May 11, 2006
Dogs Used to Combat Digital Piracy
BetaNews is reporting that the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), supported by the MPAA, has trained two dogs, Lucky and Flo, to sniff out DVDs in packages arriving in the U.K. They are now working for FedEx at a depot in the Stansted Airport in Essex. FACT says Lucky and Flo have been successful in their tasks. The group also claims success in seizing over 2 million pirated DVDs in 2005, although there is no statement about Lucky and Flo's contribution to the seized swag. One wonders if Lucky and Flo can tell the difference between legitimate product and pirated material, or do human workers tear into packages trying to tell the difference between a home video and illegal copies of Freddy Got Fingered reproduced in bulk by a scurvy thief. (Tom Green probably wishes someone would care enough about his films to copy them.) FACT notes that pirates tend to criminals involved with other crimes such as human smuggling, exploitation of firearms, and benefit fraud.
Another recent statement that links DVD piracy to bad stuff is from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who commented on the need for the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2005 (still pending). He said the act was necessary because duplicating technology "encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft" and "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities." Funny in that there haven't been any stories of FBI agents heroically smashing duplication rings with links to al-Queda. Then again, there's a lot about the war on terrorism that never makes the news.
The Act in question has its own controversies. It would criminalize the making, importing, exporting, control, or possession of copyright circumvention tools if they can be distributed to someone else. There would even be a crime of attempted copyright infringement.
May 10, 2006
Proposed Fed Law Targets MySpace and Similar Sites
Since we're running an in loco parentis theme today, CNET is reporting on proposed federal legislation that would require schools and libraries to filter out social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. The legislation is so broad in wording that, according to the report, has the potential to also ban some blogger sites, some instant messaging features, and a live chat feature in Microsoft's Xbox 360 online service.
The Bill is called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA. The article suggests that part of the motivation for the bill, aside from saving children from predators, is to score points with the more conservative voters back home. There may be some truth to this even though the act's acronym reminds one more of a drug associated with Parkinson's Disease rather than child predator issues. DOPA amends the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and adds to the requirements of the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA. That act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its requirements of web filters in federally funded schools and libraries. If we add the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, to the mix, we can probably get a Barry Manilow song out of all of this.
Representatives from the American Library Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals are quoted in statements expressing concern over the legislation, sounding somewhat torn between protecting children or the First Amendment, as if these were the only choices.
Should this go forward, the big loser will likely be Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., who bought MySpace recently. The site has a cool factor of about a zillion with teens and pre-teens even though the latter aren't supposed to be there. Depriving children of their sites during school hours means reduced click throughs and reduced ad revenues. Fewer dollars will change hands but the children will be saved. How can anyone except the people with the hands full of dollars not like that?
Dot-XXX Bites the Dust
A report on the WSJ web site states that the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) rejected the domain name suffix by a 9 to 5 vote. The rest of the article raises the usual issues associated with Icann, such as it is really a puppet for the U.S. government in controlling a global communications network (so say the non-Americans) and whether such a suffix would/would not actually protect children and families from unwanted pornography. There's a dash of policy concerns and the involvement of conservative Christian groups, the amount of money the industry takes in ($5 billion reported here, although other reports claim $11 billion or more), and a slight touch of the First Amendment. Mix well and you have a story that basically says Icann rejected the proposed XXX domain by a vote of 9-5.
May 9, 2006
It's Patch Tuesday
Microsoft has issued a series of patches that plug holes in, what else, Windows. If your operating system is Windows XP, visit Windows Update or let Automatic Update runs its course. Until next month....
Verizon Warns Against Net Neutrality Laws
Verizon is attacking net neutrality principles again. The potential legislation is to give some oversight to the Federal Communications Commission on the issue. Even with a pro-business Commission in place there is the threat that the attitude of the Commission could change with a change in administrations. Therefore, no regulation is better for the telecoms than any regulation.
The example used by Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communication is health monitoring over the Internet by a hospital. His take is that the hospital and patient would want a virtual private network and not the public Internet. Legislation, in his view, could limit the ability for Verizon and other carriers from implementing this type of service.
Right. Most provisions that have any likelihood of passing limit a carrier's ability to downgrade service from another content provider rather than limiting their own ability to provide faster or exclusive services at a higher speed. That would not only allow for the health VPN, but allow the hospital, the patient, the health insurance company to decide if the premium for the higher speed VPN is worth the cost.
May 8, 2006
NYC Worker Fired Anyway For Browsing the Internet
There was a story last month about a worker in the New York City Department of Education who appealed a decision to fire him for surfing the Internet. An administrative judge ruled he should be reprimanded but not fired. The city ignored the judge and fired the guy anyway saying the fact that he surfed the net showed how disinterested he was in doing his job. How many workers in professions across the country does that describe?
No word on whether there will be any follow up in court. The AP story here via the Houston Chronicle did not indicate any.
Apple (Beatles) Loses Trademark Case Against Apple (Steve Jobs)
Apple Computer won a victory over the Beatles' company Apple Corp over the use of the Apple Computer logo on the iTunes store. Apple Corp complained that this violated a 1991 agreement that arose from a similar dispute that they stay out of the business of the other. High Court Judge Anthony Mann basically said the logo is used with the store and not with the music sold at the store. Neil Aspinall, head of Apple Corp vowed an appeal to Britain's Court of Appeal. This means plenty of harrumphing and powdered wigs to be available for the foreseeable future.
The most interesting bit of news to come out of this case is that Apple Corp is preparing new masters of old Beatle product to be released on the "dying" CD format and through online distribution. Apple Computer would dearly love to get some distribution rights to these downloads, but that's a question that may have to wait until the final final ruling in this case.
We would have cued the song "I'm A Loser" here, but that would have gotten us sued. You can do it mentally though without paying royalties, at least until the RIAA can figure out a way to make us pay for our thoughts. See the Washington Post, BBC News, Billboard, and CNET for details on the judgment.