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Why the U.S. Government Isn't Really Relinquishing its Power over Internet Governance

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2014/03/25 - 04:21
Earlier this month, the U.S. government surprised the Internet community by announcing that it plans to back away from its longstanding oversight of the Internet domain name system. The move comes more than 15 years after it first announced plans to transfer management of the so-called IANA function, which includes the power to add new domain name extensions (such as dot-xxx) and to alter administrative control over an existing domain name extension (for example, approving the transfer of the dot-ca domain in 2000 from the University of British Columbia to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority).

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the change is rightly viewed as a major development in the ongoing battle over Internet governance. Yet a closer look at the why the U.S. is embarking on the change and what the system might look like once the transition is complete, suggests that it is not relinquishing much power anytime soon. Rather, the U.S. has ensured that it will dictate the terms of any transfer and retain a "super-jurisdiction" for the foreseeable future.



Day-to-day administration of the domain name system is currently managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a U.S.-based non-profit company that operates under a contract with the U.S. government. Critics argue that this means that the U.S. retains final authority over key Internet governance decisions. 



The United Nations and supporting governments have attempted to loosen U.S. control on several prior occasions without success. Despite those failures, the U.S. now voluntarily says it will walk away from its oversight power, tasking ICANN with developing a transition plan that must "support and enhance the multistakeholder model." The U.S. adds that it will not accept a proposal based on a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution, short-circuiting any hopes the U.N. might have had for assuming control.



Why is the U.S. proposing to walk away now? In recent months, there has been growing momentum to revisit the issue, triggered by the Edward Snowden revelations of widespread Internet surveillance. Although NSA surveillance has no real connection to Internet governance - the management of the domain name system is not typically a surveillance target - the issue has galvanized many countries and groups who sense an opportunity for change. By forcing the issue, the U.S. has successfully seized the agenda and set the conditions for a transfer of power.


While a transfer would be perceived by many to represent a change in control, the reality is that the U.S. will not be relinquishing much power even when (or if) the transition occurs. In the years since the U.S. first indicated that it would shift away from Internet governance, it has steadily erected jurisdictional authority over a considerable portion of the Internet infrastructure.  



For example, in 2009 the U.S. and ICANN entered into an agreement that institutionalized "the technical coordination of the Internet's domain name and addressing system." That document included a commitment for the U.S. to remain involved in the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), the powerful body within ICANN that allows governments to provide their views on governance matters. It also contained an ICANN commitment to remain headquartered in the U.S., effectively ensuring ongoing U.S. jurisdiction over it.


Not only is the U.S. able to assert jurisdiction over ICANN, but it has also asserted jurisdiction over all dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org domain names. In 2012, a U.S. court ordered the seizure of a dot-com domain that was registered in Canada with no U.S. connection other than the location of the domain name registry. This effectively means the U.S. retains jurisdiction over half of all domain name registrations worldwide regardless of where they are registered or who manages the system.



The U.S. might transition away from the current model (though the initial 2015 date seems ambitious), but much of its jurisdictional power will remain largely unchanged. The latest announcement has the potential to fulfill a promise made nearly two decades ago, but skeptics can be forgiven for suspecting that power over Internet governance will remain firmly rooted in the U.S. no matter how the issue is resolved.

Alain Lauzon (March 25th)

Bill C-11 - Tue, 2014/03/25 - 00:00

I think Brad spoke in detail a little bit more about the private copying that we're involved in. Brad and I are both on the Copyright Board as members of the board.

As I mentioned, private copying is one issue that is really being looked at in Europe, not being weakened but being stronger for the Europeans that we work with, and the value of the private copying for the creators, performers, songwriters, and record labels as well, because it brings money directly into the hands of those who have created the works. That part is very important. That's the first thing about Bill C-11.

