July 2006

Cornell cracks European GPS DRM

Galileo is the EU’s first global navigation system, and unlike the US GPS system is partially funded by private investors. Part of their business model is to sell their data, so they’ve added noise to the signal using a pseudo-random number sequence, with the intention of selling the “offsets” to licensed manufacturers of GPS receivers. Now researchers at Cornell have decoded that sequence, using statistical analysis of the signal. From the Cornell press release:

Afraid that cracking the code might have been copyright infringement, Psiaki’s group consulted with Cornell’s university counsel. “We were told that cracking the encryption of creative content, like music or a movie, is illegal, but the encryption used by a navigation signal is fair game,” said Psiaki. The upshot: The Europeans cannot copyright basic data about the physical world, even if the data are coming from a satellite that they built.

The moral of the story: just because people benefit from your work doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to pay you, and business plans don’t carry the force of law.

(Thanks to Lenny for the link!)

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LiveJournal-integrated Jabber

Interesting: Livejournal has just launched a Jabber server, and are developing integrated features like posting via Jabber and of course integrated Friends and Buddy lists. And they’ll be federating, so you’ll be able to talk to other Jabber-enabled systems (like GMail/GTalk) without the usual mucking about in monopoly-space (you know, like you do with AIM, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, and all the other dark-age services that still wish it was 1990).

(Thanks to Sunyata__ for the link!)

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Event: Christopher Allen and Michael Goldhaber at BayCHI

Event: Christopher Allen and Michael Goldhaber at BayCHI Read More »

How do you attribute someone who doesn’t give his name?

A few weeks ago a coworker came to me with a conundrum: he was writing an academic paper and needed a picture of a certain kind of cloud to illustrate a point he was making. He used the Creative Commons search engine and found an image on Flickr.com that both fit his needs and was released under a license that only required that he give attribution to the photographer. Only one problem: the photographer’s Flickr page didn’t list his real name or contact info anywhere. Just a handle… “Cyberdude,” or something like that.

If he was just using this photo to illustrate a blog entry, my coworker would probably have just said “Photo curtsey of Cyberdude” and with a link to this guy’s Flickr page, but there was no way he was going to say that in a professional academic paper. He could have created a Flickr account and left a comment asking for permission and the photographer’s real name, but that’s the kind of effort to gain permission that Creative Commons licenses were specifically designed to avoid. No doubt the photographer didn’t list any contact info to avoid spammers or stalkers, but that need conflicts with the needs specified by his license. A Catch-22.

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