Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Disney & Verizon: When Content Meets Code

In the U.S. Disney and Verizon have announced a long-term programming agreement, whereby Verizon will transmit twelve of Disney's TV channels over its broadband network. Of course the cooperation on this merging of content (Disney) and code (Verizon's network) would be nothing without the sunny side of American copyright: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Disney and Verizon have agreed, of course, that copyright protection is of upmost importance in this case. Just as important as the privacy of Verizon users
Under the agreement, Verizon would forward and track notices to its subscribers allegedly engaged in the unauthorized distribution of Disney's copyrighted works, without identifying the subscribers to Disney. Verizon would either provide subscriber-identifying information pursuant to lawfully served subpoenas or terminate Verizon Internet service provided to subscribers who have infringed Disney copyrights and received multiple notices.
That seems fair, doesn't it? No more Verizon for you, if you ignore those "copyright infringement" notices. Provided that your identifying information hasn't been handed over to Disney on the basis of a subpoena. Fair it seems, but as a Verizon customer you may wonder how important your privacy would be if Verizon had not made this great deal with Disney giving you even more of the same TV content to choose from.

Where the provision of a (hardcore) network service gets softened by (Verizon's) interests in content and related copyright protection, the privacy of users is likely to become less of a commitment. How much is the privacy of a customer really worth when you consider a multi-million dollar deal with Disney "a significant step forward in the effort toward inter-industry cooperation in addressing the serious problem of copyright infringement over the Internet," as Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg said. Not worth the litigation, I would guess.

University Supports Google over Print Lawsuit

Yesterday the American Authors Guild filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google over its Google Print Library project. The first university library that comes with a supporting statement for Google is...the University of Michigan:
"We continue to be enthusiastic about our partnership with Google, and we are confident that this project complies with copyright law. The overarching purpose of copyright law is to promote progress in society. In doing so, it is always a balancing act between the limited rights of the author and the rights of the public."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Scientology to Face Judgment Day

The Dutch Supreme Court will provide a ruling on the Church of Scientolgy. That is, if the Court will follow the advice [Dutch - PDF] of its independent counsel, Advocaat-Generaal Verkade., which is more than likely. Verkade wrote that the Supreme Court could and should judge the Scientology-case at least in the interest of the unity and development of law and the general interest.

Scientology tried to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court at the last moment after the same Advocaat-Generaal Verkade dismissed Scientology's crafting of copyright to suppress the freedom of speech in an earlier advice. His latest advice is great news for ISP XS4ALL and writer Karin Spaink, which have been involved in legal proceedings against Scientology for over ten years [Background is provided in the last link provided above]. Finally Scientology's legal scare tactics will be judged at the highest instance, and likely condemned.
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Press release XS4ALL [Dutch]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Filtering Free: Skype Blocker to Aid Business Models

The Inquirer reports on Skype Filtering Technology, what's the name used by company Vesco for a carrier grade application that "blocks bandwidth drains such as Skype™, P2P messaging, streaming media and instant messaging," says Vesco's press release. That's pretty nice in itself, but the interesting part is in the why?. In an interview with the Inquirer Vesco CEO Monty Bannerman is blatantly honest about the motivation behind the Skype Filter:
As a "free" service, Skype is raiding the business model of service providers that want to roll out VoIP services for their customers. "They're all telling me they hate Skype and they're telling me that they want to do something about Skype," said Bannerman in a telephone interview. "If you have something in your network that is costing you money and raiding your business model, I assure you you're going to do something about it."
Also interesting is that Bannerman argues that a lack of state regulation leaves Skype out in the open to filter. A distinction with the (minimally) regulated Vonage service is made:
Bannerman drew a distinction between the more heavily US-regulated Vonage and Skype, saying that they were "different," with Vonage required to provide E-911 service and abide by other FCC regulations, while Skype had no such state-side regulation.
One can admirer one thing about the guy: he really, really wants to sell. Not in the US due to possible future regulation prohibiting applkication bloackage, then anywere else in the world:
"The World Wide Web isn't just about America, plunk yourself anywhere else," he said. "This is a product for the world market."
It may be getting hard to Skype China if Bannerman's sales pitch works: there they may just want to filter another kind of free. That's not the gratis kind.

