A Policy Vacuum

Cyberattacks on Georgian Web Sites Are Reigniting a Washington Debate (pdf)

U.S. officials have begun to consider the legal and policy problems that cyberwarfare presents, but cybersecurity experts said the government has been slow to resolve them in the face of an increasing likelihood that cyberattacks will be used to augment, or even supplant, typical military action.

“We are in a world where governments have not decided yet whether the tools of cyberattacks are weapons,” said Scott Borg, director of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a think tank that advises governments and companies. “We don’t have any really clear international understandings about these matters.”

“The Pentagon doesn’t have a policy on whether a cyberattack can be an act of war,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, adding, “it’s ultimately the perception of the country under attack as to whether an act of war was committed.” The Pentagon has, however, assigned its Strategic Command to head up cyberprotection and cybercounter-attack operations.

Related: A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic

The Dog In The Manger Barks Again

The perennial complaint by just about everyone in the business is brought up again: Record labels seek more action on Rock Band and Guitar Hero (pdf)

Many music industry executives facing a CD sales slump love the sound of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

The video games have millions of followers who memorize every note of songs so they can jam along — and they often buy the original version of their favorites. In addition to the publicity, the record labels get licensing fees from the game publishers.

But not all music industry executives are singing “Hallelujah.”

Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and chief executive of Warner Music Group, recently grumbled that the record labels deserved a bigger piece of the spoils from the games’ success.

“The amount being paid to the industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content that we own and control, is far too small,” he said during an Aug. 7 earnings call.

Bronfman suggested that he wanted Warner to be less a supplier than a partner. “If that does not become the case, as far as Warner Music is concerned, we will not license to those games,” he said.

The recording industry has long complained that it doesn’t receive its fair share of the proceeds from successful businesses built on music, such as MTV, the iPod and the iTunes store.

Maybe Bronfman ought to learn some game programming to see just how important “his” content really is.

The Open Source Text

Free digital texts begin to challenge costly college textbooks in California (pdf)

[Caltech economics professor R. Preston] McAfee is one of a band of would-be reformers who are trying to beat the high cost — and, they say, the dumbing down — of college textbooks by writing or promoting open-source, no-cost digital texts.

Thus far, their quest has been largely quixotic, but that could be changing. Public colleges and universities in California this past year backed several initiatives to promote online course materials, and publishers and entrepreneurs are stepping up release of electronic textbooks, which typically sell at reduced prices.

McAfee is a leader in his academic field, a featured speaker at the Yahoo Big Thinkers India conference in March. Tall and genial, he dresses in khakis, a polo shirt and geeky river sandals. A coauthor of the best-selling book “Freakonomics,” Steven D. Levitt, has described him as brilliant. What McAfee is not is anti-capitalist.

“Im a right-wing economist, so they can’t call me a communist,” McAfee said.

Yet he turned down $100,000 to turn over his open-source textbook “Introduction to Economic Analysis” to a commercial publisher.

“What makes us rich as a society is what we know and what we can do,” he said. “Anything that stands in the way of the dissemination of knowledge is a real problem.”

McAfee said he wrote his open-source book because the traditional textbook market is broken. Textbook and college supply prices nearly tripled between 1986 and 2004, an audit by the federal Government Accountability Office found in 2005. With costs continuing to climb, it would be “reasonable to conclude that [individual student] expenditures can easily approach $700 to $1,000 today even after supplies are subtracted,” the congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance said in a 2007 report.

“Publishers have broken an implicit contract with academics, in which we gave our time and they weren’t too greedy,” McAfee wrote on the web page for his book. McAfee said many publishers, going for the lowest common denominator, were making some books too simple.

Representatives of the textbook industry say they have invested in new products because instructors have demanded it.

