October 7, 2005

How To Get A Headache [7:18 pm]

Follow this “argument” [also note the effort to convert "digital rights management (DRM)" into "tehnological protection mechanism (TPM)"] Here’s a surefire way to stifle innovation

Now that the Grokster decision has been handed down and innovation still appears to be among us, it’s important to continue the fight for new ideas. That effort should include preserving, through intellectual-property protection, the innovation of online business models that empower consumers by offering for sale or rental goods with differing uses at varying price points.

Ultimately, if consumers are going to be able to fully benefit from the flexibility and ease of access afforded by the Internet, they must not have their choices curtailed by misguided federal legislation.

A well-meaning U.S. Congressman, Rick Boucher of Virginia, is the author of the legislation in question. He first tried to make circumvention of copy-protection mechanisms legal back in 1998, when Congress was debating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. His effort to amend the bill failed.

Since then, he has been continuing his crusade through standalone bills; his version in this Congress is HR-1201. Boucher claims that digital rights management (DRM) on DVDs, CDs and other mediums can stifle fair use. The U.S. Copyright Office largely has disagreed in DMCA review proceedings, but Boucher nonetheless persists.

[...] But if HR-1201 becomes law, every consumer could legally hack any TPM by claiming fair use, and as fair use isn’t codified, there would be as many definitions of it as there are consumers. Consumers would be legally sanctioned to break their contracts with the content provider.

No sane business operator enters a contract in which one party has the right to disregard its terms at will, but that’s what HR-1201 permits. That hated TPM would disappear from the market, as there’s no reason to employ a lock if everyone has a legal right to the key. But as TPM leaves, so do the digital offerings that come with it.

Sadly. of course, consumers can be coerced into entering into an illegal contract, though, but that’s more than this author is prepared to acknowledge in a “free” market.

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Anonymous Blogging Protected For Now [8:31 am]

Delaware Supreme Court Declines to Unmask a Blogger

The Delaware Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that if an elected official claims he has been defamed by an anonymous blogger, he cannot use a lawsuit to unmask the writer unless he has substantial evidence to prove his claim.

That standard, the court said, “will more appropriately protect against the chilling effect on anonymous First Amendment Internet speech that can arise when plaintiffs bring trivial defamation lawsuits primarily to harass or unmask their critics.”

See also the EFF’s Further Thoughts on the Delaware Ruling Protecting Anonymous Bloggers

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Some Slashdot Titles [8:13 am]

Because I’m running behind on a bunch of things today:

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Level 3 & Cogent Spat [8:04 am]

Dispute threatens to snarl Internet [pdf]

On Wednesday, the Internet service provider Level 3 Communications Inc. of Broomfield, Colo., broke its connections with a major competitor, Cogent Communications Group Inc. of Washington, D.C., effectively throwing up roadblocks for some e-mail communication and access to websites. Level 3, which provides Internet services to major companies like Cox Communications and America Online, essentially stopped allowing its customers to connect with those of Cogent, which has 9,500 customers around the world. Cogent provides Internet services to a number of local universities, including Harvard, Boston College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although the scale of the disruption is unclear, the incident may offer more fodder for those who believe the Internet should be regulated by an international agency, such as the United Nations. Scientists in the United States invented the Internet, and the computers that oversee the network are still controlled by the US Department of Commerce, which favors a hands-off approach. But governments worldwide have launched a campaign to put the Internet under international control. American officials have resisted the idea, saying that UN oversight would introduce undue government interference and the threat of data censorship by authoritarian states like China.

CNet’s Blackout shows Net’s fragility

In theory, this kind of blackout is precisely the kind of problem the Internet was designed to withstand. The complicated, interlocking nature of networks means that data traffic is supposed to be able to find an alternate route to its destination, even if a critical link is broken.

In practice, obscure contract disputes between the big network companies can make all these redundancies moot.

At issue is a type of network connection called “peering.” Most of the biggest network companies, such as AT&T, Sprint and MCI, as well as companies including Cogent and Level 3, strike “peering agreements” in which they agree to establish direct connections between their networks.

[...] These collegial peering relationships among big companies allow traffic to flow efficiently across the Net without most customers knowing anything about the under-the-hood relationships. But when these relationships go sour, the feuding parties’ lack of flexibility can result in blackouts like the one that occurred this week.

In this case, Level 3 says that it believes it is substantially larger than its rival, and told Cogent as long as 90 days ago that it was planning to sever the direct connection between the two networks. The connection could be re-established if Cogent were to pay Level 3 access fees for use of its network, the company says.

For its part, Cogent contends that it is similar in size to Level 3, and that it makes no sense to pay for the kind of peering relationship that it maintains with many other companies. Cogent is offering any Level 3 user who can’t get to Cogent sites free Internet service for a year, in an attempt to attract its rival’s customers.

Also ZDNet’s Network feud leads to Net blackout

Related: EU, UN to Wrestle Internet Control From US

Related? The New Lords of the Ring Tone

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