Tag Archives: legal

SOPA and Publishers

Here is a list of all of the companies signed to SOPA (which, while delayed until after the first of the year, isn’t dead):
Companies supporting SOPA

While there are a few surprises (GoDaddy? A DNS company that supports breaking DNS? Huh?) most of the names on the list are exactly who you’d expect: copyright holders that are clearly desperate to hold on to their business model. These happen to include publishers like Hachette, Harper-Collins, Macmillan, Elsevier, Hyperion, McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, and Norton. Not to mention all of the video/music companies that produce content that libraries spend money on: Sony, Universal, Disney, etc.

For those who aren’t keeping up with SOPA and PIPA and what exactly it is that the above companies are suggesting, let’s be clear: SOPA and PIPA are both so completely bad that I have trouble describing how bad they really are. I consider myself a writer, and I have trouble conjuring forth a description about just how incredibly fucked the USA would be if we allow these ridiculous bills to pass into law. So I’ll let someone else say it for me. Mr. Savage:

Make no mistake: These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant.

Or maybe Mr. Dotorow? Or how about, oh…the engineers who built the Internet in the first place? Or maybe even the Stanford Law Review? All of them agree (as do I) that SOPA and PIPA would break the fundamental way that the Internet works, making the US into a third-world-country of ‘net access, and threatening the very concept of Free Speech online.

These are agressive, wrong headed pieces of legislation that attempt to find a technical solution to a legislative problem…we already have laws that punish individuals who infringe upon copyrights. This would be the equivalent of legislating the ability for private companies to decide to close down roads and revoke your drivers license just because someone claimed they saw you take a drink, instead of simply having and enforcing laws against driving under the influence.

So what can libraries do? I think we should let these signatories know that we disagree fundamentally with SOPA and PIPA and indeed any law that would lessen the freedom of speech on the Internet. Tell everyone you speak with at these companies that this is not the sort of thing that we will support. If SOPA and PIPA are still on the table at the time of ALA Midwinter, I plan to try to speak with as many employees of these companies as I can about this. I suggest you do the same.

Apple intentionally hurting eBook stores

Apple announced the terms of their in-App Subscription Service this morning, and it does indeed look like they are shooting directly at Amazon. What I’m concerned about is the fallout from these new rules on other apps…here’s the paragraph that causes me issue, with the pertinent passage highlighted.

Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

To summarize: publishers are allowed to sell subscriptions on their own websites, but if they do, they must also allow for in-app purchase of said subscription, and there has to be pricing parity between the two methods. This means that, for instance, a newspaper couldn’t offer a subscription on their site for $5, but make the in-app purchase $8…this prevents publishers from variably pricing things higher in the App in order to pad the price to take into account Apple’s 30% of the sale price. So far, so good…it’s that last sentence that really worries me:

In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Notice that in that sentence, Apple stopped talking about subscriptions and now include content generally. This single lline is the one that, I think, kills eReader software on iOS devices. This means that Amazon can’t keep the Kindle app the way it currently works, which is to tap a button inside the app that then takes you to the Kindle store in Safari. That’s not allowed given the above. That will apply to Barnes & Noble’s Nook software, as well as any other eReader software that I’m aware of on iOS. eBook providers like Amazon and B&N almost certainly can’t afford to move all their sales to in-app purchases because of the 30% Apple “tax”. This means that either they raise prices and move into Apple’s ecosystem, or they stop allowing purchases of books at all on iOS devices.

The rules appear to allow Amazon to sell Kindle books for iOS on the Amazon website directly (obviously Apple can’t do anything about that) but it seems to break any connection between the app and said site. This intentionally damages the user experience for this and other eBook apps, and is the main reason I can’t believe that Apple is pushing this as hard as they are. This is much different than other limitations that Apple has placed on the development of Apps…this isn’t hardware based limitation (multitasking) or anything like that…this seems to be purely a “show us the money” limitation. I’m really disappointed if this is the way that Apple chooses to enforce this, because while they are guilty of many things, intentionally hurting usability has never been one of them.

