Thursday, August 09, 2007

Change To EU Enforcement Directive Could Criminalise Parallel Imports

From IPWatch: Change To EU Enforcement Directive Could Criminalise Parallel Imports

"The European Parliament has voted against criminalising parallel imports of goods in the proposed European Union directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED2). Yet these re-imports of products marketed by rights holders in other countries may be criminalised if Parliament does not change a “cleaned-up” draft text of the directive that has quietly emerged, sources say."

I was grumbling recently about the EU situation in comparison to the Canadian Supreme court decision in the parallel chocolate imports case. IPWatch make the point much more pointedly in this piece. (Sadly the full article is only available to subscribers)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

French police arrest teenager over Potter translation

In a reprise of similar stories related to earlier books in the series and ranging from Caracus to Berlin it appears that a French teenager has been translating the latest Harry Potter book and posting his efforts on the web before the official French translation of the book is released on 26 October. He's been arrested for his efforts. A little harsh don't you think?

The ghosts in the voting machines

Bill Thompson on evoting:

" When I started work as a professional programmer, writing in the C programming language, I sometimes wrote very bad code. It worked, but it wasn't what you'd call industrial strength, largely because it didn't do nearly enough checking.

As a result my programs would crash if you gave them unexpected input by typing a word into a field where a number was required, or because they failed to check whether a variable had been properly initialised before doing a calculation.

Fortunately I had talented and patient colleagues who showed me the difference between student programming and serious coding and understood that validating data, checking variables and handling all possible error conditions is not just a useful extra but at least as important as the part of the program that does the actual work.

The lesson has stayed with me, even though I now write little production code and only occasionally mess around with other people's programs.

Sadly, it seems that the developers behind three of the most widely-used electronic voting systems in current use in the United States have never grasped this important principle.

Following concerns about the accuracy of the electronic voting systems used in last year's the California state legislature commissioned computer science and cryptography experts at the University of California to review the main players and ensure that 'California voters are being asked to cast their ballots on machines that are secure, accurate, reliable, and accessible'.

Anyone looking for reassurance will have had their hopes dashed, as the recently published report into e-voting systems from Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia found massive security holes in the source code which, combined with poor physical security and badly-designed procedures, make it impossible to rely on them to record votes accurately...

Such problems are not confined to the United States, of course, though the campaign for more openness about the technology used in electronic voting seems to have made more progress there than elsewhere.

Here in the UK the Open Rights Group, resolute campaigners for civil liberties in the digital world, sent observers to several of the e-voting pilot projects in the May 2007 English and Scottish elections.

They had to fight through a bureaucracy which seemed to see openness as a dangerous aberration, where 'observers were frequently subject to seemingly arbitrary and changeable decisions via unclear lines of authority', but the final report makes chilling reading."

Security excuse bingo

Matt Blaze, not surprisingly has been following the California evoting review and has come up with a game called security excuse bingo to help read the press releases from the vendors affected.

"To help vendors focus on their obligations here, Jutta Degener and I present Security Problem Excuse Bingo. Usual bingo rules apply, with vendor press releases, news interviews, and legal notices used as source material. Cards can be generated and downloaded from

Because we follow all industry standard practices, you can rest assured that there are no bugs in this software. We take security very seriously."


JK Rowling loses court fight to ban publication of son's picture

JK Rowling has lost a court case which she pursued in an effort to ban the publication of a photograph of her and her son.

""I have considerable sympathy for the claimant's parents and anyone else who wishes to shield their children from intrusive media attention," Paten said.

But he said the law does not allow them to "carve out a press-free zone for their children concerning absolutely everything they choose to do."

The judge granted Rowling and Murray the right to appeal and continued a temporary ban on publication of the picture in the meantime."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

And you thought ContactPoint was bad?

From ARCH and I hope they don't mind me quoting them in full:

"The government has delivered an astounding parting shot as it heads off for the long summer holidays. Hard on the heels of the ContactPoint database comes the announcement that eCAF will also be a national database.

If you don’t know what eCAF is, go and read all about it to understand just how serious this is.

It is despicable that the announcement was made in a written ministerial statement the day before recess. The plans were not mentioned in any of the debates on the regulations for ContactPoint last week.

Suddenly ContactPoint looks positively benign. Those 330,000 users will now have access to the full, in-depth assessments of up to 6 million children and their families, all held on an inevitably insecure national database. It simply beggars belief, and knocks on the head any faint hope that the Brown regime might offer relief from spin and deceit."

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Frodo Franchise

Henry Jenkins has done a fascinating interview (the first of three) with Dr. Kristin Thompson about her research for her new book, Frodo Franchise: The "Lord of the Rings" and Modern Hollywood. Dr Thompson, through a combination of scholarly reputation, good fortune and decent people involved in the production of the Lord of the Rings films seems to have got unprecedented access to the processes involved in the creation of a modern movie blockbuster.

"I started out not knowing any of the people involved directly or indirectly with the films. My assumption was that I would have to get in touch with one of the key people. There were only three of them who seemed powerful enough to make the decision to cooperate with my project: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Barrie Osborne.

In late 2002 I was still wondering if I could manage that. Fortunately I happened to be at a film conference in Adelaide, Australia, and met a film editor named Annabelle Sheehan. She was familiar with my work, and she said she could put me in touch with Barrie...

I won't go into the lengthy negotiation process that I went through with New Line, but it lasted from February to August, scotching my chances of being in Wellington during pickups. In late August I got the word that New Line was probably going to cooperate. That was enough for me to decide to go to New Zealand if possible, and witness some of the post-production, tour the facilities, interview people, whatever. I contacted Barrie about it, and he said I could come down. I booked my flights, bought a really good digital audio recorder, and by the end of September I was in Wellington.

Those two moments--Barrie's decisions to cooperate and to let me come down before the film was finished--were the crucial points, and I must give Barrie enormous credit for trusting and supporting me. I doubt that the book would exist if I hadn't had that support...

Barrie assigned me a point person, Melissa Booth, the main publicist at that time. She and I sat down on my first day, and she was terrific. She picked up right away on what I needed and made up a list of people and made the first appointments for me. After that I had the contact information and mainly made the appointments myself. Basically, once Barrie had made it known that I was doing the book, virtually everyone involved in the filmmaking whom I wanted to interview cooperated and indeed were very friendly and open about the whole thing.

I think it was really only after the first trip to New Zealand that I started trying to think of any comparable book that had appeared: a study of an entire film by a film historian, as opposed to a journalist. I couldn't think of any.

Now that the book is coming out, I can see why. I look back and think that getting the access I needed for my research was so close to impossible that I wonder if another such book can ever be written. The thing depended so much on some incredibly lucky coincidences, on dogged determination, on Kiwi friendliness and hospitality, and certainly on Barrie's support. That complex set of circumstances is so unlikely to come together again. I'm convinced that if I had tried to undertake a comparable project relating to one of the big franchises that are made in Hollywood or London, it wouldn't have gotten to square one.

On the other hand, if people in the industry read The Frodo Franchise, maybe some will recognize that it's really great publicity for them. I would like to think that it would inspire studio officials to give greater access to bona fide scholars. It would be somewhat like the studios' learning curve on how to deal with fans on the internet, I suppose."

Update: Other recetn Jenkins blog posts worth a read is 'Oh, Those Russians!': The (Not So) Mysterious Ways of Russian-language Harry Potter Fandom and 'Oh, Those Russians!': The (Not So) Mysterious Ways of Russian-language Harry Potter Fandom (Part One)

Evoting decertified in California

Well the Secretary of State for California, Debra Bowen, has, following the review of the state's evoting machines, decertified (or withdrawn approval and instigated re-approval conditioned on important changes, including full source code disclosure) the voting machines supplied by the four biggest evoting vendors in the US.

This is a pretty big deal for the evoting systems in the US and it will be really interesting to see how California copes with what comes next.

Update: The Washington Post has the story.

Digital content wants to be free...

Martin has been postulating:

"Through the various projects I've been involved in recently (openlearn, broadcast strategy review, Flosscom), I've come to the realisation that something very significant has happened to the nature of content. It can be summarised thus:

"Digital content wants to be free, and will seek the path to maximum access."

Let's call it the content law...

The content law may seem simple, but it has enormous implications. Let's try a thought experiment: imagine a matter transporter has been invented. The implications for transport industries, car manufacturers, holidays, property prices, retail etc would be enormous. The physical (including people) becomes digital content as it were, so there is no need to live near your place of work (or even to have a 'place of work').

The internet is a matter transporter for digital content. If you are working in any sector where the content can be digitised (broadcast, music, newspapers, movies, and er, education) then you should repeat the content law to yourself everyday, because it means you have to find alternative revenue streams for when your content achieves its nirvanic state of free and available to everyone. There may be some content which can survive this law, but you are probably going to do your organisation a bigger service if you assume the content law is true for you also and instead of trying to find ways to combat it, you seek ways to build new models around it."

This deserves a much more thoughtful response than I currently have the time to [virtually] pen because I think Martin is partly though not totally right. I say only partly right because digital content is never 'free as in free beer' and no less an authority than Larry Lessig has just completed a 10-year world lecture tour and a couple of books articulating the opposite point of view - that digital content is and will become the most controlled form of content ever. There will always be energy costs, technology/gadget/s costs and utility/connection costs and the trick for the commercial and public sectors, as Martin says, is to work out the business models to support the profit making ventures as well as the public goods infrastructure to sustain the production, hosting and universal access to the digital content. There is definitely an enrichment of the Gartner technology boom-bust-mainstream integration cycle

to be worked out here on the basis of Martin's proposed law but we shouldn't underestimate the potential of the existing money/political power brokers to distort the process. Then again maybe this should be the central theme of Martin's next book?

Quote of the day

"A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution." James Madison at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Thanks to Hipparchia for the link.