U.S. ISP Disconnects User after Three-Strikes

September 27, 2010 -

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:

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Defendants, ISPs: D.C. Court Doesn’t Have Jurisdiction in P2P John Doe Case

August 30, 2010 -

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:

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Ex-Eagle Henley Not a Fan of Current Copyright System

August 30, 2010 -

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:

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Blizzard Wins $88M from Girl Operating WOW Private Servers

August 18, 2010 -

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:

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U.S. Govt Okays Jailbreaking and Breaking Game DRM for Investigative Purposes

July 26, 2010 -

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:

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Google Removes Android Tetris Clones

June 3, 2010 -

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.

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MSFT Criminal Compliance Handbook Leaked

February 24, 2010 -

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.

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The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

January 25, 2010 -

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.

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id Ports Nuked Off of Android Market

December 15, 2009 -

id Software and its relatively new parent company ZeniMedia have filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint in order to rid the Android Market of several non-id developed mobile games.

The ports in question were versions of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein. 11 applications in all, including a Doom Soundboard, were targeted for removal. Android and Me has a clip of the fax sent by ZeniMedia to Google.

A developer of Doom for Android noted that Doom is open source, but outlined some of the mistakes he may have made in his release and is attempting to contact ZeniMedia to see if he can make any changes in order to get the app back on the marketplace. He stated:

Although the Doom source code, was open sourced, and the application was based on a port of the PrBoom engine, the application is still suspended.  My mistake was allowing the download of the Plutonia  and TNT WADs, at least that is what I suspect. Although I may not be able to distribute the application through the Market, the APK can still be downloaded and installed through the web.

This YouTube video shows off one of the versions of Doom for Android in action.

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KEI Director Corners USTR on Plane to Discuss ACTA

December 4, 2009 -

Acronyms on a planeThe Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) fortuitously found himself on the same airplane with United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk (pictured left) and used the opportunity to grill Kirk a bit about the lack of transparency surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Kirk told James Love that the ACTA text would be made public “when it is finished," which Love indicated would be too late. Kirk said he was aware that the public was clamoring to see the text, but called the issue of transparency “about as complicated as it can get,” and added that he didn’t want people “walking away from the table,” which he indicated would happen if the text was released.

In response to Love’s insistence that it was untrue that previous intellectual property rights negotiations were normally kept secret, Kirk responded that ACTA was “different” and the topic being discussed were “more complex.”

A pair of U.S. Senators recently called for ACTA text to be made public. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has echoed that sentiment as well.

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EFF Dissects ACTA

November 19, 2009 -

A pair of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Directors penned an article which delves into some of the issues surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations.

The Impact of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on the Knowledge Economy (PDF) was published in the Yale Journal of International Law. Authors Eddan Katz, EFF International Affairs Director, and Gwen Hinze, EFF International Policy Director, call the secret ACTA negotiations a threat “to undermine the balance of IP at the foundation of sustainable innovation and creativity.”

The EFF is concerned as well with the “unprecedented” secrecy around ACTA negotiations. The organization attempted to gain information using freedom of information laws, but only received 159 pages of information, while 1,362 were withheld due to national security concerns.

The U.S. is negotiating ACTA as a sole executive agreement, meaning that agreements “are concluded on the basis of the President’s independent constitutional authority alone.” The authors note that such agreements are not subjected to congressional vote, thus removing “the inter-branch accountability mechanisms essential to balanced policymaking.”

Circumventing the involvement of organizations such as World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), who typically account for “a range of interests” also removes “checks and balances” from ACTA negotiations.

Why should you and I be concerned about ACTA? The EFF has three responses for that question:

…though it was originally portrayed as an agreement to coordinate best practices on border enforcement of physical goods, ACTA will extend to regulation of global Internet traffic.

...implementation of ACTA may require amending U.S. law and upsetting developments in controversial areas of public policy.

…using trade agreements to set global norms for intellectual property enforcement risks distorting national information regulation.

The EFF authors offer the following proposals as ways to improve the transparency and accountability of ACTA:

• Reform trade advisory committees for more diverse representation;
• Strengthen congressional oversight and negotiating objectives;
• Institutionalize transparency guidelines for trade negotiations;
• Implement the State Department’s solicitation of public comments under the Circular 175 procedure


ACTA negotiations are scheduled to resume in January.

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Feds Bust California College Student for Modding Consoles

August 4, 2009 -

A 27-year-old college student arrested yesterday by federal agents is charged with modding video game consoles.

Matthew Lloyd Crippen, who attends Cal State Fullerton, was charged with tweaking systems from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The arrest was made by agents of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reports NBC Los Angeles.

