:: LawGeek :: Thoughts on Things by Jason Schultz

Intellectual Property Rants, SUV Wrongs, and Random Movie/Media Reviews
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:: Friday, March 28, 2003 ::


Check out this Shockwave site providing up to the minute stats on the war. Hmmm... no WMD sites uncovered.. how strange.

:: Jason 3:10:00 PM [+] ::

Movie Review: Laurel Canyon

I've been meaning to start posting my movie reviews on here. As my close friends and confidants know, I'm kind of a movie fanatic. Not as bad as some others I know, like my brother :-p, but still, I can hold my own cinematically.

Anyway, the other night Tara and I were able to attend a sneak preview of Laurel Canyon, which was fun. The tickets were free tickets, which was also a nice perk. The preview was sponsored by Landmark Theaters and a local radio station, 91X. The local radio station DJ was handing out soundtrack CDs to folks who could answer lame trivia questions (like name three people on their morning show) and I managed to get one right (the morning show one) and won a free CD! Pretty cool.

Anyway, the movie is basically about a GenX father-hungry overachieving son (Christian Bale) and his love/hate relationship with his irresponsible hippy emotionally distant mother (Frances McDormand), who happens to be a wealthy record producer living in the hills outside of L.A. The son has spent most of his life working his ass off to outshine his mother and correct the flaws in his childhood life by becoming a successful doctor. In the process he meets his girlfriend/fiancee (Kate Beckinsale), another uptight high-achieving physician from a snobby New England family. The plot centers around Bale's return to LA for his residency at a prestiguous LA psych hospital; to save money, he and Kate whistfully attempt to stay at the mother's house. Ms. Frances, who was supposed to be absent from the home, however, is very must resident along with a band of UK pop/punk musicians who are trying to finish up their latest album. Culture clash ensues involving the usual menu of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.

Overall, I thought the movie was awkwardly paced but featured an interesting premise and some decent acting. We're both big Frances McDormand fans and I really like Christian Bale's work in general. However, the plot didn't really go anywhere that interesting and many of the characters were left underdeveloped. Some of the conflicts are so obviously driven by cliché plot-devices that one can easily predict several of the scenes in the exact order they happen. Still, some scenes were exceptionally well-written and the art direction was fab. Don't know if I'd recommend it outright, but it might be worth seeing if you can't find anything else that's on the top of your list.

One final note of interest: Two of the actors (Bale and Beckinsale) are British but play rather convincing Americans. An American actor, Alessando Nivola, convincingly plays the leader of the UK band. I can't remember the last time so many actors in a movie switched nationalities, but it was kind of cool to see.

:: Jason 2:48:00 PM [+] ::

Great Rundown on the Lawrence v. Texas Gay Rights Supreme Court Argument

E.J. Graff gives a tremendous, insightful, and funny rundown of the Supreme Court argument in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging Texas' gay-only sodomy law for, among other reasons, violating the Equal Protection Clause because it only outlaws "deviant sex" between same-sex couples and not opposite-sex couples.

Justice Breyer's assertion that anti-homosexuality laws are justified with little more rationality than "I do not like this, Sam I Am?" is priceless.

:: Jason 10:41:00 AM [+] ::

Must Have Been A Good Tipper...

The Radisson Hotels Employee-Of-The-Year donated a kidney to a customer. Amazing.
:: Jason 10:15:00 AM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 ::

TiVo Snooping Reveals Oscar Highlights

I wasn't aware of this, but apparently TiVo snoops "anonymously" on its customers. AdAge reports some TiVoFacts about the Oscars mined from the behavior of 10,000 viewers. Turns out that the most rewound and re-watched parts were Michael Moore's anti-war acceptance speech and Adrien Brody's best actor acceptance speech.

Oh, and apparently Julia Roberts was the fasion height of the night, winning the Most Freeze-Frames award.
:: Jason 9:34:00 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ::

Still No Chemical Weapons

The Associated Press reports that U.S. troops failed to find any evidence of chemical weapons at a "suspected" chemical plant in southern Iraq.

I won't say that Iraq didn't ever have chemical weapons or even that it doesn't have them now. But keep in mind the justification we gave the world for entering into this conflict and don't forget to tally up the evidence in the end and evaluate whether we were right.
:: Jason 4:04:00 PM [+] ::

Jack Valenti Slays Me

Here's the MPAA's FAQ on the Broadcast Flag. The following are my favorite excerpts:

Q: Can I record broadcast digital TV programs to my PVR (personal video recorders) such as TiVo?

A: Yes, in dedicated PVRs with no digital outputs, such as TiVo. However, digital TV tuner cards in Personal Computers using PVR software will need to insure that any recordings of flagged TV programs on to the PC’s hard drive are securely protected to prevent unauthorized redistribution to the Internet.

In other words, because any Personal Computer can use a digital TV tuner card and record digital TV content, all PCs will have to be "locked down" with mandated broadcast flag technology. To allow any PCs to escape the mandate would undermine any real practical effect the flag could have. Bottom Line: Jack gets to redesign the PC to his liking and decide what you can record and what you can't.

Q: Does "broadcast flag" prevent digital copying?

A: No. The broadcast flag is only used to prevent unauthorized redistribution of copyrighted content, not prohibit digital copying. But copies made by future digital recorders that comply with the broadcast flag will not be playable on legacy playback devices and consumers will still be able to tape the digital broadcasts for traditional time-shifting uses with analog recorders such as VHS.

Ok, here's the bait-and-switch. Computers are digital beasts. Everything they do is a "copy". When you turn them on, data is "copied" into memory. When you load a program, read email, send email, read this blog, etc. etc. -- it's all "copying" data. So how do you (or your computer) distinguish between good "copying" and bad "redistribution"? Or even good "redistribution" (space-shifting a program from your house to a friend's house so you can watch it together) vs. bad "redistribution" (putting it up on your website for free to the whole world)? Valenti ducks this very difficult and technical question; instead, all he tells you is that the Tivo you spent $400 on this year won't work with any future television show. How nice of him.

And my personal favorite....

Q: I know people offer Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other programs on the Internet now. Is this illegal? Why?

A: Yes, it is illegal. Current laws state that redistribution of copyrighted materials without express permission from the copyright holder is illegal. Buffy is a copyrighted program that 20th Century Fox produces and UPN broadcasts for its audience’s personal use and have not authorized the redistribution of their programming via the Internet. If unauthorized copies of programs are widely available on the Internet they cannot be sold in ancillary markets and the owners cannot cover the costs of production.

Who knew Jack was such a big Buffy fan? Notice that they attribute the "fact" that Buffy is offered over the Internet to the Anonymous Questioner, not Valenti. Is this really a "Frequently Asked Question"? I doubt it. Also, no citation to any kind of research or study is provided to back this Question up.

Still, even if we believe that Buffy is traded on the Internet, this is not a justification to use government mandates to redesign all personal computers and electronic devices to the MPAA's liking. In 1995, the MPAA tried to redesign the Internet through the National Information Infrastructure White Paper so that they could "secure" all content by controling the very thing that made the Internet amazing -- free-flowing distributed infomation relays whose architecture was set by IETF standards, not government regulation. This effort failed because once people got on the 'Net, they loved it too much to tear it down. So now the MPAA wants to tear down our computers and rebuild them to their liking. All so that the MPAA can squeeze a few more DVD rentals out of a series it plans to cancel at the end of this season.

Okay, Okay, one more....

Q: Even if the motion picture and other industries come up with a system to protect this content with a broadcast flag, the security technology will just be broken into and made worthless in a very short time. Given that, what’s the point?

A: It is unfortunate that some people may attempt to illegally hack or break into this security system. However, even if a few are successful, the flag will not be worthless. Most people are honest and will not attempt to circumvent the flag. We are hopeful that the broadcast flag will enable content providers to release more of their programming in HDTV format and drive the market forward providing new options for consumers. Consumers should not lose out just because there is threat against the technology.

Here's an example of Ed Felten's critique that the MPAA has the wrong threat model. The Broadcast Flag was not created to keep Honest People Honest. Rather, it is designed to halt massive piracy of Digital TV. The MPAA has told us over and over how this happens: (1) Criminal Pirates, i.e. Mafia/Street Gangs/Chinese Entrepreneurs and (2) file-sharing systems. If a few people are successful at cracking the Broadcast Flag, those few individuals will surely distribute the content to the world via CD-ROM or the Internet. Thus, a few people circumventing the flag destroys any protection the flag offers. The rest of us are then stuck with impeded and crippled technology while the pirates cruise full steam ahead.

Oh, and about keeping Honest People Honest. Felten says it best: "Keeping honest people honest is like keeping tall people tall." If people are honest, then you don't need a broadcast flag because they won't pirate or steal content. It's like saying we have to limit the volume of the music we play just in case deaf people decide to start listening.

:: Jason 3:23:00 PM [+] ::

MPAA et al Ban Press from Analog Hole "Public" Hearings

Ed Felten has a quick piece on how the Analog Reconversion Discussion Group (ARDG) (or as the EFF likes to call them "AARRRRGG") has banned the press from attenting their "public" meetings.

Ed raises an interesting point re: The Press v. Bloggers. Many journalists, like Dan Gillmor, have personal blogs. Ed has a personal blog. Ed is a computer science professor. Thousands of people read Ed's Blog. Thousands of people read Dan's blog. Is Ed more or less a member of the press than Dan?

Background: ARDG is an industry "discussion" group put together by Hollywood to confront the "Analog Hole" problem. [Gotta love the marketing folks who came up with that name; hence, the rebranding of it into the "Analog Recoversion" problem].

ARDG is commissioned to put forth companion regulations to the Broadcast Flag regulations. Broadcast flag attempts to control all devices that can copy, save, or transmit digital television signals (e.g. your PC, your MP3 player, your TIVO). ARDG is attempting to put forth regulations or technological mandates that prevent Analog-To-Digital Converters (ADCs) from converting anything subject to copyright law, e.g. time-shifting Joe Millionaire, recording and selling movies off of cable, etc. ARDG's current plan is to install a "cop chip" into every ADC made that will monitor and prevent copyright infringement via the Analog Hole. ADCs are everywhere, from cell phones to voice mail systems to digital microphones, etc.

So, what's the problem? Well, for instance, you're a parent of a nine-month year old child. You're using your digital camcorder to video your child's precious moments (an analog-to-digital conversion -- real life to digital film). As your child is about to take her first steps, she crawls in front of your television, which happens to be showing SpongeBob Squarepants on Nickelodian. Just as the camera should be recording this great moment, the ADC "cop chip" designed by ARDG detects that you are attempting to record an analog copyrighted work using an ADC. It immediately powers down the camera, forcing you to miss recording your child's first steps.

Example #2: You're walking down the street and witness a car crash into a telephone poll. The driver looks pretty beaten up, so you decide to call 911 on your cell phone to get help. You manage to get the 911 operator on the line, but just as you are about to give him the details and location of the accident, another car comes around the corner with a Boomin' System and its windows rolled down. The music from the car stereo is copyrighted. The cell phone is an ADC. The "cop chip" detects that you are attempting to use your ADC to convert analog copyrighted material into a digital signal and shuts down your cell call. You run into a nearby store and try to recessitate your phone to continue the call, but the store has music playing over its speaker system and the cop chip continues to block access to your phone. By the time you manage to find some peace and quiet, one can only hope that the driver of the car will still be okay when help arrives.

I know, I know. These examples are a bit dramatic. But seriously, this is what the ARDG wants to use to plug our analog holes. And now they want to do it without that pesky press snooping around.
:: Jason 12:16:00 PM [+] ::

Bush Asks Congress For $75 Billion For War

President Bush has asked Congress for an extra $75 billion for the Iraq war, only 4 billion of which is for homeland security. The President's request comes during America's worst economic crisis in 30 years and at the same time he is pushing his $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut.

Where will this money come from? Only the shadows know...
:: Jason 9:22:00 AM [+] ::

Free distribution of book online costs author $15,000 in bandwidth charges

Adam C. Engst (who, along with his wife Tonya provide excellent coverage of the Desktop Pub and Mac industries) has a little TidBIT on Glenn Fleishman and Jeff Carlson's recent attempt to publish their 922-page Real World GoLive 6 book online as a free PDF download.

Because of the size of the file and the popularity of downloading it, Glenn soon racked up $15,000 in bandwidth charges from his ISP, Level 3, once again proving that mass distribution of high quality content on the Internet is a bit more complicated (and expensive) that the MPAA and RIAA woudl like you to believe. And this was just a book, not a movie.
:: Jason 9:14:00 AM [+] ::

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