September 30, 2005

Missed This: The Register of Copyrights Speaks [1:26 pm]

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

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BusinessWeek on BitTorrent’s VC Dollars [9:12 am]

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.

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September 29, 2005

Continuing To Challenge “First Sale” [5:41 pm]

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

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Communication and Culture: China [5:24 pm]

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.”

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Another Distribution Channel — and a DRM Experiment [5:09 pm]

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.

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Who Gets To “Own” Root? [5:04 pm]

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

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September 28, 2005

All Your Data Are Belong To Us [4:47 pm]

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.

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Prosecuting an Inside Job [9:18 am]

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]

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September 27, 2005

Fallout from “Open Sourcing” the Weather [6:23 pm]

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.

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Ah, The Dismal Science and WiFi [4:43 pm]

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. [...]

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Microsoft and Intel to Back Toshiba’s NextGen DVD Format [4:39 pm]

After all, if one standard is good, then two standards must be better? (Of course, when there’s two, I guess neither is really a standard…) DVD Fight Intensifies: Microsoft and Intel to Back Toshiba Format

Today, the two companies will announce that they are backing the HD-DVD format developed by Toshiba over the Blu-ray standard championed by Sony, Matsushita Electric, Samsung and others. Microsoft announced in June that it would work with Toshiba to develop high-definition DVD players. Now, Microsoft and Intel say they will develop software and chips that will allow personal computers to play the next-generation DVD’s from Toshiba.

Slashdot: Microsoft, Intel back HD DVD over Blu-ray

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Working All The Angles on the Broadcast Flag [4:34 pm]

You Are the MPAA: A Broadcast Flag Update

One especially sneaky way to get an amendment passed is to smuggle it into a reconciliations bill. Reconciliation is the mirror image of appropriations. Appropriations is about taxes; reconciliation is all about making cuts. Because Congress dearly loves to appear thrifty, reconciliations has special fast-track status. It can’t be filibustered, it’s almost impossible to amend once agreed upon, and it only needs a plain majority to pass.

Of course, with such good intentions, it’s a perfect vehicle for piggybacking unpopular provisions. Except…there’s the Byrd rule. Under this point of order, any senator can get a reconciliation clause thrown out if it’s not really about government cuts.

This will be tricky, since the Broadcast Flag essentially demands government interference with every digital AV product on the market.

Ah, but how about — no, that’s far too sneaky. But…perhaps…

Listen. Suppose our sympatico politicos carve out a bunch of Digital TV provisions that, in fact, do have something to do with government finance? Suppose they stick those provisions in the Senate Commerce Committee’s reconciliations bill (due October 26th), where they’re practically untouchable?

More at Slashdot: Broadcast Flag Back in Congress

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September 26, 2005

New Wiretap Rules Are Out [5:59 pm]

Wiretap rules for VoIP, broadband coming in 2007

It’s clear from the Federal Communications Commission’s 59-page decision (click for PDF), released late Friday evening, that any voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, provider linking with the public telephone network must be wiretap-ready. That list would include companies such as Vonage, SkypeOut and Packet 8.

But what remains uncertain is what the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) ruling means for companies, universities, nonprofits–and even individuals offering wireless or other forms of Internet access.

Statements from the FCC commissioners

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China’s Firewall, Built With American Bricks [2:04 pm]

The title phrase comes from a piece on today’s Morning Edition: China Tightens Its Restrictions for News Media on the Internet

China on Sunday imposed more restrictions intended to limit the news and other information available to Internet users, and it sharply restricted the scope of content permitted on Web sites.

The rules are part of a broader effort to roll back what the Communist Party views as a threatening trend toward liberalization in the news media. Taken together, the measures amount to a stepped-up effort to police the Internet, which has become a dominant source of news and information for millions of urban Chinese.

Major search engines and portals like Sina.com and Sohu.com, used by millions of Chinese each day, must stop posting their own commentary articles and instead make available only opinion pieces generated by government-controlled newspapers and news agencies, the regulations stipulate.

The rules also state that private individuals or groups must register as “news organizations” before they can operate e-mail distribution lists that spread news or commentary. Few individuals or private organizations are likely to be allowed to register as news organizations, meaning they can no longer legally distribute information by e-mail.

Existing online news sites, like those run by newspapers or magazines, must “give priority” to news and commentary pieces distributed by the leading national and provincial news organs.

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Everybody Into The Pool! [1:59 pm]

Microsoft Plans to Sell Search Ads of Its Own

The Microsoft Corporation will unveil today its own system for selling Web advertising as it struggles to compete with Google and Yahoo in the expanding Web search business. The system, to be used by MSN, is meant to improve on those of Microsoft’s rivals by allowing marketers to aim ads on Web search pages to users based on their sex, age or location.

The move is part of Microsoft’s broad response to the threat from Google, which is using its powerful advertising sales network to support an expanding range of free software products and Internet services. Last week, Microsoft announced a broad reorganization that placed MSN in the same group as its Windows operating system, indicating that it saw software delivered over the Internet - and possibly paid for through advertising - as central to its future.

But to offer such advertising-supported services, Microsoft needs to control its own system for selling targeted advertising. Until now, the ads on MSN’s search service have been sold by Yahoo.

[...] “We are very heavy on user privacy,” said Tim Armstrong, the vice president for advertising at Google. “So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for.” He added that Google does take other variables into account, like the time of day and the location of the user, but Google’s technology does this automatically to make the process simpler for the advertiser.