Modifying consoles to circumvent video game copyright protection measures is a federal offense under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The investigation into Crippen's activities came following a complaint by the Entertainment Software Association; the trade group lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers.

Special Agent in Charge Robert Schoch, who heads the ICE office in L.A. commented on the bust:

Playing with games in this way is not a game -- it is criminal. Piracy, counterfeiting and other intellectual property rights violations not only cost U.S. businesses jobs and billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, they can also pose significant health and safety risks to consumers.

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Canadian Government Launches Public Consultation on Copyright

July 23, 2009 -

In Canada, the government has decided to consult with its citizens on copyright issues. To that end, an official site has been launched.

University of Ottawa law proessor Michael Geist, however, sees both opportunity and threat to average Canadians in the new government initiative:

While Canadians can ensure that the government understands that copyright matters and that a balance is needed, some groups will undoubtedly use the consultation to push for a return of a Canadian DMCA like Bill C-61.

 

The recording industry has already said that bill did not go far enough. That means we could see pressure for a Canadian DMCA, a three-strikes and you're out process, and the extension of the term of copyright to eat into the public domain.

Geist has been an outspoken critic of efforts to push U.S.-style copyright restrictions into the Great White North. To help Canadians stay current on copyright issues, the law prof has launched Speak Out on Copyright and has a related Twitter feed.

Via: boingboing

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Faced with White House National Security Claim, Public Interest Groups Drop Information Lawsuit on Secret Copyright Treaty

June 24, 2009 -

For nearly a year GamePolitics has been tracking ATCA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

As we have reported, ACTA deals in large part with copyright issues and is being negotiated in secret by the U.S., Japan, Canada, the EU and other nations. Details of ACTA are largely a mystery to consumers despite the fact that dozens of corporate lobbyists have been clued in to parts of the treaty, including Stevan Mitchell, VP of IP Policy for game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association.

Sadly, consumer interests suffered a major blow last week as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to cast a little sunshine on the ACTA negotiations. The EFF explained that a recent decision by the Obama Administration to claim a national security exemption for the ACTA talks made the lawsuit unwinnable; federal judges have  little leeway to overrule such claims. The move by the Obama White House extends a similar policy put in place by the Bush Administration.

Public Knowledge Deputy Legal Director Sherwin Siy commented on the decision:

Even though we have reluctantly dropped this lawsuit, we will continue to press the U.S. Trade Representative and the Obama Administration on the ACTA issues. The issues are too far-reaching and too important to allow this important agreement to be negotiated behind closed doors.

The worry, of course, is that the United States will emerge from ACTA with a done deal that favors Big IP in the fashion of the consumer-unfriendly DMCA. Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, expressed concerns about ACTA earlier this year:

Because ECA supports the balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the right of copyrighted material consumers, we do not think it wise to include any portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) currently being discussed...    

We are concerned that any DMCA language in ACTA may cause enormous, unforeseen negative implications in US law...

GP: As GamePolitics mentioned above, video game publishers lobbying group the ESA is privy to at least a portion of the secret ACTA negotiations while its industry's customers - video game consumers - are barred from knowing anything at all.

That makes us wonder - will the Video Game Voters Network, which is owned and operated by the ESA, commence a letter-writing campaign on behalf of its gamer-members demanding that the White House pull the curtain back on ACTA?

Somehow we doubt it.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Calls Pirate Bay Case a Win, Slams Canada Over Copyright Issues

June 11, 2009 -

Influential Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) referred to a Swedish court's recent conviction of the operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay as "important" and a "victory." He also reiterated Congressional claims that Canada is a leading copyright violator and pointed with pride to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which he helped pass more than a decade ago.

Hatch, who has served in the Senate for 32 years, made the remarks while addressing the World Copyright Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Utah Senator co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC):

For years, countries like China and Russia have been viewed as providing the least hospitable environments for the protection of intellectual property. But this year, it was particularly disappointing to see that Canada, one of America’s closest trading partners, was listed on the Watch List. This is another sobering reminder of how pervasive and how close to our borders copyright piracy has become in the global IP community...

 

Appallingly, many believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. I have heard some estimates cite no less than 80 percent of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.

That is why the Pirate Bay case is so important. While the decision does not solve the problem of piracy and unauthorized file sharing, it certainly is a legal victory and one that sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. We can and must do more...

 

When we passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, one of my goals was to address the problems caused when copyrighted works are disseminated through the Internet and other electronic transmissions without the authority of the copyright owner.

By establishing clear rules of the road, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act served as the catalyst that has allowed electronic commerce to flourish. I believe the DMCA, while not perfect, has nonetheless played a key role in moving our nation’s copyright law into the digital age...

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group for IP rights holders (the ESA is a member), applauded Hatch's remarks:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) once again was charming, informed, thoughtful and inspiring in his speech. Once again he was a passionate supporter of creators and copyright owners, and told the 500 or so international delegates here that he has been, and always would be, their champion...

Hatch, who last won re-election to the Senate in 2006, has been a regular recipient of campaign donations from the IP industry. A quick check of donations by political action committees shows that Hatch received $7,000 from the RIAA (music industry) between 2004-2006 and $12,640 from the MPAA (movie business) between 1998-2006.

IP Watchdog has the full transcript of Hatch's remarks.

Copyright Lobby Wants Access to K-12 Schools

May 27, 2009 -

We've got DRM in our games, the RIAA continues to sue small-fry, individual file sharers, the consumer-unfriendly Digital Millenium Copyright Act is the law of the land, the IP industry is trying to push DMCA-like legislation in Canada, and the secret ACTA copyright negotiations are ongoing.

But the copyright lobby would like to be in your kid's school, too.

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group which includes game publishers trade association the Entertainment Software Association among its members, has just launched the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation, which it bills as a non-profit, charitable organization:

Its mission as of now is K-12 schools, and... we are already working with many schools across the country... The focus of our curricula is student empowerment; communicating how the U.S. Constitution gives each and every one of us rights and ownership over our creations.

Taking classroom time away from the 3R's is not a new idea for those in the IP protection business, however. As GamePolitics reported in 2007, the ESA's top enforcement exec, Ric Hirsch, told attendees at an anti-piracy conference:

In the 15- to 24-year-old (range), reaching that demographic with morality-based messages is an impossible proposition... which is why we have really focused our efforts on elementary school children. At those ages, children are open to receiving messages, guidelines, rules of the road, if you will, with respect to intellectual property.

DRM in Your Car's Engine

May 20, 2009 -

GamePolitics readers are familiar with the Digital Rights Management controversy which marred the release of Will Wright's long-awaited Spore last year.

But DRM and the consumer-unfriendly Digital Millenium Copyright Act are apparently concerns for drivers as well as gamers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that a proposal before Congress would allow independent auto repair shops to break the DRM which currently locks them out of your car's diagnostic computer:

The Right-To-Repair Act of 2009 (H.R. 2057)... points to a much bigger consumer issue... One underlying legal problem here is the DMCA, which prohibits bypassing or circumventing "technological protection measures..."

And the issue goes beyond the importance of being able to get independent repair and maintenance services. The use of technological "locks" against tinkerers also threatens "user innovation" -- the kinds of innovation that traditionally have come from independent tinkerers -- which has increasingly been recognized as an important part of economic growth and technological improvement...

In short, thanks to the DMCA, we need a Right-To-Repair Act not just for cars, but increasingly for all the things we own.

Via: boing boing

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Canadians Argue Against DMCA-like Law in Mini-Documentary

May 7, 2009 -

The Obama administration slammed Canada last week, adding our northern neighbor to a list of what the office of the U.S. Trade Representative says are nations which fail badly at copyright protection. U.S. media rights holders, including video game publishers' lobbying group ESA, lauded the USTR's addition of Canada to its Priority Watch List.

Some Canadians reacted with anger, claiming the action was driven by America's corporate IP lobby and arguing that Canada should not bow to such consumer-unfriendly pressure.

Via boingboing, we've gotten a look at C-61, a mini-documentary which addresses the Canadian government's so far unsuccessful attempt to pass DMCA-style copyright law.

boingboing's Cory Doctorow, who provided some narration to the film, comments:

A group of Canadian copyfighters produced this mini-documentary, "C-61," about the proposed new Canadian copyright law, which the US government is pressuring Canada to pass (that's why the USA added Canada to a nonsensical list of pirate nations).

 

Previous attempts to pass this bill have been a disgrace -- famously, former Industry Minister Jim Prentice refused to discuss the bill with Canadian record labels, artists, tech firms, or telcos, but did meet with American and multinational entertainment and software giants to allow them to give their input. In the bill's earlier incarnation as C-60, its sponsor, Sam Bulte, was caught taking campaign contributions from the same US and multinational entertainment companies...

ESA Canada Schmoozes Lawmakers with Games, Anti-Piracy Pitch

April 24, 2009 -

When the video game industry makes a lobbying push, it brings along the fun.

