Saturday, October 01, 2005

NYT Reporter Miller testifies

New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, has testified before a grand jury in the investigation into the White House leak of CIA agent Valarie Plame's identity. Plame's name was leaked to the press after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had publicly criticised the Bush administration. Miller had spent 85 days in jail having previously refused to reveal her source.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Compare and Contrast

Donna says we should compare the perspectives in two stories on mobile phone digital locks.

Search me please

Jack Balkin, professor of law at Yale, believes the Authors Guild lawsuit against Google is just plain silly.

"Every author wishes that more people read his or her books. Most of us would happily stand on street corners with sandwich boards if we thought it would help. Anything that brings our work in front of a larger public should be welcomed as a good thing, not something to be feared. The Authors Guild, and indeed all authors, should be working with search engines like Google to come up with new and creative ways to get people to know about and sample what we have often spent many months-- and sometimes many years-- working on. Authors spend their lives putting the best part of themselves into their books. The cruelest fate they can suffer is not criticism and rejection-- it is being forgotten. The digitally networked environment gives them a chance to avoid that fate. All authors who care about their work should embrace it."

As someone working on his first book, I wholeheartedly agree.

Teddy Roosevelt the original tree hugger?

Quote of the day:

Theodore Roosevelt once said "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value."

Possibly the genesis of the Brundlandt Commission's definition of sustainable development?

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"

Thanks to Jonathan Rowe, On the Commons, for the quote.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Authors' obscurity not infringement

Tim O'Reilly, writing in the New York Times, believes that most authors are at a much higher risk of becoming obcure than of having their copyrights infringed.

"AUTHORS struggle, mostly in vain, against their fated obscurity. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks sales from major booksellers, only 2 percent of the 1.2 million unique titles sold in 2004 had sales of more than 5,000 copies. Against this backdrop, the recent Authors Guild suit against the Google Library Project is poignantly wrongheaded."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

UK world leader in scrapping IT projects

Apparently Britain is a "world leader" in scrapping expensive public sector IT projects which fail.

Complex IT projects have a poor record everywhere in the world, in both the public and private sectors. An annual survey by Standish, a US consultancy, estimates that 70 per cent fail to meet their timetable or budget, or to come up to specification. Britain is thus not alone in finding computerising government difficult. The US has experienced a spate of problems at both state and federal level. In March, the FBI abandoned, after five years of work, a $170m attempt to create a "virtual case file" for tracking suspected terrorists. But the record cost-overrun in a civil IT project was probably the US internal revenue service's $30bn tax modernisation in the mid-1990s.

Such spectacular failings have encouraged the British government to suggest that it is no worse than other countries, though perhaps more transparent. This attitude is complacent. A study of seven countries to be published next year finds sharp variations in the proportion of government IT projects that are eventually scrapped. The study, led by Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE and Helen Margetts of Oxford, scores the performance of IT projects in Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the US between 1990 and 2003. Britain emerges as a world leader in cancelling or producing non-functioning government IT systems. Japan and the Netherlands had fewest failures...

Assuming that British government projects are particularly prone to failure, why should this be so? Investigations and postmortems agree to a surprising extent on a number of common contributory factors which are peculiar to the British public sector. The most important are:
Scale. Big IT projects everywhere are far more likely to fail than small ones...
Lack of professional skills. This affects all large IT projects. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering: "The levels of professionalism observed in software engineering are generally lower than those in other branches of engineering." The academy points to a particular lack of expertise in project management, which is "not well understood."...
Procurement process. Public procurement law requires lengthy formal tendering processes that can take more than a year and sometimes several years. The industry and some senior officials are critical of processes that can lock public bodies into technology that is obsolete by the time the system goes live...
Multiple stakeholders. Complex IT projects often cut across many different agencies, making leadership difficult...
Vulnerability to policy swings and "mission creep." Several government IT programmes have run into trouble because of sudden new demands. A recent example was the introduction of tax credits—a new role for the inland revenue which was sprung on its IT contractor EDS with little notice...

Sony PSP drm cracked

The copy protection code on Sony's PlayStation Portable has been cracked, according to the Register.

Ed Felten's Pizzaright Principle

Ed Felten has come up with a novel way of testing the provinence of proposed expansions in intellectual property law. He calls it the Pizzaright Principle test.

