Donna Wentworth
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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
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Monthly Archives

January 28, 2008

January 25, 2008

Shirts vs. Suits

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The writers behind the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert comedy/satire shows staged a mock debate on Capitol Hill to illustrated some of the issues of the WGA strike.

My sense is that many members of Congress are sympathetic, but I doubt they're likely to get involved. Anyone have a video of the 'debate' itself?

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

January 22, 2008

January 15, 2008

More Microsoft Woes

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The EU has been remarkably persistent in going after Microsoft for what the EU sees as anti-competitive and antitrust issues. Last year the EU had its earlier antitrust case upheld. According to Business Week, the first case "ended up costing Microsoft billions of dollars".

But the new case may be an even bigger deal from a business perspective. Now the EU are looking into "addresses core aspects of its business model and the preservation of its core monopolies," again quoting Business Week. The issues once again are bundling and interoperability, but this time looking at desktop and server OS. In specific, the complaint alleges that Vista and Office 2007, Microsoft is deliberately holding back information in order to hamper interoperability.

Well, um, no duh. This is what they've always done - it's just being extended to the Internet and services at this point. So far Microsoft is promising cooperation with the investigation. My guess is that they'll try to drag things out and keep it out of court for as long as possible without making any actual changes.

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

More EMI Woes

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Or, "More reasons why EMI is in no position to force changes to the RIAA".

EMI is attempting to cut costs by laying off up to 2000 workers. That's not unusual for companies that have been bought out and whose new owners are focused on fixing the bottom line. But it is a definite sign of how much trouble the music label is in, from a bottom-line perspective.

More troubling are the ongoing revelations that musicians are abandoning the sinking ship. Big names like Paul McCartney and Radiohead, who left last year, have been joined by Britpop act The Verve. Claiming they want "assurances" that the label will remain viable, the group's manager has said they'll be withholding their new album.

In all likelihood, few people care what a band that hasn't had an album in 10 years does now. Except that EMI's name keeps appearing in bad news stories and I just can't see that strengthening their position when pushing for change at the RIAA.

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

January 14, 2008

Pre-MPAA Films Being Shown (MA Fri Jan 18 & on)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I seem to be all about the events this month. In addition to talk about copyrights and open-source nerd rap, there's a showing this Friday that local folk might want to check out:

The Harvard Film Archive is showing two historical "edgy" films this Friday. Both were made before the first production code was enforced on movie content. Back in the pre-MPAA days filmmakers explored the racy and seamy undersides of Depression-era America. The results led to outrage, outcries, and the start of enforcement of the Production Code in 1934. That lasted until 1967, when the censorship system we know today was first put in place.

The Archive will show the films all weekend - see their posted schedule for details. On Friday the films will be preceded by a talk by Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration.

(Thanks to srl for the initial pointer and for corrections to this posting.)

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

File Under "That'd Be Nice"

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Or maybe just "wishful thinking."

Relaying heavily from a Variety Magazine piece, Nate Anderson at ars technica asks whether the RIAA could go away, at least in its present form.

The base of the problem is that the RIAA isn't solving the music industry's problem - plummeting sales - and is costing it millions of dollars. From a pure cost perspective, it would make sense to jettison this loser. However, only one of the four big record companies is even making any noises in this direction and that one, EMI, is the smallest of the four. So long as the RIAA enjoys over 75% support I don't see any major changes on the horizon.

Two factors might change that: Variety reports that all four major labels are pushing the RIAA for change; EMI is just the loudest because it has been bought by a private equity firm that is likely much more cost-conscious. Also in the works is a rumored IFPI reorganization. That body represents 1,400 record companies in 75 countries according to Variety. If IFPI is indeed reorganized, it might make sense to fold in the RIAA at the same time.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Rumor and Gossip

January 9, 2008

Open-Source Beats Coming to Boston

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Speaking of Boston-area science fiction and comics conventions, I've noticed that Open-Source Beats nerd rapper MC Frontalot is scheduled to appear at Anime Boston in 2008, nominally Saturday the 22nd of March.

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

January 8, 2008

A Serial Drama in Internet Form

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Shared-world writing has been around a long time. Whether it's someone writing a Sherlock Holmes story long after Doyle's death, or a co-created world like Robert Asprin's Thieves World in which authors cooperate on characters and settings, it's been done. And, honestly it's probably been done on the 'Net before, though I couldn't find any professional examples in my quick search.

