July 18, 2003

2003 July 18 [7:09 am]

(entry last updated: 2003-07-18 21:47:11)

  • From CNet News, a new test of the "safe harbor" provisions is pending, I see: P2P caching: Unsafe at any speed? (Do you notice the number of article titles including question marks seems to be on the rise?)

    Last week, Stockholm-based Joltid said three major service providers in Europe licensed its PeerCache technology–software designed to reduce costs of network traffic by caching frequently traded digital files within file-swapping systems.

    PeerCache is built to work for FastTrack, one of the most widely used P2P protocols and the underpinnings of such popular applications as Kazaa and iMesh. Joltid said its traffic on FastTrack protocols can account for nearly 70 percent of the network’s total bandwidth. PeerCache plugs in to the ISP network and temporarily caches FastTrack P2P traffic, helping to lessen the bandwidth burden.

    [...] In the United States, copyright laws protect ISPs from liability for their users’ activities. With PeerCache software, ISPs would cache, or temporarily hold, digital copies of pirated files on their servers so they’re more easily accessible to traders on Kazaa and other FastTrack systems. But holding copies of copyrighted material could make ISPs accomplices in illegal file trading, at least according to an early survey by one recording-industry trade association.

    “Just using the word ‘caching’ doesn’t mean that the service is automatically exempt from copyright liability,” according to a statement from the IFPI, the trade association representing the international recording industry.

    Bit by bit, the lines between what the copyright cartel wants and what the ISPs want/are contracted to provide are getting brighter and brighter. The problem: will they become bright enough that we can have a real policy discussion, or will the question be pre-empted before a sensible discussion can be undertaken?

  • I drifted over to John Dvorak’s opinion site today, and found the typical stuff - how to attract readership/hits by being as provocative as possible. But the one from July 7 caught my eye: The Anonymity Doomsday Factor

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) may become indirectly responsible for our inability to stop the next terrorist attack on the US. Hear me out on this one. The association’s recent move to bust individuals, mostly students, for music trading will spark a movement toward anonymous computing unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Already two anonymous music swapping systems have appeared: Filetopia and Blubster. This is just the beginning.

    We can expect to see the development of new stealth technologies that will be used routinely by everyone. A massive trend toward true Net anonymity will have repercussions that are all bad. Child porn rings will be harder to uncover. E-mail sources will be harder to find. Spam will rule. Virus coders will remain in the shadows. Terrorism can flourish in such an environment. And the RIAA still won’t win the battle over file swapping. But it will have set off a bad chain of events.

  • Now for some statistics from Yahoo! News: Music Industry Wins Approval of Subpoenas [pdf]:

    The music industry has won at least 871 federal subpoenas against computer users suspected of illegally sharing music files on the Internet, with roughly 75 new subpoenas being approved each day, U.S. court officials said Friday.

    [...] The RIAA’s subpoenas are so prolific that the U.S. District Court in Washington, already suffering staff shortages, has been forced to reassign employees from elsewhere in the clerk’s office to help process paperwork, said Angela Caesar-Mobley, the clerk’s operations manager.

    [...]

    Verizon, which has fought the RIAA over the subpoenas with continued legal appeals, said it received at least 150 subpoenas during the last two weeks. There were no subpoenas on file sent to AOL Time Warner Inc., the nation’s largest Internet provider and also parent company of Warner Music Group. [emphasis added] Earthlink Inc., another of the largest Internet providers, said it has received only three new subpoenas.

    Contrast with the 9000 subpoenas cited in the DirecTV litigation mentioned yesterday, and in this Slashdot discussion: DirecTV Sues Anyone Who Bought Smartcard Reader?

  • Another excellent find by Donna: Blogalogue of the Day - Solum and Petit contrast academic and practitioner perspectives on copyright. (Note: Blogger’s ability to cope with its permalinks seems to be a mess today - until it gets fixed, go to Solum’s weblog and look for the 7/16/2003 posting titled "Copyfights update")

  • Kevin Heller let me know that only a drug-related felony can limit eligibility for federal loans - see this, for example. So, that’s one agenda item to drop from the list of ACCOPS motivations - for the moment, anyway.

  • Another look at making it in the music biz: ‘The Next’ Is Ready for ‘Here and Now’ [pdf] - including this poignant and, I believe, dated perspective on the band’s part:

    Idlewild is still waiting. Capitol, which puts out Radiohead’s records here as well as Coldplay’s, elected not to spend the several hundred thousand dollars it takes to get a single on radio playlists and give it a shot at the charts. So while Radiohead and Coldplay have both broken into the ranks of normal people and solidified near-superstar status with popular new records, Idlewild is trying to do it the old-fashioned way - by touring. In the bigger cities and some college towns - places where the quotient of music freaks is high - the group does well. It’s everywhere else in the great wide-open mallscape of the United States that it has problems.