The second thing is the law has to pass, obviously, the one that came into force in 2012. It's sad that in the last 15 years we had minority governments and all that and it didn't go. I has to pass. Is it 100% good? No. But the problem that we're facing right now with Bill C-11 is the fact that we're facing a lot of cases in front of the court in the next coming years. I'm involved in two or three of the decisions of the Copyright Board. We will have to go in front of the Supreme Court as well because new concepts are coming with Bill C-11, and we will face that obviously.

Some of the exemptions that were brought up in Bill C-11 did not facilitate our work. Especially with the broadcasters, it brought out a situation where the revenues can decrease in the future. This is something we have to face. In the next five years it's supposed to be reviewed. I hope the decision will be there and that the target will be looked at within those next five years. I think we will have to adjust a lot of things. Especially, as I said, we have to put back in the equation the value of the music and have an équilibre with the revenues that are coming from the...in the pockets of the performers and the creators. That's mainly the problem we have right now.

I have 6,000 members who are creators and who are publishers and they have exactly the same thing. The first question I ask them is whether they are living off their music. There aren't that many people living off their music nowadays. Back then they could live because their market was larger. As I explained, the problem is with the development of technology. We can't go in the past. We have to go in the future, except that the revenues that are coming from new services, the business model that is related to creators—and when I say “creators”, it's all of us—even though there will be more income coming from digital in the future with streaming services and all that, the level of revenue that will end up in the pockets of the songwriters or the performers is not high enough in that kind of business model.

Irene Mathyssen (NDP; March 25th)

Bill C-11 - Tue, 2014/03/25 - 00:00

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to say thank you to all of you. I learned something important today and I appreciate the clarity of your presentation.

I wish I could ask a question of all of you, but Monsieur Nantel is very jealous and I must share the time.

I'll start with you, Mr. Lauzon.

When your time ended, you had just begun to talk about Bill C-11. I'd like to give you the opportunity to finish those remarks and talk about the challenges your industry is facing in regard to Bill C-11.

Podcast: What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

What happens with digital rights management in the real world?
Podcast: What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

Here's a reading (MP3) of a recent Guardian column, What happens with digital rights management in the real world where I attempt to explain the technological realpolitik of DRM, which has nothing much to do with copyright, and everything to do with Internet security.

The entertainment industry calls DRM "security" software, because it makes them secure from their customers. Security is not a matter of abstract absolutes, it requires a context. You can't be "secure," generally -- you can only be secure from some risk. For example, having food makes you secure from hunger, but puts you at risk from obesity-related illness.

DRM is designed on the presumption that users don't want it, and if they could turn it off, they would. You only need DRM to stop users from doing things they're trying to do and want to do. If the thing the DRM restricts is something no one wants to do anyway, you don't need the DRM. You don't need a lock on a door that no one ever wants to open.

DRM assumes that the computer's owner is its adversary. For DRM to work, there has to be no obvious way to remove, interrupt or fool it. For DRM to work, it has to reside in a computer whose operating system is designed to obfuscate some of its files and processes: to deliberately hoodwink the computer's owner about what the computer is doing. If you ask your computer to list all the running programs, it has to hide the DRM program from you. If you ask it to show you the files, it has to hide the DRM files from you. Anything less and you, as the computer's owner, would kill the program and delete its associated files at the first sign of trouble.

An increase in the security of the companies you buy your media from means a decrease in your own security. When your computer is designed to treat you as an untrusted party, you are at serious risk: anyone who can put malicious software on your computer has only to take advantage of your computer's intentional capacity to disguise its operation from you in order to make it much harder for you to know when and how you've been compromised.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

rewriting history

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Sun, 2014/03/23 - 23:22

On 11 March 2014, the Canadian Copyright Institute (CCI) released their policy paper titled A Fair and Better Way Forward, which details the Institute’s interpretation of the last two years’ of fair dealing activity. The Institute calls for dialogue with the educational community, expressly to return to the prior climate of collective licensing in Canada. Obligingly, the Institute has even scripted the dialogue; it begins with the statement “The CMEC/AUCC/ACCC guidelines are unacceptable to Canadian creators and publishers,” and ends with “The final step would be to implement [revised] guidelines through a collective licensing agreement.”

