For iPhone users, getting out of jail is free

Dev-Team Blog

Fantastic news today from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). After a lot of hard work and mountains of paperwork, jailbreaking your iPhone is now explicitly a permitted fair use under the DMCA!

The first of EFF’s three successful requests clarifies the legality of cell phone “jailbreaking” — software modifications that liberate iPhones and other handsets to run applications from sources other than those approved by the phone maker.

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Artist sues photographer over images of public art in Seattle


Public art in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood is at the center of a legal copyright fight.

The Dance Steps on Broadway consists of eight different stations, each of which features its own dance step.

Mike Hipple took photos of those steps, and he's now being sued for the photos that earned him $60.

"A large majority of the images were out of focus," Hipple said. "And you can see some of the dance steps, I think, maybe there were a handful of them (photos)."

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Verizon's new role as copyright enforcer

Jon Healey, LA Times

CNet's reported today that Verizon Communications, one of the country's largest providers of broadband Internet access, has started cutting off the accounts of people accused of repeatedly infringing copyrights. The company says it doesn't monitor what its customers are doing on their DSL or fiber-optic connections; it leaves the job of detecting infringements to the MPAA, RIAA and other copyright holders. Instead, when it receives a notice from a copyright holder about an alleged infringement linked to one of its lines, it sends a notice to the account holder identifying the work(s) at issue and warning, "You are legally responsible for all activity originating from your account."

A Verizon spokeswoman told that few accounts have been terminated as a result of repeated accusations of infringement. A single warning letter has been enough to stop the complaints about the vast majority of lines, she said. And that's a good thing -- it's hard to defend garden-variety file-sharing, particularly when there's plenty of authorized content available free online. Verizon also insists that it doesn't tell copyright holders the names of the people it sends warning letters to, in keeping with its privacy policies.

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Groups to FCC: no 'special favor’ allowing Hollywood to control consumer TV

Public Knowledge

Thirteen public interest groups today said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should not respond to the “whims of industry” and grant the motion picture lobby the ability to control how consumers use their television sets and set-top boxes. As many as 20 million TV sets could be affected. Groups signing the letter include Public Knowledge, Reclaim the Media, Media Alliance and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to the letter, the Commission’s Media Bureau is poised to grant a waiver requested by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for what is called “selectable output control” that would shut down the types of devices consumers could plug into their TV sets. The MPAA has asked for a special waiver to existing FCC rules so that it can offer movies to consumers, while shutting down the output ports at the back of set-top devices through which equipment like TiVo or Sling Boxes can be connected.

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Obama trade negotiators collude with big business on copyright treaty

Kathy Gill, WiredPen

Back in March, Declan McCullagh reported that the Obama Administration cloaked its draft section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) under “national security” wrappers — for the general public. At the same time, the document had supposedly already made the rounds of “corporate lobbyists in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.”

Today, someone has leaked information about the U.S.-authored draft chapter on internet “counterfeiting” — a document scheduled for discussion among participating nations in South Korea on Wednesday.

According to PC World, under the treaty Internet Service Providers would become liable for copyright infringement. This is like saying that the telephone company is liable if criminals (or terrorists!) use the company’s assets to plot a crime. How absurd. But don’t be lulled into thinking that absurd means “won’t happen.”

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Chamber of Commerce unleashes lawyers on Yes Men

Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones

After the Yes Men pulled their now-famous prank earlier this week on the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber issued a vague threat of "law-enforcement action." The group doesn't appear to have called the cops on the Yes Men just yet, but on Wednesday it issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down demand notice for the parody site that the Yes Men set up to publicize their fake event, in which the "Chamber" announced that it would support a sane global warming policy after all.

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SoundExchange cuts deal on webcasting rates

John Timmer, Ars Technica

The long, strange saga surrounding webcaster royalty payments is (mercifully) over after a multiyear fight.

Back in 2007, the US government's Copyright Royalty Board set royalty rates for the online streaming of music that many in the business felt were unrealistically high for a nascent market, leading at least one prominent streaming service, Pandora, to threaten to pull the plug. Negotiations over an alternate pricing scheme broke down earlier this year, leaving things looking grim. With a slight nudge, however, the parties returned to the table and today announced an agreement that provides webcasters with a new royalty structure.

The fact that negotiations were even happening took Congressional action. In 2008, Congress passed the Webcaster Settlement Act [sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-WA], which gave the webcasters roughly a year to come to terms with SoundExchange, the entity that collects royalties on behalf of the rightsholders. But the deadline set in that act expired earlier this year, an event that triggered the breakdown of the negotiations.

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Damages of $1.9 million could backfire on music industry

Ben Sheffner, Billboard

The recording industry secured a resounding victory last week when a Minneapolis jury awarded the four major labels $1.92 million in damages after unanimously finding that a 32-year-old mother had willfully infringed on their copyrights by downloading and sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa peer-to-peer network.

But a question arose after the verdict about whether the sheer size of the damages could lead to a backlash against an industry that is already portrayed in some quarters as overreaching. Sony BMG attorney Wade Leak, who testified at the trial, said he was "shocked" by the damages award.

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House votes to extend deadline for webcasting settlement

Andrew Noyes, National Journal

The House on Tuesday passed legislation under suspension of the rules that would allow many months of royalty negotiations between the music and Internet industries continue while delaying full implementation of a controversial rate-setting for webcasters imposed by the Copyright Royalty Board.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., with support from Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., and California Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo. Suspension of the rules requires that legislation clear the House with no amendments and at least a two-thirds majority.

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Future of Music Coalition wants to rewrite rules of music business

John Timmer, Ars Technica

As revenues from sales of traditional media have plunged, the music business has been looking for alternate ways of making money from its products, including a variety of subscription services, ad-supported streams, and blanket licenses. The focus of these efforts has largely been on how to ensure that revenue gets collected by the industry in general instead of disappearing into the black hole of piracy, but there's a related issue that doesn't receive as much attention: how that money gets distributed once it's collected. In an attempt to highlight this issue, the Future of Music Coalition has released a set of principles (pdf) for the compensation of musicians. Although the document focuses on money from new distribution models, it reads much more like an effort to rewrite the rules of the entire business.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey