Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holy Crap!

Holy crap!

I thought I had seen stupid lawsuits before, but I was mistaken.

Michael Geist, whose blog I often link to, is apparently being sued for defamation on downright ridiculous grounds.

He is being sued for 2 reasons.

The first, a third-party comment that was left on his blog that he removed!

The second reason? You're not going to believe this....

He wrote about and linked to a website that linked to another website that allegedly posted defamatory statements about the Plaintiff, Wayne Crookes.

His last name is quite fitting. Let's hope sanctions are forthcoming for Mr. Crookes.

Once Again, Texas Tips the Table Towards IP Holders

A Texas Judge has dismissed counterclaims against the RIAA for Declaratory Judgment of Non infringement and Copyright Misuse, thus opening the floodgates in Texas for rampant abuse of the Judicial System by the RIAA.

The whole point of the Declaratory Judgment Act is to allow people accused of infringing on copyrights (or patents) to claim against the accuser in order to clear their name and, if they succeed, to recover attorney's fees for being wrongly accused, along with other potential damages.

The RIAA is well known for quickly dropping cases against defendants if they come to the conclusion that they don't have enough evidence to pursue their copyright infringement claims, leaving the former defendant with a mountain of legal bills. In response, defendants have been routinely bringing non-infringement counterclaims against the RIAA, which forces the RIAA to completely exonerate a Defendant if they wish to discontinue their legal action. Numerous judges in other districts of the United States have routinely refused to dismiss these counterclaims because doing so would undermine the fundamental purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act. Texas, to my knowledge, is the only district that has now done so.

Now, the defendants in this case will have no recourse against flagrant abuse of the legal system by the RIAA. I hope this is appealed and the counterclaims are upheld.

Jack Thompson On Another Warpath

Oh great, here we go again. Jack Thompson has just set his legal sights on Microsoft this time over the pending Halo 3. The linked article contains the letter Thompson sent to Microsoft. From the article:

As you also know, Lee Boyd Malvo trained on Microsoft’s Halo to further enable him to become the remarkably efficient “DC Beltway Sniper.” That was reported by NBC News at the time and was noted in Malvo’s criminal trial.
This is downright ridiculous. Anyone, and I mean anyone, whom has ever both fired an actual gun and played a video game such as Halo knows that the experieces are wholly and completely different. To say otherwise simply shows your ignorance. I can snipe nazis with dead accuracy on Medal of Honor, but the few times I have tried to fire an actual gun, I'd be lucky to hit the broadside of a barn. To say that video games provide sufficient training on live firearms is ludiicrous.
Here’s the deal, Mr. Gates: Either Microsoft undertakes dramatic, real steps, through its marketing, wholesale, and retail operations to assure that Halo 3 is not sold, via the Internet and in stores, directly to anyone under 17, or I shall proceed to make sure that Microsoft is held to that standard by appropriate legal means. I have done that before successfully as to Best Buy, and I shall do so again as to Microsoft and all retailers of Halo 3.
Thompson really is the most ignorant "lawyer" I have ever had the pleasure of not meeting (thank god) in my life. He has no touch with reality whatsoever.
  1. To my knowledge, there has yet to be an online age verification system that actually works well enough to ensure Microsoft complies with Thompson's demands.
  2. Microsoft has no control over independant third-party retailers' practises in ensuring that M rated games are not sold to minors. If Wal-Mart, for instance, fails to adequately prevent the game from being purchased by minors, this is Wal-Mart's fault, not Microsoft's.
Jack Thompson really needs to find a hobby and quit bothering other people.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How the Internet Helps Breed Participation in Democracy

There's a neat new site called (Overview from Techcrunch).

As I understand it from looking at the site myself, and from the Techcrunch article, it is essentially a social networking site with some unique features.

It is meant to be used to participate in groups, or "Changes", around political or similar causes. Much like Myspace and Facebook, users can post all sorts of material, such as pictures and video.

It goes even further than that though, in that it is now a platform for "citizen lobbying". While I personally have reservations about lobbying, I do see how it would be important for everyday people to take part in it instead of leaving corporations as the sole major lobbyists.

Lobbying has resulted in large corporations playing a larger role in our democracy than normal people, which is absurd. Democracy is supposed to be "for the people", not for the corporations. aims to change that (pardon the pun).

The site is now allowing members of "Changes" to pool money together to support a lobbying effort. This enables large groups of people to make large political donations and counteract the massive lobbying efforts of corporations. People who contribute money to "changes" will be able to vote on which charity or politician is best able to accomplish their goals, and then the money will be contributed to the top candidate(s), with a small 1% being retained by to sustain the website.

Members of a "Change" can also directly participate in lobbying on behalf of the change.

It is sites like this, as well as websites not necessarily dedicated to political commentary and participation (such as Youtube, Facebook and Myspace) that demonstrate how the Internet is wrenching control back from the rich and placing it in the hands of the people, where it belongs.

Women@Google: Hillary Clinton

I recently posted about an interview conducted at Google with Presidential Candidate John McCain. I was not aware of this, but apparently before speaking with John McCain, Google invited Hillary Clinton to speak at Google, a video of which is also available online. You may watch it below.

Also, a second interview done by Youtube with John McCain is available as well.


Senate Judiciary Committee to Gonzales: Speak Up

The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding that US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "quit stonewalling" and release information on the NSA spying scandal. Some highlights from the letter:

He then described how you, then Counsel to the President, and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card arrived at the hospital bedside of an extremely ill Attorney General Ashcroft and attempted to persuade him to certify the program. When you failed, because Mr. Ashcroft refused, Mr. Corney testified that the program was nonetheless certified over the objections of the Department of Justice. That apparently prompted a number of high-ranking Justice officials to consider resigning en masse.

This incident obviously raises very serious questions about your personal behavior and commitment to the rule of law. Mr. Corney's testimony also demonstrates vividly how essential it is that this Committee understands the legal underpinnings of the surveillance
program that was the subject of that incident, and how the legal justification evolved over time. The stonewalling by you and the Administration must end. The Committee on the Judiciary is charged with overseeing and legislating on constitutional protections, civil and criminal justice, civil liberties, and the Judiciary, all subjects that this matter impacts. We intend to do our job.
This letter contains some damning charges and accusations against Gonzales about his compliance with the law and his questionable conduct.

The letter then goes on to detail how the White House and Justice Department has rebuffed 8 requests for documents, referring to their answers as "misleading".

This part of the letter in particular jumped out at me:
This Administration has asserted that it established its program of warrantless wiretapping by the NSA because it deemed FISA's requirements to be incompatible with the needs of the intelligence community in fighting terrorism. You testified in January that the warrantless wiretapping program had been terminated and that henceforth surveillance would be conducted pursuant to authorization from the FISA Court. To consider any changes to FISA, it is critical that this Committee understand how the Department and the FISA Court have interpreted FISA and the perceived flaws that led the Administration to operate a warrantless surveillance program outside of FISA's provisions for over five years.

(emphasis added by myself)
So it appears to me here that the Administration itself, at least according to the Judiciary Committee's summary of the Executive's responses to requests for information, has admitted that the program was not authorized under any existing laws.

Most rational citizens would know that if you deem a law to be insufficient, you don't proceed to exceed the scope of the law and worry about getting around to actually fixing the law later. I'm predicting that many people in the White House and Justice Department will be in some hot water sooner or later, either under the current administration or the next one. Any punishment will be well-deserved and long overdue.

In further NSA Scandal related news, the House Intel Committee has announced plans to investigate the program. More coverage on this from Ars.

