Archive for the 'Digital Culture' Category

The DMCA Gets a Thumbs Up from the Register of Copyrights

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture on September 18th, 2007

At the Future of Music Policy Summit, Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters said of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act: "I'm a supporter; I think it did what it was supposed to do." Further, she asserted that: "I'm not ready to dump the anticircumvention."

In an analysis of Peters' comments, Cory Doctorow said:

The DMCA also makes it possible to censor the Internet by sending "takedown notices" to web-hosting companies alleging that some of their content infringes copyright. This system has been widely abused. . . .

The DMCA has also been vital to the music industry lawsuits against 20,000 US music fans, and resulted in the US threatening and jailing researchers and scholars who wrote about information security.

Despite all this, there is no evidence that the DMCA has curbed Internet infringement—indeed, all indications are that unauthorized music and movie downloading are on the increase and show no signs of slowing. Furthermore, the DMCA lawsuits against technology companies like and Napster, and against tens of thousands of American music-fans, have not generated one cent of income for actual musicians. . . .

Of course, Peters (who doesn't own a computer!) is no copyright apologist—in May, 2005, she spoke out against the "Betamax" principle, a bedrock of American copyright law that allows technologies to be legally manufactured if they have a legal use. She also said that copyright infringement funds terrorism, and that the US should clobber foreign countries that sought to have local copyright policies that promoted cultural diversity and development. . .

Sources: Broache, Anne. "Copyright Office Chief: I'm a DMCA Supporter." CNET News.Com, 17 September 2007; Doctorow, Cory. "Head of US Copyright Says 'DMCA Does What It Is Supposed to Do." Boing Boing, 17 September 2007.

CCIA Study Says Copyright Limitations Generate More Than $4.5 Trillion per Year in US

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture on September 12th, 2007

The Computer and Communications Industry Association has released a study that estimates that copyright limitations, such as fair use, generate over $4.5 trillion per year in the US. The report will be available on the CCIA website.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

According to the study commissioned by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and conducted in accordance with a World Intellectual Property Organization methodology, companies benefiting from limitations on copyright-holders' exclusive rights, such as "fair use"—generate substantial revenue, employ millions of workers, and, in 2006, represented one-sixth of total U.S. GDP.

The exhaustive report, released today at a briefing on Capitol Hill, quantifies for the first time ever the critical contributions of fair use to the U.S. economy. The timing proves particularly important as the debates over copyright law in the digital age move increasingly to center stage on Capitol Hill. As the report summarizes, in the past twenty years as digital technology has increased, so too has the importance of fair use. With more than $4.5 trillion in revenue generated by fair use dependent industries in 2006, a 31% increase since 2002, fair use industries are directly responsible for more than 18% of U.S. economic growth and nearly 11 million American jobs. In fact, nearly one out of every eight American jobs is in an industry that benefits from current limitations on copyright.

Postscript: The report is now available.

Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture

Posted in Copyright, Digital Copyright Wars, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management on September 11th, 2007

The MIT Press has published Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture by Tarleton Gillespie.

Here's an excerpt from the author's description:

In Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture, Tarleton Gillespie examines this shift to "technical copy protection" and its profound political, economic, and cultural implications.

Gillespie reveals that the real story is not the technological controls themselves but the political, economic, and cultural arrangements being put in place to make them work. He shows that this approach to digital copyright depends on new kinds of alliances among content and technology industries, legislators, regulators, and the courts, and is changing the relationship between law and technology in the process. The film and music industries, he claims, are deploying copyright in order to funnel digital culture into increasingly commercial patterns that threaten to undermine the democratic potential of a network society.

Is Net Neutrality Dead?: Ten Reasons That It Might Be

Posted in Digital Culture, Net Neutrality on September 7th, 2007

In "Ten Things That Finally Killed Net Neutrality," Declan McCullagh examines why the Net Neutrality movement has failed.

The culprits? The AT&T merger, the Bush administration, Congressional gridlock, the decline of the It's Our Net coalition, the FCC, lack of evidence of wrongdoing by broadband providers, and Nancy Pelosi, among others.

Source: McCullagh, Declan. "Ten Things That Finally Killed Net Neutrality." CNET News.Com, 6 September 2007.

RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later

Posted in Copyright, Digital Copyright Wars, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management, P2P File Sharing, Publishing on August 29th, 2007

With is focus on entertainment, digital audio/video file-sharing would appear to have little to do with digital scholarship; however, file-sharing is the canary in the digital copyright coal mine. Since the financial stakes are high, the legal battle over file-sharing is fierce, and it is where a growing body of digital copyright case law is being written. These rulings are legal precedents that may affect a wider range of digital materials in the future. File-sharing is also where the fate of digital rights management (DRM) is being largely decided, and this could have a major impact on future digital scholarship as well. That’s why I cover file-sharing legal issues in DigitalKoans.

The EFF has issued a new report, RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later, that examines the track record of one of the major legal combatants in the file-sharing war, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Here's a brief excerpt from the report:

Are the lawsuits working? Has the arbitrary singling out of more than 20,000 random American families done any good in restoring public respect for copyright law? Have the lawsuits put the P2P genie back in the bottle or restored the record industry to its 1997 revenues?

After four years of threats and litigation, the answer is a resounding no.

Welcome to the DRM Zone: Case in Point, the Google Video Store

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Digital Media, Digital Rights Management, Google and Other Search Engines on August 13th, 2007

If you have ever purchased or rented a video from the Google Video Store, it will cease to function on August 15, 2007. That's because the Google Video Store is being shut down and along with it Google 's associated DRM system.

Customers will get credits in Google Checkout for what they spent on Google Video Store products, but not cash refunds, meaning that they must buy merchandise available via that service to recoup their losses. Of course, this does not compensate purchasers for the inconvenience of having to replace their videos (assuming that they can).

This fiasco underlines a key problem with DRM: it doesn't just restrict access, it restricts access using proprietary technologies, and, with few exceptions, those technologies cannot be legally circumvented under U.S. law.

Source: Fisher, Ken. "Google Selleth Then Taketh Away, Proving the Need for DRM Circumvention." Ars Technica, 12 August 2007.

Second Life Impacts Real Life and Vice Versa

Posted in Digital Culture, Emerging Technologies, Virtual Worlds on August 10th, 2007

What happens in Second Life is increasingly influencing real life and vice versa. Here are some recent highlights:

Litman on Lawful Personal Use

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture on August 6th, 2007

Jessica Litman, Professor at the University of Michigan Law School and author of Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet, has written a paper that examines copyright from the point of user rights.

Here's an excerpt from the e-print:

This Article seeks to refocus the discussion of users’ and consumers’ rights under copyright, by placing people who make personal use of copyright works at the center of the copyright system. . . .

Limiting myself to personal use, moreover, allows me to evade, for now, many of the interesting questions that arise when readers, listeners, users, and experiencers morph into publishers and distributors. Finally, personal use is a realm where even the most rapacious copyright owners have always agreed that some uses are lawful even though they are neither exempted or privileged in the copyright statute nor recognized as legal by any judicial decision.

In Part II of this Article, I urge that reading, listening, viewing, watching, playing, and using copyrighted works is at the core of the copyright system. . . . In Part III, I revisit copyright cases that have attracted criticism for their stingy construction of copyright owners’ property rights, and suggest that the courts’ narrow reading of copyright rights was motivated, at least in part, by their solicitude for the interests of readers and listeners. . . . In Part IV, I articulate a definition of personal use. Armed with that definition, in Part V, I look at a range of personal uses that are uncontroversially noninfringing under current law. . . . I proceed in Parts VI and VII to offer an alternative analysis of the scope of copyright owners’ rights and the lawfulness of personal uses that might invade them. Finally, in Part VIII, I return to the conventional paradigm of copyright statutory interpretation, under which all unlicensed uses are infringing unless excused.

Source: Litman, Jessica. "Lawful Personal Use." (2007).

EFF Sues Universal Music to Protect Fair Use Rights in 29-Second Video

Posted in Copyright, Digital Copyright Wars, Digital Culture, Social Media on July 26th, 2007

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has sued the Universal Music Publishing Group in order to protect the fair use and free speech rights of Stephanie Lenz, who uploaded to YouTube a 29-second recording of her infant son boogying to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." YouTube took the video down after a complaint by Universal Music, then reposted it.

Here's an excerpt from "Mom Sues Universal Music for DMCA Abuse":

"Universal's takedown notice doesn't even pass the laugh test," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Copyright holders should be held accountable when they undermine non-infringing, fair uses like this video."

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that Lenz's home video does not infringe any Universal copyright, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Universal from bringing further copyright claims in connection with the video.

This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford's Fair Use Project to develop a set of "best practices" for proper takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Reid Substitutes New P2P Higher Education Reauthorization Act Amendment

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, P2P File Sharing on July 25th, 2007

CNET News.Com reports that Senator Harry Reid has withdrawn his original Amendment to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which met with opposition from EDUCAUSE and others, that would, among other provisions, have forced higher education institutions to prove to the Department of Education that they had "developed a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property."

Instead, Reid successfully added an amendment that requires higher education institutions to inform students "that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material on the institution’s information technology systems, including engaging in unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal penalties."

Ars Technica and EFF Deep Links have additional coverage of this development.

EDUCAUSE Urgent Call to Action about Higher Education Reauthorization Act Amendment

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, P2P File Sharing on July 21st, 2007

EDUCAUSE has issued a call to action about a Higher Education Reauthorization Act amendment:

Here’s an excerpt from the call:

I am writing to ask your help in a matter of urgency to higher education in general and the IT community in particular: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) intends to offer a very harmful amendment, involving illegal file sharing, to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act when the Senate turns to this issue on July 22-23. The amendment can be found at <>. The amendment:

*  Makes the Secretary of Education an agent of the entertainment industry;

*  Requires the Secretary to take action using data given to her by the entertainment industry that is terribly inaccurate;

*  Requires targeted colleges and universities to plan for implementing a "technical solution" to illegal file sharing that does not yet exist for many campus environments; 

*  Is aimed only at colleges and universities, and NOT other Internet service providers;  . . . .

It is important that your institution (CEO, government relations official, and yourself) CALL today, not write, your state’s U.S. senators’ staff members for higher education issues and tell them how much higher education opposes this amendment. Please also call Senator Reid’s office (202-224-3542), Senator Edward Kennedy’s office (202-224-4543), and Senator Michael Enzi’s office (202-224-3424). Thank you for your help.

World Information Society Report 2007: Beyond WSIS

Posted in Digital Culture, General, Scholarly Communication on July 19th, 2007

The International Telecommunication Union has released the World Information Society Report 2007: Beyond WSIS.

Here's an excerpt from the "Executive Summary":

Developing countries (most notably, India and China) are gaining on OECD countries in terms of fixed line penetration, mobile cellular subscriber penetration, Internet usage and broadband penetration. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are also catching up with developing countries in terms of mobile phones, Internet usage and broadband. However, LDCs are actually being left behind in fixed lines, where there is a widening gap between developing countries and LDCs. This may later have a negative impact on the take-up of broadband in LDCs. . . .

The digital divide is also narrowing in terms of Internet usage. In 1997, the nearly three-quarters of the world’s population living in low-income and lower-middle income economies accounted for just 5 per cent of the world’s Internet users (see Figure 2). By 2005, they accounted for just over 30 per cent of all Internet users. . . .

In terms of broadband subscribers, high-income economies account for nearly three-quarters of total broadband subscribers worldwide (see Figure 1). Lower-middle income economies accounted for 20 per cent (with China alone accounting for 87 per cent of these or some 15 per cent of the global total). Low-income countries accounted for less than 1 per cent of total global broadband subscribers, with India and Vietnam accounting for virtually all of these.

2005 and 2006 were a period of startling growth in Internet in many countries, thanks to the boost from broadband. The United States remains the largest Internet market in terms of the number of Internet subscribers, but China is gaining fast and, if current growth rates continue, China could overtake the United States in terms of total Internet subscribers within two years. . . .

In developed countries, growth rates in Internet subscriptions tend to be lower, but many subscribers are exchanging their narrowband dial-up connection for a higher speed broadband connection. One example is the substitution of broadband for dial-up in the United Kingdom (see Figure 4). In the United States, some 60 per cent of all Internet connections are now broadband, while in Japan and Spain, efforts by operators to encourage consumers towards broadband have resulted in three-quarters of Internet subscribers now using broadband. In the Republic of Korea and Canada, virtually all Internet subscribers already enjoy broadband access to faster, advanced services such as video, teleconferencing, multi-player gaming and triple play.

How Many Creative Commons Licenses Are in Use?

Posted in Copyright, Creative Commons/Open Licenses, Digital Culture, Open Access on July 2nd, 2007

In his "Creative Commons Statistics from the CC-Monitor Project" iCommons Summit presentation, Giorgos Cheliotis of the School of Information Systems at Singapore Management University estimates that there must be more than 60,000,000 Creative Commons licenses in use.

