27th > October > 2002 Archive

RIAA chief Rosen loses Oxford debate on P2P

RIAA chairmam* and CEO Hilary Rosen suffered a heavy defeat at the Oxford Union last week, when the motion she was proposing, "This House believes that the free music mentality is a threat to the future of music," was rejected by 256 votes to 72. The Oxford Union, you may recall, is the debating club that produces top politicians, and where once upon a time toffs voted against fighting for King and Country. So Hilary and her camp (Jay Berman of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, and Chris Wright of Chrysalis) may have incorrectly anticipated the audience being rich enough to disdain P2P. The Oxford Union does however seem to have gone downhill since the 30s - apparently they're letting in the likes of Dave Green of NTK. Dave allegedly has a tape recording of the event, which will go online if the quality is good enough, and the Oxford Union itself took a video. Until either of these is available, there's a reasonably detailed report here. Highlights include Hilary claiming no copy-protected CDs have been released in the US (which may actually be true, if she agrees with Philips that copy-protected CDs are not Compact Discs), and rather rashly asking an audience of students if they downloaded and burned music, and if they bought more music because of it (yes, and yes, amazingly). Successful in opposing the motion were Wil Harris of Keble College, who opened, Ronnie Gurr, Nick King of Neilsen Entertainment International, and Chrysalis co-founder Doug D'Arcy. Full speaker details here, where you'll also glean the information that it was sponsored by NatWest bank. ® * Joke alert - don't write.
John Lettice, 27 Oct 2002

EU's MS antitrust process to include public consultation

The European Union's much delayed Microsoft antitrust case will crank back into action late this year, and come to a final decision next year, according to a Reuters report. Life is frankly too short to try to remember how many times the European Commission has been poised to rule on Microsoft "soon," but this time around it does look a little like we're approaching the final roadmap. Provided Judge CKK makes her own move in the US action soon, that is. Philip Lowe, director general of the Commission's competition directorate, was talking to reporters on Friday, and the key seems to be him saying: "It is not yet clear which problems will be cleared up in the States." While this is not particularly surprising, given that it's been obvious the Commission's been waiting for shoes to drop on the other side of the pond for some time now, but it seems reasonable to take that as virtual confirmation that Lowe is waiting for a conclusion in the US, and that Europe will then cut its cloth accordingly. Lowe, according to Reuters, identified leveraging from one market to another and product tying as issues, and indicated that the theory of monopoly leveraging as savaged here by DoJ head Charles James was being pursued by the Commission. Of particular interest, we feel, is the nature of next year's phase two of the ruling. After the preliminary decision this year, the final one will come once there has been a period of public consultation. The Commission ordinarily just strings companies up without bothering to ask the people, so this looks like a novel innovation. ®
John Lettice, 27 Oct 2002

Free software org burned by PayPal

A few weeks ago someone illegally used a PayPal account maintained by AbiSource.com, home of the free, GPL'd word processor AbiWord, to buy a digital camera for $581.00. A screen shot of the group's account shows that on 2 October one Jun Jiang was paid for a camera he sold, presumably on eBay, PayPal's owner. A little scam like this would hardly be news if it weren't for the appalling way PayPal has failed to acknowledge it, or if that, in turn, weren't characteristic of the company's handling of complaints, glitches and fraudulent charges, according to a Web site called PayPalSucks.com which catalogues customer horror-stories. According to developer Dom Lachowicz, more than three weeks have passed during which he's telephoned, e-mailed and faxed the company but PayPal has not yet replied, "not even [acknowledging] my complaint tickets with so much as an automated e-mail." "The fund is currently at $206 instead of about $800 thanks to this cretin. This puts a serious damper on my hopes of re-establishing a bi-weekly patch prize," he adds. Unfortunately, PayPal seems to have numerous legal loopholes through which to escape responsibility for accounts under its control. "Paypal is not a bank, so they do not operate under the same rules and conditions as a bank (let alone the government regulations and FDIC stuff), and as such, I have minimal recourse against them at the moment. Their silence implies to me that they are treating this matter as if I got mugged on the street, rather than as if someone walked into their bank and withdrew my money without my consent," Lachowicz says. As for the person who ended up with his money, he writes, "Jun Jiang probably sold the camera in what he thought was a legitimate transaction and most likely did not steal my money. His camera is in someone else's hands, while my money is in his. Even though the law might fault him for receiving stolen goods, I personally don't." An earlier attempt to charge $1,203.10 on Lachowicz's credit card via PayPal failed, but this is due to the CC issuer's security measures, not Pay Pal's, he says. If donations are being taken, we imagine some other mechanism will have to be introduced. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Oct 2002