August 29, 2003
Software Companies Shut Down Sites In Protest of Patent Law

Tutos, Knopper and WineHQ are among 2500 software websites that shut down August 27th, and remain that way as of this writing, protesting the pending European Legislation on patents. They did this to make the point that patents can stop innovation. In fact, these sites will have to forcibly shut down if the proposed law (to override the current patent law) is adopted in the EU. (See slashdot for more discussion.)

Why all this fury about software patents?

Unlike copyright, patents can block independent creations. Software patents can render software copyright useless. One copyrighted work can be covered by hundreds of patents of which the author doesn't even know but for whose infringement he and his users can be sued. Some of these patents may be impossible to work around, because they are broad or because they are part of communication standards.

Evidence from economic studies shows that software patents have lead to a decrease in R&D spending.

Thanks to Frank Field for the pointer.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:02 AM | Permalink
Ben Affleck on File Sharing ...

(and he's a file sharer!) Via Tech TV. The video is here.

He's advocating a flat fee subscription system so that people will pay once (a year? seems too long) and then listen to all music, new and old. He also says that the industry has been slow in recognizing the changes in their market and technology. Suggests the movie industry get with it as well. Who knew Ben was so hip? And so geeky.

Thanks to Jason Schultz for the pointer.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 07:02 AM | Permalink
August 28, 2003
I'm Trademarking "Trademark®"

That's right. Trademark® is mine. Everyone who uses it has to stop now. If Paul Newman can do it with HUD® (htm), and Bill O'Reilly and Fox claim "fair and balanced®," Entrepreneur® (htm) is owned by Entrepreneur Media, Al Frankin might even take "Shrill and unstable" or "deranged", to be added to the oldie but goodie Trademarks®: "Common Sense" [The Kellogg Company], "Kansas" [Kansas, the band], "Time to Read" [Time, Inc.], "Wish You Were Here" [Hyatt Hotels], "Desert" [Clarks Shoes], then what's the big deal with taking Trademark®? If Trademark® suits are the lawsuit du jour, maybe we should consider a prior art museum for words similar to the Serendipity Files for patents.

I mean, Common Sense®? Is taken? Where is the common sense when words like Common Sense® are trademarked for cereal? Like nobody used those words before, in reference to anything, or to cereal or any other product? Or for that matter, in reference to actual common sense?

The Definition of a TRADEMARK OR MARK: A word, a name, a symbol, a device, or a combination of them that indicates the source of goods or services. Distinguishes the products or services of one business from those of others in the same field. The owner/assignee/licensee of a trademark/mark has the right to exclude others from using that trademark/mark by being the first to use it in the marketplace. Rights in a trademark/mark are obtained only through commercial use of the mark. The owner of a trademark/mark has the right to exclude others unless the trademark/mark has been abandoned.

So trademarks are not supposed to be generic, but are supposed to be associated with and distinguish the trademarked product from others in the field.

Course Bill O'Reilly 'splains it like this: The main point here is that trying to hurt a business or a person because you disagree with what they say is simply unacceptable in America. And that message has been sent by FOX. There's a principle in play. Vigorous debate is embraced by us, but smear campaigns will be confronted. It is simply a joke for The New York Times to editorialize that fabricated personal attacks are acceptable under the banner of satire.

What do hurt feelings and the rest of his logic have to do with whether it's realistic or makes any sense to trademark "fair and balanced" in our current IP system? Or to sue because you are satirized by a known political humorist for associating yourself with your trademarked slogan, which is not really distinguishing you from other products in the field (there are several other news organizations which use generic, ironic slogans, too)?

The hurt continues for Bill, with a new one act play, Fair and Balanced: "Fair" and "Balanced" are characters -- they are prisoners held in an underground dungeon, and every night at 8 p.m. a foul character named "Bill O'Reilly" comes down into the dungeon to torture them.

[Salon columnist] Joe Conason e-mailed... (Frankin) ... and said -- 'I have a new trademark for Fox: Fox News Channel. Wholly without merit.'.

Okay, I won't trademark Trademark, if everyone else puts down their IP guns too.

Update 9/3/03: The Onion on trademark law: The Onion | Tanzania Loses Name To Tanning-Salon Chain. And Al Franken on Terry Gross.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
RIAA Reveals "Tracking" Methods To Find P2P File Sharers

From AP/Ted Bridis. The article says these are methods to track downloaders, but I was under the impression that at least for now, they are tracking people acting as uploaders by posting files, not downloaders.

