If you're a fan of open source, you're a fan of licensing. Okay, maybe not a fan. But you still have to respect the legal power of the documents attached to open-source software and projects, which describe for you the exact ways you can and cannot use, modify, and pass-along the licensed material. While a newcomer to the open source might see these licenses as restrictive entities prohibiting commercial exploitation of a body of work, they're the lifeblood of those who spend untold hours poring over the bits and bytes of a dream. Not as a means of financial extortion for companies that want to use the software, rather, these licensing documents ensure that the spirit of open source carries on regardless of a project's potential iterations.
I sometimes wish I could apply a license to everything I do on the Internet. And perhaps you will too, once you realize that you're a content creator -- just like me, anyone who writes for this site, and any of the estimated 17 million (and counting) microbloggers on the popular Twitter service. As of yesterday, Twitter has joined forces with Threadless. The t-shirt retailer and community hub is now the centerpiece in a massive effort to transform your witty public Tweets into cash-generating, hipster t-shirts. But this partnership respects the spirit of licensing, even though the actual legal rights you hold as a Twitter user are still open for debate.
Fire up your best 140-word comment and click the jump to learn about this fashionable new deal!
Originally filed in 2005, Microsoft has now been granted US Patent No. 7,536,726. More specifically, the software giant now owns the patent for intentionally crippling your PC until you cough up the cash for that pirated OS.
Navigating through the legalese, the patent paves the way for "making selected portions and functionality of the operating system unavailable to the user or by limiting the user's ability to add software applications or device drivers to the computer. Additionally, various techniques can be used to remove or reduce the functional limitations of the computer."
The snarky side in us says not to worry, because Microsoft will only hold your system ransom until you pay an "agreed upon sum of money." And the rational side says, really, don't worry, because this should only effect pirates anyway, and even then, Microsoft appears to be softening its stance.
On hindsight, Jammie Thomas may one day look back and wish she would have taken whatever deal was being offered during a court-mandated settlement conference just days ago. Certainly that seems to be what her lawyer, Brian Toder, must have wanted her to do, as Toder is now attmempting to withdraw from the case less than a month before a retrial in the RIAA's first copyright infringement suit to go to a jury is scheduled to take place.
According to what Toder told U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Minnesota, he is owed nearly $130,000 "that will never be recovered, coupled with the likelihood that a similar, additional amount will be incurred if ordered to continue representation of defendant."
The RIAA doesn't appear to be opposed to Toder withdrawing from the case, but at the same time, it doesn't want another delay. Should Toder get his way, a delay would seem inevitable, as "there's no way another lawyer could try this case by June 15," Toder said in a telephone interview with Wired.
If you haven't been following, Jammie Thomas was found guilty of copyright infringement in 2007 and fined $222,000 for allegedly sharing 24 songs via Kazaa. Judge Davis later declared it a mistrial on the basis that he falsely instructed the jury that just by making available copyrighted works on a file sharing program constituted copyright infringement, even if it couldn't be proved that anyone actually downloaded the songs.
Barring another delay, a retrial is scheduled for June 15.
Citing "legal issues," EMI nixed plans to release Danger Mouse's new CD, Dark Night of the Soul, a collaboration with rock group Sparklehorse that also features Iggy Pop and The Flaming Lips. But that doesn't mean fans of the mashup artist are completely out of luck, depending on how far they're willing to go. 'Just pirate the music,' is the message essentially being sent.
Since EMI refuses to release the project, Danger Mouse has decided to sell the album as a "100+ page book" of David Lynch photographs inspired by the music, and will toss in a blank CD-R.
'For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will."
The idea, of course, is for fans to illegally download the music via P2P/torrent and fill the CD themselves, and though EMI hasn't said yet said anything, it can't be too happy about the move.
You might not be familiar with paragraph 101 of German copyright law, but if the latest happenings turn into a trend, expect to hear more and more about it. Paragraph 101 grants content owners the legal right to seek a court order to force ISPs to divulge personal information based on IP addresses, and so far, at least one record label has allegedly done just that.
According to German news outlet Gulli, a Rapidshare user found his home raided by local law enforcement after it was discovered he had uploaded a copy of Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic" to his account. The illegal upload occurred a day before the album's worldwide release, prompting the band's record label to request the user's IP address from Rapidshare, which it willingly gave up, and then had Deutsche Telekom divulge who was behind the IP.