What I’m really curious about is this: Is Apple going to push these requirements for any App that allows for any purchase…like, for instance, the Amazon app that allows you to shop on Amazon directly. Or Zappos, or Ebay, or any number of other apps that act as a front-end for purchasing goods. If that’s the case, I think that Apple is in for some real trouble and pushback from companies, and possible legal repercussions. Seems like it can’t possibly be legal for the manufacturer of a computer (which is what the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch is, after a recent legal decision) to require that anything purchased on that computer provide them with a cut. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one.

Shut up and get out of the way

Google, on the Book Settlement, from arstechnica:

“Approval of the settlement will open the virtual doors to the greatest library in history, without costing authors a dime they now receive or are likely to receive if the settlement is not approved,” Google’s filing reads. “Nor does anyone seriously dispute, though few objectors admit, that to deny the settlement will keep those library doors locked while inviting costly, fragmented litigation that could clog dockets around the country for years.”

Or, in other words: Shut up, and get out of the way.

Copyright Clearance Center = FAIL

Sometimes, it’s just nice to laugh at industries that are desperately attempting to hang on to their relevancy in a changing world. Exhibit A for today is the Copyright Clearance Center, and their interesting attempt to educate users about copyright via their Copyright Basics video. Let’s examine the ways in which CCC fails at modern web usage.

First: here’s the opening screen of the video

cccfail

I think that’s enough said, yes? Among the nearly-unreadable text is the prohibition to “distribute copies of the Program to persons outside your company, or post copies of the Program on any public website (including any video sharing or social networking site).”  Yep, that’s the CCC…all about education. Wouldn’t want those non-paying people to easily get your content that explains why they should pay for your content. 

Second: To get a copy of the video to use internally, on a non-public server that is limited to only your employees, you have to fill out a form on this page. Or, you know, just look at the page source:

cccpagesource

Where the FLV file is handily linked for anyone who might want to use it. 

If ever there was a direct example of how the modern web breaks copyright, the CCC just gave it to us. The answer, of course, isn’t to ignore the de facto standards for the distribution of video on the web, to limit the ability to share and distribute content, and to generally treat people who want to use your content like criminals. The way to make yourself valuable and heard is to share what you make as widely as you possibly can…something that the CCC can’t bring itself to do.  It’s really hard to participate in the modern conversation when your very business model is tied to archaic and irrelevant legalese.

In Rainbows is LAME

no really its up to you

Not only is Radiohead releasing their newest album at whatever price their fans are willing to pay, and not only is the digital release completely DRM free and 160kbps MP3, but it looks like it was ripped to MP3 using LAME 3.93. An exploration of the MP3’s in a text editor reveals:

Radiohead uses Lame

They need to upgrade…LAME is up to 3.97 now.

Looking at the header and footer of the files in both a text and hex editor doesn’t show any tracking numbers or codes tying the songs to a particular download. It really does look like these are regular old MP3s.

Thanks, Radiohead, for showing the recording industry how business should be done these days.

Technophobia or payola?

Welcome to the gang from Digg! I think the site is finally stable now (thanks Blake). Thanks for stopping by…

In an article today on CNet, the Register of Copyright of the US, Marybeth Peters (who, let me remind you, is an Associate Librarian for Copyright Services for the Library of Congress) admitted that she was a:

…self-proclaimed “Luddite,” who confessed she doesn’t even have a computer at home. “In hindsight, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

*boggle*

I’m sorry, but I thought that just said that the person responsible for administering Copyright law in the US doesn’t own a computer.

Oh wait, IT DOES SAY THAT THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR COPYRIGHT IN THE US DOESN’T OWN A COMPUTER.

She goes on to say things like:

Peters indicated she was less thrilled, however, about a portion of the DMCA that generally lets hosting companies off the hook for legal liability, as long as they don’t turn a blind eye to copyright infringement and remove infringing material when notified. That’s one of the major arguments Google is attempting to wield in fighting high-profile copyright lawsuits, including one brought by Viacom, against its YouTube subsidiary.

“Shouldn’t you have to filter? Shouldn’t you have to take reasonable steps to make sure illegal stuff that went up comes down?” she said. She added, without elaborating further, “I think there are some issues.”

