Monday, January 31, 2005

RuNet's Open-Source Roots

On a lighter Russian note to the previous post, a link to a Moscow Times article that tells of the roots of the Russian internet, the RuNet, and one of its early pioneers, Sergei Kuznetsov. Publishing on the RuNet still carries (the burden) of the open-source approach of the RuNet's early days:
While RuNet's graphics and technology have snapped to Western standards, much of the Russian segment of the Internet has yet to internalize the copyright protections that regulate online information abroad. Numerous electronic libraries -- the oldest and richest among them being Maxim Moshkov's -- regularly publish copyrighted material, including scanned versions of brand-new print publications, with the stipulation that writers who would rather not have their work published online can ask to have it taken down.
Kuznetsov himself keeps firm to the roots and must estrange more than a few writers: "The only right the author has is the right to ask -- by no means to order -- not to have his work published online."

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Russia's Internet Self-Discipline

Reports are filtering through that there is a push for self-censorship on the "Russian net". This Pravda article quotes the Governor of Moscow saying that the "Internet is seriously ill", and that people have to think twice before putting something on the internet. A view that is supported by the deputy head of the federal agency for press and mass communications, who wraps a proposal for a unified content filtering program in semi-benign wordings: "As far as content filtering of the Internet is concerned, State's politics intends to offer the public its services to protect them against harmful and unlawful content."

Self-censorship and (state induced) filtering are not one and the same, though they interact and the latter can strengthen the former. Filtering entails observation and control based on that observation. Under pressure of observation, or the mere suspicion that one's observed, citizens may correct their deviant views and internalize generally accepted norms. This conformation to the rules of public morality is the form of self-discipline Michel Foucault has written extensively about in his seminal work Discipline and Punish (1975). Partly based on the panoptic theories of Jeremy Bentham, author of Constitutional Code, Foucault's societal theory of (self-)discipline is echoed in the self-censorship, which is actually taking place in Russia. The creators of the literary website Stikhi.Ru released a document, which states that
"It is not allowed to publish literary works and forum postings on the Web-resources of Russian National Literary Web concerning the following subjects: special military operations of Russian troops in Chechnya (since 1991 up until 2004), terrorist acts against citizens of the Russian Federation as well as resistance of separate groups of Russian citizens in regards to various laws of the Russian Federation and president's decrees."
The vagueness of this last "rule of conduct" is staggering: resistance, separate groups, various laws, president's decrees. And not to forget that this self-inflicted prohibition covers works of fiction. Explaining why the site has decided to (self-)censor literary works, one of its creators says, still in the Pravda article:
"Lately, we've been hearing about the importance of regulating the Internet from states' authorities and politicians alike. We simply wanted to forestall the situation in order to avoid running into problems in future. Clearly, we will be unable to scan and filter the entire content momentarily. That is why the decision has been reached to take action first before the government does, and from a model within our site for now." [corrected typos in original]
Consider the last sentence: "a model within our site". Internalized discipline based on possible external punishment (by the state). The call of politicians (and others) for discipline towards publishing on the internet, and the (threat of technical) enforcement thereof through filtering provides, as Foucault writes in Discipline and Punish:
"a functional mechanism that [improves] the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective, a design of subtle coercion for a society to come."
Has that society come for the Russian net and the nets connected to it?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Music Biz Cease & Desists Magazine for Circumvention Article

The German magazine Heise Online has received a cease and desist letter today from the national branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) for publishing an article (German) on circumvention software. The IFPI, representing music corporations worldwide, claims that the article is illegal under the anti-circumvention provision of the German Copyright Law (§ 95a, German), which prohibits to make available, import, disseminate, sale, reproduce and advertise circumvention hard- and software.

According to the music industry the article goes against the anti-circumvention provision, because: 1) it offered a link to a third-party site where illegal copying software was made available, 2) the article was said to encourage circumvention of DRMs, 3) the article was a forbidden advertisement for circumvention software. The German IFPI division threatens the magazine with a lawsuit if it does not act according to its demands.

Heise Online has responded it will not give in to IFPI's demands. It writes (German) that the article is neither an encouragement nor an advertisement for anti-circumvention software, which is illegal in Germany, as was stated in the article. Linking in online articles is, according to the magazine, a common practice and since its readers can use search engines to find the software also to be neglected.

I'm not sure what the outcome will be from a lawsuit under the German (anti-circumvention) provisions. In The Netherlands a different case of copyright infringement and linkage ( was decided in favor of a site that offered links to third-parties, which contained illegal MP3s. Part of the Dutch Court's reasoning was based on the argument that these files could just as easily be found by search engines and that the ZoekMP3 site did not host the illegal files on its own servers. Something of an analogy could be drawn with this German situation, but it is too early to tell if the music business will follow up to its legal threats.
- - -
Thru Heise Online (German)

Later: English version of the Heise Online news article

To my comparison with the Dutch decision, which is up for appeal, I might add the (not-so-recent) news of a student fined by the Norwegian Supreme Court
for providing links to MP3s. The Norwegian Supreme Court did find, contrary to a lower court, that the computer enginering student aided copyright infringement by providing links to third-party sites that offered MP3s. His "" site, set up as part of a school project, did not host any content itself, as was the case in and with Heise Online. In the ZoekMP3 case additional argumentation was that downloading as such is not illegal under Dutch law.
As said, the Dutch decision is to be reviewed by an Appeals Court, though the ZoekMP3 site has been shut down already. After the Dutch Supreme Court's acquittal of KaZaA, this will be a case to keep an eye one.

Copyright Propaganda: Indiana & China

I'm not sure where I'd like to get my kicks: this "Digital Karma" festival in Indiana (US), or this anti-piracy concert in Beijing. Both are daylong events to celebrate copyright. The Digital Karma festival is organised by Indiana University (IU) to educate their students the intricate ways of legal downloading. An IU technology official says that the event can be entertaining and educational at the same time, and students can experience new technologies while learning about general copyright issues. The state-sponsored Beijing concert has a line-up of 100 artists, of which 40 "gathered in a suburban Beijing hotel to announce a 'declaration of war' on pirated audio-video products". Yikes!

The beautiful thing is that they are both top-down propaganda to let their listeners swing to the traditional copyright mantra. Though I'd like to see those Chinese musical conspirators who signed the 'declaration of war', the Indiana University has given me 10 reasons to go to their festival. On this page are the reasons why I should go there, conveniently placed next to a column full of corporate logos:
10. You think "copyright" is a copy machine brand.
9. You confuse MPAA with NCAA.

8. You think RIAA is a degree offered by the College of Arts & Sciences.
7. You've heard "If it's on the Internet, it must be free!"
6. You assume only philosophers cared about ethics.
5. You believe an RIAA or MPAA subpoena is a lottery prize you want to win.
4. You assume "I didn't know it was illegal" is a good excuse.
3. It beats talking to the Dean about your downloading habits.
2. You confuse "fair use" with "free to use."
1. Two words: FREE STUFF!
(Aah, just noticed the IU festival was yesterday. Got to start packing for Beijing!)

