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Princeton CS Prof Edward W. Felten (Almost) Live

Roblimo posted more than 11 years ago | from the living-in-the-shadow-of-the-DMCA dept.

Censorship 175

Some legal issues, some technical issues, a little personal insight... This is what Professor Felten gives us here. Some excellent questions rose to the top in this interview, and the answers are similarly thoughtful. Major thanks go out to Professor Felten, also to the many Slashdot people who submitted great questions!

1) From your discussions with them...
by burgburgburg

...do you perceive that legislators are aware of the extraordinarily broad negative implications of these new telecommunications laws that are being proposed/enacted?

Also, if you are aware of it, have the hardware/software manufacturers who will be affected joined together to fight these laws, or has it flown under their radar?

Prof. Felten:

Let me take the second part of the question first. Yes, various manufacturers have opposed the bills. The Consumer Electronics Association, for example, has opposed them. The MPAA has now changed the bills in an attempt to make some of the big manufacturers happier.

As to the first part of the question:

No, I don't think the legislators who support these bills really understand the harm they would do. In my experience, if you can explain to them what the problem is, they will want to do the right thing. (They may not kill a bad bill entirely, but they will at least try to amend it to fix problems.) The hard part is to get their attention, and then to explain the problem in a manner that non-geeks can understand.

The underlying problem, I think, is that geeks think about technology in a different way than non-geeks do. The differences have sunk deeply into the basic worldviews of the two communities, so that their consequences seem to be a matter of common sense to each group. This is why it often looks to each group as if members of the other group are idiots.

Here's an example. Geeks think of networks as being like the Internet: composed of semi-independent interoperating parts, and built in layers. Non-geeks tend to think of networks as being like the old-time telephone monopoly: centrally organized and managed, non-layered, and provided by a single company. It's not that they don't know that the world has changed -- if you ask them what the Internet is like, they'll say that it's decentralized and layered. But the *implications* of those changes haven't sunk deeply into their brains, so they tend not to see problems that are obvious to geeks.

Geeks will look at proposed network regulation and immediately ask "How will this affect interoperability?" or "Is this consistent with the end-to-end principle?" but non-geeks will look at the same proposal and think of different questions. They know what interoperability is, but it's just not at the front of their minds.

2) What sort of positive legislation?
by Viperion

Dr. Felten, do you have a suggestion as to what sort of legislation could be introduced that would soothe the minds of reactionary lawmakers while preserving the rights that we currently enjoy?

Prof. Felten:

Intellectual property policy is in a crisis right now, caused by widespread infringement and the excesses of the legal backlash against it. The biggest problem is hasty legislation that makes the crisis worse by overregulating legitimate behavior without preventing infringement. Obviously, it would be a positive step to repeal some of the bad laws that are already on the books. Part of the problem is a mindset that no matter what the problem is, the solution must be legislative.

But you asked about positive legislative steps, which is a harder question. The holy grail here is a non-harmful proposal that reassures legislators about the continued viability of the music and movie industries.

If you want positive legislation in this area, the best hope is a compulsory license, which would charge all users of the Net a small, mandatory fee. In exchange for this, it would become totally legal to distribute and use any audio and video content on the Net. The revenue from the fees would be split up among the creators according to a formula, based on how many times each work was downloaded or played. If you do the math, the fees can be pretty small while still replacing the revenue the music and movie industries would otherwise lose.

This is a controversial proposal. It does have drawbacks, and I'm not quite endorsing it at this point. But if you want to cut the Gordian knot and end the piracy wars, a compulsory license is one way to do so.

3) Network Identity
by Rick.C

One of the rumored new restrictions is that you may not mask the identity of a network connection. In your opinion, does this refer to the identity of each machine or the identity of the subscriber (who might be responsible for several machines behind a firewall, e.g.)?

In other words, are we talking about "people" or "boxes"?

Prof. Felten:

Some proposed bills would make it a crime to "conceal the place of origin or destination of a communication" from "any communication provider." I'm not sure whether "place" means a geographic location (such as my house) or a network address (such as my IP address) or an identifier (such as a DNS address or email address, either of which might correspond to a person). As far as I know, supporters of these bills haven't said clearly which meaning they intend.

Under any of these three readings, such a ban would cause huge problems. Lots of ordinary security and privacy measures, such as firewalls, VPNs, encrypted tunnels, and various proxies conceal the origin or destination of messages, either to protect privacy or as a side-effect of what they do.

4) Prohibition of what got us here?
by Xesdeeni

Do I completely misunderstand the scope of the DMCA, or would it have actually prohibited the actions of clone manufacturers, starting with Compaq, when they reverse-engineered the IBM PC BIOS in 1984?

It seems this simple fact alone would highlight the ludicrous nature of a law which would prohibit precisely the actions that provided the current state of the industry.

Prof. Felten:

The effect of the DMCA on reverse engineering is complicated. The DMCA does not flatly ban reverse engineering, but if you have to circumvent a technical protection measure in order to do your reverse engineering, then the DMCA will be an issue. The DMCA does have a limited safe harbor for reverse engineering, but it has been widely criticized as too narrow.

I hate to dodge your question, but I'm not really qualified to say whether what the clone makers did would be legal under 2003 law.

5) Signal to Noise
by sterno

One of the problems I see with efforts to try to get the DMCA and similar legislation revoked and prevented in the future, is a matter of signal to noise. Most voters don't care about the DMCA or even know about it, and those who do usually have to worry about more important priorities like the state of the economy or the war in Iraq. So, my question is, how can we possibly make the DMCA and its kin important issues to our legislators? Sure, I can write them, but if they are given the choice of voting for the DMCA and getting some campaign money, or voting against and pleasing a handful of constituents, which will they choose?

It's unlikely that the handful of consitutents is going to vote against the candidate purely because of their DMCA stance. Personally, I'm very against the DMCA but when the election time comes around, I'm not voting for the anti-DMCA candidate, I'm voting for the guy who's going to fix the economy and patch our international relationships. So how can somebody like myself really get their voice heard by the right people when the threat of "voting for the other candidate" isn't credible?

Prof. Felten:

In the short run, I think it's more productive to convince legislators than to threaten them. As you say, there won't be many single-issue DMCA voters.

But even if technological freedom issues like the DMCA aren't the only factor in a voting decision, they still might tip the balance for some voters in some races. Even that is enough to make a difference. Legislators do seem to care what their constituents think, and they do seem to have a fear of doing something that looks stupid afterward.

In the long run, I hope the public comes to see how technological improvement flows from the freedom of technologists to learn and create.

If average voters view censorship of technologists in the same way they view other forms of censorship, we'll be in much better shape.

6) DMCA and EUCD
by Brian Blessed

In your opinion, do residents of Europe and other US-friendly (business-wise) areas have a hope of avoiding being adversely affected by the DMCA (or superDMCA) or its foreign implementations (e.g. EUCD) and is technological civil disobedience the best form of activism to follow?

Prof. Felten:

There is still hope in Europe, but they seem to be heading for the same kind of regulatory regime we see here in the U.S. Parts of the U.S. government have been working hard for years to export the U.S. version of intellectual property law to the rest of the world. All indications are that Europe will follow us down this path.

7) Our position in the world
by TooTechy

Do you see this new legislation altering our ability to work remotely? Will these restrictions place undue hardship on US workers when compared with facilities in other countries? Is it likely that other countries will evolve faster technologically as a result of these draconian measures?

