Saturday, March 11, 2006

Open University Open Content Initiative

I can finally go public officially with this: the Open University's Open Content Initiative will be formally launched in October. Naturally I'm delighted. The Open University, since its inception, has fundamentally been about open access to knowledge and I firmly believe that this initiative is one of the most important things we have ever done.

For those of you who have been emailing to ask when my Internet law course, based on Larry Lessig's book, The Future of Ideas, would reappear, the plan is that at least part of it will be included in the main October launch and the rest released in stages.

Here's the OU press release:

"Open University announces £5.65 million project to make learning material free on the internet

The Open University today announced a GBP £5.65 million (US $9.9 million) project to make a selection of its learning materials available free of charge to educators and learners around the world. Supported by a grant of US $4.45 million from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation the University will launch the website in October 2006.

The provision on the internet of 'Open Educational Resources', free at point of use and available to everyone, reflects The Open University's mission of promoting fair access for all. During the initial phase of this initiative, the University will select and make available educational resources from all study levels from access to postgraduate and from a full range of subject themes: arts and history, business and management, health and lifestyle, languages, science and nature, society and technology. Learners will also be able to benefit from a range of study skills development material.

The Open University was a pioneer in making learning materials freely available through its long and successful partnership with the BBC. The University's television programmes are publicly broadcast by the BBC and many are supported by free internet activities and print materials ( The University is already working with partners in Africa to make educational resources freely available under both the TESSA and Open Door projects (see notes below).

The Open University will draw on its experience in supported open learning to provide an environment which contains both high quality learning materials and a range of learning support and informal community building tools. There will be one site that is primarily for learners, where material with suggested learning pathways will be offered. A second site will be primarily for other course creators; it will foster the concept of sharing and re-use of materials. Through the development of both sites the University plans to take open content delivery on to a new level.

The Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Professor Brenda Gourley, said "The philosophy of open access and sharing knowledge is a wonderful fit with the founding principles of The Open University and with the University's very strong commitment to opening up educational access and widening participation. The University will be developing forms of open content e-learning which will reach less experienced learners and, we hope, encourage an appetite for further learning. The Open University will be the first in the UK to offer Open Content materials under a Creative Commons licence. We are deeply grateful to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its generous support."

"Over the past five years the Hewlett Foundation has been a leading investor in the area of Open Educational Resources with the goal of equalizing access to knowledge across the globe," said Marshall S. Smith, the Hewlett Foundation's Education Program Director. "The Open University of the UK is unsurpassed in the area of digitized academic material. We are delighted to support the Open University's initiative to make some of its high quality academic content openly available to everyone around the world."

Editor's Notes

The Open University has over 210,000 students studying OU courses this year, with around 40,000 studying outside the UK. Since its foundation in 1969 The Open University has pursued a social justice mission to open education to all.

TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa) project aims to develop a school based training programme for unqualified and under qualified teachers working in primary schools in Africa. It will provide a comprehensive bank of teacher training resources, focusing on the teaching of literacy, numeracy, primary science and personal and health education that can be used by teacher trainers in colleges and universities across Africa. The TESSA programme, which is being led by The Open University together with a consortium of African and international organisations, is planned to support a wide range of courses and qualifications including accredited courses and in-service professional development programmes.

Open Door initiative. This scheme aims to support higher education by making its course materials available to a group of African universities, under licence but free of charge. A pilot, funded by the UK's Department for Education and Skills, is working with three universities, including Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and the University of Zambia. The pilot will provide the groundwork for expanding the number of partners in the scheme. It is particularly aimed at universities where internet access is severely limited.



Friday, March 10, 2006

Arsenal get Juventus in the Quarters

Wouldn't you know it, we drew Juventus in the quarter finals of the Champions'League.

Juventus will be a tougher prospect than Real Madrid but after years of trying, Patrick Veira or Thiery Henry will finally make it through to the semi finals. Most punters have understandably tagged Barcelona as favorites, though I reckon that Juve are a slighly stronger all round outfit, which was why I'd have preferred to have avoided them.