"Pizzaright — the exclusive right to sell pizza — is a new kind of intellectual property right. Pizzaright law, if adopted, would make it illegal to make or serve a pizza without a license from the pizzaright owner.

Creating a pizzaright would be terrible policy, of course. We’re much better off letting the market decide who can make and sell pizza.

The Pizzaright Principle says that if you make an argument for expanding copyright or creating new kinds of intellectual property rights, and if your argument serves equally well as an argument for pizzaright, then your argument is defective. It proves too much. Whatever your argument is, it had better rest on some difference between pizzaright and the exclusive right you want to create."

He goes on to "apply the Pizzaright Principle to two well-known bogus arguments for intellectual property expansion", the extension of copyright term and the granting of extra IP rights to broadcasters (as proposed under the WIPO broadcasting and webcasting treaty). Wonderful. Read the whole post.

Wikibooks

There's a nice article at News.com about Jimmy Wales' Wikibooks project.

German court: eDonkey links violate copyright

According to Heise,
Regarding the lawsuit in which the Motion Picture Association of America sought a temporary injunction against the Swiss-hosted website The-Realworld.de (TRW) the opinion of the court has now been made public. Thus in its decision of July 15 2005 the District Court in Hamburg came to the following conclusion: The making available of "edited" links which allow the downloading of installments of TV series via the Internet file-exchange network eDonkey constitutes a violation of the German Copyright Act (UrhG).

FDA plan RFIDs in drugs

I learn from Alan Cox, through FIPR that Scott Gottlieb, MD,Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency, in a speech last week on "Ensuring the Safety of America's Drug Supply" spoke about the agency's plans to force the drugs industry to embed electronic tags in pill bottles or even individual pills. Extract from the speech:

"With these more sophisticated drug counterfeit operations, FDA and all law enforcement activities that are partnering with us need to be even more effective in meeting these new challenges.

One of our proposed remedies at FDA is to strengthen our system for tracking drugs from the assembly line and right to the patient's bedside, by replacing the paperwork that now certifies the integrity of a pill with an electronic track and trace system that cannot be easily forged or forgotten.

This can be technology as miniscule microchips or "taggants" that go inside pill bottles, or even inside the individual pills. There's been considerable progress made in developing and deploying these sorts of technological tools.

Right now, we have given manufacturers more time to deploy this kind of technology. We have also put a stay on a rule that would effectively require these kinds of measures, a paper pedigree rule, to give people more time to move from paper pedigrees which would not provide the same kinds of protections to electronic pedigrees, which would. New technology would allow for less costly compliance, and better controls. The rule is written broadly enough so that electronic track and trace could be used in place of paper pedigree. We plan to make a decision soon on this stay, which is in place until December 2006, and we could reach a decision before that."

Thanks also to Ian Brown for reminding me that the Enterprise Privacy Group has developed a Privacy Code of Conduct on RFID tags.

CSC Intervention to the WIPO General Assembly

James Love's statement to the WIPO General Assembly on behalf of the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) is well worth a read. Reprinted in full below.

"Thank you Ambassador. As this is the first time the Civil Society
Coalition is taking the floor, we congratulate you on your election
to the Chair.

The Civil Society Coalition (CSC) represents twenty-eight non-
governmental organizations from at least twelve countries, in the
North and South. Our members are concerned with a wide range of
issues that are relevant to WIPO, including access to medicines,
access to knowledge, and better mechanisms to support creativity
activity.

We are strongly supportive of the proposals by the Friends of
Development for the WIPO Development Agenda. We urge this
specialized UN body to take more seriously its role in supporting
development, and protecting the public interest. The measures
included in the WIPO Development Agenda include a proposal to create
a treaty on access to knowledge. We strongly support this, and call
upon WIPO to discuss the treaty on access on knowledge in the
standing committees on Copyright and Patents.

We also agree that WIPO should address the control of anticompetitive
practices, including problems of monopoly in software markets. WIPO
needs to discuss the implementation of Article 40 of the TRIPS
agreement, on the control of anticompetitive practices.

WIPO should also address the issues of access to medicine, and in
particular, to work with WHO and other relevant bodies to provide
assistance to LDC=92s in implementation of paragraph 7 of the Doha
Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

We are opposed to the convening of a diplomatic conference on a
proposed treaty for broadcasting, cablecasting and webcasting
organizations.

