Archive for August, 2006

Major Record Labels Adopt ACS

The online community is buzzing today over the announcement that Universal Music plans to "give away" music online through a new service called SpiralFrog (which is also negotiating with other major labels including EMI).  The approach is not particularly innovative – the service will be ad-supported, something people like Terry McBride from Nettwerk has been advocating for months and other sectors (television, radio, online gaming, newspapers) have been offering for some time.  Moreover, the service is likely to face some challenges – by relying on DRM that is not compatible with the iPod, it is leaving out a large part of the market. 

That said, there are at least two bigger points worth making.

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August 29, 2006 5 comments News

30 Days of DRM – Day 11: Involuntary Installation of Software (Circumvention Rights)

Yesterday's post addressed the negative impact of anti-circumvention legislation on security research.  There is another security issue that merits discussion – the involuntary installation of software that may constitute a personal security threat to individual computer users.  Such software is frequently classified as spyware – software programs that are placed on users' computers without their informed consent that proceed to cause havoc by compromising personal information, posing an identity theft risk, sending spam, and infecting other computers.

While spyware can worm its way onto a personal computer in many different ways, inclusion within a DRM is a possibility. The best-known example of the DRM-spyware connection is last year's Sony rootkit fiasco

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August 29, 2006 6 comments News

NY Times Blocks UK Access to Article

With all the discussion around content blocking, interesting to note that the NY Times yesterday blocked UK access to an article, using targeted advertising technology to identify UK users. Update: The Associated Press provides additional coverage of this story.

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August 29, 2006 1 comment Must Reads

Reflecting on the CRTC’s Hate Site Blocking Decision

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) looks at last week's flurry of activity over Internet-based hate sites at the CRTC, including the request for an order to permit voluntary blocking and the Commission's decision to deny the request on Friday.

Had the CRTC addressed the substantive questions, the case would have presented an enormously difficult choice.  There is little doubt that the content in question is illegal and that Warman faces a serious threat.  By directly targeting Warman, the foreign sites have arguably brought themselves within Canada's jurisdiction.  Further, by merely asking the CRTC to issue a voluntary order, Warman avoided state-sanctioned censorship and placed the issue in the hands of ISPs.

Despite the good intentions behind the application, however, there remains some cause for concern.

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August 28, 2006 12 comments Columns

30 Days of DRM – Day 10: Security Research (Circumvention Rights)

Given the priority currently accorded to security concerns, it is difficult to understand how any government would be willing to undermine security in the name of copyright.  That is precisely what has occurred in the United States, however, where computer security researchers have faced a significant chilling effect on their research due to legal threats from the DMCA.  The U.S. cases are fairly well known: they include Princeton professor Edward Felten facing a potential suit from the RIAA when he planned to disclose his research findings in identifying the weaknesses of an encryption program and Dmitri Sklyarov, a Russian software programmer, spending a summer in jail after presenting a paper at a conference in Las Vegas that described his company's program that defeated the encryption on the Adobe eReader.

Even more compelling are recent comments from Professor Felten at a conference at the University of Michigan. 

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August 28, 2006 2 comments News