Piracy Bill Clears Committee

Yesterday, while I was otherwise out of pocket, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of COICA. This is the bill that will grant the DoJ the power to take force alleged pirate sites out of the DNS system, effectively making them inaccessible. Past versions of the bill included a secret black list, a hallmark of typical online censorship regimes. I linked to EFF’s very well stated arguments against the bill the day before yesterday.

Govtrack.us doesn’t yet have this latest draft, still linking to the September 20th draft, the first of three so far. I received a link on one of my private mailing lists to the current draft posted on the Judiciary committee’s site. The wording around publication of the black list is unchanged, in section 2(f). The IP Enforcement Coordinator may publish block domains but is not required. This is an incredibly weakening compared to the original draft that required the list to be published. This is a glaring alteration as there are many remaining, unchanged bits requiring the IPEC and the AG to publish information on procedures.

The other big change in this draft, confirmed on reading it for myself, is a language about advertisers and payment processors not doing business with blocked sites, in section 2(d)(5)(B). This block is labeled voluntary actions and is a bit inscrutable. If I understand it right, these service providers are not required to stop working with targeted sites but cannot be held liable if they do so.

There is no date yet on when a vote will be conducted on the floor of the Senate, though that is the next step. The bill still has a long way to go and hopefully public pressure will weaken it if not outright kill it.

Even if this law is narrowed considerably, it is still a huge problem. The ridiculously upper limit on statutory damages that has been repeatedly exercised hasn’t affected copyright infringement. Countries implementing Internet disconnection have merely see a shift of where file trading takes place. Even if blacklisting domain names wasn’t uncomfortably close to the common approach to online censorship and rife with potential for abuse, it is merely the next desperate cranking of the copyright maximalist’s ratchet. If COICA passes, regardless of form, it won’t change anything. When it fails, what will Big Content ask for next? That’s the real problem if this becomes law, that question of what is next.

feeds | grep links > Chrome OS More Open than Android, Tool for Seeing What Info Facebook Shares, and More

Adding Emotional Analysis Alongside Anti-Camcording Tools

Ernesto at TorrentFreak has a disturbing glimpse of a second order effect of the push to fight camcorder piracy in cinemas. He rattles off a litany of techniques already in use, many quite obnoxious. One vendor of current technologies, Aralia Systems, is partnering with academics at the University of West England not only to advance their tools but to potentially branch into marketing.

According to Dr. Farooq [project leader from the Machine Vision Lab at UWE] the project should make it possible to record and analyze the public’s emotions. These emotions will not be used to track down camcording pirates, but will serve as a market research tool for the movie industry and advertisers.

Ernesto aptly raises the question of consent. That is certainly a difficult line to draw as it is unclear how it differs from a market researcher attending a showing incognito and using human discretion to make the same kinds of emotional observations. I suspect that the difference lies in the scale of data that an automated solution can capture and how the lowered cost of integrating and analyzing it changes our expectations of privacy in a traditionally semi-public space. On the other hand, one does have to wonder what potential their is to game emotional recognition to humorous or even privacy preserving effect.

Despite assurances to the contrary, I am still concerned at abuses besides privacy. Emotional recognition seems to border on divining intent. Some clueless theater chain, cinema manager, or movie studio is undoubtedly going to push using this capability, just because it exists, to fight piracy. That’s the problem, regardless of Ariala’s intentions for the technology, they aren’t the ones who will shape its actual use.

Anti-Piracy Tool For Cinemas Will Recognize Emotions, TorrentFreak

Internet Censorship Bill Delayed for Now

Not only did the bill get modified in response to public criticism, but EFF is spreading the news that a vote on the bill has been delayed, possibly until the mid-term elections. Better news, of course, would be that the bill is dead but at least there is more time for discussion leading either to that outcome or stripping out all problematic sections of the bill.

Speaking of, I wanted to point you over to the comments on my last post about COICA. Laroquod identified an aspect of the bill I had overlooked. The original draft would have required publishing by the Attorney General of the list of sites to be blocked by DNS registrars and ISPs. In the new draft, the “shall” has been changed to a “may”. As Laroquod notes, in the absence of a hard requirement, the Justice Department is unlikely to share the list. This means that one of the most troubling aspects of the bill, the one that overlaps with outright internet censorship regimes, has been strengthened in amongst the relaxing of constraints on ISPs and registrars.

