Friday, November 14, 2003

Derek Slater is feeling a little cynical about the ART act I mentioned yesterday.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The copyright wars are progressing as proponents of expansion introduce a new bill to the Senate in the US.

The "Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act" proposes jailing p2p file sharers for three years for having a single copyright infringing file on their computer. Also someone would get jailed for five years for using a camcorder in a cinema.

"In addition to the prison term, the Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act would punish making such movies available on a public "computer network" as a federal felony with a fine of up to $250,000. It would not require that any copyright infringement actually take place...

Peter Jaszi, a professor at American University who teaches copyright law, said he is "deeply troubled" by the wording of the draft legislation, because it does not say any actual copyright infringement must take place--only that the file be available in a shared folder, Web site or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site. "It says we don't care if anybody got any of these copies," Jaszi said. "We're going to conclude that at least 10 people did. It relieves the copyright owner of having to prove that any violation
of their rights actually happened.""

I predict a round of vigorous public debate between the usual protagonists in the US. I can't really see "ART" getting too far off the ground.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Altnet says P2P spies violate patent rights. P2P fighting back?
Some of the big media organisations are picking up the story on electronic voting problems in the US.
Patent office to re-examine Eolas patent. That could have an impact on the $520 million award against Microsoft.
On the other side of the government's IT fence, they have now launched a new UK Central Government Web Archive. Good for them.
Nick Cohen produced his usual diatribe against the government at the weekend. Just conveniently, this time it was on the subject of ID cards.
I heard the UK home secretary, David Blunkett, speaking about ID cards on BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning. He said biometric ID cards made identity theft "impossible." This is false.

Biometrics can be an authentication mechanism - something I have that demonstrates I am who I say am e.g. a fingerprint, iris scan or my dna. Biometrics won't be forgotten (which gives them an advantage over passwords) but they can be lost - that iris scan or fingerprint is no good if the eye or finger gets badly damaged in an accident.

Somebody should also tell Mr Blunkett, that although biometrics may be unique they are not secret. We leave fingerprints and bits of dead skin all over the place for example. What he also seems to forget is the database containing all the details of this biometric information need to be secure and accurate. If somebody steals your biometric e.g a fingerprint from a coffee mug or by copying or changing the database with the biometric details...

Just don't be kidded into thinking identity theft is "impossible" with biometric systems.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

James Grimmelmann at Lawmeme tells us "McDonald's is upset about the appearance of "McJob" in the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary."

Some of my students have just been marveling at the Mike Batt dispute with the late John Cage's estate over copyright on silence. Cage once composed a piece comprised entirely of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Batt included a minute's silence in a CD and Cage's estate sued for copyright infringement. I understand that Batt's mother asked him if he knew which part of the silence they were claiming he infringed.

One of the comments on the McDonalds complaint is supportive of the fast food retailer because the dictionary is diluting their trademark.

Looked at by ordinary people these disputes look completely daft. But experts live in a different world to the rest of us when dealing with their narrow professional specialist area. There is an internal logic to the developments within the particular field e.g. in this case intellectual property. But is does not create a good impression for those looking on from outside the expert priesthood.

Copyright and intellectual property more generally are an amazing construct, enabling authors and creators to benefit from their creative endeavors. But the intellectual property specialists do little service to the promotion of the general understanding of their field by engaging in spats like those mentioned above.

And given the likely impact of the rules on intellectual property on the future of the information society, that does no one any favours. The intellectual property priesthood need more translators explaining their subject area in ways ordinary people can understand. That will facilitate informed public debate on developments in an area that is going to affect all of us whether we understand it or not.