Donna Wentworth
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile)

Ernest Miller
( Archive | Home )

Elizabeth Rader
( Archive | Home )

Jason Schultz
( Archive | Home )

Wendy Seltzer
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile )

Aaron Swartz
( Archive | Home )

Alan Wexelblat
( Archive | Home )

About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

a Typical Joe
Academic Copyright
Jack Balkin
John Perry Barlow
Blogbook IP
David Bollier
James Boyle
Robert Boynton
Brad Ideas
Ren Bucholz
Cabalamat: Digital Rights
Cinema Minima
Consensus @ Lawyerpoint
Copyfighter's Musings
Copyright Readings
CopyrightWatch Canada
Susan Crawford
Walt Crawford
Creative Commons
Cruelty to Analog
Culture Cat
Deep Links
Derivative Work
Julian Dibbell
Digital Copyright Canada
Displacement of Concepts
Downhill Battle
Exploded Library
Bret Fausett
Edward Felten - Freedom to Tinker
Edward Felten - Dashlog
Frank Field
Seth Finkelstein
Brian Flemming
Frankston, Reed
Free Culture
Free Range Librarian
Michael Froomkin
Michael Geist
Michael Geist's BNA News
Dan Gillmor
Mike Godwin
Joe Gratz
James Grimmelmann
Groklaw News
Matt Haughey
Erik J. Heels
Induce Act blog
Inter Alia
IP & Social Justice
IPac blog
Joi Ito
Jon Johansen
JD Lasica
Legal Theory Blog
Lenz Blog
Larry Lessig
Jessica Litman
James Love
Alex Macgillivray
Madisonian Theory
Maison Bisson
Kevin Marks
Tim Marman
Matt Rolls a Hoover
Mary Minow
Declan McCullagh
Eben Moglen
Dan Moniz
Danny O'Brien
Open Access
Open Codex
John Palfrey
Chris Palmer
Promote the Progress
PK News
PVR Blog
Eric Raymond
Joseph Reagle
Recording Industry vs. the People
Lisa Rein
Thomas Roessler
Seth Schoen
Doc Searls
Seb's Open Research
Shifted Librarian
Doug Simpson
Stay Free! Daily
Sarah Stirland
Swarthmore Coalition
Tech Law Advisor
Technology Liberation Front
Siva Vaidhyanathan
Vertical Hold
Kim Weatherall
David Weinberger
Matthew Yglesias

Timothy Armstrong
Bag and Baggage
Charles Bailey
Beltway Blogroll
Between Lawyers
Blawg Channel
Chief Blogging Officer
Drew Clark
Chris Cohen
Crooked Timber
Daily Whirl
Dead Parrots Society
Delaware Law Office
J. Bradford DeLong
Betsy Devine
Ben Edelman
Ernie the Attorney
How Appealing
Industry Standard
IP Democracy
IP Watch
Dennis Kennedy
Rick Klau
Wendy Koslow
Elizabeth L. Lawley
Jerry Lawson
Legal Reader
Likelihood of Confusion
Chris Locke
Derek Lowe
MIT Tech Review
Paper Chase
Frank Paynter
Scott Rosenberg
Scrivener's Error
Jeneane Sessum
Silent Lucidity
Smart Mobs
Trademark Blog
Eugene Volokh
Kevin Werbach

Berkman @ Harvard
Chilling Effects
CIS @ Stanford
Copyright Reform
Creative Commons
Global Internet Proj.
Info Commons
IP Justice
ISP @ Yale
NY for Fair Use
Open Content
Public Knowledge
Shidler Center @ UW
Tech Center @ GMU
U. Maine Tech Law Center
US Copyright Office
US Dept. of Justice
US Patent Office


Monthly Archives

May 31, 2006

Negativland on the US West Coast June 10/12

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

A pointer from friend docbug says that IP-rights-fighting appropriated-sound artists Negativland will be performing live in San Francisco on June 10th and in LA on June 12th. More info at and

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

May 26, 2006

May 25, 2006

What is the Future of the Book?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

A friend pointed me to The Institute for the Future of the Book because he's currently participating in the discussion around the creation of GAM3R 7H30RY by McKenzie Wark. I've just begun to explore both the site and the book project, and I'm obviously coming late to the process.