Botswana: Sampling & Flashy Cars

I rarely encounter any copyright related news from Africa. No idea what's going on there: rampant file-sharing, any lawsuits pending, DMCA/EUCD clones raving the continent? This news article gives some insights in what's going on in Botswana. Apparently the Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) complains that some musicians are taking advantage of the lack of copyright law to reproduce the songs of other artists. The BOMU wants to see royalties paid for what sounds like a lot of sampling being done in Botswana.

This lack of copyrights may seem like heaven to some of
the legal headaches artists may encounter in the US and Europe. But then, the Botswana artists have to cope with the same troubles as their foreign counterparts. According to BOMU:

"They do not give themselves time to rest as they perform Sunday to Sunday. They become stressed and seek solace in drinking alcohol. [...] We also want to encourage artists to invest rather than buy flashy cars that depreciate."

Italian Lawyers Tease Copyrightholders?

A leading Italian Intellectual Property law firm celebrated the opening of its Parma office with an one-day art exhibition on copyright called RE-PRODU©TION. It showed 41 modern art pieces that supposedly all offered a new take on a famous painting. According to a partner of the firm: "These works of art relate to the idea of copyright, giving all of us a fresh perspective on the topic."

Haven't seen any pictures, can't find anything on the paintings, but I wonder: was the firm ready for a little head-on with the copyrigthsholders over those reprodu©tions to celebrate their new office? Or were these famous paintings outside copyright's scope? And what would be the fresh perspective then? Lame ducks or lawyers on the IP frontier?

INDICARE Article Flow

The INDICARE Monitor 8 has been published! Short, insightful articles on Digital Rights Management and related issues. Some fresh ones and a few that have been online for some time. Take your pick:

About the mind-set of software pirates
Editorial of INDICARE Monitor Vol. 1, No 8, 28 January 2005

Abstract: The term "piracy" is used quite often, while still little is known about "pirates". An empirical sociological study about software pirates sheds some light on this crucial subject. Its special strength is to focus on the mind-set of "pirates" and its foundations. However we also found some limitations of the study, mainly that the context of interpretation chosen is still too narrow. In any case, more studies of this type could help to better understand the pirate-consumer conundrum.

Keywords: software piracy, business models, survey, Germany

"Two souls, alas! are lodg'd within my breast…"
Results of an online-survey on film consumption and piracy

Abstract: This article presents results from an empirical study about consumers and "pirates" of film media. It starts from the assumption that the "film system" needs to exploit film content beyond film-theatres by means of secondary film media of which the DVD is most important today. At the same time digitization, the net, and p2p networks have given rise to "piracy". But interestingly, as the study scrutinizes, pirates are not the opposite of consumers…

Keywords: film, piracy, consumer, consumer behaviour

Restriking the balance: from DMCA to DMCRA
A short analysis of the May 2004 Hearing on the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act

Abstract: Historically US copyright law has sought a balance between rightsholders' and consumers' interests. The anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have changed this balance to the benefit of rightsholders. Proposed legislation tries to restore the balance: the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act would reaffirm fair use for consumers and augment the transparency of the use of technological protection measures. But what is fair? And should Europe follow this transatlantic initiative?

Keywords: DMCRA, DMCA, fair use, anti-circumvention, consumer law, US, EU

Digital Rights Management or Digital Content Control

In quite a short time, the term Digital Rights Management (DRM) has conquered the world of copyright. The number of definitions given by law or IT professionals is inestimably high. Still, I try to give a new point of view on this matter, starting not so much from the practical realisation of DRM systems, but from the term itself. I wish to assert that DRM systems cannot be described as "digital rights management systems" as they usually do not involve the management of copyright.

Technical protection measures, Copyright, Copyright Directive, code as code

When "playing" isn't "playing" or how to achieve semantic interoperability

This paper discusses one of the fundamental problems of digital rights management: how to enable the flow of content between different domains: whether from the mobile domain to the world of pay TV or from music download to eBooks. While content itself can easily be migrated from one domain to another – thanks to content coding standards such as those developed by MPEG – the metadata describing the content can not – or at least not yet.

Keywords: interoperability, semantic interoperability, metadata, Rights Expression Language (REL), Rights Data Dictionary (RDD), OMA, MPEG

DRM at IST 2004

This year the EC’s annual IST Event was held 15-17 November in The Hague. Two dedicated sessions addressed DRM: “The Evolving Consumer Value Chain: Extended Home Environment and DRM Challenges” (conference session) and “The Future of DRM” (networking session). While the conference session mainly addressed security and interoperability issues, the networking session was characterized by a vivid debate whether the problem of digital IP protection can be solved by DRM approaches or if completely different solutions are required. Although no clear conclusion was drawn, the arguments were interesting.

Keywords: security, interoperability, cultural heritage, preservation, alternative compensation schemes, EU, conference

Eight comments on the first INDICARE state-of-the-art-report

The following article is based on a letter the author sent to Natali Helberger, the editor of the first INDICARE state-of-the-art-report. While the overall appraisal of the report is very positive, there are eight suggestions which INDICARE might want to stress in its updates of the report. Most of them deal with intricate technical matters of DRMs.

Keywords: authorized domain, vulnerability, broadcast flag, forensic DRM, price discrimination

Another cry in the wind?
A review of Indicare's first state-of-the-art report

Abstract: This review is written by a columnist writing for the music industry and at the same time a very active contributor to the Digital Media Project (Geneva). He declaredly shares his biased and rather sceptical view of the current situation of DRM and combines it with a rather positive review of the first State-of-the-Art Report of the INDICARE project.

Keywords: INDICARE, Digital Media Project

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Online Fair Use Conditional to DRM

Fair use is a whole different ball game online. According to a decision by a German court the publication of excerpts for scholarly purposes falls under the copyright exemption for eductation, but the same publication on the internet should be protected by technological measures.

A professor of mathematics had used two lengthy passages in his college script from the German comedian Karl Valentin in order to illustrate his studentes the notion of chance and the subjectiveness of events occuring. The Court underscribed that the scholarly copyright exemption allowed this kind of use to make education more accessable and understandable. However, this exemption (a fair use) should be restricted to the hard copies the professor disseminated of his lecture. He was not allowed to put the same lecture on the internet without implementing access controls or limiting the possibility of making copies from the excerpts.

This decision seems to be a compromise between the professor and the copyrightsholders of the late Karl Valentin. A compromise, which is more than questionable. It sets conditions for fair use that go right against educational purposes. If the internet and digital documents provide one thing it is the easy accessability and copyability of educational materials. This was not even a claim of fair use for materials already technically protected, like in other court cases related to CDs and DVDs. The decision goes a step further, and sets a precedent that non-protected materials should be technically protected if published online. If the idea was to strike a balance between copyrightsholder's and educational interests, the weight has shifted further to the first instead. The copyright world has finallly turned upside down.