Geez, Canada Gets Blamed for Everything

Hmm, here's a new one. Apparently Canada is now a pedophile haven. I don't think this allegation even deserves commenting. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Blame Canada". So, for your enjoyment, watch the video!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bush Sticks Head in Sand, Defends Gonzales

President Bush is once again sticking his head into the sand, ignoring the facts and blindly supporting his lapdog erm... whoops, I mean Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, saying he has done nothing wrong despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Ignoring questionable hospital visits, the NSA spying debacle, the questionable firing of 8 federal prosecutors, amongst other things, Bush likens the push by democrats to hold a no-confidence vote to kick Gonzales out of office as "pure political theater". (Update: Me being a Canadian is shining through. Apparently this would be a simply symbolic vote. In Canada, a no-confidence vote is used to kick the PM out of office).

Bush is either incredibly stubborn or simply dumb as a door-knob, because to me this is the Democrats trying to uphold the constitution and the law.

I'm not sure why I'm even posting this though, it's not like Bush has any shred of credibility remaining at this point. He lies so often I doubt he even realizes he is doing it anymore.

Senators Demand Information on NSA Spying Scandal

Finally, someone is taking some serious action regarding the NSA spying scandal. As the EFF article points out, the major media outlets are finally beginning to see the corrupt Bush administration for what it really is, which is a good thing for everyone on this planet.

The Importance of Net Neutrality

Many people often hear the term "Net Neutrality", but most either don't know what it means or only have a vague concept of what it means.

Essentially, Network Neutrality means that everyone competes on an even playing field on the Internet, and that broadband providers cannot degrade your connection to certain services on the Internet, such as Google or Myspace. This post is going to focus on the video side of things, which encompasses sites like Youtube and Google Video, and also interactive services like Joost.

Media, both mass-media and independent, is undergoing one of the most significant revolutions ever right now. The technology that currently powers broadcast television is quite limited, in that there are a set number of channels and only 24 hours per-day on each channel. This obviously creates a situation where competition to get your programming onto these limited number of channels, each with a limited amount of time, has driven the price of producing and distributing video content through the roof.

The Internet is changing that. Youtube and Joost are both shining examples of the new media landscape.

Youtube, as everyone knows, is a user-driven video site. Anyone can post any video they please (provided it isn't pornographic or depict severe violence of course...or violate copyright) and it is almost instantly viewable by anyone in the world with access to the Internet.

Joost is slightly different than Youtube. It is almost like a cross between Youtube and traditional broadcast television. While it maintains a lot of the features of traditional broadcast (only partners can use it to distribute content, it has channels, shows are generally of normal and consistent length unlike with Youtube, etc), it sheds almost all of its limitations:

  1. It has a potentially infinite number of channels.
  2. All video on Joost is provided in an "on-demand" format, without the extra hassle and inconvenience of recording your shows.
  3. It is both free for end-users and uses P2P technology (in a legal way) to take the load off of content providers.
As a result of the above features, the barrier of entry to distribute your video content through a professional medium has been lowered significantly.

This is shown by the fact that National Geographic currently has 5 channels of its own on Joost for its content, an entire channel exists strictly for Indy-content, several channels exist for documentaries (most of which were not produced by the major names in the media landscape) and numerous other examples.

Finally, with services like Joost and Youtube, amongst others, everyone can now participate in the mainstream media in a way that was not possible a few short years ago.

Which brings us back to Network Neutrality. Many broadband providers provide television services that compete indirectly with services like Youtube, and directly with Joost. Since the broadband providers are both the "gatekeeper" to the Internet as well as television providers, they may wish to degrade their customers' access to these essential online video services.

This may not seem like such a threat (and it certainly wouldn't be up here in Canada where I have no less than 5 broadband providers to choose from where I currently live), but in many areas down in the United States, consumers have a single broadband provider to choose from.

Without Network Neutrality, if these providers cut off access to these essential services, or degrade them to an essentially unwatchable level, despite the fact that consumers are paying for broadband, the consumers lose all access to these new and innovative technologies. Should for-profit entities really have the power and ability to impede the democratization of mass media? I certainly don't think so.

Which is why you should support Network Neutrality today.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gonzales Goes Off the Deep End

Update: Scratch what I said about software pirates going to jail for life, I and "Against Monopoly" were mistaken on this point, as a commentor on the linked article pointed out.

Whew, that was quite a while away from my Blog, considering I was making 6 posts a day not too long ago.

Well, it's official: US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is officially insane.

He now wants to make "attempted copyright infringement" a crime with jail time. This is stupid, onerous and unenforceable to such a degree that I would be laughing if this kind of stupid legislation wasn't such a threat.

He is calling for life imprisonment for using pirated software (in comparison, rape boasts a 7 year jail sentence, which seems fair because those poor multi-billion dollar software companies are more helpless than a woman being forced into sexual acts...), more wiretaps to aid piracy investigations and even for Homeland Security to get involved!

Could someone please explain to me why a government agency tasked mainly with preventing the United States from terrorist attacks should give 2 flying shits about copyright? Since when is a teenager sitting on his computer burning a copy of a DVD a threat to national security?

How exactly is "attempted copyright infringement" going to be defined? You either infringe a copyright or you don't. Unlike attempted murder, attempting to infringe a copyright has never been illegal. It only becomes illegal once you actually infringe the copyright. There's a good reason to punish people for attempting to murder someone, I can't think of one for copyright.

Also, how exactly would this even be enforced? Unless you are spying on people, which would involve the government breaking the law (although Bush wouldn't know the law if it bit him right in the ass), there is absolutely no way for anyone to be able to tell that you attempted to infringe a copyright.

Thank god this moron isn't likely to last much longer as Attorney General due to a whole range of other scandals he's been involved in. His hypocrisy sickens me. He blatantly tramples over citizens' rights by participating in the NSA wiretapping scandal, violating the constitution in the process, but sees the need to protect the recording industry from us evil pirates. How can he even look at himself in the mirror?

It's ironic that copyright, a law that was originally intended to help smaller creators protect their works against misappropriation by big printing houses is now being used to bludgeon individuals over the head by multi-billion dollar corporations. Perhaps businesses shouldn't draft their entire businesses on a law that is over a hundred years old and incredibly outdated....

Friday, May 18, 2007


I'm working for a prominent Canadian Telecommunications Company now (due to the whole wanting to remain anonymous thing, I won't mention which one).

I'm in training, and have been coming home completely exhausted each day (mentally, not physically). That's why my blog has been slightly dormant lately.

Anyways, I've been bookmarking a lot of stuff I want to comment on, so I'm going to start doing that in the next few days since I'm off work now.

I also plan to clean up my tags. Half of my tags have only a post or two under them, so I should probably just get rid of some of them.

Anyways, that's all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PBS on NSA Scandal

Just thought I would inform everyone (all 3 of you if I'm lucky :-P) that PBS Frontline is doing a story covering the NSA Spying Scandal. Could be good to watch! Too bad I don't have cable at the moment :-S

New House Bill Reaffirms FISA

A new bill in the House of Commons reaffirms FISA as the "exclusive means of electronic surveillance". Looks like Congress has no intention of granting Bush his proposed immunity for telecoms implicit in the NSA spying scandal. Good on them!

US Army Bans Youtube...Immediately Becomes Hypocrite

The US Army has banned the use of Youtube (along with many other sites such as MySpace), yet at almost the exact same time, announced that it has created its own channel on Youtube. They clearly don't want people to know how bad the Iraq war is really going, and are censoring it in the name of "security".

The Department of Defense has a growing concern regarding our unclassified DoD Internet, known as the NIPRNET. The Commander of DoD's Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations has noted a significant increase in the use of DoD network resources tied up by individuals visiting certain recreational Internet sites.

The sites blocked include Myspace, Youtube, MTV, Blackplanet , photobucket, live365,,,, and other sites.
You'd think that the army would try to utilize Youtube, MySpace and other content and social networking sites to help the troops over there endure their extended stays. Youtube can be used for family videos, and MySpace and Flickr can be used for communication between a soldier and his/her family.

However, what is most ironic is that the US military has now launched its own Youtube channel!
Its 25 brief clips include footage of US soldiers firing at unseen snipers in Baghdad, handing out footballs to Iraqi children and rescuing an Iraqi family injured by an explosive device.
Of course you won't see them showing Small Business owners that have had their shops blown up, kids with missing limbs from US bombing of Baghdad, or anything that would portray the Iraq war in a bad light. Lord knows, now that Soldiers' abilities to present their views of the war is restricted, the Army, to avoid being biased, will cover the war objectively.

Oh, and pigs are going to fly as well.

Video on Internet Porn Stats

I came across this interesting video on porn stats. Not sure why I'm posted it, but it was very well presented.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Starting a new Job

Ugh, I have a bunch of "fun" stuff going on right now, including starting a new job. I'm thinking I should give the Blog a rest for a few days.

I also haven't come across much interesting lately. If I do though in the next few days, I'll post a link on my Blog and maybe comment briefly on it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Links for May 11, 2007

Motion Picture Academy Sues OscarWatch For Promoting The Oscars

Back in February, we were absolutely stunned at the Motion Picture Academy's rationale for taking down all online clips of the 2007 Oscars. The Academy actually claimed that pulling all the content offline would "whet people's appetite for next year's show." Yes, removing all that free advertising is supposed to make people more interested in watching next year's show.
Europe Says No Backsies On Patent Infringement Awards If Patent Is Later Rejected
It appears that there's a similar problem over in Europe, where the Court of Appeal has decided that even if a patent is later rejected by the European Patent Office fees paid for earlier infringement on that patent will remain in place. The ruling makes it clear that the court understood the two sides, but somehow decided that "certainty" was more important than "fairness" and "not having to pay for doing something that was perfectly legal."
My comment on this one: This decision makes absolutely no sense. It essentially rewards people who file and litigate over frivolous patents by allowing them to retain ill-gotten gains. I hope that this decision can be appealed even further.

If Resources Aren't Scarce, Why Do You Need A Market?
It's interesting to see folks who believe in free market economics struggle around the issue of intellectual property rights. You have those who recognize that economics still works without scarcity, and then you have those who insist the market breaks down when things are free and abundant.
Big Victory: House Affirms Limits on Warrantless Spying
Last night, the House passed legislation aimed at preventing illegal government spying. Attached as an amendment [PDF] to the intelligence budget authorization bill, the legislation reaffirms that the NSA's domestic surveillance program must comply with Congress' laws.

Fix DRM By Changing its Name?

If this blog goes dormant after this post, it's because I laughed so hard I passed out, hit my head on something during the fall and am laying in the hospital or worse, dead.

Of course I'm joking (I'm lazy and blog from my couch, not standing up), but not by much when I read an article on Ars which notes that HBO's CTO Bob Zitter thinks that DRM's biggest problem is the name (and not the fact that it strips away consumer rights of course).

His proposal? To change the name to Digital Consumer Enablement! The reason? It "would more accurately communicate the concept that DRM helps consumers enjoy content in ways previously not possible."

Talk about living in a separate reality. Consumers don't like DRM not because of its name, but because it places artificial restrictions on what they can do with the content they legally acquire, while doing absolutely nothing to prevent piracy.

Take music for instance. The vast majority of music is still sold in an unprotected format in the form of CDs, yet the RIAA sees the need to slap restrictive DRM on legal digital music downloads. Please explain to me the logic in that? People that want to place music onto P2P networks are simply going to rip the music from the unprotected CDs, while consumers that, for example, want to play their old iTunes purchases on their new Creative Zen they got for their birthday are unable to. This is proven by the fact that the vast majority of music that is sold with DRM restrictions online is still available in unprotected formats through P2P networks, most of which has likely been ripped from CDs. Removing DRM would increase digital sales, have no effect on the availability of pirated music and decrease customer dissatisfaction. The same can be said for movies, which, while sold in protected format on DVDs, are protected by CSS, something my Grandma could crack with relative ease using easily found software tools.

Now repeat after me Mr. Zitter, DRM doesn't enable anything for consumers. Media companies' overblown fears regarding piracy, which is going to happen with or without DRM, is disabling consumer options, and DRM merely re-enables some of those options while stripping consumers' other rights in the process.

Mr. Zitter mentions watching TV Shows on your iPod as something that DRM enables. If he would kindly pull his head out of the sand, he would realize that those very same TV shows are still available on most bittorrent tracker sites. Again, removing DRM would not affect the availability of pirated TV shows one iota, but would open up consumer options by, for instance, enabling iTunes TV show downloads to be played on iRivers, PSPs and other currently unsupported platforms.

I like Ars final statement in their article:

"no name change will be able to disguise the true intent of DRM: limiting our ability to consume content at the time, place, and on the device of our choosing. Change the name if you like, but the rotten smell won't go anywhere."

No. Apple et al Were Not Sued and Slashdot Sucks

Update: More from Ars.

Another day, another screwed up headline on Slashdot.

No lawsuit was filed. This was merely a publicity stunt by Media Rights Technologies (who doesn't deserve a link), and the only action taken were cease and desist letters that were sent but are simply not going to be enforced.

Shame on Forbes and their supposed "journalism" for being unable to tell the difference between a serious legal threat and a publicity stunt, and shame on the Slashdot editors for being too lazy to read the linked articles before accepting submissions.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stupid C|Net Article

Update: Fake Steve Jobs is calling "Why I Love Patents and Copyrights" extremely smart and Mr. Kanellos a "friggin genius". As always, the Fake Steve is good for a nice laugh.

Normally I try to be civil, but the title is seriously warranted in this case. Michael Kanellos has written an article for C|Net titled "Why I Love Patents and Copyrights". Frankly, the article is so poorly researched, ridiculous and biased that Kanellos should be embarrassed for having written it and C|Net should consider pulling it to save face. If I'm mistaken and it is meant to be satirical, C|Net should make it more obvious.

OK, with that in mind, I'll begin dissecting this article piece by piece.

I think patents, trademarks and copyrights are simply fantastic and a primary, necessary driver of the world economy. Without them, the rapid pace of technological innovation around the world would slow to a crawl.
First of all, software was not patentable until the 1980's in the United States. However, the industry wasn't at a stand-still until the 80's. For instance, consider that Unix began in 1969, and its open source offshoot BSD began in 1977. As for copyrights, the fact that entire operating systems are available under permissive licenses such as the BSD license, which essentially waive almost all of the exclusive rights under copyright law except for the right of attribution, disprove this quite easily. In-fact, proprietary Unix vendor USL (later Novell) found BSD so useful that they misappropriated source code from BSD while stripping attribution from the code, breaching the sole requirement of the license.

As for them being a driver of the world economy, tell that to the impoverished nations who can't receive certain medications for their dying people due to patent restrictions.
And frankly, without them, most open-source projects would rapidly wither away: without an intellectual property behemoth like Microsoft to fight, what would be the point?
Up until this point I respected the author's position, despite disagreeing with it. After reading this, I have to conclude the author is either trying to be funny (and doing a really bad job at it) or else is merely trolling for page hits. First of all, as I said before, BSD, an open source project, began in 1977. During that time, Microsoft was a small developer of developer tools and was relatively unheard of. At that point, Microsoft wasn't an operating system developer and owned next to no intellectual property. I could continue providing further examples but I don't want to embarrass Mr. Kanellos too much.
Think of Larry Page toiling away on the early PageRank patents.
The patents were drawn up later. Larry Page didn't start PageRank (the foundation of Google) with a plan of getting rich. Had Mr. Kanellos done his homework, he would know that Larry Page and Sergey Brin began PageRank as a thesis project with no plans to make money from it. In-fact, it wasn't until a couple of years later that they decided to commercialize it.
Nearly every so-called troll turned out to have a somewhat persuasive story. Intellectual Ventures, a patent firm started by former Microsoft chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold, was staffed with fairly renowned scientists who didn't fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck in court.
First of all, while it is true that Intellectual Ventures is a patent firm, I'm not aware of it having filed any lawsuits against any company (leave a comment if I'm mistaken). Second of all, the fact that they don't seem to fit the profile of people trying to make a quick buck doesn't change the fact that they extort people and companies into investing in them in exchange for a covenant not to sue.

