Intellectual Property Feed

A Windows Live blog & an Intellectual Property Issue

Someone has just posted a 1994 essay of mine in its entirely on a Windows Live blog without first securing permission. I don't seem to be able to leave a comment or send this person a message without first opening some form of Microsoft account. What I would like to do about this is to explain to the person (who was kind enough to include my copyright credit line) that he needs to either send me a permission form and secure permission or else he needs to take the essay down.

Does anyone know if there is any alternative way to communicate with a Windows Live blogger without opening an account specifically so I can talk to him and without using the form for reporting abuse?

The blog may just be datascraped and is its possible that there isn't anyone "there" to talk to; the essay itself appears on my old site here.


The Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780)

There are two very different bills with very similar names that are sometimes being discussed interchangeably. Short version: Global ONLINE Freedom Act of 2006 (HR 4780) mostly good; Global INTERNET Freedom Act (HR 4741) lame.

HR 4741 attempts to address the problem of Internet censorship, but its authors seem innocent of the fact that the US is exporting the tools to do the thing the bill's authors want combated.

On  the other hand, HR 4780, on a quick read through, looks pretty good and would sort out a lot of the Google-China type issues, and also seem to me to lay the groundwork for restricting exports of SmartFilter-type stuff, and also some of the most worrisome DRM enforcement tools that may be developed. (Wouldn't it be great to kill DRM by keeping the enforcement tools from being exported from the US into the global market?)

Before leaping into the fray, I want to have HR 4780 explained to me by someone who really knows how to read this sort of thing, but it looks awfully good to me.

Both Rebecca MacKinnon and the EFF have weighed in and have misgivings with the part of the bill specifying that would require US Internet companies to hand over all lists of forbidden words provided to them by "any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country." But I find one passage of Danny O'Brien of the EFF's discussion of what he'd like to see instead at least as problematic as what he intends to replace.

Don't Do Direct Business with Forces of State Oppression

Companies should be prohibited from providing intentional ongoing support and assistance to those who abuse human rights in foreign countries. While many products such as filtering software, Internet monitoring programs and programs to unlock protected data can have multiple uses, American companies should not be actively and knowingly providing services that facilitate censorship or repression.

This is sufficiently vague as to allow for implementation along the lines of a trade embargo in which individuals needing access to US technology to overcome their oppression might be denied it in the name of not doing business with oppressive states.

And MacKinnon remarks,

But we must act in a way that respects the rights of people in other countries as much as we respect our own rights.

These are nice ideals, but I don't see how any kind of Internet filtering technology could be meaningfully restricted without ways of monitoring what was being filtered. My preferred tactic is adding censorware and related technologies to the Munitions List such that their export would require State Department approval, which would be given or not on a case-by-case basis. This would also require a recognition on the part of the US firms creating censorware that it is in a sense a military-type technology and needs to be handled accordingly.

Even if it is not perfect, HR 4780 has a lot to recommend it. Reporters Without Borders apparently supports the bill, and I am tentatively inclined to do likewise. Also, while HR 4780 does not specifically add censorware to the Munitions List, it lays the groundwork for that possibility.

Certainly, we don't need yet another situation in which the US plays global cop, but the bill is aimed mostly at policing our own technology exports in a situation in which we are exporting the tools for dystopia.

Melbourne IT Censors Political Satire at the Request of the Office of Australian Prime Minister John Howard

200406033_p4124003jpg343vSurely, Melbourne IT, home to any number of phishing sites [P O Box 99800, EmeryVille, CA linked to is Melbourne IT's privacy protection address], and the company that allowed the Panix domain hijacking a while back, had to draw the line somewhere. And here's where they drew it: political satire. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

One of the many online newsletters and blogs I consume regularly is written by Richard Neville, a social commentator and, to people of my generation, one of the driving forces of the Australian counter-culture in the 1960s. . . . On March 8, Neville posted a spoof website on the internet, purporting to be a speech by John Howard apologising for Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. It was just the sort of speech Howard might have made if he had apologised and many believed it to be genuine.

That impression was exactly what was intended. That's how satire works. It was greatly heightened by the website ( being a direct copy of the Prime Minister's website ( Neville's spoof immediately received thousands of hits, helped along by his own email marketing and word of mouth.

Then, a day later, the site disappeared. . . . He tried to contacted Yahoo! which had sold him the web hosting package and the domain name for $9.71, but no one got back to him.

    In that email, he asked six questions:

    · Who ordered the closing of the site?

    · On what grounds?

    · By what authority?

    · Through what mechanism?

    · Why in secret?

    · Will I get a refund from Yahoo!?

After a few days Neville found that the problem was not with Yahoo! but with Melbourne IT, the domain name registrar.  . . . Melbourne IT shut down the site after it received calls from the Prime Minister's office and the Australian Federal Police, through its agency called the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. Melbourne IT's chief technology officer, Bruce Tonkin, says the registrar acted only because Neville's site looked like the Prime Minister's real site and infringed on intellectual property rights.

What, after all, will innocent children think if they were to see the Australian Prime Minister satirized in public! We must think of the children!

Neville writes:

The domain name,, is hosted by Melbourne IT. In less than 36 hours of its launch, following 10,500 visits to the site, the plug was pulled. By who? On what grounds? It took three days for Melb IT to make contact with me and help lift the veils of confusion. After receiving a phone call from Greg Williams of the People, Resources & Communications Division at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, Melb IT put the domain name on HOLD, where it remains. This domain cannot be transferred to another, more resilient host, for 60 days. In addition to the complaint from John Howard’s office, Melbourne IT said they had received calls from THREE Federal Police, and provided the name of an agent from the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. As far as I know, my passport has not met the same fate as my domain name.

See also Tim Longhurst.

[Advisory: as a Panix customer, I am unsure why Melboure IT remains in business.]

The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives."

I've got a lot on my plate today, so I don't have time to do more than just mirror this post from BoingBoing, except to say that what is at issue here is extremely serious.

MPAA/RIAA/BSA: No breaking DRM, even if it's killing you (literally!)        

        The BSA, MPAA and RIAA have officially objected to a proposal to let the public break DRM that "threatens critical infrastructure and endangers lives." They argue that if it becomes legal to break DRM that could kill you that it might harm their business:

In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives.

Link (via EFF Minilinks)

Even without this wrinkle, I think DRM has some serious human rights implications for human rights if force-exported throughout the world. This current bit seems to me clear evidence that the music and entertainment industries are being willfully ignorant and negligent about the human rights issues.

McDaid on the Boskone Blogging Panel

John McDaid's Boskone trip report has a good write up of the blogging panel I moderated. I was hoping someone would do that, since it was a panel I was proud to have moderated. I thought it went really well: Boskone trip report: Doctorow rips IP a new a-hole, Cramer is the Eye in the Sky

It's always a pleasure to hear Cory Doctorow testify, and he was in great form this weekend for his special guest speech. He excels at expressing intellectual property issues with an sf-writer's eye for the telling moment. Discussing the corporate desire to plug the problem of analog to digital conversion (or, as he puts it, the 'a hole') he imagines a future camcorder that respects IP: a parent is videoing their child's first steps. Child walks in front of the TV, and the image goes black. Yes, the proposals are that dire, and without folks like the EFF out there fighting, this is the future we may well end up with.

Also wonderful was a panel on blogging with Cory, Kathryn Cramer, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Teresa warned that as the military-industrial complex increasingly takes blogging seriously, we can expect to see more "astroturf," or faux-grassroots sentiment being seeded into the blogosphere. And Kathryn provided a case in point of why blogging is worrisome to powers that be: she's increasingly using tools like Google Earth and Flickr to monitor hotspots, and finding that people gravitate to the site and feed her info not seen in the mainstream media. (She also just made the cover of Nature in a piece on mapping for the masses.)

FURTHER TO THE SUBJECT OF "INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY," see Teresa's new post, What perpetual copyright means to me:

It is right that what’s new and unique in a writer’s work be recognized as peculiarly their own. That’s fine. But copyright is not a statement of inalienable natural right. It’s a social convention, intended to reward (and thus encourage) writers and publishers to produce more books. To pervert it into a claim of perpetual ownership, especially when that claim is being forwarded by large entertainment conglomerates, is the moral equivalent of driving a fence around the commons.

In the comments of that post, Charlie Stross makes a point that I think cannot be made often enough:

The semantic framing of the whole debate fascinates me.