- - -

Thru (German)

The Fear of God/Bush

The muscular language coming from the US is not limited to the politics of evil & freedom. The aggressive pursuit of copyright enforcement in foreign countries more than once shows the one-dimensional mindset of its trading policies. The fight of worldwide piracy is a holy war build on scare tactics, according to the US Assistant Secretary of Commerce William Lash. Speaking to regional business leaders:
"I'll be very blunt, gentlemen - we use whatever means necessary, any stick in a fight," said Lash, an assistant secretary of commerce.

"We've managed to put the fear of - I won't say of God, but of Bush - in a lot of countries," Lash said. "Only one person in that room represents a super power and you have to act accordingly."

It may be a good message in the US, it sounds like bullying paranoia to this European reader. Bring that message to the Chinese, and see how scared they really are of God, eh, Bush.

- - -

Link to news report

Elvis Jailhoused by Label

I'm not sure what to make of it, but according to this site Sony/BMG's efforts to cash in on the expiration of Europe's 50-year copyright term on Elvis' sound recordings is accompanied with some dirty tricks. The music label is said to be rigging the British singles chart to get as much bang from their last buck:
[F]ans of The King are complaining the singles are unobtainable - as only 20,000 copies of each song is being released.

Some record stores are only receiving two copies of each song in a ploy to ensure each CD is sold out by the time the next song hits the shops, maximising the chance of securing the Number one spot.

Sony/BMG have pledged to make more copies available, but a secret document sent to record shops yesterday (25JAN05) reportedly tells retailers not to expect any more.

No expectations, but that it's not long 'till the King will rock freely, as Lawrence Lessig explained in Wired.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

European ISP's Liability Battles

Yesterday the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt (Germany) decided that an internet access provider is not fundamentally obligated to disclose the name and address of an internet user, who offers music files for download through an ftp-server, and thus violates the copyrights and other rights of third parties. The request of a German music firm that the access provider released the identity of this user was denied by the court, because the so-called Product Piracy Act may provide a right to obtain this information, this is only related to the manufacturing and dissemination of physical copies. The applicabillity of this provision on dissemination over the internet is still unclear. What's more, an access provider generally has no duty to monitor data streams and may only be obligated to block access to illegal content of which it has actual knowledge.

This decision stands in line with two other recent European decisions. Another German decision of a Munich court also rejected a request for identifying information by music firm BMG. A Viennese criminal court did not grant a demand to release the dynamic IP-adresses of internet users, since these data could only be provided for acts punishable with more than six months imprisonment. The current maximum sentence for uploading in Austria is six months. However, last October a Hamburg court did order the release of dynamic IP-adresses. And in the Netherlands, for example, the ISP Lycos was ordered to make efforts to find and release the name and address of a customer, who accused an eBay seller of fraud.

While it may look lately that there is somewhat of a trend to shield ISPs from releasing indentifying information, there is no real line in European court cases. In the US service provider Verizon successfully fought a request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to identify a customer, who allegedly offered copyright-infringing material on his computer for uploading. The US court agreed with Verizon's claim that the DMCA only covered alleged copyright-infringing material on the ISP's computer and not material on the user's computer. Verizon had the will and money to go to court, instead of giving in to the fear of a possible liability following from a denial of the request under the so-called notice and take down regime. In Europe things seem less clear when it comes to ISPs and liability, specifically based on notice and take downs.

The European Electronic Commerce Directive sets up a similar regime of liability as the DMCA (article 14). This regime not just applies to copyright infringement, but also to hate speech and defamation, for example. Contrary to US regulations, the procedure for notice and take down orders (requests to ISPs) is not described by the Directive. As a result service providers miss a public standard to make decisions on requests, and are left with the little guidance of (private) codes of conduct. The lack of procedural safeguards (on a European level) might bring an ISP, or court, more easily to the decision to take down illegal content, or provide identification. The incentive to do so is higher than the potential costs from liability of not doing so.

Yesterday's German Court decision may be lauded for not increasing this incentive. It's a bit dissapointing to see the uncertainty it expresses over the applicabillity of existing (copyright) provisions on the internet. To protect users against wrongful censorship and easy disclosure of their identities a transparent and procedural sound notice and take down regime should be set in place. In the meantime ISPs will hopefully be encouraged by yesterday's court decision and resist unreasonable requests to remove server content and dig up identities from their log files.
- - -
Frankfurt Court Decision (PDF, German)
thru Heise Online

Paper: P2P Business Models

In the USA the content industry is set up to take file-sharing to the gallows in MGM v. Grokster. While the transition to online business models is growing, both the music and movie conglomerates have shown more public interest in restricting this technology than in the revenues P2P networks could bring them. In File-sharing, Sampling, and Music Distribution (SSRN) Martin Peitz and Patrick Waelbroeck investigate the upside of P2P networks for the music labels. Lots of economic formula scattered throughout this paper, but it should be an interesting read (for the music moguls). Here's the abstract:
The use of file-sharing technologies, so-called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks, to copy music files has become common since the arrival of Napster. P2P networks may actually improve the matching between products and buyers - we call this the matching effect. For a label the downside of P2P networks is that consumers receive a copy which, although it is an imperfect substitute to the original, may reduce their willingness-to-pay for the original - we call this the competition effect. We show that the matching effect may dominate so that a label's profits are higher with P2P networks than without. Furthermore, we show that the existence of P2P networks may alter the standard business model: sampling may replace costly marketing and promotion. This may allow labels to increase profits in spite of lower revenues.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Horseshoed Locomotives

Short Feature interview with Cory Doctorow on DRM and business. DRMed content is like horseshoed locomotives dreamed up in smoke-filled rooms. This guy should start writing a novel.

Paper: Shaping Code

It's a strange experience to see massive papers erupt on the subject of the research project your working on, while your own publication is still pending. On the one hand rejoice (more info, more insight), on the other hand anguish (got to hurry, our research gets outrun). The Code project I'm working on is near its end and publication will come somewhere in the following months. But in the meantime Jay P. Kesan and Rajiv C. Shah of the Institute of Communications Research of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign first published this paper on code, and now it's like the Empire Strikes Back: Shaping Code has been made available on SSRN. Again, not specifically our point of research, which will have a European twist to it anyway, but still on the regulative powers of code, and how governments may regulate code itself.
Here's the abstract:
As our initial awe over the Internet diminishes, policymakers are recognizing the need to consider regulating Internet technologies. Legislation has been passed on a number of issues from security, filtering software in schools, spam, cell phone portability, and perhaps, spyware. This approach has been ad hoc because of the lack of a comprehensive analysis of the various approaches to regulating Internet based technologies.

