Monday, March 01, 2004

Mark Fiore on electronic voting. Wonderful.
There's another interesting piece from Mr Schwartz at the NTY, this time on a report suggesting the entertainment industry's approach to fighting piracy is bad for business and the economy.

Larry Lessig has welcomed the report. Jane Ginsburg, renowned copyright expert at Columbia University, has welcomed some of the recommendations though criticises it as making misleading statements about copyright law.
The Bunner DVD DeCSS case has been decided by the California Appeal court having been referred back from the California Supreme Court last year. The Appeal Court overturned the injunction banning the posting of the code on the web, finding a first amendment violation; also that there was no evidence that CSS was a trade secret when Bunner posted the descrambler.
Tomorrow sees the biggest test of electronic voting machines when millions of voters will use them in ten states in the US. John Schwartz at the NYT gives a nice summary of the current situation.

Even voting on that scale fades a little compared to the proposed all electronic October election in India. Over half a billion people voting on more than a million machines supplied by just two companies. Scary.
The EU IPR enforcement directive is to get the fast track approval procedure according to the excellent EDRI-gram Newsletter - Number 2.4, 27 February 2004. Details on the problems with the directive can be found at the CODE campaign at IP Justice. Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU affairs director, says:

"The European Union's disputed Directive on the Enforcement of
Intellectual Property Rights is scheduled for a fast-track procedure that
may lead to it being adopted by the European Council in little more than
two weeks. At present, it is still under discussion in the Brussels
Parliament. The Rapporteur, French Conservative Janelly Fourtou, and the
Council both wish to pass this Directive in First Reading, before the
enlargement of the European Union. Trying to avoid delay by too much
discussion, they have each chosen the fastest procedure possible in their
respective institutions.

The final discussion about the report in the Parliament's Legal Affairs
Committee took place on Monday 23 February. The item was scheduled at the
very last minute, the Friday before, when most of the Members of
Parliament were already gone. With many MEPs still on their way to
Brussels on Monday, only 14 MEPs were present. The discussion only lasted
15 minutes after the Council and the Commission had ended their formal

The longest speeches were given by Arlene McCarthy MEP (Social Democrat,
UK) and Malcolm Harbour MEP (Conservative, UK), who both claimed that this
Directive was not mainly about the Digital world, but about counterfeiting
of tangible goods. There is no proof for that in the text, however.

Technically, the debate was about the amendments that the Rapporteur had
laid down, together with McCarthy and with Toine Manders (Liberal,
Netherlands) and which reflect verbatim the Common Position of the
Council. This position had been fine-tuned, behind closed doors, in five
so-called trilogue meetings between the Parliament and the Council during
the previous weeks. The Legal Affairs Committee did not vote on the
amendments of Mrs. Fourtou: she chose to table them directly to the

MEPs may now lay down additional amendments until 4 March. The vote will
take place on 9 March in Strasbourg, preceded by a plenary debate the day
before. Already on 10 March, the outcome of the vote will be considered by
the Council's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). On 11
March, on the occasion of the meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council,
ministers may sign it off if it has been agreed by the Permanent

Though some of the concerns of civil society and internet providers have
been taken into account in the drafting of the Common Position, the text
remains problematic. The scope of the directive is extended to cover "any
infringement of intellectual property rights as provided for by Community
law and/or by the national law of the Member State concerned." At the same
time, the Commission's initial limitation to infringements which are
"committed for commercial purposes or cause significant harm to the right
holder" has been deleted.

The term "intellectual property rights" is not defined, creating the
possibility of a large range of abuses. Because the enforcement is not
limited to large-scale infringements, kids downloading songs from the
internet risk the same kind of treatment as large-scale counterfeiters of
trademark designer clothes.

EDRI-member organisation FIPR has prepared a set of amendments to deal
with the worst deficits in this Directive and is preparing, together with
a range of other organisations, a rally in Strasbourg to promote these
amendments and to encourage MEPs to vote against the Directive if some
minimum requirements are not fulfilled.

The European Commission's initial proposal for a Directive!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&numdoc=32001L0029&lg=EN

Amendments proposed by FIPR and EDR

Campaign Info "

EDRI-gram also reports on the EU plan to introduce biometric passports I mentioned here recently.

I've done a fair bit of grumbling about the current state of the deployment of electronic voting machines but put it down to the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of life, since there has been no hard evidence of any electoral fraud (and lots of evidence of incompetence and cover up of that incompetence). Dr. Bob Fitrakis, senior editor of the Free Press, thinks there is a vast right wing conspiracy going on here.

It's all circumstantial neptoism and invisible-hand stuff with allegations, though no direct proof, of possible electoral manipulation but nevertheless an interesting read. If all the connections referred to are cosher then they could, at least, raise the appearance of impropriety. I really don't believe the Diebold folk and other electronic voting machine suppliers to date are avoiding the voter verifiable paper trail for any deep conspiratorial reasons, though. (I hope they are not anyway, in a world were powerful vested interests of all political persuasions are always angling for that extra edge). It's just that if you happen to have good market penetration with a less-than-perfect product, the short term marketing response to that knowledge leaking out is to try and cover it up.