Friday, May 13, 2005

JISC and BALII Open law

JISC and BALII are launcing an Open Law project. I hope they don't mind me including their press release of 5th of May in its entirety here but this is excellent news for academia.

"JISC and BAILII agreement will make legal resources openly available to all

5th May, 2005. A major new agreement will digitise thousands of core legal judgments and law reports and for the first time make these freely and openly available electronically. JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) today announced the Open Law project which has the potential to transform the delivery of legal teaching and public access to legal materials in the UK.

Access to case reports and legislation are central to the teaching of law and the development of legal skills. Open Law will therefore focus on the core needs of staff and students on law courses at all levels. It will include around 200 of the most cited judgments in each of the core areas of the law course syllabus. Other non-core areas will also be covered, so that staff and students dealing with legal issues on non-law courses such as accounting and business, environmental management, planning and social work, will also benefit. The digitisation of these judgments and other reports means that the project will digitise a total over 40,000 pages.

The heavy use of standard legal resources in both print and online form, the restriction of certain materials to reference libraries and their cost have meant that the availability of key materials has always been a challenge for law departments across the country. JISC’s and BAILII’s commitment to open access principles in this project will mean that the general public will also be able to access the most important legal materials for free.

The 36 month project will also work closely with the legal profession, law schools, librarians, and special interest groups such as the Committee of Heads of Law Schools, the Society of Legal Scholars and the Association of Law Teachers to identify these judgment and reports as well shaping the future development of this resource.

Lorraine Estelle, JISC Collections Manager, who negotiated the agreement, called it “the most important development for the provision of online resources in the area of law.” She continued: “The involvement of the key players in legal education and the legal profession will ensure we have a resource that will be tied closely to the needs of our students and the needs of the profession as a whole.”

Professor Philip Leith, a Trustee of BAILII and Professor of Law at Queen's University Belfast, said: "BAILII has developed vigorously in its first five years, providing a system which uses advanced hyperlinking techniques to make access to law easier and more coherent for students. It is usually the speediest publisher of judgments. This JISC-supported next stage is essential to broaden and deepen our collection. We want BAILII to be the first port of call for those in education. We want to provide a real 'National law library'. JISC's support for this Open Law project is a significant step, affecting all who teach and learn in law."

Professor Alan Peterson, President of the Society of Legal Scholars and Professor of Law at the University of Strathclyde, welcomed the announcement, saying: "The project will provide funding for a much needed expansion of a database which is already extensively used by students, researchers and academics at all stages and levels. The more it is possible to digitise the primary resources required for legal education, the more effectively we can introduce innovative teaching strategies as well as carrying out cross-jurisdictional research with much greater ease."

Michael Jefferson, past Chair of the Association of Law Teachers, Senior Lecturer and Director of Teaching for the Department of Law at the University of Sheffield, said: “BAILII has provided a means of access not only to legal materials that are available in many libraries but also to materials which are either not available anywhere else or are available only in selected libraries not easily accessible to all UK staff and students. The extension to the collections on BAILII will further enhance the provision of in particular case law.”

Michael Jefferson continued: “This enhancement is of particular importance to the Association of Law Teachers, some of whose members are in schools and Further Education Colleges where access to legal information is at best problematical. Some members also teach on part-time and distance-learning degrees and again the extension of BAILII's database will significantly improve access to material for students on these courses. The Association of Law Teachers is for these reasons particularly grateful to staff at BAILII and to JISC for this extension to its coverage.”

Paul Darling QC, Chairman of TECBAR, a specialist bar association for barristers, said: "This is an exciting development. BAILII is an invaluable legal research tool fully supported by the practising Bar. The sponsoring of the Open Law project by JISC is very welcome indeed."

Susan Doe, Chair of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, pledged the support of academic law librarians: "We welcome the Open Law project as an expanded BAILII will enable the creation of direct links to materials in electronic reading lists and course materials, making it easier for students to access cases and legislation. BAILLI's structure means that it should be fully searchable by the portal software that is being introduced by university libraries to provide a seamless interface to all resources, regardless of the format."

