A Replay of the MP3.com Fight

To wit — can a third party store copies of something that they don’t own, at the behest of those who have paid for the right to use that something, and replay it for them later? Cablevision loses suit on network DVRspdf

A federal judge has ruled against Cablevision Systems Corp.’s experiment with network digital video recorders, siding with Hollywood studios who said the devices would have violated copyright law.

The case has been closely followed in the cable industry since Cablevision, a New York-area company with about 3 million subscribers, had been the first to try to put the service into use, despite opposition from the studios.

Unlike a standard set-top digital video recorder with a built-in hard drive, which allows TV viewers to store and play back shows when they like and also to skip through commercials, a network DVR would allow any customer with a digital set-top box to record and play back shows in the same way, with the programs being stored in remote computer servers maintained by Cablevision.

Several studios and cable networks sued Cablevision, saying the company didn’t get their permission to rebroadcast the programs.

Cablevision argued that because the control of the recording and playback was in the hands of the consumer, and not Cablevision, the devices were compliant with copyright law.

Building Constituencies, Any Way That Works

An interesting look at how Israel is using the WWW: Israel goes on the virtual offensive

For the moment at least, the state of Israel has 553 friends. One of them is Leonardo DiCaprio.

The 20-something Israeli official who is showing me Israel’s new MySpace page, however, says she isn’t sure if the link to the Hollywood heartthrob really leads to him. We’re sitting in the offices of the Israeli Consulate in New York, where Israel’s official MySpace page was launched in January under the direction of officials from the Foreign Ministry. The 20-something official mentions that the Philippines also now has its own MySpace page, adding excitedly, “They’re one of our friends, too. Isn’t that nice?”

[…] The MySpace page is part of a wider effort, including Internet television and other online initiatives, led by an Israeli diplomat named David Saranga. Under Saranga’s direction, Israel hopes to reach out to young Americans by adding some hip and stylish gloss to Israel’s image and building a greater sense of connection in the process. Citing research on Israel’s image in the United States, Saranga told me recently: “We saw that we had a problem with the age group of 18 to 35, and the reason is that this group doesn’t see Israel as relevant. So we have to talk to them in their language, in platforms that they are using, and the new media is one of the ways to do so.”

A Letter from the Front Lines

My National Security Letter Gag Orderpdf

It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author — who would have preferred to be named — is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author’s attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.

[…] Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand — a context that the FBI still won’t let me discuss publicly — I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

[…] Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case — including the mere fact that I received an NSL — from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

Opening A Door To Innovation

The FCC’s rejection defines the parameters of a technical problem that probably could be solved. But, do you really *want* cellphone use on an airplane? Chief Says F.C.C. Is Against Cellphone Use on Airliners

The Federal Communications Commission will give up on the idea of allowing cellphone use on airplanes, the chairman said on Thursday, because it is not clear whether the network on the ground can handle the calls.

While the chairman, Kevin J. Martin, cited a technical reason, thousands of air passengers have written to the F.C.C., urging rejection of the proposal because of the potential for irritating passengers in airline cabins. The Federal Aviation Administration had been laying the groundwork to allow in-flight cellphone use

Later: A Flood of Pleas to F.C.C.: No Phones on Planes, Please Is this really what the FCC is supposed to be considering?

A Great Nickname

And not a bad set of observations, either: Will TheirTube work?pdf

Though this marks the most direct big-media response yet to YouTube, the venture is hardly a frontal assault on the video upstart. Instead, it’s a fundamentally different approach, one that cedes less control to consumers. YouTube does more than provide a forum for amateur and semi-professional video; it lets users act as the site’s curators, gathering and posting (and sometimes remixing) an array of clips they didn’t actually generate. They have turned the site into a digital memory bank for broadcast television — a Web-based VCR.

The new effort, by contrast, makes viewers more passive, accepting what the networks and studios have churned out. Users will be able to put the videos on their MySpace pages and other websites, potentially generating more advertising revenue. And they’ll be able to edit and mix at least some of the clips with their own material. But the real point is to help Hollywood rein in unauthorized use of its copyrighted content on user-generated sites.

[…] Of course, that strategy will break down if users don’t like the terms that Hollywood tries to impose. There’s no way to filter the entire Web, and Internet users have proved remarkably adept at finding what they want wherever it’s available. Still, it’s a welcome change to see at least some of the studios respond to YouTube in the marketplace rather than merely trying to bottle up their content through the courts.

Elsewhere in the LATimes, an article suggesting that TheirTube, based on online entertainment like Snowmen Hunters, is going to have a tough row to hoe: Hollywood’s big online rival: the little guypdf

Yet if I were running Viacom, I’d be nearly as concerned about shows such as “Snowmen Hunters” as I’d be about ensuring that my own stuff wasn’t misappropriated.

In the long term — which in Web time means, like, five years — these sorts of amateur offerings could wind up playing their own significant role in squeezing profits of the leading TV and film studios. […]

For Big Media, the real threat will emerge as more and more advertisers, attracted by the millions of viewers who genuinely enjoy this homespun programming, gravitate toward the sites hosting these productions and, in turn, more and more money starts finding its way to the talent behind them.

And the Washington Post offers up a less sanguine take, channeling Viacom’s desire to end the DMCA Safe Harbor provision: For YouTube, This Is a Testpdf

OT: Risking Your Pension

To tell it like it is: Leaving Iraq: The Grim Truthpdf. And, by risking pensions, I mean the last comment on possible Iraqi scenarios:

[Gen. Tony McPeak (retired)]: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

Related from the LATimes, channeling a little Walt Kelly: The enemy and us are starting to look alikepdf

Only in retrospect, as the historian leafs through the documents that survive redaction and classification, will it become apparent how the war on terror turned a part of us into our enemy — and a part of our enemy into ourselves.