Canada.com reports that lawmakers played video games while ESA Canada execs pushed anti-piracy legislation this week at a lobbying event for members of Parliament in Ottowa.:

Conservative MP Mike Lake... took a break from playing the popular video game NHL 09 at the event, to talk about the ESAC's requests [for increased piracy protection].

Lake said the government plans to introduce a copyright bill, but wouldn't say exactly when. "It should happen in this Parliament," he offered.

The MP, whose Edmonton riding includes major game developer BioWare, said the bill is a "priority" for the government, adding the bill, if turned into law, wouldn't just benefit the gaming industry, but the music, movie and television industries also.

ESA Canada has been pushing hard in recent times for a north-of-the-border version of the USA's controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Danielle Parr, executive director of ESA Canada, said:

At the federal level, the primary issue for us... is the protection of intellectual property... We really urge [Parliament] to [pass the legislation] as soon as possible... In Canada, [mod chips] are not illegal. They're illegal in virtually every other country.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation Calls on FTC to Protect Consumers From DRM

February 13, 2009 -

Digital activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has called upon the Federal Trade Commission to mitigate the harm caused to consumers by digital rights management (DRM).

An EFF press release quotes staff attorney Corynne McSherry (left) on the DRM issue:

DRM does not prevent piracy.

 

At this point, DRM seems intended to accomplish a very different purpose: giving some industry leaders unprecedented power to influence the pace and nature of innovation and upsetting the traditional balance between the interests of copyright owners and the interests of the public.

 

The best way to fix the problem is to get rid of DRM on consumer products and reform the [Digital Millenium Copyright Act], but the steps we're suggesting will help protect technology users and future technology innovation in the meantime.

The EFF press release adds:

Industry leaders argue that DRM is necessary to protect sales of digital media, but DRM systems are consistently and routinely broken almost immediately upon their introduction.

The group filed public comments with the FTC in advance of the government agency's Town Hall on DRM, which is scheduled for March 25th in Seattle.

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In Congress, DMCA Reformer Lands Key Subcommittee Chair

January 9, 2009 -

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has been picked to lead an important Congressional subcommittee, and that's good news for game consumers.

As MediaPost reports, Boucher will chair the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. From MediaPost:

As a longtime proponent of consumers' rights to lawfully copy films, books and other material, Boucher is considered a likely opponent of any entertainment industry efforts to restrict the Web. Among other measures, he is likely to oppose attempts to require Internet service providers to filter networks for pirated material.

Boucher also has tried to revamp the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make it more consumer-friendly... Boucher's bill would have specified that the anti-circumvention rules do not apply in certain situations, such as when the purpose of getting around the restrictions was to access a work in order to criticize it or report about it...

In 2002, Boucher authored a strident column extolling the benefits of fair use... Boucher also supports net neutrality initiatives, as does President-elect Barack Obama.

In 2007 the Entertainment Consumers Association endorsed Rep. Boucher's fair use legislation, although the bill ultimately failed to pass.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics

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Hasbro D-R-O-P-S Facebook Scrabulous Lawsuit

December 16, 2008 -

In July, toymaker Hasbro, which owns the rights to the venerable board game Scrabble, filed suit against the publishers of Scrabulous, a Scrabble knockoff accessible via Facebook.

Scrabulous disappeared immediately, thanks to a DMCA take-down order, and EA quickly launched an officially-licensed Scrabble version on the popular social networking site.

The Associated Press is now reporting that Hasbro has dropped its lawsuit against Calcutta-based Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, the brothers who created Scrabulous. From the AP story:

Court documents did not specify a reason for the withdrawal of the case.

RJ Softwares, the Agarwalla brothers' company, said in a statement that it has agreed not to use the term "Scrabulous" and has made changes to different versions of the game it created after the lawsuit was filed...

"The agreement provides people in the U.S. and Canada with a choice of different games and also avoids potentially lengthy and costly litigations," the statement said.

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Harvard Law School vs. RIAA ...Fight!!

December 15, 2008 -

A team from Harvard Law School will square off against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) today in a Rhode Island Federal Court, according to a Harvard Law press release.

Prof. Charles Nesson (left) and a group of law students have taken up the case of Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University grad student targeted by the RIAA. Alleging that Joel file-shared seven songs as a teenager, the RIAA is seeking more than one million dollars from Tenenbaum family. Odly enough, if the same music was purchased on iTunes, the total value would be all of $6.93.

Matt Sanchez, one of law students assisting Prof. Nesson, said:

The basic rules of evidence suggest that this invasion of privacy is both unnecessary and absurd. This hearing isn’t only about Joel’s parents.  It’s also about finally putting up a fight against the recording industry’s intimidation practices.

