The IP Lawsuit Strategy – LATimes-style

The Web and the law [pdf]

As an educational tool, this type of lawsuit leaves something to be desired. Only a fraction of the people sharing songs and movies online illegally are sued, dulling the deterrent effect. At the same time, because so many claims have been filed (more than 13,000 by the movie and music industries since September 2003), they no longer attract much attention. Another problem is that studios and labels do not know the identity of a defendant when they start pressing a claim; the lawsuit eventually lands on the person whose Internet account was linked to pirated files. As a result, defendants have included such crowd-pleasers as a 12-year-old girl, several grandparents and at least one dead person.

The resulting publicity hasn’t garnered much sympathy for the labels or their cause. And critics of the lawsuits are right to argue that such actions aren’t a long-term solution to the rampant piracy that the Internet enables. (Their argument that content providers are abusing copyright law to prevent fair use is a harder case to make, but worth hearing.) Entertainment companies need to find more effective ways to boost respect for copyrights while embracing the new technology to satisfy demand.

[…] Clearly, these lawsuits inflict some collateral damage, not just on the industry but on notions of fair play and the law. When huge media conglomerates sue thousands of individual Internet users, they fuel the argument that copyright law is just a tool for the powerful, not a means to improve society by encouraging creativity and innovation. But like anyone else, the studios are entitled to defend their rights. You can lament how blunt the instrument is, but you can’t fault Hollywood for using it.

Supreme Court Issues

An entertaining “What if?” discussion – with both Larry & Ed – with key discussion of the notions behind Ed’s blog’s name!!: Roberts v. the Future

As books, music and movies are increasingly distributed by large corporations in digital form, entertainment and publishing corporations are clamping down on the ability to access copyrighted material — sometimes by persuading Congress to extend copyright protections and sometimes by devising ingenious technological ways to block users from making copies of the product. Many digital activists fear that free expression won’t be able to thrive if people are deprived of the right to sample, remix and tinker in a world where every copyright infringement can be recorded, punished or technologically impeded.

The guru of digital activism is the Stanford law professor and cyberspace visionary Lawrence Lessig, whom I recently reached by telephone in Spain. “As life moves increasingly onto the Net and the capacity to control every aspect of our cultural capital increases almost to perfection, the question will be whether there is an affirmative right of access, to use and remix,” Lessig said. […]

[…] Edward Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton University, told me that he hopes in 20 years that Americans might be able to assert a newly recognized constitutional right — rooted in the First Amendment — to circumvent the obstacles posed by digital-rights-management technology. He calls it “the constitutional right to tinker.” […]

[…] Chastened by the experience, Felten decided to articulate what, exactly, is threatened when researchers aren’t permitted to experiment without first consulting their lawyers; he hit upon the concept of tinkering. “The process of experimentation, not always with a direct goal, is captured by the term tinkering,” he said. Whether the Supreme Court ever recognizes tinkering as a constitutional right, the ability to tinker may be threatened not only in computer science but also in the life sciences as well. […]

Artistry In Recordings

A Master of Making Old Tunes New Again

Ward Marston shut down his turntable, pulled off the record and said, “I’ll be singing ‘Night and Day’ for the rest of the week.”

Mr. Marston’s compliment was for Cole Porter, who wrote the song, and for Fred Astaire, who recorded it in 1932. But not for the recording itself, one track on a remastered CD. “The sound is thin and the surface scratchy,” he said.

And Ward Marston should know. By almost any measure, he is considered one of the best in the small but worldwide group of music lovers and sound engineers dedicated to finding new life in old phonograph records.

Related, from Sunday Weekend Edition; Tahra Records, Reclaiming Musical History — “Rene Tremine and Myriam Scherchen are the founders of Tahra Records, a small label issuing well-received historical recordings of classical music. Independent producer Julian Crandall Hollick visits with the Paris-based couple.”

You Can Lead A Horse To Water …

But, since it’s just an animal, unable to control its greed, it just might drag you down with it to a watery grave: Apple, Digital Music’s Angel, Earns Record Industry’s Scorn

Two and a half years after the music business lined up behind the chief executive of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, and hailed him and his iTunes music service for breathing life into music sales, the industry’s allegiance to Mr. Jobs has eroded sharply.

Mr. Jobs is now girding for a showdown with at least two of the four major record companies over the price of songs on the iTunes service.

If he loses, the one-price model that iTunes has adopted – 99 cents to download any song – could be replaced with a more complex structure that prices songs by popularity. A hot new single, for example, could sell for $1.49, while a golden oldie could go for substantially less than 99 cents.

Music executives who support Mr. Jobs say the higher prices could backfire, sending iTunes’ customers in search of songs on free, unauthorized file-swapping networks.

[…] Some analysts suggest that the willingness of the music companies to gamble on a new pricing structure reflects a short memory.

“As I recall, three years ago these guys were wandering around with their hands out looking for someone to save them,” said Mike McGuire, an analyst at Gartner G2. “It’d be rather silly to try to destabilize him because iTunes is one of the few bright spots in the industry right now. He’s got something that’s working.”

