Internet access is the latest hot amenity, around Washington and the country. Some buildings, like Michaud’s, wire the access in and don’t charge extra. Some buildings buy Internet services at a bulk rate or install scattered WiFi “hot spots,” then offer them to residents, usually at a discount. Other properties simply market certain providers’ services. A smaller number offer building-wide WiFi access for a fee.
“It’s no longer being done to be better than the other guy, but to keep up with the other guy,” said David Cardwell, vice president of capital markets and technology at the National Multi Housing Council.
The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. “National security letters,” created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people — are extending the bureau’s reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.
The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks — and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond.
[…] Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone’s personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.
“The composite picture of a person which emerges from transactional information is more telling than the direct content of your speech,” said Woods, the former FBI lawyer. “That’s certainly not been lost on the intelligence community and the FBI.”
Ashcroft’s new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.
What national security letters add to government data banks is information that no commercial service can lawfully possess.
Entertainment industry executives called the settlement a milestone in their ongoing legal battles to contain file-sharing, which is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The executives hope other services, such as Kazaa, Morpheus and LimeWire, will follow Grokster’s lead.
But whether that will happen is unclear. An attorney for StreamCast Networks Inc., which operates Morpheus, vowed yesterday to continue its legal fight with the entertainment industry. Some services, such as Kazaa, are based overseas and less susceptible to legal pressure in the United States.
And even though Grokster essentially is ending operations, that will not prevent its customers from using the software if they have already downloaded it.
[…] “It’s like the drug war,” said David Israelite, head of the music publishers association. “Your goal is not to get to zero, but to keep fighting for more and more reductions. . . . You go after everybody.”
“If Hollywood doesn’t act now, a year from now this decision won’t matter,” said former Grokster President Wayne Rosso, now working on a legal, music-industry-sanctioned file-sharing service called Mashboxx. “Right under everybody’s noses, ultra-fast networks are getting rolled out. Suddenly, a DVD will be downloaded in a matter of seconds.”
At least we also get this:
Some advocates of peer-to-peer networks lamented that the technology had been so demonized by the entertainment industry that it might take years to find a legitimate niche.
Monday’s agreement is “another nail in the coffin for a very, very promising technology,” said Peter Fader, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s sad that [peer-to-peer networking] has been besmirched as equaling illegal.”
Now that P2P software, coupled with a demonstration that there’s an intent to do unacceptable things, can be illegal, it may be that there are few choices — except to get someone else to distribute it for you: Grokster to stop distributing file-sharing service [pdf]
File-sharing service Grokster Ltd. will stop distributing software that allows users to copy songs without permission as part of a settlement with the recording industry, an industry group said on Monday.
RIAA Press Release
Slashdot: Grokster Shutting Down?; NYTimes: Grokster File-Sharing Service Shuts Down in Settlement [pdf]; WaPo: Grokster Downloading Service Shuts Down [pdf]
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case that could narrow the scope of patentability.
The Court granted certiorari in Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings v Metabolite Laboratories Inc on October 31, despite receiving a brief from the government proposing that it reject LabCorp’s petition. It is rare for the Court to hear a patent case against the solicitor general’s advice.
In granting cert, the Court chose to answer just one of the three questions presented by the petitioner. While LabCorp’s questions touched on broader issues of a patent’s scope, the Court’s focus will only be on the area of medical diagnostic and treatment patents.
The question that the Court will answer is: “Whether a method patent setting forth an indefinite, undescribed, and non-enabling step directing a party simply to “correlat[e]” test results can validly claim a monopoly over a basic scientific relationship used in medical treatment such that any doctor necessarily infringes the patent merely by thinking about the relationship after looking at a test result.”
By forcing individuals to hire IS security consultants: Unsecured Wi-Fi would be outlawed by N.Y. county
According to a new proposal being considered by a suburb of New York City, any business or home office with an open wireless connection but no separate server to fend off Internet attacks would be violating the law.
Politicians in Westchester County are urging adoption of the law–which appears to be the first such legislation in the U.S.–because without it, “somebody parked in the street or sitting in a neighboring building could hack into the network and steal your most confidential data,” County Executive Andy Spano said in a statement.
The draft proposal offered this week would compel all “commercial businesses” with an open wireless access point to have a “network gateway server” outfitted with a software or hardware firewall. […]
[…] The proposed law has two prongs: First, “public Internet access” may not be provided without a network gateway server equipped with a firewall. Second, any business or home office that stores personal information also must install such a firewall-outfitted server even if its wireless connection is encrypted and not open to the public. All such businesses would be required to register with the county within 90 days.
If you want to see a noble effort doomed to failure, look no further than a recent announcement aimed at keeping “Chicken Little” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” out of the hands of street vendors in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
For anti-piracy reasons, the Walt Disney Co. is mailing out encrypted DVD “screeners” of the movies it’s pushing for Oscar consideration. These discs can only be viewed with a special player developed by a Dolby Laboratories unit called Cinea.
[…] All you have to do to set up the player is plug the thing in, then register it online or via phone.
That sounds easy, and it probably is. But it violates one basic entertainment industry rule: Don’t ask people in Hollywood to do the kinds of tasks most of us accept as routine.
[…] My guess is the bigger reason the Cinea system won’t catch on is because of the role screeners play in Hollywood. Ostensibly, they exist so you can more easily watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” to see what the fuss is all about.
In reality, they let you build up — for free — a great home film library to play on your own private DVD. And if there’s anything that’s really sacred in Hollywood, it’s freebies.
Chan Nai-ming was convicted last month for trying to distribute three Hollywood blockbusters — Daredevil, Red Planet and Miss Congeniality — on the Internet without licences. He pleaded not guilty.
“He was sentenced to three months for each count but they will run concurrently,” a court clerk said. Chan filed an appeal and was freed on HK$5,000 (US$645) bail.
It is believed to be the world’s first intellectual piracy case involving the file-sharing technology.
WaPo article: Man Jailed in 1st Copyright Violation Case
- Dan Glickman, MPAA
- Mitch Bainwol, RIAA
- Gigi Sohn
- Michael Petricone, Consumer Electronics Association and the HRRC
Later: Jesus H. Christ! This is what I get for being away from this for a couple of weeks. I cannot believe this draft bill — for example:
Section 103. Encoding Rules.
No person shall encode a program, or cause a program to be encoded, using the rights signaling system unless such encoding conforms to the following requirements:
(a) The rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent or limit copying, redistribution, or both, of prerecorded media, video on demand, pay-per-view, subscription-on-demand, and undefined business models that are comparable to any of the foregoing;
(b) The rights signaling system may not be encoded so as to prevent first generation of copies as are permitted under Title II of pay television transmissions, non-premium subscription television, free conditional access delivery, and undefined business models that are comparable to any of the foregoing, but the rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent or limit further copying of any of the foregoing (including comparable undefined business models) redistribution of any of the foregoing, or both;
(c) The rights signaling system may not be encoded so as to numerically limit copying as permitted under Title II of a non-conditional access broadcast transmission and undefined business models that are comparable to a non-conditional access broadcast transmission, but the rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent redistribution of any of the foregoing; and
(d) The VEIL portion of the rights signaling system may only be encoded in program formats described in subsection (a) until 12 months following the effective date as established in Section 106; thereafter the VEIL portion of the rights signaling system may be encoded in any and all program formats, provided, however, that under all circumstances if a person encodes a program or causes a program to be encoded with the VEIL portion of the rights signaling system, then that person shall also encode the program or cause the program to be encoded with the CGMS-A portion of the rights signaling system.
So we really are going to start legislating the content of programs?
Worse, I am sure that proponents will point to this language as supporting innovation:
Section 101. No person shall
(b) manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any
technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that —
(2) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to modify or cause an analog video input device to no longer conform to the requirements set forth in subsection (a); or
Of course, any novel application is not going to have more than “limited commercially significant purpose or use” until it gets disseminated and understood (c.f., TiVo). As written now, without the funds to implement VEIL, a firm looking to develop a new application (or, God forbid, an open source application!) would be formally restricted.
What a mess! Lots of reading to catch up on.
I like how Gigi sticks it to Glickman, contradicting something he tries to imply in his testimony:
Preliminarily, I would note that this is the first time in the recent discussion over digital content protection that CGMS-A + VEIL technology have been proposed. While the CGMS-A + VEIL technology was discussed at the Analog Hole Reconversion Discussion Group, it was quickly dismissed as not worthy of further consideration. Thus, unlike the broadcast flag, this technology has not been fully vetted by industry and public interest groups.
Accordingly, we are quite surprised that CGMS-A + VEIL is being presented
today as a fully formed, mature proposal to Congress. [….]