2003 May 12

(entry last updated: 2003-05-12 18:04:59)

  • BusinessWeek Online has picked up the SecutiryFocus coverage of Bunny Huang’s Hacking the XBox sales: ‘Banned’ Xbox Hacking Book Selling Fast

  • Cory Doctorow points to Magnatunewhy from the founder, John Buckman

    We are an Internet record label which sells and licenses music by encouraging MP3 file trading and Internet Radio.

    When you find an artist you like, pay what you can afford to show your support, starting at $5 for an entire online album. Companies can sublicense our music for commercial use using our no haggling, easy online forms.

    All money from your purchases is split 50/50 with our artists.

    No major label connections.

    We are not evil.

  • Music biz news from Billboard:

    • Appeals Court Revives Parks/Outkast Suit

      A federal appeals court in Detroit today (May 12) revived a lawsuit by civil rights icon Rosa Parks against the rap group Outkast over a song that uses her name for its title. A federal judge in Detroit had dismissed Parks’ lawsuit in 1999 over the song “Rosa Parks,” saying Outkast’s use of her name was protected by free speech, and the group did not need to compensate her.

    • Jackson Sues Universal Over Motown Royalties

      The 10-count suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that under a 1980 agreement, Motown agreed to pay royalties to Jackson on the distribution of select pre-1976 material, including solo and Jackson 5 recordings, as well as any “best-ofs” or compilations of unreleased tracks.

      Jackson says UMG has since released such albums and licensed songs commercially without his consent. He claims the label failed to provide him “with a single accounting” and has not paid him “a single dollar in royalties.”

  • Mary Hodder’s surfaced from her end of term exertions to add commentary to Lohr’s ridiculous article in the NYTimes yesterday [pdf].

  • Larry Lessig’s editorial [pdf] in the FT gets Slashdot coverage: Lessig on Streamcast/Grokster Decision (Derek’s thoughts)

    No doubt, the court observed, these companies benefited from the sharing. And no doubt, it went on, peer-to-peer networks were designed in part to avoid the ability to block infringing sharing. But because the law requires that there be both a benefit from the infringement and an opportunity to do something to stop it, District Court Judge Stephen Wilson was not willing to find either company responsible.

    The reason the court hesitated is a good one. As the district court reminded us, the practice in copyright cases has not been for courts to expand liability in response to new technologies. It is instead that any such expansion be done by Congress. This principle was the basis upon which the Supreme Court decided that Sony was not responsible for the copyright infringement that the VCR enabled. As the Court reasoned, no doubt Sony could have designed the VCR to disable the ability of users to record shows from the air. But whether Sony should have been so required was a decision for Congress. The only question that a court should ask is whether the technology has the “potential for a substantial non-infringing use”. If it does, whether its use should on balance be considered infringing is a question for policymakers, not courts.

    …The wisdom of this rule is something innovators in Silicon Valley are increasingly coming to see. When courts intervene to maintain copyright’s balance, the inevitable consequence is that innovation is harmed. If every innovator with technologies affecting content must bear the burden of a lawsuit before his innovation can be allowed, there will be many fewer innovations in the distribution and creation of content. That in turn will harm artists and technologists alike. Better to let the innovation happen, and then consider whether the change caused by the innovation is so significant as to require new legislation by the legislature.

    Judge Wilson’s decision is the first sign of a thaw in the winter that has stopped the technology revolution cold. Everyone would benefit if the wisdom of this lower court could percolate up through the federal judiciary. Within the limits of the constitution, the balance that is copyright protection is not meet for judicial review. The costs of the inappropriate review that has defined the past half-decade should remind the courts of a lesson they should have learned long ago.

  • A KaZaA worm: Fizzer stealth worm spreads via KaZaA (CNet coverage)

    To spread via email, Fizzer scans the addresses in a victim’s Outlook and Windows address books or it randomly attacks email addresses in public email systems such as hotmail.com and yahoo.com. Next, the worm, in the name of the computer owner, clandestinely sends out infected messages using different subjects, message texts and file attachment names.

    To spread via KaZaA, Fizzer creates multiple copies of itself under random names, and places these files in the victim computer’s dedicated KaZaA file-sharing folder. By doing so, Fizzer becomes “available” to all other network participants.

    Fizzer carries a dangerous payload that can cause confidential data to be leaked from infected computers. The worm installs a keyboard-logging program that intercepts and records all keyboard strokes in a separate log file. To transmit this information, Fizzer loads a backdoor utility that allows crackers/VXers to control a computer via IRC channels.

  • Merger rumors betwen BMG and AOL-TimeWarner: Merger Talks Surface in Music Industry [NYTimes pdf]

  • David Coursey chimes in on the apparent differences between Microsoft’s and Apple’s policies when it comes to DRM: Digital rights: What MS could learn from Apple. The article is more about what’s not there on the Microsoft side, along with the typical pro-Microsoft spin that underlies most (but not all!) of Coursey’s pieces. For example:

    Beyond that concession, Microsoft has been silent on the issue of content rights for consumers. What they’re doing in the business arena (building rights management into the enterprise versions of Office 2003) makes a lot of sense. But those efforts just make the company’s silence on fair-use rights even more apparent.

    Looking at Media Player 9 and the Ballmer e-mail, I would claim that Microsoft has a quite strong position on DRM, they just aren’t brave enough to own up to it, hoping that we’ll all just stay ignorant until it’s too late to fight back. But, then again, I have my own spin, too.

  • Siva Viadhynathan gets into a justifiable snit over Bruce Lehman’s remarks published in Technology Review: Invention International [pdf] .

    Larry Lessig points out that, rather than adopting Lehman’s theory that copyright is everything, he’d "suggest a Creative Commons license, or at least some way to keep Mr. Lehman at home."

  • My French isn’t good enough to read the source material, but Advogato has an article on France’s pending implementation of the EU Copyright Directive, and the implications aren’t pretty.

  • Dave Winer points to a BBC article: File swappers fight back – more on firewall technology

  • Speaking of cool technology (not to mention preservation through digitization): The Evelyn Wood of Digitized Book Scanners [pdf], a story about the automated book scanners produced by 4DigitalBooks

    Mr. Keller admits that his dream to have the entire Stanford library in a digital database is unlikely in the foreseeable future because such an undertaking — involving eight million volumes — could cost upward of $250 million.

    In the meantime, the Stanford librarians have begun digitizing books and documents where there are no thorny copyright barriers and have important historical and political significance.

    … For Mr. Keller the most vexing challenges are neither labor costs nor technology. Librarians, he said, must find a way to address the copyright restrictions that appear to be tightening as a result of new federal laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

    Stanford is struggling to comply with copyright restrictions while making works that have recently lost their copyright protection available digitally. Mr. Keller said the library increased the circulation of its collection by 50 percent when it computerized its card catalog. Digitizing out-of-print books could likewise make them available to a much wider audience, he said. The payoff for building such a digital collection, he added, is vastly improved availability of a huge store of knowledge and information for teaching, learning and research.

  • This was covered in the Times a while ago, but the link is lost now since it predates my realization that the NYTimes was going to kill off access, so I’m going to repeat it here: To Err Is Creative in Net Art

    While other Web programmers seek to iron out the glitches in their code, Paesmans and Heemskerk intentionally replicate them. It’s how they make their art.

    With graphics.

  • Wired News reports that devices that are essentially TiVos for radio are coming; A TiVo Player for the Radio

    These digital radio recorders, which can be preset to record a program at a certain time, enable customers to record any radio program they want and have it converted into a digital format. They then can listen to the program or upload it onto a PC in a transferable file.

    Like TiVo, the audio recorders will let customers fast-forward over commercials — although this isn’t a feature the industry is actively promoting.

    …As companies prepare to release more of these digital radio recorders, the potential conflicts the devices raise over copyright issues remain unresolved. While it is legal to record material off the radio, swapping certain digital files as was the case with copyright music on Napster is not, said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

    …”We are not convinced these products will sell particularly well … until the signal coming in has to be digital,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Forrester Research.

  • Mark Mulligan of Jupiter Research suggests that KaZaA is seeing a falloff in advertising because of a fear of an upcoming effort to associate P2P with child pornography. I can’t find anything to support this, but it’s still early in the week.

    He closes his weblog entry with a stupid question, though:

    However, even if child pornography allegations do prove to be valid and action is taken, the question that remains is why on earth are big established brands advertising on illegal file sharing networks in the first place?

  • David Card of Jupiter Research comments on yesterday’s NYTimes article on new media [pdf]

  • Some cool technology described in this month’s First Monday: The Syracuse University Library Radius Project: Development of a non-destructive playback system for cylinder recordings

  • Declan McCullagh discusses one of the key ideas floating around in the background of the copyright debate: Hold technology creators liable?

    “Grokster and Streamcast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights.” Wilson wrote. Even if the companies vanished overnight, the P2P networks would continue to operate, he noted.

    That’s exactly right, and it’s heartening to see that at least one federal judge is tech-savvy enough to get it. Wilson rejected the arguments from the RIAA and its Hollywood co-plaintiffs who wanted to establish the legal principle that creators of general-purpose technology can be sued if it can also be used for illicit purposes.

    … Pay attention to the endgame. In the 1994 U.S. v. LaMacchia prosecution, a judge dismissed charges against a 21-year-old MIT student who ran a pirate Internet site, saying that it was not a criminal offense to do so under current federal law. Criminal penalties “should probably attach to willful, multiple infringements of copyrighted software, even absent a commercial motive on the part of the infringer,” Judge Richard Stearns wrote. Stearns suggested that Congress step in.

    Congress obliged. Three years later, President Clinton signed into law the No Electronic Theft Act, which makes–as I’ve written about before–copyright infringement a federal crime even if not done for commercial purposes.

    Watch for the same thing to happen here. In a little-noticed part of his decision a few weeks ago, Judge Wilson said current copyright law does not prohibit the creation of P2P networks–and then suggested that Congress might want to rewrite it. “Additional legislative guidance may be well-counseled,” Wilson said.