July 2002 Archives

with Congress' August break looming, Big Content pressed the battle on all fronts in the War On Copyright, and Sen Fritz "Hollywood" Hollings dutifully did his part in the blitzkrieg, arranging to provide air cover for Hollywood's precious "broadcast flag."

the "broadcast flag" is the brain-child of the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG), and it allows the major studios to control what you can do with their digital broadcasts. naturally, that control is dependent on every TV, personal video recorder (PVR), and computer agreeing to play along. since nobody's really interested in things like PVRs that don't record and computers that transmit your personal details to Hollywood, you can imagine how the consumer electronics and technology industries have reacted to the idea. in response, Big Content has turned to their sock-puppets in Washington to bludgeon the dissenting parties (the technology industry, consumer electronics manufacturers, and the citizens of the United States) into line with legislation.

ignoring loud public protest, studio mouthpiece Jack Valenti has characterized the outcome of the BPDG process as "consensus," and that's more than good enough for his faithful manservant Fritz. his warchest stuffed with Big Content cash, the Senator from South Carolina wrote to Federal Communications Commission chair Mike Powell recently, urging him to give the "broadcast flag" the force of federal fiat. parroting Valenti's claim of (non-existent) consensus, Hollings extends his willing suspension of disbelief long enough to honor Big Content's generosity in the BPDG process:

[T]he content industries warrant praise for agreeing to a proposed technological solution that allows consumers to make physical copies of digital content for use on compliant devices (consumer electronics devices designed to comply with the 'broadcast flag' technology), regardless of where those devices may be.
in other words, Fritz is patting Big Content on the back for allowing consumers the right to use a crippled version of the VCR.

surpassing mere suspension of disbelief and transcending into deep denial, Hollings sums up his letter with the assertion that "It is beyond dispute that the public interest would be served by regulations protecting digital broadcast content." actually, nothing about the BPDG process has been in the public interest. as i said in a post a few days back:

as for the media-consuming public -- they had no official role at all in the BDPG, despite the fact that the broadcast airwaves and copyright itself are the people's trust to be used by Big Content with our permission.
the MPAA (aided by one of their many snitchware accomplices) has sent one of their boilerplate DMCA nastygrams to a broadband user who maintains a Gnutella host cache.

when a Gnutella user sparks up their copy of LimeWire or BearShare, the client will bootstrap itself onto the network by grabbing a bunch of IP addresses of other machines running Gnutella clients from a host cache—after all, you need to find other peers somehow. in other words, a host cache is simply a fixed/known machine that provides an up-to-date list of available Gnutella nodes. keep that in mind as you read the note the MPAA sent to this user's ISP:

RE: Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Motion Pictures
Site/URL: gnutella://xxx.xx.xxx.xxx:6346/ [with IP address: 209.61.184.228]
Reference#: xxxxxx
Date of Infringement: 7/22/2002 4:24:46 AM GMT

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) represents the following motion picture production and distribution companies:

Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Paramount Pictures Corporation
TriStar Pictures, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
United Artists Pictures, Inc.
United Artists Corporation
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Warner Bros., a Division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P.

We have received information that an individual has utilized the above referenced IP address at the noted date and time to offer downloads of copyrighted motion picture(s) through a "peer-to-peer" service, including such title(s) as:

American Pie 2
Ice Age
Monsters, Inc. (movie)
Scary Movie II
Star Wars: Episode II
Thirteen Ghosts

The distribution of unauthorized copies of copyrighted motion pictures constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, Title 17 United States Code Section 106(3). This conduct may also violate the laws of other countries, international law, and/or treaty obligations.

Since you own this IP address, we request that you immediately do the following:

1. Disable access to the individual who has engaged in the conduct described above, and;
2. Take appropriate action against the account holder under your Abuse Policy/Terms of Service Agreement.

On behalf of the respective owners of the exclusive rights to the copyrighted material at issue in this notice, we hereby state, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Title 17 United States Code Section 512, that we have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owners, their respective agents, or the law.

Also pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we hereby state, under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the State of California and under the laws of the United States, that the information in this notification is accurate and that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owners of the exclusive rights being infringed as set forth in this notification.

Please contact us at the above listed address or by replying to this email should you have any questions. Kindly include the above noted Reference # in the subject line of all email correspondence.

We thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Your prompt response is requested.

Respectfully,

Ken Jacobsen
Senior Vice President and Director
Worldwide Anti-Piracy

you can see the problem immediately: this user is not distributing unauthorized copies of anything. remember, all they're doing is providing a list of IP addresses. so, the MPAA's complaint that: "an individual has utilized the above referenced IP address at the noted date and time to offer downloads of copyrighted motion picture(s) through a "peer-to-peer" service...." is completely incorrect.

it's not even analagous to the case Big Content made against Napster. with Napster's architecture a user queried Napster's database of files and was, in turn, presented with a list of hosts that could provide matching file names. with a Gnutella host cache, a file name doesn't enter into it; a host cache doesn't know (and doesn't care) about files, just about the existence of Gnutella nodes.

the issues raised by this particular incident are important. first, we absolutely can not trust Big Content's automated campaign of copyright vigilanteism. they'll get it wrong, and accuse people of things they didn't do. they'll bully ISPs into doing their dirty work, and it will be up to the individual to prove they were innocent. the unintended consequences are frightening, and private organizations can't provide the transparency of process to ensure they've employed the proper safeguards to protect your individual civil rights.

second, and perhaps this is just my natural suspicion at work, Big Content knows that your ISP's not going to be a willing ally in your struggle. if Verizon gets a similar nastygram with my IP address on it, i'm not hopeful of getting a personal note of support from James Earl Jones. this provides Big Content with a back-door to broaden their efforts to cripple competitors to their own sanctioned digital music services.

Big Content knows that going after host caches will cripple Gnutella. since they represent a simple routing function, there's skimpy logical (if not legal) basis for shutting them down, so organizations like the MPAA will go after the weak link in the DMCA chain—your ISP.

anyway, just thank god Big Content isn't legally allowed to hack your computer, eh?

uh oh...

dammit.

it's an indication of just of bad the situation really is that if i slack off on my writing—even just a little—i wind up in a deep hole. the news (all of it dismal) piles up higher than the trash during a New York garbage strike. Big Content's so evil, they try to sneak stuff by me while i'm distracted by looking for a job.

let's start with a little blurb on the MPAA (and their snitchware bounty hunters) sending DMCA nastygrams about people running Gnutella host caches (above or follow this link).

Washington insider Mitch Glazier, the RIAA's new chief lobbyist-weasel, has gotten right to work, demanding that record labels get the same "broadcast flag" protection the TV and movie business is foisting upon us. in other words, recording digital audio whatever-cast over the internet, cable, or satellite will be verboten.

naturally, the idea of allowing Big Content unprecedented end-to-end control over what users can do with audio and video is just as repugnant and unpopular as ever, so the RIAA expects government to do the job it's paid to do and compel unwilling parties into compliance with legislation.

Glazier's approach is an excellent illustration of how the snug relationship between Congress and Big Content works to insulate the legislative process from the pesky obstacles of transparency and democratic accountability:

first, Senator Fritz "Hollywood" Hollings (brought to you by Disney) engages in some loud saber-rattling by introducing the excrable SSSCA/CBDTPA, which threatens to hand over the design computers and consumer electronics to federal bureaucrats and Big Content lobbyist-weasels. this sets a new low-water-mark for citizens' fair-use, first-sale, and free speech rights. next, the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG), a Big Content-run psuedo-quango, arbitrarily declares that it has reached a consensus on a "broadcast flag" for digital television, despite vocal and public dissention from major technology and consumer electronics companies. as for the media-consuming public -- they had no official role at all in the BDPG, despite the fact that the broadcast airwaves and copyright itself are the people's trust to be used by Big Content with our permission. finally, the RIAA's lobbyist-weasels, seeing the BDPG being declared a fait accompli, ride Jack Valenti's coattails and demand their share of the legislative spoils

"It's really the same model for what's already been happening on the video side," Glazier said.
all very neat -- wouldn't you agree.
if you're repelled by the idea of government-sanctioned agents of Big Content acting as copyright enforcement vigilantes and bounty-hunters, allow yourself a moment of guilty pleasure: the Register caught Ranger Online in flagrante with purloined digital content on its web site.
That's right, our righteous copyright enforcement team is a copyright rip-off. Until hours ago, they were exhibiting content from MSNBCi, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and ZD-Net as if it were their own.
any TiVo-owning, commercial-skipping employees of Ranger and its ilk are welcome to e-mail me (anonymity guaranteed) -- i'd love to hear what these places are like from the insider's perspective.
Turner Broadcasting Chairman (and self-appointed Bathroom Piracy Czar) Jamie Kellner's Google-factor received yet another boost this week.

at a recent TV critics' conflab, Kellner suggested that the "free lunch" consumers have enjoyed with broadcast television could be destroyed by PVR use. according to Kellner's calculations, people could wind up paying as much as $250 a year to support his salary.

apparently, he had no ready comment about what innovative ideas the networks were hatching to adapt to growing PVR use. like his corporate stable-mates in the music industry, his business model appears to be sacrosanct; paying for it is the consumer's burden.

a poster to file-sharing news site Zeropaid has done some digging into Big Content snitchware vendors Overpeer.

it appears that Overpeer was incubated and funded by South Korean conglomerate SK Group, whose other business interests range from textiles and chemicals, to optical media (that's right -- they make CD-Rs), to energy. in fact, these guys will get into bed with just about anyone: among their energy holdings is a 50-50 joint venture with the late, great Enron.

Marc Morgenstern, the New York-based company's CEO, is the former Senior VP for New Media of ASCAP -- one of the two major performing rights organizations (PROs) in the US. Zeropaid also says that Marc's the son of ASCAP vice-chair and Warner Chappell Music general manager Jay Morgenstern. PROs license music and collect royalties on behalf of composers, performers, and publishers (often Big Content-controlled entities like, er, Warner Chappell) from broadcast and live performances. while at ASCAP, Morgenstern was responsible (along with early snitchware vendor Cyveillance) for developing EZ-Seeker, a spider that trawled the Web in search of downloadable MP3s. offenders were then pressured to obtain ASCAP licenses, despite the claim that a downloadable MP3 constitutes a sale, rather than a performance. with Overpeer, Marc's taken the strongarm tactics to the next level.

exposing yet another flaw in America's intellectual property regime -- namely its propensity to award patents for dumbass ideas -- Overpeer's CSO, CheolWoong Lee, and CTO, Changyoung Lee have applied for a US Patent on their method for flooding networks with corrupted files. in the filing's abstract, the Lee boys say:

A method of preventing reduction of sales amount of records due to a digital music file illegally distributed through a communication network is disclosed. The method comprises the steps of a)producing an advertising digital music file by deteriorating or damaging a sound quality of an original music file of a record of a cooperating record corporation; and b)distributing the advertising digital music file through the communication network. The present invention provides a method of producing a digital music file with lower sound quality for publicity, and distributing it over the network before a formal record is sold, thus minimizing a distribution of the illegal digital music file with the same quality as the original music file on the network.
stripping out the crap Abelman, Frayne & Schwab charge $200/hour for, we can see that Overpeer's trying to patent the act of diddling an audio file with SoundForge then sharing it on KaZaA.

overall, though, the filing's a moderately interesting look at how the agents of Big Content are working to sabotage competitors in the market for online music distribution.

one Congressman's taken a decidedly different tack from Berman, Hollings, Schiff et al on your rights in a digital world. Virginia's Rick Boucher was in New York yesterday to discuss his planned legislation to claw back some of our traditional fair-use rights from the DMCA.

the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is based on a flawed premise: that the preservation of copyright in a digital world is so difficult, it's necessary to eviscerate long-standing rights and freedoms. while the DMCA has served its Big Content sponsors well, it's largely been a disaster for consumers, academics, and entrepreneurs. in the music industry, for example, the effect of the DMCA has been to help destroy independent competition for the major labels' in-house online music services, to silence small-scale internet radio, and to handcuff consumers with "copy-protected" CDs (not only inconveniencing them, but potentially damaging their computers and corrupting data).

the DMCA outlaws technology that would allow users to preserve the rights they had before its enactment -- for example, the right to make a copy of digital content for their own personal use. Rep Boucher's hoping to reverse some of the damage by codifying traditionally unwritten fair-use rights:

He said he would introduce legislation that would essentially codify "fair use" provisions of copyright law (that have been implied but not necessarily guaranteed). He also wants to ease up some of the more copy-restrictive provisions of the 1998 Digital Milennium Copyright Act, whose pay-per-use provisions on copies he has criticized as a threat not only to "fair use," but to innovation, idea exchange, even First Amendment guarantees on free speech.
i'm playing catch-up here (this new look didn't come for free, you know) so many of you will have seen this story a little while ago, but i wanted to tie it into one of my previous posts.

perhaps i'm being overly cynical, but Rep Howie Berman's plan to give Big Content a "License to Hack" (draft legislation is expected sometime this week) isn't just about what Big Content plans to do in the future. i'm guessing he's trying to grandfather in a bunch of borderline-illegal activities that the labels and the studios are already engaged in. given what Big Content's willing to admit to in the mainstream media -- namely, flooding networks with bogus files -- it's not hard to imagine that the labels have been trying to employ far more aggressive -- and illegal -- measures at the same time.

the corporate vigilante mentality's certainly there:

Those countermeasures could cross "into a gray area as far as legality," admits another record executive who asked not to be named. He said frustrated record label employees could resort to such measures as propagating viruses, rationalizing "'Hey, if you don't mind stealing my career and livelihood, I'm sure you don't mind if I destroy your hard drive.'"
and there's no end of willing co-conspiritors. companies like Ranger, Overpeer, Vidius, NetPD, Media Defender, and MediaForce are willing to do Big Content's dirty work for them. any or all of them could be poking around your hard drive right now.

whether you see them as private vigilantes, uninvited guests, or virtual private dicks, allowing these companies (and their employers) to operate without scrutiny is placing an awful lot of trust in an industry that routinely calls its customers "thieves".

sad note. Gene Kan, gnutella developer/agitpropagandist, founder of early P2P start-up InfraSearch, died sometime on the weekend of June 27. his friend Yaroslav Faybishenko has a brief remembrance of Gene on his site.

kicky new summer look!

perhaps you spent your holiday weekend reading a book while swinging in a hammock in your back yard, glass of fresh lemonade by your side.

i spent part of mine working on this spiffy update to blogaritaville. i've tried to pare down some of the more useless and intrusive features (like the calendar) while increasing the site's overall readability. you may have trouble, though, if your browser doesn't have comprehensive CSS support. what can i say? how about "upgrade"?.

let me know if you have any comments on the new look.

the Wall Street Journal's reporting that Big Content's got a plan to go after individual file traders in court.

...Top record-label executives agreed in a trade association meeting a few weeks ago that they would move toward preparing suits that would focus on individuals who supply the biggest amounts of music, as well as so-called “supernodes,” or people who provide the centralized directories that enable online music-sharing. According to people with knowledge of the matter, two of the strongest backers of the tough tactics have been the biggest music companies, the recording units of Vivendi Universal SA and Sony Corp.
remember, Vivendi Universal are paying their ousted CEO $17 million in severance while they sue their customers.

the (currently) private-sector War on Copyright will also have a "hearts-and-minds" effort: an ad campaign featuring major artists admonishing their fans to respect the sanctity of copyrights. i sincerely hope they run these spots between segments of "MTV Cribs".

this plan marks a new level of self-destructive behavior for Big Content. you have to admire the moxie of any business that can deal with being hated by its suppliers and customers.

happy 135th, Canada!

the maple leaf