Saturday, September 25, 2004

Trouble brewing over at "free ipods dot com"

I commented on this free iPod scheme before here, go read that first.

Essentially the site will send you a free iPod if you sign up for a promotion such as a credit card or a trial period of receiving the New York Times and then get a bunch of your friends to do the same.

At first people questioned whether it was a scam, but after an article in WIRED about the site it really blew up and there were enough testimonials by people who actually got a free iPod to convince lots of others to get in on the action.

According to this new WIRED article, more recently there have been complaints.
However, Wired News has been inundated with complaints about spam, mishandled accounts and shipping delays.

Earlier this month, Jim Youll, a 39-year-old CTO from Cambridge, Massachusetts, signed up with a virgin e-mail address and within hours started receiving spam.
"I am still getting spammed and so are the people who signed up for me," he said. "They stay true to their word that they will get you out a product, but their customer service is miserable."
There are several records of complaints against Gratis Internet and its affiliate websites with the Better Business Bureau of Washington, D.C., but they are all listed as resolved.

A spokeswoman said the bureau has received about 30 complaints about the company, but was unable to elaborate. She said to her knowledge, all the complaints had been addressed.

Of course the company denies all the charges:
"We are suspending all marketing via email to our customers, and wanted to make sure you knew this was an important and sensitive issue for us," Martin wrote in an e-mail. "Sending promotions to users is a fairly standard practice for many industries, as an additional source of revenue, but we definitely want to continue to spread a positive and trustworthy image of our company down the road."

They say they've had trouble getting the iPods out due to problems with Apple. Personally, I recommend biting the bullet and buying your MP3 player. But don't waste your money on an iPod, go with the superior and cheaper Dell DJ.

NY Judge Baer strikes down bootleg law

A federal grand jury indicted alleged bootlegger Jean Martignon in 2003 for selling "unauthorised recordings of live performances by certain music artists through his business".
Judge Harold Baer Jr, sitting in New York, dismissed charges against a Manhattan-based record dealer which had been brought under the law.
But Judge Baer said US law unfairly granted "seemingly perpetual protection" to the original performances.

US law defines bootlegs as being recordings of the original performances, as opposed to copies of already released music, such as live albums, which are dealt with under piracy legislation.
In a shocking move:

The Recording Industry Association of America criticised the judge's ruling.

So J. Baer is wondering why there is no time limit on the copyright of material recorded during a live performance. That's a good question. Is it perpetual? Can you sell bootlegged material 70 years after the death of the artists who performed in the recording and be a-ok? I think J. Baer is asking a good question, but he seems to be one of those "liberal activist judges" to me.

BBC Article here.

And yes, it's that Judge Baer, the same one that in 1996 ruled that the search of a car was unreasonable because police brutality and corruption are so prevalent in some neighborhoods in New York City that it is natural for people to run away from police. He said that even innocent people flee the police in Washington Heights, a neighborhood where officers were viewed as "corrupt, violent and abusive."

After political pressure came from all directions, including from President Clinton himself (who actually appointed J. Baer), Judge Baer reversed himself and allowed the drug evidence in (80 pounds of cocaine). Judge Baer claimed he reversed himself because of the testimony of a second witness and not because of the political pressure. Although many people considered J. Baer's decision a slap in the face to NYC police officers, the ultimate result of that case made people wonder about true judicial independence.

Here's an article about a more recent J. Baer controversy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Rosie O'Donnell in copyright scuffle over courtroom sketches

This is a strage copyright case. Apparently Rosie used two artist's courtroom sketches in a sort of collage she made to commemorate her courtroom experience, her own original artwork. (She was recently involved in a lawsuit over her failed magazine, "Rosie.") She also cut off their signatures and addresses on the pictures. The only reason Rosie had the pics is because the artists gave her small copies so she could determine if she would like to purchase the originals. The piece that O'Donnell created turned up for sale in the POP International Gallery in SoHo, NYC, and also in a Key West gallery.

The artists are seeking damages of $1 million. I have a feeling that the damages are nowhere near that amount.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Non Sequitur on Hawking's recent thoughts on black holes & Swamy Raj is still pissed

I'm sure that Raj Baldev would agree with this Non Sequitur.

For those that have missed it, this post I did awhile back on Raj Baldev, an Indian cult leader/astrologer/scientist who claims Hawking stole his "copyrighted" ideas about black holes, has been one of my most controversial. Seriously, I doubt anyone has ever stolen an idea from the smartest guy on planet earth. Anyway, it has attracted a slew of comments from all over the globe. Ok, so only from India and the US, but they are so funny. Go and entertain yourself. Check out the post about Swamy Raj here and then check out the comments.

