April 28, 2005
Spitzer Suit Shows the Right Way to Fight Spyware

The New York State Attorney General's office filed a good, thorough complaint against against Intermix Media for deceiving users into installing and using spyware. The complaint charges Intermix civilly with several violations of New York statute and common law. The lawsuit is a step forward for end-users' rights to control their own computers, and shows the right way to address the spyware problem: with lawsuits, not new laws.

More at EFF's Deep Links.

Posted by Wendy at 03:11 PM
April 26, 2005
Aaah, silence (music to start a random shuffle)

I've recently ripped my entire CD collection to hard drives (in lossless flac format) for playback from my MythTV through my stereo amp. I ripped the classical pieces with multiple movements to a single file, so I'd be able to mix them without getting movements separated from one another, and having done that, I found myself enjoying the random shuffle mode more than I'd expected.

As I've set it up (patch), MythTV's music module lets me show music sorted by genre and composer, or to create playlists by individual selection or database query. "Shuffle" mode can take any of those sets and rearrange automatically. But I also found that if I selected a collection before hitting "randomize," it would default to alphabetical order. That meant I was hearing the first few bars of Albert, Stephen (Cello Concerto) quite a lot. There had to be a better way.

So I grabbed a few moments of /dev/zero to a wav file (sox -t nul /dev/zero silence.wav), encoded it to various formats, and tagged it "Aaah, silence," a name unlikely to be bumped down even if I accidentaly tag "Aaron Copland" first-name-first. After importing any of these into my music collection, I have 3 minutes and 40 seconds to randomize before Albert or Albinoni shows up by default.

Here, for your listening enjoyment Aaah, Silence (or try the flac or mp3 versions).

Posted by Wendy at 12:06 AM
April 18, 2005
ICANN , .travel, and process

It's easy to see why those re-reporting Ed Hasbrouck's complaints about the ICANN's approval of a .travel domain focused on conspiracy allegations -- that's far sexier than the intricacies of ICANN process -- but it's not the heart of Ed's concern. As he writes today at The Practical Nomad blog, who's got .travel is "really the fifth and least important level of my criticisms of ICANN's actions." More important is how ICANN got to the point of making the award for the new sponsored Top-Level Domain (sTLD), and whether it followed properly open procedures in getting there.

Hasbrouck doesn't think so, and he wants to use the independent review process in ICANN's bylaws to examine that decision, saying

violation of ICANN's bylaw requiring that "ICANN and its constituent bodies shall operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner", is the sole basis of my request for independent review of the ".travel" decision-making process.

Agree or disagree with Hasbrouck's fifth-level suspcions about the .travel award, we should all press ICANN to open its process and submit to the bylaws-mandated review so we can see for ourselves how the organization reached its decision.

Posted by Wendy at 06:14 PM
April 12, 2005
Car Hacks: Modify your car to drive on vegetable oil

At the Vermont Law School Solutions Conference, my brother Mark not only helped to organize a panel, he presented a live real-time demonstration, modifying his car to run on vegetable oil.

As part of the C.A.R.S (Carbon Assessment and Reduction Strategies) project, Mark Seltzer, '05 Masters Student will be modifying his Volkswagen Turbo Diesel to run on renewable vegetable oil. The project consists of installing a heated fuel tank and fuel lines. Once the modifications are complete, the car starts on standard diesel fuel but can be switched over to vegetable (standard fryer oil) once the engine has warmed up. Low emissions and a renewable fuel!

Armed with the Treo, I served as unofficial photographer. Check out Mark's webpage or the Flickr set. Though I had to leave before the end, Mark reports that the conversion was a success, and he can now drive on french fry grease. And I thought demoing a HD-MythTV was tough. Congrats Mark!

Posted by Wendy at 06:37 AM
April 09, 2005
T-Shirts to Reduce Pollution

Vermont Environmental Law Society

My brother Mark (pictured modeling t-shirt) invited me to Vermont Law School to speak at their Solutions Conference. He also works with the Vermont Environmental Law Society, which is running a cool fundraiser, selling t-shirts to purchase tradeable SO2 credits -- and then retiring these pollution credits from the market.

Posted by Wendy at 10:03 AM
CraiGooglist: Cool housing locator hack

This (Craigslist housing ads plotted on a Google map) is what open APIs were made for. The locator balloon shows details, and even apartment pictures. Via BoingBoing.

Posted by Wendy at 04:59 AM
April 08, 2005
[sn] The Strange Ways of Three Notes

Lawrence Ferrara spent some time this morning talking about what he called an erroneous "conflation" between standards for substantial similarity in composition and sound recordings. Pardon me, but aren't they the same test? The fair use and de minimis provisions of copyright law apply equally to sound recordings and musical compositions, and that's precisely where the Sixth Circuit got things wrong in Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films.

Meanwhile, Shoshana Zisk reports speaking with the artist, Michael Hampton, whose three notes were actually sampled, and he said he'd sooner enter the Downhill Battle remix contest than to sue (of course he didn't own the copyright).

Update: Michael Bell-Smith, creator of the "Three Notes and Counting" contest, gave a demonstration of sampling and remix technology. He first played some of the completely distinct entries built using only the same guitar riff, then used a few programs onstage to turn the guitar into a set of drumbeats. Amazing. At what point will we recognize that new sound as something other than an "infringing sample"?

Posted by Wendy at 12:32 PM
Signal or Noise II

"This conference is focused more on creativity than on law," says Charlie Nesson, to start things off. I think that's why I'm so excited to be here -- because at the end of the day, I'm a lawyer so I can enable creativity in art and technology.

Next, Eric Hellweg talks with singer-songwriter Mike Doughty. Guitar in hand, Doughty demonstrates how at age 15, he realized there were really only a few different chord progressions -- and with those building blocks, he could write anything. "When I sit down to write songs, I'll look at what I'm listening to, and see how I can adapt it."

Doughty recognizes and enjoys the way technology shapes art, from sampling to the ability to sample from dozens of his own recordings to pull out the best parts to make a track. He's more ambivalent about the way the law has changed art: sample clearance comes out of the artist's budget, yet if his compositions are used in a recognizable way, he'd like to be paid. Filesharing isn't going away, but he fears for the younger artists who haven't yet made their audiences.

Finally, a bit of chilling effects, Doughty notes that the samples artists have to clear are those "you can be busted for" -- and "busted" means sue, not necessarily found liable at the end of the day. Fair use, once again, is not.

Posted by Wendy at 07:30 AM
April 05, 2005
Iced Coffee: Lawyers Dename the Starbucks Delocator

Carrie at Stay Free! points to a legal absurdity around the fun Starbucks Delocator, a site that helpfully offers less corporate alternatives to Starbucks.

The only problem is that Finishing School [the work's creators] signed an agreement with the San Francisco Art Institute saying that they won't use the name "Starbucks" in the website name (presumably to avoid legal action from Starbucks), so the site is called "Delocator" instead of Starbucks Delocator. This means that links to the site won't show up in search engines when people search for Starbucks...

Clearly there's no law that would prevent the artsite from naming the store it's protesting. (Even more clearly after the Ninth Circuit's Bosley Medical.) Enter the blogs. Viva the Starbucks Delocator.

Posted by Wendy at 09:32 AM
April 01, 2005
EULA Alert: Google Gulp

OK, so Google Gulp's a joke, but how long before we see a EULA like the one its FAQ promises:

3. Isn't that kind of dangerous?
Well, none of the lab rats who've been pounding this stuff for the past eight months have keeled over yet, which we find fairly reassuring. At any rate, you should be aware that by popping the seal on the twist-off Gulp cap, you send a wireless signal to Google's servers indicating your irrevocable acceptance of the Google Gulp Terms and Conditions, which do include the possibility, however remote, of hideous genetic mutation resulting from your consumption of this product. We're pretty sure you won't die, though.

Posted by Wendy at 10:01 AM