July 10, 2006

OT: Two Legal Moves/Counter Moves [6:02 pm]

First, a decision: Judge Says Raid on Congressman’s Office Was Legal - pdf - opinion

In a 28-page opinion, Hogan dismissed arguments that the first-ever raid on a congressman’s office violated the Constitution’s protections against intimidation of elected officials.

“Congress’ capacity to function effectively is not threatened by permitting congressional offices to be searched pursuant to validly issued search warrants,” said Hogan, who had approved the FBI’s request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson’s office.

(Later: Judge Upholds F.B.I. Search of Lawmaker’s Office)Second, maneuvers: White House asks for dismissal of NSA wiretap suit - pdf

In both cases, the Bush administration has invoked a legal doctrine known as the “state-secrets privilege” that it has used to head off other court action spy programs.

“If the court accepts the state-secret argument, we are truly facing a constitutional crisis in this country,” Michael Steinberg, legal director for ACLU Michigan, told reporters after the hearing.

The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit in January, argues that the NSA wiretaps violate free-speech and privacy rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Government lawyers on Monday argued that the NSA program was key to protecting national security.

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Music Sales Stats [4:02 pm]

Digital sales fuel record biz in first-half ‘06 - pdf

Physical album sales continued to decline in the U.S. during the first six months of 2006, down 4.2 percent in comparison to the same period last year.

However, Nielsen SoundScan figures indicate that digital sales might boost the business as a whole. Sales of digital albums soared 126 percent during the first half of the year, while digital tracks rose 77 percent.

Looking at the entire sales picture — comprising physical albums, digital albums and digital tracks — overall sales to date this year have gained about one-tenth of a percentage point over the first six months of ‘05.

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CleanFlicks et al. Lose A Round [1:35 pm]

From today’s Arts, Briefly in the New York Times - pdf

Judge Calls Scrubbed Films ‘Illegitimate’

A federal judge has ruled that sanitizing DVD or VHS versions of movies violates copyright laws, The Associated Press reported. Declaring the editing of films to delete objectionable language, sex and violence to be an “illegitimate business,” Judge Richard P. Matsch of United States District Court in Denver ordered several companies engaged in such work to turn over their inventory to Hollywood studios. He said that the scrubbing of films hurts studios and directors who own the rights and does “irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies.” He ordered three companies named in the suit to stop “producing, manufacturing, creating” and renting the edited movies. Ray Lines, the chief executive of CleanFlicks, one of the companies, said, “We’re going to continue the fight.” It burns edited movies onto blank discs and sells them over the Internet and to video stories. As many as 90 stores nationwide, about half of them in Utah, buy the CleanFlicks versions, Mr. Lines said. Michael Apted, president of the Directors Guild of America, applauded Judge Matsch’s ruling. Mr. Apted said, “Audiences can now be assured that the films they buy or rent are the vision of the filmmakers who made them and not the arbitrary choices of a third-party editor.”

Salt Lake City Tribune article: Utah film sanitizers ordered to cut it - pdf

After a bitter three-year legal battle involving Utah companies that sanitize movies on DVD and VHS tape, a federal judge in Denver ruled Thursday that such editing violates U.S. copyright laws and must be stopped.

In a ruling in the case involving CleanFlicks vs. 16 of Hollywood’s hottest directors, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch found that making copies of movies to delete objectionable language, sex and violence hurts studios and directors who own the movie rights.

“Their [studios and directors] objective . . . is to stop the infringement because of its irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies,” the judge wrote in a 16-page decision. “There is a public interest in providing such protection. Their business is illegitimate.”

[...] The ruling does not affect another Utah company, ClearPlay, which has developed technology in DVD players that edits movies on the fly as they play.

ClearPlay’s timeline (not up to date)

Later: the opinion

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The Evolution of the Dead [1:23 pm]

A Resurrection, of Sorts, for the Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s longest-lasting institutions, has announced a licensing agreement with Rhino Entertainment to manage exclusively all of the band’s intellectual property.

Rhino, a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group that is best known as a premier reissue label, will oversee everything from the band’s vast archive of live recordings and its Web site to its merchandise and use of its likeness. Grateful Dead Productions will retain creative control, and the deal does not include the band’s music publishing.

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The BPI Approach [10:11 am]

ISPs urged to lock out file-sharers - pdf

The British music industry stepped up its campaign against illegal file-sharing on Monday by demanding that two Internet service providers suspend 59 accounts it believes are being used to swap copyrighted songs.

[...] We have said for months that it is unacceptable for ISPs to turn a blind eye to industrial-scale copyright infringement,” BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said in a statement.

“We are providing Tiscali and Cable & Wireless with unequivocal evidence of copyright infringement via their services,” he added. “It is now up to them to put their house in order and pull the plug on these people.”

[...] The U.S. music industry tried to force telecoms companies to reveal the names of their customers allegedly using file-sharing networks to illegally share songs, but it lost a legal battle to do so in 2004.

Record companies must now first obtain court-approved subpoenas against the unknown holders of ISP addresses, which then can be served on ISPs, allowing consumers to challenge the claims before their names are disclosed.

