January 22, 2008

Canadian Copyright Reform Fight [10:49 am]

Canadian artists stump for tougher copyright lawspdf

In anticipation of a new federal copyright law, an alliance representing writers, musicians and actors has released a platform [pdf] detailing what they think is best for Canadian artists.

The Creators Copyright Coalition’s report, released Monday, calls for artists to be given the sole right “to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form” and “to transfer the work or any substantial part thereof to another medium.”

The group, which includes the Writers Guild of Canada and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, also wants Internet service providers (ISPs) to “share in the responsibility” for their online content, and to “share liability” when copyright infringement occurs on their networks.

Michael Geist has a column on some of the provisions of the act under consideration: Copyright reform a threat to privacypdf

The bill, which could be introduced as early as next week, is expected to use the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as a model. Since its enactment in 1998, the U.S. law has been roundly criticized on privacy, security and consumer protection grounds.

At issue are rumoured provisions in a Canadian DMCA that would provide legal protection for digital locks, often referred to as digital rights management (DRM). Stoddart notes that if “DRM technologies only controlled copying and use of content, our Office would have few concerns.” However, those same technologies can be used to collect personal information that is “transmitted back to the copyright owner or content provider, without the consent or knowledge of the user.”

While there are tools to stop this unwanted form of surveillance, Stoddart warns that Prentice and Verner’s proposed reforms could render their use illegal. In fact, even if they insert an exception for privacy protection into the bill, the tools could still be banned, leaving Canadians with the legal right to protect their privacy but without the means to do so.

For more details, see Plan to modernize copyright law could make everyday habits illegal (pdf); Striking down the iPod tax (pdf); and Canadian netroots rise up against Tory copyright plans (pdf)

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UPDATED: IP == ID? [10:35 am]

SiliconValley.com - EU data regulator says Internet addresses are personal informationpdf

IP addresses, string of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Unions group of data privacy regulators said Monday.
Germanys data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.

He told a European Parliament hearing on online data protection that when someone is identified by an IP, or Internet protocol, address “then it has to be regarded as personal data.”

The hearing press release: Do internet companies protect personal data well enough?; the hearing programme [local copy]; testimony should be available here eventually.
UPDATE: Actually, check here — some stuff is already posted.

Three particularly interesting items from the preceding link:

Saul Hansell weighs in: Europe: Your I.P. Address Is Personal

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Looking at Amazon’s Book Reviewing System [8:41 am]

And the implications for the notion of Web 2.0: The murky demimonde of Amazon’s Top Reviewers

Full disclosure: It was late at night, in a fit of furtive self-Googling, that I discovered the first Amazon customer review of my debut book of fiction. “Superb,” wrote Grady Harp of Los Angeles. “Fascinating … addictive.” Not to mention “profound.” Such extravagance should have aroused suspicion, but I was too busy basking in the glow of a five-star rave to worry about the finer points of Harp’s style. Sure, he’d spelled my name wrong, but hadn’t he also judged me “a sensitive observer of human foibles?” Only when I noticed the “Top 10 Reviewer” tag did I wonder whether Grady Harp was more than just a satisfied customer. After a brief e-mail exchange, my publicist confirmed that she’d solicited Grady Harp’s review.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I had imagined Amazon’s customer reviews as a refuge from the machinations of the publishing industry: “an intelligent and articulate conversation … conducted by a group of disinterested, disembodied spirits,” as James Marcus, a former editor at the company, wrote in his memoir, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut. Indeed, with customers unseating salaried employees like Marcus as the company’s leading content producers, Amazon had been hailed as a harbinger of “Web 2.0″—an ideal realm where user-generated consensus trumps the bankrupt pieties of experts. As I explored the murky understory of Amazon’s reviewer rankings, however, I came to see the real Web 2.0 as a tangle of hidden agendas—one in which the disinterested amateur may be an endangered species.

[...] Absent the institutional standards that govern (however notionally) professional journalists, Web 2.0 stakes its credibility on the transparency of users’ motives and their freedom from top-down interference. Amazon, for example, describes its Top Reviewers as “clear-eyed critics [who] provide their fellow shoppers with helpful, honest, tell-it-like-it-is product information.” But beneath the just-us-folks rhetoric lurks an unresolved tension between transparency and opacity; in this respect, Amazon exemplifies the ambiguities of Web 2.0. [...]