Prof. Felten:

The new regulations on technology will impose a drag on our technological capabilities, and hence on our productivity. If other countries are foolish enough to impose the same regulations on their citizens (and it seems that many will be), then we'll come out even from a competitive standpoint. More importantly, we'll all be worse off than we could have been had we all followed better policies.

8) Strategy
by Meat Blaster

Our current methods of informing the public and the government about the evils of the DMCA seem to be reactive and passive -- defending a lawsuit, writing public responses to the librarian of Congress periodically about the DMCA, setting up resources where the public if they were so inclined could stop by and learn about the problem.

Do you feel that it would be a good time for a shift in strategy towards more active measures such as forming a group to lobby representatives directly, issuing mailings about the DMCA particularly to those whose representatives support legislation like the DMCA/UCITA/SSSCA, or beginning a television ad campaign? Such an endeavor is bound to cost a bit, but I can't help but feel that particularly with 2004 coming up having a bit of organized PR on our side of the debate would be quite helpful.

Prof. Felten:

I agree that positive action is important. I view this as a two-track process.

The first track is the one you suggest, of building up lobbying muscle to challenge harmful regulations. This is challenging, given who is on the other side, and given the tendency of our opponents to buy off important players with special-purpose exceptions to their legal regulations. (For example, the DMCA has special carve-outs for ISPs and device makers.) We're really just starting in this area, but we need to remember how much progress has been made since the passage of the DMCA, which met very little organized resistance at the time.

The second track is to get better at explaining ourselves and at persuading people that they should support our positions. Especially, we need to do a better job of finding folks out there who are our natural allies, and convincing them to join us on these issues, even if we disagree about some other issues.

An example: auto parts manufacturers are worried by recent DMCA developments, such as the case where Lexmark has successfully (so far) used the DMCA against a maker of replacement parts for Lexmark printers. Auto parts manufacturers are worried that the DMCA mindset, which treats unauthorized analysis and interoperation as improper, will leak into their world.

9) Roadblocks to IP protections?
by Xesdeeni

Doesn't the DMCA prohibit a company from investigating a violation of their IP if the violation exists on the other side of encryption?

For example, if company M utilized a software algorithm (putting aside the argument about software patents for the moment) inside an encrypted data stream (audio file, video file, etc.) that was actually patented by company A, wouldn't it be a violation of the DMCA for company A to investigate this violation of their patent rights? And wouldn't any evidence they uncovered in violation of the DMCA be inadmissible if they tried to enforce their patent rights against company M?

Prof. Felten:

This sounds like a likely DMCA violation, but you'll have to consult your lawyer to be sure.

This is just one instance of a more general problem. Laws like the DMCA that limit the flow of information will inevitably make it harder to find out about certain types of misbehavior. Sometimes the misbehavior will be patent infringement. Sometimes it will be a manufacturer misleading their customers about the quality of their product.

We value free speech because vigorous public discussion benefits everybody, though many of those benefits are subtle and indirect. So far, the legal system has not fully realized that speech about technology needs to be valued as highly as speech about other topics. I think the law will eventually catch on, as it becomes clearer to the average person that their experience of the world, and their interaction with the world, is mediated by technology.

10) Tell me...
by Dicky

For the love of God, man, why???

Or to put it slightly less sillily, what was (and is!) your motivation for getting involved in this side of the Computer Science world, say, as opposed to the nice safe, clean theoretical stuff?

Prof. Felten:

I'm not entirely sure myself. Here's the best answer I can manage:

In deciding what to work on, I really just follow my own quirky sense of what is interesting and important. If others find the things I do interesting and important, that's a lucky accident.

But that can't really be the answer to your question, because many of my colleagues follow the same rule, and they end up working on different sorts of things than I do. So I must have a different sense of taste than they do, but I'm not sure why.

The answer doesn't lie in my personal life. When I leave work, I am not at all a rebel or nonconformist. I have a stable, boring, happy suburban life, which I wouldn't change for anything.

I should also point out that I do some work that fits into the traditional academic computer science framework. But you won't read about that on Slashdot.

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3rd post! (-1)

thr0d ps1t (641973) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751670)

This thr0d ps1t is brought to you by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's Model Thr00 Thr0d Ps1t Generator.

Share and enjoy!

Re:3rd post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752087)

Not the third post! Not!

YOU FIAL IT!

The risk of it is (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751695)

Nice..

This says it all... (4, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751709)

"I should also point out that I do some work that fits into the traditional academic computer science framework. But you won't read about that on Slashdot. "

That's too bad, really - I'm sure something like that could squeeze out a couple Evil Bit dupes or the odd M$ bug...

Re:This says it all... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752125)

You do read about the computer science studies that are "worthy" of headlines here. Remember the whole "Prime is P" thing? That was big. That made it to the headlines.

Most readers are probably not going to understand (or care to understand) the majority of current CS research. This isn't because Slashdot readers aren't smart enough, it's just simply because a lot of them don't have the background.

Things like small improvements on the runtime complexity of an obscure clustering algorithm might be important...but they don't necessarily belong on the headlines in your local newspaper.

If you want news like this, simply join the Association for Computing Machinery or subscribe to some other Computer Science journal.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752743)

Most readers are probably not going to understand (or care to understand) the majority of current CS research. This isn't because Slashdot readers aren't smart enough, it's just simply because a lot of them don't have the background.

Doesn't prevent the multitude of IANAL comments on IP issues.

faggot fuck (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751710)

faggot fuck cock titty bitch fuck cock titty ass shit cock lol fag fuck u

Re:faggot fuck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751751)

I think this is a program written in 'feckfeck', but it seems to have some bugs...several instructions are more than 4 chars long!

Re:faggot fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752959)

Actually, feckfeck would interpret that as fagg otfu ckco ckti ttyb itch fuck cock titt yass shit cock lolf agfu cku. Whitespace is ignored.

blablabla (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751719)

10 questions and 10 answers the world doesnt need... i won
't read this..i won
't read this..i won
't read this..i won
't read this..i won
't read this..i won
't read this..

Professor Felten! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751722)

Professor Felten is teh burn1nator!!!~!1

BURNINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1~!~ @!1

Oh professor .... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751738)

He never answered my question:

When's the final? I skipped class the entire semester.

Troll Thursday? Anyone?...Anyone? (-1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751745)

I propose a Troll Thursday. Anyone else down with this? Sit on my face!

Prof Felton ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751759)

Prof Felton,

Your name is very similar to "Fenton" on the Cartoon Network series Home Movies. Do you find that you get anally raped because of this fact? And if so, CmdrTaco wants to know if he can be next. I realize that this is an unusual request, since CmdrTaco usually likes his boys under the age of 12, but considering your status he will make an exception. Thank you.

Lobbying Campaign (3, Interesting)

rcathcart (658596) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751764)

Do you feel that it would be a good time for a shift in strategy towards more active measures such as forming a group to lobby representatives directly, issuing mailings about the DMCA particularly to those whose representatives support legislation like the DMCA/UCITA/SSSCA, or beginning a television ad campaign?

I for one would be willing to donate to such a campaign. If someone set something up on Paypal, I imagine there would be a significant amount of contributions. Maybe not enough for a television ad campaign, but certainly enough to get this issue more attention.

Re:Lobbying Campaign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751780)

I'd donate as long as it wasn't thru paypal.