Given the success and ease with which personally identifiable information was obtained, some are voicing concerns that record labels might next target BitTorrent and other P2P networks armed with paragraph 101.
Google had to go down on its knees, reach out for its checkbook and write a $125 million check to settle its legal disputes with authors and publishers, who had been opposing its Google Book Search service. The settlement has yet to receive court approval and that will not happen until October 7, 2009 – the date for the final hearing. But Google can be rest assured that there is going to be no dearth of hurdles during the intervening period.
Hot on the heels of the Pirate Bay trial, which just recently ended (not without considerable controversy), another trial is just now getting started. This one, however, involves RealNetworks and its RealDVD ripping program, a $30 piece of software that has drawn the ire of the Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA).
At the heart of the issue is RealDVD's ability to make digital copies of DVDs to a user's hard drive while still retaining the DVD-copy protection. The process even adds a further layer of DRM to the files it rips, so as far as RealNetworks is concerned, the program doesn't run afoulof the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Naturally, the MPAA vehemently disagrees, even going so far as to say the software should be called StealDVD instead of RealDVD. Even more troubling for the MPAA is the RealNetworks' plan to develop DVD-saving software for manufacturers of DVD players. Facet, as it's being called, would allow Toshiba, Sony, and other companies to sell players capable of copying DVDs and save them internally. A prototype capable of storing about 70 movies has already been made, and it's expected that similar devices would sell for around $300 or less.
"The movie industry wants people to buy DVDs an so do we," said Bill Way, VP and general counsel of RealNetworks. "They have a real problem with piracy, and we are not that problem. I don't think our product will make the problem one iota bigger. I think it gives people an opportunity to make digital copies of their movies in a legal way."
Right or wrong, it will now be up to the courts to decide.
The well publicized Pirate Bay trial ended last week with the torrent tracking site's four founders being found guilty of copyright offenses and sentenced to one year in prison each, along with $3.6 million in fines. Coming as no surprise to anyone, a retrial is being sought, but what is surprising is that the judge who was in charge of the case -- Thomas Norström -- is reportedly a member of the same copyright protection organizations as some of the main entertainment industry representatives.
"I will point that out in my apeal, then the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) will decide if the district court decision should be set aside and the case revisted," said Peter Althin, the lawyer who represents Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde.
Norström isn't denying the reports that he's involved in copyright organizations, but says this did not sway his decision one way or the other in the trial. He added, "My view has been that these activities do not constitute a conflict of interest."
Did the Pirate Bay defendants receive a fair trial? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) would have you believe that illegally downloading music is crippling an artist's ability to make a living, and so the association, with music artists' best interest in mind of course, has led the crusade against piracy with lawsuit after lawsuit. But is the RIAA only hurting the music industry's best customers?
According a new study by the BI Norwegian School of Management, those who download music illegally via P2P networks are also more likely to pay for digital downloads. The study pinged more than 1,900 internet users over the age of 15, and according to the study's researchers, those who pirate music also bought a staggering ten times as much legal music than those who steer clear of P2P.
"The most surprising is that the proportion of paid download is so high," said Audun Molde from the Norwegian School of Management.
Not surprisingly, record labels are taking the study with a grain of salt. EMI's Bjørn Rogstad believes there is no way to know for sure whether or not illegal downloads stimulate pay downloads, adding "There is one thing that is not going away, and it is the consumption of music increases, while revenue declines. It can not be explained in any way other than that the illegal downloading is over the legal sale of music."
YouTube, in an effort to continue expanding as a media hub for more than just low quality, user-made content, is trying to hash out a deal with Sony Pictures to secure licensing rights to some of the studio's full-length movies, CNet reports. Such a deal would help YouTube better compete with the likes Hulu, Netflix, and other web video services.
It was just a week ago that YouTube was able to license short-form content from Disney, which also includes Disney brands like ABC and ESPN. But when it comes to feature-length content -- a crucial component if YouTube is to compete with other streaming services -- YouTube has only been able to snag a small number of titles from MGM.
Neither company is commenting on the report, but it's not hard to see why each one would be interested. Sony Pictures acquired streaming video site Crackle in 2006 for a cool $65 million and has since posted a bevy of full-length films on the site. By licensing a handful of flicks to YouTube, Sony would be promoting its Crackle acquistion. And of course it makes sense for YouTube, which was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion three years ago.
Do you think is a good move for either company? Hit the jump and sound off.