Friday, May 20, 2005

Better than CSS but next gen dvd drm won't stop p2p

Ed Felten explains why the next generation of "AACS" copy protection devices for DVDs will not stop filesharing.

My Open University colleagues will be amused at the name of this stronger (compared to the lousy CSS system) drm, since our computing services department is called AACS. They'll have to get themselves a new name.

Store wars

If you are a Star Wars fan with an interest in the environment, then Store Wars is compulsory viewing. Terrific stuff.

Spanish law prof sacked for talking about P2P

If this is true, it is appalling. Cory writes:

"I just got an email from my friend Jorge Cortell, a copyfighter and academic in Spain, whom I met at the Creative Commons EspaƱa launch this year.

Jorge teaches "Intellectual Property" in the Masters program at the Polytechnic University of Valencia UPV. He proposed to give a talk on the benefits of P2P and talk about the law relating to P2P and copyright in Spain. He proposed to demo what sort of legal uses one could make of copyrighted works from P2P networks, and informed the Spanish collecting society, the national police and the attorney general to let them know what he was up to.

They responded by leaning on the Dean, who cancelled Jorge's venue. Jorge booked another venue, and the Dean cancelled it. So Jorge moved his talk to the cafeteria, and delivered a five hour session to a packed house.

On May 4, the Dean ordered the director of Jorge's program to demand his resignation, which he tendered. The Vice-Dean then added insult to injury by issuing a statement saying that Jorge had never taught at the university (!), in a surreal, Stalinist purge (Jorge has taught at the University for five years).

This is a shameful act of censorship and a betrayal of the principles of academic freedom. It's a national shame that Spain's powerful collecting societies can simply order the termination of any university professor who teaches things that displease them. Link."

NO2ID petition

I've just heard from Phil Booth of the NO2ID campaign that they are pushing to get thousands to sign their petition against the national identity card legislation.

If I may be permitted to adapt some of the campaign's slogans to repeat my oft repeated mantra on this:

1. The proposed ID card scheme will not stop terrorists
2. The proposed ID card scheme will not eliminate benefit fraud
3. The proposed ID card scheme will not improve social cohesion
4. The proposed ID card scheme will not solve the challenges of immigration
5. The proposed ID card scheme will mean a massive govenment database which a huge amount of personal information on everyone, which tens/hundreds of thousands of people will have access to in the course of their jobs; a decentralised network of (unreliable biometric) hi-tech registration centres; remote, robust (ha ha), hand-held, networked, (unreliable biometric) hi-tech ID card verification devices for every police officer, doctor's surgery, benefit clerks etc, etc.; robust (unreliable biometric) hi-tech cards for everyone.
6. The proposed ID card scheme will create lots of extra problems - remember it is not how security works that matters but how it fails; how it fails naturally (through errors and unreliable technology) and how it can be made to fail by insiders or outsiders with malicious intent.
7. The proposed ID card scheme will cost £billions
8. The proposed ID card schme is not worth it
9. The money would be better spent on more well trained police, intelligence, customs and immigration staff.

If you would like an in depth understanding of the issues before making up your mind on it, read the London School of Economics recent interim report, "The Identity Project - An assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill & its implications.

Law, the Internet and Society going offline pro tem

My Open University 'Law, the Internet and Society' course, recently released under a creative commons license, is going offline temporarily. If you click on the course link above you'll get the full explanation. We're hoping to be back up again soon but in the meantime please bear with us and apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Welcome trust mandate open access

The Welcome Trust have announced today that

"From 1st October 2005, all papers from new research projects must be deposited in PubMed Central or UK PubMed Central – once it has been formed - within 6 months of publication.

The move comes as part of a drive from the UK’s biggest medical research charity to push forward open access publication of scientific literature, making findings freely available to those who want to see them."

Excellent news.

Quotes of the day

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Both of these are attributed to Mark Twain. Actually, for "member of Congress" you could substitute whoever suits you or even just a suit.

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
Chinese Proverb.

Feynman judging books

Richard Feynman's description of his involvement in California's Curriculum Commission is a damning indictment of the way school text books were chosen at the time.

Gatto's 6 lesson school teacher

John Taylor Gatto's "The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher" is highly recommended.

"Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:

The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive..."

Top 10 things the UN does well

Democracy Arsenal have a list of the top ten things they believe the UN does well.

This is the first time I've come across this blog (thanks to Owen Barder for the link) and I have to admit it only caught my eye because my team are playing in the cup final in a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Wired on BBC

Cory is praising the BBC in the latest Wired.

"America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters -- the BBC -- is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it.

Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience.

The BBC's news website is the first commercial news-gathering organization in the Western world to solicit and give prominence to photographs and reporting provided by its visitors...

Stef Magdalinski, a hacker-agitator-entrepreneur, responded with a guerrilla project called Wikiproxy, which rips all the news stories coming off the BBC news wire and mixes them by linking every proper noun to its corresponding Wikipedia entry. Of course, this burns to a crisp the old BBC policy against linking to external sites.

