Finally members of Congress have put forth serious DMCA reform legislation and rights groups are praising it right out of the gate. The new legislation is called the "Unlocking Technology Act of 2013," and is sponsored by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO). The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 legalizes unlocking cell phone unlocking and modifies the DMCA so that unlocking copy-protected content is only illegal if it's done in order to "facilitate the infringement of a copyright."
A letter signed by 33 organizations and nine individuals asks the top ranking lawmakers in the House of Representatives (Reps. Bob Goodlatte and John Conyers) and the United States Senate (Sens. Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley) to make an exception for unlocking electronic devices to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Recently a petition signed by over 110,000 Americans asked President Barack Obama's administration to make the same exception.
Earlier in the week reported on a petition over at WhiteHouse.gov asking the administration to direct the Librarian of Congress to rescind the October 2012 decision that removed unlocking mobile phones (commonly referred to as jailbreaking) as an exception to the DMCA. The petition went on to ask the White House - if it could not compel the Librarian of Congress to change that decision - to champion a bill that makes unlocking phones permanently legal.
In a bizarre move, Kickstarter issued a message to backers of the Android-based high definition console, the Game Stick. The crowd-funding site told backers that the device, which has already been fully-funded and is working on stretch goals, had become the subject of an intellectual property dispute. Because of this Kickstarter said that - under the law - it was required to remove the project from the "public view" during the dispute process. They said at the time that if they could not put the project back up within 30 days than the Kickstarter campaign would be cancelled.
Normally we would ignore what's going on at Twitter (not because we don't care but because the daily machinations of the service have no bearing within these pages), but a change in policy is of particular interest - mainly in how it might relate to current and future cybersecurity bills - like CISPA, PROTECT IT, and the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. Like Google, Twitter has decided to disclose how often the U.S. government asks for information on a user or issues a DMCA takedown via what they call a new "transparency tool."
Microsoft is doing its best to erase a 56-page document detailing its plans for the "Xbox 720" off the Internet with a series of DMCA takedowns. The lengthy document was leaked onto the Internet over the weekend, and offered a glimpse into some of the things Microsoft might have planned for its next-generation system. If there was any doubt as to the document's authenticity these series of DMCA takedowns prove that Microsoft cares about it being read.
Four years ago, Game Politics broke the news that the US government performed raids on mod chip sellers in a program they called "Operation Tangled Web". During this program, ICE agents ran sting operations and raids on more than 32 locations in 16 states. At the time, there was little information and no official indictments of those running mod chip operations. Since then, no new information has been released, until now.
Video game console makers Microsoft and Sony are squaring off against enthusiast hackers, academics, and organizations such as the EFF who would like to make the act of jailbreaking legal. There is already an exception in place that allows the iPhone to be jailbroken, so supporters of gaining similar allowances for the Xbox 360 and PS3 are urging the U.S. Copyright Office to make these exceptions. The copyright office is currently accepting public input comments on the subject until Friday, and will likely make a decision soon shortly thereafter.
The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has resubmitted a revision of the Canadian digital copyright law (C-11) to Parliament. The bill is being described by Canadian media as pretty much the same as the previous bill submitted by Harper's government the last time. This time the bill will probably pass.
This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a brief in support of videogame accessory company Datel, which accused Microsoft of using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to take down the competition in the Xbox 360 memory card market.
Microsoft filed a lawsuit in May alleging that Datel's SD-card-based memory cards violate the DMCA's provision against "technologies that can circumvent digital protections," adding that they could possibly be used to change gamer profiles and manually change Xbox Live Achievements. The EFF legal brief argues that the DMCA provision being used by Microsoft was intended to prevent piracy and copyright infringement, and not to block competitors who want to sell compatible products.
In what has been described by some in the Ultima community as a travesty, EA has used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take down several downloads of Ultima IV. This disruption has affected a number of Ultima IV-related projects including the ultra popular xu4, as well as the Ultima IV Sega Master System emulation from Master System 8 and the IBM-PC port at Phi Psi Software.
One of my all-time favorite Ultima sites, Ultima Aiera, also removed links to many Ultima IV-related projects. The move has incensed Ultima IV fans who thought the game was released as freeware a long time ago. While the game was offered for free thanks to some sites getting permission from Origin Systems a long time ago, EA still owns the rights to the game and can do what they want with it.
In new court documents filed by PS3 jailbreaker George Hotz's attorney, Stewart Kellar, asked that the court ignore recent SCEA filings that make claims about Hotz "running to South America," owning a PlayStation Network account, and deliberately removing data from hard drives submitted to a third-party for inspection by the court. Kellar also asked the court to deny SCEA jurisdiction in California.
A Commons committee has recommended the current Canadian government be found in contempt of Parliament, but the ruling party, Conservatives, have a chance of a historic censure if a vote on the budget or other events launch an election first.
The Commons procedure and house affairs committee tabled a majority report Monday concluding that the government is "in contempt" for continually refusing to disclose information about the cost of several major legislative items. They are referring to documents related to the cost of several items including its law-and-order agenda, corporate tax cuts and a plan to buy stealth combat jets. All of the opposition members of Parliament on the committee voted to condemn the government for withholding the requested documents without giving "adequate reasons" for doing so.