In his blog post of 14 March 2014, Michael Geist expertly discredits CCI’s interpretation of history and points out the emptiness of their not-so-veiled threats against the educational community. Readers who are tired of this subject (as I am) likely hoped that discussion of the paper would end. Regrettably, that did not happen; on 20 March 2014, Quill and Quire gave further support to the paper through an interview with Jaqueline Hushion (chair of CCI). Hushion voiced her disappointment that the paper has not received much attention from educational institutions, that efforts to “make positive, useful contact with any one or more of the three major education [organizations] in order to see if we could open a dialogue” were unsuccessful.

The premise of CCI’s paper, and Hushion’s interview, is that current challenges for the publishing sector of Canada began with the legislative expansion of fair dealing in 2010, and, Education v. Access Copyright (2012) – a Supreme Court decision that confirmed that some copying carried out in schools is fair dealing. (It must be emphasized that this decision was made without reliance upon the expanded ambit of fair dealing). According to CCI, these two factors: “… did not eliminate the need for collective licensing in educational institutions. Nor do they justify copying practices that will have a devastating impact on the market for published materials (p.2).” These two sentences invite exploration.

If I may begin with the second sentence, strictly speaking, it is irrelevant. It is not incumbent upon the education sector to prop up the publishing sector by making unnecessary payment for materials. As I have written before, this does not mean that educational institutions are not paying for copyrighted material, they are only ensuring that payments are not made in duplicate. Such a propping up would be a reprehensible waste of taxpayers’ money and the tuition dollars scraped together by students and their families. However, for a moment, let us assume that such waste is the correct course of action. CCI does not present credible evidence as to the “devastating impact.” Which is not surprising as this is not the first instance where rights holders have painted a picture of devastation without support. In Education v. Access Copyright (2012), the Supreme Court of Canada was unimpressed by this tactic:

Access Copyright pointed out that textbook sales had shrunk over 30 percent in 20 years. However, as noted by the Coalition, there was no evidence that this decline was linked to photocopying done by teachers. Moreover, it noted there were several other factors that were likely to have contributed to the decline in sales, such as the adoption of semester teaching, a decrease in registrations, the longer lifespan of textbooks, increased use of the Internet and other electronic tools, and more resource-based learning (para. 33).

Returning to the first sentence–regarding the cause of the elimination of collective licensing–I agree. Neither the expansion of fair dealing nor the Supreme Court decision is responsible. That claim to fame, goes primarily to Access Copyright.

It was not that long ago when educational institutions were quite complacent about their licensing agreements with Access Copyright. As I described two years ago, the educational market became reserved for Access Copyright, with no real protest from institutions. A relatively inexpensive and easy-to-administer deal, coupled with seeming assurances of safety, made collective licensing an attractive proposition. And Canadian universities were extremely timid in their approach with fair dealing (as I noted a few weeks ago, even the CCH Canadian decision of 2004 did not bring forward pronounced engagement with fair dealing.) The heightened focus upon fair dealing came only after a startling move by Access Copyright.

Readers may remember the summer of 2010, when Access Copyright proposed a 1300% increase in the royalty rate of the university license agreements. Along with expectation of heightened fees came demands for more rights (including for linking to material – a claim not supported by law and later rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada), no exclusion for fair dealing (despite the presence of such an exclusion in earlier licenses), and invasive surveillance of university activity. (Howard Knopf provided detailed coverage, see here.)

Shortly thereafter, Michael Geist wrote:

  … education must self-assess to determine whether it actually needs these licences or whether individual licences with the authors (or copyright holder) where needed makes more sense.  … How many courses rely heavily on recently published research that is available under open access?  How many courses limit materials primarily to textbooks that are purchased by students and not copied?  How many rely on works found in databases that are licenced separately? …

Three and a half years later, many post-secondary institutions have carried out such self-assessment and are using their resources wisely. Students may receive instruction through licensed material (paid directly to the individual provider), open-access content, publicly available materials, and through use of all exceptions available to Canadians under the Copyright Act of Canada.

