Category Archives: Fair Use

Does anyone truly own an Apple Product?

Let me share my feelings on Apple products. I don’t like them period. It is not because they suck or are not easy to use. Clearly they are user friendly and from what I hear do not suck. That is why they are so popular. But the company is so controlling about what you can do with their products. And make no mistake it is their product even after you put down your hard earned money for it. Sure you can use it when you want, take it where you want, even sell it when you get ready to do so. But try to alter it or use it in a way Apple does not care for, then you have trouble. And they can even disable your device in cases like the iphone. Try to move your itunes library to another computer or media device not made by Apple and you will see who really owns “your” stuff. I tried to get my wife’s songs from her itunes library into mp3 format so I could place them on a new Creative Mp3 player. Well if I wanted to burn cds of all the songs and go on a digital adventure that would last hours I would have went ahead. But I just gave up. I understand why they create a walled garden. It is to keep people using their devices the way Apple deems appropriate. But it also keeps people like me who like a little flexibility in their tech devices from buying Apple products. I know Steve Jobs will make it without my few dollars though:) .

The story Todd did on the last podcast about some people’s iphones getting disabled because they had an unauthorized application loaded on it really got to me. Either the phone is yours or it is not. The fact that a small percentage of people may get over in some way by not giving Apple more money does not justify keeping every single user from using their property how they want. When you by a new Dodge truck you have the ability to get accessories after the fact that were made by companies other than Dodge. When you buy a house from a builder he does not lock you out of your home when you don’t let him build on a new deck that your brother will do for free. I understand this is comparing apples to oranges but the principle holds true. Just because Apple can lock you out because it is a digital product does not make it right to do so. Wikipedia defines ownership as “the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property”. If Apple controls your iphone or ipod after you bought it do you really own it?

Google’s Trying to Help with NetNeutrality

“We’re trying to develop tools, software tools…that allow people to detect what’s happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they’re not happy with what they’re getting — that they think certain services are being tampered with,”

This came from Google senior policy director Richard Whitt the other day. Google seems to have taken a firm stance on what ISP’s are proposing to monitor. And why wouldn’t they? In the end, Google would be the one that takes the hit.

People “Google” over any other search site. If you use Firefox, Opera or Safari, you have the Google search right at the top. For IE users, it’s just a “Change Default” away. If you run a website with Google Adsense, chances are you are using the Google search engine to bring in a little revenue.

If ISP’s start looking at what you do online, then people will stop searching for stuff. Other search sites might pop up to counter the ISP trafficking – masking information so it looks like your searching for flowers when it’s really the Hulk movie. Google will loose it’s 60-70 percent stature in all internet searches.

Now we all know that you should not download software, music or movies. It gets drilled in our heads on a daily basis. While Google is not trying to promote this, they know that if people need something and don’t know where to get it, they will search first. Even if you do know where it is, you still will search for it.

“Feeling Lucky” is Googles’ way of getting you to go through their webpage. According to, there are an average 91,201,253 visits per day. If people stop searching on a popular topic, imagine how that number would drop. If they feel they cannot safely go to the site, they will stop going to the site.

I am not saying this is what drives Google to help with Net Neutrality. However, if I was in the search engine market, I would definitely have a project team watching over these items. Any type of policing like this can really hurt on those who’s life is online.

I don’t torrent nor go to content that could raise a red flag for ISPs. Therefore I would continue to use Google on a constant basis. Even in writing this article I searched on Google about 10 to 12 times. It’s really just a way of life on the internet for me. Before Google (and this dates myself), I was Metacrawling and Dog Piling.

So this brings up the question: Would your internet usage drop if you knew people were watching where you were going?

Mighty Mouse sues… Well, Mighty Mouse.

The Company Man & Machine has filed a lawsuit over the “Mighty Mouse” name with Apple and CBS. The Maryland based company put out a water-resistant optical mouse in called Mighty Mouse. Their claim is that Apple put out their Mighty Mouse over a year later.
Now we all know Mighty Mouse as a Superhero mouse that comes to save the day. The Mighty Mouse Trademark is owned by CBS – aka Viacom. However, CBS owns Mighty Mouse under the cartoon character – not as a wireless mouse (or as the Patent and Trademark Office states, “G & S: Computer cursor control devices, namely, computer mice.”).
M&M first registered the Trademark on 3/16/2004. CBS registered it as a wireless mouse for Apple on 8/02/2005. The case is Man & Machine Inc. v. Apple Inc., 8:08-cv-01311, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

Of Copyrights and Fair Use

J.K. Rowling, author of the arguably iconic Harry Potter series of books, has recently been in the news for suing Steve Vander Ark, the author of the online Harry Potter Lexicon guidebook, for infringement. The Lexicon was a labor of love for Vander Ark, who is a zealous fan of the Harry Potter books. He produced and maintains the Lexicon as a free resource for Harry Potter readers everywhere. He also made zero, zip, zilch dollars on this labor of love.

Rowling believed his work was infringement, so sued Vander Ark. Who can blame Vander Ark for feeling like he’s been slapped in the face by someone he’d held in high regard.

As the lawsuit progresses (it is still undecided as of this writing), several authors have come forward to add their opposing literary two cents to what is going on. What makes this remarkable is that two of these authors are extremely popular, well-known icons themselves. The first was Neil Gaiman, author of a truckload of graphic novels and the two standout literary works, American Gods and The Anansi Boys. The other is Orson Scott Card, whose work Ender’s Game won Hugo and Nebula awards in 2006.

Both of these authors would know something about infringement. Both take the attitude that to be emulated is flattery; to build on an idea, image, or reference is something to be proud of, not something to be squashed like vermin. In addition, Card makes a point of connecting the dots between some of the action and characters in his most famous work to that of Harry Potter. It is possible, and likely, that Rowling herself “borrowed” ideas, actions, and characters from other work that she’d read.

What both writers are pointing out, however, is that derivative works, websites by fans, and items like the Harry Potter Lexicon, do nothing but increase your visibility and brand. There is no downside to that kind of viral marketing. The fact is, the publication of Vander Ark’s reference guide could only increase Rowling’s popularity and the connected interest in her work. I would do a lot of things for that kind of publicity surrounding a book I’d written. The more the merrier. It all translates into increased book sales and increased interest in the author. How can that be a bad thing?

MPAA receives DMCA takedown for copyright infringement

How do I love irony, let me count the ways.

The MPAA has a stated hard line stance against infringement of copyright. “pirates are thieves, plain and simple” and has vigorously prosecuted both direct infringers and producers of DRM breaking software.

In their website targetted at teaching kids about copyright (understandable by any kid with a law degree) they rigourously define the terms that apply to copyright, including this one about permission granted by a copyright holder.

The GPL gives permission for derivative works to be created as long as the GPL applies to the whole work. To enable the freedom of further derivatives, the GPL specifies that any software covered by that license must have source code available.

Ubuntu Linux is highly committed to open source and in their license explains clearly what is required of anyone creating applications or distributions based on Ubuntu, including the following line

Must allow these rights to be passed on along with the software. You should be able to have exactly the same rights to the software as we do.

The MPAA released a University Toolkit designed to help univerities detect copyright infringement on their networks, which included Ubuntu and Apache amongst other applications covered under the GPL. This toolkit included custom traffic monitoring software. The source code for this component was not included or otherwise available, no doubt to prevent easy subversion.

Given this violates the permissions for reuse specified in the license for Ubuntu, the technical director asked them to either include the source code or stop distributing the package. The MPAA essentially ignored the request until their ISP was served with a DMCA takedown notice.

Irony is indeed delicious.

Legal notice: My opening line is protected free speech as parody, which is probably irrelevant given that Elizabeth Browning died in 1861.

Modern Copyright Law Madness Explained

There is a great video on YouTube explaining the downside of modern copyright law using the story of a very famous drum loop called the Amen Break.  The video is called Amen Brother.  It is 18 minutes long so be warned, but if you want to skip to the explanation of why current copyright law hurts the economy rather than encourages it, this part starts at 14:46.  If even that is too long I’ll provide a summary.

Prior to the ‘Sonny Bono’ act and subsequent extensions in 1998, it was generally possible to sample small sections of other artists work and re-interpret them, as long as there was substantial difference from the original, or the original artist did not complain that the work infringed on their copyright.  Music scenes like Hip Hop and Drum and Base, blossomed with the invention of the sampler, using snippets of existing music to build a new work.  These genre’s started with people mixing new tracks at home and playing them in clubs and the like, making little or no money.  With few exceptions, the new works, while borrowing from the original, where so radically different from it to be considered an original work of themselves.  If you listen to the video you will see how unless you were told there would be no way to associate some of the derivative tracks from the original 6–second drum break.  Both genre’s eventually grew into significant markets generating huge revenues.

Under todays laws any length of sample, regardless of how it is modified, must be credited and licensed.  While this does not matter to big Hip-Hop artists of today, it prevents any new backyard artists from experimenting with new forms without breaching copyright.

The justification for copyright as it applies to music is that it encourages innovation.  The argument goes that if people have protection for their creation then they can gain the financial benefit of that creation and are therefore encouraged to produce.  This is only accurate to a point.  While the recording industry tries to gloss over it, copyright is not binary (present or absent) there is a scale of control.  While moderate controls can promote innovation, extreme controls can actually stifle it.  If the laws of today were in place in the 80’s then the Hip-Hop genre would not exist.  Regardless of whether that appeals to you or not, it would definitely make the music industry smaller than it is today.

While this is an interesting story in itself, the true connection with IT is its correlation with other intellectual property (IP) law.  All other IP regimes (e.g. patents) mirror copyright in their application.  Moderate enforcement encourages development.  But if the application is too weak or too strong, then the opposite is true and innovation is stifled.  I think we are seeing this in patent law today, and we in IT should take a lesson from the mistakes we can see in the music industry and get behind efforts to rationalize IP law.

Copyright notices on DVD’s really annoy me.

When Todd offered me the chance to post on the GNC blog my intention was to start without fanfare.  I hope to maintain the feel that we all love about GNC while helping to increase the content on the site.  If you are interested in finding out more about me my personal blog is at  My posts there generally involve the business and economic facets of technology, but I will occasionally cross link to posts there I think might be of interest to the GNC audience.

I have been reading some commentary on the recent law suit raised by CCIA alleging that some copyright holders are overstating their actual rights in their copyright notices.  While I am undecided on the merits of this case, it reminded me of how much copyright notices on DVDs really annoy me.  I hate getting a lecture for doing the right thing, I wouldn’t see the notice if I didn’t buy the DVD!  In reality these notices make little sense unless pirates actually buy DVDs.  This just reinforces the fact that copyright holders are making a mistake in fighting their own customers.

The RIAA Denounce Digital Fair Use bill

This rhetoric out of the mouths of the folks at the RIAA are already at a fevered pitch over the introduction of the Digital Fair use Bill a great battle is about to begin.

U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) stated “The FAIR USE Act will assure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work,”

While I have been a big proponent of Fair Use Rights and think this bill is a great first step in protecting consumer rights, the RIAA and content creators are going to come in swinging on this one.

Fair Use advocate and Gary Shapiro and the members of the CEA would benefit greatly by this bill and I am hoping that CEA members and Gary Shapiro and his staff put some muscle behind this. They need to understand that they are going to have to fight and get twist some ears in the halls of congress. This is the time to call in some markers.

Meanwhile the RIAA is saying in essence that the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) has done nothing but benefit consumers. This is one of the most outrageous assessment yet, any consumer that has even modicum knowledge of the DMCA realizes that fair use rights have continued to be restricted.

The end goals of the RIAA and MPAA is through content restriction legislation, along with consumer device obsolescence that through time will remove any aspect of fair use that remains.

I will be trumpeting this bill even though it is somewhat limited in scope and leaves some critical issues on the table. I want you to get the word out to your congressional representatives today to support and put their vote behind this legislation. This is the first chance we have had in a while to make a difference in the Fair Use Rights, that treats consumers as consumers and not criminals.

DRM is about Music and Movie Studio’s control

Steve Jobs posted a letter to the community today talking about music and DRM. If it has not become obvious to you before, he painstakingly spells out the only reason why both Apple and Microsoft and a multitude of other companies have to wrap the media they sell in DRM.

You will garner from his letter that the sole reason DRM exist in the format it does today is to protect the multi-billion dollar movie and music industry. I understand the issues they are faced with and as a consumer I have voted with my wallet and only support indie artist.   Steve Jobs