Jot: Grokster Talks to Mashboxx

Grokster is apparently in talks to be acquired by Mashboxx, which is on the road to establish a ''legal" P2P company.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Swedish MP3 Manufacturer Refuses to Pay Copying Charge

There must be some copyright cowboys working at MP3 manufacturer Jens of Sweden. First they reported the Swedish anti-piracy organisation Antipiratbyrå to the Swedish Data Inspection Board for collecting and storing IP addresses of file-sharers, and Antipiratbyrå was actually condemned. Now the company refuses to pay a "copying charge" on its products, and faces legal proceedings for doing so.

The charge, a levies known in many European countries, was introduced in 1999 to compensate for private copying, but the owner of Jens of Sweden thinks that "It's not our problem that the record industry hasn't come up with its own solution," and that "In my opinion the compensation should be built into the price. To be able to transfer a song to an mp3 player should be included in the purchase of the music.".

The collector of the charge, CopySwede, obviously has a different opinion and takes Jens of Sweden to court. It will be another small but interesting chapter in the European levies discussion, and the related issue of (European Commission level) proposals to phase out levies and rely on Digital rights Management in the future. An issue Jens has yet to cowboy around.
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Thru The Local

Jehova's Sue Website Out of Embarrassment

Back in June I wrote on how a site called was pressured by the American Jehova's Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) to take down its Canadian website that contains various quotes from works published by WTBTS in an attempt to illustrate some of the failed prophecies that organisation has made over the years. The pressure cooker used by the WTBTS was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and resulted in the ISP taking down the site for a short moment. I thought it was interesting in that it showed how the notice & take down system of the DMCA and (unfounded) legal threats may result in silencing speech without judicial review.

Apparently that judicial review is on its way now: the site has been sued by the WTBTS in the Ontario Superior Court. Claims are copyright infringement of the original WTBTS texts, trademark violations in the URL and breaking End User License Agreements (EULAs) of the WTBTS' CD-ROMS where the quotes were taken from. Most revealing is the claim that also blows the cover of this suit, embarrassment of the WTBTS:
[Paragraph] 31. The Defendant's main purpose in operating the website is not "fair use", but rather to try to embarrass the Plaintiffs by quoting selectively from some of the Religious Works in a manner that misleads Internet users as to the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses
I thought selective quoting, rather than plain copying of the whole text, is exactly in line with fair use for the purpose of criticism. And whatever can be said of the alleged copyright infringement, trademark violations, EULAs breaching claims, it seems like poor litigation to drag embarrassmentment into te claim. I don't think it takes the air out of this lawsuit, but it does not make the Jehova's claims anymore believable. Like their faith, might say.
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Later Law professor Michael Geist has more on the lawsuit at his site:

In breaking down the fair dealing argument, it is difficult to see how the trademark complaints are relevant to the analysis. Similarly, the absence of restrictions on the site and the availability of a search engine don't provide compelling reasons to lose a user right. The remaining two issues, which amount to claims of too much copying, will likely be the bigger questions and they turn on a legal analysis of evidence yet to be presented. A cursory review suggests that much of the content would be viewed as fair dealing since there are a large number of limited length quotations that would benefit from the SCC's [Supreme Court of Canada-RL] liberal interpretation of fair dealing.

- - - news on the lawsuit
Statement of Claim
The Inquirer

Turkish Government Bans Publishing Mein Kampf

Hitler's Mein Kampf hit the bestsellers list in Turkey last March. Now the Turkish government "has refused permission for future printing of" the work:
While no reason for the reprint ban was given, Radikal [magazine- RL]speculated that it may be due to pressure from the German state of Bavaria, which holds the copyright for the all editions of the book except for those in English and Dutch. Copies of Mein Kampf, or "My Struggle" in bookshops at the moment have not been ordered off the shelves.
I've got no idea why publishers would need to get permission to publish in the first place. The copyright & censorship issues surrounding Mein Kampf were explored in these earlier posts:

Jot: Vodka Piracy

The Intellectual Property restoration in Russia starts with the government incresing its efforts to enforce its rights on the state-owned vodka brands Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

U.S. Customs' Counterfeit Clothing the Naked of Katrina

Barbara Bush, spoke on her visit to victims of hurricane Katrina that "so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them." It is even getting better for those underprivileged people. Filed in the Only in America-dossier, this news article reports that:
Monday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced they are donating seized clothing, to victims of the hurricane. About 1.7 million dollars worth of counterfeit clothing, shoes, towels, and toys are being donated to the state. Many of the clothing pieces were confiscated because they violated copyright infringements. Normally they would have been destroyed.

