Monday, June 27, 2005

A Reasonable Outcome on Grokster

The Supreme Court today announced their opinion reversing a summary judgment for Grokster. I'm not displeased with the outcome. They made no reference to Aimster's willful blindness doctrine (which I thought should control the case), but came to a similar conclusion, finding the demonstrated intent of the defendants to be the key to their determination. As I stated back in March, consideration of intent is a necessary addition to Sony without which Sony is easily gamed and unmanageable. Here it was clear by the defendants' actions in aggressively recruiting Napster users and promoting infringing material available on their networks (actions that were curiously absent from the discussion in the 9th Circuit decision) that it was their objective to profit from the infringment of copyrights. Sony could not stand if it was read to protect such actions.

One of the most interesting questions of the case, whether Grokster and Morpheus had substantial noninfringing uses, was not decided by the Court and was argued at length in the concurrences. Justice Ginsburg (joined by Rehnquist and Kennedy) wrote a concurrence arguing that they did not have a substantial noninfringing use, while Justice Breyer (joined by O'Connor and Stevens) argued that they did have substantial noninfringing uses. I agree with Breyer's arguments for a low bar on substantial noninfringing uses, particularly in conjunction with consideration of intent as in this case and Aimster. To have a high bar for substantial noninfringing uses that sets some sort of a cutoff based on the percentages of use creates a real problem for developers of new technologies who cannot accurately predict how exactly their technologies will be used. There would be a definite chilling effect on technological innovation. Policing intent should provide a sufficient avenue for nailing bad actors.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Thanks for Nothin'

I wanted to highlight this story by Columbia Journalism Review on the much-publicized $674m in "additional aid" to Africa (credit to Howard Kurtz for pointing it out). I've often noticed a huge gap between Americans' perceptions of our foreign aid programs and the reality. Dirty tricks like this are at least partly to blame...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dear Lord Above

Some days I just love the internet. Unbelievable.

Osama bin Squirrel

Open Source and the Law

Slashdot has a large discussion of a very small article on a number of Florida judges who are disregarding the results of breathalizer tests because the manufacturer refuses to disclose the source code. It's an interesting idea. I think there may be other areas (black box voting systems) where this is more appropriate, but I like the general principle. In this particular situation, I wonder if there aren't other ways that the accuracy and reliability of the devices could be established, and whether that would satisfy the basic inquiry. A little more detail in the article would have been nice...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Mobility Myth

As a follow up to the CSM class mobility story posted a couple weeks back, Michael Kinsley has a good Washington Post column today discussing social mobility and recent coverage of the topic in the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and LA Times.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Cool Response to the PATRIOT-ACT

Slashdot pointed out this story about a feature coming soon to a library near you: anonymous library cards. Instead of giving the library your personal information, you'd just a make a cash deposit that would serve as collateral for any books you check out. Slick, clever, sticks it to the Man. I like it.