If you buy music from an online music store, you may be getting much less than you thought. Today EFF released "The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music," which exposes how today's digital rights management (DRM) systems compromise a consumer's right to lawfully manage her music the way she wants.
The guide takes a close look at popular online music services provided by Apple, RealNetworks, and Napster 2.0, as well as Microsoft's "Plays For Sure" DRM campaign. In an effort to attract customers, these companies try to obscure the restrictions they impose on you with clever marketing. Unfortunately, bypassing these hidden restrictions to make perfectly legal uses puts you at risk of liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Just last week the StorageTek decision had copyfighters everywhere rejoicing that companies can't use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to bar third-party repairs. Sadly, the same can't be said about third-party innovation.
Lexmark, one of the largest makers of laser printers, is a believer in the "give away the razors, but charge them for the blades" tactic, counting on the fact that consumers routinely underestimate "life cyle costs" for products like printers. In other words, if you low-ball your customers on the price for the printer, you can gouge them later for ink.
Until now, those kinds of business practices have been held in check by secondary markets that restrain a manufacturer's ability to overcharge for "consumables." That's where cartridge remanufacturers come in -- they refill Lexmark cartridges and sell them for less than new cartridges sold by Lexmark.
Spying on telephone and Internet traffic should be law enforcement's last resort -- carefully limited to protect the privacy of innocent people, conducted only during critical investigations. Unfortunately, the European Union is contemplating passing laws that would treat all of its citizens like criminal suspects.
Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU Council of Ministers will consider forcing phone companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and keep records of their customers' private phone calls and Internet communications, as well as the location data for their mobile devices. And within the month, another wing of the EU, the European Commission, will unveil a draft law to make creating these records of people's private communications compulsory all across Europe.
Join grassroots groups and households around the country who, during the first two weeks of September, will be hosting premieres of the ACLU's "Beyond the Patriot Act" -- a 30-minute program from producers of "Outfoxed" and "Unconstitutional." The program, the first in a series called "The ACLU Freedom Files," is designed to spark action and reveal how civil liberties affect real people every day. It features stirring accounts of current cases, as well as well-known actors, activists, and comedians.
Hosting a showing is easy and energizing -- and it's a great way to mobilize people and influence the debate that's about to resume in Congress. You can see the program on television or on the Web, and DVDs are available for purchase. Check out the website for details on scheduled broadcasts and organizing a local showing.
Last month we posted a bit about the copyright debates surrounding the Google Print library project. Noted Washington DC copyright lawyer Jonathan Band has just published an article entitled "The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis" in the August issue of E-Commerce Law & Policy (a copy is posted on his website at PolicyBandwidth.com).
The article does a very good job of (1) actually explaining what Google is doing, and (2) discussing the copyright law principles that might apply. His conclusion?
For some time, the RIAA has been pushing the FCC to impose a copy-protection mandate on the makers of next-generation digital radio receiver/recorders (think TiVo-for-radio).
Now, as reported by Public Knowledge's Mike Godwin, the entire music industry has taken up the cause and is beating the drum in Congress.
Never mind that digital audio broadcasting is not significantly greater in quality than regular, analog radio. Never mind that it's of vastly less quality than that of audio CDs. In spite of these inconvenient facts, the RIAA is hoping that the transition to "digital audio broadcasting" will provide enough confusion and panic that they can persuade Congress or the FCC to impose some kind of copy-protection scheme or regulation on digital radio broadcast.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the UN agency responsible for treaties involving copyright, patent, and trademark laws. Although WIPO, like other UN agencies, is charged with furthering humanitarian aims, historically it has created treaties that ratchet up intellectual property rights no matter the consequences to the developing world.
This is changing. Brazil and Argentina, leading a group of 14 countries (with the support of other developing nations such as India, Pakistan, and the African Group), have demanded that WIPO adopt a "development agenda," whereby all of its new treaties will take into account international development goals. Now comes the hard part: turning this proposal into a concrete plan of action.
Have you noticed that when you "update" a product these days, you have to be on your guard lest the vendor slip in a "downgrade"? Like when Apple "updated" iTunes to reduce the number of burns you could make from the music you bought from the iTunes Music Store?
Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) continues to be one of the smartest voices
on technology policy in Washington, and a strong advocates on the Hill for fair use and
reform of the DMCA. He's been involved in Net issues for over a decade (his first Internet legislation helped open the Internet up for public use in 1992), and has worked hard to reconcile all sides in the copyfight.
This Monday lunchtime, he'll be talking at Stanford Law School on DC's
reaction to MGM v. Grokster, and possible options for legal online music
As many have reported, the Authors Guild has filed a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit [PDF] against Google in the Southern District of New York. The dispute, as we've mentioned before, involves Google Print.
