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Postby ProgRocker » Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:55 am

Russian cops say "nyet!" to .mp3 download site.
AllofMP3.com, a Russian site that has been offering .mp3 downloads for 2 cents per megabye, is now being targeted in a criminal copyright investigation by the Moscow city computer crimes division. The site has maintained that it had obtained proper licensing agreements with the record industry, but the industry claims that no such licensing was granted.

Russia has long been relatively lax in enforcing copyright laws, but this move appears to signal a change in that policy. No idea what legal consequences await the operators of AllofMP3.com, though I have visions of them spending some years chopping ice blocks at a gulag in Siberia. The Music Cartel will be pleased.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:49 pm

Steal this file-sharing book.
Wallace Wang, author of the popular Steal This Computer Book series, has published a new one, Steal This File-Sharing Book. This book should scare the hell out of the coke-snorting execs in The Entertainment Cartel.

Though I haven't yet read the book, the The Register's review points out that the book doesn't focus much on the ethical/legal view of file-sharing. Instead, The Reg describes Wang's book as more of a how-to manual for P2P file-sharing, with lots of tips and tricks. Much of the first half is basic newbie info, but the second half concentrates on subjects such as masking your identity online.

Although we all have a solid knowledge base in P2P, this book might be worth getting.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Thu Feb 24, 2005 3:56 pm

Claria exec named to federal privacy board.
Just when you think you've heard the most ridiculous idea, along comes another one to raise the bar on stupidity. Now, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has, in its infinite wisdom, chosen to appoint an executive of Claria ( the notorious purveyor of popup adware, formerly d/b/a Gator) to its federal privacy board. You heard me right: "privacy" board. The government has tapped the advice of one Reed Freeman, company V.P. of Claria/Gator.

Sort of like hiring ex-hackers to advise organizations on their security issues. Except that those ex-hackers are indeed "ex" - they have usually served their punishment for their misdeeds and are turning over a new leaf by directing their talents to more constructive and profitable use. In the case of Claria/Gator, we have an entity that today still covertly installs its nuisance-ware onto users' PCs and pops up competing ads when the users visit certain websites. And our government is asking them to help it ensure privacy of citizens?

The article doesn't state whether Freeman will retain his position at Claria/Gator, though I suspect the guy will get to keep his day job. Which leads me to suspect a possible conflict of interest. Granted, Freeman previously held a position on the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection Bureau - the man has agency experience. But today's appointment still begs the question: where will Freeman's loyalties be? Would you hire a cat-burglar to guard the Crown Jewels? I think not. Is this the kind of company a "privacy board" should keep? Certainly Homeland Security can do better.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:41 pm

RIAA appeals Charter Communications ruling.
The RIAA has appealed a ruling by a 3-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, asking for review by the full appellate court. The panel's ruling held that the RIAA cannot force ISPs to hand over customer information under the subpoena provision of the controversial DMCA, and that Charter was merely acting as a "conduit" for the allegedly infringing online activity. The 8th Circuit panel's decision mirrors a ruling handed down by an appeals court in Washington, D.C., in December 2003. The two appellate court rulings have, in effect, invalidated the DMCA subpoena provision, making it more costly and time-consuming for the RIAA and other copyright owners to pursue file-sharers.

These decisions haven't stopped the RIAA from continuing its legal jihad against file-sharers. The RIAA is now forced to file so-called "John Doe" lawsuits against unnamed defendants (by naming the IP address on the complaint) and discovering the identities later during pre-trial litigation.

The two appellate courts have merely stated that the RIAA must endure the same due process litigation requirements as anyone else. The DMCA subpoena provision was a short-circuit of that due process, and the courts were proper in invalidating it.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Fri Feb 25, 2005 9:58 pm

Lokitorrent: "thank you for your donations...we'll be going now."
If you were one of the people who contributed money to Lokitorrent's legal defense fund, hoping that your kind donation helped them fight their battle against the big Entertainment Cartel, you're in for a disappointment.

