aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, April 24, 2006
No computer but still sued for filesharing by the RIAA
A Rockmart [Georgia] family is being sued for ongoing illegal music file sharing, despite no longer having a computer.
A federal lawsuit filed Friday in Rome by the Recording Industry Association of America alleges that Carma Walls, 32, of a Morgan Street residence, has infringed on copyrights for recorded music by sharing files over the Internet. [...]
“I don’t understand this,” Walls said. “How can they sue us when we don’t even have a computer?”
Carma Walls said that the family did once own a computer - for about two months. They haven’t had a computer in their home for more than a year, she said.
During the short time the family had use of a computer, she did download some music from Internet sites, she said. But she had no inkling that the sites she visited or the practice itself were illegal.
“I thought it was like recording songs off the radio like we did when we were kids,” she said.
The RIAA’s lawsuit maintains that Carma Walls, through the use of a file-sharing program, has infringed on the copyrights for the following songs: “Who Will Save Your Soul,” Jewel; “Far Behind,” Candlebox; “Still the Same,” Bob Seger; “I Won’t Forget You,” Poison; “Open Arms,” Journey; “Unpretty,” TLC; No Scrubs,” TLC; and “Saving All My Love for You,” Whitney Houston.
Via Cory Doctorow:
Good to see a real standard of care in place over there at RIAA sue-your-customers HQ; this is probably more profitable in the long run than suing people who do share music, since those people are statistically more likely to spend money on CDs. Focusing on shaking down people who don’t own PCs will keep the music industry from alienating its diehard fans.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
DMCA: From bad to worse
For the last few years, a coalition of technology companies, academics and computer programmers has been trying to persuade Congress to scale back the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Now Congress is preparing to do precisely the opposite. A proposed copyright law seen by CNET News.com would expand the DMCA’s restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.
As it they don’t already have Congress locked up through the influence of big media money, the administration plays the terrorism card:
During a speech in November, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endorsed the idea and said at the time that he would send Congress draft legislation. Such changes are necessary because new technology is “encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft,” Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, “quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities.”
The 24-page bill is a far-reaching medley of different proposals cobbled together. One would, for instance, create a new federal crime of just trying to commit copyright infringement. Such willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
It also represents a political setback for critics of expanding copyright law, who have been backing federal legislation that veers in the opposite direction and permits bypassing copy protection for “fair use” purposes. That bill--introduced in 2002 by Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat--has been bottled up in a subcommittee ever since.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Google & the MirÃƒÂ³ take-down
Searching with Google yesterday, I smiled at its logo, playfully reworked to look like a Joan MirÃƒÂ³ painting in honor of the Spanish artist’s birthday. His family and Artist’s Rights Society weren’t smiling, the Mercury News reported, asking Google to remove the tribute mid-day. Google honored the request while saying that the logo did not infringe. [...]
[F]air use, as U.S. courts recognize it, eliminates the need to ask permission. Fair use saves us from the sanitized world where only authorized tributes or commentary are permitted. Moral rights, applied in many European countries but not the U.S., protect the “integrity” of artists’ works—but even that was hardly under threat.
Time and time again dead artists’ family get all proprietary about their dear deceased loved one’s work and send off BS letters like this cease and desist to Google. This in no way harms them. In fact you might say that building awareness of the life and work of Miro only makes their assets more valuable. But at the whim of some whiny family member they hit Google, who was trying to do a nice thing in honoring Miro, with a cease and desist.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Antigua explores violating U.S. copyright protections
ADAM DAVISON reporting: [The U.S. was] breaking the cardinal rule of international trade law, at least according to the government of Antigua. The U.S. was saying that foreign companies, like companies from Antigua and other countries, were not allowed to provide internet gambling services to American citizens. But American companies could provide gambling services, specifically horseracing betting, through the internet to U.S. citizens. And according to the World Trade Law, you cannot allow American companies to do something that you don’t allow foreign companies to do.
