News from the video game industry for the week of April 12
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista take a moment to look back at some of the notable stories in the world of gaming. This week, the EFF take on the ESA over potential DMCA exemptions, Microsoft makes the Xbox One less power hungry when switched off, and Blizzard enabled a system for purchasing of in-game World of Warcraft gold using real-world money.
Filings look to rescue old games from anti-circumvention provisions, five other requests
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed six Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption requests with the US Copyright on November 3 as a part of the three-year process to address revisions to the act. All six requests were filed in an attempt to give users basic access to software and devices, with one request looking to give consumers a way to play games abandoned by developers and publishers.
Sharing copyright-infringing files on Dropbox shows DMCA warning for some users
Dropbox is preventing some users from sharing specific files over DMCA complaints, according to reports. A screenshot showing a folder on the cloud-based storage service with the DMCA warning has appeared on Twitter, which at the time of writing has been retweeted close to 3,000 times, with the user seemingly unable to share a file thanks to Dropbox's automated copyright-infringement prevention systems.
Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 to allow DRM circumvention
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has come under attack by a newly-proposed legislation. The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 seeks to legalize the unlocking of cellphones, as well as clarifying that the DMCA should only apply in cases where circumventing digital rights management or other copyright systems will aid in copyright infringement itself.
Chairman unsure of what power the FCC holds over the matter
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has weighed in on the Internet response to the expiration of the exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which now bans the unauthorized consumer unlock of cell phones. Speaking to TechCrunch, Julian Genachowski said that he believes that the ban "raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns" and the agency would look into what they could do about the matter.
White House to respond to petition in near future
A petition demanding the legalization of phone unlocking has reached its threshold for a response from the White House. The 100,000-signature goal on We The People has been met with two days left to run, forcing the Obama administration to address the issue of unlocking being removed from the exceptions to the DMCA.
MarkMonitor key to US ISP 'six strikes' system
MarkMonitor, the company that has been named as the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) vanguard and copyright abuse sniffer, has flagged HBO.com as in violation of the DMCA for violations of its own content in an obvious failure of the system. The report sent to Google stated that HBO.com was using HBO's own cable content without permission. Additionally, the same automated report to the search engine named websites that were writing about HBO content, and thus clearly not violating "fair use" provisions of the law. The MarkMonitor system is the key to the upcoming "Six Strikes" copyright monitoring system that AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon have agreed to.
Practice punishable by fines, imprisonment, for unlocking
Phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out, something that now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.
Search giant points to safe harbor provisions
Google has filed an amicus brief in the ongoing lawsuit filed by Motion Picture Association of America studios against file sharing site Hotfile. The search giant has accused the plaintiffs of attempting to "distort" the accepted interpretation of safe harbor provisions detailed in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Hosting services protected from liability
A federal appellate court today upheld a lower district court ruling that the safe harbors created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) did protect video hosting site Veoh from copyright liability. The case originated in 2007 when the Universal Music Group sued Veoh for allegedly allowing the site's users to upload protected Universal music videos. Ironically, Veoh filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010, in part due to the financial burden of defending itself against the charges.
Universal pulled video under private YouTube deal
The argument between Universal Music Group and Megaupload over a YouTube-hosted music video from earlier this week has raised some new issues. UMG now claims that it had the right to take down the video from YouTube not under the DMCA but rather thanks to a private contract with YouTube, Ars Technica revealed on Friday. If this holds up, it could bring a dangerous precedent, as the deal would effectively get around the DMCA's abuse protection.
Universal misuses DMCA to silence MegaUpload talk
Universal drew fire Wednesday after it appeared to be misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to silence news of MegaUpload. The movie and TV studio had YouTube pull down an episode of TWiT's Tech News Today on Monday for including two clips of MegaUpload's celebrity-laden song endorsing its file transfer service. Show co-host Tom Merritt had the show back up after a dispute, but Universal issued a DMCA request on Tuesday and will manage to keep it down for at least 10 days following a counter-dispute from Merritt through YouTube.
Viacom insists YouTube win a threat to video
Viacom on Tuesday tried to have a New York City Second Court of Appeals overturn a dismissal of its YouTube lawsuit. The media giant didn't believe that the basic principles of safe harbor applied to Google's video site and that it should be held liable for any illegally copied video that reaches YouTube, no matter how difficult it was to detect. Attorney Paul Smith portrayed the upheld ruling as having disastrous consequences for the entire media industry, as it would lead to "vast exploitation" of content online.
Ruling could leave door open for locker services
MP3tunes has lost a copyright infringement lawsuit originally filed by EMI, however the judge tossed many of the record label's DMCA claims that were viewed as a threat to other music locker services. Judge William Pauley agreed that MP3tunes violated EMI copyrights by failing to remove pirated tracks from its customers' music lockers after pulling the same listings from Sideload.com, a music search engine that operated alongside the locker service.
Sony says PS3 tweaker Geohot fled to South America
Sony in a court filing (below) said that George Hotz, Geohot, had left the country and tampered with evidence to prevent evidence gathering in its lawsuit against PS3 jailbreakers. The well-known code modifier allegedly not only removed parts from the hard drives demanded as evidence to make them inoperable but, according to Hotz' attorney, left for South America to prevent Sony from getting them in a timely way. The move raised "very serious questions," Sony said, without going so far as to suggest he had fled.
US concocts TPP rules that mimic ACTA laws
The US government is attempting to bring a renamed version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that aims to fight piracy to countries such as Australia, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its intellectual property content is drafted by the US. It follows the DMCA's laws regarding digital locks, ISP liability and subscriber disconnections, but adds a number of its own rules.
PS3 3.56 firmware cracks but with tough new limits
Sony's 3.56 update for the PS3 has already been jailbroken on a basic level. In an update, Youness Alaoui said he had successfully unpacked the new firmware, making it possible to modify the code and get at its signing keys. Sony attempted to take down a public posting of the code with a DMCA request but has since been thwarted with a follow-up posting; the company is unlikely to fully stop access.
Sony sues Geohot and fail0verflow over PS3 cracks
Sony on Tuesday quietly accompanied its restraining order attempting to silence the discoveries of permanent PS3 jailbreaks by filing a lawsuit against its discoverers. Both the Fail0verflow team and George Hotz, better known as original iPhone unlocker Geohot, were accused of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's rules against bypassing locks. It further accused the two of contributing to copyright infringement and breaking both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as California's Computer Crime Law.
Apple says stance on jailbreaking not changing
Apple tonight made clear its stance on the Library of Congress' decision to legally sanction jailbreaking under the DMCA. The company didn't contest the legality itself but said it would still break the warranty by going beyond what Apple can support. It also stressed that it saw the experience as hurting the experience for some by taking away the speed and reliability they may have expected.
Court says cracking DRM OK if purpose is legal
A new court ruling on Friday could set a legal precedent that allows bypassing digital rights management (DRM) for fair use purposes. New Orleans circuit Judge Emilio Garza found that GE hadn't violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by using hacked security dongles to repair uninterruptible power supplies from MGE UPS Systems as the goal itself was legal. While a jury fined GE $4.6 million for breaking copyright and misusing trade secrets, Judge Garza determined the DMCA hadn't been broken, as using hacked items by itself didn't constitute violating protection at the same time.
Judge finds YouTube protected by safe harbor
YouTube scored a historic victory today as it won a summary judgment (PDF) against Viacom in the media publisher's $1 billion lawsuit. The court determined that YouTube and its parent Google couldn't be held liable for piracy as they were protected by safe harbor terms under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Video sites are exonerated as long as they cooperate with producers to tackle copyright problems, the ruling found.
Court rules final judgment in Apple's favor
The US District Court for the Northern District of California has entered a final judgment granting Apple's motion for permanent injunction against Psystar. The decision effectively bans the clone maker from continuing to infringe on the Mac OS X copyrights, including manufacturing and distribution of non-Apple computers with the Mac operating system pre-installed.
Motion includes Leopard, Snow Leopard
Following a recent legal victory, Apple is now calling for a permanent injunction against Psystar's operations. If granted the injunction would prevent Psystar from doing anything which might violate Apple copyrights, including bypassing controls in Mac OS X which prevent it from being freely installed on any Intel system. The company would similarly be banned from sharing the necessary decryption technology with others.
Psystar tackles S. Leopard
Mac cloner Psystar has filed a second lawsuit against Apple, this time contesting policies surrounding Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Psystar should have the right to buy Snow Leopard and install it on third-party computers for sale, the filing says. The suit moreover accuses Apple of illegally linking Snow Leopard to Apple hardware, creating monopolies in the trade of "premium" computers, and/or systems running Mac OS X as a platform. "Apple's share of revenue in the market for premium computers -- computers priced at over $1,000 -- is currently 91 per cent," Psystar attorneys note.
Psystar destroying proof?
Mac cloner Psystar is guilty of destroying important evidence needed to proceed in an ongoing lawsuit, Apple alleges in recent court documents. The case revolves around the end-user license for Mac OS X Leopard, which expressly forbids installing the software on systems not branded by Apple. Psystar sells PCs with Leopard pre-installed, which Apple suggests is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act due to the need to modify code in the operating system.
Apple backs down on threat
Apple has withdrawn a number of legal threats against the public wiki site Bluwiki, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The threats were initially sent to the site publisher late last year, after anonymous users authored pages relating to enabling content sync with iPods and iPhones without going through Apple's iTunes software.
Apple sued over DMCA test
Apple is in the middle of a new lawsuit that could test the limits of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The lawsuit was filed jointly by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and attorneys representing OdioWorks, the company that runs Bluwiki, a technology forum website that hosted iPodhash, which discussed use of open-source iPod technology. The lawsuit comes in response to Apple's demands that the iPodhash forum be closed because it violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions.
EFF attacks iPod shuffle
Apple is headed in the wrong direction with the redesigned iPod shuffle, claims the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The public advocacy group notes that while Apple has mostly disposed of DRM in terms of music files, it has effectively added more by limiting which audio hardware can connect to the player's headphone jack. If not used with official Apple earbuds, the player will require an adapter or officially-sanctioned third-party headphones.
Mozilla, Skype vs. Apple
Two prominent companies, Mozilla and Skype, have joined in opposition to Apple's stance on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Apple recently challenged an exemption to the DMCA proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which would guarantee the legality of jailbreaking iPhones and other handsets. In its formal response, Apple complained that opening the law would risk damage to phones, and encourage breach of contract as well as copyright infringement.
Psystar DMCA defense
Psystar has submitted a response to Apple's recently expanded list of claims. After a successful filing to have the court reject the clone-maker's initial counterclaims of monopolistic business practices, Apple added several DMCA-violation allegations to the suit. The basic defense against the DMCA accusations argues that the technological copyright-protection measures employed in Mac OS X are being used to monopolize the manufacture of Mac OS compatible hardware systems.
Bluwiki Apple conflict
Apple has allegedly sent a cease-and-desist order to the public Wiki site Bluwiki.com, demanding the removal of postings from users that were trying to figure out how to write software that could sync media, from sources other than iTunes, onto iPhones and iPod touch devices running the latest software, according to MacBlogz. The order reportedly claims that the threads violate the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) which prohibits the writing of code or spreading of information that could be used to bypass copyright protection technology.
Can. Copyright Act tabled
The Canadian government's Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, has today officially tabled Bill C-61, a set of proposed amendments to the country's Copyright Act. Early versions of the changes have been criticized by thousands of citizens -- and a number of businesses and other organizations -- as overly harsh, and too close in nature to the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Prentice has defended amendments as necessary for bringing compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty Canada signed in 1996.
1/4 of iPhones unlocked
Over 25 percent of those who have bought US iPhones to date are using them on networks other than the intended one, says Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research. Reuters quotes the analyst as basing numbers on discrepancies between Apple and AT&T, the latter of which is the only authorized iPhone carrier in the States. By the end of 2007, some 1.45 million iPhones were "missing in action," built but not subscribed to AT&T. The carrier is believed to have held 480,000 of these back as inventory, but that leaves nearly 1 million -- 27 percent -- unaccounted for.
Warner Sues SeeqPod
Warner Music Group has revealed that it is suing search engine firm SeeqPod for copyright infringement. The music label accuses SeeqPod of illegally offering music from Warner through its unique search method, which looks for MP3s and other music files and placing them into a Flash interface that allows users to stream (but not download) the songs. By allowing users to access tracks without blocking copyrighted material, SeeqPod is guilty of both immediate infringement by playing the content and secondary infringement by guiding users to where they can obtain bootlegs, Warner claims. The lawsuit would collect as much as $150,000 in damages per song.
No Canadian DMCA in 2007
The Canadian government will not debate the creation of DMCA-like legislation until at least 2008, writes legal expert Michael Geist. Amendments to the country's Copyright Act were expected for discussion in the House of Commons this month, but this can no longer happen, according to the press secretary for Industry Minister Jim Prentice. The bill will not be introduced tomorrow, and as parliament is breaking for the Christmas holidays after Friday, the soonest the legislation can be reintroduced is late January.
Pushing for a harder DMCA
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the chair of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, today argued that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does not go far enough, despite common complaints about its severity. Berman is overseeing a hearing on the PRO-IP Act, a bill which could increase statutory damages for copyright violation, and even establish an intellectual property enforcement office in the Department of Justice. Before today's witness testimonies began, Berman admitted that there were things he would like to change in copyright law to make the DMCA more strict.
Canadian DMCA Stalled
Canada's equivalent to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act has been suddenly shelved, according to a claim by fair rights advocate and legal expert Michael Geist. The unnamed revision to Canada's Copyright Act is said to have been at least temporarily postponed from a planned Tuesday presentation due to the "thousands" of messages and phone calls made to the office of the country's Industry Minister Jim Prentice. The planned law is regarded as more restrictive than the American law by restricting copying even for fair use or many educational purposes, which are typically seen as exempt from the DMCA. Staple features of US technology such as time-shifting for digital video recorders would be illegal, according to Geist's analysis.