January 31, 2003

Domains with Typographical Errors - A Simple Search Strategy

Domains with Typographical Errors - A Simple Search Strategy
http://sethf.com/domains/typos/
by Seth Finkelstein

Abstract: This paper describes a simple strategy for searching for domain names with typographical differences, and the results of one such search.

This is in response to a report
Large-Scale Registration of Domains with Typographical Errors
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/edelman/typo-domains/
by Benjamin Edelman.

He describes an extensive series of domain names with typographical errors which have been registered by a cybersquatter. and asks for help in identifying these targets. This creates what might be called an "inverse problem", of determining what are the target of the squatted typo'ed name

Note Donna Wentworth at Copyfight described my paper beautifully - "Seth F. gets agrep on the problem".

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in infothought | on January 31, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 30, 2003

Bowers v. Baystate update (shrinkwrap against reverse-engineering)

Bowers v. Baystate is a case where a district court upheld as law that a shrinkwrap license can forbid reverse-engineering (see my earlier blog entry)

Yesterday (January 29, tip thanks due to Donna Wentworth at Copyfight), the decision was apparently updated with a "concurring/dissenting opinion" by one of the other judges in the case. That now-available opinion by "Judge Dyk", is well worth reading, as it delves into all the copyright/fair-use/reverse-engineering issues:

"By holding that shrinkwrap licenses that override the fair use defense are not preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. - 101 et seq., the majority has rendered a decision in conflict with the only other federal court of appeals decision that has addressed the issue - the Fifth Circuit decision in Vault Corp. v. Quaid Software Ltd., 847 F.2d 255 (5th Cir. 1988). The majority's approach permits state law to eviscerate an important federal copyright policy reflected in the fair use defense, and the majority's logic threatens other federal copyright policies as well. I respectfully dissent. ..."

"However, state law giving effect to shrinkwrap licenses is no different in substance from a hypothetical black dot law. Like any other contract of adhesion, the only choice offered to the purchaser is to avoid making the purchase in the first place. See Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67, 95 (1972). State law thus gives the copyright holder the ability to eliminate the fair use defense in each and every instance at its option. In doing so, as the majority concedes, it authorizes "shrinkwrap agreements . . . [that] are far broader than the protection afforded by copyright law." Ante at 13."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , legal | on January 30, 2003 02:48 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 29, 2003

RIAA and ISPs vs file-sharers

Edward Felten comments regarding my message RIAA vs. file-sharers, civil and criminal approaches and analysis of "Where's The Money", in part:

The reason for this, Seth says, is that ISPs have money and average file sharers don't. He has a point here, but he also makes a bit of a simplification. Though the common image of file sharers is of kids, my guess is that the demographics of file sharers are pretty close to those of music buyers. Data on this point are pretty hard to come by, but Napster's statistics showed more middle-aged users than expected, and I assume that hasn't changed with the new systems.

To clarify, I didn't mean a kids/middle-aged distinction. Rather, I meant that in terms of the value for the lawyer-time involved, suing an average individual in a copyright-dispute is not a cost-effective proposition, or useful redress. It's not about looking like a "bully", or doing "dirty work". Rather, that the costs of pursuing any civil-suit would exceed any reasonable asset recovery. Just work it out - what could expected from an individual? If we take $50,000 (likely extremely high), that's a break-even point of 100 lawyer-hours at $500 an hour. The fact that a file-sharing case could generate a theoretical damage claim of a zillion dollars of statutory damages, does not mean it could obtain that money. So the only reason to pursue such cases would be for intimidation value, and such value is not evident with regard to an unskilled activity

I'm reminded of this passage from the DeCSS decision

Copyright and, more broadly, intellectual property piracy are endemic, as Congress repeatedly has found. [FN230] The interest served by prohibiting means that facilitate such piracy--the protection of the monopoly granted to copyright owners by the Copyright Act--is of constitutional dimension. There is little room for doubting that broad dissemination of DeCSS threatens ultimately to injure or destroy plaintiffs' ability to distribute their copyrighted products on DVDs and, for that matter, undermine their ability to sell their products to the home video market in other forms. The potential damages probably are incalculable, and these defendants surely would be in no position to compensate plaintiffs for them if plaintiffs were remitted only to post hoc damage suits.

In a sense, there's an obvious point here about copyright, which has subtle implications. Copyright damages are almost all not "actual" damages - they are monopoly impairments. All the talk of "intellectual property" is again leading us to think in property-like terms. But copyright is less about property _per se_ than monopoly. I believe some discussion about action against file-sharers is arising from a thought-path that leads from the idea, if copying is theft, why not go after the supposed thieves? But the "problem" here isn't theft, it's impairment of monopoly.

So where is the control-point, where application of lawyers yields effective maintenance of monopoly? (which is what I meant to address by "Where's The Money") Not the file-sharing users. The ISPs. It's not that ISPs have deep pockets, but rather that the ISPs economic incentive of maximum money made, coincides with the RIAA's goal of minimum (lawyer) money spent.

With regard to business, I've found, to a very large extent, almost nobody cares about looking like a bully. The DMCA actions even now are replete with horror stories - price data, global pre-emptive letters, to what might be called "creative applications". That's the PR department's job to clean-up. There will certainly be much journalism-fodder in ISP-based enforcement. But I'm skeptical how much that will matter in the greater scheme of things.

Again, I concur with the conclusion. But I think the reasoning in use, and necessary and sufficient to reach it, is strictly and bloodlessly economic.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 29, 2003 09:11 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 28, 2003

RIAA vs. file-sharers, civil and criminal approaches

I agree with Ed Felten's comments on the RIAA and not suing file sharers (and Jonathan Zittrain's quotes) - that is, the RIAA will try to get the ISPs to be their enforcement agents.

However, my method of reasoning is simpler: "Where's the money?"

The RIAA is not going to file a civil suit against individuals who file-share, because, by and large, those targets have no assets. Worse, those users are at the bottom of the pyramid, the "small-fry". It's a complete waste of money to go after them.

For all the noise about The Government, prosecutors have even tighter budgets than the RIAA. A criminal case against an average file-sharing user makes even less sense.