    “You start a rock band because you don’t understand how business works and you don’t want to understand,” Mr. Woomble said. “But then you find yourself awake at night analyzing how Coldplay got so popular here.”

    And how, he neglected to add, his band has not.

  • I was all revved up to try to write something about how ACCOPS is a frightening demonstration of a typical, tragic problem in a lot of science & technology policy (a so-called "dialog of the deaf" - everyone talks, no one listens), and then I got this disheartening referral from a colleague suggesting a more depressing perspective (albeit from a magazine with an agenda) - Science Friction [pdf], an article on the increasingly poor position of the scientific community in today’s political climate, closing with this paragraph:

    Ignoring expert opinion on matters of science may never cause the administration the kind of political grief it is now suffering over its WMD Iraq policy. But neither is it some benign bit of anti-elitist bias. American government has a history of investing in the capabilities and trusting the judgments of its scientific community–a legacy that has brought us sustained economic progress and unquestioned scientific leadership within the global intellectual community. For the short-term political profits that come with looking like an elite-dismissing friend of the everyman, the Bush administration has put that proud, dynamic history at real risk.

  • Donna’s got a lengthy post on ACCOPS: Do Not Pass Go II; and she also reports that MGM v. Grokster Expedited

  • Cory Doctorow points to this letter drafted by Emmett Plant (musician and co-creator of Ogg-Vorbis) on the subject of ACCOPS

    The problem with protecting artists that are ‘protected’ by the RIAA is this — They claim that unless you stop peer-to-peer file sharing, they will lose money, and therefore not have any money to invest in new artists. This is completely in line with their rather spurious logic that peer-to-peer file sharing reduces their revenues, but it’s okay; For the sake of this argument, I shall play along.

    If you’re doing what they’ve asked you to do, and made a good-faith effort to stop peer-to-peer, please make them come to the table. Ask them what they are willing to do once you’ve ’stopped the menace.’ Ask them their plans for once this ‘madness’ is over. Logic states that once peer-to-peer is effectively dead, their revenues will once again fly into the stratosphere, and money will be readily available to invest in more music. Maybe even unbelievably eclectic and dorky music such as mine. Somehow I sense that no such promise has been made.

    Maybe I could justify this if the artists represented by the RIAA were being protected as well as they could be. Most artists I hear about don’t have a problem with protection, they have a problem with getting their fair share from other RIAA artists or getting paid in the first place. Maybe you could convince the RIAA member companies to make a good-faith effort to make sure their artists are taken care of.

  • Whether you’ve been tracking the RSS 2.0 discussions or not, this announcement ushers in a number of new ways to think about standard setting, ownership and refinement. (Technology At Harvard Law site; John Palfrey’s announcement; CNet’s report: Nonprofit takes hold of blog tool)

  • Donna points to a GrepLaw interview with Larry Lessig

  • Ed Felten’s back at it, but I can’t seem to link to his latest posting, so just go to his site and read his thoughts on Conyers-Berman/ACCOPS: Here We Go Again

    Here’s Doc Searls’ take and links: Speaking of loads

  • I’m sure that I’m not the only person who listened to Tony Blair’s speech yesterday and thought "Maybe the Brits will offer us an even swap?" Now, with thoughts like that, it appears that I may not even be allowed to send the president an e-mail (the associated NYTimes graphic): White House E-Mail System Becomes Less User-Friendly [pdf]

    Under a system deployed on the White House Web site for the first time last week, those who want to send a message to President Bush must now navigate as many as nine Web pages and fill out a detailed form that starts by asking whether the message sender supports White House policy or differs with it.

    [...]

    Jimmy Orr, a White House spokesman, described the system as an “enhancement” intended to improve communications. He called it a “work in progress,” and advised members of the public who had sensitive or personal matters to bring up with President Bush to use traditional methods of communications, like a letter on paper, a fax or a phone call.

    "Enhancement" - enhancement for whom?

    Slashdot discussion: White House Obfuscates Email

  • Wired News discusses the recent injunction imposed on Acacia Technologies’s behalf: Porn Sites May Stream No More

  • Recall from the Lessig-Matusow debate at ILaw 2003 that a key conclusion that could be drawn was that Microsoft was conducting a worldwide code review to enable them to indemnify Windows users against IP challenges. Charlie Cooper picks up on this in his latest column for CNet: The next big Linux controversy

  • Some news on the FCC media consolidation decision:

  • Pursuant to Conyers-Berman, the latest listing of contributions to Rep. Berman from opensecrets.org

  • Conyers-Berman (H.R. 2517) got its own House Judiciary Committee Hearing yesterday (okay - a hearing of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property - sorry):

    July 17, 2003 - Legislative hearing on H.R. 2517, the “Piracy Deterrence and Education Act of 2003.”

