When the Department of Justice decided to sue Apple and five of the major book publishers for price fixing ebooks, we were glad to see some justice coming to purchasers of overpriced ebooks. Shortly after filing the suit, three of those publishers, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, decided to settle rather than fight. Now, the first round of settlements have been reached between these three companies and 49 states (sorry Minnesota) and 5 US territories. The settlement totals to around $69 million to be split among the states and territories.
In a press release on this settlement, Connecticut AG George Jepson states that while it is fine for companies to seek profit, they shouldn't harm the public in the process.
While publishers are entitled to their profits, consumers are equally entitled to a fair and open marketplace. This settlement will provide restitution to those customers who were harmed by this price-fixing scheme, but it also will restore competition in the eBook market for consumers’ long-term benefit.
By restoring competition in the market, these publishers agree to allow retailers pricing control of ebooks in the future. This could bring us back to $10 and below new releases that we have sorely missed.
While this settlement is getting underway, the settlement between these companies and the DOJ is still being reviewed. That may take a while as District Court Judge Denise Cote has 868 public comment letters to sift through. Hopefully, she can ignore the ignorant pleas of those opposed to the current settlement proposal and agree to a positive result. All that would be left is that actual lawsuit against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin which are all holding their ground that they did nothing wrong.
Our ancient ancestors had a pretty tough life without fire, farming techniques and 4G wireless internet connections. But they managed to create cave paintings that still exist today, and we're still finding cool stuff that pre-historic people left behind. Here are just a few interesting links to our great-great-great...-great grandparents.
Kaufman has shown himself to be a filmmaker who truly understands how the internet can help him, rather than be something worth fearing, so it's great to see him fully embrace a platform like YouTube to distribute his flicks, and to not freak out about the fact that people can watch stuff for free (actually, to encourage people to watch stuff for free).
We've noted for quite some time that the USTR's idea of "transparency" is laughable. They pretend that letting a few critics speak briefly is "transparency." It's not. Transparency is revealing what you're proposing on behalf of the public. And, even the "hearing from critics" part is increasingly laughable. We recently noted that the USTR had already limited the "direct stakeholder engagement period" to just three hours, which is much shorter than usual. Now, word comes from the EFF that it's become even worse, as the USTR has sent them an email saying that their allotted 15 minute presentation time has been cut down to just 8 minutes, and they're splitting up the presentations into four different rooms -- so most negotiators won't even be around to hear any individual presentation anyway. Here's the EFF's concerns:
We just received an email from the USTR indicating that they are going to cut down the already inadequate 15-minute time allotment for our stakeholder presentation, to a mere eight minutes. In addition, they will all be held in four separate rooms. So not only will the presenters have barely any time to discuss their specific concerns with the agreement, it will literally be impossible for negotiators to attend all the presentations they would be interested in hearing since they will all be held simultaneously in different locations. Moreover, this entire round of negotiations will last 10 full days, and so it seems especially odd that they would need to cut down time for public participation this drastically.
And here's the email from the USTR:
You are confirmed for a stakeholder presentation slot on Sunday, September 9th during TPP Round 14 Direct Stakeholder Engagement Forum.
Due to space constraints and an overwhelming showing of interest, we will have to limit presentation time to 8 minutes. Each presentation room will have a laptop, projector, and screen. If you would like to give a PowerPoint presentation, all you need to do is bring your presentation with you on a flash drive. No need to send to me ahead of time. Please plan ahead so that your presentation fills the allotted time. We will have to stop you at the 8 minute mark in order to give every presenter an equal opportunity to make their presentation.
A schedule of presentations will be provided for you at the round. All presentations will be scheduled within the 11:00 am- 2:00 pm block, and take place in Potomac rooms A, B, C or D.
Thank you, again, for your participation. We value your input, and look forward to an on-going conversation regarding TPP.
This isn't transparency. This is transparency theater, so that Ron Kirk can tell people he's being transparent, when he's being anything but.
“It was really just kind of a joke a couple of us came up with drunk one night. I wish I could say there was more to it, but that’s about it,” said [William] Hansmann.