Antigua went to the World Trade Organization Court and won. But American law hasn’t changed in accordance with the ruling:
DAVIDSON: Basically, the U.S. accidentally allowed the WTO to rule over its own domestic gambling laws. What this has done is sent a chill through many countries who have thought, well, if the U.S., the most powerful country in the world, can make a mistake, we probably all could make mistakes.
The other issue that concerns at least some people is that the U.S. is effectively saying we don’t care about World Trade Law. We are big and strong and Antigua is small, and so we’re going to allow mite to be right rather than law to be right.
BLOCK: Well does Antigua have any trade weapons in its arsenal that it can use against the United States here?
DAVIDSON: Well what it would normally do is just impose sanctions on certain U.S. goods. But of course, Antigua is a tiny country. It can’t really have an impact on the U.S. in that way. So Antigua is exploring violating U.S. copyright protections. In other words, Antigua, in retaliation to the U.S., would flood the U.S. with knock-offs of movies and software and music. The Americans say that’s illegal, Antigua will never get away with it. But Antigua is clearly trying to figure out what slingshot this David could use against the U.S. Goliath.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
[T]hose inexpensive copies could be history if the Council of Fashion Designers of America has its way in a new anti-copying campaign in Washington.
Designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Zac Posen have been journeying there to lobby for copyright protections like those governing books, music and other creative arts. Mr. Posen was in Washington on Tuesday with Steven Kolb, the executive director of the council, who said a bill could be introduced in Congress as early as today by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. [...]
“That is the most ridiculous thing,” Mr. Schwartz said. “There is no such thing as an original design. All these designers are getting their inspiration from things that were done before. To me a spaghetti strap is a spaghetti strap, and a cowl neck is a cowl neck.”
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Super Hero madness
ULABAY: The word superhero was trademarked by Marvel and DC Comics in the 1960’s says Michael Lovitz. He’s a lawyer who focuses on intellectual property like comic books.
MICHEAL LOVITZ (Lawyer): Marvel and DC created this category of adventurers, of costumed adventurers.
ULABAY: But Marvel and DC Comics super lawyers will leave you alone if you use the word superhero casually. You can even use it in a comic as long as that word stays off the cover.
Mr. LOVITZ: The law basically says that no one has the right to exclusively appropriate a word.
ULABAY: Neither DC Comics nor Marvel agreed to comment for this story. Ronald Coalman is a lawyer who blogs about intellectual property issues. He says both companies are so powerful that they constitute an industry duopoly. He finds preposterous any claims that their brands might be comprised by unauthorized use of the word superhero.
Mr. RONALD COALMAN (Lawyer): People in the comic book area know very well who are Marvel’s superhero’s, who are DC’s superheroes, and who are indie comic book superheroes. There’s zero chance of actual confusion.
ULABAY: For Marvel and DC to protect the word superhero as a trademark, he says, it takes…
Mr. COALMAN: A little bit of audacity and a lot of lawyers on retainer with a generous mixture of judicial indifference.
RELATED: Just for the fun of it Which Super Hero are you?
Friday, March 24, 2006
Intellectual Property Run Amok
A DAY AFTER Senator Orrin Hatch said “destroying their machines” might be the only way to stop illegal downloaders, unlicensed software was discovered on his website.
BILL GATES had the 11-million-image Bettmann Archive buried 220 feet underground. Archivists can access only the 2% that was first digitized.
AMONG THE 16,000 people thus far sued for sharing music files was a 65-year-old woman who, though she didn’t own downloading software, was accused of sharing 2,000 songs, including Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug.” She was sued for up to $150,000 per song.
MICROSOFT UK held a contest for the best film on “intellectual property theft”; finalists had to sign away “all intellectual property rights” on “terms acceptable to Microsoft.”
ONLY ABOUT 5% of patents end up having any real commercial value. READ ON.
The Union Pacific Railroad has gone trademark crazy. They’re threatening to sue anyone who puts a Union Pacific logo on a model railroad, photographers who take pictures of Union Pacific trains, and even painters who paint pictures of Union Pacific trains. Model railroaders, photographers, and painters are freaking out, natch.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The First Amendment’s been bought and paid for!
Long ago, actually, but we still don’t seem to realize it.
Michael Crighton has an excellent op-ed in the Sunday Times on the isane overreach of US patent law, the limits of which are to be tested today before the Supreme Court. In dispute is the increasingly common practice of pharmaceutical companies, research labs and individual scientists of patenting specific medical procedures or tests. Today’s case deals specifically with a basic diagnostic procedure patented by three doctors in 1990 that helps spot deficiency in a certain kind of Vitamin B by testing a patient’s folic acid levels.
Under current laws, a small royalty must be paid not only to perform the test, but to even mention it. That’s right, writing it down or even saying it out loud requires payment. Which means that I am in violation simply for describing it above. As is the AP reporter whose story filled me in on the details of the case. And also Michael Crighton for describing the test in his column (an absurdity acknowledged in his title: “This Essay Breaks the Law"). Need I (or may I) say more? [...]
It seems everything - even “laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas” (AP) - is information that someone can own. It goes far beyond the digital frontiers we usually talk about here. Yet the expansion of the laws of ownership - what McKenzie Wark calls “the relentless abstraction of the world” - essentially digitizes everything, and everyone.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Everything that’s wrong with publishing
A blogger buddy has a beef with Malcolm Gladwell. I wanted to look into it. Regular readers will recall that, like many a modern reader, I often buy audio books. When I want to refer back to specific passages I use the Search Inside function of Amazon.
Today when I searched Gladwell’s Blink I got this important message:
Amazon.com is pleased to offer our customers the ability to view copyrighted material from books participating in the Search Inside! program. To protect this copyrighted material, the books are subject to publisher-approved page-viewing limits.
You have reached a page-viewing limit. For security purposes, we are not able to provide further information about the specific limit reached.
We encourage you to use the other Search Inside! features that are available to you regardless of your limit status. These features include the ability to search inside any book in the program and view text-only excerpts from that book. You can also browse sample pages for any book in the program by clicking the links in the “Browse sample pages” box found on that book’s product detail page.
For the record, I have not searched this particular title at all and for the entire past month I have viewed maybe 6 or 8 pages inside any book. I wasn’t counting or paying attention, but “for security purposes” I have no way of knowing, and no right to know, what my limit might be.
Now imagine being in a bookstore and being told, “I’m sorry sir you’ve reached your limit. You can’t page through any more books in the store.”
Freedoms that we commonly assume in the physical world WE DO NOT HAVE in the digital realm. This is yet another example that we’re losing something fundamental and important here, and we’re hardly even noticing.
UPDATE: It appears that the limit is set per title, not per person. Several of us have searched the same title, Blink, which is blocked. Still. But I can search inside other titles with no problem. That block is no less offensive.
Sweden is not a state in these United States
The site is called The Pirate Bay, and it’s operated by a crew of intrepid Swedes who revel in tormenting the content industries.
“All of us who run the TPB are against the copyright laws and want them to change,” said “Brokep,” a Pirate Bay operator. “We see it as our duty to spread culture and media. Technology is just a means to doing that.”
A quick look at The Pirate Bay’s lineup suggests which side is winning the piracy wars. Among the site’s most popular downloads are recent Oscar nominees and winners like Closer and Brokeback Mountain, Steven Spielberg’s Munich, the latest Harry Potter film and even stinkers like Underworld: Evolution and The Pink Panther. Downloading doesn’t require users to register or install spyware—if one has a BitTorrent client installed, anything listed is just a click away.
To international observers, The Pirate Bay’s defiant immunity from copyright lawyers is somewhat baffling. But in Sweden, the site is more than just an electronic speak-easy: It’s the flagship of a national file-sharing movement that’s generating an intense national debate, and has even spawned a pro-piracy political party making a credible bid for seats in the Swedish parliament. [...]
[T]he group that founded it is embracing grass-roots activism and political legitimacy. PiratbyrÃƒÂ¥n today has 57,000 registered members committed to its belief that file trading is a means of sharing culture and making new art.
My favorite part of The Pirate Bay site of course is their rogues gallery of cease and desist letters.
My favorite is their response to Dreamworks: “As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here. For your information, no Swedish law is being violated.” Click through to read the rest, but keep in mind it’s NSFW.
A commenter adds: “ My anti-virus caught a dialer waiting to be installed. Not recommended not only for work...”
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Vive La France!
DRM News, the French want to open the iPod:
France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player.
Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.
It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management—the codes that protect music, films and other content—if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.
“It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up ... You have to be able to download content and play it on any device,” Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.
Here’s the Reuters story.
Friday, March 03, 2006
What to do with that old computer? Ubuntu!
You say Linux, I say huh? But thanks to a pal here I’ve installed Ubuntu on an old laptop and I’m an instant convert.
Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. It is developed by a large community and we invite you to participate too!
The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Philosophy: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit.
These freedoms make Ubuntu fundamentally different from traditional proprietary software: not only are the tools you need available free of charge, you have the right to modify your software until it works the way you want it to.
Now that’s a philosphy I respect.
It comes witrh many applications for business, home and personal computer users including Open Office, Firefox, image editing software and an intuitive interface that took no time or effort to figure out. None! (They say, “it should ‘Just Work’, TM” and it does.)
What’s best is it’s no bloated resource hog. It’ll run on that old sluggish Windows machine that slowed to a crawl leaving you with no choice but to dump it. Now there’s another choice!
I’m still a newbie so I’ll let you know how it goes, but I can tell you already that you should put it on that old clunker and give it a try. Here’s the download site: for Mac, PC, er, I mean for Intel, PowerPC or AMD64. My next install is on that old Lime Green G3 iMac I got sitting here…
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Niggas, queers and dykes
Damon Wayans wants to trademark “Nigga” for a clothing line and retail store:
[S]o far, his applications have been unsuccessful. Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.
“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.
I don’t want it trademarked because I don’t want any of our language trademarked but I wonder, do we really want Kelly Boulton telling us a term we use to describe ourselves is immoral? What say do any of us have in reclaiming those derogatory terms used against us?
Lynda Zadra-Symes, a trademark lawyer in California, said Wayans may be successful. She compared “Nigga” to the successful registration of Dykes on Bikes. The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent fought the Trademark Office for three years to overturn an initial rejection of a Dykes on Bikes trademark. The mark was published Jan. 24.
“Because the application was by a group of lesbians it was eventually allowed to publish,” Zadra-Symes said.
“This is a great victory,” the group proclaimed on its website. “It affirms our right to determine who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”
However, Tawnya Wojciechowski, another trademark attorney practicing in California, compared Wayans’ application to the ongoing legal case where Washington Redskins trademarks have been challenged by seven Native Americans. “They’re going to have a really tough time,” Wojciechowski predicted.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Big Media and the new architecture of control
Big media have always lobbied for more control over how people use culture, but until now, it’s largely been through changes to the copyright statutes. The distribution apparatus—record stores, booksellers, movie theaters etc.—was not a concern since it was secure and pretty much by definition “read-only.” But when we’re dealing with digital media, the distribution apparatus becomes a central concern, and that’s because the apparatus is the internet, which at present, no single entity controls.
Which is where the issue of regulation comes in. The cable and phone companies believe that since it’s through their physical infrastructure that the culture flows, that they should be able to control how it flows. They want the right to shape the flow of culture to best fit their ideal architecture of revenue. You can see, then, how if they had it their way, the internet would come to look much more like an on-demand broadcast service than the vibrant two-way medium we have today: simply because it’s easier to make money from read-only than from read/write—from broadcast than from public access.
SEE ALSO my post: An architecture of freedom.
Apple using DMCA to censor?
Apple Computer appears to have invoked the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to stop the dissemination of methods allowing Mac OS X to run on chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
The chatter at the OSx86 Project was stifled Friday after the forum was served with a notice under the DMCA, according to a posting on the site.
“We’re sorry to report that despite our best efforts, the OSx86 Project has been served with a DMCA violation notice. The forum will be unavailable while we evaluate its contents to remove any violations present. We thank you for your patience in this matter,” the posting read.
Dan Gillmor: “The company has a long history of challenging speech. This looks like yet another unsavory example.”
Endgadget: “Doubtful this move will do much more than create a temporary delay in efforts as either the forum or hacking community en masse find respite beyond the gnarled fingers of the DMCA’s reach.”
UPDATE: They’re back, “Apple doesn’t “have it in” for our site; they were simply concerned with a few links posted by our members. Those links have been removed and we’re back.”
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Google DRM: not so kind and gentle after all
Today Cory Doctorow voices a starkly different view in a long post that asks, why is Hollywood more important than Google’s users? A brief snippet:
Google’s DRM has the potential to drastically re-shape the contours of copyright law, turning a few entertainment companies’ wishful thinking about the way that copyright would work if they were running the show into de facto laws.
Some examples of user-rights that Google Video DRM takes away:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Under US copyright law, once you buy a video, you acquire a number of rights to it, including the right to re-sell it, loan it to a friend, donate it to your kid’s school and so on. But with Google Video DRM, none of this is possible: your video is locked to your account and player.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Educators, archivists, academics, parodists and others have the right to excerpt, copy, archive and use any video in their work, under the US doctrine of fair use. However, Google’s DRM tool stops them from doing this, and Google’s video can’t be played on anyone else’s tool.
Your ongoing enjoyment of the property you buy from Google is dependent on their ongoing relationship with their suppliers. If you buy a Warner Brothers DVD from Tower Records, it doesn’t affect you in the least if Tower and Warners have an ugly dispute. You’ve bought it, it’s yours. But with Google DRM, auto-update means that it’s never really yours. Third parties always have the possibility of taking away the rights you bought, after you bought them.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
An email from “Trademark Coordinator” Kathleen Robbins of John Wiley & Sons to Jason McCabe Calacanis reads in part:
As you may know, Wiley has over 100 trademark applications and registrations in the United States and other countries for the FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® trademark, including the FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® black and yellow trade dress, and many Dummies formatives. The FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® mark appears not only in Wiley’s books and magazines, but also on trade and consumer advertising, catalogs, t-shirts, DVDs, points-of-sale displays, websites and other promotional and licensed materials distributed world wide. The FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® series has been in existence since 1991 and has enjoyed tremendous success.
Due to the significant efforts undertaken by Wiley to promote and protect its trademarks, and because of the potential for confusion or dilution regarding the FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® mark in the manner tvsquad.com has used Wiley’s trademark, Wiley requests that tvsquad.com and all other blogs in the Weblogs, Inc. network include the following attribution language at the end of any postings that may refer to the FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® brand, and that you provide Wiley with written assurance of the same.
Attribution Language: FOR DUMMIESÃ‚Â® is a registered trademark of Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Jason asks, incredulously, “you’re kidding right?” Kathleen clarifies that bloggers are free to use the phrase so long as we include the attribution language in the post. Says Jason:
Now, there is a long standing tradition of publications using slogans and trademarks in headlines (think of all the “Empire Stikes Back” headlines about Microsoft in tech magazines). That is *not* a trademark violation and it does *not* require trademark attribution--it’s a news headline. You are allowed to use a slogan or trademark from Coca-Cola or Pepsi in a headline as well. I hate these chilling effects bozos… get a clue dudes!
Marty @ The Trademark Blog says:
[T]he original letter resembles a demand letter in that it starts out with a recitation of legal rights, and asks for written assurance that Weblogs is complying with the request.
On these facts, Weblogs does not have to provide attribution. If you write a letter asking someone to do something they do not have to do, then you are asking them for a favor. When asking for a favor, If you do not use magic words such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘we respectfully request,’ then do not be surprised when your letter gets posted on a website.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
He has a deal with the cable company
I bet it’s a sweet deal.
Capitol Broadcasting President Jim Goodmon is as impressed as anyone with the Slingbox, the new TV-on-the-Web gadget from Sling Media. He hooked one up to his TV in Charlotte, N.C., so he can watch Capitol’s Charlotte stations when he is in Raleigh.
But he thinks that the much-hyped device (one of Time magazine’s “best inventions” of 2005) may be, well, illegal. “I can’t believe that hasn’t been stopped already,” Goodman says.
The device connects a TV or set-top box to a broadband- enabled computer, allowing one to watch-and control-a home TV remotely via the Internet.
Goodmon suspects the Slingbox violates program copyright laws-and maybe retransmission-consent agreements-by enabling out-of-market viewing of network and syndicated content.
“I have a deal with the cable system,” he says, “and they have retransmission consent for the cable system in this market. They don’t have it for everyplace else. They can’t do that; there’s no way that’s legal.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
Now you know that if it were made illegal, he’d still get to use his!
Via Om Malik:
The man has limited thinking powers - first of all he should be happy people want to watch “the content” from his channels, and that also includes advertisement from which he makes money. Secondly, it is as illegal as me taping a program, going across the country and watching the same show on my friend’s VCR. Anyway we should expect more of this mud-Slinging in coming days.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Kant on DRM
But would a society of pastors, perhaps a church assembly or venerable presbytery (as those among the Dutch call themselves), not be justified in binding itself by oath to a certain unalterable symbol in order to secure a constant guardianship over each of its members and through them over the people, and this for all time: I say that this is wholly impossible. Such a contract, whose intention is to preclude forever all further enlightenment of the human race, is absolutely null and void, even if it should be ratified by the supreme power, by parliaments, and by the most solemn peace treaties. One age cannot bind itself, and thus conspire, to place a succeeding one in a condition whereby it would be impossible for the later age to expand its knowledge (particularly where it is so very important), to rid itself of errors, and generally to increase its enlightenment. That would be a crime against human nature, whose essential destiny lies precisely in such progress; subsequent generations are thus completely justified in dismissing such agreements as unauthorized and criminal.
Via Ben Vershbow at if:Book, “Free thought isn’t possible, after all, when every thought is taxed...He’s talking about the church, but this can just as easily be applied to the information monopolists of our times and their new tool, DRM, which, in its insidious way, is a kind of contract (though one that is by definition non-negotiable since enforced by a machine).”
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Cory & StarForce
Property rights protect future profits?
In the 1890 article that launched privacy law in the U.S., Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis said:
The possibility of future profits is not a right of property which the law ordinarily recognizes. (in The Right To Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890)).
These authors were trying to persuade their readers of the existence of a general right in individuals to be let alone. They didn’t think this right to be let alone was a property right, because (in part) they didn’t believe that the concept of property was broad enough to cover privacy. For example, if true but private facts were published about a man, and that publication made his life difficult (or ruined him), Warren and Brandeis felt that property law wouldn’t necessarily protect him—because “the possibility of future profits is not a right of property which the law ordinarily recognizes.”
We now live in an era in which possessors of things they believe to be their “property” fervently believe that law protects their possibility of future profits.
Read on for her examples, Google Book Search and tiered Internet access. Yes, why is it our sympathies are with publishers and network builders and we fail to see a concomitant public right to reasonable and fair access to the fruits of our culture?
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Is it harassment to recruit “GLBT Friendly” gamers?
I think not.
In Newsweekly reports that the popular online multiplayer World of Warcraft game is apparently “using a policy meant to protect GLBT people as a way to discriminate against them.”
Sara Andrews received an e-mail from a game master citing her for “Harassment - Sexual Orientation.” Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game:
Gamer John Blatzheim, who heard of Andrews’ situation, e-mailed Blizzard to express his concern of a double standard that game masters would send her a warning that she could not use “GLBT” as an advertisement to express a safe place for gay gamers after an incident a few months ago where a plague occurred within the game and players yelled in general chat, “Don’t get the AIDS!”
