Universal Music and Virgin Media in Anti-Piracy Pact

Universal Music Group and Virgin Media, a British cable television and broadband provider, said Monday that they would enter a digital music partnership that breaks new ground by combining the carrot of unlimited downloads with the stick of stronger anti-piracy enforcement.

Universal, the largest recording company in the world, said it would offer its entire catalog to Virgin, which contains works by artists ranging from Amy Winehouse to U2.

The music would be free from copy protection, a feature that distinguishes the service from most existing subscription offerings. The cost of the service was not disclosed.

In return, Virgin Media agreed to take steps to reduce piracy on its network, something that other broadband providers have resisted.

Policy Design and Sympoiesis

Or failure to acknowledge or accommodate the “you’re not the boss of me!” reaction to enforcement policies: Politicians Fail to Grasp Peer-to-Peer (pdf)

In a video shot for an online news site, French legislators were asked whether they were familiar with peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. “No,” one lawmaker responded, rolling his eyes. “I speak French. Excuse me.”

While France has often prided itself on its contrarian approach to information technology — remember the Minitel? — the response summed up the ham-handedness of the latest digital initiative by the French government. The video appeared this spring, at the height of debate about a plan by President Nicolas Sarkozy to set up a government agency to disconnect persistent copyright pirates from the Internet.

The proposal, approved by Parliament last month after an earlier setback, was shot down last week by the country’s highest judicial review body, the Constitutional Council, which ruled that it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and the presumption of innocence. Only a court of law is entitled to sever Internet connections, the council ruled.

[…] Every new effort to crack down on file-sharing seems to embolden groups devoted to an unfettered Internet.

Policy, Privacy, Security

Cyberwar – Privacy May Be a Victim in Cyberdefense Plan (pdf)

There is simply no way, the officials say, to effectively conduct computer operations without entering networks inside the United States, where the military is prohibited from operating, or traveling electronic paths through countries that are not themselves American targets.

The cybersecurity effort, Mr. Obama said at the White House last month, “will not — I repeat, will not — include monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic.”

But foreign adversaries often mount their attacks through computer network hubs inside the United States, and military officials and outside experts say that threat confronts the Pentagon and the administration with difficult questions.

Due Process Protections, En Français

French Council Defangs Plan to Crack Down on Internet Piracy (pdf)

The highest constitutional body in France on Wednesday defanged the government’s plan to cut off the Internet connections of digital pirates, saying the authorities had no right to do so without obtaining court approval.

The decision, by the Constitutional Council, which reviews legislation approved by Parliament before it goes into effect, is a major setback for the music and movie industries, which had praised the French law as a model solution to the problem of illegal file-sharing.

The council rejected the core portion of the measure, under which a newly created agency, acting on the recommendations of copyright owners, would have been able to order Internet service providers to shut down the accounts of copyright cheats who ignored two warnings to stop.

Playing Games With DAnger Mouse

Danger Mouse’s New CD Has No Music, but Lots of Pictures (pdf)

It was classic teaser marketing. And yet when “Dark Night of the Soul” was finally unveiled a few weeks ago, it still left fans puzzled. The project, it turned out, is a large-format book-and-CD package that Danger Mouse was releasing by himself, with 50 photographs by Mr. Lynch intended as accompaniment to the album’s 13 songs. But the CD is blank and recordable, and a sticker on the shrink wrap explains cryptically: “For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”

Bloggers and journalists speculated widely about why Danger Mouse, whose real name is Brian Burton, had withdrawn the music from the book. A statement on the project’s Web site ( blamed “an ongoing dispute with EMI.”

In response, EMI issued a statement that offered no greater clarity but hinted at a negotiation: “Danger Mouse is a brilliant, talented artist for whom we have enormous respect. We continue to make every effort to resolve this situation and we are talking to Brian directly. Meanwhile, we need to reserve our rights.”

In most cases this turn of events would signify defeat: an artist battles a record label, and his music vanishes down the memory hole. But in the peculiar way that Danger Mouse has built his career, “Dark Night of the Soul” seemed to be an oblique victory, in which failure at official business can generate notoriety and, ultimately, lead to success in other endeavors.

For fans the sticker’s winking reference to illegal downloading — “Dark Night of the Soul,” like most albums in the age of leaks, is widely if unofficially available free online — was amusingly familiar. […]

“Fixing” Copyright

Another constituency heard from in the run-up to the 111th Congress’ hearings on S.379/H.R.848 in the effort, once again, to BROADEN copyright protections: Film, TV music composers urge copyright law change (pdf)

Nathan Barr has scored horror films like “Hostel” and the HBO vampire series “True Blood,” but what really keeps the composer up at night is fear he will not get paid for music distributed online.

