Tag Archives: Copyright

Google attack on Viacom (following Viacom vs. YouTube lawsuit)

Google talks directly to everyone via Youtube blog to stop Viacom lawsuit against Youtube (owned by Google).

We ask the judge to rule that the safe harbors in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”) protect YouTube from the plaintiffs’ claims.

And then after some blabla, the final attack:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Never ever use the term “Intellectual Property”.

I re-distribute an entire article by Richard M. Stallman according to its licence, so this post is not released under the usual Creative Commons license.

Did You Say “Intellectual Property”? It’s a Seductive Mirage (also translated in Italian).
by Richard M. Stallman

It has become fashionable to toss copyright, patents, and trademarks – three separate and different entities involving three separate and different sets of laws — into one pot and call it “intellectual property”. The distorting and confusing term did not arise by accident. Companies that gain from the confusion promoted it. The clearest way out of the confusion is to reject the term entirely.

According to Professor Mark Lemley, now of the Stanford Law School, the widespread use of the term “intellectual property” is a fad that followed the 1967 founding of the World “Intellectual Property” Organization, and only became really common in recent years. (WIPO is formally a UN organization, but in fact represents the interests of the holders of copyrights, patents, and trademarks.)

The term carries a bias that is not hard to see: it suggests thinking about copyright, patents and trademarks by analogy with property rights for physical objects. (This analogy is at odds with the legal philosophies of copyright law, of patent law, and of trademark law, but only specialists know that.) These laws are in fact not much like physical property law, but use of this term leads legislators to change them to be more so. Since that is the change desired by the companies that exercise copyright, patent and trademark powers, the bias of “intellectual property” suits them.

The bias is enough reason to reject the term, and people have often asked me to propose some other name for the overall category — or have proposed their own alternatives (often humorous). Suggestions include IMPs, for Imposed Monopoly Privileges, and GOLEMs, for Government-Originated Legally Enforced Monopolies. Some speak of “exclusive rights regimes”, but referring to restrictions as “rights” is doublethink too.

Some of these alternative names would be an improvement, but it is a mistake to replace “intellectual property” with any other term. A different name will not address the term’s deeper problem: overgeneralization. There is no such unified thing as “intellectual property”–it is a mirage. The only reason people think it makes sense as a coherent category is that widespread use of the term gives that impression.

The term “intellectual property” is at best a catch-all to lump together disparate laws. Non-lawyers who hear one term applied to these various laws tend to assume they are based on a common principle, and function similarly.

Nothing could be further from the case. These laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different public policy issues.

Copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of expression of a work. Patent law was intended to promote the publication of useful ideas, at the price of giving the one who publishes an idea a temporary monopoly over it–a price that may be worth paying in some fields and not in others.

Trademark law, by contrast, was not intended to promote any particular way of acting, but simply to enable buyers to know what they are buying. Legislators under the influence of “intellectual property”, however, have turned it into a scheme that provides incentives for advertising.

Since these laws developed independently, they are different in every detail, as well as in their basic purposes and methods. Thus, if you learn some fact about copyright law, you’d be wise to assume that patent law is different. You’ll rarely go wrong!

People often say “intellectual property” when they really mean some larger or smaller category. For instance, rich countries often impose unjust laws on poor countries to squeeze money out of them. Some of these laws are “intellectual property” laws, and others are not; nonetheless, critics of the practice often grab for that label because it has become familiar to them. By using it, they misrepresent the nature of the issue. It would be better to use an accurate term, such as “legislative colonization”, that gets to the heart of the matter.

Laymen are not alone in being confused by this term. Even law professors who teach these laws are lured by, and distracted by, the seductiveness of the term “intellectual property”, and make general statements that conflict with facts they know. For example, one professor wrote in 2006:

“Unlike their descendants who now work the floor at WIPO, the framers of the US constitution had a principled, pro-competitive attitude to intellectual property. They knew rights might be necessary, but…they tied congress’s hands, restricting its power in multiple ways”.