For further information:

Philip Pothen (JISC) on 07887 564 006 or

Philip Leith (BAILII) on 028 9097 3867 or"

Germans look to open access

Peter Suber tells of "a proposal by Gerd Hansen of the Max Planck Institute that researchers with publicly-funded research grants should retain the right to self-archive any resulting journal articles within six months of publication."

Shifted librarian on why drm sucks

Jenny Levine bought and downloaded a film from MovieLink. She got 30 days from the downloading date to watch it and once she started watching had to finish within 24 hours. The service seems to have corrupted her laptop and she didn't get to see the movie.

Another classic demonstration of why drm will ultimately fail.

Improving and extending the use of ICT to make the most of Europe’s cultural and audiovisual heritage

Here's the official line from the EU Commission on the 6 EU leaders call to digitise European culture in response to the Google initiative to digitise 5 major academic libraries.

"The European Commission today announced that it is to boost its policy of preserving and exploiting Europe's written and audiovisual heritage. At a time when the internet and the digital technologies available on many technical platforms are an everyday part of the life of European citizens, tapping the potential of our written text, image and sound archives is of major importance in economic terms as much as in cultural terms. The Commission plans to issue a communication by July outlining the stakes involved and identifying the obstacles to using written and audiovisual archives in the European Union. The communication will be accompanied by a proposal for a Recommendation aimed at enlisting all the public players concerned and facilitating public-private partnerships in the task of digitising our heritage."

As predicted braodcast flag rises again

As predicted, when the Appeal court killed the broadcast flag it's being resurrected in Hollwood's latest efforts to bring a bill before Congress. Cory is scathing.

"Well, they've barely finished hosing the blood off the tile after our total creaming of Hollywood's would-be device-czars in the Broadcast Flag victory (where we got a judge to tell Hollywood that they shouldn't have a veto over new digital television technologies), but it's already back.

Here's the shockingly broad and badly conceived bill that Hollywood is shopping on the Hill, trying to find a Congresscritter so fantastically, suicidally stupid that s/he will actually set out to break America's televisions."

Dutch open access initiative

More good news from Holland, where, according to the Register, Dutch academics have launched an open access research website, where 47000 research documents are freely accessible.

LSE Interim Report on UK ID card scheme

The LSE have published their interim report on the UK government's proposals for a national ID card. The summary of conclusions reads:

"The Report concludes that the establishment of a secure national identity system has the potential to create significant, though limited, benefits for society. However, the proposals currently being considered by parliament are neither safe nor appropriate. There was an overwhelming view expressed by the stakehodlers involved in this Report that the proposals are too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence. The current proposals miss key opportunities to establish a secure, trusted and cost-effective identity system and the Report therefore considers alternative models for an identity card scheme that may achieve the goals of the legislation more effectively. The concept of a national identity system is supportable, but the current proposals are not feasible.

Many of the public interest objectives of the Bill would be more effectively achieved by other means. For example, preventing identity theft may be better addressed by giveing individuals more control over the disclosure of their own personal information, while prevention of terrorism may be more effectively managed through strenghtened border patrols and increased presence at borders, or allocating adequate resources for conventional police intelligence work.

The technology envisaged for this scheme is, to a large extent, untested and unreliable. No scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious schemes have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in a large scale, national system. The use of biometrics gives rise to particular concern because this technology has never been used at such a scale.

Any system that supports critical security funnctions must be robust and resilient to malicious attacks. Because of its size and complexity, the identity system would require security measures at a scale that will result in substantially higher implementation and operational costs than has been estimated. The proposed use of the system for a variety of purposes, and access to it from a large number of private and public sector organisations will require unprecendented attention to security.

All identity systems carry consequestial dangers as well as potential benefits. Depending on the model used, identity systems may create a range of new and unforeseen problems. These include the failure of systems, unforeseen financial costs, increased security threats and unacceptable imposition on citizens. The success of a national identity system depends on a sensitive, cautious and cooperative approach involving all key stakeholder groups including an independent and rolling risk assessment and a regular review of management practices. We are not confident that these conditions have been satisfied in the development of the Identity Cards Bill. The risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal right of individuals."

Let me just repeat that last bit, "The risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal right of individuals."

BBC backstage

This is quite something.

"Anyway, isn’t just a result of the unique way the BBC is funded. That it fulfils a requirement of the BBC charter is wholly incidental.3 Although, it’s pretty damn useful too, to be blunt. No. It’s actually a symbol of something much much bigger: it’s laying down the gauntlet for the rest of the world. It highlights the point that on the internet, hiding your content is suicide. It says that you can either open up, and we can all flourish together; or you can remain closed, and die alone."

A major copyright holder is not only giving their material away but providing a tool for others to re-use that material creatively. I wonder how many BBC suits were asked for permission to create and release backstage.

" is the BBC's new developer network, providing content feeds for anyone to build with. Alternatively, share your ideas on new ways to use BBC content. This is your BBC. We want to help you play."

Terrific stuff.

Dutch ISPs sue BREIN

Five Dutch ISPs are suing the Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands (BREIN), as a pre-emptive strike because BREIN are intending to sue the ISPs to get them to identify suspected file sharers.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Real ID battle begins

The battle over the passage of the Real ID Act has begun, according to Wired.

"The National Governors Association is threatening lawsuits to fight the legislation. And some states are threatening to ignore the legislation because they say it will cost up to $700 million for states to comply and will place a heavy burden on Department of Motor Vehicles workers."

And a raft of civil liberties groups are also mobilizing against the legislation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

T-Online AG sued over data storage

A German ISP, T-Online, have been sued over their data storage practices.

This comes not long after it emerged that the EU Commission's data retention proposals have been declared, by the Commission's lawyers, to be at least partly illegal.

Senate pass Real ID Act

The US Senate has passed the Real ID Act without any dissenting voices. Sponsor, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, said

"The Real ID is vital to preventing foreign terrorists from hiding in plain sight while conducting their operations and planning attacks. By targeting terrorist travel, the Real ID will assist in our war-on-terror efforts to disrupt terrorist operations and help secure our borders."

Sadly he is completely wrong. Someone really should give these people introductory security lessons or at the very least introduce them to people who do know about security like Bruce Schneier.

It is a little unfair to say there were no dissenting voices in the Senate because one Democrat did speak against it but ended up voting in favour of of it because it was attached to a spending package on Iraq, Afghanistan and the tsunami.

You can expect the Real ID Act to be formally challenged before George W. Bush's signature is dry on it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Brits sued over BitTorrent

The Register has a story about two British men getting a "summons to appear before the US District Court of New Jersey, where MPAA members Paramount, Warner, Universal and 20th Century Fox are attempting to identify and therefore sue individuals they alleged shared their film and TV content without authorisation." The studios have offered to settle for a generous $7million.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Felton's view from DMP world

Ed Felton has a wonderful post on his blog about the "View from DMP World", DMP being the Digital Media Project.

"The "6th General Assembly of the Digital Media Project" recently released a set of documents "providing an Interoperable DRM Platform". I've written before about the self-contradictory nature of their goal (A Perfectly Compatible Form of Incompatibility). Now we get to see how they plan to achieve the goal. And I have to say, the documents are a real piece of work. I could blog for a month just dissecting them; but I won't subject you to that. Instead, just a small sample or two.

The documents describe a world unlike the one we actually live in. They do this, mostly, by redefining words that we all understand, creating improved versions that are distinguished typographically by capitalization. (There is a whole document devoted to definitions.) When you enter DMP-World, you give up your rights; they are replaced by Rights. And unlike ordinary rights, which you may possess simply by virtue of being a human being, Rights have to be Granted to you, and they can be Withdrawn by a Creator. In DMP-World, you can't buy devices; all you can get are Devices. You don't whistle a tune; you execute Functions on Governed Content. The goal of all of this is to achieve Trust: "a state where Users, Devices, or Content Data enable Users to execute Functions on Governed Content"."

It must be bad if it gets someone as calm and rational as Ed Felton so worked up.

In business

BBC radio 4 had a nice introductory discussion on broadcasting via the Internet last night, which covered a range of issues from satellite digital radio through to podcasting. Available at

Thanks to Chris Bird for the link.