I believe Google has a strong fair use defense here. Because a fair use defense turns on a case-by-case analysis of the facts, it is important to understand exactly what Google intends to do. In the words of Jonathan Band:
It's no surprise that the National Security Agency (NSA) is working on technologies that can locate you in geographical space by analyzing your Internet communications. What is somewhat odd is that the government agency is patenting them. Just a few days ago, the NSA was granted a patent on a "method for locating logical network addresses," which measures time latency in communications as a way of figuring out where network traffic originates. High tech investigators now need more than a court order to snoop on Internet communications -- they also need a patent license.
In the face of stiff opposition to a plan to extend campaign finance laws to the Internet, which led many bloggers to fear that political speech would be restricted online, members of Congress are now openly calling for legislation to kill the plan before it ever gets off the ground.
The Federal Election Commission's proposal, issued in March, resulted from a 2004 court ruling that found no basis to exempt the Internet from rules intended to regulate campaign expenditures and add transparency to the electoral process. The proposal would, among other things, place limits on political advertisements and require disclaimers for some activities and ads sponsored by parties or candidates.
WIPO's "Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations" [PDF] is protection, all right: a protection racket for middlemen in the TV and Internet worlds.
If adopted, the WIPO treaty will give broadcasters copyright-like control over the content of their broadcasts, even when they have no copyright in what they show. A TV channel broadcasting your Creative Commons-licensed movie could legally demand that no one record or redistribute it -- and sue anyone who does. And TV companies could use their new rights to go after TiVo or MythTV for daring to let you skip advertisements or record programs in DRM-free formats.
Reporters Without Borders has published an outstanding how-to guide for bloggers and "cyberdissidents" seeking to make their voices heard in the face of government monitoring, censorship, and worse. Reads the introduction:
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest. Plenty of bloggers have been hounded or thrown in prison. One of the contributors to this handbook, Arash Sigarchi, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for posting several messages online that criticised the Iranian regime. His story illustrates how some bloggers see what they do as a duty and a necessity, not just a hobby. They feel they are the eyes and ears of thousands of other Internet users.
Edgar Bronfman Jr., the CEO of Warner Music Group, recently took a moment to attack Apple's Steve Jobs for the 99-cent pricing of music downloads in the iTunes Music Store. According to Bronfman, "Not all songs are created equal -- not all time periods are created equal. We want, and will insist upon having, variable pricing."
What? Bronfman singing the praises of "variable pricing"?! Lest anyone forget, he was at the helm of Universal Music Group back when it (along with all the other major labels) was engaged in a scheme of price fixing aimed at keeping CD prices high.
Imagine you're a happy-go-lucky conglomerate of Hollywood media companies.
Faced with some tweaks to your business model that you'd rather not
contemplate, your members have conceived of an ingenious alternative:
compelling tech companies to implement shoddy copy-protection on every digital
AV-enabled computer in the land.
Let's call this cunning plan the "Broadcast Flag."
Your "Broadcast Flag," while undoubtedly quite brilliant and only slightly
delusional, has been running into a few problems recently. First, after it was
torn to shreds by techies in its drafting committee, you had to shout more than usual to get the FCC to adopt it.
Copyright scholar James Boyle has a brilliant Financial Times column on the WIPO broadcasting/webcasting treaty that threatens to gum up the Internet with a new layer of "middleman" rights, for the nonsensical reason that it will create "parity" between broadcasters and webcasters:
The Broadcasting and Webcasting Treaty, currently being debated in Geneva, is an IP hat trick.
Memletics is one of those dime-a-dozen companies selling a product it promises will teach "accelerated learning" and how to "remember more." What makes Memletics remarkable is the digital rights management (DRM) scheme it uses on its books. The company's main product is a training manual that explains the "Memletics advanced learning system" -- and if you loan it to a friend, you do so at considerable personal risk. You see, Mimletic prints out your "name, address, telephone number, credit card number, and other information" on every tenth page of the e-book. The truly amazing part is that the company does this with its printed manuals too.
As EFF friend Wendy Seltzer observes over @ Copyfight, the public transportation systems in New York and San Francisco have started an ugly trend: threatening people who make subway maps available online in a format easy for downloading to iPods. William Patry took note of the development, and he doesn't like what he sees:
EFF returned to Geneva this week for the WIPO General Assembly, a two-week marathon meeting where last year's progress is reviewed and future plans are hatched laid. While there are dozens of items on the agenda, we're tracking two very closely: the future of WIPO's work vis-a-vis the developing world (a.k.a. the Development Agenda) and a proposal to turn broadcasters into a new class of copyright holders (a.k.a. the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty). Both are currently moving in the right direction.
[Analysis and notes after the jump.]