2015-11-22 The Command Line Podcast

newspapers-444447_1920This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

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Copyright Protest and Parody Song, “Death of ACTA”, Taken Down

Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the gory details of Dan Bull’s “Death of ACTA” song being taken down from the file locker service, Mediafire, one of the many ways Dan distributes his works on his own. Masnick undertook the difficult job of trying to parse a take down letter that was not exclusive to Bull’s work on Mediafire.

Dan was kind enough to forward on the takedown message… and it’s a total mess. There’s simply no useful info in it other than that a French company called TF1 wants the file (and a bunch of others) off of Mediafire as quickly as possible. Now, it’s not clear what the issue is here, but it’s not difficult to take a guess. “Death of ACTA” is obviously a play on Jay-Z’s “Death of Autotune” Jay-Z’s song features prominently a sample of the song “In the Space” by French film composers Janko Nilovic and Dave Sarkys. It’s quite likely that Jay-Z licensed the sample. Not surprisingly, Dan Bull did not, but that’s the nature of creating a parody song.

Masnick also reminds us that the EU (Dan himself is in the UK) doesn’t have fair use laws as such making a parody defense difficult. I interviewed Dan recently and he knows full well his works often exist in a troublesome legal gray area. He also doesn’t rely on only a single means to offer his songs and videos to fans. More likely this take down will serve as an opportunity to highlight the idiocy that the song itself speaks to in copyright law rather than interfering with Dan’s ability to produce his art and connect with his fans.

I would love to see Dan, or perhaps one of his creative fans, create a meta-rap about the takedown of the rap complaining about the overreach of intellectual monopoly like poorly justified takedowns.

‘Death Of ACTA’ Song Taken Down In Copyright Claim, Techdirt

Defense for Xbox Modder Urges Fair Use

David Kravets at Wired has details of the first DMCA case dealing specifically with the practice of modding game consoles. Attorneys for David Crippen, who faces up to three years in jail, are urging the judge to allow a fair use defense. The basis of their argument is that installing a mod chip into a console to allow the playing of home brew games is no different than jail breaking a smart phone to allow installation of software other than what a vendor or carrier authorizes.  As part of the DMCA’s rather weak exceptions, jail breaking of smart phones was recently deemed a permissible circumvention, though with some heavy qualification.

I am really concerned over the prosecution’s objections.

Prosecutor Allen Chiu, however, wrote U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez that “any evidence relating to a ‘fair use’ defense is irrelevant and should be excluded.” Chiu said the defense’s reason for broaching fair use “would be to encourage jury nullification.”

How is fair use irrelevant when this is at its heart a copyright case? Sure, the DMCA doesn’t respect fair use the same way the pre-existing body of law does but courts are increasingly starting to separate consideration of anti-circumvention, which the DMCA criminalizes, from whether an actual infringement took place.

The case is being heard in a southern California court.  The defense may have a tougher time in Hollywood’s shadow making the fair use argument work but I hope that they are successful in doing so.

Citing iPhone Ruling, Xbox Defendant Says Mod Chips Are Fair Use, Wired

Understanding the MGE DMCA Ruling

The story about a ruling in the MGE case crossed my feeds yesterday but I was too frazzled to dig into it and comment. That was an oversight, this ruling could have farther ranging impacts, restoring some of the non-infringing uses that the DMCA stripped out of copyright on digital works with its anti-circumvention provision.

Mike Masnick at Techdirt has a good summary of the facts of the case and the critical nuances in the ruling. Unfortunately, breaking DRM for any reason is still forbidden but the ruling allows for using a pre-existing tool or break to circumvent, clearly distinguishing it from the activities of hackers like DVD Jon. If a means of getting past the digital locks already exists and the use to which you put the work is non-infringing, you now have a better chance of evading a nasty DMCA hammer blow.

Creating circumvention tools and trafficking them is still barred by the DMCA. Even if you have the knowledge to crack DRM on the spot, that is also still illegal. That is actually a very significant narrowing of the the scope of the DMCA which previous to this ruling was subject to much more blatant exceptions like debunking claims that a printer cartridge or garage door opener qualify as copyrightable works. The ruling is also limited to the Fifth Circuit but occasionally judges in other circuits will read precedents from other circuits so there is a chance this interpretation of the DMCA may spread.

The debate around the latest Canadian copyright bill, C-32, borrowing even more heavily from the DMCA than past drafts, has given me reasons to think more on DRM lately. It has been easy to become a bit complacent as the music industry has effectively abandoned DRM but it still carries the same legal threat it ever did. If C-32 passes, Canada will get any number of progressive privileges for digital content–except if a work is protected by DRM. This really pushes on the question of why digital content should be handled with such exceptionalism.

I’ve been wondering about a more reasonable compromise, assuming we’ll never be able to purge DRM from the law books. What if we could re-cast it, through an amendment to the DMCA, to treat it like registration. If you break a lock and make non-infringing use of the work, then there is no room for complaint. If your use runs afoul of the more traditional contours of copyright and a digital lock had to be broken to do it, how about doubling or trebling damages, then and only then?

DRM as an absolute means of protection is an abject failure. There are tons of technical and non-technical reasons for this but the fact remains that DRM has yet to stop anyone from accessing a work for legitimate or illegitimate purposes. If we are stuck with it, why not use it then to bolster claims of willful infringement rather than turning innocuous uses such as exercising our every diminishing free speech privileges under copyright into a criminal act?

TCLP 2010-05-02 News

This is news cast 212, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, a quick update on the advertising experiment.

This week’s security alerts are Symantec plans to PGP and a massive quantity of GoDaddy hosted WordPress sites are under attack.

In this week’s news Cyber Privacy Act introduced that would use takedowns against personal info including the flaws that would go along with it, new report shows trillions contributed to the economy by fair use with specific examples of what that means though the point is how the report was produced, Mozilla releases first code for its identity system (which I briefly wrote about earlier ), and raised by Radio Shack inspired by a Wired article and resonating with Levy’s “Hackers”.

Following up this week USTR claims official ACTA draft proves prior rumors were false and MSIE9 to support HTML5 video but only with H.264.


Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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A DIY Repair Database, More Facebook Fallout, and Google Defends Content ID

My other daily posts have been expanding, which I hope makes them more valuable to those subscribed to the blog feed. The downside is that it makes the cost of writing up any link of interest much higher. I’ve caught myself sharing items in Google Reader that I could add a sentence or two but feel it would be poorer in the comparison to the other stories on which I spend more gray matter.

I’ve re-instated the daily quick links to pick up the slack. I expect I won’t need them everyday but I think it will do a better job of keeping the value of my feed up for those who’ve told me I am now their primary tech news source.

  • iFixit to expand to provide DIY repair manuals for almost everything
    Posted by Chris Foreman at Ars Technica. I’ve actually used the existing materials at the site to sort of repair my Mighty Mouse’s scroll wheel. I hope that the new effort adds or improves re-assembling instructions as my Might Mouse now looks a bit like a Frankenstein monster of a thing.
  • Open alternative to Facebook’s new web wide Like
    Posted by Marshall Kirkpatrick at RWW. I am glad someone is coming up with a an open alternative.
  • How to opt out of Facebook’s instant personalization
    Post by Kurt Opsahl at EFF. Looks easy enough though may prove a nagging pain as more sites participate. That increasing cost may prompt me, and many others no doubt, to de-activate or even delete my account.
  • Google’s response to Downfall takedowns
    From one of their official blogs, what they describe are the affordances that have already existed in their Content ID system. Without a commitment to reviewing counter claims more quickly, I don’t think this does much to address existing and new criticism of their filtering technology.

Parody Hitler Rant about Takedowns Taken Down, Begs Fighting Back

I had been withholding comment on the flurry of takedowns against remixes of the Hitler-ranting bunker scene from the film, The Downfall. I would be surprised if any of you reading this haven’t seen at least one of these remixes. The scene is pretty recognizable, starting with Hitler ranting at his assembled staff only to dismiss most of them followed by a raise to a fervor pitch cut with scenes from the concerned staff out in the hall still able to hear every spittle flecked syllable.

Over the past few months, it has become de rigeur to add subtitles tying the dictator’s incredulity to some inanity in the info sphere that defied common sense.  Many of the remixes are apt, matching the emotional tone of the scene to some notional commentator’s outrage over some event or maneuver perceived to be utterly brain dead.

At first the takedowns seemed like yet another case of a rights holder’s cluelessness. The story took a turn into a surprising metastory when Constantin Films issued a takedown for the remix commenting on the takedowns themselves. This latest video to be targeted was created by EFF’s Brad Templeton.

As I understand the nature of parody as relates to fair use, use of material for that purpose has to target the material used or the creator. Much of the remixes probably don’t technically qualify as fair use though I doubt anyone would argue that a four minute clip could in anyway substitute for the original work. Templeton’s work probably has the best chance for fitting the definition of parody with regards to the source material, in no small part thanks to the work of Constantin Films.

I suspect the meme may now take a turn fully against the over reaching rights holder. In his blog post to which I linked, where Templeton still embeds the video but from a competitor, Vimeo, he starts to hint at some of the limitations of YouTube’s Content ID filter. The implication is that since the same clip is used for all these memetic mashups, the fingerprint is similar enough, if not the same, to actually make the filter’s work much easier. This may also mark its weakness to people determined to protest the takedowns.

Cory has a post on Boing Boing that puts Content ID to an empirical test of these limits. Scott Smitelli experimented with a different video but the results about what did and did not foil the filter should hold for the clip from The Downfall.

I suspect we may see some videos that maybe don’t entirely make sense, having been tweaked, but drive the point home that rights holders tread on fair use at their own risk where users are merely sharing the fruits of their experiments in media literacy.

Following Up for the Week Ending 4/11/2010

Second “Minute Meme” Animation Released

Nina Paley has just released the second Minute Meme animation at QuestionCopyright.org. I wrote about the first in the series when it was released and the call to help with its soundtrack. This second piece addresses the notion that all creative works are derivative. The implication is that the rights granted by copyright need to have commensurate limitations that recognize this accretive and transformative aspect woven through the tapestry of shared expression.

There are plenty of notes on how this work was produced, a process which emphasizes the point of the meme. The final effect, of all these classical pieces of statuary dancing to Todd Michaelsen’s brilliant “Sita’s String Theory”, is striking. That Nina so openly describes her inspirations, tools and techniques just deepens the appreciation of both the finished work and its message.

First World’s Fair Use Day

My brain is still buzzing from this fantastic event that Public Knowledge organized. I took the day off yesterday to be able to attend the first World’s Fair Use Day and am very glad that I did. I also went to the ACTA panel at Google Monday night but skipped out on the film showings. I wish I had stayed but my thinking at the time was that I had seen one of the two films in question in its entirety and wanted an early night so I’d have no trouble getting an early start the following morning. Judging by the tweets, the film showings were as much that as a panel discussion with plenty of the speakers lined up for Tuesday’s panels chiming in.

I have tons of notes to sift through, almost more than I can believe taking from just four panels. PK really knocked the ball out of the park on the topics and speakers. I think only one of the panels was a bit weak, the one on publishing. Hopefully next year they’ll get better representation from the industry instead of a sole journalist.

I haven’t decided whether I will turn my notes into just a blog post or a segment for the podcast. I’ll probably make that decision and do the necessary writing this weekend. In the meantime, check out Mike Masnick’s wrap up. I think he pretty well captures the spirit of the day. I had the good fortune to meet Mike at the happy hour last night and speak with him at length.

Mike was just one of the great folks I got to meet. Nina Paley, whom I am afraid I may have embarrassed with my profuse compliments, was actually the deciding factor in my calculations on whether to take the day off for the event. I was happy to be able to hand her a card and request an interview. I also got to do so with Danny Reetz, the guy responsible for the DIY book scanner. I look forward to working up appropriate interview questions and bringing both of them onto the podcast. I have ideas for several other folks to approach, too, who I not only met but in many cases learned of for the very first time yesterday. Not surprisingly, there are many keen minds and wildly creative folks interested in the topic, many of them are even local to the DC area.

I am really looking forward to seeing who Public Knowledge gets as speakers for next year’s World’s Fair Use Day. I am hoping yesterday was just the start of a rich, ongoing dialogue mapping out how fair use is enabling a lot of the amazing creativity Mike describes so well in his wrap up. I am also keen to see how the proceeding can push the question of peer-based cultural generation beyond just fair use into the larger question of reforming copyright to better match this emerging creative norm.