Friday, August 20, 2004

There are loads of stories around on the Grokster decision. I expect Copyfight will have a round up but just for starters here's one from the NYT and the EFF's take on it.
The 9th circuit appeal court has firmly rejected the entertainment companies' appeal in the Grokster case.

"The Copyright Owners urge a re-examination of the law in the light
of what they believe to be proper public policy, expanding
exponentially the reach of the doctrines of contributory and
vicarious copyright infringement. Not only would such a renovation
conflict with binding precedent, it would be unwise. Doubtless,
taking that step would satisfy the Copyright Owners' immediate
economic aims. However, it would also alter general copyright law in
profound ways with unknown ultimate consequences outside the present
Further, as we have observed, we live in a quicksilver technological
environment with courts ill-suited to fix the flow of internet
innovation. AT&T Corp. v. City of Portland, 216 F.3d 871, 876 (9th
Cir. 1999). The introduction of new technology is always disruptive
to old markets, and particularly to those copyright owners whose
works are sold through well established distribution mechanisms. Yet,
history has shown that time and market forces often provide
equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a
player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal
computer, a karaoke machine, or an MP3 player. Thus, it is prudent
for courts to exercise caution before restructuring liability
theories for the purpose of addressing specific market abuses,
despite their apparent present magnitude."

Expect another appeal especially with the INDUCE act in the pipeline.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I don't think Lawmeme's excellent guide to Ernest Miller's dissections of the INDUCE act developments has caught up with his latest offensive. Sen. Orrin Hatch and co. have written to the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, asking her to take charge of refining the INDUCE act by 7 September 2004.

"Asking Marybeth Peters to play a leadership role with regard to legislative changes to copyright law is like asking Dr. Jack Kevorkian to play a leadership role with regard to legislative changes to euthanasia law...

...Peters is to identify "proposed solutions" to "legitimate concerns." Unfortunately for the tech industry, Peters doesn't think there are any legitimate concerns with regard to the bill, at least according to her testimony: Copyright Office on INDUCE Act (IICA): It isn't Strong Enough. If anything, she thinks the bill is too soft on technology."

Ernest is not impressed.
Simon Jenkins is on David Blunkett's trail again, criticising the home secretary and the court of appeal for relying on evidence, gleaned from torture in foreign parts, to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely.

"SO THE Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is having trouble with his friends, the tabloids. Well, well. For years he has been treating them like a skinhead playing with rottweilers. He has crammed prisons, abused judges, taunted left-wingers and pandered to the mob. Suddenly the snarling beasts turn on their handler and savage him. Before you can say “liberal” a large portion of the Home Secretary’s anatomy is raw flesh.

Where, he might wonder, did the tabloids gather their information about his love life? How rigorous were their sources? From whom was their evidence extracted, and with what bribes and duress? How do these journalists now rate their pledges of respect for human rights? The answers are probably as robust as those that Mr Blunkett deploys against the ten detainees whose case came before the Court of Appeal last week, whom he brands “terrorists”. His victims claimed the evidence against them was gleaned from prisoners who had been tortured. Unlike that in Mr Blunkett’s case, this evidence really matters. These men have been in prison for two years without trial or normal civil rights.

In prison they will stay. Three appeal court judges inexplicably found in favour of Mr Blunkett, albeit one of them with reservations. Lord Justice Laws declared himself “quite unable to see” why the Home Secretary should not rely on evidence “gained by torture”, if the torturers belonged to states “over which he has no power of direction”. Torture is apparently fine so long as the torturers are not British. I sense that this is what might be called an old-fashioned judge.

He then went further and added that he could not even see why Mr Blunkett had a “duty of solemn inquiry as to the interrogation methods used”. If he wants to declare an accused a terrorist, any evidence would presumably do, even if it were scraped off the walls of Abu Ghraib jail.

These detainees are not accused of any act or planned act of terrorism, only of membership of al-Qaeda. They have the option of leaving England and returning to their home country, but they claim that this would be at risk of their lives. They want to stay free in Britain. Since this is in part an immigration case, the appeal court may have considered the burden of proof on the Home Office less than onerous. But that is quite different from liberating the Home Secretary to sweep the torture chambers of the world for accusations against his victims...

...In The Times on Monday a former immigration scrutineer, Sir Brian Barder, attacked the appeal court decision. Surely, he said, the court should have issued “a ringing condemnation of reliance on evidence obtained by torture, wherever and by whomever practised, as a basis for imprisoning people indefinitely and without trial”.

It is scarcely believable that such words need writing in Britain in the 21st century. They do."

I don't always agree with Jenkins but in this instance I find his central arguments to be compelling and persuasive.
Rod Dixon at CircleID has an interesting piece on the domain name dispute which came to light recently between Penguin and the private owner of Penguin published a book called four years ago even though there was a website with the same domain name registered to an individual, Katie Jones.

"In 2000, was published by Penguin Putnam Publishing; according to the publisher, the book provides an "eye-opening account of teenager's descent into the seductive world of the Internet." Apparently, the publisher successfully took on the ambitious task of publishing a book about the "world of the Internet," yet did so somehow without any awareness that the book's title was identical to a pre-existing domain name. This misstep ordinarily may constitute a minor distraction for a publisher of a book on other topics, but a book about the Internet targeted toward young readers, should likely require a rerun of the printing press with a different book title, if the current domain name holder refuses to sell or license the domain name...

...Unfortunately, individual domain name holders are not widely known to receive compensation for interference with the enjoyment of their intellectual property. Too often, it seems individual domain name holders find their interests viewed as entirely irrelevant... rules governing property rights in domain names have largely resisted reformulation when directed toward freedom of expression or non-trademark-oriented uses. Hence, Katie Jones not only was without a low cost forum to assert her own rights, but could have been forced to defend a domain name she had lawfully acquired. Some commercial interests have demonstrated an implacable and ferocious appetite for domain names held in non-commercial use by individual domain name holders. In addressing her own circumstance as a domain name holder, Katie Jones indicated that the situation she faced was: "like having your home address made into a book title, and then everyone shows up at your doorstep looking for the main character…Domain name owners have just as much at stake as regular property owners.""

The publisher has now decided to change the title of the book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The tabloid newspapers in the UK are apparently having a field day with speculation about Home Secretary David Blunkett's sex life. The married woman allegedly involved has understandably asked to be left alone by the media, to protect her family. She and her family certainly should be left alone.

I fear the hacks will use Mr Blunkett's ad nauseum repetition of the "if you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear" soundbite as an excuse to hound these unfortunate folk, however.
An NYT op ed slams the INDUCE act proposals.

"But the bill is so loosely worded that it could threaten a host of legal information-sharing practices and technologies. That includes everything from the iPod to automatic online translation. Critics claim, with reason, that this overreaching bill would have deeply chilling effects on technological innovation.
Congress seems instinctively to side with those who instinctively want to put a chokehold on new technologies. It's always easier, after all, to try to protect what appears to be "an absolute, inviolable set of rights" than it is to find equitable new ground to stand on in the rapidly shifting debate over digital copyright."

Monday, August 16, 2004

The EFF has created a parallel version of the state attorneys generals' letter to file sharing companies recently saying their technology was too dangerous. The EFF letter extrapolates from the P2P letter and, replacing p2p with "The Internet", "email," or "the Web" creates a hypothetcial missive to Al Gore, who was reported, when he was Vice President of the US, to have claimed that he invented the Internet.