Tales of the Sausage Factory

SOPABlackout And the “Internet Spring”

January 18, 2012 should be remembered as the first day of the “Internet Spring.”

I like to say that the worst thing about PIPA/SOPA is that it confirms every awful, cynical thing people say about how Washington DC works. But the best thing about PIPA/SOPA is how it can also confirm the best things we say about American democracy.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

DC Gives Hollywood A Little Holiday Pick Me Up To Show They Care — With A Surprise SOC Ending.

The Copyright Mafia have certainly been feeling needy recently. Maybe it’s all that talk about how wonderful broadband access is — with all the awful piracy it creates — clouding out how movies made record breaking profits this year. Maybe it’s because the London Times linked to studies that show that musicians (but not labels) do better in a world of file sharing. Maybe it’s just the sadness of winter time and the end of a decade in which PK managed to hold off nearly all the awful legislation the Copyright Mafia proposed. But whatever it is, Hollywood has been saying to it’s friends in DC “hold me,” and their DC friends have been ready to oblige.

But what caught my attention was not just the usual round of festivities by Democrats to reassure Hollywood before an election year that “we love you like no other, don’t pay that foolish broadband stuff no mind.” No, it was the surprise statement by Professor Chris Yoo that if the FCC gave Hollywood a waiver so it could shut off your television’s analog outputs (what we call in this biz Selectable Output Control or SOC), it would help stop live sports piracy?

Funny, whenever we say to the folks at the FCC (or anywhere else) that Hollywood wants to control analog outputs generally and that after they get a “narrow waiver” for releasing movies to VoD earlier than they do on DVD, they will come after live sports events, the MPAA does that eye-rolling thing where ya know, whacky info commies and their crazy conspiracy theories about how big bad Hollywood wants to control everything and the FCC staff get those fixed smiles on their faces that anyone who has ever dealt with teenagers will recognize as the “I’m stuck sitting here pretending to listen until you go” look.

So to have Yoo come out and — apparently unprompted and after a hearing that had nothing whatsoever to do with SOC — come out and say “yeah, the FCC ought to waive SOC rules for live sporting events, because everyone knows analog outputs are just STRAWS OF PIRACY SUCKING THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE CONTENT INDUSTRY INTO THE GREEDY CRIMINAL MORASS THAT IS TEH INTERWEBZ” kinda grabbed my attention. As I always tell my critics — if I’m delusional, it seems to be a functional and prescient sort of delusion.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Broadcast Flag Through The Back Door — Yet Another Episode of “Outsourcing Big Brother.”

The Motion Picture Association of America has asked the FCC to give it a waiver of something called the “selectable output control” rules for cable boxes. As usual, this apparently minor request for a waiver of an obscure FCC regulation of unknown origin, governing a highly-technical and mind numbingly boring set of rules about cable set-top boxes, hides a bold power grab designed to rip off every owner of a Tivo, VCR, or other perfectly legal recording device available to consumers to engage in the legal practice of recording television programs to watch them later (“time shifting”).

For details on this latest effort to circumvent limits on government by outsourcing the process to an industry cartel, aka “outsourcing Big Brother,” see below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

MPAA Suffers “Intelligence Failure” On Piracy, No Weapons of Mass File Sharing On College Campuses

“We have also learned that college students have used university networks to download 40% of all pirated movies, while eating yellow cake (aka ”Twinkies“).”

— Dan Glickman, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Testimony Before the House Wholly Owned Subsidiary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property

As some of you may know, the MPAA ad RIAA have been pushing their wholly owned subsidiaries in Congress to pass rather draconian laws against those vile dens of vice and iniquity, colleges and universities (Or, as RIAA President Mitch Bainwol explained: “never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.” He was promptly sued by ally MPAA CEO Dan Glickman). They have justified this on the basis of a 2005 report Commissioned by the MPAA and created by
LEK Consulting Services that purported to show that an astonishing 40% of industry loses from internet piracy could be traced to file sharing at universities. Because the MPAA refused to share either the methodology used or the underlying data, a number of folks expressed a healthy skepticism about this evidence. Nevertheless, a credulous Congress accepted this as “credible evidence” of a “weapons of mass file sharing” in our nations colleges and universities, and sought to impose heavy sanctions and possible invasion by federal troops.

The MPAA now admits it overstated the numbers a wee bit. According to this story, it turns out that the real number even using the data and methodology approved by the MPAA and LEK was 15%, not 40%. Further, as Mark Luker at EDUCAUSE points out, since the number was based on college students without regard for whether the activity took place on campus, the real number of files traded illegally over college networks is more like 3%. (And again, that’s based on the MPAA’s numbers and methodology as now disclosed, not confirmed by independent evidence).

