April 14, 2024

Archives for February 2003

Who Uses Peer-to-Peer?

If you listen to the rhetoric about peer-to-peer copyright infringement, you might conclude that most of that infringement takes place at universities. But at this week’s House hearings on “Peer-to-Peer Piracy on University Campuses,” committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith reportedly cited statistics showing that 10% of P2P users are at educational institutions. That’s surprisingly low. Does anybody know where the other 90% are?

Berkeley DRM Workshop

It’s the second day of the Berkeley DRM Workshop, a wonderful conference. Donna points to live commentary from several bloggers.

I was on a panel with David Wagner, Hal Abelson, John Erickson, Joe Liu, and Larry Lessig. My quick presentation (here, in PowerPoint format) was about the (negative) impact of DRM and its companion regulations on a wide range of public policy debates. If you can’t learn about technology and you can’t talk about technology, then you can’t make good public policy decisions about technology.

Lexmark Gets Preliminary Injunction

A news.com story by David Becker reports that a Federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction against Static Control in the DMCA lawsuit brought by Lexmark.

To review, Lexmark makes printers, and Static Control makes replacement toner cartridges for Lexmark printers. Lexmark’s printers do a cryptographic handshake with Lexmark-brand toner cartridges, and Static Control cartridges do the same crypto handshake so that they will work in Lexmark printers. Lexmark filed a lawsuit, clai ming that the Static Control products violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention rules.

The preliminary injunction prohibits Static Control from selling the challenged product. I haven’t seen any written opinion from the Court yet; I’ll add a pointer to the opinion if/when I get it.

Congressmen Tell Universities to Stop P2P

Declan McCullagh at CNet news.com reports on a congressional committee hearing today about P2P copyright infringement at universities. Some in Congress are turning up the rhetorical heat on universities, urging them to react to copyright infringement as energetically as they react to the most serious crimes.

Members of the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees copyright law said at a hearing that peer-to-peer piracy was a crime under a 1997 federal law, but universities continued to treat file-swapping as a minor infraction of campus disciplinary codes.

“If on your campus you had an assault and battery or a murder, you’d go down to the district attorney’s office and deal with it that way,” said Rep. William Jenkins, R-Tenn.

All of this discussion seems to assume that it is easy to distinguish P2P traffic from other traffic. This may be true in the short run, but once P2P blocking starts to become popular, the P2P systems will evolve so that they blend in to non-P2P traffic. In the long run, blocking P2P traffic looks like a technically dubious approach.

Nonetheless, things will get increasingly unpleasant for universities.

(Disclaimer: I don’t speak for Princeton. When I write about “universities” I mean universities in general and not Princeton in particular.)

Berman Bill May Not Return

According to an article by Jon Healey in Friday’s Los Angeles Times, Rep. Howard Berman may not reintroduce his “peer-to-peer hacking” bill in the new Congress. The bill, you may recall, would authorize copyright owners to launch some types of targeted denial of service attacks against people who are offering infringing files via peer-to-peer systems like Kazaa, Gnutella, or the Web.

Berman had introduced the bill in the last Congress, but it died in committee. He had planned to reintroduce it, but is rethinking that after Hollywood expressed reservations about the bill.

This week, however, Berman said he may not revive the measure. For one thing, copyright holders may not need extra protection to combat file-sharing piracy, he said. And though Berman wasn’t deterred by complaints from consumer advocates, the concerns voiced by Hollywood studios – among the biggest beneficiaries of the bill, given their active anti-piracy efforts online – suggested that Berman was climbing out on a limb by himself.

In particular, Hollywood’s enthusiasm for the bill was dimmed by Berman’s insistence on imposing new liabilities on copyright holders that go too far in attacking pirates. “And if they’re not for it,” Berman asked, “where am I going?”