“Many people are insulted just at the word ‘homosexual’ or any other word referring to sexual orientation,” Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. “Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided.”
Online games are incredibly, deeply moving social software that have hit on a perfect formula for getting players to devote themselves to play: make play into a set of social grooming negotiations. Big chunks of our brains are devoted to figuring out how to socialize with one another—it’s how our primate ancestors enabled the cooperation that turned them into evolutionary winners.
But real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.
In Newsweekly promises to follow-up. I’ll be following their follow-up.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Privacy worth worrying about
When I say that there are real issues to be dealt with but that we are not addressing them in the way we are reacting to the Google situation, and that the problem I have with the reaction to the Google situation is that is misses an important opportunity to address them, here is an example of precisely the kind of issues I’m talking about.
I heard that since the mass market content industries have such tremendous influence on policy, that a significant extension of existing copyright laws (in the United States, at least) is likely in the near future.
I heard one person go so far as to call this a “totalitarian” intellectual property regime—a police state for content.
I heard that one possible benefit of this extension would be a general improvement of internet content distribution, and possibly greater freedom for creators to independently sell their work since they would have greater control over the flow of digital copies and be less reliant on infrastructure that today only big companies can provide.
I heard that another possible benefit of such control would be price discrimination—i.e. a graduated pricing scale for content varying according to the means of individual consumers, which could result in fairer prices. Basically, a graduated cultural consumption tax imposed by media conglomerates
I heard, however, that such a system would be possible only through a substantial invasion of users’ privacy: tracking users’ consumption patterns in other markets (right down to their local grocery store), pinpointing of users’ geographical location and analysis of their socioeconomic status.
I heard that this degree of control could be achieved only through persistent surveillance of the flow of content through codes and controls embedded in files, software and hardware.
I heard that such a wholesale compromise on privacy is all but inevitable—is in fact already happening.
I am absolutely, totally, 100% confident that these changes are coming and that, yes, they have an impact on privacy and that this is where the public needs to be engaged so that it can have some impact on shaping how this comes about.
I believe we have a real, if admittedly slight, chance to carve out some public benefits rather than merely market benefits.
The Google brouhaha is an opportunity for that engagement and that discussion. It has been squandered on affirming preconceptions rather than moving the discussion forward and that is a disservice to all of us that upsets me greatly.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
The Broadcast Flag. Again.
Cory Doctorow, ”this time it covers iPods and PSPs, too:”
The Senate has introduced the “Digital Content Protection Act of 2006,” a bill that will create “Broadcast Flags” for all digital radio and television, leading to FCC oversight of all new digital media technologies from iPods and PSPs to TVs and DVD recorders.
Under the DCPA proposal, digital media technologies would be restricted to using technologies that had been certified by the FCC as being not unduly disruptive to entertainment industry business-models. [...]
Hollywood’s crybaby capitalists accuse us of being “communists” with one breath, and in the next, they go begging to Congress to turn the FCC into device czars who keep the market from being disrupted by innovation.
Andy Setos, the Fox executive who invented the Broadcast Flag, once told me that his objective was “a well-mannered marketplace.” The entertainment industry’s version of a planned economy is bad policy.
Send a strong signal to your lawmaker: if you break my TV, radio, and computer, I will campaign tirelessly for anyone who will promise to throw you out of office and undo your deeds.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Copyright as incentive
Copyright is about creating incentives. Incentives are prospective. No matter what even the US Congress does, it will not give Elvis any more incentive to create in 1954. So whatever the length of copyright should be prospectively, we know it can make no sense of incentives to extend the term for work that is already created.
Now I’ve been reading Larry lessig for many years, and I understand that copyright was set up to create incentives.
But I don’t know that the public believes that. I think most are more in line with my friend’s belief that copyright exists “to protect the copyright holder’s property.”