Friday, December 12, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

YouTube Symphony

Following up on Marissa's previous post, YouTube is arguably the world's largest movie theater. Makes sense, since many users spend hours on YouTube to watch movies or TV shows aired all over the world. Users connect and communicate with one another through YouTube channels creating a virtual community on the web. According to recent BBC News, Beijing Olympics theme composer Tan Dun is using this new medium to handpick musicians to play his Symphony No 1 "Eroica".

YouTube now a place for an online orchestra recruit wants users to submit videos showcasing their musical talent. Users will have until January 28th, 2009 to submit their talent with a final public vote taking place two weeks later. Finally the winners will be flown to New York's Carnegie Hall to play at a three day classical music summit. Dun referred to the internet as an invisible Silk Road joining people across the world and YouTube seems to be the best example of the virtual community that exists today.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

iTunes Launches DRM-Free Music

It took them the whole month to do it, but they kept their word: Apple said we would have DRM-free iTunes music in May, and today they delivered. From Mac Rumors (the only ones covering this at the moment of posting):
Apple released iTunes 7.2 updated in the Mac OS X Software Update tonight, which offers support for "iTunes Plus", Apple's new DRM-free $1.29 offerings announced in April.

"iTunes Plus"? If the price hike for no DRM wasn't bad enough, calling something that reasonably should be considered industry standard a "Plus" feature is quite annoying. Of bigger note is the fact that no DRM-free content is actually available yet, which will hopefully appear by morning (May 30).

Previous Coverage

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Awesome mashup of Disney cartoons to explain copyright and fair use.

Illegal Downloading and USC

In April, someone posted on the blog about a survey on regarding illegal downloading and the public's general opinion on their chances of becoming a victim. For my final project, I tweaked the survey and decided to distribute it to USC students to get a sample of how students on campus feel about downloading. I surveyed 224 students over a three day span and the results were interesting. I thought an overwhelming majority of students would be illegal downloaders, but to my suprise, many students want nothing to do with downloading. Instead of giving the lengthy discussion, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

1. Do you download illegally?
YES 121 (54%)
NO 103 (46%)

2. If you answered yes, what type of media do you download? (students could choose more than one, thus the discrepancy in percentages)
MUSIC 114 (94%)
MOVIES 33 (27%)
TV SHOWS 26 (22%)
SOFTWARE 19 (16%)

3. Do you feel downloading through USC puts you at greater risk for being caught by the RIAA?
YES 158 (71%)
NO 64 (29%)

4. Has the influx of RIAA lawsuits caused you to stop downloading?
YES 72 (32%)
NO 159 (68%)

5. How do you rate your chances of becoming an RIAA victim?
HIGH 23 (10%)
MEDIUM 72 (32%)
LOW 129 (58%)

6. Do you believe file sharing is devastating to the music industry?
YES 53 (24%)
NO 171 (76%)

7. Do you know anyone who has received an RIAA subpoena?
YES 105 (47%)
NO 119 (53%)

8. Finally, what might stop you from illegally downloading?
CHEAPER CDS 133 (56%)
NOTHING 35 (15%)

I was surprised to see that many students had no interest in downloading, because almost everyone I know in college downloads illegally whether it's software, music, or movies. But after talking to students, I found that many find the idea of downloading too "complex" and time consuming. If they really want something, they ask a friend, but most don't even bother. In the end, it appears as though downloading is extremely binary. You do or you don't. And as I learned in this survey, half do, and half don't.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

RIAA vs College Students: Covering the Story on Your Campus

Project Summary:
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has decided to target college students in their attempt to fight piracy. They've sent out hundreds of pre-litigation settlement letters to students who share copyrighted music. Some universities have fought to protect their students identities from the RIAA, while other schools have been compliant with the RIAA's request. This semester I decided to find out what my school's stance was on the issue. For my final PWNED class project, I wrote a guide for other student journalists wishing to cover the same topic at their own campus. It should be used as an initial research to the article and also as a resource for finding the right people to interview. The project is intended to facilitate writing similar articles for various college campus newspapers. My goal is to promote awareness of a pressing issue affecting college students nationwide.