CCI’s stated disappointment at the lack of engagement from the educational community is not likely to bring about a thaw in relations. The community has simply run out of patience in the wake of threats, tariff applications, one lawsuit, and incessant attempts to rewrite history.

Just some of last year’s activity on this subject:

April 2013: Access Copyright announces legal action. Michael Geist responds with a detailed analysis of how ill-conceived the action is.

September 2013: Howard Knopf covers Access Copyright’s statement of claim to the Copyright Board for a post-secondary tariff. Through the work of Graham Reynolds, I indicate that the Copyright Board was no longer something Access Copyright should take for granted. (I also took the opportunity to remind the collective’s membership that their administration was gambling with the members’ money.)

Also in September 2013, my take on the object of tension; namely the AUCC guidelines. It spanned two entries; see here and here.

December 2013: Access Copyright announces its disappointment concerning the continued trend to abstain from collective licensing. Michael Geist reminds us that collective licensing is no longer good value. My reminder was that Canadian universities were long overdue in recognizing that copyright is a set of limited rights. (I also took umbrage at the campaign of fear conducted by Access Copyright.)

December 2013: The Association of Canadian Publishers releases a Statement of Principles on Fair Dealing in Education.

February 2014: Howard Knopf provides clarification regarding ACP’s [Mis]Statement of Principles.

February 2014: Michael Geist reports that the Copyright Board has posed challenging questions to Access Copyright with respect to the proposed tariff.  The Board also offered a much-needed reminder; as copyright does not apply to insubstantial amounts of copying, fair dealing addresses substantial copying.


"Florida Judge dismisses a Malibu case because Lipscomb failed to establish a connection between an IP address and person" ~ @FightCopyTrolls

Recording Industry vs The People - Sun, 2014/03/23 - 17:09

Good article on the Fight Copyright Trolls website:
Florida Judge dismisses a Malibu case because Lipscomb failed to establish a connection between an IP address and person
We saw it coming: in less than two months in the Southern District of Florida, a venue where copyright troll Keith Lipscomb’s command and control is located,

Judge Federico Moreno ruled that there is no “good cause” to deviate from Rule 26(d), thus denying early discovery in Malibu Media v. John Doe, 14-cv-20216;

Magistrate Frank Lynch also denied Lipscomb’s motion for ex-parte discovery citing untimely copyright registrations in Malibu Media v. John Doe, 13-cv-14458;

Magistrate Andrea Simonton recommended to sanction Lipscomb in Malibu Media v. Pelizzo, 12-cv-22768;

Judge Ursula Ungaro denied Lipscomb’s routine motion for extension of time to serve the defendant and closed Malibu Media v. John Doe, 13-cv-23714.

In the latter case, on 10/29/2013 the judge sua sponte ordered to show cause why the Court may reasonably rely upon the Malibu’s usage of geolocation to establish the identity of the defendant (and also establish that the defendant may be found within this district).

Lipscomb responded on 11/12/2013, and apparently satisfied Magistrate Torres, to whom Judge Ungaro referred the case. As already mentioned, the case was closed not because of the OSC outcome, but for failure to serve the defendant.

Fast forward to March 2014. On 3/5/2014 in Malibu Media v Doe (FLSD 14-cv-20213), an identical order to show cause was issued by Judge Ursula Ungaro. Lipscomb replied, but this time he was not so lucky: .....
Complete article

Ray Beckerman, P.C.

Wil Wheaton’s subconscious wants to “melt some camels” (?!)

When Wil Wheaton was reading the audiobook for my novel Homeland (exclusively available through the Humble Ebook Bundle for the next nine days!), I had the great pleasure of listening to the raw, unedited studio recordings before they were mastered. Together with editor John Taylor Williams, we collected some of the best outtakes, which I've been posting here all week. Here's the last one (MP3), in which Wil's subconscious supposes that Marcus Yallow has a hankering to "melt some camels."

Homeland audiobook: Wil Wheaton explains how Little Brother and Homeland make you technologically literate

The Humble Ebook Bundle continues to rock, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bundle of great name-your-price ebooks, including Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Steve Gould's Jumper, and Holly Black's Tithe. Also included in the bundle is an exclusive audiobook of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton.

I commissioned Wil to read the book -- it was pretty much the only way to get a DRM-free audio edition in the age of Audible -- and while he read, he had a series of conversations with the project's director Gabrielle di Cuir from LA's Skyboat Studios. In this clip (MP3), Wil explains how the discussions of crypto and technology in my novels serve as a spur to drive kids -- and grownups -- to research more about security and freedom.

You've got 11 more days to avail yourself of the Humble Ebook Bundle!

Ex-MP3tunes chief held liable in music copyright case ~ Reuters

Recording Industry vs The People - Thu, 2014/03/20 - 09:44

Reuters reports:Ex-MP3tunes chief held liable in music copyright case
By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - The former chief executive of bankrupt online music storage firm MP3tunes was found liable Wednesday for infringing copyrights for sound recordings, compositions and cover art owned by record companies and music publishers once part of EMI Group Ltd.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Michael Robertson, the former MP3tunes chief executive, and the defunct San Diego-based company liable on various claims that they infringed on copyrights associated with artists including The Beatles, Coldplay and David Bowie.

The jurors also found MP3tunes was willfully blind to copyright infringement on its website, in what a lawyer for the recording companies suggested before the verdict would be the first ruling by a jury of its kind. Complete article

Ray Beckerman, P.C.

Homeland audiobook behind the scenes: Wil Wheaton explains his cameo to the director

The Humble Ebook Bundle is going great guns, with a collection of recent and classic books from both indie and major publishers, all DRM-free, on a name-your-price basis. Included in the bundle is an exclusive audio adaptation of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, who also appears as a character in the novel.

When Wil got to the part where the protagonist, Marcus, meets "him" in the story, he kind of lost it, cracking up as he read Marcus's breathless (and thoroughly deserved!) praise of Wil.

Here's audio (MP3) of Wil explaining the context of the scene to Gabrielle de Cuir, the director who worked with Wil on his reading.

Listening to the raw daily studio sessions in February was a great treat, and I hope these outtakes give you a sense of some of that behind-the-scene action.

You've got 12 more days to score the Humble Ebook Bundle, which includes Steven Gould's Jumper, Holly Black's Tithe, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Wil Wheaton's The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and the audio adaptation of Homeland, read by Wil!

Wil Wheaton has a surreal moment reading the Homeland audiobook

As mentioned yesterday, the DRM-free, independent audiobook of my novel Homeland is available from the Humble Bundle for the next two weeks, along with a collection of brilliant science fiction and fantasy from authors ranging from Scott Westerfeld to Holly Black.

I commissioned the audiobook for the project, and paid Wil Wheaton to read it at the Skyboat Studio in Los Angeles, for mastering by John Taylor Williams in DC. If you've read the book, you'll know that Wil has a cameo in the story, early on, and when he read that passage, he couldn't help but crack up. Gabrielle de Cuir, the talented director, made sure we captured that audio, and here's your chance to hear it (MP3).

Wil's reading is amazing, and it was such a pleasure to listen to the roughs as they came in from the studio. There are a couple more of these funny moments I'll be publishing this week, so watch this space!

Humble Bundle, featuring the DRM-free audio edition of Homeland

New World Notes on “In Real Life,” the graphic novel based on “Anda’s Game”


As mentioned, In Real Life is a graphic novel adapted by Jen Wang from my short story Anda's Game, out in the autumn. Wagner James Au of New World News got an advance copy and had some kind words about the book, as well as its context in MMOs like Warcraft and Second Life.


"Well, certainly the way that the economy shaped up in SL, and the contrast between that, WoW and Eve Online all played a part in my thinking about the relationship between play, game-mastering, democracy and economics," Cory tells me. "I think in some way, games are a kind of Singaporean experience: an authoritarian state that is not accountable to its subjects attempts to optimize their experience for some balance of productivity and entertainment." (Cory wrote a whole essay on that topic for InformationWeek.)

Cory Doctorow on How Second Life Influenced In Real Life His New Graphic Novel About MMOs & Gold Farmers (Plus, a Bit About Cory's Own Second Life)

The Web We Want: Could Canada Lead on a Digital Bill of Rights?

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2014/03/19 - 00:45
Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the drafting of Tim Berners-Lee's proposal to combine hypertext with the Internet that would later become the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee used the occasion to call for the creation of a global online "Magna Carta" to protect the rights of Internet users around the world.

The desire for enforceable global digital rights stands in sharp contrast to the early days of the Web when advocates were more inclined to tell governments to stay away from the burgeoning medium. For example, John Perry Barlow's widely circulated 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, asked governments to "leave us alone", claiming that conventional legal concepts did not apply online.

While the notion of a separate "cyberspace" would today strike many as inconsistent with how the Internet has developed into an integral part of everyday life, the prospect of a law-free online environment without government is even more at-odds with current realities. Rather than opposing government, there is a growing recognition of the need for governments to ensure that fundamental digital rights are respected.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that building on Berners-Lee's vision of global online protections, the World Wide Web Foundation, supported by leading non-governmental organizations from around the world, has launched a "Web We Want" campaign that aims to foster increased awareness of online digital rights. The campaign focuses on five principles: affordable access, the protection of personal user information, freedom of expression, open infrastructure, and neutral networks that do not discriminate against content or users.


Supporters recognize that global protections are more likely to develop on a country-by-country basis, with potential domestic support for national digital bills of rights. In the United Kingdom, the opposition Liberal Democrats have already thrown their support behind a digital bill of rights, while the United Nations Human Rights Council has backed a resolution declaring Internet access and online freedom of expression a human right.

With Industry Minister James Moore set to unveil the long-awaited national digital strategy (reportedly to be dubbed Digital Canada 150), these issues have the potential to play a starring role.  

The government has identified universal access as a key issue, allocating $305 million in the most recent budget for broadband initiatives in rural and remote communities.  While there is some disagreement on a target date for universal Canadian broadband - the CRTC has set its goal at 2015, while the federal government is content with 2019 - there is a consensus that all Canadians should have affordable broadband access and that there is a role for the government to make that a reality in communities that the leading Internet providers have largely ignored.

The protection of personal information raises questions about the adequacy of current privacy rules and the concerns associated with widespread surveillance. Industry Canada's Report on Plans and Priorities for 2014-15 quietly referenced "modernizing the privacy regime to better protect consumer privacy online" as a legislative priority for the coming year, the clearest signal yet that the government plans to re-introduce privacy reform.

The surveillance concerns will undoubtedly prove even more challenging, with the government saying little about the steady stream of revelations of government-backed surveillance. The Canadian role in global surveillance activities and the government's decision to revive lawful access legislation represent the most disturbing aspects of online policies that must be addressed for digital rights leadership.

As the government finally embarks on its digital strategy, it has an opportunity to do more than just tout recent policy initiatives. Instead, it should consider linking its goals with the broader global initiatives to help create the Web we want.

HOMELAND audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, DRM-free, in the new Humble Bundle!

For the past two months, I've been working on a secret project to produce an independent audiobook adaptation of my bestselling novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, one of my favorite audiobook voice-actors (and a hell of a great guy, besides!). The audiobook is out as of today, and I'm proud to say that for the next two weeks, it is exclusively available through the new Humble Ebook Bundle, which kicks off today, featuring an amazing collection of name-your-price DRM-free ebooks by authors like Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, as well as Wil Wheaton. As always, there are some surprise bonus titles that will be added in week two, and so long as you pay more than the average at the time of purchase, you'll get these automatically.

Those of you paying close attention to the ebook world will note that Simon and Schuster are the publishers behind three of these books, and that S&S are one of the Big Five publishers who had previously stayed away from the Humble Bundle due to its no-DRM policy. I'm so pleased to see another publisher -- along with Macmillan, parent company to Tor, my publisher -- getting on the DRM-free train, realizing that DRM just reduces the efficacy of their products. This is in large part due to the amazing success of last year's Humble Ebook Bundles, which raised about $2M for their authors and the charities involved.

I hope you'll support the new Humble Ebook Bundle! I'm especially delighted to have a DRM-free audiobook in the mix, because Audible, which controls 90% of the audiobook market, has a mandatory DRM policy they impose regardless of their authors' and publishers' desires. I did a series of audiobooks with Random House Audio, who were awesome about my unwillingness to sell through Audible or any other DRM channel, and let me sell the books direct through my site as MP3s.

They do well there, but not nearly so well as they would if I was willing to let Audible bait the DRM trap with my copyrights. In the end, Random House Audio just couldn't justify doing an audio of Homeland, which is fair enough -- but it's meant that for the past year, since the book launched, I've had a steady train of queries from people who bought the Little Brother audiobook and wanted to keep listening.

Now I have an answer for them, thanks to Wil, the Humble Bundle, and John Taylor Williams and the good folks at Skyboat Studio in LA.

The week one list for the Humble Bundle is:

* Homeland (audio) by Cory Doctorow, narrated by Wil Wheaton (an exclusive)

* Uglies by Scott Westerfeld/Simon & Schuster

* Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black/Simon & Schuster

* Jumper by Steven Gould/digitalNoir

* The Happiest Days of our Lives by Wil Wheaton/Monolith Press

* Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw/Dark Horse

* Zombies Versus Unicorns by various/Simon & Schuster

Several of these are personal favorites: here's my review of Uglies and my review of Jumper. And Holly Black is the author of The Coldest Girl in Cold Town, a stunner of a book. Black also co-edited Zombies Vs Unicorns, along with Justin "Liar" Larbalestier, and the anthology includes writing from Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan.

That's just week one! There's more to come in week two, and the cheapest way to get it all is to buy early. Tell your friends, share the love, support worthy charities, and strike a blow for DRM-free publishing all at once!

The Humble Ebook Bundle

My article on Authors Guild v Google, in e-commerce law reports

Recording Industry vs The People - Tue, 2014/03/18 - 10:09
Here's my article on Authors Guild v. Google, which appeared at pages 14-15 of Volume 14, Issue 1, of e-commerce law reports (reprinted with permission)

Authors Guild v Google) Ray Beckerman, P.C.

Why Are Canadian Wireless Carriers Increasing Prices? Because They Can

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2014/03/18 - 00:04
Yesterday, I was contacted by a Toronto radio station wanting to discuss wireless pricing increases  that have occurred over the past few months (including increases over the weekend at both Rogers and Bell). Their key question was what lay behind the increased prices?  While some might point to reduced roaming revenues or costs associated with the spectrum auction, I believe the answer is far simpler.

The carriers increased prices because they can.

Indeed, this is precisely what the Competition Bureau of Canada concluded could and would happen in its analysis of the wireless environment in Canada.  In its  January 29, 2014 submission to the CRTC, it stated:


In the Bureau's view, mobile wireless markets in Canada are characterized by high concentration and very high barriers to entry and expansion. Furthermore, Canadian mobile wireless markets are characterized by other factors that, when combined with high concentration and very high barriers to entry and expansion, create a risk of coordinated interaction in these markets. Given these factors, the Bureau's view is that incumbent service providers have market power in Canadian retail mobile wireless markets.

And what is market power? As the Bureau notes, "market power is the ability of a firm or firms to profitably maintain prices above competitive levels (or similarly restrict non-price dimensions of competition) for a significant period of time."

The risk of coordinated action and the ability to profitability maintain prices above competitive levels? Sounds familiar.

Podcast: If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology

Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Guardian column, If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology where I try to convey the insanity of spy agencies that weaken Internet security in order to make it easier for them to spy on people, by comparing this to germ warfare.

Last year, when I finished that talk in Seattle, a talk about all the ways that insecure computers put us all at risk, a woman in the audience put up her hand and said, “Well, you’ve scared the hell out of me. Now what do I do? How do I make my computers secure?”

And I had to answer: “You can’t. No one of us can. I was a systems administrator 15 years ago. That means that I’m barely qualified to plug in a WiFi router today. I can’t make my devices secure and neither can you. Not when our governments are buying up information about flaws in our computers and weaponising them as part of their crime-fighting and anti-terrorism strategies. Not when it is illegal to tell people if there are flaws in their computers, where such a disclosure might compromise someone’s anti-copying strategy.

But: If I had just stood here and spent an hour telling you about water-borne parasites; if I had told you about how inadequate water-treatment would put you and everyone you love at risk of horrifying illness and terrible, painful death; if I had explained that our very civilisation was at risk because the intelligence services were pursuing a strategy of keeping information about pathogens secret so they can weaponise them, knowing that no one is working on a cure; you would not ask me ‘How can I purify the water coming out of my tap?’”

Because when it comes to public health, individual action only gets you so far. It doesn’t matter how good your water is, if your neighbour’s water gives him cholera, there’s a good chance you’ll get cholera, too. And even if you stay healthy, you’re not going to have a very good time of it when everyone else in your country is striken and has taken to their beds.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

a belated “thank you”

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Mon, 2014/03/17 - 00:10

On 5 March 2014, Intellectual Property for the 21st Century was officially unveiled by the Centre for Law, Technology and Society of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. The book is an outcome of a workshop held in the spring of 2012, where “interdisciplinary” was the word of the day. My contribution involved connections between Harold Innis and copyright as it is evolving through the 20th and 21st centuries. The diversity of scholarship set upon a common interest in intellectual property made for engaging discussion; it was a pleasure to participate with this endeavor.

The foreword, provided by David Vaver, an internationally acclaimed intellectual property scholar, includes these observations:

… patents, copyrights, trademarks, designs, and information and image rights have become vibrant individual disciplines and not just in law. … But crosstalk occurs less frequently than it could, and joint work, while growing, is still the exception rather than the norm. … Acting as facilitators [the editors] assembled a group of scholars and practitioners told them to get interdisciplinary with IP – whatever that meant to each one of them – and hope for the best. And as this volume demonstrates, the best can be very good indeed.

My thanks are due to Courtney Doagoo, Mistrale Goudreau, Madelaine Saginur, and Teresa Scassa. Their guidance before, during, and after the workshop, was immeasurable. Editing and shepherding a volume of this nature to completion is no small task – the book spans twenty-five chapters penned by more than thirty authors from different disciplines. I share Vaver’s concluding assessment: “This is an intellectual feast worth savouring and digesting. Anyone with even a passing interest in how society and intellectual property interact will enjoy sampling these delights.”

An overview of the book, and its table of contents, is available here. All chapters are freely available via Irwin Law’s Content Commons, see here.

While I recommend the book in its entirety, I must highlight a much-needed reminder from Graham Reynolds. In his exploration of the viability of a Public Domain Impact Assessment within copyright’s legislative process, Reynolds gives a broad explanation of what the public domain is. More specifically, it includes: “uses of material that are deemed not be covered by intellectual property rights through the application of defenses/exceptions to intellectual property infringement … (p.98).” Said another way, the public domain includes currently copyrighted works when accessed in accordance with fair dealing.

The stature of “public domain” is not only a function of the age of a work, it is also a function of how the work is used. (For further information; see Public Domain.)


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