Tuesday, May 29, 2007

iTunes Launches DRM-Free Music

It took them the whole month to do it, but they kept their word: Apple said we would have DRM-free iTunes music in May, and today they delivered. From Mac Rumors (the only ones covering this at the moment of posting):
Apple released iTunes 7.2 updated in the Mac OS X Software Update tonight, which offers support for "iTunes Plus", Apple's new DRM-free $1.29 offerings announced in April.

"iTunes Plus"? If the price hike for no DRM wasn't bad enough, calling something that reasonably should be considered industry standard a "Plus" feature is quite annoying. Of bigger note is the fact that no DRM-free content is actually available yet, which will hopefully appear by morning (May 30).

Previous Coverage

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Awesome mashup of Disney cartoons to explain copyright and fair use.

Illegal Downloading and USC

In April, someone posted on the blog about a survey on p2p.net regarding illegal downloading and the public's general opinion on their chances of becoming a victim. For my final project, I tweaked the survey and decided to distribute it to USC students to get a sample of how students on campus feel about downloading. I surveyed 224 students over a three day span and the results were interesting. I thought an overwhelming majority of students would be illegal downloaders, but to my suprise, many students want nothing to do with downloading. Instead of giving the lengthy discussion, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

1. Do you download illegally?
YES 121 (54%)
NO 103 (46%)

2. If you answered yes, what type of media do you download? (students could choose more than one, thus the discrepancy in percentages)
MUSIC 114 (94%)
MOVIES 33 (27%)
TV SHOWS 26 (22%)
SOFTWARE 19 (16%)

3. Do you feel downloading through USC puts you at greater risk for being caught by the RIAA?
YES 158 (71%)
NO 64 (29%)

4. Has the influx of RIAA lawsuits caused you to stop downloading?
YES 72 (32%)
NO 159 (68%)

5. How do you rate your chances of becoming an RIAA victim?
HIGH 23 (10%)
MEDIUM 72 (32%)
LOW 129 (58%)

6. Do you believe file sharing is devastating to the music industry?
YES 53 (24%)
NO 171 (76%)

7. Do you know anyone who has received an RIAA subpoena?
YES 105 (47%)
NO 119 (53%)

8. Finally, what might stop you from illegally downloading?
CHEAPER CDS 133 (56%)
NOTHING 35 (15%)

I was surprised to see that many students had no interest in downloading, because almost everyone I know in college downloads illegally whether it's software, music, or movies. But after talking to students, I found that many find the idea of downloading too "complex" and time consuming. If they really want something, they ask a friend, but most don't even bother. In the end, it appears as though downloading is extremely binary. You do or you don't. And as I learned in this survey, half do, and half don't.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

RIAA vs College Students: Covering the Story on Your Campus

Project Summary:
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has decided to target college students in their attempt to fight piracy. They've sent out hundreds of pre-litigation settlement letters to students who share copyrighted music. Some universities have fought to protect their students identities from the RIAA, while other schools have been compliant with the RIAA's request. This semester I decided to find out what my school's stance was on the issue. For my final PWNED class project, I wrote a guide for other student journalists wishing to cover the same topic at their own campus. It should be used as an initial research to the article and also as a resource for finding the right people to interview. The project is intended to facilitate writing similar articles for various college campus newspapers. My goal is to promote awareness of a pressing issue affecting college students nationwide.

Download PDF

The RIAA vs. College Students: Covering the Story on Your Campus

Do you work for your college newspaper or TV station and need a story idea? Well, here’s a topic most university students in the U.S. can relate to: downloading and sharing digital music. Anti-piracy commercials and campaigns are constantly telling our generation to stop downloading copyrighted work, but most students do it anyways. That’s gotten some people into trouble with the Recording Industry of America (RIAA). The RIAA is now targeting college students in their fight to stop piracy by sending out pre-litigation settlement letters. There is controversy surrounding these letters & how universities should respond. This paper is a guide to help you, a student journalist, cover the issue on your own campus.

Why should I write about it?
Most college students download music or digital files on their computers using Peer-to-Peer file sharing software. Sharing music files on P2P applications is considered sufficient to claim copyright infringement. There is an ongoing battle regarding file sharing on college campuses throughout the nation. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) has recently been sending “pre-litigation settlement letters” to hundreds of college students they accuse of illegal downloading. Although you may not have personally received a letter or know anyone that has, it is an issue that is applicable to all college students.
As the RIAA continues sending settlement letters to various schools, it is important to understand what your University will do to protect it’s students. Many different universities have taken different approaches to dealing with the situation; some have simply complied with the RIAA by identifying their students, others have not. By investigating what your school administration’s stance is, you will be able to inform students about their legal options, appropriate ways to deal with a settlement, and even how to prevent getting into a lawsuit.