This paper fills this gap by providing a systematic analysis of the government's ability to shape these technologies through the use of its regulatory power, its fiscal power, and through the definition of intellectual property rights. This paper draws from Justice Breyer's seminal work on regulation and applies it to Internet technologies. This article stands apart from other work in this area because it does not focus on just one mechanism to shape code. It considers these issues from a broader perspective that examines the complete panoply of government powers to regulate and shape code. In the process, it bridges work in regulation to that within cyberspace law and communication technologies.

Tracking the Corporate Maze

This is a great little article from a security manager of a big company who traces down an illegally distributed movie file after the company has received a letter from the MPAA. It reads like an investigative story and describes all the techniques used to get from 6,000 desktops that use a single public IP adress to the one that contains the movie.

The outset:
[B]efore we could take reasonable measures, we needed to know which of our roughly 6,000 internal desktops was involved. The problem is that all of them appear to the public as that one IP address cited by the MPAA. That's because we use RFC 1918-compliant IP addresses via our DHCP servers. These are private IP addresses, reserved for internally routed devices. When these internal resources communicate with an outside entity, their IP addresses are translated to a single publicly addressable IP address.

To make matters worse, our DHCP leases expire every 48 hours, meaning that when those internal IP addresses expire every couple of days, most are likely assigned to someone else. We keep logs of IP address assignments, but not for very long, since they take up a lot of disk space. And by the time the MPAA's letter made it through the postal service and our mailroom and was delivered to the right department, several days had gone by.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Paper: Warez Regulation

A five page paper by Eric Goldman on warez traders, their motivations and the policy conclusions that may be drawn from them. As one can put that in a few pages: The Challenges of Regulating Warez Trading (SSRN). Here's the abstract:
This short essay analyzes the policy challenges of legally conforming the behavior of warez traders. The essay discusses the motivations for warez trading, how criminalizing the behavior may counterproductively encourage it, and why legislators and prosecutors continue to target warez trading despite the counterproductive effects.

Swiss Copyright Reform: More of the Same

Germany is not the only European country pushing copyright reforms. Both the World Intellectual Property Treaty and the European Copyright Directive have sparked numerous countries to update their copyright laws and implement changes in line with international obligations.

Swiss, not an EU member, is now in the process of transcending the WIPO provisions and adding some to its own taste. The reform brings anti-circumvention provisions, while rights societies plead loudly for an extension of the remuneration scheme to all media on which copyrighted materials can be stored. A parliament member has already called to make remuneration applicable to any medium that is capable of copying.

A bit puzzling is a subsection of the anti-circumvention provision (article 39(a)(4)), which states that the anti-circumvention prohibition cannot be enforced against those persons who make the evasion exclusively for a legally permitted use. I'm not sure to which extent private copying is allowed under Swiss law, but reading this provision broadly one could more than argue that it would constitute a (fair) private use. Something to look out for.
- - -
Thru Heise Online (German)
Draft Swiss Copyright reform (PDF, German)

Law's a Killer

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has put up a list of Endangered Gizmos: technologies that are either extinguished, endangered or saved by law. This project coincides with the filing of the opening briefs for MGM v. Grokster, which is set for March 29 at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

German PC & Printer Levy Appealed

Two German court decisions establishing a levy on PCs and printers are likely to be appealed. Recently a court in Munich decided that computer maker Fujitsu Siemens has to pay a levy of 12 euros to rights society VG Wort for any computer sold in Germany. A Stuttgart court decided separately that printers could be defined as copy-making devices and therefore the levy regime would apply on them too.

EICTA, the European trade organisation for ICT and consumer electronics, has made clear the decisions will likely be appealed. A board member said:
"We question whether German law allows for the imposition of copyright levies on PCs and printers. Claiming a new levy on printers is totally unreasonable. People simply do not buy a printer with the aim of making countless copies of a copy protected work."
Unreasonable or not, if the PC levy is in line with (upcoming) German law may not be that questionable at all. At least when the current draft for German Copyright reform is taken into account. As pointed out in an earlier post this draft chooses for a remuneration scheme that will include devices that are actually in use to make private copies. Not so much the (sole) copying intention will determine if a remuneration is due, but the percentage to which the device is used to copy. This percentage will determine what has to be paid.

As the reasoning for the German copyright proposal states (p. 23):
"[Therefore] the draft suggests tying the remuneration obligation in the future only to the actual considerable use of the devices for copying copyrighted content. Not the respective use of the individual devices or storage media is determinant in this case, but whether these are typically used for the copying." (unofficial translation)
Under this reasoning a levy on a PC is actually likely to be upheld. If this will be a 12 euros, or another amount, is something else. If this is reasonable, for users, is something else altogether. The German trade association Bitkom has calculated that the PC levy would cost manufacturers an extra 90 million euros this year. That would be a 90 million for those who buy a new PC, you the user. Whether you (privately) copy or not. After years the prices for PCs will be rising again, in Germany.
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German Copyright draft (PDF, German)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Trademarking Saddam

Some freakish IP violation from China, again. A man has submitted a sketch of Saddam Hussein to the State Industry and Commerce Administration to register the image as a trademark. For some reason he thinks he has avoided all portrait and reputation rights of the former dictator and that he will be able to cash in a mere $25 million when selling the trademark.
- - -
Thru Danwei

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Restriking the Balance: from DMCA to DMCRA

I've written a short article on the U.S. Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA), which has been published at the INDICARE website. Here's the abstract:
Historically US copyright law has sought a balance between rightsholders' and consumers' interests. The anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have changed this balance to the benefit of rightsholders. Proposed legislation tries to restore the balance: the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act would reaffirm fair use for consumers and augment the transparency of the use of technological protection measures. But what is fair? And should Europe follow this transatlantic initiative?
To answer both questions briefly: Unclear. Yes.

Unclear in the sense that from the Hearings on the DMCRA it became more than apparent that both the nature and scope of fair use are subject to debate. A debate that the content industry (MPAA) ignited to circumvent the real question that is playing here, and Lawrence Lessig posed: "Whether you should have fair use despite the fact somebody has used a technology to take it away?"

Yes, when it comes to a European initiative comparable to the DMCRA. While the European Copyright Directive leaves much leeway to the Member States to soften its stringent anti-circumvention provisions, too little initiative has been shown on a national level to protect the interests of citizens, researchers and institutions like libraries.