Now comes "Shadow Unit". Originally the brainchild of Emma Bull, the writing crew also includes Elizabeth Bear, Will Shetterly, and Sarah Monette. Bear explains the concept in her LJ posting as "...the website for a serial drama in internet form. Or possibly it's a fan site for a TV show that doesn't exist. "

What makes this interesting to me from a Copyfight point of view is the plan to include a variety of materials with a variety of revenue models. Some things will be free; some will be subscription. I imagine some things will be direct sales. it will be interesting to see how readers respond to this kind of experimentation and whether the model is picked up or expanded on. I'll probably blog updates now and then if significant things happen; bookmark the site itself if you want to see first-hand.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Announcements

Talk at Arisia (Boston, MA, Sun Jan 20)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Pimping my own event for a moment...

I'll be on a panel at the 2008 Arisia Science Fiction Convention on Sunday night the 20th at 8PM, talking about science, IP law, and creativity. I'm certainly no Cory Doctorow but I'll do my best. I'm not yet sure who the other panelists will be, probably local science fiction/comics writers and other creative types.

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

January 7, 2008

Start With the Right To Speak Freely

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Cory Doctorow continues his campaign to educate the SFWA on what modern technology means for authors. Writing in Locus, the science-fiction writer's trade rag, he puts forth the notion that the attention being paid to use and infringement is hopeless and even counter-productive.

Due to the explosive nature of personal writing and publishing, as well as the basic open structure of the net, the only possible way to enforce the kind of infringement management that the Cartel wants would be to "throttle" the most basic right of writing, that of free speech.

We're all aware that the Cartel would gleefully sign up for such a Stalinist regime - their entire model is based on them-as-sole-producers with the vast majority of us positioned only as individual consumer units. But there's no reason for writers or any other real human beings to sign onto this corporate notion. Doctorow points out that not only is it an insanely arrogant position to take, it's actually bad for writers, who are presently at the mercy of big publishing houses.

The streaks of independence that are beginning to be shown in, say, the music business are just not present in the publishing world. You can be as world-famous as a Stephen King or a Neil Gaiman and you still don't publish independently. You go through a major publishing house, you get the word rate your agent is able to negotiate, and you sign over your work to their corporate system.

Writers have griped about the system for as long as I can remember - I don't see that changing anytime soon. But it'd be nice for the writers to realize where their interests lie, and I don't think it's with the Cartel's position, which has little or nothing to do with the right to speak freely.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts

1-Click Patent Rejection

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Illiad weighs in again on the ongoing saga of the Amazon one-click patent.

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

January 4, 2008

Even Fools Don't Invest in the Music Business

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Alyce Lomax has a piece on (the Motley Fool investment advice site) this week advising against investing in the music industry. The punchline:

a good sign of a dying industry that investors might want to avoid is when it would rather litigate than innovate, signaling a potential destroyer of value. If it starts to pursue paying customers -- which doesn't seem that outlandish at this point -- then I guess we'll all know the extent of the desperation. Investor, beware.

Although she's riffing on A.R.C. v Howell, the language of which is subject to some disagreement, the core argument she's making is one that many others have made.

The music industry is dead, or at least severely damaged, and certainly not the kind of thing someone who wanted her investment to grow would put money into. Lomax has three links in her current piece to earlier Fool writing detailing more Cartel foolishness. Good reading.

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

Get Yourself Some RIAA-Free Music

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I wish I'd seen this in time to post it for peoples' end-of-year buying, but here you go anyway...

RIAA Radar is a site dedicated to offering enough information to make more-informed choices about your music buying, assuming you care about the Copyright Wars.

For the past 6+ years I've refused to buy new CDs retail. I buy direct from artists, I buy used, and I buy DJ white-label disks. Anything else feels like supporting the enemy. What RIAA Radar offers is a set of technological gadgets that let you make more fine-grained distinctions than I make.

For example, you can go to an album's detail page on, press a button and be told that the album is "Safe" in that it's not released by a member of the RIAA. Or not safe, obviously.

There are some nice features, such as a button directly on the RIAA Radar pop-up that lets you submit a correction if you find their conclusion to be in error. They also have some close links to Amazon, which may not please some people, but there's nothing stopping you using the data to take your shopping to whatever retail venue pleases you.

As with many open-source/volunteer software efforts there are some rough edges to the technology, but in general it seems to be a pretty useful gadget to have on a Copyfighter's bookmark bar.

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