Re:Lobbying Campaign (4, Informative)

j-beda (85386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752033)

I think the EFF [eff.org] has online donations ability.

Re:Lobbying Campaign (1)

jonabbey (2498) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752882)

EFF abandoned their lobbying effort some years ago, in favor of legal assistance/court challenge type efforts.

I JUST INSTALLED LINUX & NOW MY MOM THINKS IM (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751766)

when will these homoerotic feelings subside

Totally Off Topic. (-1, Offtopic)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751774)

There's an HP add (big box type one) running on Slashdot at the moment.

Do you think they've set the colour scheme on purpose so that it looks like a slashbox?

The new and improved topic icon (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751778)

Worst

Photoshop

Ever

(I guess you used gimp)
(gimp is an offensive name, you may as well call it retard or mongloid)

Re:The new and improved topic icon (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752127)

I propose slashdot add a 'pr0n' icon with the black bar over the eyes as tradition dictates.

Re:The new and improved topic icon (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752579)

gimp is an offensive name, you may as well call it retard or mongloid

gimp was written by retards and mongloids

Re:The new and improved topic icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752741)

you were bought into this world by retards and mongoloids!

Mandatory Licensing (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Canard (594978) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751787)

If you want positive legislation in this area, the best hope is a compulsory license, which would charge all users of the Net a small, mandatory fee. In exchange for this, it would become totally legal to distribute and use any audio and video content on the Net. The revenue from the fees would be split up among the creators according to a formula, based on how many times each work was downloaded or played. If you do the math, the fees can be pretty small while still replacing the revenue the music and movie industries would otherwise lose.

Indeed, I've come to believe the same thing. There has to be some (possibly voluntary) way of assessing what kind of content is being copied, and in what quantities in order to assign proportional royalty payments and thereby preserve profit motive among the content creators. But freely copyable data is the only system that really makes sense to me at a societal level. Data ownership just doesn't scale in proportion with data networks and immeasurable value is lost in this way.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (2, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751881)

in the UK at least, we pay a additional fee whenever we buy blank cassettes, either music or video, that go to support the music industry from 'illegal' copying onto them.

Charging ISPs would just be a continuation of this system which I think, no-one has an issue with.
ISPs can (and do) block filesharing ports so they could even charge only those users using them.

I agree thugh, that once you've paid this fee, all content should be freely available.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752123)

in the UK at least, we pay a additional fee whenever we buy blank cassettes, either music or video, that go to support the music industry from 'illegal' copying onto them.
The US has similar fees as well. Some are mandated by law (like the DAT tax [brouhaha.com] ) and others (some of the money you pay for analog media goes to the RIAA and similar organizations, for example) seem to be more of an industry agreement.

(I've heard about the latter (analog) issue from people in the music industry, but have never actually seen anything more definate. Can anybody corroborate or disprove it?)

When would it stop? (3, Insightful)

andres32a (448314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751935)

I somewhat agree but...

If something like this passes, forced licensing won't likely stop with music; mandated contracts for e-books, movies and even software could be next.

So... the "math" could suddenly get much larger.

And suddenly you could be paying for the downloading of a whole bunch of music, e-books, movies that you never actually downloaded.

Just a thought.

NEVER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751989)

Never! Have every studio collecting taxes on us for surfing the web!

Re:When would it stop? (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751991)

True enough. We're also already paying such fees on CD-Rs I believe, and blank cassettes etc in the US as well as the UK.

Re:When would it stop? (3, Interesting)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752001)

And suddenly you could be paying for the downloading of a whole bunch of music, e-books, movies that you never actually downloaded.

But you now have the legal and moral right to download them--and a reasonable expectation of having reasonable quality copies of said items.

A nice way to roll this out would be at the ISP level. Each IP assignemnt would be either "good" or "not-good", and the "good" ones could access a new Napsteresque P2P system in exchange for paying a slight ($2/month?) fee. Of course, this would have to be governmentally mandated and policed, but it would end the 'piracy wars', to use Felden's term.

A better way to do it would be to change the copyright model from "buy license with one media" to "buy lifelong crossplatform license and right to make own personal copies." Change the laws to assume that the user will be making digital purchases and making their own physical copies, rather than trying to force purely physical laws onto the internet.

Re:When would it stop? (2, Insightful)

Dexx (34621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752813)

Rather than just good or not good, an entire scope of ratings could be used. ISP assignment would range from doubleplusungood to doubleplusgood, depending on how well they record and report your downloading habits to the assigning agency.

Ironic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752035)

So when this law passes, the music labels are actually going to "download" the own titles over and over so the can get more money!

Re:Mandatory Licensing (2, Interesting)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752016)

The problem with this system is that it disconnects piracy with this new "tax" on all consumers. For example, the actions of some 15 year old who downloads every mp3 in sight just to be "l33t" causes me to pay more for my Internet conenction.

Besides, I'd love to hear from the privacy experts how all this reporting is going to go on about what mp3s I like to play and still be 100% anonymous.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (2, Insightful)

mouthbeef (35097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752263)

We have many compulsory licenses in place that require auditing on these lines (live performance, radio, etc), and none of them are at odds with anonymity.

It seems like you're thinking that auditing for disbursement would have to be perfect, rather than representative. There are lots of ways imaginable for gathering statistical impressions of the traffic on P2P nets without mandatory loss of privacy:

* Paid Nielsen families who run spyware on their own HDDs

* Request monitoring at super-peers

* Network spidering

* A standards-defined API that clients can send an XML ping to, describing the tracks downloaded without any personal info

* Etc.

The anonymity argument is circular: we have no deployed technology in the field that can audit P2P networks without compromising anonymity *because* we have no compulsory license that demands such a system.

DRM is an enormous business that's sucking billions of dollars in capital and millions of talented engineer hours. If the need for DRM were obviated and a business were created for P2P auditing, do you really think that those engineers will be unable to come up with an anonymity-respecting system for deriving a good approximation of the relative popularity of digital music files on P2P nets?

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

Unkle (586324) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752469)

I am not a privacy expert, but I would not think that there would need to be a record of what any single person downloads, just how many times a particular item was downloaded (i.e., song X was downloaded 500 times this month.). That way, the record company would be able to be compensated for whatever 500 downloads a month is worth.

The concern about "1337" kiddies causing an increase to any other person's fee would be, most likely, insignificant. Remember, this would be spread out over a few million users, and I doubt there are so many heavy users that it would cause undue problems. Any true solution to this, though, would likely include tracking at the very least numbers on how much a person downloaded, which brings the privacy quesion up again...

Re:Mandatory Licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752152)

Right. All I have to do is publish the most crap I possibly can (randomly created haikus and such). Then I too am entitled to a portion of the collected funds.

Who is to determine how the funds are distributed? It would likely go to the RIAA/MPAA, etc. The small companies would get nothing. It won't work.

Re:Mandatory Licensing - where does it stop? (1)

scrotch (605605) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752186)

This idea seems to have slippery-slope issues.

If I design some nice web graphics and you download them an view them as part of visiting my website, do I get a chunk of this tax? You just downloaded and distributed my copyrighted material, right? What if it's Flash instead of graphics? What about the text on my site? That's my copyright.

What about this post? If you download this page and get this post on your screen, then I want my royalties.