The next three examples Mr. Kanellos provides involve unnamed people and unnamed patents, so as much as I would love to refute them, I sort of can't (on the flip-side, these unnamed people and patents don't exactly bolster Mr. Kanellos' argument).
The difficulty in coming up with federal patent reform and the uncertainty surrounding how some recent Supreme Court decisions will play out show that striking a balance isn't easy.
The recent supreme court ruling you speak of, KSR vs. Teleflex, wasn't about "striking a balance", but was instead the Supreme Court ruling that the Federal Circuit was permitting abuse of the patent system by upholding obvious patents, sort of like the blatantly broad and obvious ones Verizon used to attempt to shut Vonage out of the market. Technological progress indeed...
But when you steal movies, you're also whittling down the royalty checks for some old lady who had to make out with William Shatner in a bit role on Star Trek.
Copyright infringement and theft are two entirely different things my friend. Not to say infringement isn't wrong, but theft is when you deprive someone of a physical object.

Anyways, my point in writing this article isn't to argue the flip-side, that patents and copyrights should be abolished, because I don't think they should. However, Mr. Kanellos distorts the issue. Most peoples' issues with copyrights and patents are not the fundamental ideas of them, but the onerous laws that are now in-place. For instance, I agree that copyright is necessary to provide an incentive for creating something, but please explain to me why copyrights should last until 70 years after the person receiving said incentive dies? The reason is greedy corporations want to continue turning a profit while locking up our culture for over a hundred years. Another example is the DMCA, which essentially stripped away all of the public's rights under copyright law and fair use.

Anyways, I still feel like crap today and this post is getting too long. Maybe I'll update it tomorrow or post another....

Links for May 10, 2007

MPAA Math: 40% Plus 70% Equals?

Ah, the MPAA and its ability to simply make up numbers continues. Last week, we noted that the MPAA was claiming that New York City was where 40% of camcorded movies came from, following earlier claims that 50% came from Canada. However, now that NYC has passed a law with tougher crimes for camcording (note this last passed just last week), apparently, the MPAA can now shift its numerical focus to Canada.
Uri Geller Not Just Taking Down Critical Videos, But Suing As Well
A follow up to yesterday's story about the EFF suing Uri Geller for abusing the DMCA to takedown a video critical of Geller by claiming it contained 3 seconds of footage that Geller owns the copyright to (out of a total run time of about 15 minutes). Turns out that the Geller's company had actually gone beyond simply sending a DMCA takedown notice to actually suing the person it believes made the critical film in the first place.
Senate Bill Aims to Save Music Webcasters
A Senate companion to the "Internet Radio Equality Act" has now been introduced and could help save music webcasting.
Vonage: we've got a workaround for Verizon patents
In the course of reporting its quarterly earnings today, Vonage let it be known that it was "weeks" away from deploying a workaround for two of the Verizon patents it was found to have infringed upon.
OECD The Latest To Show Lobbyists Exaggerate Losses Due To Piracy/Counterfeiting
Earlier this week we noted that the latest GAO report found that industry estimates of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy were greatly exaggerated, and now the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has come out with a similar report.


There was a great piece on astroturfing on Ars a couple of days ago. Since Ars does such a great job explaining the problem, this post is instead going to focus on what I think should be done about it.

Phony consumer-advocacy/astroturf groups should be forced, when testifying in-front of Congress or any other governmental group, to specifically state any and all ties between them and any companies involved in the testimony. Failure to do so should result in stiff fines against both the company and the astroturfing group presenting the testimony, which would provide incentives for both the group and the company sponsoring the group to be forthcoming about their relationship.

I view undisclosed astroturfing as a threat to democracy, as companies are sponsoring groups to allegedly speak on behalf of the people in-front of government officials while not actually representing the interests of the people they are "representing", despite any image to the contrary. It enables companies to unfairly tilt the democratic process in their favour, to the detriment of citizens and consumers.

As Ars points out, the media has done a pathetic and dismal job at uncovering astroturf groups. The media is supposed to serve the people....perhaps it's time they start doing so.

Note: To clarify, I am not referring to groups like SavetheInternet that openly list their sponsors.

US IP Law Forced Down Everybody's Throats

From "Exporting I.P." by James Surowiecki in the New Yorker:

Our recent free-trade agreement with South Korea is a good example. Most of the deal is concerned with lowering tariffs, opening markets to competition, and the like, but an important chunk has nothing to do with free trade at all. Instead, it requires South Korea to rewrite its rules on intellectual property, or I.P.—the rules that deal with patents, copyright, and so on. South Korea will now have to adopt the U.S. and E.U. definition of copyright—extending it to seventy years after the death of the author. South Korea will also have to change its rules on patents, and may have to change its national-health-care policy of reimbursing patients only for certain drugs. All these changes will give current patent and copyright holders stronger protection for longer.
In other words, the US is extorting its "trading partners" into tilting the playing field towards massive American technology, pharmaceutical and media companies. Without these onerous provisions, the US surely would not enter into the trade agreement with South Korea, which is why I call it extortion.

Let's be clear, these provisions do absolutely nothing to help the economies of America's "trading partners", as they extend the government sanctioned monopolies these major corporations enjoy inside the US abroad, harming or completely shutting down potential competitors in these other markets in the process. Furthermore, they harm the citizens of these other countries by, for example, restricting access to life saving medication that happens to be patented by an American corporation and raising the costs on local goods due to the need for patent licenses from American corporations, amongst other harmful effects. This is the reason why the US attaches these provisions to agreements that contain other clauses that help the economies of both America and its trading partners. If they were contained in stand-alone agreements, no country would be dumb enough to sign them.

It is unfortunate that US citizens have to suffer under America's broken patent system which long ago ceased to promote innovation and instead is now merely a vehicle for greed. What is most unfortunate, however, is that America's economic strength and domination of the collective global economy enables it to force the rest of the world to suffer as well. As James Surowiecki so aptly puts it in his piece:
Why does the U.S. insist on these rules? Quite simply, American drug, software, and media companies are furious about the pirating of their products, and are eager to extend the monopolies that their patents and copyrights confer. These companies are the main advocates for such rules, and the big winners. The losers are often the citizens in developing countries, who find themselves subject to a Draconian I.P. regime that reduces access to new technologies.
I probably sound like I'm all for the abolishment of "Intellectual Property" in its entirety, but that is not the case. What I am for is the establishment of a sane balance between the needs of inventors and the needs of citizens in developed and developing countries alike, and these trade agreements the US pushes on everyone doesn't come close to this balance.

More on Congress' Threats to Universities

As we all know, Congress has recently sent threatening letters to Colleges and Universities across the United States regarding their efforts to curb file sharing. I recently read another article on the issue.

From the article:

"Universities have a moral and legal obligation to ensure students do not use campus computers for illegal downloading," he continued. "These schools do not give away their intellectual property for free, and they should not expect musicians to do so."
Who said that the schools feel that musicians should give away their "intellectual property" for free? The issue is not what the schools thoughts on copyright is, but whether or not it is the schools' responsibility to proactively monitor their networks, at the cost of the taxpayers and students, on behalf of a multi-billion dollar industry without any financial contribution from them whatsoever. There is currently no law in the United States that I'm aware of that requires ISPs or Universities to monitor their networks to prevent infringement of copyrights by their users.