The DMCRA has been stalled in the House, and it is questionable if it will ever see the light of day. If it is up to Senator Bono don't count on it in this lifetime. One of her interactions is about personal use with former Congressman Allan Swift, a home recordist for over 54 years. A bit long, but a telling clash of cultures (and interests) to end :
Mr. SWIFT. I make a program and I give it to a friend. They are
supposed to pay me for that?
Ms. BONO. No, no. You are supposed to pay the people.
Mr. SWIFT. I am supposed to pay. I have paid. I mean, I may
Ms. BONO. Okay.
Mr. SWIFT. I may have 30 CDs.
Ms. BONO. Okay, so they are supposed to pay the creator of the
content. They can go to the Internet——
Mr. SWIFT. I give them a gift and they are supposed to pay——
Ms. BONO. That is not a gift. The copyrighted work is not a gift.
Mr. SWIFT. But if I give them that and they have to pay somebody,
it would seem to me that the only way that would work is
they would have to pay me.
Ms. BONO. No, they could go——
Mr. SWIFT. That is a violation of the copyright right there.
Ms. BONO. No, they wouldn’t have to pay you. They could go to
the record store. You could give them a list of your very favorite
songs or they could go to a website and support these industries
who have worked so hard at developing this.
Mr. SWIFT. No, no. I could say that you might really enjoy it if
you bought these 30 CDs and you put these cuts together in this
Ms. BONO. You can post your list on the web. That is a very common
procedure. You can post you——
Mr. SWIFT. Why would I want to do that?
Ms. BONO. My question exactly.
Mr. SWIFT. I want to make a program. I do lap fades, cross fades.
I use portions of——
Ms. BONO. Which sampling is also suspect to me here.
Mr. SWIFT. My point is that what you are suggesting I do doesn’t
do what I want to do.
Ms. BONO. Well, sir, with all due respect, and I am sorry——
Mr. SWIFT. You are saying that I shouldn’t be able to——
Ms. BONO. I plan to take your words today and hack them and
butch them and put them on the Internet and do with them what
I wanted to do and disseminate them but because—you say you
take portions of copyrighted work and just send the portions out.
Mr. SWIFT. What I take is recordings I have paid for.
Ms. BONO. And?
Mr. SWIFT. And I put together different kinds of things for personal
use. I don’t do it for money. I don’t sell these. I don’t make
a lot of copies because, among other things, it is a lot of work. Just
creating the labels and sticking them on the blanks is a lot of work
so I just don’t. I have never done, I don’t think, more than 10 of
these. Okay? I am not a huge threat to this industry and——
Ms. BONO. Okay. But let us——
Mr. STEARNS. The gentlelady’s time has expired.
Ms. BONO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you indeed!

Berkman Papers on (European) Copyright

One of the great things about Harvard's Berkman Center, at least lately, is that it reaches over the Atlantic and Pacific when it comes to Intellectual Property law. In its papers not just US law and policies are analysed, but considerable attention is given to European and Asian issues. Something that is often hard to find in the US blawgosphere. But then both continents got enough (IP) troubles for their own.

Some time ago the Berkman Center released a good paper on the legal protection of technological measures in EU member states. Just now it published, as part of an update to Copyright and Digital Media in a Post-Napster World (2003), an international supplement that "considers developments regarding copyright and related rights in Europe and Asia/Pacific (including Australia) (...)."

The European part of the supplement is especially interesting because it gives a really nice oversight of the more important court cases that have played within the EU. The part on European copyright legislation feels a bit like a summary of earlier papers, but is still good. Importantly it stresses that whatever kind of copyright exemptions the European Copyright Directive (EUCD) may provide, in the larger part is up to the European member states to determine which rights their citizens may envoke. No private copying right in releation to DRMs (e.g. Germany)? That's just fine. The EUCD gives little guarantees that the interests of non-rightholders will be protected by nation states. And although there are some examples of national legislation that actually incorporates citizen concerns (e.g. in Denmark and Germany), for a great part the political and legislative agenda is influenced by the same (content industry) interests group that determine the European playing field. Take the High Level Group on DRMs...well, let's not go there, I'm getting carried away. For more analyses the Berkman papers provide a good and balanced source.
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Thru A Copyfighter's Musings

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Cory Doctorow Sets the Record Straight(er)

Cory Doctorow gives eight comments on the INDICARE Report on Digital Rights Management Systems and Consumer Acceptability [PDF]. They respond to some specific issues in the report, but can just as well be read as small chunks of his vision on DRM, particularly the latent effects of DRM, authorized domains, vulnerability of DRM, the Broadcast Flag, forensic DRM, price discrimination and DRM & piracy.

Ubiquitous Game DRM

I'd like to see an analysis of this particular DRM by GlobalSecure that claims it takes a totally new approach to DRMs. In making it creepingly encompassing they may be right:

“Traditional anti-piracy and DRM solutions focus solely on securing distribution,” states Cheryl Campbell, President of IT GlobalSecure, “SecurePlay Keeper™ works by making the entire online gaming experience part of the anti-piracy solution – from game play and player matchmaking to tournaments and community services. The more popular the game is, the better the protection works.

The more fun, the harder to share the fun...
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Press release
This is a cross posting with the INDICARE Blog. Check it out for more (general) DRM news.

Papers: Video P2P & Layer Model Policy

Kevin D. Werbach has released two papers on SSRN, one on the implications of video p2p and a second on the layer model and the communications policy that should be based on it. This last paper is somewhat reminiscent of what has already been written by scholars like Benkler, Lessig and Solumn, but gives a more detailed insight in the FCC's communications policies over the years. On first sight I thought the paper on video p2p to be a bit more in line with the times, with the usual suspects (eDonkey, BitTorrent, KaZaA, Gnutella, MPAA) in the line up and (some familiar) data on (video) p2p.

The papers and the abstracts:

1) The Implications of Video P2P on Network Usage
A rising tide of video peer-to-peer (P2P) activity is already beginning to affect data networks. And video P2P traffic will inexorably grow in the years ahead. Video P2P will expand beyond unauthorized sharing of commercial prerecorded content, becoming a significant driver of broadband usage and potentially creating new revenue streams. Meanwhile, because of its sheer bulk and technical characteristics, video P2P traffic will place significant strains on broadband networks. Thus, video P2P will influence both the outputs and the inputs of the Internet of the future.
(Note how the abstract's "rising tide" has been changed into "Tsunami" in the paper's introduction!)

2) A Layerd Model for Internet Policy
Today, communications regulators mechanically apply outmoded categories to novel converged services. As a result, they create irresolvable contradictions and force hair-splitting distinctions that seldom hold up under the strain of judicial review or market forces.

Policy-makers should reformulate communications policy around the technical architecture of the Internet itself, which is based on an end-to-end design and a layered protocol stack. Horizontal service and geographic classifications should be reconceived in terms of four layers: content, applications or services, logic, and physical infrastructure. Different policy approaches should be used for each layer, and regulators should turn their attention from pricing to the openness of interfaces between layers and competing services.

