Monthly Archives: September 2005

RIAA vs. Parents: It’s all over bar the shouting

The RIAA has lost a key case where it attempted to sue a mother over her 13-year old child’s file sharing abilities.

I have long been a critic of Big Music’s practice of suing parents whose children illegally shared copyrighted music. Not because I approve of file-sharing – I don’t – but because the punishment does not fit the crime.

The music business tends to assume that 1 file shared = 1000 lost sales, or something like that. I do not believe this to be true – quite the opposite, in fact; there is evidence that file-sharing may actually stimulate sales. They also believe that the Law Enforcement community is obliged to do their dirty work for them.
The music business has delighted in the thousands of lawsuits with which they have threatened parents, all of who have settled for thousands of dollars apiece – none of which finds its way to the artists that the RIAA purports to represent, but that’s another story.It was only a matter of time before one parent decided to fight back, but it has finally happened. The court dismissed the case with prejudice, (which means that the RIAA got their hats handed to them before being unceremoniously booted out of the courtroom) on the grounds that “the mother couldn’t be held to be liable for letting her daughter share music online”.

That’s got to hurt.

Now that a precedent has been established, it’s also going to open the floodgates for those who are being and have been sued, as it effectively exposes the RIAA’s legal actions as thinly-disguised extortion.

The RIAA can still take legal action – but they have to go up against the children themselves. I don’t believe that they have the guts to do this, but if they do, it would be precisely the wrong thing to do. Children have no money, and are not old enough to enter into legal agreements. Suing your future customers is not an intelligent business model.

A $100 Laptop?

Surely you can't be serious!

Yes, I'm serious. And don't call me Shirley

The Space Shuttle was… a mistake?

According to NASA chief Michael Griffin, the answer is "Yes".

Your Tax Dollars at work

Fearless Feds sink Star Wars pirate website!

The Feds always use almost comical language to describe P2P and BitTorrent sites, portraying them as the work of evil, swollen-brained mad computer scientists… One gets the feeling that such language is meant to cover the P2P operations with a very sinister aura in the hopes that this will explain why the Homeland Security department is wasting time making sure George Lucas receives all his cash instead of protecting citizens from actual danger

TiVo I: I have TiVo!!!

When it comes to Television, I’m a fussy so-and-so. I watch very few programs. This is partly because I have very so many other things taking up what little spare time I have (computers, reading, computers, writing, computers, playing the piano, computers…), but mostly because of scheduling problems, such as…

  • Nothing on when I am ready to watch something.
  • Live TV is full of adverts – even those channels that I pay to see, which simply isn’t right, in my book.
  • Interruptions; once the phone rings, it’s all over.

For this reason, much of my TV viewing has been DVDs and the occasional VHS recording. Way back in 2003, I first heard about something called “TiVo” on the Oprah Winfrey show. Sounds like a neat idea, but it’s not cheap. Hundreds of dollars for the hardware, $12/month for the service, or $250 lifetime.

Years went by. I kept my ear to the ground and my eyes open.

  • I found out that the “lifetime” service was for the lifetime of the hardware – if your TiVo dies, the lifetime service dies with it.
  • TiVo started offering a mail-in rebate. Initially $50, it went up to $100. Recently they raised it to $150 and required a twelve-month “contract”.
  • The service cost went up to 13/month or 300 “lifetime”.However, I was still unwilling to buy – it was that initial hardware cost hit – $100 after rebate – that was discouraging me.

Still, I kept my ear to the ground and watched for bargains.
Today I noticed that CompUSA was offering $50 off a $200 TiVo, bringing the take-home price down to 150… before a 150 mail-in rebate.

Hmm. Free after rebate, with the exception of a $9 contribution to the state government. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Anyway, I bought one today. More on this later.

Christian Band tells fans how to circumvent Copy protection on their CDs

The band is called Switchfoot. The bassist, Tim Foreman, has taken exception to the DRM copy-protection that Sony has put on their latest CD, "Nothing is Sound".