P2P flip flopping in France

The fun and games over the French government's attempts to introduce a law to crack down on p2p file sharing is continuing.

First the government tried to introduce the provisions quietly before Christmas but were caught off gaurd by a late night vote by opponents of the proposals, who effectively introduced an amendment to legalise file sharing. Then the government recently dropped that amendment unilaterally going back to their original plan. Now it looks as though they have had to reintroduce the offending amendment after the opposition threatened to mount a constitutional challenge accusing the government of breaking the rules of parliament.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said "This isn't a U-turn. It's a sign of our determination to see this through."

"The culture minister's compromise draft lightens the penalties for ordinary Internet users who pirate music or movies, removing the jail terms originally proposed and slashing maximum fines to $150 (about R937) from $300 000 (about R1,8-million).

In another gesture to consumer advocates, online stores would have to sell music and movies in formats that can be played on all kinds of devices - a requirement that could open the way for legal challenges against sites like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes, which uses an exclusive format that can only be played on the company's own iPod devices.

But the proposals would also strengthen legal protection for anti-copy technologies known as DRMs, shielding them from challenge under French laws that grant consumers the right to make copies of music and film for private use."

Sounds like a right mess - how can the law say Apple's drm is outlawed but drm is protected? I detect journalistic confusion here. The music industry are urging the government to introduce the law without the p2p legalising amendments. Why on earth would they want to let mere constitutional constraints get in the way?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tesco win web trademark case

Tesco have won a trademark dispute against a company which sent customers to you'll never guess who..., Tesco.

You see Tesco started a scheme through which

"third party website providers could become Tesco affiliates, placing links from their website transferring consumers to Tesco's own website. Tesco would then pay commission to the affiliate in respect of sales so generated. Elogicom became one such affiliate. However, instead of throwing a link from its own website to that of Tesco, it registered a number of its own websites which included the word word ‘tesco’ in the URL. Consumers arriving at those unauthorised websites were taken directly to a Tesco site; any sales made through accessing those sites would earn Elogicom commission.

Tesco sued for trade mark infringement, seeking summary judgment and seeking injunctive relief...

On the merits, the IPKat is struggling a little to understand what's going on. For example, if Elogicom's use of the Tesco marks had the effect of sending consumer traffic directly to Tesco's own website, must we say that consumers (i) intend to deal directly with Tesco but (ii) they are confused into dealing directly with Tesco? Merpel agrees and adds, is it any different from a trader putting up a sign in the street reading "This way to Tesco", which enables consumers to get directly to the supermarket?"

The Pope's got an iPod

The Canonist wonders if the Pope has been infringing copyright with his new iPod.

"How long before someone starts selling a pre-loaded Pope iPod? You can already buy Aish HaTorah’s Judaism iPod; are any other pre-loaded religious iPods available?
Anyway, Benedict XVI may not have a great grasp on technology today (”When the head of the radio’s technical and computer support department, Mauro Milita, identified himself and handed the pope the boxed iPod, the pope was said to have replied, ‘Computer technology is the future.’”), but he does have a chance to listen to some music: “The pope’s new 2-gigabyte digital audio player already was loaded with a sampling of the radio’s programming in English, Italian and German and musical compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frederic Chopin, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky.” But was that music paid for? I have a hard time believing that the radio station bought individual copies of the relevant CDs just to load them into the pope’s iPod; presumably, they’re ripped from CDs they just had lying around. So, is the pope running afoul of the RIAA? That’d seem a story worth investigating."

John Battelle’s The Search and Google Book Search

John Battelle is unhappy that his publisher, Penguin, is one of the consortium of publishers suing Google over their Book Search project.

