Friday, September 30, 2005

More on WSIS

The International Herald Tribune did a decent piece on WSIS negotiations. As Lokman noted, the US negotiators arent' making any new friends. I'm glad to see that the NY Times carried this piece this morning.

This has all been predicted by an Annenberg-UPenn alum: Milton Mueller. His book Ruling the Root discusses the very political problem of the US uniquely controlling the root server, which is the gateway to establishing a new internet address. (Yes, this includes

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

AP misreports on Senate copyright hearing

I know this is a big shock, but the AP published a misleading story. Sadly, it's been printed by (among others) the Washington Post, Seattle Post Intelligencer, and SF Chronicle. In it, Jennifer Kerr blares:
The overriding answer from the two panels representing the recording industry, copyright experts and entrepreneurs was "no [new legislation needed]"--at least in the short term.
This is just not true. At least one witness--the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters--believes that Grokster reveals a huge need for new legislation. Due to the arcane nature of statutory licensing, digital and terrestrial radio stations alike can play whatever they want and pay a legally defined royalty to central rights clearinghouses, but online music vendors have to negotiate for the rights to each and every track.

This creates holes big enough to drive a truck through. See my last post on this.

Here, in detail, is Peters' reasoning:
Although the Grokster decision contributed immensely to the world of legitimate online music distribution, it did not, and could not, resolve all of the difficulties facing this industry. One area which poses the most hurdles to efficient and affordable distribution is the process of licensing the underlying musical works. Because this process is constrained by practical and statutory antiquities, it creates an incentive and opportunity for piracy to flourish. I commend you for considering the necessity of legislation in the wake of Grokster, and I would suggest that the one topic on which legislation should be presently considered is the reform of the process for licensing online distribution of musical works.
Of course, Kerr misses this subtle detail. Wholly out of context, she quotes Peters' recommendation to let stand the specific question of the Grokster decision itself. Grokster only settled the applicability of the standard for contributory and vicarious infringement to P2P services, and Kerr leaves readers with the impression that Peters is a-OK with the entire copyright status quo.

Bunk reporting by a bunk news service, I say. My letter to the editor, however, leaves that allegation between the lines. I hope the Post decides to publish it.

When Peters--who is very regularly on the side of copyright holders--insists that we need reform, Congress and the public should listen.

reporting the WSIS

Kieran McCarthy reports about the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva. This is the third meeting; the first meeting was in Geneva, the second in Tunis.

The main argument, McCarthy reports, right now is about who will "rule" the internet. According to the report, the US currently controls the internet, by which is meant control and governance of the DNS root servers and ICANN. Brazil and Iran would like that to change and have the ICANN as part of the United Nations; the US barks at the idea, as US ambassador David Gross himself said: "The United Nations will not be in charge of the internet. Period." That quote, a bit premature, did not go to well with everybody else, considering the meeting is convened at the UN, in order to discuss this very issue.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Hi: long awaited introduction. My name is Lokman, colleague of both Jason and Bill. My interests mainly concern issues of censorship, flow of information, technology, globalization, transnationalism, and comparative studies. My personal blog is called silent dreams; I also have a more professional website, with links to my papers and publications.

Look forward to contributing to this blog. Shout outs to Bill for organizing this, and to Jason for being in this group blog together.

Fight WIPO's broadcasting treaty

Go here RIGHT NOW and learn about the eeeeevil broadcasting treaty that's in work at the World Intellectual Property Organization. By my (non-lawyer) reading, it would give broadcasters copyright-like control over what they broadcast, whether it's public domain, creative commons, or uncopyrightable material when it hits the air.

