Evolution Control Committee
Critical Art Ensemble
What Does IP stand for?
Unfortunately, the growing legions of lawyers sending out cease and desist letters about material posted on the Internet indicates it now seems to stand for Intellectual Property.
There have been a number of recent examples of IP's new meaning on the Internet, but one of the most interesting cases involved Digital Convergence and Linux developers. As you're probably aware, Digital Convergence has given away several million free bar code scanners called CueCats. The idea is that users can scan a bar code in an advertisement and be taken automatically to a Web page. In the process demographic information about the scan is sent to Digital Convergence. (Privacy advocates have expressed concerns about how Digital Convergence might use the information it gathers, but that's not our issue here.)
Because the CueCats came only with Windows software, Linux users were soon writing their own drivers so they also could use the device. Decoding the algorithm used by the CueCat to scan bar codes turned out to be fairly simple, so soon there were a number of CueCat drivers posted on the Web. Not surprisingly, most users bypassed the step of sending the scan information through Digital Convergence's transaction engine.
As a result, most users quickly received a letter from Digital Convergence's law firm. The letters were virtually identical and menacingly vague. Recipients were informed that services or information posted at a particular URL were deemed in violation of Digital Convergence's intellectual property rights and they'd be held liable for any harm the company suffered as a result, including "any infringement which [the recipient] induces others to perform."
Needless to say, the sentiments expressed by the lawyer's letter rubbed the open-sourcers the wrong way. "Someone hands me a free piece of hardware but doesn't provide software I can use with it -- what am I supposed to do?" asks one outraged recipient of the letter. "If they can do this, they can ban reverse engineering of any type."
Attempts to get more information from Digital Convergence's law firm proved futile, although in a few cases it did produce a second letter that was just as threatening and just as vague as the first. Ultimately, a number of the Linux developers decided that discretion was the better part of valor and chose to remove the drivers from their Web sites. Their concern wasn't that Digital Convergence could make its intellectual property claims stick in court, but that the company could use the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down the developer's Web site. (The DMCA has an appeals process, but in the meantime an ISP has little choice but to suspend a site accused of infringing a copyright holder's rights.)
"We have to make a choice between standing our ground on this or taking down the code," says the legal counsel for one developer who chose to remove its driver. "As much as I'd like to fight it, this [driver] isn't really part of our business and I can't justify the risk."
For its part, Digital Convergence officials say they had to take these steps to protect their investment. "We don't care if they write their own software. It's when they redistribute that software over the Internet that we have a problem," says Doug Davis, CTO of Digital Convergence. "If they're looking at a database across the Internet and they aren't going through our transaction engine, they are using our intellectual property to go into competition with us." Davis adds that Digital Convergence is selling a limited development license for $20 that will allow developers to write noninfringing drivers that employ the company's transaction engine.
This isn't a simple situation. Digital Convergence has spent a lot of money giving users a product they might find useful. One can question Digital Convergence's tactics, and maybe business model, but shouldn't the company at least be able to keep others from taking advantage of the CueCats to compete with it? You'd think those who like free software would want to encourage a company that's giving away free hardware.
It's clear that the Linux users are right when they say Digital Convergence is stretching far beyond any established law with its intellectual property claims. And they are right to feel that a very fundamental principle for them is at stake if hardware vendors can sic lawyers on anyone writing the wrong type of software for their devices.
The problem here is how this case is being resolved. Important public policies are at stake, but no one will get his or her day in court. Lawyers writing intimidating letters is nothing new. But new intellectual property laws are giving well-financed companies a hammer they never had before. And as we'll see next week, it's more than reverse engineering that is threatened by the new protocols of IP.
Sunday, October 15, 2000 11:29 p.m.
Crack SDMI? No thanks!
Hackers turn up their noses at a "challenge" proposed by the recording and electronics industries.
By Janelle Brown
Sept. 14, 2000 | The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), two years in the making, is a system being created by a coalition of record and technology companies to prevent online piracy of digital music. Using a standardized watermarking and tracking system, SDMI will keep an eye on what you're listening to and prevent you from transferring any naughty MP3s anywhere the music industry doesn't think they should go. It is, in other words, a kind of system that is antithetical to that old tenet that "information wants to be free."
So it should be of little surprise that SDMI's invitation to hackers to chip in and help hasn't piqued the interest of the geek community.
The "Hack SDMI" challenge is an open invitation to the geek community to "attack the proposed technologies. Crack them." The challenge officially begins Friday, but news of it has been making the rounds since last week, when SDMI chairman Leonardo Chiariglione posted an open letter offering any hacker who can successfully break into a piece of content that is protected by an SDMI watermark a chance not only to win up to $10,000 but to "play a role in determining what technology SDMI will adopt."
So far, the response to this open challenge has been, well, eerily quiet; there's not even a link on the always opinionated Slashdot. On Wednesday, in the Linux Journal, technical editor Don Marti spoke up to explain why, in a piece headlined "Boycott hacksdmi.org": "Thanks, SDMI, but no thanks. I won't do your dirty work for you ... Hackers should not, and will not, offer free consulting services to an organization that is using technical means to destroy the customary balance of the interests of copyright holders and music listeners."
Marti elaborated on his objections to the challenge in an interview. First of all, he says, the amount of money SDMI is offering for the hackers' time and expertise is laughably inadequate. Corporations pay dearly for this kind of knowledge these days; as he puts it, "$10,000 is chump change for anyone who knows anything about encryption or reverse engineering." Therefore, the kinds of people who will be drawn to the contest will probably be less experienced hackers who won't be able to meet the challenge. As he posits, it's just a P.R. ploy: "They are going to run the hack SDMI challenge and at the end they'll put out a press release saying no one hacked SDMI, therefore it's secure. All hail SDMI."
Marti says he doesn't plan to pirate music, but he's also opposed to offering assistance to a system that wants to put new limits on where and how you can listen to music you already own. "SDMI is a blatant, unilateral attempt by the copyright holding industries to rewrite the balance of power between music listeners and copyright holders," he explains. "It relies on an extraordinarily dangerous doctrine called 'trusted client' -- in trusted client, your own devices, your computer or stereo, spy on you. It's not a good idea to own a device that's a black box that you aren't allowed to open but which is allowed to watch you."
Marti says that the response to his editorial has been terrific, and that while he's received lots of e-mail agreeing with him about SDMI's cluelessness, he has yet to hear from anyone who plans to participate in SDMI's challenge.
And what did SDMI think of his response? Salon's calls to SDMI's press office went unreturned. But Marti says that he also e-mailed his open letter to the webmaster of HackSDMI.org -- and guess what? It bounced.
salon.com | Sept. 14, 2000 .......................... Sunday, September 17, 2000 01:24 a.m.
NAH-NAH, WHY DON'T YOU JUST DOWNLOAD?
The Los Angeles Times's Chuck Philips reports this morning that in a
pretty-audacious-for-some-major-label-punk-guys move, the Offspring
plan to post their entire new album on various Web sites -- and on
Napster -- more than a month before its scheduled release. Barring any
intervention from the group's label, Sony (which, according to
Philips, isn't cool with the idea at all, and has released a statement
saying they'd like to find a way ''to protect everyone's rights and
still maintain the integrity of the band's idea''), the album's first
single, ''Original Prankster,'' will hit the Web next Friday. ''The
reality is that this album is going to end up on the Internet whether
we want it to or not,'' singer Dexter Holland tells the paper. ''So we
thought, 'Why don't we just do it ourselves?' We're not afraid of the
Internet. We think it's a very cool way to reach our fans.'' And to
ensure that those fans, once reached, don't just download and run, the
band is tying their free-distribution campaign to a contest, asking
listeners to register their e-mail addresses with the band when they
grab ''Prankster.'' One lucky pre-release downloader will win $1
million on Nov. 14, the day the album is due in stores; the band will
get what they believe could be the largest e-mail database in the
history of digital music. ''In the end,'' Holland says, ''if a band
sells 12 million albums, what are we supposed to say? Oh, maybe we
could have sold 13 million if we had just been Internet Nazis.
Frankly, at a certain point, you have to say. Hey, let the people have
the music.''[via mp3idj list] Saturday, September 16, 2000 02:32 p.m.
Digital Coast 2000
This three-day event has just finished in the US, and the net is awash with follow-up articles on the issues raised, so do a search on your preferred newsserver.................... Friday, September 15, 2000 01:09 p.m.
Copyright is dead, Long live copyright
"Copyright, a lot of people are saying, is obsolete. It's a concept outmoded by technology."
Article from globetechnology.com ........................ Thursday, September 14, 2000 09:48 p.m.
Malaysia forms Copyright Tribunal
"KUALA LUMPUR: The much-awaited Copyright Tribunal, which will arbitrate disputes over works protected by copyright such as literary, musical, artistic and derivative works, films and published editions, was launched yesterday."
Thursday, September 14, 2000 01:09 p.m.
Copyright Control a Losing Battle
Article from the Australian Financial Review, covering John Gage's comments from the World Economic Forum in Melbourne.
................ Thursday, September 14, 2000 01:03 p.m.
U.S. Copyright Office weighs in on Net music licensing
Article from Upside Today : The Tech Insider ................ Tuesday, September 5, 2000 02:59 a.m.
Why IT Corporations benefit from Napster
The appeal of peer-to-peer business models is not lost on the big guns. Intel's goal of maximizing the unused cycles of PCs is obvious: Businesses built around a peer-to-peer network will drive the need for more powerful processors and PCs. Billed as possibly the 'web's greatest offshoot' peer-to-peer could end up playing more into the hands of major players than the we may want to believe, paranoia or total awareness? ....................... Monday, September 4, 2000 01:19 a.m.
Digital Kitchen royalty-free sample archive [via MACOS]........... Monday, September 4, 2000 12:39 a.m.
MACOS is a non-profit organization constructing an international network of musicians whose opinions of sampling and the use of sampling technology oppose the copyrighting of samples. Allowing the general public to sample from MACOS material freely, without incurring any legal ramifications. By including the MACOS logo on your product, you demonstrates your commitment towards sampling, authorizing that your product can be used as a sampling source. Sampling is the 21st century.
........................... Monday, September 4, 2000 12:36 a.m.
Netcopyrightlaw.com Resource Page
Know what you're up against, know what you're ignoring .................... Sunday, September 3, 2000 03:18 p.m.
Another fine cover-your-ass venture! ............... Sunday, September 3, 2000 03:11 p.m.
This site provides a portal to all things Napster, discussion forums, links to download similar utilities, and is a good source for background documents. ........... Sunday, September 3, 2000 04:52 a.m.