Rich Kulawiec says, "Wow. The RIAA has discovered checksums and the Unix/Linux 'sum' command." Wouldn't it be terrific if the RIAA used some of this brainpower to make good legal download services, using a nice easy interface offering a wide range of music at a reasonable price, compensating artists fairly and making it cooler to download legally than not to do so? Course there would always be a few shoplifters, but that's the cost of doing business across many industries.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 07:31 AM | Permalink
August 27, 2003
EFF On RIAA Subpoena Stats

UPDATE 10/05/03: EFF info here says this: Our database was last updated Sunday, October 5, and currently has 1,568 subpoenas. Note that if you use the EFF database to search your own file-sharing handle or IP address, they do not log *any* searches or information that can be traced back to you. For more info on subpoenas and how they work under the DMCA look at this.

ORIGINAL POST:
EFF's database of RIAA subpoenas sent to obtain identities of suspected file sharers has just been updated with PACER records through last Friday -- 1145 subpoenas. According to Wendy Selzer:

Here are some aggregate stats from the set:
10 universities, among 40+ ISPs (there are multiple names, not to mention mere trademarks, referring to some ISPs). Comcast, SBC, Time Warner, and Verizon lead the pack of ISPs. KaZaA is far and away the most common filesharing service scanned.

Universities:
6 New York University
4 Bentley College
3 Boston College (dismissed)
2 Northeastern University
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (dismissed)
1 Loyola University Chicago
1 Loyola Marymount University
1 DePaul University
1 Columbia University
1 Boston University

ISP Recipients (including unis):
372 Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.
148 Time Warner Cable
143 SBC
108 SBC Internet Communications, Inc.
87 Verizon Internet Services, Inc.
85 Charter Communications, Inc.
32 RCN Corporation
32 Adelphia Communications Corporation
26 Cox Communications, Inc.
20 GTE.Net LLC (d/b/a Verizon Internet Solutions) Verizon Avenue Corporation Verizon Media Ventures, In
12 EarthLink, Inc.
7 Mediacom Communications Corporation
6 Verizon Internet Services, Inc. and GTE.Net LLC (d/b/a Verizon Internet Solutions)
6 New York University
6 InterQuest Communications
5 GTE.net LLC (d/b/a Verizon Internet Solutions)
4 Earthlink, Inc.
4 Bentley College Academic Technology Center
3 Verizon lnternet Services, Inc.
3 Insight Midwest, L.P.
3 Boston College
2 Verizon Media Ventures Inc.
2 Sprint
2 San Bruno Municipal Cable
2 Northeastern University
2 CSC Holdings, Inc.
2 CenturyTel Internet Services, LLC
2 America Online, Inc.
1 Verizon Avenue Corporation
1 University of Southern California
1 Speakeasy, Inc.
1 Qwest Communications Corporation
1 Pacific Bell lnternet
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1 Loyola University Chicago
1 Loyola Marymount University
1 Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS)
1 DePaul University
1 Columbia University
1 Boston University
1 BlueMarble Telecom, LLC
1 BellSouth.net Inc.
1 AT&T Worldnet Service
1 Armstrong Cable Services
1 America Online
1 Adelphia

Filesharing Service:
1058 KaZaA
28 iMesh
18 Grokster
13 Gnutella (Bearshare)
11 MP2P (Blubster & Piolet)
10 Gnutella (Limewire)
4 (blank)
2 Gnutella (Shareaza)
1 Bearshare

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)
August 25, 2003
DVD Copy Control Assoc v. Bunner Decision is Out

Here:

Today we resolve an apparent conflict between California's trade secret law(Civ. Code, § 3426 et seq.)1 and the free speech clauses of the United States and California Constitutions. In this case, a Web site operator posted trade secrets owned by another on his Internet Web site despite knowing or having reason to know that the secrets were acquired by improper means. The trial court found that the operator misappropriated these trade secrets in violation of section 3426.1 and issued a preliminary injunction pursuant to section 3426.2, subdivision (a), prohibiting the operator from disclosing these secrets. Accepting as true the trial court's findings, we now consider whether this preliminary injunction violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 2, subdivision (a) of the California Constitution. We conclude it does not.

Bunner just reposted code that was already out on the internet, seemingly no longer a trade secret, because the code was everywhere. The CA SupCT said the lower court must consider whether the it violates the First Amendment rights of the reposter to require the code be removed due to its status as a trade secret. So the case goes back to the lower court.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 01:52 PM | Permalink
Customer as Enemy?

Thanks so much for reading my column, but I have to ask: are you a thief? I need to know because Technology Review reserves the right to sue you if you reproduce this intellectual property without our express, written approval. By the way, this publication uses "smart paper" with patented steganographic technologies explicitly designed to track unauthorized scans or photocopies of my column.

