Friday, October 28, 2005

Makayama: DVD-to-iPod Ripper...DRM in Review

"The feature that everyone wants, but Apple didn't give you."
That's what Makayama is giving to the world. It's a company that sounds like a Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, and even has a little Japanese flag on one of its web pages. But, to my surprise, it's actually located right here in Amsterdam, in the old post office building, which also holds a (night) club and (temporarily) the museum of modern art. That's right here:

But what exactly is the Dutch company Makayama offering to us from their scruffy Amsterdam office's that Apple didn't from sunny California:
The iPod Media Studio. This innovative software lets you watch home movies, feature films and TV-series on your video iPod in great quality, in full screen, zoomed mode. [...] The software installs an encoding package on a Windows XP computer, users pick any video file from their harddrive, CD or DVD and with only three clicks, the software turns it into a compressed movie file, which will play on the MPEG4-mediaplayer on the iPod.
The press release presses the point that "A 60 Gb iPod may store up to 200 hours of home movies and tv recordings or one hundred full length feature films." That sounds like a soon-to-be classic little DVD ripper. Might their be a reason that Apple didn't dive into this? The answer is probably in the company profile:
Makayama supports fair use and is reviewing several DRM standards to incorporate in its products.
Fair use is certainly a feature that everybody wants, but Apple doesn't give us. Or can't give us, since it can't put a product on the market that rips content protected DVDs, while still reviewing "several DRM standards to incorporate". Maybe I'm reading to much in this little sentence. Or, maybe it's the small (circumvention) disclaimer with one of their other products, DVD to Pocket PC, that gives some doubt about the legality of the software, at least under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act circumvention provisions:
This software was not designed or produced to circumvent technology that effectively protects access to, or restricts the duplication of, copyrighted material. It has a commercially significant purpose other than to circumvent and has major non-infringing uses; being primarily designed to transcode home movies, tv-programming, personal video and audio files, and feature films from a users harddrive and/or on removable media. It does not produce digitally identical copies, but transcodes into a lossy, strongly compressed file. Its sole purpose is to enable a platform- and timeshift allowing playback of lawfully aquired content, under the fair use principle.
That's fair use, alright. Some might doubt that an old post office building near the harbour of Amsterdam will also provide a safe harbour for fair use circumvention under the ever stronger enforcement of the European Copyright Directive.

Oh, I wasn't able to see if iPod Media Studio actually ripped away any DRM: it runs on Windows only, no Mac supported.
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iPod Media Studio product page (with trial version)

IPTV & Digital Piracy: Keeping Honest People Honest

A small interview on "digital piracy" and IPTV with Steve Oetegenn, Executive VP Global Sales & Marketing at Verimatrix, which read like a sales pitch. It's about keeping honest people honest, again:
One other problem which is often overlooked is theft of service. It is estimated that around 30% of cable and 50% of satellite programming is actually viewed without being paid for. Our system provides excellent clone detection functionality, which ensures that only paying customers have access to services. The problem with IPTV is to keep honest people honest. We’re going to be challenged by these type of hackers, if they can circumvent the system they will, but you need to provide a deterrent.

Jot: Copyright Does Bolster Evolution

From The New York Times:
Two leading science organizations have denied the Kansas board of education permission to use their copyrighted materials as part of the state’s proposed new science standards because of the standards’ critical approach to evolution.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Trademark's Zeitgeist

Tired of ego-surfing on Google? Try the database of the Benelux Trademarks Office to see who has trademarked your name. I could have guessed...CoCo has been accepted as a (figurative) trademark for a monkey. That's accepted again: left Kellogg's new and right Kellogg's old CoCo. The evolution of a trademark: dead by expiration, and lack of coolness.

VeryCD: Death to All P2P Pay Sites

Danwei has a short piece on the Chinese P2P-site VeryCD, approved by the Ministry of Information Industry and Creative Commons-licensed. What VeryCD lacks in thirst for money, it has all the more for some fresh, capitalisitc blood:
  1. Every person shares three albums in order to establish the world's largest P2P Mp3 music library.
  2. Through the VeryCD website's search, allow all users convenient and quick downloads of Mp3s.
  3. Death to pay download sites.

Germany: P2P Prosecutions Bring Unacceptable Workload

The public prosecutor of the German district Karlsruhe fears getting crushed under the workload of (future) P2P-prosecutions presented to him by the German gaming industry:
"20,000 announcements are said to have been received against game downloaders, which take the work time of five lawyers and three particularly policemen turned off for the sifting. The processing of the document mountains will [take] at least six months to take up. "the treatment of heavier offenses could suffer in the future under this substantial additional expenditure"
The German gaming industry is using the Swiss firm Logistep, which says to registrate "which contents during which period and with which IP address" users downloaded. At least in the Netherlands this kind of outsourcing of P2P-police work to a non-EU third-party has been deemed unacceptable.

The public office in Germany thinks the P2P-prosecution of minor uploaders would put an unacceptable pressure on its resources and is said to only proceed with criminal prosecutions against users that have been previously convicted and have sold songs on a large scale. That would be in line with the so-called Bagatellklausel from the reviewed German copyright law, which exempts the exchange of a small number of songs that are exclusively for private use from prosecution. If one still wonders wether the Bagatellklausel was born out of practical considerations or legal charity, the prosecutor's practice seems to have given the answer.
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Thru Institut for Urheber- und Medienrecht [German]

Microsoft's Anonymous Lawyers

Don't trust anonymous sources when it comes to anti-trust: Microsoft tried it again and by contract "told manufacturers of iPod-like portable audio devices that they were not allowed to distribute rivals' music player software, but then pulled back after one company protested." There's a lot of outside amazement and little mea culpa about this good old Microsoft muscle flexing, except from some anonymous lawyer:
The disputed contracts were drafts sent to manufacturers before Microsoft's lawyers reviewed them, said one lawyer familiar with details of the incident. This lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to make public statements about the antitrust case.
Since when does Microsoft sent out drafts without legal review? This sounds like either a major glitch or authorized PR. I bet it's a twosome: anonymity and authorization.

The more interesting question is in how Microsoft seems to try to get at its rival by playing the trust card on software, where its the hardware (iPod) that's the killer. Any anonymous sources on this one?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Belgium Court Confirms: Private Copying Not a Right

I'm pretty late on this one - as the blogging is generally slower due to a (great) change of work - but it still is interesting for the private copying debate. Not that the following ruling of a Belgium Court of a Appeals brings much news. It follows the general legal trend away from the 'private-copying-is-a-right'-mantra together in its confirmation of the ruling of a lower court that private copying is not a right, but a "legally granted immunity against prosecution."” Those are words from the confirmed ruling. If you want to read the latest one of the Court of Appeals, get out your dictionary and start reading the French judgment [PDF]. The tables are getting turned in a DRMed world: now it is the user who has to secure his interests through an often costly procedure.
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Related CoCo: German Constitutional Court: Private Copying Unlikely a Right
CoCo: French Court: Private DVD Protection Incompatible with Private Copying Exception

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Botswana: Manadatory Payment for Mandatory DRM?

Botswana is working on a bill to amend the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act. I'd like to get my hands on it, because its content seems like a plain violation of more than one fundamental right and just sounds plain weird:
Under the proposed law, every sound and audio-visual recording made available to the public by sale, rental, lending or distribution for commercial purpose in Botswana will have a security device affixed to it. The copyright office will issue the device once the person who wants to make it available to the public has paid. The device will only be approved if the owner of the copyright has made authorisation. The device will be the only indication that it is not a pirated work. Any person who contravenes the set requirements shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding P20, 000 or to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. Any person who reproduces the device without the authorisation of the copyright office shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P50, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. Smells Like Chanel No. 5

Finally! A date has been set for the registration of the .eu domain name. I'm so excited! At last the wait is over: here comes, for all your insights from European soil. Well, that is if a French fasion house and cosmetic concern, or some coconut manufacturer, doesn't get the idea to registrate before I get a chance. Because, "to prevent that organisations and companies will be the victim of cybersquatters", the rules of commerce have been laid out to dominate the .eu domain.

These so-colled Sunrise rules devide the resistration in three phases:
First phase: public organisations and trademark holders can apply for registration
Second phase: others that have legal claims can apply (company name, artistic name)
Third phase: four months after the start of the first phase anyone can register (April 7th 2006)
I'll let you know if I can beat commerce the French coconut farmers make it. Till then, same or alternate place for a long time.
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Background paper sunrise rules [PDF]

Operator French Lyric Site Gets Fine and Risks Jail Time

Remember the days you had to spin your record ten times to write out the indistinguishable lyrics of your favorite artist, because all his psychedelic artwork did not leave any room for song texts on the sleeve? That old game may be France. The criminal court of Nanterre has sentenced the operator of a song lyrics website to a 20,000 euro fine and six months imprisonment on probation. Additionally the operator has to pay damages to the plaintiffs: the music association of publishers CSDEM and three publishing houses. Apparently the site,, had mirrored the site, which was shut down in may 2002 over copyright infringement charges.

Back in April I reported on cease and desist notices sent to German song lyrics sites. A website that resisted such notice did take its song texts offline after a German court ruled that the copyrightholders had case. That rightholders have a case is no surprise. That they actually make a case out of their copyright keeps surprising me somewhat. But then, maybe they just want to give the digital generation they joy of penning down their favourite chansons in the candle light of a cheese & wine diner. I'm not sure what they are: nostalgic or romantic. Maybe just not from this time...
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Thru Institut fur Urheber- und Medienrecht [German]
CSDEM press release [PDF, French]