    Witness List, Honorable Zoe Lofgren, Jana Monroe, David Trust, Linn Skinner, Maren Christensen

    (Update: dc internet news’ coverage: Lawmaker Seeks Greater FBI Role in Online Piracy War)

    Note that the famous Linn Skinner, Berman and Alec French’s favorite copyright infringement example, is represented. Her testimony is actually relatively brief, and recounts her experiences online trying to curb needlework copyright infringement - including an extensive appendix detailing the kind of online activity she found during her efforts. For more background on her tale, see these Furdlog entries: 2003 March 15, 2003 March 18 and 2003 March 19

    Jana Monroe explains how much work the FBI has already put into this, while David Trust wants not only to get after the internet, but all mechanisms for making copies of photographs. And Maren Christiansen of Universal tells us that "piracy is the single greatest threat to America’s creative industries," as well as explaining how The Hulk got uploaded to the Internet 2 weeks before theatrical release.

    But most importantly, note that Zoe Lofgren got her licks in for H.R. 1066, too!:

    But I am becoming increasingly dismayed by the fact that this Subcommittee only examines digital issues from one perspective. We have had numerous hearings this year on how online piracy affects content owners. Today, we are having yet another one, with four witnesses who seemingly support the bill we are considering. Among them, we have a witness from Universal Studios, who will no doubt tell us of the devastating effect that online piracy is having on movie studios. But according to statistics I’ve seen, yearly domestic box office gross has increased every year since 1992, including an 8.6% increase last year to over $9 billion dollars.

    If you want to see an industry in turmoil, don’t look to the movie industry, look to the technology industry. Unemployment in Silicon Valley is now 8.5%. One-third of households in Silicon Valley have experienced a layoff since January 2001. Consumer confidence and investment are down. It is not a recession in the tech world, it is a depression.

    I do not make this point to downplay the piracy issue, nor to suggest that the content industry is not suffering from online piracy. My point is that this Subcommittee should examine digital issues from all sides, not focus solely on how they affect copyright owners. We should look at how our laws affect the technology industry. We should examine whether or not the DMCA is chilling investment and innovation.

  • The Register has a piece on Conyers-Berman and a look at a recent Sensenbrenner "fact-finding" trip:

  • Final word on Metallica lawsuit hack? Snopes.com writeup

  • Digging through an e-mail backlog, I found an e-mail pointing me to this important article on the pending release/tryout of Mystro, AOL’s mysterious TiVo challenger that has been cloaked in secrecy (see earlier Furdlog ref): Mystro Wants To Play.

    AOL Time Warner executives were no doubt grinning when, in this season’s second episode of Sex and the City, Miranda fell in love with her TiVo. The story line on the company’s hit HBO series could not have come at a better time. Mystro TV, AOL TW’s stealth interactive everything-on-demand technology, just happens to be ramping up for its first market trial.

    Several senior-level programming executives approached to participate in the trial and an executive at one of the vendors involved tell Cable World that the company plans to test the technology in Columbia, South Carolina, as soon as this month. They say AOL TW is returning to Columbia because it is Time Warner Cable’s oldest subscription-based, on-demand market, having launched HBO on Demand two years ago.

    [...] Mystro’s file-serve technology is capable of storing virtually 100% of cable and broadcasters’ weekly programming output within days of being televised, while offering customers fast- forward, pause and rewind functionality.

    But it can only record programming it has licensed. And it’s bound to frustrate TiVo-lovers like Miranda, who gleefully zipped through a JetBlue commercial in her zeal to get to her favorite TV show. Not only will Mystro disable fast-forwarding of ads - it lets advertisers insert their messages (for a price) during the pause or fast-forward functions.

    [...] The IVG team has remained enormously secretive. At one point, according to someone with direct knowledge, AOL TW even went so far as to pay Google to remove its cache of Mystro references. Industry analyst Jack Myers was also asked by the company to delete a section of a 2002 newsletter that discussed the Mystro project in detail from his archives. Mystro reps were at the NCTA show in Chicago last month, but demos were done privately - and away from the press’s view.

    The company won’t comment on Mystro. Regarding claims that Columbia is the first TWC test site, spokesman Keith Cocozza said, “Your information is not correct.”

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