The process for consideration of this treaty are flawed. The views
of consumers have not been respected, and WIPO has yet to engage the
technology community on the radical and restrictive webcasting
proposal. There has been no economic analysis of the impact of the
treaties on consumers, or on copyright owners.

There is also a large issue of deceptive packaging. It is being sold
to the uninformed, including many delegates, as something that is
necessary to address piracy. But the treaty has little to do with
piracy, which is already illegal everywhere for copyrighted works,
but much to do with the intellectual property right it gives for
transmitting information. It is deceptive to talk about the treaty
protecting only a signal, but then provide for extensive commercial
rights, lasting 50 years, to make reproductions and redistribute the
works.

We are deeply troubled in the nature of the proposed property right.
It is not based upon creativity. It is not based upon invention. It
is a claim that the investment in transmitting information should
create a 50 year exclusive right to in content, far longer than the
term of protection for databases in Europe, and more than 10 times
the term of protection for test data for pharmaceutical clinical
trials in the United States. This right is on top of the copyright
in copyrighted work, and applies even to works in the public domain
under copyright laws.

We don't give book publishers a layer of rights on top of copyright.
We don't give the post office a layer of rights for delivering mail.
We don't give taxi cab drivers a right to control the use of
documents that are transported by passengers in their cars. Why do
we decide to give broadcasters a right of 50 years?

If this is extended to the web, it will harm access to knowledge.
The web is quite different from radio and TV. People who receive
information on the web also publish. The same works are often
accessible from many different web pages. This helps disseminate
information, and increases access to knowledge. Creating rights in
information simply for transmitting or making the information
available to the public is the wrong paradigm for access to
knowledge. It harms copyright owners. It harms consumers. It will
harm innovation.
The ongoing demands to extend rights obtained by one group to another
group are predictable. The broadcasters want the rights now given to
producers of phonograms. The webcasters now ask for rights the
broadcasters have or will have under the new treaty. The rationale
for protecting audio-visual productions is now being extended to all
text and data from ordinary web pages. Makers of databases also will
want a treaty, and will point to the protections the broadcasters and
webcasters will request.

Where does this end? We are now giving multiple rights on the same
works. A broadcasters right on top of a copyright, for example.

It ends with no public domain, curtailing the free movement of
information, higher prices for information, and less access to
knowledge. It ends with a less informed and less equal society.

The costs and risks of this proposal are very large. The benefits,
if any, are very small. WIPO should also reconsider the process of
setting priorities that puts such a poor proposal at such a high
priority, when WIPO has yet to respond to requests by consumers to
address the control of anticompetitive practices, consumer problems
from TPM and DRM measures, the need for minimum limitations and
exceptions for the blind, education and libraries, and the proposal
for a treaty on access to knowledge. WIPO must find a way to address
consumer interests, and to rebalance the management of intellectual
property rights in ways that better protect access to knowledge.
Thank you Mr. Chair."

IP induction for students at Goldsmiths

From Creative Commons blog:

"A lecture on Creative Commons will form part of the induction training programme for incoming graduate research students at Goldsmith's College, University of London, this week. Andrea Rota, who is a member of the Liquid Culture project at Goldsmith's College, will be giving the lecture on "A range of protections and freedoms for researchers, authors and artists" as part of the scheduled activities for new graduate research students in induction week."

NO2ID catch up with Home Office Roadshow

NO2ID campaigners caught up with the Home Office's charm offensive roadshow to promote ID cards at Bristol yesterday. And BBC cameras were on hand to catch Dave Gould, No2ID's Bristol coordinator asking minister Andy Burnham awkward questions.

Initially one of the minister's minders tried to prevent the BBC filming the questioning when the NO2ID folks turned up, having been previously happy for them to film the minister saying fingerprints and eye scans would help "the citizen secure their own personal identity."

As the reporter says, "just as the hardsell was in full swing," the campaigers showed up and spoiled the show. It's a shame it didn't get on the national news. I wonder how much spin doctoring was done to prevent that?

Crime? What crime?

The editor of Security Focus has had a revelation:

"I took off my technology-is-utopian hat for a moment and was rather shocked at what I saw.

The morals and ethics that govern our real world just do not exist online...

Sitting behind a computer, any shy or docile human being can become the world's nastiest bastard of a hacker without even the slightest tinge of regret.