Yahoo chief "feels horrible" about China arrests

Yahoo! chief, Jerry Yang, "feels horrible" that Yahoo! helped the Chinese authorities to jail journalists. When asked about the arrests he said they "are never things you go home and feel good about. We feel horrible about that...We have no way of preventing that beforehand....If you want to do business there you have to comply."

Badly damaging someone's life is merely the price of doing business. The heart of the business process is amoral hence the key rule is caveat emptor, where the 'emptor' encompasses everyone who comes into contact with that business in any way. It's kind of ironic that doing business fundamentally depends simultaneously on trust and lack of trust.

I doubt Mr Yang will get much sympathy over his horrible feelings but my question would be at what point does he believe the price of compliance becomes too high?

Help EFF Spread the Word About the Sony BMG Settlement

The EFF would like some help getting the message out about their settlement with Sony BMG over the drm rootkit fiasco. They say "Sony BMG won't be held accountable if music fans don't have an easy way to learn about the flawed software, the settlement, and how to submit claims." Clicking on any of the banners below will take you to the EFF Sony BMG settlement site.

Sony BMG Rootkit Settlement

Settle up with Sony BMG

Claim your share of the Sony BMG settlement

Arsenal through

The big news of the past 24 hours, of course, is that Arsenal have managed to get through to the quarter finals of the European Champions league again but not without their usual fair share of heart stopping moments. They've been having a terrible season by their standards and have contrived so often to throw it away in the Champions League at Highbury that I feared it was going to be another one of those nights. I should have had more faith but then it's a concept I don't place much store by - evidence is what counts. In any case congratulations to Arsene Wenger and the team and let's hope we avoid Juventus and Barcelona in the draw for the quarter finals. Commiserations to Liverpool, Chelsea and Rangers.

Clickwrap and copyright

In Slaying the Leather-Winged Demons in the Night: Reforming Copyright Owner Contracting with Clickwrap Misuse Lydia Pallas Loren raises an interesting idea about how to deal with unfair licensing terms:

"In the era of digital delivery of content, copyright owners have turned with a vengeance to contract law to specify the rights and responsibilities of their customers. Many copyright owners today seek to avoid the express statutory limits on their rights contained in the Copyright Act by invoking the institution of contract. For example, these contracts attempt to prohibit the exercise of rights universally recognized as fair use, such as copying portions of a work for criticisms, product comparison and reverse engineering, or they seek to limit the application of the first sale doctrine. Enforcement of these contractual provisions alters the statutory scheme defined by Congress in the Copyright Act. This Article argues that the current legal doctrines available to invalidate these overreaching provisions or to strike claims asserted for their breach fail to provide appropriate incentives to reform contracting behavior by content owners. Even if, as a matter of contract law, a court would not enforce contractual terms that are inconsistent with the Copyright Act, the use of these provisions in ubiquitous shrinkwrap and clickwrap licenses has an in terrorem effect on users. After exploring the potential chilling effect that these overreaching clauses may have on users' behavior and why it is critical for courts to find ways to discourage the use of such clauses, this article argues that applying an appropriately tailored doctrine of copyright misuse to these licensing terms would provide a more robust reformation of contracting behavior.

Copyright misuse is an equitable defense based on a claim that the copyright owner has used the rights granted by the federal Copyright Act in a manner that is contrary to the public interest; this defense can be raised by an accused infringer that has not been affected by the alleged misuse. Recognizing a copyright misuse defense based on contract clauses that seek to avoid federal limitations on copyright rights has several advantages. First, an assertion of copyright misuse can be made in a case that does not involve a claim for breach of one of these clauses. Second, as an equitable doctrine, misuse is subject to interpretation and revision by the courts; no legislative action is necessary. Third, a successful misuse defense results in a refusal by the court to enforce the copyright until the misuse is "purged." Given the potential downside risk of contractual overreaching, a broader application of the misuse doctrine would, therefore, "chill" a copyright owner's impulse to overreach."