Rather than sue, the BBC created BBC Backstage, a service for remixing the Beeb that launched last week.

With Backstage, BBC's online department takes all the goop in its content-management system -- sports scores and TV listings, breaking news and editorials, conferences and weather -- and exposes it as a set of standard programming interfaces. Anyone who can hack a little Perl or Python can mix these into any kind of service they can imagine.

The crowning glory of the Beeb's openness is the Creative Archive. "

$5 a month for music to kill the RIAA?

Barry Ritholz and Mark Cuban reckon the RIAA lawsuits against individuals are on the way out.

"Yahoo’s Music Unlimited Service sets the new marketvalue for all the music you can download in a month…5 bucks.

The RIAA can no longer claim that students who are downloading music are costing them thousands of dollars each. They can’t claim much of anything actually. In essence, Yahoo just turned possession of a controlled music substance into a misdemeanor. Payable by a $5 per month fine."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Everything bad is good for you

Cory is enthusiastically recommending Steven Johnson's new book, Everything Bad is Good for You: How today's popular culture is actually making us smarter.

"the beneficial elements of videogames and TV arise not from their subject matter, but from their format, which require that players and viewers winkle out complex storylines and puzzles, getting a "cognitive workout" that teaches the same kind of skills that math problems and chess games impart. As Johnson points out, no one evaluates the benefit of chess based on its storyline or monotonically militaristic subject matter."

This is not a new thesis, of course, and many educators have been aware of the potential of new technologies in education for years.

Disappearing civil liberties mug

This is funny - a disappearing civil liberties mug.

"The Disappearing Civil Liberties Mug is covered with the complete text of The Bill of Rights. But when you pour in hot liquids, the Rights that are infringed by Ashcroft's Patriot Act vanish before your very eyes!"

Fits with my mood today and some somewhat sad, comical and surreal politics I've been dealing with.

Amazon and self publishing

Interesting essay on Kuro5hin.

"Amazon's recent purchase of two companies (Booksurge and Mobipocket) hints at a future business strategy geared not only to the long tail concept but also self-publishing in general."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Technology Review on IP

Ernest Miller says Technology Review has an issue devoted to intellectual property.

Ed Felton thinks that Larry Lessig and Richard Epstein both miss the point on DRM.

OUP open access

Oxford University press have extended their open access trial.

Identity blog

William Heath on Kim Cameron's recent comments about the UK ID card and the LSE's report on the issue.

"The LSE (London School of Economics) has released The Identity Project - An assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill & its implications. (Interim Report). Ideal Government says:

It demolishes both the government’s published aims and their proposals.

Should such repeated high profile failures raise questions about the future of the Home Office: Has the current Home Office itself become a major threat to the UK?

I know everyone is busy, but really, take a look at this thoughtful report.

It is a breakthrough piece of work in exploring, in a holistic and all-sided way, the relation between social issues and technologies of identity. I suspect that government technology leaders and policy makers around the globe will pay increasingly more attention to the thinking it represents - if they want to avoid the missteps against which it is a reaction. The report includes a discussion of identity initiatives in France, giving the impression that the French have already transcended many of the problems not addressed in the British Government's proposals."

He's right - it's well worth taking the time to read the LSE report in full.

$100 laptops

According to the Industry Standard, MIT's Negroponte expects $100 laptops next year

"The machine won't be available in shops. The company, which has the working title of The $100 Laptop Co., plans to sell laptops in-bulk, directly to government ministries and isn't looking to make a profit. About half the price of a current laptop computer is accounted for by marketing, sales, distribution channels and profit, so removing those aspects will provide big cost savings, Negroponte said.

The remaining half of the laptop's cost is accounted for by the parts and manufacturing, and Negroponte is planning savings there too. Roughly two thirds of this cost is the display panel and associated backlight, but Negroponte's version of the machine will use a projection display system that costs a total of about $30, he said.

"The rest of the cost is there to support an absolutely obese, overweight and unreliable operating system. If you get rid of that and start with a thin, tiny operating system you can do an awful lot," Negroponte said.

The laptop will run Linux"

Sounds like he and John should get together. This and Ndiyo are all about breaking down the barriers to access to the digital communications revolution.

Office of Public Sector Information

The UK government now has an "Office of Public Sector Information". Infolaw reports it thus:

"HMSO replaced/rebadged/subsumed by OPSI?

"With the implementation of the EU Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information in 2005 it was decided that there was a need for a dedicated body to be the principal focal point for advising on and regulating the operation of public sector information re-use. The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has been established for that purpose. It will be at the heart of information policy, setting standards, providing a practical framework of best practice for opening up and encouraging the use of public sector information.

OPSI is part of the Cabinet Office reporting structure and provides a wide range of services to the public, information industry, government and the wider public sector relating to finding, using, sharing and trading information"