August 9, 2006

The LATimes Looks At The Conundrum Of The Digital Age [8:02 am]

Is Copying a Crime? Well … - pdf

“I think you’re allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends,” said Collins. “It’s only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it’s illegal.”

Actually, attorneys say, copying a purchased CD for even one friend violates the federal copyright code most of the time.

But Collins’ attitude — that copying purchased CDs or DVDs is legal, while copying stolen music or movies is a crime — is pervasive among young people ages 12 to 24, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Among teens ages 12 to 17 who were polled, 69% said they believed it was legal to copy a CD from a friend who purchased the original. By comparison, only 21% said it was legal to copy a CD if a friend got the music free. Similarly, 58% thought it was legal to copy a friend’s purchased DVD or videotape, but only 19% thought copying was legal if the movie wasn’t purchased.

Those figures are a big problem for the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America, both of which have spent millions of dollars to deter copying of any kind. The music industry now considers “schoolyard” piracy — copies of physical discs given to friends and classmates — a greater threat than illegal peer-to-peer downloading, according to the RIAA.

Similarly, an MPAA spokesperson said that, in the U.S., copying and reproducing DVDs is a bigger problem than illegal downloading of movies.

[...] In the last decade, copyright activists and entertainment companies have battled over that very question. Courts have generally avoided commenting on the appropriateness of copying CDs for friends or how many friends constitutes a copyright violation. But music and film companies have argued that any sharing violates the copyright code.

However, free-speech advocates say the copyright laws were never intended to stop kids from giving mix-CDs to friends. In fact, some say, because music is as much about personal expression as listening pleasure, sharing is integral to why songs have value in the first place.

Third in the series (part one, part two)

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Chinese Peer Production and TV Copyrights [7:52 am]

Chinese Tech Buffs Slake Thirst for U.S. TV Shows

He is no ordinary fan, though; none of the shows he watches can be seen on Chinese television. Instead, he spends night after night creating Chinese subtitles for American sitcoms and dramas for a mushrooming audience of Chinese viewers who download them from the Internet free through services like BitTorrent.

What is most remarkable about the effort, which involves dozens of people working in teams all over China, is that it is entirely voluntary. Mr. Ding’s group, which goes by the name Fengruan, is locked in fierce competition with a handful of similar outfits that share the same ambition: making American popular culture available in near-real time free to Chinese audiences, dodging Chinese censors and American copyright lawyers.

“We’ve set a goal of producing 40 TV shows a week, which basically means all of the shows produced by Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC,” Mr. Ding said, fairly bubbling about the project.

“What this means,” he said, “is that when the Americans broadcast shows, we will translate them. Our speed surpasses all the other groups in China, and our goal is to be the best American transcription service in the world.”

[...] “We are aware that because of their popularity, several Fox programs are particular targets of theft and unauthorized broadcast in territories around the world,” Teri Everett, a Fox spokeswoman, said by e-mail.

“It’s an ongoing effort, and one that will be greatly aided in China once the Chinese Internet regulations are finalized, which will clarify a number of issues relating to the enforcement of content providers’ rights on the Internet.”

Members of the translation groups are aware that their efforts may be considered a violation of copyright laws in other countries, but most view it as a mere technicality because they charge nothing for their efforts and make no profits, adhering to Chinese law.

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EU Consumer Protection and the Industry’s Next Gen DVD Format Fight [7:50 am]

European Panel Investigates DVD-Standards Rivalry

European investigators are in Hollywood with questions about whether studios have been pressured by rival manufacturers of next-generation DVD’s to favor one standard over another.

[...] The European Commission is investigating whether the technology giants are stifling competition through exclusive contracts with studios and computer makers. The Hollywood studios have been asked to reveal any dealings about high-definition DVD’s with technology companies contained in e-mail messages, faxes, PowerPoint presentations, meeting notes, internal reports and even conversations.

[...] The exhaustive inquiry seems to be an indication that regulators in Brussels, fresh from their battle to force Microsoft to open up the computer software market, are set to remain more aggressive than their American counterparts in seeking to prevent technology companies from locking up standards markets.

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Why Search Logging Is A Privacy Issue [7:35 am]

A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749

AOL removed the search data from its site over the weekend and apologized for its release, saying it was an unauthorized move by a team that had hoped it would benefit academic researchers.

But the detailed records of searches conducted by Ms. Arnold and 657,000 other Americans, copies of which continue to circulate online, underscore how much people unintentionally reveal about themselves when they use search engines — and how risky it can be for companies like AOL, Google and Yahoo to compile such data.

Those risks have long pitted privacy advocates against online marketers and other Internet companies seeking to profit from the Internet’s unique ability to track the comings and goings of users, allowing for more focused and therefore more lucrative advertising.

But the unintended consequences of all that data being compiled, stored and cross-linked are what Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group in Washington, called “a ticking privacy time bomb.”

[...] But while these searches can tell the casual observer — or the sociologist or the marketer — much about the person who typed them, they can also prove highly misleading.

At first glace [sic], it might appear that Ms. Arnold fears she is suffering from a wide range of ailments. Her search history includes “hand tremors,” “nicotine effects on the body,” “dry mouth” and “bipolar.” But in an interview, Ms. Arnold said she routinely researched medical conditions for her friends to assuage their anxieties. Explaining her queries about nicotine, for example, she said: “I have a friend who needs to quit smoking and I want to help her do it.”

Slashdot: The Face of One AOL Searcher Exposed; also Google to Continue Storing Search Requests

Later: You Are What You Search

Even later, a little humor: Search history: The records of AOL customer No. 16006693

Later (Aug 21): AOL Technology Chief Leaves After Data Release

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