September 18, 2007

Spin, Spin, Spin [12:37 pm]

And I call bullsh*t! — Microsoft Ruling May Bode Ill for Other Companies

“This ruling is certainly going to introduce a lot of uncertainty,” said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Washington-based group that supported Microsoft in its legal case in Europe. “What the court is basically saying is that if you develop a successful product and get too big, the European Commission is going to force you to give away your intellectual property.”

Or maybe it’s going to convince companies that illegal use of monopoly power carries consequences, hmmm?

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SpiralFrog [5:51 am]

SpiralFrog offers free songs — with a catchpdf

In one of the bolder experiments to date,, a service scheduled to open today, will let Web surfers download songs by U2, Timbaland, Amy Winehouse and other Universal Music Group artists free.

The catch: Consumers have to wait 90 seconds for each track to download, and they must answer questions each month about their buying habits.

In addition, the songs can’t be played on iPods or burned onto CDs as they can with 99-cent downloads from the dominant online music store, Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

[...] Although Universal and the other labels declined to discuss SpiralFrog on the record, executives at two labels said they had serious doubts about the company’s prospects. The executives said Universal and the others were interested in cutting a range of digital deals in hopes that some would pan out.

Hmm - sounds like more than one catch, as well as a potentially stupid feud between Apple and Universal.

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Kembrew McLeod on DMCA Abuse: Uri Geller [5:43 am]

Uri Geller’s YouTube takedownpdf

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s probably remember a popular psychic named Uri Geller, who was always on TV back then, bending spoons with his brain, correctly guessing the content of people’s doodles and generally blowing the audience’s mind. But who could have guessed that his powers would eventually warp free speech and copyright law in the 21st century?

[...] Using the DMCA, aggressive litigants like Geller and such copyright-hoarding companies as Viacom and Disney can simply make your work disappear if they do not like what you have to say, something that was much more difficult in the pre-digital world.

[...] These “copy fights” are first and foremost a free-speech issue. Sadly, many intellectual-property owners and lawyers see it purely as an economic concern. Another problem is that websites often faint at the sound of threatening language in legal nastygrams. It’s safer to cave to spurious demands than risk lawsuits from brand-name bullies or obsessives such as Geller.

If YouTube is our new public sphere, we are in trouble, at least when it comes to free speech. YouTube’s parent company, Google, is more concerned with its bottom line than anything else, whether it’s copyright censorship in the U.S. or political censorship in China.

But all is not hopeless. The DMCA contains a legal tool for resisting unreasonable copyright claims — the “counter-notice.” [...]

[...] As our culture increasingly becomes fenced off, it’s all the more important for us to be able to comment publicly on the images, ideas and words that saturate us on a daily basis without worrying about an expensive, if meritless, lawsuit. If we don’t defend ourselves, we’ll be complicit in letting our freedom erode. By standing up for fair use and against overreaching copyright claims, we can create havens for expression in the age of intellectual property.

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September 17, 2007

This should cause some unrest [7:06 pm]

Of course, it’s Trent who’s going to suffer, I expect: Trent Reznor Says “Steal My Music”

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September 16, 2007

A Return to Progressivism? [11:33 am]

I speculated on this a couple of weeks ago; interesting to see it cropping up again. Although it’s hard to cast the current president as a modern Teddy Roosevelt, the forces in play these days are positively Kolkovian: In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulation

After years of favoring the hands-off doctrine of the Bush administration, some of the nation’s biggest industries are pushing for something they have long resisted: new federal regulations.

For toys and cars, antifreeze and fireworks, popcorn and produce and cigarettes and light bulbs, among other products, industry groups or major manufacturers are calling for federal health, safety and environmental mandates. Some of those industries are abandoning years of efforts to block such measures, often in alliance with the Bush administration, which pledged to ease what it views as costly, unnecessary rules.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as it appears. If the opposition wants to avoid giving away the farm, here’s the aspect that ought to be fought tooth and nail (by simply asking whether a regulatory agency should be given quite this much power):

But industry officials, consumer groups and regulatory experts all agree there has been a recent surge of requests for new regulations, and one reason they give is the Bush administration’s willingness to include provisions that would block consumer lawsuits in state and federal courts.

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September 15, 2007

Living with Ubiquitous Personalization [1:21 pm]

Tell-All PCs and Phones Transforming Divorce

The age-old business of breaking up has taken a decidedly Orwellian turn, with digital evidence like e-mail messages, traces of Web site visits and mobile telephone records now permeating many contentious divorce cases.

[...] Divorce lawyers routinely set out to find every bit of private data about their clients’ adversaries, often hiring investigators with sophisticated digital forensic tools to snoop into household computers.

“In just about every case now, to some extent, there is some electronic evidence,” said Gaetano Ferro, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who also runs seminars on gathering electronic evidence. “It has completely changed our field.”

Privacy advocates have grown increasingly worried that digital tools are giving governments and powerful corporations the ability to peek into peoples’ lives as never before. But the real snoops are often much closer to home.

It gets worse

Being on the receiving end of electronic spying can be particularly disturbing. Jolene Barten-Bolender, a 45-year-old mother of three who lives in Dix Hills, N.Y., said that she was recently informed by AOL and Google, on the same day, that the passwords had been changed on two e-mail accounts she was using, suggesting that someone had gained access and was reading her messages. Last year, she discovered a Global Positioning System, or G.P.S., tracking device in a wheel well of the family car.

She suspects her husband of 24 years, whom she is divorcing.

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September 14, 2007

DMCA Follies [1:34 pm]

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Cellular Open Access Challenged [9:08 am]

Verizon Wireless Suing Over Auction Rules

Verizon Wireless has sued the Federal Communications Commission, seeking to overturn auction rules requiring the buyers of some airwaves to make their networks compatible with any device.

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Nose, Face — You Know How It Goes [7:58 am]

Marley Family’s Vitriol Leads Verizon to Bite Back

The licensing dispute between the estate of the reggae singer Bob Marley and the Universal Music Group took an ugly turn yesterday, with nobody getting together or feeling the least bit all right.

[...] Yesterday, early in the afternoon, it looked as if Verizon Wireless was removing itself from the fray. The Marley family issued a statement that it would not follow through with plans to file a suit against the carrier for trademark infringement because Verizon had “ceded” to its demands and taken most of the 44 ring tones by the singer off the Verizon Wireless Web site. Sixteen ring tones remained on the site, songs from early in Mr. Marley’s career that are owned by companies other than Universal.

But in announcing that Verizon had changed course, the family was less than conciliatory. In a written statement, Chris Blackwell, a longtime spokesman for the family, said that he was “infuriated that Verizon would go around the estate and initiate partnership with Universal” and that it was “disturbing that these companies refuse to give the musicians the respect they deserve.”

James Gerace, a Verizon spokesman, said, “I was a little taken aback by their statement.”

And the company was not just taken aback; it took it all back.

See earlier When Is A Ringtone Not Just A Music Clip?

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September 13, 2007

A Little Progress [5:31 pm]

DirecTV faces setback in dubious antipiracy campaign. Good.

DirecTV lost an important case on Tuesday. Programmers, security researchers, and anyone who believes in a limited government won.

In a 2-1 split decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a default judgment against a pair of alleged DirecTV television pirates, saying an “unauthorized decryption device” law the company invoked against them does not apply. That law promises statutory damages of $100,000 per violation.

[...] The reason this could be an important decision is because it strikes at the heart of DirecTV’s dubious strategy of treating purchasers of smart-card programmers as if they were necessarily criminals themselves.

In a dragnet of cases filed over many years, DirecTV has been suing people who dared to buy smart-card programmers. Those can, it’s true, be used to repair pirate access cards disabled by DirecTV countermeasures (this type of card is sometimes called an “unlooper”).

They also have perfectly benign uses. [...]

EFF’s copy of the decision; more general info

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Another Round In An Ongoing Fight [5:27 pm]

Of course, overreaching by pop stars is nothing new, but I fail to see why this request to get the Safe Harbor provisions changed to task the host with policing content is going to get any further than anyone else’s try — but I guess that’s what lawyers are for. After all, it just takes one judge to decide to be expansive and we’re off to the races: Prince to sue Youtube, eBay over music usepdf

U.S. pop star Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major Web sites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to “reclaim his art on the Internet.”