The layered model would make many of the conflicts that bedevil regulators more tractable. It would bring important issues to the surface, and would put communications policy on a sound footing for the future.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

German Copyright Reform Strengthens DRM

Last week the German Secretary of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, presented her final draft for a modernization of German copyright law. The draft will be discussed in the cabinet next month, and is planned to be passed into law this year. I'll give a round up of some of the major changes, mostly on the private copy, distilled from a news article by the German Institute for Copyright and Media Law (article in German) and end with a short conclusion:
  • There will not come a prohibition of the digital private copy, since this is not enforceable in practice.
  • The private copy will not be enforceable against copy protection.
  • According to current law copying for private use is only allowed insofar for the copying not an obviously illegally produced (master) copy is used. This seeks to ensure that only legal sources are used for private copying. It proved insufficient, since, for example, a download offered on the internet that is a private copy of a legally acquired CD is not as such illegally produced. The wordings of the new German Copyright Law will be changed so that the limitations of private copying also see on an obviously illegal offer on the internet.
  • The exchange, via "illegal" p2p systems, of a small number of songs, exclusively for private use, is exempted from prosecution. The Secretary would not indicate what the exact number might be for an exchange to become punishable, and said it should be left to the courts. However, she did note that a one-digit number of songs should be excluded from prosecution, two-digit numbers were questionable, and downloaders going into the three-digit numbers were surely liable to prosecution.
  • Only one back up copy may be made from computer programs.
  • A system of remuneration, made up of levies and individual licensing, is to include devices that are already widely used to make private copies. Currently only devices (solely) intended to make (private) copies are remunerated. This means that PC's will also fall in the remuneration system, as was already stressed by a recent court ruling.
  • The extent to which copyright protection measures are used has to be taken into consideration when determining the remuneration This is in line with article 5(2)(b) of the European Copyright Directive, which proscribes that the "application or non-application of technological measures" has to be taken into account when calculating "fair compensation" for acts of private copying.
  • The Ministry of Education has charged that the draft contains very limiting regulations for schools, libraries and documentation services. The Secretary of Justice has waived this complaint away and chooses to protect the publishing industry. Today Heise Online reports [German] that the German Library has reached an agreement with the German part of the IFPI, the international representative of the recording industry, and the association of German book traders on copying CD's, CD-ROMS, e-books. Essentially the German Library may crack technical protection measures to copy for lawful purposes, e.g. archiving.
The German copyright reform does not bring good news, unless your a member of the content industry. That the private copying exemption is no right (against DRMs) under European Law and that it was left up to the European Nation States to determine if a private copying exemption would be granted, was already clear. It is more than regrettable that Germany underscribes and strengthens the status quo of DRMs at the cost of its citizens. That (digital) private copying is not prohibited due to enforcement difficulties does not make these sour regulations any sweeter. Nor does the vague file-sharing prosecution exemptions and the privately established agreement reached by the German libraries. With remunerating PCs Germany has the questionable honor to be the first in Europe, if not in the world to do so. This is a copyright reform that goes straight against the reforms that the digital age (could) bring for culture and copyright.
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Later: Electronic Frontier Foundation's and copyright activist Cory Doctorow is more enthusiastic about the news that the German Libraries may crack DRMs:
This is fantastic news -- and it should be a lesson to libraries, schools, institutions that serve the disabled, archivists, and others that they need to fight for their own exemptions. We need to riddle the ban on circumventing DRM with so many little holes that it simply deflates upon itself.
Maybe I should have been more enthusiastic too. But in light of the overall German copyright "reform", the Secretaty of Justice's stand on the libraries poblems and the, what I think, is a subsequent private agreement the libraries reached, this entusiasm was more than a little tempered. At least his fighting spirit is uplifting, as always.

Bizarro Lessig Wins Lawsuit

Yeah! An' he is a friend, Jerry. He is reliable. He is considerate. He's like your, exact opposite.

So he's Bizarro Jerry!

[pause] Bizarro Jerry?

Yeah. Like Bizarro Superman. Superman's exact opposite, who lives in the backwards bizarro world. Up is Down. Down is Up. He says "Hello" when he leaves, "Good bye" when he arrives.

The Bizarro Jerry - Seinfeld

The Bizarro Lessig is called Zheng Chengsi and lives in China, the bizarro USA, where copyrights do not go on for unlimited times, but are violated the moment they see the light of day. Bizarro Lessig is also a renowned Intellectual Property professor and has, like the real Lessig, written several books on the subject. But, when it comes to copyrights, Bizarro Lessig stands on the opposite side of the trenches, proving his book on piracy: Knowing the Enemy and Yourself; Winning the Intellectual Property War. Unlike Lessig, Bizarro Lessig actually won an Intellectual Property battle in court recently. Being the opposite of Lessig, he did not focus on abstract constitutional theories to diminish the scope of copyright. Instead Bizarro Lessig sought to strongly enforce the copyrights on his own books, which where distributed for free online by a third party. An act that Lessig would have approved, as his opposite, provided they were published under a Creative Commons license. Of course they were not, because Bizarro Lessig is a creative communist, getting the best out of IP law for his own gain. But then Lessig is a creative commonist, trying to put the best of the current bizarro U.S. copyright back in IP law for the public good. Maybe they should trade worlds: Bizarro Lessig would feel in copyright heaven, being the opposite of bizarro China. And Lessig? He could finally unbutton his shirt in a telephone booth to unveil the red commi cape he is always wearing under his suit.
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Bizarro news here

Copyme: Flags for Pirates

Vikings came from Sweden, now do pirates. A hybrid kind that plunders and enriches culture at the same time. Some of them sail the seas under the flag above. It indicates that a content provider moves to the Information wants to be free mantra. Or better, Information wants to be copied, and your requested to do so without constraint: No copyright. No (Creative Commons) license.

Copyme is an initiative of the Swedish Piratbyrån, which encourages anyone to use the flag who wants his content to be distributed as widely as possible and to support free culture. That is free as in free speech and free beer!
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More flags here
For the creative commonists who want to make the (final) switch to a free culture, here's a familiar looking flag:

Free Software Magazine Online

The first issue of the Free Software Magazine is online now. Articles on (free) file formats and the future of intellectual freedom, the commons & ideas, live CDs, the free software movement, the competitive advantage of freedom, Richard Stallman's blog, and more. Of (my) special interest: The Content Tail Wags the IT Dog by Daniel James. Here's the introduction:
The content industries have conspicuously failed to create a business model based on paid content over public IP networks, but still cling to the idea that those networks were created for just that use. Any software or system which might interfere with this theoretical paid content business is considered not just heretical, but probably criminal. The music and movie consortia have turned the transition to network distribution into a "with us or against us" battleground, with most of their customers fighting for the wrong side.
The whole Free Software Magazine can be downloaded here (PDF), but for an oversight, online reading and downloads of the different articles go here.
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Thru Karl Jonsson's Weblog thru A.S. Bradbury

Blog Filtering China

The Open Net Initiative has published a short bulletin called Filtering by Domestic Blog Providers in China. It concludes that the Chinese government has increased its resources to control (the rise of) blogs. Providers are shut down, and they may only offer services if they implement filtering software. The software filters on keywords related to sensitive political content, and demonstrates that besides (offline) access regulation the government also actively pursues technical online control.
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Also: Filtering Saudi Arabia: God & Porn
Filtering Norway: New Wine - Old Bottles?
Fear and Filtering in Samoa

Monday, January 17, 2005

Security Hole: Free Paid Downloading

Feel like getting some free music from a legal download site? Internet payment system Firstgate has a security hole that allows you to download songs for € 30, paid by other people. Provide the name and bank account number of someone else and one can instantly start downloading without the restriction of a pin code or password. Only after an initial pre-paid amount of € 30 a pin code restricts further spending.

Music download sites like MSN Music and locals Chello and use Firstgate for money transactions, and the system is also in use by Swisscom and British Telecom's Click & Buy. Banks generally only recognize written authorization and by telephone, so that an internet authorization to withdraw money is for the risks of the (music download) companies. A customer will get the withdrawn amount refunded, if he finds out.

Firstgate has responded to the news that IP addresses of users are registered and fraudulent users may be traced. However, Freegate said it was not likely it will put much effort in this, because of the low scale of fraud and small amounts of money involved. Something to remember when you lock into MSN Music through an anonymizer.
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News by Kassa (Dutch only)

Digital Copyright: RSS, Skweezer & SearchSpaniel

A few days ago I wrote about professor Lenz' decision to disable his RSS feeds due to what seemed like the equivalent of a DDoS attack stemming from Bloglines. Lenz' feeds are up again, as is news about Bloglines. A debate has been pending on RSS and copyright, in which one of the major talking points/concerns is that an aggregator (Bloglines) may reframe web content and impose its own (third-party) advertisements in or around it. The debate is quite interesting, and a nice oversight and links are given at A Copyfighter's Musings: 1 & 2.

A related debate from some weeks ago was initiated by Jason Calacanis' post RSS Abuse: What's fair use and what's abuse. (or Skweezer gets it wrong). The debate did not focus on an aggregator like Bloglines, but on a webservice called Skweezer. Calcanis wrote the following about Skweezer's practices:
It's one thing to take headlines. It's one thing to take an excerpt -like the good folks at Google,, Feedster or Technorati do- to help people navigate. It's a whole other thing to take your entire feed, wrap your own ads around it, and try to sell a service on top of the content!

That is exactly what just happened to us thanks to this website Skweezer. They have an interesting -but already available- idea: make webpages fit better on PDAs and phones. Great idea. We want readers to be able to read our content easily -no doubt.

However, their execution of this business idea is to take all of our websites and then:

1. Republish them on their website
2. Place their own advertisements on them
3. Sell a "professional" version of their software based on our content
4. Deny us the ability to track our page views and readers
Apart from that Skweezer technically uses a transformative proxy and not RSS, as the post suggest, the similarities with the RSS debate are obvious. As are the similarities with a practice that is getting more legal attention: the caching of webpages and other copyrighted content by search engines like Google. Is this caching copyright infringement? Probably. Does anyone care? Hardly. Care comes with commerce stepping into the picture. Skweezer may be a functional service, but stripping ads and implementing their own raises legal questions. Part of the legality of the practice depends on the copyright/licensing scheme that covers the original content. A creative commons license prohibiting non-commercial use may restrict the implementation of advertisements in the original content.

Of course the practice of ripping and just plain copying of content is rampant on the net, and the line of legality is a shady one. What to think of SearchSpaniel, the meta search engine that takes the content of Wikipedia ad verbatim, even takes some of the frame work, strips away the Wikipedia community links and puts Google ads around it. The GNU Free Documentation License seems to allow this practice, and SearchSpaniel, to its small credit, does put a disclaiming "thank you note" at the bottom of "its" Wikipedia pages:
This article was derived fully or in part from an article on - the free encyclopedia. We at SearchSpaniel would like to thank all the members of the Wikipedia community who wrote and edited the free encyclopedia. By allowing us to reprint their high quality content, the many Wikipedians have provided a great service to our SearchSpaniel readers. Thank you! This article is distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Another question that arises from the copy-and-add-ad practice is to what extent this practice is transparent for users of web content. Skweezer customers may be aware that content is reformatted and that advertisements are added/changed. But what if this kind of procedural manipulation lets them believe that the ads and framing is endorsed by the original provider of the content? And do the moral rights of the author -very much a notion of European copyright- come into play if his content is (re)presented in a fashion that touches on the integrity of his work? Just some of the questions in a debate that is likely to spin on faster and faster for the coming years.
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Scrivener's Error makes a comparison with file-sharing

Betamax Birthday

Today marks the twenty-first anniversary of the Betamax standard. It will be its last if the U.S. Supreme Court blows out the candles on the cake at the upcoming MGM v. Grokster party. Susan Crawford muses on 21 years Betamax and what we may loose.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

China Fits Internet TV in Broadcast Model

The Great Firewall may be China's best know (technological) regulation to keep (ideological) control on the internet. With the advent of television to the internet in the form of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) the Chinese regulatory authorities try to strengthen their grip again. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is said to fit IPTV into the current licensing scheme. As reported here SARFT "reiterated that Chinese regulations stipulate all radio and TV stations must be set up and overseen by state radio, film and television authorities at all levels. Non-government TV broadcasting is not permitted, Sarft said."

SARFT said this in reaction to a claim by a telecom operator that it would also provide content over broadband for IPTV. Content Provider licenses are only given to media organs that fall under the abovementioned regulation. Telecom operators are forbidden to provide content and may only receive Internet Services Provider licenses. A merging of the two licenses could trouble the controlling eye of what is broadcast over the internet. The Chinese government is eager to fit IPTV in the current broadcast model to sustain the same control as it has over traditional media.

Danwei concluded from the news that "There is no new technology here; what is happening is that SARFT wants to regulate streaming and downloadable media that already exists." I'm not sure if this claim is precise. What seems true is that a traditional model is mirrored on an emerging technology to sustain the interests of incumbent parties. In China these are the interests of the Communist Party, but in "free" markets this may be the interests of existing major media players. A recent example, not necessarily related to IPTV, comes forth from the WIPO Broadcast Treaty proceedings, in which settled media entities sought to regulate webcasting to their interests. There's a tension between traditional models and new technologies (the internet). The question is if the pressure of commerce will eventually set the internet (more) free. For China the answer may be yes, for here I'm less sure.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Paper: RIAA & Substantial Non-Infringing Uses

This year the U.S. Supreme Court will (re)examine the Betamax doctrine when hearing the MGM v.Grokster case. The Betamax doctrine from the 198 Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios established that as long as a technology is "merely capable of substantial noninfringing uses" the vendor of the technology can not be held liable for contributory infringement. Bluntly put, this means that there is no (contributory) liability if a technology is massively used for infringing uses, but is also capable of non-infringing uses. Speculations about the outcome of this examination, the hearings and what this will mean for the future of file-sharing networks have hightened.

A paper that speculates on the Betamax standard in the digital age is Can RIAA Survive Substantial Non-infringing Uses by James Brian Beckham.
Here's (some) of the abstract:

This submission discusses Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing cases as they relate to rights in digital media. The recent problems involving P2P stem from the Supreme Court Sony-Betamax case of 1984, which held that a device which facilitates copyright infringement by end-users will not create vendor liability if it is capable of a non-infringing use. This piece takes issue with the scope of the Sony decision, and beginning with an overview of the applicable legal terrain, and several notable cases in this context, moves on to discuss the proper standard to be applied in cases involving a charge of contributory copyright infringement. The paper next discusses the recent Grokster and Aimster cases, and the standards applied in those recent cases alleging manufacturer liability for contributory copyright infringement. My position is that the Seventh Circuit gives the Sony case a more plausible reading by taking a balancing approach to the intent of software distributors and the harms to rights holders - something mandated (and certainly to be revisited by the Supreme Court) by Sony, and that the Ninth Circuit glosses over the import of their decision, and employs a misplaced reliance on Sony.

From Sony to present, part II of this comment will explore some of the cases using substantial non-infringing uses as a defense and phenomenon which led to this discord in copyright jurisprudence between the rights of content owners and consumers. Part III will explore cases on opposite sides of the spectrum for finding of liability for vicarious or contributory copyright infringement and suggest that courts faced with the defense of substantial non-infringing uses employ a fact intensive approach utilizing the balancing of interests mandate given by the Court in Sony, or in the alternative, that legislative action may be necessary. Part IV will conclude with some final remarks about the direction of the doctrine, and possible solutions content owners can implement to stave off unauthorized distribution of protected works.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Google + Amazon = Googlezon

In 2014 Googlezon, a hybrid of Google and Amazon, will give birth to EPIC, according to this short film:
"The "Evolving Personalized Information Construct" is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now - from blog entries, to phone-cam images, to video reports, to full investigations. Many people get paid too - a tiny cut of Googlezon's immense advertising revenue, proportional to the popularity of their contributions."
In this dystopia/futopia the New York Times will be done in for after the US Supreme Court has rejected its claim that the fact stripping robots of Googlezon violate copyright. The people's media will kill the old guard, and an (un)holy alliance will set us free. Or not? The movie is a bit ambiguous about this, but it provides some gritty eye candy.

Later: This post at Copyfight is right in sinc with the movie. Lawrence Lessig speaks his mind in The LA Times on recent steps of Google (towards Googlezon):
[The] excitement around Google's extraordinary plan has obscured a dirty little secret: It is not at all clear that Google and these libraries have the legal right to do what is proposed...Google, to its credit, has decided to accept these risks. It can afford to fight the lawsuits, and the benefit to society and Google from such access apparently outweighs its potential costs.

But not everyone is Google. Not every library could afford the risks that Google can. And so before we accept a world where only a Google can build valuable, network-based digital libraries, we should ask whether the system that produces these profound uncertainties is a system that we should change.

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Blog of the creators
More information here (ao transcript of the text)
Thru The Technology Liberation Front

From Slashdot to RSS Effect?

Law professor Karl Lenz has disabled all the RSS feeds to his blog after, as he writes:
"found that a service named bloglines used 1.9 gigabytes of my bandwidth yesterday, placing it at the top of the list of visitors using the most.

That seems to happen by requesting the RSS feed for this blog every few seconds.

I am sorry to say that I am not able to deal with this kind of excessive use. I could start blocking services like that for this kind of behaviour that is quite close to a DOS attack on my server, but I would probably only run around in circles and never catch up with the threat.

Therefore, as I disabled comments before in reaction to abuse by comment spammers, I have now disabled all RSS feeds for this blog. I am sorry for everyone who used to read it that way, but I don't see any other way to keep bandwidth usage under control."
The strange thing is that as far as I can make out his blog has only 6 subscribers through Bloglines. 6 feeds consuming 1.9 gigabytes in a day? A ghost in the machine? And how many bytes is Bloglines then sucking out of Boing Boing with nearly 15,000 subscribers? Or out of Slashdot, with 8000 more? Are we going from Slashdot effect to RSS effect?

Both effects do have their similarities to DoS attacks in that they can take down a site, though are more benign in nature. Some of the side effects of "the RSS effect" were mentioned some time ago, mostly related to popular feeds. But I wonder, since Lenz has to bend under the pressure of 6 Bloglines subscribers, what will become of a blog that carries half of that, like this one? Fingers crossed nobody finds my feed...
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Later: Lenz points out in the comments section that he has written on his blog:
"Update next day: The above doesn't make sense, as Rik Lambers points out here. I assume now that I have been fooled by a bug in my log analyzing software. Sorry for giving a wrong impression about bloglines."
Maybe in this case the the first impression was somewhat wrong, at least the cause for this "Bloglines overload". The question remains: to what extent is there a RSS effect? How widespread is it? And does it actually form a problem for some (more popular) sites, as outlined in the article linked to above? I wonder....

Lenz also writes:
(Update: The bandwidth reported consumed by my log analyzing software seems to have been a fata morgana. However, I will still let RSS disabled for the time being until I understand what is happening here.)
That's too bad, the RSS disablement. It doesn't make a lot of difference to me, though, since I couldn't find his feed when I first hit his blog. I've been reading it the old way and will continue to do so. It's one of the few that I know of that gives some good insights in what's going on at the European regulatory level. I wouldn't mind some more regular postings,
and that all the way from Japan.

Spam Regulation: Europe and Beyond

While regularly posting links to massive papers of law pundits from far away countries it is now a great pleasure to point to a paper by someone I actually shared a room and research with: Lodewijk Asscher's Regulating Spam: Directive 2002/58 and beyond (SSRN).

Currently I'm (still) working with him on a project with the code name Code as Code, of which the papers should be published sometime this year, and be online before that. His piece for the code project is very promising, with a fresh philosophical approach to the "code is law" mantra. This spam paper is much more down to earth, dealing with European legislation, precisely dissecting the E-Privacy Directive and going beyond it, as the title states. Maybe it's subtitle should be "Everything you wanted to know about spam, and we're not afraid to give you the answers." It's very much encompassing.

As his code paper, this one is very readable and highly recommended for anyone who wants to know the ins and outs of the European approach to spam and, well, spam in general. Read the abstract through the link and, of course, read the paper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

cDc Points To Hack/Tech Audio Treasure

A tail to yesterday's post on hacktivism with a treasure of content attached to it. Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) points to the audio stream/MP3 download of the Hacktivism panel they sponsored at the Fifth HOPE conference last summer. Great insights, play it!

But that's just the tail, here comes the treasure: all the talks at the Fifth HOPE conference got an audio stream/MP3 download. An overview of the subjects and audio links can be found
here [PDF of the program]. A massive amount of subjects for hours and hours. Lots on hacking, but also on the CryptoPhone, Digital Rights Management, encryption, WiFi, Spam, DDoS, social engineering, lockpicking, privacy, (breaking) anonymous and automotive networks, how the Great Firewall works a Steve Wozniak talk and much, much more. Oh, and Jello Biafra breaks down half political-corporate America in a blitzing rant (1 - 2). A great balance between (techno-political) paranoia and hard facts.