Missed This: The Register of Copyrights Speaks

Testimony: Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World

[T]he sharp divisions in the Court over precisely how to interpret the “Sony rule” may have a salutary effect of causing developers of technology to take steps to ensure that their products and services truly have substantial noninfringing uses and are not used primarily as infringement tools. While we were hopeful that the Court’s ruling would add clarity to this area of the law, it may be that the lack of clarity causes more socially responsible behavior by those who previously might have been tempted to rely on what they perceived as a “bright-line test” that absolved technology providers from any responsibility whatsoever for the uses to which their offerings are put.

[…] n fact, the Grokster decision should be very helpful to the United States as it continues its discussions with other countries about bringing their copyright laws up to date to meet the challenges of the digital networked environment that connects people around the world. Peer-to-peer infringement is not just a problem in the United States; it is a major problem abroad as well. In fact, to the extent that the Grokster decision provides new legal tools to stop massive peer-to-peer infringement, those tools will be of limited use if unlawful peer-to-peer services simply relocate abroad to jurisdictions where United States law has no applicability and local laws do not reach such conduct. The Grokster decision will assist us greatly in explaining how rules of secondary liability can play a key role in combatting massive peer-to-peer infringement. In fact, if our Supreme Court had upheld the lower courts’ rulings of no liability, it likely would have made our task immeasurably more difficult: how could we urge other countries to take action if our own legal system is not up to the task?

The Judiciary Committee Hearing site: Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World

BusinessWeek on BitTorrent’s VC Dollars

BitTorrent’s Grab at Respectability [pdf]

BitTorrent, the maker of popular file-sharing software used to distribute movies, music, and games both legally and illegally, is going commercial. The company has raised $8.75 million in venture capital from Menlo Park (Calif.)-based Doll Capital Management and plans to create a marketplace for dispensing digital goods.

[…] [Brian] Cohen always distanced himself from illegal use of his technology, though he did make money by accepting donations and selling T-shirts — that is, until the past year. Ashwin Navin, a former Yahoo! (YHOO ) employee and now BitTorrent’s chief operating officer, met Cohen last year, and the two began discussing how to turn the publishing technology into a bigger business.

They set up headquarters in San Francisco and began looking for venture funding. They spoke to studios, record labels, and industry associations, including the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. Now, with the VC money, BitTorrent plans to build out a marketplace aimed at attracting the huge audience of BitTorrent users, which the company estimates at around 45 million people. “We want to bring people the content that they want to watch,” says Navin. “Some of that will come from Hollywood, some will be independently created.”

Aspirations aside, BitTorrent’s planned transition is fraught with risk. Its execs have to persuade movie executives, game makers, and record labels to distribute their works through the service. […]

A big part of winning over holders of copyrighted work will be addressing concerns over illegal file sharing, much of which is done through so-called BitTorrent superhubs, independent sites that distribute both legal and illegal content. Navin says BitTorrent is working with the superhubs to reach licensing agreements on copyrighted works. BitTorrent will include any copyright protection technology that rights holders want to use.

Continuing To Challenge “First Sale”

This article was a topic of discussion on a email list today — seems like this discussion recurs in the fall. I wonder why? Internet Grows as Factor in Used-Book Business

Over all, used-book purchases accounted for $2.2 billion, or 8 percent, of the $26.3 billion that American consumers spent in 2004 on books of all types. That total was up 11 percent from the previous year, the study found.

“The growth reflects how easy is has become to sell used books and to create inventory in this business,” Jeff Abraham, the executive director of the [Book Industry Study Group], said in an interview.

[…] Publishing companies and authors have long expressed concern over used-book sales, saying they cannibalize potential sales of new books and, because they generate no royalties for authors or revenue for publishers, they harm the ability of authors and publishers to make a living.

“It certainly is a threat,” Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, said in an interview. The guild has complained in particular about Amazon.com, whose Internet site offers consumers the ability to buy used copies of a book on the same screen where it offers new copies. In many instances, used copies are made available for sale by outside parties almost as soon as a new book goes on sale.

Some earlier links: Peerflix DVD Exchange Writeup; The Power of a Word; Wired News’ Authors Question Author’s Guild

See also Donna’s summary here: In Praise of First Sale, Part IIEmail This Entry

Communication and Culture: China

On Chinese Television, What’s Cool Is No Longer Correct [pdf]

At first glance, the new rules handed down by China’s broadcasting authority seemed natural enough in a country where the Communist Party feels duty-bound to set the tone for everything, even pop music.

[…] But also in the latest set of rules, published Sept. 10 by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, was a less obvious stipulation: Masters of ceremony should always use standard Mandarin Chinese and should stop affecting Hong Kong or Taiwanese slang and accents.

To millions of Chinese, particularly boys and girls in the provinces who constitute the main audience for pop-oriented variety shows, Hong Kong and Taiwanese speech has come to mean being cool. The reason is simple. Most of the music and performers making teenage hearts throb here have long originated in the freer atmospheres of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

As a result, some hosts and hostesses of mainland variety shows have taken to throwing Taiwanese slang words and Hong Kong tones into their on-air speech, associating themselves with the cool radiating from those two centers of the Chinese-language pop industry. […]

And don’t miss the discussion of the consequences of their “American Idol”-style contest — the “Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Supergirl Contest.”

