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The War on Copyright Piracy has many uses: in Kyrgyzstan, for example, the government is using the pretext of anti-piracy raids to shut down opposition media, by having goons with alleged Microsoft affiliations seize computers:
Stan TV employees told CPJ that police were accompanied by a technical expert, Sergey Pavlovsky, who claimed to be a representative of Microsoft’s Bishkek office. According to the journalists, Pavlovsky said he had authorization papers from Microsoft but was unwilling to show them. After a cursory inspection of the computers, they said, Pavlovsky declared all of the equipment to be using pirated software. Stan TV’s work computers, as well as the personal laptops of journalists, were seized; the offices were also sealed, interrupting the station’s work.Microsoft have disowned any connection to the raid.
Meanwhile, enterprising malware entrepreneurs have jumped onto the copyright lawsuit bandwagon; a new piece of malware for Windows scans users' hard drives for torrents, and threatens the users with lawsuits, demanding payment by credit card:
Guardian correspondent and self-styled "new media whore" Paul Carr investigates the last.fm/CBS/RIAA rumour, comes to some somewhat ambiguous conclusions:
Fact One: Last.fm is innocent.Chances are, Carr writes, the rumour was a hoax, sent in to TechCrunch for some uncertain motive:
Fact Two: And yet, there are certainly trust issues between some at Last and some at CBS.
Fact Three: Techcrunch is not full of shit. Any more.
Fact Four: Techcrunch made every attempt to verify the story.
The answer, as I head towards my penultimate paragraph – the one in which a columnist is suppose to tie everything up with a neat conclusion – is that I don't know who's to blame. And neither does Last or Techcrunch. Something is still missing and sources at both companies remain equally baffled at why so much effort would go in to smearing one or other of them. Only one man, or possibly woman, can say for sure what the truth is – Techcrunch's original tipster. And, wouldn't you know, he or she has since vanished off the map, despite Techcrunch offering both anonymity and expensive legal representation.
Regarding the last post about last.fm: one of last.fm's staff has posted a rebuttal on their web forums, to wit:
* Nobody at Last.fm had any knowledge of our user data being fed to the RIAA (or any labels directly), before or after the alleged incident, or at any other point in the history of the company.Make of that what you will. Assuming the denials are true, last.fm and/or CBS will have no choice but to sue TechCrunch for libel to protect their reputation; it'll be interesting to see how that unfolds.
* We've been in communication with CBS and they deny that they gave any third party any of our user data.
If TechCrunch have any evidence which contradicts any of the statements I've made here, I'd love to see it, but I think someone is taking them for a ride. I'm not sure why, though.
Nonetheless, even if this isn't true, the possibilities it raises are thought-provoking:
Further corroboration of the claim that last.fm handed over user data to the RIAA's enforcement arm, or rather that their parent company requested the data "for internal use only" and then handed it over. Of course, the good folks at last.fm had nothing to say in it, and their denials were sincere, but that doesn't diminish the fact that, if the allegations are true, last.fm (owned by Big Copyright corporation CBS) is now effectively part of the RIAA's intelligence-gathering apparatus:
We provided the data to the RIAA yesterday because we know from experience that they can negatively impact our streaming rates with publishers. Based on the urgency of the request they probably just wanted to learn more about the leak but who knows. Seriously, can you blame them? [______] Our ops team provided the usual reports along with additional log data including user IP addresses. The GM who told them to do it said the data was for internal use only. Well, that was the big mistake. The team in the UK became irate because they had to do it a second time since we were told some of the data was corrupted. This time they transferred the data directly to them and in doing so they discovered who really made the request.Meanwhile, in this thread, several last.fm staff members swear up and down that this didn't happen, and would not have happened, as it would have been against EU data-protection laws and triggered too many red flags. Which could be true, or it could be a plausible cover story. (The RIAA and their goons aren't above bending the law, after all.)
If you don't like lawsuit-happy copyright extortionists keeping a beady eye on your listening habits, you may want to refrain from sending information to last.fm. Fortunately, someone is coming up with an open-source AudioScrobbler-compatible site named libre.fm, which may well end up taking the place of last.fm.
Rumours are abounding that last.fm, a music-based social networking website which voluntarily collects music-listening data from users, has been voluntarily handing data concerning unreleased albums to the RIAA, allowing their search-and-seizure SWAT teams to track down the criminals listening to unreleased U2 albums. Well, some anonymous tipster says that some guy who works for CBS (the Big Copyright corporation which owns last.fm) told them that this is the case, whereas last.fm and various last.fm people (including co-founder and executive Richard Jones) have emphatically denied this. (Which, of course, they could be expected to, as if this turned out to be true, the bad PR would effectively kill last.fm as it currently is (as a social networking site for those passionate about music).)
Of course, even if this isn't true, it could happen; it could be one directive from head office or bad "war on piracy" law away. As such, if you're listening to anything you could be prosecuted for the possession of, turn off your last.fm scrobbler. Or set it to a different account with the identity of the CEO of the RIAA or something. (Hypothetically speaking, of course; The Null Device does not condone identity theft, or, for that matter, listening to U2.)
I wonder how long until some hacktivist writes a bot that is fed with the track listings of unreleased recordings and, when run by a user, automatically reports to last.fm that the tracks had been listened to as an act of anonymous protest. After all, they can't raid everyone, can they; and the existence of such a bot would make the "evidence" useless for prosecution or search warrants.
(via Lachlan) Share
OpenTape is a open-source (PHP-based) implementation of the late lamented Muxtape, a web app which allowed people to make streamable online mix tapes. Now you too can get taken down by the RIAA.
Remember Gracenote, the firm that bought the user-contributed CDDB database and locked it up, locking open-source clients out of it? Well, they've just been bought by Sony. I wonder what this will mean: with Sony BMG being a pillar of the RIAA, will owning a database which receives a notification every time somebody rips a CD be a useful weapon in the War On Copying? And will Apple keep using Gracenote for iTunes now that it's controlled by a rival?
Alternative/industrial musician Trent Reznor has a few words to say about his record company in Australia:
Well, in Brisbane I end up meeting and greeting some record label people, who are pleasant enough, and one of them is a sales guy, so I say "Why is this the case?" He goes "Because your packaging is a lot more expensive". I know how much the packaging costs -- it costs me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a CD with the colour-changing ink on it. I'm taking the hit on that, not them. So I said "Well, it doesn't cost $10 more". "Ah, well, you're right, it doesn't. Basically it's because we know you've got a core audience that's gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever". And I just said "That's the most insulting thing I've heard. I've garnered a core audience that you feel it's OK to rip off? F--- you'. That's also why you don't see any label people here, 'cos I said 'F--- you people. Stay out of my f---ing show. If you wanna come, pay the ticket like anyone else. F--- you guys". They're thieves. I don't blame people for stealing music if this is the kind of s--- that they pull off.
The British government has rejected the recording industry's push to extend copyright terms on music recordings from 50 years to 90. The European parliament previously rejected the same proposal, and the recording industry lobbied Britain, historically one of the global powerbases of Big Copyright and one of the most Atlanticist and pro-corporate governments in the EU. For a while it looked as if the government was going to buy the IFPI/BPI's argument and dismiss the Gowers Report (which argued that copyright term extension was a bad idea), but common sense prevailed and they stuck to their guns.
The Reuters article linked above, however, seems to almost have been written from an IFPI press release; it quotes the recording industry's spokesreptiles at great length, and perpetuates the misconception that recording artists who were around 50 years ago stand to lose huge parts of their incomes and be left penniless in their old age, by mentioning the plights of the likes of Cliff Richard, whose first hit, recorded in 1958, is likely to fall to the ignominy of being in the public domain — whilst neglecting the fact that the vast majority of Richard's catalogue will remain in copyright, quite probably for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, the arguments which swayed Gowers and the British government, such as economic analyses on why copyright extension does more harm than good, are not even mentioned, given the impression that either the honourable MPs were careless, lazy, corrupt, or else under the influence of mind-control rays fired from Cory Doctorow's hot-air balloon, and thus a grievious injustice has been done.
