This is pretty far from my normal content, but my friend Jeremy wrote a piece in GW Law blog Sua Sponte on the inequalities inherenet in educational benefits distributed to veterans in the current GI bill. It’s quick, to the point, and proposes a solution which makes a lot of sense. Definitely worth a read. Check it out.
31 March 2009
The case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbuam has been quite the legal curiosity for those of us who follow the RIAA lawsuits. There’s lots to learn from a case like this, not necessarily in terms of its professionalism or legal practice standards (those that know far more than me say this is a far cry from a hallmark case), but in the actions of its cast of characters. This lawsuit, one way or another, has brought in every legal mind in this field, on both sides of the issue. And everyone is writing about it. A lot. I suspect that this will be the case people will remember when the story of the RIAA lawsuits gets written up some years from now.
Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law Professor and longtime legal guru, now heads the case for the defense. He also founded and does extensive work at the Berkman Center at Harvard. I will be working this summer at Berkman. I know a lot of you have asked me to write on this case, and while that does a whole lot to inflate my ego, I think it would be better in light of my perceived conflict of interest to instead link out to others for now. I’ll bring you news as it comes forth, but for now I leave the discussion to others. Thanks for understanding.
Here’s who I have been reading to stay abreast of this:
- Recording Industry vs. The People (Ray Beckerman)
- Joel Fights Back
- eon (Charles Nesson)
- Copyrights & Campaigns (Ben Sheffner)
- Excess Copyright (Howard Knopf)
- Twitter user CopyrightLaw (Michael Scott)
- Corante Copyfight blog (Alan Wexelblat)
- Slashdot YRO
30 March 2009
(a crowd outside the ongoing Pirate Bay trial, from Flickr user Brian Einarsen)
I don’t know what to make of this, exactly, but Wired reports today (and Recording Industry vs. The People and Slashdot reported yesterday) that filesharing giant The Pirate Bay has built Facebook connectivity into their website. As Wired explains:
By clicking the link, users can share torrent tracker links — often used to download large music and movie files via the bit torrent protocol — via Facebook, by either posting it on their profile pages or sending the link to friends using Facebook’s private messaging feature.
For the would-be Facebook Pirates reading this right now: don’t do this. You’re going to get caught, and contributory infringement is protected under Copyright Law (to what degree this is contributory infringement or more like the debated “making available” situation is for those better trained than I to debate, but it could be quite costly to guess wrong, and perhaps even more costly to litigate out the right answer).
The benefit this gives to RIAA litigation is twofold. One of the hardest problems facing the RIAA in these cases is being able to “catch” the filesharing as it happens. This was easier in the Napster days, as it all went through a centralized system, but the modern filesharing approach through BitTorrent makes it very difficult to track the activities of any given IP address. What this TPB/Facebook interface does is make Facebook the clearinghouse for activity and allows the content holder to build a much stronger case against the filesharer. And I tend to believe that when faced with outing some customer information (information that is already put public by the customer) in exchange for better bargaining power with the RIAA, weighed against whatever reputational damage FB recieves from cooperation with the RIAA, Facebook will almost certainly put B2B over P2P. The benefit of having easier access to commercial music on Facebook will be too good to pass up (not to mention the desire to avoid being slapped with a vicarious infringement action).
This leads into the second, and probably more dangerous, risk for the would-be filesharer. A second major hurdle for the RIAA litigation has been to actually tie an IP address to a name. ISPs are reluctant to release that information, universities have made a cause célèbre out of their reactions to RIAA requests, and to get it wrong is embarassing for the Association (think of the grandmothers and computerless who have been sued under these circumstances). This Facebook function will preempt all of this fuss and give the RIAA a name to build a case against. Granted, it’s likely not to be enough to sustain a case, nor may it even be enough to start a lawsuit. But if TV police dramas have taught me anything, it’s that when doing illegal activity it’s best not to annouce one’s actions to the world. (And make no mistake: unless the content holder permits this downloading by general license or direct permission, or the content is in the public domain, it is illegal.) As comments on /. note, it is debatable whether owning a torrent tracker file alone is infringement, or whether this would be infringement under the law as it stands, but when has that stopped the RIAA from litigating in the past?
