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Monday, November 28, 2005

How to Invent a Commercial Holiday

Have you heard of Cyber Monday? It's like Black Friday, only for online shopping, and on Monday. Also, it was created out of thin air by some industry group with surprisingly effective PR. Slacktivist has a good writeup (and makes sure to address the insidiousness of online marketers cutting in on the time that decent, hard-working folk waste reading blogs).

Monday, November 21, 2005

P2Pnet: DoJ should take stance on Sony

Good (if not great) piece arguing that the Department of Justice should prosecute--or publicly decide not to prosecute--Sony over the rootkit scandal.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Minilink: Blackboard e-surveillance by NYU

In its efforts to bust the grad student employees' union strike, NYU has resorted to unannounced internet eavesdropping. Hundreds of faculty back the strike, and the same folks (not to mention the graduate teaching assistants) are hopping mad over this latest dirty trick.

Props to Siva for his signature.

Minilink: DRM horror story

Click here to learn about one man's problems hacking Apple's DRM. All he wanted was a good night's sleep.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sony, embarrassed, retreats

After taking a huge beating in the public's eye for selling CDs that install spyware on users' computers, Sony has halted production of the CDs.

Of course, they still haven't released the full list of affected CDs or told the public how to uninstall the junk. At least one trojan has already been identified as taking advantage of the Sony backdoor.

Anybody else glad that they stopped supporting RIAA labels years ago? I sure am. I am not sure, however, why we're supposed to buy CDs that compromise our computers when we can download the same tracks online for free. (I don't use P2P either, by the way. I use another source of "pirated" music: the radio.)

P.S. The first link, if you didn't click, truly is a huge beating of Sony's insanity.

GOP Urges Investigation of "Secret" Prison Leak

The Washington Post reports:
Congress's top Republican leaders yesterday demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects.
Notice that there's no suggestion of investigation of the actual secret prisons right there. The "demand" comes in the form of a letter by Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert. (Other representatives, cited later in the article, do suggest that it would be worth investigating the prisons too. Also feel free to check out this article over at The New Yorker about the CIA's interrogation methods.)

As this Washington Post article points out, such bicameral investigations are very rare in the history of this nation, and the people demanding this are being pretty selective about which leaks they seem to think are worth investigating. (Why not the leak of false WMD intelligence or the Plame leak?) Whatever the case, the article also notes that "Republicans suggested it is unwise to pick a fight with the media over an issue that exposes so many political vulnerabilities for their party."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lessig on UN Internet Control

Lawrence Lessig on a recent debate: should the UN control the Internet?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

DMCA article accepted

The Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal has agreed to publish a paper I wrote with Oscar Gandy.

The paper, Catch 1201: A Legislative History and Content Analysis of the DMCA Exemption Proceedings, argues that the triennial rulemaking to determine exemptions to the ban against hacking technological protection measures is an ineffectual excuse for a "failsafe".

The media industry wanted stricter copyright law, and they got it in the form of 17 USC ยง 1201. As one of three bans the law enacts, it is now illegal to circumvent technological protection measures (TPMs) that protect access to copyrighted works. This basic ban is subject to triennial review by the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters. If Peters finds that noninfringing users are unfairly denied access by the TPMs protecting a given class of media works, she can grant them the right to circumvent those TPMs for a 3-year period.

After an extensive legislative history, we conclude that the rulemaking was not constructed to preserve the public's ability to access works in otherwise noninfringing ways. Rather, it provided a mechanism for Congress to take power away from the courts (which would have been somewhat likely to apply traditional copyright defenses such as fair use) and give it to an historically copyright-friendly body with no chance of appeal. This delegation also allows Congress to refer those who are adversely effected to the exemption rulemaking, but the poorly written law allows Peters to refer them back to Congress. It's a real catch-22.

In considering the input of the first two rulemakings, we conclude that, while the Register is somewhat constrained by the law, she takes an unnecessarily narrow view of her powers to exempt classes of works. Further, we note that those who oppose exemptions readily leap onto any jurisdictional bandwagon they can find in an effort to oppose any and all exemptions. Peters buys into this time and again, rejecting nearly 6 times as many proposals as she accepts.

Perhaps most disappointing among Peters' rejected classes is Ernest Miller's proposal for exempting ancillary materials on DVDs--e.g., trailers, outtakes, etc. Peters acknowledges that people are actually prohibited from engaging in noninfringing uses (e.g., criticism), but she insists that the threat of widespread piracy outweighs.

The only way this denial makes sense is if there are a substantial number of people who are willing to disobey copyright law generally but not Section 1201 specifically, and that only by denying the exemption to noninfringing users of DVDs can we prevent this substantial mass of would-be infringers from posting all their movies online. It's a pretty silly claim, and she doesn't make it explicitly, but the legal maneuvers she does make to get around this preposterousness are pretty nimble. (She also just ignores some arguments, including powerful First Amendment claims.)

This is just one example, but I could go on and on. It's time to get behind Rick Boucher's amendment, H.R. 1201.

There's more to it, of course--88 pages in all! Once again, download the paper, Catch 1201, if you're interested.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Unexpected Effects of Copy Protection

Some players of the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft have figured out how to use Sony's CD copy protection software to elude cheater-detection software (which is another controversy altogether, as the game publisher's efforts to keep the game cheater-free involve some invasion of privacy).

I figured this was worth posting, but don't let it distract you from Bill's previous post, which begs for immediate attention and action.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Endangered species: Your right to record

Check out this EFF Action Alert. NOW. The RIAA and MPAA are trying to radically cripple your right to record anything without their permission.

Read more about it here. Then, contact your congresspersons.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

CNet: Alito friendly to tech biz

Based on past rulings, CNet gives Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a cautious stamp of fairly friendly to the interests of the tech sector. He failed to grant copyright to an industrial manufacturer for their parts numbering system (not creative enough). But some of his dissents offer an awfully watered-down view of privacy and right against unwarranted search and seizure.

iMesh's P2P filters showing gaps

In their effort to keep unauthorized music off its first-ever authorized P2P networks, iMesh developed an intricate system for prohibiting unauthorized transmissions. Charge for songs that are under contract, permit the free exchange of songs that are under no copyright or a Creative Commons license, and forbid the sale of other songs (e.g., those by Led Zeppelin). At least, that's what they imply.

Unfortunately, their filters could be renamed "Houses of the Holey," because they're still not 100% perfect.

I suspect they'll patch around it, and everyone will continue to feel the same about iMesh. Labels will continue to thank them for helping them seem less virulently anti-tech (until the next new disruptive tech comes along), and the Downhill Battle crowd will continue to think of them as sell-outs.

I wish them luck fixing their problems, but I'd rather see people support their local indy music store.

Smaller firms in Singapore disobey copyright

In a recent survey of 100 small and midsize businesses, Intercedent Asia found that nearly a third do not comply with copyright laws. Among the most-cited reason is the high cost of software licenses.

Full story at CNet News.