Tuesday, October 28, 2003

PS Don't miss this Wired article on Brewster Kahle, Amazon's new search engine and "The fondest dream of the information age ... to create an archive of all knowledge."
I'm in a rush today but just wanted to draw your attention to this, which at first glance looks like a possible step in the right direction to getting a resolution to the file sharing issue.

A couple of MIT students have come up with a new system which taps into the MIT campus licensed cable TV network. The files are analogue not digital, which means the sound quality resides somewhere between a radio broadcast and a CD.

It means that the students get access to a big library of music and the copyright holders get paid a license fee. Sounds a better for the RIAA than a bunch of expensive lawsuits and PR disasters about suing 12 year olds and grannies.

Monday, October 27, 2003

James Grimmelmann, like Edward Felten yesterday, asks "Where will the madness end?"

"Here's a link to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site with the memos. Whoops, that's the Diebold home page. "

The Authors Guild are concerned about Amazon.com's new search tool.
I've been thinking about using a different video for activity 1 of T182 Law the Internet and Society based on Larry Lessig's book, The Future of Ideas. Whilst digging out Lessig's Inaugural Meredith and Kip Frey Lecture in Intellectual Property, in March 23, 2001, at Duke University, I came across a terrific session with James Boyle:

Private Censorship and Perfect Choice: The Future of the Internet? Second Annual Duke Magazine Forum, featuring Duke Law Professor James Boyle in conversation with UNC Law Professor Adrienne Davis.

Articulate, entertaining and informative as ever, Jamie also gets put on the spot in relation to his perspective of the Napster case and explains the issues in the case in a way you just don't get in the usual polemics (both for and against). Although there were sound legal arguments in favour of Napster, the music industry also had a case and hence he did not sign up to the amicus brief supporting Napster. One example in Napster's favour was that intellectual property had never really concerned itself with private acts because it was really a form of industrial regulation. Also the Sony Betamax argument - Napster hadn't done anything itself any more than Sony with their video recorders, in relation to infringing copyright. Nevertheless, neither did he sign up to the specific overreaching arguments made by the music industry in the case because they would have effectively entailed making the open architecture of the Internet illegal. But in the end he came to the decision of not directly supporting Napster through asking the question: is this technology really going to encourage innovation in the long term or is this not-sanctioned use threatening innovation in the long term. Although the music industry's argument was questionable they did have a point. His friends said they should be allowed to engage in the kind of tactics that the music industry used. Jamie thinks that there is a serious issue in terms of making supported properly researched sensible and scholarly arguments in favour of real balance in the area of intellectual property. (As well as acting as activists supporting balance). We have to get away from the polemic dichotomy and emotive soundbites on both sides, if we are really going to make any progress towards that goal.

Couldn't agree more. Jamie still finds the Napster case hard and although Larry Lessig has eloquently made the argument about Naspter as a celestial jukebox, the public debate never really got a handle on precisely the kinds of difficulties with the case Jamie articulates. It's a real pity we live in such a soundbite culture where if you have can't get an idea across in three seconds you automatically lose the argument. It undermines the real world possibility of getting to a satisfactory resolution of difficult problems, like balance in intellectual property in a digital age.

The Naspter discussion happens about 47 minutes into the recording, just in case you're thinking of fast forwarding to that bit. Jamie, unlike his namesake of the Kellner (Turner Broadcasting) variety, doesn't believe that fast forwarding is theft.
Insightful paper by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, edited by J.D Lassica, senior editor Online Journalism Review, on the future of participatory journalism, currently best represented by blogs. Dan Gilmore writes the Foreword and includes his much repeated meme that his "audience, never shy to let me know when I get something wrong, made me realize something: My readers know more than I do. This has become almost a mantra in my work." If you want understand blogs and what participatory journalism could be all about, you could do a lot worse than spend some time on this paper.
My colleague, John Naughton, is amongst the people alerting us to the notion that is might not be a great idea to buy into Microsoft's Office 2003 sales pitch.

Michael Robertson is possibly going a bit far in suggesting the software is a virus but I agree with John, that "You would have to be exceedingly stupid to fall for it."

Unfortunately, however, most organisations have a kind of built in blindness to stupidity when it comes to this kind of thing. And the force of Microsoft's publicity will likely be more than strong enough to overcome voices of reason, thereby causing millions within and without organisations to turn from people into sheeple, and sign up in droves.

Like I said yesterday, potentially we can influence more with our purchasing power than our votes but we don't seem to see it that way. There seems to be wide spread apathy to the reality of voter or consumer power. And if you don't use it you'll lose it.

The Guardian on Saturday did a longish piece on the increasing scale of identity theft in the UK. This really is a growing problem and people would do well to be aware of it. 74 766 cases reported in the UK last year. And that's just the reported cases.

"In a survey last year, Experian, a
credit reference agency, found that 53 out of 71 local authorities
reported bin raiding was taking place in their areas, and getting
noticeably worse.

In a further analysis of 400 domestic bins, the agency found that
72% contained a full name and address, 40% contained a credit
card number and expiry date linked to an individual, and 20%
held a bank account number and sort code alongside a name.
Rifling through rubbish pays off. As does trawling through the
internet. To find more details of you, a fraudster could check out
the electoral roll, the national phone book and the directors'
database, as well as a few other data sources such as the land
registry (which holds your mortgage details)."

Nick Cohen in his latest polemic against the government says "Basic civil liberties are in dire jeopardy when anti-terrorist laws are used for day-to-day policing."

"For the past few weeks, the High Court in London has been considering the possibility that not even the threat of mass murder can make the British state grow up. Before it is an account of what happened to demonstrators who gathered in September outside Europe's biggest arms fair in London's Docklands. Cluster bombs, conventional bombs, each and every type of bomb, were on sale to buyers from pretty much every dictatorship on the planet. The demonstrators' number included Quakers and nuns...

Dozens of protesters were arrested and searched under Straw's anti-terrorism legislation none the less. Pennie Quinton wasn't even demonstrating. She was an accredited journalist who was making a film of the demo...

Her case was taken up by the civil rights group, Liberty, which asked the High Court to decide whether the police were using what were meant to be emergency powers against potential psychopaths as 'another tool in the kit of day-to-day policing'. Liberty's lawyers discovered that it has become routine for the police to declare the whole of London a special zone for anti-terrorist operations.

No one knew what the Met was up to because orders akin to the announcement of martial law were declared and confirmed in secret. From 13 August for 28 days and from 11 September for 28 days, the police had unconstrained power to treat everyone in London as a terrorist, and stop, search and hold them without cause or reasonable suspicion. "

Cohen is not Tony Blair's favorite journalist.

The New York Times is suggesting that Brazil is now a hotspot for cyber criminals. The journalist seems to be basing that assertion on a conversation with a computer savvy 22-year old Brazilian, the publisher of a hacker magazine in Brazil and a consultancy firm in London.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Techlawadviser, Kevin Heller, thinks in the wake of the MPAA campaign in schools maybe someone "should create a legitimate lesson plan and offer it to volunteers to teach middle school and high school kids about copyright law instead of allowing them to be inundated with corporate propaganda."

Donna thinks it is a good idea and is looking for volunteers.
A couple of Spiked reports right on the button with respect to the mid week BBC programme, The Secret Policeman, exposing a handful of racist police officers. As Josie Appleton says, the

"report showed the impact of
diversity policies: most people had learnt the approved terms to use
in public, whatever their private views. But enforcing this kind of
personal etiquette won't help to reduce real racism, and indeed may
increase resentment of ethnic minorities."

John Dean served as President Richard Nixon's White House lawyer for about three years. He has written two books about the experience and the Watergate scandal, Blind Ambition (1976) and Lost Honor (1982). He's none too impressed at the performance of the current White House resident, George Bush and has regularly criticised him in the mainstream press. His latest critique draws on details recently published in a book by the editor of the Nation, David Corn, called The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the politics of Deception. It has to be said that Corn is not exactly a fan of the president either. Dean seems to believe that Bush merits his own special prosecutor in the Kenneth Starr mould to investigate a range of areas from Iraq's WMDs to his relationship with Enron chairman Ken Lay, and including stem cell research, alleged criminal expose of a CIA operative, management of pre and post September 11th, and his tax plans amongs others. Bush, Blair and spin certainly haven't done a whole lot for the credibility of politicians but then I wonder if nowadays we can have more influence with the pound (or dollar or euro) we spend rather than the vote we cast? Sorry state of affairs.

The Miscrosoft settlement judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly,

"urged government lawyers Friday to investigate why only nine companies so far have paid Microsoft to license its technology for their own software products, agreements central to the success of a landmark settlement negotiated with the Bush administration." Microsoft could be looking at many more court dates ahead.

The case of Bret McDanel is another example of why computer security folk need to be very careful how they tred. McDanel served 16 months in prison technically for transgressing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His crime was that he spotted serious security flaws in his company's software. He reported these to the management but they ignored them. After quitting the company he then decided to email their customers to point out the flaws. His former employers didn't take too kindly to this and got the authorities involved. McDanel was prosecuted convicted and jailed. After the event, and with the support of the tenacious Jennifer Granick at Stanford the prosecutors have now agreed that McDanel was wrongfully convicted and are supporting his appeal to get the conviction overturned. This doesn't happen very often so credit must go to the officials involved.

Major League baseball are planning to sue websites describing games for intellectual property infringement.

"Bob Bowman, who oversees Major League Baseball Advanced Media, says it's time to assert property rights: "One way to exhibit a live baseball game is TV. Then there's radio. The third is offering real-time data online. To us, there's no difference.""

That could have come straight out of the mouth of Jamie Kellner of Turner Broadcasting who believes taping tv programmes and fast forwarding the ads is theft.

In the wake of Swarthmore college authorities harsh treatment of the students civil disobendience campaign against Diebold, students from other univerities such as MIT are signing up.

Looks like the ubiquitous Jack Valenti may be finally thinking of retiring after 37 years as head of the MPAA.