Members of Congress — who uncritically accepted the MPAA’s previous statistics despite the lack of any corroborating evidence, the refusal of the MPAA to disclose its data or methodology, and the utter ludicrousness of the number to anyone who actually knows anything about file transfers and the amount of bandwidth and computer powering it would take to even come close to the numbers MPAA estimated for college campuses — expressed surprise at the disclosure. “Wow,” said a Spokesman for a Senator from California who has vigorously supported the sanctions against colleges when she can take time away from supporting immunity for telephone companies who secretly spied on Americans based on Administration insistence this was “necessary for national security” and who voted to authorize the war in Iraq based on intelligence reports and statements by the Bush Administration that later proved to be filled with outright lies, questionable data, and utterly ludicrous statements questioned by the vast majority of reputable experts. “Who would think we’d fall for this again?”

Nevertheless, both California Senators and a majority of the California delegation to the House issued a joint statement that while the MPAA and RIAA evidence continues to turn out to be total self-serving bunk, support for a raft of bills that would curtail fundamental freedoms and cost tax payers billions in both direct costs and lost productivity remained strong. “We will continue to support whatever means prove necessary to end the scourge of piracy that do not impact the monopoly profits of the entertainment industry for as long as the threat against this industry — which produces more of our home state’s jobs and revenues than you could possibly imagine — persists,” said the statement. “Sticking it to colleges and universities seems like a good way to do that even without any real evidence that it will help.” The statement was pointedly not joined by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who, in a separate statement, pleaded with her colleagues to “please get a Goddamn clue already” And to “stop embarrassing me, the State of California, and the Democratic Party.”

The MPAA blames the gross overstatement of internet piracy on college and university campuses — which it pushed aggressively for the last two years — on “human error.” The MPAA has promised a thorough investigation to determine what has went wrong. “We take this error very seriously and have taken strong and immediate action to both investigate the root cause of this problem as well as substantiate the accuracy of the latest report,” the group said in a statement.

In an unrelated item, the MPAA announced it would give LEK Consulting, which created the 2005 Report, the coveted “Oscar of Freedom” at this year’s Academy Awards.

Stay tuned . . . .

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General Exception

War on the consumer: The DVD War

Businessweek has
this article
about the new DVD standards, which will come locked down with new, onerous Digital Rights Management restrictions. It’s a good overview of how new consumer electronica are being designed to basically protect big corporations from the consumers who buy them.

One point that the article really misses, though, is how DRM isn’t really aimed at pirates, despite all of the entertainment industry’s protests to the contrary. Instead, the only real purpose of this technology is to force you to pay multiple times for same content. Want to watch a movie on your TV? Great! Buy the DVD. Want to watch it on your iPod? Well, here you go, buy it at iTunes. Want that music you downloaded from iTunes as your phone’s ringtone? Cough up more dough. What’s that you say? Fair use? Well, according to the past head of the MPAA, it doesn’t exist.

On a brighter note, Ars Technica has a profile of some of the good guys in the music industry: Emusic. Emusic is a digital music subscription service with no strings attached. No DRM, no limited playlists, no nothing. Just high-quality MP3’s that are compatible with just about all of the digital music players out there. It is interesting to note that they chose to be DRM free not because of any idealism, but because of a sound business decision. They wanted the maximum possible customer base for their product, so they selected the format that is most universal. And they seem to be making money at it, too. I signed up a few months ago, and I have to say I’m a happy customer.

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General Exception

The ongoing war on the consumer

The entertainment industry continue to pursue what has to be labeled as an all out war on the consumer. We all know about the lawsuits filed by RIAA and the MPAA regarding alleged illegal downloading. Aside from the fact that any sane business model doesn’t include “suing your customers” as a major money making scheme, it seems that the RIAA lawsuits are simply a shakedown… pay us $7500 and we won’t sue you. Fortunately, some people are fighting back with the help of lawyers who realize the judicial system is being used like a bank robber’s gun.

But, of course, there’s another front in this war…

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General Exception

The new limit of DRM lunacy: requiring fingerprints for DVDs

Wired has this story about researchers at UCLA coming up with what has to be the most assinine form of DRM yet: a DVD that will be encoded so it will only play for the person who specifically bought it. This is accomplished through some handwaving mumbo-jumbo involving that recent poster child of privacy invasion: the RFID chip.

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General Exception

DRM on the brain

Hmm… well, been stumbling over piracy and DRM stories all day, so I figured I’d pass along the joy.

First up, Cory Doctorow does the Daniel in the lions’ den thing and tries to convince the folks at Microsoft that anti-piracy techniques like Digital Rights Management are ineffective and worse, (from Microsoft’s standpoint) bad for business. It makes a good primer for many of the issues being discussed regarding copyrights, copy protection, and the full-court press by the RIAA and MPAA to legislate away some of the American citizen’s rights, because they are inconvenient.

Meanwhile, back in the other Washington, Orrin Hatch (well known composer and sometimes legislator) is introducing a bill that might make any device that could be used to violate copyrights illegal. As with most other cases these days, this one is sold as vital to protect our children (which is, of course, just behind preventing terrorism as the excuse du jour for taking away your rights).

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