So there are limits on copyright owners rights. These limits are there to benefit society as a whole. Copyright owners, like software companies,sometimes use licences to get individual consumers to give up their consumer rights. Consumer choice reigns - agree to the licence or no deal. This proposal suggests that every time a copyright owner seeks to bypass provisions of copyright law which benefit the public good, there should be "a rebuttable presumption of misuse." In other words when a licence seeks to bypass the statuatory limitations on a copyright owner's rights, it is presumed to be to the public's detriment; and the copyright owner is obliged to prove such licences do not undermine the public good.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Adelphi Charter Launched Down Under

The Adelphi Charter has been launched in Australia. It's worth repeating the 9 principles of the charter:

1. Laws regulating intellectual property must serve as means of achieving creative, social and economic ends and not as ends in themselves.
2. These laws and regulations must serve, and never overturn, the basic human rights to health, education, employment and cultural life.
3. The public interest requires a balance between the public domain and private rights. It also requires a balance between the free competition that is essential for economic vitality and the monopoly rights granted by intellectual property laws.
4. Intellectual property protection must not be extended to abstract ideas, facts or data.
5. Patents must not be extended over mathematical models, scientific theories, computer code, methods for teaching, business processes, methods of medical diagnosis, therapy or surgery.
6. Copyright and patents must be limited in time and their terms must not extend beyond what is proportionate and necessary.
7. Government must facilitate a wide range of policies to stimulate access and innovation, including non-proprietary models such as open source software licensing and open access to scientific literature.
8. Intellectual property laws must take account of developing countries' social and economic circumstances.
9. In making decisions about intellectual property law, governments should adhere to these rules:

* There must be an automatic presumption against creating new areas of intellectual property protection, extending existing privileges or extending the duration of rights.

* The burden of proof in such cases must lie on the advocates of change.

* Change must be allowed only if a rigorous analysis clearly demonstrates that it will promote people's basic rights and economic well-being.

* Throughout, there should be wide public consultation and a comprehensive, objective and transparent assessment of public benefits and detriments.

Leg & Reg Reform Bill again

William Heath has also been chewing on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

"You start by thinking "how do we best computerise government". As you get sucked into that question you find yourself asking something like "If government became explicitly rules based, what would those rules be? How do we really want it to work?" By now you're sucked into the underlying intent of what's going on. Here's Neil Rose in this month's Law Gazette on the latest power grab.
The Law Society and City solicitors have joined the chorus of concern over government plans to give Ministers powers to amend primary legislation and the common law. Dubbed the "Abolition of Parliament Bill" by some, the Legislative and Regulatory reform Bill overhauls the 2001 Regulatory Reform Act with the aim of cutting red tape. Clause 1 empowers a Minister to reform legislation and/or implement Law Commission recommendations by Order - in doing the latter the Minister will be able to codify, amend or abolish "any rule of law" . . . Law Society president Kevin Martin said, "It introduces worryingly wide powers that affect all legislation, with inadequate safeguards. In theory, Mionisters could make Orders allowing "any person" to legislate, including creating new crimes carrying up to two years in prison . . . " In a letter to The Times last month, six Cambridge University law professors said the Bill would be a major shift of power, and allow the government to, among other things, curtail or abolish jury trial and allow the Prime Minister to sack judges.
Then you come to the odd realisation that assorted geeks and freaks and the marginalised in society seem to care more and think more clearly about our legal protections against the state than those to whom we've entrusted responsibility for defining those laws. But that the judiciary, other professionals and NGOs seem to agree.

So, once more: how do we best computerise it all?

It's a mixed-up starting point, but that feels like where we are."

Identity and Authentication must remain distinct

An excellent article from Steve Riley, Senior Security Strategist at Microsoft, on Why Identity and Authentication Must Remain Distinct

"Identity. A security principal (you or a computer, typically) wants to access a system. Because the system doesn’t know you yet, you need to make a declaration of who you are. Your answer to the question “Who are you” is the first thing you present to a system when you want to use it. Some common examples of identity are user IDs, digital certificates (which include public keys), and ATM cards. A notable characteristic of identity is that it is public, and it has to be this way: identity is your claim about yourself, and you make that claim using something that’s publicly available.

Authentication. This is the answer to the question “OK, how can you prove it?” When you present your identity to a system, the system wants you to prove that it is indeed you and not someone else. The system will challenge you, and you must respond in some way. Common authenticators include passwords, private keys, and PINs. Whereas identity is public, authentication is private: it’s a secret known (presumably) only by you. In some cases, like passwords, the system also knows the secret. In other cases, like PKI, the system doesn’t need to possess the secret, but can validate its authenticity (this is one of many reasons why PKI is superior). Your possession of this secret is what proves that you are who you claim to be...

Identity and authentication are distinct components of the steps necessary to use a secure computer system. Identity without authentication lacks proof; authentication without identity invalidates auditing and eliminates multi-user capability (consider Windows 95/98, which supported a password as an authenticator but no user ID). If biometrics become important to you as you begin considering how to strengthen identity and authentication in your security strategy, remember to evaluate how a particular biometric implementation views itself. Proper biometrics are identity only and will be accompanied, like all good identifiers, by a secret of some kind -- a PIN, a private key on a smart card, or, yes, even a password...

Now consider biometrics. Given the definitions and characteristics of identity and authentication, which is biometrics: identity or authentication?

Before we answer the question, think about the attributes of biometrics. Is it public or private? Public, of course. You leave various biometrics everywhere you go -- your fingerprints remain on anything you touch, your face is stored in countless surveillance systems, your retina patterns are known at least by your optometrist, perhaps. And it’s believed, although there is no actual evidence to support the claim, that biometrics are unique. (How would one prove it, other than examining the fingerprints and retinas of every single individual on the planet?) Given this, it follows that biometrics are identity, not authentication -- despite the claims of some vendors. "

Got that?

1. Identity is public.
2. Authentication is secret.
3. Biometrics are public so fall into the identity bucket.

William Heath has a question in the light of Steve Riley's lesson:

"If biometrics are public, why do we need to pay billions to have them compulsorily recorded and stored on a highly secure national server?"

The power and perils of dna databases

Toby Stevens has come to realise why he has always been worried about population wide dna databases but until now not been able to articulate his reasons.

"Where the real problems will arise is in the handling of minor offences. Based on a case given in the documentary, picture this scenario: your DNA was taken some years ago when the police accused you of some youthful vandalism, but no charge was pressed because the true culprit was identified after the arrest. At a later date, you are arrested for stealing mail because your DNA was found on a number of letters recovered from a skip. The police inform you that this is a minor offence in their opinion, and if you accept a caution they will not press matters. You refuse because you are innocent. Only later, after a lot of trouble, does it transpire that your DNA was on those letters because you had posted them yourself.

Now, if you had accepted the caution in order to gain release from police custody, the authorities would have given you a criminal record, and not investigated further, believing the case to be closed. This, I understand, is a common situation that is driven by 'policing by numbers' policies. Unfortunately many people do not understand the implications of a caution, believing it to be the equivalent of a friendly cuff round the ear from the village bobby when caught scrumping apples.

This scenario worries me a lot, and I now understand why I'm concerned about the collection of large numbers of DNA samples, particularly when there appears to be no clarity about how it might be used in the future."

RIAA object to drm bypass even if the drm endangers lives

Ed Felten is astonished at the big copyright owners objections to requests for DMCA exemptions.

"In light of the Sony-BMG CD incident, Alex and I asked the Copyright Office for an exemption allowing users to remove from their computers certain DRM software that causes security and privacy harm. The CCIA and Open Source and Industry Association made an even simpler request for an exemption for DRM systems that “employ access control measures which threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives.” Who could oppose that?