Attack, compromise, transfer funds, and then walk away. You might have just stolen the life savings of someone you don't know (and will never meet), so who cares? Or you've stolen the identity of someone who will feel the effects almost daily and for at least ten years down the road. But how does that affect you?

Hackers couldn't be any further detached from the damage, devastation and emotional destruction they cause. Just close the lid to your laptop computer, and move on."

EU Parliament reject data retention proposal

The European Parliament has rejected a proposal on telecoms and Internet data retention put forward by the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland, which would have obliged telcos and ISPs to retain phone and email data for up to three years. An alternative proposal from the European commission for retention of data for up to a year remains on the table.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Massachusetts donates 50,000 copies of Office to hurricane relief

Massachusetts donates 50,000 copies of Office to hurricane relief

Where are the UK start-ups

Tom Coates at Plasticbag.org asks Where are all the UK start-ups? Good question and he has an answer:

"So what is it that stops us making great things, starting start-ups and building for money? I contend that in part it's shame. Certainly the business people of Britain seem to be - at a certain level - highly uncomfortable with the existence of technical people. They're not a resource to be exploited, or people to collaborate with. The nerdy people who make and create seem to be shuffled to the side, kept in the background, so as not to curdle the canap├ęs at the business meet and greets that are the real motivators of British business. The businessman and the creative technologist seem to be forced into two camps so repulsed by one another (betrayed by dot.com?) that they just circle at a distance, each almost refusing to admit the other exists. So the business people look towards the stable money and wait for the innovations to come in from abroad, or leap clumsily onto bandwagons with the help of the visionless, while the technologists dogmatically avoid anything that looks like it might have been sullied with the hint of a business model."

50000 fined for failing to carry ID

According to the Telegraph, 50 000 people in Holland have been fined for failing to carry ID cards

Digital evidence report

Peter Sommer of the London School of Economics has just published a useful report, the "Directors and Corporate Advisers' Guide to Digital Investigations and Evidence."

The accompanying press release is here.

Felten on Secure Flight

Ed Felten has made some comments about his membership of an independent expert committee assessing the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Secure Flight program. The TSA released the committee's final report at the end of last week.

"The committee’s charter was to study the privacy implications of the Secure Flight program. The final report is critical of TSA’s management of Secure Flight...

The key section of the report is on pages 5-6. Here’s the beginning of that section:
The SFWG found that TSA has failed to answer certain key questions about Secure Flight: First and foremost, TSA has not articulated what the specific goals of Secure Flight are. Based on the limited test results presented to us, we cannot assess whether even the general goal of evaluating passengers for the risk they represent to aviation security is a realistic or feasible one or how TSA proposes to achieve it. We do not know how much or what kind of personal information the system will collect or how data from various sources will flow through the system.

The lack of clear goals for the program is a serious problem...

Speaking for myself, I joined the committee with an open mind. A system along the general lines of Secure Flight might make sense, and might properly balance security with privacy. I wanted to see whether Secure Flight could be justified. I wanted to hear someone make the case for Secure Flight. TSA had said that it was gathering evidence and doing analysis to do so.

In the end, TSA never did make a case for Secure Flight. I still have the same questions I had at the beginning. But now I have less confidence that TSA can successfully run a program like Secure Flight.
"

WIPO webcasting treaty - Boyle

James Boyle has another article in the FT today.

He criticises intellectual property policy making because:

1. It is never based on empirical evidence.
2. It is done through deals between large industries with the public interest neglected.
3. It regulates communications networks increasingly directly and not very well.

And continues:

"The World Intellectual Property Organisation has now managed to combine all three lamentable tendencies at once. The Broadcasting and Webcasting Treaty, currently being debated in Geneva, is an IP hat trick...

WIPO is in the grip of the belief that more rights are better...

Eventually, a new treaty will be produced. A new round of “harmonisation” will begin – upwards, always upwards. An unnecessary set of rights will have been created and created without evidence, perhaps reaching the heart of our new communications technology. And the lobbyists will return to their desks to plan again. Perhaps the growing furore about the webcast right will drive it off the agenda eventually. Yet the larger pattern of making decisions without evidence, as a contract among the affected industries, will continue. This is a scandal. But at WIPO, it is business as usual."

