Category Archives: Copyright and Piracy

Why some videos have disappeared from this blog

Some videos that I’ve linked to in this blog are no longer available, for one or more reasons:

  • Someone has claimed a copyright and objects to its being published here,
  • A video hosting or file sharing service has changed its policies or is no longer on line,
  • I’ve goofed in any of dozens of ways.

I hate seeing these dead links. In some cases without the video, the article is pointless, so I’m taking these articles off-line. In other cases, the article still makes sense, so I’ll leave the article on-line, dead video links and all.


Innovation Act of 2013

The US House of Representatives has passed “The Innovation Act of 2013” (H.R. 3309) by a vote of 325 to 91. It’s expected to be passed by the Senate.

The bill, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is aimed at stopping the abuse of patents by “patent trolls”. The bill

  1. allows 3rd party companies to step into a patent infringement lawsuit
  2. allows discovery in a patent infringement case only after the judge examines the patent claim
  3. requires that a patent infringement lawsuit plaintiff pay the legal costs of a successful defendant

The Innovation Act is an improvement, but the Patent Office needs to overhaul the patent system. It must stop granting stupid weak patents for pre-existing art and somehow the federal courts of Eastern Texas need to quit being a haven for patent troll lawsuits. Maybe the average East Texas juror isn’t smart enough to understand the issues in tech patent cases?

National Law Review article: The Top Ten Things You Should Know About The Innovation Act of 2013 (For Now)

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google wins book scan rights

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Google’s ambitious book-scanning project doesn’t violate the copyrights of the books’ authors or publishers. Judge Denny Chin of the Southern New York US District Court ruled in favor of Google and against the Authors Guild. His ruling states that Google’s project conforms to “fair use” copyright exemption. Wired published a full report on the ruling. The Authors Guild had demanded $750 from Google for each scanned book, which could have resulted in a cost of over $3 billion if Google had lost.

ScannerlivreThis ruling ensures that long-forgotten books will be searchable. Google scans the books, but makes only snippets available for reading on-line. Apparently this restriction convinced the judge that Google’s project did not violate copyright.

The Authors Guild, which first filed their lawsuit in 2005, is expected to appeal the decision.

ballfourThe plaintiffs are “THE AUTHORS GUILD INC., and BETTY MILES, JOSEPH GOULDEN, and JIM BOUTON, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated”. Jim Bouton?! His insider’s look at baseball, Ball Four, was hilarious. It was first published in 1971. I have no idea why he was named as a plaintiff.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

The complainant known as Prince issues a take down order.

Last month, Prince took exception to eight 6-second video clips, apparently owned by him, that appeared on Twitter’s Vine platform. He issued a DMCA copyright complaint to Twitter, who apparently complied by removing the material. Here’s a good news story.

The copyright system is a house of cards. Now that anyone can make perfect copies of media, performers may need to stop relying upon royalties and instead be paid once for each performance, just like most people.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Implications of Kim Dotcom’s possible trial

From How Kim Dotcom, Aaron Swartz and Barbra Streisand shape the future of the IP debate:

So whether you’re a fan of Babs, or the whack-a-mole, the principle seems clear. Regardless of the outcome of a Dotcom trial, the act of trying to stop file-sharing only makes things worse. Content creators weary of lost revenue due to file sharing look like they’re on the brink of having to rethink their entire model for generating revenue.

Maybe the hacker credo,

Information wants to be free

is truer than we thought.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Anonymous knocks offline

The website of the United States Sentencing Commission has been knocked offline today. According to Google’s cache, the commission “establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts.” The site “contains reports to Congress, publications, … ”

The attack appears to be a response to the overzealous prosecution of Aaron Swartz by federal prosecutors Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. Mr. Swartz’s crime? He violated a website’s Terms Of Service. The website’s owner did not wish to press charges, yet Ms. Ortiz indicted Mr. Swartz for crimes which could have locked him behind bars for up to 50 years and cost him up to 4 million dollars in fines, plus legal fees.

A N O N Y M O U S We are Legion. We do not Forgive. We do not Forget. Expect us.
We are Legion. We do not Forgive. We do not Forget. Expect us.
The group Anonymous claims credit for the attack. This Anonymous video appeared on Youtube today: Anonymous Operation Last Resort. Who was Aaron Swartz? Aaron Swartz and a depraved Justice System.

Prosecutors’ histories: Aaron Swartz’s Prosecutors Employ Outrageous Bullying Tactics as Standard Operating Procedure

Is this the start of Operation Last Resort by Anonymous? They’ve claimed, “This time there will be change, or there will be chaos.”

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Memories of Aaron Swartz

Friends and family of Aaron Swartz have created a site of rememberances: Here is a sample (source: Apple ad copy):

Aaron SwartzHere’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

We will miss you Aaron… – Bryon Cole 

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Demand Progress’ Aaron Swartz dies at age 26.

