Updated: France On A DRM Rampage Blowback!!

Download Piaf, Go to Jail

Internet downloaders could face jail sentences and software makers may be required to add anti-copying technology to products distributed in France under draft legislation that’s expected to go to a vote this week.

The so-called emergency legislation would require software makers to include digital-rights management, or DRM, software in their products, according to a draft (.pdf) of the proposed legislation seen by Wired News. Software makers could be liable if their software is used for illicit purposes — whether the software was designed for peer-to-peer networks or office intranets.

French legislators are also calling for three-year jail sentences and fines of 300,000 euros for illegally copying music, video or any other copyright-protected files.

Laws could also be set in place mandating that ISPs shut down accounts of suspected pirates.

Update: Except it didn’t turn out that way at all: France Lawmakers Endorse File-Sharing [pdf]

A French government crackdown on digital piracy backfired Thursday as lawmakers rebelled by endorsing amendments to legalize the online sharing of music and movies instead of punishing it.

[…] An 11th-hour government offer to give illegal downloaders two warnings prior to prosecution was not enough to stem the rebellion. Instead, the amendments voted would legalize file-sharing by anyone paying a monthly royalties duty estimated at $8.50.

Music labels and movie distributors have suggested the amendments would break international laws on intellectual property, and French actors and musicians lined up to condemn the surprise vote.

“To legalize the downloading of our music, almost free of charge, is to kill our work,” venerable rocker Johnny Hallyday said in a statement.

Slashdot’s France to Legalize File Sharing

Johnny Hallyday, again? (Or better, still?)

Later: More details in this Reuters story: France on track to legalize P2P downloading; [pdf]

Consumer groups, including the dominant UFC-Que Choisir, rejoiced at Wednesday night’s vote. “We never expected this, but France has proved yet again that it stands for all kinds of freedom,” a spokesman for the consumer group said Thursday. But judging from the furor the move has caused, “our happiness may be short-lived,” he said.

Slashdot: Free P2P In France?

Startling Assertion

Richard Posner makes a startling leap in this op-ed from today’s Washington Post: Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis [pdf]

The collection, mainly through electronic means, of vast amounts of personal data is said to invade privacy. But machine collection and processing of data cannot, as such, invade privacy. Because of their volume, the data are first sifted by computers, which search for names, addresses, phone numbers, etc., that may have intelligence value. This initial sifting, far from invading privacy (a computer is not a sentient being), keeps most private data from being read by any intelligence officer.

[…] The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive. Innocent people, such as unwitting neighbors of terrorists, may, without knowing it, have valuable counterterrorist information. Collecting such information is of a piece with data-mining projects such as Able Danger.

The goal of national security intelligence is to prevent a terrorist attack, not just punish the attacker after it occurs, and the information that enables the detection of an impending attack may be scattered around the world in tiny bits. A much wider, finer-meshed net must be cast than when investigating a specific crime. Many of the relevant bits may be in the e-mails, phone conversations or banking records of U.S. citizens, some innocent, some not so innocent. The government is entitled to those data, but just for the limited purpose of protecting national security.

Totally aside from the question of “overreaching” that infuses not only this article, but also the general discussion of the President’s domestic surveillance order, I had always thought that the question is the problem that, once collected, data finds all sorts of uses and is claimable under all sorts of legal constructions. I’m surprised to see a claim that data use will be “limited.”

Later: Robert Byrd’s speech on Dec 19th: No President Is Above the Law [pdf from CongRec]

Later: Posner’s online chat at the WaPo on the subject of this op-ed.

Even later: apparently an even more sweeping effort — Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report

Later: NSA Data Mining Much Larger Than Reported

Later: Harvard’s Charles Fried tries to find a middle path: The case for surveillance [pdf]

Later: The NYTimes’ Public Editor on getting a runaround – The Public Editor: Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence

OT: Dover ID Prescription Unconstitutional

Not my usual beat, but I love these paragraphs from the opinion: Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

[…] Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

I guess there’s no hope for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, either? Yaaaar!

Another “Analog Hole” Attack

Pro-Hollywood bill aims to restrict digital tuners

A new proposal in Congress could please Hollywood studios, which are increasingly worried about Internet piracy, by embedding anticopying technology into the next generation of digital video products.

If the legislation were enacted, one year later it would outlaw the manufacture or sale of electronic devices that convert analog video signals into digital ones–unless those encoders honor an anticopying plan designed to curb redistribution. Affected devices would include PC-based tuners and digital video recorders.

Can’t find the Thomas link, yet

Causing Unrest: Keyhole/Google

One of those slippery arguments in the computer/database age — does the fact that the data exists *somewhere* mean that there are no downsides to making sure its available *everywhere* to *anyone*? How do you know? And how can you tell? Google Offers a Bird’s-Eye View, and Some Governments Tremble

Google Earth is the most conspicuous recent instance of increased openness in a digitally networked world, where information that was once carefully guarded is now widely available on personal computers. Many security experts agree that such increased transparency – and the discomfort that it produces – is an inevitable byproduct of the Internet’s power and reach.