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Fighting Over Cookbooks [8:34 am]

Can’t Tell a Book by Its Cover, or Even Its Title, It Turns Out

When Missy Chase Lapine, author of the cookbook “The Sneaky Chef” that suggests ways to hide fruit and vegetables in dishes for finicky children, was angered by the publication of “Deceptively Delicious,” a similar book by Jessica Seinfeld (a k a Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld), she had recourse. This month, she sued for copyright infringement and defamation.

But when Raymond Sokolov, the restaurant columnist for The Wall Street Journal, saw that a new food book was coming out with the same title as the cookbook he had published more than 30 years ago, all he could do was stew because book titles cannot be copyrighted.

[...] There are many instances of books with the same titles: “March” by Geraldine Brooks and “The March” by E. L. Doctorow; “Gone” by the mystery writer Lisa Gardner and “Gone” by the mystery writer Jonathan Kellerman; “Leap of Faith” by Danielle Steel and “Leap of Faith” by Queen Noor of Jordan, to name a few.

But in Mr. Sokolov’s view, it’s one thing to duplicate another author’s use of a common phrase or expression and quite another to echo a play on words, particularly when both books are in the same genre. “I think it’s just in bad taste,” he said. “I looked into it, and I’m certain that this was not a blunder, that Norton knew about the existence of my book.”

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Business Models [8:30 am]

The Video Game May Be Free, but to Be a Winner Can Cost Money

In a major departure from its traditional business model, E.A. plans to announce Monday that it is developing a new installment in its hit Battlefield series that will be distributed on the Internet as a free download. Rather than being sold at retail, the game is meant to generate revenue through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.

At a conference in Munich, the company intends to announce that the new game, Battlefield Heroes, will be released for PC this summer. More broadly, E.A. hopes the game can help point the way for Western game publishers looking to diversify beyond appealing to hard-core players with games that can cost $60 or more.

[...] With Battlefield Heroes, E.A. hopes to bring that basic system of “microtransactions” to Western players, along with increased advertising. Mr. Florin said the licensing agreements around the soccer game prevent E.A. from inserting in-game advertisements from companies that are not already sponsors of FIFA, the international soccer federation. By contrast, E.A. already owns the Battlefield franchise and will be free to insert whatever advertising it wants.

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EU Transactions Costs In Digital Distribution [8:29 am]

In Europe, Apple Faces Hurdles to iTunes Movie Rentals

But trying to establish a European version of the iTunes movie rental service, which allows users to stream films or television shows to their computers or televisions, will not be easy.

Apple will have to confront legal and regulatory hurdles, copyright challenges, scheduling conflicts and technological issues, reminders that the European media landscape remains a patchwork of individual countries, rather than the single market that the European Commission envisions.

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Shopping for Spectrum [8:26 am]

Assuming, of course, that this morning’s Fed’s 3/4% rate cut (which unfortunately only smacks of [election year?] desperation) stabilizes the other markets: Airwaves, Web Power at Auction

Although industry executives and analysts agree that Google is unlikely to win any licenses, the company already has an invaluable victory: in setting the auction rules, the Federal Communications Commission has forced the major telephone companies to open their wireless networks to a broader array of telephone equipment and Internet applications.

The radio spectrum licenses, which are to be returned from television broadcasters as they complete their conversion from analog to digital signals in February 2009, are as coveted as oil reserves are to energy companies. They will provide the winners with access to some of the best remaining spectrum — enabling them to send signals farther from a cell tower with far less power, through dense walls in cities, and over wider territories in rural areas that are now underserved.

And the licenses are on the auction block just as it is becoming obvious to industry players and investors that wireless broadband is rapidly becoming the next big thing, the mobile Internet.

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Game-Playing? [8:22 am]

Is that what they call it? One more step in the blurring of the online and the “real” world: Virtual banks Second Life scheme raises real concernspdf

Stephanie Roberts knew Second Life was just a computer game, but she couldnt resist the virtual worlds promise of a real-world interest rate of more than 40%.

The 33-year-old from Chicago, who played the game as a raven-haired vixen called Zania Turner, deposited $140 in Ginko Financial and waited for the money to grow. Instead, it vanished five months ago when Ginko, perhaps the first Ponzi scheme in history perpetrated by three-dimensional online avatars, left Second Life.

“I was foolish,” Roberts said.

So were many others. Ginko took with it about $75,000 in real-money deposits, shaking faith in Second Lifes venerated lawlessness — no cops, no courts, no government — and unnerving Linden Lab, the usually laid-back San Francisco company that created it.

Recently, Linden Lab banned all virtual banks from the online role-playing game, giving them until today to shut down, fearful that Ginko wasnt the only one paying crazy rates of return to some with the deposits of others.

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