Sound of silence copyrighted

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Fri Jul 5 19:39:38 MDT 2002

People who read the Wall Street Journal or its web site may have noticed the
piece wed. about how the record companies, not happy with their
already-plummeting sales, the emerging payola scandal, declining music radio
listenership, consumer lawsuits to their putting out defective and
fraudulently labelled products (socalled copy-protected pseudo-CD's), and
less than stellar reputation overall have come up with two more brillian
ideas for uninventing the internet and computers in general and digital
music in particular.

These are:

a) getting Congress to let them sabotage the computers of people who use
peer-to-peer networks and

b) dragging individual users of p2p file sharing applications, i.e. kids,
into court on criminal charges of copyright violation under the "No
Electronic Theft" (NET) Act that the gizillions of dollars the copyright
cartels give to (mostly) Democrats bought them during the Clinton

If you missed it there, since the WSJ is a pay site, you can still find it
on MSNBC, thanks to an alliance between that Rosemary's Baby of an unholy
union between GE and Microsoft, on one side, and the outstanding voice of
American Finance Capital, or so they wish, on the other. The MSNBC version
is here:

On point a), the corporate hacking offensive against the kids, I would just
say the copyright cartels should be careful what they wish for. If they want
a hacking war over p2p file sharing and copyright, I actually have a pretty
good idea of who would win that war -- and it would not be the corporations.

That's not just because your average 15-year-old hacker is smarter about
technology (and just about everything else, except lying, cheating and
stealing) than the suits, although s/he is, but also because all the people
the suits have hired to run their networks for them are hackers, too. If you
don't believe me, ask Adam. He's one of them (one of the hackers, not the
suits -- and, yes, they're everywhere).

As for trying to get around the right-to-record-at-home provisions of the
Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 by depicting home recording --which is
essentially what file sharing is-- as a crime under the NET act, I can't
imagine a more efficient way that this Jurassic industry could speed its
transition into a museum exhibit than going after a bunch of college kids.
They should ask the question that Richard Nixon kept popping to his advisers
and confidants: "How it is going to play in Peoria?"

As for all the good it will do them, they should remember that the internet
simply perceives attempts at censorship as damage and routes around them.

The deCSS/2600 magazine case, which was in the news once again this week, is
a good example. The MPAA took 2600 publisher Emmanuel Goldstein to court to
stop him from posting the program, the source code, and even links to the
program or source code of deCSS,  a hack by a Scandinavian teenager who
wanted to play DVD movies on his Linux box. Since DVD movies are encrypted,
they would not work right. So the obvious, logical thing to do was to figure
out how to decrypt them. Which he did. The hackers at 2600 took at look at
the first amendment, and decided to be real patriotic in a subtle manner and
actually exercise their freedom of the press.

Well, the judges didn't buy the idea that "Congress shall make no law ...
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" means "no law including
laws bought and paid for by millions of dollars in copyright cartel
'campaign contribution' bribes." So 2600 is barred from posting deCSS,
printing the source code, or even publishing a link.

But the net result --the result on the net-- was predictable. For a while
there, it seemed like everybody and their sister has deCSS up on their web
site. All sorts of people keep deCSS and the source on their shared folders
for KaZaa and gnutelliums just as a matter of principle, even though the
original hack has long-ago been superceded by incorporation of the algorithm
into any number of DVD ripping programs.

This week 2600, at the advice of their lawyers from the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, decided not to take an appeal to the Supreme Court. The
arguments for giving up this fight are essentially tactical, bad court
composition, not the best case to challenge the Digtal Millenium Copyright
Act on and so on. I'm generally underwhelmed by such appeals to judicial
cretinism, but at this point I'm willing to say, hey, you're the lawyers,

Because when you come right down to it, the MPAA won the battle and lost the
war. Jon Johanssen's original program really wasn't all that suitable for
ripping, although the unscrambling algorithm was okay. By *insisting* movie
ripping be suppressed, even if it means shredding the Bill of Rights to
confetti, all the movie mafia succeded in doing was making ripping DVD's the
coolest thing since, well,  ripping audio CD's. There's no surer way to
guarantee that something WILL get hacked than by drawing a line in the sand
and posting "no hacking" signs all around it. It's tantamount to posting a
speed limit, a declaration that hunting season is open in a free-fire zone.

And, thanks to the efforts of the MPAA's sister organization on the audio
front, the RIAA, and its Jihad against Napster, by the time ripping tools
became robust enough, there were also  file sharing networks and
technologies robust --and uncontrolled-- enough to distribute the resulting

Now it looks like the RIAA wants file sharing developers to go the next
step, and refine techniques for making those doing the sharing extremely
hard to trace without violating all sorts of laws.

Now, from all of this, you may think the music mafias and copyright cartels
just want you to listen to silence instead of their products, but, as it
turns out, you would be wrong. It turns out they've copyrighted silence,
too. I'm not making this up. This is from the British Independent, and all
the doubting Tomases using windoze out there can put their iconic finger
into this URL to verify what I reproduce below really came from this source:

*  *  *

Big noises at odds over the sound of silence

By David Lister Media and Culture Editor

21 June 2002

'The Sound of Silence' may have prompted engaging harmonies from Simon and
Garfunkel - but a more literal appreciation of the absence of noise has
prompted one of the more curious copyright disputes of modern times.

Mike Batt, the man behind the Wombles and Vanessa Mae, has put a silent
60-second track on the album of his latest classical chart-topping protégés,
the Planets. This has enraged representatives of the avant-garde,
experimentalist composer John Cage, who died in 1992. The silence on his
group's album clearly sounds uncannily like 4'33", the silence composed by
Cage in his prime.

Batt said last night: "I've received a letter on behalf of John Cage's music
publishers. I was in hysterics when I read their letter.

"As my mother said when I told her, 'which part of the silence are they
claiming you nicked?'. They say they are claiming copyright on a piece of
mine called 'One Minute's Silence' on the Planets' album, which I credit
Batt/Cage just for a laugh. But my silence is original silence, not a
quotation from his silence."

*  *  *

So don't be surprised if one of these days you get an invoice in your
mailbox demanding payment for all those times you weren't saying anything.


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