I liked what 26 year old programmer / activist Aaron Swartz said recently about the stillborn SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and in August I wrote about his Demand Progress organization in an article titled seems to be on the right track. He’s now dead, after apparently committing suicide yesterday.

Aaron SwartzFor the past year he’s been under federal indictment for the theft of 4.8 million JSTOR (Journal Storage) documents from MIT. He intended to make them freely available for download by anyone. His actions raised questions about the ownership and publication of academic papers.

Previously, he and others did a similar thing with legal case law documents — public domain material — that resided behind a paywall in a library named PACER. They downloaded from PACER, then uploaded the documents to a free library that they dubbed RECAP.

His friend Cory Doctorow wrote in a eulogy: RIP, Aaron Swartz:

we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.

New York Times article: Aaron Swartz, Precocious Programmer and Internet Activist, Dies at 26

Lessig Blog, v2: Prosecutor as bully

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

UK citizen may avoid extradition for US copyright infringement.

The U.S. federal court system has been trying to extradite 24-year-old Richard O’Dwyer, a UK citizen who has never been to the U.S., so that they can put him on trial for copyright infringement. tv shack logo The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (“ICE”) claims that his TVShack website violated US copyrights. In 2010 they seized his domain name and charged him with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years. The federal court has sought his extradition since 2011.

Last week Mr. O’Dwyer’s lawyers reached an agreement with the federal court which settles the matter without jeopardizing his freedom.

Mr. O’Dwyer hasn’t been convicted of any crime in either the U.S. or the U.K., nor is it clear that his website violated U.K. law, since it didn’t store content. It merely contained links to content. The site was not hosted in the U.S.; the domain was apparently registered with U.S.-based Verisign.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on Richard O’Dwyer. Its Legal objections section is worth reading:


Iain Connor from Pinsent Masons  said,

It appears that U.S. copyright owners are seeking to rely on the Extradition Act and the U.S. case law to secure a prosecution for the authorisation of copyright infringement by the provision of links to infringing content.

U.S. companies are likely to try and secure a conviction in the U.S. where they know that they could succeed on the basis of an offence of authorising copyright infringement . . . the only [U.K.] case where this was looked at was the ‘TV Links ‘ case” where it had proved unsuccessful.

The “U.S. companies” alluded to above are principally the RIAA and MPAA. Their business models are threatened by easy duplication of digital media. Can their business models endure? Read Both sides of the IP war gird for battle.

Mr. O’Dwyer’s mother writes a blog about her son’s extradition battle. It appears that his lawyers have asked that she say nothing more until the extradition order is withdrawn.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

DRM and Amazon’s Kindle

Last week Amazon disabled Norwegian Linn Nygaard’s account. Her dozens of Kindle book titles were deleted at the same time. She had purchased her Kindle while visiting England and had been using it to buy U.K. e-book titles from Amazon.

Apparently some of her e-book title purchases were not licensed for sale in Norway. Kindle e-books incorporate DRM.

I’ve never trusted DRM (Digital Rights Management). I call it Digital Restrictions Management. When you “buy” an item that includes DRM, you merely buy a license to use it. DRM relies upon the ability of the DRM code to contact the licensor’s DRM server. If the licensor or his DRM server disappears, or as in Ms. Nygaard’s case, the licensor decides to stop your access, you won’t be able to access your DRM-protected material.

Arstechnica published an article (DRM be Damned. How To Protect Your Amazon e-books from being Deleted) about Ms. Nygaard’s Kindle problem together with links to DRM removal procedures. They warn you that disabling DRM from material that you thought you owned may make you a criminal. Thanks, DMCA.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

What’s the reason for layoffs at RIAA?

 The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has recently laid off dozens of workers, representing a major part of its staff. I’m not sure what this means.
It’s obvious that eventually all information and entertainment will be stored in digital form and transported via packets. This poses questions regarding intellectual property rights, copyright law, and so forth. I wonder if our current idea of intellectual property will remain viable as we move further into the digital age?
The RIAA has been pursuing downloaders of copyrighted music in the courts. This hasn’t won them friends. Maybe the layoffs signal that the well is drying.
Easy duplication changes everything
In popular music, the Beatles were the first rock group to abandon live concerts and rely solely upon their recordings for revenue. This model worked while good audio copies were expensive and exact copies were impossible for individuals to produce. Today, exact copies are cheap and easy to produce. Will this fact allow the existence of an industry based upon residual payments from millions of listeners to a musician(s) for a single performance? I don’t know.
Here’s a Cranky Geeks episode that discusses copyright law:
Can the royalty system survive?In your trade, whatever that may be, are you paid over and over again by users for something that you created only once? If you are a carpenter, are you paid every time someone opens the door of a cabinet that you made?
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Rhapsody offers DRM-free tunes

 Apple’s iTunes has a serious competitor: Rhapsody (, whose tunes are DRM-free, at least to US-based customers. (DRM is Digital Rights Management. I call it Digital Restrictions Management, since it’s a new and improved form of copy protection.) Here is the New York Times news article and here‘s one from MSNBC.
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