Archive for the 'Digital Rights' Category

Apple TV, HDCP, and Good Customer Service

Feb 20, 2008 in Apple, Business, Digital Rights

Jeff Carlson:

I could have simply sacrificed the $4 rental fee and chalked it up as the cost of research, but $4 is also the cost of a pair of double-espressos and is therefore real money. So I did what I imagine few people do: I wrote to Apple. It took a bit of navigating, but ultimately I ended up at a form where I could contact iTunes Store support. I explained my predicament and sent the message into what I expected would be yet another corporate email black hole.

If you read on in Jeff’s post, you’ll see that his message did not go to an “email black hole” and instead resulted in a refund for the rental price and the sales tax.

In the past, I’ve written about both of my iTunes customer service experiences. In both cases, I thought “pff, contact form — I’m never going to hear back about this.” In both cases, I did hear back and, in both cases, Apple resolved the issue to my satisfaction.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t feel compelled to laud Apple for resolving their customer issues in a timely manner — the way Apple approaches customer service is the way all companies should approach customer service. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. There have been plenty of stories about companies screwing customers over with DRM issues and I’m sure most of us have had support emails go unanswered (I’m looking at you, Orangeware).

When Apple first introduced FairPlay, there seemed to be a feeling that Apple’s DRM implementation was an attempt to make the best of sub-optimal situation. It appears that Apple has extended that strategy from the technical arena to the customer support arena.

DRM and Me

Oct 13, 2005 in Digital Rights

Tom Bridge:

iTunes is good for the music business, good for us. The DRM is a something we have to put up with to sleep at night, and for now I’m willing to play by their rules because the content is good, and it has restrictions I can live with. Call me a dupe, or call me a rube, and I’ll ignore you. I’m looking at you, Cory Doctorow.

Nicely put, Tom. Other’s have written similar opinions in the past (I can pull up postings in NetNewsWire from Chuq Von Rospach and Bill Bumgarner without even trying), but Tom’s posting happened to catch my eye when I had the time and inclination to blog it.

I don’t know if Cory Doctorow wrote something to trigger Tom’s post — I stopped reading BoingBoing some time ago because I found myself getting really tired of Cory’s rants.

The majority of content creators aren’t going to allow legal digital distribution of their assets in an unprotected form. All the moaning in the world won’t change this simple fact. As a consumer, I’m content to accept a DRM system that balances the wants and desires of the average consumer with the requirements of the copyright holders.

Do Not Do-Not-Call

Sep 24, 2003 in Digital Rights

The U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City said the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority when it set up the popular anti-telemarketing measure, according to a court decision filed late Tuesday.

Just. Frigging. Wonderful.

Jun 27, 2003 in Digital Rights

The National Do Not Call Registry is now accepting registrations and they’re making it really easy — just go to their web site, type in your phone numbers (up to 3) and email address, and click on a link in the registration emails. If you register August 31, your registration will go into effect on October 1. Otherwise, it’s 3 months from the date of your registration.

Between this and things like number portability, the FCC seems to be doing a decent job of acting in the best interests of the consumer. Now, it’s too bad they don’t have much control over the various entertainment industries…

Yeah, number portability’s cool, but it turns out the FTC, not the FCC, is responsible for the Do Not Call Registry. Oh, and the whole media deregulation thing makes the FCC not cool as well.

Share and Share Alike?

May 13, 2003 in Digital Rights

The RIAA’s form letter sent to Speakeasy last Thursday alleged the site illegally “offers approximately 0 sound files for download. Many of these files contain recordings owned by our member companies, including songs by such artists as Creed.”

Now I’m confused. Guess I better add a Shared Music section to this-here web site… or maybe I’ll just wait for a cease-and-desist letter for not sharing files and hit the RIAA with a multimillion dollar counter-suit for abuse of the legal process.


May 01, 2003 in Digital Rights

Larry Lansing:

The RIAA has reached a settlement [mirror] in the recent lawsuit against four university students (two from RPI). Payments range between $12,000 and $17,000, over the course of three years. What’s a few thousand more, when you’re already leaving school with $20,000 to $30,000 in loans? For all that money, I hope they at least got to keep their MP3 collections.

Maybe the recent ruling in favor of Grokster and StreamCast had something to do with this settlement. To be frank, I know practically nothing about how lawsuits and out-of-court settlements work, so I won’t claim to know all the details. However, I really thought the music industry was going to take no prisoners and use these college students as examples. As much as I would have loved to see the RIAA get its lunch handed to it in court (because I honestly believe maintaining a search engine like Phynd is completely legal), it’s good that these students aren’t being completely destroyed financially.


Apr 26, 2003 in Digital Rights

Martin Schwimmer:

Further rumination: If these networks are legal, and they are competitors of the record companies’ own online ventures, and the record companies authorize agents to flood these networks with bad products, thus damaging the networks to the point where they can’t carry on business…


Apr 25, 2003 in Digital Rights

“Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends,” Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. “Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights.”

Wow, this is great news for software developers in general and possibly a huge boon to the 4 college students being sued by the RIAA.

This is definitely the beginning of a very long road, but it’s nice to see a judge who makes an attempt to understand a technology instead of just buying into the RIAA and MPAA company lines.

RIAA Strikes RPI

Apr 03, 2003 in Digital Rights

Larry Lansing:

Looks like the the shit has hit the fan. The RIAA has sent copyright infringement letters to two RPI students…

Under normal circumstances, this sucks. Since the odds are pretty good that I know one or both of the people involved, it sucks hard. Here’s a prime quote from the RIAA press release:

“These systems are best described as ‘local area Napster networks,'” said Cary Sherman, President, RIAA. “The court ruled that Napster was illegal and shut it down. These systems are just as illegal and operate in just the same manner.

Is the RIAA stupid or do they just not care? I went to RPI and used Phynd — it’s nothing like Napster. Phynd is an SMB search engine that indexes whatever people are sharing. In case you don’t know or have just forgotten, SMB is the protocol used by file sharing in Windows. It’s also available on Unix flavors through SAMBA and is built-in to OS X.

In other words, Phynd did for the campus network what Google does for the Web or newsgroups.

Yes, Phynd did offer to filter searches by file type, but Google does the same thing by with its Image Search.

I generally try to avoid Windows when I’m not at work, but doesn’t it also include network search functionality?

The students who wrote and maintained Phynd didn’t create or maintain the network — the school did. The students didn’t implement the networking protocol — for the most part, Microsoft did.

Another problem with this lawsuit is that projects like this are somewhat encouraged at RPI. It’s an engineering school and has some very entrepreneurial students.

I knew one person who wrote a network search engine and briefly ran it on the RPI network because he wanted to sell the technology to businesses and needed to prove it worked.

I also took an introductory networking course where one of the options on the final exam was “Design a protocol for a distributed file sharing system.” I didn’t have the time to take any advanced or grad level networking courses, but I’d be shocked if at least one of those classes went beyond the “design” phase. has some more on this topic, including some information from Matt Oppenhiem, RIAA Senior Vice President:

All the lawsuits were filed in federal court. The RIAA had not contacted any of the students before filing the suits, Oppenheim said.

Wonderful. If the RIAA had threatened to these students, the services probably would have shut down. It’s not that I encourage these types of strong-arm tactics, but it beats the hell out of seeing a friend get screwed. Instead, a conscious decision was made to use these kids as examples. Thankfully, there are groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, so these kids hopefully won’t be taking on the RIAA by themselves.

Update: Reuters posted a story with the names of the students and Larry has updated his post accordingly. The RPI students are Jesse Jordan and Aaron Sherman. I don’t recognize either name, but that doesn’t make this suck any. I’m pulling for these kids to come out all right.