While Google does not currently use personal data to direct placement of its ads, there is nothing in its privacy policy that precludes it from doing so, said Michael Mayzel, a Google spokesman.

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How To Differentiate A Movie Theatre From A Home Theatre [1:57 pm]

Going Deep for Digital

Among prominent filmmakers, who are eyeing dwindling box-office figures just as uneasily as theater owners, several have seized on 3-D as almost a panacea.

“As the public’s home television and sound systems get better and better, what is the reason they have to go to the movies?” said Jon Landau, a partner in Mr. Cameron’s company, Lightstorm Entertainment, which is making the action fantasy “Battle Angel” in 3-D. “We believe 3-D is one of those things that people will come out of their homes in droves to see. From the big-scale movies to the small dramas - if you have somebody on their deathbed, and an intimate moment, you are much better off dropping the barrier of the screen, putting the audience in that moment, and putting it in 3-D.”

Whether the next “Terms of Endearment,” let alone the next “Terminator,” will be seen by millions in 3-D is anybody’s guess, of course. But the digital introduction, on which 3-D technology will piggyback, is picking up speed. After months of wrangling between the studios and several vendors, the first deals are being signed that could lead theater owners to buy and install digital projectors.

The structure of the deals follows a pattern. Theater owners pay roughly $10,000 toward the $85,000 cost of converting each auditorium. The balance is recovered, typically over 10 years, from the movie studios, which pay “virtual print fees.”

These fees, which start at around $1,000 for each copy of a movie delivered to a theater, are intended to approximate the studios’ financial savings on film prints and shipping. They have agreed to steer that money to the suppliers of digital cinema equipment.

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NYTimes on Fiona Apple’s Latest Album [1:55 pm]

The one that there was such a brouhaha over a while ago: Re-emerging After a Strange Silence

When the Brion-produced version of “Extraordinary Machine” showed up on the Internet earlier this year, Ms. Apple, upset that her unfinished work was available, thought Sony would scrap the album. “Who is going to give me money to make songs that are already out there?” she recalled thinking at the time.

Little did Ms. Apple know that a group of fans was pleading with Sony to release her album, which they thought had been shelved. Both Sony and Ms. Apple say it was not. On the Web site www.freefiona.com they railed against the “corporate giant” standing between them and their beloved.

“Please give us Fiona and we’ll give you money back,” read one poem posted on the site. Hundreds of foam apples were sent to the company, and in January a dedicated band of protesters, led by the Free Fiona founder Dave Muscato, stood outside the Madison Avenue offices of Sony BMG chanting, “We want Fiona.”

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Mickey Kaus @ Slate on TimesSelectDelete [11:44 am]

Still ‘Not Ready for TimesSelect’!

Conservative kf reader D.A. emails to say she has stopped “enjoying the failure of TimesSelect” and now worries that it is failing too quickly–that soon the NYT will pull the plug, restoring the reach and influence of the paper’s predominantly liberal columnists. [...]

[...] A few days ago I jokingly called for replacing TimesSelect with “TimesDelete,” a service that would allow readers to pay to silence their least favorite columnists. D.A.’s email has made me realize how misdirected this proposal was. TimesSelect doesn’t need to be replaced by TimesDelete. TimesSelect is TimesDelete! The Times has taken the columnists people are most willing to pay for and removed them from the public discourse on the Web. In fact, the paper has been quite diligent about suppressing them–contrary to my expectations, Times columns are not regularly turning up on pirate Web sites.

See this, too.

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iPod Maps [10:58 am]

IPod Maps Draw Legal Threats

Transit officials in New York and San Francisco have launched a copyright crackdown on a website offering free downloadable subway maps designed to be viewed on the iPod.

IPodSubwayMaps.com is the home of iPod-sized maps of nearly two dozen different transit systems around the world, from the Paris Metro to the London Underground.

[...] More than 9,000 people downloaded the map, which was viewable on either an iPod or an iPod nano, before Bright received a Sept. 14 letter from Lester Freundlich, a senior associate counsel at New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, saying that Bright had infringed the MTA’s copyright and that he needed a license to post the map and to authorize others to download it.

[...] Bright said he’d grabbed the New York and San Francisco BART maps from the official websites, cut them into smaller sections in Adobe Photoshop, and then put them back together at resolutions that are readable on iPods.

[...] “My guess is that it comes into a gray area when I start distributing the map and maybe when I put up ads, even though I make just about a buck a day with Google ads,” he said.

BART’s letter to Bright read in part, “There is a widespread belief that materials published by public agencies such as BART are in the public domain. This belief is incorrect.”

Later: Subway Authorities Eye IPod-Friendly Maps [pdf]

Even later: Lost Underground? Check Your IPod [pdf]

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September 25, 2005

Creativity, Feeding on Another’s [10:28 pm]

From the LATimes, Cameron Crowe on music and moviemaking: calendarlive.com: Moviemaking, from the soundtrack up [pdf]

The right song at the right time is a powerful concoction that can make a sequence, or even an entire movie. It scratches at your soul. [...]

[...] Music, and particularly songs, can be a finicky partner to motion pictures. After all, both are often attempting to tell a complete story, their way, without the help of the other. But just between you and me, right up through my own sixth film as a director, “Elizabethtown,” it’s been the prospect of those long afternoons and evenings in the editing room, coaxing that marriage between the right song and the right scene, that’s kept me going through the grueling parts of making a movie.

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