Even make-an-example cases won't be meaningful, because the behavior involved is unskilled and low-level (note in contrast, going after tool-making programmers make much sense, that's a skilled activity, with much potential to intimidate by harsh penalties)

So where's the control-point? The ISP. ISPs want to make money. The path of least resistance (== costs least money) is to do what the RIAA wants, and there's both economic incentive and law to back this. There's the money.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 28, 2003 07:12 PM | (Infothought permalink)

Winning (DMCA) Exemptions, The Next Round

I've now written a sequel to my guide
How To Win (DMCA) Exemptions And Influence Policy
http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/finkelstein_on_dmca.html

The latest guide, discussing submitting of DMCA reply comments, is

Winning (DMCA) Exemptions, The Next Round
http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/finkelstein_on_dmca2.php

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on January 28, 2003 06:42 PM | (Infothought permalink)
January 27, 2003

Eldred decision in the "FoxTrot" comic strip

Another sign that the copyright debate has gone mainstream:
The Eldred decision is the plot of today's FoxTrot comic strip!

More than a reference, it recites the issues, and plays off the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse cartoon. Funny too.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 27, 2003 10:53 AM | (Infothought permalink)
January 26, 2003

Peacefire seeks volunteers to help work on anti-censorship technology

Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2003 03:26:03 -0800
From: Bennett Haselton <bennett[at-sign]peacefire.org>
Subject: volunteers to help work on anti-censorship technology

Happy New Year to everybody -- sorry it's been an unusually long time since the last Peacefire newsletter, but the good news is that there are big things coming in 2003. Peacefire has joined forces with Voice of America <http://www.ibb.gov/>, a federal agency that used to do pro-democracy radio broadcasts into communist Eastern Europe and Asia, and is currently still broadcasting into China while branching out into finding ways to defeat Internet censorship. They've contracted with us to help defeat the "Great Firewall of China", the firewalls put in place by the Chinese censors to block people in China from reading foreign Web sites that criticize the Chinese government. The technology could be extended to help people in other regions such as the Middle East where the Internet is heavily censored.

This is the kind of project that I hope many tech-savvy members will be able to help with, one way or another. Personally I think this may be one of the most important things I ever get to work on, if not the most important. To a lifelong puzzle-hobbyist, it's like a dream: working on a problem that's like a giant, open-ended puzzle that's never been completely solved, where the answer could help millions of people around the world. As for working on the problem itself, it requires some technical knowledge, but not a lot; I coach a high school math team and I've worked on some of these problems with the students in the math club. I could do that since there's nothing classified about the solutions to the problem that VOA has asked us to find, because our strategy is to assume the Chinese censors will be able to "take apart" the software and figure out how it works anyway, so we should publish all the details of how it will work, and encourage people to try and find ways to defeat the system. Only if the complete design is published and nobody can find any flaws that would enable the censors to attack it, then we go ahead with building it according to that design.

One of the first papers I put out as part of the project, was about the common pitfalls and problems with many existing "anti-censorship" systems: http://www.peacefire.org/circumventor/list-of-possible-weaknesses.html If you can follow most of the discussion on that page, you'd probably be able to help. It's less about technical knowledge, and more about looking at a given problem through new angles, so it's an ideal technical project for young people to contribute.

There are several existing anti-censorship projects out there, made by companies including SafeWeb, DynaWeb, and a self-described hacker coalition called Hacktivismo, all of which have contributed some valuable insights, but many of their designs fall prey to the attacks listed at the URL above. Also, none of the other groups working on this problem have published the details of how their proposed solutions work, so there may be other problems that haven't come to light yet. (If any of their programs ever came to represent a serious threat to the Chinese censors, the Chinese government would almost certainly "take it apart" to find out how it works and find any exploitable weaknesses, so keeping the design secret is really just delaying the inevitable. This is why our strategy is to publish the design in advance, and only proceed with it if no one is able to find a weakness in the design, even knowing all the details of how it works.)

One good question that nobody has asked me, but some people probably will, is why I would be asking people to contribute ideas for free, if VOA is paying me. I would say that even if you subtract all the hours per week that VOA has paid for at a normal programmer's salary, that still leaves a lot of hours every week that I'm working on the project, which could be considered "donated" time (not to mention all those years with Peacefire, which is how VOA heard about us in the first place :) ). In any case, it's up to each individual person whether they want to help. Besides, the most important part of the process is to have many reviewers look at the software design and try to find flaws that the censors could exploit, and that doesn't take any minimum time commitment.

As part of this project, Peacefire is probably going to move towards fewer consumer-reports-style pages about what blocking software really blocks, and more towards work on anti-censorship technology. We will still help to publicize the problems with blocking software, especially when the Supreme Court decides this year whether the "Children's Internet Protection Act" is constitutional, which requires blocking software to be installed on all computers used by children or adults, in any library that receives federal funding. But for the most part, most people who are paying any attention at all, have gotten the message that blocking software is sloppy and often politically motivated. Plus, many other research groups are now also doing studies on the problems with blocking software. On the other hand, developing secure anti-censorship technology is still something that no group has ever pulled off completely, and I think we're in a position to do it.

If you'd be interested in working on the design for an anti-censorship program, you might want to check out the URL above. Some other recommended reading on how the design has evolved so far, most of which is about pitfalls in existing systems, pitfalls that our design should avoid:

Problems with using a "distributed cloud" of circumvention points to defeat Internet censorship: http://www.peacefire.org/techpapers/distributed-cloud.html An attack that can be used to map out a peer-to-peer network of machines being used as circumventors: http://www.peacefire.org/circumventor/peer-to-peer-map-out-attack.html An attack that can be used against Anonymizer-type Web sites even if they encrypt page contents using HTTPS: http://www.peacefire.org/circumventor/fingerprinting-sites-downloaded-over-https.html

As you'll notice if you read those, all the stuff so far has my name on it. Let's do something about that :) If you'd be interested in contributing in any way, email me at bennett[at-sign]peacefire.org with some information about your background if you want (even though no background is necessary). We'll be setting up a separate mailing list to discuss the strategies for anti-censorship software, and anybody can contribute ideas for possible attacks against the anti-censorship that the censors might use -- so that we can be sure to take those into account when designing the system.

It's eerie, thinking about the political implications of something like this, the number of people it could possibly affect. This is the biggest project Peacefire has undertaken, but no individual person's contribution is too small. So contact me and check out the URLs if you're interested.

-Bennett

bennett[at-sign]peacefire.org 425 649 9024 http://www.peacefire.org

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 26, 2003 11:56 PM | (Infothought permalink)
January 25, 2003

N2H2 (censorware co.) "dead company walking", another step

Continuing my effort to make sense of the finances of the censorware-maker N2H2, ( "dead company walking"), here's my thoughts on their just-issued quarterly report

The key element seems to be that they lost money yet again, though I'll be fair and say it's now not really being hemorrhaged (more like oozing out at this point). They're down to losing another $429,000, or $0.02 for each share of stock. Granted, losing less money is definitely better than losing more money. But loss is still loss.

They apparently managed to be "cash flow positive" again this quarter, from booking revenue from a deal with an Australian ISP. What's interesting is that their revenues haven't increased much: "an increase of 5 percent over 2001's first quarter results". The stemming of the money hemorrhage has been achieved by laying-off people (admittedly, there's a lot of that going around). But as the saying goes, you can only fire people once. Still, the drama continues ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 25, 2003 11:49 PM | (Infothought permalink)
January 24, 2003

CFP 2003

It's official. I'm presenting a tutorial at the 13th Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy (aka CFP 2003)

My tutorial is: "How to Analyze Censorware"

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 24, 2003 05:44 PM | (Infothought permalink)
January 23, 2003

Matt Blaze Master Key security paper, earlier attack descriptions

I read with great interest Matt Blaze's paper,
"Cryptology and Physical Security: Rights Amplification in Master-Keyed Mechanical Locks"

He wrote:

It is always difficult to be sure that an attack is completely novel in the sense of not having previously been discovered independently; the lack of a coherent and open body of literature on locks makes it especially so. In this case, several correspondents have suggested that similar approaches to master key reverse engineering have been discovered and used illicitly in the past. However, there do not appear to be references to this particular attack in the written literature of either the locksmith or underground communities.

I was able to supply him with two references to earlier descriptions of the attack, in one case 15 years ago.

Compare:

2.2.2 The Attack

For each pin position, p from 1 to P , prepare H - 1 test keys cut with the change key bitting at every position except position p. At position p, cut each of the H -1 keys with each of the possible bitting heights excluding the bitting of the change key at that position. Attempt to operate the lock with each of these test keys, and record which keys operate the lock.

With the following item from (note 1987)

http://yarchive.net/security/master_keys.html

From gwyn@brl-smoke.arpa (Doug Gwyn) 12-Nov-1987 17:36:05
Subj: [1137] Re: mastered systems

"Obtain one extra key blank per pin column (7 for the typical institutional Best lock); duplicate the operating key except for one column on the blanks, omitting a different column on each blank. Then, for each blank, try it with the omitted column cut to number 0 (high), then 1, then 2, ... and record which bittings open the lock. That tells you what the splits are in that column. The whole set of trials tells you what all the splits are in all columns."

And similar (note 1994)

http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=2jcejp%24csc%40coyote.rain.org

From: jay@coyote.rain.org (Jay Hennigan)
Newsgroups: alt.locksmithing
Subject: Master key hacking Was:Re: Legality of picks...
Date: 9 Feb 1994 20:53:13 -0800

If you have a "change" (industry term for normal non-master) key and the lock that it fits, as a guest in a hotel would, as well as a number of blanks, you can do the following: Cut a key identical to your key, but with the first pin position uncut or a "0" cut. Try it in the lock. If it works go on to step 2. If not, take the first pin down one depth using a key gauge or micrometer (or a Le Gard or other code cutting machine). Try it again until the key works. When you hit the depth of the cut on your original key, it should obviously work, as the keys should be identical. If so, continue going deeper. You are likely to find a depth on the first pin _in addition_ to the one on your key that opens the lock. If not, then cut another blank with the first position identical to yours, and the second one at the top or "0" cut.

Step 2: Repeat as above with the next pin position.

The object is to find the cut at each pin position that is different from the single-lock key you have, but still opens the lock. This will be the master key bitting. Having two different keys (and locks) from two different areas of the masterkeyed system will make things a bit easier, as you'll have a way of cross checking, especially if there are more than two breaks in some pins. This exercise, if you're precise, and lucky, can take as few as 5 or 6 key blanks. At most, a dozen. No real skill in picking or impressioning is needed. [... rest of article snipped]

Update: There's some interesting commentary on Dave Farber's IP list:

Donald Eastlake commentary:
http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200301/msg00136.html

Bob McClure commentary:
http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200301/msg00147.html

Matt Blaze reply message, "Keep it secret, stupid!":
http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200301/msg00153.html

And a thread on the newsgroup alt.security.alarms
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=3e32f52d_2%40corp.newsgroups.com&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fq%3D%2522master%2Bkey%2522%2Bimpression%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26scoring%3Dd%26selm%3D3e32f52d_2%2540corp.newsgroups.com%26rnum%3D1

There's also discussion with postings from Matt Blaze himself, on alt.locksmithing
http://groups.google.com/groups?dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=1043353164.31996%40cswreg.cos.agilent.com&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dg:thl2517357864d%26dq%3D%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26selm%3D1043353164.31996%2540cswreg.cos.agilent.com

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in infothought | on January 23, 2003 11:57 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 22, 2003

N2H2 (censorware co.) bankruptcy-watch update

As I mentioned last month, I've been trying to make sense of the finances of the censorware-maker N2H2, as it seems to be "dead company walking". Their Yahoo profile shows it now to have negative "Book Value". So tomorrow we'll find out if they've hemorrhaged even more money in the last few months:

Webcast Alert: N2H2 Inc. Announces First Quarter 2003 Results Webcast

SEATTLE, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- N2H2 Inc. N2H2 Inc. (OTC: NTWO - News) announces the following Webcast:

What: N2H2 Inc. Announces First Quarter 2003 Results Webcast

When: 01/23/03 @ 5:00 p.m. Eastern

Where: http://www.firstcallevents.com/service/ajwz371807857gf12.html

How: Live over the Internet -- Simply log on to the web at the address above.

