:: LawGeek :: Thoughts on Things by Jason Schultz

Intellectual Property Rants, SUV Wrongs, and Random Movie/Media Reviews
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:: Friday, April 11, 2003 ::


The Official DOD website has released the Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards that are being handed out to Iraqi citizens to help hunt from Saddam and his compatriots.

Not that the DOD would even reduce a hunt-to-kill mission down to the level of a parlor game.

:: Jason 1:51:00 PM [+] ::

Students to RIAA: We're At The Library, Not the Flea Market

USA Today runs an article on student reaction to the RIAA's recent decision to sue students directly for downloading music.

While some students are taking down sites, others are fighting back for what they consider fair use, not theft:

But students on the UCLA campus said this week that they weren't cowed by the threat of legal action. "I'm not scared," says UCLA history major Ean Plotkin, 21, who says he still downloads regularly. "The record labels will never be able to stop downloading. It's too widespread."

In fact, he says, he doesn't see it as theft. "This is exactly like going to the library. Do I have to pay to check out a book? I'm just listening to the song, not selling it."

:: Jason 9:32:00 AM [+] ::

Copy-protected CDs Incompatible with Modern Radio Stations

The Age has an interesting article about how copy-protected CDs are incompatible with radio stations that use database-driven hard drives to organize thier playlists. Most modern radio stations load songs from CDs onto their hard drives, organize them using advanced database technology, and then have their computers play the songs over the air. This significantly reduces the pain of having to swap CDs, the potential for optical errors on the tracks, and other administrative hassles.

The music industry's recent efforts to copy-protect their CDs, however, have crippled this entire procedure because the stations can no longer load the songs onto their computers. They are forced to once again return to the arcane practice of loading CD into a player and then hitting the "play" button for each song.

Just one more example of how the entertainment industry is willing to roll back any technological advance in the pursuit of mythical security for their content.

Who are the other losers? The artists who allowed their music to be put into those CDs. According to the article, those artists will get virtually no airtime because radio stations who only have computer-based playlists simply ignore artists with incompatible CDs.

:: Jason 8:49:00 AM [+] ::

:: Thursday, April 10, 2003 ::

Nothing like a good economist lightblub joke to brighten your day...

Q: How many Chicago School economists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. If the light bulb needed changing the market would have already done it.

:: Jason 5:44:00 PM [+] ::

Hong Kong Tourism Dep't: Opps

Dan Gillmor posted this pre-SARS ad from the Hong Kong Tourism Dep't:

Hong Kong Promotional Campaign
:: Jason 3:40:00 PM [+] ::

At Last, Too Late, The Perfect Eldred Soundbite

Larry Lessig has given a nice interview in the Library of Economics and Liberty Journal.

Here, he says in one paragraph exactly why the Court got the Eldred decision wrong:

Lessig: There's an argument that what Congress is doing is respecting the Constitution. And then there's the historical practice which led the Court to do what it did. The argument is, Well, as long as each extension is itself a limited term, then you still have a limited term. That's an argument which ordinary people laugh at. It's the sort of thing your child says when you say, take one cookie and the child takes five. The child says, I did take one. Five times. But it's a technical way of saying Congress is complying with the Constitution. And what the Supreme Court said was that because Congress had done this in the past, that had established a practice of deference to Congress's decisions in the past.

:: Jason 3:34:00 PM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, April 09, 2003 ::

Open Letter from MTU Prez to RIAA: You Never Call, You Never Write...

An interesting letter from the president of MTU, one of the universities where the RIAA sued a student for running an on-campus search engine.

The letter contains a mixture of language. On the one hand, he berates the RIAA for not notifying MTU before suing so that it could follow its own disciplinary procedures and also, interestingly, not returning MTU's phone calls about help enforcing copyrights on campus.

On the other hand, he still offers help to the RIAA in taking action against the student.

Curious to see if this chills the RIAA's cooptation of Universities as copyright cops...

:: Jason 9:35:00 AM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 ::

Vertigo: Then and Now

Vertigo...Then and Now has pictures of how San Francisco looked in the 1958 Hitchcock classic vs. now in 2003. Very interesting. The main difference I noticed was that parking is clearly much worse now :).

:: Jason 10:16:00 AM [+] ::

Not so fast, RIAA

Initially, I thought that the RIAA had picked their targets well in singling out the four students they sued. Perhaps not.

Joesph Barillari, one of Ed Felten's CS students at Princeton, has done an analysis of the RIAA's complaint against Dan Peng, Princeton Class of 2005. Turns out that Peng's system "Wake" is basically just a search engine. It searches out guest accesible files on Princeton's system and indexes them. Visitors to the site simply type in the name of files they are looking for and Wake will tell them if they're accessible on Princeton's network. If they click on the file listing at Wake, Wake points their web browser to the file location.

Sounds familiar? Yeah, try www.google.com. Googe searches out publicly accessible files (including web pages), indexes them, and then allows users to search for them and link to them. Same exact thing. It's also essentially the same as the Start --> Find... command in the Windows Operating system.

The actual file sharing is performed by part of the Windows operating system called SMB which allows network file transfers when users of the network both run Windows (which includes 95% of all computer users).

So... Unless the RIAA plans to sue Google and Microsoft for contributorily copyright infringement, there's no reason the Princeton student should be any more liable than they are. Of course the RIAA knows better than to pick on huge multi-million or billion dollar companies. They'd rather pray on debt-ridden college students.

p.s. Direct infringement may be a different story. The complaint alleges Peng personally shared music files with the entire Princeton campus. That is likely not a fair use.

:: Jason 9:06:00 AM [+] ::

:: Monday, April 07, 2003 ::

Yahoo posts Top 20 Search terms

Yahoo has done a fine job revamping its Search tool and interface. (Disclosure: A friend of mine is one of the UI architects) One of the cooler feature is the Yahoo! Buzz Index which tracks not only the most popular search terms, but also how many weeks they've been on the chart and recent moves up and down -- kind of like the Billboard charts. A quick, fun insight into popular 'net culture.

:: Jason 2:35:00 PM [+] ::

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