As the recording industry's doom and gloom rhetoric continues in the face of ever increasing file sharing, the RIAA's own statistics [PDF] tell a much different story. Wired's Chris Anderson examined the recently published 2005 sales stats and found that "2005 may have been more profitable than 2004." While CD sales continued to decline, online and mobile sales made up the difference.
EFF has long been a critic of the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty, and now we have a particularly vivid example of how the treaty imperils the public domain.
The Smithsonian Institution recently announced a joint venture with Showtime that gives the cable TV network exclusive commercial access to the Smithsonian's archival materials (much of which consists of public domain materials). According to the Washington Post:
Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. Aids to Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) informed Cambridge resident Carolyn Fuller and other citizen-lobbyists the Lynch would likely sign onto HR 550 by the end of the day. Lynch supported the bill, they said, but he had uninentionally let the question of his co-sponsorship "slip" and he would remedy that oversight right away.
On the other hand, some House members were unfamiliar with the bill and the various attempts to remedy e-voting problems. Staffers for Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), for example, gave Lobby Days contributors a welcome reception and heard them out but, as one lobbyist put it, "seemed oblivious" to the issue.
That's what some members have either implied or outright stated when discussing the future of HR 550 with our team of lobbyists-for-a-day. Staff members for Rep. Jim Walsh (R-NY) called HR 550 a "partisan bill" and, in any event, that the "pro-computer lobby" had been pressing Walsh's office on the issue as well. Walsh wasn't the only Republican who cited partisan considerations. On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the Committee on House Administration also expressed doubts about whether the bill could advance in a Republican-controlled Congress. This reaction wasn't widespread (at least publicly), but neither was it rare.
At last count, the Lobby Days team had corralled three new co-sponsors to HR 550, along with even more promises of support. Added to the co-sponsorship list are Representative Jim Leach (R-IA), Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).
Click here to tell your member of Congress to support HR 550!
Will HR 550 solve many of the outstanding questions surrounding the use of e-voting equipment? Recently, a few strongly-worded questions have been raised regarding the effectiveness of the bill. Thankfully, the concerns are misplaced or simply wrong, as diligently explained by Pam Smith, Nationwide Coordinator for VerifiedVoting.org:
"Recently allegations of shortcomings in the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" -- HR550, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey -- have been circulated, moments before citizens concerned about verifiable elections nationwide converge on Washington DC to lobby for this particular bill.
Hundreds of e-voting reform "activists" (average citizens passionate about e-voting reform) returned to Capitol Hill this morning to push for passage of HR 550, with help from the "I Count Coalition," made up of EFF, VerifiedVoting.Org, Common Cause, VoteTrustUSA, Working Assets, and VotersUnited.org.
As a result of these efforts, more House members have signed on to the bill. In addition to the members who signed on yesterday, today's names include:
The HR 550 Lobby Days brought to DC not only passionate citizens interested in e-voting reform but also election officials who have been forced into technology battles that they never wanted to fight. Participating in the Lobby Days events today is Ion Sancho, Supervisor of Elections of Leon County Florida. Sancho, as those who follow e-voting issues may recall, organized a series of tests of Diebold's touchscreen voting technology that (once again) exposed a series of serious vulnerabilities.
Sancho issued the follow statement in conjunction with a press conference that took place this morning:
A.J. Devies, president of the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVOC), today made an impassioned plea to reporters, Congressional staffers, and voting reform advocates to support HR 550 as a way to ensure fair and equal treatment of voters with disabilities. "Disabled voters have been disenfranchised for years," noted Devies, and under the Help America Vote Act, states and counties have been allowed to purchase "accessible" touchscreen voting equipment that actually harms disabled voters.
Word arrives at the close of our HR 550 Lobby Days event that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor. The addition of Pelosi adds a powerful name to a list of co-sponsors that now surpasses 80% of the members needed to free the bill from the Committee on House Administration and to open a floor debate. Pelosi's co-sponsorship is particularly noteworthy as Pelosi's staff had previously taken the position that the Minority Leader would not sign on to the bill while multiple Democratic alternatives existed. While competing Democratic (and Republic) election reform bills still exist, Pelosi appears now to have identified HR 550 as a bill that deserves the special attention and support of the most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives.
On April 20, a California Court of Appeal will hear arguments in Apple v. Does, a case in which EFF is fighting to ensure that bloggers and other online writers get the same rights as offline journalists and can protect the confidentiality of their sources. Apple has demanded that the three online journalists defended by EFF turn over the identities of sources that allegedly leaked information about new Apple products.
The Washington DC legal newspaper, Legal Times, is reporting (sorry, subscription link) that Kevin Murphy, a legislative aide to Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), has recently taken a job with cable and film giant Viacom. Senator Smith, you may remember, is one of the Hill's leading proponents of the broadcast flag. Smells fishy, you say? Legal Times thinks so, too:
In a potential conflict of interest, a legislative assistant to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who is currently sponsoring legislation limiting the use and distribution of digital broadcasts, has been hired by media giant Viacom
Much has already been written about major movie studios' recently agreeing to sell downloads on Movielink and CinemaNow with remarkably high price points and ridiculous DRM restrictions. Buyer beware -- these services are misleading about how little you'll get to do with your media.
For instance, CinemaNow's "How It Works" page says:
"Anywhere"? Read the fine print further down the page:
We've just updated our Unintended Consequences report (also available as a print-friendly PDF), which collects reported cases of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA being used not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate competitors. In the seven years since the DMCA was enacted, this has grown into quite a list:
Your online speech may be perfectly legal under our laws, but when can a US court be made to enforce a foreign law against you? Can the First Amendment be undermined by court decisions from nations that are less protective of free speech? That's the issue addressed in an amicus brief filed by EFF on Monday, arguing that the First Amendment blocks two French fashion design companies from enforcing a French court judgment in the U.S.
As we mentioned in a prior post, the Smithsonian and Showtime Networks have entered into a deal with troubling implications for the public domain (especially in light of the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty). A FOIA request has been sent to the Smithsonian seeking public disclosure of the terms of the deal (EFF is representing the Center for American Progress in connection with the request).
This week, the first HD-DVD releases entered the US market. The standards battle with Blu-Ray is the talk of the town, but that's not the only element of this format roll-out that will inevitably frustrate consumers. These discs come ready to restrict legitimate uses far beyond what you've faced with typical DVDs. Just as with DVDs, though, these restrictions won't do anything to stop "Internet piracy."
In a recent article in The Guardian, EFF's Seth Schoen discusses some of the restrictions you'll face in the future when you "upgrade." Without the DMCA, Hollywood wouldn't be able to get away with this. Take action now and support DMCA reform.
Professor Ed Felten has been posting this week (1, 2, 3) about HDCP, a content protection technology rapidly becoming ubiquitous in the world of high-def video, whether from your cable, satellite, or next-gen Blu-Ray/HD DVD player.
Apparently, HDCP has serious security weaknesses, Hollywood knew it, and everyone went ahead with it anyway. So it won't stop "pirates," but it will create incompatibilities for regular movie fans for years to come.
Why? Because the developers were dumb? Because they were desperate to stop piracy? Nope. Felten explains:
According to DesignTechnica, Philips has patented a "technology ... [that] would prevent users from changing channels to avoid watching television commercials as well as prevent viewers from fast-forwarding through recorded advertisements."
Why would Philips invent such an absurd restriction when it will never be voluntarily licensed? After all, in a competitive market, technology companies who adopt Philips' patented system will be shunned by customers; no one wants a device that says, "Now improved -- blocks changing channels during commercials!"
Perhaps Philips believes that, at some point in the future, Hollywood might push for a government mandate forcing technology companies to incorporate anti-skipping technology. If that happens, this patent could be the federally-set standard, and tech creators would have to pay Philips every time they want to sell a new device.
Today, EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl argued the critical issues in Apple v. Does before a San Jose, California appeals court, telling a panel of three judges that denying confidential source protection to journalists -- whether online or offline -- would deliver a dangerous blow to all media.
The case started when Apple Computer sued several unnamed individuals -- called "Does" -- who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product to online news sites PowerPage and AppleInsider. As part of its investigation, Apple subpoenaed PowerPage's email service provider Nfox for communications and unpublished materials obtained by PowerPage publisher Jason O'Grady. A trial court denied a motion for an order protecting the journalists from the subpoenas, and the journalists appealed.
Did EMI and Universal Music Group lie to the Department of Justice in order to throw federal investigators off the scent during the antitrust investigation involving the major labels, MusicNet, and pressplay? According to a ruling issued last week, the evidence suggests they did.
This is the latest chapter in the Napster case. Yes, that Napster case.
Years after the original company went bankrupt and sold their name to the highest bidder, the Napster case continues to drag on. The record labels, you see, are still pressing their case against Hummer Winblad and Bertelsman for investing in Napster years ago.
Congress appears to be awash in dangerous trademark and copyright bills. One is H.R. 683, "The Trademark Dilution Revision Act," a revision to the trademark laws that includes a little-noticed change that will put those who want to poke fun at big brands in jeopardy. EFF, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, and others have been pushing lawmakers to restore protections for fair use, news reporting, and noncommercial uses.
Editor & Publisher magazine has published an excellent overview of the issue:
The Department of Justice is pushing for legislation that would expand the scope of, and stiffen the penalties for, criminal copyright infringement. The legislation has not yet been introduced, but the relevant subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee has quietly circulated a draft bill based on the DoJ wish list. (A similar bill was circulated in November 2005, along with a "section-by-section" analysis apparently prepared by DoJ to explain their requests. The new bill goes farther than the previous version.)
The DoJ proposal is an outrage.
Remember when all of those Canadian record labels recently walked out on CRIA, the Canadian equivalent of the RIAA? Well, a bunch of them just launched a new coalition for Canadian musicians called the "Canadian Music Creators Coalition," and their founding principles are pretty rad:
1. Suing Our Fans is Destructive and Hypocritical
2. Digital Locks are Risky and Counterproductive
3. Cultural Policy Should Support Actual Canadian Artists
Want to use music in your podcast, but don't know whether or how to clear the copyright? What sort of permissions do you need before using an interview in your podcast? Want to allow people to redistribute your podcast freely?
Creative Commons' new Podcasting Legal Guide has answers to these and many more questions. Like EFF's Legal Guide for Bloggers, this handbook breaks down thorny legal issues in clear, easy-to-understand terms.
In response to the RIAA's irrational lawsuit campaign against the tens of millions of American P2P users, EFF set up a petition asking Congress to stop the madness and support ways for artists to get paid without fans getting sued. We're now close to our goal of 100,000 signatures, and, with your help, we hope to surpass it by a longshot and deliver the petition to Congress.
The Pew Internet and American Life project recently published a report regarding how Americans get their news online. According to the report, "Some 50 million Americans turn to the internet for news on a typical day, a new highwater mark for online news-gathering."
Moreover, "9% of all internet users have been to news blogs, with 12% of broadband users saying they've been to news blogs." A different Pew study shows that 73 percent of adults, or 147 million people, now use the Internet. So that's over thirteen million Americans reading news blogs, with countless more using news blogs around the world.
Today the RIAA and MPAA sent a nag letter to 40 university presidents, urging them to stop students from swapping music and movies on campus networks. Once again, rather than offering collegiate music fans "all you can eat" sharing plans in exchange for a sensible fee, the entertainment industry is trying to deputize universities to act as their unpaid on-campus police force.
The litany of DMCA abuses continues to grow, and yet some still deny the damage being done. Perhaps they'd think differently if they tried walking in the shoes of a company or individual who's stared down the barrel of DMCA claims.
Take Professor Ed Felten, who EFF has helped defend against the RIAA's threats. Responding to the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Solveig Singleton describing the case as having a "happy ending," Felten writes:
The United States filed today a "Statement of Interest" in EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T, which accuses the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.
The statement advises "the Court that the United States intends to assert the military and state secrets privilege in this action. In addition, the United States will also move to intervene and to seek dismissal of this case."
[Updated, 3:55 PM to include link to "Statement of Interest."]