November 28, 2002  ·  Lessig

In an otherwise great piece for CNET (not run on his list), Declan reported last week that Judge Posner expressed skepticism about expanding IP rights, and that he “praised [me] for challenging the CTEA.” Declan’s a careful reporter, but there is exactly zero chance that Posner said that. Whatever his views about the economic merits of the Sonny Bono Act, federal judges (and especially this seasoned and careful federal judge) don’t go around expressing personal views about the merits of pending lawsuits.

November 28, 2002  ·  Lessig

Declan has a nice article which cozies up a bit more to the idea of Geeks (and geeks-wanna-bes, like me) getting more involved in the political process. That’s progress from where he was last summer. But I was surprised to read his criticism this morning of Amnesty International, which has criticized those who provide technology to enable Chinese censorship. Declan thinks it better for AI to “focus its otherwise good work on the real culprits: The Chinese government.” Apparently, while Geeks are unlikely to persuade Washington to call off the war that is killing IT, AI is likely to persuade China to reform civil rights.

November 27, 2002  ·  Lessig

In Eldred v. Ashcroft, we challenged the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. During oral argument, the Court asked whether our rule would affect the 1976 Act’s extension. Though this issue had not been briefed, we indicated that it would, but that the Court’s own caselaw gave it a way to strike the 1998 Act without striking the 1976 Act.

Justice Bryer in particular was concerned about the effect on contracts entered into in reliance on the 1976 Act. His view seemed to be that there would be “chaos” if those contracts were invalidated.

Jason Schultz of Fish and Richardson and Deirdre Mulligan of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (both of whom worked on a great amicus brief in the case) have now looked at the numbers. Their work is great, and the numbers surprising. See the chart on books here and the brief analysis here. Bottom line: a surprisingly small amount of work would be affected.

November 27, 2002  ·  Lessig

An email this morning from John Patterson of MetManiac reporting that he met with Met management and they have reached an agreement to allow MetManiac to return. Mr. Volpe of the Met is responsible for this sanity apparently. It is a nice practice to thank people for their sanity. Insanity reported here.

November 22, 2002  ·  Lessig

Insanely destructive problems with my machine here in Japan, so I apologize for the silence and unanswered emails. To my pleasant surprise, however, I discover that my Powerbook G4 has a world wide warranty. So after finding a number of the Apple Japan website, I called to get support. The Apple Store helpfully gave me an English speaking “toll free” number to call. At this point, of course, I didn’t care squat about the toll; I wanted a voice that could fix the problem. I dialed the number. Couldn’t connect. Over and over again, no luck. So I called the Apple Store back. “Are you trying to call this number from a business or university?” “Yes,” I told her. “You can’t call this number from most businesses or universities. You’ll have to go to a payphone on the street and call from there.” “Isn’t there another number, maybe a non-toll free number I could call?” “No, only the toll-free number. We don’t want to charge for support.”

Yes, it is true, like America at the beginning of the last century, you can’t call all numbers from every phone in Japan. (For a great historical account of that, see Mueller’s Universal Service). End-to-end neutrality not yet a concept here. And while, after explaining that it would be a bit inconvenient to troubleshoot a technical problem standing at a phone booth, I was able to convince the Apple Store people to have the Support Center call me, you begin to understand something of why this interesting and beautiful place is not more Mac. (I’ve often wondered what those guys standing outside of office buildings at payphones with PowerMacs were doing….)

November 13, 2002  ·  Lessig

Here’s a company to watch: eAccess, Japan, building the fastest growing aDSL network in the world. They now offer 12 mbs (yes, I mean 12 mps) for $26/m, service within 7 days. And to celebrate their amazing success, on 12/12, they go public.

Talk to the extraordinary president of eAccess, Sachio Semmoto, and he’ll tell you the key to eAccess’s success: That Japan learned from the United States that access to copper had to be “open.” Open access meant new competition; competition has driven prices down, speed up.

It’s an amazing thing, competition. Apparently it doesn’t work in America, though. Now that the Japanese have profited from the American lesson on regulation, the Americans are retreating. The FCC is moving as quickly as it can to undo open access requirements.

Obviously, there are technical differences between Japan and the US that affect performance. All of Japan’s telecom is post 1950; a huge percentage of Japan’s population is within 6 km of a switching box. But forget 12 mbs for $26. I’d be happy with 1 mbs at $26. Living in the city in SF, I can’t even get that.

November 13, 2002  ·  Lessig

So there’s this amazing site (for opera fans at least) called MetManiac, which before the lawyers found it, collected lists of Met opera performances from the beginning of the Met. Non-commercial, pure hobby, an extraordinary historical resource, this was the passion of a fan. If you follow the link, though, you’ll see the Met lawyers have demanded the site be shut down. (Shhh, but if you follow Brewster’s link, you can see what the page was. Don’t tell the lawyers, however, as they’ll shut that down too.)

Can anyone explain what sense it makes that this fan site, which collects historical facts about an important part of our culture, can be banned? I know the lawyers say “the law makes us do it” — that trademark law, etc., requires that they police the way other people use their name. But what possible sense does such a law make. And at a time when opera around the world is struggling for resources to build an audience, what possible sense does it make to begin to attack your fans?

November 12, 2002  ·  Lessig

I’m in Japan for the fall, so I was eager to see MovieLink come online (not much on Japanese tv for a language-idiot like myself). As I was told by someone from the other side, MovieLink was intended to remove the “excuse” people had for “stealing” movies online — once a “cheap, fast system” was offered, there was no good reason not to pay. So does that mean that because non-Americans, and non-MicrosoftOS users don’t have a way to access MovieLink, they have an excuse to “steal”?

This should be a general rule: If you don’t make it cross-platform compatible, you’re not welcome on the Internet.