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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

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Monthly Archives

November 23, 2009

November 20, 2009

A Little Light Weekend Reading - Google Books Settlement

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In case you didn't have enough reading to do this weekend, here are couple of items analyzing the Google Books settlement.

First, Fred von Lohmann at EFF just published his third blog entry on the topic.

  1. The first piece, very short, points out the key conflict of this settlement: we're trading off increased access to works that might otherwise be difficult to find, but at a potential cost in lost privacy, lock-ins that discourage competition, and limits on what otherwise would be fair use.

  2. The second entry, much longer, looked at the issues around access. Access is the big promise of what Google is doing - you can not just search, but read online, millions of books that would otherwise be inaccessible to most people.

  3. Item the third, in yesterday's column, are the downsides - the price of that access. The big fear here is not that access will be denied, but that it will be controlled. It will be for pay - rather than free in a library - and on Google's terms, rather than US Copyright law fair use terms. Those terms, von Lohmann argues, are potentially monopolist or at least highly anti-competitive.

From von Lohmann's postings you can jump directly to the 300-page PDF of the settlement to read the relevant bits for yourself.

Or, if that's too much heavy reading for you, the Copyright Clearance Center has put online a 21-minute podcast of their analysis by Lois Wasoff (also available as transcript). CCC would also like you to note that they're hosting an online seminar Dec 10th with Ms. Wasoff. CCC is a rights-holders organization and so approaches this settlement from the point of view of those who might want to claim rights over the books that Google has (or will) include in this plan.

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

November 19, 2009

"Veihl'd" Assumptions

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

It has been pointed out to me that I may have underestimated the impact of some of Lynn Viehl's hypotheticals in yesterday's Blink. Although the statement she posted is indeed a factual description of her income, the column surrounding it has several big "if"s in the middle that I glossed over on first read.

First, she's confused about what qualifies someone for food stamps. Federal poverty guidelines appear to be based on adjusted gross income, not net income. Her AGI is well above poverty level even with just one book.

Second, there's an assumption that this one-book-per-year gig is the sole source of income for a family of four. I don't know Ms. Viehl's personal situation but I think it's safe to say that anyone who is sole support for a family of four is probably holding down either multiple jobs (one of which may indeed be "writer") or is trying for a job with a predictable income large enough to feed said family, and writing is far from a predictable income stream. Finally, even if one is a full-time writer, one has other sources of income available such as speaking fees, and possibly royalties from other books.

That does not mean Ms Viehl's column is wholly misleading; at base I think she's trying to give people a more realistic view of writing for a living. You can't just take one number - the advance - and draw conclusions from it.

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

November 18, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance Writ Large

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Nate Anderson provides extensive coverage of Michael Fricklas's talk at Yale Law. Fricklas is top legal attack dog for Viacom, and the headline on the ars piece highlights the lawyer's admission that the Cartel's jihad against its own customers was... well, a jihad, though he uses the word "terrorism" which is an equally emotionally laden term.

Viacom, says Fricklas, isn't out to destroy fair use. Indeed, the company has won lawsuits and published Web sites based on fair use principles. It's just that, like the rest of the Cartel's philosophy, it wants your fair use to be on its terms and under its conditions.

For example, Viacom supports a "three strikes" policy - another terrible bit of info-propaganda. When people say "three strikes" they're usually referring to things like state laws that assign extra punishment to people who have been convicted in courts of breaking felony statues multiple times. When the Cartel says "three strikes" it means "we accused you of three copyright violations."

And of course if you've been accused by the Cartel you MUST be guilty, so it's OK to take away your Internet. And your household's Internet, too. Damned terrorists... oh, wait, it's Viacom who are the terrorists. Can we take away their Internet?

Fricklas is also still a big fan of DRM, a position for which Cory has no sympathy at all, calling it "magic bean syndrome." In essence, the Cartel have sunk so much money, time, and public image into the idea and implementation of DRM that they're unable to understand that it's the cold fusion of the content world. Fricklas appears to believe that the problem isn't DRM-the-concept, it's just the specific DRM that the Cartel have used to date. I don't think, so, Mr. Fricklas.

