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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EMI possibly leaving RIAA

This is great news for music fans. EMI was the first big label to abandon consumer hated DRM on Itunes and is now making another good business choice by distancing themselves from the suit happy and equally disdained RIAA. Now we just need them to embrace a creative web based business model like Magnatune and we will have a new direction for the future of music.

As a reminder EMI is one of the Big 4 in music and has signed many popular artists from multiple genres, including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Maria Callas, Queen, Legião Urbana, Kraftwerk, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Marillion, Tina Turner, Kate Bush, Frank Sinatra, Coldplay, Roxette, Selena and Garth Brooks.

Full story at Arstechnica

"One of the Big Four labels is apparently unhappy with its return on investment when it comes to funding industry trade groups such as the IFPI and RIAA. British label EMI, which was recently purchased by a private equity fund, is reportedly considering a significant cut to the amount of money it provides the trade groups on an annual basis.

According to figures seen by Reuters, each of the Big Four contributes approximately $132.3 million to fund the operations of the IFPI, RIAA, and other national recording industry trade groups. That money is used in part to fund the industry's antipiracy efforts—including the close to 30,000 file-sharing lawsuits filed by the record labels in the US alone."

PS:
Look back at our April 1st story, Major Labels Withdraw from RIAA. Maybe it was just early.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Last Seattle CopyNight for the year, Tomorrow at 8:30pm


Come join us for the last Seattle CopyNight of 2007:

Tuesday at 8:30 PM
Elysian, 1221 E. Pike St.
Seattle WA in Capitol Hill.

We won't be meeting in December, so this will be your last chance until the new year to discuss such exciting topics as the latest bad ideas about copyright to surface in Congress, Larry Lessig's PowerPoint chops, or the pressure being exerted by the Copyright Alliance (which counts the MPAA and RIAA among its member) on presidential candidates to take a position in favor of *even more* expansion of copyright law:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071121-riaampaa-ask-presidential-candidates-for-more-restrictive-copyright-laws.html

To join the copynight mailing list vist copynight.org. Copynight is active in 22 cities
for a complete list check here.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kindle ridden with DRM and closed format

Kindle, Amazon's new portable digital book reader, is a case study in how not to make an ebook reader.

Here are the problems:
1. Kindle has DRM backed up by abusive contract terms - "You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content."

2. Kindle violates your privacy - "The Device Software will provide Amazon with data about your Device and its interaction with the Service (such as available memory, up-time, log files and signal strength) and information related to the content on your Device and your use of it (such as automatic bookmarking of the last page read and content deletions from the Device). Annotations, bookmarks, notes, highlights, or similar markings you make in your Device are backed up through the Service."

3. If you use Kindle in a way Amazon does not allow, like circumventing DRM to exercise Fair Use rights, you will lose your books and the software to read them - "Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate without notice from Amazon if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees."

4. Kindle charges you to access free content. - Blog subscriptions cost $2 a month. However, you can browse directly to the blog using the "Basic Web" browser?. So they are charging $2 to use RSS.

5. Kindle does not support 99% of major formats - NO PDF, NO DOC, NO RTF, NO JPEG, Although it will convert some of these for $. 10 each through a slow email process.

I am not sure I could design a book reader this bad if I tried. The best suggestion I have read for people who are thinking about buying a Kindle is from Kevin Marks:

"If you have $400 to spend on a small gadget to read outdoors on, buy yourself an OLPC and give one away to a child elsewhere too ."

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Sign the Budapest Open Access Initiative

The Budapest Open Access Initiative was drafted in December of 2001 and was clearly ahead of its time. This last week, while prepping for a meeting with the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, I went back and read this document again and was amazed at how simply it states the principles and reason for open access. I also realized that FFIP and myself personally had not officially signed the document. I fixed that oversight today and urge everyone else committed to open access scholarship to do the same.

The first paragraph of the initiative follows:

"An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge."

Read and sign the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Public.Records.org helps free caselaw

"Public.Resource.Org and Fastcase have reached an agreement for the release of a totally unencumbered repository of 1.8 million pages of federal case law, including Courts of Appeals decisions back to 1950." Carl Malamud Public.Resource.org

This is a huge win for open access law. For too long case law, which is in the public domain, have been locked away by Westlaw and Lexis (Wexis).

