shit in his front yard,” said one of his colleges.

The target is John Hale, professor and director of the Center for Information Security at the University of Tulsa. The unnamed program he built, which was awarded a patent last year, creates a flood of decoy files on the Internet so that those who wish to download a pirated copy of music or video file, for example, can’t find the legitimate version.

Hale says that the inspiration for the program came from episode 123 of the Simpsons, where Mr. Burns collects a group of dogs to skin for fur coats. He decides to keep one of the dogs, however, and teaches him a special trick. When they’re all bunched together, Mr. Burns figures he can distinguish his special dog by getting him to perform the trick, but Bart and Lisa outsmart him by teaching it to all the dogs.

Note: a search of the USTPO WWW site yields patent number 6,732,180: Method to inhibit the identification and retrieval of proprietary media via automated search engines utilized in association with computer compatible communications network. From the patent abstract:

A method and article of manufacture to inhibit automated search engines in locating and retrieving proprietary media by employing cooperative scanning, manufacturing, sharing and supervisory control software processing components to replicate, and make available for sharing, decoy media in such numbers to render media search engines ineffectual. The invention’s scanning processing component searches media sharing network communities for illegally shared proprietary media and its manufacturing processing component constructs decoy media files mimicking identified proprietary media. The invention’s share processing component associates media sharing network communities with shared media sets containing decoy media files, and its supervisory control processing component provides for system initialization and checking subprocesses which establish initial configurations, and reactive behavior of the invention in addition to monitoring the effectiveness of a decoy ratio interactively specified by a user of the invention.

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