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Content and Its Discontents

November 3, 2009 Broadband , Fair Use , FCC , Filtering , Internet Protocol

Public Knowledge recently celebrated its 8th birthday of defending citizens' rights in the digital culture. Unlike any other public interest group in Washington or elsewhere, we are dedicated to ensuring openness at every layer of our communication system, and that includes the content layer. That's why our work to ensure balanced copyright is so important – we cannot have an open Internet if large corporate copyright holders can exploit overly burdensome copyright laws to sacrifice legitimate speech at the altar of trying to stop piracy.

I discussed the clash of copyright and an open Internet at a talk that I gave to the Yale Law School Information and Society Project last week. Some in Hollywood, like Disney, were in favor of net neutrality in the late 90's because they knew well the powers that the network owner has.

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Forcing the Net Through a Sieve: Why Copyright Filtering is Not a Viable Solution for U.S. ISPs

July 22, 2009 Fair Use , Filtering , Internet Protocol , Network Neutrality , Piracy

Yesterday, as part of our reply comments in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan proceeding, we released our latest whitepaper, “Forcing the Net Through a Sieve: Why Copyright Filtering is not a Viable Solution for U.S. ISPs” (PDF link). Recently, the content industry has been ramping up its efforts to promote ISP-level copyright filtering as a practical solution to the problem of unlawful online filesharing. Given the imperfect, controversial nature of filtering technology, we thought it was time to take a close look at copyright filtering and the effects that it might have on the Internet ecosystem. What did we discover? As our report states, not only will copyright filtering be ineffective–it will cause a great deal of harm to users, creators, innovators, businesses and the economy and will undermine the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

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DRM is Dead, Long Live DRM

July 20, 2009 DMCA , DRM , Filtering , Music Licensing , Piracy

DRM is dead, or so they say. With the “big four” major labels having completely abandoned DRM protection schemes for CDs and with online music juggernaut iTunes now offering all of its music DRM-free, you might think that the era of restricted music files and rootkit fiascoes is now behind us. But you would be wrong. While DRM may be dead as far as mainstream music distribution is concerned, many labels–both major and independent–continue to utilize various forms of DRM and watermarking when distributing music in specific contexts and for certain purposes. Perhaps the most visible category among these is the pre-release promo, generally a CD or digital file sent to journalists in advance of the street date for review purposes. In an article for the Washington City Paper, music journalist Mike Riggs sheds some light on the practice of sending DRM and watermark-laden music to critics:

I had been looking forward to reviewing Depart From Me, the new album by Definitive Jux rapper Cage, since I discovered 2005’s damn-near brilliant Hell’s Winter. When the package arrived one month in advance of the street date, I set aside everything I was doing and with trembling fingers popped the promo CD of Depart From Me into the computer. And after listening to the first minute and a half of every track, I tossed the CD in the trash. Why? Because Definitive Jux, in order to keep me from leaking the album, made the review copy nearly unlistenable by inserting promo drops–breaks in the music during which a voice says, “This is a promotional copy”–on every single track.

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Video: “Censordyne” Ad Mocks Australian Copyright Filtering Proposal

July 9, 2009 Broadband , Filtering , Internet Protocol , Network Neutrality , Three Strikes


You’ve got to hand it to the folks Down Under: they’ve got a real knack for producing, incisive, hilarious videos that warn the general public about invasive technology mandates. First, there was the Kiwi-produced, “Kangaroo Court” short, which shed light on the (thankfully defeated) New Zealand three strikes mandate. Now, there’s this brilliant parody of a Sensodyne toothpaste commercial (embedded above), which was designed to spread the word about a copyright filtering mandate that’s been proposed by members of the Australian parliament. The ad was created by the folks at Get Up! Action for Australia and they’re currently accepting donations in the hopes of raising enough money to run the ad on a Qantas flight that many members of Parliament are likely to be on.

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French Three Strikes Law Struck Down, Internet Access Declared a Human Right

June 10, 2009 Broadband , Filtering , Internet Protocol , MPAA , Network Neutrality


Word came through the grapevine today that France’s “three strikes” HADOPI law has been struck down by the French Constitutional Council. While this is fantastic news, it’s not exactly surprising–until this point, the constitutionality of the law had remained an open question. What’s more, even if the law had survived the French Constitutional Council’s scrutiny, it most certainly would have attracted the attention of the European Union, who in October of last year, passed an amendment prohibiting member states from implementing three strikes regimes. Luckily, the French Constitutional Council sided with the EU Parliament, going so far as to cite the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a founding document of the French Revolution. “…[W]hereas under section nine of the Declaration of 1789, every man is presumed innocent until he has been proven guilty, it follows that in principle the legislature does not establish a presumption of guilt in criminal matters,” the Council wrote in its ruling.

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