Last Summer when we (Sarah and I) visited CC this was one of our major topics we discussed with Jon Phillips. I am ecstatic to see CC and EFF involved in the process of liberating case law. Although I do find it a bit odd that the press release lists a "brand-new Creative Commons mark—CC-Ø—which will allow us to affirmatively certify that this information is public domain." It is more accurate to say they are resurrecting an old CC mark with possibly an new look. The upper left hand of Freedom for IP has been sporting a CC PD mark for the last 2 years.



To illustrate how important it is that this case law is in the public domain one can look to CC description of what can be done with materials in the public domain the case law "may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, modified, built upon, or otherwise exploited by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and in any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or conceived."

The next major challenge for the public and the legal community it to find the best way to make these 1.8 million pages usable. Having all the case law in the world online is only a start, the one thing that Wexis has done well is make case law usable with internal links, head notes summaries and cross references.

Here is my first thoughts on how make the case law usable:
1. XML it - Mark it up in a open format that allows other to repurpose it easily
2. Wiki it in a way the preserves the text- Wiki style case summaries
3. Tag it for current precedence - create a tagging system marking which cases are still good law and allow users to comment and change these tags as new decisions are made.
4. Cross reference it - add internal links or a way to easily move from one case to another within the documents
5. Add a uniform index of issues.
6. Add an index of facts.

The players best suited to do these things are the old guard of Wexis, the new juggernauts of Wikimedia and Wikipedia, and the new academically supported Altlaw. I am curious who will step up to the plate and how. There is so much ground to cover in making this case law usable that several groups could work together. Wexis can probably get 5-10 more years out of the locked system, but if one of them wants to open there systems they could dominate a new open market place based on alternative revenue. Ultimately I think the usability solutions will come from whoever is able to harness the power of law students, public interest lawyers and the general public in one collaborative forum.


Past articles on these issues:
Findlaw - Westlaw kills FindLaw, Remove your links
Altlaw = public domain law database

External press coverage:
Boing Boing
Official Press Release

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chesstactics.org, CC Licensed Tactic Training, from Ward Farnsworth



Ward Farnsworth, a Law professor at Boston University has released his two volume set of books on tactics online for free under a CC license. The books are available in an interactive format at Chesstactics.org. Hard copies of books are available through Lulu, a print on demand publisher, volume one and volume two

Before heading to law school I spent some (well... a lot of) time, playing and teaching chess. Portland had several great coffee house where you could hang out and play chess all day. Currently chess is a very closed market. Very few books or applications are under open licenses. Most of the top chess playing programs are closed source and both of the top database programs are closed. I personally spent a lot of money on Chessbase and Fritz. When I would teach children it became clear that the cost of books and programs was a barrier to helping some kids learn to play, especially if their parents did not have a background in chess.

It is refreshing to see a well written chess book online in an open format. Each section has a simple introduction and all tactical problems have solutions with explanatory text telling readers what is going on and why the solution is correct. Too many other chess tactic books provide only an answer with no explanation on why the moves are right. I recommend the Chesstactics.org website and the books for anyone interested in improving their chess tactics.

PS: Chess tactics followed by endgames are the most important thing for a new to intermediate player to study. Most games under master level are won or lost on tactical ability.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reasons to Free Culture Through File Sharing

File sharing as a way to free culture has been given an undeserved bad name by the propaganda machines of the RIAA and MPAA. I am starting to see academics parrot these lines while fleeing from any association with file sharing. The facts are that many people file share because they do not see it as wrong or harmful. The following list of reasons is an answer to the sad flight away from protecting and justifying what most people see as acceptable. In the fight to free culture it is useful to point out that distribution of information has become free of cost and the law is the only thing stopping the free exchange of information and culture(and is doing so very poorly at that). File sharing is an action that reinforces how free culture really could be.

Seven reasons file sharing is compatible with free culture:

1. Monopoly Market Solution:
File sharing creates real pressure on the monopolistic market players to use business models that do not rely on locking way culture.

2. Civil Disobedience (which I strongly agree with):
File sharing is a form of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is a way for people to send a message that they do not agree with legally locking away culture.

3. Non-excludable Media:
File sharing reminds people that culture is by nature non-excludable. File sharing attacks the core principle of exclusive control of culture. When people see that culture is non-excludable they are more likely to challenge the rational behind the laws that lock culture away.

4. Social Justice:
Should someone be locked out of culture based on their economic standing? No. File sharing creates access for those who can not afford access.

5. Creators Benefit from Access to Culture (On the Shoulders of Giants):
Culture grows through building on the past. We are not mere consumers we are participatory creators. Access to culture broadens our set of tools for expressing ourselves and creating new works.

