Friday, May 27, 2005

Magnatune re-mix contest

Magnatune are holding a creative commons re-mix contest. Manatune is essentially a creative commons label, applying the notion of shareware to the music business and John Buckman, Magnatune founder, tells an interesting story about why he created the company.

It's only through organisations like Magnatune, commercial and otherwise, that the real value and limitations of creative commons licences will become apparent.

UK ID scehme again

"UK ID scheme rides again, as biggest ID fraud of them all" says John Lettice. Agreed.

Hyperion records lose copyright case

Hyperion records have lost a rather bizarre copyright case in the court of appeal in the UK. A Dr Sawkins claimed copyright in his creation of scores in the musical works of Michel-Richard de Lalande, music in the public domain. He even agreed in court that his rendition of the music was not original - he didn't claim to have composed anything but did make "a grand total of 3,000 editorial interventions in the 4 pieces" according to the court.

"The judgment means that almost every edition of an out of copyright work will in fact have its own musical copyright because the law will regard it as ‘original’. This will affect classical record companies and performers of classical music as they will have to seek (and pay for) a licence before performing or recording music from an edition."

So a small record label is facing serious financial problems for infringing copyright in an out-of-copyright work because somebody who created a performing edition of that work was able to claim a copyright in it. Excuse me whilst I go and recite the entire works of Shakespeare, with 3000 personal edits by the sweat of my brow to "improve" them, into an audio tape and set up business suing Shakespeare "pirates"...

I guess I'm being a little unfair. From the court's decision (paras 12 and 13:

"The scores produced by Dr Sawkins were used by the orchestral and vocal performers at Hyperion's recording sessions. The recording of the combination of sounds produced by the ensemble's use of the scores of the performing editions is embodied in the CD. It was accepted that none of the original Lalande music could have been performed by the Ex Cathedra ensemble using only the extant earlier Lalande scores.

Hyperion's principal point is quite simply that the recordings on the CD were of performances of the music composed by Lalande. They were not recordings of music composed by Dr Sawkins. That is the basis of Hyperion's denial of any legal obligation to pay royalties to him for using the non-copyright music of a composer, who died nearly 280 years ago."

So the facts of the case make the line greyer than I painted and the court did, after all, side with Dr Sawkins. I was under the impression that "the sweat of the brow" was insufficient to secure copyright in a work. However, the amount of effort Dr Sawkins put into creating his performance editions of this music was considered to be sufficient in this case to satisfy the test of originality. In Lord Justice Jacob's words (starting at para 84):

" one is bound to have to consider whether what Dr Sawkins did involved enough to confer originality – did it go beyond mere servile copying? Patten J held that it did. He applied this test:

"The question to ask in any case where the material produced is based on an existing score is whether the new work is sufficiently original in terms of the skill and labour used to produce it (para.58)"
That seems to me to be exactly right. Of course the test involves a question of degree – mere photocopying or merely changing the key would not be enough. But a high degree of skill and labour was involved. This must be considered as a whole – it would not be right to look at each contribution and say "that is not enough" and conclude that the same goes for the whole. Dr Sawkins started by choosing which original manuscript(s) to use (actually he used mainly 2 out of 4, using one to correct ambiguities in the other), he checked every note and supplied 27 "corrections" (i.e. his personal evaluation as to what note Lalande really intended), supplied many suggestions for the figured bass, and put the whole into modern notation. This was not mere servile copying. It had the practical value (unchallenged) of making the work playable. He re-created Lalande's work using a considerable amount of personal judgment. His re-creative work was such as to create something really new using his own original (not merely copied) work."

It's a tough case and having read the full judgement I now have some sympathy with both parties but I'm not really any clearer on where the originality line should come.

Felten's Land without music

A gaming copany were considering including virtual instruments in one of their games, so game characters could play music. Apparently the lawyers advised against it. Ed Felten:

"The plan was that players would get virtual instruments and make music, for all of the reasons people make music in the real world.

But management nixed the idea, on advice from lawyers, because of concerns about copyright infringement. The problem was that players might use their virtual instruments to play copyrighted songs, and the game company might be sued for contributory or vicarious copyright infringement, for failing to prevent this."

