Thursday, August 14, 2003

I've been tinkering with my course, T182 Law the Internet and Society: Technology and the Future of Ideas, (taster here) based on Larry Lessig's book The Future of Ideas. And I've been wondering how the Council of Europe's 'Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet ' (Strasbourg, 28.05.2003) meshes with the EU copyright directive, and the likely autumnal developements on EU software patents and the intellectual property enforcement directive, the latter having already been called 'the DMCA on steroids'. I can't see a comfortable fit here, but then I can't see a comfortable fit the the Council of Europe's cybercrime treaty either, which the declaration says it is compatible with. Perhaps I'm looking at it through too complex a filter?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Lots of people are poking fun at Fox News for their 'fair and balanced' lawsuit against Penguin.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "China is about to embark on the world's biggest experiment in the use of electronic identification cards, which next
year will begin to replace the paper national ID cards carried by 960 million Chinese citizens."

ISPs are accused by a new report of not doing enough to protect children online. Expect more demands for CDA and CIPA type legislation in Europe, without the CDA's section 230 protections for ISPs.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, the US government are trying to resurrect COPA, according to the Guardian. "The Bush administration has appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate a law that punishes Web site operators who expose children to dirty pictures and other inappropriate material."
The EFF and Stanford Center for Internet & Society Cyberlaw Clinic have launched From the site:

"DirecTV has launched a reckless legal campaign that threatens smartcard researchers and innovators. Over the past few years, the company has sent hundreds of thousands of demand letters and filed nearly 9,000 federal lawsuits in response to the mere purchase of smart card readers, emulators, unloopers, reprogrammers, bootloaders, and blockers. The satellite TV company accuses techies – some of whom threw out their televisions in favor of the Internet long ago – of using these devices to illegally intercept its signals. But the smart card readers and their variousderivatives are capable of so much more: they secure computer networks, enable user-based identification, and further scientific discovery.

People who intercept DirectTV’s satellite signal are breaking the law. However, DirecTV’s cease and desist letter campaign does not distinguish the legitimate users from the thieves. This website is meant as a legal resource for the legitimate computer scientists, technology workers, and hobbyists who are being harassed by DirecTV's no holds-barred slash-and-burn legal strategy. This site provides scientists, researchers, innovators and their lawyers with the resources necessary to fight DirecTV and protect their right to own and use multi-purpose technology for its legal applications – and without fear of reprisal."

DirecTV's volume of cease and desist letters has reached about 100,000 in the past year. That's a lot of threats. This site is worth a thorough read.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The letter urging the EU JURI committe to reject the IP enforcement directive from new CODE collective of civil liberties groups I mentioned earlier is available online.
This is a joke right? "Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase "fair and balanced" in the title of his upcoming book." The book is apparently called "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Ranks up there with Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone case.

More IP fun over at Lawmeme. What are we going to do about vicious pirates who..... er ..... copy .... er... bags?
38 civil liberties groups from around Europe have combined to form a new coalition to oppose the proposed EU intellectual property enforcement directive. "The groups argue that the proposed IP Enforcement Directive, is a "DMCA on steroids" that would hand broad anti-competitive powers to large foreign companies, limit competition, and erode the traditional rights of consumers to use the products they purchase as they see fit." It includes the UK's Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR).

Microsoft have been fined $520 million for patent infringement after a jury concluded they stepped on Eolas Technologies and University of California patents.

Aaron Swartz paints Dean Kamen (the inventor of the Segway) in a new light for me. "All you technologists get an A+ for doing great things but a D- for being socially responsible...Your technology isn’t going to do what you think it will. Answering machines were supposed to make sure we can talk to everyone, but now we use them to screen calls. Cell phones were supposed to connect us to everyone, but instead they separate us from the people in the same room. We won’t solve the digital divide with more technology. The most important thing we can invent is inventors. If we keep having more people with less resources the world is going to be an ugly place." Nicely said. A man with a mission and let's hope he has some success. This short superhero feature on Kamen focussed me, for the first time really, on his social conscience, whereas I've primarily always thought of Kamen as a passionate technology advocate.

CSAPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) are launching a boycott Gillette campaign because Gillette (or, more accurately, their retailers) are using RFID tags in their products to surreptitiously take photographs of shoppers. Tescos are running a trial at their Cambridge store, which the Guardian headined as Tesco tests spy chip technology.

USA Today report on the mass deployment of webcams throughout schools in the Biloxi district of Mississippi. "So far, Biloxi is the only school district in the nation to install Webcams in every classroom -- nearly 500 so far." This is allegedly for security. No comment

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Large US retailers and food companies are trying to get RFIDs designated as anti-terrorist devices according to Wired. This would be comical if it wasn't so serious. Of course the natural follow up is that it is the patriot duty of every citizen to support anti-terrorism measures. Can't wait to see David Blunkett jumping on this bandwagon.

The RIAA's P2P war hit a slight snag on Friday when a Boston judge threw out their subpoena from a Washington D.C. court to identify Massachusetts students. . "The court rejected the RIAA's bald-faced attempt to use a single D.C. court ruling to steamroller Internet users' privacy nationwide," said EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer. One up for MIT and Boston College. Nice article on the RIAA crusade here. Haven't come across Phillyburbs before.

IBM are coming out all guns blazing against the SCO lawsuit over linux. They're treating SCO's advice that they indemnify their customers against IP infringement claims with contempt. A clear sign they don't believe SCO has a chance in court. They're also saying SCO ahve violated the GPL and undermined their own case with their past behavior and finally, in true IBM form, they're accusing SCO of violating at least four IBM patents. Anyone for settlement talks?

Elsewhere, eBay have written to Google to demand they ban advertisers using keywords like 'ebay', 'bay' and 'auction web sites'. Francis Hwang wonders if domain names matter as much as they used to?

And the 9th circuit, according to Yale's excellent Lawmeme, "will be hearing arguments on a suit challenging the constitutionality of computerized voting systems that do not generate paper records." As Steven Wu says, "What in heaven's name are the arguments against requiring a paper trail or some other independent (and independently verifiable) indicator of voter intent?"