In-fact, hosting providers who not only provide the bandwidth but actually host infringing material on their servers for users to download are exempt from liability under the DMCA's safe harbor provisions, which places the onus on the copyright holders to monitor for infringement and request removal of infringing content. Why should Universities be the exception to this rule?

These Congressmen are essentially telling the Universities to go above and beyond what the law says they have to do, or else Congress will simply change the law to require them to do so. I notice that Congressman Smith (who is quoted above) doesn't actually point to any laws when he says that schools have a "legal obligation to ensure students do not use campus computers for illegal downloading".

However, what I find particularly outrageous is that Congress is specifically targeting copyright infringement on school networks on behalf of the multi-billion dollar recording industry. Where is the letters from Congress regarding child pornography, bullying and other much more dangerous (except to RIAA members) illegal activity on their networks?

One of the survey questions contained in the letter readers as follows:
"Beginning with the 2002-03 academic year and for each school year thereafter, please identify the number of student violations of your institution's acceptable use policies that involved illegal downloading, uploading, or file trafficking of copyrighted material. Please also note the number of works whose copyrights were infringed."
If the people that authored this survey actually understood the tech and how incredibly difficult it is to monitor network usage (which is why companies sell multi-million dollar solutions to do just that), they would have worded it as "known violations". Furthermore, considering many artists use P2P for promotional reasons and the fact that not all file sharing, even of music, infringes copyright (there is plenty of work available on P2P networks that is licensed under Creative Commons licenses, for instance), it is grossly unfair to expect the University to shoulder the job of determining this when the DMCA doesn't even expect this of hosting providers who may inadvertently host infringing materials themselves. Furthermore, since off-the-shelf products that enable Universities to monitor their networks range in the millions or tens of millions of dollars, why isn't Congress or the RIAA pledging financial support to enable the Universities to do what Congress wants them to do?

I'll post on this further as I hear more.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Random Links

I'm falling behind really bad here on the stories I want to blog about (hence the ugliness of my last post on Verizon)! I've got hundreds of stories to sift through in my Google Reader account, and I also have other things I need to get done today, so I'm just going to link to some stories that I find interesting and let others do the talking.

New Bill to give bloggers same shield law protection as journalists

The House of Representatives has amended the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 to include provisions to protect bloggers from being required to divulge their sources under certain situations in the same way as journalists.

Mooninites, meet the Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act

The Senate has introduced a bill intended to include harsher penalties for being involved in terrorist-like hoaxes. The problem, however, is that it seems to lack a point.

Warner Brothers Pulls Canadian Previews

A number of readers let us know that Reuters and others are reporting that Warner Brothers is canceling movie previews in Canadian theaters, starting with Oceans Thirteen.

Microsoft disputes attorney fees in Iowa, Wisconsin cases

Microsoft disputes attorney charges in Iowa and Wisconsin settlements, requests additional information on billing after suspicions of double-billing arise.

Can't Use The Name Of The Library Of Congress When Doing What It Should Be Doing

arper pointed out that Washington Watch could be a better way to follow and understand new legislative proposals than the Library of Congress' own THOMAS system. Apparently, the Library of Congress took offense at this and demanded that Harper stop using its name.

Old Media Declares War on New Media, Doesn’t Want You to Enjoy Tech on Your Terms

Shock: several “old media” companies—the likes of Time Warner, Viacom and News Corp.—now view “new media” companies like Google as direct threats to their livelihoods. In essence, “old media” wants you to stop having fun using the Internet

EFF to psychic: There will be a DMCA abuse suit in the near future

Psychic Uri Geller wasn't happy with criticism of his "powers" popping up on YouTube, so he filed a takedown notice. The problem was that he doesn't own the video, and the EFF has now filed a lawsuit against him for DMCA abuse.

Expect Privacy; Violate Free Speech Rights of Telcos?

Here's a new one: Verizon is now claiming that consumers have no reason to complain about Verizon's complicity in the NSA wiretapping scandal because Verizon has a first amendment right to provide customer information to the Bush Administration!

Excuse me for being skeptical, but there are plenty of laws and case-law Verizon is required to follow that trump their purported right to divulge customer information under the guise of free speech:

  1. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq
  2. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605
  3. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a)
  4. the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment: Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis,J., dissenting).
  5. Finally, in 1967, the Court overturned its ruling in Olmstead and held that recording by police of conversation in public telephone booth was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the speaker had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the booth. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967).
Cited from "Privacy Law in the USA", Copyright 1997 Ronald B. Standler

That was from a single Google search. If I actually spent an hour or so doing more research I'm sure I could dig up some more information.

This follows the government intervening last week asking for the suit to be tossed because it could reveal state secrets. Here's a hint to the government, you already tried doing this same thing in the AT&T case, and it didn't fly.

I must admit though that this "Free Speech" angle was quite creative on the part of Verizon!

Update: On my first reading, I missed that Verizon is claiming that the Electronic Communications Protection Act is unconstitutional. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to comment on this too much, and leave it up to people who know what they are talking about.

Giuliani Attacked For Abortion Stance; Excuse Me For Not Caring

The Washington Post has an article about fellow republicans attacking former New York mayor and presidential candidate Giuliani over his pro-abortion stance.

I have to ask: why are they wasting their time arguing about this? Abortion has been legal for years, and I simply don't see it once again becoming illegal. Isn't there more important things for the republicans to be arguing about, such as the Iraq war, global warming, health care, etc etc? You know, things that are actually going to matter to most voters.

Once again, politicians get wrapped up over the little things while missing the big picture. Not only that, but if abortion becomes illegal once again, America will simply go back to the old days where abortions still occurred but were done by people without proper training on a street corner (this is of course a slight exaggeration, I'm sure the illegal abortions would be done in-doors).

Apple Pressures Labels on DRM

Lately, Apple Inc. has been using their clout in the online music business to pressure the major labels to provide DRM free music. For once a monopoly is using their market position in a way that benefits customers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Great Interview at Google With John McCain

I watched a video on Youtube that was shot at Google recently as part of their "Authors@Google" program where they invite famous authors to speak at Google (note: in-case you don't know, John McCain has written 6 books). I normally wouldn't bother posting videos from Google on my Blog since Google's talks normally are highly technical in nature and this isn't a tech blog for the most part, but this video mainly talked about issues that are on every one's minds these days, not just issues restricted to the "technically elite".

While I don't agree with a lot of McCain's policies and ideals, I do respect the man as he says what's on his mind and is straight-forward, unlike Mr. Bush who likes to obfuscate a lot of the stuff he talks about. However, I was not impressed with his answers when one of the people in the audience pressed him on gays and lesbians in the military, citing specific examples where the policy against them being in the military has caused harm to America's (and thus Canada's by extension) security, and McCain completely sidestepped the issue and offloaded the blame for any bad policies on the leaders in the military.

I'll admit that up until this talk I barely paid attention to McCain due to his "let's stay in Iraq" policy, but after watching this video, I see that he has actual reasons for staying in Iraq (I'll still have to disagree with him on this though, as I think the reasons for America getting out of Iraq outweigh his reasons for staying in) unlike President Bush, who has a habit of making stuff up to get his way. (WMDs in Iraq, anybody?)

I must admit that an incredibly good hour was spent watching this. You can watch the video below (just make sure you have some time to watch it, as it is quite long).

CNN Relinquishes Restrictions on Debate Footage

Even though I'm Canadian, the "goings on" of the United States still affect many aspects of my life since the economy and policies of my country are so closely entwined with those of the United States. In-fact, like many Canadians, I'm guilty of often paying closer attention to American politics than Canadian politics!