Later: Break on Cost Of Textbooks Unlikely Before Last Bell, 2010 (pdf)

YouTube as Copyright Judge & Jury

Who would have thought that YouTube would have voluntarily elected to become a part of the DC Circuit? Some Media Companies Choose to Profit From Pirated YouTube Clips

In the last few months, CBS, Universal Music, Lionsgate, Electronic Arts and other companies have stopped prodding YouTube to remove unauthorized clips of their movies, music videos and other content and started selling advertising against them.

[…] So far, the money is minimal — ads appear on only a fraction of YouTube’s millions of videos — but the move suggests a possible thaw in the chilly standoff between the online video giant and media companies. Getting into the good graces of media entities is seen as critical to the future of YouTube, which has struggled to show appreciable revenue for video ads.

“We don’t want to condone people taking our intellectual property and using it without our permission,” said Curt Marvis, the president of digital media at Lionsgate Entertainment, which owns films like “Dirty Dancing” and the “Saw” series of horror movies.

“But we also don’t like the idea of keeping fans of our products from being able to engage with our content.” he said. “For the most part, people who are uploading videos are fans of our movies. They’re not trying to be evil pirates, and they’re not trying to get revenue from it.”

Indeed, the YouTube users who post the content without permission will not share in the advertising revenue generated by their posts. Instead, it is split between the media companies and YouTube.

The infringing user receives an e-mail message with an ominous red banner saying “a YouTube partner made a copyright claim on one of your videos.” The e-mail message explains that the media company has “authorized the use of this content” and that viewers may see advertising on the video.

So, now the media companies have found a way, via YouTube copyright claims, to appropriate creative content that makes “fair use” of copyrighted works? I wonder what the first appeal of YouTube’s “decision” is going to look like….

Double-plus ungood, Winston!

I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop.

REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.

[…] “In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to.”

“This new reality,” she added, “is a lot more pleasant.”

Man, the Times must have worked hard to get Ms. Horn to phrase things just right for them!

Hacking, cracking and institutions

T hacking exposes a deeper clash (pdf)

Anderson, along with his freshman-year roommate, R. J. Ryan, 22, and another student in the class, Alessandro Chiesa, 20, claimed in their project to have developed a way to hack into the MBTA’s recently installed $180 million automated fare-collection system and provide fellow hackers with “free rides for life.”

Not surprisingly, the T was not pleased to learn of the development. The agency, which is strapped for cash and contemplating a fare increase in 2010, successfully sued the students to prevent them from presenting their findings at DEFCON, a hacker’s convention that recently drew more than 6,000 people to the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The trio face a hearing in Boston’s federal court tomorrow when a temporary restraining order keeping them from releasing their findings expires.

The T, which did not return calls for this story, has said the students’ findings could cause “significant damage to the transit system.” The agency has also sued MIT, saying the institute failed to teach its undergraduates “to responsibly disclose information concerning perceived security flaws.”

The students strongly disagree, and their case has electrified the cowboy community of hackers, where the line is often blurry between those who break into a system so the system’s flaws can be exposed and patched and those who crack into a network merely to create mischief.

Also, Judge awaits students’ research paper (pdf)

Mygazines Raising Hackles

New magazine-sharing site may violate copyrights (pdf)

The magazine industry, already facing a decline in newsstand sales and falling ad revenue, is being besieged by a new foe: digital piracy.

A fledgling Web site called Mygazines.com encourages people to copy and upload popular magazines that are currently on newsstands. Visitors can read high-quality digital copies of dozens of current titles, including People, Mens Health and The Economist, in their entirety.

The site, with some 16,000 registered users as of Friday, is a “flagrant” violation of copyright laws, according to legal experts — but it is run by an offshore company of specious origin, making it difficult to shut down.

Making Friends

Jackson Browne sues McCain, RNC over song in ad (pdf)

Jackson Browne doesn’t want John McCain running on anything fueled by his lyrics.

The singer-songwriter sued McCain and the Ohio and national Republican committees in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday, accusing them of using his song “Running on Empty” without his permission.

