2003 June 23

(entry last updated: 2003-06-23 18:13:15)

  • Matt’s got a lengthy summary of the discussions around compulsory licensing around the web today, and other worthwhile points on copyright today.

  • Another great link from a blog doen’t need s clever name: Reforming copyright is a concern for everyone [alt URL] [pdf] discusses the Lucy Maud Montgomery Copyright Term Extension Act (see earlier Furdlog entry), but uses some great language echoing Charlie Nesson‘s counter to the Lessig argument (my notes from last year’s ILaw on this topic):

    Supporters and opponents of copyright reform paint very different pictures of the impact of the Internet and new technologies on copyright. […]

    While there are elements of truth in both of these positions, the emerging reality is that neither view reflects the Internet’s most significant impact — the blurring of the distinction between creators and users such that soon everyone will be both creators and users. The days of content creation resting solely with a select few movie studios, music promoters, and book publishers is long gone.

    In today’s Internet, we all access traditional content on mainstream media sites, but alongside those activities we increasingly craft emails, maintain blogs or other Websites dedicated to a dizzying array of topics, publish our digital photos, contribute to community chat rooms, opinion sites, or open source software initiatives, and share our attempts at music creation with the world. In short, we both consume content and create it.

    This new reality is spearheading a profound change in the world of copyright as the widespread realization that copyright matters grows. No longer an issue best left to lawyers, individuals are taking an interest in copyright policy as never before. This leaves policy makers with the challenge of balancing competing stakeholder interests in an environment where everyone believes that they too are stakeholders.

  • An article on fanfic from the Washington Post: Harry Potter and the Copyright Lawyer [pdf] [via a blog doesn’t need a clever name] – a reminder of where fiction and storytelling come from.

    The explosion of these part-original, part-borrowed works has set authors of fan fiction against some media companies in a battle to redefine the line between consumers’ right to “fair use” and copyright holders’ rights to control their intellectual property.

    “We don’t grow up hearing stories around the campfire anymore about cultural figures. Instead we get them from books, TV or movies, so the characters that today provide us a common language are corporate creatures,” said Rebecca Tushnet, an assistant professor of law at New York University who has written extensively on intellectual property.

    Fan-fiction creators say their work represents the emergence of an art form that takes advantage of all that the Internet was built for. They invoke the First Amendment and say that under fair-use laws they have a right to create what they want as long as they are not trying to profit at the expense of the original material. But some book, music and movie houses argue that fan fiction is more plagiarism than high art and have demanded that operators of Web sites remove the offending material.

  • So here we go with the hideous task of having filters in libraries: Effort to Equip Libraries With Internet Filters Is Allowed [pdf]

    (Wired News also has the AP Wire)

    A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress can force the nation’s public libraries to equip computers with anti-pornography filters.

    The blocking technology, intended to keep smut from children, does not violate the First Amendment even though it shuts off some legitimate, informational Web sites, the court held.

    The 6-3 ruling reinstates a law that told libraries to install filters or surrender federal money. Four justices said the law was constitutional, and two others said it was allowable as long as libraries disable the filters for patrons who ask. The court described pornography in libraries as a serious problem.

    Supreme Court opinion: United States v. American Library Assn., Inc. – Jenny Levine’s weblog comments start here; here’s the Copyfight posting; and here’s Lisa Bowman’s take; Slashdot: US Supreme Court Upholds CIPA

  • The New York Times has an article on the changing role of stardom in the world of engineered entertainment culture: Major Stars Not So Crucial as Concept Trumps Celebrity [pdf] [infographic]. Granted, the title cites celebrity rather than artistic merit, but clearly the pressure is there to be an American Idol instead of a singer-songwriter. And the discussion of the changing balance of power in the movie industry is striking.

  • Larry Lessig gets some NYTimes ink in Congress Finds Rare Unity in Spam, to a Point [pdf]

    As with a variety of other technology debates about privacy and copyright, Congressional positions on spam have little to do with political ideology and turn more on interpreting the balance between the rights of consumers and the rights of the businesses that sell to them.

    “This hasn’t resonated with standard partisan positions,” said Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford University. “It’s an advantage because I think something will happen. It’s a disadvantage because just anything will happen.”

  • A look at reputation on the Internet: More Companies Pay Heed to Their ‘Word of Mouse’ Reputation [pdf]. Slashdot: NYT On Online Reputations

  • The RIAA reports that an amicus brief has been filed in the Verizon case by the "’principal victims of the piracy "epidemic."’"