Pet peeve: "pirates" and "piracy". It's a pretty extreme label to pin on a practice which is, on the small scale, about equal to shoplifting, and on a large commercial scale roughly equivalent to any other form of forgery (watches, scent, designer handbags, whatever). But it's an example of how the folks who pin the label on the donkey get to define the debate. Piracy, after all, is a Serious crime, and deserves draconian sentencing (twenty years! life!) ... which is a whole lot harder to argue for in the case of shoplifting. And indeed, the next time the MPAA or RIAA accuse one of their profit centers -- excuse me, infringers -- of shoplifting, it'll be the first.

If people who copy DVDs for their friends are pirates, what then shall we call the entertainment executives who insisted our electronic rights must belong to them even when they had no viable plans for developing these rights in a way that would benefit us? I know who the pirates are.

MEANWHILE, Octavia Butler has died suddenly and unexpectedly. I last Octavia at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, where she was attending the ceremony to induct Philip K. Dick into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. I think I took her picture sitting on a bench next to Charlie Brown of LOCUS.  I did not know her well, though I encountered her socially from time to time and  although I know her work.

This is hard for me to think about. I keep bouncing off it to think about somethng else. The manner of her death -- a fall, bleeding in the brain, maybe a stroke -- reminds me of what I'm afraid of. David's mother died of a stroke in November; and I still haven't entirely come down from the ceiling from David's emergency angioplasty a few years ago. My incomprehension in the face of the suddenness of it remind me also of my reaction to the death of SF editor Jenna Felice in early 2001.

Watermarking as a Strategy for Insisting on Corporate "Creators": Is DRM the Killer App for Corporate Authorship?

Ed Felton at Freedom to Tinker has a good post on the problem of digital watermarking, How Watermarks Fail (via BoingBoing), in which he concludes that watermarking schemes (such as Koplar's VEIL technology, discussed in my post VEIL Technology: Four Patents & an Application the other day) are not well suited for Digital Rights Management (preventing unauthorized copying of copyrighted material).

The discussion in the comment section is particularly interesting. Consider this comment, for example:

Let’s imagine a case where Microsoft’s post-Vista OS, codenamed Blacksheep, will only work with video cards that require a watermark in order to play Super-HD video (2048-4096 lines of resolution). Then such videos could be distributed in encrypted form with the watermark embedded. The decryption and watermark detection algorithm could be public; however the encoding/embedding algorithm would be secret.

Users could use the public decryption algorithm to create raw MPEG files with the watermark stripped, but would not be able to play them on commercially available video cards (similar to how video cards are now requiring monitors with HDCP support in order to play HD video). Users would not be able to create new videos with altered watermarks because the algorithm to do that is secret.

If digital watermarking schemes for DRM are put into practice, they may have little effect on the problem of bootleg versions of mega-corporate products. However, as discussed in the comment section, they may be quite effective about keeping digital artistic productions by individuals out of the distribution system: in the end, what DRM may accomplish is forcing individuals to give big corporations a cut for distribution just to get the authorized watermarking.

My experience in the early-mid 90s teaches me that part of the purpose of setting the production standards of early CD-ROMs absurdly high was to promote corporate authorship over individual authorship with the idea that digital products could be authored like film and TV, not like books, thus empowering the executive level and disempowering the actual creators, or rather reconfiguring relations such that executives become part of the creative "team."

Now computers are being sold that allow individuals, and small groups of individuals, to produce works to very high production standards on very low budgets. This also threatens the rise of corporate authorship. So watermark-style DRM may do very little to prevent the "piracy" about which the big media corporations are up in arms, it may be the killer app of corporate authorship.

It needs to be said over and over that in the early '90s, corporations did not own or control most of these digital rights they now claim the right to defend. In large part, these rights were taken, without additional compensation, from the artistic creators. (I know who the real pirates are!)

Transitioning from a world where art is created by individuals to a world where it is "created" by corporate "creative teams" is the second part of an overall stratgey to consolidate corporate control over the revenue that can be extracted from the popular arts; for creating a future in which consumers remain consumers and don't try to horn in on the revenue due to producers of artistic commodities.

(See also Dr. K.)

Chile's Sensible Proposal on Intellectual Property made at the World Intellectual Property Organization meeting in Geneva

WipologoThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has an interesting write-up of the proceedings at the meeting of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, in Geneva. Apparently, Chile has a particularly sensible proposal on the table that consists of three specific suggestions:

  1. Appraisal of the public domain
  2. Emphasize importance of complementary systems to and in intellectual property
  3. A study for assessing what are the appropriate levels of intellectual property, considering the particular situation in each country, specifically its degree of development and institutional capacity

The full text of the proposal is below the cut. The EFF remarks:

In the afternoon of Day 2 of the WIPO Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a Development Agenda we finally got down to business: discussing Chile's thoughtful proposal on the Public Domain. Chile had actually put forward three suggestions, but it was the proposal for WIPO to undertake a study of the value of "a rich and accessible public domain" that drew comments from a slew of Member States, the Committee Chair and public interest non-governmental organizations. And rightly so. As Chile's proposal notes, the public domain is essential for ensuring access to knowledge,  and provides the foundation for technological innovation.

Intellectual property rights are supposed to promote the same goals, but you'd never know it from the comments of some participants who seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the essential relationship between IPA and the public domain.  Apparently under the mistaken impression that the public domain is the opposite of intellectual property, these participants claimed that the proposal was outside Wop's mandate.

The copyright and patent regimes have historically recognized that the creation of intellectual property requires a robust public domain. Material from the public domain forms the building blocks on which new creations are built. As the Chilean delegate eloquently put it:  "Our starting premise is that nothing is created out of nothing. The greater the works in the public domain, the greater the creation." The public policy underlying the grant of time-limited exclusive copyright and patent rights is that the public domain will be continually enriched, to the benefit of all society.

Precisely because of the public domain's importance,  recent encroachments upon it - such as Technological Protection Measures, new sui generis database rights for non-copyrightable data,  exclusive rights for test data in the patent arena, and extensions of copyright and patent terms - deserve careful scrutiny.

Chile also proposed that WIPO analyze complementary systems to intellectual property that incentives creative activity, innovation and technology transfer, including free and open source software and creative commons licenses, and a study or set of case studies assessing the appropriate level of intellectual property protection based on different countries development status.

The NO coalition's notes of day two's proceedings are after the jump. There are also great summaries of the debate at the blogs of IPA-Watch, Georg Greve, and Kirsten Karloff of Free Software Foundation Europe, GAV Brazil, and Thieu Balasubramaniam of Consumer Project on Technology.

Cory Doctorow remarks, in his post How the US is boning the developing world at WIPO:

EFF and other public interest groups are back at the United Nations this week, at the World Intellectual Property Organization's meeting of the "Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a Development Agenda." This is the meeting where the nuts-and-bolts of how WIPO will turn itself into an actual humanitarian agency, instead of what it has done traditionally: help rich countries and their multinationals screw the developing world.

The public interest groups continue to subversively write down what's going on and publish it, something that  WIPO's Secretariat once described as "abusing WIPO's hospitality" -- normally, the Secretariat would release a report six months after the fact, once everyone quoted in it had the chance to revise the report of what they'd said. EFF and others publish their account of the WIPO deliberations daily -- twice a day, when it's going hot and heavy -- and it gets slash dotted, read by delegate's bosses in their capitols, and distributed. It has a genuinely disruptive effect on the orderly dividing-and-conquering of the world that's underway there.

Technologically, it's dead simple: the public interest groups make an ad-hock WiFi network, open up the group-editing program SubEthaEdit, and collectively write down as much of what's being said as they can keep up with, along with explanatory text.

Keep on transcribing! Good work, people.

FromGeneva has a colorful bit from yesterdays's proceedings that I find quite delightful, because indeed the whole debate centers on desire, that term so popular in literary criticism when I was in grad school:

Nearly one hour was devoted to whether to structure this list "horizontally" or "vertically". The Ambassador of Argentina proposed that this list be structured in horizontal clusters in a table or matrix format. This he suggested would be a better way to visually see the common threads binding the proposals. Different delegations could then identify which cluster or column they felt their proposals belonged to. This initiative was supported by Brazil, Pakistan, and Venezuela. Many other members including the United States noted that this process was time consuming and was not the most efficient way to proceed.

The delegate from Pakistan had an inimitable quote on these discussions,

We can't resist the temptation to recite this line while we are looking at your proposal; a dance is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. It is somehow relevant to the discussion we are having here. The desire is horizontal because we want to have a common ground. We have received from you a vertical expression.