Contact: David Burt, Public Relations Manager, +1-206-892-1130, or dburt@n2h2.com

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 22, 2003 08:16 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 21, 2003

Jon Johansen case appealed!

Apparently, in Norway, acquittals can be appealed. So the Jon Johansen DVD prosecution is happening again.

Greplaw has the best coverage on the case which I've seen. Mikael Pawlo has both excellent legal and geographic familiarity here.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on January 21, 2003 09:03 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 20, 2003

Martin Luther King and Affirmative Action

In honor of Martin Luther King day, I'd like to do my part to counteract a myth which has been developed about his most well-known speech, and King's beliefs.

Martin Luther King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character."

But he did not say he believed that the best way to achieve that dream was to pretend racism had vanished, and to act strictly as if it had. Nothing could be further from his true beliefs and actions. He favored outright quotas. Again, contrary to a popular fiction which has been put around his beliefs, he favored quotas, and affirmative action, and race-based hiring as immediate relief from centuries of ingrained discrimination. This is an extremely unpleasant bit of history to those who have tried to turn him into some sort of (safely dead) black conservative with which to bash liberals. But it was his actual views.

Read the book "And The Walls Came Tumbling Down", by Ralph David Abernathy, especially pages 400-405, for a long description of this philosophy in action, through economic pressure on businesses. Some choice quotes:

"If the proportion of blacks to the total population was 12 percent, then we would ask that 12 percent of the employees be black."

"We would then tell him we were not willing to wait for these vacancies, that we wanted to see blacks in jobs right now."

"We were breaking eggs to make omelettes, and we insisted that businesses not postpone their responsibility to correct an historic imbalance."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on January 20, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 19, 2003

Libraries and another reason for conflict of privacy vs. censorware

There was an interesting article in Wired news : (I saw it from LISnews):

Librarians Split on Sharing Info

" The survey (PDF) of 906 libraries by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that in the year following the Sept. 11 attacks, federal and local law enforcement agents visited at least 545 libraries to inquire after patrons' records."

"When asked to voluntarily forfeit patrons' records, roughly half the librarians cooperated with investigators without demanding a subpoena or court order, the study found."

Now, suppose someone wanted to use a privacy-protecting website so as not to be monitored? Well, think about this in terms of:
BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE: (censorware vs. privacy & anonymity) - a secret category of BESS (N2H2), and more about why censorware must blacklist privacy, anonymity, and translators
http://sethf.com/anticensorware/bess/loophole.php

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 19, 2003 11:57 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 18, 2003

Read Justice Breyer's dissent in Eldred

Read Justice Breyer's dissent in the Eldred case. It's gotten lost in the discussion, but it says much that is useful:

The economic effect of this 20-year extension-the longest blanket extension since the Nation's founding-is to make the copyright term not limited, but virtually perpetual. Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but to their heirs, estates, or corporate successors. And most importantly, its practical effect is not to promote, but to inhibit, the progress of "Science"-by which word the Framers meant learning or knowledge, ...

Most importantly, that's a Supreme Court Justice speaking. So he's difficult to dismiss as a someone unversed in the law.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 18, 2003 11:57 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 17, 2003

Short observations based on the MIT spam conference

I caught the tail-end of the MIT spam conference Pretty interesting. The fact that this became a media event itself is a milestone.

There's definitely a "spam-interest bubble", like there was with viruses some years back, or Artificial Intelligence before that. I recognize the signs, the exotic research, the projects seeking funding, and what might be called the hot-area media effect.

I'm even more convinced that something will break in the near future over spam, I'm just not sure what that'll be - heavy legislation? balkanizing which ISPs communicate with each other? email itself, in terms of practically being able to use it outside of whitelists?

I don't know. I'll just repeat to myself to stay out of the spam-wars.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on January 17, 2003 11:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 16, 2003

Crisis of faith for Lessig

In the wake of the Eldred decision, Lessig has posted a heart-rending self-examination, a classic crisis of faith.

It hurts to lose. There is a such a belief of justice in the world, of good triumphing over evil. Principled people who want to make the world a better place and believe in doing good works, tend to be particularly vulnerable to this process.

It's an intrinsic problem. If you believe one person (you) can make a difference, it can be crushing to be defeated (contrariwise, if believed you couldn't make a difference, you wouldn't have tried in the first place).

As the saying goes: "Remember, no matter how hard you work, no matter how right you are - sometimes the dragon wins."


http://www.snapdragongifts.com/musgrave/dt1537.jpg
http://www.gryphonsmoon.com/Catalog/CrossStitch/pix/Dragon-Wins.jpg
http://www.simplyweb.net/jhirschy/dragon/sometime.gif

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on January 16, 2003 04:04 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

More on Creative Commons, "economic problem"

Arnold Kling comments ("This is being touted as profound") on my remarks regarding Creative Commons :

...Umm, which "economic problem"? It seems to me that Creative Commons is about proving that the optimal setting for creativity is not infinite copyright. That's a social problem, not an economic one.

And states:

I don't think Lawrence Lessig would try to deny that copyright is an economic issue. Otherwise, why did he get help from these economists in his unsuccessful attempt to overturn the Bono act?

I don't think that anyone is trying to deny that copyright itself is an economic issue. However, I'd say the social issue is the concept that maximizing economic return is the end-all of of fostering creative contributions. And so Creative Commons is intended to provide some licensing tools for formalizing alternative copying permission models, based more on re-use and redistribution.

Frankly, this seems like a very mild and minimal undertaking. Where have the "Commonists" (I love that term!) said anything like "Creative Commons is a tool to defeat the entertainment industry" ? Admittedly, I haven't been following all the stories about the launch, so maybe someone got carried away with PR somewhere. But some cited examples of this view would be nice. It sounds like a strawman to me. The small experiments with flavors of licensing strike me as gentle, moderate, tests, not any attempt to "overthrow incumbent publishers".

As Renee Hopkins at IdeaFlow concurred :

... it doesn't solve an economic problem there's no evidence it was ever intended to solve.