Hansmann stated that the goal of the SuperPAC was "to create parody videos on YouTube." Seems like as good a use of a SuperPAC as any. As for why they chose famed rock duo Hall & Oates? Well, that was easy:
“When we hit on Hall & Oates, we were just like, who doesn’t love Hall & Oates?” Mr. Hansmann explained.
That may be true... but while everyone may love Hall & Oates... it turns out that Hall & Oates don't really love being associated with a SuperPAC. They had their people "get in touch" with Hansmann and convince him to shut down the SuperPAC, which had raised all of $0. According to Hall & Oates' manager, the duo was wary of any political connection whatsoever, even one involving parody videos:
"Daryl Hall and John Oates recognize that the personal view points of their fans cross all political spectrums and are honored to be supported by their fans everywhere regardless of political affiliation... The PAC's founders recognize that the use of the ‘Hall’ and ‘Oates’ names for the purpose of raising funds is not an appropriate fan activity no matter what the goal of the fund raising activities might be.”
Thankfully, it appears that the dynamic duo and their manager resolved this in a friendly manner, rather than the all-too-typical reaction of some to immediately rush to legal nastygramming.
"Daryl Hall and John Oates are pleased that the amicable dialog with the founders of the Super Pac have brought an expedient resolution to this matter and achieved a result both sides are pleased with."
Of course, what's unclear is if the SuperPAC has just been shut down, or is being renamed. Any suggestions on what else it might be called?
Earlier this year, after a series of long and detailed phone calls in which I tried to explain to producers of CNBC's 'Crime Inc.' why the claims about "piracy" were exaggerated, and how conflating physical bootlegging and unauthorized digital downloads was a mistake, we did a filmed interview that took place over a few hours in San Francisco. I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, they'd be able to present the story of copyright infringement with a bit of nuance, rather than the typical "run for your lives! theft! piracy! gangsters!" Unfortunately, it appears that the show went in the other direction and did the cliche and totally bogus storyline that digital downloads are a form of organized crime costing billions. I haven't yet seen the whole program, but judging from the show's online description and "extras" along with its video preview, this is going to be more of the same garbage:
From the voice-over, scary music, and video clips, this looks like a repeat of what 60 Minutes put on a few years ago. Given that CNBC is (of course) owned by NBC Universal, perhaps that's not too surprising. But I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, they could be convinced to present a more nuanced position. Instead, the video clip clearly presents downloading in the same light as physical bootlegging, claims billions of "losses" and suggests the whole thing is a criminal epidemic, rather than a situation in which a failure by the entertainment industry to adapt is a major part of the problem.
One of the "extras" shows ICE boss John Morton gleefully talking about seizing and forfeiting domain names -- which is odd timing given that just yesterday the feds had to give back one of those domain names because Morton and his crew totally screwed up. But don't bet on seeing that in this report.
The show officially airs today (times depend on where you are). I have no idea if any of my footage even made it into the show, but given the positioning of everything shown on the website, it wouldn't surprise me if the points I made about how much of this is exaggerated and misleading don't make it into the episode, or if they do, they're presented completely out of context. So much for trying to bring a little sanity to reporting on these things. I guess reporting on reality, rather than the industry's spin, just doesn't play on cable news.
We had already noted what appeared to be serious problems with the way the jury decided the verdict in the Apple/Samsung case -- including ignoring prior art, awarding damages on patents not infringed, and an admission of choosing punitive damages, despite instructions that clearly bar such an action. And it seems to only be getting worse. Groklaw points out that Velvin Hogan, the controversial jury foreman, went onto Bloomberg TV to defend himself, but only served to make things worse, by more or less admitting to not understanding how prior art works.
As was discussed in the previous post, the jury initially got hung up on the question of prior art on the first patent (7,469,381 -- better known as the "bounceback patent" -- covering how when you scroll and hit the edge of a "page" the screen "bounces back.") However, in this interview, Hogan explains the "aha!" moment he had that led him to suggest to the jury that the prior art doesn't apply:
The software on the Apple side could not be placed into the processor on the prior art and vice versa. That means they are not interchangeable. That changed everything right there.
