Monday, May 17, 2004
(My May contribution to IP Memes follows.)
LESS IS MORE — DMCRA GETS ITS DAY IN CONGRESS
In a May 12 hearing before a House subcommittee, Congress considered Rep. Rick Boucher's Digital Media Consumer Rights Act (HR 107). The bill would amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and allow personal and academic users of copy protected digital materials to sleep a little better at night. In a prepared statement, The Honorable Cliff Stearns described the proposed legislation as an "effort to further refine the DMCA and maintain a fair and balanced approach to copyright protection," and said the Subcommittee hopes to"[p]rotect the consumer by offering choice in the marketplace while vigorously safeguarding intellectual property and encouraging innovation." At the hearing, movie industry lobbyist Jack Valenti warned that reining in the DMCA would unleash "devastation I just don't want to comprehend," while Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton urged Congress to restore "[t]he balance between consumers' rights and producers' rights." Among those who think the bill is a bad idea are the Professional Photographers of America, who claim (albeit histrionically) the legislation would "make it impossible for photographers to protect their work in any digital format," and "give hackers explicit permission to distribute software and hardware devices designed to defeat copyright protection technology." More reasoned criticism has been leveled by former Cato Institute scholar Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., and Adam Thierer, Cato director of telecommunications studies, who questioned the wisdom of further complicating the copyright law: "[Boucher's] latest bill risks adding another layer to the incomprehensible legislative morass of the federal Copyright Act, which now stands at over 230 pages (compared to just 12 at the turn of the century)." Even Crews Jr. and Theirer though had to applaud the bill's efforts to "clarify the ability to decrypt copy protection technologies if the effect is not to undermine commercial opportunities." EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann, who attended the hearing, thinks the bill has a real shot: "I'd say the majority of the subcommittee just wasn't buying the 'sky will fall' stories being told by Big Content."
LINUX USERS STILL OUT OF LUCK — COOL HACKS, BUT NO LICENSED PLAYERS AND NOT MUCH SYMPATHY
Speaking of Jack Valenti, he sat down recently with Keith Winstein, Senior Editor of MIT's The Tech, and said he was surprised it remains impossible to purchase a licensed DVD player for the Linux operating system. You may recall that in 2001 Winstein, along with Marc Horowitz, wrote a six line Perl program, "qrpff," that decodes CSS. Back then Valenti declined Winstein's invitation to his "Decrypting DVD" seminar at MIT. When Valenti finally got to see Winstein's program in action during last month's interview, he had this succinct reaction: "Un-fucking-believable." Valenti's advice (and that of the MPAA's Rich Taylor, who also was present) to the world's two million or so Linux users, who still must violate anticircumvention laws in order to play DVDs on their systems, was to buy a stand-alone DVD player or use another OS.
- Keith J. Winstein interviews Jack Valenti
- Wired Magazine, DVD Hacking for Dummies
- Mark-Jason Dominus explains qrpff
GOING, GOING, GMAIL
By now you know Google's still-in-beta Gmail service is getting rave reviews while privacy advocates continue to scratch their heads. If you're still jonesing for an account, you can probably pick up an invite on eBay.
THE COMPANY THAT BLOGS TOGETHER
Google is the latest major company to fire up a weblog for public consumption. The blog launch comes in the midst of Google's "quiet period," though it's hard to see how "What Larry had for breakfast. What Sergey thinks of that Hellboy movie. Which Dawson's Creek character reminds us most of Eric..." could be interpreted as an offer to sell stock. (If you're one of the folks who thought Google was introducing a blog search function at that URI, guess they gotcha.)
MORE IS LESS — iTUNES BEEFS UP DRM, GETS SOFTWARE PATENT
The latest version of Apple's popular iTunes software lets users burn playlists to CDs fewer times (from 10 to 7), though it does throw users a bone by upping the number of computers on which a file can be played (from 3 to 5). Oh, and $.99 per download price is staying, despite rumors you may have heard to the contrary. Apple also successfully patented the iTunes interface, while the EFF is challenging such practices with its Patent Busting Project.
- Stereophile, iTunes vs the Listening Room
- CNET, Apple: 99 cent music price tag staying
- CNET, Apple wins iTunes interface patent
- EFF: The Patent Busting Project
EVERYONE NEEDS A HOBBY — SCAMBAITING
Ever wondered how you could get back at the perpetrators of email advance fee fraud? You need look no further than 419 Eater, a Web site dedicated to conning the conners. On the bunny slopes of this perhaps Olympic caliber sport, you might just squander a little of a scammer's time, thus delaying him or her that much longer from duping the dupable. The intermediate runs involve some very funny pictures, while the double diamonds might just get you some of THEIR cold, hard cash. (Thanks to Joi Ito for spotlighting the site.)
Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Denise M. Howell and included in the Bag and Baggage weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.