Slashdot discussion: iTunes Might Lose Labels

Band Life

Axl Rose Sued by Former Bandmates – Yahoo! News [pdf]

Two former members of the rock band Guns N’ Roses have sued frontman Axl Rose for allegedly naming himself sole administrator of the group’s copyrights.

The suit was filed Aug. 17 in federal court by Slash and Duff, otherwise known as Saul Hudson and Michael McKagan. It accuses Rose of profiting from their revenue shares to the tune of about $500,000 a year.

The suit claims Rose directed the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers to send all publishing royalties to his publishing company, bypassing the band’s other partners.

Looking for the Deep Pockets

Adult-site publisher takes action against Google [via Slashdot]

Adult magazine publisher Perfect 10 is seeking a preliminary injunction against Google to stop the search giant from allegedly displaying copyright images of its models.

[…] Perfect 10 first became aware of Google serving up text links to other Web sites that allegedly carried copyright images of Perfect 10 models back in 2001, Zada said in an interview on Thursday. The company then sent notices to Google, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, asking the search giant to discontinue linking to the other sites.

Last year, Zada said, he learned Google was allegedly displaying photos of its copyright work on its Web site through its images feature that links to other Web sites. Perfect 10’s request for an injunction is part of a copyright infringement lawsuit that it filed in November against Google.

In case you missed the point, here’s a Slashdot comment that raises (albeit a little imperfectly) the nasty question that Google has been trying to work around for quite a while now:

Re:robots.txt (Score:4, Insightful)

by bedroll (806612) on Friday August 26, @09:20AM (#13406769)

(Last Journal: Wednesday August 24, @11:08PM)

Strangely enough, these people are suing google for the actions of others. They are suing google because google’s webcrawler doesn’t automatically block sites containing their copyrighted works. They’re basically saying it’s Google’s job to police the entire web to enforce their copyrights.

Replace Google with Napster and Perfect 10 with the RIAA. Is this really such an open and shut case in favor of Google?

Another Blow To Logkeeping

Studios mine P2P logs to sue swappers

Hollywood studios filed a new round of lawsuits against file swappers on Thursday, for the first time using peer-to-peer companies’ own data to track down individuals accused of trading movies online.

The Motion Picture Association of America said it filed 286 lawsuits against people around the United States based on information acquired from file-trading sites shut down earlier in the year. Most of those sites were hubs connecting people using the BitTorrent technology, a peer-to-peer application designed for speeding downloads of large files

Slashdot: New Round of P2P Lawsuits from Hollywood


Wonder if anything from Red v. Blue will get in? Deal for Film Version of Microsoft Game

Microsoft has signed a deal with two film studios to make a movie based on its popular space-based video game series Halo, Universal Pictures said on Wednesday.

Universal and 20th Century Fox agreed to pay Microsoft $5 million plus a percentage of ticket sales. The total price being paid is capped at 10 percent of domestic box-office receipts.

Audiobook Lending Library Technology

And in illustration of the quandry facing those doing product development in digital media these days: Libraries Offering Audiobook Downloads [pdf]

A new way to borrow audiobooks from the library involves no CDs, no car trips, no fines and no risk of being shushed. Rather, public libraries from New York City to Alameda, Calif., are letting patrons download Tom Clancy techno-thrillers, Arabic tutorials and other titles to which they can listen on their computers or portable music players – all without leaving home.

[…] There’s still one big hitch, though: The leading library services offer Windows-friendly audiobook files that can’t be played on Apple Computer Inc.’s massively popular iPod player.

Vendors such as OverDrive Inc. and OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc.’s NetLibrary have licensing deals with publishers and provide digital books using Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media Audio format, which includes copyright protections designed to help audiobooks stand apart from the often lawless world of song swapping.

A patron with a valid library card visits a library Web site to borrow a title for, say, three weeks. When the audiobook is due, the patron must renew it or find it automatically “returned” in a virtual sense: The file still sits on the patron’s computer, but encryption makes it unplayable beyond the borrowing period.

“The patron doesn’t have to do anything after the lending period,” said Steve Potash, chief executive of OverDrive. “The file expires. It checks itself back into the collection. There’s no parts to lose. It’s never damaged. It can never be late.”

OT: Kafka’s America

Library Challenges FBI Request [pdf]

A member of the American Library Association has sued the Justice Department to challenge an FBI demand for records, but the USA Patriot Act prohibits the plaintiff from publicly disclosing its identity or other details of the dispute, according to court documents released yesterday.

The lawsuit comes as Congress prepares to enter final talks over renewal of the Patriot Act, a counterterrorism law that was overwhelmingly approved after Sept. 11, 2001. But parts of the law, including provisions that could have an impact on libraries, have since come under fire.

Justice Department and FBI officials have repeatedly declined to identify how many times Patriot Act-related powers have been used to seek or obtain information from libraries, but they have strongly urged Congress not to limit their ability to do so.

The suit, originally filed under seal in Connecticut on Aug. 9, focuses on the FBI’s use of a document called a “national security letter” (NSL), which allows investigators to demand records without the approval of a judge and to prohibit companies or institutions from disclosing the request. Restrictions on the FBI’s use of NSLs were loosened under the Patriot Act.

The identity of the institution, the records being sought and numerous other details are edited out of the public version of the complaint released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a party to the lawsuit.