Based on backlink search data from Google and Yahoo, he also provides the following license breakdown highlights:

  • 70% of the licenses allow non-commercial use only (NC)
  • Share-Alike (SA) also a very popular attribute, present in over 50% fCC-licensed items (though SA is anyhow self-propagating)
  • 25% of the licenses include the ND [no derivative] restriction

WIPO Broadcasting Treaty on Hold

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture on June 24th, 2007

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has decided to indefinitely postpone a November 2007 Diplomatic Conference at which the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty could have been approved.

Here’s an excerpt from the EFF’s "Blogging WIPO: Broadcasting Treaty Deferred Indefinitely" posting:

Negotiations on the proposed WIPO Broadcasting Treaty ended on Friday with some welcome news. WIPO Member States agreed to postpone the high-level intergovernmental Diplomatic Conference at which the draft treaty could have been adopted, and have moved discussions back to regular committee meetings, down a notch from the last two "Special Session" meetings. . . .

Before a Diplomatic Conference can be convened, Member States must reach agreement on the core elements of a treaty—the objectives, specific scope and object of protection. While this week’s informal session discussions may have helped clarify Member States’ positions, it does not seem to have brought them closer. There is widespread agreement amongst many Member States, public interest NGOs. libraries and the tech industry that any treaty must focus on the issue of signal theft and not the creation of exclusive rights that will harm those communities. However, it’s equally clear from this week that broadcasters will not settle for anything other than exclusive rights.

Why is this important? Here’s an excerpt from Cory Doctorow’s Boing Boing posting on the subject ("Broadcast Treaty Wounded and Dying!"):

The broadcast treaty creates a copyright-like "broadcast right," for the entities that make works available. So while copyright goes to the people who create things, broadcast rights go to people who have no creative contribution at all. Here’s how it would work: say you recorded some TV to use in your classroom. Copyright lets you do this—copyright is limited by fair use. But the broadcast right would stop you—you’d need to navigate a different and disjointed set of exceptions to broadcast rights, or the broadcaster could sue you.

That’s just for openers. The broadcast right also covers works in the public domain that no one has a copyright in—and even Creative Commons works where the creator has already given her permission for sharing! You can’t use anything that’s broadcast unless you get permission from the caster. What’s more, they’re trying to extend this to the net, making podcasting and other communications where the hoster isn’t the copyright holder (that is, where you create the podcast but someone else hosts it) into a legal minefield.

The World’s First Cyberwar?

Posted in Digital Culture on May 29th, 2007

The New York Times reports today ("War Fears Turn Digital After Data Siege in Estonia") that Estonia has suffered massive distributed denial-of-service attacks on its Internet infrastructure as a result of removing a statue of a Soviet solder from a park in Tallinn. Botnets were used to intensify the ferocity of the attacks. As many as one million zombie computers worldwide may have been involved.

The article notes:

The 10 largest assaults blasted streams of 90 megabits of data a second at Estonia’s networks, lasting up to 10 hours each. That is a data load equivalent to downloading the entire Windows XP operating system every six seconds for 10 hours.

Linton Wells II, the Pentagon’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, said: "This may well turn out to be a watershed in terms of widespread awareness of the vulnerability of modern society."

Source: Landler, Mark, and John Markoff. "War Fears Turn Digital After Data Siege in Estonia." The New York Times, A1, C7.

Finnish Court Says DRM Has to be Truly Effective to Warrant Legal Protection

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management on May 26th, 2007

Although it is a lower-level court, a recent ruling by the Helsinki District Court has raised questions about whether DRM systems that can be cracked by easily available software warrant protection under Finnish and European Union copyright laws.

Here’s a excerpt from Mikko Välimäki’s analysis, "Keep on Hacking: A Finnish Court Says Technological Measures Are No Longer ‘Effective’ When Circumventing Applications Are Widely Available on the Internet":

In an unanimous decision given May 25, 2007, Helsinki District Court ruled that Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is "ineffective." The decision is probably the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of "effective technological measures." The legislation is based on EU Copyright Directive from 2001. According to both the Finnish copyright law and the underlying directive, only such protection measure is effective, "which achieves the protection objective." . . .

The background of the Finnish CSS case was that after the national copyright law amendment was accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS. They appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed copyright law. Most of the activists thought that either the police does not investigate the case in the first place or the prosecutor drops it if it goes any further.