Which is why I'm happy to read that CNN has agreed to release all Presidential Debate footage under a Creative Commons license (CNN Press Release). This comes amidst increasing pressure from Presidential Candidates, Bloggers and others alike for the debate footage to be freely licensed royalty free.

MSNBC's recent copyright restrictions on debate footage (which started this grassroots campaign for free licensing), while purely done to exert control for reasons of greed, essentially placed a barrier between the public and the presidential race instead of encouraging them to take part, which is what should happen in a democracy.

So hats off to CNN for doing the right thing! On behalf of my neighbours to the south (who I hope don't mind me speaking on their behalf this once): Thank you!

Ontario Fears Transparency, Bans Facebook

I'm not feeling all that great today, so I'm going to keep my commentary to a minimum. I was planning on posting a longer article on Ontario's recent ban of Facebook for government staffers, but instead I'll just post a link and let Michael Geist do the talking.

Forget STDs and Violence; OMFG teh Internet!!!

Talk about off-loading the blame for incompetence on the part of parents onto others' shoulders.

The National Poll on Children's Health has found that parents rate the Internet as the most serious threat to the health of their children, greater than the threats posed by STDs, violence and neglect.

The hysteria mainly results from the negative press surrounding Myspace, Youtube and other "Web 2.0" companies.

Since this will almost undoubtedly result in new legislation against Internet start-ups, as Techcrunch points out, new innovative businesses are going to be hindered due in no small part to the utter incompetence of today's parents and their complete unwillingness to take responsibility for their children.

Note to Parents: Watch your kids! If you are worried about your child's online activities, monitor them! Teach your kids about safe Internet use. Quit expecting others to shoulder your burdens! Essentially, GROW UP!

Interesting Post on Digg/AACS Controversy

Just came across this interesting post on the Digg controversy. Not going to bother providing more commentary, but figured I'd post a link to it.

Update: I posted this entry before reading the entire linked article, so I will briefly comment on it. I completely agree that some (a lot?) of the blame can be laid directly at the feet of Digg's moderators. Informing users when content is removed due to legal reasons has long been a standard practise on the Internet, even with non "Web 2.0" (god how I hate that term) sites, including Why Digg decided to secretly obey the cease-and-desist, instead of letting their users know exactly what the AACS LA (Licensing Authority) was up to is beyond me. Hopefully they have learned how to better handle similar situations in the future.

Monday, May 7, 2007

U.S. Copyright Law Spreads Abroad

From the Age:

BEFORE he was extradited to the United States, Hew Griffiths, from Berkeley Vale in NSW, had never even set foot in America. But he had pirated software produced by American companies.
I understand the need to protect the interests of companies from large-scale piracy operations, however, I find it ridiculous that the United States is able to extend its laws to another country and enforce them against people who have never even set foot on U.S. soil, much less committed a crime on it.

Considering these "crimes" were committed on Australian soil, they should be tried by an Australian court under Australian law, not in an American court under American laws. Just because these crimes were committed on the Internet, which transcends national borders, doesn't change a thing. No one should have to make sure they abide by the laws of every single country in the world simply because they use the Internet. While this has only been applied to a relatively large-scale "crime", who's to say it won't be applied to smaller matters in the future? No citizen should even have to be aware of another country's laws, let alone abide by them.

Not only is this blatantly unfair to any person being extradited (irregardless of their "crimes") since they are being removed from their own country, but I also view any country being able to exert their laws on another country's citizens as an infringement of that country's sovereignty. What's even more scary is that Australia permitted this and actually encouraged it by allowing the United States to do this through the treaties between the two countries.

"This extradition represents the (US) Department of Justice's commitment to protect intellectual property rights from those who violate our laws from the other side of the globe," US Assistant Attorney-General Alice Fisher said.

But Justice Young described as "bizarre" the fact that "people are being extradited to the US to face criminal charges when they have never been to the US and the alleged act occurred wholly outside the US".

Enough said on that front.

Griffiths plead guilty to criminal copyright infringement, and may receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years for leading the "Drink or Die" pirate group. Apparently he caused more damage than a rapist, since, as the linked article points out, the maximum prison term for rape in the United States is just under 7 years. (You know your legal system is screwed up when....)

Offload Your Old CDs; Become a Criminal

Update: Whoops, forgot to tag this post. My bad....

New laws and regulations are now popping up everywhere speak frankly, stink. New restrictions on trading in/selling your old CDs to record stores and pawn shops seem to be designed from the ground up to make the entire process frustrating. Of course, this will increase CD sales and cripple the used CD market.... I wonder who pushed for these laws *cough* RIAA *cough*.

From Ars:

New "pawn shop" laws are springing up across the United States that will make selling your used CDs at the local record shop something akin to getting arrested. No, you won't spend any time in jail, but you'll certainly feel like a criminal once the local record shop makes copies of all of your identifying information and even collects your fingerprints.
In Florida, businesses that resell old CDs are now starting to get out of the business, as they are required to pay a $10,000 "bond". The primary reason for this legislation appears to be to prevent the sale of counterfeit and stolen merchandise.

While this may in-fact be a major problem, no data is provided to suggest that it is. However, even if we assume for the sake of argument that this is a major problem, shouldn't the targets of any enforcement be the people who are counterfeiting and/or stealing the CDs and not the completely innocent resellers who happen to get caught in the cross-fire?

Furthermore, what about the First-Sale Doctrine? In Florida, stores cannot give you money for your old CDs, but instead can only give you in-store credit (after a 30 day waiting period of course!). Once again, much like the controversial DMCA, we see the interests of the people completely ignored in-order to "protect" large corporations, many of whom have the legislators who pass these moronic laws in their back-pocket through the use of "lobbying" (hell, let's call a spade a spade, it's bribery, plain and simple). Like the DMCA that essentially destroyed fair-use rights on any copyrighted work that was encrypted, this legislation essentially strips consumers' rights under the First-Sale Doctrine and broadens the rights of the major record labels, filling their pockets with more undeserved gold.

Copyright was originally designed to promote the progress of science and the arts. Now, it is merely being used to make the rich even richer and to trample all over consumers in the process. Serious reform is necessary...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Precendent Setting: Blogger Protected by Anti-SLAPP

An anti-SLAPP motion is a motion that is filed with a court when a defendant in a civil case feels that the plaintiff is attempting to impede his/her free speech rights.

For instance, if you posted a bad review of a Microsoft product, and they turned around and sued you for defamation, you could file an anti-SLAPP motion asking the court to toss the case.

For the first time ever, this has been applied to a blogger, who won an anti-SLAPP motion against GTX, who sued "Left" (the blogger) for referring to their stock as a lemon.

The linked article discusses the case enough already, and the author is also a lawyer, so I'm not going to bother commenting on it too much.

Professor Urges Harvard to Fight RIAA

Professor Charles Nesson has written an op-ed piece asking Harvard to protect its students from the RIAA's extortion racket.

From the Editorial:

Yet "new deterrence and education initiatives" from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) threaten access to this vibrant resource (the internet). The RIAA has already requested that universities serve as conduits for more than 1,200 "pre-litigation letters." Seeking to outsource its enforcement costs, the RIAA asks universities to point fingers at their students, to filter their Internet access, and to pass along notices of claimed copyright infringement.
Essentially, the RIAA wishes to short-circuit the legal process by having Universities serve as agents for them, incriminating students. However, unlike a normal agency relationship where the agent is paid for its services, the RIAA expects the Universities to bear the full cost of acting as their "conduit". In-fact, the RIAA rebuffed the request of one University for the RIAA to pay-up for wasting their time and taxpayers' dollars.