Re:Mandatory Licensing - where does it stop? (1)

mouthbeef (35097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752299)

If I design some nice web graphics and you download them an view them as part of visiting my website, do I get a chunk of this tax? You just downloaded and distributed my copyrighted material, right? What if it's Flash instead of graphics? What about the text on my site? That's my copyright.

Last time I checked, no one was advocating compulsories for web graphics: probably because there's no widespread alarm over infringement of web graphics.

We have a compulsory music license for radio. We don't have a compulsory *speech* license for radio. It's legal to play any song you can find on the radio (provided you've paid the levy), but it's illegal to read someone's book in its entirety over the radio.

This isn't binary.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

octover (22078) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752208)

If we are already tracking how much something is downloaded couldn't we just take it a step farther and charge the appropriate parties. Seriously if I am only listening to band X, Y and Z I only want them to give them my hard earned cash. I don't want to support some band just because a label decided to sign them. Also you have the potential for abuse, just think how crap the music scene is that attracts those with lots of time on their hands who could artificially inflate band z's share of the profits. (read: the young pre-teen/teens who don't have jobs). Granted if you are in to the boy bands I imagine this would be a great system.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752506)

There are some benefits to mandatory payment schemes. I'd love to see a tiny charge per e-mail. All spam would disappear instantly.

Instead of doing complicated formulas (ae?) for type of content, another approach would be to collect on a per MB network bandwidth basis. Recipient pays, provider collects. Slashdot would be well funded (as would every site mentioned here). And you wouldn't have the RIAA or MPAA getting a piece of the pie.

Obviously, everybody would want to be a content provider and would put enormous flash-trash files on their website, but browsers can be modified to do filtering.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752513)

I am perfectly happy with the content that I can legally download right now. Why in the world should I have to pay a fee so that the rest of you can get your N-Sync fix?

The solution to the current intellectual property problem is simple. The copyright holders should target abusers and prosecute the hell out of them. If people are faced with the prospect of being prosecuted for distributing copyrighted works illegally then the current problems will clear themselves up.

More importantly, prosecuting lawbreakers would make the copyright holders happy without making filesharing illegal. There are plenty of folks that are more than happy to have you download their work. This content would be a lot more popular if trading Eminem albums was likely to get you thrown in jail.

Mod parent up! (2, Insightful)

Steven Blanchley (655585) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752931)

The parent makes a very good point. Some of us don't give a damn about trading content (currently) illegally. If all I want to do is read rec.games.abstract and post to Slashdot, then I should not have to pay more for my internet access just because some jerkos are downloading music they don't have rights to.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752595)

I don't believe that's the right solution, but I'd be willing to pay for it.

At least until the public wakes up. ;)

Re:Mandatory Licensing NOT GOOD (2, Insightful)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752630)

We have that in Canada for writeable CD's. It's a levy so that everytime you buy a CD you have to pay a bit extra (hidden in the cost of course) for the CD. This bit extra (I think it's 23cents per cd, but going up to close to 50cents) is supposed to go to the copyright holders of music, because as we all know, if you are buying a writeable cd you must be stealing music...

As far as I know as of last Christmas none of the 17Million collected has gone to any copyright holder.

The reason I don't think this is good for the Internet, is that it will become a creeping cost that gradually goes up and up. It's also a cost that may have nothing to do with what you are buying! If you are just looking at slashdot, and not looking at music or movies then why should you pay for this tax?

The Internet should be viewed as air. Free to all, and if you pollute it you should pay to clean it.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (2, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752718)

I can see numerous problems with this:

1) I don't see it working on the international level. I cannot imagine (say) France paying the record companies in the US, for example.

2) I don't think a fair solution to dividing the money exists. Any solution based on measurement of downloads or similar will instantly create a small industry around 'download boosting'.

3) Why should it be limited to music and video's? Why not software, books, patents, etc.?

4) Would this just be for personal accounts, or also for professional accounts? Would Microsoft have to pay a charge for every employee that has an account on their system (or do we simply assume that noone ever downloads anything at work?)? What if I had a one-man company?

5) Who decides how much money the record industry will get? The record industry themselves? The US government? The UN? How will we stop them from lobbying for ever-increasing income (which they will be sure to do)? How will we respond to lesser economic conditions, like now?

6) What incentive will exist for the record companies to create saleable songs? They might just as well sell white-noise (song argue they already do, but that's another point), once they have a guaranteed income.

Re:Mandatory Licensing (1)

mouthbeef (35097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752832)

> 1) I don't see it working on the international level. I cannot
> imagine (say) France paying the record companies in the US, for
> example.

This is a failure of your imagination, then. France *already* does this. Billions of dollars are collected globally (including in France) by various rights societies as part of compulsory licensing schemes, for music companies.

> 2) I don't think a fair solution to dividing the money exists.
> Any solution based on measurement of downloads or similar will
> instantly create a small industry around 'download boosting'.

Another failure of imagination. We've had compulsory licensing since the Piano Roll was litigated in 1908, with rights-societies and disbursement. It doesn't have to be exact, just representative and fair. I think that the capability of technologists to create good stats from network traffic -- even decentralized netowrk traffic -- has been amply demonstrated (see Kelly Truelove's research when he was with Clip2, for some examples). The absence of a P2P auditing system is hardly surprising, given the absence of a compulsory licensing scheme (which would be the raison d'etre for such an auditing system), and is in no way indicative of the impossibility of such a system.

> 3) Why should it be limited to music and video's? Why not
> software, books, patents, etc.?

Why should it be? There's a compulsory *music* license for radio that doesn't include any compulsory *text* license -- IOW, you can legally play any song you lay hands on on your levy-paid radio station, but you can't read a book aloud without an author's permission. No one is credibly threatening to regulate both general purpose PCs and the Internet out of existence to enforce copyright on books. Why would we solve a problem that didn't exist?

> 4) Would this just be for personal accounts, or also for
> professional accounts? Would Microsoft have to pay a charge for
> every employee that has an account on their system (or do we
> simply assume that noone ever downloads anything at work?)? What
> if I had a one-man company?

MSFT could pay the levy, if they want to allow their employees to download music. Given the legal liability companies like Sun have faced when nailed with takedown and disconnect notice for file-sharing by their employees, it might very well be cheaper to buy a low-cost blanket license than to do the enforcement (which is not only technically challenging, but invasive of privacy and requires Vader-like HR policy) to shield them from contributory infringement liability. If I was a CEO faced with a choice of spending $N to allow my employees to download MP3s with impunity or spending $N to lock down my network, reduce its functionality, train my employees, audit my system, etc, I know which one I'd choose.

>> 5) Who decides how much money the record industry will get? The
> record industry themselves? The US government? The UN? How will
> we stop them from lobbying for ever-increasing income (which
> they will be sure to do)? How will we respond to lesser economic
> conditions, like now?

This is a good question: it's the important one. The amount of the levy should be negotiated. This negotiation will be a lot easier to accomplish, presumably, than the alternative: negotiating which kinds of network technology and general-purpose PC hardware is lawful. Those are the negotiations we're undergoing on the Hill today: I know which negotiation I'd prefer.

>> 6) What incentive will exist for the record companies to create
> saleable songs? They might just as well sell white-noise (song
> argue they already do, but that's another point), once they have
> a guaranteed

The music industry has been governed by compulsories since 1908. There are compulsories on reproduction, distribution, performance, broadcast and more. These compulsories certainly do change the way that record companies do business, but the idea that it would provide an incentive to produce tracks of dead air. For one thing, the levies collected for compulsories are proportionally disbursed: that is, the more popular your track is, the more money you get.