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 16, 2003 06:49 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 15, 2003

Eldred, extensions, and incentives

Here's a segment of the Eldred losing majority opinion which I found especially intriguing, for the economic aspects. There's interesting logic here. It seems to be a line of reasoning with the logic that since incentives are, as a rule, useful, then any incentive, no matter how trivial the overall effect, should be treated as useful, since incentives in general are useful. That is, there's no concept of diminishing returns, in terms of balance.

15 JUSTICE BREYER urges that the economic incentives accompanying copyright term extension are too insignificant to "mov[e]" any author with a "rational economic perspective." Post, at 14; see post, at 1316. Calibrating rational economic incentives, however, like "fashion[ing] . . . new rules [in light of] new technology," Sony, 464 U. S., at 431, is a task primarily for Congress, not the courts. Congress heard testimony from a number of prominent artists; each expressed the belief that the copyright system's assurance of fair compensation for themselves and their heirs was an incentive to create. ...
[Start with discussion of this incentive]

We would not take Congress to task for crediting this evidence which, as JUSTICE BREYER acknowledges, reflects general "propositions about the value of incentives" that are "undeniably true." Post, at 14.
[LEAP to discussion of any incentive]

Congress also heard testimony from Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters and others regarding the economic incentives created by the CTEA. According to the Register, extending the copyright for existing works "could . . . provide additional income that would finance the production and distribution of new works." House Hearings 158. "Authors would not be able to continue to create," the Register explained, "unless they earned income on their finished works.
[More discussion of any incentive]

The public benefits not only from an author's original work but also from his or her further creations. Although this truism may be illustrated in many ways, one of the best examples is Noah Webster[,] who supported his entire family from the earnings on his speller and grammar during the twenty years he took to complete his dictionary." Id., at 165.
[Now ending with incentive in general, and more in this vein]

Look at the "best example" image here, the lone author, supporting "his entire family". But even before this copyright extension, he'd have been dead for 50 years before the copyright would have expired.

It's interesting that the example of "Disney" does not appear. Instead we are treated to the examples of authors, who in fact benefit least from the extension at all (since they'd be long-dead). As opposed to corporations, which are immortal. I think this is the best example of authors being used as an excuse.


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 15, 2003 03:22 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Bad bits from the Eldred opinion

As I read, I've been picking out bad bits from the Eldred losing majority opinion. There's many of those.

"limit times" means finite-yet-unbounded:

I call this a "legal hack" :

Petitioners contend that even if the CTEA's 20-year term extension is literally a "limited Tim[e]," permitting Congress to extend existing copyrights allows it to evade the "limited Times" constraint by creating effectively perpetual copyrights through repeated extensions. We disagree.

As the Court of Appeals observed, a regime of perpetual copyrights "clearly is not the situation before us." 239 F. 3d, at 379. Nothing before this Court warrants construction of the CTEA's 20-year term extension as a congressional attempt to evade or override the "limited Times" constraint.16 Critically, we again emphasize, petitioners fail to show how the CTEA crosses a constitutionally significant threshold with respect to "limited Times" that the 1831, 1909, and 1976 Acts did not. ...

It's up to Congress:

The CTEA reflects judgments of a kind Congress typically makes, judgments we cannot dismiss as outside the Legislature's domain. As respondent describes, see Brief for Respondent 37 n. 38, a key factor in the CTEA's passage was a 1993 European Union (EU) directive instructing EU members to establish a copyright term of life plus 70 years. EU Council Directive 93/98, p. 4; see 144 Cong. Rec. S12377 n. S12378 (daily ed. Oct. 12, 1998) (statement of Sen. Hatch).

Retroactivity is fine:

On the issue of copyright duration, Congress, from the start, has routinely applied new definitions or adjustments of the copyright term to both future works and existing works not yet in the public domain.19 Such consistent congressional practice is entitled to "very great weight, and when it is remembered that the rights thus estab- lished have not been disputed during a period of [over two] centur[ies], it is almost conclusive."


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 15, 2003 01:44 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Eldred loss, CTEA win, part 1

Copyright extensions have won, Eldred has lost (see Copyfight). I'm reading the majority opinion now. I'm recalling my much earlier posting on Trying to think like a conservative Supreme Court justice on copyright I'll repeat that material here now, as it seems to have been prophetic:


As the saying goes, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. Here's my worries about the Eldred case:

There's something interesting in the logic the Supreme Court uses in copyright vs. the First Amendment, e.g. where in the past they've claimed in the Harper & Row case:

In our haste to disseminate news, it 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.

It doesn't sound as if they're going to be amenable to First Amendment arguments, stirring as those may be.

The Court can duck the issue of "limited times" becoming finite-yet-unbounded, by saying the issue isn't absurd yet. If they have to face it again, in another twenty years, when (likely, not if) copyright terms are extended another twenty years, then that's someone else's problem.

There's an avenue for the court to slap down the copyright changes as exceeding copyright's power. But the famous recent time they did this, the Lopez case, that was about guns, a topic which stirs a certain passion in many conservatives, which copyright cannot match.

I've basically been trying to think like a conservative Supreme Court justice, and not found reason for optimism.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 15, 2003 01:13 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 14, 2003

Truce != Non-Aggression Pact

There's been a great deal of discussion today about some sort of "compromise" between several content-industry trade groups and technology industries (see Copyfight summary)

I've been busy, so haven't time to write at length. But I can't resist one remark:

This isn't a truce. It's a non-aggression pact.

Like the one between Germany and the Soviet Union (I'm going to pay for that analogy!)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 14, 2003 06:48 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Creative Commons and "economic problem"?

Arnold Kling of The Bottom Line wrote:

I see Creative Commons as a form of 1960's protest theater, not as something that solves a real economic problem.

Hmm. Is Creative Commons trying to solve an "economic problem"? Or a "legal problem"? Umm, which "economic problem"? It seems to me that Creative Commons is about proving that the optimal setting for creativity is not infinite copyright. That's a social problem, not an economic one.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 14, 2003 03:44 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

More on "Blog Politics of Form"

Copyfight's Donna Wentworth replied to my earlier message on Blog blather Let me hasten to reassure that I'm not against thinking about Grand Ideas. I do it myself :-). And I never want to seem to be too hard on people for such thoughts, and regret if I come across that way. I sympathize with the feeling.