An episode of The People's Court litigates a case involving Wii copyright infringement, piracy, and mod chips. But the case isn't really about all that - it's about a guy that wants a couple of hundred bucks over a modding deal gone sour. The judge, the plaintiff and the defendant never grasp the fact that something very illegal is going on here. Luckily for Nintendo, everyone's name is splashed on the screen for more dramatic litigation down the road - should they find out. We have a feeling they probably will..
And frankly, these two guys get what they deserve for going on a nationally syndicated show to fight each other over both committing multiple DMCA violations. Watch the video, be amazed at the stupidity. Thanks to Andrew Eisen's nameless friend who passed this hilarious video along.
Here is a fun little year-end wrap-up from TorrentFreak about the Top 20 DMCA Cease and Desist Senders of 2010. As a rule of thumb DMCA notices are sent in bulk and dozens are sent on a monthly basis. Using data from ChillingEffects (a clearing house for such orders), TorrentFreak found that 12,000 cease and desist notices were issued in 2010.
According to ChillingEffects stats, IFPI, who represents the international music industry, issued the most DMCA takedown notices in the last 12 months. A total of 1272 were sent to various sites. While that might not seem like a lot, many of these notices contained multiple URLs.
In second place was Clube do Hardware, the largest site in South America to publish tutorials, articles and news on computer hardware. That site issued 303 complaints.
Indie developer Eric Ruth's 8-bit de-make of DJ Hero, Pixel Force DJ Hero, has been taken down after he received a Cease and Desist letter from Universal Music Publishing Group, Joystiq reports.
A rundown of the entire ordeal between Eric and Jerrold Grannis (representing Universal Music Publishing) unfolds for your pleasure at PikiGeek, but here is the best exchange. First, here is Eric:
An interesting submission in Slashdot's "Ask Slashdot" section solicits the help of commenters on a DMCA takedown notice for an Android game called "Super Pac."
The developer asks the community what he should do because Namco sent a DMCA takedown notice to him, which in turn got his Pac-Man-like Android title pulled from Google’s Android marketplace. Now he can't sell his game and doesn't know what to do. Here is the question:
First a description of the game from its offficial web site:
Federal Prosecutors in the nation’s first jury trial to test the anti-circumvention provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act abruptly asked that the case be dismissed today. Today's news comes on the heels of a tumultuous day in Federal Court yesterday. The presiding judge berated prosecutors for a litany of holes and contradictions in the government's case. The judge's strong words caused the prosecution to take a recess to decide whether to even bother to continue. They decided to forge ahead, and watched as their first witness ruined the case.
28-year-old Matthew Crippen will be on trial in late November for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by allegedly running a business modding Xbox 360 consoles.
Andrew Huang, who literally wrote the book on Xbox modding, wants to testify at Crippen’s trial that mod-chipping is not a violation of the DMCA, a law which makes it illegal to circumvent technology designed to prevent copyright infringement. Huang’s strategy is to give jurors a step-by-step tutorial on console modding to show that “what [Crippen] did was insufficient on his own to violate anything.”
While it sounds like something that might emerge from France’s Hadopi law, a suspected copyright infringer had his account suspended for six months by his Internet service provider in the United States.
According to TorrentFreak, a customer of the ISP Suddenlink had his account deactivated after a trio of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices of copyright violations. In a chat log posted on the site the affected customer is arguing with a Suddenlink representative, who implied that the DMCA forces such a disconnection, though that comment was quickly amended to, “It may be the DMCA policy or it may be the way we go about following the DMCA guidelines.”
As TorrentFreak notes, “The DMCA does not and never has required ISPs to disconnect users.” A phrase used in Suddenlink’s Terms of Service agreement does not mention a three-strike policy per se, but alludes to what might happen if copyright laws were broached:
As a court case in the District of Columbia court against 14,000 "john doe" defendants filed by the US Copyright Group over file sharing movies continues, increasingly defendants and ISPs are saying that the court has no jurisdiction over them.
One John Doe defendant in the D.C. case sent a letter to the court saying that he has never traded files, nor lived, used an ISP, or worked in the D.C area and that adding him as a defendant is improper because he has nothing in common with the "co-defendants." Here's what he wrote to the court:
Just a few weeks after settling a copyright infringement against California Republican senatorial candidate Chuck DeVore, musician Don Henley lashed out at the current state of copyright laws in the U.S.
Henley settled his lawsuit over the unauthorized use of two songs— All She Wants to Do Is Dance and The Boys of Summer— with DeVore for an undisclosed amount of money. DeVore had claimed that the versions he used were parodies, but a judge ruled that the politician’s use did infringe on Henley’s copyrights.
The whole situation must have soured Henley. When asked by Rolling Stone what needs to be changed about U.S. enforcement of copyright, Henley answered:
In case you missed it, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard recently scored a whopping $88,594,539 judgment against a company that was operating and charging players to access World of Warcraft emulator servers.
