We've recently been knocking politicians for their legislating about technology without bothering to actually understand technology. The discussion certainly applies to judges in technology cases as well. A long time ago, we wondered if there should be special high tech courts, and while that idea never gained much traction, it's still painful to see technology-clueless judges make decisions that are pointless. Take, for example, the latest ruling in Australia in the case against Sharman Networks, the owners of the Kazaa file sharing system. The judge has demanded that Kazaa start blocking out searches on a list of 10,000 musician names, as supplied by the recording industry. This is silly and pointless for two very easy to understand reasons. First, this is the identical prohibition that was placed on the original Napster in 2001 -- and we all know what happened there. People immediately started adjusting how they named songs and musicians to get around these filters. The second silly thing about this ruling is that it only applies to new versions of Kazaa that are downloaded -- but no one's going to download them knowing that it offers these annoying filters. In fact, the press is already warning people not to upgrade Kazaa. The judge's solution? Sharman is expected "to place maximum pressure on KMD [Kazaa Media Desktop] users to obtain the updated release." Yes, that's right. To convince people to download the crippled versions of Kazaa, Kazaa is supposed to "place maximum pressure" on current users (i.e., trick them) to download the crippled version, replacing the fully functional version. It seems that the folks at Sharman tried to explain how silly all this is to the judge, and even suggested that they use Audible Magic's audio fingerprinting system -- but noted it would take time to re-architect their solution to work with Audible Magic. The judge, amusingly, questions how well Audible Magic's technology works (which is a reasonable question), but still seems to think that this keyword blocking solution is a reasonable compromise.
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