Andorin writes: Put off by the general public's easy access to strong communications encryption systems, a group of federal law enforcement and national security officials have pulled together a plan that aims to ease the government's burdens when carrying out digital wiretaps. Under the proposed measures, which are to be submitted next year, communications services that encrypt connections between users, such as Skype, would be required to provide a way for law enforcement agents to decrypt messages- essentially a backdoor in the services. Additionally, any software that encrypts connections and is not overseen by a central authority, such as OTR for instant messaging and PGP/GPG for email, must be redesigned to include a backdoor for federal officials. The EFF's article about the proposal reminds readers of the "crypto-wars" of the 1990s, when the government attempted to undermine encryption software, but failed in the courts in 1999.
Andorin writes: Suddenlink, a United States ISP that serves nineteen states, has implemented a three-strikes policy. Subscribers who receive three DMCA takedown notices are disconnected without compensation for a period of six months. According to TorrentFreak, the takedown notices do not have to be substantiated in court, which effectively means that subscribers can be disconnected based on mere accusations. In justifying the policy, Suddenlink turns to an obscure provision of their Terms of Service, but also claims that they are required by the DMCA to disconnect repeat offenders.
Andorin writes: The UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has released a report (PDF) related to the new Digital Economy Act. The debate between copyright holders and ISPs about who should front the costs for the enforcement of the Act's anti-piracy provisions has come to a close: Rights holders will pay 75% of the copyright enforcement costs, with the remaining 25% of the bill going to ISPs (and therefore their customers). Says the Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey: 'Protecting our valuable creative industries, which have already suffered significant losses as a result of people sharing digital content without paying for it, is at the heart of these measures... We expect the measures will benefit our creative economy by some £200m per year and as rights holders are the main beneficiaries of the system, we believe our decision on costs is proportionate to everyone involved.' Not surprisingly, some ISPs and consumer groups are up in arms about the decision, with one ISP calling it a government subsidy of the entertainment industries.
Andorin writes: US Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke went to Nashville, Tenassee's Belmont University yesterday to give a speech about the Obama administration's position with regards to online piracy. 'As Vice President Biden has said on more than one occasion,' said Locke, '“Piracy is flat, unadulterated theft,” and it should be dealt with accordingly.' Locke reassured the attendees that piracy and copyright issues, particularly music piracy, have the government's full attention, and summarized a few plans the feds have for copyright enforcement, including "strengthening the international copyright system" and collaborating with ISPs and copyright holders to reduce infringement. Additionally, he said this about affected musicians: 'Recently, I've had a chance to read letters from award winning writers and artists whose livelihoods have been destroyed by music piracy. One letter that stuck out for me was a guy who said the songwriting royalties he had depended on to “be a golden parachute to fund his retirement had turned out to be a lead balloon.” This just isn't right.' Locke praised the Internet for its innovative atmosphere while simultaneously mourning rampant infringement, which he implies is responsible for declining music revenues over the last decade, and concluded his remarks with a note on the Performance Rights Bill, which requires radio broadcasters to pay royalties to recording artists and record labels in addition to songwriters.
Andorin writes: Earlier this month a copy of a draft of the Czech Republic's new Copyright Act [Czech PDF] was leaked to Pirate News. Among several disturbing provisions include new regulations of "public licenses" such as Creative Commons licenses and the GPL/BSD licenses. The amendment essentially requires that an artist wishing to use a public license must notify the administrator of a collecting agency, and must prove that they created the work in question. This goes against one of the strengths of Creative Commons and other licenses, namely the ease with which they can be applied. Additionally, collecting agencies will have increased jurisdiction over copylefted and orphaned works. ZeroPaid covers the story, noting that the amendment also reduces the royalties which artists receive from libraries by 40%, with that money instead going directly to publishers.
Andorin writes: A tweet from the EFF pointed me to a short article which detailed part of Eric Schmidt's speech to the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe on August 4. According to Schmidt, true transparency and anonymity on the Internet will become a thing of the past because of the need to combat criminal and "anti-social" behavior. "Governments will demand it," he says, referring to full accountability and a "name service for people," possibly hinting towards mandatory Internet passports. The CEO of Google also made a couple of somewhat creepy references to the availability of information: ""If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use artificial intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go.. show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don't have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You've got Facebook photos!"
Andorin writes: It's common knowledge that the majority of files distributed over BitTorrent violate copyright, though the exact percentage is unclear. The Internet Commerce Security Laboratory of the University of Ballarat in Australia has conducted a study and found that 89% of files examined were in fact infringing, while most of the remaining 11% were ambiguous but likely to be infringing. Ars Technica summarizes the study: "The total sample consisted of 1,000 torrent files—a random selection from the most active seeded files on the trackers they used. Each file was manually checked to see whether it was being legally distributed. Only three cases—0.3 percent of the files—were determined to be definitely not infringing, while 890 files were confirmed to be illegal. " The study brings with it some other interesting statistics; out of the 1,000 files, 91 were pornographic, and approximately 4% of torrents were responsible for 80% of seeders. Music, movies and TV shows constituted the three largest categories of shared materials, and among those, zero legal files were found.