No, you shouldn’t, Marybeth. Filtering means that we are placing the responsibility of policing onto the providers of the service, and not on the people ultimately responsible for the infringement. It also means that we move farther from Net Neutrality, because there is a slippery slope from “monitor everything” to “oh, since you CAN monitor everything, prioritize something”.

Is there anyone at all in the actual copyright process that understand that the law is broken beyond repair right now, and that the digital world really does change the rules? Or is it just that all of our media laws are now being written and propped up by corporate interests instead of being written for the good of the people?

I has been censored!

censoredIt was brought to my attention today that this very blog has been added to the Websense brand of censorware, and is blocked for reasons unknown. For those that aren’t in the know, Websense is used by libraries, schools, and oppressive regimes and governments to prevent certain types of speech from being accessed by their users.

Needless to say, they aren’t on my christmas card list.

I’m currently being blocked as a “Social Networking” site, which, as I am the only user, would make the term “social” a very loose one. “Networking” too, I suppose.

So: take a second, and hit their suggestion form to tell them how stupid it is to block me. If anyone knows of someone laboring under the yoke of an organization that gives this company money, here’s a proxy that bypasses their filters. Please share.

Keeping you safe from the terrorists, Part 2

BoingBoing reported today that the US Treasury Department has begun circulating a 250 page list of names of people who MIGHT BE related in some way to terrorism. Not that they are, or have been convicted, or charged with a crime or any of the things that due process might bring. Just a list of thousands of names (1955 names of individuals, by my count, but many more businesses) that, according to BoingBoing:

If your name could conceivably be bent to fit that list, get ready to spend a long, hard time convincing some terrified bureaucrat that you’re not actually Saddam Hussein’s deposed lieutenant, snuck into America to buy a Toyota.

As the Washington Post describes:

Yet anyone who does business with a person or group on the list risks penalties of up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison, a powerful incentive for businesses to comply. The law’s scope is so broad and guidance so limited that some businesses would rather deny a transaction than risk criminal penalties, the report finds.

“The law is ridiculous,” said Tom Hudson, a lawyer in Hanover, Md., who advises car dealers to use the list to avoid penalties. “It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who’s on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. . . . The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law.”

Bruce Schneier, as always, chimes in with some reason:

This is the same problem as the no-fly list, only in a larger context. And it’s no way to combat terrorism. Thankfully, many businesses don’t know to check this list and people whose names are similar to suspected terrorists’ can still lead mostly normal lives. But the trend here is not good.

Thankfully, the Treasury has put the list (dubbed in typical government jargon-talk as the Specially Designated Nationals list) online in multiple formats. So I grabbed it, and started looking. The list of individual names seemed odd to me as I started reading them, so I decided to do what I always do when I want to visualize a text list…off to TagCrowd!

created at TagCrowd.com

This cloud is just the top 100 names of individuals from the SDN list…take the names, do a frequency count, rank the top 100, and size them according to number of times they appear.

So what do we notice here? The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming number of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino names, as compared to, oh….Iraqi. You know, the people with whom we are at war.

Anyone have any guesses as to why there are so many Hispanic names listed? After initially being boggled and outraged at the way the list is being used, now I’m just confused by the contents of it.

Giving it all away

Cory Doctorow has an amazing essay in Forbes, called Giving It Away. Concerned with how giving away electronic copies of books drives sales of printed copies, it’s a clear and amazing set of thoughts on the current publishing world.

I’m particularly caught up in publishing issues right now, given that I’m negotiating with a publisher for publication of a book. I wonder if I sent them a copy of this essay it could possibly make a difference….

from the essay:

The thing about an e-book is that it’s a social object. It wants to be copied from friend to friend, beamed from a Palm device, pasted into a mailing list. It begs to be converted to witty signatures at the bottom of e-mails. It is so fluid and intangible that it can spread itself over your whole life. Nothing sells books like a personal recommendation–when I worked in a bookstore, the sweetest words we could hear were “My friend suggested I pick up….” The friend had made the sale for us, we just had to consummate it. In an age of online friendship, e-books trump dead trees for word of mouth.