The BSA, RIAA, MPAA, and friends — that’s who. Their objections to these two requests (and others) consist mostly of lawyerly parsing, but at the end of their argument about our request comes this (from pp. 22-23 of the document, if you’re reading along at home):
Furthermore, the claimed beneficial impact of recognition of the exemption — that it would “provide an incentive for the creation of protection measures that respect the security of consumers’ computers while protecting the interests of the record labels” ([citation to our request]) — would be fundamentally undermined if copyright owners — and everyone else — were left in such serious doubt about which measures were or were not subject to circumvention under the exemption.
Hanging from the end of the above-quoted excerpt is a footnote:
This uncertainty would be even more severe under the formulations proposed in submissions 2 (in which the terms “privacy or security” are left completely undefined) or 8 [i.e., the CCIA request] (in which the boundaries of the proposed exemption would turn on whether access controls “threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives”).
You read that right. They’re worried that there might be “serious doubt” about whether their future DRM access control systems are covered by these exemptions, and they think the doubt “would be even more severe” if the “exemption would turn on whether access controls ‘threaten critical infrastructure and potentially endanger lives’.”


And here’s the really amazing part. In order to protect their ability to deploy this dangerous DRM, they want the Copyright Office to withhold from users permission to uninstall DRM software that actually does threaten critical infrastructure and endanger lives."

Privacy Issues and Canada’s Faith Communities

Privacy Issues and Canada’s Faith Communities essay by Travis Dumsday ON the Identity Trail.

"Broadly speaking, public policy issues have an unfortunate tendency to become ghettoised, with particular problems being championed by certain segments of society while being mostly ignored by other interest groups and society at large. Thus certain segments become associated in both public and official consciousness, rightly or wrongly, with certain issues. The aboriginal community for instance tends to be associated mostly with issues directly relevant to that community, such as the economic development of reservations, preservation of native languages, etc. I call this ghettoisation unfortunate partly because it can lead to an accompanying tendency on the part of government and media to ignore the community’s involvement and stake in other issues...

With that in mind, if someone asked you to write down a list of the issues of interest to Canadian religious communities, what would be the first item to pop into your mind? I realize that ‘Canadian religious communities’ is an exceedingly broad designating phrase, but humour me for a moment. What comes up first? Gay marriage? Abortion? Government funding of religious schools...

How about privacy? Would that enter anywhere on the radar screen? I suspect not...

Privacy is not seen as a ‘religious’ issue. But faith groups in this country are going to have to address some difficult questions relating to privacy in the near future, if they are not embroiled in them already.

In this context I think especially of the position of Canada’s Islamic community. If CSIS were to send undercover agents to attend services at mosques and monitor sermons given by Canadian Imams, in the hopes of spotting nascent terrorist sympathies or recruiting tactics, would this be a privacy violation?"

US peer to patent project

This is interesting.

"There is work underway to create a peer review system for patents at the Peer-to-Patent Project. Led by Beth Noveck, the Director of the Institute for Law & Policy, the Project aims to design and pilot an online system for peer review and to support an advisory network to the Patent Office. The online system will incorporate social software, such as tools that faciliate for social reputation, collaborative filtering, and information visualization.

Why a peer to patent review process? "The patent system needs our help. The United States Patent Office is actively seeking ways to bring greater expertise to bear on the review of patent applications and ensure that only worthwhile inventions receive the patent monopoly. Currently, underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the backlog of applications. Under pressure to expedite review, patents for unmerited inventions are approved...." (To keep reading, click here)"

Universties impotent?

John Sutherland wonders how the university sector has become so impotent

"By defining themselves as a workforce, all those decades ago, university lecturers have found themselves in that most unenviable condition - a workforce without muscle and without powerful friends. They can be ignored, taken for granted, pushed about, hired and fired as the planners see fit.