There's occasions that an innovation seems world-changing, revolutionary. And sometimes it is world-changing - but often the world doesn't change in the ways you expect. This problem is one reason I've resolved to stop arguing with people over You-Can't-Censor-The-Net. Because someone who is caught up in the latest iteration, often takes it as I'm raining on their parade, when I tell them about earlier times where that battle-cry didn't work.

To be clear, I'm not describing Donna's post in particular, here. She was presenting an idea and asking a question or two--not engaging in a full-scale examination of an issue.

Instead, I'm describing a genre of discussion where I find it difficult to discern any meaning. The problem is that such discussions often don't consider the politics of form, but more akin to literary theory of form. That is, they don't take into account practical strategies of organizing, where there are winners and losers, big money, entrenched interests, and the outcome is often not what would be consider just. Rather, the focus is typically more on the experience of writing and reading, and then large leaps to Profound Thoughts.

And then there's the next fad, and the whole punditry process starts all over again

Literary theory isn't wrong. But a little goes a long way.

I'm all for examining the impact of innovations on society. But I mean, really examining it, as in, also taking into account what doesn't change, and what counter-intuitive results occur.

Rule of thumb : Any examination which doesn't reveal at least one serious negative consideration isn't worthwhile, because it's just hype.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in infothought | on January 14, 2003 03:31 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 13, 2003

Reply to "Blog Politics of Form"

Donna Wentworth at Copyfight talks about the "politics of form". While I think that's a interesting topic, I also think it won't get discussed meaningfully. Because the meaningful material is likely to be more specialized and unsexy than befits Grand Ideas. No offense, but as I read over everything, I thought again:

AARRGGHH! More blather!

Some days, I think I would be vastly more popular if I took journo-blathering seriously. Let's see ... "Yes, the weblog is yet another pinnacle in the postmodern [neat word!] cyber-democratization [neat prefix!] of the infosphere [neat phrase!]. It is not the ``I Media'' of the top-down organizational form of the old regime, but as others have noted, the ``We Media'' [neat term!] of a spontaneously self-organized complex system [a sprinkling of pseudoscience jargon is always good!]. We must ask "What Does It All Mean"? [big broad question are excellent filler!] And answer that the meaning is a unique new frontier in human expression [nothing is ever an old retread!] ..."

Sorry, but I get curmudgeonly over this stuff. I lived through the growth of mailing-lists, Usenet, the early Internet, and so on. I remember when there really was an aspect of egalitarianism and democratization with networked communications. But it was a fragile state, stemming from the fact that the community was small and insular then, and it didn't last.

I think the key insight is the following:

PUNDITRY ISN'T DEMOCRACY

More opportunities for punditry doesn't necessarily mean society becomes more egalitarian - this is the fundamental error of 95% of the noise on the topic. It connects to the idea of commentators being the watchdog of a well-functioning world. So then more comments equals a better world. But rather, it just means more people have a chance at becoming professional chatterers, and/or the existing chatterers have yet another outlet. Indeed, that's a change, certainly a change worth studying - but not a unique, unprecedented change. And the implications are likely to be much less than the hype over them.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , infothought | on January 13, 2003 01:30 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

More on "Replace Copyright with Watermarks, Taxes"

Edward W. Felten writes in reply to my previous comment on Fisher's copyright proposal, that, paraphrased, the problem is not necessarily forcing people to use the reporting system, but in keeping them from cheating with it. In effect, not too little use, but too much use (or corrupted use). Well, either way, we have a beautiful theory slain by an ugly fact.

But even if there was perfect sampling, I think there's a major obstacle in making the money numbers work. HOW MUCH of a tax is going to be necessary? And on what? Again, the "Audio Home Recording Act" had tried a workable answer - primarily, "digital recording media". That at least attempt to scale, as recording media is consumable. I'm not sure how well it held up as media prices plummeted. But "bandwidth", although taxable, is typically flat-rate for consumer quantities, and varies dramatically for video versus audio (so any tax scaled for video likely won't work for audio, and vice-versa). I'd really like to see some numbers attached to the idea. These are the sorts of grubby details that tend to sink appealing speculations.

By the way, did anybody notice that Fisher is proposing the dreaded pay-per-view society?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 13, 2003 03:55 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 12, 2003

No more free sex sites from Websense

Some months ago, I publicized that the censorware company Websense was distributing daily lists of free sex sites which weren't on the blacklist of other censorware companies.

I am not making this up! I was quoted in an MSNBC story covering it.

Well, it looks like this party is over. As of December 23 2002, they changed the free sex sites page to read:

We no longer provide a daily list of adult content sites on our Web site because our competitors were adding these sites to their database immediately. If you would like to request a list of 20 adult content sites that are in the Websense database, but not in SurfControl's or SmartFilter's, please complete the form below and we will have a salesperson send you the latest list.

Note their reason is allegedly that "competitors were adding these sites", NOT that Websense was undermining the protection of children!

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 12, 2003 11:53 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 11, 2003

Walt Crawford "Cites & Insights" on Kaiser censorware study

Walt Crawford has some insightful censorware comments in his excellent "Cites & Insights" publication for January 2003: Vol. 3 No. 1, regarding the Kaiser Family Foundation censorware study "See No Evil" (and a nice mention of me too :-))

While some media accounts - and the rapid claims from David Burt and the filtering fraternity - touted Kaiser's study as proof that filters are fine, just fine, some journalists took the time to read the study itself. Ellen Edwards' December 10 story in the Washington Post is headlined "Filtering software may block access to health information, study finds." She quotes David Burt, "This shows us that filters do work," and ALA's Emily Sheketoff, "We're gratified once more that there's a study finding that filtering doesn't work." Paul Eng of ABC News posted a December 11 story, "Filtered finds: New study shows how net porn filters block online health info." Unfortunately, he stuck with the "1.4%" figure, not digging deeper into the study - but then, this is network TV news.

