Billboard’s Tangled Web On P2P Evolution

This week’s Tangled Web column discusses the regional distinctions in P2P technology application

Two years later, it is clear that despite the industry’s valiant efforts, Internet users continue to “share” unlicensed digital music across the Web, via a variety of services. But this illicit marketplace is still growing and evolving, and a recent study by Canadian network equipment manufacturer Sandvine, Inc. reveals it as a “regionally differentiated, multi-application reality.”

From the Sandvine News site:

DMCA Exemptions on Anti-Circumvention

[via Copyfight] – Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works

On October 28, 2003, the Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, announced the classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. The four classes of works exempted are:

  1. Compilations consisting of lists of Internet locations blocked by commercially marketed filtering software applications that are intended to prevent access to domains, websites or portions of websites, but not including lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to protect against damage to a computer or computer network or lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to prevent receipt of email.

  2. Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.

  3. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

  4. Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook’s read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a specialized format.

Short Lived DVDs Not Selling

From Wired News, a look at how well the test-marketing is going: Two-Day DVDs a Slow Sale

“Too expensive,” said Tom Tow, who manages the Cub Foods 40 miles away in Bloomington. “That’s the most echoed comment I’ve heard.”

Customers aren’t interested in paying more than $6 for a limited-play DVD when they can pay $2 at the video store. Even with a $2 late fee, it’s cheaper than buying a disposable DVD, Tow said.

“I don’t think they like the idea that it self-destructs in 48 hours,” he said. “I think a lot of them are worried about the quality of the DVD for that price. Seeing as how it self-destructs, can it really be that good?”

[…] “They think it’s ridiculous,” said Joseph Pellegrino Jr., manager of the Rivers Avenue store in Charleston. “They won’t pay that type of money for something that’s going to vaporize.”

CNet on the Pending Broadcast Flag Vote

FCC nears vote on TV ‘broadcast flag’

The FCC is expected to vote on the issue this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Any decision is likely to be closely scrutinized by Congress, where lawmakers have indicated they are worried about the FCC usurping their legislative authority on the issue.

A cynic might ask "Why hasn’t Congress taken a hand before this?" but we already know the answer to that.

Norm Coleman On Copyright

The Register points to a Washington Post hosted online chat with Senator Norm Coleman on copyright

washingtonpost.com: Senator Coleman, many of our participants are asking questions about the state of copyright law in general. Do you think 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act struck the right balance between the rights of consumers and those of intellectual property owners? If not, what can Congress do to adjust that balance?

Sen. Norm Coleman: I think one of the problems with the 1998 DMCA is that it was created before the advent of KaZaA, Napster and the P2P technology that is used today to facilitate illegal downloading. This is what I mean when I say the law and technology are not in sync.

It is a great challenge for Congress to “adjust that balance” because technology changes so much quicker than the legislative process.

[…] Binghamton, N.Y.: Sen. Coleman – good morning – I know it’s a little off-topic, but who were some of the acts you worked with before you were in Congress?

Sen. Norm Coleman: I was a roadie for ten years after 1969. I drove a truck for Jethro Tull. Carried some equipment for Savoy Brown. Did concerts at both the Spectrum in Philly, and the racetrack at Laurel, Maryland. One of my jobs was to stand behind the big marshall amps and make sure they didn’t fall over. In those days there was no wireless technology.

That was a long time ago in a universe far, far away.

It was fun being online, I will try to get to some of the unanswered questions later. If you have any additional comments or questions, please contact me at opinion@coleman.senate.gov

Salon on the Broadcat Flag

Hurrah! Count on Salon (rather than Wired, it appears) to stake a position on this issue: Hollywood to the computer industry: We don’t need no stinking Napsters!

The MPAA is counting on your apathy. It’s precisely because the flag seems, on the surface, so innocuous that the studios are having an easy time pushing it to regulators in Washington. And the regulators are biting: According to close observers of the process, the Federal Communications Commission will soon adopt a rule requiring all technologies capable of receiving digital TV signals — everything from HDTV sets to DVD players to general-purpose PCs — to recognize and protect flagged TV shows.

If adopted, such a rule is sure to cause a great deal of hand-wringing in the PC industry, which is, increasingly, counting on the convergence between entertainment and computing to push sales. The last thing hardware manufacturers want is for Hollywood to be able to legislate how computers are put together. According to people familiar with the rule the FCC is pondering, the broadcast flag would force all computer companies to make a stark choice: Either add digital television capabilities to their machines and then, as some critics of Hollywood say, “weld the hood shut,” making sure that everything else in the PC — the DVD recorder, the hard drive — is sealed with copy-protection, or stay away from HDTV altogether, sacrificing sales.

This, critics say, illustrates the real danger posed by the broadcast flag; if the mandate were just another rule governing TVs, the flag wouldn’t be very objectionable. But this rule is targeted at computers, an industry that thrives on the freedom to tinker. “I’m old enough to remember a time when everybody opened up their system,” says Mike Godwin, an attorney at Public Knowledge, a digital-rights lobbying group that has been among the fiercest opponents of the broadcast flag. “Now, what I’m being told is that in order for my computer to be integrated, it has to no longer be user-modifiable.” Godwin, who is not shy about his obsession with “Buffy,” adds: “If they destroy television, I’ll be upset, but I can live with that. But if they destroy the computer revolution I’m going to be pretty pissed off.”

International Fronts in the “Cyberpiracy” War

Two articles – CNet’s Cyberpiracy north of the border and the NYTimes’ Brazil Becomes a Cybercrime Lab tell some tales of international digital copyright regimes.

The Canadian article points out some of these differences in an interview with Michael Geist:

A big reason for the lack of lawsuits against file swappers is Canada’s different legal system, which provides additional protections for peer-to-peer downloaders.

[…] Q: Can Canadians legally download copyrighted music from peer-to-peer networks?

A: The short answer is: Nobody knows for sure. But the issue is far murkier than in other jurisdictions like the United States. The key provision in Canada’s copyright legislation is a private copyright exemption that lets Canadians make private copies for noncommercial use. The way we justify the exemption is by way of a levy that applies to blank media such as blank CDs and blank audio cassettes.

With the exemption, there are many who believe that those who download music for noncommercial purposes from P2P networks could avail themselves of this legal defense. This has never been tested in court. The recording industry is of the opinion that this violates the spirit of the law if not the letter.

The article on Brazil is focused on hackers showing how to break (and defend) online information — with such success because the country is so thoroughly lawless in this regard:

While impressive, Mr. Assunçào’s hacking talents are hardly unique in Brazil, where organized crime is rife and laws to prevent digital crime are few and largely ineffective. The country is becoming a laboratory for cybercrime, with hackers – able to collaborate with relative impunity – specializing in identity and data theft, credit card fraud and piracy, as well as online vandalism.