The lawsuit claims the song’s use was an infringement of his copyright and will lead people to conclude he endorses McCain. The suit says Browne is a lifelong liberal who is as well-known for his music as for being “an advocate for social and environmental justice.”

[…] Browne’s lawsuit contends the Ohio Republican party released the ad on behalf of McCain and the RNC. The RNC did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The suit notes that other musicians, including ABBA and John Cougar Mellencamp, have asked McCain to stop using their work.

A Battlefield Study

In the end, all worthwhile weapons testing requires a war: Longtime Battle Lines Are Recast In Russia and Georgia’s Cyberwar (pdf)

Concerted online attacks have been a threat for years. But security experts say the “cyberwar” between Russia and Georgia underscores the havoc that can spread on a digital battlefield. It also highlights how vulnerable Web-reliant countries are to assaults that could cripple military communications or a national banking industry.

See also An Army of Ones and Zeroes: How I Became a Soldier in the Georgia-Russia Cyberwar

Building Precedent for Open Source Licensing

In particular, a case upholding the Artistic License:Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software

In a ruling Wednesday, the federal appeals court in Washington said that just because a software programmer gave his work away did not mean it could not be protected.

The decision legitimizes the use of commercial contracts for the distribution of computer software and digital artistic works for the public good. The court ruling also bolsters the open-source movement by easing the concerns of large organizations about relying on free software from hobbyists and hackers who have freely contributed time and energy without pay.

It also has implications for the Creative Commons license, a framework for modifying and sharing creative works that was developed in 2002 by Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford.

The ruling: Robert Jacobsen v. Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates

We consider here the ability of a copyright holder to dedicate certain work to free public use and yet enforce an “open source” copyright license to control the future distribution and modification of that work. Appellant Robert Jacobsen (“Jacobsen”) appeals from an order denying a motion for preliminary injunction. Jacobsen v. Katzer, No. 06-CV-01905 JSW, 2007 WL 2358628 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2007). Jacobsen holds a copyright to computer programming code. He makes that code available for public download from a website without a financial fee pursuant to the Artistic License, an “open source” or public license. Appellees Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc. (collectively “Katzer/Kamind”) develop commercial software products for the model train industry and hobbyists. Jacobsen accused Katzer/Kamind of copying certain materials from Jacobsen’s website and incorporating them into one of Katzer/Kamind’s software packages without following the terms of the Artistic License. Jacobsen brought an action for copyright infringement and moved for a preliminary injunction.

The District Court held that the open source Artistic License created an “intentionally broad” nonexclusive license which was unlimited in scope and thus did not create liability for copyright infringement. The District Court reasoned:

The plaintiff claimed that by modifying the software the defendant had exceeded the scope of the license and therefore infringed the copyright. Here, however, the JMRI Project license provides that a user may copy the files verbatim or may otherwise modify the material in any way, including as part of a larger, possibly commercial software distribution. The license explicitly gives the users of the material, any member of the public, “the right to use and distribute the [material] in a more-or-less customary fashion, plus the right to make reasonable accommodations.” The scope of the nonexclusive license is, therefore, intentionally broad. The condition that the user insert a prominent notice of attribution does not limit the scope of the license. Rather, Defendants’ alleged violation of the conditions of the license may have constituted a breach of the nonexclusive license, but does not create liability for copyright infringement where it would not otherwise exist.

Jacobsen, 2007 WL 2358628 at *7 (internal citations omitted).

On this basis, the District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. We vacate and remand.

[…] The clear language of the Artistic License creates conditions to protect the economic rights at issue in the granting of a public license. These conditions govern the rights to modify and distribute the computer programs and files included in the downloadable software package. The attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce. Through this controlled spread of information, the copyright holder gains creative collaborators to the open source project; by requiring that changes made by downstream users be visible to the copyright holder and others, the copyright holder learns about the uses for his software and gains others’ knowledge that can be used to advance future software releases.

[…] Having determined that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright conditions, we remand […]