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Archive for November, 2007

There’s nothing to see here. Move along.

EFF study confirms Comcast’s BitTorrent interference

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a report (PDF) containing analysis of Comcast’s Internet traffic interference activities. The EFF’s study provides strong evidence that Comcast is using packet-forging to disrupt peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing on their network.
Related Stories

According to the report, the EFF used an open-source packet sniffer called Wireshark to analyze network traffic while attempting to seed public domain literature on BitTorrent with a Comcast broadband connection. The tests confirmed that BitTorrent performance was being selectively degraded by unexpected TCP reset packets. Previous independent research conducted by the AP is consistent with the findings published by the EFF.

They’ll have to pry my abacus from my cold, dead hand.

From the same AP article on the Business Software Alliance, as below, only a longer version, this choice quote:

In one case, a BSA raid on musical-instrument maker Ernie Ball Inc. cost the company $90,000 in a settlement. Soon after, Microsoft sent other businesses in his region a flyer offering discounts on software licenses, along with a reminder not to wind up like Ernie Ball.

Enraged, CEO Sterling Ball vowed never to use Microsoft software again, even if “we have to buy 10,000 abacuses.” He shifted to open-source software, which lacks such legal entanglements because its underlying code is freely distributed.

For many businesses, open-source has seemed technically daunting or unable to match the proprietary programs seen as essential in some industries. These days, however, the march of technology might be changing that.

That’s one hope of Michael Gaertner, the architect who worried his BSA encounter would crush his business. Now he wants to rid himself of the Autodesk, Microsoft and Adobe software involved in the case.

“It’s not like they have really good software. It’s just that it’s widespread and it’s commonly used,” Gaertner said. “It’s going to be a while, but eventually, we plan to get completely disengaged from those software vendors that participate in the BSA.”

Stack the deck and collect.

ABC News: Anti-Piracy Group Targets Small Business

The BSA [Business Software Alliance] is well within its rights to wring expensive punishments aimed at stopping the willful, blatant software copying that undoubtedly happens in many businesses. And its leaders say they concentrate on small businesses because that’s where illegitimate use of software is rampant.

But technology managers and software consultants say the picture has more shades of gray than the BSA acknowledges. Companies of all sizes say they inadvertently run afoul of licensing rules because of problems the software industry itself has created. Unable or unwilling to create technological blocks against copying, the industry has saddled its customers with complex licensing agreements that are hard to master.

In that view, the BSA amasses most of its bounties from small businesses because they have fewer technological, organizational and legal resources to avoid a run-in.

Freeloaders Beware

Free Software Group Files Copyright Lawsuits – Yahoo! News

The Software Freedom Law Center, an organization focused on protecting open-source and free software, has filed copyright lawsuits against two U.S. companies, alleging that they are redistributing software in violation of the GNU GPL (General Public License).

The SFLC filed lawsuits Monday on behalf of the developers of BusyBox against High-Gain Antennas of Parker, Colorado, and Xterasys of City of Industry, California. The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, allege that the companies are distributing BusyBox illegally, without meeting the GPL requirement of providing access to the source code of their implementation.

BusyBox, available since November 1999, is a lightweight set of standard Unix utilities commonly used in embedded systems licensed under GPL version 2. The two companies are distributing “BusyBox, or a modified version of BusyBox that is substantially similar to BusyBox,” the lawsuits allege. The lawsuits ask the court to give the BusyBox developers the profits from that software, plus other damages.

Big Content

Big Content asks presidential candidates for more restrictive copyright laws

The Copyright Alliance, which counts the MPAA and RIAA amongst its members, has sent letters and questionnaires to presidential candidates in an effort to determine where they stand on issues relating to intellectual property law. In a copy of the letter seen by Ars, Copyright Alliance executive director Patrick Ross says he speaks “on behalf of the 11 million Americans employed in the creative industries,” and asserts that piracy reduction is essential.

“The future of our creative output in the United States is at stake in the 2008 presidential election,” the letter to the candidates says. “It is critical not only for members of the creative community but also for the US economy to ensure that copyrights are respected and piracy is reduced. We are asking you to let us know what you would do to help preserve one of America’s greatest strengths, its creative community.”

Copyright Law Rampage

Bill tying financial aid to antipiracy efforts passes House committee

The House Education and Labor Committee unanimously passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007. Among other things, the COAA would require colleges and universities to adopt strict antipiracy policies and possibly offer students access to subscription-based music services like Napster.

COAA went through a markup session yesterday, and despite pressure from higher education groups like the American Council on Education, the copyright-related provisions were not addressed. Indeed, Section 494 looks to have survived unscathed.

As it stands, the bill would put colleges and universities on the front lines of the war against file-sharing. As part of the financial aid administration process, schools would have to inform students about their official policies about copyright infringement, as well as possible civil and criminal penalties. They would also have to “develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.”

When everyone is a criminal, no one is free.

From the Washington Post. Via boingboing

Russia Casts A Selective Net in Piracy Crackdown

MOSCOW, Nov. 13 — The newspaper Novaya Gazeta, one of the last outposts of critical journalism in Russia, suspended publication of its regional edition in the southern city of Samara on Monday after prosecutors opened a criminal case against its editor, alleging that his publication used unlicensed software.

The case is part of a larger assault on independent news media, advocacy organizations and political activists, according to government critics. But it is one that is specifically tailored to deflect foreign criticism.

In multiple police raids against such groups, authorities are ostensibly targeting the alleged use of counterfeit software. Western governments and companies have long urged action against the widespread piracy in Russia.

“Our law enforcement finally realized that computers are very important tools for their opponents, and they have decided to take away these tools by doing something close to the West’s agenda,” said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama research institute in Moscow. “I suppose you could say it’s very clever.”

In the past 10 months, police in at least five Russian cities have raided the offices of media outlets, political parties and private advocacy groups and seized computers allegedly containing illegal software, paralyzing the work of the organizations. Often, authorities demand that employees submit to questioning and order them not to leave town until legal action is completed.

Stallman fends of Ninja attack with grace, dignity.

As seen on the Yale Political Union Blog.

Stallman vs. Ninjas

It’s one thing to have a guest address sans coat and tie–quite another to have one barefoot on stage. But this is exactly what Richard Stallman provided on Wednesday. The Union heard rms rage against DRM–see the minutes for the blow-by-blow–and went on to agree with him, to the surprise of many, passing the resolution “Resolved: Digital Restrictions Management should be Illegal.” (Not that this would be the first time the Union disagreed with the world at large.) From the YDN [Yale Daily News]:

Amidst hisses and applause, political activist Richard Stallman–standing barefoot behind a podium, sporting a wild beard and playing with his long, shaggy hair–discussed what he terms the “conspiracy” of companies against the consumer Wednesday night.

But before he could even take the stage, Mr. Stallman’s way was blocked by a squad of ninjas (Picture 1, Picture 2) reenacting an XKCD webcomic. Needless to say, the ninjas failed in their quest to bring rms’ days of free software advocacy to an end, and he took the interruption with good humor and grace.

Stallman Attacked By Ninjas at Yale.  Copyright 2007 Yale Political Union

Hat tip to Boing Boing, of course.

Radiohead fans pay more than £2.90 for digital album. (Maybe)

Radiohead controversy shows limits of knowledge in an Information Age

When people want to know something really badly, someone, somewhere will step up and offer them a number. This number may not be accurate, but that’s almost beside the point: if people want a number and only a single number exists, it won’t be long before pundits start citing it as true. Besides, even if it’s not quite true, it must be in the ballpark, right?

Take the case of Radiohead’s new album, for instance. Released to fans as a direct download that could be had for any price, In Rainbows became a breathlessly-watched experiment in the ways that Internet distribution could be used to bypass the major labels and offer music directly to fans. How many fans picked up a copy? What did they pay? Did US visitors pay more? What’s Radiohead’s total take from the experiment?

These are excellent questions, and everyone wants immediate answers. At the beginning of this last week, Internet metrics firm comScore obliged. They had the numbers; it was all there in black and white. $6 average downloads. 60 percent of downloaders unwilling to pay anything. US users paid more than everyone else ($8.05 vs. $4.64).

Just one problem: Radiohead says that the numbers aren’t true. In a statement later in the week, the band called the figures “purely speculative” and “wholly inaccurate.” The group claimed that no outside organization could possibly have truly accurate information. Of course, they didn’t bother to tell us what the real numbers were, either.

EFF Partners in Launch of Collaborative Government Document Database at | Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF has partnered with a coalition of government watchdog groups in launching, a site that consolidates government documents produced by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from various organizations. The FOIA is a law that forces the federal government to disclose documents detailing its activities when asked.

Often, organizations making FOIA requests seek to hold the government accountable for abuse, corruption, and unfulfilled promises to citizens. allows visitors to search a database of government documents uncovered by watchdog groups, facilitating broad citizen review of critical records of government activity. In addition, registered users of the site can comment on documents, bringing their own insight and expertise to the table.

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