What is the Issue About?
The RIAA has sent out pre-litigation settlement letters to hundreds of unidentified parties or “John Does” they accuse of illegal downloading. The heart of the issue lies in whether the RIAA is going through a lawful process to obtain the identities of students they think are doing something illegal. The RIAA says they are sending letters to college students as a way to fight piracy. Others say it is simply an extortion campaign that takes advantage of college students and does not adhere with due process of law. They claim that Federal privacy laws prevent putting record-industry lawyers in touch with students.

How the Settlement Process Works:
The first thing that happens is that RIAA goes to a judge in order to obtain an “ex-parte” order to issue a subpoena for a school to identify certain IP addresses. What does that mean? Well, an “ex parte” decision is one that is decided by a judge without requiring all parties to be present. In this case it means only the RIAA is there. It also means that the universities receive no notice that the RIAA has gone to obtain a subpoena.
Once the RIAA obtains a subpoena from a judge it sends that subpoena to the university asking the school to match a list of IP address to particular students. An IP addresses is like an electronic address, almost like a street address, that can uniquely identify a specific computer. A University can then choose to quash the subpoena or forward the settlement letters to its students. At that point students can choose to settle or fight a lawsuit against the RIAA.

Getting Initial Information
You can obtain many of the basic facts about the settlements by simply searching on the Internet for different documents. Here is a list of some helpful documents and websites to help get you started.
1. http://www.riaa.com/ The Recording Industry of America
2. http://www.eff.org/ The Electronic Frontier Foundation. Make sure to check out their section on file sharing that includes a petition they’ve formed to stop file sharing lawsuits.
3. http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/CSD4832.pdf A copy of a Notification of Copyright Infringement.
4. www.eff.org/IP/P2P/RIAAatTWO_FINAL.pdf RIAA vs. the People, a document written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation explaining John Doe settlements

What else has been written?
Various news organizations, technology websites, and blogs have been writing about the issue. Some campus newspapers have already written articles when some of their own students received settlement letters. Check out these articles:
1. http://thephoenix.com/article_ektid38703.aspx - University of Maine
2. http://www.dailyevergreen.com/pdfs.php?date=04/17/2007&page_num=05 The Daily Evergreen
3. http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070417-ncsu-students-v-riaa-the-fight-has-just-begun.html - NCSU
4. http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070320-university-of-wisconsin-decides-not-to-pass-along-riaa-settlement-letters.html - University of Wisconsin


Now it’s time for interviewing! As all journalists know, it’s important to get the facts yourself… If you are at a university that has already received settlement letters from the RIAA, my suggestion is to ask students on campus if they know anyone that has received a letter. If you find out a name, talk to them!
If your school hasn’t gotten any letters that’s okay, you still have a story! It’s still useful to find out what type of approach your school will take when handling these types of cases. Call your administration. Here’s who to talk to:
1. Media Relations- they may have a statement prepared
2. Your school’s General Council- they handle all of the legal work for your school
3. The Information Technology department- They handle problems involving the school’s network.
4. The DMCA Agent- Each school is required to have a DMCA Agent who is often responsible for dealing with any copyright complaint issued to the school. Every school is required to have a link on their website to the agent. Here’s how to find it: www.(yourschool).edu /dmca

Talk to Law professors and law firms near your school. They can help you out with any legal questions you still may not understand. If you can obtain a copy of a settlement case, ask them to explain to you what each Exhibit means & how students can fight the settlements.
1. Talk to a Law Professor that teaches issues about digital rights & ask them about copyright of digital files
2. Contact a law firm that represents one of the record labels that are a part of the RIAA
3. Find a lawyer that’s fighting against the RIAA. To find one in your state, look at the Recording Industry vs. The People website… Ray Beckerman has compiled a list of lawyers to contact. http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com/#directory

Find organizations on campus know about the subject. Many student groups are interested in music rights and copyright issues. See if your school has a group, like Free Culture, that is willing to share their opinion on the subject matter.

Lastly, call the RIAA! See if anyone there will talk to you or issue a statement about the lawsuits! They’re hard to get a hold of, but if someone does talk to you, be prepared to ask questions!

Writing The Story
Once you’ve gotten both sides of the story, you can begin writing! Remember, you have a story regardless of whether your school has directly received any letters. It’s important to know what your administration is doing & what students can do to protect themselves.
By getting the information out to college students, every individual student news organization can help ensure that even if their school is not standing up the RIAA, students will know their legal rights. Most students use the Internet to download and share files with friends, and thus it is important to know what aspects are legal or illegal, how to protect themselves from a lawsuit, and how to change anything they feel is unlawful.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Final Project Interview #3 and Synopsis: Landi Guidetti on Being Sued by the RIAA

Here is a summary of my final project as well as the last interview I conducted:


After seeing the world of file sharing grow at such an incredible pace, I felt that that there was a lot to be said about the way we’ve reached this point and the future of p2p networks in general. As such, when given the opportunity to submit something creative for my final “PWNED” class project I decided to take use this assignment to answer some questions about BitTorrents, file sharing, and the RIAA.

First, there’s the source: Gary Fung, creator and webmaster of BitTorrent tracker isoHunt.com

Next is “Ernesto,” founding blogger and primary contributor of TorrentFreak.com – the premier source for news on p2p and BitTorrents.

Finally my good friend Landi Guidetti (a USC Student) offers some of his thoughts about being the target of a RIAA lawsuit.

What its like to be sued by the RIAA, by Landi Guidetti:

As a sophomore, Landi was one of the 25 students on the USC campus who fell into legal proceedings with the RIAA as a result of illegally downloading mp3’s through the university’s network. After spending the last two years dealing with this problem in private I asked Landi to share his experience and feelings with me for the purpose of this project.


Part of my settlement requires that I refrain from making "any public statement that is inconsistent with any term of [the] agreement" so I will tailor my comments to this requirement, however, care should be taken so that my opinions and relentless sarcasm not be interpreted as pertaining to any part of my settlement.

As a sophomore at USC i did many of the things regular sophomores do; I downloaded music off of the internet, occasionally went to class and once in a while picked up the Daily Trojan to find out what’s going on around south central and on campus.

Mid-April, 2005 I was doing just that, skipping class, downloading music and flipping through the DT and it happened that in that days paper was an article on the RIAA's quest to make the world a better place for recording artists everywhere. The article cautioned that some 25 students at USC had not yet been notified that they were soon to be made an example of.

Call me John Doe number 23. It was like winning the lottery, I was one of only 25 lucky USC students out of everybody who downloaded music that year from their dorms, at Leavey, or some other place where SC serves as the internet provider to be recognized. I received notice from the office of General Counsel at USC that pursuant to a subpoena taken out by the RIAA's fancy team of attorneys, USC would be releasing my personal information based on my I.P. address. As a regular sophomore at USC I didn’t do what you would expect a regular sophomore at USC might do, call mom and dad and have them write a check. Instead, I called the office of General Counsel to see what they could do for me. I was a starving student weighing only 150 lbs, working in excess of 40 hrs a week in addition to a full course load. I imagined that the Trojan Network would be able to offer me some help from their limitless resources, but the best they could do was offer to send my contact info to the other lucky winners so that we could talk group strategy, and gave me the contact info for an attorney who had contacted the University about the situation. It was actually an alumina of Berkeley (not USC) who was so outraged by what the RIAA was doing that she offered to consult with and if we chose, represent myself and several other SC student pro bono (that means free- I guess SC law students skip that chapter).

My really cool free lawyer went over all the options: pay up or fight a long expensive fight for the sake of principal. We could try quashing the subpoena on a technicality (BU did this for its students- USC didn’t even try), but the RIAA would likely re-file. We could take it to court and the RIAA's fancy lawyers would seize my laptop as evidence and comb through my hard-drive and memory (costs all added to the damages). We would have to hire expensive expert witnesses (and the RIAA's lawyers would get even more expensive expert witnesses) and endure a long process that would only piss them off more, and in the end i would have to pay their attorneys fees if i lost (the likely outcome). So- there i was- a sinner among a society of civilized copyright honoring citizens. My atonement; a staggering $3,750 in 30 days (money I didn’t have, and couldn’t get in 30 days unless i resorted to less serious crimes than the one i was already charged with). So i began selling drugs, robbing the old and feeble as well as clergy, and occasionally pimping out drunken sorority girls in order to pay my debt to the suffering artists who's lives had been "irreparably damaged" by my actions. Actually I didn’t do that, I didn’t have to because my lawyer got them to settle on a significantly longer payment date, but i seriously considered it.

I admit to no crime and the suit I refer to was dismissed without prejudice but I must say how ridiculous the whole thing was. I won’t comment on the actual damages internet downloading may or may not cause artists because i am ignorant of the facts, but regardless, a settlement of $3750 for the alleged downloading of an alleged four songs by artists on labels represented by the RIAA breaks down to $937.50 per song. Suspiciously it was students at the University of Spoiled Children who were targeted, reflecting the infinite wisdom of the RIAA; steal from the rich and give to the poor.

The best part of the story is unconfirmed rumor relayed to my by my former attorney. It seems that the Trojan network had done more for me than i previously thought. Word on the street is that one of the RIAA's fancy lawyers is actually a USC alum, this clever bastard decided to use his old USC email address to log onto I2-hub (which i believe is no longer up thanks to the RIAA- Good work guys, hit the big guys up after you clean me out) and write down I.P. addresses of unsuspecting college students. Students and old lady's (you hear about that one?) should not be targets of the RIAA's lawsuits- IF internet downloading really causes the "irreparable damage" they claim they should go for the services which enable and allow this "illegal" activity. The sad part is that there IS a specific deterrence effect- a legally binding one that was part of my settlement. I am not allowed to "directly or indirectly infringe on any copyright in any sound recordings owned or controlled by the Record Companies, including by use of the Internet to download any of the Record Companies sound recordings...." But who would know if i picked up a few pirates overseas. Just kidding, I promise i won't, i really learned my lesson. Mostly i am just so sorry for downloading "All Apologies" by Nirvana. You see, my actions caused Courtney Love (who I believe still owns the rights to Nirvana) "Irreparable Damage." The 937 dollars and 50 cents I paid for that song will never be enough.

A few weeks ago I got a call from the office of the General Counsel at USC, it seems that the newest round of SC students being sued by the RIAA didn't know where to turn, and they wanted to know if they could give out my email. I got 3 emails from confused students- I tried to make them feel as bad as I could, just because that's how they are supposed to feel after committing such a morally reprehensible act, but I'm under the impression that they didn't really feel bad, and seem to think they had even done anything wrong. It's strange, but they just seemed angry, some might say angry enough to do it again, and more, but making sure they don't get caught- For example, not use USC as your ISP, or subscribe to an equally illegal and supposedly non-traceable service like the Russian 1 cent per song site. I however,
can't condone this behavior.

-Landi Guidetti

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pierson's Final Project - Chris DiBona from Google

For my final project, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris DiBona, Google's Open Source Program Manager. In the first podcast we talk about Linux and the Open Source movement. In the second podcast we talk about digital rights management and some fun obscure tech tools.

You can subscribe to the feed here: Pwned Feed. These two podcasts are both enhanced podcasts (images along with links are embedded into the podcast file) so listen to it with a player that can render enhanced podcasts.

Thanks again Chris!

Teque5's Final: AACS Decryption

My final and its associated summary can be viewed here, on my site.
It is a tale of deception, heartbreak, and ultimate achievement.
It's a flash movie, so no reading is required. Enjoy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

archiPWNED - A Final Project About Architecture

My final project is a library sited at the edge of downtown Los Angeles, and is an exploration of how the ideas we have been discussing in class could be expressed as architectural concepts. An excerpt from the project summary:

This project is at its heart a reaction to three essential questions about both the site and the inherent nature of the typology. First, what is the role of a library in the digital age? or, more specifically, how does a library stay relevant when its main inventory - the printed word - is marching towards obsolescence? Second, how can the public space requirement - the plaza - exert a strong presence on both sides of the site? As a primary means of urban connection across a site, it is crucial that the plaza engage and conduct people. Third, how can this project support and contribute to the development of the retail in the pedestrian alleyway? As the initial step in revitalization of the area, it is crucial that this new library development follow in those footsteps.

Link to PDF of the portfolio entry for the project with pictures, sketches, diagrams, and renderings. I think it provides a nice look at the process an architecture student goes through for a project, from start to finish.

Final Project Interview #2: Ernesto of TorrentFreak.com

Here is the second interview that I conducted for my final project.

Created in November of 2005, TorrentFreak.com is a weblog that covers stories relating to all things BitTorrent: including protocol technologies, torrent search engines, and anything related to free culture. Ernesto, a resident of the Netherlands, is the sites founder.


Allen: Your site blogs dozens of stories on a weekly basis. In your opinion, what was the most interesting or important story Torrentfreak has covered in the past 12 months?

Ernesto: The coverage on the Pirate Bay raid and its aftermath was very interesting and fun to do. This event had a huge impact on Swedish politics lead[ing] to the rise of pirate parties all around the world.

The BitTorrent protocol encryption that was implemented in BitTorrent clients last year resulted in another interesting series of post[s]. The developers of uTorrent and Azureus added support for encrypted transfers to their clients to bypass ISPs that started to throttle BitTorrent traffic to save bandwidth, that's where the cat-and-mouse game started. We had a discussion on TorrentFreak whether traffic shaping is good or bad, and both BitTorrent users and ISPs had some good arguments.

Apparently BitTorrent encryption is pretty effective. Last month the Canadian ISP Rogers decided to limit all encrypted transfers which affects a wide range of customers, not only the ones using BitTorrent. Sad but true.

Allen: People tend to have some polarized opinions regarding the morality (and legality) of p2p networks here in the U.S. How do people in the Netherlands feel about intellectual property rights and the idea of downloading?

Ernesto: Let me start off by making clear that filesharing and copyright infringement are not the same thing.

For example, the Dutch government is subsidizing a project that will use BitTorrent to distribute TV-shows from the Dutch public broadcasting channels, and the BBC already uses a similar service based on the BitTorrent protocol. This is a great example of how (legal) P2P services may contribute to the viewing pleasure of the public, while it saves broadcasting channels bandwidth (money).

In general I think the attitudes towards copyright infringement are less polarized in The Netherlands, mainly because the anti-piracy lobby is not as big (rich) as in the U.S. Most people will probably agree that the artists / producers need to make some money in the end. Unfortunately policy makers don't always recognize that the Internet and "digitalization" in general demand an update of the intellectual property rights. It should be more easy for individuals or small business to acquire licenses to download / distribute content online for example. People should be able to play a song from the latest Arctic Monkeys album on their netcast if they want to, this is pretty much impossible to do at the moment.

I don't think that piracy is a problem, it's more like a signal. The music and movie industry has product that their consumers want. High quality, and DRM free, just like all those pirated copies.
On a sidenote, downloading copyrighted movies and movies is legal here. However, sharing (uploading) copyrighted content isn't, and this is something you can't escape if you're using BitTorrent.

Allen: This seems like an extremely pertinent question for someone like you: what trends have you noticed in BitTorrents since you created TorrentFreak? Do you have any predictions for the future of torrents or p2p in general?

Ernesto: BitTorrent became extremely popular over the past two years. Five BitTorrent sites are currently listed in the Alexa top 500 of the most visited websites on the Internet, and a dozen other sites in the top 2000.

BitTorrent is becoming mainstream now. Hardware manufacturers ... create devices that directly download .torrent files, Apple has plans to distribute updates and software via BitTorrent, BitTorrent Inc opened its media store and TV and Movie producers are interested in the technology to distribute their products.

BitTorrent or variations of applications and services that use similar P2P technologies will probably continue to grow in the future. The technology itself will become less visible, and it will be implemented and all kinds of user friendly services and application. So, most people will use P2P services in the future without even noticing. Piracy on the other hand will become less and less popular as soon as high quality legal alternatives become available. Personally I think that piracy is at its greatest height right now, that is, if the music and movie industry are willing to change.

Allen: How do you go about collecting the data for the weekly "Most Popular DVDrips on BitTorrent" posts?

Ernesto: I collect data on all the popular movie torrents that are tagged as a DVDrips on several BitTorrent trackers. The titles with the most seeds and peers (all the people that download and / or upload that title) end up in the list. The list is very sensitive for new releases because these tend to be very popular the first days after they are uploaded.

The method we use is not perfect, but I'm pretty sure we are more accurate than services like BigChampagne and Infofilter who claim that they provide accurate charts.

Allen: My friends and I have followed the entire Sealand story with thePiratebay pretty closely. What do you think of that entire saga?

Ernesto: The Pirate Bay knows how to cause a media stir. People who believed that they were actually going to start a new nation are a little naive to say the least. The Pirate Bay is a publicity machine, and (besides being the biggest BitTorrent tracker) they do very well at making the news. I've talked to Brokep, one of the admins of the Pirate Bay and he told me that they have their eye on an Island that they will try to buy in the near future. They are certainly not keeping the money for themselves. It just takes a while to find a cheap island. Sealand was just too expensive

Allen: Your site has a pretty clear stance with regard to DRM. What would you say to someone in the film or music industry who thinks they can protect their content with a DRM wrapper?

Ernesto: It only takes 1 person to crack the DRM and put a DRM-less copy online, that makes it pretty useless. I really can't see the benefits of DRM, it's only hurting the honest consumers. I buy all my music online (unlike most people might expect) but the first thing I do when I've bought a track or album is remove the DRM. Not because I'm sharing it on P2P-networks, but because I want to listen to the music whenever and wherever I want.

Allen: Which torrent search engines do you regard as the best? Why are they the best? Do you have any personal favorites?

Ernesto: I like torrentz.com and mininova.org, both sites are clean and reliable.

Allen: What would you like to see done (steps, events, etc.) towards the promotion of free culture around the globe?

Ernesto: First we need to get rid of DRM ;). Secondly, copyright laws need to be adapted the digital age, and a flexible licensing model that suits the Internet needs to be developed. The less restrictions the better.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bloggers and the MLB

Before this semester, I had never taken an interest in online communities or blogging. After participating and contributing to the blog that we kept up in class, I decided to check out other blogs in my field of interest: sports, particularly baseball. So after doing some online research, I found quite a few blogs that I found to be credible and substantial about the Los Angeles Dodgers.

During this same semester, I took a sports public relations class where we learned about the process of credentialing members of the media. Through this class and other research I learned that the National Hockey League is the first sports league to allow bloggers game credentials. I then questioned whether or not bloggers receive credentials to baseball games. After research, and speaking with public relations directors for 2 particular baseball teams, I decided to create a presentation that would give detail on the online blogging community and how sports teams such as hockey teams are benefiting from bloggers. I also compared the success that the DNC and RNC had with allowing bloggers to sit at the media tables during the conventions, to the benefits of allowing bloggers to gain credentials for baseball games.

The presentation I put together explains the role bloggers play in sports right now, and how the MLB could benefit from allowing bloggers to acquire game credentials.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The teachingcopyright.org Launch Manifesto

In America, laws describe how freedom should work--but for the most part, we understand that freedom in America is really an idea with flexible definitions and many, many ways of being expressed. Similarly, we use copyright laws to describe how creativity should work in our society.

The California State Legislature passed a law requiring the teaching of copyright in schools applying for technology grants, and I raised an eyebrow... Maybe even two eyebrows. When we teach the idea of freedom through the study of documented laws, like studying the Bill of Rights, we're at our best when we teach that freedom works in diverse ways for different groups of people. So the same should go for copyright--if we're going to be teaching the idea of creativity through the study of laws like copyright, then we'd do well to take the same route--teach that creativity works in a lot of different ways for different people.

But I'm worried that that's not going to happen, and I'm not the only one. I worry that a generation of smart California kids, all attending schools ambitious enough to embrace technology, are somehow going to fall short of learning about creativity--that creativity's primary motive is profit, or that profit from creativity can come only through ownership. Those views may have been true in the past, they probably have some relevance today, but there are other ways of thinking about creativity, how it works, and how humanity benefits from it.

Although requiring copyright education is currently just a California law--there will be more and more reasons to teach about copyright in schools. Creativity through technology is a powerful theme for the beginning of this new century--the proliferation of tools used to create and manipulate words, pictures, and video has played a crucial role in democratizing creativity.

So I'm launching teachingcopyright.org as a tool to help teachers and administrators learn, talk, and teach copyright. Laws are a noble attempt to give strong ideas a living presence in our daily lives--but we fail to educate when we just describe laws and not the strong ideas that inspired them.

Educator, academic, or otherwise--please visit the site, comment on the blog, and help to build a strong body of knowledge for teachers to build upon. Creativity drives our human universe of industry, entertainment, and achievement--so let's get this copyright thing right.

Friday, May 11, 2007

vosotros: music for you-all

For the last several months, I have been working closely with Gabe Noel to develop our contribution to the tumultuous world of online music. Initially we set out to start our own record label, however, the more we examined the reality of digital music and the changing face of the industry, it was clear that we needed to take a different approach.

I met Gabe in 7th grade Spanish class in Chicago, where by comes the origin of our name. Vosotros is a Spanish verb conjugation roughly meaning “you-all.” But since it is only used in Spain, the vosotros form was always ignored, which quickly became an ongoing joke between us.

The dynamic of our relationship is as follows: as a multi-instrumentalist and composer, Gabe has an endless supply of musical ideas - it is my job to help synthesize these ideas and make them accessible to you-all. Early on in the project, we had discussed releasing a compilation of Gabe performing across a variety of genres. This idea eventually led us to our current focus: a live monthly showcase (vosotros presents: live@land) and a complimentary podcast (vosotros presents: the lazy susan).

Each month, Gabe forms a new band among friends. They record a song together for the podcast and then perform for the first time at that month’s show in Little Tokyo. Each of these songs are released with a non-commerical, attribution, share-alike Creative Commons license and are available for free download from our website and via iTunes. Additionally, every band that performs at LAND releases a song through the Lazy Susan as accoutrement. Our hard work on this aspect of the project has been rewarding and has served to build a small community of vosotros supporters.

Although we will continue to support the podcast and live@land concert series, we are preparing our first full-length release as a label: Quiet Orchestra. Quiet Orchestra is a 12+ piece electric ensemble. The group came together for the first time in early March, recording a full album over the course of two days. The project will be released digitally later this summer and will include both music and film. As we discussed heavily in class, the biggest challenge will be trying to balance the promotional benefits that Creative Commons provides with the reality that the project is also available for sale. Cory has shown it can work for books - and I intend to make it work for music.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Enhanced Podcast: DJ Drama & The Mixtape Industry

DJ Drama & The Mixtape Industry DOWNLOAD LINK

HERE is a link to the slides in MUCH higher quality.

Hey everyone... I decided after seeing the presentations last Tuesday that the coolest way for me to present my final was also an enhanced podcast. It's about a topic by which I have been intrigued all year, that is, the mixtape industry and how it relates to the RIAA. I go into a fair bit of detail about what a mixtape actually is (It turns out most people have no idea), talk about the arrests of DJ Drama and DJ Don Cannon, and the RIAA's role in all of this.

I also conducted a brief survey about mixtapes and how (mostly) college students feel about them, especially in relation to traditional studio albums. If you don't have the time to watch and listen, the basic conclusions are that barely anyone knows what a mixtape is, let alone downloads them.

A couple notes:

1. Sorry about all the background noise... I wound up having to record this with the internal mic on my laptop; that's the fan spinning.

2. When I say the raid happened on January 2, I really mean January 16.

Hope you like it!

White Paper on SCA Copyright Policy

For my end of the year project I wrote a white paper critiquing USC School of Cinematic Arts' (SCA) copyright policy (found here - PDF) as it represents a non-academic and corporate approach to content ownershipthat is detrimental to both SCA students and SCA itself.

The white paper (PDF) focuses on understanding SCA's current policy, why it must change its IP policy on a very basic level, and finally why adopting Creative Commons licences presents SCA and it its students with a myriad of positive outcomes. The paper contains important information that isn't discussed on a regular basis with the SCA student body, hopefully acts as a valuable resource for these students in helping them contextualize their rights to ownership.

If you guys agree ideologically, please don't forget to sign the petition online asking SCA to change their policy.

Interview with Gary Fung - Creator and Owner of isoHunt.com

As part of my final project for our course I interviewed a series of interesting people to find out their thoughts on peer-to-peer networks and file sharing. My first interview was with Gary Fung, owner and administrator of isoHunt.com

Here is the transcript of our interview.


Founded in 2003, isoHunt is a BitTorent search engine currently ranked at 330 by Alexa.com’s web-traffic statistics. In February of 2006 isoHunt because the target of legal proceedings by the MPAA. Gary Fung is the creator and owner of isoHunt.com

Allen: What is the daily routine like for you and your staff? With a site as massive as isoHunt I would imagine you have a lot of things to take care of a regular basis.

Gary: Making sure servers haven't vanished. Maintainence on the search index. Handle requests from copyright owners. Advertising sales. Legal issues. When there's time left, R&D on web development.

Allen: Can you describe what the current situation with the MPAA suit against your site?

Gary: My depositions and other staff will be in May next month. Summary judgment by August and trial on September. I'm hoping to arrange a settlement meeting with the MPAA before August. Because as big as the MPAA conglomorates are, they must realize that they can't make everyone on the internet and their potential customers criminals. I would like to negotiate a middle ground for that, between media production, distribution and consumption.

If the court allows, I'd like to start blogging our case beginning with recordings of our depositions. I believe transparency into our case would be useful for our site visitors and the general public.

Allen: Why is operating your project worth the hassle of dealing with DMCA take-down notices, ISP suspensions, and lawsuits in general? Is it the money? The community? Something else?

Gary: The community, the money, and most importantly, developing technologies for sharing is something I find most interesting and fulfilling.

Allen: You continue to honor take-down requests in DMCA fashion even though your servers are located in Canada. Why is that?

Gary: Our copyright policy based on the DMCA has served us and copyright owners who worked with us well (except some oddballs like the MPAA), so I don't see a reason to change it. If a copyright owner sees links to his material on P2P networks that he doesn't want to see, I believe it's fair to offer him discourse and process for taking down those links.

Allen: Obviously, the decision as to what to download is entirely up to those visiting your site. Ideally speaking, how is it that you want visitors to use isoHunt? That is, does it matter to you whether users are downloading illegal or freely distributable content?

Gary: We develop a tool for accessing BitTorrent and P2P resources, and shape that tool to both the wishes of content owners and consumers from the technological and filtering perspectives. For example, making search faster, more relevant, provide more useful and accurate statistics, while the open nature of our search engine means copyright owners can relatively easily send us lists of links for verification and takedown. RSS feeds for every search query also help in that process, for both content owners and consumers alike. How that content is distributed and consumed is up to the market to decide, although I try to nudge that market in directions that would keep most parties happy.

Allen: What sort of progress (both technical and non-technical) do you expect to see in torrent search engines and torrent clients in the future? Is there anything in particular that you would _like_ to see?

Gary: Trackers themselves should become more distributed, so operation of a tracker is no longer a technical or operational burden for a content distributor. Fakes and spams of garbage files are also an increasing problem polluting BitTorrent networks, a collaborative effort between site and tracker operators against them would be useful.

Allen: If you were in the RIAA or MPAA shoes how would _you_ handle the situation with regard to peer-to-peer technologies and torrent search engines? In other words, what should these organizations be doing differently to protect their interests?

Gary: I would work with technologists in the P2P markets towards two things. One, collaborate on what's the most efficient way to streamline the request, verify and takedown process in curtailing links to unauthorized P2P distribution of my content. Two, distribute my content directly on P2P. Business models can include ads in TV episode downloads, pay to download higher quality encodes, faster transfers and no ads, use DRM for a rental and try before you buy model. With new technologies, there needs to be new business models around them. Fighting new technologies to make old models valid is not the way move forward.

Allen: Lastly, in terms of searching power and content there's no question that isoHunt roXX0rz it hardcore prono style, but the site does seem to be lacking a bit in aesthetics. Are there any plans to change the site's design anytime soon?

Gary: Ask Google the same question. Answer is no. I like it simple and efficient ;)

Although new features are coming that will require interface changes.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Want to sell your CDs? I'll need your fingerprints.

New pawn shop laws springing up across the United States are threatening to make the process of selling used CDs back to willing record stores significantly more complicated. All to make sure that record stores aren't buying counterfeit CDs - as if this were a serious problem.

In some states, for a seller to make a sale to a record store, the store will be required to take the seller's fingerprints and personal information. In Florida specifically, many record shops are getting out of the used-CD business because they don't want to have to pay the 10,000 dollar bond for the right to interrogate their customers every time they want to sell back a Linkin Park CD.

To give some perspective, in Florida, Utah, Rhode Island and Wisconsin it is more of a pain to sell a used CD than it is to get a driver's license.

This appears to be a growing trend in the United States. Media "producers" control the laws, and because of this we are entering media lock-down. Gotta have every penny, I suppose.

(via ars)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

New Google Search Interface?

From the "Because it is so much easier to search for something then type in the URL" category.

I was searching for In-n-out... a great California institution (you must order "animal style fries") and was greeted with what seems to be Google's new search interface. It is interesting that there are no ads (unless of course my ABP gets rid of them). I rather like the new interface, it seems cleaner and has that nice updated look.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Edwards and Obama Request Creative Commons licensing for Democratic Debates

Lawyer, academic, and Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig posts Obama's request to the DNC for public domain/CC licensing for the debates, then posts John Edwards' letter roughly 12-hours later.

UPDATE: BoingBoing blogged on the decision that "CNN debate coverage will be made available without restrictions at the conclusion of each live debate." No word yet as to what video file formats they're planning on using.

AACS Fiasco Wikipedia Roundup

After having a few days to percolate, Wikipedia's talk pages are now a tantalizing soup of arguments regarding the AACS processing key fiasco. The main debate attempts to resolve the question of "to publish or not to publish," although the discussion spills onto other intriguing topics as well, such as, "Are the hits on a Google search original research?" ("No original research" is one of Wikipedia's few content policies dictating what is acceptable for inclusion in an article.)

Talk page for "AACS encryption key controversy"

An argument for:
It would be a valuable addition to the article. In fact, it is the very subject of the article. If you don't know the number, this article doesn't tell you what it is. Likewise, a person who sees the number in an unconnected context currently has no way of relating it to this article.
An argument against:
It would be an unnecessary legal risk. Publishing the number may be illegal (see the EFF's article, for example), and could potentially cause Wikipedia to be sued under the DMCA. [...] Even if the chance of legal action is unlikely, and hasn't happened so far, why take the risk? Wikipedia would gain little by including it, and potentially has everything to lose. The risk just isn't worth the benefits.
Also consider taking a look at The Wikipedia "Administrators' noticeboard,"which contains an admin-only discussion about the posting of the key. The administrators seem more fearful of the potential legal consequences, which demonstrates how powerful of a censorship device the DMCA can be.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The New York Times Weighs in on the AACS Fiasco...

...and posts a direct link to a YouTube video where the code is sung! They were probably comforted by this:
However, with thousands of Internet users now impudently breaking the law, Mr. Sprigman said that the entertainment and technology industries would have no realistic way to pursue a legal remedy. “It’s a gigantic can of worms they’ve opened, and now it will be awfully hard to do anything with lawsuits,” he said.
They didn't mention us, though, which makes me sad.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Did our class indirectly cause the Digg revolt?

Let's take a look at this simplified timeline:
Before class 3:30pm (see picture at right you may need to click on it to enlarge it). There are 2 stories of interest "AACS licensing authority censors Cory Doctorow's class blog" on the main section and on the Top Stories section "Google & blogs issued with AACS Cease & Desist"

Then... people saw these take down posts and started posting the code which caused Digg to remove the posts, comments, and users which then rolled into the massive revolt which caused the first 3 pages of Digg to be filled with the code.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Digg Melts Down Over Alledged HD-DVD Censorship

So, it is 10 pm on Tuesday and Digg is facing a user revolt that could bring the whole system down. I can't quite pin down what ignited this firestorm, but as far as I can piece together, a couple of posts about the HD-DVD consortium and DMCA takedown notices were either removed or had their digg counts reset, along with the deletion of the accounts of the diggers involved. Right now there are more than two dozen consecutive stories on the front page, mostly jokes, all containing the "banned" hexadecimal key. It is an absolute madhouse.

UPDATE: ...and now digg is down. I'll keep you updated.

UPDATE #2 (10.40 PM): Digg is back up, and my initial estimate was a little, ahem, low. The number of key-related stories is now at 82. Crazy.

UPDATE #3 (11.00 PM): Here are some example posts:

All your base are belong to us. **KEY REDACTED** You have no chance to survive make your time.

Four score and seven years ago...**KEY REDACTED**

UPDATE #4 (11.10 PM): Digg is down again.

*** UPDATE #5 (2007.05.01 23:41:49) by Teque5 ***
Just so you know, this story is all over the ocean of subculture. You cant look 2 minutes on 4chan or YTMND with this code popping up.

Also, I put it up on my own website also. Nothing can stop the masses.

*** UPDATE #6 (2007.05.02 00:12:38) by Teque5 ***
Digg is back up with their own notice. Also, there is now a song and a few sites about this.

We're on Digg!

This has been a great semester... not only are we on Digg but we also got a take down notice... what could be better?

Google Will See You In Court, Viacom

Remember that little $1 Billion lawsuit Viacom filed against YouTube for "massive" copyright infringement? Many web pundits saw this as the first step on the long road to an eventual licensing deal, but today Google answered by declaring their intentions to fight it out in front of a jury:
"Viacom's complaint in this action challenges the careful balance established by Congress when it enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," the answer reads in part. "By seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for Internet communications, Viacom's complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression."

Google's even hired some "ace trial lawyers" to help litigate. The spokesperson sounded quite confident in their decision to forgo negotiation, adding that Google is "more than happy to litigate. I don't view that as a business negotiation."