Professor Felton, the optimist... (5, Insightful)

velo_mike (666386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751799)

"No, I don't think the legislators who support these bills really understand the harm they would do. In my experience, if you can explain to them what the problem is, they will want to do the right thing." ... "The hard part is to get their attention, and then to explain the problem in a manner that non-geeks can understand" Isn't the hard part convincing them to vote against the PACs who funded their campaigns and in favor of the individuals they're supposed to represent? Beyond that, so many laws are passed as riders or ammendments to unrelated bills. Several politicians have stated "I didn't know I voted for X". Shouldn't we expect our legislators to Read The F***ing Bill before voting?

Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751855)

The politicians couldn't tack riders onto bills either a) completely unrelated to the bill itself, and b) designed to submarine a bill by being completely ludicrous?

Oh well, that's democracy for ya.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (4, Insightful)

elmegil (12001) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751955)

I think along with lobbying for repeal of DMCA et. al. we ought to be lobbying for "truth in legislation" laws that force every given piece of legislation to be single topic. It can allow for broad topics with complex subparts, but every subpart must have language demonstrating its connection to the main topic (I spose that gives a loophole of sorts, but let's see). For those who'd argue that this removes a means of "getting things done" I have to say, too bad. If you can't get things done with clear, honest legislation, then you shouldn't be doing them, eh?

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (2, Funny)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752020)

Your ideas validate my own and take me out of the "unabomber Nazi" category and place me directly in the "pinko commie" camp. At least I'm moving up in the world...

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

velo_mike (666386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752141)

I think it was Woodie Guthrie who was quoted as "wanting to be a liberal in a room full of conservatives and a conservative in a room ful of liberals..." I suppose you could be both also..

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752368)

I can definitely relate to Woodie's dilemma....

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752794)

I think the real problem is who gets to decide when an amendment falls under the topic. Let's say we're working on an "energy" bill. The bill contains riders that:
  • Fund the DoE
  • Mandate the gas milage of cars built by Detroit
  • Legalize drilling in ANWAR
  • Regulate the pollution put out by coal-burning plants
  • Establish incentives to electronics manufacturers to use less electricity
  • Fund the Iraqi invasion

These topics (which I managed to come up with off the top of my head without much deliberation) all fit my definition of "impacts to the nation's energy supplies", but someone else could easily complain that I'm throwing in riders that should instead be covered in bills for National Parks, Defense, and EPA. And they'd be right too!

The problem is that Politics is **supposed** to be hard and difficult to separate. Politics (when it's working right) is the art of allocating scare resources among competing priorities when you can't get 100% agreement on the what "best" answers are (or even on the questions!). I wouldn't want to hobble legislators with any wierd bueracracy as to what can be discussed under what bill. I can not envision the full range of problems that need to be discussed today, let alone what needs to be discussed 50 years from now.

Furthermore, there is no way to codify a set of rules that someone SOMEWHERE won't figure out how to bend them to give themselves an edge. Mankind is the political animal, and we've had millenia of experience in gaming the system that we, ourselves, have created. The only solution is the one put forth at the founding of the US: "That which governs least, governs best."

That's really, really Libertarian, I know, but I also think that its true.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

m_christie (579176) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752805)

This is an interesting idea, but the main problem is the notion of a "single topic". That's a huge gaping loophole. Your best bet would probably to get a truth in legislation amendment to the constitution stating that each bill must involve only a single topic (which, of course, is a long shot). Then it would be up to the courts to determine what a "single topic" requires. That way, you could take a bill that you believe goes off topic to the Supreme Court. If it's found to not stay on topic, the court can throw it out. This, of course, wouldn't prevent bills being passed with a pile of unrelated crap added on, but it would serve as a way of getting them repealed. And perhaps, if applied enough, it would significantly deter this kind of bad legislation.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

velo_mike (666386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752004)

IIRC, that was the point of the "Line Item Veto" dispute many years ago. Instead of your clean and simple solution, they prefer to obfuscate the matter even more...

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752456)

Unfortunately line-item veto was found unconstitutional. Presidents of both parties lobbied for it, and finally the Republicans passed it in 1995's "Contract with America," but the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the separation of powers. So this issue is dead unless someone makes a constitutional amendment happen, which is very unlikely at this point.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

Exedore (223159) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752548)

I have always been of the opinion that this kind of backdoor legislation is the bane of democracy. Imagine that congress finally composes a popular and seemingly bulletproof bill to "protect the children" or whatever. Now say that Senator Ima Porklover (R - Nebraska) says to his buddies "Hey, remember how I scratched your backs on that other bill a few months ago? How about we tack on this here amendment to build one of them supercollider thingies in my state." Now the bill goes before the president and for political reasons he can't very well veto the thing because the oposition party will have his lunch ("The president's a baby killer!"). Anyway, you get the idea. It's traditionally been a huge source of budget bloat.

That said, the line item veto was found unconstitutional, and rightly so. Not only did it give POTUS the power to nix silly, non-related riders and amendments (a good thing), but also the power to kill just about any section of a bill he disagreed with (a not so good thing). One could totally change the effects of the main legislation in a way that congress never intended and that would give the executive branch too much power.

I think the previously stated idea is much better: Have congress pass a law preventing themselves from attaching non-related riders to pending legislation. IANACS (constitutional scholar), but I think this has a much better shot of passing judicial review, as Congress has always had nearly exclusive power to define their own legislative procedures.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice if (1)

rcw-work (30090) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752069)

The politicians couldn't tack riders onto bills either a) completely unrelated to the bill itself, and b) designed to submarine a bill by being completely ludicrous?

This could be accomplished by having representatives use an ordinal voting system such as Condorcet [electionmethods.org] to vote on bills.

The bill with pork could be on the ballot right next to the bill without pork, and representatives would be able to pass the bill whether or not they felt the pork was worthwhile.

This would obviously require a constitutional amendment.

Case in point (2, Informative)

sulli (195030) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752429)

the so-called "Amber Alert" bill, which was initially intended to provide a national alert system for missing children (ooh, tug at those heartstrings!) yet is larded up with all sorts of crapola [aclu.org] that would never have passed otherwise, including mandatory minimum sentencing, expanded wiretaps, and Joe Biden's "RAVE Act" that would make it a felony to hold dances with electronic music if someone gets high there. Ri-fucking-diculous. (Good discussion [plastic.com] over at plastic.)

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (2, Funny)

skillet-thief (622320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751856)

Gee! You've ruined my whole day...

How can you be so pessimistic about our great democracy, the greatest democracy in the whole wide world?

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (1)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751873)

Don't shoot the messenger. I would say that the government ruined your day, and if that's all you got, you'd better count yourself lucky. Tomorrow might be better.

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (1)

skillet-thief (622320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751900)

Sorry, but I was being sarcastic. Can't bring myself to do those tags...

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752140)

Congradulations, you are now a soldier of the Evil Empire.

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (1)

gantzm (212617) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751902)

We are not a Democracy, the term you are looking for is Constitutional Republic.

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751979)

Surely not. We all know there are only a few types of government - Anarchy, Despotism, Monarch, communism, Republic, democracy, and fanaticism.

Re:Professor Felton, the optimist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752169)

Or at least vote to stay until they have.

I already pay a small fee to fileshare (5, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751807)

for filesharing - my ISP has 2 offerings for ADSL - a cheaper version where filesharing and other ports are blocked, and a more expensive version (10% more) that has various other services and filesharing enabled.

So.. in effect, I am already paying a fee to share files. I have no problem with this - in the UK at least, some ISPs are putting limits on bandwidth usage to stop people sucking up everything they can see continuously, my ISPs way of reducing bandwidth usage is to make us pay slightly more for a better service (or slightly less for the basic service). I should point out that the basic service is cheaper than nearly all the other UK ISPs.

Charging a small fee to the ISPs who allow filesharing would just see the services my ISP offers being offered by other ISPs. No doubt some people will still complain about having to pay an extra $2 a month...

my ISP - PlusNet [plus.net]

Re:I already pay a small fee to fileshare (5, Interesting)

mouthbeef (35097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751966)

What's more, there are a bunch of hidden costs that would be offset by an ISP levy that legalized filesharing:

* Legal compliance: ISPs are drowning in automated takedown/disclosure/termination notices from the recording industry to stop file-sharers. These aren't cheap to deal with and they're REALLY not cheap to litigate (check out the $millions that Verizon is spending to keep from having to disclose private customer info to rights-holders)

* Bandwidth: The primary design consideration in P2P design today is legal-attack-resistance. This makes superpeer, swarmloading and optimistic cacheing strategies very hard to implement. If P2P were legal, P2P developers could build tools that minimize the amount of non-local bandwidth used through optimistic cacheing and preferring downloads from nearby hosts on the same ISP's network. Given that bandwidth cost is the reason most often cited for ISP opposition to P2P, this should make a compulsory *very* attractive to ISPs.

There's a lot of worry about freeriders in such a system: "I don't download music, why should I pay for it," but your ISP is already *full* of freeriders. I have Earthlink DSL, but I manage my own mail on a server in a cage, and my own web-server on another server in another cage. Yet I still "pay" for these services. In some sense, I am subsidizing the activities of everyone with an @earthlink.net email address. But the cost of rebating my $0.50/month is more than $0.50/month: IOW, ditching the freeriders makes the service more expensive, not cheaper.

And FWIW, since I travel a lot, I use my "free" 20h of Earthlink dial-up nearly every month. Which means that I'm a freerider on Earthlink's dialup service, subsidized by DSL customers who never dial Earthlink from a hotel-room.

Let ISPs who don't want to offer file-sharing opt out of the levy. I could get DSL from another ISP, like RawBandwidth, which won't offer me POP or SMTP, but it's no cheaper than Earthlink's national DSL.

Professor Felton (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5751880)


Do the athletic coaches at your university whip you with towels and call you "Professor Felcher?" I know I would. And I bet the other cs profs make fun of your "small packet size."

Average view of Censorship? (5, Insightful)

elmegil (12001) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751884)

If average voters view censorship of technologists in the same way they view other forms of censorship, we'll be in much better shape.

Given the prevalence of the "if you don't support the war you should shut up and stop supporting terrorism", I'm not sure I agree that the average voter really cares one whit about any censorship that doesn't directly and immediately impact them.

Re:Average view of Censorship? (1)

velo_mike (666386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752325)

"Given the prevalence of the 'if you don't support the war you should shut up and stop supporting terrorism'," Since that's all that has come out of our fearless leader's mouth in the last 2 years, I'm not surprised that line gets spouted so much. Even two of my otherwise "rational" friends have picked up on it and now sound like CNN/MSNBC drones.

Re:Average view of Censorship? (0)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752839)

If you don't support the war you should shut up and stop supporting terrorism

Concede defeat in the 2000 election and quit calling the prsident a Nazi and we will stop calling you uninformed appeasers of totalitarianism. There is plenty of mud coming from both sides, I personally will be glad when the DMCA and PATRIOT get struck down or sunseted, but Bush is doing what 70% of America, the best foreign policy team since Nixon, and his own heart tell him to do. Would you prefer the president not listen to the people?

OK... So Now What! (5, Interesting)

spiedrazer (555388) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751888)

A great interview with an obviously insightful man.

The question concerning positive, pro-active action in support of sane technology regulation leaves me wondering how a bandwagon like that can get rolling. Is the EFF the obvious conduit for that type of activity. Do we need a concerted PR compagn to raise additional $ for the EFF with the specific intent that the EFF use it to start a PR arm that operates with 'traditional' political insider methods.

I swear the lawmakers can't all be morons (as we know) but someone needs to educate those who have decided to stay passive on these issues, and relying on the few enlightened lawmakers who have about a thousand other things do do probably won't get it done!

What's the next step???

Re:OK... So Now What! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752167)

What's the next step???

Mass-suicide. But in a peaceful way. Don't take anyone else out, just ourselves. I'll get things rolling...

Re:OK... So Now What! (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752538)

What's the next step???

Just elect Felten. The only people legislators are required to listen to is the other legislators. Get him in there, and you are set.

Getting their attention ... (5, Interesting)

richg74 (650636) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751980)

The hard part is to get their attention, and then to explain the problem in a manner that non-geeks can understand.

I think Prof. Felten is right about this one. I'm reminded of an example from personal experience; it's not related to the DMCA, but is analogous, I think.

I've discussed the issue of privacy in a networked world with my Dad a few times. His initial reaction was along the lines of, "I'm not worried about it, I don't have anything to hide."

I took a bit of time one evening, and searched for and printed all the information about him that I could find on the net: residence, phone numbers, driving record, credit report, ... (I did not use any privileged access to get this stuff.) When I handed him the pile of paper, he was flabbergasted -- but I think he gets it now.

Non-geeks are just not used to thinking about these issues in the new context.

Why can't we get a straight answer? (3, Insightful)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751981)

This sounds like a likely DMCA violation, but you'll have to consult your lawyer to be sure.

I thought he was a lawyer?

The real answer is that not even your lawyer can give you a straight answer. The only way you'll ever find out is if the event actually occurs, parties sue, they don't settle out of court, and the rulings keep getting appealed until it gets to the Supreme Court.

I've had a couple years experience with new technology and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. While the ADA representatives in Washington would deny vehemently that the law was unclear, the only way you'd really know if you were in violation was if you (or someone else in the same position) were sued and lost.

Re:Why can't we get a straight answer? (3, Informative)

j-beda (85386) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752105)

I thought he was a lawyer?

You thought wrong. He's a comp sci prof, and his CV doesn't list any legal trainging, just physics, comp sci and engineering.

Re:Why can't we get a straight answer? (1)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752584)

If he has no law degree and can't answer legal questions (especially those that affect technology), then what business does he have teaching a class called Information Technology and the Law? [princeton.edu]

Re:Why can't we get a straight answer? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752634)

The law isn't unclear. It's stupid. What is a reasonable accomadation (sp) is largely an excercise for the disabled person. Because of the impossiblity of this being 'hard coded', the law can appear vague on one side, and crystal clear on the other.

Reverse Engineering.... (5, Interesting)

GeekWithGuns (466361) | more than 11 years ago | (#5751988)

The effect of the DMCA on reverse engineering is complicated. The DMCA does not flatly ban reverse engineering, but if you have to circumvent a technical protection measure in order to do your reverse engineering, then the DMCA will be an issue. The DMCA does have a limited safe harbor for reverse engineering, but it has been widely criticized as too narrow.

I hate to dodge your question, but I'm not really qualified to say whether what the clone makers did would be legal under 2003 law.

