Archive for May, 2007

Infintite Copyright Term

May 22, 2007

In this NY Times article Mark Helprin, a rights holder, argues that copyrights, like rights in real and personal property, should last forever. In response, Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out that Intellectual Property isn’t the same as real property, but rather it is an incentive given to authors to produce what would otherwise be an under-produced public good. This is a clear example of a clash between two different IP ideologies: IP maximalists that see IP laws as vehicle to maximize returns to current rights holders and IP pragmatists that seek to maximize social welfare by achieving a balance between author incentives and public use.

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A New Networking Paradigm

May 21, 2007

Here is a tech talk that Van Jacobson, a research fellow at PARC, gave to Google entitled “A New Way to Look at Networking.” The main thrust of his idea is that in order to solve the main challenges the internet faces today: security, spam, the slashdot effect, and difficulty in implementing ubiquitous computing, we need to have a different model for thinking about and designing internet applications. Before the days of the Internet, the telephone system was designed around building point to point connections between callers. However, this was relatively unreliable and did not scale up well. Enormous resources were spent designing ever more complicated and robust units for the phone system because if any one piece failed, the entire connection failed. However, the Internet changed this completely. Rather than make point to point connections, TCP/IP abstracted away the individual connections and instead used routing algorithms and a robust protocol to make sure that all the data got from the sender to the receiver without worrying about what happens underneath. Similarly, Jacobson is suggesting that we develop new protocols that stand above the connection layer, because right now we spend a lot of time and effort worrying about where our data comes from and whether connections are secure, and whether the sender is reliable. Instead, by focusing the network on data, rather than on the connections, we can greatly increase the power and flexibility of the Internet.

One example of this new view is the Bittorrent file distribution system. With bittorrent a user requests a specific file. The file itself is actually held in bits and pieces on the machines of hundreds of different users. However, the user does not need to know where all the parts are and how to download them; all of that work is done by the algorithm. Instead the user just needs to know what he wants to download and the network takes care of the rest.

This new paradigm points to a time in the near future where the internet will be very different from how we know it now. In particular it points to light at the end of the tunnel for solving several long standing problems of security, data integrity, and ubiquity.

More information on content centric networking can be found here. Also related are the ideas of ubiquitous computing and mesh networking.

Diggers try to keep the HD-DVD key in the Wild

May 2, 2007

The HD-DVD key, a 32 digit hexadecimal (128bit) number, allows a user to circumvent the copy control mechanism on an HD-DVD, so posting the key is likely in violation of the DMCA. Digg moderators tried to avoid a potential legal conflict by removing all stories that contain the key and banning some users who submitted the story. Digg users have responded to the removal of stories mentioning the HD-DVD key by innundating Digg with the key. On the Digg RSS feed almost half of the stories submitted in the last 24 hours have contained the key. Comments in every post contain the key and there are links everywhere to alternate sources for the key, including t-shirts, pictures, bumper stickers, haikus, and other creative encodings of the number. What will the implications of this revolt be? It will depend largely on how the AACS licensing authority (owners of the HD-DVD encryption method) responds. A heavy handed legal or political response could induce a public backlash. However, by not responding at all, it could result in a de facto change in DMCA enforcement.

For more:

Forbes – Digg’s DRM Revolt

CNet – Unhappy Digg Users bury site in protest

BBC – DVD DRM Row sparks user rebellion

Update: Eariler in the post I stated that posting the HD-DVD key would likely be found a violation of the DMCA. It is actually closer to a certainty rather than a likelyhood. A District Court found this to be the case in Universal v. Reimerdes. 111 F.Supp.2d 294. (S.D. N.Y. 2000). It held that distribution of the DeCSS code that allowed the decoding of DVDs violated the anti-trafficking provisions of the DMCA that prohibit the distribution of any technology that is primarily used to circumvent copy control mechanisms. The Second Circuit court of Appeals upheld the ruling. For background on this case see the wikipedia article.

KSR v. Teleflex

May 1, 2007

The Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling today in the case of KSR v. Teleflex. This case revolved around whether Teleflex’s patent on self-adjusting gas pedal failed the non-obviousness requirement of Section 103. With this ruling, the Court is making it easier to challenge patents based on obviousness. This is very significant, as the standard for determining obviousness has been
both narrow and ill-defined. Patently-O has the rundown. Expect more on this in the coming weeks.