The man behind hit songs “Purple Rain,” “1999″ and “When Doves Cry” said on Thursday that YouTube could not argue that it had no control over which videos users posted on its site.

“YouTube … are clearly able (to) filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success,” a statement released on his behalf said.

[...] In addition to YouTube, Prince also plans legal action against online auctioneer eBay and Pirate Bay, a site accused by Hollywood and the music industry as being a major source of music and film piracy.

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September 12, 2007

Street View and Canadian Privacy Law [5:34 pm]

Canada says new Google map could break privacy lawpdf

Google Inc introduced street-level map views in May, giving web users a series of panoramic, 360-degree images of nine U.S. cities. Some of the random pictures feature people in informal poses who can clearly be identified.

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart wrote to Google in early August asking for more details. She said if the Street View product were expanded to Canada without being amended, it could well violate privacy laws.

The images were produced in partnership with Canadian firm Immersive Media Corp, which says it has taken similar street level pictures of major Canadian cities.

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IPR In Automobiles [4:46 pm]

Germans See Imitation in Chinese Cars

It’s hardly surprising that a car that bills itself as the “ultimate driving machine” would inspire imitation. But to BMW, the CEO, a Chinese sport utility vehicle, is less respectful homage than brazen knockoff.

Charging that the CEO is a copy of BMW’s popular X5, the company has filed suit to prohibit its sale in Germany by the Chinese carmaker Shuanghuan Automobile.

That did not prevent Shuanghuan’s European importer from showing off the CEO on Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

It was a vivid illustration, on the show’s first day, that the struggle over intellectual property rights between China and the West — a battle that has ranged over products from designer handbags to computer chips — now extends to cars.

“We did not like it,” BMW chief executive, Norbert Reithofer, said curtly in an interview here.

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More Fallout from the “Wardrobe Malfuction” [10:30 am]

“Decency forever,” it appears: Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl striptease back on center stagepdf

The case is being argued at a time when the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement regime regarding broadcast indecency is in a state of flux. The government is considering whether to take the profanity case to the Supreme Court. At the same time, Congress is working on a legislative remedy.

[...] Meanwhile, in July, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the “Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act,” sponsored by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. The act would require the FCC “to maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent.”

Such a law would neatly encompass both suits. But if it passed, it would not be retroactive. The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill “could have serious and damaging effects on the First Amendment.” A companion bill is said to be in the works on the House side.

With Congress occupied by Iraq and other pressing issues, it is hard to say whether the bill will become law, but it has bipartisan support, and Congress has been eager to pass tough broadcast indecency laws in the past. Regardless, indecency enforcement at the agency is in a holding pattern. The FCC has not proposed a fine since March of 2006.

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A Look At The Communication Package Deals [8:13 am]

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention: Your loss of privacy is a package dealpdf

The all-you-can-eat packages of voice, video and Internet services offered by phone and cable companies may be convenient, but they represent a potentially significant threat to people’s privacy.

Take, for example, Time Warner Cable, which has about 2 million customers in Southern California. The company offers a voice-video-Net package called “All the Best” for $89.85 for the first 12 months.

But for anyone who has the wherewithal to read Time Warner’s 3,000-word California privacy policy, you discover that not only does the company have the ability to know what you watch on TV and whom you call, but also that it can track your online activities, including sites you visit and stuff you buy.

Remember all the fuss when it was revealed last year that Google Inc. kept voluminous records of people’s Web searches, and that federal authorities were demanding a peek under the hood? Multiply that privacy threat by three.

Internet, TV, phone — it’s hard to imagine a more revealing glimpse of your private life.

“All your eggs are in one communications basket,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. “If a company wants to, it can learn a great deal about you — and it probably wants to.”

More often than not, it’ll also want to turn a fast buck by selling at least a portion of that info to marketers.

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Returning to the Boomer Demographic, Again [8:01 am]

The Graying of the Web

Older people are sticky.

That is the latest view from Silicon Valley. Technology investors and entrepreneurs, long obsessed with connecting to teenagers and 20-somethings, are starting a host of new social networking sites aimed at baby boomers and graying computer users.

