:: LawGeek :: Thoughts on Things by Jason Schultz

Intellectual Property Rants, SUV Wrongs, and Random Movie/Media Reviews
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:: Thursday, February 27, 2003 ::
MoveOn.org has an amazing page documenting the Virtual March on Washington. Neat HTML, too.
:: Jason 9:33:00 AM [+] ::

Author Trading Cards

What an awesome idea. San Francisco's Booksmith bookstore has a series of author trading cards for authors that have read at their store. You can get them signed and everything.
:: Jason 9:31:00 AM [+] ::

Yahoo News reports that a US State Dept. official in Greece has resigned his post becuase of President Bush's "feverent pursuit of war with Iraq."

Quote from his letter:

"Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson," Kiesling wrote, according to The New York Times.
:: Jason 9:22:00 AM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, February 26, 2003 ::
The Nation's top auto safety regulator, Jeffrey Runge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has called for meaningful and swift changes re: SUVs. Runge has issued as report that criticizes SUVs not only for posing unnnecessary risks to their own drivers but also to smaller cars that are hit by SUVs.
:: Jason 10:45:00 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 ::

TV Guardian violating copyrights?

It just occured to me that TV Guardian (see my previous entry) might be violating copyrights. Recently there was a suit by the Director's Guild of America and the movie studios against a group that was editing out dirty words and dirty scenes from films like Titanic. If they succeed, TV Guardian could well be next.
:: Jason 12:27:00 PM [+] ::

Here's the text of Valenti's speech at duke.

Highlights include:

"The divide between the digital world and the analog world is a vast chasm. To put it another way, in Mark Twain's words, the difference between digital and analog is the difference “between lightning and the lightning bug.”

[Does this make any sense? Is there anything beyond rhetoric here?]

"The nation's universities, including Duke, are equipped with large pipe, high velocity broadband state-of-the-art computer networks. None better, none faster. They produce vast benefits to the university, allowing instant delivery of information and knowledge for professors and research experts within the academy. They are also accessible to students who are privy to not only this avalanche of data - but also to movies. This is an Open Sesame opportunity for some students to take creative property that does not belong to them with effortless ease and speed. And because they have the power to do it, many, but not all of them, do it."

[Of course Valenti won't acknowledge creative opportunities that students DO have a right to engage in.]

"One value says, 'Digital technology gives me power to roam the Internet, therefore whatever is available, I can take, no matter who owns it.' The other value says, 'The fact that digital technology gives me power to use, doesn't make it right for me to use it wrongly.' That is where the collision of values takes place."

[Is this what college students at Duke University are saying? I haven't seen any of them quoted in the paper to this effect. Valenti pulls this "value" out of thin air without any attribution or citation. It's as if putting quotes around it somehow makes it real.]

"Viant, a Boston-based research film, estimates that between 400,000 to 600,000 movies are being illegally downloaded EVERY DAY! Sad to report, a large chunk of that Internet abuse occurs on college campuses by students who are hourly visitors to the digital realms of KaaZa, Morpheus, Grockster, Gnutella, etc, so-called “file- swapping” sites and fill their hard drives with new movies, free of charge."

[I'll give Jack credit here. If these statistics are true, then he has some creditibility to his attack on college students. Still, such excesses are easily controlled with bandwidth caps on student accounts, not with banning technological innovations.]

"But there is a larger, darker issue here. Students would never enter a Blockbuster store and with furtive glance stuff a DVD inside their jacket and walk out without paying. They know that's shoplifting, they know that's stealing. They know they can find themselves in big-ass trouble if they're caught. That's why they don't do it. Then why would those same young leaders-to-be walk off the Internet with a movie inside their digital jacket? Why? Is it because digital shoplifting is at this moment a ‘no risk’ activity? If that is so, why is it so? Is it because Ambrose Bierce's definition of Conscience as 'Something you refer to when you are about to get caught' is an unwanted truth? Are the words 'ethics' –'morality' –'principle' -- alien words, exiled from the student lexicon? It's a sizeable question."

[Valenti's analogy is flawed. Blockbuster offers a service -- renting DVDs. If you take a DVD from their shelf without paying, you are ripping off Blockbuster. However, students aren't ripping off the file-swappers; there are a lot of middle folks between content owners and content viewers on the Internet. Tracking the chain of liability and responsibility is far more complex than Valenti makes it out to be, especially since there are also numerous works available on the Net that are authorized, are public domain, or are accessed via fair use.]

"There are some critics who say, 'Come on, movie industry, get with it. Stop your whining and get a new business model.' Fine, except no business model ever struck off by the hand and brain of Man can compete with'“Free.'"

[Gee.. has Jack never seen open source software? Or listened to the radio? Or watched broadcast TV? Or read a book in a library? Or parked in a shopping mall parking lot? Or stayed at a time-share condo? etc... etc.. ]

"And if critics don't understand that, it's because they just love the status quo. When a new multi-million dollar film, just released, is suddenly on the Net being abducted by millions of visitors to file-swapping sites, then that, dear friends, is “the status quo.” Not a congenial status. Not a pleasant quo."

[Are movies still not making hundreds of millions of dollars? The Two Towers is supposed to be one of the most pirated films on the Net -- yet it is already one of the highest grossing films of all time with over $300 million in revenues... and it's not even out on DVD yet.]

"About two years ago, when Napster was in full blossom, I spoke to some 200 students, the finest of the breed, at one of the most prestigious universities in the land. My subject was 'The Changing American Presidency.' In my opening remarks, I said, 'Before we talk about the White House, I have a question. Music is not my turf. Movies are. But I wonder how many of you have bought a CD in the last several months?' Some three or four hands were upraised. 'Alright, now many of you have been on Napster the last several months?' Every hand shot up."

[Again, Jack makes a number of assumptions here. Sure there are students who are getting mp3s instead of buying CDs. But not every one. He's completely discounting other factors. For instance, the fact that CDs now cost like $19. He just as easily could have asked "How many of you are listening to the radio every day?" and every hand would have shot up. Does that mean radio killed the CD star?]

"That's why the university cannot stand aloof from this progression since administrators and professors set the final design before its graduates, in the words of that old cliche -go on to ‘face life.’ I am pleased to report the movie industry is now meeting with a committee representing the nation's colleges and universities. The objective of these meetings is to urge the construction of a Code of Conduct for students when they use the university broadband system, a Code of Conduct solely within the confines and the authority of the university. Those discussions are going well. The university representatives have a clear vision of this issue. Many of them have developed or in the process of creating a Code of Conduct."

[I'm not surprised the MPAA is going this way. It'll be interesting to see what kind of policies are set up. Hopefully the university law schools will get involved and make sure first sale and fair use rights aren't infringed by such policies. Hopefully students will realize how much control the MPAA wants over their lives and likes.]
:: Jason 9:30:00 AM [+] ::

:: Monday, February 24, 2003 ::
It's amazing what Macromedia Flash has done for Japanese animation.
:: Jason 1:33:00 PM [+] ::

The Superbowl is Gay, apparently.
:: Jason 1:29:00 PM [+] ::

Kikkoman vs. the evil Ketchup Klan & Dr. Worchestire

A truly wonderful and bizarre cartoon advertisement for a Japanese Soy Sauce product, Kikko.
:: Jason 1:22:00 PM [+] ::

Valenti co-ops Civil Rights "morality" in fight against "piracy"

MPAA head Jack Valenti is giving a speech at my Alma Mater, Duke University, on Internet "piracy." Instead of arguing copyright law, however, he's instead advocating that students resist using P2P networks in the name of "duty, service, honor, integrity, pity, pride, compassion, and sacrifice." Apparently this "moral" approach to fighting piracy was inspired by Valenti's work for LBJ on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

What a brilliant manuever. Who cares if we have legal fair use rights? Who cares if the music/movie industry can't innovate fast enough to stay competitive? Better that we forgo innovation and economic resurgence in the tech sector in favor of artificially preserving market dominance in the content industry.