6. Fair Use Argument (which I strongly agree with):
Access to culture is essential for expressing your fair use rights. How can one parody or speak out against that which is locked away from them. Access via file sharing makes commentary and critique much easier and more effective.

7. Art's uniqueness
A piece of art has a unique place in the heart of each person who experiences it. While open-licensed software can functionally replace closed-licensed software, nothing can replace music and art that is closed-licensed. Many famous works of art are no longer available commercially. What a detriment to society to forbid us to share those pieces with others who were touched by them.

Closing Note:
I am not stating that file sharing is the only, best or ideal way to free culture, merely that it is a way, with some logical reasons supporting it and a lot of people doing it. Why not work with them, instead of against them?

I personally and professionally advocate for many different solutions to the current problems related to locked culture. These solutions range from educating people, and organizations about the advantages of freeing their work, to legalizing sampling and non-commercial sharing. At the same time, I respect those who act in other ways to free culture.

Brian Rowe

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Less than 24 hours till One Laptop Per Child Give 1 Get 1 Program!

Starting tomorrow, November 12, One Laptop Per Child will be offering a Give 1 Get 1 Program for a brief window of time in North America. For $399, you will be purchasing two XO laptops—one that will be sent to empower a child to learn in a developing nation, and one that will be sent to your child at home.

If you're interested in Give 1 Get 1, sign up at One laptop Giving

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Warhammer 40k fan film , Damnatus, halted by Games Workshop

Games Workshop is quashing the fan film Damnatus. Fans spent 4 years and over $15,000 on producing a live action Warhammer 40k film, that is clearly unofficial fan fiction. After all this work Games Workshop's in-house counsel is using copyright law to prevent the film from seeing the light of day.

If you play Wh40k and want to see the video released, if for no other reason then to MST3K it at your next Blood Bowl league game Sign the petition and email GW.

Petition:
http://www.petitiononline.com/damnatus/petition-sign.html?

GW email:
Custserv@games-workshop.com
Don't for get the Lawyers:
Legal@games-workshop.co.uk

Trailer here(download it before it is baned(for fair use in educational non-commercial new reporting critics, of course)):
http://www.damnatus.com/seite.php?file=film

BBC article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/technology/7010484.stm


PS If you speak German could you please provide a translation of the trailer in the comments?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Grad Student speaks out against UW's RIAA policy

The following is a letter from Eric Rehm Graduate Research Assistant at UW's Applied Physics Lab to Eric Godfrey vice provost for student life. Rehm does a great job pointing out alternative actions UW could be taking to stand up for students rights or work with students to find solutions instead of allowing the RIAA to threaten students.

Mr. Godfrey,

Instead of indirectly threatening students, why not take some action? For
example:

1. Fight the RIAA, as does the University of Wisconsin.

University of Wisconsin refuses to forward the RIAA letters you are so ready
to forward because they "short circuit the legal process to rely on
universities to be their legal agent", according to Brian Rust of UW's IT
department.
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005164.php
http://consumerist.com/consumer/riaa/university-of-wisconsin+madison-will-not-forward-riaa-letters-to-students-245211.php

2. Bill the RIAA for these letters, as does the University of Nebraska.

In addition to not forwarding the letters, UN demands reimbursement of $11
it costs Nebraska taxpayers to process each RIAA letter.
http://consumerist.com/consumer/riaa/university-of-nebraska-will-bill-riaa-11-for-each-threatening-letter-received-246813.php


3. Tell the RIAA to "take a hike", as recommended by the Harvard Law School.
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/home?wid=10&func=viewSubmission&sid=2801

I cannot say it better than the authors of the Harvard Law School article
mentioned above:

"If the RIAA wants to stimulate conversation, then it should engage in
genuine dialogue. Come join us on campus. Come talk to the digital natives
who are our students, to the faculty who care about fair intellectual
property protections, and to the university counsel and technical teams who
manage our strategies and operations in cyberspace. The RIAA should be
asking, along with the rest of us, if we can come up with models that reward
artists for their work while allowing the maximum circulation and use of
their creations, as our Founding Fathers intended."

Before returning to the U.W. School of Oceanography in 2004 for graduate
studies, I was co-founder and CTO of Singingfish.com, an Internet startup
that indexed the Web (like Google) for links to audio and video files. In
addition to addressing various URL linking challenges (ultimately protected
by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), I regularly encountered
technologists of the RIAA and IFPI (representing the recording industry
worldwide) at MPEG conferences where we battled over standards for metadata and
digital rights management.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you over some legal beer and
music. You may be surprised at the local expertise (and funds) that would
rise to the challenge of more creative action by U.W.