You can see him say this in the video below, around the 3 minute mark:
Basically, he's admitting that he doesn't understand how prior art works. The fact that the software wouldn't run on the same processor is meaningless. In fact, as Groklaw notes, the jury instructions (which Hogan again insists the jury read) note that to find prior art, you just have to show that the invention has already been done or even explained somewhere else. That's got nothing to do with whether or not it can run on the same processor.
Once again, we learn why it's silly to have juries determining patent cases.
We've pointed out over and over again that the revolving door between the government and the big copyright maximalists represents a broken system -- and we're seeing it yet again. David Carson, the long time General Counsel of the US Copyright Office has announced that he's leaving that job... to become head of global legal policy for the IFPI (the international version of the RIAA). His role will be to "coordinate the recorded music industry's legal policy strategy worldwide." Think he'll have undue influence with the US Copyright Office? He's only been in General Counsel of the US Copyright Office for 15 years. Of course, the IP-Watch story linked above shows how the revolving door works both ways. In effect, Carson is replacing Shira Perlmutter, who left the IFPI role earlier this year... to become the chief policy advisor on IP issues for the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The Republican Party platform language strikes a very smart balance: it emphasizes the importance of us doing more as a nation to protect our intellectual property from online theft while underscoring the critical importance of protecting internet freedom. As the party points out, the internet has been for its entire existence a source of innovation, and it is intellectual property that helps drive that innovation. Copyright is the cornerstone of innovation; it allows creators to benefit from what they create. As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- herself once a Republican elected official -- wrote, '[I]t should not be forgotten that the Framers intended copyright itself to be the engine of free expression. By establishing a marketable right to the use of one's expression, copyright supplies the economic incentive to create and disseminate ideas.'
I agree wholeheartedly with my friends in the Republican Party that we must protect the free flow of information on the internet while also protecting American innovators. It is imperative to our national economy and our national identity that we protect an internet that works for everyone.
As he is prone to doing, Dodd is presenting a very distorted version of history and intellectual property. There is no evidence (none, zip, zilch, zero) that "intellectual property helps drive innovation." Historically, it's been shown that competition and need is what drives innovation -- whereas intellectual property laws tend to lock in place legacy players, holding back disruptive innovation. Either way, the MPAA's support pretty much shows that the Republican's "internet freedom" platform isn't serious.
With the proliferation of digitally distributed content, the question of ownership is always looming overhead. Part of that question is what happens to it all after you die. In the physical realm, any books, movies, games and music you purchase throughout your life can be left to your children and other heirs. Things aren't so simple for ebooks and iTunes files that you may have bought.
Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated.
And one's heirs stand to lose huge sums of money. “I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be OK with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife.” “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”
Apple (US:AAPL) and Amazon.com (US:AMZN) grant “nontransferable” rights to use content, so if you buy the complete works of the Beatles on iTunes, you cannot give the “White Album” to your son and “Abbey Road” to your daughter.
It is this non-transferability of the content that is the stickler. If you cannot transfer your digital files to another person then you cannot technically bequeath them to an heir. However, you can still leave your entire account to someone else, but even that might hit some issues if the terms of service don't allow it. Steam is one example of a service that does not allow for the transfer of accounts, even in whole. Valve is willing to kill an account, swallowing up all money spent on it rather than letting someone other than the original owner getting a hold of it.
Digital distribution is still young and there have not been any real challenges to this sort of situation. The closest ruling I am aware of that might possibly allow such a transfer is the EU Court ruling declaring that software, which includes a non-transferability clause in its license, can still be resold. So while such a ruling does not answer this specific legal question, it could work as a convincing precedent when it does come up. However, that ruling only holds bearing in the EU. Which means rulings such as the Vernor vs Autodesk ruling, which denies such first sale rights to US citizens, could prevent such transfers.
