Friday, February 04, 2005

New proposals on anti terrorism laws

The media feeding frenzy has temporarily died down on the Home Secretary's proposals to address the government's House of Lords defeat on the Anti-terrorism Crime and Secutity Act. It will be another important story to monitor, though.

No2ID newsletter

The latest NO2ID newsletter is now available.

Whos said:

"I believe that the requirement of an internal passport is more objectionable than an external passport, and that citizens ought to be allowed to move about freely without running the risk of being accosted by a policeman or anyone else, and asked to produce proof of identity"

It was government spokesman Aneurin Bevan MP, in 1947 when there was a debate in parliament about the ID cards that had been introduced on the outbreak of World War II.

Monday, 21 February 2005, is the 53rd anniversary of the abolition of those ID cards by the government of Winston Churchill.

JURI buck Commission on SW Patents

The EU parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI)has asked the Commission to start from scratch with their software patents proposal. FFII are pleased but they should be careful about getting too excited. It may be an important statement on behalf of the EU parliament, which has had serious concerns about the software patent proposals for some time. The commission are still at liberty to ignore these concerns, however, and have shown no signs that they are prepared to take the parliament seriously on the issue, with two recent attempts to slip the directive through on the agenda of agriculture and fisheries meetings.

Report of Human Rights Committee on ID cards

The report I mentioned yesterday of the parliamentary human rights committee, which criticises the UK government's ID card bill is now available.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

SBC get direct dial VoIP phone numbers

In an obscure decision allowing SBC access to direct phone numbers for VoIP Internet telephony, the FCC taken another step to encourage the emerging market. David Isenberg will be pleased.

Human rights committee ID cards concern

It looks as though the parliamentary human rights committee, chaired by Labour MP Jean Corston, does not share her opinion of ID cards.

The committee says the government's plans raise serious concerns and

"also sharply criticised ministers for claiming that their ID card legislation is compatible with human rights conventions without giving any explanation to support the claim."

The Home Office have dismissed the committee's concerns and said they'll "respond in due course" ie when they feel like it and slipped into the midst of a busy news day or in an obscure place in a low level report. Given that Ms Corston is in favour of ID cards, you can be sure the Home Office had plenty of notice that the committee had taken a negative perspective and were well prepared to spin the news.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record yet again:

1. What problem does your proposed solution (ID cards) solve?
A: Lots allegedly - terrorism, immigration, benefit fraud, social cohesion etc - all ill defined.
2. What architecture has your proposed solution got - what does it look like?
A: Complicated - high tech cards, massive database which no computer scientist in the world could secure, decentralised networked registration centres, huge numbers of decentralised verification devices for police, GPs etc.
3. How well does it solve your problem(/s)?
A: Not at all and indeed, if it is security we're concerned about, it can actually make us less secure by creating the illusion of security without backing it up with real security. If we think we've solved a problem, we will fail to take the action really needed to solve that problem.
4. How can it fail and what other problems does it create?
A: It can fail in many ways and cause lots of other problems - errors in database, failure of remote verification and registration devices, unreliable biometric technology etc etc. As Bruce Schneier says, "What matters is how the system might fail when used by someone intent on subverting that system: how it fails naturally, how it can be made to fail, and how failures might be exploited."
5. How much does it cost?
A: Billions of pounds.
6. Is it worth it?
A: No, the money could be more effectively spent on [well trained] extra police, security service, customs and immigration staff.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Teacher threatened with lawsuit

A teacher has been threatened with a lawsuit if he shows a documentary film, Eyes on the Prize, about civil rights to his students and members of the local community.

Eyes on the Prize is a documentary which used lot of licenced clips from other films but the licences were only granted for a limited period, which ran out some years ago. So, unless the documentary maker wants to re-licence the offending clips then they can't show or sell [etc] the film.

And anyone downloading it from Downhill Battle is also infringing copyright. Copyright law provides a defence for use in an educational context but the rules are complicated and didn't stop this teacher being threatened, nor, if he had decided to go ahead (which he didn't) do they gaurantee he would win any court case arising as a result.

I was just talking to a trusted friend and colleague about the impact of intellectual property in education this afternoon...

Monday, January 31, 2005

Heise gets circumvention cease and desist

Heise Online are not impressed at receiving a cease and desist letter from music industry lawyers.

"On behalf of several major firms in the music industry (BMG, edel, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music), the Waldorf law firm of Munich sent Heise Zeitschriften Verlag a dissuasion this Friday. Among other things, the letter accuses the publisher of violating § 95a of the German Copyright Act (UrhG) in an article in the news ticker heise online (AnyDVD ├╝berwindet Kopierschutz von "Un-DVDs"). In addition, heise stands accused of spreading illegal "devices to get around anti-piracy measures". This law forbids, among other things, the manufacture, import, dissemination, sale, rental, and advertising of such software and hardware that circumvents copy protection measures.


According to the music industry, simply providing a link to the start page of the web site of a copying software manufacturer constitutes a violation of this law."

Here we go again with the legality of linking debate.

The new copyright maths

The MPAA's PR page on copyright points to http://www.copyrightkids.org/teachrentframes.htm, which is a "Parent-Teacher Resource Page" to provide:

"an educational tool to define, explain, and apply copyright issues in language understandable to Middle School students.
an educational resource on copyright issues for teachers and parents of 5th - 8th graders who are engaged in a creative process.
instructions about how to protect your own creations by registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C."

In their copyright basics page there is a section on term of copyright, which perhaps explains why there is so much confusion over the actual length of time a copyright lasts for:

"How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

Copyrights do not last forever, but they do last a pretty long time. Under the current laws, copyright protection starts from the moment of creation of the work and continues until 70 years after the death of the author or artist. That means that if someone who is 15 in the year 2001 writes a story that year and dies when he is 85 in the year 2086, the copyright will not expire until 70 years after 2086 -- in the year 2156, which is 130 years away."

I had a wry grin at this. The PR folk don't appear to be able to count. A 15 year old writes a story and dies 85 years later at the age of 85 (lost a few birthdays along the way no doubt); it also seems that there are only 130 years between 2001 and 2156;and potentially,that 70+85=130 rather than 155 and 70+70=130 rather than 140. Copyright propaganda is not only creating a whole new reality, it's creating a whole new area of mathematics. Mind you, 2086+70=2156, so they do have the requisite partial contact with the real world.

Parents, teachers and children are supposed to take this seriously?

Microsoft EULA v crimes against humanity

James Grimmelmann is tipping his hat to the Microsoft lawyers who wrote the terms of use for the Xbox. Specifically:

"You agree that . . . you will not . . . [p]ublish, post, upload, distribute or disseminate any topic, name, material or information that incites discrimination, hate or violence towards one person or a group because of their belonging to a race, a religion or a nation, or that insults the victims of crimes against humanity by contesting the existence of those crimes."