Andorin writes: Anyone familiar with the piracy debate should remember the claims from organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America that piracy causes billions of dollars in damages and costs thousands of jobs. Other studies have concluded differently, ranging from finding practically no damages to a newer study that cites "up to 20%" as a more accurate figure [pdf]. I figure there's got to be an easier way to do this, so here's my question: Does anyone know of any creative works that were provably a financial failure due to piracy? The emphasis on "provably" is important, as some form of evidence is necessary. Accurately and precisely quantifying damages from p2p is impossibly hard, of course, but answering questions like this may lead us to a clearer picture of just how harmful file sharing really is. I would think that if piracy does cause some amount of substantial harm, we would see that fact reflected in our creative works, but I've never heard of a work that tanked because people shared it online.
Andorin writes: According to Drew Wilson at ZeroPaid and Cory Doctorow, the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), a US organization that aims to collect royalties for its members for the use of their copyrighted works, has began soliciting donations to fight key organizations of the free culture movement, such as Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge. According to a letter received by ASCAP member Mike Rugnetta, "Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “Copyleft” in order to undermine our “Copyright.” They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth in these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free." (Part 1 and part 2 of the letter.) The collecting agency is asking that its professional members donate to its Legislative Fund for the Arts, which appears to be a lobbying campaign meant to convince Congress that artists should not have the choice of licensing their works under a copyleft license.
Andorin writes: Ars Technica is reporting that a French bill known as LOPPSI2 has been passed by the National Assembly (Google translation) and will now be considered by the Senate. Among other things, the bill triples the number of active surveillance cameras in use by the government, implements a new curfew for minors, and of course, introduces Internet censorship provisions aimed at fighting everyone's favorite excuse, child pornography. Apparently the French government, including Sarkozy himself (French PDF), is not shy about admitting that these provisions, which will be managed by the HADOPI committee, can and will be extended to include enforcement of copyright. The provisions for Internet censorship include state-sponsored spyware, national blacklists of websites, and large databases of user data known as "Pericles."
Andorin writes: The ongoing trial against Alan Ellis, former administrator of the late p2p website OiNK, ended today, with the jury unanimously deciding that Ellis is not guilty of conspiracy to defraud the music industry. Despite the prosecution's strong insistence that OiNK was a website set up for Ellis to profit from copyright infringement (citing substantial donations from users to the site as evidence), he has been acquitted of all charges. Speaking for the defense, Alex Stein praised Ellis: “In many societies he’d be an innovator, a creator, a Richard Branson. His talent would be moulded, not crushed by some sort of media organization [the IFPI]." Stein insists that the IFPI's members used OiNK to promote their works, only deciding to have it closed down when it was no longer convenient for them. “All of us here are being manipulated to some sort of marketing strategy by the IFPI. If anybody’s acting dishonestly it’s them,” he said.
Andorin writes: An independently filmed adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, called The Hero Of Time, has been taken offline by Nintendo as of the end of December. The film's producers write: "We came to an agreement with Nintendo earlier this month to stop distributing the film... We understand Nintendo’s right to protect its characters and trademarks and understand how in order to keep their property unspoiled by fan’s interpretation of the franchise, Nintendo needs to protect itself — even from fan-works with good intentions." Filming for the feature-length, non-profit film began in August 2004 and the movie was completed in 2008. It premiered in various theatres worldwide, including in New York and Los Angeles, and then became available online in the middle of December, before it was targeted by Nintendo's legal team. As both an avid Zelda fan and an appreciator of independent works, I was extremely disappointed in Nintendo's strong-arming of a noncommercial adaptation to the Game of the Year for 1999.
Andorin writes: Section 92.a of New Zealand's Copyright Act, the name for a set of proposed "graduated response" laws, has been rewritten following widespread public opposition to the original. The result: "Guilt by accusation" is now out, and rightsholders will have a tougher time fining or disconnecting infringers, according to Ars Technica. "Under the new rules, rightsholders can now notify ISPs about alleged infringement, and ISPs will forward those notices to subscribers (called notice-and-notice). After three such letters, rightsholders can choose to go to a special Copyright Tribunal to seek a fine or go to court to seek a disconnection of up to six months." While the revised 92.a proposition is easier overall on Internet users, the fundamental premise of disconnection from the Internet for copyright infringement remains. The laws are slated for introduction in 2010.
Andorin writes: Ars Technica and The Register discuss the release of software called "Detect and Eliminate Computer Assisted Forensics" (DECAF), a tool developed to counter Microsoft's intelligence tool COFEE. DECAF will monitor Windows systems for signs of activity from COFEE, and according to Ars, it "deletes COFEE's temporary files, kills its processes, erases all COFEE logs, disables USB drives, and even contaminates or spoofs a variety of MAC addresses to muddy forensic tracks." At 181 KB, DECAF is lightweight and can be found on BitTorrent networks or on its own website.