As to weather or not the DMCA would have been broken by reverse engineering the BIOS is still not know, but I'm sure that had it back then, some IBM laywer would have added to the the lawsuit as a bit more leverage.

One of the worst things about the DMCA is it's chilling effects. People are not doing things that are totally legal for fear of the law. For example, including a DVD player that uses the DeCSS code in a Linux distro because they might get sued under the DMCA. Now they would probabily would win, but not after loosing Billions of dollars in a drawn out court battle. That part of the law just makes me sick.

Blackboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752059)

"Blackboard expects that this
type of collaboration and partnership will continue on an ongoing basis."

Riiiiiiiiight...screw the hackers, but please continue to help! Jackasses.

Not qualified? Huh? (5, Funny)

Anixamander (448308) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752154)

I hate to dodge your question, but I'm not really qualified to say whether what the clone makers did would be legal under 2003 law.

I guess he's new here. Since when did not being qualified to answer a question stop a slashdotter?

Compulsory Licensing (3, Insightful)

Dunedain (16942) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752207)

I can't bring myself to agree with Felten's compulsory licensing arguments from two directions.
First, as a producer of content: there's some content I want to give away for free. I don't want any recompense for documentation I write, or for some software. I just want it out there getting used. Other stuff I want much stricter protections on -- some of my security-related work, for example. Compulsory licensing schemes I've seen proposed prevent me from doing either of these. In addition, they typically compel a license for distribution, but not for modification. In the case of CDDA files, which must be modified (into MP3s) to be useful, this is useuless.

That ties into the second problem: advocating a compulsory licensing regime without closly tying that advocacy to an inverse DMCA is very dangerous. Imagine a compulsory licensing world where Palladium and TPM-backed digital restrictions management prevent you from copying or modifying the files you acquire. In order for compulsory licensing to be even worth considering, it has to be tied to a ban on opaque formats and on technical measures to prevent modification and distribution.

My Room mate... (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752228)

My room mate is a non-geek internet user. She doesn't know what the DMCA is. Her eyes glaze over when I try to explain it to her.

She does understand, and becomes quite annoyed when I explain to her in the future she won't be able to rip her CDs to MP3 format or download missed episodes of her favorite television show off the internet. The average user does not understand technical details, but they do understand consequences and inconvenience. Don't forget that when explaining a problem to the people, you have to start where the people are at.

Not viable solution (5, Insightful)

debrain (29228) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752248)

The revenue from the fees would be split up among the creators according to a formula, based on how many times each work was downloaded or played. If you do the math, the fees can be pretty small while still replacing the revenue the music and movie industries would otherwise lose.

This is a dangerous assumption, and I have lobbied against the instantiation of such a system as being too easily abused, ignoring independent artists, and lacks adequate measurements.

Let's start with the 3rd point, that it is too hard to measure. In the Napster universe, this might have been possible, but in a truly peer-to-peer universe like Kazaa, there is no way to adequately measure the downloads. And even if there were, there is no way to associate a download with the semantically acquisition worthy of remuneration; if I download something I already own, rather than burn it again, does that indicate demand? Worse, it is possible to spoof acquisition to boost perceived demand through which remuneration is measured; record companies would just set up Vanatu companies and download copyrights of vested interests.

We have two problems: how to measure downloads that are valid and worth remuneration, and how to not measure downloads that are not valid and worth remuneration. I have proven, I think, in the mathematical sense (I am a mathematician), that these problems cannot be solved in peer to peer like Gnutella; that no application of encryption, authentication and verification can guarantee valid measurements, while still retaining the policies of open peer to peer (ie. no centralization). The question then becomes: If one restricts peer to peer to closed or centralized models that cost money, why would people not just use free open peer-to-peer? It is a question, then, of incentive to use my bandwidth to facilitate a distributed commercial download model, which undermines (mostly) the ability to uniquely distribute end-point secure copyrighted materials; one inherently has the ability to redistribute. Content industries want to control the content, but to implement peer to peer, with download accounting, they must facilitate the one control they most wish to restrict: copying. It seems like flying in the face of a dragon.

The ignoring of independent artists and abuse of the system tie together in that conglomerates can monopolize the remuneration much like they monopolize radio, as a result of the spoofing mentioned above. This happens now, in Canada, as the CPCC (Canadian Private Copying Collective) bases remuneration to the copyright industry from a levy on CD's, tapes, etc., based on radio play time. But radio play time is a function of multinational conglomerates such as ClearChannel, which in turn prohibits independent artists inasmuch as it artificially promotes artists of vested interest.

Great QA, btw.

Re:Not viable solution (1)

Eraser_ (101354) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752702)

Now, my solution to the problems raised in your excellent post aren't going to be so well worded, however, decentralized networks can have a central node to them, sort of.

So you have implemented optimistic caching so you get local area downloads, etc, which speeds up the process for end users and ISP's alike. One thing is, ISP's will need to offer you faster downloads from LAN clients (lets say, Verizon DSL clients who are hooked into the same NOC as me) than from internet clients, which I should still get my usual 70KB/s from, this would entail doing server side traffic shaping on the ISP's part, something they should do anyways a la the cable modem uncapping.

Now how do you make said P2P network work with the pay model of total tax multiplied by the % that is your share? You take your distributed superpeers and local caches, and have them phone home. A central server or 20 can manage the statistics tracking, etc. Who downloaded what? Now, anonymously, this is harder to do because you have problems with people flooding the server. ISP's could offer you a unique ID with each account, similar to how they assign a user id to login to their networks. This is "more anonymous" than say using your email address by less anonymous than paying cash at the store.

While we are thinking of paying cash at the store, if this content is paid for, how does it get there in the first place? Are the record labels etc forced to MP3 or OGG everything they offer and put it on the networks? There is a supply problem here in legitamising this sort of network.

As for a model for this sort of deal, akamai seems to have this down. They mirror high demand websites (like msnbc, cnn, things like that) onto their servers which your ISP rents. This makes pageloads a few minutes off from live, however at the gain of performance, and not having to worry that the real server is bogged down.

Missing the point.. (4, Insightful)

Ogerman (136333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752294)

But you asked about positive legislative steps, which is a harder question. The holy grail here is a non-harmful proposal that reassures legislators about the continued viability of the music and movie industries.

The assumption that the existing music and movie industries NEED to be viable any longer is the biggest mistake of all. Until this assumption is torn down, we'll continue see all sorts of garbage legislation to try to prop up failing businesses. Let capitalism run it's course for crying out loud! The music industry (read: RIAA members) is already dying due to independent artists, lack of big name album successes, and the general public's unwillingness to pay for old music that ought to be public domain by now. Hollywood may not be too far behind considering how many independent films have recently enjoyed smash successes. Compare also, the proprietary software industry is headed for total collapse due to the Open Source movement. Microsoft is already going down in flames, looking at its stock, the continual bad PR, industry alliances forming against it. (IBM/HP/etc.) Face it, society is striving to become more open! I know it's an overused analogy, but we're seeing the "printing press" revolution all over again.

If you want positive legislation in this area, the best hope is a compulsory license, which would charge all users of the Net a small, mandatory fee.

So basically, the aging big-shot players get to impose a tax on everyone using the internet to prop up failing businesses since their customers have already left for greener pastures. And regardless of whether I partake in the crappy content, I still have to pay. This type of system is straight out socialism. Great idea, Felten. Not.