That statement refers to the article 1 section 8, clause 8 in the US Constitution, which authorizes copyright law and patent law. That clause, though, has nothing to do with trademark law. The term “intellectual property” led that professor into a false generalization.

The term “intellectual property” also leads to simplistic thinking. It leads people to focus on the meager commonality in form that these disparate laws have–that they create artificial privileges for certain parties–and to disregard the details which form their substance: the specific restrictions each law places on the public, and the consequences that result. This simplistic focus on the form encourages an “economistic” approach to all these issues.

Economics operates here, as it often does, as a vehicle for unexamined assumptions. These include assumptions about values, such as that amount of production matters, while freedom and way of life do not, and factual assumptions which are mostly false, such as that copyrights on music supports musicians, or that patents on drugs support life-saving research.

Another problem is that, at the broad scale of “intellectual property”, the specific issues raised by the various laws become nearly invisible. These issues arise from the specifics of each law–precisely what the term “intellectual property” encourages people to ignore. For instance, one issue relating to copyright law is whether music sharing should be allowed. Patent law has nothing to do with this. Patent law raises issues such as whether poor countries should be allowed to produce life-saving drugs and sell them cheaply to save lives. Copyright law has nothing to do with such matters.

Neither of these issues is solely economic in nature, but they are not similar, and anyone looking at them in the shallow economic perspectives of overgeneralization cannot grasp the differences. If you put both laws in the general “intellectual property” pot, you will find that obstructs your ability to think clearly about each one.

As a result, any opinions about “the issue of intellectual property” and any generalizations about this supposed category are almost surely foolish. If you think all those laws are one issue, you will tend to choose your opinions from a selection of sweeping overgeneralizations, none of which is any good.

If you want to think clearly about the issues raised by patents, or copyrights, or trademarks, the first step is to forget the idea of lumping them together, and treat them as separate topics. The second step is to reject the narrow perspectives and simplistic picture the term “intellectual property” suggests. Consider each of these issues separately, in its fullness, and you have a chance of considering them well.

And when it comes to reforming WIPO, among other things let’s call for changing its name.

Copyright © 2004, 2006 Richard M. Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted worldwide without royalty in any medium provided this notice is preserved.

“A Fair(y) Use Tale” short movie: soon in Italian?

UPDATE: substitued video from youtube with video from DotSub. In DotSub we can add subtitles directly via the Website, terribly cool and useful!

I found extremely peculiar that Microsoft is actually become a GNU/Linux distributor (it gets SUSE Linux licences from Novell and distributes them to Dell) and can be wounded by the GPL itself.
In a similar way, in order to explain what is broken with current copyright, the movie “A Fair(y) Use Tale”, directed by Professor Eric Faden comes out of Stanford University’s Fair Use Project Documentary Film Program, meshes up parts of Disney movies, the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.
The video starts with a clever hack on the warning played before DVD movies.

WARNING: Federal Law allows citizens to reproduce, distribute, or exhibit portions of copyrighted motion pictures, video tapes, or video discs under certain circumstances withotu the authorization of the copyright holder.
This infringement of copyright is called “Fair Use” and is allowed for purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching and parody.

I found it difficult to follow since it is a collection of words or short sentences taken from different Disney movies. I wonder how long it will take before someone will add subtitles to the video and post the new version on YouTube. I think very few days.
And I also wonder if any Italian will soon dub it in Italian taking voices from the Italian versions of Disney movies.
Actually I was not able to find the licence of the movie itself. Do you have any idea? Some Creative Commons?
(via Antonella)

Spyware Sony seems to breach copyright

From dewinter.com: The spyware that Sony installs on the computers of music fans does not even seem to be correct in terms of copyright law.
It is simply great. While Sony claims that it installed software secretly on the computers of unaware customers in order to protect the copyright of its musicians (while everyone knows that Sony is just trying to perpetuate its dying
business model), Sony itself does not care about not respecting the copyright of the author of the software LAME that is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL).
It turns out that the rootkit contains pieces of code that are identical to LAME, an open source mp3-encoder, and thereby breach the license.
This software is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL). According to this license Sony must comply with a couple of demands. Amongst others, they have to indicate in a copyright notice that they make use of the software. The company must also deliver the source code to the open-source libraries or otherwise make these available. And finally, they must deliver or otherwise make available the in between form between source code and executable code, the so called objectfiles, with which others can make comparable software.

Sony managers (i.e. Cyber Criminals) should go to jail.

1) Creator of Melissa Computer Virus Sentenced to 20 Months in Federal Prison
NEWARK – The New Jersey man accused of unleashing the “Melissa” computer virus in 1999, causing millions of dollars in damage and infecting untold numbers of computers and computer networks, was sentenced today to 20 months in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie and state Attorney General David Samson announced.
2) Pathogen Virus Perpetrator sentenced to 18 months in prison
On 15 November 1995, a judge sentenced Pile to 18 months in prison. The judge declared: “Those who seek to wreak mindless havoc on one of the vital tools of our age cannot expect lenient treatment.”
3) Sony installed spyware on the computers of anyone who simply inserted some of Sony music CDs into her Windows-based computer. Users were not informed of this installation. [Paradox: you buy the CD, you get the virus. At least Pathogen and Melissa were free!!!]
So simple question: if Melissa brought 20 yearsmonths in jail to his creator and Pathogen 18 yearsmonths, how many yearsmonths you think Sony managers should spend in jail?
And I don’t even want to believe that one of the world’s largest software and information technology companies, Computer Associates International Inc. says the truth. They claim that the antipirating software also secretly communicates with Sony over the Internet when listeners play the discs on computers that have an Internet connection. The software uses this connection to transmit the name of the CD being played to an office of Sony’s music division in Cary, N.C. The software also transmits the IP address of the listener’s computer, Computer Associates said, but not the name of the listener. But Sony can still use the data to create a profile of a listener’s music collection, according to Computer Associates. and confirming its new status, Computer Associates yesterday reclassified Sony’s software as spyware and will begin searching for and removing XCP with its anti-spyware software.
Sony says that’s not true and I believe Sony, that would be astonishingly criminal behaviour, just think about it for one second! No, that’s not even thinkable! I could not believe they would do this.
In the meantime, PcWorld reports that an Italian digital rights organisation has taken the first step toward possible criminal charges over the XCP software which, it was recently discovered, cloaks itself on users’ computers and communicates with Sony servers over the Internet. The group, calling itself the ALCEI-EFI (Association for Freedom in Electronic Interactive Communications – Electronic Frontiers Italy), filed a complaint (in Italian, babelfished) about Sony’s software with the head of Italy’s cyber-crime investigation unit, Colonel Umberto Rapetto of the Guardia di Finanza. The complaint alleges that XCP violates a number of Italy’s computer security laws by causing damage to users’ systems and by acting in the same way as malicious software, according to Andrea Monti, chair of the ALCEI-EFI. “What Sony did qualifies as a criminal offense under Italian law,” he said.
I hope Sony will be submerged by Legal investigations. Sony managers should start reading Cyber Criminals on Trial.
So what you can do? Of course stop buying anything related to Sony. Precise information can be found on Boycott Sony blog in which I just read this pearl:
Sony President of Global Digital Business Thomas Hesse dropped the most outrageous statement to date on their DRM nightmare during an NPR interview, in which he stated that “Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” (…) Some day someone will write a marketing case study about what not to do and say when dealing with a customer revolt, and that statement will be its epigraph.
UPDATE: I miswrote “years of jails” instead of “months of jails” and this of course was a big mistake.

Sony, DRM this!

This is really shocking! A collegue of mine just explained to me this root-kit sony thing and I can only say I think I got it wrong because it is so unbelievably evil that I cannot think I understood it correctly: so Sony was inserting since few years a root-kit in your Windows machine just if you happened to listen any cds (also legally bought!) on the pc!
Wikipedia definition of Rootkit: A rootkit is a set of tools frequently used by an intruder after cracking a computer system. These tools are intended to conceal running processes and files or system data, which helps an intruder maintain access to a system for malicious purposes.
Sony is THE definitive cracker, they install a software on your computer without telling it to you, a software that is designed to hide itself! Sony’s executives who ordered the projects should go directly to jail, they installed on millions of computers for years a malicious software of which the computers’ owners were not informed of. This is criminal behaviour! On mass scale! For years! I’m almost sure I got it wrong. It can’t be a so madly deviated behaviour!
From CNET article:
So, let’s make this a bit more explicit. You buy a CD. You put the CD into your PC in order to enjoy your music. Sony grabs this opportunity to sneak into your house like a virus and set up camp, and it leaves the backdoor open so that Sony or any other enterprising intruder can follow and have the run of the place. If you try to kick Sony out, it trashes the place.

If Google Print is illegal, so is Google

From Lessig Blog:
Google has been sued by the Authors Guild, and a number of individual authors. (…)The authors and the publishers consider Google’s latest fantastic idea, Google Print “a project to Google-ize 20,000,000 books � to be �massive copyright infringement.� They have asked a federal court to shut Google Print down.
(…)Google wants to do nothing more to 20,000,000 books than it does to the Internet: it wants to index them, and it offers anyone in the index the right to opt out. If it is illegal to do that with 20,000,000 books, then why is it legal to do it with the Internet? The �authors�� claims, if true, mean Google itself is illegal. Common sense, or better, commons sense, revolts at the idea. And so too should you.
This is a point I always make: the fact that Google caches sites is illegal (at least accepting the restricting copyright rules that are currently valid). Google by caching is doing a copy of my site and it has no right to do the copy (no copyright). Then, is Google cache a valuable service? Absolutely, I used it very often. Is it fair use? I think so, other may think differently. Google does not get sued about copying sites because is so big now. Google Print is not yet so big and Author Guild is trying this preemptive attack.
Well, Lessig says it better, so read Lessig post or even better read Lessig’s book “Free culture” or even better listen Lessig’s book “Free culture”.

Open standards: you want to be able to call the police independently of the phone you use, right?

However FEMA announced that online applications for Federal Disaster Assistance would only be accepted from victims who use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser.
On grokster you can find this great article When Open Standards Really Matter – The Katrina Factor. I really suggest you to read it and to pass it on to your friends (especially the non-tech-savvy ones!). Starting from post-Katrina communication efforts, it makes good points on why communication formats MUST be based on open standards.
Isn’t it time, after so much suffering, to recognize that keeping people alive is more important than allowing private companies to lock in customers into proprietary systems that don’t then work in an emergency? And why does the Internet always work, no matter who you are or what operating system you use? Because it was built, not on proprietary standards, but entirely on open standards. That’s why you can send an email to me, even if you are using Microsoft Outlook. I don’t run any Microsoft products currently, but because of open standards, I can still read your email, and in an emergency, we will not be disconnected because we are on “different communication systems.” (…)
I shudder to think what Microsoft would have done, if it had invented the Internet. Every bit of it would be patented, and we’d all be paying through the nose and would be restricted to whatever Microsoft chose to let us do. (…)
If Microsoft is successful in persuading the powers that be to establish emergency communications based on their proprietary XML, it will shut out millions of people. That is too big a price to pay. And there is no reason why Microsoft can’t follow the same XML standards as the rest of the world. They may feel it is in their best interest to have proprietary extensions on XML, patented to boot, but it isn’t in the public’s best interest to be forced to use it, and frankly, why would any government wish to reinforce a monopoly’s monopoly position? How is that good for the marketplace? For that matter, how does it build faith and respect for the law?
Anyone should really tell me a reason for which a closed, proprietary, secret format is better than a public, published, standard one. It is like someone telling you “it is better if you forget English, Italian, etc and communicate only using the language I inventend. You cannot understand how to utter words (the language is secret) but you can use our tools to do it (of course other people cannot create other tools for uttering words because, you know, it costed a lot to us to develop this language and, you know, we must get some money to buy food, you know). It will be much much better, for everyone”. By the way, Massachusetts is requiring open standards for all government documents. If your software does not save documents in open standards, Massachusetts’s agencies cannot buy it, as simple as that.