Follow the links for more detail. The treaty itself is here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Poaching From CNN: TiVo, Bloggers, the Bible, and Pajamas

What was meant to be a quick glance at a few news sites has turned into a CNN-enabled blogging spree:

An apparent "glitch" reveals that TiVo apparently offers broadcasters the ability to delete content that users have saved. This is on top of the the copyright protection announced last year for pay-per-view content. I can respect that broadcasters might want to somehow copy-protect their material from being saved indefinitely, but I'm a little unclear as to why TiVo feels the need to help out. It's a good thing TiVo has been so aggressive about protecting its trademark, too, or else people might not realize that there are other PVR systems available...

A Paris watchdog group has created an 87-page guide to avoiding censorship while blogging. The freely-available guide, launched at the Apple Expo, was partially funded by the French government. It's times like these that I remember "freedom fries" and cringe.

High school Bible classes now have a textbook. I have been thinking a lot lately about how the Bible is arguably the most important book in the country. This article mentions how knowledge of the Bible is useful for understanding literature and history, which is undoubtedly true, but it's also pretty relevant in understanding activism and political communication. I have often naively wondered why more high schools don't teach the Bible from a secular standpoint, as mine did. While reading this article, the words "tiptoe" and "legal nightmare" certainly come to mind.

And what follows the Bible better than footed pajamas? I include this because, though the clothing mentioned here seems mainly worn for the sake of comfort, concern about it seems an issue of the message it sends to allow kids to wear pajamas in public (or the message sent by the actual wearing of the pajamas, presumably, "I can't be bothered with getting properly dressed"). In other words, clothing is a form of visual communication, but I wonder if it always gets recognized as such. Garrison Keiller doesn't seem to appreciate verbal appropriation on a t-shirt, but would he let it slide if it were the title of a book? Consider also a certain law suit involving a parody of the Starbucks logo, in which the court ruled that the parody was "confusingly similar" to the trademark, and thus merchandise (such as t-shirts) featuring the logo could not be sold. (Even the article I just linked seems to forget that clothing is visual communication, stating that the parodist's comic book featuring the logo was "reduced" to the status of a commodity. Is there any such legal differentiation?) I guess footed pajamas may not be communicating a message as directly as politically satirical t-shirts, but come on, everybody loves pajamas with feet.

WinMX & eDonkey go dark

According to The Register (UK), WinMX and eDonkey are both offline... for now. I suspect this is largely the result of recent RIAA sabre-rattling.

Why do I have a feeling this is going to push P2P users in the direction of open-source programs?

NSA patents net location-tracking method

On Tuesday, the National Security Agency secured patent #6,947,978 for a method of identifying an internet user's physical location based on IP address. It works by triangulating the target in relation to known IP addresses--comparing the delay between the target's transmission and its passage through known geographic anchors. Sounds simple, huh?

Geo-location is not news, of course. Ever been custom-marketed to by websites? ("Find other singles in Philadelphia!" is one common experience.) Gary Jackson, VP of a firm (Quova) that holds 3 geolocation patents, says "It's honestly not clear that there's anything special or technically advanced about what they're describing.

In this article on CNet News, Declan McCullagh suspects that NSA patent could be part of their signals intelligence mission--devoted to spying on non-citizens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Data mining to prevent terrorism?

Today, Arlen Specter has accused the Pentagon of stonewalling the inquiry to determine what military intel knew about four of the accused 9/11 hijackers.

The method for having acquired this knowledge? Data mining. It was part of a now-defunct program known as "Able Danger."

The data is out there. Noodling around in it is, by some accounts (e.g., Prof. Turow's), the wave of the niche-driven, direct marketing future.

Of course, police and/or intel agents can use data mining to flag citizens and hound them as dangerously deviant--whatever that means. In some cases (e.g., this one), it may be the case that data mining worked out. In total, though (e.g., if used to lengthen the "no fly list"), it is quite a threat to civil liberties. Is this what we pay our government for--to sort through our digital trash in a national effort of cyber-surveillance?

Thanks (again) to Rummy, we ordinary citizens will never know just how much this method has been utilized by our government in an effort to keep us all--uh, I mean, terrorists--in check.

Music labels: Encouraging piracy

This week, Steve Jobs has repeated his public warning to the major music labels: don't raise the price of downloads. He says they're "getting greedy" and behaving irrationally if they think that higher prices will seem reasonable when free music is still just a click away.

The RIAA has convinced itself (and a good portion of the voting population) that with enough industry-friendly legislation, intimidating lawsuits, and public relations spending, they can return to the good old days of oligopoly profits. But they're wrong.

P2P traffic has continued to rise, and the lawsuits increase P2P traffic by serving as free advertising for the freeloading services.

To be fair to the labels, there is money to be made in online music distribution; Apple shareholders just happen to get more than their share. Jobs has a vested interest in keeping iTunes wicked cheap; locked-down iTunes downloads are difficult to play on most MP3 players, cementing the iPod's dominance. Apple makes a slim minority of the money per download at the store; it's all a big iPod sales driver.

If I get my tunes from LimeWire, however, the unencrypted MP3's will play on any portable device. And we can't have that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Brief Introduction

My name is Jason, and I occupy the chair next to Bill's in our lovely office (with a couch). I kept sending Bill links I thought he would find interesting, so he invited me to post on his blog. I said no because I am busy and wary about taking on more responsibility. Then I changed my mind because it seemed kind of dumb to basically be blogging by proxy, considering how many links I was sending him. It's still Bill's world, though—I just get to post in it.

I'm not sure yet what I will be able to bring to this blog, but I do aim to please the crowd, so let's start with links about swearing and porn. Enjoy.

Christian band: Here's how to hack our CD

So the bassist from the Christian band Switchfoot is apparently giving instructions on how to disable the technological protection measures (TPM), aka digital "rights" management (DRM), on the band's new CD. It's not the band that decided to lock down their art in a way that keeps many people from using the lawfully-acquired CDs they buy.

This isn't the first time an artist has been this irked about a label deciding to lock down a CD without said artist's permission. Ben Harper was also really pissed when Virgin did the same thing to him. He doesn't want to work with them any longer because of it.

This is, however, the first time I've heard of a band that's willing to break a major federal law (17 USC Sec. 1201(b)) in order to rebel against its own techno-lockdown. Depending on whether prosecuted under section 1203 or 1204, this is either a potential statutory damage award of $2500 (more likely trumped-up "actual" damage charges) or a felony conviction with a max fine of $500,000 and a term of up to 5 years.

That is one brave bassist. Notice how I do not include the link. I like my money and my freedom, so I haven't even bothered to track it down.

So much for the rhetoric of protecting artists.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Crave privacy? Zap that paparazzi's digicam

Another interesting art on CNet News.

China still = piracy

As explained here on CNet News, China is still awash in pirated movies despite WIPO and promises from high-level politicos.

This is an example of trying to export our own cultural expectations onto the Chinese:
There are cultural issues as well. Many Chinese see strict intellectual property-rights enforcement as a zero-sum game in which foreigners benefit and Chinese lose. Historically, the act of copying hasn't necessarily had negative connotations: In painting and calligraphy, Chinese artists sought to mimic acknowledged masters. Too, under Communism people grew up believing assets should be shared resources. "The arguments we hear from the Chinese side are, 'Please lower the prices and then we won't pirate,'" says Thomas Pattloch, chairman of the European Union Chamber of Commerce Intellectual Property Rights working group and an attorney in the Shanghai office of Schulz, Noack and Barwinkel.
Some things never change.

The end of the wired internet?

Could this be the beginning of the end (or at least the end of the beginning) for wire-dependent internet communication?

If the lobbying efforts by Comcast and Verizon in Pennsylvania are any indicator, I somehow doubt that the incumbents will let their position go so easily.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

RIAA pushes to strip you of recording rights

The RIAA is pushing to roll back your right to record music at home. As part of the switch to digital radio broadcasting, they're pushing to mandate that devices capable of recording digital radio feature a host of crippling features.

As reported here by the EFF, the RIAA is hoping to mandate the following:
recordings must be for no less than 30 minutes;

recordings cannot be divided into individual songs, nor will you be allowed to jump between songs;

recordings must be encrypted and locked to the individual recording device (no transfers to your iPod!);

recordings can only be triggered by a human pressing a "record" button or by pre-programmed date-and-time (like your old VCR!), which means no smart metadata driven features like TiVo's "Wishlist."
This is even though the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act specifically gives people the full right to record--even from the radio--in the privacy of their homes.

Write, call, or fax your Representative and Senators today; the EFF page lets you submit your comments electronically.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Boucher calls for mandatory music licensing

Rep. Rick Boucher

In light of the continued success of illegal P2P networks, Rep. Rick Boucher has called for technology-neutral licensing. This would will allow legal downloading services to offer all recorded music and pay legally-defined royalties rather than haggling with record companies and therefore missing out on lots of songs.

It's hard enough to compete with "free"; offering a glaringly incomplete catalogue makes the pitch even harder. For instance, iTunes still cannot carry music by The Beatles.

Boucher was also joined by Sen. Maria Cantwell in calling for a streamlined royalties sytem. They both expressed the obvious and longstanding objection that terrestrial broadcasters pay songwriter's royalties but no royalties for mechanical licenses, while satellite and web broadcasters pay for both. The part they probably elided is that this is just another sign of the preposterous political clout of the National Association of Broadcasters.

They were just two of countless high-powered speakers at this week's Future of Media Policy Summit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Garrison Keillor: IP Bully?

As explained here on, Garrison Keillor, the comedian host of the NPR variety show "A Prarie Home Companion," has issued a cease-and-decist letter demanding the end to a parody of the phrase. A t-shirt vendor, selling shirts that say "A Prarie Ho Companion," has publicized the letter in its entirety.

Garrison: I'm a fan of yours. "Prarie Home" is one of my favorite shows in any medium, and I think you're a great entertainer. I also suspect that your political views are generally well-informed and spot-on.

But let's be honest about the irony of this situation. You're a %&*in' COMEDIAN! Can't you take a joke? Seriously. Back off. Let people heckle you. There is NO CHANCE IN HECK that a reasonable person would think you're hawking these shirts. Further, as a good liberal, you certainly care very deeply about free speech, but you're squelching it right now.

So back off. Please.

P.S. Why aren't you going after this site, which is very clearly a trademark violation that seeks only to cash in on your good name?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Profoundly dumb, insensitive Katrina quotes has compiled a list of the top 25 dumbest Katrina quotes. Most are from politicians, but a few are from the press. See, e.g., # 10, by the normally top-notch Wolf Blitzer.

Props again to J Tocci for the link. (Notice the pattern here?)

This is what happens when something tears the shellack of multiculturalism off this racially and economically segregated society: politicians and reporters don't know what to say. Sometimes, they're faking a genuine outrage. Sometimes, they're accidentally being racist on the air. Sometimes, they're blaming victims because the oppressed other didn't (couldn't) respond as the priveleged could and therefore did. Still other times, they're accidentally gloating that they'll never have to face that station in life.

Friday, September 09, 2005

FEMA nixes evacuee radio station

Even though the FCC gave a low-power FM license to Houston volunteers, FEMA will not allow those volunteers to set up a radio station from the Astrodome. See the Village Voice story here.

Props to Ken for this one.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Great post on hurricane & coverage


Friday, September 02, 2005

We paid $500K for a disaster relief plan?

Here's something you haven't heard yet in the mainstream media: in 2004, the Dept. of Homeland Security and FEMA paid over a half million to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) to develop a 'catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' for the New Orleans area.

Props to J. Tocci for the tipoff. Lenin's Tomb appears to have discovered this. More links here and here (pdf) and here (scroll down).

Let's hear it for the greater effectiveness of privatization! Also, one more round of applause for the MSM for dropping yet another softball.