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Jun 04, 2001

Goodbye Tomalak's Realm
Personal Notes
6/5/2001; 12:06:16 AM Goodbye to Tomalak's Realm, one of the best link-logs in existance. Good luck with your schooling and business plans!


Permalink
Jun 02, 2001

Response to the Briefs
DVD & DeCSS6/2/2001; 7:30:47 PM OK, I've read the two briefs now and I'd like to offer these comments:Based on these briefs, EFF is arguing a fundamentally stronger case.
The MPAA has the always-difficult task of proving the absolute: DeCSS
contains no speech elements whatsoever. While the EFF goes to the
opposite extreme to state that DeCSS contains no non-speech
elements (which I personally agree with), any compromise position will
leave DeCSS as being at least partially speech, which would hurt the
MPAA's position.Remember this is a trial about whether the injunction against 2600 was
legal, not directly about DeCSS. The MPAA's position is that a link
to DeCSS was more-or-less tantamount to the infringement that would occur, and if
DeCSS is speech in any way, the First Amendment will begin to kick in
and protect 2600. It is still possible for the court to rule that while
DeCSS has some speech elements, it is not subject to full protection,
but the MPAA would be much better off if it can get the court to buy in
on the idea that DeCSS is totally non-speech.I would not call the EFF's position bullet-proof, but I think the flaws
are relatively minor. In section B.1, after the lettered paragraphs, the
EFF makes reference to the possibility of a system that could limit
the number of copies of a DVD made. I think that in the context of a
court case that is implicitly discussing a method of circumventing a
copy control, that's a bold statement They do have a
couple of statements that I would expect even extremely cynical judges
to take note of, notably the last section about fair use ("fair use
extends to works in whatever form they are offered").However, this is not a trial about DeCSS, it's a trial about whether 2600
violated a court order to not post links to DeCSS on its website, which I
previous opined that 2600 is essentially destined to lose. So while the
EFF is arguing a very strong case, I can't escape the fact that they
seem to be arguing the wrong case. The MPAA lawyers have not
violated a court order to not post links to DeCSS on its website, which I
previous opined that 2600 is essentially destined to lose. So while the
EFF is arguing a very strong case, I can't escape the fact that they
seem to be arguing the wrong case. The MPAA lawyers have not
missed that point, of course, and their brief comes on quite strong on
that point in the beginning, and while I find it distasteful to say, I
think they're mostly correct. I find myself agreeing with section III
in its entirity, where the MPAA lawyers go over the reasons why the
initial injunction is hardly a threat to journalism as a whole.I'm much more interested it the direct answers to the questions, though,
and I find the MPAA answers sorely lacking:'Does DeCSS have speech and non-speech elements? No...
DeCSS is a device (configured as a program, although it could as easily
have been configured as a physical machine, i.e., a "black box") that
accomplishes a mechanical task, namely descrambling and decrypting an
encrypted, scrambled DVD and copying its content to a hard drive.'
There are three major problems with this line of reasoning. First, as I
saw someone on Slashdot pointed out, if DeCSS (and by extension, all
programs) are merely "devices", then on what grounds do we allow
programs to be copyrighted? Either they are "expressions" that can
be copyrighted, and thus can carry some sort of First Amendment-protectable
information, or they are purely devices which can never be copyrighted,
ever, and thus can only be patented. (Of course the MPAA can afford to
argue this line of reasoning, as they have no need to worry if a judge
were to agree with this. Microsoft, on the other hand, might have
something to say about that.Second, while it is true that DeCSS could be accomplished by a physical
machine, this is true of all software. All software can be done
in hardware; the difference between software and hardware is
smaller then a lawyer might guess. For instance, if you have an older
Palm Pilot, the OS and the programs that come with the OS are all done
entirely in "hardware". Therefore, this argument has no meaning, since
it has no distinguishing power between software that can be done in
hardware and software that cannot.Third, the point about "copying to a hard drive" is dangerous to take
at face value. If DeCSS is used to make a copy, which is then viewed
by the owner and promptly erased, is this a crime? It's dangerous to
say yes, because such copying happens routinely on the Internet with
caching and other such mechanisms. Indeed, my computer has a fully legal
DVD player and I can guarentee with reasonable confidence that at some
point, contents of the DVD have ended up on my hard drive due to that
memory being swapped to the hard drive. In fact, as I sit here, I'm watching Star Trek VI on my computer, and my hard drive light is flashing in perfect sync with the DVD drive's light. It's a pretty good guess that the DVD is essentially being copied directly to the hard drive.

One can profitably make the distinction between deliberately copying
to the hard drive and having the system do it, but that's just asking
for a clever hacker to straddle the line, just as systems like FreeNet
straddle the free-speech line.The rest of the MPAA brief is mostly spent dismissing the questions
the court posed about how the First Amendment applies, since the MPAA
contends that there is no speech involved at all, so there's little
else of value to me there.I think the EFF has put some good material together, and I'm sure
we'll see it again when the trial about DeCSS resumes. In the meantime,
the only reason I see to think that this particular court process will
end in 2600's favor is that the judges were asking these questions at
all. If I had to lay money down, I'd say the court will find in favor
of the MPAA, that Corley did violate the provisions of the court order,
but that their brief will validate (or at least consider) some of the
points the EFF is making, and recommend that other courts pay more
attention to them as the whole mess wends its way through the court
system.


Permalink
Jun 01, 2001

If You Can't Track 'em, Join 'em
Music & MP36/1/2001; 9:29:37 PM 'An alliance between three media file-tracking companies makes it possible to monitor, track, contact and shut down the systems of users who engage in illegal activity on the Internet.'BayTSP, Media Enforcer and Copyright.net -- companies that have applications to search for copyrighted materials -- agreed to share their tracking technologies with each other as part of an equity deal that creates a loose federation of companies involved in rights management.'That's pretty clever! Another shot fired in the trackers vs. crackers war.


Permalink
Jun 01, 2001

The music revolution will not be digitized
Music & MP36/1/2001; 8:48:49 PM 'The power, then, is consolidated squarely back in the hands of the same record industry executives that held the reins before. Everyone with a good idea that doesn't fit into what the music moguls have already deemed appropriate is out of luck. That personalized radio station will be shut down, that peer-to-peer network will be decimated before it even has a chance to offer a subscription plan, prices for music downloads will be set sky-high, and new music-exchange services will contain only limited catalogs.'Is the system where "If we [RIAA members] do not approve it, it will not happen." is a true statement a system that promotes innovation?This reminds me of my previous comments. Part of their strategy was to make sure that there was no way to comply with the legal requirements. Isn't that sick?


Permalink
Jun 01, 2001

Web Behind Walls
Misc.
6/1/2001; 1:15:27 PM 'At stake is the future and form of the Internet for millions of Americans whose access to the online world comes through the set-top portals of cable television. Instead of the multivaried pathways of the World Wide Web, these users will be provided easy access to a much smaller subset of items and options that reflect the network owner's online programming, as well as the offerings of its content partners. Dubbed "walled gardens" by supporters and skeptics alike, these new "managed-content areas" will therefore offer the illusion of online choice, while leading subscribers down well-worn paths of proprietary content and affiliated programming—in stark contrast to the great diversity of expression the Web seemed to promise in its heyday, way back in, say, 1997....

'For millions of households, therefore, the World Wide Web will be neither worldly nor wide. The real danger, of course, is that the online marketplace of ideas under cable's control will become as encumbered with gatekeepers and tollbooths as the world of cable has become.... That's just too high a price to pay for the speed and simplicity of what amounts to little more than Internet Lite. In the interests of our democracy, broadband cable companies must be held to a higher standard than that....'


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