American experts in and outside government generally agree that the focus on Google Earth as a security threat appears misplaced, as the same images that Google acquires from a variety of sources are available directly from the imaging companies, as well as from other sources. Google Earth licenses most of the satellite images, for instance, from DigitalGlobe, an imaging company in Longmont, Colo.

“Google Earth is not acquiring new imagery,” said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, which has an online repository of satellite imagery. “They are simply repurposing imagery that somebody else had already acquired. So if there was any harm that was going to be done by the imagery, it would already be done.”

Pending Red Letter Day: Feb 17, 2009

My birthday! Oh, and the day that analog TV channels go dark – for the moment: Transition to Digital Gets Closer

As part of the transition, the legislation would provide each household with up to two coupons worth $40 each for converter boxes to attach to analog television sets so they are not obsolete once broadcasters surrender their analog licenses on Feb. 17, 2009, as the new law would require. Not coincidentally, the date was selected to fall two weeks after the Super Bowl and a month before the widely watched National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

[…] “This is the government making your TV go black and then only paying part of the costs for some of the people to make it work again, and none of the costs for others,” said Gene Kimmelman, public policy director at Consumers Union.

An estimated 70 million to 80 million television sets now in use are analog and are not attached to cable or satellite services, though experts say that by the completion of the transition, consumers will be using many more digital sets and fewer analog ones.

But mine still won’t be connected to cable!

Asking “Where’s Boston’s WiFi?”

Plus a rundown of other programs nationwide: If we’re Tech City, where’s our WiFi? [pdf]

Wireless data networks are being installed free of charge in cities across the nation. But Boston, a city with a reputation for innovation and more than twice the population of some cities already luring big WiFi investments, isn’t among them.

Towns with less than half Boston’s population have gotten companies to pledge millions of dollars for so-called WiFi networks that blanket an entire city, offering little in return except access to light poles and the hope of charging residents and businesses usage fees. Cities like Akron, Ohio, and Tempe, Ariz., and Farmers Branch, Texas, each with populations below 300,000, persuaded a company to spend millions to build the networks, which provide high-speed Internets access to residents and businesses from anywhere in town.

More on the Sonic Environment and Retail

The Basics: The Muzak of Ka-ching!

“Christmas music works,” said Georgeanne Bender, a retailing consultant in Chicago. “When we hear the old songs it puts us in the mood. It’s all about making people feel comfortable and stay and shop.”

It works so well that some retailers are playing holiday songs as early as Nov. 1, “to get people into the holiday spending mode,” said Dana McKelvey, a music programmer for Muzak, based in Fort Mill, S.C.

[…] Ms. McKelvey said Muzak recommends to its clients that they don’t start playing holiday music until the day after Thanksgiving, and early in the season holiday songs only make up a portion of some custom programs. “The closer we get to Christmas Day, the percentage increases,” she said.

She and other Muzak “audio architects” also work at avoiding repetition. “If you walk into a grocery store and hear ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ you won’t hear that song again in the time you’re there,” she said.

[…] But even shoppers get tired of the same old songs, Ms. Bender said. “It works on the majority of customers,” she said. “But some of us will get sick of it.”

Some chains, notably Starbucks and clothing stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, offer more eclectic mixes. “Stores are definitely getting smarter,” Ms. Bender said. “They’re mixing in more sophisticated music.”

Satellite radio, with its ability to devote channels to specific music genres, has broadened listeners’ tastes as well. […]

[…] Mr. Rodgers, however, is never satisfied. Having to listen to piped-in music at any time of year, he said, leaves a feeling of powerlessness. “It’s rather like having your neighbor’s dog barking,” he said.

Video Games and the Record Industry

A game author tweaks an industry and everyone gets het up: Link by Link: Social Commentary, or Just a Dog’s Opinion?

If that’s true, the music industry – another purveyor of digital goods – could not have been very happy when bloggers last week began sharing screen grabs from a popular new Nintendo game, which includes, among its many characters, a guitar-toting puppy who seems to extol the virtues of file-sharing.

“Those industry fat cats try to put a price on my music, but it wants to be free,” the canine bard says in a dialogue bubble at the bottom of the screen, after performing and giving away “copies” of a tune.

The character is K.K. Slider, an insouciant inhabitant of the sprawling universe that is “Animal Crossing: Wild World,” a deeply layered community-building game released two weeks ago for the Nintendo DS, the hand-held gaming console introduced last year.

In an e-mail message, Nintendo’s vice president for marketing and corporate affairs, Perrin Kaplan, said that “no real social commentary was intended.”

[…] While the joke may buzz a bit high over the heads of the game’s 8-year-old fans, 14-year-olds have heard enough antipiracy messages in their schools, seen them on their CD’s, encountered them online and chattered about file-sharing among friends to know that K.K. is expressing a subversive idea – that he is speaking their language.

He’s winking at them. He’s cool. He’s hip.

No doubt there’s a calculus in that, to keep young customers paying for more Nintendo games.

If not paying for music.