Copycense Clippings (Aug. 28 – Sept. 3)
This edition of Clippings features a great profile of music producer Rick Rubin; commentary about the legal ramifications of hacking iPhones; patent reform positioning; and a tussle between the Bob Marley estate and Verizon over ringtones.
Article & Quotes of the Week
“Until very recently, there were a handful of channels in the music business that the gatekeepers controlled. They were radio, Tower Records, MTV, certain mainstream press like Rolling Stone. That’s how people found out about new things. Every record company in the industry was built to work that model. There was a time when if you had something that wasn’t so good, through muscle and lack of other choices, you could push that not very good product through those channels. And that’s how the music business functioned for 50 years. Well, the world has changed. And the industry has not.” — Rick Rubin
“The music business, as a whole, has lost its faith in content. Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it’s no longer about making music, it’s all about how to sell music. And there’s no clear answer about how to fix that problem.” — David Geffen
Lynn Hirschberg. The Music Man. The New York Times Magazine. Sept. 2, 2007. Dixie Chicks, Slayer, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, Neil Diamond, Shakira. The names look like something from an eclectic iPod playlist. Instead, those are the acts Rick Rubin has produced over the last decade: all major award-winning albums, all commercially successful. In addition to producing outstanding popular music, Rubin is making a lot of money. The industry should take note. And one more question: Why can’t we get this kind of diversity on the radio? Categories: Broadcasting & Journalism; Music.
Charles Arthur. Which Is Worth More: DRM or Music Quality? The Guardian. Aug. 30, 2007. An outstanding article that focuses on the pricing of downloaded music, and its correlation to file quality. If not for the Rick Rubin piece, this would have been our Article of the Week. Categories: Business & Commerce; DRM & Copy Protection; Music.
Michael Geist. Unlocking the Mysteries of Locked Cellphones. Sept. 3, 2007. University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist discusses the legal ramifications of unlocking cell phones, as word makes way around the globe that people are hacking their iPhones for use on networks other than AT&T’s network. Of particular interest is Geist’s assessment that a DMCA exemption the Librarian of Congress authorized in November 2006 may not clarify things: “Last year, the U.S. created an exemption to allow consumers to legally unlock their cellphones, yet the provision seemingly does not allow a company to offer the service of unlocking cellphones. In other words, consumers can do it, but they’re on their own.” Categories: DMCA; Tech & Devices.
Duke Scholarly Communications. Salvos in the Copyright Wars. Sept. 3, 2007. Two things stand out about this post from Duke’s Scholarly Communication office. First, it’s nice to see that that unit is housed within in the University Library. Second, the following quote is just the sort of thing we at Copycense really like to see: “It is always odd to see a group that says it advocates small government and free markets swing so far in favor of stronger copyright protection, which, by its nature, is government intervention to distort the market.” Categories: Libraries & Information Centers; Framing & Rhetoric.
Elise Ackerman. Google Settles Suit Over Ad Keywords. SiliconValley.com. Sept. 1, 2007. Google escapes from the clutches of another lawsuit that potentially threatened its sacred cash cow. But Eric Goldman asked the key question about this lawsuit back in April: Why did plaintiff American Blinds ever commence this action when it had little to win? Now, after four years of legal expenses, the parties settle (.pdf), Google admits no wrongdoing, and gets to continue its AdWords business. (Goldman summarizes the decision here.) And a federal judge calls into question whether “American Blind” is too generic to trademark. Any way one cuts it, this is a large, expensive loss for American Blind. Categories: Cases & Litigation; Web & Online.
ArsTechica. Movie Biz Obsesses About Pirates Even As It Plunders Box Office Booty. Sept. 1, 2007. Ars incisively notes the irony of the Motion Picture Association of America’s continued alarm-ringing about alleged widespread copyright infringement (even turning its home page into an exhibition decrying the problem with movie thieves) despite what some analysts are predicting will be a record take at the box office. (.pdf) While the Ars column notes that the record take has occurred despite a record-high average ticket price of $6.85, it fails to note that the record take likely has occurred because of a record-high average ticket price of $6.85. For a fuller story, one must look at attendance figures, not just box office numbers, since a higher ticket price could result in higher summer season box office tally even if fewer people attend the movie theater. Still, the Media By Numbers statistics show that even attendance rose 3 percent in 2007 over 2006, but that total is the first time attendance has been above 600 million consumers since 2004. Categories: Business & Commerce; Film & Video.
Bits (New York Times). Engineers Fight Patent Reform, Not Patent Trolls. Aug. 30, 2007. At least on its face, the American chapter of IEEE supports patent reform. Why would the organization, which represents more than 215,000 professional engineers, oppose (.pdf) the Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1145)? IEEE-USA’s opposition counters support from Google, Apple, and Microsoft, and aligns the organization with the pharmaceutical industry and the AFL-CIO. Legislation so often creates strange partnerships. (As an aside, we’re beginning to feel the same disdain for the term “patent troll” as we’ve articulated for “piracy.”) Categories: Legislation & Regulation; Patent.
William Triplett. RIAA Faces Serious Piracy Lawsuit. Variety. Aug. 30, 2007. We’ve long wondered when someone would attack Big Music on legal grounds for its litigation tactics, especially since so many of the lawsuits are filed with sketchy information at best. We’ve suggested defendants file for Rule 11 sanctions, but this method (which calls for class action lawsuit and uses state racketeering statutes) may be better for several reasons. Categories: Cases & Litigation; File Sharing, P2P & Downloads; Music.
Center for Citizen Media. Punishing Corporate Copyright Abusers. Aug. 30, 2007. That Viacom would issue a DMCA takedown notice to a YouTube subscriber whose own copyright video appears in a broadcast by MTV (a Viacom-owned) property is almost funny. Almost. Categories: DMCA; Film & Video; Web & Online.
