Thursday, May 11, 2006

Latest EDRI-gram released

As usual there are lots of notable stories in the latest edition of EDRI-gram (though the site seems to be down at the moment. I've picked out two of particular interest at the moment since I've just been writing the section of my book dealing with risk.

3. EU moves to criminalise IP offences ============================================================

The European Commission has revived a proposal to criminalise infringement of all intellectual property rights "on a commercial scale" after a European Court of Justice ruling that the Commission may include criminal offences in their Directives.

The proposal would also criminalise the "attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting" of infringement, and introduce multi-year jail sentences, confiscation of equipment and fines of hundreds of thousands of euros. This goes much further than the EU's obligations under the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Right holders could participate in police investigations into infringement.

While the Commission focuses in its press release on counterfeiting by organised criminal gangs, the legislation would have a much wider effect. It could cover teenage file sharers, authors of file sharing and DRM-circumvention software, and even incautious campaigners for intellectual property law reform.

It is this type of outrageous legislative manoeuvring by large intellectual property right holders and their allies in European and US administrations that has brought IP law into such public disrepute.

Amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights (26.04.2006)

Commission proposes criminal law provisions to combat intellectual property offences (26.04.2006)

European Court of Justice ruling (13.09.2005)

(Contribution by Ian Brown, board-member EDRI)


5. Alarming results from Italian experimental e-voting ============================================================

During the recent Italian political elections an experimental e-voting system for counting votes - not for expressing the vote itself - has been used in several polling places. The system has been used in parallel with normal, manual counting operations; but it was quite clear that the goal of such experiments was to progressively switch all counting operations to using automated, computer-based systems.

Emmanuele Somma, fellow of Free Software Foundation Europe, participated as an official observer to the counting operations in one polling station (section 224 in the city of Rome) and reported on his experience, which casts an alarming shadow over the reliability of the system used and of the "human element" involved.

According to Somma, the computer operator was not able to produce the necessary official documentation which, according to law, qualifies personnel assigned to supervise electronic counting operations; after the system erred in assigning votes to one list, the operator proceeded in manually - and illegally - correcting the error, and was stopped only by the intervention of Somma; it seemed overly hard for the president of the polling station to check the activities of the computer operator for lack of technical knowledge.

The request of Somma to have a copy of the CD-ROM containing the program that was used for the automated counting operations was refused, as the operator claimed that such program was a "trade secret". What is worse, Somma reports having found a copy of that CD-ROM and a paper containing the access codes to the system in the trash outside of the polling place, while the counting operations were still undergoing.

Somma concludes his report by suggesting that automated counting operations are far from being that model of efficiency and reliability that has been boosted by the government; given the claimed costs of such a system - more or less 37 millions euros - and its perceived advantages, which - assuming the system really works - amount to having the final voting results just a few hours before, it arguably remains a mystery why Italy should implement e-voting systems in the near future.

Reports of Emmanuele Somma of the Italian e-voting experiment (11.04.2006)

(Contribution by Andrea Glorioso - Italian consultant on digital policies)"

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