June 19, 2024

Archives for May 2004

Report from RIAA v. P2P User Courtroom

Mary Bridges offers an interesting report from a court hearing yesterday, in one of the RIAA’s lawsuits against end users accused of P2P infringement. She points to an amicus brief filed by folks at Harvard’s Berkman Center, at the Court’s request, that explains some of the factual and legal issues raised in these suits.

[link credit: Derek Slater]

The Landsburg Amendment

Can this be a coincidence?

This week, Congress prepares to vote on the Pirate Act, which would impose severe penalties for online copyright infringers and redirect the Department of Justice toward copyright enforcement and away from any other insignificant law enforcement problems facing the U.S. In the same week, Steven Landsburg advocates the death penalty for online criminals.

Perhaps Landsburg has the solution to the P2P problem as well. Imposing the death penalty on P2P infringers only makes sense, according to Landsburg’s ironclad reasoning. See, executing somebody (even an innocent person) only imposes $10 million of harm; and if that deters even 0.5% of the $4 billion in estimated annual piracy losses, an execution save $20 million and is a good deal for everybody. To believe otherwise is simply irrational.

It’s not too late to amend the Pirate Act.

[Note to any overly clueless readers: This is a joke. Proportionate penalties for copyright infringement are fine with me. Killing P2P users, no.]

Landsburg's Modest Proposal

Steven E. Landsburg has a somewhat creepy piece over at Slate, calling for the death penalty for computer worm authors. Ernest Miller responds.

UPDATE (12:15 AM): James Grimmelmann has some interesting thoughts on Landsburg’s proposal.

Word Tracking Bug Demo and Remover

Alex Halderman has created a page about the Word tracking bugs I described yesterday. He offers an example Word tracking bug for you to examine, and a scanner program that can find and remove Word tracking bugs on your computer.

Email Tracking: It Gets Worse

When I wrote Monday about the new didtheyreadit.com privacy-invading email tracking system, I had no idea that an even more invasive system has been on the market for two years or so. This system, called readnotify.com, was pointed out by commenter Brian Parsons.

readnotify.com is an email tracking system that uses Web bugs (like didtheyreadit) and also uses a trick involving IFRAMEs (unlike didtheyreadit). The IFRAME trick cannot be disabled by the standard countermeasure of turning off remote image loading. There may not be an easy way to disable it in today’s email software, short of turning off HTML email entirely.

Worse yet, readnotify offers a service that lets anyone put hidden tracking bugs in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and other OLE-compliant document formats. When somebody opens a document containing one of these trackers, the time of the access is reported, along with the accessor’s IP address (which often reveals their geographic location) and some configuration information about their computer.

The vulnerability in Word that readnotify exploits was discovered back in 2000 by Richard M. Smith. It got some press coverage back then, but was mostly ignored because there were no reports (at that time) of anybody exploiting the vulnerability. Now there are commercial products that exploit it. It’s time for Microsoft to fix this vulnerability.