Sunday, September 24, 2006

The problems (impossibility?) of surfing on two waves

The promotional website of Mylo, under communication, makes reference to the possibility of exploring your friend’s device and “view music play lists and stream selected music files on your device”, and to add even more controversy to the allegiance of Sony to the principles of copyright law, it is two links away from a Sony website that teaches how to rip music from “records, cassettes, eight-tracks, and other formats” so you can listen it on a portable device. So, isn’t Sony part of the RIAA that says that ripping music for your portable devices is not fair use?
It is not the first time that the dual capacity of Sony, as a producer of technology that enables copyright infringement and as media owner and producer, has make it to contradict its won goals, or pursue a line with one arm that the other arm is trying to stop. The storm of the already infamous rootkit circled around privacy and spyware issues, to then turn into a copyright violation one, but, probably because the consequences could have been far more dearer for Sony, the violation to the anti circumvention measures that the sneaking of the rootkit implied were mostly overlooked. The rootkit modified the CD driver so to not allow making illegal copies of Sony CDs but, if your CD driver already had a technological protection measure the Sony rootkit would be circumventing it, making DMCA to kick in (legislation that was promoted, between others, by RIAA).
In 1984, when it was only a technology company, Sony set the standard of what companies could do without being liable for secondary infringement (do you remember the Sony Betamax case?), but after becoming a content owner and producer has been participating in almost all actions against owner and promoters of new technologies that allow copyright infringement (as for example party in MGM Studios et al. v. Grokster et al; yes Sony was part of the first et al.). Now, the problem is that after MGM v Grokster, where the US Supreme Court ruled that "one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties", both the advertisement of Mylo and other Sony's websites would not pass the test and should be found liable of inducement...
So, the Sony dilemma is about what is the main market in the future: technology innovation or content ownership? If the later is the answer, Sony may well keep defending the extreme version of copyright protection with its pals of RIAA and MPAA, but if the future lies on being in the edge of technology development Sony will have to break ranks with the content owners by showing that the current IP system does not encourage innovation and, at least in the US, runs afoul with the constitutional requirement of promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”...

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