Friday, August 08, 2003

Recommended - Exchange between Ernest Miller (Yale) and Fred von Lohmann (EFF)on compulsory licenses and Larry Lessig's lament about's lawyers.

Charles Cooper thinks the Total Information Awareness programme is a good idea. Or, at least, that's what he has written, I suspect to bait the usual libertarians. He's right that DARPA (originally ARPA) was set up during the cold war (by Dwight Eisenhower in response to the Soviet launch of the sputnik satellite in 1957) "to think big about technology". It was essentially the then president's technology fast response agency, to avoid getting caught on the hop by the Soviets again.

As such DARPA shouldn't be castigated for proposing ideas like the TIA or the terrorism futures market, both of which are about using information for particular ends. He's wrong to imply that we should not worry about or thoroughly debate the real utility or specific deployment of such systems, however, because he hasn't seen any proof that TIA will lead an Orwellian future, though he has seen " the smoking hole that used to be the World Trade Tower complex in my hometown of New York City." In response I'm reminded of Ben Franklin's 1759 comment that "Those that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I'm neither a US constitutional scholar nor even a US citizen but even to me there seemed to be fairly fundamental questions raised under the first, Fourth and Fifth Amendments by the proposed TIA as it had been described variously by George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft and other members of the current president's administration. There are intuitively obvious reasons to argue that the best available technologies should be put at the disposal of the 'good guys' in targetting and fighting the 'bad guys'. That's no reason to expand the notion to the extent that those same technologies should be deployed in the assumption that the only way to catch the bad guys is to assume everyone is a baddie, until they prove otherwise. The natural outcome of the latter scenario is that so much energy is expended on checking the innocent that the real bad guys find it much easier to get lost in the noise.
The UK has banned the iTrip device that allows you to play your iPod tunes on the radio. It facilitates breaches of the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy act which requires anyone with a radio transmitter to have a license.

The Oyez project has released an "inaugural set of Supreme Court MP3 files." I've been listening to the argument of the the Katz v U.S. eavesdropping case and the re-argument of the Roe v Wade abortion case, as I've been sorting through some routine admin. work. Terrific to be able to hear these, although in the Katz file it seems not all the justices were miked up, so it's not possible to hear all their questions.

The big issues for the Autumn on this side of the pond look likely to be the round EU implementations of the copyright directive, the September EU parliament and Commission decisions on the patenting of software in the EU and the EU's IP enforcement directive and finally, I guess, any action the Commission decide to take against Microsoft. Throw DRM and trusted computing into the fray an you've got a complex 'mess', as my systems colleagues at the Open University would call it. The Foundation for Information Policy Research are leading the UK fight against the IP enforcement directive. As he has been making NGOs aware of the directive, FIPR Chairman and Cambridge University security specialist, Ross Anderson, has come to realise that this directive could have a significant effect on ordinary retailing,

"RFIDs (radio-frequency IDs) are devices smaller than grains of rice
that can be fitted on goods such as clothes and which will, when
integgorated electronically, return a 128-bit unique number. You can
think of them as bar codes that identify individual objects rather
than merely product ranges, and that can be read from a foot or two
away. Walmart has ordered its suppliers to fit them, so we're going to
get them in everything we buy for more than a few pounds, within a
couple of years, like it or not.

RFIDs will be useful in detecting and preventing counterfeit goods, so
they will be covered by the directive. It will be an offence to mess
with them, or to possess kit to mess with them."

So these RFIDs as copyright "technological protection measures" will effectively be able to be used to create market barriers. When it comes to RFIDs I had always been more concerned about the privacy implications but the market manipulation that Ross points out is not nearly as transparent, so is potentially being overlooked by policy makers and certain sectors of commerce which don't yet realise the impact they might have when combined with regulations like the proposed IP enforcement directive.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Well, there's been plenty going on since I've been away.

The RIAA have started their avalanche of subpoenas, the first stage in tracking down and suing P2P file sharers.

MIT and Boston college stand up to the RIAA.

Red Hat have stepped prominently into the SCO linux-unix battle.

Tony Blair is apparently backing away from a national ID card

A UK government funded report supposedly to determine how to stimulate broadband rollout has declared that DRM is the only way to do this. (Do I hear 'interests' and 'vested' and perhaps even 'smells' coming together in some combination?) I can't put it better than Ross Anderson: "I deeply resent the use of my tax money to help Disney and Microsoft grind their axes. But this sort of nonsense cannot just be ignored - if not rebutted it will become policy."

The FBI are targetting VOIP as a threat to national security

The ACLU are challenging the constitutionality of the USA-PATRIOT Act

UCITA has taken a big blow as National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws put their support for it on ice.

The UK draft proposal on the implementation of the EUCD reaches its first birthday, as the UK Patent Office as putting the final touches to the final draft.

Queensland University staff have their pcs scanned for MP3 files.

Congress sees the introduction of the P4 bill with the stated aim of protecting children from P2P porn.

The UK Human Rights Act gets accused of fostering a culture of litigation

Dow Jones win a hearing in Australia to appeal the Gutnick online defamation decision.

Sony win the playstation mod chip appeal in Australia

EBay have $29.5 million dollars in damages awarded against them for patent infringement

The consumer commission in Australian rejects a complaint about copy protected CDs

Mitch Bainwol, a republican party staffer, replaces Hilary Rosen at the RIAA

The EFF issue advice on how to avoid getting sued by the RIAA

A US appeal court oks the evidence of a Turkish hacker in a child pornography case

The Pentagon propose and then withdraw the idea of a terrorism futures market.

The European Commission declare that they are likely to fine Microsoft for continuing anti-competitive practices.

Amazon begin working with publishers on the idea of an online searchable non-fiction books archive.

And that's just for starters. I'm really backed up with work so don't have the time to expand on these but there's plenty of background to be had on all these stories from all the usual suspects listed under my links.