To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website, and a poster who published an own implementation of source code circumventing CSS. They were prosecuted for illegally manufacturing and distributing a circumventing product and providing a service to circumvent an effective technological measure. . . .

The decisive part of the process was the hearing of two technical expert witnesses. One was invited by the prosecutor and another was invited by the defense. Asked about the effectivity of CSS, they both held it ineffective from the perspectives of technical experts as well as average consumers. The court relied on the testimonies of the witnesses and concluded: ". . . since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with easy tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed. . . . CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law. . . ."

Copyright Alliance Launched to Promote Strong Copyright

Posted in Copyright, Digital Copyright Wars, Digital Culture on May 19th, 2007

Twenty-nine membership organizations and big media companies have launched the Copyright Alliance to advocate stronger copyright laws that protect their intellectual property.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The Alliance comprises 29 member organizations from the worlds of entertainment, arts, technology and sports, and represents an estimated 11 million Americans working in copyright-related industries. Its Executive Director, Patrick Ross, is a former journalist and think tank senior fellow with more than 10 years of expertise writing about and advocating for the importance of intellectual property.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) welcomed the coalition’s formation in a statement read at the launch event, which also featured a panel discussion with Grammy-winning musicians, a noted academic expert, and working artists.

"Strong copyright laws are essential to protect the livelihoods of millions of artists and inventors," said Conyers. "But just as importantly, strong copyright is important to all Americans by driving creativity and innovation in our economy." . . .

Members of the Copyright Alliance include: American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; American Society of Media Photographers; Association of American Publishers; Broadcast Music, Inc.; Business Software Alliance; CBS Corporation; Directors Guild of America; Entertainment Software Association; Magazine Publishers of America; Major League Baseball; Microsoft; Motion Picture Association of America; National Association of Broadcasters; National Collegiate Athletic Association; National Music Publishers’ Association; NBA Properties, Inc.; NBC Universal; News Corporation; Newspaper Association of America; Professional Photographers of America; Recording Artists’ Coalition; Recording Industry Association of America; Software & Information Industry Association; Sony Pictures Entertainment; Time Warner; Viacom; Vin Di Bona Productions; and The Walt Disney Company.

EMI Offers Its Entire Digital Music Catalog Free of DRM

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management on April 2nd, 2007

EMI, which ranks third in worldwide music sales, has announced that it will make it’s entire digital music catalog available without DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection via Apple’s ITunes.

Users will pay a modest premium for DRM-free tracks: $1.29 for new tracks and $.30 to free existing tracks from DRM.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI’s existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. From today, EMI’s retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality. EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players. EMI’s new DRM-free products will enable full interoperability of digital music across all devices and platforms.

Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said, "Our goal is to give consumers the best possible digital music experience. By providing DRM-free downloads, we aim to address the lack of interoperability which is frustrating for many music fans. We believe that offering consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality tracks and listen to them on the device or platform of their choice will boost sales of digital music.". . . .

Apple’s iTunes Store ( is the first online music store to receive EMI’s new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

EMI is introducing a new wholesale price for premium single track downloads, while maintaining the existing wholesale price for complete albums. EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice. Music fans will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free digital music for personal use, and listen to it on a wide range of digital music players and music-enabled phones. . . .

EMI Music will continue to employ DRM as appropriate to enable innovative digital models such as subscription services (where users pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to music), super-distribution (allowing fans to share music with their friends) and time-limited downloads (such as those offered by ad-supported services).

SPIRE Project Survey on Web 2.0 Use

Posted in Digital Culture on March 17th, 2007

A survey describing Oxford University students’ use of Web 2.0 services has been released (Results of the "Online Tool Use Survey" Undertaken by the JISC Funded SPIRE Project).

Here’s a brief description from the "Some Real Data on Web 2.0 Use" posting on TALL Blog.

As part of the JISC funded ‘SPIRE’ project we ran a survey to try to discover which online services people were using and in what manner. We were interested to find out which services were popular and if they were being used for work, for study or socially / for fun. The SPIRE project was originally looking into the possibility of using peer-to-peer technologies in UK HE and FE for informal sharing but switched to a more Web 2.0 focus as it became clear that these types of services where already having an impact on the tertiary education sector. They also appear to be where most of the informal sharing and collaboration is taking place online these days.

The Lowdown on Microsoft’s Vista OS

Posted in Digital Culture, Techie on January 11th, 2007

PC Magazine‘s special double issue on Microsoft’s Vista operating system (26, no. 1/2 January 2007) is worth a look. Here are the key articles:

You might also be interested in their Top 20 Wired Colleges piece, which has some surprising results (e.g., Villanova University tops MIT).

Bad Juju: Zombies and Botnets

Posted in Digital Culture on January 7th, 2007

You may not know it, but your home computer could be under a serious attack from botnets populated by zombie computers, and that spells trouble for your personal data.

According to a New York Times article ("Attack of the Zombie Computers Is Growing Threat") ShadowServer is "now tracking more than 400,000 infected machines and about 1,450 separate I.R.C. control systems, which are called Command & Control servers." Moreover, it states that:

Computer security experts warn that botnet programs are evolving faster than security firms can respond and have now come to represent a fundamental threat to the viability of the commercial Internet. The problem is being compounded, they say, because many Internet service providers are either ignoring or minimizing the problem.

The New York Times piece offers some general advice about how to protect your computer. I’ll give you some quick specifics for PCs, using free programs.

First, let’s see how exposed your computer is to the Net. Go to Shields Up!, click on "Proceed" at the bottom of the page, click on "File Sharing," then click on "All Service Ports." If your computer, doesn’t pass these tests you’ll want to take remedial action.

Second, if you don’t have a software firewall, download and install the free version of Zone Alarm. Under "Firewall," set "Internet Zone Security" to "High."

Third, if you don’t have antivirus software, download and install AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition. Scan for viruses.

Fourth, if you don’t have antispyware software, download and install Ad-Aware SE Personal. Scan for spyware. Update and run it periodically.

Fifth (for DSL/cable users), if you really want to be safe and you don’t have a hardware firewall, buy one and disable the IRC ports: 194 and 6660-7000.

Wasn’t that fun? Now, run Shields Up! again. Hopefully, all is well. If not, tweak.

Keep in mind that free program versions lack features of paid ones. Also keep in mind that suite programs that you pay for often offer variable protection for various functions, and, while a single program may cover all functions, you may be better off mixing and matching single-function programs that are very highly rated by PC Magazine, PC World, and similar publications, keeping in mind that programs from different vendors can interfere with each other and experimentation may be needed to find the right mix.

Source: Markoff, John. "Attack of the Zombie Computers Is Growing Threat." The New York Times, 7 January 2006, 1, 16.

"Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?" Postprint

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management, License Agreements/Contracts, Net Neutrality on October 3rd, 2006

The "Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?" postprint is now available.

The abstract is below:

Three critical issues—dramatic expansion of the scope, duration, and punitive nature of copyright laws; the ability of Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems to lock-down digital content in an unprecedented fashion; and the erosion of Net neutrality, which ensures that all Internet traffic is treated equally—are examined in detail and their potential impact on libraries is assessed. How legislatures, the courts, and the commercial marketplace treat these issues will strongly influence the future of digital information for good or ill.

If you would like a more detailed description, see my posting about the preprint.

Top Five Technology Trends

Posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Digital Rights Management, Net Neutrality, Open Access, Privacy on June 26th, 2006

As usual, the LITA top 10 technology trends session at ALA produced some thought-provoking results. And, as usual, I have a somewhat different take on this question.

I’ll whittle my list down to five.

  • Digital Copyright Wars: Big media and publishers are far from finished changing copyright laws to broaden, strengthen, and lengthen the rights of copyright holders. And they are not yet done protecting their digital turf with punitive lawsuits either. One big copyright impact on libraries is digitization: you can only safely digitize what’s in the public domain or what you have permission for (and the permission process can be difficult or impossible). There’s always fair use of course, if you have the deep pockets and institutional backing needed to defend yourself (like Google does) or if your efforts are tolerated (like e-reserves has been so far, except for a few sub rosa publisher objections). In opposition to this trend is a movement by the Creative Commons and others to persuade authors, musicians, and other copyright holders to license their works in ways that permit liberal use and reuse of them.
  • DRM: The Sony BMG rootkit fiasco was a blow, but think again if you believe that this will stop DRM from controlling your digital content in the future. The trick is to get DRM embedded in your operating system, and to have every piece of computer hardware and every consumer digital device that can access and/or manipulate content to support it (or to refuse access to material protected by unsupported DRM schemes). That’s a tall order, but incremental progress is likely to continue to be made towards this goal. Big media will continue to try to pass laws that mandate certain types of DRM and, like the DMCA, protect its use.
  • Internet Privacy: If you believe this still exists on the Internet, you are either using anonymous surfing services or you haven’t been paying attention. Net monitoring will become far more effective if ISPs can be persuaded or required to retain user-specific Internet activity logs. Would you be upset if every licensed e-document that your library users read could be traced back to them? Unless you still offer unauthenticated Internet access in your library, that may depend upon your retention of login records and whether you are legally compelled to reveal them.
  • Net Neutrality: If ISPs can create Internet speed lanes, you don’t want your library or digital content provider to be in the slow one. Hope you (or they) can pay for the fast one. But Net neutrality issues don’t end there: there are issues of content/service blockage and differential service based on fees as well.
  • Open Access: If there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the scholarly communication crisis, it’s open access. Efforts to produce alternative low-cost journals are important and deserve full support, but the open access movement’s impact is far greater, and it offers global access to scholars whose institutions may not be able to pay even modest subscription fees and to unaffiliated individuals.

Netflix and the Long Tail

Posted in Digital Culture on June 7th, 2006

Netflix, the Internet company that rents DVDs, has an inventory that includes most of the 60,000 non-pornographic DVDs that are commercially available. What percent of these titles do you think rent each day? Five percent? Ten percent? Twenty percent at most?

No, about 66%. That’s 35,000 to 40,000 titles (and an unspecified number of actual DVDs) out the door and into customers’ mail boxes every day. (There are about five million Netflix accounts.)

The long tail at work.

Source: Leonhardt, David. "What Netflix Could Teach Hollywood." The New York Times, 7 June 2006, C1, C5.

Every Move That You Make: Internet Privacy at Risk

Posted in Digital Culture, Privacy on May 30th, 2006

Privacy advocates have good reason to worry about a recent flurry of activity related to Internet data retention by ISPs. (In this context, data retention means keeping records about subscribers and their Internet activities beyond what is required for normal business purposes.)

In late April, Colorado Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat, drafted legislation that would require ISPs to retain data about their subscribers until one year after their accounts were closed (see "Congress May Consider Mandatory ISP Snooping" and "Backer of ISP Snooping Slams Industry").

Then, in Mid-May, it was reported that Wisconsin Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was drafting legislation to mandate Internet data retention (see "Congress May Make ISPs Snoop on You"). The Judiciary Committee’s Communications Director backpedaled a few days after this revelation, issuing a statement that said: "Staff sometimes starts working on issues—throwing around ideas, doing oversight—and (they) get ahead of where the members are and what they want to tackle" (see "ISP Snooping Plans Take Backseat").

In late May, the Attorney General was reported to be privately asking major ISP’s to "retain subscriber information and network data for two years" (see "Gonzales Pressures ISPs on Data Retention").

What does data retention mean for reader privacy in an era where users are increasingly turning to Internet-based information resources instead of print resources? It depends on what data is retained, whether the user is authenticated (e.g., some libraries provide unauthenticated public Internet access), and under what circumstances it can be revealed. Let’s assume for the moment that there is fairly detailed data retention (e.g., user A went to URL B), but not total data retention (e.g., user A went to URL B, where the content of B is also retained).

Determining what the user saw at a particular URL may be dependent on how static the content is. Formally published material is presumably static. Access barriers may temporarily prevent the disclosure of licensed and other protected content until such barriers can be overcome by legal means, but nothing stops the immediate disclosure of freely available, formally published static material. Dynamic information, formally published or not, may have changed since the user accessed it, but how much? Information that is not formally published could have simply vanished, but the Internet Archive may permit reconstruction of what the user saw, and, for freely available material, it may also overcome the problem of changing content. In short, it may now be possible, for mandated retention periods, to determine every e-article, e-book, or other e-resource that a reader has used down to the level of specificity that a URL represents (e.g., page views within an HTML-based e-book).

Stepping back, you might ask: How is this different from the familiar library check-out record privacy problem? The difference is that libraries do not check out journal articles and a variety of other materials, such as reference books. Moreover, libraries are not required to retain circulation records, and readers always have the option for unrecorded in-library use. In the digital age, if it’s online, its use can be recorded.

Consequently, reader privacy may be going the way of the dinosaur. Stay tuned.



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