I think it is grossly unfair for the Universities and the taxpayers to shoulder the costs associated with the RIAA litigating against a changing digital economy simply to protect their aging and antiquated business model. The little guy who has well-founded and valid claims would receive no help of any kind from any third party without paying them, yet the RIAA, a multi-billion dollar cartel, should be bent-over backwards for to help them with their flawed drift-net litigation strategy?

Congress recently sent letters to 19 universities demanding information about their policies on file sharing, including demands for information on filtering technology they employ to prevent it. Why, I ask, should universities be responsible for proactively filtering their networks to prevent civil (not criminal) damages against a third party when the law doesn't even require this of Internet Service Providers? Where in any University's charter does it indicate that their mission is to act as copyright police on behalf of copyright holders? If the RIAA truly feels that this is a threat to their business, they should be the ones paying to have the filtering put in place.

The professor continues:

But mere understanding is no reason for a university to voluntarily assist the RIAA with its threatening and abusive tactics. Instead, we should be assisting our students both by explaining the law and by resisting the subpoenas that the RIAA serves upon us. We should be deploying our clinical legal student training programs to defend our targeted students. We should be lobbying Congress for a roll back of the draconian copyright law that the copyright industry has forced upon us. Intellectual property can be efficient when its boundaries are relatively self-evident.

But when copyright protection starts requiring the cooperation of uninvolved parties, at the cost of both financial and mission harm, those external costs outweigh its benefits. We need not condone infringement to conclude that 19th- and 20th-century copyright law is poorly suited to promote 21st-century knowledge. The old copyright-business models are inefficient ways to give artists incentives in the new digital environment.

Hear hear!

Just laying in bed...

Just laying in bed and decided to post to my blog (how sad is that???), but I don't really have all that much that is interesting to say. I did come across a rather....interesting article though, titled: Fla. teens charged for peeing in apple juice

As a kid I did a lot of dumb things (as I'm sure most kids have), but this is a new one to me! Kind of clever (in a disturbing way of course). I do think expulsion and criminal charges are going overboard though for something that is so obviously a juvenile prank. Even the unlucky individual who bought and (unfortunately for him) drank the juice feels that this is going too far. Detention and community service would suffice me-thinks.

Anyways, starting a new label for completely random posts such as this that stray from the areas I normally post on. I shall call it..... random!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Let's All Just Settle Down Now

OK, I think it's safe to say that it's time that everyone just calmed down a bit. I fully understand that what happened at Virginia Tech was a horrible tragedy, and I feel for the families and friends that have lost loved ones. It is inevitable that after something this serious and devastating happens, the paranoia level is going to go through the roof.

What's unfortunate is the completely stupid and moronic actions some people take as a result of this paranoia, and the fact that people hijack awful tragedies to push their own agendas, which, in this case resulted in said moronic actions.

By people pushing their own agenda, by far one of the worst culprits is Jack Thompson, the crazy lawyer who cites scripture when the law isn't on his side and pisses away taxpayer money by abusing the judicial system (I'm not even a lawyer and I know about the strong immunity websites have against liability for user comments, which is what Bloggers like myself rely on when allowing un-moderated discussion) and promoting and helping pass unconstitutional laws, which the state then has to defend in court.

Practically within minutes after the Virginia Tech massacre, Thompson was on TV promoting his idea that all violence in the world is caused by video games (apparently no violence existed before Atari) and suggesting that video games were the cause of the Virginia Tech massacre. As a result, students are now being vilified over outlandish and ill-conceived fears. In this case, a student was kicked out of school for making a map for counter-strike of his school. Of course, the administrators of the school immediately assumed the student used the map and game for the planning of another school shooting (because we all know that video games are so realistic that people can plan real-life actions with them). They didn't stop to think that perhaps the student wanted to challenge himself by making a complex map, and considering he spends more time at school than anywhere else besides home, naturally chose to do the school. Of course they didn't, because people with narrow minds automatically equate violence with video games.

It's fairly obvious that Jack Thompson is suffering from tunnel vision and refuses to see the big picture. Violent media has been around for ages (even Shakespeare contained plenty of violence), yet school shootings are a relatively new phenomenon. Blaming media for the actions of a few is easier than focusing on the real problems (whether they be social problems, problems with parenting, lax gun laws that enabled the student to get the guns in the first place, etc etc), but Jack Thompson takes it way too far. Eliminating violence from media is merely a band-aid "solution" (in addition to raising numerous constitutional issues that Thompson is famous for disregarding). The people that are willing to shoot up a school (which, unlike Thompson implies, make up an infinitely small percentage of all video gamers and movie watchers) are mentally ill, and removing violence from video games simply isn't going to solve their problems, or the larger overall problem. Of course, Thompson probably already knows this, but giving up his "crusade" wouldn't get his face on the news and get him the attention he obviously craves.

Anyways, if we're going to use scapegoats to shift blame, why isn't Thompson targeting President Bush and the Iraq war? I'd be willing to bet that the hundreds of people dying everyday in Iraq, which is broadcast on national TV everyday, is just as much a reason for these tragedies as video games. Of course, Thompson is on the far-right and probably still actually believes that the USA went into Iraq to fight terrorists and destroy WMDs.

Bush Attempts Damage Control

Update: More on this from the New York Times:

For more than five years, President Bush authorized government spying on phone calls and e-mail to and from the United States without warrants. He rejected offers from Congress to update the electronic eavesdropping law, and stonewalled every attempt to investigate his spying program.

Suddenly, Mr. Bush is in a hurry. He has submitted a bill that would enact enormous, and enormously dangerous, changes to the 1978 law on eavesdropping. It would undermine the fundamental constitutional principle — over which there can be no negotiation or compromise — that the government must seek an individual warrant before spying on an American or someone living here legally.

Read the rest of the article here.

And the EFF chimes in as well.

Update 2: Forgot to tag this post. I really have to quit doing that!

Original Post:

Bush is now attempting to control the damage caused by his warrant-less wiretapping scandal with the NSA and AT&T, amongst others. He wants to have legislation introduced that would grant retroactive immunity to phone companies that have assisted in his scheme in the past. As Ars put it, brace yourself for the longest sentence ever:
Notwithstanding any other law, and in addition to the immunities, privileges, and defenses provided by any other source of law, no action shall lie or be maintained in any court, and no penalty, sanction, or other form of remedy or relief shall be imposed by any court or any other body, against any person for the alleged provision to an element of the intelligence community of any information (including records or other information pertaining to a customer), facilities, or any other form of assistance, during the period of time beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on the date that is the effective date of this Act, in connection with any alleged classified communications intelligence activity that the Attorney General or a designee of the Attorney General certifies, in a manner consistent with the protection of State secrets, is, was, would be, or would have been intended to protect the United States from a terrorist attack.
In other words, caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Bush now wants Congress to give him and his accomplices a clean-slate for his and their past crimes. As the government later explains:
"companies that cooperate with the Government in the war on terror deserve our appreciation and protection—not litigation."
This is Bush trying to protect the phone companies, and in particular, AT&T, for actions that are clearly illegal, and is likely specifically targeting the EFF case against AT&T over the scandal. If the actions were authorized and legal, as the Bush administration claims, why would this (overly long and painful to read) clause even be necessary? The government already attempted to have the suit tossed by asserting state secrets and asking Judge Walker to dismiss the case, and failed:
"Dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security," (Federal Judge) Walker wrote.
As Benjamen Franklin once said, those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. I hope the Democrats who control congress do the right thing and reject this legislation. Furthermore, more investigations into the scandal need to be done, and Bush should be impeached for his blatant violations of the US constitution and the rights of his citizens (as well as his baseless aggression and attacks against countries such as Iraq).