[...] “Teens are tire kickers — they hang around, cost you money and then leave,” said Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and author of the blog “Infectious Greed.” Where Friendster was once the hot spot, Facebook and MySpace now draw the crowds of young people online.

“The older demographic has a bunch of interesting characteristics,” Mr. Kedrosky added, “not the least of which is that they hang around.”

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Complexity as the Culprit? [7:59 am]

So what, exactly? It’s not our fault, then? There’s a weird fatalism that underlies this article, and its conclusion that the solution is more robust components is almost certainly not how we’re going to resolve the problem of architecting and maintaining a complex system, but it does offer one flavor of how the public is being trained to think about this issue: Who Needs Hackers?

Yes, hackers are still out there, and not just teenagers: malicious insiders, political activists, mobsters and even government agents all routinely test public and private computer networks and occasionally disrupt services. But experts say that some of the most serious, even potentially devastating, problems with networks arise from sources with no malevolent component.

Whether it’s the Los Angeles customs fiasco or the unpredictable network cascade that brought the global Skype telephone service down for two days in August, problems arising from flawed systems, increasingly complex networks and even technology headaches from corporate mergers can make computer systems less reliable. Meanwhile, society as a whole is growing ever more dependent on computers and computer networks, as automated controls become the norm for air traffic, pipelines, dams, the electrical grid and more.

“We don’t need hackers to break the systems because they’re falling apart by themselves,” said Peter G. Neumann, an expert in computing risks and principal scientist at SRI International, a research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

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September 11, 2007

Making Money In Surveillance [11:05 am]

An Opportunity for Wall St. in China’s Surveillance Boom - New York Times

Wall Street analysts now follow the growth of companies that install surveillance systems providing Chinese police stations with 24-hour video feeds from nearby Internet cafes. Hedge fund money from the United States has paid for the development of not just better video cameras, but face-recognition software and even newer behavior-recognition software designed to spot the beginnings of a street protest and notify police.

Now, the ties between China’s surveillance sector and American capital markets are starting to draw Washington’s attention.

[...] [Rep. Tom] Lantos called American involvement in the Chinese surveillance industry “an absolutely incredible phenomenon of extreme corporate irresponsibility.”

He said he planned to broaden an existing investigation into “the cooperation of American companies in the Chinese police state.”

Executives of Chinese surveillance companies say they are helping their government reduce street crime, preserve social stability and prevent terrorism. They note that London has a more sophisticated surveillance system, although the Chinese system will soon be far more extensive.

Ropes for sale!

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Still Waiting For An Agreement [9:18 am]

Deals could be close on Internet radiopdf

The music industry and online broadcasters have been duking it out for months over the royalties that should be paid to record labels and artists, but there are signs that the logjam could break as early as this month.

John Simson, the head of SoundExchange, a music industry group that collects royalties from digital broadcasters and distributes them to artists and labels, said he is optimistic about reaching an agreement soon with public radio stations, possibly by the end of September.

Resolving questions over royalties for online broadcasting is critical for the futures of both the music and radio industries as people increasingly use portable listening devices like Apple Inc.’s iPod and desktop computers as a substitute for radio broadcasts. Sales of music CDs have also been tumbling, and record labels are trying hard to find new ways of building revenues and adapting to changing consumer habits.

Wading through the complex issues, however, has taken longer than many had hoped. A lobbying group for the broadcast industry, the National Association of Broadcasters, said it’s disappointed it hasn’t heard back from SoundExchange about its proposals for three months.

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Playing Games [8:51 am]

New U.S. Law Credited in Arrests Abroad

The government’s ability to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects overseas allowed the United States to obtain information that helped lead to the arrests last week of three Islamic militants accused of planning bomb attacks in Germany, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told senators on Monday.

But another government official said Mr. McConnell might have misspoken. Mr. McConnell said the information had been obtained under a newly updated and highly contentious wiretapping law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But the official, who has been briefed on the eavesdropping laws and the information given to the Germans, said that those intercepts were recovered last year under the old law. The official asked for anonymity because the information is classified.


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