It turns out that Lokitorrent rolled over and agreed to a $1 million out-of-court settlement with the MPAA, and used that $40,000 in donation money to help pay it.

It's one thing to accept a deal in lieu of a losing proposition. Taking the deal was probably wise, as a trial would have been devastating to Loki. Loki's chances were slim at best. It's something else to have accepted defense money under the pretext of fighting a righteous battle to the end. Lokitorrent gladly took the money from its loyal supporters and then submitted to the MPAA with a whimper. If you donated money to Loki, you just paid to have your information handed to the MPAA.

If you want to contribute to something based on principles, you'll get a far better bang for the buck by donating to the EFF.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Sun Feb 27, 2005 1:42 am

Debate over the Grokster case.

This past Friday I had the unique opportunity to watch a lively debate at a luncheon seminar for attorneys. Two area copyright law professors debated the merits of each side in the upcoming MGM Studios v. Grokser case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court March 29.

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the makers of Grokster were sued by MGM for vicarious and contributory infringement, with MGM claiming that Grokster's P2P software contributes to infringement by its users. After losing at trial, MGM appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles. The 9th Circuit affirmed the trial court decision, ruling that Grokster was not liable for its users' infringing activity. The 9th Circuit did not state that the sharing of copyrighted files is legal, just that P2P software companies are not liable for users' activity that is out of their control.

Now the case will be heard next month by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it's anybody's guess as to which way the nation's highest court will go. This is an important case. At stakes here is the future of many forms of technology, which could be deemed illegal if used by infringers. For over 20 years, the law of the land has been that any technology that is "capable of substantial, non-infringing use," it is legal, even if the technology can and is being used for infringing uses. This is a result of the so-called "Betamax" case of 1984, where Sony Corp. was sued by Universal Studios because Sony's VCRs were being used by many people to copy TV shows and movies. Sony prevailed in the case, and the film industry later made billions from the technology they once feared.

In Friday's debate, each side brought up interesting, if not predictable arguments. The professor "representing" MGM argued that Grokster had designed its decentralized P2P system specifically to allow its users to avoid detection, thus Grokster materially participated in contributing to infringement. This argument is dubious, as there are many compelling legitimate reasons why a decentralized P2P network would be superior. More efficient use of bandwidth and the system's innate ability to shift traffic on the fly are but a few reasons why decentralization is better than relying on a central server.

MGM also argued that shifting from a centralized architecture (like the old Napster) to the decentralized one used by Grokster offers no commercial advantage (in an attempt to further support the idea that a decentralized system is aimed only at infringing uses). However, I find this a weak, if not erroneous, argument, as the marketplace is normally what decides whether or not an architecture or system is commercially viable, not the blanket assertions of an interested party seeking to downplay the usefulness of the technology.

Finally, MGM argued that the judicial system, and not Congress, was the proper avenue for resolving this problem. It was argued that Congress is a "blunt and ineffective tool" for addressing this type of issue and that the courts should decide it. However, the entertainment industry has been quite opportunistic in its use of both branches of government to solve its problems. Congress has considered a number of measures that would provide relief to the music and film industries, most notably the Induce Act, which failed to pass in last year's Congressional session but may be revived this year, and the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act (PDEA), which was passed by the House and awaits a decision by the Senate.

The professor on the Grokster side maintained that the legacy of the Betamax case should be left intact, that P2P systems like Grokster are capable of substantial non-infringing use. Even if 90% of Grokster traffic involves infringing activity, the 10% that is not infringing is still considered "substantial." In addition, it was argued that some forms of file-sharing may be protected by section 1008 of the copyright code, a 12 year-old provision that the entertainment industry hopes would just go away.

It was noted by the Grokster side that the current case is one in which the entertainment industry is asking the Supreme Court to decide the merits of one kind of technology over that of another. Throughout history, it has been shown repeatedly that new technology is always profoundly destabilizing to existing industry. In fact, new technology tends to scare the hell out of the content owners. Over the past 100 years, technologies as diverse as player piano rolls, radio, television, tape recorders, digital recorders, and now Internet distribution, have all put fear into the hearts of media moguls everywhere.

The entertainment industry is asking the courts to apply a "balancing test" between the volume of infringing activity versus the volume of non-infringing activity, in hopes it will tip the scales in their favor. But the Betamax case clearly rejected that balancing test, stating that it's not a factor of balance, but rather a factor of "substantial non-infringing use." Only about 10% is all that is necessary for it to be "substantial." In fact the Betamax court didn't even require that the non-infringing use be presently occurring, merely that the technology be capable of some non-infringing use. In 1984, some people were using their VCRs to record TV programs for later viewing (so-called "time-shifting"), an activity that was upheld as non-infringing by the 1984 court. The fact that many more people were using the machines for other, infringing uses was immaterial. The court deemed the machines as non-infringing devices. The bottom line here, as it was 20 years ago, is that established industries should not be allowed to control future technologies.

Finally, the Grokster side argued that in order for the record industry to obtain relief by the courts, it must clearly show that it has suffered damages. The RIAA has long claimed that P2P file-sharing has significantly cut into their sales. But the truth is, in the first quarter of 2004 when P2P use had been steadily climbing, the RIAA had enjoyed a 10% increase in U.S. CD sales, with a 2.3% increase overall for 2004. There are many factors that could have contributed to the slump in sales: slow economy, consumers having less disposable income, lack of new creative music, increasing CD prices, etc. In recent years there have been many other things competing for consumers' money, such as games, DVDs, electronic devices, software, etc. People are spending their hard-earned cash on other things besides CDs.


This case, while not directly addressing the issue of individual file-sharers, is nonetheless an important one. A reversal by the Supreme Court could place a chilling effect on developers of new software and hardware devices and systems. Engineers will be uncertain about whether their new creations will be used for infringing uses, and what liability falls on them. No one seems to have an idea which way the court will go on this. We'll have to wait and see.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:12 am

RIAA: "Math is hard."
As long as I'm railing on The Music Cartel's quirky inability to accurately account for their so-called "losses," I might as well point you all to a cool new blog dedicated to finding some balance, somewhere, in our intellectual property system. It's IPac, and they have some current discussion on the fallacies the RIAA's allegations that P2P has somehow pinched their pocketbooks. Have a look.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby quicksilver » Sun Feb 27, 2005 8:18 am

Hmm thats my sort of reading, cheers Progman 8)
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Postby Red XIII » Sun Feb 27, 2005 10:24 am

Again proving how stupid the RIAA is :lol:
Die Verstorbenen werden wieder in einem Fluss des Bluts steigen
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Postby ProgRocker » Tue Mar 01, 2005 12:43 am

Point/counterpoint: Does the information want to be free?
A Financial Times op-ed article by 2 contributors kicks around the idea that "public information 'wants' to be free."

In the first article, James Boyle points out the the U.S. and Europe are much different about their protection of climatological data. European nations tend to charge much more for public access to this weather data, while the U.S. practically gives it away. The result: in the latter case, lives are saved and economic damage is minimized by allowing freer access to this data.

I am not pointing this out as part of some U.S. vs. Europe diatribe. However, I think the distinctions here are important in demonstrating that society benefits by more public access to data, not less. In the opposing column, Professor Epstein noted that government-generated data costs taxpayer money. Nevertheless, the expenditure of public research money in this area has reaped huge returns for the private sector. If the public money is being spent to develop the data, why not make it accessible?

So where am I going with this, you might ask? How does this fit in with the concerns of us, the CricketMX community? It's not as if this particular issue has anything to do directly with file-sharing - in fact the issue is about public-funded weather research data. While this should not be taken as an analogy to file-sharing of copyrighted material, there is some merit in the argument that less-restricted access to content in general, may, in the long run, create more opportunity and a greater return on investment for the content owners. I'm not talking the "Internet anarchist" view where the gates should be busted wide open. What I am talking about is allowing the consumers to have a little free taste of the material, and not punishing them for doing it. Do this and the consumers become more receptive to buying it. Like the old saying: you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Tue Mar 01, 2005 4:43 pm

Paid music download prices may rise.
The Music Cartel, pleased that its paid music download sales have been growing, is so happy, it may celebrate by hiking the wholesale price of songs. The current wholesale price, what the record companies charge online distributors, is about $0.65 per track. The Music Cartel claims this initial price was set "low" to stimulate demand. They believe the price needs to be bumped up now that demand has increased. Any increase in the wholesale cost will likely be passed on to the consumers.

