A worst case scenario of the topic that’s been consuming a lot of my time recently:
Battles over illegal sharing of music online are so last summer. The hot fight now is over copying of video from television or the Internet that generally has been considered freely available to the public.
If television broadcasters and webcasters have their way in international treaty talks, they would gain new, 50-year rights to virtually any video they beam out, even if no one owns the rights to the content.
[…] The result, according to digital rights advocates, is that the viral power of the Internet to expose millions (or billions) of people to news or unprotected creative works will be in jeopardy. The seemingly instant, online cycle of people posting information, seeing it, linking to it or retransmitting it — as happened with the amateur tsunami videos — could be dragged into a morass of new ownership questions.
“This new layer turns every distributor into yet another owner,” argues James Love, head of the Consumer Project on Technology, which is fighting the treaty.
“Here you have one of the biggest name-brand corporations on the planet getting into what many people in other circumstances would consider hacking,” said Richard Smith, a security and privacy consultant based in Boston. “That’s just not acceptable.”
Sony Corp.’s music division said Wednesday it is distributing a free software patch to reveal hidden files that were automatically installed on hard drives when some of its music CDs were played on personal computers.
[…] Sony BMG Music Entertainment and its partner, Britain-based First 4 Internet Ltd., said they decided to offer the patch as a precaution, not because of any security vulnerability as some critics had alleged.
“What we decided to do is take extra precautionary steps to allay any fears,” said Mathew Gilliat-Smith, First 4 Internet’s CEO. “There should be no concern here.”
Later: When Vendors Install Malware
First 4 Internet released an update to their software today that removes the cloaking aspects of the software.
In other words, it won’t hide files and registry entries beginning with ‘$sys$’ after this update. Contrary to some reports, the update won’t allow you to remove the software.
Interestingly, the update was at first released as an ActiveX control, requiring the use of Internet Explorer, but was later changed to a static executable. Both versions require that you trust First 4 Internet, a company plainly undeserving of trust.
[…] Blowing off “technical questions” to First 4 Internet, as Sony does in this case, doesn’t cut it for me. Nobody, and I mean nobody, buying a Sony CD thinks they are buying a First 4 Internet product. At a bare minimum, Sony needs to say that they will never do this again, and I think they need to clear out the channel.
As a BBC report states, the rootkit may violate British law. I’m not so sure about U.S. law, but I know there were states working on laws that this program would violate.
Also, see DRM this, Sony!
What’s the solution? In the near term, for us, it’s not to buy any Sony CDs, and maybe not any Sony anything. In the longer term, it’s to start agitating for a rewrite of copyright law in the manner so eloquently suggested recently by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal [pdf]. He suggests copyright law with actual teeth that can chomp on massive-scale piracy, but with broad exemptions for personal use, because excessive DRM is hampering innovation and alienating consumers. I couldn’t put it any better. And companies? Sony? Are you really going to tell us that overhauling these outmoded rules is harder and more destructive than suing retirees over honest mistakes made by their 12-year-old grandsons? This is the path you’re going to choose?
I smell a DMCA violation on the /. front page! Cue the Sony lawyers in 4..3..2….
Apparently, though, it doesn’t work, so no one at /. has to worry.
As a died-in-the-wool hardcopy reader, good luck, I say. For some kinds of books, it might even be a good idea: Want ‘War and Peace’ Online? How About 20 Pages at a Time?
The idea is to do for books what Apple has done for music, allowing readers to buy and download parts of individual books for their own use through their computers rather than trek to a store or receive them by mail. Consumers could purchase a single recipe from a cookbook, for example, or a chapter on rebuilding a car engine from a repair manual.
The initiatives are already setting off a tug of war among publishers and the potential vendors over who will do business with whom and how to split the proceeds. Random House, the biggest American publisher, proposed a micropayment model yesterday in which readers would be charged about 5 cents a page, with 4 cents of that going to the publisher to be shared with the author. The fact that Random House has already developed such a model indicates that it supports the concept, and that other publishers are likely to follow.
The proposals could also become bargaining chips in current lawsuits against Google by trade groups representing publishers and authors.
Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are circulating drafts of three bills that would give federal agencies the ability to write regulations preventing digital radio and TV broadcasts from being pirated.
Two of the legislative proposals would give authority to the Federal Communications Commission to approve so-called “broadcast flag” regulations that would prevent digital broadcasts from being uploaded on the Internet.
A third would prevent companies from manufacturing, importing or selling devices that convert copy-protected digital broadcast program into an analog program. Converting digital broadcasts into analog broadcasts is known as the “analog hole.” The Patent and Trademark Office would develop the regulation regarding the analog hole.
Slashdot discussion and more links: New Bill Threatens to Plug “Analog Hole”
A 67-year-old man who says he doesn’t even like watching movies has been sued by the film industry for copyright infringement after a grandson of his downloaded four movies on their home computer.
The Motion Picture Association of America filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Fred Lawrence of Racine, seeking as much as $600,000 in damages for downloading four movies over the Internet file-sharing service iMesh.
[…] The Racine man said his grandson downloaded the movies out of curiosity, and deleted the computer files immediately. The family already owned three of the four titles on DVD, he said.
“I can see where they wouldn’t want this to happen, but when you get up around $4,000 … I don’t have that kind of money,” Lawrence said. “I never was and never will be a wealthy person.”
Kori Bernards, vice president of corporate communications for MPAA, said the movie industry wants people to understand the consequences of Internet piracy. She said the problem is the movies that were downloaded were then available to thousands of other users on the iMesh network
Major artists are increasingly using the Internet, mobile phones and music appliances like Apple Computer’s iPod to generate hype and sales, combining technological advances with the traditional mainstays of live performance and interviews.
[…] “Everyone these days has a mobile phone, so for major artists, this is a perfect tool to stay in touch with the fans,” said Matthias Immel, who is involved in international marketing at T-Mobile, an arm of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.
“There is a major trend in the music industry from physical to digital formats, and this of course will continue,” he said.
“What will happen is that mobile phones will be the dominant hardware used as digital music players. iPod is successful, but it is still a high-end device.”
The music business is only beginning to come to terms with Internet downloading, much of which has been done illegally, and piracy of physical CDs.
(Still overwhelmed with other work — and ‘way behind — but I am at a down moment at a conference.)
Sony BMG has configured some of its music CDs to install antipiracy software that uses techniques typically employed by hackers and virus writers to hide the program from users and to prevent them from ever uninstalling it.
The CDs in question make use of a technique employed by software programs known in security circles as “rootkits,” a set of tools attackers can use to maintain control over a computer system once they have broken in.
People may differ over what exactly a rootkit is, but the most basic ones are designed to ensure that regular PC monitoring commands and tools cannot see whatever has been planted on the victim’s machine. Because rootkits generally get their hooks into the most basic level of an operating system, it is sometimes easier (and safer) to reformat the affected computer’s hard drive than to surgically remove the intruder
[…] I understand Sony’s desire to protect its intellectual property, and piracy certainly is a problem. But installing software that opens people up to further security risks and potentially destabilizes the user’s computer can’t be the best way to address that problem.
Slashdot’s got other articles: More on Sony’s “DRM Rootkit”