Digital Rights Management (DRM), EVIL? Or just misdirected?
In the last 24 hour period I found myself both praising and cursing DRM. I am strongly opposed to locking up culture with a layer of code that often enables content producers to strip away the ability to do things that are clearly Fair Use. The latest example of why I distain DRM is the PERFORM Act proposed by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The bill would have horrible consequences on Fair Use, while locking way digital culture behind more code and rules. Does RIAA need another blunt instrument to enforce their monopoly on culture? No!
So how did it come to pass that I was actually totting DMR as a possible solution to a social problem?
Yesterday at an Access to Justice Technology Bill of Rights(ATJ-TBOR)
meeting for the resource bank sub committee we were discussing possible ways to address concerns related to balancing openness of the courts with the privacy concerns of the court users. In many cases DRM is a possible solution to some problems of mass distribution in the information age. Peter Winn, after a presentation at University of Washington on Unintended Consequences of the Information Age entitled Privacy: Reconciling Reality
, mentioned to me that traditionally the availability of court records may have been open to the public but this does not mean they were available to everyone on mass. The distribution these records were limited by the difficulty to copy and distribute the documents meaning that before photo copiers only one or two people might ever see an open court record. By contrast currently Choice Point can make virtually all records available to everyone. This drastic change in how prolific court records are becoming
DRM could duplicate the difficulty of redistribution in the digital world. Maybe DRM needs a new name for this use DPE the Digital Privacy Enabler…
Beware the: Frothing Open Source Advocate Label
I recently attended an Intellectual Property career panel sponsored by Seattle University’s Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS). I asked what I thought was an innocent question:
“What opportunities are there, other then the Arts Legal Clinic and possibly an internship at EFF, to prepare oneself for public interest work in IP?”
The answer I got was rather surprising:
You might want to watch who you associate with, with regards to EFF, you might want to avoid being labeled a Frothing Open Source Advocate
. The Patent Bar is a small group and you need be careful about your reputation. (this answer was paraphrased from - Anthony Claiborne, of Microsoft)
I wonder if this applies to associating with Freedom For IP? (It might be a little late for me to save my reputation…) I personally do not think that public interest and Microsoft’s interests have to be at odds.
I am not sure if I am more troubled by this answer or the fact that the only helpful advice was to try working “Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts”. The more I look for opportunities to gain public interest experience the more I notice a Void. There needs to be more organizations here like EFF
and The Public Patent Foundation to help represent the interest of those wishing to free culture and innovation
Google violates "moral rights" of artist Joan Miro
On April 20th, birthday of Spanish surrealist Joan Miro
, Google inducted him into the ranks of such influential people as Martin Luther King Jr, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Leonardo da Vinci by changing their logo to depict his style
. The Artists Rights Society (ARS), representing the artist's family, demanded that Google take down the logo. Google complied, issuing a statement
that they did not believe they had violated the artist's rights. Theodore Feder, president of ARS, claimed "it's a distortion of the original works and in that respect it violates the moral rights of the artist."
A distortion of a surrealist? Moral rights of the artist? Where is the harm? Where is the immorality? If anything, the estate of the artist increased through exposure of the public to his name and his style. What is immoral about honoring someone by imitating them for one day? Aside from the fact that ARS is promoting an utterly surreal point of view, I doubt Miro would appreciate the intervention.
If you, dear reader, would like to email Mr. Feder and ask him why he discourages sharing the culture of an artist he supposedly represents, please be my guest
IP and Antitrust: Part 1
I am writing today from Seattle University's IP Symposium entitled At the Intersection of Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law: Looking Both Ways to Avoid a Collision
Panel 1: Topic When does normal IP business conduct become exclusionary and anticompetitive?
Should Intellectual Property be treated the same as traditional property for the purposes of antitrust law?
Changing practices mid-stream to quash competition throught the restriction of IP, is this a violation of antitrust law.
Should those participating in standard setting organizations be allowed to draft patents that try to seize the market without disclosing those patents to the other members of the standard setting committee?
Is there a need for a governmental rule to govern patent disclosure for participation in standard organizations or should the organizations set the rules for disclosure on their own terms.
Free Culture the book streamed, Freeculture.org and Foamy
I was recently reading about Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture, being available from xml.com streamed. You can access it as a stream, or download. When I came across the student movement at Freeculture.org here are a few excerpts from their Free Culture Manifesto:
“The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture,…
We believe that culture should be a two-way affair, about participation, not merely consumption.…
We refuse to accept a future of digital feudalism where we do not actually own the products we buy, but we are merely granted limited uses of them as long as we pay the rent. …
…The freedom to build upon the past is necessary for creativity and innovation to thrive. We will use and promote our cultural heritage in the public domain…
…We will resist repressive legislation which threatens our civil liberties and stifles innovation. …
…we must build a technological and cultural movement to defend the digital commons.”
The full text of the Manifest can be found at http://freeculture.org/manifesto.php.
I strongly agree with the philosophy of the Free Culture.org movement and will be looking at starting a chapter at Seattle University this year.
On an entirely not related note my favorite irreverent squirrel , Foamy rants about copyright protection and Sony’s Root kit
Warning this is not suitable for all audiences:
Foamy is angry and does not use the controlled language that one would find in an EFF brief
or in Ed Felten’s Blog Freedom to Tinker
Listen at your own risk: Foamy CD rant
Patent Office Admits eBay Case is Bogus
The US Patent and Trademark Office has ruled in favor of eBay once again. It confirmed this week its earlier decision that MercExchange's US Patent No. 5,845,265 (the 'buy it now' feature they are using to litigate eBay) is obvious and should never have been issued as a patent. The patent office has already ruled on this matter, but MercExchange got its lawyers to draft 100-page response, thus the need for the confirmation. MercExchange does have the opportunity to respond to this confirmation.
eBay v. MercExchange is still pending in the Supreme Court. The issue is whether MercExchange will be able to issue an injunction to stop eBay from using anything similar to the 'buy it now' feature in the patent, even though MercExchange itself is not using the patent. eBay has already stopped using the feature in question, but has chosen to valiantly fight on for the future of our country. Case law is in favor of MercExchange, based on a 1908 court ruling Continental Paper Bag Co. v. Eastern Paper Bag Co., 210 U.S. 405 (1908)
, which dictated that Eastern Paper Bag Co. had the "right to exclude" Continental Paper Bag Co., even though Eastern was not and had no intention of using the patent.
If this case law is upheld, it would spell the end of innovation in the United States.
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."
--Bill Gates, in an internal Microsoft memo of 1991
"We still think it is the right thing to do, to fight what we believe is a wrong decision by the appeals court, an incorrect application of the law"
--eBay spokesman Hani Durzy after the May 2003 appeal.
In order to innovate, companies must use ideas. If those ideas are held by patent holding companies and investors who have no intention of using them, and a financial incentive to exercise their "right to exclude" any other companies from using them, there will be no innovation.