While this is a normal effect of supply and demand, one has to question the overall pricing scheme. First, with a retail price of about a dollar a track, a typical downloaded album would cost roughly the same as it would on a CD. But with the downloading, The Music Cartel enjoys the windfall benefits of avoiding costs of CD manufacturing, merchandising, shipping, advertising, cover art, jewel cases, etc. Yet the price to the consumers is still the same, which is already too high. And expected to rise. Second, the market for paid music downloading, while rising, is still very much in its infancy. A price increase might stifle this growth and drive many people back to P2P downloading. This will lead to the predictable and circular argument by the RIAA: that P2P would be the culprit for any drop in paid download sales. Third, The Music Cartel has had price-fixing problems in the past - they recently settled a class action lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of 43 states for price-fixing of CDs that occurred in the '90s. They could be well on their way to another one.

The Music Cartel is already suffering from an image problem due to its legal jihad against consumers, not to mention all the other questionable things they've done in the past. They're going to shoot themselves in the foot (again). Will they ever learn? I wouldn't bet the price of an iTune on it.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Tue Mar 01, 2005 7:22 pm

Musicians speak out in favor of Grokster.
Not all major recording artists march in lockstep with the RIAA's attack on P2P. A group of musicians, including Steve Winwood, Heart, and Chuck D, are adding their support for Grokster in an amicus (friend of the court) brief to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Later this month, the Supreme Court will review whether Grokster is contributorily liable of copyright infringement by Grokster users.

Meanwhile, you would not believe some of the strange bedfellows the Grokster case has drawn in. Now the Christian Coalition (traditionally an outspoken critic of the entertainment industry) has joined the fray by supporting MGM's crusade to stamp out P2P technology. The CC maintains that P2P networks are rife with child pornography, thereby attempting to pin additional culpability on Grokster. To quote a reader's response to the blog article:
Is it a coincidence that the copyright industry (which usually celebrates the First Amendment) seeks to get in bed with censors?

No coincidence at all. For The Entertainment Cartel, any means to an end will do.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:17 pm

The next generation of downloading.
A Washington Post article discusses the paid download services and the challenges faced by the Music Cartel. (Article requires free registration - use BugMeNot to side-step the reg. process.)

The trouble with implementing those objectives and making them palatable to the consumers is the dizzying array of formats and incompatibilities that exist between the different paid-download systems. Add to that all the various DRM technologies, and you end up with a hodge-podge of songs that play on one platform but may not play on another. That's not what the people bargained for. And until The Music Cartel comes to the full realization that consumers expect their media to be as accessible and interchangeable as CDs were, the paid music systems will never be embraced by more than a niche part of the overall consumer market.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby ProgRocker » Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:31 pm

RIAA sues another 753 alleged file-sharers.
The Music Cartel has filed lawsuits against another batch of alleged file-sharers, including defendants on networks at 11 colleges and universities. Sadly, these news stories are becoming routine. This latest batch of defendants brings the RIAA jihad body count up to around 6500.

Cheers.
"Remember, on the Internet, your ISP knows you're a dog, and your adversary is only a subpoena away from compromising your constitutionally protected right to bark anonymously." Fred von Lohmann, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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Postby Rat » Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:55 am

Europe investigates iTunes prices
Apple Computers is under investigation by the European Commission for charging UK iTunes customers more than users in France or Germany.
A Commission spokesman confirmed it had made an "informal request" to Apple to gather information.
Consumers' group Which? complained when it found that UK iTunes users paid 20% more and were barred from the French and German sites.

This is another good reason not to believe in the ideas of the music cartel.
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