Competing With the Renminbi?

Seriously? China Limits Use of Online Currency Used by Game Players

China made public on Tuesday regulations aimed at cracking down on the use of virtual currencies amid worries that a huge underground economy was developing out of the country’s online gaming community.

[…] Beijing said the regulations would curtail trading in virtual currencies, prevent online gambling and restrict virtual currency from being exchanged for cash or used to buy real-world goods.

Among other things, Chinese officials have worried that online currencies could ultimately serve as an alternative to China’s official currency, the renminbi, and have an impact on the country’s financial system.

Delaying, But Not Really Reversing Course

Beijing Delays Rule on Software Censor

China’s state-run news agency said late Tuesday that the government had postponed a requirement, set to take effect Wednesday, to equip all newly sold computers with software to filter out objectionable Internet content.

[…] As a practical matter, the abrupt postponement bows to reality, because most of China’s computer retailers have large stocks of machines, manufactured months before the decree was announced, that have yet to be sold. Many global computer makers have declined to say how they would comply with the requirement, apparently hoping that the government would delay or reverse its decision under international pressure.

China’s industry and information technology ministry has cast the order as a move to shield children from obscene or violent Internet sites. But critics and technology experts here and abroad have called it an ill-concealed effort to rein in online criticism of the government and other speech that Beijing considers subversive.

A Future for the Pirate Bay?

Outside of the parliament, I mean: Global Gaming Factory Buys the File-Sharing Site Pirate Bay

A small Swedish software company said Tuesday that it would buy the Pirate Bay, a notorious Internet file-sharing service whose founders were recently sentenced to prison for copyright violations, and hoped to turn the site into a legal source of free music and movies.

The company, Global Gaming Factory, said it had agreed to pay 60 million Swedish kronor, or $7.75 million, for the Pirate Bay, which says it has 20 million users worldwide. The site, the most prominent target of the international recording industry and Hollywood movie studios in their battle against digital piracy, continues to operate despite the guilty verdicts against its four founders in April.

Hans Pandeya, chief executive of Global Gaming Factory, said the company planned to turn the Pirate Bay into a legal provider of digital content through a new business model.

“Content owners hate file-sharers, but this is going to change,” Mr. Pandeya said.

Under the new system, he said, the Pirate Bay would generate revenue from several sources, including advertising.

Cert Denied; DVR Decision Stands

Supreme Court Clears Way for Wider Use of DVR (pdf)

The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a blow to the television networks when it declined to hear a case about a digital video recorder technology, opening the gate for wider use of DVR systems.

The case began in 2006 when Cablevision Systems, the New York-area cable operator, announced plans for what is called a network DVR system. With it, a customer would use a remote control to digitally record a program like “60 Minutes” but instead of storing the show in the customer’s at-home DVR box, the technology would store the show on a faraway Cablevision server.

The technology would let Cablevision convert set-top boxes into boxes with DVR capabilities without requiring an installation or new equipment.

“It opens up the possibility of offering a DVR experience to all of our digital cable customers,” Tom Rutledge, Cablevision’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. Programmers including Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network, CNN and television networks sued Cablevision, saying the system violated copyright law. In March 2007, a lower court agreed, ruling that Cablevision “would be engaging in unauthorized reproductions and transmissions of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York reversed that decision in August 2008. The plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the Supreme Court’s refusal essentially reinforced the Second Circuit’s decision.

See the EFF page on this case. Also SCOTUSBlog entries.

House Subcommittee Hearing on Internet Dataveillance

Some interesting stuff to review here: Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations. Ed Felten was on the witness list, and he gives a nice synopsis of the technology, with the following conclusion:

Citizens are rightly concerned about the possibility that commercial entities will build extensive profiles of who they are and what they do online. Ad services are not the only parties who can assemble such profiles, but large ad services do have a prime opportunity to build profiles, due to their relationships with many content providers who can pass along information about users, and due to the ad services’ ability to connect the dots by linking together a user’s activities across different web sites.

All of this is possible, as a technical matter, which is not to say that responsible ad services do all of it, or even most of it. Ad services may be restrained by law, by self-regulation, by social norms, or by market pressures. What is clear is that technology, by itself, cannot protect users from broad gathering and use of information about what they do online.

The Labels Now Have A Decision

Instead of a settlement: Music Labels Win Almost $2 Million in Internet Case (pdf)

The Universal Music Group, owned by Vivendi, and other record labels were awarded $1.92 million on Thursday in the retrial of a Minnesota woman accused of swapping music over the Kazaa Internet service.

The federal jury in Minneapolis said the woman, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, 32, of Brainerd, should pay $80,000 for each of the 24 songs that were posted on the site so others could download them.

The first time the case went to trial, in 2007, a jury awarded $9,250 a song, or $222,000.

No Belief in the “Tip Jar Economy”

Use Their Work Free? Artists Say No to Google (pdf)

Mr. Taxali, an illustrator based in Toronto whose work has appeared in publications like Time, Newsweek and Fortune, received a call in April from a member of Google’s marketing department. According to Mr. Taxali, the Google representative explained that the project will let users customize Google Chrome pages with artist-designed “skins” in their borders.

