Keeping Track of What we Read in Class

I was looking all over for the syllabus from a course I was fortunate to take in the fall of 2006 at USC, Set-Top Box: Hollywood’s Secret War on Your Living Room. As if it wasn’t enough to meet weekly with Cory Doctorow, the guests he brought in and the material we read were priceless and it has all stuck with me in many ways. Having tracked down the syllabus in an old socialtext wiki I thought I’d reprint it here so I no longer have to dig and dig and dig to refer back to some of the readings. The class blog and my class project are still online.


PUBD 510 Set-Top Cop:

Hollywood's Secret War on Your Living Room


An examination of the public diplomacy at work in the international standards, legal and normative mechanisms by which technology is restricted in the name of protecting copyright and other exclusive rights over knowledge goods.

These systems, created at the behest of the American entertainment industry and subsequently exported to the rest of the world, have made great and invisible inroads to every corner of the technological realm. Every device that contains a DVD player is required to be locked down in ways that restrict owner-freedom beyond what copyright demands or even allows. Proposals abound to lock down innumerable general-purpose technologies, from the PC to the Internet, under similar regimes.

These systems have failed and will go on failing to enrich artists or prevent indiscriminate copying. However, they do distort the market, restrict innovation, and punish legitimate users and researchers. This is a vast exporting of the values of one corner of America's entertainment industry, and is directly contrary to the fortunes of foreign entertainment industries and tech industries domestic and abroad.

Set Top Cop will examine the technical failings with use-restriction systems and the legal frameworks for these. It will explore the diplomatic evolution of standards, lobbying, and industry negotiations that have yielded such a restrictive outcome.


Attendance and Participation (10%): Overall attendance and participation in class discussion will be accounted for in the final grade.

Research Project (30%): Students will choose an area from the seminar and conduct an exhaustive review of key literature, presenting a comprehensive overview of the key texts, debates, and issues of controversy. Topics will need to be approved by the course instructor and students will be encouraged to utilize new media and technologies to present their research in alternative formats and in a public forum.

Weekly Assignments (60%): Students will be responsible for a semester-long project which analyzes the history, use, and trajectory of a current Digital Rights Management technology. They will trace and contextualize that technology by completing weekly assignments which track its use and development.


WEEK 1: 8/22
An overview of the course's themes, objectives and assignments.

WEEK 2: 8/29
Security basics:
Lecture, discussions and readings on the basics of information security, from Augustus Caesar to Alan Turing; from the crypto wars to the DRM wars.

Bruce Schneier, Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World, Wiley, 2004, 0471453803
Online copy for students (password required)

Peter Biddle et al, The Darknet and the Future of Content Protection

Cory Doctorow, Microsoft DRM speech

Cory Doctorow, HP DRM speech

WEEK 3: 9/5
Reverse engineering:

Speaker: Jason Schulz, EFF Staff Attorney

The legitimate case for reverse engineering in the academy and industry from a UCSD engineering prof whose award-winning work focuses on the use of reverse engineering in pedagogy and as a tool of social analysis.

Bunnie Huang, Hacking the X-Box: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering
No Starch Press, 2003 (1593270291)
Readme.1st, Reverse Engineering Xbox Security, Caveat Hacker
Online copy for students (password required)

Ed Felten, Alex Halderman, Freedom to Tinker (blog)

Feral Robotic Dogs (website)

Blizzard v BNETD: Legal case notes, EFF

WEEK 4: 9/12
Use restriction: Stories of DRM breaks, from DVD-Jon and the DeCSS break against DVD players to Microsoft's Palladium and Seth Schoen's Owner Override proposal to restore control of "trusted" PCs to their owners.

Mark Stefik, Trusted Systems (article) free to access w/ my Atlantic user/pass: revolute/usccpd – Andy)

Jane Ginsburg, From Having Copies to Experiencing Works (article)

Dean Marks and Bruce Turnbull, Technical Protection Measures: The Intersection of. Technology, Law and Commercial Licenses (article)

Bruce Sterling, Hacker Crackdown

WEEK 5: 9/19
Present day DRMs:

Speakers: Michael Ayers, Toshiba DRM licensing attorney

HDCP, AACS, Blu-Ray, DVD-HD, CPRM, Fair Play and beyond.

Seth Schoen, Owner Override paper

Seth Schoen, report from WinHeck

Halderman and Felten, Lessons from the Sony CD DRM Episode

Project DReaM — An Architectural Overview

WEEK 6: 9/26
Wrapup: Original research

Speaker: Bruce Schneier

Presentations of original research

WEEK 7: 10/3
History of copyright: The history of copyright and its industrial applications. Critical readings stress the dynamic tension between copyright and technology and the way that they have co-evolved. Class discussion will talk about the role of anti-Japanese sentiment during the VCR wars in setting Zaibatsu lobbying strategy in the US.

Speaker: Wendy Seltzer, Brooklyn Law

Tim Wu, Copyright's Communications Policy

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture
Read chapters 1-5:

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Anarchist in the Library
Basic Books, 2005, 0465089852
Read chapters 2, 4, 6 ,7 and 10
Online copy for students (password required)

Julie Cohen, A Right to Read Anonymously (article)

Pam Samuelson, Towards More Sensible Anti-Circumvention Regulations

WEEK 7: 10/10

WEEK 8: 10/17

Copyright and new business models

Speaker: Steven Starr, Revver

Internet-era businesses sometimes thrive in the face of copying. Readings include works on effective Internet-era business-models.

John Buckman, Magnatunes Manifesto

Neil Leyton, FadingWays manifesto

Cory Doctorow, Introduction to electronic edition of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Tim O'Reilly, Piracy is Progressive Taxation

Debian social contract

Neil Stephenson, In the Beginning…Was the Command Line

Tim Wu, Copyright's Authorship Policy
Online copy for students (password required)

Long Tail readings:

The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Wired, Oct 2004

Long tail and copyright, Chris Anderson

Death of the Blockbuster

Life-Expectancy of Bestsellers

WEEK 9: 10/24
Speaker: Jamie Love, Consumer Project on Technology

Wrapup: Original research

Presentations of original research

WEEK 10: 10/31
Standards and treaties: The actions of international consortia, treaty bodies, and standards groups have far-reaching effects on law, technology and commerce. Yet the action of these bodies is obscure and little-regarded. Recent activist participation in these bodies has shone the first light into their activities. This is public diplomacy for the rest of us, storming the gates of the UN.

Cory Doctorow, et al: DRM: A Failure in the Developed World, a Danger to the Developing world

Access to Knowledge treaty draft

Geneva Declaration

Declaration on the Development Agenda

Adelphi Charter

WEEK 11: 11/7
Laws: How copyright and related laws get made and passed.

Speaker: Fred von Lohmann, EFF Head IP Attorney

EFF's Annotations to the MPAA Broadcast Flag FAQ

MPAA Content Protection Status Report

RIAA/CEA exchange on digital radio


Jack Valenti 1982 Congressional testimony on Betamax

Lehman Report to the 1995 National Information Infrastructure commission

Pam Samuelson, The Copyright Grab

WEEK 12: 11/14
Command and control dystopia: What it could mean to live in a world of ubiquitous command-and-control devices that respond to others' wishes instead of your own.

Speakers: Mitch Kapor, John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow

Richard Stallman, The Right to Read

Cory Doctorow, 0wnz0red

Ed Felten, Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue (transcript)

Wendy Seltzer, The Broadcast Flag: It's Not Just About TV

WEEK 13: 11/21
Speaker: Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, Xbox hacker, founder of Chumby
Wrapup: Original research

Presentations of original research

WEEK 14: 11/28

Modern copyright and technology: Technology restrictions in practice — Broadcast Flags, next-generation DVDs, Coral and other DRM consortia. Critical readings stress the unintended consequences of these laws for competition, innovation and freedom of expression.

Speaker: Seth Schoen, EFF Staff Technologist

Joint Report of the Chairs of the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group

EFF response to above

CPCM Blue Book

Coral Alliance site

Fred von Lohmann, Unintended consequences

Tom Giovanetti, IP Blog

WEEK 15: 12/5
Conclusion: New issues arising during the semester (Bluray v DVDHD final specs; new lawsuits over DRM)

Readings as appropriate

The Annenberg School for Communication is committed to upholding the University's Academic Integrity Code as detailed in the campus guide. It is the policy of the School of Communication to report all violations of the code. Any serious violations of the Academic Integrity Code will result in the student's expulsion from the School of Communication.

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to the instructor as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.

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