Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Trek to the North Pole...to go shopping!

This may be a wee bit off topic...but it's just sad. Apparently there is a "Santa Clause Village" mall at the North Pole in Lapland. I'm not even close to "Battle of Seattle" anti-consumerism or anything, but when I go to the North Pole I want there to be either nothing there or some sort of magical elf village, not vendors hawking tourist trinkets. Here's how this New Yorker described it:

I climbed off the bus and stepped right into the village, which was not really a village but a mall, complete with a parking lot and a "you are here" map. The "village" consisted of a cluster of log cabins, including the Arctic Circle Cafe, Santa Claus's Post Office and the Santa Claus Beauty Salon.

Luckily there is also an expanse of true North Poleness to be enjoyed...

I could see what we all imagine of the Arctic Circle: shapes and shadow, unending purity and air, to clear away the wooliest New York neurosis.

Can the New York neurosis be cleared away? I'm not so sure, once you're here they've got you. As Michael Corleone would likely say -"just when you think you're out, they pull you back in."

Here's the article: The New York Times - Take a Left at Lapland: A Trek to Santa's Outpost.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

MMOGs - exciting stuff is happening in the gaming industry and it isn't all about Halo 2 and GTA!

Joystiq has a link to this very cool site (which seems to be down at the moment...) that lists all the massively multiplayer online games (MMOG - Wikipedia entry) out there and graphs their subscription growth.

I find MMOGs to be fascinating because I believe they are a glimpse at what the future of the internet/cyberspace/metaverse will look like years from now - where users have avatars and manipulate the space and objects around them, a much more immersive and social experience. Maybe I'm just a sci-fi geek, but I believe the internet as we know it is just a stepping stone to something much greater. Let's check out some of the exciting happenings in the MMOG world...

I don't have much time to check out all the MMOGs that are out there, but I pop into Second Life on occasion, it is an amazing world in which the users can program their own objects into the world. Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life took a big step last year when they announced that they would allow the players to own the intellectual property in their objects and avatars. One cool thing about Second Life is that the software is free, so it's cheap to give it a go because all you have to do is pay a $10 fee and you're in, most big MMOGs charge for the software in a box and then another $10-15 per month for an account. Linden Labs recently obtained a large infusion of cash from some VC investors, which should allow them to continue their ground breaking work.

Among some of those big and expensive MMOGs are Everquest, better known as Evercrack to addicts. A few years ago I tried out Everquest, which is among the most popular of MMOGs, but it couldn't hold my interest for more than a week or two. Everquest 2 just came out, so we'll see if it can reproduce the success of the first. Another exciting MMOG recent release is the World of Warcraft, which claims to have sold 250,000 boxes in just its first day out and has signed up over 200,000 accounts already. That's big time for an MMOG, but everyone is wondering - when will an English language MMOG break the 1 million member mark? These huge numbers are common in Asian MMOGs, but the North American/European audience is still more limited. A third big one worth mentioning is Star Wars: Galaxies. When I heard about this I was so excited, what nerd wouldn't want to spend some time in the cantina at Mos Eisley near the spaceport? As it turned out Galaxies wasn't as huge a hit as had been hoped, but they did recently expand the game to include the possibility of flying around in space and battling in ships - very cool.

A smaller MMOG I'm keeping my eye on is Puzzle Pirates. It's a terrific concept - you compete in lots of Tetris-style mini-games to complete tasks. You're avatar is a cute little pirate dude of your making and you can travel all over the Puzzle Pirate world from island to island on pirate ships while engaging other ships in battles, playing drinking games in bars, and getting in swordfights, etc. Who doesn't like mini-games? (By the way, if you just dig pirates, check out Sid Meier's new game titled simply Pirates, it isn't a MMOG, but it should be great.)

I have attended the State of Play and SOP 2 conferences here in NYC, which were all about MMOGs and law. There are some very new legal issues that will be confronted due to the growing MMOG phenomenon and lawyers should take note of the fact that the video game industry has and continues to explode. Terra Nova is the blog to check out for regular MMOG news and SOP info, by the way.

I'm hoping to do work in the gaming industry as an attorney, starting in the very near future (I finish up law school in about 6 months). I'd like to work at a firm that will allow me to reach out to the gaming industry for work, I know there's plenty out there. So if anyone out there has any info on who I should talk to about this please let me know!

CD collector sued for downloading songs years ago

Here is another sad example of the MPAA going way too far to nail their customers for P2P file sharing. Brett Bojrab claims he hadn't downloaded music for years, but he had Kazaa on his computer and was providing music for upload the whole time. Kazaa's default setting is to allow sharing, so if you aren't too computer saavy and don't check these things, you could be in this guys shoes.

The irony is that this guy has probably spent well more than most people collecting hundreds of CDs and going to concerts. He already destroyed all the music but the MPAA is demanding he also pay about $5,000 on top of that. Bojrab is currently in pretty bad shape financially, like many people, five grand is an amount of money that would put this guy on the street. This suit must feel like being stabbed in the back for him.

Here's the full story on Brett - FortWayne.com article: Recording giants file copyright suit against city music collector

300 large fine for leaking screener films

And these fines just got bigger with the passage of IPPA the other day! You can get 3 years now as well as this fine for leaking screeners.

A former member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences accused of leaking “screener” copies of movies was fined $300,000 (U.S.), the maximum allowed under federal law.
Apparently Carmine Caridi was sending the films he was given for Academy Award review to his buddy Russell Sprague who was then converting them to DVD and posting them online. Ooooops!

Globe and Mail article: Former Academy member fined for leaking movies

The Micromaxx - got that iPod look and feel?

Here's an iPod mini copyright suit just waiting to be filed.

Engadget: The Micromaxx MM42452 is not an iPod mini ripoff. Except that it is.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

MS may have used a pirated software in XP

Apparently a pirated version of the professional audio editing software called Soundforge (formerly published by Sonic Foundry, now owned by Sony), as used in the making of of the Windows XP help files. The signature of a hacker known as Deepz0ne, who was a member of the cracking group Radium, can be found in the XP help files if they are opened with Notepad instead of an audio player. According to the quoted article, this is the case with all copies of XP. We'll keep you up to date on any possible copyright suits that emerge from this.

Members of a former software cracking group have discovered that audio files created with one of its cracked programs are distributed with each copy of the Windows XP operating system, possibly exposing Microsoft to a large-scale copyright infringement lawsuit.
Tom's Hardware article: Pirated software used to create help content in Microsoft's Windows XP

Monday, November 22, 2004

Perfect 10 Inc. suing Google...

...for providing links to sites that are infringing their copyright in their nudie pics and give away free passwords to their pay site:

Perfect 10 says Google is providing unauthorized access to thousands of its copyrighted pictures.
Google displays the images from rogue websites operated in foreign countries, according to Perfect 10's lawsuit. The search engine also provides links to password hacking sites that provide ways to gain illegal access to Perfect 10's website, the suit alleges.

National Post: Adult entertainment site sues Google for copyright infringement.

Well, there's almost no chance that Google can be sued for linking to sites that give out passwords or provide copyright infringing material. Also, last I'd heard courts had determined that the thumbnail images Google provides in their image search do not infringe on the copyright in those images because the pics are too small and low rez to be of any other use. I'm not sure if that is at issue here or not.

So...now that we have cleared that up...where are these "free peek" sites?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

New search - Google Scholar

There's a new Google search out there for people looking for material from refereed journals. Very cool.

Google Scholar, which was scheduled to go online Wednesday evening at scholar.google.com, is a result of the company's collaboration with a number of scientific and academic publishers and is intended as a first stop for researchers looking for scholarly literature like peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts and technical reports.
The New York Times > Technology > Google Plans New Service for Scientists and Scholars

Google Scholar here - http://scholar.google.com/

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Hollywood starts suing

The MPAA has begun filing lawsuits against downloaders. RIAA deja-vu.

Washington Post: Hollywood Sues Suspected Movie Pirates

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Rod Stewart ordered to repay $780,000


Singer Rod Stewart must repay the $780,000 he accepted as a deposit for a Latin American concert tour that was canceled, a jury ruled Friday. The jury also assessed damages of $1.6 million against Stewart's lawyers and agents at the ICM talent agency for their roles in negotiating a contract for the tour.

Well sheesh, it sounds like they were just straight-up trying to scam these guys, what did Stewart expect?

CNN.com - Rod Stewart ordered to repay $780,000 - Nov 12, 2004

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Spyware charge levelled at Lexmark

It seems that Lexmark may be tracking the usage of its printer customers with spyware:

Spyware charge levelled at Lexmark - silicon.com: "One user said that after initially denying the allegations, Lexmark acknowledged installing tracking software that reported printer and cartridge use back to the company for survey purposes. He claimed that Lexmark said no personal data was taken by the program, and that it was impossible to identify anyone by it.
However, users installing the software are prompted to fill in a registration form including their name and the serial number of the product.
The newsgroup posting claims that the program, found on the X5250 installation software, embeds itself in the registry and monitors the use of the printer"

Via Engadget.

Free culture meet up in Montreal

Sounds cool. Among other things...

A collection of theoretical and analytical works revolving around the issue of Intellectual Property regimes will be published for the occasion, as well as a collection of original artwork. Entrance and all activities are free of charge.
If you're interested check out - Boing Boing: Copyfighter's book-fair in Montreal.

Pirating movies just got even more dangerous

It hasn't been a good year for movie pirates. Projectionists are getting night-vision goggles to see tham and awards to turn them in, the sentances and fines have gone up, etc. Well, it just got even worse:

The company's anti-piracy offering comprises two technologies. The first, PirateEye, detects camcorders and pinhole cameras in the act of bootlegging movies, according to Trakstar. The remote-controlled device looks like a mechanical replica of Darth Vader's head. Perched on a stand directly below the movie screen at the front of the theater, the small black box shoots brief, almost invisible pulses of light at the audience.

Offending camera lenses bounce back a telltale reflection that the device senses, then records on a digital snapshot captured with a built-in digital camera of its own.

See here for more: Wired News: An Eye on Movie Theater Pirates.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Susan Crawford updates us on the Broadcast Flag issue

The FCC has filed its brief in response to the Public Knowledge.org challenge to its new Broadcast Flag rule. The reply suggests that the FCC has sweeping jurisdiction over just about all communications devices. The Broadcast Flag allows the FCC to reach into your televisions and DVRs to keep you from recording content. More on the Broadcast flag can be found here.

Why should you care about the Broadcast Flag and this FCC reply? Susan Crawford:

The thing is, this rule doesn't merely affect TV receiving equipment. It affects everything that RECEIVES digital files from TV receiving equipment as well -- every device inside any home network. It affects the open-platform PC. It's a sweeping rule. And now FCC's jurisdiction to enact this rule is being argued in sweeping terms.

Why should we care about all of this? We should care because if the FCC has the power to act on anything that has something to do with communication, we have only the FCC's self-restraint to rely on when it comes to all internet communications. We should care because we want open platforms and open communications to continue. We should care because the future of the internet is at stake -- the FCC will use its 'ancillary jurisdiction' to impose 'social policies' on any services that use the internet protocol, and will point to its broadcast flag action as support for its jurisdictional claims.
Go read the rest here: Susan Crawford blog :: Does the White House know?

Microsoft to indemnify customers from IP infringement, plus news on the SCO case

Microsoft will indemnify its customers. This is an understandable marketing ploy considering the trouble many Linux users have had from the SCO claims that they own the UNIX code and that Linux infringes on it.
The software maker announced on Wednesday that it will indemnify nearly all its customers against any claims that their use of Microsoft software infringed on any intellectual-property claims. The company said the protection extends to current and older versions of its software, including its Windows operating system, Office desktop software and SQL Server database.
Of course, it's not just altruism that motivates the software maker. The company plans to make indemnity a new plank in its "Get the Facts" campaign, which touts the advantages of Windows over Linux.
MSN Tech & Gadgets Article - Microsoft to back customers in infringement cases & Slashdot - MS Indemnifies Customers Against IP Threats

In related news there may be some new evidence in the SCO case that will have quite an impact:
Groklaw is reporting that Novell has just filed a reply with an exhibit in support of their motion to dismiss SCO's complaint. The exhibit consists of "1995 minutes from the corporate kit of a meeting of the Board of Directors, which clearly and unequivocably say that Novell was to retain the UNIX copyrights in the sale to Santa Cruz that year."

Slashdot - Novell Pulls Out Their Ace Against SCO

SCO is claiming the copyright in UNIX, obviously if they said in board meeting that they did not then that would be a big problem for their case. Hopefully this Linux/SCO case is resolved soon, it's been going on for so long.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Beasties win copyright suit re sampling

I wasn't aware that the Beastie Boys were involved in a copyright suit over a sample used in the song "Pass the Mic" on the 1992 album "Check Your Head."

Chief Judge Mary Schroeder [of the 9th Circ.] wrote in her opinion: "We hold that Beastie Boys' use of a brief segment of that composition, consisting of three notes separated by a half-step over a background C note, is not sufficient to sustain a claim for infringement of Newton's copyright,".
Apparently the BBoys paid a licensing fee to use the 6 sencond sample from jazz flutist James Newton's 1978 composition "Choir." Whoever. Apparently his publishers thought they deserved more.

Article here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Lots of music piracy news these days

In the last few days we've heard that new albums by U2, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg have all been leaked onto P2P sites prior to their release dates. Obviously this can seriously harm sales to people who would've purchased the albums upon their release. In all of the cases above the publishers have pushed up the release dates on the albums. For more on this check out - Yahoo! News - "Bomb" Away: U2 Piracy Nightmare and E! Online News - Eminem's Early "Encore". No amount of security seems to be enough to keep albums from "early releases" on P2P nets these days.

In addition, there's a new study out, "Piracy on the High Cs," compiled by University of Pennsylvania professors Rafael Rob and Joel Waldfogel in which they find that record sales in the US have fallen because of people using the internet to download albums. Now this may not sound like big news, but in fact the leading study up to this point has said just the oppisite: "The study contradicts a previous report, conducted in 2002, which said swapping songs online had no negative effect on music sales. That report, by Harvard and North Carolina universities, said high levels of file-swapping had an effect that was 'indistinguishable from zero.'"

The newer study, which was commissioned by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, looks at the music-buying habits of 412 college students and found that the US music industry lost one fifth of a sale for each album downloaded from the internet. Learn more about the report here - BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music piracy 'does hit CD sales'

Freedom Tower architectural design copyright dispute

An architect is suing over the design of the Freedom Tower. This has received quite a bit of attention in the press. Gothamist has it covered here:

A former Yale architecture student is suing architect David Childs and architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, claiming they stole his design and used it for Freedom Tower at the WTC site. Thomas Shine and his lawyer say that in 1999, Shine's design for "Olympic Tower" was evaluated in Yale class by Childs who said of the twisted tower and exterior grid, "It is a very beautiful shape...
More articles: NY Daily News, CNN, NY Newsday, NY Lawyer, CBS

Miami trademarks 'Gateway to the Americas'

Florida officials trademarked Miami as the 'Gateway to the Americas,' hoping to fend off other cities seeking the title as the region tries to land the headquarters of a free trade zone.
The trademark is part of Miami's strategy to host the permanent headquarters of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Atlanta, a rival for the secretariat, once used the tag line.

Yahoo! News - Miami Trademarkd 'Gateway to the Americas'

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