Continue reading "Chile's Sensible Proposal on Intellectual Property made at the World Intellectual Property Organization meeting in Geneva" »

VEIL Technology: Four Patents & an Application

Cory Doctorow GoH speechAfter hearing Cory Doctorow's terrific guest of honor speech at Boskone, an updated version of his Microsoft DRM speech, I have become interested in finding out about this VEIL technology which is in proposed legislation (Digital Transition Content Security Act, HR 4569) intended to "plug the analog hole" aka the "a-hole." (This rhetoric reminds me of the joke about why the asshole is the body's most important organ. Someone in this process forgot to hire a writer.)

What made my little ears prick up at the discussion of VEIL is the unreasonable secrecy surrounding the technology. It is summarized nicely at Freedom to Tinker:

VeilagreementI emailed the company that sells VEIL and asked for a copy of the specification. I figured I would be able to get it. After all, the bill would make compliance with the VEIL spec mandatory — the spec would in effect be part of the law. Surely, I thought, they’re not proposing passing a secret law. Surely they’re not going to say that the citizenry isn’t allowed to know what’s in the law that Congress is considering. We’re talking about television here, not national security.

After some discussion, the company helpfully explained that I could get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay $10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.

Worse yet, this license covers only half of the technology: the VEIL decoder, which detects VEIL signals. There is no way you or I can find out about the encoder technology that puts VEIL signals into video.

DevicesThis secrecy screams SCAM to me, and regular readers of this space know that I have been finding certain kinds of secrecy and scams entertaining of late. So I'm taking a look. Koplar Communications International, home of VEIL technology, seems to be a real company with a real address and real execs and all that (unlike certain companies I've lately looked into). But the response Freedom to Tinker got to their inquiry is just wrong wrong wrong. And in my experience, when you find something like that and start picking at the threads, things get interesting pretty quickly.

So lets pick at threads. I mean, it's not like a technology to be used this widely for consumer applications ought to be classified, is it? This sort of thing is supposed to be open for public debate, i.e. debate by the public.

Here's the opening of the VEIL Wikipedia entry:

Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) is a technology for encoding low-bandwidth digital data bitstream in video signal, developed by VEIL Interactive Technologies. VEIL is compatible with multiple formats of video signals, including PAL, SECAM, and NTSC. The technology is based on a steganographically encoded data stream in the luminance of the videosignal.

The Veil Rights Assertion Mark (VRAM or V-RAM) is a DRM technology combining VEIL with a broadcast flag. It is also known as "CGMS-A plus Veil" and "broadcast flag on steroids."

This morning, I added some listings of the patents plus an application probably associated with this to the Wikipedia entry. (There was one there; I added a few more.)

(There also seem to be some Australian patents I haven't looked into yet.) What do we make of this? As Alex points out in correspondence, t certainly seems possible that the key to this isn't in the patents at all; rather it is in the proposed legislation making it mandatory. Techies, help me out here!

I think I understand the implications of this last one. If we were all chipped like dogs, then the screens could regulate their content based one whomever is standing nearby. Imagine that!

TedtvI cast around a bit looking into the company and its CEO. He strikes me as the very Ghost of Television Past, echoing the ideas about how the digital revolution experience could become ever-so-much more like your television. My favorite piece on Koplar is in Business Week and discusses the toy applications of the technology. I LOVE the last line:

Toys and TVs threaten to become intertwined as never before.

Pariseurodis5The implications of all this remind me of my one and only visit to Disney. I went on the "It's a Small World After All" ride full of dancing dolls in international costumes. When we came out of the tunnel, there was a little sign that said, You're never far from a Bank of America!

Who knew that the ride was more Futuristic than Epcot?

And meanwhile, Freedom to Tinker has another really fine post up on the subject: Analog Hole Bill Requires “Open and Public” Discussion of Secret Technology.

Pick at those threads! This is gonna be fun.

RfidA FURTHER THOUGHT ON THE PATENT APPLICATION: If you assume that the user is chipped and not just the devices, the implications of a mandatory VEIL standard combined with embedding device positional data in video signals are absolutely Phildickian. What appears on the screen of your computer is a video signal, so control of that signal should be understood as control of the reality coming in through the computer, tailored to a specific user or set of users in proximity to the device.

Why assume that the user is chipped? Because, first of all, human RFID is already on the table. The graphic to the right is swiped from the Wikipedia RFID entry. The section of the entry on Human RFID ends:

Cincinnati video surveillance company now requires employees to use VeriChip human implantable RFID microchips to enter a secure data center.

Is it a plausible scenario that this might become widespread? Extrapolate a mandatory system for controlling video signals which can tell how close you are to a device and can read your RFID chip. Great system for keeping kids out of online smut, yes?

Now, what other pieces of consumer electronics might also read this chip as, say, part of the consumer-level watermarking process? Can we extrapolate as part of an extended VEIL system the possibility of video cameras watermarking your video and photos with the IDs of everyone nearby when something was recorded ? I don't see why not.

Am I being unfair to a technology evolved to make your favorite cartoon character toys interact with the television? If this were just about toys, yes. But it's not. It's about mandating a potentially repressive standard in the US for which the entertainment industry will provide munificent R&D money. Then, using its international leverage, the US can force these  technologies down the throats of every repressive government in the world where, to paraphrase William Gibson, the street will find its own uses.

But with all the surrounding secrecy of the VEIL technology, there is also no particular reason to believe that it would really function at the most basic level advertised, securing "content" for "content providers" and defending it against "piracy." So again, we need to take a close look at what those patents actually describe.

Also, I think we need to interrogate the notion of the "piracy" of "intellectual property": it seems too me that what may potentially happen to the Internet bears a much closer resemblance to "hijacking on the high seas or in similar contexts; taking a ship or plane away from the control of those who are legally entitled to it" than a bunch of kids sharing music with their friends. If this all goes through and the Internet is transformed, who are the REAL pirates?

MEANWHILE, a reader provides a defense-related link: Koplar registered with the Defense Contracting Command as an "interested party" in bidding on the Iraq Media Network.

TOP DONORS TO THE CAMPAIGNS OF HR 4569's SPONSORS: This info comes from, which explains how to read these charts:

This chart lists the top donors to this member of Congress during the election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

The strong presence of entrenched media and entertainment industries is present in both charts below.




I wonder if either of the sponsors or ANY of the big donors are actually familiar with the super-secret technical specs of VEIL. (Bet they aren't! How 'bout it guys? Does anyone who does not actually work for Koplar know the specs? Let's see some hands.) There is something unpleasantly consistent about a proposal to use a secret technology to suppress the release of information. I have the suspicion that those supporting this have bought into the idea that they personally don't need to know the details.

At present, the status of HR4569 is listed as "Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary."

Meanwhile, the EETimes reports that someone named David Birch has had a very entertaining outburst at a 3GSM World Congress panel. (I'm going to ignore the gender rhetoric because of the general validity of the point.)

In a rant that awoke all the participants in this end-of-the-day session, Birch of Consult Hyperion, a U.K.-based independent IT consultancy, reminded the panel of mobile operators, device-makers and standards developers that the telecommunications industry is at least 15 times larger than the Hollywood "content" industry. Yet, Hollywood is prevailing in its demands for embedded technologies designed to prevent illegal sharing of music and video by mobile phone users.

"Why are you such a bunch of big girls?" asked Birch. "Why don’t you tell the content owners to just get stuffed?"
. . .

The panelists, nonplussed by Birch's outburst, left it to Willms Buhse, vice chair of the Open Mobile Alliance to attempt a response. He said that the imbalance between Hollywood’s size and its power was a matter of glamour, and its effect on public policymakers.

Citing the comments of an unnamed professor, Buhse said, "With any politicians who make laws, you’re going to do much better with Christina Aguilera than you are with a handset."

IMG_0239.JPGI say for the record that, speaking as a thin blonde content provider (and a girl), I heartily support the idea that politicians and the tech industry should tell megacorporate entertainment to get stuffed.

(Via arstechnica.)


I've been looking at the site trying to find statements from the bill's sponsors on what the heck they think they're doing. Here is Sensenbrenner's press release from December 16, 2005:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) today introduced legislation strengthening intellectual property protections by securing analog content from theft. The use of devices to convert analog content into digital versions which can easily be uploaded onto the Internet is a significant technical weakness in content protection. H.R. 4569, "The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005," is cosponsored by Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).

Chairman Sensenbrenner stated,"This legislation is designed to secure analog content from theft that has been made easier as a result of the transition to digital technologies. Although many of those who convert analog content into digital form are not engaging in any illegal conduct, there are a good number of criminals who take advantage of existing weaknesses in legislation and technology to obtain copyrighted content and then redistribute for profit at the copyright owner's expense. This practice is nothing short of theft."

