Universal Music Group to offer non-DRM music downloads

Universal Music Group (UMG) plans to test selling non-DRM music through a number of outlets (basically everyone except iTunes). This move follows EMI who made their entire catalog DRM-free, but at a not so great bitrate. Story Here: UMG’S SOUND CHECK Universal Music Group has been “one of the fiercest guardians of its artists’ copyrights.” Granted, this is but test marketing, but lets hope it paves the way for more. 

I, for one, am tired of buying used CDs, ripping them, and stacking them in the closet until the next format wars. If UMG is serious, then come up with some sort of lifetime license (which is what the CD is), that will allow me to download as an mp3 today, and come back and download the same album in 5 years in whatevery format is king then for free (and no, it won’t be in ogg vorbis).

Digg.com and the AACS code, a legal perspective

The ABA Journal reported on the mass of postings on Digg.com last month of a 32 letter and number series which can be used to circumvent DRM in blu-ray and high-def. DVDs (you’ll need some software too) (this was posted elsewhere, I like the http://09-f9-(etc).com/ URL and the ThinkGeek t-shirt) A user would post, they would receive a cease-and-desist from the Advanced Access Content System (a trade group of entertainment companies), the administrators of Digg would remove the offending content, and then more users would post the code in response. This angered a number of power users on the system, and finally the administrators gave up. So, what is Digg’s liability: does the code fall under copyright (probably not), is this covered by the DMCA (likely so), did Digg give up their DMCA safe-harbor protections by not removing the content (ummm, yes and no), and does 47 USC § 230 give Digg any protection (it depends). Thank the gods, this is why I love the law.

Here is the ABA Journal story: It’s No Secret: Code Stirs Up a Web Storm. Eric Goldman, who is quickly becoming my favorite IP professor (too bad I don’t want to do an LLM at Santa Clara), also gives some analysis in the article.

Under the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it’s unlawful to circumvent technology designed to protect copyrighted work. But the statute also provides a safe harbor for Web site operators in section 512 (c), when users make questionable posts.

“What’s unclear is whether the cease-and-desist notice was sent under 512 or some other rubric we don’t know about, and whether Digg.com, by refusing to honor the notice, lost its eligibility to be protected by safe harbors,” says Eric Goldman, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute.

He also mentions another federal statute, passed in 1996, that provides expansive safe harbor from liability for third-party content. The statute, 47 USC § 230, holds that—providing the post in question doesn’t involve intellectual property—online providers can respond to a complaint however it wants.

So if the secret code is not intellectual property, Goldman says, Digg.com has no liability. But he stresses that continuing to allow the code posts is risky.

DVD Copy Control Association v. Kaleidescape: copying DVDs for personal use legal

Apple 2.0: Is DVD Ripping in Apple TV’s Future? This week Apple announced the end of DRM for iTunes. The market spoke and, apparently, someone is finally on the side of the customer. See this article at the Economist.

Belatedly, music executives have come to realise that DRM simply doesn’t work. It is supposed to stop unauthorised copying, but no copy-protection system has yet been devised that cannot be easily defeated. All it does is make life difficult for paying customers, while having little or no effect on clandestine copying plants that churn out pirate copies. 

Last month, the Dist. Ct. for N. Cali. ruled against the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) saying that, under their agreement the DVD CCA gives, copying DVDs for personal use is legal. The judgment is very narrow, and I doubt it will be a wedge to go against DVD DRM.

Atlantic v. XM Satellite Radio trial a go; Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act introduced

Stories at  MSNBC.com, orbitcast.com, engadget.com.

U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts denied XM’s motion to dismiss (full text below), greenlighting the trial in which Atlantic Recording Corp., BMG Music, Capitol Records Inc. and others music companies accuse XM of infringment. The plaintiffs claim (link to complaint) that devices combining both XM radio and MP3 players (“XM + MP3″) , such as Inno, which allow users to record the radio to MP3, infringe on their exclusive right of distribution. In a lawsuit last year, the companies said XM directly infringes on their exclusive distribution rights by letting consumers record songs onto special receivers marketed as players.

XM had argued that the devices were noninfringing because they fell under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1991, which allows users to record music from the radio for private use. Judge Batts didn’t buy the argument, and made several findings (some competely incorrect ), including: XM is operating as a traditional radio broadcaster, but by broadcasting and storing music, XM was both a broadcasting and distributing, while only paying to broadcast (traditional radio pays no fees); and Comparing XM+MP3 players to a cassette recorders, she stated that it was “manifestly apparent that the use of a radio-cassette player to record songs played over free radio does not threaten the market for copyrighted works as does the use of a recorder which stores songs from private radio broadcasts on a subscription fee basis.”

Of course the assault on satellite radio is also continuing on the hill with language contained in the new version of the Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act, or Perform Act, which was reintroduced Thursday by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The Perform Act is intended to “level the playing field among ‘radio-like services’ available via cable, satellite and the Internet (not level to terrestrial radio, I will point out).” 

Continue reading

Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro critical of RIAA

LinkCEA: RIAA refuses to cooperate, carries out “thinly veiled attack” on fair use (via Ars Technica)

CEA President Gary Shapiro said, “Although the RIAA continues to try to muddy the waters, this much remains clear: the music industry no longer agrees that a consumer’s right to make a first generation copy of a song includes the right to play it back when and how the consumer wishes.” Shapiro is referring to the fact that the RIAA would like to block the ability to record unencumbered digital music from either digital radio stations or satellite services such as XM or Sirius. Current law allows for personal recordings of both video and music, and even the television broadcast flag under discussion in Congress allows for private recording on a basic level.

New French copyright bill cracks open DRM

French copyright bill to shake up music download market

The French National Assembly approved a digital copyright bill that will require DRM developers to reveal details of their technology to rivals that wish to build interoperable systems. Look for push back from Apple (Fairplay DRM in iTunes and iPod) and Microsoft (Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM).

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