07 August 2007

The Internet Ate My Homework

Here is some of what I had intended to post over the last few days that got eaten by the Holiday Inn's "free wireless services." Or, perhaps, by Klingons, since it was at a science fiction conference...

  • Misuse of copyright is a major problem. Copyright warnings that claim too much are just the tip of the iceberg... but it's a big tip. This actually results as much from civil procedure as it does from substance (although Professor Patry's note yesterday on another instance of copyright getting muddled with trademark (see my essay on fan fiction for a more-detailed analysis): The remedies available for copyright infringement are substantially more favorable to a plaintiff than are those available for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, and the standard of proof is also more favorable.
  • Misuse of copyright also occurs in digital rights management. For once, I think Cory Doctorow's screed does not go nearly far enough. Sadly, there's a mathematical proof that any DRM system can be broken quickly and easily using a known-plaintext attack using off-the-shelf analysis systems. In other words, DRM systems are inherently insecure. That's bad policy by itself... and antithetical to the purposes of the IP Clause.
  • I predicted this a couple of years ago in a paper that has not appeared online anywhere: a holder of composition rights in a song has sued iTunes. I really wish it wasn't Eminem carrying the flag, but one doesn't always get the most sympathetic plaintiff... In any event, this exactly parallels the problems with Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" program: The presumption that the only necessary permission is the administratively convenient one.
  • Then there's the question of "journalist shields" — and to whom they apply. There is currently a legislative move to extend the journalist shield to bloggers, which is not entirely a bad thing. Actually, it might be mostly a good thing, but it's difficult to predict that without seeing final statutory language. It would be all too easy to extend that "protection" much too far with sloppy drafting, or to leave loopholes large enough to drive a typical Hollywood ego through them.

Last — and certainly least — there was an item on today's news announcing that the FBI was going to relax its standards for former drug users. The item proclaimed that it was a retreat from "the buttoned-down days of the FBI's founder." My oldest son immediately noted that they really mean it was a retreat from "the dressed-up days of the FBI's founder." Smart kid.