Geist on US IP bully

Michael Geist is calling for the creation of an "IP Bullied List" to counteract the US's bullying tactics in linking international trade to intellectual property policies.

"After years of calling on Canada to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties, the U.S.’s true interests have been revealed. Implementing the treaties is now not good enough. Rather, the U.S. wants us to implement its version of the treaties, which extend well beyond international requirements.

Even more troubling is the way U.S. pressure against Canada has become part of a much larger global campaign to leverage its economic power by tying trade agreements with greater intellectual property protection. This was not always the case – when Canada negotiated the free trade agreement with the United States in the 1980s, intellectual property issues constituted only a small part of the agreement. Similar U.S. agreements with Israel as well as the subsequent North American Free Trade Agreement also referred to intellectual property but did not make it a focal point.

Today the U.S. is negotiating trade agreements with dozens of countries. The intellectual property provisions within those agreements are sometimes at least 40 pages in length, specifying international intellectual property agreements that must be implemented and including specific provisions to govern domain name disputes, patent protection, and copyright law. The copyright provisions inevitably go beyond even those found in the U.S., since they include requirements for an extension of the term of copyright, new protections for TPMs, and ISP liability requirements. They do not, however, feature any balancing provisions for user interests."

Teens and the web CFP

There was a great session at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle last week with group of teenagers. Wired has an edited transcript of the discussion. Teenagers are a much maligned group. We should give kids the credit for being the smart sensible people that most of them are.

Thanks for the link Ley!

FCC exceeded authority with broadcast flag

A US court of appeal has put a dent in the FCC's madating of the broadcast flag.

The full decision is available online. The conclusion is pretty scathing about the FCC acting outside their authority:

"The FCC argues that the Commission has “discretion” to exercise “broad authority” over equipment used in connection with radio and wire transmissions, “when the need arises, even if it has not previously regulated in a particular area.” FCC Br.
at 17. This is an extraordinary proposition. “The [Commission’s] position in this case amounts to the bare suggestion that it possesses plenary authority to act within a given area simply because Congress has endowed it with some authority to act in that area. We categorically reject that suggestion. Agencies owe their capacity to act to the delegation of authority” from Congress. See Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n,
29 F.3d at 670. The FCC, like other federal agencies, “literally has no power to act . . . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” La. Pub. Serv. Comm’n v. FCC, 476 U.S. 355, 374 (1986). In this case, all relevant materials concerning the FCC’s
jurisdiction – including the words of the Communications Act of 1934, its legislative history, subsequent legislation, relevant case law, and Commission practice – confirm that the FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be
used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission.

Because the Commission exceeded the scope of its delegated authority, we grant the petition for review, and reverse and vacate the Flag Order insofar as it requires demodulator products manufactured on or after July 1, 2005 to recognize and give effect to the broadcast flag.

So ordered."

That's what I'd call a pretty conclusive victory for the Amercian Library Association (ALA) and others who brought the case.

The film, broadcasting and cable industry lobbyists will now be relishing a further lucrative opportunity to convince US lawmakers to introduce the flag via a different route.

Declan also has the story.

Update (Thanks to Michael Geist for the links): The NYT also have a couple of readable stories on the issue and ask whether the broadcasters threat to pull HDTV broadcasts will now be followed through.

"In 2002, Mel Karmazin, then president of Viacom, threatened to withdraw high-definition versions of programming from the airwaves if the flag technology was not adopted, a threat echoed by other broadcasters and movie studios.

"Now we will see if threats to pull broadcasts from CBS and others are real or not," said Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet, an all-HDTV channel available through cable and satellite, and an opponent of the broadcast flag.

Those measures are unlikely to be taken any time soon. First, advocates of the flag technology will try to circumvent the court's ruling through Congressional legislation. And despite the industry's alarm bells, Internet video piracy still is very much a nascent issue. At today's transmission speeds, it would take about 24 hours to send a one-hour show broadcast in HDTV over the Internet."

Real ID act slipped through

The republicans have been taking some lessons from Bertie and the boys and have slipped the Real ID Act through the house with a massive majority and no debate, on the back of a tsunami aid package. Only one Democrat appears to be making a fuss about it.