“The first question I asked,” Mr. Taxali said in a recent interview, “is ‘What’s the fee?’”

Mr. Taxali said that when he was told Google would pay nothing, he declined.

In the ensuing weeks, a tide of indignation toward Google swelled among illustrators, who stay connected through Drawger, a Web site.

Ted Rall writes a letter to the Times today that is particularly scathing:

It’s offensive that a company that reports annual profits in the billions refuses to pay independent artists for their labor.

Sadly, the Web revolution has turned “information wants to be free” into a mantra. Whether it’s illustrators, cartoonists or musicians, working for free ought to have gone out with slavery. Congress ought to act to make it illegal for a profitable corporation to solicit work without paying for it.

Another Legacy That Obama’s Making Little Headway On

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress (pdf)

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

Other Congressional officials raised similar concerns but would not agree to be quoted for the record.

Mr. Holt added that few lawmakers could challenge the agency’s statements because so few understood the technical complexities of its surveillance operations. “The people making the policy,” he said, “don’t understand the technicalities.”

Civil Society and The Internet

The Iranian reaction to their election seems to have freed up a number of NYTimes articles looking at the influences of the Internet on social discourse:

  • Civic-Minded Chinese Find a Voice Online (pdf)

    Not all the crusades are entirely civic-minded. In more than a few cases, virtual mobs have harassed offending officials, posting personal information and other details. The nickname for such mobs, “human-flesh search engines,” hints at their pitiless nature.

    But the Internet campaigns have repeatedly produced results. Six officials were punished or fired in the prison beating. The Nanjing official with the flashy watch was sacked. The Yunnan dog killings have provoked harsh criticism, even in state-run newspapers.

    Most such cases, says Mr. Xiao, the Berkeley professor, spawn tens or hundreds of thousands of mentions on Internet blogs and other forums.

  • Social Networks Spread Defiance Online (pdf) (see also With a Hint to Twitter, Washington Taps Into a Potent New Force in Diplomacy – pdf)

    As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions.

  • And Thomas Friedman is even getting in on the act — The Virtual Mosque (pdf)

    One of the most important reasons that the Islamists were able to covertly organize and mobilize, and be prepared when the lids in their societies were loosened a bit, was because they had the mosque — a place to gather, educate and inspire their followers — outside the total control of the state.

    […] What is fascinating to me is the degree to which in Iran today — and in Lebanon — the more secular forces of moderation have used technologies like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, blogging and text-messaging as their virtual mosque, as the place they can now gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state.

“If A Body Meet A Body”

Who “owns” Holden Caulfield? J. D. Salinger’s Suit Over ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Sequel Goes to Court (pdf)

Both novels are set in New York, feature the same characters and use similar language. Mr. Salinger’s work opens with the 16-year-old Holden’s departure from a boarding school; the new book begins with “Mr. C” leaving a retirement home. Both end on a carousel in Central Park.

In a complaint of copyright infringement filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, where a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, lawyers for Mr. Salinger call the new novel “a rip-off pure and simple.” Lawyers for Fredrik Colting, the new author, filed a brief this week saying that the work is more complex than just a sequel, noting that Mr. Salinger himself is a character.

The new book, the brief said, “explores the famously reclusive Salinger’s efforts to control both his own persona and the persona of the character he created.”

It adds: “In order to regain control over his own life, which is drawing to a close, ‘Mr. Salinger’ tries repeatedly to kill off Mr. C by various means: a runaway truck; falling construction debris; a lunatic woman with a knife; suicide by drowning and suicide by pills.”

The case is one of several in recent years exploring how much license the public has to draw on a classic work. […]

See also Save the Salinger Archives! from Slate


Holden Caulfield Hangs on to His Youth (pdf)

The judge, Deborah A. Batts of United States District Court in Manhattan, granted a 10-day temporary restraining order forbidding publication in the United States of a new book by a Swedish author that contains a 76-year-old version of Holden Caulfield while she considers arguments in a copyright-infringement case filed by Mr. Salinger.

[…] “It does seem to me that Holden Caulfield is quite delineated by words, that is a portrait by words,” Judge Batts told the lawyers. “It would seem that Holden Caulfield is copyrighted.” But the judge said she would take some time to reflect on whether the new book was sufficiently different from “The Catcher in the Rye” to fall under the protection of the fair-use provision of copyright law.

Even later: an NYTimes editorial — Holden, Young and Old (pdf)

Some adolescents, like Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, were born to remain adolescent. But these two characters live, as it were, in separate legal kingdoms. Because Huck Finn lives in the public domain, outside of copyright, anyone can write another chapter in his life without penalty. What keeps Huck eternally young is, in a sense, the force of his personality and the strength of his author’s imagination.

Because copyright extends during the author’s lifetime, plus 70 years, the character of Holden Caulfield does not belong to the public domain. We have no doubt that no matter what the judge rules Caulfield, like Huck, will remain forever young, simply because that is how his author imagined him. In almost every battle between the original and the derivative, in copyright or public domain, it is the original that retains our affection.

Later: What A Phony: I read the banned Catcher in the Rye “sequel” so you don’t have to