Of course the question of transferability would be moot if people would not buy anything encumbered by DRM or which was tied directly to an account. With DRM-free files, there are fewer issues of who you can bequeath files to as there are no accounts that need to be dealt with. However, there might still be some copyright questions on whether such files can still be legally transferable even if they are technically and easily transferable. Yet, I don't see many creators who release their works in DRM-free form raising much of a stink about it, although their estates might.
One question not raised in the WSJ piece is one we have talked about in the past when such services go belly up. Is it really going to matter that your files are not transferable when Apple or Amazon close up shop and banish all your purchased content to the nether world of digital services? That is a more pressing question. While you may live to a ripe old age, the services and technologies you use typically have a far shorter shelf life. What good would it be to leave obsolete files and devices to your children?
I guess the final question that needs to be asked here is this, "Who wants to die first so that legal precedent can be established on this matter?"
The TSA's "behavior detection" program continues to roll out, unimpeded by accusations of racial profiling or the fact that 725,000 travelers have been questioned without turning up a single terrorist. This extra step in the ongoing, ever-expanding War at Home on Terror is bringing the fun of living in a dictatorship to the unsuspecting citizens of a federal republic.
Traveling into or out of the country used to be the one of the few situations in which American citizens could expect extra questions to be thrown their way. Apparently, we're now defending internal borders to prevent terrorists from crossing state lines unimpeded. In addition to long-running security theatrics already in place at our nations' airports, TSA agents are now throwing a barrage of instrusive questions at flyers as they travel from state to state.
The agent then turned to me with grin that was a bit perky for even my taste given the early hour. "So where are you folks off to?" he energetically inquired.
I like to think that I'm a friendly person, so I answered him, expecting a brief innocuous exchange about the Washington DC heat and the scourge of Capitol Hill gridlock. Instead, the agent responded to my answer with a barrage of questions about where in Vermont we had stayed, how long we had traveled, and why we had traveled there. I could feel a suspicious expression involuntarily creep across my face. The New Englander inside me was screaming "you don't know this person from a hole in the wall and you certainly don't want to divulge to him the details of your family vacation!" And yet it seemed that the more discomfort I expressed, the more persistent the agent's questioning became, following us down the line, grilling me unrelentingly about our vacation plans and baggage status.
Maybe the TSA agent was just being friendly? The writer's husband suggested as much. Despite the fact that the word "friendly" has rarely, if ever, been used in the same sentence as "TSA agent," there's always the small possibility that it's just some welcome humanity showing through the officious facade.
Here's the problem, though. It's nearly impossible for the average human being to chat normally with someone who has the power to indefinitely detain or otherwise screw up their travel plans for any number of nebulous "violations." There's no such thing as an innocuous or friendly question when it comes to an agency with a reputation for acting irresponsibly, vindictively and ignorantly, depending on the situation. No one is ever going to feel comfortable just handing out additional personal information, no matter how anecdotal, to someone who can use any misstep as an excuse to search, detain or otherwise inconvenience anyone and everyone.
At that point she asked me what my business would be in Grand Rapids.
"I'm headed home," I replied.
Then she wanted to know where home was. That's when the mental alarms went off and I realized I was being interrogated by Big Brother in drag. I asked her why the federal government needed to know where I was going and what I would be doing. She explained that the questions were part of a new security "pilot program."
I then told her I am an American citizen, traveling within my own country, and I wasn't breaking any laws. That's all the federal government needed to know, and I wasn't going to share any more. Not because I had anything to hide. It was because we live in a free country where innocent people are supposedly protected from unwarranted government intrusion and harassment.
At that point the agent yelled out, "We have another refusal." One of my bags was seized and I was momentarily detained and given a hand-swab, which I believe was to test for residue from bomb-making materials.
I passed the bomb test and was told I could move on, but I hung around a moment and told everyone within listening range what I thought about this terrifying experience.
Notice how quickly asserting your rights gets you branded as a troublemaker by those "protecting" the airport. The intrusive questioning is the TSA's "behavior detection" at work. So far, it seems to be best at detecting racists within the TSA's ranks and maintaining an overly-close relationship with other law enforcement agencies.