There is no way to distinguish legal file copying from illegal, yet the music business persists in believing that it ok to prevent us from copying our own music for our own use. They do this by using copy protection mechanisms to prevent us from repurposing our own music, then backing it up with bad rent-a-laws like the DMCA, which makes it a felony to even think about breaking that protection.

The PC games industry learned a decade ago that Copy Protection doesn't work. And I will not buy any music that comes with any "goodies" that will make me a felon for making my own personal copies.

Ironically, Tim is now a felon under the DMCA. Stay iTuned…

The George Bush Conspiracy Generator

According to my research, "George W. Bush gave Iraq reconstruction contracts to his friends so that SUV owners could offend Michael Moore."

Good for a laugh.

College Kid 1, Microsoft 0

A wonderful David vs. Goliath story… In the blue corner, Microsoft Incorporated! In the red corner… College Kid!

  • College Kid buys software from campus bookstore.
  • Finding that it requires a reformat, he decides not to install it on his machine.
  • Bookstore will not allow him to return software, even if it is unopened.
  • Kid contacts Microsoft, who also refuse return of unopened software.
  • Faced with a catch-22, Kid sells software on eBay.
  • Microsoft finds out about the eBay auction and sues Kid.
  • Kid fights… and, to everyone's surprise, wins.

My comments:

  • BRAVO!
  • A Microsoft "investigator" stopped the Windows XP auction on the grounds of "piracy". When the kid called them on it, they did not reply.
  • Microsoft had the nerve to claim that his $143.50 in profits was "unfair competition" and forced the company to sustain "substantial impact" on their multi-billion-dollar business.
  • MS claimed that the Kid was "hassling them"… even though they were the ones who started the process of litigation. Apparently the act of fighting back is now considered "hassling". What you are supposed to do, presumably, is roll over and hand them your check book…
  • MS was more than happy to bury the kid in litigation – until the kid told the Press what was going on. At that point, the company suddenly changed their tune and wanted to settle… and bury the story instead. This goes to show that Corporations are more concerned with their public image than doing the right thing. Naturally, the Kid, having better things to do with his life, obliged… and as a result can no longer discuss the case.

This case shows the holes in the laws regarding Software Licensing Agreements (SLAs), which are generally used by the publisher to

  1. Deny all liability for faults and damages and
  2. Limit what the customer can and cannot do with the product.

I would like to see a plain-English "spirit-of-the-law" SLA statement… and for publishers to be held a little more accountable in the "real world".

Of junk mail and deception

Just got a mail piece. I could tell that it was junk mail because it was addressed to my housemate “Current Resident

I have always thought that this sort of thing should be outlawed on the very sensible grounds that if you don’t know whom you are sending the junk to, you should not be sending it.

It was one of those cards that you have to open by tearing on three sides. The back had something that looked like a check. When I opened it, predictably, it was not a check – it was a “Customer Cash Voucher”. Ho-hum… another car-sales pitch.

What really made me mad, though, was that the pseudo-check had the words “This is not a check” written on one side, and “Endorse check here” written on the other.

So… is it a check or not?

Naturally, the people who actually sent out this mailshot went to extraordinary lengths to avoid being identified and contacted in order to have my name removed from their mailing list. I did a little detective work and found that this event had nothing to do with the Kia dealership – they were only hosting the event.

Turned out that this promotion was actually run by an outfit called “Fleet Liquidators of America”, who apparently, sell ex-rental vehicles. They have been in some trouble with the Illinois Attorney General for spreading misinformation by advertising that a car dealership was going bankrupt in order to entice customers through the doors.

According to the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, Fleet Liquidators of America is actually Gunning & Associates Marketing, Inc – and these folks have been in all kinds of trouble for deceptive practices.

Being hung by the ‘nads is too good for these folks.

Another one bites the dust

Scott Berkun has switched to Firefox!

"So what"? I hear you say

And you would be right… every day thousands of people switch to Firefox. Except that Scott is one of the people who designed and built Internet Explorer.

 That's gotta hurt.