Download PDF

The RIAA vs. College Students: Covering the Story on Your Campus

Do you work for your college newspaper or TV station and need a story idea? Well, here’s a topic most university students in the U.S. can relate to: downloading and sharing digital music. Anti-piracy commercials and campaigns are constantly telling our generation to stop downloading copyrighted work, but most students do it anyways. That’s gotten some people into trouble with the Recording Industry of America (RIAA). The RIAA is now targeting college students in their fight to stop piracy by sending out pre-litigation settlement letters. There is controversy surrounding these letters & how universities should respond. This paper is a guide to help you, a student journalist, cover the issue on your own campus.

Why should I write about it?
Most college students download music or digital files on their computers using Peer-to-Peer file sharing software. Sharing music files on P2P applications is considered sufficient to claim copyright infringement. There is an ongoing battle regarding file sharing on college campuses throughout the nation. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA) has recently been sending “pre-litigation settlement letters” to hundreds of college students they accuse of illegal downloading. Although you may not have personally received a letter or know anyone that has, it is an issue that is applicable to all college students.
As the RIAA continues sending settlement letters to various schools, it is important to understand what your University will do to protect it’s students. Many different universities have taken different approaches to dealing with the situation; some have simply complied with the RIAA by identifying their students, others have not. By investigating what your school administration’s stance is, you will be able to inform students about their legal options, appropriate ways to deal with a settlement, and even how to prevent getting into a lawsuit.

What is the Issue About?
The RIAA has sent out pre-litigation settlement letters to hundreds of unidentified parties or “John Does” they accuse of illegal downloading. The heart of the issue lies in whether the RIAA is going through a lawful process to obtain the identities of students they think are doing something illegal. The RIAA says they are sending letters to college students as a way to fight piracy. Others say it is simply an extortion campaign that takes advantage of college students and does not adhere with due process of law. They claim that Federal privacy laws prevent putting record-industry lawyers in touch with students.

How the Settlement Process Works:
The first thing that happens is that RIAA goes to a judge in order to obtain an “ex-parte” order to issue a subpoena for a school to identify certain IP addresses. What does that mean? Well, an “ex parte” decision is one that is decided by a judge without requiring all parties to be present. In this case it means only the RIAA is there. It also means that the universities receive no notice that the RIAA has gone to obtain a subpoena.
Once the RIAA obtains a subpoena from a judge it sends that subpoena to the university asking the school to match a list of IP address to particular students. An IP addresses is like an electronic address, almost like a street address, that can uniquely identify a specific computer. A University can then choose to quash the subpoena or forward the settlement letters to its students. At that point students can choose to settle or fight a lawsuit against the RIAA.

Getting Initial Information
You can obtain many of the basic facts about the settlements by simply searching on the Internet for different documents. Here is a list of some helpful documents and websites to help get you started.
1. The Recording Industry of America
2. The Electronic Frontier Foundation. Make sure to check out their section on file sharing that includes a petition they’ve formed to stop file sharing lawsuits.
3. A copy of a Notification of Copyright Infringement.
4. RIAA vs. the People, a document written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation explaining John Doe settlements

What else has been written?
Various news organizations, technology websites, and blogs have been writing about the issue. Some campus newspapers have already written articles when some of their own students received settlement letters. Check out these articles:
1. - University of Maine
2. The Daily Evergreen
3. - NCSU
4. - University of Wisconsin


Now it’s time for interviewing! As all journalists know, it’s important to get the facts yourself… If you are at a university that has already received settlement letters from the RIAA, my suggestion is to ask students on campus if they know anyone that has received a letter. If you find out a name, talk to them!
If your school hasn’t gotten any letters that’s okay, you still have a story! It’s still useful to find out what type of approach your school will take when handling these types of cases. Call your administration. Here’s who to talk to:
1. Media Relations- they may have a statement prepared
2. Your school’s General Council- they handle all of the legal work for your school
3. The Information Technology department- They handle problems involving the school’s network.
4. The DMCA Agent- Each school is required to have a DMCA Agent who is often responsible for dealing with any copyright complaint issued to the school. Every school is required to have a link on their website to the agent. Here’s how to find it: www.(yourschool).edu /dmca