The Boondocks on bootlegging

The Boondocks on the plight of the poor bootlegger. That darn internet is hitting their profit margins too!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Net Virus Turf War Resumes plus Bounty Offered for Turning in Big Spammers

Those crazy virus writer gangs are at it again.

In related news: the FTC will reward you with between $100,000 and $250,000 if you turn in big time spammers to the Feds. Oddly, the FBI offers only $50,000 for tips leading to the capture of the top ten most wanted criminals in the USA, who are typically more violent than spammers. So, if you know any spammers get on the phone to the FTC, there's big money in it for ya!

Articles on spammer bounty here and here.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Guilty verdict by drunk juror ok'd by NY judge

I'll keep this in mind when I get called for jury duty. Apparently drinking on that job is a-ok:
That was the ruling served up yesterday by a judge who refused to overturn a guilty verdict after a juror admitted boozing it up during deliberations. The unnamed Manhattan juror downed at least 6 ounces of vodka last spring while weighing the evidence against a retired firefighter who was convicted of stealing artifacts from Ground Zero.
So says this article in the New York Daily News. Here's an article on this situation in the NYT, which notes:
The justice, in her opinion, relied on a 1987 United States Supreme Court decision involving a jury that made Juror No. 4 [our drunk guy] look like a Calvinist preacher. Those jurors ... drank, used cocaine, smoked marijuana, sold drugs to one another and slept through a conspiracy and fraud trial that one juror called "one big party."

In that case, the court ruled: "However severe their effect and improper their use, drugs or alcohol voluntarily ingested by a juror seems no more an 'outside influence' than a virus, poorly prepared food or a lack of sleep."

Our drunk juror number 4 has been identified as 57 year old John Anastas from the East Village. I'm sure his parents are proud.

Via Gothamist.

I wouldn't call this a "new" law, sampling without permission will always get you trouble but...

No DJ or producer is safe:

In a decision affecting Hip-Hop producers and artists, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Nashville created what it called a "new rule" in copyright law on Sept. 7.

The "new rule" states that Hip-Hop artists must pay for every sample that they use to create their composition -- regardless of the size of the sample or how it has been altered.
As a Hip-Hop producer, employing samples extensively, and a Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology, Wayne Marshall has a lot to say about the ruling. "It seems that the law is simply out-of-step with common practice at this point, and that's unfortunate -- for it breeds disrespect for the law.

"Historically, the law has had to adapt to cultural practice lest the scales of justice seem tipped. Judges and lawmakers should recognize that technology has changed the way people make and think about music. At any rate, with turntables outselling guitars and music-making software proliferating, I think the cat's out of the bag. Every new ruling is another finger in the dyke."
The sample at issue was two seconds of a guitar, the pitch was lowered from the original, and it was looped. The idea that the law, and copyright in particular, should evolve with the use of content by the popular culture is not new. Copyright law changed dramatically with the invention of the printing press, again when the VCR/Betamax arrived, and it is in a state of flux at the moment because of new digital technologies that make copying easy.

As we know from past experience, content producers have adjusted to "threats" like the VCR by turning them into money making machines by accounting for new technology in their business plans (movie rentals in that case, iTunes now). Unfortunately, when it comes to copyright these days it's all about locking down content, keeping it out of the public domain, and eroding fair use rights. The proposed Induce Act is the latest major example of how big time content producers (RIAA, MPAA) are attempting to keep consumers and artists from utilizing media as they please.

Sampling will get you in trouble, no doubt about that. Using any sample without permission is basically moronic at this point, considering how many legal problems artists have had with it. As the article says, sampling will evolve so that the samples are too difficult to recognize, but it will not stop. Why? Because that's how art is made, like knowledge, it builds from what came before. That's why these sort of decisions are disturbing, they appear to grant a veto over innovation to content producers.

For the rest of the sampled article above see here.

UPDATE: Here are some other articles on this case. An article in the Boston Globe has much more on the background of this case (which involved NWA) and others that have impacted sampling (involving De La Soul, etc.), check it out.

The consensus in the news seems to be that before this case taking a two second sample was fair use, but now any sample, no matter how small, will cost you if you don't get permission.

For up-to-the-minute news coverage of this situation check here.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Boondocks on copyright

A soon to be classic Boondocks cartoon re the Respect Copyrights campaign.

See it here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Maybe we should be harder on China instead of our own tech industry?

WaPo is running a good article about piracy in China: Pirated Goods Swamp China.

The disconnect between the official word from the capital and the actuality of the street highlights the entrenched nature of one of the most nettlesome trade conflicts between Washington and Beijing. Though China is in the midst of one of a series of periodic crackdowns, experts said the continued blatant sales illustrate that the government is more interested in managing the politics of the problem than curbing the reality.
In recent months, the Bush administration, facing pressure to address the United States' $124 billion trade deficit with China, has accused Beijing of unfair business practices.
But intellectual property experts said the recent activities have been more political theater than a genuine shift in market activity in an effort to give the Bush administration something it can use to declare progress in an election year.