This interrogation of citizens who have never crossed a border isn't necessarily a new thing, but in the past it was definitely an exception rather than the rule. Crossing national borders would usually result in some form of questioning beyond "Are you an American citizen?" Outside of our airports, the Department of Homeland Security is partnering with the Border Patrol to set up checkpoints with the intent of stopping and searching vehicles traveling internal highways 40-50 miles from any border crossing. This falls within the "Constitution Free Zone" where the courts have permitted these "administrative" checkpoints to operate, but solely for the purpose of protecting the nation's borders. They are not to be used for other law enforcement purposes, like conducting general drug searches.
As can be expected, the checkpoints have become "general purpose." Suspicionless searches are now the norm, with many drivers being routed to the "secondary" for additional questioning. None of this is necessary, useful or even particularly legal, but they continue to operate simply because US citizens are generally cooperative, even when their rights are being violated. If you don't cooperate with your own violation, as in the case with Gunn above, and the video below, the ones doing the violating (under the auspices of "security") treat the assertive citizen like he's being unreasonable and possibly a threat.
While the US is far from an actual police state, the encroachment on our rights shows no sign of abating. The TSA defends its severely flawed "behavior detection" system as being a crucial and useful part of law enforcement as a whole. Defenders of DHS checkpoints are quick to cite criminal actions by non-citizens and the general hazy threat of "terrorism" in support of their activities. No one really expects anyone in power to say "Wait, this is going too far," and start rolling back authority and legislation. But someone in power should really start questioning why it became acceptable in this country, a nation built on individual freedom, to interrogate citizens simply because they're traveling from one internal destination to another by vehicle.
For the longest time, we have written that one of the biggest reasons people pirate is because they are potential customers who are underserved. As creators have come to this realization, they have been better able to capture revenue from those customers as their needs have been met. One entertainment industry that still seems to be struggling with this concept is that of television. While networks have made great strides in providing more online content for viewers, many networks still insist on absurd restrictions and windows, even when they make absolutely no sense. Yet, some are learning.
HuwOS sent in news that ABC in Australia has learned that waiting a week after the UK airs Doctor Who to release any version in Australia is a recipe for piracy. As a result of this realization, ABC has decided to release episodes of Doctor Who on its ABC iview service mere hours after the show airs in the UK and a full week before it airs in Australia. In a world that seems to pride itself on 8 day or even one month delays (I'm looking at you Syfy), this is simply unfathomable. But not for ABC's Brendan Dahill.
ABC1 controller Brendan Dahill said the decision to air the show online before television was motivated by a desire to reduce piracy, as well as fulfill the needs of drooling Whovians, who have waited almost a year for the new series.
" Piracy is wrong, as you are denying someone their rights and income for their intellectual property," Mr Dahill said. "The fact that it is happening is indicative that as broadcasters we are not meeting demand for a segment of the population.
"So as broadcasters we need to find convenient ways of making programs available via legal means to discourage the need for piracy."
Imagine that. Providing convenient and timely access to content reducing piracy. Most shows, particularly popular shows like Doctor Who, tend to show up on less legal services mere minutes after airing for those tired of waiting for the networks to catch up with their needs. Waiting at least a week after airing in another territory to make the show available would definitely result in a good number of potential viewers having already seen the show prior to legal options becoming available. Yet, making this move toward reducing piracy by making content available, ABC will be capturing more legal views and the revenue that comes with it.
One can only hope that other networks learn this lesson at some point. Yet, that may be a bit of an uphill battle as Brendan notes.
But he also acknowledged that the ABC did not have to compete for ratings like other channels, allowing it to make broadcasting decisions that provide convenience and choice for its audience.
Funny how that works. When you are not bogged down by often unreliable statistics like ratings, you can provide services that your customers want. Its this rethinking of what brings about success in the digital age that will truly maximize revenue.