Talk to Law professors and law firms near your school. They can help you out with any legal questions you still may not understand. If you can obtain a copy of a settlement case, ask them to explain to you what each Exhibit means & how students can fight the settlements.
1. Talk to a Law Professor that teaches issues about digital rights & ask them about copyright of digital files
2. Contact a law firm that represents one of the record labels that are a part of the RIAA
3. Find a lawyer that’s fighting against the RIAA. To find one in your state, look at the Recording Industry vs. The People website… Ray Beckerman has compiled a list of lawyers to contact.

Find organizations on campus know about the subject. Many student groups are interested in music rights and copyright issues. See if your school has a group, like Free Culture, that is willing to share their opinion on the subject matter.

Lastly, call the RIAA! See if anyone there will talk to you or issue a statement about the lawsuits! They’re hard to get a hold of, but if someone does talk to you, be prepared to ask questions!

Writing The Story
Once you’ve gotten both sides of the story, you can begin writing! Remember, you have a story regardless of whether your school has directly received any letters. It’s important to know what your administration is doing & what students can do to protect themselves.
By getting the information out to college students, every individual student news organization can help ensure that even if their school is not standing up the RIAA, students will know their legal rights. Most students use the Internet to download and share files with friends, and thus it is important to know what aspects are legal or illegal, how to protect themselves from a lawsuit, and how to change anything they feel is unlawful.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Final Project Interview #3 and Synopsis: Landi Guidetti on Being Sued by the RIAA

Here is a summary of my final project as well as the last interview I conducted:


After seeing the world of file sharing grow at such an incredible pace, I felt that that there was a lot to be said about the way we’ve reached this point and the future of p2p networks in general. As such, when given the opportunity to submit something creative for my final “PWNED” class project I decided to take use this assignment to answer some questions about BitTorrents, file sharing, and the RIAA.

First, there’s the source: Gary Fung, creator and webmaster of BitTorrent tracker

Next is “Ernesto,” founding blogger and primary contributor of – the premier source for news on p2p and BitTorrents.

Finally my good friend Landi Guidetti (a USC Student) offers some of his thoughts about being the target of a RIAA lawsuit.

What its like to be sued by the RIAA, by Landi Guidetti:

As a sophomore, Landi was one of the 25 students on the USC campus who fell into legal proceedings with the RIAA as a result of illegally downloading mp3’s through the university’s network. After spending the last two years dealing with this problem in private I asked Landi to share his experience and feelings with me for the purpose of this project.


Part of my settlement requires that I refrain from making "any public statement that is inconsistent with any term of [the] agreement" so I will tailor my comments to this requirement, however, care should be taken so that my opinions and relentless sarcasm not be interpreted as pertaining to any part of my settlement.

As a sophomore at USC i did many of the things regular sophomores do; I downloaded music off of the internet, occasionally went to class and once in a while picked up the Daily Trojan to find out what’s going on around south central and on campus.

Mid-April, 2005 I was doing just that, skipping class, downloading music and flipping through the DT and it happened that in that days paper was an article on the RIAA's quest to make the world a better place for recording artists everywhere. The article cautioned that some 25 students at USC had not yet been notified that they were soon to be made an example of.

Call me John Doe number 23. It was like winning the lottery, I was one of only 25 lucky USC students out of everybody who downloaded music that year from their dorms, at Leavey, or some other place where SC serves as the internet provider to be recognized. I received notice from the office of General Counsel at USC that pursuant to a subpoena taken out by the RIAA's fancy team of attorneys, USC would be releasing my personal information based on my I.P. address. As a regular sophomore at USC I didn’t do what you would expect a regular sophomore at USC might do, call mom and dad and have them write a check. Instead, I called the office of General Counsel to see what they could do for me. I was a starving student weighing only 150 lbs, working in excess of 40 hrs a week in addition to a full course load. I imagined that the Trojan Network would be able to offer me some help from their limitless resources, but the best they could do was offer to send my contact info to the other lucky winners so that we could talk group strategy, and gave me the contact info for an attorney who had contacted the University about the situation. It was actually an alumina of Berkeley (not USC) who was so outraged by what the RIAA was doing that she offered to consult with and if we chose, represent myself and several other SC student pro bono (that means free- I guess SC law students skip that chapter).