US wants access to UK ID cards

The Independent reports that the US want access to UK ID cards.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

ID cards bill

For the legal eagles amongst you, the text of the UK goverment's proposed ID card bill is available online.

ID card trials show technology is unreliable

The ID card trials, allegedly with 10000 volunteers, have demonstrated that the technology is unreliable. Ministers are unconcerned about this, however, because the trials were apparently about finding out about people's attitudes towards the scheme.

These are the trials which were supposed to be comprehensive, which would last 6 months and not be compromised but early problems with the technology delayed the start date for three months; then the government refused to push back the end date, then they could not get enough volunteers...

Now they don't care if the technology is useless. It's ok to spend billions on it as long as they can kid people into feeling "comfortable" about it.

I must be living in a parallel universe, where the consultants' (Atos Origin) report is all very upbeat (well that's what the government paid them for), whilst providing damning evidence which in a world grounded in reality would commit the scheme to oblivion.

Operation D-elite

The Department of Justice, the FBI and Customs & Immigration have taken down a series of BitTorrent sites in the US in "Operation D-Elite."

Blogbook has the story.

"The government strike, known as Operation D-Elite, was executed in California, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Unlike Operation Gridlock, "a similar takedown" of P2P users in August 2004, D-Elite targeted administrators and suppliers of protected content to the Elite Torrent network.

The DOJ press release makes special reference to the fact that Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith "was available for downloading on the network six hours before it was shown in theatres. In the next 24 hours, it was downloaded more than 10,000 times." It concludes by noting that "the Motion Picture Association of America provided valuable assistance to the investigation." Presumably, Operation D-Elite may have been triggered by the recent pilfering of Star Wars III, a film that has earned $108.4M in its first week, according to the Variety Box Office Top 10."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bush ID thief

The Onion has a funny story with a serious point.

AAUP Google and copyright

The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) have said that Google's move to digitise complete versions of public domain works and snippets of other books, in 5 major academic libraries, risks "systematic infringement of copyright on a massive scale." Other publishers are also concerned though many seem to be talking to Google about it.

Canadian Privacy Commissioner watches flow to US

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has decided to audit the flow of personal data into the US arising out of the so-called war on terror. That will ruffle a few feathers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Minister guarantees NHS computer security

The Times has a reassuring story, NHS database security assured.

"PATIENTS who have their personal medical details stored on the NHS’s new £6 billion computer system are guaranteed data security when the project goes live next year, the Government pledged yesterday."

That makes me feel a whole lot better. A government which has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of both information technology and information systems now believes it can gaurantee data security in a flawed computer system. That will be quite something, if they can manage it, especially since clause 60 of the Health and Social Care Act of 2001 gives ministers the power to collect medical records from any source and do basically anything they like with the information. So Lord Warner, Minister of State for NHS Delivery, who trotted out the guarantees, is not only magically securing the holes in the system but presumably vouching for the integrity of all future Secretaries of State?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The world is flat

Doc Searls seems to think Tom Friedman demonstrates a pretty decent undertanding of the free software and open source phenomena, for a journalist, in his recent book, "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century". Doc would know.

Morgan Freeman on piracy

According to Public Knowledge, oscar winner Morgan Freeman is doesn't agree with the movie industry's approach to new technology. Interesting. I'd like to hear more of that.

LSE identity project folk seek comments

The LSE identity project folks who issued their terrific interim report on ID cards, are looking for comments.

Take the pledge

"I will refuse to register for an ID card but only if 3,000,000 people will sign up." So says Stef at PledgeBank. Thanks to William Heath for the link.

Read the Bills Act

Spy Blog thinks we should have a "read the bills act" which would mean that members of parliament

"must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on."

What a good idea!

The response to the sensible MP's complaint that they couldn't possibly read all that lot would be - don't pass so many new laws, then. New Labour invented something like 661 new criminal offences in their first six years in office. Are there really more than a hundred new crimes created every year that are not caught under the current vast umbrella of criminal justice legislation?