Later: Tiscali snubs music industry demand for names [pdf]

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Hoo-boy…. [8:27 am]

Furor Over Sony Patent - pdf

Sony Corp. has patented technology that would prevent its PlayStation consoles from playing used, rented or borrowed video games — raising questions about whether the electronics and entertainment giant may attempt to redefine what it means to own something in the digital age.

[...] [Customers] worry that it would wipe out the $1-billion-a-year market for used games and could even prevent someone from playing their games at a friend’s house.

[...] Documents filed in April 2000 with the U.S. Patent Office describe a method of copy protection by which the game system would verify a disc as legitimate, register the disc to that particular game console, then wipe out verification data so the disc would be rendered unreadable in other PlayStations.

[...] Whatever Sony’s plans, the tempest illustrates the changing nature of ownership as millions of people accumulate vast collections of digital entertainment. Few people realize that when they buy software, music or movies, they are actually buying a license to use, listen or watch.

[...] “These are all things technologically possible to do in any computing device,” said one cryptographer, who requested anonymity. “In the video game business, it would be suicide for someone to do this. It’s actually possible Sony filed this because they wanted to keep people from doing that.”

[...] Used-game sales are a growing source of irritation for game publishers, which receive no proceeds from the resale of games. Executives privately complain that cheaper secondhand games are available for sale shortly after a new game’s release; publishers, which give retailers marketing money to promote games, end up competing with discounted versions of their own titles.

Interesting that Ms. Chmielewski included this bit of nonsense in her writeup:

Few people realize that when they buy software, music or movies, they are actually buying a license to use, listen or watch.

While arguably true for software, this is not the case when it comes to music or movies.

(Still hunting for specific patent - 7,073,065 is interesting, but not exactly matching the description given) Here it is, I think — 6,816,972 - Disk recording medium, reproduction device and method for performing reproduction on disk recording medium

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Gender, Perception and Internet Skills [8:11 am]

Don’t be so sure he’s the expert - pdf

Hargittai, who studies the social demographics of computer use, discerned a few expected patterns: that younger subjects and more-educated subjects had better online computer skills, and rated themselves as more proficient Internet users, than older ones or those with more limited education. But as she continued to sift her data, Hargittai noticed something she had not set out to find: that although the online skills of men and women were roughly equal, women, as a group, rated their proficiency significantly lower than did men. Men, who as a group were no better at plying the Internet than women, rated their skills, on average, a couple notches above.

“Not a single woman among all our female study subjects called herself an ‘expert’ user, while not a single male ranked himself as a complete novice or ‘not at all skilled,’ ” Hargittai noted. The study is the first to look at self-perceived online competence and its relationship to actual online ability, and Hargittai says she sees a replay of the he-versus-she math-and-science contest, in which women concede defeat even before an objective score has been tallied.

[...] Hargittai went back earlier this year and tested and interviewed almost half of the subjects who participated in her 2001-02 study, after they had accumulated five more years of Internet use. Although men’s and women’s relative skill remained roughly equal to each other, five more years of experience had not changed men’s higher regard for their own skills.

[...] “By underestimating their ability to effectively use the Web, women may be limiting the extent of their online behavior, the ways in which they use the Internet and, ultimately, the career choices they make,” said Hargittai, assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and co-author, with Princeton University researcher Steven Shafer, of the article titled “Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender.”

In the June 2006 issue of Social Science Quarterly

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LATimes on Pending © Proposals [8:02 am]

We aren’t all pirates - pdf

Protecting intellectual property is a legitimate goal for Congress — after all, the Constitution called on Congress to give authors and inventors exclusive rights “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” The task has grown more urgent with the emergence of an Internet-fueled global information economy. But what the entertainment industry is seeking in this year’s proposals isn’t merely protection from piracy; it’s after increased leverage to protect its business models.

That’s why lawmakers must bear in mind the balance needed between copyright holders’ interests and the public’s, something Congress has not done well lately. In 1998, it gave copyright holders broad power to block legitimate uses of works, even those in the public domain, through the use of electronic locks that impede copying of digital products. And that same year, it prolonged the public domain’s starvation diet by extending copyrights an additional 20 years, to 70 years beyond the death of the creator.

[...] Clearly, the industry-backed proposals would do more than just defend copyrighted works from pirates. They also would impinge on devices that have legitimate uses and steer the development of technology, cutting off some innovation. As they weigh the entertainment industry’s pleas, lawmakers shouldn’t assume all consumers are bootleggers and every digital device is a hand grenade aimed at Hollywood.

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It All Comes Down To Price [7:50 am]

Cinema Chains Seek Investors to Finance Digital Projectors - pdf

Both theater chains and studios have strong financial incentives to make the venture work. Studios stand to save hundreds of millions of dollars by not having to print and deliver film reels to thousands of theaters. Cinema owners see the sharpness of pictures delivered digitally as a way to improve the quality of the moviegoing experience, giving consumers an incentive to continue visiting theaters.

[...] [T]he exhibitors have yet to negotiate “virtual print fees” from the studios to offset the cost of converting individual theaters from film to digital projection, [consultant Michael] Karagosian said.

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