Charlie Crist, the Florida Attorney General, has joined several other states in investigating the Sony DRM debacle:
It was thanks to the work of independent security researchers that the security risks in Sony-BMG's copy protected CDs were discovered. But what about the copy-protected CDs being sold by EMI labels (including Virgin, Capitol, and Liberty Records), which use similar copy protection technologies from Macrovision Corporation?
In the wake of the Sony-BMG debacle, it is more important than ever that independent security researchers kick the tires of the EMI CDs (because we can be sure that the bad guys are now wise to the fact that copy-protection software can yield tasty new vulnerabilities). Unfortunately, the good guys - security researchers - interested in doing the work have a minefield of legal risks to negotiate.
News reports over the holidays revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA)'s presidentially-approved domestic spying program is even broader than the White House acknowledged.
First it was revealed that the Administration has been wiretapping the international phone and email communications of people inside the US without getting search warrants.
Last week, the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 was signed into law and a blow was struck against free speech on the Internet. VAWDOJRA is a complex bill, covering a wide variety of topics, but one subsection received little attention: Section 113. Dubbed "Preventing Cyberstalking," Section 113 amends the telecommunication act's prohibitions on anonymous annoyance over the telephone to include "any device or software that can be used to originate ... communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet." Such as, for example, your modem.
On December 22, the DOJ published a letter attempting to provide a legal justification of the NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States. While the wiretaps would violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on its face, the government argues that that the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) implicitly authorized the secret NSA wiretaps, and, even if it did not, it is authorized by the President's Article II role as Commander in Chief.
There's a new trend underway among indie labels, dubbed "digital vinyl": offering free MP3 downloads for customers who buy albums on vinyl. First Merge Records offered free downloads to those who bought vinyl releases by Clientele and Robert Pollard. Now Saddle Creek Records has announced that they will be doing the same thing for their customers who prefer vinyl, starting with What the Toll Tells, the new record by Two Gallants due in February.
For a variety of reasons, vinyl has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among music fans (I, for one, can attest that The Decemberists' Picaresque vinyl release sounds better the CD). Unfortunately, music fans who own turntables and iPods find themselves in a bit of a quandary.
While a nearly infinite quantity of web ink has been spilled on the copyright issues raised by Google's Library Project (formerly Google Print), there have been few good resources that concisely summarize the positions of both sides.
Jonathan Band, copyright lawyer and author of one of the best early analyses of the legal issues, has now prepared an excellent overview of the arguments [PDF] on behalf of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy.
It's a great resource for those trying to understand the copyright law issues involved, without having to digest 200 blog posts on the subject.
This week at MacWorld, Apple unveiled version 6.0.2 of iTunes, which it simply claimed "includes stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.1." Among these so-called improvements is the Apple iTunes MiniStore -- a localized "recommendation" engine that would look at what you listen to and then suggest additional songs and artists you might like. The MiniStore arrives turned on by default without asking a user's permission first.
Canadian politics have been exciting of late -- a scandal, a collapsed government, and now another scandal involving a member of that collapsed government. But the really interesting bit is that the last scandal revolves around a Canadian MP's close ties to Hollywood, and it has launched copyright into the spotlight as a bona fide election issue.
The administration has justified the secret National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless domestic surveillance program by contending that going around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is necessary to conduct the war against terrorism. Attorney General Gonzalez claimed "[t]he operators out at NSA tell me that we don't have the speed and the agility that we need..." The claim seems to be that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is too slow, and the government needs to be able to tap phone calls and email immediately.
Last week, we told you about a troublesome "phone home" feature in iTunes MiniStore -- one of the new "improvements" in iTunes announced at MacWorld. The MiniStore looks at what you listen to and suggests additional songs and artists you might like, but they were some big problems with it: it arrived in the latest iTunes update turned on by default; it automatically transmits information back to Apple; and what Apple did with that information was unknown. Apple also did not disclose the steps they were taking to prevent disclosure or leakage of the information to third parties. Some users found that iTunes also sent along your Apple ID -- personal information that is apparently linked to other identifying information that Apple has on file.
The U.S. Copyright Office received 74 comments proposing exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision as part of its triennial DMCA rulemaking proceeding. In this and subsequent posts, we will summarize the key exemption proposals made in this first round of comments. If you can offer specific factual or legal arguments in support of these proposals, we urge you to file a reply with the Copyright Office before the February 2, 2006 deadline. For a helpful guide to filing replies, see Seth Finkelstein's Winning (DMCA) Exemptions, The Next Round.
An Exemption for CDs with Rootkit-like Protection Measures
In the previous post, we noted the approaching deadline for filing reply comments in the Copyright Office's DMCA rulemaking proceeding and summarized the proposed exemption submitted by Ed Felten and J. Alex Halderman. This post highlights another key first round comment, one submitted by the Stanford Center for Internet and Society's Cyberlaw Clinic on behalf of the Wireless Alliance and Robert Pinkerton.
Mobile Firmware Exemption
On Wednesday, a New Mexico state court judge denied a summary judgment motion made by Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and permitted the plaintiffs in an important e-voting challenge to move forward with discovery. The suit, filed in January of 2005, challenges the state's use of paperless e-voting systems in the wake of widespread irregularities reported surrounding the use of such machines during the 2004 presidential election.
Meanwhile, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid have proposed legislation that would require the use of paper-based systems that would permit meaningful recounts and audits. The plan, if adopted, would also provide over $11 million in additional state funds for counties to upgrade their existing systems.
Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other search engines have massive databases that reach into the most intimate details of your life-- what you search for, what you read, what worries you, what you enjoy. It is critical to protect the privacy of this information so that people can feel free to use the modern tools necessary to navigate the Internet without fear of big brother looking over their shoulder. In response to a DOJ subpoena for aggregate search logs, Yahoo, MSN and AOL complied, while Google fought back.
As an initial formal response, SunnComm has released lists of all the titles, regardless of label, that use the MediaMax 5 and MediaMax 3 DRM. The MediaMax'd CDs are not limited to Sony BMG, but include independent label records such as Cuban Link's "Chain Reaction" by Men of Business Records, Peter Cetera's "You Just Gotta Love Christmas" by Viastar Records or MediaMax'd releases on KOCH Records. SunnComm provided a copy of the following letter, which it sent on January 5 to all the independent labels using its software:
You say you want the power to time-shift and space-shift TV and radio? You say you want tomorrow's innovators to invent new TV and radio gizmos you haven't thought of yet, the same way the pioneers behind the VCR, TiVo, and the iPod did?
Well, that's not what the entertainment industry has in mind. According to them, here's all tomorrow's innovators should be allowed to offer you:
"customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law."
Had that been the law in 1970, there would never have been a VCR. Had it been the law in 1990, no TiVo. In 2000, no iPod.
The DOJ's demand for one week worth of search histories has raised the concern that the government will go fishing into the data set, looking for searches and for keywords that worry the government. Even if IP numbers or other identifying data is not provided, what is to prevent the government from returning to Google with a second subpoena?
Though the government intends to use these data specifically for its COPA-related test, it's possible that the information could lead to further investigations and, perhaps, subpoenas to find out who was doing the searching. What if certain search terms indicated that people were contemplating terrorist actions or other criminal activities? Says the DOJ's [spokesperson Charles] Miller, "I'm assuming that if something raised alarms, we would hand it over to the proper [authorities]." (emphasis added)
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) made unauthorized copies of a new documentary, This Film Not Yet Rated, that is critical of the organization.
The copies were apparently made when the film was submitted for an MPAA rating. The film got an NC-17, a somewhat ironic outcome for a film that exposes the unfairness of the MPAA ratings system.
The MPAA made the copies because they "were concerned about the raters and their families," according to Kori Bernards, the MPAA's vice president for corporate communications. The identities of the MPAA ratings board have been a closely guarded secret, at least until This Film Not Yet Rated did some amateur detective work to sniff them out. Now that the word is out, the MPAA apparently is afraid for "their families"?
It began with committee chairman Senator Stevens and Senator Inouye, his Democrat counterpart, declaring, as with all good anti-piracy measures, that Something Had To Be Done, and that Congress should pass the flag as soon as possible.
The agenda seemed set. In the face of it, those who objected to the Broadcast Flag--technologists, librarians, and civil libertarians--were forced to spend much of their Congressional time requesting narrow exceptions that might lessen its damage.
Then two things happened...
A district court in Nevada has ruled that the Google Cache is a fair use.
Blake Field, an author and attorney, brought the copyright infringement lawsuit against Google after the search engine automatically copied and cached a story he posted on his website. The district court found that Mr. Field "attempted to manufacture a claim for copyright infringement against Google in hopes of making money from Google's standard [caching] practice." Google responded that its Google Cache feature, which allows Google users to link to an archival copy of websites indexed by Google, does not violate copyright law.
The court granted summary judgment in favor of Google on four independent bases:
There's not much to say on the legal matter of what Google recently did to its own values, and 1.3 billion people's fundamental freedoms, in order to enter the Chinese market. As an American company, Google can filter and censor its database as much as the China government demands, with no real legal repercussions.
U.S. law has certainly spoken in the past about American companies' behavior in foreign authoritarian states. Perhaps the House Subcommittee on Human Rights hearings on February 15 will clarify what the U.S. Congress will make of such actions in the future.
Beyond the law, we at the EFF are, of course, deeply disappointed with the decision Google has made.