  • IDG has a little more on the Verizon DMCA subpoena fallout on the Hill: Senate committee to address ISP subpoenas. I especially like how the RIAA moves the goalposts here:

    “Nothing in this quasi-subpoena process prevents someone other than digital media owners — you could be a stalker, you could be a telemarketer or a spammer — from using this quasi-subpoena process to (gain information) on an Internet subscriber, including our children,” Brownback said. “I have no interest in us shielding those who have committed piracy. My concern … is the clear threat of unintended consequences.”

    The RIAA issued a written statement on Brownback’s remarks, saying it looks forward to a committee hearing about the “numerous reported security and privacy holes in peer-to-peer networks.” The RIAA noted that the federal judge in the Verizon case questioned how a peer-to-peer user could expect privacy when that person is opening his computer to permit others to download his files.

  • S-1046, the Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003, cleared the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last week, as reported in this snotty article from The Register: Senate decries FCC big-media coup. Reportedly, Clear Channel is displeased.

    Clear Channel Cries Foul For Being Singled Out In Senate Bill

    “The Senate Commerce Committee decided to ignore the Constitution and the best interests of radio listeners across the country,” Clear Channel SVP/Government Affairs Andy Levin said after the committee approved a bill that will specifically require Clear Channel to divest stations. A provision of the bill would require the company to sell off stations anywhere it is over the legal limit, even though all of the company’s station acquisitions complied with FCC rules when the deals were done. “We are deeply disturbed that the committee would attempt to force companies to divest assets simply because it decides to change the rules in the middle of the game,” he said. “It is bad precedent and bad policy. This is an attempt to single out one company for being successful and punish them for playing by the rules. We certainly hope and expect the full Senate will reject this highly controversial and dangerous measure.”

    In other news, noises are being raised about Univision, too: As Univision Looks to Radio, a Debate Over How Big Is Too Big [pdf]

  • Here’s an offensive little opinion piece from Michael Kanellos: SCO: Darl-ing for dollars. While this article poses as a discussion of the SCO IP fight, he stoops to some rather nasty ad hominem rhetoric to make his point:

    But when you boil these arguments down, they all say the same thing: SCO is bad, and we are good. The attitude reflects what I like to call the Engineer’s Fatal Flaw: the belief that you passed physics, so you think you know everything.

    My college roommate in my sophomore year, an electrical engineering student named Mike Foster, helped me coin that one. He had an answer for everything, and often it involved the death penalty, a flat tax or some other clean, simple solution that would have been absolutely insane to try in real life.

    Don’t get me wrong. I stand in awe of people who can design transistors or even who can put up drywall. But there is arrogance inside the scientific mind, and it rarely knows when to stop. It’s no coincidence that Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter are the only engineers to ever sit in the White House.

    While I would be the first to agree that there are definite limits to engineering education that weakens engineers in policy discussions, I resent the implication that “the scientific mind” is the sole source of “simple, clean solutions” that are “insane to try” – with the current federal administration a case in point.

    And, in the end, that’s really the only point of the article – he acknowledges that the evidence of wrongdoing is not yet available (because SCO has been very coy), so all he really did with this piece was slam the community that I assume CNet News is hoping to attract. A peculiar strategy, I would say.

    (On the subject of SCO, see UserFriendly’s tribute to Gary Larson from Sunday)

  • CNet also discusses HR-2517, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2003: New bill injects FBI into P2P battle – the RIAA’s Cary Sherman’s thoughts on the bill – Slashdot: Piracy Deterrence and Education Act Introduced

  • Hiawatha Bray takes on Orrin Hatch in today’s Boston Globe: An antipiracy idea self-destructs [pdf]

    Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, made a rather spectacular fool of himself last week during a hearing on electronic data piracy. Too bad for Hatch, but good clean fun for any technology writer who enjoys asking the question: Can they do that?

    […] In short, you could manage to shut down a relative handful of machines this way, but not enough to matter. For real disruption, you’d need to embed your self-destruct system right in the computer’s hardware.

    Remember last year’s proposal by Senator Fritz Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina? He wanted to force computer makers to build in devices that would simply prevent privacy. It seems Hatch wants to go further – perhaps a dollop of plastic explosive glued to the motherboard?

    Wysopal says that such a computer, connected to the Internet, could indeed be remotely wrecked.

    ”The thing is, you’d have to make a law that would force people to buy that machine,” he said. ”No one in his right mind would buy a computer that someone could disable remotely over the Internet.”

    […] So in answer to our question – yes, you can do that. Next question: Why?

  • I didn’t get to post this earlier, but it’s worth a read: Among Film’s Ghosts, Its Future. [pdf] Karen’s got links the the Texas Instruments DLP site, which has some great Flash graphics showing how the technology works – micromachined silicon.