While we are back here trying to pass the Induce Act (IICA), China is actually costing our copyright industries hundreds of billions of dollars in losses (and we are running a similarly huge trade deficit with them). Maybe our priorities are a bit screwed up? Instead of trying to squeeze US consumers and grant content makers a veto over new technologies capable of copying, thus stifling US tech innovation, why don't we try to actually do something about the situation in China?

Don't forget to stop by the Induce Act blog for all your Induce Act news and links!

Monday, September 06, 2004

New documentary: "Willful Infringement"

There's a documentary out that you will not find at Blockbuster called Willful Infringement. It's about the struggles endured by several people who have been sued for infringement, the concept of originality in creative work, and the current state of the copyright law in the US.

Willful Infringement features commentators and copyright suit parties such as Public Enemy, U2, Lessig, Disney, The Wind Done Gone author Alice Randall, Jed Horovitz, Mazen Mawlawi, etc. Apparently the video was featured last year on Illegal Art, but I haven't heard of it until now. It appears to be an anti-corporate rant that, based on the preview, doesn't get the law correct all the time. On the other hand, the general message of the film is one that Copyfighters want the public to hear -- that copyright is being used to stifle creativity by propertizing what should be their public domain material.

Check out the videos and previews at the bottom of the Willful Infringement homepage. Here is a review of the film at The film homepage has little laudatory blurbs by Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow, so maybe that counts for something.

You can buy the film if you're willing to drop $55. I'm not, but maybe we could have a viewing by local NYC blawggers and split the cost. Write me if you're interested: ccohen (at) gmail dot com.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Good old fashioned infringement?

I love posting pictures of trademark infringing businesses. Here's a good one:

"MaDonals" in Iraq. Also see "6-Eleven." (via BoingBoing)

Here are some of my old favorites from a trip I took to Geneva and Cannes:
The Disney Pizzaria

Friday, September 03, 2004

Justice Dept fighting for privacy rights alongside EFF and CDT in Councilman case

Remember that disastrous, but not surprising, Councilman decision? Here's what you need to know. It was the one in which the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ISPs can spy on their users by copying a user's incoming email messages to their own mailbox.

The case centered on Bradford C. Councilman, an online bookseller who offered his customers free e-mail accounts and then sifted through e-mails from to his customers.
The dismissal of the case was based on the regular (but ridiculous) reading of the Wiretap Act so that to illegally "intercept" a communication it must be en route, as opposed to "stored." Obviously in a digital world in which communications are exchanged (traveling) so quickly they cannot be "intercepted."

So essentially all emails are considered to be "stored" and therefore it is ok for anyone to read them. Pretty ridiculous, the interest being protected by this reading of the Wiretap Act was that of law enforcement. A statute as old as the Wiretap Act (enacted in 1968) really just can't deal with a digital world.

A three-judge panel from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, arguing that the wiretap law did not apply since the e-mails were stored, even if only for seconds, on Councilman's computer.

Apparently even the Justice Dept. thinks this ruling went too far though. They are fighting the ruling, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Library Association. That doesn't happen often, usually these groups are suing the Justice Dept. Well, I suppose we can all agree on some things.

Here's the EFF amicus brief. Here is an article in WIRED from today, from which I cited above. Here's aWIRED article about the original dismissal.

Old spyware causes the new Service Pack 2 to freeze up some PCs

Spyware already on computers is causing problems for some who install the new Service Pack 2. SP2 is largely aimed at making Windows XP more secure, but it appears that if you already have a bunch of spyware on your computer (and you certainly do if you don't use a spyware killer) then you may have some trouble.

Barry Goff, a group product manager at Microsoft, said some spyware could cause computers to freeze up upon installation of the update...
Programs such as Ad-Aware and SpySweeper can scour computers for spyware. Microsoft recommends that users clean their PCs of spyware and back up their data before turning on the auto update feature that automatically downloads Service Pack 2, or SP2.

WaPo article here.

We got minis at Cardozo

A Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law student is featured in the NYT article, "Miniskirt Protocols."

The goal is to avoid having your bottom "touch too much of the seat," said Jessica Oser, 24, who sported a lavender polo shirt and khaki mini as she browsed at the Union Square farmers' market this week. Ms. Oser, a student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, never wears a miniskirt when she takes a New Jersey Transit train to visit her parents, since crossing her legs properly seems infinitely more difficult on those train seats.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

RNC pics, round three

Here are yesterday's RNC pics, from Union Square, NYC.

Union Square is only two blocks from my law school, which by the way, just started up again for me on Monday (hence few posts this week as I get back into the swing of it).

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