Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Dan Gillmor
DirecTV Reins in the Legal Attack Dogs

In one of the uglier "intellectual property" abuses, DirecTV has been suing people for possession of tools it claims can be used to get TV shows without paying for them. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society have challenged the satellite TV company on this conduct, and on Monday DirecTV agreed to modify its approach, according to this press release, which says in part:

The company will no longer pursue people solely for purchasing smart card readers, writers, general-purpose programmers, and general-purpose emulators. It will maintain this policy into the forseeable future and file lawsuits only against people it suspects of actually pirating its satellite signal. DirecTV will, however, continue to investigate purchasers of devices that are often primarily designed for satellite signal interception, nicknamed “bootloaders” and “unloopers.”

DirecTV also agreed to change its pre-lawsuit demand letters to explain in detail how innocent recipients can get DirecTV to drop their cases. The company also promised that it will investigate every substantive claim of innocence it receives. If purchasers provide sufficient evidence demonstrating that they did not use their devices for signal theft, DirecTV will dismiss their cases. EFF and CIS will monitor reports of this process to confirm that innocent device purchasers are having their cases dismissed.

Perhaps DirecTV saw some writing on the wall. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court has ruled that the company can't sue solely because someone possesses such equipment.
These are the kinds of stories that make me sometimes wish I lived in America. Good job EFF and Stanford Law School.

Bruce Schneier has written an interesting article discussing the accusation of Ahmed Chalabi of informing Iran that the US had broken its codes and when Iran knew that the NSA was cracking their codes. He digs into the history of Crypto AG, the NSA and Iran. He links to an article about Hans Buehler, the Crypto AG salesman who was arrested by Iran in 1992 on suspicion that Crypto AG had installed back doors in its encryption machines. There is no conclusion, but this story reminds me of Crytonomicon and the interesting world of information, misinformation and spying.

Got a new Nokia 7610. Short review on my stuff blog.

Nokia asked me to be a guest speaker at their annual press event, Nokia Connection 2004. I was the only outside speaker and they told me I could say what I wanted. What a treat. ;-)

A summary of my presentation:

sharing++ open++ customer_oriented++ user_empowering++ blogs ++

DRM-- "pipes"-- "terminal devices"-- traditional_marketing--

Rebecca is blogging from about the Japan sessions at the World Economic Forum meeting going on right now in Seoul. The theme seems to be about recovery. This year at Davos, I was in the audience and Rebecca was moderating a similar panel. Unfortunately, I'm not there this time to heckle. ;-)

Rebecca blogs:

World Economic Forum Blog
... However he [Takenaka] also said that further agressive reforms are necessary if Japan is to pull itself fully and completely out of its decade-long economic slump. He said that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is fully committed to such aggressive reform.


Takenaka concludes: "There is no excuse to postpone the reform, or to stop the reform at this moment." He says the greatest fundamental danger to economic expansion is a "kind of complacency." People who say that further reforms are unnecessary because the economy has improved are "totally wrong." Japan, he says, now has an opportunity to create a "virtuous cycle" of reform and growth.


At the Annual Meeting in Davos this past January, I moderated a panel titled Making Japan's Recovery Last . Panelists were generally optimistic that the recovery could be sustained, as long as the government continued with structural reforms. However some members of the audience including venture capitalist and WEF GLT Joi Ito expressed concern that the economic upturn would be used as an excuse not to forge ahead with tough reforms. It appears that Takenaka is determined not to let that happen. He says he has the Prime Minister's support. But what about the rest of the Japanese bureaucracy?

I hope Takenaka is right. I'm still quite concerned that economic recovery will cause people to be complacent about reform, but as Rebecca points out, the drivers for the current recovery might be different from the past. I suppose that if Takenaka and Koizumi continue to focus on this aggressive reform at home, we might have a chance.