So what do we make of this set of admissions and non-admissions? I think it's important to remember that Fricklas is not an independent person. He's paid to create and promote the party line and that's what he's doing. It's no surprise to any sentient observer that the Cartel have figured out that suing their customers is a disaster from both financial and PR standpoints, so backing down there is a given. But in a sense this is a diversionary tactic. The Copyright Wars are, and have always been, a struggle for control. Viacom is just shifting which weapons it uses to maintain and extend that control.

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

November 12, 2009

Must-See TV: ACTA

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The indefatigable Michael Geist has posted the slides and audio of his "ACTA 101" talk. This is must-see stuff, covering pretty much everything you need to know about ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that's being negotiated mostly in secret right about now. (I had some problems with the embedded version - you might need to click through to to watch it.)

As Cory says, ACTA "stands to fatally wound all user-generated content sites from mailing lists to YouTube; [...] criminalize kids for noncommercial file-sharing; [and] put your internet connection in jeopardy if anyone in your house is accused of infringement..."

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

November 9, 2009

Now THAT's Funny!

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Cory Doctorow portraid by Jason Kottke from WIRED blogs
Remember how I said that the EFF weren't being sufficiently sarcastic in covering the Cartel's revelations about PVRs? Right, well, sometimes you do get good sarcastic commentary on the Web and today's helping is dished up by Cory over at boingboing.

He savages Rupert Murdoch for being the antiquated fossil he still is, someone who not only fails to understand the modern interlocked Web-centric methods of information distribution, but also someone who fundamentally opposes the very notion of fair use and seems to think if he just hires enough of the right lawyers he can make it go away.

OK, making fun of Rupert Murdoch is sort of shooting fish in a barrel but damn we need more funny stuff in these Copyright Wars.

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

November 5, 2009

In An Effort to Prove They Cannot Learn

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Clockwork Orange movie poster
...the Cartel are once again attempting to use law and regulation to control your home entertainment experience. Funny, it seems like just yesterday I was ranting about how they had stupidly misunderstood the value of PVRs. Oh, right, sorry, that was two days ago. Can't expect busy high-paid media executives to remember things for two whole days.

So (with a hat-tip to Boingboing again for the alert) I direct your attention to Public Knowledge's latest attempt to keep the Cartel from driving the home entertainment experience off a cliff. The details are long and boring - what you need to realize is that they are requesting permission to shut off part of your home entertainment system, whenever they think it's a good idea.

Of course, you'd have to buy all new equipment to comply with this. The straightjacket and compulsory eyes-open technology will no doubt be included, to ensure you're actually watching what and when they want.

Please, take a moment to read over Public Knowledge's suggested comments, make them your own (or write your own) and submit them.

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

November 3, 2009

It's People Like You What Cause Unrest

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

The shocking part about this whole thing is that now, ten years or more into the Copyright Wars, we still have such stupid people in positions of control. Take this week's example, Alan Wurtzel. This specimen of executivius fossilus cartellae works for NBC as, apparently, some president of some research of something.

Whatever he's researching, it's certainly not television because Mr Wurtzel is shocked by the "completely counterintuitive" result that if you let people watch TV how and when they want.. surprise! they watch MORE of it. Give the consumer what he wants - clearly a new and revolutionary idea, and one that a whole network's research department was unable to come up with. Simply shocking!

Sorry, dear readers, but even making fun of these idiots has gotten old for me. I'll just post the links and you can go read and nod your head sagely because we - you, me, all the rest of the readers here - have known this forEVER. And I bet we don't draw Mr Wurtzel's salary, either.

New York Times piece explaining how the Cartel has discovered that yet another technology (in this case the PVR) is benefiting their business.

EFF Deep Links it, with insufficient sarcasm (if you ask me).

Obligatory back-link to two weeks ago when I pointed out the difference between the fossils (as nicely summarized by Nate Anderson) and the very with-it and hip Warren Ellis.

Yet Another Study Showing That People Who Download The Most (free stuff) Actually Buy The Most. This one is sure to be ignored as well, as the UK continues it's pell-mell course toward copyright extremism. Boingboing! has been doing a fabulous job tracking this particular idiotic trend as well as related efforts by the EU to define war as peace, hate as love, and make darkness the standard.

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