Tag Archives: Microsoft

DRM litigation bait

Surely some enterprising plaintiff-side attorney can generate a lawsuit from the reasonable expectations of consumers to continue to have access to the music they paid for:

Customers who have purchased music from Microsoft’s now-defunct MSN Music store are now facing a decision they never anticipated making: commit to which computers (and OS) they want to authorize forever, or give up access to the music they paid for. Why? Because Microsoft has decided that it’s done supporting the service and will be turning off the MSN Music license servers by the end of this summer.

MSN Entertainment and Video Services general manager Rob Bennett sent out an e-mail this afternoon to customers, advising them to make any and all authorizations or deauthorizations before August 31. “As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers,” reads the e-mail seen by Ars. “You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play.” …

Bennett insists that MSN Music keys are, in fact, not yet expiring. Technically speaking, that’s true—if I authorize one of my PCs, never get rid of it for the rest of my life, and never upgrade its OS, I will be able to play my tracks forever. But as some of our readers note, this technicality is not rooted in reality—the authorizations will now expire when the computer does, for whatever reason.

quoted from DRM sucks redux: Microsoft to nuke MSN Music DRM keys, Jacquie Cheng, 2008/4/22, Ars Technica; connecting link from somewhere i forget

another way that EULAs/TOS/etc can suck

2:45 to 4:55 a.m.

So I was up too late at night (or too early in the morning) writing out my thoughts and ideas and plans and investigating various and sundry burning questions, as one does at 3 in the morning, and I found myself signing up to Zune. Really, I found myself doing it, because I had just randomly clicked through someone’s profile to their zune account, and without fully registering zune = microsoft, I thought oh yes, another media sharing site, zune — so familiar, I must have heard of it before. (I was a tiny bit sleep-addled, and yes, my family owns mp3 players of at least two non-Microsoft varieties. Zune, like Kindle, is one of those interesting devices that arouse my professional curiosity but not enough to spend money on them, and so over time the details, and apparently even the name, get filed to some lower-level-of-detail storage in my brain.)

And, because I have been spending a little time logging onto various media sharing / social networks and examining their properties and features (all without much if any media to share, I might add, so don’t bother checking out my stuff on these various accounts), I started the account creation process at zune. I had a moment of suspicion as I realized they used Microsoft’s Live ID (Who uses that?), and then was like, Oh, Zune, and I cancelled out but then thought, well, what the hell, and started the account creation process again.

Which was at live.com, by the way, so it’s not just zune, you’re signing your whole life over to Microsoft. But it’s okay, because in addition to the “service agreement” Microsoft makes you sign, privacy is very important to Microsoft so you have to agree to a privacy agreement, too. As is my wont, I decided to save copies of the things they made me agree to. In this case, it was “Microsoft Service Agreement Last Updated: October 2007” (this was the document’s actual title, with no linebreaks where you might think they would be) and Privacy Statement (whose actual title I don’t quite recall for reasons to be described later). So I opened up both those documents to separate tabs, rather than just clicking “I agree”. Firefox helpfully informed me that both documents wanted to save cookies on my hard drive, because I have Firefox set to that high privacy notification standard although it gets pretty annoying sometimes. Why do these documents need to set cookies, I wondered, annoyed. For example.

Rather than actually reading the whole Service Agreement right then, I decided to save a copy of it. It was in one of those inset frames — a scrolling window — which I hate, but Microsoft conveniently had a “print” icon for the document. Huh, I thought, clicking the print icon and saving a PDF (because I save PDFs instead of printing, to save trees and to permit better searching and personal mark-up and so on), maybe Microsoft has learned something about privacy, and EULA usability. Maybe the constant scrutiny by their critics makes them improve and be responsive. Maybe I’m wrong about giant corporations. Maybe Microsoft will become the new App— and then I opened up the PDF of the license, just to see what it looked like.

And realized that it only had one page, page one, through point six of the agreement (“6. If You Are an Associated Account User. If you are the user of an associated account, then the holder of the service account has full control over your associated account. …”). Dawning suspicion. But, still, maybe I, without realizing it, clicked to just print one page. So I went back, hit the print icon again, up popped the print window, I did not do any page selection, I saved the PDF, opened the PDF, and voilá — still just one page, the first page.

Well, now I’m really irritated, because it’s hard as hell to save the contents of those little scrolling windows, especially if you want formatting. You either have to get the browser to open up the frame in a separate window of its own, which they don’t always want to do (there’s probably some proprietary anti-open-up-separate-window code or script that can be applied), or you have to do multiple screenshots which of course doesn’t preserve the editable text, or you have to try to save the HTML separately which requires a browser to render it, or you can try to select-copy just the text out of the iframe but then you don’t get any of the italics or bolds — etc.

I decide to blog about this, because I think it’s really deceptive. Screw my personal annoyance; this is a vital political issue and it must be blogged! People save a copy of the agreement and then only have one page! So, these license agreements which are basically impossible to read onscreen because of the fine print, boring legaleze, long paragraphs, and difficult-to-read formatting, can’t be easily printed or saved for later reading or even to have one’s own copy of putatively legally-binding agreements. This particular document took fourteen screenshots to save it, I kid you not. And when I wanted to save the text for searching purposes I had to deal with the inset frame again, because if you select-all it selects ALL, as in all the contents on the master page, so one has to go through that process and then remember, oh yeah I have to click in the goddamned inset frame.

