(entry last updated: 2003-08-12 14:07:19)
Salon writes about a coalition against a media consolidation threat: Keeping the Net neutral
The issue of cable’s influence over the Internet is set to become a hot potato for policy circles in Washington. The Coalition [of Broadband Users and Innovators] and several of its member firms, acting separately, have already submitted to the Federal Communications Commission a number of proposals intended to bring to the broadband world a concept the Coalition calls “net neutrality.” Proponents of the neutrality rules describe them as simple and straightforward: if the proposals are enacted, broadband providers would essentially be prohibited from “discriminating” between the various types of content that come into your home. Under the rules, your cable company could not force you to visit Barnes and Noble instead of Amazon, or prevent you from using Microsoft’s online game system while allowing you to use AOL’s games, or exact a surcharge when you download videos that aren’t in the QuickTime format — the kinds of seemingly arbitrary practices that the Coalition says cable firms are itching to put into place.
[…] Faced with a unified assault from some of the leading lights of the tech industry, the cable firms have also been privately suggesting that members of the Coalition harbor base ulterior motives for regulating cable. Certainly, cable companies say, the neutrality rules will benefit members of the Coalition. Microsoft, for instance, might want the rule to prevent cable systems from signing special deals with competitors to its X-Box Live online gaming system (such as Sony’s Playstation). The same goes for Amazon, Disney, and others — they could all stanch the power of rivals by preventing the sort of contracts that cable companies say will lead to faster adoption of broadband services. Moreover, cable firms complain that it’s hypocritical for Microsoft — which, during its long battle with the Justice Department, made clear its antipathy to government-imposed strictures on business — to be calling for regulations on potential rivals now.
The new arrangement, expected to be announced Tuesday, will see Universal give Audible Magic a “fingerprint,” or digital identification tool, for each song it releases, before albums are shipped to retailers. The company uses those fingerprints to identify copyrighted songs online or in other venues such as CD-manufacturing plants to help guard against unauthorized copying.
CNet News: ISP group challenges RIAA subpoenas
NetCoalition, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group that represents companies ranging from small Internet service providers to Yahoo and DoubleClick, on Monday said it is worried that ISPs are getting drawn too deeply into the RIAA’s online enforcement efforts–an issue that has kept relations between copyright holders and Net service providers tense for years.
The text of the letter sent to the RIAA; NetCoalition’s press release; NYTimes article: Internet Providers Question Subpoenas to Stop File Swapping [pdf]
From the There’s A Sucker Born Every Minute Department: The SCO Group Announces Signing of Intellectual Property Compliance License for SCO UNIX Rights; Slashdot discussion – SCO: Fortune 500 Company Buys License, IBM Retort; Cnet News – SCO Group wins Linux licensee
Andrew Orlowski, generally a premier screed writer for The Register, pens a surprisingly thoughtful piece about the hazards of leaving important decisions up to the court system: GPL goes to court (read the whole thing — it’s worth the effort!)
The greatest strength of the GPL is that it’s a social contract, one that makes the most powerful, who can buy the legal system, think twice before going to law. And that’s pretty powerful.
But with IBM’s counter suit against SCO explicitly defending its rights in terms of the GPL, it looks like The One Thing we Didn’t Want To Happen will happen. We’ll have a random judge poking holes in the GPL, on some perfectly defensible grounds that bear little relevance to the social obligations these imply. As if he’s supposed to know the difference.
It’s almost redundant to point out that resisting the setbacks that might result from a ruling involve civil disobedience on quite a wide scale – every sysadmin will fiind himself a potential criminal, and this is a horrifying concept for such a young nation as the United States. But maybe the US can catch a clue from the rest of us, and conclude that not only is the law an ass, but that selective civil disobedience is a walk in the park.
Slashdot discussion: GPL in Court – Good or Bad?
Odd Variants: This CNet opinion piece can be read too many ways, but it adds a little spice to this discussion: Can you stop a movement with a subpoena? – with the assertion that what’s going on here is an effort by IBM to use this fight to co-opt open source.
Penalties have been set in the MS patent infringement trial: Microsoft fined $520m for infringing patents; Slashdot – Microsoft Nailed by Software Patent; CNet News: Microsoft ordered to pay $521 million
Here come the Dutch: Dutch anti-piracy group targets file swappers
Dutch anti-piracy organisation Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands (BREIN) is going after individual music files swappers and will bill or prosecute people who offer large amount of files through services as KaZaA, Gnutella and Grokster.
[…] Some believe the threat is only intended as a deterrent. In recent months anti-piracy groups in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Italy have already attempted to bill file traders, but they are faced with strong opposition from ISPs who are worried they are being forced to police the Internet for illegal song copying. BREIN also largely depends on voluntary notice and take down procedures.
Yes, I know it’s really trademark law, but this is too good to pass on: Fox sues humorist Al Franken over ‘fair and balanced’ slogan
Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase “fair and balanced” in the title of his upcoming book.
Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Penguin to rename the book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” It also asks for unspecified damages.
Fox News registered “Fair & Balanced” as a trademark in 1995, the suit says. [Note, the USPTO listing says 1997, but who’s counting?]
Franken’s “intent is clear — to exploit Fox News’ trademark, confuse the public as to the origins of the book and, accordingly, boost sales of the book,” the suit said.
Calls to Penguin and Franken’s publicist were not immediately returned. The book is due out next month.
IANAL, but the USPTO listing describes this as a "typed drawing" trademark, and the ampersand (rather than the conjunction in the Franken title) is used.
Note also that Fox has more recently also trademarked Fair. Balanced. Unafraid. I don’t want to think about what they have planned for that.
Last night, I saw the first of the MPAA ads that have been commented upon variously. Maybe I’m just not that connected (or too fixed in my way of doing things), but it’s a little hard to figure out what the MPAA is trying to accomplish. On the face of it, the ads are directed at telling everyone that movies are not just the product and province of industry fat cats, so downloading movies takes money out of the mouths of all sorts of worthy toilers in the movie business. Yet, my first reaction was "isn’t this a little bit of an overkill?" Aside from the claims of Jack Valenti, does anyone really think that internet downloading of movies is having a real impact on the industry’s bottom line — particularly given (1) the recent studies showing broadband use leveling off in favor of dial up and (2) the fact that the industry is having a record year?
On the other hand, the MPAA has shown themselves to be terribly shrewd in this arena in the past. If we assume that’s the case, then there must be a deeper/subtler thing going on with this ad campaign. I can imagine some possibilities:
Preempting the eventual growth of broadband sharing by using these ads to change the culture of P2P file sharing (without looking like the ogre the RIAA is rapidly being seen as);
Softening up the legislature by making "slippery slope/domino theory" arguments so that the political appeal of now-unpalatable laws like the CBDTPA, the super-DMCA or Conyers-Berman will improve;
Rallying/educating their own troops, who very possibly are as enamored of music file sharing are the rest of the populace (after all, it is likely that Michael Jackson’s decision to go off-script on Conyers-Berman has stymied the RIAA); or
Speaking to a set of regulators, investors and/or consumer electronics companies, pointing out that further efforts to make file sharing easier (better hardware, compression algorithms, competing business plans) will be met with the full fury of the MPAA
It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes, but I hope I’ll get to review the ad again soon, to see what the hidden messages in the ad might be.