"There is no doubt that pirating intellectual property can be a profitable criminal activity. Just this week, a software pirate pled guilty in Alexandria, Virginia to making $20 million in sales of counterfeit intellectual property. New technologies have made the widespread redistribution of copyrighted content significantly easier," added Chairman Sensenbrenner. Ranking Members Conyers said, "As one of our most successful industries, it is important that we protect the content community from unfettered piracy. One aspect of that fight is making sure that digital media do not lose their content protection simply because of lapses in technology. This bill will help ensure that technology keeps pace with content delivery."

H.R. 4569 mandates the use of two technologies to limit and frustrate redistribution of video content. This legislation builds upon existing law by mandating the detection and response to two separate technologies that work together to defeat pirates. The two technologies are the Content Generation Management System - Analog (CGMS-A) and Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL).

The legislation would require that devices that convert analog content pass through the CGMS-A and VEIL content protection signals contained in the original version. To ensure that the technology used does not become outdated, the Patent and Trademark Office is authorized to conduct ongoing rulemakings to update the technology.

"I urge all interested parties to continue to negotiate to see if a private sector solution can be fully developed to secure analog content from theft. This issue is simply too important for parties to avoid negotiations. Nonetheless, I look forward to working on this legislation next year," Chairman Sensenbrenner concluded.

I also found something from Conyers from April 2005:

Content owners and the high-tech industry should be commended for responding to consumer demand for digital music. For years, consumers have been clamoring for access to digital content. Because content protection technology and content owners had not caught up with the Internet, music lovers turned to illegal download sites like Napster and Kazaa for digital content.

We had heard that, if the content industry would just create a legal avenue for obtaining digital music, consumers would embrace it. The premonition was largely true. The record industry and high-tech worked together to develop digital content protection, to clear the rights needed to get music online, and to get music on the Internet. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the response to legitimate digital content has been overwhelming: in 2004, only twenty-four percent of music downloaders had tried legitimate download sites; in 2005 to date, the number jumped to forty-three percent.

It is probably safe to say that the reason for this overwhelming response is the late 2003 launch of Apple iTunes. In business for a little over a year, iTunes has sold a record-breaking 300 million songs through its online store. Other download sites, like Napster and Rhapsody, are gaining speed by offering alternatives such as monthly subscription services instead of just downloads and allowing transfers to numerous digital music players. No matter how you view it, the marketplace is working.

Digital piracy existed long before legitimate services like iTunes came onto the market and, unfortunately, it likely will continue no matter how much easier the songwriters, recording artists, and record labels make it to obtain music digitally.

Here's the thing: There is really a whole lot more at stake here than whether record labels or film studios live or die. The Internet offers utopian possibilities borne of a kind of transparency that the world has never before experienced, transparency that can save lives and make for better governments worldwide. And through DRM initiatives we are being asked to part with those possibilities for the sake of record companies and film studios. I don't think so. No. Here in the 21st century, things are going to be different and better.

Here is the membership list for the House Committee on the Judiciary, where HR 4569 sits currently. Let's kill it:


Coverage of the hearing Thursday 11/03/2005 - 2:45 PM on Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Oversight Hearing on "Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole" is available HERE. Included is a link to a webcast of the hearing and pdfs of the testimony.  The witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Honorable Dan Glickman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
  • Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
  • Gigi B. Sohn, President, Public Knowledge
  • Michael D. Petricone, Vice President, Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) on behalf of CEA and the Home Recording Rights Coalition.

I have been letting the sound of the hearing wash over me while I do other things. Ten years ago, publishers started demanding of authors electronic rights in contract negotiations for no additional compensation. The authors had very little leverage with which to resist. My personal reaction, listening to the entertainment executives complaining in the Anelog Hole hearing about the potential for uncompensated "creators" (by which they mean corporations) is Cry me a river! I don't know how the details of this were worked out in film and music, but in print publishing, the very digital rights that it is claimed need protection were demanded of authors by over-powerful corporations over the author's collective objections, in large part without additional compensation. Was that piracy?

But -- regardless of whether pushing authors into the position of involuntarily surrendering their digital rights a decade ago was piracy -- the whole issue of exactly how corporations will be compensated for administering the creative properties under their control pales into insignificance when considered in the context of the loss of worldwide transparency the industry proposals would entail.