Friday, August 08, 2003

The UK has banned the iTrip device that allows you to play your iPod tunes on the radio. It facilitates breaches of the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy act which requires anyone with a radio transmitter to have a license.

The Oyez project has released an "inaugural set of Supreme Court MP3 files." I've been listening to the argument of the the Katz v U.S. eavesdropping case and the re-argument of the Roe v Wade abortion case, as I've been sorting through some routine admin. work. Terrific to be able to hear these, although in the Katz file it seems not all the justices were miked up, so it's not possible to hear all their questions.

The big issues for the Autumn on this side of the pond look likely to be the round EU implementations of the copyright directive, the September EU parliament and Commission decisions on the patenting of software in the EU and the EU's IP enforcement directive and finally, I guess, any action the Commission decide to take against Microsoft. Throw DRM and trusted computing into the fray an you've got a complex 'mess', as my systems colleagues at the Open University would call it. The Foundation for Information Policy Research are leading the UK fight against the IP enforcement directive. As he has been making NGOs aware of the directive, FIPR Chairman and Cambridge University security specialist, Ross Anderson, has come to realise that this directive could have a significant effect on ordinary retailing,

"RFIDs (radio-frequency IDs) are devices smaller than grains of rice
that can be fitted on goods such as clothes and which will, when
integgorated electronically, return a 128-bit unique number. You can
think of them as bar codes that identify individual objects rather
than merely product ranges, and that can be read from a foot or two
away. Walmart has ordered its suppliers to fit them, so we're going to
get them in everything we buy for more than a few pounds, within a
couple of years, like it or not.

RFIDs will be useful in detecting and preventing counterfeit goods, so
they will be covered by the directive. It will be an offence to mess
with them, or to possess kit to mess with them."

So these RFIDs as copyright "technological protection measures" will effectively be able to be used to create market barriers. When it comes to RFIDs I had always been more concerned about the privacy implications but the market manipulation that Ross points out is not nearly as transparent, so is potentially being overlooked by policy makers and certain sectors of commerce which don't yet realise the impact they might have when combined with regulations like the proposed IP enforcement directive.

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