An except from a case document filed by the Harvard team explains their position:

The [RIAA] is in the process of bringing to bear upon the defendant, Joel Tenenbaum, the full might of its lobbying influence and litigating power. Joel Tenenbaum was a teenager at the time of the alleged copyright infringements, in every way representative of his born-digital generation. The plaintiffs and the RIAA are seeking to punish him beyond any rational measure of the damage he allegedly caused.

 

They do this, not for the purpose of recovering compensation for actual damage caused by Joel’s individual action, nor for the primary purpose of deterring him from further copyright infringement, but for the ulterior purpose of creating an urban legend so frightening to children using computers, and so frightening to parents and teachers of students using computers, that they will somehow reverse the tide of the digital future

Check out Harvard Law's CyberOne blog for more info. There is also a Facebook group in support of Joel Tenenbaum.

GP: While not a video game story, Harvard Law's legal battle against the RIAA's IP ham-handed enforcement tactics have implications for game consumers as well.

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On C-SPAN, ESA's Gallagher Predicts New ESA Members

December 8, 2008 -

On the very same day GamePolitics broke the news that NCsoft had dropped its membership in the Entertainment Software Association, Mike Gallagher, CEO of the game publishers trade association, predicted that new, "exciting" member companies would join the ranks of the ESA.

Gallagher's comments came during an appearance on C-SPAN's The Communicators on Saturday.

Gallagher was interviewed by C-SPAN's Pedro Echevarria along with Mike Musgrove, who often writes about games for the Washington Post.

The half-hour program, which touched on a number of issues, is worth a look. Here are samples of Gallagher's comments:

How the ESA looks at the incoming Obama Administration:

If you look at President-elect Obama's technology platform, he specifically calls out protection of intellectual property overseas, but also protection of intellectual property at home. So, we're encouraged by what we see there. We also just had the PRO-IP act passed which places an intellectual property coordinator in the White House. So, we're very encouraged by that...

Whether the ESA will pursue RIAA-style IP enforcement tactics against consumers:

[Game cosnumers] see great value in paying the price points for the software that we make... We're in a far different position than music... Our companies have seen that threat coming and we've built some protections in. We also have a better value equation with our consumer and with our customer so we look to foster and grow that as our primary means of defeating piracy, making sure it's always worth it to buy the game, as opposed to burning it.

Whether industry self-regulation of its content rating system is working:

It's not me saying it, it's the Federal Trade Commission says it. In May they issued their report which was very strongly in favor of the industry. And then just recently, the National Institute on Media and the Family issued their annual assessment of the industry and gave the ESRB and retailers very high marks...

The future direction of ESA:

You'll continue to see  a strong focus on federal and state policy... In the states, we're seeing tremendous opportunity. Gov. Rick Perry from Texas came to E3, our trade show... he came with the idea of attracting more of our [business]. Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan passed tax incentives to attract our industry...

Gallagher's comments on ESA member companies dropping out:

That was Activision's decision to leave... We have a mission on behalf of this industry that we're going to execute on... We continue to have good communication with [Activision], but we're moving forward. We're going to see some interesting changes this year when it comes to membership. I think we'll be adding some members that will be exciting for ESA as well as the industry... Whether certain companies are in or out or not doesn't really change our focus.

Near the end of the program, Gallagher gets busted doing a bit of subtle anti-Activision lobbying: 

Musgrove: Please give me something I can walk away with here. I know these are both represented companies of yours, but - Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero World Tour? They look kind of the same to me...

 

Gallagher: I've got to come down pretty heavily in favor of Rock Band 2. 84 tracks, it's a great product... Rock Band is really terrific...

 

Musgrove: Oh, wait a minute, Guitar Hero is from Activision and they're not in the ESA right now... (laughs)

 

ESA Denies Pursuing RIAA-style IP Enforcement

December 1, 2008 -

A Slashdot article posted just before the Thanksgiving break speculated that game publishers lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association might be turning to the aggressive, anti-file sharing tactics which have made music industry trade group RIAA infamous.

In response to an inquiry from GamePolitics, however, an ESA spokesman said the organization had not altered its response to piracy issues.