If you want an indication of the fight that is yet to come, take a look at this troubling post from Mike Masnick at Techdirt indicating the White House is already pursuing a plan B.

That is, while most folks have been focused on COICA, the White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IP Czar) Victoria Espinel has apparently been holding meetings with ISPs, registrars, payment processors and others to get them to agree to voluntarily do what COICA would mandate. While the meeting is carefully focused on stopping websites that sell gray market pharmaceuticals, if registrars start agreeing to censoring websites at the behest of the government, it’s as if we’re halfway to a COICA-style censorship regime already. ICANN, who manages the internet domain name system was asked to attend the meeting, but felt that it “was not appropriate to attend” such a meeting.

Admittedly, the targeting of Espinel’s discussions is gray market online pharmacies, not pirate sites. As Masnick notes though it opens the door for others, like big content, to ask the IP enforcement czar for similar consideration.

Victory: Internet Censorship Bill is Delayed, For Now, EFF

feeds | grep links > Plans for Firefox Home, Review of “Get Lamp”, Open HDCP Software Implementation, and More

  • Contest to produce JavaScript demos no more than 1Kb
    Slashdot links to this now concluded contest that sort of reminds me of the demo scene in terms of the constraint to bum down code as much as possible. The results are a bit more diverse, including many interactive games as well as passive animations. More so than a lot of recent and fairly contrived “HTML5” demos, the finalists in JS1K really showcase what modern browsers can do.
  • Firefox Home adding more devices, social capabilities
    Chris Cameron at ReadWriteWeb shares news of Mozilla’s plans for their Sync client for iPhone. Personally, I cannot wait to get an Android powered replacement for my iPod Touch and start running Fennec, their full mobile browser, but in the interim I’m happy that Home is getting such attention from the lizard wranglers. I especially cannot wait for the password sync support planned for a future release.
  • Congress passes internet, smart phone accessibility bill, Washington Post
  • Update to private cloud-based file system, Tahoe-LAFS, BoingBoing
  • Android software piracy rampant, Slashdot
  • A Review of Jason Scott’s “Get Lamp”
    Text adventure games figured largely in my earliest experiences of computers. It was a no brainer for me to pick up a copy of Scott’s documentary on the subject. I enjoyed it immensely and am far from finished exploring all the material he has included in the two disc set. Jeremy Reimer at Ars Technica has a glowing review that resonates very strongly with my own experience of the work.
  • EFF, others, support Microsoft in case trying to make patent invalidation easier, EFF
  • Open HDCP software implementation released
    Ars Technica, among others, has news of researchers using the recently leaked HDCP keys to build an open source program capable of decrypting encoded digital video streams. Peter Bright questions the utility of the effort as it would still require some sort of hardware to connect into your home media ecosystem. I think the overlooks the very strong tradition of these sorts of proofs of concept developed by security researchers interested in the system more so than its applications.

feeds | grep links > Scribd Surprises Users with Paywall, An Open Source Low Bandwidth Codec, More on the IP Enforcement Bill, and More

  • Xerox PARC turns 40, The Register
  • Scribd quietly moves users docs behind a paywall
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt shares the realization by law professor Eric Goldman of this little publicized change. This action by the document sharing service defies reason. Goldman articulates how undoubtedly most of the users caught by this change must feel, used and trapped. Once again, this isn’t an issue with open or closed but moving from one to the other after a bargain was offered and a promise made. Even a much more clear shift would have been more tenable, if almost as unpalatable.
  • Is Facebook turning on online activists it used to support?, ReadWriteWeb
  • An open source, low bandwidth voice codec
    Slashdot points to a project whose main developer also worked on the Speex codec, another effort tailored to efficient coding of just voice. Mainly Codec2 looks to be focused on replacing a current, proprietary codec used in amateur radio but its capabilities are compelling, almost 4 seconds of clear speech in just over 1 kilobyte. It would be nice of some of the unencumbered ideas might find application in high quality voice encoding, too, perhaps to help fuel an open alternative to Skype with similar sound quality. Of course, that’s just the podcaster in me thinking out loud.
  • Mozilla joins Open Invention Network as licensee
    HT @glynmoody
  • Wendy Seltzer discusses new IP enforcement bill
    In this post on the Freedom to Tinker blog, Seltzer places the bill firmly in the context of piracy as a legal pretext for censorship. I didn’t touch on the issue of potential abuses but the point dovetails with what I explained yesterday about lowering friction. It simply becomes too easy to press a claim of infringement, legitimate or not, for the correct purpose or some lateral one such as suppressing dissenting speech.
  • EP votes on controversial anti-piracy report, TorrentFreak
  • Bill Tracker launched for legislation in the UK, BoingBoing

