Friday, April 03, 2009

Radiohead manager Brian Message to testify for Tenenbaum

Via Glyn on the ORG list: Radiohead manager Brian Message has reportedly agreed to testify for student Joel Tenenbaum in the case being brought against him by Sony BMG, alleging he used Kazaa for the illicit copying of 7 songs. Charles Nesson of Harvard's Berkman Center is leading Tenenbaum's defence.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

IPRED implemented in Sweden

The Swedish law implementing the EU's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive of 2004, officially came into force yesterday, according to a CNet report. And the vice chairman of the Swedish Pirate party is reported by the BBC as suggesting it has instantly cut Net traffic in Sweden by 33%.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

ACTA timeline

Michael Geist has posted a very useful ACTA timeline on his blog.

Update: Via Glyn Moody, see also Geist's article in the Ottawa Citizen, Battle over top-secret treaty heats up
"Next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs will conduct one of the stranger consultations in recent memory. Officials have invited roughly 70 stakeholder groups to discuss an international intellectual property treaty that the U.S. regards as a national security secret and about which the only substantive information has come from a series of unofficial leaks.

Since then-minister David Emerson announced Canada's participation in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations in October 2007, the ACTA has been dogged by controversy over the near-total lack of transparency."

Slideshare rockstar?

I just had an email from Slideshare telling me I'm a "Slideshare RockStar". Apparently the slides of my talk at the Westminster eForum on on copyright last year have been getting a lot of views in the past 24 hours. Sure enough, on checking, it seems that it has been viewed more than 10,000 times. I assume there is probably a simple explanation for this (is there, Tony H.?) because I'm not aware of anything that should have suddenly pushed traffic in that direction recently. It's not really been a big IP news week.

Is this an April fool's joke?

Smith and the adult films - nothing to hide nothing to fear

Simon Jenkins is in good form at the Guardian today, pleased that the Home Secretary has been hoist by her own petard, after the revelations of her husband's porn watching and her subsequent claiming for the cost of it on expenses.
"Sweet is the spectacle of a home secretary bitten by her own snake. The outrage of Jacqui Smith's television expenses claim lies not in its content, lurid as it is, but in the way it was exposed. How many times must the home secretary have been assured in security briefings that her latest purchase of some data storage gizmo was "totally secure"?

"Don't worry," the briefers would have said, "the material will be protected by the finest firewalls, the most foolproof anti-hacking devices and the most savage legal defence. Nothing will be transferable and only the highest in the land will have access. Besides, home secretary, as you have so often said, the innocent have nothing to fear."

Yes, they do. They have the revelation of their husband's taste in movies, apparently leaked by contractors in receipt of easily copied discs, now on offer to anyone with £300,000...

In the last eight years, the same MPs who are howling at their data vulnerability have voted for the most extensive surveillance system in Europe, as well as the biggest data storage in the most expensive and inept computers. Britain under Labour has become the world capital of privacy intrusion...

In 2000, just nine organisations were allowed warrants to access secure government records: the figure is now almost 800. For a small fee, anyone will be able to learn anything about anyone else. It may be illegal, but like computer downloads it will happen...

One of the few home secretaries who dominated his department rather than be cowed by it was Lord Whitelaw in the 1980s. He boasted how after any security lapse, the police would come to beg for new and draconian powers. He laughed and sent them packing, saying only a bunch of softies would erode British liberty to give themselves an easier job. He said they laughed in return and remarked that "it was worth a try".

Now the try always works. What is extraordinary is the weakness of the liberty lobby in opposition...

The only hope is that now MPs... might be more mindful of the liberties - and privacies - of others. I would not hold my breath."

Opposition to Authors Guild on Kindle 2 text to speech

Manon Ress notes that there is growing opposition to the Authors' Guild stance which caused Amazon to shut off the text to speech feature of its Kindle 2 ebook reader.
" Reading disabled persons affected by the Authors’ Guild request to remove the text to speech function on Kindle 2 include include school children, the elderly, professionals, university students, returning veterans, and yes, your neighbors, family members and friends.

The Reading Rights coalition is growing and includes now 22 members:
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Council of the Blind
American Foundation for the Blind
Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy
Association of Blind Citizens
AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability)
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Burton Blatt Institute
DAISY Consortium
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
IDEAL Group, Inc.
International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI)
International Dyslexia Association
International Dyslexia Association – New York Branch Learning Disabilities
Jewish Guild for the Blind
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Disability Rights Network
National Federation of the Blind
NISH (formerly National Institute for the Severely Handicapped)
National Spinal Cord Injury Association

Equal and not separate Reading Rights

What we believe:

“As technology advances and more books move from hard-copy print to electronic formats, people with print disabilities deserve the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print.”

People with print disabilities cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability.

Simply put, people with reading disabilities want to buy books. They are fighting to have equal access to technology and information.

Now that the Kindle 2 offers text-to-speech, some reading disabled persons could actually purchase and enjoy books at the same time as anybody else.

However, it looks as if the Authors Guild does not support equal access for those willing to pay equal prices. For the Guild, to read books, reading disabled persons must either be “registred” or pay more to read with text-to-speech.

Here is an Open Letter to Authors by the Reading Rights Coalition.

And here is a powerful statement from Carrie Russel, Director Program on Public Access to Information, ALA Office for Information Technology Policy

“It is hard to know what is worse — Amazon cowtowing to the Authors Guild’s request to remove the text to speech function or the Authors Guild seeking to squeeze every penny they can from the visually impaired who are already paying for the Kindle books. Amazon did not have to cave - there was no license they had agreed to with the Authors Guild to remove the speech function that would have expanded rights to private reading. Shame on the Authors Guild for being greedy and downright mean to the visually impaired.”