Michael Schrage/MIT Tech Review, in The Customer as Enemy (sub req) (htm), writes about the differences in viewpoint between customers and content providers. Software companies and RIAA members are improving their techniques for monitoring content users, and some customers are responding by choosing Linux over Windows. It's not yet clear how the music and movie customers are reacting to this in their purchasing habits. But in all areas of intellectual property use, the customer as enemy mentality is prevailing and may prove a "disincentive to embrace innovation." In the short term, this may be good for the incumbent companies who implement these policies and monitor and shape markets, but in the long run, they may be closing off markets, new unthought-of uses, and the technological innovations a small percentage of tinkering techie customers do as a matter of course, thereby losing big.

MORE...
Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
Patenting Everything Soy, Because You Can

Seth Shulman/MIT Tech Review writes in Full of (Soy) Beans (sub req) about Monsanto's patent on *any* genetically engineered soybean, included those they did not invent, or that do not use their patented gene injection process (they call it the "gene gun"). For years, Monsanto lobbied against the granting of a similarly broad patent to Agracetus for all genetically engineered cotton, whether or not another process was used. But after acquiring Agracetus, Monsanto now supports these overly-broad "monopolies on whole areas of research" because instead of stifling their business, it is their business.

The kinds of excesses we've been seeing lately need not be foregone conclusions. The trick is for those at the high-tech frontier to help our legislators be farsighted in thinking about the public's stake in intellectual property, building a system that equitably rewards new developments while at the same time providing a healthy environment for innovation. The good news is that many groups have begun to meet this challenge; among them, Creative Commons, the Public Library of Science, and Washington, DC-based Public Knowledge (I'm on their advisory board) are trying to map out a role for the public, just as the vibrant open-source-software community is doing much to stem the tide of proprietary control over software code.

Once we get beyond inane debates about whether intellectual property is "good or bad," the task of setting reasonable limits on proprietary rights is not as hard as it may sound. But there's a clear first step: quit handing out absurdly broad patents that allow corporate bullies to grab intellectual-property monopolies on our collective future.

See More below for the whole article.

MORE...
Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:04 AM | Permalink
August 22, 2003
Is the Music War Becoming Like the Drug War?

Jon Healey/LATimes explains more on this: Man Pleads Guilty to Web Music Bootlegging (htm). It makes you wonder, though, about whether the latest from the RIAA/DoJ will cause music sharers to become like drug dealers, entrenched, and very difficult to stamp out. While not physically harmful as drug addiction is, drug selling/file sharing will never be completely eradicated because there will always be a market. Does file sharing enter the same realm as drug selling in the current subpoena climate? So do we sue everyone who file shares? Or make nice and find a market solution?

Overheard at a park bench at the pond in Central Park last week: 20ish woman on cell phone saying "...well I don't want to buy the CD because 90% of it's crap. I just want one song, so I stole it because they wouldn't let me buy it. But they are sending out 75 subpoenas a day! .... I know, I don't want to get caught downloading either but why don't they just let us buy it?" I didn't bother to explain that the RIAA is going after uploaders now, not downloaders.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Birkin Bag Pattern Piracy, or Satire?

Steven Wu/Lawmeme and Martin Schwimmer/TrademarkBlog take a peek at the Hermes controversy. The Ginia Bellafante/NYTimes article, A 'Satire' of a Classic Fails to Amuse The August House of Hermès, is reprinted here (htm). The Birkin may be desirable, or was in an old Sex and the City episode, but the rubber knock-off is all the rage. I saw them all over New York last week, even though the NYTimes article says that Bendel's decided not to reorder after the lawyers got involved. This does bring up interesting questions about what is a parody, or satire, and what is just a rip-off. The translucent rubber knock-off/satire costs around $150, verses the $6,000 to $80,000 Hermes leather or crocodile version. There's a jellyKelly too, that is really just the rubber Birkin, but named after the Hermes Kelly bag (and Grace Kelly).

Hermes claims "If everyone on Madison Avenue has a fake Kelly or Birkin, it dilutes the exclusiveness of the brand". It really seems unlikely. I don't really see the $150 purse market as much of a threat for diluting the Hermes brand (as much as say, opening too many stores and selling too much to the masses as some luxury brands have done recently, diluting themselves without the help of knock-offs), and there was a huge difference between the rubber bags women were carrying for summer fun, verses the Hermes version, which resides at the other end of the fashion stratosphere. I kept laughing when I saw them, because they were so funny. Has Hermes seen the jellyKelly in person? Maybe if everyone on Madison Ave has a jellyKelly, it just means that people are making fun of the exclusivity of Hermes, or those on the waitlist for years still wanting a Birkin, or otherwise spend enormous amounts of money on themselves while so many others are in bad straights due to a difficult economy. Hermes might take a look at the Standards for Satire.... Not a legal definition but helpful in understanding the practical sense of this issue.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 09:35 AM | Permalink
Repeal Copyright?

Ed Quillen/Denver Post suggests it might be Time to give up on copyright law? (htm). He explores things on the opposite end of the way the RIAA sees things, and while they are each at two extremes, as a copyright holder, he takes an interesting perspective.

So there's hope that American copyright law will allow creators to control how their work is distributed. But any law that can be twisted the SCO way, enforced the RIAA way, extended the Disney way, or abused the Ziff-Davis way is a law that ought to be repealed. All it does is enrich lawyers and big companies, and they'd probably get along just fine without it.

Thanks to Frank for the pointer.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:21 AM | Permalink
Berkman and G2 On Copyright and Digital Media

The Berkman Center and Gartner/G2 have jointly published a white paper on Copyright and Digital Media in a Post-Napster World (pdf). Check out the last page, which has a set of scenarios for what might happen in the future. It looks good. They say, "the paper is aimed at extending our understanding of the current landscape and unresolved questions related to the distribution, use, and control of digital media."

Derek Slater had a hand in it, too.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
August 16, 2003
OT: Why I Haven't Posted or There Was No Light to Shed on IP in Blackout 2003

This week I was in NYC, and more specifically, at the Met when the power went out. See more below for the full story. Not a whole lot on IP but it was a blast....


MORE...
Posted by Mary Hodder at 02:33 PM | Permalink
August 09, 2003
DRM Systems

Fredrik Wallenberg and Rachna Dhamija at SIMS are presenting A Framework for Evaluating Digital Rights Management Proposals at the First International Mobile IPR Workshop: Conference of Rights Management of Information Products on the Mobile Internet in Helsinki in a few days. Their paper evaluates and proposes DRM schemes for compulsory licensing and other proposals, which Pho, and a few in the others in the blogosphere have been discussing.

Note: I'll be traveling the next few days, but do have internet access on the road and will try to post.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 07:06 AM | Permalink
August 07, 2003
Compulsory Licensing Cont'd: Ernie Miller on Pho, In Response to Derek Slater

Derek, in response to my Pho post on the gaming of compulsory licensing systems and watermarks, writes this (my post is included) on Fisher's latest. (see this for more of the conversation over time. It started at Greplaw.)

And Ernie responds 07 Aug 03, 10:11am PST:

I think your assumption that there will be a relatively weak urge to game the system is highly questionable. We're not really sure what the market will look like for music if P2P is fully legitimate. If music is entirely freely available (except for the bandwidth - and anyone who is paying a flat fee has some they aren't using, many with significant amounts) for unrestricted distribution, it is not clear to me that the costs of gaming the system will be particularly high. If the costs of gaming the system aren't high, then a relatively weak urge to game the system will be enough to get people to game the system.

Furthermore, until you actually provide specific details of the proposed system to be implemented, various weaknesses will not be able to be identified and gaming strategies developed. Talking in the abstract is fairly meaningless in this case. There will be an incentive to game any system, the question is simply whether gaming it will be cost effective. We can't make that call until we have details on the proposed system.

Here are a few incentives for gaming the system:

How much money would the artist/publisher/whoever get per download? $0.05, $0.01, $0.005? Does it really matter? No, because then I will pay people less than what I recoup to download my song. In the above case, I'll pay people either $0.02, $0.005 or $0.0025 everytime they download my song. People will gladly join such systems when they have flat fee connections. What do I care if my computer spends all night downloading songs and subsequently deleting them from my hard drive, if I can get a few bucks a month taken off my "licensing fee" or however the powers-that-be derive money from me?

Think such a system would be easy to stop? There is a serious incentive to figure out ways to do the above. Heck, perhaps you could get a "payola" law passed that would keep record industry types or artists from paying people to download for pay (P2Payola?). The original payola law sure worked wonders, until "independent promoters" filled the gap.

Or perhaps you would have clever algorithms that would try to figure out when people are trying to game the system under such a P2Payola scheme. Design one, and someone clever will shortly figure out a way around it. Perhaps people will develop sharing programs for this purpose. Instead of SETI@home, we'll have P2Payola@home.

Of course, even definining P2Payola would be tough. If a record company were giving out "virtual lottery tickets" to get a backstage pass to a concert if people downloaded the song from their website, would that be illegal? Would that not be counted towards their share of the pie? What about access to a "members-only" section of the website?

You could also have a contest ... $10,000 to the team or group that has the highest number of verified downloads that get around any theoretical anti-P2Payola system. A prize like that would get some nice attention I think, and really clever people working on the problem. I could imagine there might be some people who really, really don't like the RIAA or MPAA and would be happy to put up the money for such a prize. You could outlaw such prizes, but we start to enter some real interesting territory on what is or is not illegal.

Still think the monetary incentive isn't enough? There are many other incentives that are pretty strong, given that downloading on a flat flee connection will be relatively cheap.

Remember the Dixie Chicks? Pretty harsh how many radio stations stopped playing their music because one of their members expressed a sentiment that many people agreed with. Well, first thing I would do, if I were a clever programmer who agreed with that sentiment, would be to develop a small app that would download Dixie Chicks songs day and night to make up for the revenue they were losing from the radio stations. Undoubtedly, many sympathetic types would be happy to join me in such an effort.

How difficult would it be to develop and distribute P2Politics, my theoretical program that will allow you to get your music with all the efficiency of the best P2P programs, and support your favorite political positions at the same time. Download all Lee Greenwood all the time (when you aren't doing something more important with your internet connection, anyway).

Uh oh, hard to make this type of effort illegal. You would be stomping all over political speech if you tried. Sure, it might be possible to make a law that passes Constitutional muster (though unlikely), but do you really want to stop people from voting with their downloads?

Of course, the above ideas don't require any changes to watermarks or anything of that nature.

As far as changing lots and lots of watermarks ... lots of people would be happy to punish Lars Ulrich of Metallica if he says something they think is stupid again. Again ... one clever person cracks it and develops an easy-to-use system for taking advantage of the crack ... millions of average users can use it. This is something the average user can really get behind. Beats the ineffective boycotts everyone is constantly being asked to join on The Register and Slashdot. You could actually do something about it. Would enough join to make a difference? I think for some causes and against some people/organizations, yes ... a serious difference, that your system will have to thwart. Will it be a crime to do this? If not, I think there will be enough incentive that it will be done. If it is a crime ... is that better than our current system?

Hmmmm ... a central registry that will be checked periodically. Very nice. After you've explained the details of your system for thwarting all sorts of ways to game the system, perhaps you would explain the details of the registry and tracking system and show how these could not be exploited to violate people's privacy. Hopefully, your explanation will also take into account how this system will work in conjunction with proposed trusted computing initiatives, such as Palladium, as well as the incentives many will have to violate users privacy.

Sincerely,
Ernest Miller

Update: Derek has the rest of the conversation here.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Digital Photos on the Internet Ripe for Copyright Infringement

Digital copyright owners of fine arts are at risk of the theft of their works by crackers who strip the watermarks from the images, as reported by NewScientist.com in Piracy warning over digitised fine art.

A scheme to digitise (sic) famous paintings that was unveiled last week by the National Gallery in London, UK, may be placing the collection at risk of digital piracy.... The National Gallery has been working with computer giant Hewlett-Packard for eight years on a scheme to digitise all of its 2300 paintings. The images have been captured with a digital camera that steps backwards and forwards over the painting, a technique that improves the resolution of the image to 100 megapixels, 20 times that of the best consumer cameras.

Huw Robson, manager of HP's Digital Media Systems Laboratory, says the digitised images and hard-copy prints will not be protected by digital watermarks. If a file is hacked or a high-quality print scanned and copied, the gallery will be unable to prove the source.

Owning the copyright to digital images will give the gallery some protection under the law. But it will not be easy to enforce, if the music industry's attempts to tackle piracy are anything to go by.

I would imagine that the fine arts image black market is considerably smaller than say, the music industry's problem with file sharing, but after the National Gallery in London has spent time and money in a complicated process of digitizing it's works, one can understand their apprehension over the anticipated cracking of their image watermarks. One the otherhand, the works are in a museum which, if it were in the US, would be a 501c3, meaning it would be supported by donors receiving tax deductions. Because of that, taxpayers would in essence be supporting the institution, and therefore, it would seem more fair to distribute the images more freely as everyone would have a stake in the copyright ownership of the works because of this support. However, I'm not familiar with UK tax law, have no idea how the National Gallery is funded, by donations, taxes or other government underwriting, and so don't really know what is morally right on these terms. Although I do realize the National Gallery alone technically has the right to control the digital images because of their ownership of the works.

On the other hand, museums such as the National Gallery will theoretically make some money from the sale of these images as high quality posters and so I wonder if when the digital images do get out, whether the free distribution will have the effect of promoting their museum and works which is, I think, the ultimate and primary goal of a museum, to share their work directly with the public, along with preserving it for future sharing and study. Therefore, would it make sense for the National Gallery to license the printing through their own and other's print shops for the printing of large posters, while still allowing internet users to discover the artwork via free images that they would most likely not print out as posters because most users don't have sophisticated large format printers at home?

I do realize unscrupulous print shops might print and sell illicit images but how much of a problem this is would seem to be relatively small and something that museum lawyers probably already deal with somewhat now.

Last month, JD Lasica pointed to another digital image copyright story about Corbis invoking the DMCA, suing Amazon and 15 others "for allegedly selling unauthorized copies of hundreds of images." Amazon, at the time, said they would remove the images for sale immediately, and the article addressed responsibility of sites like Amazon and Ebay for keeping users of their services from violating the law. Ebay was released from liability in a similar case in 2001, but Amazon may not be so lucky now because they are more directly involved in the sale process of the copyright protected celebrity images.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
August 06, 2003
MATRIX: Your Personal Information in a Database Put Together By State Law Enforcement

Considering how quickly and easily database systems that collect citizen information can be abused, with personal data used against political opponents, as well as data reflecting massive mistakes that cause great harm to citizens, the reporting of the MATRIX program in Florida is alarming.