So I pop open wordpress, start this post and describe the events up until that moment. Then I command-tab back from Preview to the Firefox window to do whatever it takes to save a copy of the Microsoft document so that I can actually read it. (I really hate those inset frames.)

And Firefox crashes.Yes, once again Microsoft has managed to crash something on my computer. Usually it’s just MS Word or Excel or PowerPoint but since I compulsively command-S my work like, literally, after every sentence or two or at most after a paragraph if I’m really on a roll, I rarely lose much work. Except in Excel or PowerPoint, if I’m mucking about with graphs or graphics or whatever. But it’s wordpress, through a browser, so cmd-S doesn’t work. So I had probably several paragraphs of brilliant prose written without being saved.

So, I began the tedious process of recreating everything, and finishing my Zune application. This was helped because Firefox stores your sessions when your browser crashes, although it doesn’t save one’s precious prose or anything else temporarily stored in HTML form elements. It also can’t or won’t permit you to go back in form submissions from a resurrected session after a browser crash, so I could never get back to the Zune/Live/Microsoft sign-on page two from whence I clicked the “Privacy Agreement/Statement” link, and so I could never verify the actual text of that original link.

The story continues for a while with various misadventures of WordPress formatting (WordPress! Why does your code view always lose my paragraphing, in firefox and safari, at least? SO annoying.), browser crashing, session timeouts, pondering the mysterious user interface design issues of Microsoft’s live.com website (why does the service agreement include, outside of the frame inset on the left side of the page, a “FAQ” that links to the same service agreement? Why is there a “Table of Contents” link at the bottom, which, when clicked, switches the word “FAQ” to the bottom and the phrase “Table of Contents” to the top, but leaves the exact same link to the exact same service agreement in place?), laughing sardonically at the other tab, the privacy statement/agreement which you may have forgotten about and which, it turns out, actually just drops you on “Microsoft’s Online Privacy Notice Highlights”, also “last updated October 2007”, which then further links to “fullnotice.aspx”, aka “Microsoft Online Privacy Statement”. And more user agreements, like the Zune terms of service, which actually is in its own, user-friendly browser window, without inset frames.

But the rest of it was pretty boring, and it’s almost 5 am, and I think my demons are laid to rest and I might be able to get back to sleep. So, the take-home: Don’t just save copies of agreements; open them up to make sure they are the full monty. Because otherwise you’re still at the mercy of the company not just for what you agreed to, but for what they said you agreed to when you clicked “I agree” without reading it.

interesting reading, early saturday morning

Up early for my spouse who caught a red-eye. Now she’s resting peacefully and I of course can’t get back to sleep. But that’s okay, because there’s the Internet!

  • Positive outcomes of BlogHer: Mary Hodder at Napsterization is establishing a Speakers’ Wiki.

  • In response to publisher anxieties & thinly-veiled threats of litigation, Google is implementing an opt-out provision in its scan-copyrighted-library-books program, and delaying scans of copyrighted books until November. [google blog] This has been widely reported as Google backing down. See, e.g., “Chilled by Publishers” (BoingBoing), “Google Sells Out Users” (Copyfight). I agree, sell-out, chill, yes, yes, but am taking a moment to appreciate the sweetness of the opt-out option as default.

    Siva Vaidhyanathan had a different take, predicated largely (it seems to me) on the fact that Google is a for-profit corporation. For once, I disagree with Siva, and on two grounds: both with library exceptionalism in this instance and the take on American Geophysical Union.

  • Ed Felten on Freedom to Tinker [8/9] talked about the DRM in Microsoft’s Longhorn-cum-Vista. Copyfight (8/9) summed it up and added this pithy observation: “[T]his isn’t about stopping mass copyright infringement or pleasing Hollywood. It’s about keeping “consumers” locked in and people who develop potentially competing products locked out.” See also Derek Slater at EFF Deeplinks (8/9).

  • On Balkinization, Brian Tamanaha ponders intelligent design, reminding us that the whole kerfluffle is not about debates between religion and science, but about debates between a few modern religious leaders who are picking issues:

    Darwin’s 1859 publication of The Origin of Species incited a wicked backlash from religious quarters in the United States, pitting science directly against religion. But within three decades an accommodation had been achieved, as Richard Hofstadter described in Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944):

    Science, [Le Conte] urged, should be looked upon not as the foe of religion, but rather as a complementary study of the ways in which the First Cause operated in the natural world. Whatever science might learn, the existence of God as First Cause could always be assumed.

    This raises the question: why has a sensible way to reconcile faith and science that has worked for so long become unacceptable to many religious leaders in this country? This is not like the other ongoing battles over religion in the public sphere and the separation between state and church (school prayer, Decalogue displays, funding for parochial schools), all of which raise debatable issues of public and private values.

    Putting it this way helps keep the focus on the small set of religious leaders who are sowing all this unnecessary discord.

    I feel I must document the provenance of this observation: I’m quoting Brian Tamanaha who’s quoting Richard Hofstadter who’s citing Joseph Le Conte who “followed” Asa Gray. I’m just tickled by the lengthy chain, but the observation stands on its own regardless of sources.

  • fafblog has been brilliant recently: two on intelligent design: creation science, creation technology! [fafnir 8/10] and overwhelming scientific proof [giblets 8/2]. Then more on torture: claustrophobic techniques [medium lobster 8/4] … in the kingdom of the one-eyed man, the best wars are blind [medium lobster, 7/28]. Segueing nicely from torture, the democrats: the great divorce [fafnir 8/3] . Last but not least, response to some recent efforts by the American Family Assn to provide gay checklists for childrearing: how to tell how gay your gay son is [giblets 8/9]. How despicable is this fear-mongering checklist in the light of this fearful Christian response? [See queerday 7/18, Tampa Bay Online 7/13] Too much anger. That’s why I read fafblog. I could just do a blog indexing fafblog. And still keep the title, ‘derivative work’.

  • A wretched decision out of the NLRB, restricting employees’ off-duty fraternization. Guardsmark, LLC, 334 NLRB No. 97 (2005) (decision in pdf); more info at american rights at work; linked from tom tomorrow. A bit more from me on this case.

Of course, two hours later, the spouse is still sleeping like a baby, and now “Adelaide’s Lament” is going through my head. It’s my own fault for putting iTunes on random shuffle through my entire 80+G music library last week, but still, I last heard that song over a week ago. Probably at some point this morning I had a low-level meditation on my own minor cold and it triggered a “Guys & Dolls” flashback. Unlike LSD, perhaps “Guys & Dolls” really does hang out in your fat cells waiting to be re-triggered.

copyright office gone completely insane

The Copyright Office is taking comments (thank god) on the current preregistration system which supports Internet Explorer only. 70 FR 44878-79 (8/4): Preregistration of Certain Unpublished Copyright Claims [PDF] [seen on news.com via sivacracy; and zdnet via news.google]

Of course, comments are not being accepted electronically (and why not? It’s easy enough to write scripts accepting open source comments. Hell, they could probably borrow the FCC’s electronic comment system; that’s been up for years). Comments are DUE by Monday, Aug. 22, 2005.

If hand delivered by a private party, an original and five copies of any comment should be brought to Room LM-401 of the James Madison Memorial Building between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and the envelope should be addressed as follows: Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Copyright Office, James Madison Memorial Building, Room LM-401, 101 Independence Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20559-6000. If hand delivered by a commercial courier, an original and five copies of any comment must be delivered to the Congressional Courier Acceptance Site located at Second and D Streets, NE., Washington, DC, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The envelope should be addressed as follows: Copyright Office General Counsel, Room LM-403, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Avenue, SE., Washington, DC. If sent by mail, an original and five copies of any comment should be addressed to: Copyright GC/ I&R, P.O. Box 70400, Southwest Station, Washington, DC 20024-0400. Comments may not be delivered by means of overnight delivery services such as Federal Express, United Parcel Service, etc., due to delays in processing receipt of such deliveries.

a history of the bush website

georgewbush.com: one website’s story

  • 1999-may-21, the bush campaign thinks “[t]here ought to be limits to freedom” (at least for website satirists gwbush.com) [but see georgewbush.org which bravely soldiers on]
  • in 2004, the bush website looks like it was designed of, by & for microsoft products
  • in 2004, the bush website put up the popular but short-lived bush-cheney sign generator [“the sloganator”], which was rapidly appropriated by the administration’s critics, even though the administration’s web team had cleverly thought to ban some potentially troublesome words (like “dumb, stupid, fascism, evil, lying, scum”. The campaign took down the sloganator but luckily a number of galleries & archives of signs were created and an offsite sloganator live on. So popular was the hacking of the sloganator that the anti-Kerry folks used the idea to develop a Kerry Sloganator.
  • in 2004, the bush website uses colin powell to demonstrate its “compassion”
  • 2004-10-26: the register and netcraft report that the bush campaign website has blocked international access. (The 51st state is apparently permitted access, although plans for conquest have not yet been publicized/finalized.) 10-28: the bbc reports that it was a DDOS that caused the security response.

Compassionate Bush

Salon.com’s WarRoom blog had this posting on the 14th, based on an LA Times op-ed piece by Lawrence Weschler (registration required, grr). The author goes through the G.W. Bush reelection website. He looks at the various tabs — economy, health care, compassion — and then looks at the compassion tab and the attached photo album. It’s a bunch of pictures of Bush with African-Americans who have bravely endured Bush compassion hard times. Amazingly enough the pictures include Colin Powell. I guess you could say that Colin is having a pretty hard time in the Bush administration, as a conservative who is nevertheless not entirely insane.

And can I just ask: is this site just entirely designed by M$ designers? It’s really unattractive. john kerry’s website isn’t nearly so corporately ugly. … also, get a load of the lamest website quiz ever on the gwb website: “How many working families are benefiting from President Bush’s Jobs and Growth Act? 12 million – 23 million – 34 million – 18 million” Notice how they mix the numbers up — just to keep it fun!