My really cool free lawyer went over all the options: pay up or fight a long expensive fight for the sake of principal. We could try quashing the subpoena on a technicality (BU did this for its students- USC didn’t even try), but the RIAA would likely re-file. We could take it to court and the RIAA's fancy lawyers would seize my laptop as evidence and comb through my hard-drive and memory (costs all added to the damages). We would have to hire expensive expert witnesses (and the RIAA's lawyers would get even more expensive expert witnesses) and endure a long process that would only piss them off more, and in the end i would have to pay their attorneys fees if i lost (the likely outcome). So- there i was- a sinner among a society of civilized copyright honoring citizens. My atonement; a staggering $3,750 in 30 days (money I didn’t have, and couldn’t get in 30 days unless i resorted to less serious crimes than the one i was already charged with). So i began selling drugs, robbing the old and feeble as well as clergy, and occasionally pimping out drunken sorority girls in order to pay my debt to the suffering artists who's lives had been "irreparably damaged" by my actions. Actually I didn’t do that, I didn’t have to because my lawyer got them to settle on a significantly longer payment date, but i seriously considered it.

I admit to no crime and the suit I refer to was dismissed without prejudice but I must say how ridiculous the whole thing was. I won’t comment on the actual damages internet downloading may or may not cause artists because i am ignorant of the facts, but regardless, a settlement of $3750 for the alleged downloading of an alleged four songs by artists on labels represented by the RIAA breaks down to $937.50 per song. Suspiciously it was students at the University of Spoiled Children who were targeted, reflecting the infinite wisdom of the RIAA; steal from the rich and give to the poor.

The best part of the story is unconfirmed rumor relayed to my by my former attorney. It seems that the Trojan network had done more for me than i previously thought. Word on the street is that one of the RIAA's fancy lawyers is actually a USC alum, this clever bastard decided to use his old USC email address to log onto I2-hub (which i believe is no longer up thanks to the RIAA- Good work guys, hit the big guys up after you clean me out) and write down I.P. addresses of unsuspecting college students. Students and old lady's (you hear about that one?) should not be targets of the RIAA's lawsuits- IF internet downloading really causes the "irreparable damage" they claim they should go for the services which enable and allow this "illegal" activity. The sad part is that there IS a specific deterrence effect- a legally binding one that was part of my settlement. I am not allowed to "directly or indirectly infringe on any copyright in any sound recordings owned or controlled by the Record Companies, including by use of the Internet to download any of the Record Companies sound recordings...." But who would know if i picked up a few pirates overseas. Just kidding, I promise i won't, i really learned my lesson. Mostly i am just so sorry for downloading "All Apologies" by Nirvana. You see, my actions caused Courtney Love (who I believe still owns the rights to Nirvana) "Irreparable Damage." The 937 dollars and 50 cents I paid for that song will never be enough.

A few weeks ago I got a call from the office of the General Counsel at USC, it seems that the newest round of SC students being sued by the RIAA didn't know where to turn, and they wanted to know if they could give out my email. I got 3 emails from confused students- I tried to make them feel as bad as I could, just because that's how they are supposed to feel after committing such a morally reprehensible act, but I'm under the impression that they didn't really feel bad, and seem to think they had even done anything wrong. It's strange, but they just seemed angry, some might say angry enough to do it again, and more, but making sure they don't get caught- For example, not use USC as your ISP, or subscribe to an equally illegal and supposedly non-traceable service like the Russian 1 cent per song site. I however,
can't condone this behavior.

-Landi Guidetti