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Legal news stories and other items of interest

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:39 pm
by ProgRocker
I will use this thread to post news stories from the legal world that affect file-sharing, and other related topics. Feel free to add stuff that you find.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:46 pm
by ProgRocker
Norwegian Supreme Court upholds damage award against file-sharing student.

The high court ruled that the student, who had set up the site (no connection with must pay the court-ordered compensation. The site had been a school project for the student, offering links to .mp3 files.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:52 pm
by ProgRocker
RIAA sues another batch of file-sharers.

This latest round of filings names 717 new defendants, as the campaign to alienate music consumers continues. The group includes 68 users at universities. Sadly, these news stories of new lawsuits are becoming routine.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:16 am
by Rat
Did you ever get that feeling of deja vu?
This is a thread I enjoyed over at Fielbreech and I'm looking forward to reading developments here.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 2:57 pm
by ProgRocker
Yes, Rat, deja vu all over again 8) It's good to be back on a forum where I can discuss these issues.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:25 pm
by ProgRocker
German IT site barred from linking to CD-burning software site.
A German court has issued a writ, ordering IT site Heise Online to remove links pointing to, sellers of CD and DVD burning software. The court cited German copyright law which prohibits anyone from promoting anything that circumvents copy protection (DRM). The court also alleges Heise has posted instructions for side-stepping anticopying technology.

Could something like this happen in the U.S.? Maybe, though I doubt the mere posting of links to a s/w vendor would give rise to a legal action. Posting anticircumvention instructions may, however. In the U.S., it is unlawful for anyone to circumvent any copyright protection measure (Section 1201). This is part of the DMCA. Section 1201 also prohibits the manufacture, importation, or offer of such anti-circumvention technologies.

However, U.S. law does not go so far as to ban all discussion of it. In fact, there is a clause in 1201 (para.(c)(4)) specifically stating that free speech and the rights of the press shall not be "enlarged or diminished...for activities using consumer electronics, telecommunications, or computing products." But blurring the picture is the long-held view by U.S. courts that First Amendment free speech rights are not an adequate defense to copyright infringement. Thus, it seems, we have a conflict.

That said, there have been U.S. cases where certain writings have been suppressed. Scientific research has been muzzled due to fears of copyright infringement. In Felton v. RIAA, a Princeton University researcher found holes in SDMI, a DRM technology, and planned to give a presentation on his findings. The RIAA swifly threatened to sue. Felton backed down, but sued to obtain an injunction in his favor. The court dismissed Felton's suit. The RIAA later backpeddled its position, saying that it had not intended to squelch academic research. But the damage was done. The case created a chilling effect throughout academia. Eventually, Felton was able to give his presentation.

And let's not forget the Sklyarov case, the Russian programmer arrested on federal charges for providing means for cracking Adobe ebooks. After a massive public outcry, Adobe dropped support for the prosecution, though the U.S. Attorney's Office claimed it could still build a case. Sklyarov was allowed to return to Russia.

So the answer to the question "Can it happen in the U.S.?" is "who knows?" There certainly have been precedents, but no one can be sure if a similar action would prevail. In any case, the public outcry would be huge. Still, court cases are not decided on public opinion. The Felton and Slyarov cases fell apart because the litigating parties backed off, not because their cases necessarily lacked merit. Unfortunately, this leaves a vast uncertainty when free speech collides with copyright law.


PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 3:24 pm
by ProgRocker
Free legal advice for open-source developers.
A new law center will offer pro bono legal advice for non-profit open-source organizations. The Software Freedom Law Center, operated by a Columbia University law professor, will employ 2 additional full-time IP attorneys to provide consulting services. The professor has represented the Free Software Foundation in legal cases.

The center's services may include training lawyers, supporting litigation, dealing with licensing problems and other issues. Although legal problems in the open-source community have been few so far (the SCO litigation being one of the more prominent examples), open-source can expect to face more legal challenges in the future, as its technology bumps up against proprietary systems. A particularly risky legal area is the compatibility design and integration of open-source s/w with proprietary s/w (read: Windows), as this tends to get the Redmondians in a hostile mood. Microsoft has been known to rattle its sabres at open-source from time to time.

An announcement on the center is expected sometime today. More help for the underdog is always a good thing.


PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 3:38 pm
by ProgRocker
Macrovision & Microsoft team up to prevent you from recording TV shows.
The two companies have agreed to develop a new layer of anticopying technology that would make it more difficult for users to copy broadcast content. This DRM scheme aims to prevent users from dubbing TV shows using Windows-based PCs. DRM schemes preventing digital copying are already in place. The new technology would attempt to prevent copying via analog connection, such as between a set-top box and a PC.