The question arose on Slashdot - and quickly disappeared into the mist of the Thanksgiving holiday - last Tuesday when Slashdot quoted a user named "cavis":

My organization just received an e-mail from the Intellectual Property enforcement division of the [ESA]. It accuses one particular IP address with 'infringing the copyright rights of one or more ESA members by copying and distributing unauthorized copies of game products (through peer-to-peer or similar software/services).' It goes on to name the filename and the application: Limewire. Has anyone had any contact with this group? Are they following the RIAA's lead and pursuing litigation for peer-to-peer piracy? I'm just trying to evaluate what I am in for as I try to battle P2P within my network." ...The [ESA's] letter reads in part...:


The... ESA is authorized to act on behalf of ESA members whose copyright and other intellectual property rights it believes to be infringed as described herein.

Based on the information at its disposal on 24 Nov 2008... ESA has a good faith belief that the subscriber using the [IP address] infringing the copyright rights of one or more ESA members by copying and distributing unauthorized copies of game products (through peer-to-peer or similar software/services), in violation of applicable copyright laws, through internet access that [agency name] provides directly to the [IP address] or through a downstream provider that purchases this access for [IP address].

While Slashdot headlined the article, Entertainment Software Association Following RIAA?, some follow-up comments to the story questioned that interpretation. So GamePolitics put the question directly to the ESA. Ric Hirsch, the lobbying group's Senior VP for IP Enforcement, responded:

Recent press inquiries regarding ESA notices to ISPs about possible online infringements of ESA members’ IP rights have questioned whether these notices represent a new enforcement tactic on the part of ESA.  

 

The ESA has been sending notices to ISPs regarding online infringements for many years, dating back to 2000. In short, this is not a new enforcement mechanism or a new front in our efforts against piracy. Rather, this is an example of the ESA’s ongoing vigilance and proactive work in detecting and deterring illegal activity.

GP: While the ESA's recent selection of a RIAA's former attorney as its general counsel initially fueled speculation that the organization might adopt the RIAA's draconian approach to file-sharing issues, that would not appear to be the case, at least not in this instance. Most notably, there's no apparent demand for a cash settlement in lieu of a lawsuit. And while the full ESA letter is not cited by Slashdot, it appears to be more of a takedown notice than anything else.

We'll update if more info becomes available.

16 comments

Feds' Mod Chip Raid Ended a $2.5 Million Piracy Operation

November 24, 2008 -

A 2007 investigation by Homeland Security agents led them to conclude that a Texas company was raking in as much as $2.5 million per year through the importing and reselling of mod chips obtained from a supplier in China, GamePolitics has learned.

When installed in video game consoles, mod chips allow for the playing of pirated copies of games, but have other more legitimate uses as well. Although they are legal in some countries (Canada, Australia, UK), mod chips are prohibited in the United States under terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

To date, federal law enforcement officials have kept a tight lid on "Operation Tangled Web," their code name for a wide-ranging investigation into mod chip distribution in the United States which culminated in a series of raids in August, 2007. However, a detailed search of publicly-accessible court records by GamePolitics has turned up signed copies of warrants authorizing investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to seize two accounts controlled by a Texas man, identified by investigators as Manuel S. Diaz-Marta of Dallas. The warrants were sworn to by ICE Agent Vaughn Johnson, an asset seizure specialist.

GamePolitics readers may recall that on August 1, 2007, ICE agents raided 32 locations in 16 states, seeking evidence of mod chip distribution. Federal agents received technical assistance in the case from video game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association.

According to the documents obtained by GamePolitics, the investigation into Diaz-Marta began in November, 2006 when ICE Agent William Engel of the agency's Cleveland Field Office made undercover purchases of PlayStation 2 mod chips from www.modchipstore.com. An ICE check of domain registration records showed that the URL was registered to a Dallas company, NonStop Technologies. Feds then traced a money order used to make their undercover purchase and found that it had been deposited into a Wells Fargo Bank account registered to NonStop Technologies and Diaz-Marta. ICE alleges that Diaz-Marta listed his gross annual sales as $1,800,000 on Wells Fargo account application forms. When investigators seized the Wells Fargo account on August 1, 2007 it contained $109,100.55.

ICE also alleges that, between August, 2006 and February, 2007, the Wells Fargo account was used to make forty wire transfers totalling more than $500,000 to Supreme Factory, a Chinese company which federal investigators say is known to them as a distributor of mod chips. During the same time period, more than $1.2 million was deposited into the Wells Fargo account, presumably from mod chip sales within the United States. At that rate, federal investigators calculated that modchipstore.com would have been generating roughly $2.5 million per year in sales.

During the August 1, 2007 raid, investigators searched Diaz-Marta's residence, according to one of the affidavits signed by Agent Johnson. At that time agents discovered more than 100 mod chips as well as invoices from Supreme Factory for additional devices. Agent Johnson estimated that 80% of NonStop Technologies' business derived from mod chip sales, writing in a seizure affidavit:

The business cycle for NonStop Technologies more closely resembles that of a drug dealer than that of a provider of legitimate consumer goods. The sales volume and turnover being conducted by NonStop Technologies is indicative of the sale of a highly sought after and scarce product...