Striking, without the power to wound, bruise, or - most importantly - be taken notice of on the national stage, is a gesture of impotence. The "action" is misnamed. It is a cry of pain. It's also a crying shame, because the cause is right. But you won't see that in the papers."

Katrina and human rights

Noah Leavitt thinks the US government's failures to respond adequately to support those seriously affected by hurricane Katrina should be viewed as a humand rights disaster. Actually a UN independent expert on human rights who went into the disaster area in the immediate aftermath said as much in his report last November but no one took much notice.

"Last week, almost six months to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated America's southern coastline, the Associated Press released a shocking video. The footage shows President Bush being briefed, point-by-point, about the almost certain likelihood that the levees around New Orleans would not withstand the storm and the city would be flooded. At no time did the President ask any questions about the information provided to him.

The interaction captured in the video directly contradicted the President's frequent assertions that had he known the extent of the risk, his government would have taken steps to prevent the massive disasters that followed.

Originally, the Administration's failure to act effectively to address the consequences of the storm was seen, in part as a lapse in judgment or an administrative blunder. But after the video was released, views on the Administration's - and in particular, the President's - state of mind changed dramatically. After seeing the footage, some Congresspersons called for further inquiries into the federal government's failure to assist the tens of thousands of people in dangerous and often desperate circumstances. Others suggested opening criminal investigations.

Yet, the video suggests another possible way of analyzing the government's failures - that its abysmal performance after the flooding violates international obligations - as established in treaties and other binding law that the U.S. has agreed to uphold, and has urged other nations to uphold.

As I will explain, understanding this issue as a breach of human rights is critical, for a number of reasons. It has led to new strategies for relief and redress, and it has brought the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into the picture...

Oxfam International recently reported that almost 750,000 people remain displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And a situation that in theory, ought to be improving daily as the government addresses it, is only getting worse for many: More than 7,000 people are facing imminent evictions despite the fact that they do not have adequate housing replacement.

Thus, there is a third area in which international norms can be meaningful - that of "Internally Displaced Persons" (IDPs).

International law defines IDPs as people forced to leave their homes because of natural disaster, domestic strife or other such problems, and who have not crossed international borders. (This last requirement distinguishes them from refugees, who cross international borders fleeing persecution.)

Because of the large number of IDPs around the world, the UN has approved Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement that delineate states' obligations to IDPs within their borders.

Since as early as July 2001, the U.S. has said that all countries should apply the norms set forth under these Principles, and has authorized its U.S. Agency for International Development policies to do so.

Yet, the White House is now ignoring that commitment. For example, Principle 18 states that IDPs have a right to basic shelter, housing, and medical care, and that they must fully participate in decisions regarding their future in partnership with "competent authorities." Yet, the federal government callously ended payments for evacuees' temporary hotel stays without providing any alternative arrangements, and before the evacuees were able to get on their feet...

International human rights norms, including obligations the U.S. has stated it approves and will abide by, provide another avenue for understanding the failure to adequately respond last year. Calling upon the U.S. to comply is only calling upon it to do what it calls upon other countries to do: The U.S., rather than being a human rights beacon in the world, increasingly claims exceptions to the rules it says everyone else must follow. Unlike with imprisoned detainees, with Katrina victims, the rights violations are often out in the open, for everyone to see - in the form of suffering people, and, too often, corpses."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

USACM Policy Statement on DRM

Ed Felten has posted a new USACM policy statement on drm on his blog. He helped to draft it.

Heading towards a totalitarian state

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, Henry Porter believes, will move us ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state.

Doctors attack online recruitment systems

From the BBC: "A new online application system for junior doctor posts is harming the job prospects of many top students, more than 80 senior doctors have warned.

The Modernising Medical Careers system scraps interviews in favour of points scoring from application forms answers."

One of my jobs at the Open University is recruiting and supporting associate lecturers. As a senior lecturer in technology and given their current stage of evolution I would not trust a system like this to do my selection. You should not use technology as a substitute for putting people in touch with people.