Re:Missing the point.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752662)

So basically, the aging big-shot players get to impose a tax on everyone using the internet... And regardless of whether I partake in the crappy content, I still have to pay.

Exactly!!! I have only downloaded 2 movie trailers and 1 audio song from the internet the entire time I've used for more then 8 years. I also seriously doubt that I will download and audio/video in the future. Why the hell should I have to pay then?

This type of system is straight out socialism.

Ah, someone who recognizes something for what it really is!

I'm sorry, but this is not the best (0, Troll)

paranoic (126081) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752360)

If you want positive legislation in this area, the best hope is a compulsory license, which would charge all users of the Net a small, mandatory fee. In exchange for this, it would become totally legal to distribute and use any audio and video content on the Net.

So what you're saying is that deaf/blind users have to pay this?

Why?

Re:I'm sorry, but this is not the best (1)

SilentTristero (99253) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752859)

Same reason everyone has to pay a surcharge for VHS and cassette tapes, even if they never record copyrighted material. Because it's way easier than charging per use, and the fee is not so onerous as to drive people away (in your case the ones not trading music/videos).

-- Tristero

Bring in Homeland Security (2)

shotfeel (235240) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752408)

Prof. Felton says:

" Laws like the DMCA that limit the flow of information will inevitably make it harder to find out about certain types of misbehavior."

Maybe we should bring this to the attention of the Dep. of Homeland Security. If they don't like things like strong encryption, how could they possibly want to make it illegal to break even weak encryption. Or is there an excemption for law enforcement with regard to circumvention.

In any case, it would be a fun battle. The MPAA and RIAA vs. Homeland Security. That I'd watch on pay-per-view!

Paranoid Rant (2, Interesting)

Tony (765) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752660)

If they don't like things like strong encryption, how could they possibly want to make it illegal to break even weak encryption.

<rant mode="paranoia">

Y'ever think this is exactly where they want us? If it's illegal to attack weak encryption, or even publish flaws in the encryption we use, then They can decrypt it illicitly, but we can't.

And since we can't really even work together to create a better encryption, we'll always have sucky and weak encryption which They will always be able to intercept.

It's all a plot to keep us survielled, catagorized, analyzed, and oppressed. It's not a conscious thing they do, but it works out the same. We're becoming thought-slaves to the perverted desires and whims of corporate B&D masters and their Tony Blair-like lap dogs, our lovely legislators.

Put on your consumer-grade, MPAA-approved red leather masks! (And bring out The Gimp.)

</rant>

Seriously, it is kinda scary, isn't it?

"You'll have to check with your lawyer . . ." (1)

SquareOfS (578820) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752437)

Consider these quotes:
I'm not sure whether "place" means a geographic location (such as my house) or a network address (such as my IP address) or an identifier (such as a DNS address or email address, either of which might correspond to a person).
The effect of the DMCA on reverse engineering is complicated. ... I hate to dodge your question, but I'm not really qualified to say whether what the clone makers did would be legal under 2003 law.
An example: auto parts manufacturers are worried by recent DMCA developments, such as the case where Lexmark has successfully (so far) used the DMCA against a maker of replacement parts for Lexmark printers.
This sounds like a likely DMCA violation, but you'll have to consult your lawyer to be sure.

Felten says "The new regulations on technology will impose a drag on our technological capabilities, and hence on our productivity." And this is clearly true.

But consider that it's actually true in two ways:

  • The obvious sense - DMCA and kin will make it illegal to do things we otherwise would have done
  • The "meta" sense - DMCA and kin mean that we have to stop what we're doing and ask it if would be legal if we did it

So, obviously, all laws have these two kinds of cost. But the pernicious effect of regulation in spheres of otherwise normal activity (and particularly of regulation as poorly drafted as the DMCA) is that it brings vast swaths of life into the domain of expert legal opinion.

Can we reverse engineer this? Will this interoperability be allowed to work? Even, is my firewall legal?

The chilling effect on development and innovation will be horrible until these developments get filtered through the courts. No one can innovate well in a world where much innovation may be bluntly illegal.

Natural allies (3, Insightful)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752631)

The second track is to get better at explaining ourselves and at persuading people that they should support our positions. Especially, we need to do a better job of finding folks out there who are our natural allies, and convincing them to join us on these issues, even if we disagree about some other issues.

I am a conservative, a libertarian, and a laissez-faire capitalist. I believe in minimizing government control. As such, the DMCA is clearly something I must stand against on principled as well as practical grounds. I am your natural ally.

Sure, we disagree on some things. But is it worth it to let those stand between us when it comes to opposing the DMCA? Is it worth it to drive off people like me by alienating them on slashdot? I really do believe the principle of least government control is what you want ... and you will find that in conservatism and libertarianism. And even if we never agree on that principle, we agree on many, many of the specific issues (intellectual property laws, DMCA, internet regulation, free speech)

Court conservatives. Make them see that draconian laws like this just build up big government. Court libertarians. Make them see that intellectual property laws abuse state power to impose an artificial and damaging scarcity. Minds are changing, one at a time.

nsa, fbi, cia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752637)

does anyone really thing it stops there? Is this not an issue of the gov spooks being able to track you and hunt you down? No IP spoofing, cell phones located by signal or gps, emails search by TIA before you get on airplanes... Wow, America is such a free country!

Voting (1)

kingbill (562267) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752639)

But even if technological freedom issues like the DMCA aren't the only factor in a voting decision, they still might tip the balance for some voters in some races. Even that is enough to make a difference. Legislators do seem to care what their constituents think, and they do seem to have a fear of doing something that looks stupid afterward.

Speaking of this, I live in Nevada and have been trying to figure out where my representatives stand on issues involving digital rights. It hasn't been easy. There are obviously some very high profile figures in this fight (Hollings, Boucher, etc.), but I'm not in a position to vote for or against any of these individuals. Does anyone know a place I can see how my representatives have voted on certain issues? These sorts of issues would profoundly affect how I vote.

Re:Voting (2, Informative)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752943)

Opensecrets.org provides voting records and money sources for politicians. They have a slight liberal slant IMO (CNN level, minus Peter Arnett) but they do make it easy to dig up the dirt. Offf their site I got that 84% of the media industry's money went to dems in the 2002 elections, based on their data, which is damming to some Republicans and to all but a few "clean" dems on this issue.

PC clones, DMCA, and reverse engineering (1)

Phronesis (175966) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752914)

Do I completely misunderstand the scope of the DMCA, or would it have actually prohibited the actions of clone manufacturers, starting with Compaq, when they reverse-engineered the IBM PC BIOS in 1984?

One interesting thing about the PC clones that both the author of the question and Prof. Felten miss is that IBM used the protection offered by copyright law to publish the entire source code of the original PC, XT, and AT BIOS and the full circuit schematics of the motherboards. Anyone could buy these technical reference manuals from any IBM dealer, and for a reasonable price.

The problem of reverse engineering then was exactly the opposite of what DMCA protects against. Since the source code and electronic schematics were published, a clone manufacturer had to prove that it really reverse-engineered the system and didn't just buy a technical reference manual and copy it.

One great thing about all this was that you could easily burn custom BIOS chips for personal use because you had the complete documentation in front of you.

The failure of this approach, together with the cost of generating high-quality documentation, led clone manufacturers (both hardware and BIOS) to close their source and documentation.

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