May 12, 2006

Inexorable Advance? [2:31 pm]

French Digital Music Copyright Bill Advances

The National Assembly’s version permitted consumers to ask a court to force companies like Apple to let songs bought from iTunes play on other portable devices. The Senate version would accept such appeals only from companies.

The bill would guarantee that tunes could play on multiple devices in a way that preserves some copy protection and respects rights established when the work was purchased. The real-world application of all this to companies like Apple and Sony will come out of committee actions.

[...] The latest vote comes amid global debate over patents and copyrights in a world where instant Internet distribution of perfect digital copies is being blamed for disrupting conventional media business models. “France has adopted an entirely new and unique approach to managing digital music and films that could be a model for other countries to follow,” said Jonathan Arber, an analyst in London at Ovum, a consulting firm. “Everyone will be watching the impact six months down the line to see whether consumers or companies have benefited.”

The law will set France apart from many Western countries, especially the United States, in its positions on copyright law, digital copying and piracy, several critics said.

“This law risks removing all deterrence against piracy,” said Olivia Regnier, who represents record labels as the European regional counsel for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. “If you can download 1,000 films and songs and only face a 38-euro fine, that’s not much of a penalty.”

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A Small Bit Of Solace, Thanks to Qwest [2:28 pm]

In an otherwise terrible story: Bush Is Pressed Over New Report on Surveillance

The USA Today article on Thursday went further, saying that the N.S.A. had created an enormous database of all calls made by customers of the three phone companies in an effort to compile a log of “every call ever made” within this country. The report said one large phone company, Qwest, had refused to cooperate with the N.S.A. because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Later: Slate points out that there are wheels within wheels in this story — Re: Qwest Rejected (cited overall NYTimes story and the one on the reshaped image of the Qwest chairman)

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Spitzer Gets A Settlement [2:26 pm]

Universal Fined a Record to Settle Payola Claims - [pdf]

Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record company, has agreed to pay more than $12 million to settle allegations that in exchange for airplay it bribed radio programmers with vacations, electronics and cash, New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer said Thursday.

The fine against Universal Music, which releases nearly 1 in every 3 of the albums sold in the United States, is the largest paid by a record company to settle claims of so-called pay for play.

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Privacy and Dataveillance [2:18 pm]

As Tech Advances, Privacy Laws Lag - [pdf]

Never has it been so easy to know so much about so many.

Thursday’s disclosure that three of the nation’s biggest telephone companies gave customer calling records to the National Security Agency again demonstrates that technology is rewriting the rules of privacy faster than the law can adapt.

And with their powerful database programs tracking a massive amount of personal details of Americans’ daily lives, a growing number of companies find themselves sandwiched between the privacy expectations of their customers and the national security demands of the federal government.

“It’s so easy to say yes,” said technology security expert Bruce Schneier. “The government sings a patriotic song, and you want to do what’s right. We all want to band together.”

With the rise of lightning-fast ways to collect, collate and distribute digital data, county sheriffs, credit card companies and even nosy neighbors can dig up private information. But in many cases it is the federal government that has been looking over the public’s virtual shoulder.

The NSA program is the most recent example of how personal data collected for commercial purposes can be used in unexpected ways.

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