Another Distribution Channel — and a DRM Experiment

Stones’ Album to Come on Memory Card [pdf]

Virgin Records said Tuesday it would release the Rolling Stones’ latest album on a new encrypted flash memory card that will allow users to preview and buy locked tracks from four of the veteran rockers’ previous albums.

The memory card, dubbed Gruvi, is manufactured by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SanDisk Corp., and will be available in November at select U.S. stores for $39.95, SanDisk and the label said in a statement.

[…] SanDisk spokesman Ken Castle said the value for consumers is in being able to use the thumbnail-sized memory card to move music and other media between compatible mobile phones, electronic organizers, computers and other devices.

To keep that content from ending up on Internet file-swapping sites or otherwise distributed without permission, the card comes with copy-protection technology, or firmware, built in.

“You can take the card out and transfer it to other devices and the content stays locked in the card rather than to the device,” Castle said.

I look forward to the hacks.

Who Gets To “Own” Root?

U.S. Insists on Keeping Control of Web [pdf]

A senior U.S. official rejected calls on Thursday for a U.N. body to take over control of the main computers that direct traffic on the Internet, reiterating U.S. intentions to keep its historical role as the medium’s principal overseer.

“We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet,” said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. “Some countries want that. We think that’s unacceptable.”

Later: Declan McCullagh spells out the consequences: Power grab could split the Net

All Your Data Are Belong To Us

At least, that’s what David Berlind reports:Microsoft: No substitutes for Trusted Platform Module allowed

In response to one of the questions raised during last week’s Vista conference call with Microsoft, a spokesperson for the Redmond, WA-based company has informed me that in order for users to get the full benefits of the Trusted Platform Module(TPM)-reliant features in Windows Vista such as Secure Startup and full volume encryption, they will absolutely have to have a TPM that’s compliant with version 1.2b of the Trusted Computing Group’s (TCG) TPM specification (Uh oh. The TCG’s site doesn’t even list such a version of the specification). In other words, not only will existing systems not be able to be upgraded with a TPM module, another hardware-based security token like a SmartCard cannot be used as a substitute. Referring to ways in which an encrypted volume might be recoverable using a system other than the the original one that stored data in it, a Microsoft spokesperson wrote the following to me via e-mail:

We are looking at scenarios that allow the recovery key to be stored on a removable storage device for Windows Vista. However, Smartcard storage of tokens for full volume encryption isn’t in the plan for Windows Vista.

Prosecuting an Inside Job

Eight charged in theft of “Star Wars” movie [pdf]

Federal officials on Tuesday charged eight people with several crimes related to the illegal theft, copying and Internet distribution of hit movie, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

[…] [B]efore it ever opened, an illegally made copy could be downloaded from the Internet, and that copy was traced back to an editing facility in Lakewood, California.

The charges come as moviemakers wage a battle against illegally copying and distributing movies on video, DVD and the Internet. Hollywood’s studios claim they lose $3.5 billion in annual revenue due to piracy and are worried about losing billions more if swapping films on the Web becomes common.

The U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles filed a copyright infringement charge against Albert Valente, 28, of Lakewood, California, for taking the “Star Wars” copy from the post-production house where he worked. He has pleaded guilty, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

Related: Movie pirates across U.S. walk the plank [pdf]

Fallout from “Open Sourcing” the Weather

Slate’s Timothy Noah on AccuWeather’s efforts to reclaim the weather: Santorum’s Mighty Wind, Part 2 – If you can’t lick ’em, spoof ’em

When last we checked in on AccuWeather, it had persuaded Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who is ostensibly a proponent of the free market, to sponsor a bill that would give special protection to AccuWeather and a handful of other private weather services. The bill would achieve this by forcing the National Weather Service to withhold its forecasts from the general public. AccuWeather is located in Santorum’s home state [….]

Now AccuWeather has apparently decided that if you can’t lick ’em, hijack their Web traffic. If you entered “nationalweatherservice.org” into your computer, you might reasonably assume you’d be taken to the NWS site. But you would be wrong. It will actually take you to AccuWeather. The NWS (whose real URL, incidentally, is www.nws.noaa.gov) has complained about this display of private-sector ingenuity in the past, and it’s even gotten AccuWeather to apologize and desist. Apparently, though, you can’t keep a good spoofer down.

Ah, The Dismal Science and WiFi

The real problem will be when these games lead to claims that municipal broadband should not be funded by governments because of economic harm: If Parks Offer Free Internet, Why Can’t Costly Hotels?

Oddly enough, the pricier the hotel, the more likely you are to pay an extra fee to check your e-mail from your room, said Bjorn Hanson, the head of the hospitality and leisure division at PricewaterhouseCoopers. That is because three-star chains like Hilton’s Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites and Marriott’s Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn cater to price-conscious travelers, while the swankier names figure you won’t much care about the extra few bucks.

Corporate travel managers are now trying to negotiate with four-star and five-star hotel brands to include Internet access in the room charge in future contracts, Mr. Hanson said

If the hotels are smart, they will concede the point. While baby boomers still outnumber them, Generation Xers spend more per capita on business travel, and have little patience for either dial-up connections or the general idea of paying for high-speed Internet access, which they have been accustomed to having free since college.

[…] Like Mr. Campbell and most other business travelers, I regard reliability of the connection as more important than the $9.95 it might cost.

Even so, it galls me to have to pay it. […]