Friday, January 16, 2004

ISP's without exception are not cooperating with the RIAA's new approach suspected file sharer identification, in the wake of the surprise decision in favour of Verizon just before Christmas. The RIAA are now asking the ISPs nicely to notify specific customers that they are RIAA suspects.

"Under the proposal, the RIAA would supply an identifying IP address of a suspected infringer to its ISP, which would then send a notice of infringement to the subscriber. "

An federal judge in the Microsoft v Eolas technologies case has upheld the huge patent infringement damages awarded against Microsoft by a jury in the summer of 2003.

"This motion rehearses a set of arguments that failed the first time around," Zagel wrote in his opinion. "While I am not entirely comfortable with the large size of the judgment, it is not my comfort that matters."
"San Francisco – Jan. 13, 2003 – TRUSTe, widely known for its global privacy
seal program, today announced four new additions to its board of directors,
including Joseph Alhadeff, vice president for global public policy for
Oracle Corporation; Hans Peter Brondmo, senior vice president of strategy
and corporate development for Digital Impact, Inc.; Peter Cullen, chief
privacy strategist for Microsoft, and Bennie Smith, chief privacy officer
for DoubleClick. Leveraging highly successful business and management track
records, the new board members will support TRUSTe as it provides guidance
and enforcement to its members and consumers on emerging privacy issues
such as wireless location-based services and spam"

According to Michael Cross in the Guardian, those of us opposed to the Home Secretary's national ID card scheme are 'nutters', 'ignorant' and 'inconsistent'. Doesn't that go a long way towards raising the quality of the debate?

Interesting contrast with an Economist article I pointed to before Christmas, saying

"Spurred by the misplaced enthusiasm of governments around the world, biometrics seem headed for dramatic growth in the next few years. But calm, public discussion of their benefits and drawbacks has been lamentably lacking. Such discussion is necessary both to prevent the waste of public money in the short term?for the most part, the private sector has been wiser in its adoption of biometrics?but also to regulate what will eventually have the potential to become a powerful mechanism for social control."

Whadaya know, the Guardian coming in to the right of the Economist.
McDonalds have been testing the use of biomentrics - fingerprint and handprint scanners - to monitor empoyees.

"At McDonald's, the scanners are connected to the payroll
department and save on paperwork, Christianson said. They also
free managers from record keeping and get them out working with
staff and the public, he added. "
The British Phonographic Industry director general, Andrew Yeates, has laid the ground for the roll out of RIAA-type individual lawsuits, on this side of the pond, for p2p file sharing:

"We want to increase awareness of the legal implications of file-sharing. If these are not working, there has to be a degree of enforcement".

He confirmed this position a the RSA's "Music And Technology: Policy Frameworks for the Future" which I attended yesterday. (More on that when I get a minute to myself).

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I learn via "the importance of" that an Italian judge has declared Sony Playstation mod chips legal in a cleverly crafted opinion. From the judge:

"Ironically, [it is Sony who first] had supported strongly the thesis that a playstation is a true computer and not just a game console, when asked by the EU to pay for custom duties imposed over the consoles (while computers aren’t subjected to this tax)."

Ernest Miller's view:

"Ooops. Avoid those taxes, create an opening for the argument that the PlayStation is a computer (the use of which should be unrestricted)..."

These are good - winners in the George Bush in 30 seconds ads competition. I hope they do the same for the eventual democratic candidate and for Tony Blair in the UK.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

A judge has put a spoke in Lindow's chief Michael Robertson's attempts to help consumers claim their share of the $1.1 billion class action settlement against Microsoft in California.

" Inc.'s site,, promised to simplify the
process and provide instant gratification. Users, after answering a few
questions, were given Lindows' Linux operating system or other
open-source software instantly rather than having to wait six months
for paper claims to be processed.

Microsoft said MSfreePC violated the integrity of the claims process.
Lindows countered that Microsoft did not want to simplify the process
so that it could collect a bigger portion of any unclaimed money."

The judge sided with Microsoft.

Off the back of the IBM and Intel initiative I mentioned yesterday, it seems that Novell are to follow suit and offer legal protection (against SCO) to their linux customers.
Edward Hasbrouck, aka the practical nomad, has been delving into a privacy impact assessment for the US-VISIT scheme whereby visitors to the US get fingerprinted and photographed.

"The requirement for fingerprinting and photographing of visitors to the USA (except for short-term tourists from a few
countries, almost all of them inhabited mainly by white people) has gotten most of the attention paid to US-VISIT. But the real
privacy invasion feature of US-VISIT is buried deeply, and its significance evaded, in the Privacy Impact Assessment:
US-VISIT will be used to maintain a lifetime travel dossier for anyone who ever visits the USA, just as CAPPS-II will enable
the maintenance of lifetime travel dossiers on anyone who ever travels by air to, from, or within the USA...
In order to implement US-VISIT more quickly than would otherwise have been possible, it is being treated for Privacy Act
purposes as merely a "modification" of existing systems, rather than a new system. The US-VISIT data flow diagram on page 4
of the Privacy Impact Assessment includes a "modified database" labelled "biometric and biographic travel history", to be
included within the ADIS (Arrival Departure Information System).

These "travel histories" aren't mentioned anywhere in the so-called "assessment", which says of ADIS and other records only
that, "The policies of individual component systems, as stated in their SORNs [System of Records Notices under the Privacy
Act], govern the retention of personal information collected by US-VISIT." To find out anything about the policies governing
these records, one has to look at the most recent SORN for the ADIS system , which was published in the Federal Register on
12 December 2003.

Only there, deep in the acronym soup at 68 Federal Register 69412-69414, does one learn that these records may be
disclosed without restriction to any law enforcement agency in the USA or any other country (even if not actually relevant to
any specific investigation) and, even more significantly, that "Records will be retained for 100 years." Full stop."

A Belgian consumer group, Test-Aankoop, have decided to sue the music industry over copy-protected CDs that don't play in many CD players. EMI, Universal Music, Sony Music and BMG are the specific companies on the receiving end.

A former Treasury official in Australia is questioning the apparently "obvious" link between music downloading and reduced sales of CDs.

"If the healthy state of CD sales in the face of massive do-it-yourself competition surprises you, you are in good company. Midway through last year the Chicago University economist Stan Liebowitz was warning of annihilation. The recording industry loved him for it. He said large-scale unauthorised copying could soon make it obsolete.

Liebowitz has since had a change of heart. In a new study entitled Will MP3 Downloads Annihilate the Record Industry? he concedes that the evidence for annihilation has failed to materialise...

He concludes that the impact has not been large and says his best guess is that the worst of it is over, given that most homes that would want CD burners now have them."

The BBC have a similar report about CD sales in the UK. Apparently album sales were at a record high in 2003 up by 10 million units on the previous year. "Album sales in the UK rose by 7.6% in 2003 to a record high, fuelled by falling CD prices - in spite of piracy fears, according to an industry report. "

The editor-in-chief at Wired, Chris Anderson, has penned an open letter with some useful advice to Jack Valenti's forthcoming successor at the MPAA.

"You've still got a little time to figure this out, but a lot
less than your advisers are telling you...
Customers who feel they're getting their money's worth are less likely to turn into pirates...
You're at risk of alienating your customers like the music industry did...
the Napster for movies has been born. It's called BitTorrent...
So what should you do? Start by accepting that new technology means a new way of doing business...
And don't fight the technology. People want their digital media the way they want it: every way imaginable."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Net users and ISPs in France are not very happy with the proposed law to make ISPs responsible for filtering online material for illegal content.

Derek Slater is looking deeply into the potential conflict between intellectual property and free speech, off the back of the recent Pew report which suggested that the RIAAs tactics of suing individual file sharers was having a significant impact on the volume of P2P traffic.

Ernie Miller is puzzled at HP CEO Carly Fiorina's attack on digital piracy. "How strange the spectacle of a major computer manufacturer calling for an all out war on what computers enable"

Broadband is to be the FCC's top issue in 2004 according to this report at CNet. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said that he doesn't yet support regulating broadband telephone service providers, but thinks instead that a national "forum" to guide the young industry is more appropriate." He re-iterated his feelings on VoIP, saying it should not be regulated like the existing phone companies and even called California's and Minnesota's attempts to do this "scary". Good for him. I didn't agree with Powell's call on media ownership but he's got it right on this one.

IBM and Intel and others are creating a $10 million dollar defense fund to pay the legal costs of companies getting sued by SCO.

The Gaurdian reports that "The residents of one Yorkshire town got so fed up with being passed over for broadband access that they set up Britain's first ISP cooperative."

28 entertainment companies have agreed, in court, not to sue ReplayTV owners for skipping ads.

The RIAA are sending troops out onto the streets to crack down on street vendors - "Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked
like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black "raid"
vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled
lettering read "RIAA" instead of something from an official
law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot
attendant Ceasar Borrayo...
"They said they were police from the recording industry or something,
and next time they?d take me away in handcuffs," he said through an
interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records,
with titles like Como Te Extra?o Vol. IV ? Musica de los 70?s y 80?s,
are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point."

The Grocery Maufacturers of America have, none-too-cleverly, sent an email to a consumer group, CASPIAN, suggesting they are trying to dig up some dirt "about the
group's founder, Katherine Albrecht." Albrecht has spoken out strongly against RFID tags in the past.

Finally for today, check out lots of interesting stories at Instapundit.
A Very Belated Happy New Year.

Folks at The Independent are concerned about the UK government's new Civil Contingencies bill and a scared new world.

The RIAA had a bit of a setback just before Christmas in their pursuit of individual file sharers when an appeal court on the D.C. circuit rejected their subpoenas to Verizon to identify suspects. So theoretically ISP no longer have to hand over customer details to the RIAA. The appeal court was pretty blunt and said the text of section 512 (h) of the DMCA "does not authorize the issuance of a subpoena to an ISP acting as a mere conduit for the transmission of information sent by others." Donna has more.

Miriam Rainsford has an interesting commentary on Siva Vaidhyanathan's P2P essays at OpenDemocracy. She echoes, in this particular context, something John Naughton has been saying for some time: "we overestimate the short-term impacts of technology while underestimating long-term effects." I agree with Miriam also about the problematic use of emotive words but it does highlight a frustrating dilemma - in a world of short attention spans, before you can convince an audience of your perspective, you have to gain their attention. And using words like "anarchist" is a way to do that. If the language only leads to the usual polarised debate we see in the mainstream media then it gets us no further forward. However, if you can use it as a tool to alert sensible folk to the fact that there is a debate to be had and that it is a bit more complicated than the usual soundbites lead most people to believe, then there is some hope of progress. In the latter regard, I'd recommend both Siva's and Miriam's writings.

BTW folks I'm looking into switching my weblog to an OU server in the none-too-distant future, so look out for a url change for b2fxxx soon. We'd like to do some more active integration of blogs into some of our courses and it will make sense for my own blog to be in-house. It's time we started pushing some of the boundaries of what we can do with these kinds of technologies in an educational context again.