May 20, 2005

Tecmo Settlement [8:31 am]

Tecmo Spikes Nude Volleyball Suit

Leaving for another day the question of whether consumers have the right to modify video-game software they’ve legally purchased, a federal judge last week dismissed a lawsuit by California game maker Tecmo against the proprietors and users of a game-hacking website, after the company quietly settled with the two main defendants.

Tecmo filed the lawsuit in January in a crackdown on NinjaHacker.net, an internet forum where fans created and shared custom content for several Tecmo Xbox titles, including Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive 3 and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Users had reverse-engineered the games to figure out how to create custom “skins” that changed the appearance of onscreen characters, in some cases rendering the already scantily clad women of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball completely nude.

[...] The lawsuit also targeted up to 100 anonymous users of the website, whose identities Tecmo vowed to unmask earlier this year. Those users were the focus of the settlement talks, said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had been tracking the case. According to Schultz, Tecmo insisted that Greiling and Glynn hand over NinjaHacker’s user database to the company as part of any deal. “Tecmo wanted to get the personal identifying information of people who were uploading and downloading skins,” said Schultz. “I don’t know if that was in the final settlement.”

Earlier postings — note that the Internet Archive has images, even though the sites have taken them down.

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A Surprising Convergence [8:24 am]

I’ve got some work that has led me to look at RFID for a while now, and this is a convergence that I wouldn’t have expected: Give Your DVD Player the Finger

University of California at Los Angeles engineering professor Rajit Gadh is leading research to turn radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags into an extremely restrictive form of digital rights management to protect DVD movies.

[...] Here’s how the system might work:

At the store, someone buying a new DVD would have to provide a password or some kind of biometric data, like a fingerprint or iris scan, which would be added to the DVD’s RFID tag.

Then, when the DVD was popped into a specially equipped DVD player, the viewer would be required to re-enter his or her password or fingerprint. The system would require consumers to buy new DVD players with RFID readers.

Gadh said his research group is trying to address the problem of piracy for the movie industry.

Oh, yeah - I’m sure they’ll be lining up at Circuit City for these babies when they come out — see this article from The Register: Californian boffins plot piracy-proof DVD players

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Canadian P2P Privacy Rights Upheld - For the Moment [8:14 am]

Canadian Federal Appeals Court Upholds Privacy Rights - For Now [via DigitalMusicNews]

The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling, ruling the CRIA cannot force ISPs to divulge their customer’s personal information. The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) a consumer rights organization similar in nature to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), heralded this event as a “landmark privacy decision.”

[...] In a ruling issued today, the Canadian Federal Appeals court rejected the CRIA’s appeal. Justice Edgar Sexton, Justice J. Richard and Justice Marc Noel unanimously agreed with Justice Finckenstien on most issues. However, the degree where privacy rights should be protected yielded a silver lining for the CRIA.

[...] Instead of requiring “prima facie” evidence, Justice Saxon lowered the bar to “bona fide” evidence. This significantly reduces the burden on the CRIA. “Bona fide” reduces the level of evidence to a matter of good faith. In the future when the CRIA intends to bring action against an idividual for copyright infringment, they only have to present the eveidence they have, “and that there is no other improper purpose for seeking the identity of these persons.” The RIAA’s current lawsuit campaign works virtually identical to the “good faith” philosophy.

Has this been a great privacy victory for Canadians? Perhaps for today it has. Today, the ISPs do not have to hand over the 29 identities to the CRIA. But the CRIA’s campaign is far from extinguished. Today’s ruling merely clarifies what the CRIA must do in order to seek an alledged violator’s identity. In fact, today’s ruling has made it significantly easier for them.

Michael Geist’s thoughts and followup. CNet: Canadian court deals setback to record labels

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SAG Fight With Video Game Industry [7:40 am]

Talk is cheap, they say [pdf]

While major stars can command fat contracts for their work, most of the roughly 2,000 SAG members who do game voice-overs earn a standard rate of pay. Game companies have offered to increase wages by 35 percent over 3 1/2 years. They’ve also agreed to shorten hours, improve working conditions in recording studios, and increase the companies’ contributions to the unions’ health insurance programs.

But the unions want something more: a cut of the profits made by the most popular games. They’re pushing a plan similar to the ”residual” benefits that actors get when one of their movies or TV shows is rebroadcast or sold on DVD. The unions say their performers ought to get a similar deal for any game that sells more than 400,000 copies.

”The video game sector is the only sector in the entertainment industry where performers do not share in some way in the profits their efforts helped create,” said Seth Oster, the guild’s deputy national executive director.

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