I'm sure we'll all take pride in that.

I can't decide whether Valenti is merely an absurd zealot or a scheming hypocrit. To suggest that the level of moral outrage that exists over Internet piracy is or should be equivalent to the outrage that lead to the 1964 Civil Rights Act seems outrageous to me. The Civil Rights Movement fought against the oppression stemming from hundreds of years of societal bigotry and manifest in the form of direct violence, brutality, economic discrimination, etc. Here, Valenti is casting a mutli-billion dollar corporate industry as victims that deserve the same sympathy and passionate defense. In today's mass-market of capital, nothing could be farther from the truth. Civil Rights are meant to protect those of us who lack power and influence in the political system. If the past 5 years have shown us anything, it's that the MPAA and RIAA have more than enough influence.

Piracy is people stealing and making a profit from theft. That's what actual pirates on the high seas did historically. They stole goods from merchants and resold them (among other violent crimes). If they had only borrowed or shared the goods they pillaged, who knows if they would have even qualified as outlaws.

I'm all for prosecuting folks who mass copy and sell copyrighted works that unfairly compete with their legal owners in the marketplace. Prosecuting college students who essentially want to time-shift their radio stations or space-shift their CD collections, however, hardly seems to me to be a moral war worth waging.

Story at NYT Online
:: Jason 11:20:00 AM [+] ::

Bush Administration: Deadbeat Dad to the Third World?

Tom Tomorrow has good commentary and a great quote from Krugman @ NYT about:

(1) How the US is using foriegn aid funding to bribe votes in the UN to support war;

(2) How the Bush Administration has reneged on its promise to financially support the rebuilding of Afghanistan (whoops!); and

(3) How putting a small percentage of our war chest into alternative fuel resources could change the entire balance of power in the Middle East.
:: Jason 10:54:00 AM [+] ::

Duct Tape My Lips: No Specific Threats

Xeni @ Boing Boing has a nice conspiracy theory between Republican Campaign Contributions and the fear-based increase in Duct Tape Demand.
:: Jason 10:10:00 AM [+] ::

Keeping violent and traumatic TV safe for our children's ears

My friend Cathy at Blogosaurus posted a nice note on Feb. 12 about TV Guardian, a technology that is supposedly a "cuss buster for television and videos." In theory, it mutes phrases with "foul words" based on closed captioning to protect children from hearing them. Apparently, it can also substitute in phrases.

For example:

(sorry about all the space -- I can't seem to figure out how to eliminate it in the table formatting.)

without TVGuardian with TVGuardian
It's a f@$*%n shame! It's a shame!
Move your a%#! Move your tail!
She's such a b%&@#! She's such a nag!
That's b#%*s#%@! That's baloney!
Did you two have s@x? Did you two have hugs?
J#%&s, you scared me! You scared me!
F%!@ you, a&$#%!#! Go away, jerk!
Oh, s#!%! Oh, crud!

As Cathy points out, monitoring vocabulary is a poor substitute for actual parenting. It also won't protect children from the real source of potential negative impact -- violent or tramatic imagery. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Another problem is that it's bound to censor non-profane words out of context. Sure, words like "f***" and "s**t" are easy to monitor, but Shrek has an "ass" in it -- namely, Donkey. What does TV Guardian do there? There was a story a few years back about AOL banning chatrooms for breast cancer survivors because the words "breast", "boobs", and "nipple" kept popping up all the time. How will TV Guardian handle these words? Will my (future) 14 year old daughter be kept from hearing the audio on a PBS special on breast cancer?

On the other hand, perhaps it will automatically mute speeches by Dick Cheney.
:: Jason 9:21:00 AM [+] ::

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