Monday, September 26, 2005

IRA arms decommissioned

John de Chastelain, the retired Canadian general who has supervising the decommissioning of IRA arms for the past eight years, is reported by the Guardian as saying:

"The decommissioning of the arms of the IRA is now an accomplished fact."

UK Firms may make ID cards compulsory

The government are apparently talking to 35 of the biggest companies in the UK with a view to getting them to make national ID cards compulsory for employees.

This kind of deal could cost the relevant firms potentially significant sums, so I doubt that they will get all 35 or even a majority of them to sign up, at least without appropriate concrete incentives.

"A Massachusetts Soliloquy"

One of Pamela Jones readers has been getting all poetic about the Massachusetts decision to switch to open source software:

To read, or not to read, that is the question,
Whether tis nobler of the IT departmente to suffer
The lost documents and man-houres of outragious proprietary formats,
Or to take Armes against a monopoleye of FUDsteres,
And by opposing, restrain them, to open to compete

No more, and by a standarde, to say we end
The conversiones, and the thousand read/write errors
That archiving is heire to; tis a consumation
Devoutly to be wisht to open to compete...

There's more and it's all well worth a read.

Reading Nation in the Romantic Period

I've been reading William St Clair's terrific The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (borrowed from the university library because it retails at £90, though it is a book I would like to have on my own bookshelf). From his concluding chapter (pages 436, 437):

"As the example of popular print between 1600 and 1780 shows, large reading constituencies were sometimes held for long periods in an unsatisfactory equilibrium marked by the increasing obsolescence of the main printed texts to which they had access. This episode offers what is probably the most illuminating case that is likely to be found of the long-term consquences of an unregulated private commercial monopoly on the nature of texts, books, prices, access, reading and resultant mentalities. It is unlilkely, for example, that those who around 1600 were caught in the pre-scientific world of the English-language bible, the ballad, the chapbook, and the astrological almanac, actively rejected modernity for the next two hundred years, or preferred that the medical and birth control advice which they reveived in print should be out-of-date and ineffective."

The copyright industries are currently enduring a period of turbulence but concerns about laws and technologies (eg copyright directive and drm) driving us towards another period of stability characterised by monopolistic control could well be strengthed by further studies of this nature. And from the final page of the final chapter, St Clair gives his perspective on the modern debate:

"The argument that intellectual property is a privilege granted for a limtied period in order to reward and encourage innovation that is valuable to the society that grants it is as valid today as it was in Adam Smith's time. The conditions within which the privilege should be granted are therefore an issue of public policy, which ought to be decided , not in accordance with dogmas about the rights of property, but with eyes open to the public interest in the likely consequences. When, for the first time in history, copies of texts of all kinds can be reproduced and circulated instantaneously in limitless numbers at infinitesimal cost, it is perverse that much of the technological and business effort of the text copying industries is devoted to preventing copying and to keeping up the price of access."

Absolutely!

St Clair's chapter on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the degree to which the original moral of a story can get distorted through events beyond the author's control is fascinating.

First Israeli File Sharing lawsuits

Entertainment industry lawyers in Israel have succeeded in getting the courts to shut down four file sharing websites. They're quoted as saying:

"When we finish with the file-trading websites, we'll move on to the users" and

"There is a great deal of information we've gained regarding individual users which is currently not being taken advantage of. The process of filing a suit in the case of a single file-trader is far more simple. In the eyes of the law, these are infringing users. No one has the right to duplicate copyright protected files...

We know exactly who they are. The entire network is monitored and we have their IP addresses."

Plus on the problem of getting a warrant to identify the user of a particular IP address at a particular time:

"Warrants are not a problem to get."

Individual file sharing lawsuits coming to Israel soon.

TSA : no commercial data in Secure Flight

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have decided not to use commercial data in the Secure Flight airline passenger screening program.

Antitrust suit v Apple

According to a report reproduced at Findlaw, Apple "must face several federal and state antitrust claims arising from the operation of its iTunes online music store and the sale of its iPod digital music players, a federal judge in California has ruled."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Google v the Authors Guild: the issues

There is loads of blog and media commentary on the issues surrounding the lawsuit the Authors Guild and others have taken against Google. One of the best early roundups is at Andrew Raff's blog, IPTAblog.

Donna describes it as Google Print Library: Clash of the Titans.