feeds | grep links > Newton on an iPad, More Softening of Apple Policies, PostgrSQL 9.0 Released, and More

  • Newton on an iPad
    Ht @stephenjayl. The link, which I also saw on Hacker News, is to a write up on the latest fun with a pre-existing project, Einstein, that runs Newton OS on modern hardware via emulation. Earlier this month, the code was ported to iOS and the poster has embedded a video of it running on his iPad. I only ever had one on loan and enjoyed using it. My enjoyment of nostalgic computing and specifically the MessagePad overrides my current irritation with Apple enough that if I had a compatible device, I might try running this.
  • Google Voice app approved in Apple’s app store
    As Slashdot explains, it isn’t the first app that was infamously approved, rejected, and then removed from the store. However, Google Voice Mobile is apparently in the process of being re-submitted and re-considered. As with the changes in Apple’s developer agreement, this signals a softening of policies, most likely because of complaints resulting in FTC scrutiny.
  • Modders bring emulation, homebrew games to PS3, Slashdot
  • Swedish Pirate Party fails to retain seat in parliament, The Register
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein source code released, Slashdot
  • iPhone app piracy tool, source code up for sale, ReadWriteWeb
  • PostgreSQL 9.0 released
    The H has the new features in this release that has been backing for a while. One of the most interesting is replication. It answers my questions, as a long time user of the database server, on how the feature works. It is targeted at hot standby, easing the replication of the write ahead log, so it is distinct from the kind of replication performed by newer, post-relational databases.
  • Europe proposes international internet treaty, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > Security Concerns about Diaspora Code, 6502 Assembly in JavaScript, and More

feeds | grep links > More License Options at Google Code, Piracy as an Excuse for Censorship, Gaming Does Rewire Your Brain, and More

feeds | grep links > Latest iOS Thoroughly Jailbroken, DDoSing Copyright Infringers, Robots Taught to Deceive, and More

  • Hacker find iOS 4.1 bootrom vulnerability that enables jailbreak of all current hardware
    Via Hacker News. Hardly surprising that such a flaw exists, though a little bit so that it is so comprehensively exploitable. As geek.com explains, the vulnerability doesn’t look to be software fixable so owner override rules the day until the next generation of hardware emerges.
  • Amazon acquires Amie Street
    As The Register explains it, this is actually sad news. The music retailer that experimented with sliding prices based on popularity is shifting over to exclusively streaming music, winding down its download option. The silver lining is that Amazon pretty much only acquired the name, not the business model or any customer records.
  • Big content turning to DDoS for stubborn infringers
    As Slashdot points out, the big content players in question are mostly based in India though the firm performing the attacks admits to doing so on behalf of Hollywood. Regardless of legalities, especially with the thorny questions raised by international jurisdictions, this sort of attack strikes me as highly immoral.
  • Clarification on warez raid, Pirate Bay and others not affected
    Ernesto at TorrentFreak has a further follow up to the story of multiple, coordinated police raids against European ISPs the other day. Despite reporting elsewhere, the target wasn’t the Pirate Bay, nor was another BitTorrent site, both of whom TF contacted for confirmation.
  • Swiss supreme court rules against anti-piracy firm, TorrentFreak
  • Robots taught to deceive, Slashdot
  • Open source VLC submitted to Apple for approval on iPad
    Slashdot has the details, the outcome of which I am skeptical. I don’t think this is the first time someone has tried to tweak and compile the wonderfully capable media player for Apple’s mobile platform. That past effort never amounted to much. If this attempt fails, maybe the next one will only include those codecs, like Ogg and Flac, that Apple has no interest in supporting.