December 10, 2023

Archives for October 2002

My Testimony on the Berman-Coble Bill

Today I submitted written testimony that will be included in the record of last week’s House hearings on the Berman-Coble bill.

Doubletalk from MediaDefender?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that MediaDefender has been sending cease-and-desist letters to universities, identifying the IP addresses of specific computers that are alleged to be offering copyrighted movies for download. These IP addresses usually correlate one-to-one with users.

One of the MediaDefender letters is reprinted in the Chronicle story. The letter says in part:

… we request that you immediately do the following:

1) Disable access to the individual who has engaged in the conduct described above; and 2) Terminate any and all accounts that this individual has through you.

This is not entirely consistent with the testimony given by Randy Saaf, MediaDefender’s president, at a Congressional hearing last week. Mr. Saaf’s written testimony said:

MediaDefender’s technologies only affect the networks on a macro-scale and not on a micro-scale. MediaDefender only communicates with the P2P networks on a high level and pays no attention to the individual users. We do not identify, nor target individuals.

Misleading Term of the Week: "Rights"

A “right” is a legal entitlement – something that the law says you are allowed to do. But the term is often misused to refer to something else.

Consider, for example, the use of “digital rights management” (often abbreviated as DRM) to describe technologies that restrict the use of creative works. In practice, the “rights” being managed are really just rules that the copyright owner wants to impose; and those rules may bear little relation to the parties’ legal rights. Cloaking these restrictions in the language of “rights” makes them sound more neutral and unchangeable than they really are.

DRM advocates often put forth arguments that go roughly like this:

(1) we have built technology that doesn’t let you do X;

(2) therefore you cannot do X;

(3) therefore you do not have the right to do X;

(4) therefore you should be required to use technology that doesn’t let you do X.

The trickiest part of this argument is getting from (2) to (3). Using the term “digital rights management” in (1) and (2) makes the leap from (2) to (3) seem smaller than it really is.

There is at least one more common misuse of “rights” in the copyright/technology debate. This is in the use of the term “rights holder” to refer to copyright owners (but not to users). When someone says, “Content is shipped from the rights holder to the consumer,” the implication is that the rights of the copyright owner are more important than those of the user. There is no need for this term “rights holder.” “Copyright owner” will do just fine, and it will help us remember that both parties in the transaction have rights that need to be protected.


Sorry for the outage yesterday. A Slashdot item about Fritz’s Hit List drove enough traffic here to use up our full bandwidth allocation for the month. I’ve put another quarter into the slot, so now we’re back on the air.

I’m thrilled to have so many readers, even if most of them will probably end up paying only a brief visit. As an added bonus, I have gotten hundreds of suggestions for items to add to Fritz’s Hit List. Keep ’em coming!

Fritz's Hit List #9

Today on Fritz’s Hit List: digital hearing aids.

These hearing aids receive, process, and retransmit audio in digital form, so they qualify for regulation as “digital media devices” under the Hollings CBDTPA. If the CBDTPA passes, any newly manufactured digital hearing aids will have to incorporate government-approved copy restriction technology.

Fight piracy – regulate hearing aids!

(Thanks to Andrew Litt for suggesting this item.)