Regards,

Eric Rehm
Graduate Research Asst.
Applied Physics Lab, Ocean Physics Dept.
University of Washington
(reprinted with permission)

If you want to let UW know what you think about the policy please write:

Eric S. Godfrey
vice provost for student life
(206) 543-0128;
Box 355831
Vice Provost, Student Life
476 Schmitz Hall
FAX: +1 206 543-2965
egodfrey@u.washington.edu

Related Stories
University of Washington as RIAA lackey part 2
University of Washington acting as RIAA crony

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

University of Oregon stands up to the RIAA

University of Oregon and the Oregon's Attorney General are fighting against RIAA subpoenas for student names in alleged file sharing cases. This is great news. It is nice to see a university standing up for the privacy rights of students and not enabling the RIAA to harass students with unsubstantiated claims.

EFF has done a great job summarizing the arguments of the college.
In its brief, the University makes 5 arguments:

1) The University is already preserving information, so there is no need for ex parte subpoenas;
2) the subpoena imposes an undue burden because the University cannot tell who the file-sharer was without additional investigation;
3) the language of subpoena is overbroad;
4) the FERPA bars disclosure of the identifying information; and
5) Section 512(h) of the DMCA provides the exclusive mechanism for ex parte subpoenas to ISPs in these circumstances.

The last argument, if accepted by the court, could radically change the nature of the RIAA's 4-year litigation campaign against music fans. Currently, the recording industry's strategy relies on pressuring universities into handing over student targets, either by having the university deliver "pre-litigation settlement letters" to students or, failing that, forcing universities to respond to subpoenas obtained after filing a "John Doe" lawsuit. If these avenues are blocked, the recording industry would have to undertake its own investigatory efforts to determine who to sue.


More at EFF

Znet also has a good article on U of O and the AG's reasons for fighting the subpoenas:

The AG’s office says the RIAA is engaging in unethical behavior towards the court. Despite the fact that deputy AG Randolph Geller told RIAA counsel Katheryn Coggon that the school would preserve all the relevant data, the RIAA said in its subpoena request that:

there was a “very real danger the ISP will not long preserve” the data it wanted.

Having just taken the California Bar’s professional responsibility exam I can tell you such a misrepresentation could result in disciplinary action, IMO.
Since it would take so much effort to ID the students, the RIAA is essentially shifting its own investigatory burden onto the state.

“In short, the subpoena requires the University to create discoverable material to assist Plaintiffs in their litigation rather than merely disclose existing documents,” argues the school, citing case law that indicates that non-parties “are not required to create documents that do not exist, simply for the purposes of discovery.”


More from ZNET

Go Ducks!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Making money in the Digital Age

Last week The Open Rights Group, in collaboration with 01zero-one and funded by the London Development Agency, began a research project that is examining how the internet enables creative entrepreneurs to develop innovative business practices by being more open with their intellectual property. Creative Business in the Digital Era will examine new business models and the wider context in which they sit, culminating in one day-long and two evening courses at which they will share their findings.

The best part is that they are developing the course out in the open, and under a Creative Commons license, using a wiki, and the need your help need your help! Now! Time is of the essence, as they plan to complete all the course materials by the beginning of February, ready for delivery in March (I hope they podcast the event).

Here is how to get involved:
  1. Sign-up for a free account on the wiki and get cracking! (already created an account myself)
  2. Join the ORG-Discuss mailing list and contribute to the conversation there.
  3. Save relevant links to Del.icio.us using the tag org-cbde
  4. Follow their Twitter stream
PS If anyone has extra airline tickets from Seattle to London I would love to go to the presentations!

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lawrence Lessig in Seattle Tomorrow

Professor Lessig, an inspiration for Students for Free Culture, is Speaking at University of Washington

Title: Is Google (2008) Microsoft (1998)?
Date: Nov . 2, 2007
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: in room 130 of Kane Hall.
Cost: Free (tickets available at UW book store)

Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Professor Lessig represented web site operator Eric Eldred in the ground-breaking case Eldred v. Ashcroft, a challenge to the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

Professor Lessig is the author of Free Culture (2004), The Future of Ideas (2001) and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999). He chairs the Creative Commons project, and serves on the board of the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Public Library of Science, and Public Knowledge. He is also a columnist for Wired.

If you are interested in corruption scholarship or the copyfight I would recommended reading Lessig's blog.

Related Links:
More information on the talk
Students for Free Culture

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