Thomas Winkowski, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says, "Under statuatory authority during these times of disaster our commissioner has the authority to waive that, in other words we don't have to go back to the trademark and say, can we have that, our commissioner can do that unilatterally during these times of difficulty."
What a sight! Those poor, underprivileged people will be carrying what's left of their home and family in a China-made Luis Vuitton bag, while walking the flooded streets on a pair of five dollar Nikes in a fancy Lacoste shirt. At least the change of getting shot for alleged loothing must be smaller in your counterfeit Armani suit.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Finnish "Voluntary" ISP Filter

The Finnish government has studied the mandatory implementation of a filter at ISP level to combat child pornography. Possible constitutional problems have shifted the focus to voluntary implementation by ISPs, which still is pretty much mandatory for users, since they cannot choose to turn off the filter. The news letter of European Digital Rights has more.
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Sunday, September 11, 2005

German Constitutional Court: Private Copying Unlikely a Right

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (the Bundesverfassungsgericht) has rejected a complaint by a consumer about copy protection measures on CDs and DVDs. The Court did not see such a serious disadvantage in the copy protection mechanisms for the consumer, that it should give a decision before the consumer had followed a normal civil procedure against the manufacturer. The interesting thing about the rejection of the ruling is that the Court added some considerations about the private copying "right": it doubted that the constitution provides such a right.

The consumer had complained about provision 95a German Copyright Law that allows rightsholders to use copy protection measures and prohobits their circumvention. While there aren't any criminal sanctions (jail sentence / fines) for the circumvention for merely private use, consumers are often not able to make such a circumvention and thus a private copy in the first place.

Although the Court's consideration is vague, it's an indicator of what has been said often: there is little indication that there is something like a private copying right, or that it will be granted against copy protection measures. Interestingly, a French court took a different stand last April: reversing an earlier decison, which denied that private copying was a right, it prohibited the use of copy protection measures on DVDs, since they were considered to be incompatible with private use. For the proponents of private use as an enforceable right the French decision offered some hope, but now it looks even more like courts (and governments) will probably not move to the "private copying is a right"-mantra in the future.
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Thru Institut fur Urheber- und Medienrecht [German]
Related Heise article [German]
Ruling Bundesverfassungsgericht [German]

Taiwanese Criminal P2P Convictions Set the Example

Kuro, Taiwan's largest file-sharing service, has bitten the legal dust. That is, three of its executives were sentenced to two to three year in jail and fines, because "Kuro had violated copyright law in offering its members programs to download MP3 music," according to a spokes person of the court. One of Kuro's 500,000 paying members was jailed to four months imprisonment for making 900 songs available for upload.

Like the US Supreme Court in the Grokster case the Taiwanese court did not rule on the legality of the P2P service as such and relied on some sort of inducement theory. Kuro allegedly runs
"advertisements that had encouraged members, who pay a monthly fee of NT$99, to swap copyrighted music files via its Web site. [The ruling] said Kuro was therefore party to infringement of the Copyright Law"
The ruling is somewhat surprising, considering that file-sharing service ezPeer won their court case back in July. I'm not sure if there are any (technological) differences with Kuro that have lead to a different legal outcome, but maybe the political IP pressure cooker has been on for the last two months:
John Eastwood, a co-chairman of the Intellectual Property Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei, said the ruling may help Taiwan be taken off the US Trade Representative's Watch List of IPR violators next year. [link]
Let's watch that list next year and see if the convictions have made a difference. In the meantime Kuro is going to appeal the verdict and the market is having its own opinion: Kuro's shares climbed NT$0.10 to NT$20.30.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Disney's DRM Is a Happy, Happy World After All

Much in line with the superficiality of his happy, happy world, Disney executive Peter Lee suggests consumers should be treated like the unknowledgeable children that visit his fairy tale parks:
"If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed," says Peter Lee, an executive at Disney.
From this piece in The Economist on the digital home and format incompatibilities.
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Monday, September 05, 2005

KaZaA: Install Filters, and / or Die (Anyway)

Today the KaZaA lawsuit in Australia has finally come to the end of the tunnel: there's some light, but potential dead for the file-sharing software. KaZaA's software is not illegal per se, but it will have to be adapted by installing filters. Together with the plaintiffs (music industry), KaZaA will have to work on a protocol to be included in a new version of its software, and put up the pressure on its users to install this filters-included version. While one can argue that users won't have to update to keep sharing, and KaZaA may stay in its (spyware infected) business for now, this is still a loss for the company. Let's see how fast (new) users will migrate to other file-sharing platforms that are not bothered by filters.
The ruling can be found here (42 page rtf)