For examples of abuses happening now, see Grounding the Flying Nun by Dave Lindorff/Salon, who after making a remark about George Bush being dumb found herself on the "FBI no-fly list", along with some journalists and others included for political reasons, as well as folks who just had similar names to those who actually are criminals. Also, Andrew Gumbel/The Independent has this story on US anti-war activists hit by secret airport ban about political uses of the No-Fly list by the Transportation Security Administration.

On a national level, Congress has taken seriously their responsibility for oversight of the Total Information Awareness or Terrorism Information Awareness program. John Poindexter and the TIA/DARPA have found themselves responsible to Congress for their ideas (Reuters reports that Poindexter plans to offer his resignation over the latest TIA plan to use futures-trading market data to predict assassinations, terrorism and other events in the Middle East).

But if each state collects and maintains citizen's data, each with different standards for correcting, aggregating and using the data, and if states string together their databases, as several states would like to collaborate with Florida to do (Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Utah so far in the MATRIX -- click here for their contacts list; and the District of Columbia and Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York in the DC program as reported by Spencer S. Hsu/WDC Post), I think we will have a far more dispersed and frightening problem than what the TIA proposed. Does this mean Safire, and Harrow do another round of columns, Congress and (hopefully) State Legislatures get involved to control this effort toward Too much surveillance (by Safire) of citizens? How effective can we as citizens be in asking for legislative oversight when there are so many different states and entities involved?

Well, step one is in place: Robert O'Harrow Jr/Washington Post says that Florida is using our personal data in new and *interesting ways*, and the US government has taken note (specifically the Department of Homeland Security), as well as other states, wanting to use it to access our personal data to fight terrorists: U.S. Backs Florida's New Counterterrorism Database: 'Matrix' Offers Law Agencies Faster Access to Americans' Personal Records.

Florida officials say the system will be used only by authorized investigators under tight supervision. They said it includes information that has always been available to investigators but brings it together and enables police to access it with extraordinary speed.

Technical challenges include ensuring that data are accurate and that the system can be updated frequently.

"The power of this technology -- to take seemingly isolated bits of data and tie them together to get a clear picture in seconds -- is vital to strengthening our domestic security," said James "Tim" Moore, who was commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement until last month.

A senior official overseeing the project acknowledged it could be intrusive and pledged to use it with restraint. "It's scary. It could be abused. I mean, I can call up everything about you, your pictures and pictures of your neighbors," said Phil Ramer, special agent in charge of statewide intelligence. "Our biggest problem now is everybody who hears about it wants it."

MATRIX, which stands for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, has this to say (from their website) about Data Security:

Information submitted by a state may only be disseminated in accordance with restrictions and conditions placed on it by the submitting state, pursuant to the submitting state's laws and regulations. Information will be made available only to law enforcement agencies, and on a need-to-know and right-to-know basis. Data access permissions will be conditioned on the privileges of the user making the inquiry.

But what is that? How do we know the MATRIX system builders are protecting their systems from cackers (think identity theft paradise) or those who may want information but don't have proper clearance, and what is the mechanism for overseeing that properly accessed information is not improperly used against people? Who will have oversight, who will track this ongoing, who will make sure this system does not deteriorate into the Nixon enemies list or some other big brother attempt to control citizen's unlawfully?

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
August 05, 2003
Porn Used in File Sharing Arguments

Jon Healey/LATimes writes that Both Sides Add Porn to Debate Over File Sharing (htm):

The music and movie companies warn that file-sharing sites are rife with graphic pornography that insinuates itself into users' computers. Civil libertarians and Internet service providers argue that music companies' anti-piracy tactics open the door for pornographers and others in the seamy online underbelly to invade Internet users' privacy.

Internet service providers and civil liberties groups have argued that a record industry strategy -- using subpoenas to force ISPs to identify customers accused of file-sharing piracy -- could enable pornographers, stalkers and other shady characters to obtain the names and addresses of Internet users.

Last week, one adult-entertainment company may have given the RIAA's opponents ammunition in their fight against the subpoenas. San Francisco-based IO Group Inc., which sells gay male adult videos under the name Titan Media, sent Pacific Bell Internet Services a pair of subpoenas seeking the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of at least 59 customers accused of infringing its copyrights on file-sharing networks.

When Pac Bell objected to the requests, Titan withdrew the subpoenas. Nevertheless, Pac Bell sued Titan in federal court July 30, asking for an order declaring that such subpoenas were improper.

Porn and file sharing have been discussed before, for example in Wired where the contention was that file sharing was good for porn sellers, in one way or another, where they were using file sharing to gain exposure and customers. Apparently, Titan has decided that file sharing was not helping their business and acted accordingly. However, Judges may be able to evaluate more critically the subpoena process (with subpoena-bots) if they are thinking about its use with porn verses content the RIAA wants to protect. SBC's action against Titan may shift the file sharing/subpoena debate, if SBC is successful in forcing a change in the subpoena process allowed under the DMCA.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
RIAA Subpoenas...

Ed Felten has an excellent post on RIAA subpoenas, which Seth Schoen has figured out are script-generated by subpoena-bots.

Congress created the special subpoena provision that the RIAA is using here, a provision that requires the court to rubber-stamp any subpoena request made by a copyright holder who claims to have a good-faith belief that its copyrights are being infringed. Given this relatively low standard for issuance of a subpoena, the advent of subpoena-bots should come as no surprise.

Of course, big copyright owners aren't the only people allowed to use subpoena-bots. Virtually everything that anybody writes is copyrighted, so this subpoena power is available to every writer or artist, even down to the humblest newbie blogger. Want to know who that anonymous critic is? No problem; send your subpoena-bots after them.

Also, check out his thoughts on what it feels like to be in conflict with the RIAA.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:04 AM | Permalink
August 04, 2003
News Media Reports Chaos and Controversy in the Digital Media Industry

Where to begin? I can't tell if there really is as much chaos as has been reported over the past few days, between music company lawsuits, parents facing tuition and a subpoena (for the fall semester), the general state of the media business, and reactions from the public, ISPs and Congress, the RIAA picked a great time to stir things up, bringing about many more questions than answers. Nobody involved could possibly be having a restful vacation season right now.... Happy Summer!

Carrie Kirby/SFGate report the FTC alert issued on file-sharing: Without taking a stand on the controversial issue of trading music and other files on the Internet, the Federal Trade Commission is advising people to step carefully if they dabble in file sharing.

Ryan Naraine/internet.com notes that Universal Music Defends DRM; P2P Litigation: In a lively keynote presentation at the Jupiter Plug.IN Conference & Expo here Tuesday, (Larry) Kenswil (President of Universal Music Group) slammed pundits who have been "trying to dictate how to reinvent the music business" by encouraging the theft of copyrighted works. "The bickering among record companies, publishers and retailers is impeding progress. We need to focus on making sure the pie is large enough to slice in a number of ways," Kenswil added.

Phil Kloer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution says in Music downloading. Say you want a revolution? It's war between record labels and downloading fans (htm): This is the spirit of rock 'n' roll, of instant gratification and anti-authoritarianism. And it's that very spirit that has the entire music business shaking in its Doc Martens. Because you're hard-pressed to find a kid at Warped who isn't downloading -- illegally, for free, sometimes in massive quantities -- the very music he or she has come to glory in.

But then Geoff Boucher/LATimes says Now fans call the tune, The same era that has vexed the recording industry has brought more control to the consumer (htm):

In a music world in upheaval, iTunes, with its paid downloads of music, is the closest thing to an interim government in the lawless land created by Napster and its revolutionary ilk, and while its future is uncertain there is no denying that the real estate on Third Street in Santa Monica is a foothold in a brash new world.

The sunny visions of those Apple commercials are hard to reconcile with the gloom and doom that have been pervasive in the music industry in recent years. The grim chorus is now as familiar to the public as any Top 40 hit: Piracy has gutted profits, CD sales are going steadily south for the first time since the format was introduced in the 1980s, corporate conglomeration has stultified any art in the commerce of record labels, radio and the concert business.

The chaos inspires in some a belief that better times are ahead, not just for fans but also for artists and the business thinkers willing to jettison the view that giving away music is tantamount to condoning high-tech shoplifting. One of those thinkers is (David) Benveniste (also manager for System of a Down). While many in the music industry have been scrambling to halt file sharing (indeed, the Recording Industry Assn. of America is now pursuing hundreds of subpoenas that would force Internet service providers to reveal the names of particularly prolific online music bandits), Benveniste exults in mailing out free music to fans and creating as much Internet buzz as possible.

"Look, the kids are so smart these days, they can find, retrieve, disseminate, produce any piece of music or technology now on the Internet. They can take a song, send it to a friend in North Africa, remix it how they want, make their own video for it and make it their own. And that technology makes them so powerful. It's not about the radio programmers anymore or promoters. It's about a kid in homeroom in Iowa now. Everything is different now." (Benveniste) Reminds me of the cultural populists refered to in this definition of Semiotic Democracy.

But the LATimes also has an OpEd on the Tone-Deaf Music Industry (htm): What is euphemistically called trading music online is theft, most of it petty. Songs downloaded free deny artists and record companies their due. Even so, the recording industry has abetted the robbery with its own greed and ineptitude. Though the industry is showing a glimmer that it understands there are better ways to deal with the problem, it also is employing a legal blunderbuss to pursue small-time downloaders as big-time criminals.

Jon Healey/LATimes also reports on negotiations between the music industry and universities: New Tactic Planned in Antipiracy Campaign (htm) even while Anthony D'Amato/Chicago Sun Times reports that universities are turning over students and becoming in essence part of the law enforcement side of things: Loyola hits sour note in naming students in Net music case (htm).

Then there's Charles Haddad in Business Week's Byte of the Apple talks about Why iTunes Has Bands on the Run, Music fans are making their feelings clear: Online services such as Apple's put consumers in control of what they buy, not artists talking about, among other things, the debate between fans of albums verses singles and what effect that has on the digital music industry.

Marrecca Fiore/Utica Observer-Dispatch on Music piracy, more competition cutting into record store profits.

Sara Steffens/Contra Costa Times has Generation Download, Teens, young adults who have grown up digital aren't keen to follow analog rules

And Terry Lawson/Detroit Free Press on Billboard's chart of digital downloads reflects changes in industry: If legal downloading does put a dent in file-sharing shoplifting, it could have ramifications the music industry doesn't expect.

One scenario is a return to the early 1960s, when 89-cent singles outsold albums, generally priced at about $4, 50-to-one. If you've ever wondered why original Motown albums are hot in the collectors' market, it's simple. It wasn't until the mid-'60s that Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye began recording tracks meant to be listened to in sequence, a la albums by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Before that, only hard-core fans bought Supremes albums, which were padded with covers and singles rejects. Motown's most successful albums were always its hit-singles collections.

Then there's My-Ly Nguyen/Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin piece on Fearless file sharing, Some music downloaders have no qualms about breaking copyright laws.

Kevin Bermeister/Biz2.0: Toward a Law-Abiding Kazaa, The technology exists to make P2P work for legitimate, copyright-protected content. But first, media companies have to stop suing and start acting in their own interests. (sub req) (or htm) says The age of superdistribution is upon us: Users expect all content -- protected or otherwise -- to be available to them on demand.

Eric Hellweg/Biz2.0 asks Will Napster 2.0 Be Music to Investors' Ears? Trading jumped when Roxio announced it was relaunching the service, but serious hurdles stand in the way of success.

Marc Ferranti/IDG News Service says Doubts Still Plague Online Music, looking at marketing, ease of use and flat fees and other distribution arrangements. A big issue is still securing rights to content.

Mark Rasch/Security Focus and the Register "Copying is Theft ..." And other legal myths in the looming battle over peer-to-peer on the music industries insistence that all copying is theft... So "copying" is not "stealing" but can be "infringing," (according to the Supreme Court). That doesn't have the same sound bite quality as Valente's position. (also at The Register)

And in the business side of things, Mark Landler/NYTimes says Bertlesmann is reducing debt (htm), sitting out the sale of Vivendi assets, as well as pulling back on talks to combine BMG with Warner Music Group. And having restful vacations as well.

And for fun, Gary Marshall/Guardian looks at viral marketing and the recent Metallica spoof, and the ways that the whole episode helped Unfaith get some attention.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 09:10 AM | Permalink
Digital Technology for Multimedia

Steve Lohr/NYTimes has something (htm) on the effects of digital technologies on the middle class. Consumers are embracing everything digital:

Digital technology is so malleable a tool because it renders everything -- words, numbers, music and images -- in bits, or binary digits, the 1's and 0's that are the computer's vernacular. The bits can be copied, transported, assembled and manipulated, using increasingly powerful computers and clever software, in limitless ways.

The cultural impact of the technology extends well beyond films, into art and music. "All the creative arts have become digital," said Michael Century, chairman of the arts department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "That is forcing us to rethink what it means to train people in the arts. The goal is to nurture integrated, multimedia creative minds."

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:41 AM | Permalink
UCB GradMag Features Digital Rights

Berkeley's Graduate Assembly began publishing The Berkeley Graduate again this spring after a hiatus of several years. The opening issue (Spring, 2003, in PDF only, use thumbnails and click through the pages...p3 is the index) includes a cover story on "Defending Your Digital Rights" by Ed Carpenter of the JSchool, information on EFF and other organizations actively looking at DRM and digital media, and a hardcopy of Eddan Katz's Revolution is not an AOL Keyword, who is also quoted:

According to Katz, extending copyright is just one of the ways large companies have succeeded in claiming broader rights over the public domain in recent years. And as more Americans use the Internet to share information and create their own media content, lawsuits filed by companies against individuals for copyright infringement are on the rise.

Posted by Mary Hodder at 08:04 AM | Permalink