Friday, January 18, 2008

US Supreme Court decline to hear Kahle case

The US Supreme Court has decided against hearing the appeal of Brewster Kahle challenging the constitutionality of repeated Congressional extension of copyright term based on the impact of such extensions on orphan works i.e. those with no identifiable copyright owner. It is hardly surprising since the case was an attempt to revive the basic challenge raised by the Eldred v Ashcroft case and rejected by the Supreme Court in 2003.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of Kahle v. Ashcroft, brought by Internet Archive and Open Content Alliance founders Brewster Kahle and Rick Prelinger in 2003, which challenged the constitutionality of the current copyright regime. Although not unexpected, the Supreme Court's refusal comes after a recent ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals raised hopes of a review and lets stand the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' rejection, effectively ending the case.

The Kahle suit was launched in the wake of the unsuccessful 2003 Eldred v. Ashcroft case, which challenged Congess's extension of copyright terms. In that ruling, the Supreme Court held that changes by Congress to the "traditional contours" of copyright law warranted a First Amendment review. Kahle v. Ashcroft contended that Congress's sweeping changes to copyright law in 1976 were enough of a change in the "contours of copyright" to require review."
Larry Lessig's first ever courtroom victory on technical and procedural issues in the Golan case last autumn had however raised some slim hopes that the courts might be prepared to start reining in the worst excesses of extensions to intellectual property laws.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Primary Sources on Copyright 1450 - 1900

A collection of academics from all over the world are collating a digital archive of primary historical sources on copyright (1450 - 1900).

What a great project. A terrific combination of new technology and old to make a tremendously valuable resource available to anyone with an interest in copyright and a computer connected to the Net. The organisers of the project are holding a conference in March.
This two day conference is the culmination of a research project involving the creation of a digital resource concerning the history of copyright in five key jurisdictions; France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US, for the period before 1900. The project involves the selection of certain key documents, their digitisation, transcription, and translation. The project will create a free electronic archive of primary sources from the invention of the printing press (ca1450) to the Berne Convention (1886): in facsimile and transcription, translated and key word searchable. The documents will include statutes, materials relating to legislative history, case law, tracts, and commentaries. Editorial headnotes will provide context. The project is entirely publicly-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and benefits from an advisory board of internationally-recognised experts in relevant fields. When complete, the digital resource will be hugely valuable to scholars from all disciplines interested in the history of copyright. More information about the project is available at Primary Sources on Copyright History.

Yet another Uk anti terror bill on the way

I heard the Home Secretary on the radio this morning and the UK government are planning yet more anti terrorism legislation.

"In order to ensure that crimes of terror are prevented, and that those who attempt to commit those acts go to prison, the government has substantially increased funding for police and counter-terrorism.

To ensure that police and security services have the powers they need to fight back against the threat of terrorism, the government will soon introduce a counter-terrorism bill that gives them new legal rights.

Included in that act will be new or expanded powers related to:

  • gathering and sharing information about terrorist suspects
  • post-charge questioning of suspects
  • tougher sentencing for offences tied in to terrorism
  • the seizure and forfeiture of terrorist cash, property and other assets"
It doesn't say it in the Home Office press release about the speech but she emphasised her desire to have educational institutions inform the authorities of and crack down on unacceptable or extremist views.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Documents reveal that Blair urged end to BAE-Saudi corruption investigation

This won't be a big surprise to many people but just before Christmas the High Court published documents revealing that Tony Blair urged end to the BAE-Saudi corruption investigation.
Documents released in the High Court on Friday 21 December 2007 indicate that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals was dropped only after the then Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a personal minute to the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. They show that Goldsmith did not believe that the case should be dropped in response to alleged Saudi threats to withdraw intelligence and security co-operation.

The documents are a witness statement from the Director of the Serious Fraud Office, Robert Wardle, and nine redacted (words and sentences excluded) typed-up letters between the Prime Minister and/or Cabinet Office (the government department supporting the Prime Minister) and the Attorney General (which superintends the Director of the Serious Fraud Office) dating from December 2005 to December 2006.

The documents were released during a 'Directions Hearing' at the High Court to prepare for a judicial review brought by The Corner House and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) against the UK Government's decision to cut short the SFO investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

The 5 year old suspected terrorist

In the mountain of silly security stories that now exist the detention and searching of a five year old as a suspected terrorist at an airport has got to rank right near the top of the stupidity scale. Thanks to Cory for the link. The TSA say that sort of thing should not be happening.

Demos report on National Security for the 21st Century

Demos's report on National Security for the 21st Century (pdf, 669 KB) was published just before Christmas. (Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the link) It has some radical suggestions for changing the UK's approach to security threats. From the executive summary and recommendations:

"The British government lacks a clear and coherent view of the nature
and priority of risks1 to the United Kingdom.
The national security architecture is flawed in its design. The
government remains structured around functions and services with
separate budgets for defence, foreign affairs, intelligence and
development. Whitehall departments, intelligence agencies and the
police forces that make up the security architecture have changed very
little in the past two decades, despite the end of the Cold War and the
attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
This model of government may have suited the security
environment of the Cold War when the UK faced a threat to its
national survival but the complex and uncertain security
environment demands a fundamental review of how government is
organised. This is especially true if government is to respond to
‘wicked’ problems, issues that are unbounded in time, scope and
resources. The common, unifying, external threat of nuclear war has
been replaced by a plethora of security challenges such as trafficking
and organised crime, international terrorism, energy security,
pandemics and illegal immigration. They are dangers that are present,
but not clear.
The government remains faced with a set of problems it cannot
solve on its own. In order to respond to the new security paradigm,
the UK’s security architecture must adapt, not just in terms of
processes and structures but in the mindsets of ministers and civil
servants. At the same time, it must develop close relationships with its
‘strategic partners’, the private sector and the wider public, which
raises further challenges of transparency, information sharing and
This pamphlet sets out a definition of and an approach to ‘national
security’, a concept understood by some as an abstract notion relating
to the ‘condition of the state’, and referred to in security and
intelligence legislation. It argues that the concept of national security
can serve a more vital role, as a principle for organising government.
The pamphlet draws on reforms and innovations from governments
elsewhere in Europe and the United States and suggests some radical
and innovative ideas on which to shape the future of the national
security architecture.
Its core argument is that while the UK government has been able
to ‘muddle through’ by creating new units within departments, merge
teams and allocate more resources for agencies to expand, the present
and future security environment urgently demands a more integrated
and strategic approach. Tinkering with the machinery will continue
to pay short-term dividends but it will only ever achieve marginal
improvements. Long-term success must be based on a more inclusive,
open and holistic approach to national security...
Part 2 of the pamphlet outlines how the government can transform
itself in response to the challenges identified in the pamphlet. The
changes revolve around three essential principles of adaptation in
 the need for a holistic approach to national security, based
on systems thinking, which allows individuals, agencies
and departments to take a much broader perspective than
normal; this includes seeing overall structures, patterns
and cycles in systems, rather than identifying only specific
events or policy options
 the creation of an open and transparent national security
architecture for ministers, civil servants and the
government’s strategic partners – the private sector and
the wider public
 a transformation of the national security architecture
based on the principles of public value, an intellectual
framework for reform in government that, although still
in its infancy, has huge potential for changing the way in
which the government measures its performance and
maintains the trust and confidence of society...


National security strategy
1. A national security strategy has the potential to
transform the way government approaches issues
of national security but the development of a strategy
must be comprehensive and supported across the
political spectrum,within Whitehall and by the
2. While the publication of a national security strategy is
welcome the government should go further and create a
national security secretariat, based in the Cabinet Office
and subsuming the Overseas and Defence Secretariat,
Civil Contingencies Secretariat and parts of the Security
and Intelligence Secretariat.
3. In collaboration with the prime minister and cabinet the
national security secretariat should identify three to five
most serious and immediate priorities for UK national
security. These might be serious and organised crime,
counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism and energy

System reform
4. The government should create networks across
Whitehall on issues such as ‘governance and rule of law’,
‘trade and diplomacy’, ‘climate change’ and ‘security
sector reform’. This will require changed departmental
structures based more heavily on teams and projects,
which are able to call on expertise from outside. These
networks will be the responsibility of a senior civil
servant, accountable to both a minister and Parliament.
5. Clarification of ministerial roles on issues of national
security is needed. At present too many key policy areas
or departmental units in government have little or no
ministerial leadership. This is not a call for a new
ministerial post in the Cabinet Office on security but
rather a plea for better ministerial oversight on a range of
policy areas such as security sector reform and conflict
prevention and on units that fall between departments
such as the new Stabilisation Unit.
6. Public value must become the intellectual framework for
public services and national security.
7. A national training centre should be created for the
intelligence agencies and law enforcement.
8. Based on the current IT programme SCOPE, the
government should go further and create a similar
system of information-sharing software based on the
successful Intellipedia in the US.

Accountability and oversight
9. The post of ‘spokesperson on national security’ should
be created and based in a new national security
10. The government should make public an annual threat
11. A quadripartite parliamentary select committee on
national security should be created – bringing together
existing select committees that focus on UK national
interests, security and defence policy. The government
must allocate more resources to parliamentary select
committees including a panel of national security experts
National Security for the Twenty-first Century
who can be called on to undertake investigations in
specialist areas.
12. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) should
not become a parliamentary select committee. Instead the
ISC should be strengthened by recruiting a team of
independent investigators while more resources should
be provided for the ISC secretariat."

Refuse the terror

Refuse the terror video on YouTube:

Hacking life

Freeman Dyson thinks teenagers are going to be engaged in biological and genetic hacking in the none too distant future.

" DYSON: Because von Neumann thought that he was dealing with unreliable hardware, he made another mistake. The problem was how to write reliable software so as to deal with unreliable hardware. Now we have the opposite problem. Hardware is amazingly reliable, but software is not. It's the software that sets the limit to what you can do.

My prediction or prognostication is that the same thing is going to happen to biotech in the next 50 years, perhaps 20 years; that it's going to be domesticated. And I take the example of the flower show in Philadelphia and the reptile show in San Diego, at both of which I saw demonstrations of the enormous market there is for people who are skilled breeders of plants and animals. And they're itching to get their hands on this new technology. As soon as it's available I believe it's going to catch fire, the way computers did when they became available to people like you.

It's essentially writing and reading DNA. Breeding new kinds of plants and trees and bushes by writing the genomes at home on your personal machine. Just a little DNA reader and a little DNA writer on your desk, and you play the game with seeds and eggs instead of with pictures on the screen. That's all.

LLOYD: One of the reasons computers became ubiquitous is the phenomenon of Moore's Law, where they became faster and more powerful by a factor of two every two years. Is there an equivalent here?

DYSON: Exactly the same thing is happening to DNA at the moment. Moore's Law is being followed as we speak, both by reading and writing machines.

LLOYD: At roughly the same rate?


VENTER: It's happening faster. I had this discussion with Gordon Moore and I said that sequence reading and writing was changing faster than Moore's Law, and he said, but it won't matter, as you're ultimately dependent on Moore's Law.

DYSON: I agree with that. At the moment it's going fast.

CHURCH: Unless we build bio-computers—right now the best computers are bio-computers.

BROCKMAN: It took two weeks for a 17-year-old to hack the iPhone—and here we're talking about DNA writers and readers. That same kid is going to start making people.

DYSON: That's true, the driving force is the parents, not the scientists. Fertility clinics are a tremendously large and profitable branch of medicine, and that's where the action is. There's no doubt this is going into fertility clinics as well. For good or evil, that's happening.

BROCKMAN: But isn't this a watershed event because of our ideas about life? What's possible will happen. What will the societal impact be?

DYSON: It's not true that what's possible will happen. We have strict laws about experimenting with human subjects.

BROCKMAN: You can't hack an iPhone either; certain activities along these lines are illegal.

DYSON: But it's different with medicine. You do get put in jail if you break the rules.

BROCKMAN: Not in Romania.

DYSON: There are clear similarities but also great differences. Certainly it is true that people are going to be monkeying around with humans; I totally agree with that. But I think that society will put limits on it, and that the limits are likely to be broken from time to time, but they will be there."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chip implants for prisoners

SpyBlog has a wonderfully thorough analysis of why the Independent on Sunday's sensationalised story about government ministers considering implanting chips in prisoners to track them is a non starter.

Don't even bother reading the Indie's story just look at SpyBlog's dissection of it.

EU Opens New Microsoft Investigation

From AP via Findlaw: EU Opens New Microsoft Investigation

"European Union regulators said Monday they were investigating whether software giant Microsoft Corp. used its market dominance to squeeze out office software and Internet browser rivals."

FBI wiretaps cut due to unpaid phone bills

You've got to laugh at the surveillance silly season stories like this one. The chink in US government's mass surveillance program might well be irritated phone companies cutting off FBI and other wiretaps due to unpaid phone bills!

"The FBI has hit a major hang-up in its wiretapping surveillance program: failing to pay its phone bills on time.

Facing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals, a Justice Department audit released Thursday shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And in at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies."

It gives a new twist to the idea that the piper must be paid. There's also a great quote in the piece from an ACLU lawyer:
"It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being 'good patriots' when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills," said former FBI agent Michael German, the ACLU's national security policy counsel. "To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when FBI says warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail."

The Ford Pirates

Apparently Ford's lawyers are leaning on the 9000 member 'Black Mustang Club', which will not now (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page) be producing a calendar including pictures of club members' black Mustang Ford cars, since Ford claim to own the pictures and much else besides.

"I got some more info from the folks at cafepress and according to them, a law firm representing Ford contacted them saying that our calendar pics (and our club's event logos - anything with one of our cars in it) infringes on Ford's trademarks which include the use of images of THEIR vehicles. Also, Ford claims that all the images, logos and designs OUR graphics team made for the BMC events using Danni are theirs as well. Funny, I thought Danni's title had my name on it ... and I thought you guys owned your cars ... and, well ... I'm not even going to get into how wrong and unfair I feel this whole thing is as I'd be typing for hours, but I wholeheartedly echo everything you guys have been saying all afternoon. I'm not letting this go un-addressed and I'll keep you guys posted as I get to work on this.

I'm sorry, but at this point we will not be producing the 2008 BMC Calendar, featuring our 2007 Members of the Month, solely due to Ford Motor Company's claim that THEY own all rights to the photos YOU take of YOUR car. I hope to resolve this soon, and be able to provide the calendar and other BMC merchandise that you guys want and deserve!"

The thing is that although it is pretty stupid commercial practice to annoy a dedicated group of customers likely to put continuing long term repeat business your way, Ford have a fairly strong case under US IP law as it currently stands - calendar sales, which they have not authorised, featuring pictures of Ford vehicles. Yet another example of ordinary people not liking what they see when IP is brought to their attention in a rather in-your-face unfortunate kind of way. Witness some of the contributors to the BMC forum:

"Wow I cannot believe what I am reading. I thought we were making the payments and that when I take a picture of MY mustang I own the rights to the picture not them and if I want to publish a picture of my car it is mine. This is just crazy."

"*utterly speechless*

Just simply amazing. I would think they'd be flattered that we were so happy to be showing off our cars and getting them some publicity in the process."

"This is quite possibly the most absurd thing I've ever heard. the NOTION that after paying THOUSANDS of dollars, I'm not authorized to create artwork using pictures of what's rightfully mine just blows my mind!
Ford has another think coming if they think they're just going to go around squashing all the 'little men', who do nothing but SUPPORT them...

I don't know about you guys, but when I bought the Bullitt, I didn't see anything in the contract that said Ford would maintain "intellectual rights" to any pictures I might eventually take of the vehicle. BUMP that!"

This latter contributor may well own his car but I'm afraid the law says he is "not authorized to create artwork using pictures" which include Ford's trademarks.