Tag Archives | copyright

Gamer Group Sounds Alarm on “Anti-Streaming” Bill

A bill that targets unauthorized streaming of movies and TV shows could have a detrimental effect on a vibrant part of video game culture.

Under U.S. Senate Bill S.978, streaming copyrighted material before audiences of 10 or more would become a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The Entertainment Consumers Association warns that the bill inadvertently targets people who stream playthroughs or walkthroughs of video games.

To get a sense of gaming’s video playthough culture, run a search for “Let’s Play” on YouTube. At present, there are more than 500,000 results. A search for “video game walkthrough” returns more than 600,000 results. A search for “speed run” returns more than 250,000 results. The Senate bill would leave all the users who posted those videos open to prosecution. The ECA calls the measure “draconian” and is helping gamers write letters of opposition to their senators.

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Google Yanks Grooveshark from Android Market, But Chrome App Remains

Grooveshark became a rare victim of Android Market policy on Tuesday, when Google removed the streaming music app without explanation of which policies were violated.

Unlike other streaming music services, such as Rdio and MOG, Grooveshark doesn’t license the entirety of its library. Songs are uploaded by other users, allowing Grooveshark to undercut the competiton with free web streaming and a $3 per month mobile app. Although Grooveshark has made an arrangement with EMI, a lawsuit against Universal Music Group is underway, and I wouldn’t be surprised if record labels complained. Apple yanked Grooveshark’s iPhone app last July.

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Copyright Hits New Low as WMG Silences "Forget You" Sign Language Video [Update: It's Back]

[Update: The audio is back, and WMG’s copyright notice is gone. Original post below.]

Iunderstand that record labels need to protect their copyrights, but sometimes, they ought to make exceptions, as with this sign language adaptation of Cee-Lo’s “Forget You” (as the PG-13 version is known).

The YouTube video, put together by a college student named Anna, has been viewed over 1.3 million times since she uploaded it in December. As the audio track plays in the background, Anna delivers the lyrics with emphatic sign language.

Only now, the audio part is gone, thanks to Warner Music Group. In its place is a notice: “This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.”

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Microsoft Pulls The Plug (For Now) on Plurk Clone

We’ve gotten a response out of Microsoft on the Plurk debacle, and it looks like the company’s been caught with its pants down. As you may remember from our post earlier this afternoon, the Canadian microblogging service accused Microsoft of outright intellectual property theft, saying as much as 80% of the Juku microblogging service it had launched in China was based off of Plurk.

Microsoft has decided to take down Juku while it performs a full investigation of the incident. The company said that when Plurk first posted its accusations, it was the middle of the night in China which made it impossible for work to begin until Microsoft China employees reported back in for work, which they would have right around suppertime here on the East Coast of the US.

The similarities are certainly there, starting with the user interface. What’s even more surprising is the whole incident was allowed to happen in the first place by the biggest software company in the world. Now it must rush to prevent what certainly could become a public relations nightmare.

“Our MSN China joint venture contracted with an independent vendor to create a feature called MSN Juku that allowed MSN users to find friends via microblogging and online games,” Microsoft said in a statement. “This MSN Juku feature was made available to MSN China users in November and is still in beta.”

It does seem like a little bit of passing the buck, but still Redmond shares some culpability in not knowing its competitors well enough to have an eye out for possible issues. No matter how this ends, as Michael Arrington put it on TechCrunch, “this is the best thing to happen to Plurk, ever.”

You got that right.


Did Microsoft China Steal Code?

Microsoft may soon find itself on the opposite end of an intellectual property dispute than it’s used to facing. Canada-based microblogging service Plurk is crying foul, saying Microsoft China has stolen it’s code. In a blog post on Monday, the company claims that as much as 80 percent of the code for Microsoft’s competing service Juku is actually code for Plurk.

They may be onto something too. A cursory comparison of Juku and Plurk even at face value seems to indicate some striking similarities. Take for example the user interface, shown below:

As you can see, the UI looks very similar. Plurk claims that this has caused the company some trouble: users have questioned the service wondering if the two companies had struck some type of partnership. Plurk says it isn’t bothered by clones, but Microsoft China has gone a bit too far.

“There will always be exceptional circumstances where we feel wholly wronged, both legally and more important, morally, and this one just happens to be one of those rare cases,” the company said. “That it is Microsoft doing the copying in broad daylight makes it even more incredulous.”

Plurk is exploring its options as we speak, but it certainly seems as if this is headed to some type of court standoff if Microsoft doesn’t explain itself awfully quick. It has no partnership at all with the company — and Plurk was quick to point out in its blog that it has no problem working with partners.

All we’re getting from Microsoft at this point is that “we’re looking into the matter.” Well Redmond better look quick — this is pretty darn blatant. It’s somewhat not surprising that an event like this is coming out of China, however. We all know the country’s history when it comes to electronic piracy. But to have it come out of Microsoft  certainly reflects on the management of the Chinese arm of the world’s biggest software company.

Updates to come as we find out more.


The Author's Guild is Wrong About the Kindle. And That's Okay. They're the Authors.

kindlephoneWhen it comes to thorny matters of intellectual property, my instinct is often to follow a philosophy which, as far as I can tell, almost nobody else shares. It’s a sort of creators’-rights libertarianism which you might call Let the People Who Create Stuff Make Their Own Damn Mistakes. (Possible alternative moniker: Reverse Lessigism.) The recording industry may have made almost every wrongheaded decision imaginable during the first decade 0f digital music, but hey–they’re entitled to drive their business into the ground if they so choose. And who the hell is is anyone else to angrily tell someone who created something what he can or can’t do with it?

Ultimately, I think most owners of intellectual property will eventually come to decisions that serve the people who watch, listen to, or read their works, since behaving too stupidly for too long will leave you without any customers. But it’s OK by me if creators find their own comfort level, even if it’s different from what I’d choose.

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Judge Breaths Life into Apple Clone Maker Countersuit


Following months of legal wrangling and a false start, Mac clone maker Psystar may finally get its day in court. A U.S. federal judge has ruled that Psystar will be given the opportunity to amend its counterlawsuit against Apple, filed after that company sued Psystar over its OS X-running PCs, to focus on alleged copyright abuses instead of antitrust law violations.

On Friday, Feb. 8, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup signed an order that will allow Psystar’s countersuit against Apple to continue. If Psystar provides it allegation that Apple misused its copyrights to block out competition, other PC makers would be free to preinstall the OS onto their machines, Judge Alsup noted.

Apple sued Psystar in July 2008, accusing it of breaking copyright and software licenses laws by preloading Intel-based PCs with Mac OS X 10.5 without its blessing. The company has also accused Apple of modifying Mac OS X to crash on non-Apple systems. Psystar began selling the Mac clones in Apr. 2008.

Psystar’s original complaint accused Apple of violating antitrust law by tying its Mac OS X operating system together with its hardware, exclusively, but the court rejected that argument in November 2008.

Intellectual property law is always tricky and controversial, so lawsuits such as these should be ruled upon to clarify uncertainty (and by the highest court of the land). Until the laws themselves are reformed, this kind of uncertainty will persist.

My take is that when a company, or individual, is granted intellectual property by the government, they are essentially given a monopoly. The question is: Has Apple abused its monopoly? I don’t think that it has.

If Apple sold Mac OS X standalone, and then modified its license or software to intentionally excludes other manufacturers, that would be wrong. Apple creates it own hardware, and software for that hardware, and there is nothing wrong with that.