Seth Finkelstein took the opportunity to excerpt some cases from SmartFilter, because he'd been studying SmartFilter for a previous censorware project. He cites some examples of health sites that SmartFilter bans as "sex": Alliance of the American Dental Association, ActiveHealthcare.com, Eyeshealth.com, Professionals for women's health, and the site for the adult primary care nurse practitioner. See sethf.com/anticensorware/smartfilter/damage6.php , and note that sites may have been unblocked after he posted the list.
[Ed note - SmartFilter finally caught up with them all, a few days ago]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 11, 2003 06:24 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 10, 2003

Spam dictionary-attacks and Hotmail

Andreas Bovens pointed me to an interesting Wired article on spammers doing dictionary-attacks in order to get email addresses on the service Hotmail. For those who don't know, a dictionary-attack is a procedure where tests are tried, one after the other, from a list. The spammers are testing email address after email address, one after the other, constantly, in order to find which addresses are valid. Steve Linford of Spamhaus has apparently tracked one spam-gang's attack , over months.

What most impressed me about this was the sheer intensity, the great lengths, to which the spammer was willing to go, just to get some addresses to spam:

Linford figures that in the attack he's been tracking, the spammers have hit Hotmail's server more than 52 million times. Even assuming a pitifully low 1 percent rate of live addresses gleaned from those hits, it still amounts to a significant number of e-mail addresses being added to spam lists.

The mind boggles. Over and over, 52 million+ tries, just to get addresses to spam. And then of course, once those addresses are obtained, presumably spamming them.

(math check - never take a journo-reported number on faith:
5 months * 30 day/mn * 24 hr/day * 60 min/hr * 60 sec/min * 4 tests/sec =
51840000 , more than 5 months checks versus "more than 52 million" - OK!)

That's the intensity of effort which is going into professional spamming. It's awe-inspiring.

I suppose this answers my earlier remark about the resources of a large spam business, and is establishing Spam Is 'A Thousand Times More Horrible Than You Can Imagine'

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on January 10, 2003 02:40 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 09, 2003

Reply to "Replace Copyright with Watermarks, Taxes"

Donna Wentworth at Copyfight asks for thoughts on the following music proposal:

Fisher's first choice, he said, would be to recognize that copyright law is increasingly dysfunctional for handling music royalties and to (1) Authorize artists to insert simple watermarks in their creations, (2) Tax, at the multilateral or national level, things such as ISP access and various technologies upon which music is performed, (3) Count the frequency with which each digital product is consumed, (4) Distribute revenue from the taxes in the proportion in which the various products are accessed. Once the system is in place, he said, copyright law can be "lifted."

I think the general outlines are good, and many people (including myself :-)) have said vaguely similar things in the past. However, the devil is in the details. In particular, I've emphasized point #3 for a reason. HOW does he intend to "Count the frequency with which each digital product is consumed"? Super-spyware? Require every player to recognize the watermark? That would of course require non-watermark-responding players to be illegal, right ... (umm ... didn't we just go through this?)

Don't get me wrong, again, the overall idea, of some sort of mandatory license and statistical royalties seems to be the right thing. However, getting the details correct is the tough part. Arguably, this idea worked reasonable well in the "Audio Home Recording Act", with a tax on that digital recording media. And maybe Fisher's riffing off of it.

But if so, it's a riff in a "visionary" manner, where the details are being neglected for the Grand Idea. It's one thing to tax digital tapes, where there's a discrete object, and the tax is small compared to the price. But what is "various technologies upon which music is performed"? The $10 (?) for the motherboard sounds chips? The speakers? He's not planning to tax free-software Linux players as a "technologies", I hope (I'm having a bad DeCSS flashback here, with code as technology!) The bandwidth? It seems like there's just not enough money there.

Maybe he can make it work. But the acid test for any proposal is to work with free (in both speech and beer) software, and come up with some in-the-ballpark numbers.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , infothought | on January 09, 2003 03:28 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Lessig, label-or-pay anti-spam, and "substantially reduce"

Further on Lessig's advocacy of a label-or-pay anti-spam proposal, I don't find the bet about "substantially reduce the level of spam" all that interesting.

Let's say that the "Label-Else-Spam-Stops-Immediately-Gimmick Law" kills 30% of the spam. This would be great. Phenomenal. A work of genius from simplicity.

Then what do we do about the remaining 70%?

Note, if it kills 30%, the fact that 30% is not 100%, isn't a reason to reject it. Anything helps.

I'm for it. Pragmatically, the labeling system seems more a legal-fiction way of having a de facto spam ban, rather than, in practice, an end in and of itself.

But we've still got a problem with spam, in what do we do NOW?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on January 09, 2003 03:00 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 08, 2003

Jon Johansen / DeCSS pessimism from Mikael Pawlo

This message from the dvd-discuss list, by Mikael Pawlo, deserves to be better-known:

To: dvd-discuss(at)eon.law.harvard.edu
Subject: Re: [dvd-discuss] Jon Johansen acquitted!!
From: Mikael Pawlo <mikael(at)pawlo.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 22:01:46 +0100

...

Anyway - I am just here to rain on your parade.

The law is about to be changed. Norway will follow the European Union and the European Copyright Directive and will as a member of EEC implement a version of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, that also served as inspiration for the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Draft Norweigan legislation is expected in February 2003. This will make the Jon-DVD case void as a precedent, since the legislation most likely will adopt the protection for anti-circumvention devices in the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

I really do not want to be a Lessig kind of pessimist, but he is starting to convince me of the color of the future. The color has a dark shade - that is if you do not consider strengthened copyright protection a good thing.

Regards,

Mikael Pawlo

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on January 08, 2003 09:50 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 07, 2003

Jon Johansen/DeCSS win!

See the Norwegan news article (thanks, Copyfight)

It's good. Analysis will have to wait until later. Maybe I should use this entry to practice my blathering skills. Let's roll ...

"The forces of the dark have been dealt another blow by the forces of the light. The MPAA/RIAA/Hollywood cartel has suffered yet another setback in the courts, foiled again in their machinations to imprison a heroic programmer. Victory is ours, victory is sweet. The struggle will be hard, but our enemies are being routed, time after time. Onward, hacker soldiers!"

