August 16, 2006

An Oslo Meeting Over iTunes DRM Planned [2:32 pm]

Scandinavians to meet Apple over iTunes - pdf

Sweden’s consumer rights agency on Wednesday said it and other rights groups in Scandinavia will meet Apple Computer to discuss their complaint that the U.S. company’s popular iTunes service breaches consumer laws.

In June, the consumer agencies of Sweden, Denmark and Norway jointly wrote to Apple alleging that customers had to waive fundamental rights, such as the free use of legally bought products, to download music from iTunes.

The U.S. computer maker has responded in writing, but wants a face-to-face discussion as well, Marianne Abyhammar, Sweden’s acting consumer ombudsman, told Reuters.

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Wired News Profiles the Pirate Bay [7:44 am]

A series.

  • Part 1: Secrets of the Pirate Bay

    Harbored by a country where 1.2 million out of 9 million citizens tell the census that they engage in file sharing, the Pirate Bay is as much a national symbol as it is a website. Protected by weak Swedish copyright laws, the Bay survived and grew as movie studio lawyers felled competing BitTorrent trackers one-by-one. Today it boasts an international user base and easily clears 1 million unique visitors a day. New movies sometimes appear at the top of the site’s most-popular list before flickering onto a single theater screen.

    With its worldwide following, many here see the Bay as the devil on Sweden’s shoulder, legitimizing contempt for intellectual property rights and threatening to saddle the country with a lasting reputation for international lawlessness. “It’s very difficult to make people act legal when they’ve been doing something for some time,” says Marianne Levin, professor of private law and intellectual property at the University of Stockholm. “In Sweden the debate (on file sharing) came very late.”

    [...] The pirates have since moved the Bay’s hosting back to Sweden, where they’ve built technological bulwarks against another takedown, law-hardening the Bay’s network architecture with a system of redundant servers that spans three nations. Shutting down the site in any single country will only cripple the Pirate Bay for as long as it takes for its fail-over scripts to execute, a gap measurable in minutes.

    The various servers’ locations are obscured behind a load balancer configured to lie, the crew says. Once the failsafe is triggered, a determined adversary with an international team of litigators might be able to track down the servers, but by that time — according to the plan — the pirates will have deployed mirrors in even more countries. In theory, the corporate lawyers will eventually tire of this game of international copyright Whack-A-Mole.

    With all that in place, crew member Fredrik Neij says he welcomes the possibility of another raid. “I really want the pleasure of it being down three minutes, then up again.”

  • Part 2: A Nation Divided Over Piracy

    In March, game show contestant Petter Nilsson won the politically themed Top Candidates show by delivering speeches supporting file sharing, and committing to donating 20 percent of his $30,000 winning to the Pirate Bay. A cultural minister from a southern Sweden municipality admitted in June to the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that he downloaded music on a daily basis, and called for more adults to “come out of the file-sharing closet.” Last May’s raid on the Pirate Bay sparked street protests and cyberattacks on government websites.

    But it was the spike in the Pirate Party’s numbers after the raid that might have the most lasting consequences for Sweden. Membership shot past the nation’s Green Party, which holds 17 seats in the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament. There’s no guarantee that membership will translate into votes, but the pirates have raised enough funds to print 3 million ballots for next month’s election, and they have enough volunteers to get them out to all the polling places.

    This week, the Pirate Party broke out its own version of a chicken in every pot when it endorsed a low-cost, encrypted anonymizing service offered by a Swedish communications company called Relakks. For 5 euros a month, a portion of which goes to the party, anyone can share files or communicate from a Relakks IP address in Sweden, potentially complicating efforts to track downloaders. The party endorsement generated enough interest to cause performance issues on the new service.

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Google WiFi Strategy [7:38 am]

Not what was expected — a demonstration of the need for competition in the net neutrality battle rather than a push into becoming an ISP - for now: Google Says It Has No Plans for National Wi-Fi Service

There has been widespread speculation that Google might compete nationally as a wireless Internet provider, but an executive said Tuesday in a phone interview that Google had embarked on the Mountain View and San Francisco efforts with other objectives: to demonstrate the value of competition in providing Internet access, and to build systems that would allow the company to experiment with new business ideas.

Competitive Internet access has been a crucial issue for Google’s executives, who have jousted publicly with telephone and cable industry companies that have threatened to charge content providers for access to networks. The debate has extended to Washington, where Google and its allies have called for regulators and legislators to ensure what proponents call “Net neutrality.”

“I think there wouldn’t be a Net neutrality debate in this country if we really had a competitive environment for access,” said Chris Sacca, a Google executive who heads special initiatives for the company. “The Internet is not pervasive as it could be, or democratic.”

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