The ruling was handed down on August 10 by the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California and targeted Alyson Reeves, who was operating under the business name of ScapeGaming. The huge dollar figure was calculated by combining the $3,052,339 the defendant received from users of her service via Paypal, statutory damages of $85,478,600 (calculated by multiplying ScapeGaming’s 427,393 users times the statutory minimum of $200 per “act of circumvention and/or performance of service”) and another $63,600 in attorney’s fees.
Additionally, if Reeves has trouble paying, she will see post-judgment interest accumulate at the “rate provided by law” until the entire sum is recovered.
Court documents reveal that up to 32,000 players were using the organization’s servers each day.
A statement from Blizzard on its victory read:
The Library of Congress’ Copyright Office looks into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) every three years in order to ensure that its harms are “mitigated.” The latest such inquiry has led to the establishment of legal protections for those who choose to jailbreak their cell phones, as well as for those who break protections on videogames in order to “investigate or correct security flaws.”
An AP story stated that the triennial investigation offers exemptions to the DMCA in order to “ensure that existing law does not prevent non-infringing use of copyrighted material.”
Other exemptions handed down included:
Google joins the BAN-wagon with Apple in removing Tetris-like games from its Android app store, according to Ars. The Tetris Company, which handles licensing for the popular franchise created by Alexei Pajitnov, has sent a DMCA takedown to Google, who in turn has eliminated all Teris-like games from its store.
35 Tetris-like games have been removed from the Android market - even though many of them didn't use any art or knock off names that might trick users into thinking the games were the "real deal."
Tetris Company's challenge to these games, according to ARS, is that they "infringe on the game's trade dress, which is protected under the Lanham Act" (see bitlaw.com for the actual law). Trade dress relates to the "likeness of a product" and deals with copy cat products that might be confused with the real product.
The official game created by EA sucks, says Ars. I'll take their word for it.
The release of an internal Microsoft document, which details how the software giant stores information and the ways in which law enforcement members can access it, has drawn the wrath of Redmond.
As detailed on GeekOSystem.com, the document, entitled Global Criminal Compliance Handbook, and dated March, 2008, was originally posted by the whistleblower website Cryptome. Microsoft reacted quickly, claiming that the document was copyright material under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and the offending content, and indeed, the whole website, was taken down swiftly.
Fortunately, BusinessInsider decided to host the PDF on its website for anyone interested in viewing it. The document is a version for U.S. law enforcement officials, and pertains to Microsoft’s online services such as Windows Live, Windows Live ID Windows Live Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox Live.
Cryptome editor John Young detailed what he found most distasteful in the document:
Most repugnant in the MS guide was its improper use of copyright to conceal from its customer violations of trust toward its customers. Copyright law is not intended for confidentiality purposes, although firms try that to save legal fees. Copyright bluffs have become quite common, as the EFF initiative against such bluffs demonstrates.
Second most repugnant is the craven way the programs are described to ease law enforcement grab of data. This information would also be equally useful to customers to protect themselves when Microsoft cannot due to its legal obligations under CALEA.
For Xbox 360 users who have registered on Xbox Live with a credit card, Microsoft collects and stores your: date of birth, name, e-mail address, physical address, telephone number, credit card number, type of credit card, credit card expiration and Microsoft Passport.
Xbox Live users will have their registration and IP connection history recorded “for the life of the gamertag account.” Also collected, and stored, is the Xbox’s serial number (if it was registered online).
Law enforcement officials armed with a subpoena can grab “basic subscriber information,” such as name, address, screen names, IP address, IP logs, billing info and email content “more than 180 days old.”
A court order results in “disclosure of all of the basic subscriber information available under a subpoena plus the e-mail address book, Messenger contact lists, the rest of a customer’s profile not already listed above, internet usage logs and e-mail header information (to/from) excluding subject line.”
Search warrants allow law enforcement members to access emails in electronic storage 180 days or less.
The Cryptome site has since returned on a different domain and posted the full email trail from Microsoft and Network Solutions that led to the original site being shuttered.
Attorney Mona Ibrahim has published an analysis of the legal implications involved in reverse-engineering games.
The article follows a hypothetical game developer who is frustrated that her favorite game has poor server support, so she reverse-engineers the network protocols to create a private, lag-free server. The concept isn't so far-fetched: guides on how to create a private World of Warcraft server abound and some reverse-engineered games, like SWGEmu have gained quite a bit of attention.
Ibrahim's article outlines the various laws and doctrines that come into play with reverse-engineering, from the Copyright Act to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and provides practical examples of where enterprising coders can go wrong.
For instance, regarding the DMCA, Ibrahim notes:
If Mallory's new server doesn't provide the same safeguards that control access to the original game servers (like a CD key or a version verification protocol), then her own server is circumventing access controls to the online component of the game. Therefore, by distributing the program, means (such as DIY instructions), or code to access servers that don't use the game's original access controls, she would be violating the anti-circumvention provision.
The article concludes that while reverse engineering itself is not illegal, it does run a gauntlet of legal issues and that "[t]his isn't the type of project you want to pursue if you're risk averse".
Dan Rosenthal is a legal analyst for the games industry.