July 11, 2005

Canadian (c) and a Weird Harry Potter Gag Order [10:12 pm]

Well, it’s probably not actually an order issued under copyright law — more likely it’s contract, but let’s all pause a moment and consider what’s required to implement this order: New Potter book leaks in Canada, gag order issued [pdf]

Rowling’s sixth book about the young wizard is scheduled to be released on July 16, but a store near Vancouver briefly put the put the book on sale last week.

Raincoast Books Ltd., which distributes the books in Canada, said a “small number” of the books were sold, and it has won a court injunction barring the buyers of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” from disclosing the plot.

The court also ordered all the copies be returned to Raincoast, which has promised the early buyers book plates autographed by Rowling once the embargo is lifted.

Copyfight’s posting; Slashdot’s: Harry Potter’s ‘Half Blood Prince’ Leaked — see the last comment in this thread

Later - more coercion - New York boy gets brief look at new ‘Harry Potter’ [pdf]; the cited article from the Poughkeepsie Journal: Ulster boy gets sneak peek at new ‘Potter’ book [pdf]

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Judiciary Cmte Hearing: Music Licensing Reform [10:07 pm]

“Music Licensing Reform” for Tuesday, July 12, 2005 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. (You may need to start here to get to the webcast)

Tentative witness list: Marybeth Peters (US Register of Copyrights); Rob Glaser (CEO RealNetworks); Rick Carnes (President, Songwriters Guild of America); Glen Barros (President and CEO, Comcord Records); Marilyn Bergman (President and Chairman, ASCAP) and Ish Cuebas (Dir. of Merchandising Operations, Trans World Entertainment)

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FindLaw’s Modern Practice on Grokster [7:23 pm]

A particularly sanguine interpretation from Anupam Chander and Madhavi Sunder: Apple Rips While Grokster Burns

Some worry that the Court’s new inducement standard will stifle innovators because they might not have a clear sense of the standards for inducement. The worry is intensified because the Court’s unanimous opinion is clouded by its two concurrences, with three justices arguing for interpreting the Sony exception to liability strictly, and three others arguing for a broader interpretation.

Fortunately, though, Justice Souter’s opinion stands on its own as the governing rule. Yes, companies will have to worry that they are inducing infringement, but they should not have to worry too much, for the line Souter draws is more than tolerably clear: Inducement requires a “clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement.” And it “does not include ordinary acts incident to product distribution,” such as product updates or technical support.

After the Grokster decision, information technology companies today are freer to innovate. They no longer face the risk of a substantial reworking of the Sony standard - the one that favored technologies with substantial noninfringing uses, ranging from the VCR to the iPod to P2P software (when not accompanied by inducement).

That means that Steve Jobs, or someone else in a garage or a boardroom, is now freer to invent the next iPod.

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Uh-huh - We’ll See [5:29 pm]

U.S.: China to Go After Product Pirates [pdf]

Washington has been pushing China for years to stamp out a thriving industry in pirated goods that it says costs legitimate Chinese and foreign producers billions a year in lost potential sales. Illegal copies of goods ranging from the latest Hollywood movies to Japanese pop music and European designer fashions are widely available in Chinese shops despite repeated promises to crack down.

At a news conference after one-day trade talks, [U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos] Gutierrez said Chinese officials had agreed to file criminal charges against more people accused of the rampant copying of movies and other intellectual property.

He added that China would station a diplomat in its Washington embassy to handle product piracy complaints. He said the two governments agreed to set up a joint committee to deal with cross-border violations.

Gutierrez also said Chinese negotiators agreed to rewrite rules that required government offices to buy only Chinese-made software, possibly shutting out foreign suppliers from a market that Gutierrez said could be worth up to $8 billion a year.

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The GTA Brouhaha [5:26 pm]

Although it’s been discussed online for a while, the Boston Globe on Saturday and the NYTimes today discussed the question of what constitutes unacceptable game content, and just how hard you’re supposed to have to work to find it.

Slashdot gives you all the past links, plus all you need to see the content yourself here: GTA Sex Game Leads to ESRB Fracas

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Architecting China’s Network [4:30 pm]

Hiawatha Bray complains about something that actually matters — after all, who’s limiting the deployment of these routers to just China?: China’s Net police should worry US firms [pdf]

”It is quite simple,” said [Harry] Wu, now an American citizen and human rights activist. ”American business is not allowed to sell or export any equipment related to crime control to China.”

He’s right: A law passed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown put a stop to such trade.

Yet Wu says Cisco Systems Inc., one of the world’s leading data networking companies, is selling advanced gear to Chinese police agencies. This equipment has all manner of benign uses; it can improve communications between police stations, and ensure that cops respond faster to emergencies. But Cisco gear could also help the government block ‘’subversive” Web pages, record ‘’suspicious” e-mails, or tap the Internet phone calls of a billion Chinese.

Never mind the human rights implications. Such sales to China, Wu said, are just plain illegal.

[...] Because Cisco’s gear handles every bit of data, they can track everything happening on the network. That’s fine when they’re used in a business that needs to protect trade secrets. But in a country where every data network is owned by the state, Cisco gear could give the government a chokehold on information.

Ethan Gutmann thinks this is happening, and that Cisco is deliberately aiding China’s spies and censors. Gutmann, a former business consultant in China and author of the book ”Losing the New China,” tells of his chat with a Cisco sales representative at a Shanghai trade show in 2002. The Cisco rep, Gutmann said, bragged that his company’s products would let Chinese police track the e-mails and Web surfing of any suspicious citizen. ”They basically can plug in your name . . . and then they can start reading your e-mails for the last 60 days,” he said.

Gutmann passed this information to Harry Wu, along with a sales brochure that Wu has translated to English. The flier shows Cisco’s ”IP Telephone Solution for Police Routine Community Surveillance,” and shows how Cisco gear is already in use in China’s Qinghai Province, ”combining voice, video and data into one accessible resource to strengthen China’s law and order.”

[...] Cisco may not be violating US sanctions, even if the company’s gear is helping to stifle the freedom of millions. Proof that Cisco’s policies are legal might get Harry Wu off the company’s back. The rest of us shouldn’t be so easily satisfied.

Related from Tim Wu at Slate: The Filtered Future: China’s bid to divide the Internet. (slashdot: The Great Firewall of China, Continued)

China’s long-term vision is clear: an Internet that feels free and acts as an engine of economic progress yet in no way threatens the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. With every passing day the Chinese Internet reflects that vision more closely. It portends a future for the Web that we’re only beginning to understand—one in which powerful countries refashion the global network to suit themselves.

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The DVD Format Fight [1:59 pm]

A DVD Standoff in Hollywood

Hollywood has been unable to throw its weight behind one format, and because the rival discs are largely incompatible, the studios have been unable to persuade the manufacturers to reach a compromise or to get one side to withdraw.

Compounding matters, many Hollywood executives have staked their reputations - both corporate and personal - on one technology or the other, making it politically difficult for them to switch sides.

[...] With no great pleasure, Mr. Lesinski said in an interview that if both sides release competing discs and machines, the companies involved will probably generate half the revenue they would with only one format. Other industry analysts are even more pessimistic.

“Both sides have so much vested in their technology that no one wants to blink, given the potential upside,” said Mr. Lesinski, whose studio, Paramount, is a division of Viacom. Paramount, along with Warner Home Video and Universal Studios Home Video, will release 89 movies this year in the HD-DVD format.

[...] The issues of cost and time to market would matter less if sales of the current generation of DVD equipment were booming. But there are plenty of signs that they are not.

The studios know that the percentage of American homes with a DVD player is nearing 80 percent, or the saturation point, and that the latest converts typically buy fewer discs.

Indeed, while sales of discs are expected to rise 13 percent this year in the United States, the salad days of 20 to 30 percent annual growth are a memory. Most movie libraries are now out on DVD, and stores like Wal-Mart are slashing disc prices, which means less profit for studios.

See also All eyes on new DVDs’ format war

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