MS has stated that the new technology will be present in future versions of its media software, including Longhorn. In addition, TiVo has expressed an interest in this new technology.


PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 4:04 pm
by ProgRocker
Congressional committee proposes tax on all online services.
The Joint Committee on Taxation is proposing that the existing 3% telecommunications tax be extended to cover all online data services. The committee has only proposed the tax as a possibility, and has not taken a position on it. So far, no bills have been drafted. But what's interesting is the committee's creativity in finding new ways to dig into our wallets. They suggest extending an archaic tax originally used to pay for the Spanish-American War, a quaint little conflict the U.S. had back in 1898. This "Spanish American War tax" is the basis of the current 3% telecommunications levy.

We'll have to watch and see which members of Congress start taking an interest in this proposal.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:18 pm
by ProgRocker
Senate passes movie theater anti-taping bill.
The bill, which was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate, provides penalties of up to 3 years in prison for anyone making wobbly, fuzzy camcorder video copies of motion pictures inside theaters. The MPAA, deeply concerned with the financial impact of the wobbly, fuzzy camcorder copies of films, applauds the measure. Personally, I fail to see the attraction of these low-quality copies, even if they are pre-release, but apparently the Movie Cartel is quite alarmed about it. Alarmed enough to lobby Congress for their very own bill.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:28 pm
by ProgRocker
French teacher fined for sharing music online.
In what has become France's first major file-sharing case, a schoolteacher was fined 10,200 euros in the criminal action. The court ordered the defendant teacher to pay the fine to various copyright-holders. The defendant's PC was also confiscated and he was ordered to post ads in 2 newspapers publicizing the verdict. Apparently, the fine wasn't enough punishment - the court demanded humility as well. The defendant had been caught sharing some 30GB of music files online.


PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:58 pm
by ProgRocker
Where are we going in the copyright wars?
An interesting op-ed piece on CNET discusses how government, by way of the DMCA, has dramatically changed the way copyright enforcement has impacted the advancement of technology. No doubt, as we have watched this impact occur repeatedly over the past couple years.

This is an important bit of history to keep in mind as we watch the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court review of the MGM v. Grokster case next month. A loss for Grokster may mean that any technology tool that can be used for infringing purposes would be viewed itself as infringing. It will be a bad precedent indeed.

If the Supreme Court reverses the appellate court's decision (thus ruling against Grokster), it will also have reversed its own ruling in the 1984 case of Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, Inc. (the so-called "Betamax" case). In the Betamax case, the Supreme Court ruled that a technology that is used for infringing use is not considered an infringing technology, so long as it is also "capable of substantial noninfringing use." The VCRs at issue were used by many to copy movies (infringing), but also used by many to tape TV shows for later viewing (noninfringing "time shifting"). Thus, the VCR was not considered an infringing device.


PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 10:44 am
by battye
I like this topic, it is very informative and I can see it growing quite large over time :D


PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 3:35 pm
by ProgRocker
French musicians speak out against recored industry legal actions.
In a clear case of "strange bedfellows," French musicians, politicians, and intellectuals have stepped forward to criticize what they view as a "repressive" crackdown on file-sharing. This alliance between recording artists and the public may be the first of its kind.

I find it interesting because The Music Cartel has long pimped the idea that file-sharing hurts musicians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Recording artists are rarely compensated based on record sales. Musicians typically agree to a fixed contract for recording a CD. Most artists break even at best, and some even end up owing money to the record companies for recording services, etc. Artists tend to make their money through concert performances, merchandising, and songwriter royalties (if they compose their music).

There are artists on both sides of the issue. We've all heard from the RIAA stooges, like Metallica and Dr. Dre, who have tried to convince us file-sharing hurts their bottom line. And maybe they're one of the few acts with a contract granting royalties from record sales, though I doubt it. Many artists have spoken out or even acted in favor of the P2P side, including some big names, like David Bowie, Phish, and Prince.

It's one thing for artists to speak out in favor of P2P. It's even nicer to see some actually come out and criticize the idiotic policies of The Music Cartel.


PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 1:14 am
by ProgRocker
RIAA sues dead woman.
As if suing 12 year-olds wasn't enough for The Music Cartel, the RIAA has dropped to new lows by filing suit against a defendant who turns out to have been dead since December. In fact, the 83 year-old decedent was known to hate computers, and didn't have one in her home.

The RIAA, now required to file so-called "John Doe" suits, under the premise of determining the defendant's true identity later, probably didn't have a clue who the real person was on the recieving end of that summons. In fact, the RIAA probably doesn't have a clue, period.