Y'know, that was incredibly easy. Hmm ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on January 07, 2003 11:35 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 06, 2003

DRM and Nothing-Personal-Just-Business

Edward W. Felten has some comments dissecting a New York Times article regarding Studios Using Digital Armor to Fight Piracy . I found the article reasonably straightforward. I don't agree with the executive's positions therein, but it's not as if they are fatuous.

For example:

"We have zero objection to anyone's ability to duplicate, to record, to play back and to save any copy- able content whatsoever," said Peter Chernin, the president of 20th Century Fox. "But we'd be idiots not to be wary of the risks that come with that ability, and of the vulnerability of those of us supplying digitally unprotected films and shows."

And Felten comments:

Probably what he means is that Fox doesn't object to personal use, but they will try to regulate personal use anyway, because a ban on many personal uses is an unavoidable side-effect of the regulation they seek. If so, then "we have zero objection" is irrelevant at best, and misleading at worst.

It seems clear to me, especially in context of the article discussion of DRM, copy restrictions, the problems they're causing, and so on. Chernin is saying that it's not that they are against personal use, but that they aren't interested in protecting it or assuring it per se, if that conflicts with the distribution controls they want imposed. In his statement, I heard an echo of the executive's cliche "Nothing personal, it's just business" (pun intended!). When executives say this, they mean that don't hate you per se, but that their interests are opposed to your interests, and the negatives to you are regarded as subsidiary to the positives for them. Not nice, but not unclear at all.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 06, 2003 09:57 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 05, 2003

Thoughts on activism and sustainability

Following on some of my recent New Year's Resolutions, I've been thinking again about what I term the concept of sustainability for activities. There are certain roles (professorish, legislator, policy, journalist, etc) which are sustainable, in that they are activities which can be repeated to the benefit of the person's life. If you are running the Make-A-Better-Net foundation, you can always continue the Make-A-Better-Net foundation. If you're doing a job (writing, academic, industry, policy), then you can advance in that job. If you're developing the WhizBang system, you can continue working on the WhizBang system.

But if you're playing Russian Roulette with lawsuits, and you keep playing Russian Roulette with lawsuits, the eventual outcome of continuing that process is likely to be extremely detrimental to the person. That's a big problem. It's not sustainable (nor, unhappily, is it profitable).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on January 05, 2003 10:52 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 04, 2003

Andre Hedrick and free software problems

I've been trying to figure out this resignation message from Andre Hedrick (Linux ATA driver deity). I think there's something important going on here, but unraveling the issues is very difficult. It seems to have something to do with Nvidia graphics card drivers and GPL licensing problems.
(link from Kuro5hin.org, but not on the site now)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on January 04, 2003 11:46 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 03, 2003

Lessig, label-or-pay anti-spam, and Kansas law

There's been some discussion regarding Lessig's advocacy of a label-or-pay anti-spam proposal

I'll note that something related is already law in Kansas (check out the Spam Legislation list):

"Requires putting "ADV: " or "ADV: ADLT" as the first character in the subject line. The requirement for "ADV" is not necessary if the recipient has an established business relationship or has given the sender authorization. The sender claiming such exemption carries the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence"

"Establishes a private right of action for recipients to recover between $ 500 and $ 10,000 for each violation."

It's not quite what Lessig is popularizing, but certainly along those lines. Of course it's state law, requires intent regarding Kansas, etc. But it is interesting to see the above is already law.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on January 03, 2003 10:04 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 02, 2003

Copyright "harmonization" and recordings

Edward W. Felten discusses a New York Times article regarding European Copyrights Expiring on Recordings From 1950's, and observes:

There is another irony here. According to today's article, because of the disparity in copyright terms, "The [RIAA] is trying to persuade European Union countries to extend terms of copyright." Recall that U.S. copyright terms are longer, in part, because of the 20-year extension passed a in 1998. And yet, according to a February 19, 2002 article in the New York Times, "Support for the [1998 U.S.] extension also came from those who argued that it was necessary to match the copyright term granted by the European Union."

The key point to realize here is that the copyright terms were different for books and recordings. For books, the EU had a longer copyright term than the US, but for recordings, the EU had a shorter copyright term. Enter "harmonization". Does this mean the terms get set to the longer, shorter, or meet in the middle? The RIAA desired answer seems to be "maximum of every set". There's a nice article about these issues with a Harmonization Chart

This is another lesson in the failure of the thought that "regulatory arbitrage" meant the effect of conflicting laws tended to the minimum. Rather, again, in some cases, the net result is the maximum.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on January 02, 2003 05:32 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Spam Is 'A Thousand Times More Horrible Than You Can Imagine'

Spam and DNSRBL's are in the news (using that term loosely), again due to the Slashdot boon granted to the missive on Moving Beyond RBLs

I've been thinking more about a different article, discussing Barry Shein and ISP "The World":
Spam Is 'A Thousand Times More Horrible Than You Can Imagine'

At one point, The World was under attack by 200 servers simultaneously "spewing the same spam at us," Shein said. "Little guys with scripts don't break into 200-plus servers and use them to spew at you. It seems like it's beyond what spammers are likely to be making on this stuff." Sophisticated stealth techniques and coordinating multiple servers seem to Shein to be beyond the resources of small spam businesses.

Right. Beyond the resources of small spam businesses. But what about large spam businesses? That much? Terrifying.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on January 02, 2003 02:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
January 01, 2003

Some of my New Year's Resolutions for 2003

Work on my website more (add more essays, maybe put up some of my collected material on the history of censorware politics).

Don't argue with people individually about the supposedly inevitable failure of censorship. Nobody who is just discovering the battle-cry of You-Can't-Censor-The-Net is interested in hearing differently.

No censorware reports with any legal risk unless I'm 100.0% backed in advance, with lawyers and press. It's just not worth it otherwise.

Pursue more opportunities. Maybe try to use my Pioneer Award credentials for some sort of position for punditry or policy ('cause, pundits and politicos don't have to worry about getting sued)

Put getting paid before activism - because getting paid will get me through times of no activism far better than activism will get me through times of not getting paid.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on January 01, 2003 05:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups