Technology Moves On

It will be interesting to see what happens if the DVR’s DRM restrictions are found to be too stringent. Who will hang onto “old” tech if it’s more flexible? Death of video recorder in sight

Dixons will phase out VCRs due to the boom in DVD players, sales of which have grown seven-fold in five years.

It ends a 26-year love affair with a gadget which changed viewing habits by allowing people to leave home without missing their favourite programmes.

Dixons expects to sell its remaining stock of VCRs by Christmas.

[…] The final nail in the coffin for VCRs is the low price of DVD players, which can now be bought for as little as £25.

The cost of DVD recorders are also falling to a level within reach of many consumers.

Marybeth Didn’t Know What She Was Talking About

(See this) Nor did Declan, apparently — and the worst parts were dropped: U.S. Senate Passes Scaled-Back Copyright Measure (about S.3021 S.2192)

People who secretly videotape movies when they are shown in theaters could go to prison for up to three years under the measure, which passed the Senate on Saturday.

Hackers and industry insiders who distribute music, movies or other copyrighted works before their official release date also face stiffened penalties under the bill.

[…] The U.S. Senate has voted to outlaw several favorite techniques of people who illegally copy and distribute movies, but has dropped other measures that could have led to jail time for Internet song-swappers.

[…] Left out were several more controversial measures that would criminalize the actions of millions of U.S. Internet users who copy music and movies for free over “peer to peer” networks like Kazaa.

[…] That material was dropped from the bill, but the Justice Department said on its own last month it plans to take a more aggressive approach to policing intellectual-property crimes.

The bill also shields “family friendly” services like ClearPlay that strip violent or sexually explicit scenes from movies. Hollywood groups say such services violate their copyrighted works by altering them without permission.

A section that would have made it illegal to edit out commercials was removed.

[…] Another measure that would have made it easier to sue peer-to-peer networks died in committee last month, though insiders expect Congress to take it up again next year.

Wired News: A Kinder, Gentler Copyright Bill?

Copyfight: Jumping Off the Omnibus

Old News – Great Quote

RIAA sues filesharing US students

Cary Sherman, RIAA president, said there had been positive developments in partnerships between colleges and legitimate file sharing services. He said: “During the fall, we have seen a flurry of additional agreements between schools and legal online music providers. That’s exciting news for the university, students, and all those involved in the creative chain of making and distributing music.

“The lawsuits are an essential educational tool. They remind music fans about the law and provide incentives to university administrators to offer legal alternatives.”

Note that some universities are taking that particular initiative — D.C. College Students Targeted in Piracy Suit [pdf]:

University officials determined that two of the suspected music sharers were students. They are still trying to determine the identity of the third defendant, who could be anyone with access to the university’s computer network, said American University spokesman David Taylor.

Taylor declined to name the students, but said that the school would give their names to RIAA lawyers. He said the students face several possible punishments, including being forced to attend an educational workshop on file sharing, losing their Internet service or being expelled.

And, there are plenty of other strategies:

The RIAA has not targeted colleges themselves. Rather, it collaborates with them on programs to teach students about the consequences of illegally copying music, movies and software.

Like many Washington, D.C.-area colleges in the area, American has stepped up its efforts to limit file sharing. School officials warn incoming freshmen against illegal downloading during summer orientation before the fall semester. The school also uses technology to curb the amount of illegal traffic on the network by limiting the bandwidth students have available for file transfers.

James Madison uses similar technology, but peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa try to find ways to allow their customers to evade the restrictions.

Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Virginia have Web pages that advise students of the law and their responsibilities online. Georgetown, George Mason University and the University of Maryland also send out letters to students warning against file sharing. Johns Hopkins University forces students to sign a form agreeing not to download pirated material.

Maryland takes students offline until they purge their computers of pirated material within 24 hours of being notified. The University of Virginia bounces second offenders off its network and forces them to pay $100 before they can get back online.

George Washington also offers students free subscriptions to Napster’s 700,000-song online library.

A Look At Weed

File Sharing Growing Like a Weed

While the music industry attempts to shutter peer-to-peer services in court and in Congress, one company is using P2P networks to promote and pay artists.

Shared Media Licensing, based in Seattle, offers Weed, a software program that allows interested music fans to download a song and play it three times for free. They are prompted to pay for the “Weed file” the fourth time. Songs cost about a dollar and can be burned to an unlimited number of CDs, passed around on file-sharing networks and posted to web pages.

Declan Raises An Interesting Question

Outgunned on copyright?

When the Induce Act materialized, however, the tech industry won by calling in the heavy artillery in the form of broader-than-usual alliances. By venturing beyond the usual cluster of Silicon Valley companies, the allies managed to prevent the kind of consensus from forming that has characterized recent copyright laws.

Among the new allies: the Association of American Universities, the American Conservative Union, the American Library Association, BellSouth, MCI, RadioShack, SBC Communications and Verizon Communications. Even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal slammed the Induce Act in their editorial pages. (CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, also is on record as opposing the bill.)