As a result of the search of Diaz-Marta's residence, agents also moved to seize a Scottrade account. No funds were contained in that account, however.

GP: Today's GamePolitics exclusive coverage is the first public indication that 2007's Operation Tangled Web was a major investigative success for the feds, as well as something of a coup for the ESA's anti-piracy team. Heretofore, the only publicly available information on the case has consisted of scattered, largely unofficial reports concerning apparent small-fry who were caught up in the sweep. Now, with evidence of NonStop Technologies' impressive revenue stream and large wire transfers to China, the picture of the investigation has changed considerably.

It is important to point out, however, that no information has been released by the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding potential indictments of anyone involved in the case, including Diaz-Marta. ICE declined GP's request to comment for this story. We should also point out that 31 other places were raided on August 1, 2007. Very little is known so far about what was found at most of those locations.

Document dump:

1.) seizure warrant for Wells Fargo Bank account

2.) seizure warrant for Scottrade account

118 comments

Copyright Lobby Group Adopts Dick Cheney Dialogue Model

November 19, 2008 -

If comments by the head of the Copyright Alliance are any indication of things to come, it's going to be difficult, indeed, for video game consumers to have an intelligent and productive dialogue on IP issues with the video game industry. The ESA, which represents U.S. video game publishers, is a member of the copyright lobbying group.

A portion of a recent blog entry by Copyright Alliance executive director Patrick Ross seeks to marginalize those who would question or criticize the current state of IP law. Ross displays a discouraging mentality reminiscent of the Bush administration's efforts to paint Iraq War critics as soft on national defense.

With elected officials, consumer interest groups and gamers asking legitimate questions about issues like SecuROM DRM, the DMCA, ACTA, PRO-IP, and ownership of user-created content, we were disheartened to read these words from Ross:

Copyright truly is a consensus issue, with people and policymakers of all stripes recognizing its value. A few vocal blogs and a few sympathetic media outlets tend to create this notion of a war between creative industries and, well, I suppose consumers, but such a war doesn’t really exist.

The Copyright Alliance head implies that if one does not get behind IP protection as the content industry sees it, then one is either on the fringe, supportive of piracy, or both. In other words, If you're not with us, you're against us.

That's nonsense.

Honest people don't support piracy. But neither do honest people wish - or deserve - to live in an IP police state where tech-challenged elected officials accept IP industry campaign donations and proceed to pass laws that are heavily, if not completely, slanted toward big business.

Get a clue, Mr. Ross.

Effects of New Federal Anti-Piracy Law Worry ECA's Hal Halpin

November 14, 2008 -

In an interview with The Escapist, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin discusses his worries over the PRO-IP Act, a new piece of anti-piracy legislation signed into law in October:

The PRO IP Act was concerning for us primarily because the wording of the law was so broad and open to interpretation. It also provides intellectual property holders with unusually over-reaching rights and at a time when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) too empowers that same community.

 

I fear that PRO IP and DMCA will drive a wedge between the producer/consumer relationship, one that has served the games business well. I would also hate to see us collectively follow the path [of aggressively suing consumers] that the music industry has followed. In addition to it being a patently bad model, proven unsuccessful by every measure, it's also clearly ineffective. Worrying still is how handily [PRO IP] passed - with broad support from both parties. The fact that the Vice-President Elect continues to be a proud sponsor makes me think that it'll be a bumpy ride... one played out in America's courts, for a long time to come.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, among the provisions of the PRO-IP Act are these consumer-unfriendly gems:

  • increases the penalties for infringement by expanding what is considered a 'work'
  • broadens the ability of the government to permanently seize goods
  • creates an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a new cabinet position whose sole job is to increase intellectual property enforcement.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

16 comments

Columnist Uses Fobidden Mod Chip for Legit Homebrew Gaming

October 27, 2008 -

While the video game industry views the R4 chip as the Devil's work, Darren Gladstone of PC World reports that he used the device to play perfectly legitimate homebrew games on his Nintendo DS.

Darren writes that he bought the R4 on a side street in San Francisco's Chinatown district from a seller who placed an ad on Craigslist:

Why do I feel so dirty? Because Nintendo--and some members of the media--tell me to feel that way...

