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Sep 06, 2000

Ruling against MP3.com could cost $118 million
Music & MP39/6/2000; 4:13:04 PM 'A federal judge today found that MP3.com willfully infringed the copyrights of Seagram's Universal Music Group, opening the company to enormous potential damages in one of the first trials to address the legal boundaries of Internet music distribution.'I'll just say this: That MP3.com can be found in copyright violation is OK. But I don't buy for one second that it was a willful violation when there was nobody on the planet who knew either way.To willfully violate the law, one must know that what one is doing is wrong. Frankly, the copyright situation being what it is on the web, "just do it and let the courts sort it out" is the only way to do business. If somebody else tries the exact same stunt tommorow, that would be "willful violation". In the meantime, this should be seen as testing the waters.(Had the members of the MPAA tried the exact same thing, I bet it would not be found "willful", even if it was a violation. Not that they'd do something like this.)(Perhaps the legal standard for 'willful' is different; I'm not a lawyer and I'm assuming there's some component of "must know the action is wrong". Still, the Findlaw dictionary defines it as "not accidental: done deliberately or knowingly and often in conscious violation or disregard of the law, duty, or the rights of others".)


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Sep 06, 2000

To link or not to link?
Free Speech9/6/2000; 4:02:53 PM A good summary article from Upside on the recent trends and ruling relating to linking. I think I've covered them all, but this is an excellent review (and if you encountered this story by browsing through my archives, this is an excellent article to start with).One thing jumped out at me though, relating the Ticketmaster vs. Tickets.com to Bidder's Edge vs. E-Bay:'The Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com decision therefore does not present a bright-line rule protecting those who seek to link or use spiders. Rather, it leads to a case-by-case factual analysis. The more that linking and spidering cause actual harm to an aggrieved party, the greater the chance of judicial prohibition of such activities.'Seeing the case in this light makes me realize why I approved of the ruling in Bidder's Edge vs. E-Bay, but was extremely uncomfortable with the reasoning used, which was a trespassing doctrine.Bidder's Edge was not trespassing in the sense of causing damage just by their undesired presence, they were actually doing damage by accessing E-Bay so much that they accounted for a significant percentage of E-Bay's bandwidth. It had nothing to do with linking and everything to do with what amounted to a small-scale Denial of Service bandwidth + computing resources attack.Judges should only look for real damages done, and not look at links at all. Bidder's Edge could equally easily simply be accessing E-Bay computers repeatly for the purposes of collecting statistics on applied psychology as seen in auctions; if 'linking' is the problem, then this behavior must be acceptable, despite the fact it still causes just as much damage. Linking is a phantom problem, trumped up only because they are easy to point at and show off in court. If Tickets.com could read Ticketmaster's site without undue damage* to the computers, and extract only information that is quite explicitly not protected by copyright, no matter what disclaimers Ticketmaster puts on their site, then more power to them.Links themselves should still not be looked at as somehow transmitting responsibility for the content on the other end.(* BTW, to the judge in the Bidder's Edge vs. E-Bay case, a bandwidth + computing resources drain is not like taking a hammer to a computer! There's more kinds of damage then just physical that one can do to a computer.)


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Sep 06, 2000

Maryland's UCITA May Have National Reach
UCITA9/6/2000; 4:01:36 PM 'In less than a month, the controversial software licensing measure UCITA will become law for the first time, in Maryland. And it's an event with potential national implications for all end-user companies.'...vendors can still cite Maryland law as their "choice of law" in a licensing contract, no matter where the vendor and licensee are located, said Jean Braucher, a University of Arizona law professor in Tucson and critic of the measure. "The key point is, you don't need any connection with Maryland, at least under UCITA," she said.'Pay attention, this will affect you. The IS department where I work, which has had a fairly lax policy on foreign software, will probably have to crack down... we probably can't afford people entering binding contracts just so they can play Squash Zippy the Bear or some other stupid Macromedia game. The new era of Trojan Horses is nearly upon us, and the damage they do may well go beyond any technical virus could do...


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Sep 06, 2000

'Carnivore' unlikely to be validated
Surveillance and Privacy from Government9/6/2000; 9:22:12 AM A surprising good article from USA Today, which tends towards fluff pieces on these issues.'Five groups of researchers have bowed out of the competition to evaluate the so-called Carnivore Internet surveillance system. And that likely will dash Justice Department hopes that a major university would validate its controversial eavesdropping device, participants said Tuesday....'"This is not a request for an independent report," says Jeffrey Schiller, a computer network manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was asked to work on the review. "They want a rubber stamp."...'The controversy surrounding the carnivore audit springs from several issues. Among other things, the Justice Department says:- Universities and any other contractors must agree not to publish anything the government deems sensitive.
- Researchers may examine only those matters the government wants examined.
- Teams must agree to clear all personnel working on the evaluation with the government.'Under these conditions, particularly the second, I wouldn't want to do it either. What good would the approval do for the government anyhow? The reviewers can't even catagorically state that they've actually examined Carnivore... it could well be a system trumped up just for the review.It will be interesting to see how Congress reacts to this.


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Sep 06, 2000

FCC To Rule On Copy Protection Technology Dispute
DMCA9/6/2000; 9:01:26 AM 'Led by the Motion Picture Association of America, copyright holders want the FCC to require that circuitry be built into nearly every digital TV device - receivers, VCRs and set-top boxes - that will prevent recording programs carrying copy protection information set by the program's owner. Negotiations between the MPAA and electronics manufacturers broke down early this year, and on April 14 the FCC, which had hoped the two parties could reach an agreement, said it "reluctantly" would make the decision.'I guess they're taking another shot at removing the ability to use VCRs for anything except buying prepared video tapes and consuming, consuming, consuming.Note that we've already been around this circle, you've probably seen it come up in the DVD & DeCSS coverage. The early 1980's Sony Betamax court cases established the legality of VCRs. Napster has been trying to use this case in its favor.Now the DMCA comes along and the MPAA wants to use it to strip us of these previously acceptable uses when we move to digital TV... and that move is itself being driven by the MPAA, not by consumer demand, for this very reason. Can we say "effective monopoly?"The sick part is, under the DMCA, the FCC is obligated to rule in favor of the MPAA.The Home Recording Rights Coalition has prepared a message form you can use to send your opinions to the FCC. Please do.


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