Major recording label EMI has confirmed that it will sell its entire music catalogue in high-quality, DRM-free formats. In a joint announcement in London with Apple's Steve Jobs, EMI's CEO announced that the "premium" versions will be available on iTunes from May for 99p a track, with upgrades from previous downloads available for 15p; standard-quality, DRM-encumbered tracks will remain available for 79p. It is anticipated that the DRM-free downloads will become available on other services (presumably in MP3 or FLAC formats). Doing this, EMI becomes the first major label to join a slew of indie labels selling MP3s through services like EMusic.
Apple boss Steve Jobs shared the platform with Mr Nicoli and said: "This is the next big step forward in the digital music revolution - the movement to completely interoperable DRM-free music."
He added: "The right thing to do is to tear down walls that precluded interoperability by going DRM-free and that starts here today."
Other record companies would soon follow EMI's lead, predicted Mr Jobs.Reports of Edgar Bronfman Jr. throwing a chair through the Warner Music boardroom window have not been confirmed.
In the aftermath of the KaZaA lawsuit, proprietary Windows file-sharing service Grokster suspends operations. Champagne corks pop across Los Angeles as the RIAA declares November 8 to be known, forevermore, as Victory Against Copyright Terrorism Day.
Not all that long after voting to adopt software patents, the EU are moving to legally require currency detection code in all image-processing software. This looks likely to either (a) be utterly ineffective, or (b) be mostly ineffective whilst effectively outlawing open-source graphics software. The precedent it sets is not a good one either; how long until paracopyright enforcement is mandated to be built into anything processing audio or video data, or indeed any copyrightable data?
Meanwhile, British Telecom have taken steps to block access to child pornography websites. A laudable sentiment, though one worries that the site-by-site censorship infrastructure required to implement this could easily be extended to blocking other things (overseas news sites publishing things violating the Official Secrets Act, for example, or MP3 download sites that piss off the local recording industry). One brave step towards the Singaporisation of the internet.
Meanwhile, the RIAA's latest campaign to defend the foundations of capitalism from the enemy within will involve putting fingerprint readers into music players to ensure that nobody who didn't pay for music gets to listen to it. Welcome to the Digital Millennium; make sure you've paid your way.
While we're on the topic, George Romero's classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead has, by some mysterious means, gone out of copyright (funny; I thought only works made before 1924 or sometime did that), and can now be downloaded here. Download sizes range from 4.1G for MPEG2 (which, I presume, is what you'd burn to a DVD) to a svelte 248.8Mb for MPEG4/DivX.
Rocknerd's Ben Butler connects the SCO/Linux lawsuit to the recording industry's woes. What links SCO and the RIAA, you see, is that both have seen their markets become commodified, eroding their business models, which depended on them being able to name their own prices and terms.
The process goes something like this: you sell widgets. You are the only company selling widgets. Some other companies enter the widget market. They undercut your price. But yours are the original, superior widgets, so you charge a premium for them. More competitors enter the market. The price drops more. Suddenly widgets are cheap. Your brand value is eroded - people figure out that all the widgets are substantially the same and besides, even if your widgets are better made than everyone else's, it no longer matters - they're cheap enough to throw out and replace when they break.
These people claim that former RIAA lobbyist Hilary Rosen is now writing intellectual-property laws for the new government of Free Iraq. If this is true, I wonder what bold experiments (abolition of public domain? criminalisation of non-DRM file formats/P2P filesharing? copyright as perpetual property title?) Rosen will have a free hand to try out without the legacy baggage of preexisting laws. Of course, it could be a hoax. (Maybe if the Democrats were in the Whitehouse...) (via bOING bOING)
I know; maybe they can fund the reparation of Iraqi heritage damaged by museum looters by giving the copyrights to Disney or someone and allowing them to invest in rebuilding Mesopotamia, in return for a guarantee that the profits will go swiftly back to head office.
Ding dong, the witch is dead! Hilary Rosen, the much maligned head of the RIAA who spearheaded several aggressive crackdowns on file-sharing and other such crimes, is resigning from the post at the end of the year. It is not clear what, if any, the political outcome of her resignation will be.
Meanwhile, a judge has ruled that a US ISP must reveal the identity of a serial MP3 downloader to the RIAA. Are the days of BSA-style "copyright audits" on private MP3 collections coming? Soon it may be prudent for anybody who has downloaded MP3s from the Internet to destroy their hard disks beyond forensic recoverability, avoiding expensive prosecution and/or lengthy prison terms. (Or, when they come for you, claim you were "just doing research" on music piracy.)
H4x0r group claims to have written universal P2P infector, commissioned by the RIAA. The alleged worm infects MP3 files, exploits vulnerabilities in players under Windows and Linux and sends catalogues of your MP3s to the RIAA as evidence for prosecution. Oh, and did I mention that it's undetectable? So, if you have MP3s, physically destroy your hard disks NOW. (Don't just erase them; computer forensics people can recover wiped disks.) US federal prisons are not pleasant places to be.
(If the RIAA is involved, it'd be more likely that it would be a psychological warfare operation and not a technical operation; the purpose being to destroy as many unrestricted MP3s as possible. It would work like this: circulate a few things like this, stage some arrests (make sure there are TV crews to film the SWAT teams going in) and publicise that the "pirates" were brought to justice by a new P2P worm, and watch guilty geeks nuke their MP3 collections and drop their hard disks in sulphuric acid. Then, when the smoke clears, sell all the songs back to them in rights-managed pay-per-play versions, and laugh all the way to the shareholders' meeting. Could the RIAA possibly have a better way of getting all those pesky MP3 files off the market?)
(Of course, there's also the possibility that it's 100% bullshit made up by some bored teenager.) (via bOING bOING)
And more on the recording industry's systematic defrauding of artists, with Moses "Confessions of a Record Producer" Avalon's reports from recording industry hearings in the US: (via bOING bOING)
1) By contract, artists are prohibited from showing royalty statements to third parties. Normally this would not include their managers, lawyers, consultants, or others who could aid them in getting paid, but apparently this is not necessarily the case. Senator Kevin Murray, leading the initiative for artists' rights, claimed the that Cary Sherman, Chief Counsel for the RIAA himself, said to him in an interview, that RIAA members (the major labels) would sue any artist that broke ranks and shared information with the Committee. This claim was rejected by Sherman but supported by others in the room. Don Henley, among them, outwardly dared his record company to sue him for bringing royalty statements to the hearing. He presented his most recent royalty statement for "Hell Freezes Over," which showed the panel that even though his contract called for a no more than a 10% "reserve" on sales of records shipped, Universal Music had held back more than that for eleven pay periods (roughly under three years) and that, even though his contract calls for no free goods in Europe, they had deducted $87,000 in free goods charges to Europe.
And these mafiosi are the highly moral figures who want to put anti-copying chips in our computers and MP3 players?
Taking an example from such models of enlightened governance as China and Saudi Arabia, the RIAA sues backbone ISPs to force them to block access to copyright-violating Internet sites outside U.S. jurisdiction. It's depressing to think that (a) the U.S. may go down the Saudi path of Internet censorship, and (b) the reason behind this would be to protect the recording racket's revenue stream.
Proof that the webcast royalty scheme now adopted in the US was designed to kill small webcasters, securing a monopoly for large, docile mass-market services, and shoring up the RIAA's "turd-in-a-can" business model of homogenising the market and eliminating alternatives to an easily-manufactured mainstream. (via bOING bOING)
The recording industry in the US is crawing attention to another little-publicised form of piracy and theft that's bleeding it dry: used CD sales. Some voices in the industry are now calling on a federally-mandated royalty on used CD sales, to be distributed to the recording industry (i.e., major labels). (via Slashdot)
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