I'm no pirate! I support the guys who make my games! ...But the R4 isn't just the key to pirate booty. The homebrew community has latched onto this elusive, illicit device too. Yes, some unsavory sorts pirate software, but indie game designers are crafting their own DS software and sharing it freely with the world. Sudoku puzzles. "Choose Your Own Adventure"-type "books." Legal emulators for freeware adventure games, such as ScummVM. Arcade-worthy shooting games. Heck, folks have even made Web browsers, photo viewers, MP3 players, and e-book readers.

That brings me back to my "dark deed": I bought an R4--not to pilfer games illegally, but to try incredible indie projects...

Darren proceeds to list some of the great (and free) homebrew titles he enjoyed, courtesy of his R4, but points out that Nintendo and 54 other companies are suing the maker of the R4 in a Japanese court. Tom Buscaglia - aka The Game Attorney - told Darren:

U.S. copyright laws have become more and more aggressive over the years. Not only is piracy illegal, but creating and selling a technology that facilitates piracy is also outlawed here... It's sad that some developers will end up being deprived of the opportunity to release innovative little games on an open DS platform...

 

I'm torn on it, to be honest, because I'm all for the innovation and inspiration of the independent developers. The sad truth is that they don't have the resources to become certified developers.... But you can't really blame Nintendo for protecting its revenue stream.


28 comments

McCain Voted for DMCA, Now Feeling its Bite

October 16, 2008 -

A decade ago, John McCain, senator from Arizona, voted for passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

These days, John McCain, Republican presidential candidate, is feeling its sting. That's because the DMCA is heavily weighted in favor of content rights holders, often at the expense of everyday content users - like the McCain campaign.

As Wired's Threat Level blog reports, YouTube has turned down a request from McCain's people to take a closer look at fair use issues before yanking their videos at the request of DMCA take-down notices. From Wired:

The McCain campaign on Monday fired off a letter to YouTube complaining that the company had acted too quickly to take down McCain's videos in response to copyright infringement notices. McCain campaign general counsel Trevor Potter argued that several of the removed ads, which had used excerpts of television footage, fall under the four-factor doctrine of fair-use, and shouldn't have been removed.

 

But citing the DMCA, a controversial copyright law that McCain voted to approve a decade ago, Levine pointed out that YouTube risks being sued itself if it doesn't respond promptly to takedown notices.

By way of example, Cnet reports that YouTube has taken down McCain videos at the request of CBS and Fox because they included clips from on-air interviews.

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quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldEZacharyKnight : Lemme ask you a question. We have people who cling to walls, people who fire lasers from their eyes, people who can shapeshift....and yet fabric needs to be upheld to RL physics?09/17/2014 - 6:54pm
james_fudgebody paint?09/17/2014 - 5:33pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I stand corrected on the buttcrack thing. Still, I know of no fabric that actually does that.09/17/2014 - 5:05pm
Andrew EisenSo... it's unethical to discuss the ethics surrounding public interest vs. personal privacy?09/17/2014 - 4:45pm
prh99The source for the game was just released not long ago, it's at https://github.com/keendreams/keen09/17/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99An Indiegogo champagin bought the rights to the early 90's game Keen Dreams to make it open source and release it on GOG etc. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-keen-dreams-re-released-legally09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
james_fudgeAlso http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/09/17/Exposed-the-secret-mailing-list-of-the-gaming-journalism-elite09/17/2014 - 4:29pm
Andrew EisenI read the Kotaku story. Nowhere does it say anything close to "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers." It's commenting specifically on the crap being slung at people discussing gender issues in games. So, what's the problem?09/17/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenYeah, I can imagine Spiderwoman posed like in your second link.09/17/2014 - 4:00pm
Andrew EisenThat's not the same pose. Spiderman (who is wearing an actual outfit rather than body paint) is crouched low to the ground. Kinda like a spider! Spiderwoman has her butt up in the air like she's waiting to be mounted.09/17/2014 - 3:59pm
quiknkoldAndrew Eisen : Kotaku did a whiole article on it, as did others http://kotaku.com/we-might-be-witnessing-the-death-of-an-identity-162820307909/17/2014 - 3:59pm
CMinerQuiknkold: Do you think that there are no cases where a piece of art (painting, movie, videogame, comic cover, etc) is unambiguously sexist?09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
quiknkoldand can you imagine if Spiderwoman was posed like this? http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/spider-man1.jpg09/17/2014 - 3:58pm
Andrew EisenWhat games outlet is writing articles saying "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers"? What examples have you seen of journalists being paid off for favorable reviews? Who's shaming what now? What's the problem with critiquing the Spiderwoman cover?09/17/2014 - 3:57pm
 

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