Friday, October 15, 2004

Eugene Volokh sees the irony in Disney potentially getting caught by the very law it lobbied so hard to have passed.

However, under US law the copyright on Peter Pan would have expired in 1986, so it is unlikely that the Great Ormond Street Hostpital are going to have a case in relation to Disney's recent publication of a prequel, "Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
Meanwhile WalMart are leaning on the music industry to cut CD prices.
The Washington Post has an interesting Q&A session with Verizon's lawyer, Sarah Deutsch, on the suject of the Supreme Court refusing to hear the RIAA's case against. It's been a big week for file sharing cases on both sides of the pond.
The UK's High Court has ordered ISPs to disclose the personal details of the 28 people in the UK accused of excessive file sharing.
A new documentary series about the war on terror, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear, starts on BBC next Wednesday evening and is likely to attract controversy. According to this Gaurdian piece it accuses politicians of manufacturing a grand myth - the war on terror - as a form of political propaganda:

"In an age when all the grand ideas have lost credibility, fear of a phantom enemy is all the politicians have left to maintain their power."

This description of the series by the producers should itself be sufficient to trigger a media feeding frenzy. Oh dear. I hope any rational analysis doesn't get completely buried/lost in the scrum... have a roundtable discussion going on about e-voting between some very well informed participants. Sample:

If one set out to design systems to prevent checks and balances, it
would be hard to outdo current paperless e-voting machines. Electronic
voting in its current form is equivalent to handing over the counting of
votes to private groups who count the ballots behind closed doors -- and
then destroy them before anyone else can do a recount. -- David Dill,
Verified Voting

What about all those who are being encouraged to vote an absentee/mail
ballot? They place their faith in the U.S. Postal Service, which handles
their mail ballot by computerized processes. If they are delivered to
the Elections Department, for decades, those ballots have been tabulated
through computers (not networked). Yet, that voter has no idea whether
his/her ballot has been counted in every contest because of the
anonymity of the voter and secrecy of the ballot. -- Mischelle Townsend,
Riverside County registrar of voters

I am not against technology. I drive a car, get on airplanes and ride
elevators. However, if the code in any of these was as bad as Diebold's
software, I wouldn't. -- Avi Rubin, computer science professor

One of my company's customers makes electronic slot machines, and hires
us as one part of the independent verification process. The
manufacturer, the casinos, and the state regulators all take the
verification of software for these machines very seriously -- much more
seriously than most election officials seem to take the verification of
DRE software. -- Jim Horning, reader

The question begs asking: how did all of these experts find such serious
flaws that passed the scrutiny of the testers who approved the systems?
As it turns out, it's not entirely the fault of the testers. The
standards by which they are asked to rate and judge voting systems are
highly flawed themselves and are severely outdated. -- Kim Zetter, Wired

At this point in time in the election cycle, there is no constructive
value in perpetuating the debate. Election officials are conducting the
election with the tools that they have. To continue discrediting these
tools serves only to actively undermine the legitimacy of the election
before a vote has been counted. To deride and malign election officials
who are working tirelessly with the tools they have to conduct a
transparent, fair and accurate election to the best of their ability in
November serves no positive goal. It is a fair question to ask the
motive of those who do either.
-- Scott Konopasek, San Bernardino County registrar of voters

Thursday, October 14, 2004

According to Susan Crawford, the proposed Family Movie Act that comes as part of the proposed Intellectual Property Protection Act, would make it illegal to write a program to automatically skip (or just turn the volume down on) TV ads. Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner's declaration a couple of years ago that skipping the commercials equates to stealing the program comes flooding back.
Universal have asked an Australian court to reveal the details of Sharman Networks' (and Kazaa's)owners.

The judge said that Universal are "entitled to get to the bottom of exactly who the client is" also noting that he is prepared to support the request "in principle".

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is recruiting a PR team to promote compulsory national identity cards and yet the legislation on ID cards has not been passed.

Regular readers will know about my opposition to compulsory national ID cards and I find this latest misuse of taxpayers money really irritating. A reminder of why I oppose them -

1. The lack of a clear specification as to what problem the ID cards are addressing, though the list of problems it is hoped they will solve is constantly growing (terrorism, benefit fraud, immigration etc.)

2. The fundamental inability of the proposed deployment of this ID card scheme to solve any of the problems alluded to by David Blunkett and his supporters on the issue.

3. The huge range of practical problems the scheme will create e.g. what happens if you lose your card, or someone gets a card in your name, or the system breaks down, or the database has errors etc. etc

4. The huge complexity of the system and the emergent properties it will likely spawn, like the big incentive for ID theft (since the cards will be so valuable)

5. The spending of billions of pounds on unproven and often unreliable biometric technology to solve a list of vaguely specified problems in an unspecified way.

And that's before you even start on some of the civil liberties issues that many commentators have argued about.
The US Supreme Court have refused to get involved, for the moment, in the dispute between the RIAA and Verizon "over whether Internet providers can be forced to identify subscribers illegally swapping music and movies online."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The British Navy have apparently chosen Microsoft Windows for the computers on their new destroyers.

"Gerald Wilson is a former employee of the company designing the system, who'd raised the concerns of a group of software engineers that Windows wasn't reliable enough or secure enough for such a critical military system.

Most computer users put up with it when Windows occasionally crashes. They've learned how to cope with virus attacks.

Only now has he decided to go public, after all his efforts to alert the defence establishment privately were rebuffed."
The entertainment industry have asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the recent decision of the appeal court in the MGM v Grokster case in favour of the P2P companies. There is no indication as of yet whether the court will agree to hear the case.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO, have a useful free online database, COLLECTION OF LAWS FOR ELECTRONIC ACCESS (CLEA), which provides an outline of intellectual property legislation and treaties from various jurisdictions and sometimes links to the full text of the laws.

IPWatchdog is another interesting IP site, maintained by US law professor Gene Quinn. Mainly focussed on US law. Check out Gene's Obscure Patent Museum for a bit of light relief.