Please support us, people with reading disabilities and people who care about access to books for all, by joining an informational picket in front of the Authors Guild’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan on April 7, 2009 at 12:00 p.m."

EU Consumer Commissioner focuses on online privacy

The EU's Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Meglena Kuneva, yesterday turned her attention to matters of online data collection and profiling.
"We are here to talk about one of the most important and most controversial issues in the fast evolving world of digital communications: the explosion in the volume of collected personal data and its use for commercial purposes.

I feel there is a much needed discussion on the new generation of practices and business models built on the ability to profile consumers and then use their profile to target them for commercial purposes...

Internet is an advertisement supported service and the development of marketing based on profiling and personal data is what makes it go round. Personal data is the new oil of the internet and the new currency of the digital world...

Tools must now be developed that balance the interests of business with that of the consumers. This means two things: the respect of users' right to control their public exposure; and the obligation to protect them against abusive and risky practices targeted at them.

We have already well established consumer policy principles, articulated in regulations and tools that bring confidence in the traditional world of goods and services. These are principles of transparency, clear information, choice, fair commercial communications and fair contract terms. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. What we need now is a debate on how we apply these tested principles in digital world, in particular in the activity of collecting consumers' personal data for the purpose of commercially targeting them...

Our research shows that young people between the ages of 15-25, the most confident of internet users, use the internet in spite of the fact that they generally don’t trust it. Using internet under these conditions is like drinking your water while thinking it might be slightly toxic. We would not allow such a situation to exist in the market for water, or cosmetics or toys. We do not tolerate this lack of confidence in any consumer commercial setting because in the long run lack of confidence damages markets. In our toxic water example, you will drink the toxic water but you will drink just enough and no more. And the water market will not thrive.

There are three particular strands of actions we must address: privacy policies, commercial communications and commercial discrimination...

More than 4 out of 5 young internet users believe that their personal information is somehow used without their knowledge and shared with third parties without their agreement. They are right...

The status quo is not an option. Currently, consumers have little awareness of what data is being collected, how and when it is being collected and what it is used for. And they are also not able to control this process. The current opt-out systems are partial, sometimes nowhere to be found, they are difficult or cumbersome and most of all, they are unstable. Avoiding tracking is currently technically difficult if not impossible...

We must establish the principles of transparency, clear language, opt-in or opt-out options that are meaningful and easy to use. I am talking about the right to have a stable contract and the right to withdraw. And I am also talking about fair clauses and the right to participate in economic activity without selling your whole self indiscriminately as commercial fodder to the entire world...

No one in the digital space really cares about our actual names or exact physical addresses. What traders want is a description of who we are and a way to reach us. They want to know that the person behind the number 1234 is young, sporty, drives fast cars and travels frequently and that as a trader you can show up on his screen at your convenience. This is fine. But what about the person behind number 456, unemployed, in debt and about to lose his home? He is a target for predatory loans and fraudulent financial and yes, personal, advice...

But we must ensure that commercial communications comply with the law. This means they cannot deceive, mislead or amount to excessive pressure. What is the implication of these principles in a world of personal information?


This actually brings us the really tricky matter of the blurring of commercial and non commercial communications. A recent experiment in neuroscience suggests that individuals might abdicate their own valuation of risks when given individual advice by an expert and just follow the expert's advice. [1] This only reinforces the need to enforce the principle of identifying commercially sponsored messages and, even more importantly, the principle of identifying commercially sponsored messengers.

The situation becomes even trickier in the world of social sites and viral marketing. Young people and even children are being particularly targeted as conduits for advertisement. If a toy company incites a little girl to share with her friends she got a brand new doll, is the message she sends an advertisement? Does receiving a sponsored message that your best friend got a doll amount to pressure selling if you are 7 years old?

Our current legislation forbids advertisements that ask children to pester their parents but we say nothing of the ones that ask them to pester their friends...

If this personal information is used to extract the maximum price possible from you or to block your access to some services altogether, then commercial discrimination can damage the confidence in digital trade and services. People may resent a world where they would have to systematically pay for who they are or the risks they personally incur.

Excessive targeting in the form of price or commercial discrimination can also inhibit the ability of users to predict and compare prices which seriously harms competitiveness in a market.

We have some way to go to understand the full consequences of this commercial practice but we must start thinking about the parameters for legitimate discrimination. What type of commercial discrimination, if any, is damaging to consumer trust and market efficiency?


I invite industry to develop a framework that applies consumer policy principles and that will establish the principles of acceptable behaviour...

The regulatory protection we have in Europe is extensive and far-reaching. There is a huge task ahead of us in terms of enforcement of the rules that already exist both regarding privacy and consumer protection. Some progress has been made but it is not nearly enough...

Behavioural targeting on the internet will become increasingly pervasive and consumers understandably feel uncomfortable.

Today I want to send one very clear message to those involved in all aspects of the digital world - Consumer rights must adapt to technology, not be crushed by it. The current situation with regard to privacy, profiling and targeting is not satisfactory.

The central issue is to transpose the principles of consumer policy to this new technological reality so that we maintain our traditional boundaries of what is right and what is not, what damages people and markets and what favours and nurtures them...

If we fail to see an adequate response to consumers concerns on the issue of data collection and profiling, as a regulator, we will not shy away from our duties nor wait for a cataclysm to wake us up."

I wonder what she means by the phrase "Consumer rights must adapt to technology"? Surely whoever wrote her speech really meant to say that technology should be used in ways that respect consumer rights?