It appears to be an ongoing publication by Wark of his book, which happens to be on the subject of computer games and their potential for use as allegories to things in society. Unlike other versions of "publish online" that I've seen, this is much closer to "publish the manuscript online" and solicit readership, feedback, and commentary.

Writers, particularly new ones, are often encouraged and bouyed up by physical writer's groups, in which people co-critique works in progress. Some writing workshops/groups also include lectures from established authors and related well-known people in publishing. In SF/Fantasy, the Clarion SF&F Writers' Workshop is well known and has graduated a number of folk who have gone on to great success.

So, can this model work online? I'm dubious. One of the things that makes a good writers' group, and that makes Clarion the success it has been, is a rigorous screening process. You get into these things not just by having good intentions or a lot to say but by having valuable experience and insights to contribute. It's unclear to me how one filters the mass audience of the Web into something resembling useful wisdom.

On the other hand, perhaps a workshop is the wrong model. Maybe this is more like the writing of a massive wikipedia entry on games and game theory. One person writes most of it, but the audence participates in the edit and refinement process? It seems like that model might produce something more useful.

Anyway, check it out.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

May 22, 2006

MLB vs Fantasy Baseball

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

North American monopoly organization Major League Baseball (MLB) has kept tight reign on its franchise products. Team merchandise, broadcasting, and other data streams that surround the game are major money centers for the organization. Now MLB is trying to extend its control of the use of the statistics about baseball players and games.

In specific, MLB is suing CBC Distribution and Marketing, a company that operates an online fantasy baseball league. MLB is claiming a "right of publicity" and saying that if you want to use these statistics you have to pay a license fee. MLB is basing its defense on this claim in part because previous court rulings have held that raw statistics are part of the public domain, but that ballplayers do have marketable identities and that these images can be subject to copyright and license restriction, even when the "image" is only the name and statistics.

CBC is arguing that the data are public domain outputs of public figures - the players. CBC also draws a direct line between what it does and what a news organization does. Your hometown paper doesn't pay a fee to print the sports section, nor report the racing results. To require this, says CBC, would be to put all sorts of data-based reporting at risk. MLB contends that there is a difference between reporting - even commercial, for-profit news - and the mechanics of running a league, even a fantasy one. However, this could potentially put us on a slippery slope - for example, would makers of a game like Trivial Pursuit have to pay a license for its "Sports" category question, even though they might have "Science" category questions that were essentially similar.

Not to be missed in this story is the fact that MLB itself runs fantasy leagues and in recent years has taken steps to cut down its licensees, focusing on the bigger (and presumably more profitable) properties such as CBS and that CBC was among the smaller outlets cut out of the deal.

Also not to be missed is that about 10 years ago the shoe was on the other foot and MLB was arguing that its use of historical players' names and statistics in its own promotional videos was protected by the First Amendment.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

May 20, 2006

Dilbert Has Patent Troubles

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

It's like Paul Graham said - Dilbert got money, Dilbert got patent problems:

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Humor

May 19, 2006

Music Genome Project Opens Pandora's Box

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Somehow I missed the existence of the Music Genome Project. This brainchild of Tim Westergren, a composer and graduate of Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. The infrastructure for the Pandora project was built by Westergren's dot-com company, Savage Beast.

As its name suggests, the Music Genome Project is an attempt to catalog hundreds of attributes of music. The technical infrastructure is there to support the human work of this cataloging - no software exists that can do this work because we don't know how to teach computers to analyze music to the depth that we can teach them to analyze, say, text. And now there is Pandora, a way to collect people's notions of their favorite music and, using the musical genome, recommend new things to them. The process is automated - you start with an artist and the system plays something (usually by that artist). You give it a thumbs-up/down response and things go from there. You can guide it at any point, giving more artists to add to the mix, asking for explanations of why something is playing, etc.

Past attempts at this sort of thing have tried to use social navigation techniques (most familiarly seen these days in places like Amazon where you get told "people who liked this also liked..."). These techniques deliberately attempt to distance themselves from the qualities of the items that are linked. If you get two country-and-western artists, it's not because the system itself knows anything about C&W - it's beceause the humans using the system know about it. Pandora takes just the opposite approach. If it works at all, it works because humans (mostly composers and musicians) have painstakingly recorded a tremendous amount of knowledge about what makes music be music.

I can see I'm going to lose a lot of hours to this thing. Oh, and did I mention it's shareable? You create a station and share it. They have licenses to stream music inside the US, and depend on you entering a valid US zip code (which might be secretly correlated with your IP address for all I know). The free version is ad-supported, or you can pay money for a no-ads version.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

Musicians Join "Save the Internet" Movement

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The video is mostly Moby reading a prepared statement, but the message is clear: artists and musicians have come down on the side of "net neutrality." They've put their weight behind the fight that has been pushing - a neutral 'Net, free to carry all messages, equally - is the only way to continue the benefits we've enjoyed from the past fifteen years of Net expansion.

The Web page linked above has a simple form that you can use to get phone numbers for your Congresscritters. I suggest you use it. Some other links on this event:

Air America interview with Moby:
CNN blog tidbit:
AP story on Moby:

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture

May 16, 2006

FMC + Pop Montreal

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Kristin Thomson of the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) sent me a copy of their announcement for this fall's 6th Annual Policy Summit which will be held this coming October in Montreal in conjunction with the local Pop Montreal festival..

The FMC summit will be October 5-7 at McGill University's Schulich School of Music, Montreal, Canada. At this point there's not much information up, but we'll update you as the program (or is that 'programme'?) takes shape.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

May 15, 2006

SCOTUS to Patent Holders: No, No, and Also No

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Peter Kaplan has a Reuters story (here on the Washington Post) covering the Supreme Court decision in the eBay/MercExchange patent battle. As Kaplan paints it, the SCOTUS decision comes out rejecting a bunch of things decided by lower courts.

For one thing, MercExchange lost its injunction. The lower court now has to reconsider the injunction request, but on different grounds. For another thing, the Justices rejected a lower court's notion that there is a general right by patent holders to injunctions against infringers. Finally, they appear to have soundly rejected the US District Court's opinion that failure to use a patent (by manufacture or license) is grounds for losing the injunction right. I don't think that SCOTUS expressely addressed the notion of "patent trolls" but Kaplan points to a concurring opinion signed by four Justices that expresses sympathy with the concerns of companies - particularly in high tech - that feel they are being held hostage by patent holders who have no function other than to sue everyone in sight.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

May 11, 2006

IP Info for the Masses

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Nolo, the "law for everyone" people, have updated several of their how-to guides for non-lawyers dealing with the US intellectual property system. Updated information is available on:
- Getting a patent (possibly without a lawyer)
- How much copying is OK under "fair use" rules?

As well as some specifc advice for songwriters and for people with IP questions about photographs.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

What Does a Torrent Deal Amount To?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In some strange universe, it apparently amounts to... well, a clue. At least if the public statements of Kevin Tsujihara, resident of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, are to be believed.

The clue? If you offer the product people want in the form they want it, they're likely to buy it. Shocking, I know. But this is the Cartel we're talking about.

In this case, it appears that Warner Brothers have done a deal with BitTorrent (the company) to put out torrents of popular movies at roughly DVD prices, and torrents of TV shows that might be as low as a buck apiece. Here's what Tsujihara is quoted as stating:

"If we can convert 5, 10, 15 per cent of the peer-to-peer users that have been obtaining our product from illegitimate sources to becoming legitimate buyers of our product, that has the potential of a huge impact on our industry and our economics."

This is me sitting here, stunned. Yes, sir. Exactly. It's not about "smashing" "piracy." It's about luring away customers with a superior product. Trading existed before Napster burst onto the public consciousness and it still exists today. The difference is that today downloads of digital music make up a significant revenue stream. Next step - make that true for movies.

