Verizon, Subpoena, and Distributed Creativity

Today I attended two interesting media policy talks. The first was by Sarah Deutsch of Verizon discussing the legal cases against them for (rightfully) withholding customer data from the RIAA. If I understood correctly, Verizon originally accepted the DCMA‘s “notice and take-down” provisions for content they hosted, but now RIAA is trying to apply it for any content that flows through the carrier. Furthermore, the “(h) Subpoena to Identify Infringer” clause of the DMCA creates an administrative procedure by which an alleged copyright infringee with “reasonable belief” can demand information about a Verizon customer. Again, the original intent was that it apply to content hosted by Verizon, but now RIAA is trying to use it for what folks are doing on their home computers. These requests have no judicial review, there have already been numerous mistaken allegations by RIAA against users of the Internet, and there is no remedy for the customer if the allegation is incorrect or such information is abused. Verizon has received nearly 200 such requests, and the industry has received about 2,600 all-together, though there are more waiting in the wings. (Allegedly, RIAA has asked others to wait while they persecute their own claims through the court system against Verizon’s objections.)

I asked why didn’t Verizon purge or anonymize their logs? Ms. Deutsch responded that they want to keep their logs for legitimate purposes including responding to law enforcement requests. Yet, RIAA’s requests are only the start, imagine what Scientologists and stalkers might be able to do with this procedure, and it’s probably pushing both file swappers and those doing genuinely bad things (e.g., child porn) to develop better means of stealth.

Later in the afternoon I went to see a panel with Lawrence Lessig at EyeBeam on Distributed Creativity. I’m always amazed by how eloquently Lessig presents his case, and he was doubly so this time with a flashy little presentation that was narrated by Christopher Lydon if I’m not mistaken. Consequently, I’m also doubly dumfounded when it seemingly falls on deaf ears in the halls of government — I’ll skip the metaphors of lobbeyists cloggying their ears with campaign donations. Carrie McLaren (editor of my favorite media magazine StayFree), Joline Blais (who showed a project I’d love to see used with SourceForge), and Jon Ippolito (presenting on Open Art Network) were also on the panel. As an aside, when Ippolito mentioned OpenJava as a response to, at least in part, the difficulty of sharing Java objects since they are compiled, I couldn’t help but think that this is yet another reason to use Python! Interprated languages such as Python, exhibit the same “view source” characteristic that made HTML so popular.

Ported/Archived Responses

Aaron Swartz on 2003-11-22

Is Get Creative! the Flash piece you’re referring to? The credits say the narration is by Christopher Lydon.

Joseph Reagle on 2003-11-24

Yep, that’s the one!

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