You may remember a few years ago there was some controversy down in New Zealand over software patents. There was a plan to explicitly outlaw software patents, but then someone accidentally leaked the fact that big tech companies (mainly US ones, like Microsoft and IBM) had lobbied hard against outlawing software patents, leading to a change in plans. After that leak resulted in more public outcry it was claimed that the proposal would go back to outlawing most, but not all software patents. Well, it seems that the supporters of the big US software firms were just biding their time. As various reports are noting, more than two years after all of this, proposed amendments have finally been made to the bill, and they appear to create a massive loophole for software patents, which certainly seems to reflect the desires of Microsoft and IBM's lobbying efforts in the country. One hopes that further public outcry will finally make Kiwi politicians realize that they don't have to do what American companies demand...
Skateboarder and filmmaker (often focusing his films on skateboarding) Stacy Peralta is releasing his latest skateboarding documentary, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, about the Bones Brigade skateboarding crew -- Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill and Tommy Guerrero -- which Peralta helped put together in the first place. Rather than go the traditional route with releasing the movie (as he's done many times, including with the acclaimed skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys), Peralta has decided to go direct to fans. The movie was shown at Sundance earlier this year, where it got some attention and had a bunch of opportunities to go with traditional distribution partners, but instead Peralta figured it was time to take control, noting that the DIY ethic of direct-to-fan is similar to the way skateboarding evolved in the early days:
As skateboarders, as people that have always lived on the outside, have always had to sneak over fences or through the back door, have always had to create our own terrain, we’ve decided to put that ethic towards how we release “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.” We turned down all of the conventional offers for distribution when we came out of the festival in favor of doing it ourselves.
One part of this DIY approach is that to promote this new movie, Peralta teamed up with BitTorrent and TopSpin to help with direct-to-fan digital distribution and promotion. Via BitTorrent, people can download a "Bones Brigade Bundle," including a bunch of extras, and then using a TopSpin feature (either on the web, or directly in the uTorrent client), if you submit your email address, you can download an entirely free copy of the classic skate film, The Search for Animal Chin, which was released 25 years ago, and featured the members of the Bones Brigade. So the combined effort, from Animal Chin to the Bones Brigade documentary is sort of a "full circle" situation.
It's great to see more filmmakers really embracing both direct-to-fan, but also realizing that things like BitTorrent aren't automatically bad, but have a place in a marketing campaign as well. In this case, it's interesting to see Peralta using a combination of a few different tools to create an integrated and comprehensive campaign not only to market the new film, but also to distribute the old film (the first time it's officially available in digital format). Oh, and if you'd like to download The Search for Animal Chin, there's an embedded widget right below this sentence...
dennis deems: LOL you should pass in an enum instead of a String. bad Christopher Best: Actually it's C++ so I shouldn't be calling new to begin with. :P Leigh Beadon: plus the MarvelPortrayal constructor doesn't take any arguments, it just randomly polls a public domain fiction api dennis deems: nice!! Christopher Best: lol well played Ah, interesting to see the Steve Jackson Games vs. the FBI case coming up in connection to this Silva story. That case pretty much led to the creation of the EFF I hate to think in terms of anything positive involving police beating someone to death, but one could only hope that these sort of cases lead to a similarly long-lasting legacy as creating an organization that fights against seizure of video evidence Jay: Gah, that bottom ad is annoying on my cellphone! dennis deems: Happily there is some good news too: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/05/patent-troll-that-wants-1000-per-worker-gets-sued-by-vermont-a-g/ this is the scanner troll silverscarcat: Well... http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/156515-kinect-for-xbox-one-an-always-on-works-in-the-dark-camera-and-microphone-what-could-possibly-go-wrong dennis deems: why would anybody want that? silverscarcat: idk So, I just erased my outlook account. I refuse to use that service or allow it to host anything of mine. Already got it on Thunderbird. Tis sad, over a decade worth of memories, and Outlook comes along and screws everything up. dennis deems: http://t.co/CqGZaCofFb The Lonely Island - SEMICOLON (feat. Solange) for you @ssc (NSFW)