Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lisbon treaty dead or alive?

There's been a lot of traditional media column inches, broadcast media speculation and politicians' hot air expended on whether the Lisbon treaty is finished now that my homeland has rejected it in a referendum. I'm inclined to think the treaty has reached corpsedom since article 6 of said treaty states:

"1. This Treaty shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Government of the Italian Republic.

2. This Treaty shall enter into force on 1 January 2009, provided that all the instruments of ratification have been deposited, or, failing that, on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take this step."

IANAL but that's as clear as you can get really - it enters into force when "all" states ratify it, preferably by January next year and if not then in the first month after the "last" member state ratifies it. Ireland have rejected it; "all" and "last" =>The treaty is legally dead. QED.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fewer rules better behaviour

From David Bollier:

"Imagine what would happen if you took down road signs and traffic signals. More accidents would surely result, or at least significant confusion and slower traffic. Or would it? The surprising thing is that a number of cities around the world have actually done this, and experienced dramatic declines in traffic accidents...

The Dutch town of Drachten adopted this “unsafe is safe” approach in 2007 and found that casualties at one junction dropped from thirty-six over the previous four years to only two in the two years following the removal of traffic lights. Traffic jams no longer occur in the town’s main junction, which handles 22,000 cars a day. The town is “Verkeersbordvrij,” meaning “free of traffic signs.” (I am grateful to Jonathan Zittrain’s reference to Drachten’s experiment in his new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, and to Wikipedia for its account of “shared space.” )...

The idea is to return public spaces to people in order to encourage them to take greater personal responsibility. Monderman explained, “We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior….The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”"

He's right. Too many decision makers subscribe to the notion that human variability can be eliminated if only you create enough rules. The result is that intelligent people spend inordinate amounts of time circumventing the rules to get things done. When such circumvention is noticed the "solution" is more and tighter rules, including the outlawing of the circumvention. Eventually circumvention becomes too onerous or risky and even the intelligent and dedicated find it hard to take personal responsibility for the emergent chaos wreaked by the rules. As Bollier notes:

"Who could have thought that the wisdom of Lao-tsu, in the Tao Te Ching, could be applied to traffic safety engineering?

Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.

The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.

….If you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.

Jonathan Zittrain mentions the shared-space design philosophy as a way to explain the success of Wikipedia. I would extend the principle to many other commons – water management, lobster harvesting, free software projects, scientific database commons, and much else. We naturally have greater respect for rules that we have had some role in formulating – and a willingness to punish those who misbehave — than we have for rules that have been imposed upon us by some higher authority."

Those who seek to control should be made to repeat Lao-tsu's mantra every day:

If you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.

The forgotten Web of Paul Otlet

From the NYT: The Web Time Forgot

"MONS, Belgium — On a fog-drizzled Monday afternoon, this fading medieval city feels like a forgotten place. Apart from the obligatory Gothic cathedral, there is not much to see here except for a tiny storefront museum called the Mundaneum, tucked down a narrow street in the northeast corner of town. It feels like a fittingly secluded home for the legacy of one of technology’s lost pioneers: Paul Otlet.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “rĂ©seau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.”

Historians typically trace the origins of the World Wide Web through a lineage of Anglo-American inventors like Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson. But more than half a century before Tim Berners-Lee released the first Web browser in 1991, Otlet (pronounced ot-LAY) described a networked world where “anyone in his armchair would be able to contemplate the whole of creation.”"

Thanks Ian for the link.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

IP law Centres write to Commission on copyright term extension

My friend and colleague, Mark Rogers, is amongst the signatories of a Letter to the President of the European Commission warning of the damage Charlie McCreevy's proposed extension of copyright term in sound recordings will do to the Commission.

The letter is accompanied by a full impact assessment of the empirical affects of the extension produced by the leading centres for IP policy research in the EU at Cambridge, Oxford, London, Queen Mary College, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, LSE and a whole host of others, coordinated by Martin Kretschmer and Philip Hardwick at Bournemouth University.

They suggest:

"It is a spectacular kowtow to one single special interest group: the multinational recording industry...

The proposed Copyright Extension Directive will damage European creative endeavour and innovation beyond repair."

They go on to say that competition will be impeded, consumers harmed and the EU's balance of trade damaged.

"If the European Commission wishes to support European artists, there are many possible measures that would not result in monopolising the back catalogue of recorded music for another 45 years. At the level of member states, policies include (i) the regulation of copyright contracts, and (ii) social security and insurance schemes; at the European level, policies include (i) equitable remuneration rights only available to living performers, and (ii) the regulation of collecting societies and licence tariffs, such as the nature and distribution of income from any copyright levy scheme.

The record industry was offered a generous commercial bargain when investing in recorded music under the current exclusive term of 50 years. This already far exceeds the protection available to other R&D intensive industries. It cannot be the job of the European Commission to protect the revenues of incumbent companies at the cost of consumers, creativity and innovation."

This is pretty hard hitting stuff from academics who usually use much more neutral language.

AP wants payment to license 5-word quotations

Cory is in full flow over the AP's decision to charge bloggers for 5 word quotations from stories.

"In the name of "defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt" the Associated Press is now selling "quotation licenses" that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that "fair use" -- the right to copy without permission -- means "Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.").

It gets better! If you pay to quote the AP, but you offend the AP in so doing, the AP "reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher's reputation."

Over on Making Light, Patrick Nielsen Hayden nails it:

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.” Hey, why have laws? Let’s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we’ll save."

I hope Cory and Mr Hayden don't mind me quoting such a large part of their posts. ;-) Jeremy at IPKat is, as you might expect, slightly more measured:

"As an active part of both the blogging community and the IP community, the IPKat is understandably concerned. Neither the Berne Convention or TRIPs, nor indeed any other international instrument of copyright law provide for a blanket "bloggers' right" to make use of protected materials for ephemeral purposes or for subsequent archiving -- and it is optimistic to hope for any such blanket use to be explicitly sanctioned. But blogging has to make a responsible use of all materials. The IPKat welcomes debate on this topic and wonders what his readers think. Merpel asks, there aren't any collecting societies out there, offering easy licences to use materials for blogging purposes, are there?"

Update: David Bollier's take on this is well worth a read at On the Commons, which I notice has had a facelift since my last visit.

French 3 strikes laws comes closer

From The Times:

"Anyone who persists in illicit downloading of music or films will be barred from broadband access under a controversial new law that makes France a pioneer in combating internet piracy.

“There is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone,” President Sarkozy told his Cabinet yesterday as it endorsed the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” scheme that from next January will hit illegal downloaders where it hurts.

Under a cross-industry agreement, internet service providers (ISPs) must cut off access for up to a year for third-time offenders.

In a classical French approach the scheme will be enforced by a new £15 million a year state agency, to be called Hadopi (high authority for copyright protection and dissemination of works on the internet)."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spy's simple sabotage manual

This is quite funny. A section of the Simple Sabotage Field Manual for US spies, declassified on 16 June 1976, reads:

"(11) General Interference with Organizations and Production
(a) Organizations and Conferences
(1) Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(2) Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate "patriotic" comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon."

I do also like these bits:

"(9) Communications
At office, hotel and exchange switchboards
delay putting enemy calls through, give them wrong numbers, cut them off "accidentally," or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again."

"(11) General Interference with Organizations and Production...

Managers and Supervisors
Demand written orders.
"Misunderstand" orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can...

(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files...

Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
Apply all regulations to the last letter.
Office Workers (^L) Make mistakes in quantities of material
when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
Prolong correspondence with government
Misfile essential documents.

Work slowly...

Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can...

Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once...

Snarl up administration in every possible
way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.
If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management.
See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on...

(12) General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating
Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations
when questioned.
Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.
(c) Act stupid...
Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks."

Thanks for the link Tony.

How the U.S. got its Canadian copyright bill

From Michael Geist: How the U.S. got its Canadian copyright bill

"Last week's introduction of new copyright legislation ignited a firestorm with thousands of Canadians expressing genuine shock at provisions that opposition MPs argued would create a "police state." As opposition to the copyright bill mounts, the most common question is "why"?

Why, given the obvious public concern with the bill stretching back to last year, did Industry Minister Jim Prentice plow ahead with rules that confirm many of the public's worst fears?

Why did a minority government introduce a bill that appears likely to generate strong opposition from both the Liberals and NDP with limited political gain?

Why did senior ministers refuse to even meet with many creator and consumer groups who have unsurprisingly voiced disappointment with the bill?

While Prentice has responded by citing the need to update Canada's copyright law in order to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization's Internet treaties, the reality may be that those treaties have little to do with Bill C-61.

Instead, the bill dubbed by critics as the Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act (after the U.S. version of the law) is the result of an intense public and private campaign waged by the U.S. government to pressure Canada into following its much-criticized digital copyright model.

Monday, June 16, 2008

TechCrunch ban AP stories due to IP over-reaching

From TechCrunch: Here’s Our New Policy On A.P. stories: They’re Banned

"They do not want people quoting their stories, despite the fact that such activity very clearly falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. They claim that the activity is an infringement.

A.P. vice president Jim Kennedy says they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”

Those that disregard the guidelines risk being sued by the A.P., despite the fact that such use may fall under the concept of fair use.

The A.P. doesn’t get to make it’s own rule around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even thought they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of legal property rights that don’t exist today. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model - paid content.

So here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet."