Importance


July 16, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #6 - Legos

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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and Hatch's Hit List Archives.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: Legos

It's Friday. So, I thought Hatch's Hit List could be a little more lighthearted. And what is more lighthearted than showing how the INDUCE Act could be used to sue a maker of children's toys?

Legos are a very cool, educational toy. Who doesn't like legos? They rock. And they're not just for kids; plenty of adults use legos to do some pretty amazing things, which Lego sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly supports. Unfortunately, many of these amazing things violate copyright, which makes the Lego company an inducer of copyright infringement.

Take for example Lego Mosaics, which would be derivative works of the original image. Lego will let you upload a picture file and then, using their Brick-o-Lizer, let you create a custom Lego mosaic from the photo. The next step is for Lego to ship you the custom kit, after you pay them $29.95 (aka commercial viablity). And this is what Lego has to say about the photos:

You can upload any .jpg or .gif file into the Brick-o-Lizer. You can use a scanner or a digital camera to get a picture into your computer to use with the Brick-o-Lizer..." [emphasis added]
Sure, there is a copyright disclaimer you have to "agree" to before you can use the Brick-o-Lizer but, please. The site is clearly geared towards children. Like kids understand lawyerese. This is just one of those phony warnings like the P2P companies use.

Even worse are the sample photos the Brick-o-Lizer lets you play with. They are all professional photos that no child could take. Clearly, the examples are telling kids that it is okay to use professional photos (aka copyrighted ones) with the Brick-o-Lizer.

And it is not only the Lego company; there are free versions of the Brick-o-Lizer available on the internet, such the Lego Users Group Network's Mosaic Maker. Any copyright warnings there? Nooooo....

And what about all those unauthorized derivative work Lego movies on the net at places like BrickFilms? What inspired induced those do you think? Might they have been inspired induced by Lego Comics and Movies?

Yeah, the Lego company is going to have a lot to answer for if the INDUCE Act becomes law.

Want to know more about the INDUCE Act?
Please see LawMeme's well-organized index to everything I've written on the topic, including Hatch's Hit List: The LawMeme Reader's Guide to Ernie Miller's Guide to the INDUCE Act.

July 15, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #5 - Automatic Online Translators

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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and the INDUCE Act Archives.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: Automatic Online Translators with a tip o' the virtual hat to Matt Perkins.

Translations are derivative works. The making of derivative works is one of the exclusive rights in copyright (17 USC 106(2), to be precise). Therefore, making unauthorized translations is an infringement of copyright. Under the INDUCE Act, if you intentionally induce someone to infringe copyright, you are liable.

Ever do a search on Google and some of the results weren't in English? Notice that little "Translate this Page" next to the link? Yeah, that's an inducement. Google is practically begging you to create a derivative work. They do everything for you (aka aid and abet) except click the "Translate this" link. And let us not forget the ease of use of Altavista's Babelfish Translation.

It's crazy, but not only are there no copyright warnings on the translation home pages, but there aren't any copyright warnings on either Google's Translation FAQ or Babelfish's Help Page. But what can you expect from such blatant copyright scofflaws? This is clearly an open and shut INDUCE case. And let us not forget that both Google and Altavista have deep pockets to pay off a juicy lawsuit. (Ooops, I wasn't supposed to write that out loud.)

Seriously, this is actually a very good example of why the INDUCE Act is bad law.

Under existing copyright law doctrine, automatic online translators like Google and Babelfish have some very good defenses. For example, although one could make a prima facie case that both are guilty of direct infringement, the RTC v. Netcom decision would likely protect both. In Netcom, a BBS operator was held not liable for direct infringement basically because their system of uploading files was automatic and directed by third parties. A similar argument would protect automatic online translators as well, I think.

Secondary liability (contributory and vicarious) would also not be an issue here. There is no real way for Google or Babelfish to control how their system is used to translate webpages and text without simply shutting them down, and there is clear evidence of substantial non-infringing uses.

However, the INDUCE Act changes all this. The evidence is blatantly obvious that both Google and Babelfish encourage the creation of translations (aka derivative works). They had to have known that they were encouraging copyright infringement. I don't see how a "reasonable man" could believe otherwise.

I know that I'll be keeping copies of my referrer logs. Sto parlandovi, lettori in Italia!

July 14, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #4 - Arcade Emulators

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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and the INDUCE Act Archives.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: Arcade Emulators

Some of the first examples I've used for Hatch's Hit List may have seemed a little obscure or out of the mainstream. Well, today I offer an obvious example of something certain to draw lawsuit wrath: the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME).

For those unfamiliar with MAME (and you should be ashamed of yourselves) the MAME FAQ has this to say:

MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. When used in conjunction with an arcade game's data files (ROMs), MAME will more or less faithfully reproduce that game on a PC. MAME can currently emulate over 2600 unique (and over 4600 in total) classic arcade video games from the three decades of video games - '70s, '80s and '90s, and some from the current millennium.

The ROM images that MAME utilizes are "dumped" from arcade games' original circuit-board ROM chips. MAME becomes the "hardware" for the games, taking the place of their original CPUs and support chips. Therefore, these games are NOT simulations, but the actual, original games that appeared in arcades.

You see, that is the tricky thing about MAME. The emulator is separate from the ROMS (which are copyrighted). Let's go back to the FAQ:
Emulating another platform, in itself, is NOT illegal. It is NOT illegal to have MAME on your computer, on your website, or to give it to friends.

ROM images are a different matter. Many ROM sites have been politely contacted by ROM copyright-owners and asked to take images offline. At the time of this writing, however, no site has been LEGALLY shut down, or prosecuted. [bold in original]

Sneaky, sneaky. The FAQ even goes on to say that:
"Distribution of MAME on the same physical medium as illegal copies of ROM images is strictly forbidden. You are not allowed to distribute MAME in any form if you sell, advertise, or publicize illegal CD-ROMs or other media containing ROM images. This restriction applies even if you don't make money, directly or indirectly, from those activities. You are allowed to make ROMs and MAME available for download on the same website, but only if you warn users about the ROMs's copyright status, and make it clear that users must not download ROMs unless they are legally entitled to do so." [italics in original]
Thus, MAME is perfectly legal under current copyright secondary liability doctrine.

But, come on, we all know that MAME is really about pirating Arcade games. Don't take my word for it, here's an admission from the videogame blog Joystiq (Emulator scene is our guilty pleasure):

It’s with a great amount of shame that we must admit that the emulator scene is swiftly becoming a guilty pleasure. Just like the music downloads we’ve all enjoyed once, twice or thrice, the old games of yesteryear can find new life on your PC. The rules of the emulator community dictate that you must own a copy of the game before you can download its emulation, but we all know that doesn’t happen. Where the hell would I put the full Star Wars arcade game? I live in a 900 square foot apartment! How dare they demand such a thing from me! As punishment I shall now download Donkey Kong! [emphasis added]
Seriously. Let's compare how many copies of MAME have been downloaded vs. the estimated number of actual arcade games out there. Anyone can see that MAME intends people to download ROMs no matter what their "disclaimer" says. Heck, if a disclaimer was all you needed to avoid liability, the INDUCE Act wouldn't be worth the paper it's written on, would it? And take a look at the FAQ again about getting ROMS:
The illegal option is to search the net with Google, Altavista, Yahoo, Webcrawler or other search engine, for the ROM files. You can also try other methods such as IRC, newsgroups, P2P software etc. Be aware that this is breaking the laws of almost every country. Before you consider doing this, see if the particular arcade games' copyright-owner has the ROMs available (as with Capcom and Atari). That way you will support the companies that support emulation.
Inducement, definitely.

And these old games are still worth money. Go into any videogame store and you'll see collections of classics still available. As this article from the Rocky Mountain News shows, millions of dollars are at stake (Retro's the name of the game for a new generation of videophiles).

If the Hatch Act passes, goodbye MAME, it was wonderful knowing you.

July 13, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #3 - AM/FM Transmitters

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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: AM/FM Transmitters

Another of the points that I want to emphasize with Hatch's Hit List is that inducement is not simply limited to the right of reproduction or making copies, but you can get in trouble for inducing actions that violate any of the the exclusive rights in 17 USC 106. Today's technology is an example of a device that can induce public performance.

Ramsey Electronics is a very cool company that provides all sorts of neat electronics equipment and kits for hobbyists and professionals. This isn't gear that you just order and pull out of the box in operating condition, but a lot of the time you're going to have to spend several hours with a soldering iron and testing rig to put it together.

Some of their most popular kits are AM/FM transmitters that you can use at home. Basically, its like running a very low power radio station. Once built, all you have to do is plug it in and insert a stereo jack connected to an audio source. Bingo! You're broadcasting.

Why would you want to? According to the website:

Unless you have a whole house sound system installed, you listen to your CD’s etc. in the room where your stereo is. If your house is like mine, sometimes “Mom” wants to watch the TV when you want music. An FM broadcaster connects directly to the line output from your CD player/changer, or to one of the tape-out connections on your receiver. It then broadcasts to any FM radio in your house or yard. Depending on the model you choose and your location, range is 1/4 mile or more under optimum conditions.
You know, they actually work pretty good. I built one that my brother uses at his home. It is connected to the stereo out of his PC's soundcard and now he can listen to his MP3s on his shower radio in the morning or from the boombox in his gym/garage. But then again, so can the neighbors, which makes it a public performance.

In fact I must say that Ramsey is encouraging public performance. From the description of the FM10C model (the type my brother has):

Here is a great entry-level kit that will teach the basics of FM Broadcast Transmission while finding many uses around the home or dorm room. [Why do you need to broadcast in a dorm room unless you plan to broadcast to the entire dorm?] The FM10C has plenty of power to cover your home, back yard, or city block. [City block ... the copyright lawyers smile.] Our manual goes into great detail outlining all the aspects of antennas, transmitting range and the FCC rules and regulations. [Ah, but the manual doesn't talk about copyright law. Pity that.] You’ll be amazed at the exceptional audio quality of the FM10C...Re-broadcast your favorite music commercial free and with the dynamic range the musician intended, without all that nasty compression the big boys use to make their station sound louder than the competition. ["Favorite music" certainly refers to copyrighted works. This is clearly inducement to public performance.]
Betcha Ramsey Electronics isn't thinking about the secondary copyright liability they may be setting themselves up for here.

Of course, this particular example may seem far removed from your home, but perhaps not for long. How much different is WiFi from FM transmitting? Won't everything have WiFi? Wouldn't it be cool if it did? Well, those sponsoring the INDUCE Act probably don't think so.

July 12, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #2 - 3D Printers

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What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List.

Today on Hatch's Hit List: 3D Printers

One of the points that I want to emphasize with Hatch's Hit List is the effect it will have on nascent technologies; those technologies that are just around the corner. It is precisely these devices and the innovation they represent that are most vulnerable to Hatch's law. These are new technologies that usually lack significant monetary backing to fight massive copyright lawsuits. They are not yet well-established so that people can immediately see their benefit. For example, anyone who uses a TiVo realizes what a revolutionary device it is. Those who haven't used one often think they are nothing more than a glorified VCR. In other words, nascent technologies are frequently technologies that we don't realize we need yet and would be easily crushed by INDUCE Act lawsuits.

3D printers are a perfect example of this sort of technology. They seem to be making a great deal of progress and there is a good probability that they will eventually reach the consumer market. See, for example, New USC Process Offers Faster, Cheaper 3D Printouts, 'Gadget printer' promises industrial revolution, and Entering the Era of Printable Devices?. 3D printers may revolutionize our lives in ways we can't imagine (or they may not, but that's not the point).

When 3D printers first reach the consumer market, what are they frequently going to be used for? Copyright infringement, of course. Very few people will ever master the skills to create even a basic CAD/CAM design. So the designs for the items their brand-new 3D printer will create will have to come from somewhere. Since the 3D printer market will initially be small, it is unlikely that there will be all that many companies selling designs. Infringement will be the obvious source for 3D printer designs. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to print out a collection of bootleg Garfield figurines if they could? I don't even want to think about the headaches this would cause eBay.

You can justify 2D printers with claims that people will write their own papers or print their own photographs. You can't say the same for consumer-grade 3D printers and, thus, they will surely induce people to infringe copyrighted designs, which means that Hatch's law will make them effectively illegal (at least for consumers).

July 09, 2004

Introducing Hatch's Hit List

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When the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) first became news it was disparagingly (and rightfully so) compared to an infamous bill from 2002, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Protection Act aka CBDTPA aka Hollings Bill (after the Senator who sponsored it) (INDUCE Act = Son of Hollings?). One of the most clever attacks on the CBDTPA was a little thing Ed Felten came up with on Freedom to Tinker: Fritz's Hit List. What was Fritz's Hit List? Well, the name came from Sen. "Fritz" Hollings. More importantly though and in Felten's own words (New Feature: Fritz's Hit List):

Most readers have probably heard me, or someone like me, say that the Hollings CBDTPA has far-reaching effects -- that it would regulate virtually all digital devices, including many that have nothing at all to do with copyright infringement. Though this argument is right, it is too abstract to capture the full absurdity of the CBDTPA's scope.

To foster reasoned debate on this topic, I'm inaugurating a new daily feature here at freedom-to-tinker.com, called "Fritz's Hit List." Each entry will give an actual example of a device that would meet the CBDTPA's definition of "digital media device" and would thereby fall under the heavy hand of CBDTPA regulation.

I'll post a new example every weekday for as long as I can keep it up. Please email me if you want to suggest an example. (I have plenty of good ones in the queue already, but your suggestions may be better than mine.)

Well, I think the far-reaching effects of the INDUCE Act are worthy of similar treatment. So, starting today, I will endeavor to post every weekday an example of a nascent technology that can be quashed by the INDUCE Act. Of course, "Orrin's Hit List" doesn't quite roll off the tongue, thus "Hatch's Hit List." As with Fritz's Hit List, please email me (ernest.miller 8T aya.yale.edu) with suggestions. Read on...

UPDATE
The entire list can be found here: Hatch's Hit List

Hatch's Hit List #1: WiFi Car Stereos

Ford has released the first production car with WiFi so that you can transfer MP3s from PC to car wirelessly (SUV's Wi-Fi system lets drivers leave CDs at home). On Copyfight Donna Wentworth notes that this capability is just begging to be sued under the INDUCE Act (Cars + WiFi + Digital Music = Induce Bait). She's right.

After all, you have other automakers, such as BMW, offering digital music for car stereos but through a safe, DRM'd product (You Just Can't Trust BMW Owners). Clearly, offering wireless transfers of non-DRM'd music is begging for piracy. For example, see this article on Ford's newest car accessory (Wi-Fi In Cars -- The More Practical Version):

[S]ometimes the most useful technologies have a way of "sneaking" their way into the market. They're designed for one small thing, but people figure out ways to use them for much, much more.
Isn't that what Ford is trying to do, "sneak" P2P into its cars? Indeed, Ford should know better; check out the first comment on the article (I'm not making this up):
He he, this might be the start of those P2P highway networks we've already mentionned ;)
Or how about this post on Boing Boing by the notorious Cory Doctorow (WiFi car-stereos):
A new generation of WiFi-equipped in-car MP3 players is shipping. The possibilities are endless -- imagine a traffic-jam-area file-sharing/streaming net...

Or how about some of the conversations in the forums of Rockford Omnifi Media (makers of aftermarket MP3 WiFi Car Stereos) (Omnifi™ for the Car: How can I get my MP3's off of my DMP1 drive?):

OK...hear's my deal - I am about 2600 miles from home...on a really long business trip. I happen to have my car (and my Omnifi DMP1) with me, but of course I do not have the computer that holds all of my MP3's. I recently bought an iPod and I am trying to figure out a way to copy the music off of my DMP1 drive and onto my new iBook so I can load all of that music on my iPod. Any ideas? .... There is an app to get content from you Omnifi Hard Drive: http://members.cox.net/omnifiuser/ Don't know if it will run on a Mac, but it's Java & opensource. Might want to e-mail the author.
A business trip, yeah, sure. You don't have your computer that has the MP3s, but you've got a brand new iBook and iPod. Ooookay. Clearly, however, Omnifi Media knows that its consumers are writing apps letting people upload music from its players: Doctorow's Car Audio Paaaartay!

Heck, check out this review that Omnifi Media touts: Driving Beats [PDF]. The magazine is the hardcopy edition of WIRED - the infamous Feb 2003 edition - the one with the Hindenberg on the cover under the title "Rip. Mix. Burn" and the subtitle "The Fall of the Music Industry."


And don't even go to the forums over on Rockford Fosgate (another audio electronics company owned by the same people who own Omnifi - originally Omnifi was part of Rockford Fosgate) (The Lounge: Music Tracks: Downloading):

anyone else been having trouble with kazaa? it seems most of the songs i dload go haywire after the first 15 seconds or so. is there any other software ya'll use to dload besides overnet? i couldnt get overnet to dload anything.
The forums might not be moderated, but that doesn't mean that the people at Rockford don't read them. After all, why have forums at all if you aren't going to read them for feedback from your customers?

Clearly, copyright will be much more secure when the INDUCE Act is used to ensure that car stereos are required to incorporate DRM. Of course, that will probably mean that your Ford might not be able to downloads WMA files from your Wintel box, and your Chevy won't accept iTunes from your G5. But, hey, copyright is more important that compatibility, convenience and ease-of-use, right?

Bonus LawMeme Poll

LawMeme is running a new poll which asks:

What Will Be Banned First If the INDUCE Act Passes?

  • iPods
  • VCRs
  • KaZaA
  • FTP
  • PCs
  • Paper
  • Senator Hatch
  • Fred von Lohmann
  • TCP/IP
  • Common Sense
Go. Vote.