Ask MetaFilter. Technically It’s Piracy, But It Doesn’t Feel That Way… Sept. 1, 2007. Most of our readers know the aversion we have to the word “piracy.” So while the article means well — it summarizes ways you can (or should be able to) use protected works without pay or permission), it mistakenly synonymizes piracy with infringement. Worse, it perpetuates Big Content’s politicized legitimation of the term “piracy.” This is a perfect example of an article that means well, but whose value is diminished because it perpetuates a frame copyright portfolio owners use to justify everything from legislation to foreign and trade policy. Categories: Framing & Rhetoric.
David Kravets. Hollywood’s Next Anti-Piracy Crusade: Crappy Cell Phone Copies. Wired. Aug. 31, 2007. As this article notes, cellphone cameras were powerful and discreet enough to clandestinely tape Saddam Hussein’s execution by hanging last year. What it doesn’t mention is that cellphones and ISP networks in Europe already may be good enough to make decent copies of film snippets at the very least. This is more evidence that when it comes to keeping many works from being distributed without control or consent, resistance is futile. Categories: Film & Video; Mobile Devices.
Brooks Barnes. NBC to End iTunes Sales of Its Shows. The New York Times. Aug. 31, 2007. NBC’s planned departure is the second defection from the iTunes camp. (Universal Music Group already has announced it will not renew its licensing contract with Apple.) Apple retaliates by pulling the upcoming season’s NBC shows from iTunes, two years ahead of the current contract’s expiration. The question we have is: Where are you going to go? Apple created the market for digital music, has sustained that market, and continues to dominate the market. And once Apple releases new innovations to the iPod (i.e. including wireless capability), it will strengthen it dominance. Big Media seems incapable of innovating its way out of its malaise, and now its greed is causing it to cut its nose to spite its face. Vaya con Dios. Categories: File Sharing, P2P & Downloads; Music; Tech & Devices.
Liam Tung. Sony Pleads Innocent in Latest Rootkit Fiasco. News.com. Aug. 31, 2007. Once proven to be a surreptitious rootkit installer, always acknowledged to be a surreptitious rootkit installer. Since Sony installed a rootkit on music CDs as a DRM measure in November 2005, we’ve not purchased a Sony-BMG music disc. We’ll gladly extend the boycott to Sony’s computer electronics. Categories: DRM & Copy Protection.
Andrew Adam Newman. Family Challenges Verizon Wireless Deal to Sell Bob Marley Ring Tones. The New York Times. Aug. 31, 2007. Universal’s desire to monetize the Marley catalog does not strike us odd, for ringtones are one of the few profit centers on which traditional record labels can rely. Further, it does not strike us odd that the Marley family might object to the scheme on any grounds (including the possibility that the venture is tawdry), despite the money it would generate for the Marley estate. (We wish Martin Luther King Jr.’s family had exercised such restraint before allowing Dr. King’s image to grace all manner of television commercials.) What strikes us is Universal’s and Verizon’s apparent dismissal of the family’s claims, seemingly on the sole grounds that the family does not (or should not) object because it is getting paid. Categories: Licensing & Permissions; Music; Tech & Devices.
Boing Bong. Science Fiction Writers of America Abuses the DMCA. Aug. 30, 2007. Using the DMCA as an anticompetitive tool has long been a problem made possible by consistent exploiting of legal loopholes. The law allows for relief for bad faith DMCA takedown filings, but seemingly few (most notably, Diebold) have been punished for such activity, and one could argue the punishment is not severe enough to prohibit the same behavior in the future. We spoke earlier about Rule 11 sanctions; if there ever was a problem that required such sanctions, this is it. Categories: DMCA.
Jason Cross. Controlling Access–Activation and DRM. ExtremeTech. Aug. 30, 2007. Product activation as a form of copy protection? Interesting concept. Categories: DRM & Copy Protection; Computers.
Lessig 2.0. On Teaching Artists’ Rights. Aug. 29, 2007. Despite his announced retirement from intellectual property issues, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig opines on the restrictive copyright practices at the University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media. Apparently, Academy students are required to sign a release (.pdf) form that permanently gives full copyright to the institution. This practice is so egregiously ridiculous we’re surprised (a) the Academy continues to have any students and (b) the Academy has been getting away with this for so long. (Most universities have a policy that confirms the obvious: students are the authors of student work for copyright purposes, and therefore the work’s owners.) Categories: Education; Film & Video.
NewsBlog. U.S. to Russia: Allofmp3.com Closes Door on Your WTO Chances. Aug. 29, 2007. World Trade Organization membership has become very important to several countries over the last few years, and this story emphasizes the roles of “piracy” and the U.S. Trade Representative in brokering WTO admission to countries like Russia and China. Categories: File Sharing, P2P & Downloads; International.
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson. YouTube Seals UK Music Royalty Deal. FT.com. Aug. 29, 2007. Are deals like this one the wave of the future for YouTube and other online video-sharing sites? Categories: Film & Video; International; Licensing & Permissions; Music.
Greg Sandoval. Court Rules Against TorrentSpy in Hacking Case. News.com. Aug. 28, 2007. Sharing media files is illegal, immoral, and unethical, the MPAA says, but it doesn’t find a problem with paying $15,000 to obtain private e-mails that belong to a target’s executives. Categories: Cases & Litigation; Privacy & Security.
digiRAMA (New Zealand Herald). The Dying Days of DRM? Aug. 28, 2007. An Australian publication analyzes WalMart’s decision to eliminate copy restrictions from music files that are for sale from its online music store. The decision is significant because WalMart is the largest music retailer in the U.S. We post this here because it’s good to get an international perspective of U.S. copyright issues. Categories: DRM & Copy Protection; Music.
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