“‘True Blood’ is my first big show for TV and it’s definitely going to see a lot of play on the Internet. It’s a big issue for me,” Barr, 36, told Reuters in an interview. “I don’t understand why composers don’t get paid if someone downloads it.”

The issue is the latest digital copyright debate pitting creators in the entertainment industry on one side and studios, broadcasters, cable operators and technology companies on the other. Barr underscores how a growing number of artists — writers, actors and, yes, composers — feel they are not fairly compensated for content distributed on the Internet.

[…] Actors and writers have aired their grievances and demanded Hollywood studios pay up. Now, composers, along with publishers, are urging Congress to change copyright law so that when music airs in an audio-visual download, it is considered a public performance that earns them royalties. […]

The copyright issue, apart from being proposed legislation, is also expected to be the subject of a House Judiciary committee hearing in July, industry experts say.

At the center of the debate is a federal court ruling in April 2007, considered a victory for companies like AOL, RealNetworks and Yahoo! Inc <YHOO.O> that found that downloading a music file was not considered a “performance.”

[…] Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a trade group for Hollywood studios such as General Electric Co’s Universal Pictures, Viacom Inc’s Paramount and Walt Disney Co, strongly opposes these efforts, arguing that a download is not a performance.

“The MPAA is opposed to amending the copyright law to require a double payment for music in movies and TV shows downloaded from the Internet,” Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA said. “We do not need to amend the Copyright Act to compensate these composers twice for the same activity.”

This is all clearly fallout from the CISAC Copyright Summit (PR1, PR2) that’s been held the last two days. Sen Orrin Hatch spoke (pdf), outlining his views of what needs to happen in this Congress. Robert Wexler also spoke (pdf), allowing me to add this ironic passage to the ones above:

[W]hen the Swedish Pirate Party talks about how music is universal and has always been available for everyone to enjoy for free, we end up with the unenviable task of explaining the finer points of copyright laws to a public that has no interest in the longer explanation, however accurate, responsible and correct it may be.

I found this out on a personal level, when I was in Congress during the original file-sharing debate about Napster. I remember unveiling a strongly worded statement against Napster and a defense of our intellectual property legal regime. I thought I sounded pretty good. I knew I wouldn’t be popular with high school and college students in my district. But I was shocked when my father called me and said I sounded like I was on the wrong side of the issue. I knew if I couldn’t even convince my own father – that we had a big problem.

Google BookSearch and Antitrust

Not resolving anytime soon: U.S. Steps Up Inquiry of Google Book Settlement (pdf)

In a sign that the government has stepped up its antitrust investigation of a class-action settlement between Google and groups representing authors and publishers, the Justice Department has issued formal requests for information to several of the parties involved.

The Justice Department has sent the requests, called civil investigative demands, to various parties, including Google, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and individual publishers, said Michael J. Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack, who represented the Authors Guild in negotiations with Google.

“They are asking for a lot of information,” Mr. Boni said. “It signals that they are serious about the antitrust implications of the settlement.”

A Boon? Or Nightmare?

I know where I stand: The Smartphone’s Rapid Rise From Gadget to Tool to Necessity (pdf)

The smartphone surge, it seems, is a case of a trading-up trend in technology that is running strong enough to weather the downturn. And as is so often true when it comes to adoption of new technology, the smartphone story is as much about consumer sociology and psychology as it is about chips, bytes and bandwidth.

For a growing swath of the population, the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail. The smartphone, analysts say, is the instrument of that connectedness — and thus worth the cost, both as a communications tool and as a status symbol.

“The social norm is that you should respond within a couple of hours, if not immediately,” said David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail.”

An Excellent Post-WWDC Keynote Thought

You can live without the new iPhone, but its getting harder to live without the App Store

There is, of course, an irony in Apples success. For years, Apple fans claimed that the company made the best PCs in the world hands down. Nevertheless, it was hard to argue with the fact that Windows PCs simply ran more programs. Now Apple is in the position once occupied by Microsoft. Over the next few years, Palm, Research in Motion, Nokia, Sony and others are sure to create some transcendent mobile devices. But the hardware hardly matters anymore. How is anyone going to compete with all these amazing apps?

Selling The Rope

As Lenin supposedly (but unprovably) put it: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.:”China Requires Censoring Software on New PCs (pdf)

China has issued a sweeping directive requiring all personal computers sold in the country to include sophisticated software that can filter out pornography and other “unhealthy information” from the Internet.

Later: IT firms urge China to reconsider filter (pdf) (also China Criticized Over Computer Filtering Plan – pdf)

“The Information Technology Industry Council, the Software & Information Industry Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association and TechAmerica urge the Chinese government to reconsider implementing its new mandatory filtering software requirement and would welcome the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue,” said a joint statement.

“We believe there should be an open and healthy dialogue on how parental control software can be offered in the market in ways that ensure privacy, system reliability, freedom of expression, the free flow of information, security and user choice,” it said.