I’ll be very curious to see what traction this app gets in my Facebook circle. The Wired article promises updates and a comment from Facebook, so stay tuned.
28 March 2009
You gotta love Electro-Harmonix. Not only do they make some of the best guitar pedals known to man, they get the music industry and how we can get out of this moral tailspin. As Make reports, when someone made a pillow commemorating the Big Muff Pi (one of the best fuzzboxes ever released) they responded accordingly:
We’re all too familiar with the endless lawsuits suffocating the world of music, and so we decided to do something different. Instead of threats, demands, and legal letters, we contacted Gwendolin, told her we loved her work, and offered a formal license in exchange for an option to purchase them at discount. So, rather than a new enemy we now have a new friend, and a beautiful Big Fluff Pi. Take that as a lesson, music-industrial complex!
25 March 2009
I know I promised people a nice treatment on the Constitutional questions implicated by the DC Congressional voting rights act (as well as some sad amendments, where it stands on approval, and the curious alternative options for representation [the word of the day is "retrocession"]), and I’ll get to that if I have time tonight, but I wanted to post this from The Smoking Gun first.
Apparently, in 1994, the pilot of a new TV show called Friends was put forth to an NBC focus group, to see if it has legs for production. The report gave the show a 41/100 (which, to be fair, doesn’t tell us too much; it could be that they always give the shows a bad raw score), and provided the following comments:
Overall reactions to this pilot were not very favorable. Interest in the show was very narrow. […] Most viewers felt the show was not very entertaining, clever, or original. […] Stated viewing intentions for a series based on this pilot were not encouraging.
They add some critical feedback from each character, as well as a list of “recommendations” for improvement. (My favorite: “Use Chandler’s dreams as a running bit on the show.” Can anyone who actually watched Friends tell me if they did this?)
I think somewhere in that list should have to add an in-your-face-talking-dog to the show.
Read the whole report here.
23 March 2009
So there I was, just returning home from a pleasant trip out to Trader Joe’s, bags full of food for the week, when the Secret Service tells me I can’t cross my own street to go home! Turns out this had to happen first:
What’s the matter, Joe? Too cool to ride the Metro these days?
Actually, I hear the Vice President come home from work most weekdays. It’s fairly hard to miss.
22 March 2009
I need to break my web-silence for a minute to put up this website that BoingBoing wrote about yesterday (for the 0.5% of you out there that read my website and not theirs). OldRadio.com has put together an awe-inspiring list of radio call letters and what they stand for. They even have my wee little 12-watt WRBB on the list. (“(R)adio (B)ack (B)ay”). Check it out. Here are some MA favorites and their meanings:
WRBB – Radio Back Bay
WBCN – Boston Concert Network
WGBH – named for its transmitter on Great Blue Hill.
WFNX – radio station partner of the Phoenix magazine.
WCVB – (might be my favorite) – Channel V (as in five), Boston
WMBR – Walker Memorial Basement Radio (basement of the MIT building where the broadcast is produced)
WXRV – “the RiVer”
WBUR – Boston University Radio
WEEI – Edison Electric Illuminating, company predecessor to ConEdison (there’s one to pull out at a bar)
WXKS – “KiSs” 108
WMJX – “Magic” (which is weak)
WBOS – I think you can figure this one out on your own…
A few are conspicuously absent – WZLX, WBZ, WAAF, WUML, and WZBC, for example – but overall, this is a pretty impressive list.
A few DC favorites, for my District friends:
WCSP – CSP-AN
WASH – WASHington, DC
WSMD – Southern MD (as in Maryland)
WETA – Washington Education Television Association
WAMU – American University Radio
WPGC – Prince George’s County, MD
WJFK – named for JFK. No joke.
WGTB – GeorgeTown university Broadcasting
Not on the list is WRGW, but I imagine it’s “Radio George Washington.” Just guessing, here.
20 March 2009
got Costello banned from SNL for 12 years, but they let him back in a big way:
and now the “false start Radio Radio” meme has spread:
Enjoy the weekend! That’s all you’ll hear from me until at least Monday; it’s another working weekend.