The devil is always in the details. As Blakely's story points out, previous download offers from the Cartel have, well, sucked when compared with the features available on DVDs. And please don't forget ease of use. If iTunes taught you anything, it should be that the customer experience trumps everything else. But maybe the Cartel is finally swinging around to a more compatible and less combative point of view.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

Apple Wins Another One... Against Apple

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

or, why you should never bet on the same horse as I do. I had pretty much given up Apple Computer's trademark suit as a lost cause. It seemed naively clear that Apple Corps Ltd. had the right when it came to use of the Apple name in the music arena. However, the Judge in the case was willing to accept Apple Computer's distinction between "Apple-the-music-store" and "Apple-the-music-sold-by-the-store" and so ruled in favor of the downloading empire.

It appears that Apple Corps will appeal, but for the moment the end result is "no change" for the music business.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations

May 5, 2006

BPL "Rents" Digital Videos

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Boston's Public Library (BPL) has expanded its "Digital Catalog" to include watchable videos of various sorts - though no Hollywood fare appears in the list. The underlying technology is the same OverDrive (Microsoft only) system that they have been using for audio books and digital music "rentals" so Mac and iPod users continue to be left out. At the moment, the major requirements are a PC computer with high speed connection and a BPL card. Cards are available to non-city residents.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

May 3, 2006

May 2, 2006

The Money Stops with Steve Jobs

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Looks like Jobs has once again managed to hold the line on prciing of downloadable singles at iTunes. In announcing renewal of deals with the big four Cartel producers there didn't seem to be a repetition of the harsh language we heard last fall as the companies jockied for position.

As I noted yesterday, the Cartel are starting to realize significant revenue from digital downloads; however, much (most?) of that revenue is not coming from the 99-cent tracks downloaded off iTunes. Instead it's coming from specialty downloads such as ringtones, for which consumers appear to be willing to pay a lot more money (often over USD 3) for much less music than they get with a downloaded track. Given those numbers, the Cartel reasons it ought to be able to squeeze more revenue out of popular song downloads.

What Jobs isn't currently saying out loud but obviously recognizes is that this would kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Variable pricing would introduce friction into the buying process. Right now I make one decision - do I want to buy that song. I don't have to think about price because it's always the same. If prices were variable, however, I'd have to make several decisions: do I want that song? Do I know how much it costs? Do I want it that much? Will the price go down if I wait a bit?

I make my living studying and building user experiences and I can tell you that thought processes like the latter are a much worse model. They lead to hesitation and missed sales opportunities. Sure, you'll squeeze a few more pennies out of the people who do buy, but you'll do so at the expense of constricting your market and increasing the sales cycle times. Not a good tradeoff. Jobs has it exactly right.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies

May 1, 2006

More Follow the Money

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Is the music business up, or down? Seems like a simple question, but the answer depends heavily on where you sit and what your vested interests are (shocking, I know).

For years now the RIAA has been banging the drum of declining CD sales. We're told it's all that illegal downloading by those naughty college students. And for years, annoying armchair quarterbacks like myself have been pointing out that if the consumer isn't buying your product maybe you should offer a different product. So, reluctantly, kicking and screaming and suing, the Cartel has finally been dragged into the download age. Blame Steve Jobs.

What does this mean for the numbers, though? Well, CD sales continue to fall. Nobody with two neurons to rub together should be surprised by this. Price pressure from discount retailers, decline of big chain music stores, competition from $10 DVDs all mean that the $18 CD is going the way of the dodo. But if we broaden the picture slightly, as Eric Bangeman did on Ars Technica, we find a different story to be told.

In a few short paragraphs, and using the RIAA's own data, Bangeman shows that the advent of mass consumer digital downloading has begun to fill the gap left by spiraling drops in sales of physical media. As of last year, digital product sales accounted for nearly 9% of recording industry revenues.

Since it only took them about 7 years longer than it could have to get to this point I figure it'll be at least that long before they stop frothing at the mouth over the death of last century's hot product.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies