Category Archives: information

controlling information about you, accessing other information, communicating information, sharing information … theme song: “Too Much Information” – the Police.

The DOJ and current copyright conflicts of interest

The Dept. of Justice is threatening to weigh in on one of the numerous cases relating to the Constitutionality of statutory damages in copyright law. In case anyone hasn’t heard this, the Obama Administration has larded the DOJ with numerous copyright litigators and lobbyists.

I just sent the following letter to whitehouse.gov:

I’m writing in regard to the Department of Justice’s stated intent to intervene in the case, Sony BMG Entertainment Media v. Cloud. This case is one of several seeking Constitutional review of the egregious statutory damages available to copyright plaintiffs, which can be up to $150,000 for a single instance of copyright infringement, regardless of any actual damages.

I strongly urge the Department of Justice NOT to intervene in this and similar matters, based on clear conflicts of interest of top decision-makers at the Department of Justice.

The Administration has appointed numerous officials at the DOJ who have been formerly active in the issue precisely at stake — copyright enforcement and damages. Unfortunately, however, the appointments have not been representative of all sides of this issue, and have resulted in an imbalance in the nominees for decision-making positions at the DOJ. Neil MacBride, Thomas Perrelli, and Donald Verrilli, in particular, have all represented the trade associations for the copyright industry.

Thomas Perrelli, Managing Partner at Jenner & Block, has been nominated for Associate Attorney General of the United States. At Jenner & Block, he has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Sony BMG — the very client at issue in this litigation.

Donald Verrilli, another partner at Jenner and Block, is President Obama’s nominee for Associate Deputy Attorney General, and has stated that he is likely to have a civil portfolio. Mr. Verrilli directly represented the recording industry in the “Jammie Thomas” case, the infamous case that resulted in an almost quarter-million dollar judgment against a single mother for making 24 songs available on a P2P network. Moreover, he was the lead attorney for the RIAA, personally delivering oral argument at the hearing in which the Court threw out the verdict.

Clearly, all former Jenner & Block attorneys now at the Department should recuse themselves from the decision-making process, as should any other attorneys who directly represented clients on matters adverse to either of the parties in this important Constitutional case.

Unfortunately, however, because the Department of Justice has so many appointments representing one side of copyright-related matters, any intervention by the Department on behalf of Sony BMG in this case carries not just the appearance, but the actual risk, of violation of President Obama’s conflicts of interest policy. An ethical firewall will not suffice to remedy the conflict of interest when multiple top decision-makers are similarly conflicted.

Therefore, I strongly discourage intervention by the Dept. of Justice in this case and urge President Obama to consider balance in copyright and information policy in his future nominations. I also inquire specifically as to whether Mr. Perrelli and Mr. Verrilli have committed to recusing themselves in this and related matters, and what steps they plan to take to create an ethical firewall between themselves and the relevant decision-making processes.

Best regards,

etc.

Thanks to Jonathan Band for flagging the issue on a list, Mike Masnick at techdirt for the brief summary & relevant links, and Kevin Donovan at freeculture for his submission (which I took as my starting point).

data privacy day — no, i did not know

Someone twittered today, “Did you know today was Data Privacy Day?” No, I did not know. But indeed it is. Behold!

On January 28, 2009, the United States, Canada, and 27 European countries will celebrate Data Privacy Day. One of the primary goals of Data Privacy Day is to promote privacy education and awareness among teens across the United States, helping teens learn to network and work online safely and responsibly. Data Privacy Day also serves the important purpose of furthering international collaboration and cooperation around data protection issues.

Celebrated jointly with the European Union for the first time in 2008, Data Privacy Day is quickly gaining recognition here in the United States. Congressman David Price has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking support for the declaration of January 28, 2009 as National Data Privacy Day.

Please join ITAA for our event commemorating Data Privacy Day and featuring remarks by Congressman Price and Member of European Parliament, Alexander Alvaro, as well as key representatives of the privacy community. A networking reception will follow.

ITAA would like to acknowledge Intel, Microsoft, AT&T, Oracle, and Google as supporters of Data Privacy Day.

from the Information Technology Association of America ….

Google Book Search panel at ALA Midwinter

The ALA’s Copyright Subcommittee (Committee on Legislation) is hosting a panel on the Google Book Settlement at ALA Midwinter this year — Saturday at 1:30 at the Grand Hyatt. (I’m on the committee and on the panel.) Should be interesting.