Sarah Deutsch, a vice president at Verizon, said the Induce Act was temporarily defeated because the entertainment industry overreached, not because their lobbyists are losing influence. “It’s very hard for me to believe that either the RIAA or MPAA could be outgunned on intellectual-property issues,” Deutsch said. “If they’re not succeeding, it’s because they’ve drafted an overly broad piece of legislation that’s garnered lots of opposition.”

Trivia, But Instructive

Speaking of mechanisms of control: Dogfight over videos of White House pup

At stake are Webcasting rights to video clips of Barney, the first pooch, and his antics around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The White House has so far denied requests from online publishers seeking copies of the third annual Barney holiday video, insisting on hosting the video exclusively on its own Web site while at the same time freely granting broadcast rights to TV networks.

[…] “The justifications we have been given are that (1) the White House wants to drive ‘eyeballs’ to the White House site and (2) the White House is concerned that the video might appear ‘all over’ if it gave it to WashingtonPost.com and other online news sites,” Feaver wrote last December. “I think you will agree that neither of these attempted justifications is substantial and neither justifies the White House’s discrimination against online news sites.”

[…] One legal twist to the Barney saga is that news sites can probably host the memorable series of videos without the White House’s permission. Federal copyright law does not include videos or any other material created by a government employee “of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties.”

“If this is a work of the federal government, the Copyright Act permits the Washington Post to host it,” said Eugene Volokh, who teaches copyright law at the UCLA School of Law. “It doesn’t require permission from the White House.”

Going All The Way

Just the kind of Internet2 member everyone is looking to embrace with open arms: MPAA seeks Internet2 tests, P2P monitor role

The Motion Picture Association of America is in talks with the Internet2 research consortium, hoping both to test next-generation video delivery projects and to monitor peer-to-peer piracy on the ultrahigh-speed network.

[…] “The speed of these networks–up to thousands of times faster than ordinary Internet networks—-allows users to obtain copyrighted movies in minutes and music in seconds,” [RIAA president Cary] Sherman told legislators. “Further, the closed nature of these networks, being available only to those engaged in academia, makes it more difficult for copyright owners to protect their works and to notify responsible parties of their infringement.”

Slashdot: MPAA Looks to Sniff Internet2 Traffic for Sharers

Asserting The Freedom To Tinker

Collect some free MP3s here

If anything else in the home was as maddening to use as a computer, most people would refuse to use it. Think about it: If your dishwasher crashed, or if your TV’s video driver went on the fritz, you’d lose your patience pretty quickly. The reason we put up with computers, even though they can be so frustrating to use, is that we have complete control over our machines. We use computers because they can do just about whatever we want them to

If the labels succeed in outlawing P2P, what’s next? E-mail? FTP? HTTP? Instant messaging? All of these technologies can be used to trade illegal files. Banning P2P would be the start of one of those notorious slippery slopes. Eventually, computers would come to resemble televisions and other devices with limited capabilities. We will have lost control of our machines. In fact, it’s already starting; an ISP called Shaw has already started deleting some packets sent by its users. It uses a secret set of rules to decide which packets to kill.

I understand the labels’ wish to stomp out P2P technology, but if it means we have to unplug the Internet and cede control of our computers, outlawing P2P probably isn’t the way to go.

“Trust, But Verify”

What do you think? Anti-P2P bill may slip past legislative rush

A top government official predicted Thursday that a proposed copyright law that has alarmed technology companies will not be enacted in the last-minute legislative rush before the holidays.

Marybeth Peters, the U.S. register of copyrights, told a conference here that the so-called Induce Act would not be part of the slew of legislation–including key spending measures–that Congress is expected to vote on before leaving for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see database protection,” said Peters, who has been involved in closed-door negotiations this fall over copyright legislation. “Something else you won’t see this year is something known as the Induce Act.”

See earlier Lame Ducks Take Up Copyright Policy

Software Patents — The Idea That Won’t Die

Hyperbole? Use Linux and you will be sued, Ballmer tells governments

Asian governments using Linux will be sued for IP violations, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said today in Singapore. He did not specify that Microsoft would be the company doing the suing, but it’s difficult to read the claim as anything other than a declaration of IP war.

According to a Reuters report (which we fervently hope will produce one of Ballmer’s fascinating ‘I was misquoted’ rebuttals*), Ballmer told Microsoft’s Asian Government Leaders Forum that Linux violates more than 228 patents. Come on Steve, don’t hold back – what you mean ‘more than 228’ – 229? 230? Don’t pull your punches to soften the blow to the community. “Some day,” he continued, “for all countries that are entering the WTO [World Trade Organization], somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property.”

This reference is possibly more interesting than the infringement number scare itself, because it suggests that Microsoft sees the wider implementation of corporation-friendly IP law that is part of the entry ticket to the WTO as being a weapon that can be used against software rivals. More commonly, getting WTO members to ‘go legit’ is viewed as having a payoff in terms of stamping out counterfeit CDs, DVDs and designer gear, but clearly Microsoft’s lawyers are busily plotting ways to embrace and extend this to handy new fields. It could be used to throttle emergent OSS companies, and it could conceivably be used to take the new generation of US (and maybe EU too) anti digital piracy and IP laws global.

Slashdot: Ballmer Threatens Linux Patent Lawsuits