AACS: Users Revolt, AACS LA Threatens Action

Update: Some good coverage on Ars that draws parallels between this situation and CSS:

When "DVD Jon" was targeted for his involvement of DeCSS, geeks around the world rallied around him and the idea of DeCSS. If the AACS isn't careful, they'll simply make another generation of hero out of a problem they created. What makes it even more deplorable this time is that it's now 2007, and the writing is on the wall: DRM is a failed idea, and a waste of time and money.
Original Post:

Nobody seems to learn their lesson anymore. It is fairly common knowledge that the more you attempt to suppress something on the internet, the more widespread the content becomes. The latest example of this is the fiasco over a leaked key for the AACS protection used on both next-generation optical formats (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray).

It all began when a blogger posted a copy of the key on his blog, which was later posted to Digg. The AACS LA (LA stands for licensing authority) quickly issued cease and desist notices to both Blogger/Google and Digg, both of which promptly removed the content. Afterwards, all hell broke lose, with a full user revolt on Digg which saw copies of the key posted on every front-page story and everywhere throughout the comments section.

Digg finally backed down, with this posted on the Digg blog:
Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Apparently the AACS LA is now threatening to pursue Bloggers and others who post the key online. Apparently they didn't learn their lesson the first time they tried to suppress the key (which resulted in the key being spread to the 4 corners of the internet and everywhere in-between), and are now on to step 2: try try again!

This should be interesting to watch.

Good (US) Legal Guide for Bloggers

While reading Slashdot, I came across this post that goes over 12 laws that apply to bloggers in the United States. Another good read is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's page on legal issues for bloggers.

Ugh, who would have thought that posting your thoughts online while following the law would be so difficult?!

Lawyer Stands up to RIAA Bullies

I just read a post on "Recording Industry vs. The People" about a lawyer from Athens that has decided to help students push back against the RIAA if they are targeted in Columbus Federal Court.

From the Article:

“I have a soft spot for these David vs. Goliath battles and an interest in helping people facing a bully — which I view the recording industry project (to catch file-sharers) as being,” Hazelbaker said. “Our offer to (take these cases) is filling a vacuum that exists in Athens.”
He has agreed to consult with students free-of-charge, and depending on the student's situation, probably wouldn't bill the student for representation (which is reasonable, considering he probably doesn't want to represent a filthy-rich student for free).

With the legal back-lash against the RIAA, and the RIAA's flawed methods of tracking down file-sharers, there are serious questions as to whether the RIAA should be permitted to engage in "drift-net" litigation against thousands upon thousands of file sharers, potentially bankrupting innocent, wrongly-accused people and wasting tax-payers' dollars in the process.

"Intellectual Property?" Give me a break!

I thought I had seen everything when it came to intellectual property.... apparently I was mistaken!

Now I'm sure that inventing a new way to make an ass of yourself to attract attention must take like.... 5 minutes or something, which is surely a long time, but is such important "innovation" really deserving of patent protection? Give me a break!

Patent reform couldn't come soon enough...

Pandora Blocked Outside of the USA

EDIT: Just after posting this, I read a comment from the founder of Pandora. He claims Pandora will still be available to Canadians, but all other countries will still be blocked. I'll post more as I hear more on this.

Apparently the RIAA likes to trample all over their own business, while blaming it on piracy.

Pandora, a popular music-recommendation service, is now being blocked outside of the United States. The reason: the RIAA wants Pandora to sign separate licensing deals in every single country it wishes to service.

Pandora has long been US only "officially", but it was never enforced. Canadians, for instance, could just enter in a fake zip-code (such as "90210") and the service would work normally. This is no longer the case, as technological measures are now being used to prevent this, something Pandora no-doubt didn't want to do but was instead forced to.

Now, a service that didn't compete with music sales (Pandora generates a play-list, but doesn't let you download music files, fast-forward or rewind, or select an individual song to listen to), but in-fact acts to increase music sales by utilizing technology to auto-match people with new music they may like (and later buy), has been castrated by the RIAA who likes to shoot from the hip without thinking things through first.

I personally used Pandora regularily, and also regularily purchased new music I had never even heard of before that I discovered through Pandora. That's no longer the case. Good job, RIAA!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

America Tries to Shove IP Law Down Canada's Throat

Here we go again, imperialist United States (or the American Empire....can't decide which one sounds better....) is trying to force other countries into line and subject them to US law, despite the fact that no country in the world is subject to US law except for the US itself. This time around, the United States wants to subject us Canadians to their onerous and ridiculous "Intellectual Property" laws. Of course, if Canada ever tried to push its laws onto the United States, they would tell us to go fly a kite (to put it nicely).

The United States and major corporations such as Apple and Microsoft try to blur the issue by using the word "counterfeiting", however, counterfeiting falls under trademark law and their primary complaints seem to be about our copyright law. One of theirs and the movie industry's primary complaints is about cam-cording legislation (yes, because we all know the vast majority of people would rather watch a crappy cam job on their computer screen than go to the theatre), claiming that over 50% of cam-jobs come from Canada, and that Canada is a "haven for pirates". Of course, under scrutiny, their claims fall to pieces.

Canadian law already forbids the sale or distribution of copyrighted content without a license, which includes cam-jobs, and, if I'm not mistaken, has more severe punishment against infringers than the United States (the fines are larger). Also, many aspects of Canadian copyright law are more strict than American law. For instance, Canada's "fair dealing" provision of the Copyright Act is much more limited than "fair use", the American counterpart.

Furthermore, data released by the very organization (the MPAA) that is harping on Canada contradicts the data used by the United States to push for stricter Canadian "Intellectual Property" laws.

Ironically enough, as pointed out in the previously linked Michael Geist article, the MPAA points to Canadian law which already forbids cam-cording of copyrighted content.

Vonage Asks for a Retrial

Finally, some common sense has made its way into the patent system in the United States. In the recent supreme court decision KSR v. Teleflex, the Supreme Court tore into the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for their obviousness test for patents...or almost complete lack thereof.

The patented technology was "a mechanism for combining an electronic sensor with an adjustable automobile pedal so the pedal's position can be transmitted to a computer that controls the throttle in the vehicle's engine". In other words, the patent holder received a patent on combining two pieces of pre-existing technology, neither of which was created by the patent holder. Teleflex, the owner of the patent, accused KSR of infringing on the patent, and KSR counted that "claim 4 was invalid under the Patent Act, 35 U. S. C. §103, because its subject matter was obvious". In other words, KSR claimed that the patent was so blatantly obvious as to be invalid and unenforceable.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court found that "The results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws... Were it otherwise, patents might stifle rather than promote the progress of useful arts". Essentially, the Supreme Court found that the Federal Circuit's standards for patent validity were far too lax.

Which brings us to Vonage. Verizon recently sued Vonage, accusing the VOIP phone service provider of infringing on 5 of its patents. A jury trial found that Vonage had infringed on 3 of the 5 patents, despite the patents being of dubious validity and certainly far from innovative. An injunction was later imposed on Vonage, with Vonage later winning a stay against enforcement.

Vonage has now asked the US Court of Appeals to vacate the original ruling and retry the case, this time employing the new, more rigid, standards imposed on the lower courts by the Supreme Court decision. Hopefully, the case will be retried and Verizon's patents will be invalidated.

It is ridiculous cases like these that highlight the need for patent reform. Patents, much like copyrights, were originally intended to advance the arts and sciences, and unofficially, to protect the little guy from the big guy (preventing large manufacturers from ripping off the ideas of individual inventors or small companies). Now, the outrageous costs of both filing for patents and defending against patent infringement lawsuits (in the millions of dollars), the fact that massive corporations are amassing thousands upon thousands of patents and the ridiculously low standards for patent validity imposed by the USPTO have resulted in patents being used as an anticompetitive weapon to keep the little guys out of the market. This is precisely what happened in this case when Verizon went for Vonage's jugular simply because Vonage posed a competitive threat (last time I checked, capitalism is supposed to encourage competition), and without reform, it will continue to happen.

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