Newspaper CEO Finally Agrees Copyright Trolling Was a Dumb Idea

About a year ago MediaNews Group, publisher of 40 newspapers, signed a deal with Righthaven, a law firm. The deal allowed Righthaven to file copyright infringement lawsuits on MediaNews Group’s behalf in exchange for 50% of any settlement/verdict. Now, MediaNews Group has decided to part ways with Righthaven and John Paton, the chief executive of MediaNews Group, is quoted in Wired as saying:

“The issues about copyright are real … But the idea that you would hire someone on an — essentially — success fee to run around and sue people at will who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself … does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world … I come from the idea that it was a dumb idea from the start.” (emphasis added)

The idea that one could monetize news content (or any other content) by restricting its circulation and suing individual bloggers was always a dubious one. The RIAA and many other organizations that took this approach previously now appear to be abandoning it. And, as the Wired article also notes, Righthaven has lost a string of its lawsuits over the question of whether it even has the right to sue over copyright infringement when they are not the actual copyright holder.

Welcome to Personhood: SCOTUS Rules No Personal Privacy for AT&T

The Supreme Court, after recognizing corporations as legal persons in their Citizens United decision, has now ruled that AT&T does not have a right to personal privacy. Welcome to personhood, AT&T!

Here’s some background: AT&T over-prices some of the equipment it was selling to schools (schools!). The FCC investigates. AT&T’s competitors file a FoIA to make the investigation’s findings public. AT&T claims the FoIA request is a violation of their personal privacy. The SCOTUS denies their right to personal privacy. AT&T and other corporations join the ranks of the rest of us “persons” who are given no right to personal privacy in the US.

It’s worth remembering that this is the very same AT&T that denies their own customers a right to personal privacy. From SFGate.comwaaaaaay back in 2006:

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday … The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing … The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

Irony abounds.

Amazon gets Orwellian with Orwell

On 07.17.09 Amazon got a bit Orwellian by remotely deleting copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from people’s Kindles — copies that were legitimately purchased from Amazon (the original purchase was credited to people’s accounts). The Kindle is a small, portable and proprietary e-book reader — in many ways, Kindle is an iPod for print media. By controlling both the hardware and software that constitute the Kindle, Amazon can tightly regulate to whom, where, and how long e-books are made available. Amazon/Kindle thus becomes the marketing/distribution medium connecting publishing companies (who are interested in “monetizing” their IP in cyberspace) and informational consumers (who are increasingly encouraged to pay for — formerly — free content).

Last August, I blogged about Apple’s decision to embedded a remote kill switch in the iPhone’s operating system that allowed them to deactivate applications of their choosing — including applications which were knowingly installed by an iPhone’s owner. At the time, I argued that Apple’s “security” decision to censor what applications I could and could not install on my iPhone, as well as it’s flagrant surveillance of what I did with my iPhone, made me feel a lot less safe and a lot less secure. The current Kindle snafu isn’t all that different. Not only is Amazon asserting their right to retroactively terminate past purchases (raising important questions of censorship as well as what exactly we get to “own” in exchange for our hard-earned cash) but they are also displaying their ability to monitor all information flowing through the Kindle.

If you bought a Kindle from Amazon, and if you bought an e-book from Amazon to read on your Kindle, then what right does Amazon or some publisher have to continue regulating those technologies? Sony can’t regulate what shows I watch on my TV, and my local bookstore can’t pull a “my bad!” and retrieve a book they’ve sold me. With all the moral grandstanding over IP / copyrights (from the  AAP, RIAA, MPAA, and so on…) at what point will we start respecting people’s rights to the intellectual property they legitimately produced or purchased? What about our property rights?