Spin, Spin, Spin

And I call bullsh*t! — Microsoft Ruling May Bode Ill for Other Companies

“This ruling is certainly going to introduce a lot of uncertainty,” said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Washington-based group that supported Microsoft in its legal case in Europe. “What the court is basically saying is that if you develop a successful product and get too big, the European Commission is going to force you to give away your intellectual property.”

Or maybe it’s going to convince companies that illegal use of monopoly power carries consequences, hmmm?


SpiralFrog offers free songs — with a catchpdf

In one of the bolder experiments to date, SpiralFrog.com, a service scheduled to open today, will let Web surfers download songs by U2, Timbaland, Amy Winehouse and other Universal Music Group artists free.

The catch: Consumers have to wait 90 seconds for each track to download, and they must answer questions each month about their buying habits.

In addition, the songs can’t be played on iPods or burned onto CDs as they can with 99-cent downloads from the dominant online music store, Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

[…] Although Universal and the other labels declined to discuss SpiralFrog on the record, executives at two labels said they had serious doubts about the company’s prospects. The executives said Universal and the others were interested in cutting a range of digital deals in hopes that some would pan out.

Hmm – sounds like more than one catch, as well as a potentially stupid feud between Apple and Universal.

Kembrew McLeod on DMCA Abuse: Uri Geller

Uri Geller’s YouTube takedownpdf

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s probably remember a popular psychic named Uri Geller, who was always on TV back then, bending spoons with his brain, correctly guessing the content of people’s doodles and generally blowing the audience’s mind. But who could have guessed that his powers would eventually warp free speech and copyright law in the 21st century?

[…] Using the DMCA, aggressive litigants like Geller and such copyright-hoarding companies as Viacom and Disney can simply make your work disappear if they do not like what you have to say, something that was much more difficult in the pre-digital world.

[…] These “copy fights” are first and foremost a free-speech issue. Sadly, many intellectual-property owners and lawyers see it purely as an economic concern. Another problem is that websites often faint at the sound of threatening language in legal nastygrams. It’s safer to cave to spurious demands than risk lawsuits from brand-name bullies or obsessives such as Geller.

If YouTube is our new public sphere, we are in trouble, at least when it comes to free speech. YouTube’s parent company, Google, is more concerned with its bottom line than anything else, whether it’s copyright censorship in the U.S. or political censorship in China.

But all is not hopeless. The DMCA contains a legal tool for resisting unreasonable copyright claims — the “counter-notice.” […]

[…] As our culture increasingly becomes fenced off, it’s all the more important for us to be able to comment publicly on the images, ideas and words that saturate us on a daily basis without worrying about an expensive, if meritless, lawsuit. If we don’t defend ourselves, we’ll be complicit in letting our freedom erode. By standing up for fair use and against overreaching copyright claims, we can create havens for expression in the age of intellectual property.

A Return to Progressivism?

I speculated on this a couple of weeks ago; interesting to see it cropping up again. Although it’s hard to cast the current president as a modern Teddy Roosevelt, the forces in play these days are positively Kolkovian: In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulation

After years of favoring the hands-off doctrine of the Bush administration, some of the nation’s biggest industries are pushing for something they have long resisted: new federal regulations.

For toys and cars, antifreeze and fireworks, popcorn and produce and cigarettes and light bulbs, among other products, industry groups or major manufacturers are calling for federal health, safety and environmental mandates. Some of those industries are abandoning years of efforts to block such measures, often in alliance with the Bush administration, which pledged to ease what it views as costly, unnecessary rules.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as it appears. If the opposition wants to avoid giving away the farm, here’s the aspect that ought to be fought tooth and nail (by simply asking whether a regulatory agency should be given quite this much power):

But industry officials, consumer groups and regulatory experts all agree there has been a recent surge of requests for new regulations, and one reason they give is the Bush administration’s willingness to include provisions that would block consumer lawsuits in state and federal courts.

Living with Ubiquitous Personalization

Tell-All PCs and Phones Transforming Divorce

The age-old business of breaking up has taken a decidedly Orwellian turn, with digital evidence like e-mail messages, traces of Web site visits and mobile telephone records now permeating many contentious divorce cases.

[…] Divorce lawyers routinely set out to find every bit of private data about their clients’ adversaries, often hiring investigators with sophisticated digital forensic tools to snoop into household computers.

“In just about every case now, to some extent, there is some electronic evidence,” said Gaetano Ferro, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who also runs seminars on gathering electronic evidence. “It has completely changed our field.”

Privacy advocates have grown increasingly worried that digital tools are giving governments and powerful corporations the ability to peek into peoples’ lives as never before. But the real snoops are often much closer to home.

It gets worse

Being on the receiving end of electronic spying can be particularly disturbing. Jolene Barten-Bolender, a 45-year-old mother of three who lives in Dix Hills, N.Y., said that she was recently informed by AOL and Google, on the same day, that the passwords had been changed on two e-mail accounts she was using, suggesting that someone had gained access and was reading her messages. Last year, she discovered a Global Positioning System, or G.P.S., tracking device in a wheel well of the family car.

She suspects her husband of 24 years, whom she is divorcing.

Nose, Face — You Know How It Goes

Marley Family’s Vitriol Leads Verizon to Bite Back

The licensing dispute between the estate of the reggae singer Bob Marley and the Universal Music Group took an ugly turn yesterday, with nobody getting together or feeling the least bit all right.

[…] Yesterday, early in the afternoon, it looked as if Verizon Wireless was removing itself from the fray. The Marley family issued a statement that it would not follow through with plans to file a suit against the carrier for trademark infringement because Verizon had “ceded” to its demands and taken most of the 44 ring tones by the singer off the Verizon Wireless Web site. Sixteen ring tones remained on the site, songs from early in Mr. Marley’s career that are owned by companies other than Universal.

But in announcing that Verizon had changed course, the family was less than conciliatory. In a written statement, Chris Blackwell, a longtime spokesman for the family, said that he was “infuriated that Verizon would go around the estate and initiate partnership with Universal” and that it was “disturbing that these companies refuse to give the musicians the respect they deserve.”

James Gerace, a Verizon spokesman, said, “I was a little taken aback by their statement.”

And the company was not just taken aback; it took it all back.

See earlier When Is A Ringtone Not Just A Music Clip?

A Little Progress

DirecTV faces setback in dubious antipiracy campaign. Good.

DirecTV lost an important case on Tuesday. Programmers, security researchers, and anyone who believes in a limited government won.

In a 2-1 split decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a default judgment against a pair of alleged DirecTV television pirates, saying an “unauthorized decryption device” law the company invoked against them does not apply. That law promises statutory damages of $100,000 per violation.

[…] The reason this could be an important decision is because it strikes at the heart of DirecTV’s dubious strategy of treating purchasers of smart-card programmers as if they were necessarily criminals themselves.

In a dragnet of cases filed over many years, DirecTV has been suing people who dared to buy smart-card programmers. Those can, it’s true, be used to repair pirate access cards disabled by DirecTV countermeasures (this type of card is sometimes called an “unlooper”).

They also have perfectly benign uses. […]

EFF’s copy of the decision; more general info