Releasing under open licences and getting some feedback.

This still amazes me. I released some slides under Creative Commons licence time ago and I got some emails with a improuved version of the slides and some comments about typos, errors. I released IdentityBurro under Creative Commons (I would have preferred GPL but the original code of BookBurro was under CC as well because the a snippet of code Jesse used was under CC, I guess this is what virality of licences really means) and I received 2 emails of people using the code in different ways.
Jeremy wrote me “Because I learn by tinkering, I was able to pick through your script and adapt it to provide this functionality.”. His greasemonkey script, The Flickr Tag Convergence Script, allows you to search for any tag on a Flickr photo page on either del.icio.us or Technorati with one mouse click. The script places small icons (one for del.icio.us and one for Technorati) in front of each photo tag (see the screenshot). The script is also available on UserScripts.org, another shiny creation of Jesse, BookBurro’s creator.
On the other hand, Daniel was so kind to improuve the Identity Burro code by looking over the Todo list. He added some of the other sites I listed as wanting to include (Cite-u-Like, Last.fm (+audioscrobbler now that it’s completely incorporated into last.fm), 43things, 43ideas@43things, 43places, 43ideas@43places, 43.allconsuming.net, Rojo and LJ). He also added the shrink/collapse button I mentioned. So I played with it again, added some more funcionalities and there will be a 0.3 version of IdentityBurro in minutes.
I just want to mention that I created Identity Burro tinkering with the code of Book Burro. I met Jesse, Book Burro’s creator at AAAI, and I was amazed to meet him and I thought I had a lot to learn by looking at his code, I was right. [During his AAAI invited talk, Jay Tenenbaum showed one slide about Book Burro, and at the end of the presentation, Jesse showed up saying “you showed a slide about Book Burro, well, I created Book Burro”]. That’s amazing, I want something like that happening to me as well in future! By the way, Jesse is now visiting Commerce.net and he ponders about Trust – Since userscripts operate outside of the security model, a malicious userscript could send every keystroke to the bad guys. A combination of peer review, and automated testing will be used to help secure end users.. UserScripts.org aggregates scripts but the actual code stays on the creator’s site, so I think the idea is that, say, Mark Pilgrim trust/approuves a certain Greasemonkey script and I trust Mark Pilgrim, I can install the script without examining the code line by line. What if the bad guy’s web server, mine for example, serves 90% of the time a “good” script and 10% of the time (or only to people using Windows that are probably not going to look at the code) serves a “malicious” script? Should Mark Pilgrim just trusts a generic URL or it is better to tie his trust action to a specific file content, for example associating an MD5SUM to the trusted file? More clearly, the trust action should be “I trust the script served at http://example.com/script.user.js” or “I trust the script served at http://example.com/script.user.js whose MD5SUM is 34GFGF94RU…”? The second provide more security but every time you release a new version, people have to restate their trust in your script by re-reading the code. So Jesse, what do you think?

Copyright madness: I cannot send an email about what I create at work.

I was discussing with a collegue friday about putting the slides we prepare on the Web. In fact, our job contract states that everything we “create” during work hours belongs to our employer. This means the total copyright on the slides I create is not mine but of my employer, but this also means that the total copyright on the emails I create is not mine (sometime there is much more value in an email than in a presentation). This means I have no right to let other people see my emails (I don’t have the copyright over them), so basically I cannot send emails dealing with what I produce during job hours to anyone!. Do you see any error in this line of reasoning or copyright is just creating some insane situations? [Needless to say, blogging about stuff related to job is totally out of question, especially releasing words under a Creative Commons licence, as I do. Anyway, as you can see, I’m for intelligent interpretation of rules and I do blog about what my research is about.]