Edupage, November 11, 2005

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NOVEMBER 11, 2005
  Congress Examines Controversial Portions of PATRIOT Act
  Feds Push for Stricter Copyright Protections
  Online Posting Gets One Expelled, Three Suspended
  New Service Cracks Passwords
  New Group Addresses Open Source Patent Issue

CONGRESS EXAMINES CONTROVERSIAL PORTIONS OF PATRIOT ACT Members of a Congressional committee this week took up discussions of the USA PATRIOT Act, including two highly controversial sections of the law. Several provisions of the law are scheduled to expire this year, and the committee is charged with reconciling House and Senate proposals to extend those provisions. Expected to be the focus of the discussions are Sections 215 and 505, which greatly expand federal authority to obtain information such as phone and library records on individuals and which prevent those under investigation from revealing, even to their attorneys, that they are under investigation. Advocates for civil liberties have been pressing federal officials for details on how these key sections of the law have been applied, including a letter recently sent by five U.S. Senators to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, demanding data on how many so-called national security letters have been issued since the PATRIOT Act was enacted. Although federal officials have revealed few specifics, supporters of the legislation argue that "vigorous oversight by congressional committees has uncovered no instances of abuse," according to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.). Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) noted, "The very act of surveilling citizens who aren't even suspected of wrongdoing is an abuse in itself." Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2005 (sub. req'd)

According to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department
recently submitted a package of legislative proposals to Congress that
would broaden the scope of laws to protect copyright and would
strengthen law enforcement powers to investigate such crimes. Among the
proposals are recommendations to allow enforcement of copyrights,
regardless of whether they are registered; to hold those found guilty
of infringement liable for compensation to the victims; and to allow
the seizure and destruction of counterfeit goods, equipment used to
make such goods, and property acquired with the profits from such
goods. The proposals would also make it a crime to "attempt to infringe
copyright." Groups such as the Business Software Alliance and the
Recording Industry Association of America welcomed the proposed changes
to copyright law, while those concerned about fair use rights expressed
reservations. An organization called Public Knowledge said in a
statement that it is "concerned that the Justice Department's proposal
attempts to enforce copyright law in ways it has never before been
CNET, 10 November 2005

Four students at the Bryn Elian School in Wales have been disciplined
for online postings they made about a teacher at the school. One boy,
15, was expelled, while the other three were suspended for between 5
and 15 days for obscene comments they entered on an Arizona Wild West
reenactment Web site. Stephen Matthews, head teacher at the school,
said the statements, which were not entered from school computers, were
not simply "childish comments." He said, "This was a distressing
incident, and clearly no one would want to be maligned in this way."
Related to the incident, local police are looking into charges of
misuse of computers. The National Union of Teachers said that the
incident raises the specter of a new form of possible abuse, adding to
threats of physical or verbal injury.
BBC, 10 November 2005

Three computer hackers have set up a Web site that offers access--for a
fee--to so-called rainbow tables, which are said to allow cracking of
most passwords. Computers use codes, or hashes, to conceal user
passwords. The creators of the RainbowCrack Online Web site spent two
years generating hashes for virtually all possible passwords and
storing them in vast tables. With the tables, breaking a password
becomes as simple as looking up the hashes and working backwards to the
password. Developers of RainbowCrack said the service is not intended
for malicious uses but as a tool for network administrators to improve
the security of their systems. Security expert Bruce Schneier
disagreed, saying he doesn't see any "legitimate business demand" for
the service. Philippe Oechslin of Swiss firm Objectif Securite said
that system designers can easily incorporate elements into password
schemes that add sufficient complexity as to make rainbow tables
ineffective in cracking passwords. Schneier said that although such
changes are not difficult, very few systems are designed to use them.
"A lot of systems are weak," he said.
The Register, 10 November 2005

A new organization hopes to eliminate one of the major obstacles to
adoption of open source technology: concern over patent and royalty
disputes over shared code. The Open Invention Network (OIN), which
includes IBM, Sony, Royal Philips Electronics, and Linux distributors
Red Hat and Novell, will acquire and freely share patents that
organizers hope will encourage broader adoption of open source tools,
particularly Linux. Any organization that agrees not to assert its
patents over those who have licenses with OIN will be permitted to use
OIN patents for free. The business model for OIN represents a new
arrangement in which patents are shared to promote the underlying Linux
technology. Industry analyst Richard Doherty said, "A lot of lawyers
are going to throw their hands up and ask, 'How do we make money from
this?'" The answer, he said, is that they might not.
ZDNet, 10 November 2005

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NOVEMBER 14, 2005 UN Meeting to Address Control of Internet Google Floats Idea of Renting Books Snocap Adds Warner Music to Quiver

UN MEETING TO ADDRESS CONTROL OF INTERNET The United Nations (UN) is hosting an international conference this week in Tunisia to address concerns about U.S. control of the Internet. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was set up in 1998 to oversee the Domain Name System, which reconciles Web addresses and directs Internet traffic to proper destinations. Despite an understanding that ICANN would become independent of any national ties, the Bush administration this year rejected such a move, and the organization still operates under the authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This situation has left many other countries complaining that the United States holds the power over a global resource, and nine different proposals for putting ICANN under the guidance of an international body will be addressed at the meeting in Tunisia, which will host as many as 15,000 delegates. Some individuals who were part of the work that led to the Internet have said that concerns over ICANN are misguided. Leonard Kleinrock, computer scientist at UCLA, said, "Everyone seems to think that the D.N.S. system is a big deal, but it's not the heartbeat of the Internet." Robert Kahn, one of the developers behind TCP/IP, said of ICANN, "There is nothing in there to control, and there are huge issues that the governments of the world really do need to work on." New York Times, 14 November 2005 (registration req'd)

Google has reportedly proposed a plan to rent books online. An unnamed
publisher said that Google suggested the idea of letting consumers pay
a fee, equal to 10 percent of the price of a printed copy of the book,
to have online access to the text for one week. Rented books would not
be downloadable or printable, according to the publisher, which said
that although the fee Google suggested is too low, the notion of
renting texts might represent a viable new model for content
distribution. A spokesperson from Google said that although "Google
Print is exploring new access models to help authors and publishers
sell more books online," the company at this time has nothing to
announce. Other publishers said they were curious about a rental
program for books and are interested in hearing more details, as long
as the program ensures that copyright holders are compensated. David
Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus Books, also noted that for a
rental program to be successful, it would have to augment physical book
sales, not limit them.
Wall Street Journal, 14 November 2005 (sub. req'd)

Online music service Snocap has reached an agreement with Warner Music
Group, giving Snocap deals with all four major record labels as well as
a number of smaller, independent labels. The company already had struck
deals with Sony BMG, Universal Music, and EMI Group. Snocap was founded
by Shawn Fanning, creator of the original Napster. The company uses
"fingerprinting" technology to label electronic music, which gives
consumers online access to music while giving record labels the ability
to control how files are used. Copyright owners can register songs with
Snocap and then use the company's management system to set properties
for how each track can be used. According to the company, consumers who
use Snocap can be assured of having only legal downloads of music,
without the risk of litigation for illegal file trading and without the
risk of downloading viruses or other malware that is sometimes included
in music on P2P services.
CNET, 13 November 2005

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