Come to the Google Book Settlement Session at ALA Midwinter Conference January 24th, 2009, 1:30-3:30, Grand Hyatt, Maroon Peak Room

If you’ll be at ALA’s Midwinter Conference in Denver at the end of January, please check out the session “Google Book Search: What’s In It for Libraries?” The open forum will be hosted by the ALA Committee on Legislation’s Copyright Subcommittee to discuss the proposed Google Book Search settlement. The discussion will take place on Saturday, January 24, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt, Maroon Peak (listed as the Washington Office Breakout Session IV – Google Book Search in the program).

Panelists will include Dan Clancy, Engineering Director for the Google Book Search Project, Karen Coyle, Digital Librarian and Consultant, Paul Courant, Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, and Laura Quilter, Librarian and Attorney at Law. The session will be moderated by Nancy Kranich, chair of the COL Copyright Subcommittee. Following brief opening remarks by each panelist, there be an opportunity for dialogue and questions from the audience.

Additional information about the proposed Google Book Search settlement is available at http://wo.ala.org/gbs/.

oclc will take member feedback on catalog records policy change

OCLC will take member feedback on its recent proposed change in licensing terms on cataloging records. See OCLC’s press release from yesterday, “OCLC Board of Trustees and Members Council to convene Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship.” link from librarythingtim

yaay.

update 2009/1/15: Salon on OCLC at Radical Reference, Friday, Jan. 23, 8 pm, at ABC No Rio, 156 Rivington St., Manhattan.

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new US Trade Rep; same bad Hollywood favoritism

see below for update 12/19

Obama has appointed the next US Trade Representative, current U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31); see also Becerra’s House site. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s going to be in the pocket of tank for Hollywood, just as prior USTR’s have been.

A few notes from some fast research (“googling”):

* He’s a Dem from LA. That’s almost saying enough right there.
* The Washington Times (crazy! but it’s what news.google.com pointed me to) reports:

With strong ties to Hollywood, Becerra fought to have the film industry included in the $137 billion tax bill. He wanted to stem the exodus of film production overseas and to Canada with tax-code changes.

* Google shows him on many, many events with, for, or about Hollywood, P2P, etc.
* He’s taken money from copyright maximalist PACs, e.g., $3000, Jan-June 1995, which went waaay up over the next decade: $38,750, 2005-06 (plus $3000 printing, for a total of $41,750 from copyright industries, against $12,000 from telcos & Internet companies). In ’07-’08, he took $47,500 from Hollywood, plus $5,000 from printing & publishing. Cost-of-lobbying increases, I guess. open secrets

But, while it may be bad on the copyright-front (did we expect anything good?), it’s not necessarily all bad. Like I’ve noticed before, Hollywood copyrightists who can’t see the public interest in copyright can definitely see it in patent law. Becerra cosponsored the “Genomic Research & Accessibility Act” to ban gene patents. Michael Crichton, Patenting Life, NYT, 2/13/2007

Last Friday, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat of California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican of Florida, sponsored the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature. Mr. Becerra has been careful to say the bill does not hamper invention, but rather promotes it. He’s right. This bill will fuel innovation, and return our common genetic heritage to us.

He’s also done some pro-librarian work, for example, seeking to add librarians to loan forgiveness plans, e.g., by introducing the Librarian Education & Development Act of 2003 (HR 2674).LIS News 2004/6/9

And of course in other areas — human rights not dealing with access to knowledge — he’s pretty good. So, the task is to get the access to knowledge message to him …

update 12/19 So Becerra turned down the job on Monday (12/15), and instead Obama has appointed Ron Kirk, former Mayor of Dallas, and supported by tech. tech daily dose, from private list

middle-rite nation

Lately annoyed by all the (conservative & mainstream) pundits asserting confidently that the US is “a center-right nation”. What? When did that happen? As long as I’ve watched these things, people’s positions on issues trend ever leftward — although the Right has successfully managed terminology such that feminists hate the “f-word”, liberals hate the “l-word”, socialists hate the “s-word”. (Anarchists and atheists are apparently so lost to reason that they can’t even be brought to disavow those terms.)

And happily David Sirota noted the same thing:

[Conservatives] contend that no matter how big progressives may win on election day, this is nonetheless a center-right nation. Indeed, a LexisNexis search shows this poll-tested term — “center-right nation” — is lately among the Punditburo’s most ubiquitous Orwellian buzzwords. From a Newsweek cover story by conservative dittohead Jon Meacham to a Wall Street Journal screed by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to a Politico.com diatribe by former Rudy Giuliani aide John Avlon, the “center-right nation” phrase is being parroted with the propagandistic discipline of Cuba’s Ministry of Information.

The proof of this center-right nation? Republicans cite polls showing more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. While that data point certainly measures brand name, those same surveys undermine the right’s larger argument because they show majorities support progressive positions on most economic issues.

Sirota, Mandate ’08: Reagan vs. FDR, SF Chronicle, 2008/10/31.

Yes, not only are these pundits wrong, but indeed, there is a concerted push this year on this term — the latest conservative talking point. Has anyone tracked the origin and dispersal of these phrases? I’d really like to know.

eta 2008/11/09: Lots of other folks have noticed this as well. See, e.g., Frank Rich 11/9, ….

yaay EFF & Georgia senatorial candidate

Of course, it’s never surprising when the EFF takes on the most challenging issues in technology law, but it was particularly gratifying to see them arguing to overturn the odious telecommunications immunity passed last year. The Machinist at Salon — a blog I’ve been appreciating more and more lately — has a great summary & recap of the issue.

And two for two for Salon.com today, because Glenn Greenwald, who now also blogs for Salon, highlighted today something that did surprise me: Georgia Democratic Senatorial candidate Jim Martin’s principled critique of that legislation.

Go figure. Political candidates can surprise me with something other than the depths of their ignorance and/or pandering and/or willingness to lie outright.

another exercise by the military-industrial-entertainment complex

The entertainment industry has succeeded — at least theoretically — in passing off more of their enforcement costs to the federal government — i.e., the taxpayers. Nice use of government dollars at a time of financial crisis, Congress! Bush signed the “Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act” (“PROIPA” ?) which, besides shelling out a lot of money to make the Dept. of Justice hunt down copyright infringement, also creates the office of the Copyright Czar.

Will the Copyright Czar be as effective as the Drug Czars? One can only hope.

Variety 10/13

* PS — double points if you can identify the source of the phrase “military-entertainment-industrial complex”, without Googling it. Hint: It’s from a pop culture source in 1996.

saying goodbye to sivacracy

Siva is shutting down Sivacracy. From the inside, it feels right. There are lots of voices talking about copyright and information policy now, and all of us Sivacracy bloggers have enough other balls to juggle.

From the outside, though, the other part of me is saying, “hey but I’m going to be reading blogs again, sometime! and when I do I won’t have Sivacracy!!! Dammit!”

It’s true that all good things come to an end and it’s such a rare pleasure to find closure on the Internet and someone who knows how to wrap things up (god knows that’s not my strength). But no Sivacracy. Damn. The Internet will be a poorer place.

Below is my farewell to Sivacracy, cross-posted, of course, on Sivacracy:

see you all at the sivacracy reunion

It’s just like Siva to wrap things up in style. Book-ending the blog officially.

Over the years, Sivacracy has been literally one of the only blogs that I read every day — multiple times a day — and starting my day at Sivacracy brought new insights, new ideas, new analyses, new arguments. It has always been such a pleasure to have a place to read cutting-edge opinion and news on issues that mattered so dearly to me: information policy, feminism, culture, education, science, politics.

And always quirky and humorous, and open. Many blogs have comments enabled, but few blogs are truly open for dialog. Sivacracy was, for me, a model of committed, activist academic blogging.

So I was truly honored when Siva asked me to participate, and although I joined the blog just as my blogging energies were waning, every time I made a post I felt a warm glow. Posting to other Sivacracy readers felt like an “oh by the way” to other people — not an anonymous blog readership — but intelligent, questioning, curious folk, who share a lot of peculiar passions, and would be fun to have dinner and a few drinks with.

It’s been a pleasure. Let’s have that dinner party sometime. A Sivacracy reader/blogger reunion sounds like a blast.

Cheers,

Laura Quilter

science & politics of reporting protests

Reading this account of a large “Alaskan Women Reject Palin” rally — reminds me of the massive anti-Gulf War protest in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Almost no media coverage for that protest. Almost no media coverage for this one. And yet, apparently the smaller pro-Palin rally did receive media coverage. I get “if it bleeds it leads”, but are there reasons beyond naked bias and politics for these kinds of disparities in coverage of protests?

wtf with st. paul?

This is un-fucking-believable: Amy Goodman and producers were arrested at the RNC protests. Arresting an award-winning journalist for inquiring about her arrested producers. The video of Goodman’s arrest (“Update II”) should be watched along with the SF Chronicle‘s interview of her on her release (“Update VII”). See also Washington Post. An AP reporter was arrested later, and there were various other police actions against journalists.

Glenn Greenwald said at the beginning of this column:

Beginning last night, St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city be, even more so than Manhattan in the week of 9/11 — with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations.

See also this video of a peaceful protester being tear-gassed at close range (second video; at pharyngula).

As with the Chicago DNC in 1996, and many other political party meetings in the intervening years, activists’ homes were raided before the protests began.

Reporting of interest:
* Glenn Greenwald at salon.com
* The Revolution Will Be Twittered – firedoglake / jane hamsher
* raid on an anarchist art production in a theater – The Uptake
* ColdSnap Legal Collective – updates on arrests etc.
* house arrests of journalist group “iwitness”
* interview with st. paul officials – mayor, chief of police, police PR
* Minnesota Independent coverage
* cell phone video of police firing what may be smoke bombs & in general acting like the protesters are enemy combatants — following after a retreat
* “inside an RNC raid” – a house of legal observer coordinators was raided & folks detained.

new blizzard decision

how on earth does blizzard keep winning these horrible cases? do they bribe the courts?

Patry covers the new case on software cheats, MDY Industries v. Blizzard.

How one might ask can there be a violation of the Copyright Act if no rights granted under the Act have been violated? Good question.

To get to its result, the court had to first find that WoW, even though sold over the counter, was licensed not sold. … Having found there was license not a sale, there still had to be a breach of the license in order to permit an infringement action to lie, and recall here that the claim is not one for direct infringement, but rather secondary liability; there was no privity between the parties. There was in fact no provision in the license that barred use of WoWGlider. The court took the extraordinary step of stitching together two unrelated provisions to create one. You have to read it to believe it, but it took the court 8 pages to go through this hard work, and why? Was the court offended by what it regarded to be cheating? If so, God help us if law is being reduced to such subjective, non-statutory grounds.

Read all of Patry’s analysis, as well as the opinion.

links from G.B. @ Public Citizen

©rappy birthday to the ©opyright alliance

Bill Patry was withering in his critique of the Copyright Alliance’s efforts to define itself as one of the big kids. For example,

Leaving aside the painfully juvenile use of © in voi©e, the math used by the Alliance challenges even the math used by the IIPA in its annual country “piracy” reports.

That is pretty funny, and you should probably go over there & read Bill Patry’s scathing comments instead of my own overheated meanderings. If you’re staying here, you should know that basically the Copyright Alliance is an organization designed to give voice to copyright-holders, the “11 million Americans whose livelihoods depend on the principle of copyright.” Not just give voice, but “one voice”, as their new ad campaign says.

In the few minutes I had today between efforts to get various air conditioners running (thank you, East Coast heatwave), I spared a few of my non-melted brain cells to this organization and its ad campaign. “One Voice.” Probably not an original observation, but one voice for copyright holders — or even those who profit from copyrights — is utterly impossible. There are just too damn many of us and our personal financial interests in copyrights are far too diverse for us to have remotely any ability to speak with “one voice” on copyright. Every creator is representing reality to some extent, but every aspect of reality that they represent also has its own interest. Photographers’ interests are in opposition with those of their subjects and the creators of their subjects and of course those who commissioned their works. Everybody is in opposition with those who seek to represent the same slice of reality

The copyright industry, in fact, has shot itself in the foot. By expanding copyrights ever further, they have in a sense radically democratized copyright ownership. We all now have copyrights in every chicken pot. Instead of a limited monopoly granted only to a few for a short time — a compromise most of us could roll with in order to keep those few doing what they did — now copyright is something that each of us has over all kinds of stuff, and something that each of us interfaces with multiple times on a daily basis. Thus with everybody holding and using multiple copyrights simultaneously we all have the potential to interfere equally with one another. It’s like mutually assured destruction, and so it’s no surprise that some folks are going to advocate for copyright disarmament.

My brain cells really are melting into one another — the similes just keep on coming. I am also reminded of the Libertarian Heinlein myth that an armed society is a polite one — the “wisdom” goes that if everybody has a gun, then everyone has an interest in being polite to everyone else. So too must have gone the wisdom with copyright at some point — if we all have copyrights then we will all be interested in respecting them, we can all live together in the best of all possible copyright maximalist worlds. But the Heinlein armed society is a myth because people may not act in their own self-interest, or their definition of self-interest may not correspond with your definition of their (or your) self-interest, or their self-interest may be benefited by disproportionate harm to others’ self-interest, or they just may not be able to act in a way that makes reciprocity function smoothly … well one could go on for a while but it’s like Dick Cheney shooting birds in a blind — too easy to be sportsmanlike. Anyway just as the Heinlein armed society is a myth, so too is the universal copyright / copyright-respecting society. Everyone can probably find someone to agree with them about how copyrights should be defined, respected, used, and so on, but the differences in opinion mount so quickly it’s hard to imagine a large group of individuals sustaining “one voice” for any significant amount of time.

So there you have it. Heat-addled ruminations on the decline and fall of the copyright industry and its lobbying arm. I’m spinning off into ecological models now, with the copyright industry outgrowing its ecology in the absence of natural predators, so I think I’m going to go splash some cool water on my face & lie down in the shade.

Tech Coed

My father-in-law (in Massachusetts) was in town for his fiftieth MIT reunion — class of 1958! He took my partner and me to a couple of events, and we noticed among the red-jacketed men a few red-jacketed women. By various accounts, there were nine to fifteen women (out of a thousand students) in the Class of ’58 at MIT, a half dozen of whom were at the 50th reunion.

Tonight, five of them — representing mathematics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics — got together and revisited a song they sang back in the 50s, called something like “My mother was a Tech Coed” — apparently a takeoff of another MIT favorite, “My father was a something something engineer.” We chatted with some of them tonight for a while, and got to hear amazing stories about classes, the women’s dorm that held only 17 students — so the rest had to live off-campus — and other experiences of MIT in the 1950s.

But the song was the highlight, and they were kind enough to give us permission to reprint the lyrics that they sang — they said there were probably ten or fifteen verses altogether in the original. The first four are what they recalled of those verses. The last two they wrote at the reunion.

She never held me on her knee
But she was all the world to me
That lady with the pointy head
My mother was a Tech coed.

She couldn’t cook she couldn’t sew
But she could fix a radio
She used T-squares to make a bed
My mother was a Tech coed.

As she approached maternity
She also got her PhD
And started working on Pre Med
My mother was a Tech coed.

Her cocktails were a potent brew
She learned the trick in 5.02*
She always bought her cakes and bread
My mother was a Tech coed.

Now 50 years have come and gone
I still remember dear old mom
Her dying breath she taught me well
Above all else, that Tech is hell.

We are the queens of gray and red
The very coolest Tech coeds.

* Second semester freshman chemistry.

media annoyances part 2: Tom Ashbrook “On Point”

So Adam Nagourney certainly was annoying me today, but yesterday, I was way more irate at someone I don’t usually hate, Tom Ashbrook, in his radio show “On Point”. Granted, I was driving around in Boston traffic, trying to find parking in the over-crowded Longwood Medical Area, and did I mention that I was driving around in Boston traffic? with Boston drivers? or perhaps I should say “people in Boston who drive cars but really should never have been given licenses to do so”.

Still even though I had massive external provocations (why is it that people in Boston do not seem to have learned how to make left turns in an intersection?) Tom Ashbrook was far more annoying. “On Point”, hosting an hour-long discussion on the earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. At one point a caller made the eminently reasonable point that US resources were committed to Iraq, leaving us vulnerable to natural disasters; he brought up the US national response to Hurricane Katrina.

Now, there are sooo many reasonable responses to this point. But Tom Ashbrook totally ran this one off the rails onto his own bizarre tangent. Which apparently was an interest in discussing how authoritarian governments stack up against democratic governments in responding to natural disasters.

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