Friday, April 28, 2006

French DRM interoperability law neutered

It seems as though the entertainment industry and Apple Computers have mounted a successful campaign to kill the French law relating to drm which would require interoperability. From Cory:

"A French proposal to change the way DRM is protected under law has been hijacked by entertainment companies and DRM vendors, and now promises to be one of the worst DRM laws in the world."

Home Office Minister attacks LSE academic again

Home Office Minister, Andy Burnham, has disgracefully repeated his and the government's false allegations about the authorship of the London School of Economics ID cards report, hiding behind parliamentary privilege to do so.

Commons cartoons

Larry Gonick has been doing an occasional cartoon strip at the On the Commons blog since last summer. They're quite funny.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

7/7 and rape victim lambasts Clarke

Rachel from North London, one of the survivors of the London bombings, has had enough. This is really powerful stuff.

"Right. I've bloody well had enough of the Home Secretary. I've tried to keep quiet about it because we are supposed to be meeting up again in May, this time with other survivors of 7/7, and so I judged it pertinent to keep it zipped in the interests of further fruitful dialogue. And he was very nice to me when I met him in Norwich. And he had apologised to my dad. After the meeting I actually felt sorry for him because he had been getting such a kicking and I want to believe the best of people...

Last week, the news that those who are wrongly imprisoned and freed on first appeal are not to receive any compensation. That really offended me...How many people are locked up who shouldn't be? How many more do you want to lock up on suspicion but without charge, without trial? And are we any safer for it?)

Then, yesterday, Mr Clarke was getting snippy with the ''lazy and deceitful'' pesky liberal media...

To call your critics ''lazy and deceitful'', Mr Clarke is a bit much. The press is doing its job, calling you to account over the creeping authoritarianism of Blair's government. Those of us who protest about the frightening erosion of our civil liberties are dismissed as ''pathetic liberals'' but we will not shut up, and we are grateful to the media for highlighting what is going on and having a debate about it.

Liberty and liberties are bloody important Mr. Clarke. I do not think it is 'pathetic' to cherish and protect them.

The most important modern freedom is now apparently ''the freedom not to be blown up on the way to work''. No it isn't. The most important freedom is to be able to live freely, not fearfully. And how does clamping down on civil liberties make me safer on the way to work, anyway...

What you should be concentrating on, rather than busily colluding in the shredding of the fabric of the British constitution, is doing your damn job properly. Last summer, you were warned of an unholy mess as dangerous prisoners - paedophiles, rapists, vicious robbers and murderers who should have been deported - were set free. They have served their time, but they should not have been in the country in the first place. They should also have been under close scrutiny.
Today we find out Mr Clarke does not know where the hell they are...

Tough on crime? Let's remind ourselves of what you were banging on about yesterday, Mr. Clarke. Remember this sentence?

''The right not to be killed by someone who has served his sentence for violent crime but remains dangerous''.

Right, exactly like the people who are now roaming the U.K who should have been deported? The ones you have lost track of?

For pity's sake, this is just *hopeless*. And once again, I'm sorry to say, it is scarily personal with me.

In July 2002 I was beaten, raped, robbed and left for dead by a foreign national, Julian Williams, a violent and sadistic crack-addicted teenager from Jamaica who had entered the coutry illegally. He broke into my flat, having followed me home. In December 2002 he was caught after a series of violent street robberies, and detained, thanks to the hunch of a policewoman in South London. His DNA matched that taken by the tireless police officers of Harringey Sapphire Unit, the Met's Sex Offences investigation team from my attack. In January 2004, after a drawn out and painful legal process, he was finally sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court to 15 years in total, 12 consecutively and 3 concurrently. The judge described him as ''a dangerous and sadistic young man.'' He'll probably be out in 2009, maybe 2008...

Right now, I am very afraid and I despair. Will Julian Williams come after me, Mr Clarke in a few years time? Very possibly. What assurances can you give that the situation is under control?

Very few, it seems.

Yesterday you said that people like me, who attack you on your civil liberties record were out of step with public opinion.

Now I think you are out of step with public opinion. The public wants you to go, judging by the calls that were coming into the news yesterday. You've completely let me, and people like me, down."

Read Rachel's entire post. I doubt the Home Secretary will.
The Consumer Electronics Association are running an advertisement complaining about the entertainment industries' drive for more draconian intellectual property laws. (Click the image for a larger version, then click again to zoom in further.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Aussies to introduce ID cards

The Australian government are proposing to introduce a biometric ID card called an "access card" (mmm, I guess somebody told them David Blunkett had already tried "entitlement card"). The Aussies successfully killed off a previous attempt to introduce ID cards about 15 years ago. It will be interesting to see if this one goes the same way.

VISIT Chief wants global ID system

The head of the US VISIT visitor tracking program wants a "global ID management system".

Data retention directive published

The Data Retention Directive, Directive 2006/24/EC, has been published. Digital rights folks will remember that the European Data Protection Supervisor advised against it last Autumn. Thanks to EU blog for the heads up.

"2. The EDPS recognises the importance for law enforcement agencies of the Member States of having all the necessary legal instruments at their disposal, in particular in the combat of terrorism and other serious crime. An adequate availability of certain traffic and location data of public electronic services can be a crucial instrument for those law enforcement agencies and can contribute to the physical security of persons. In addition it should be noted that this does not automatically imply the necessity of the new instruments as foreseen in the present proposal.

3. It is equally evident that the proposal has a considerable impact on the protection of personal data. If one considers the proposal solely from the perspective of data protection, traffic and location data should not be retained at all for the purpose of law enforcement. It is for reasons of data protection that Directive 2002/58/EC establishes as a principle of law that traffic data must be erased as soon as storage is no longer needed for purposes related to the communication itself (including billing purposes). Exemptions to this principle of law are subject to strict conditions...

74. It is essential to the EDPS that the proposal respects the fundamental rights. A legislative measure which would harm the protection guaranteed by Community law and more in particular by the case law of the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights is not only unacceptable, but also illegal.

75. The necessity and the proportionality of the obligation to retain data - in its full extent - have to be demonstrated.

76. As to the necessity: the EDPS recognises the changes of circumstances, but is as yet not convinced of the necessity of the retention of traffic and location data for law enforcement purposes, as established in the proposal. "

Translated: he thinks the proposal is both illegal and a bad idea but that police should have appropriate tools to fight crime. But thanks largely to the efforts of the UK and French governments, if I remember correctly, the proposal got through the various processes that pass for democracy in the EU. The Irish government promised a legal challenge as soon as the directive was adopted but not out of any sense of concern over the expansion of surveillance powers or the cost of the proposals to the industry. They just thought the directive was too restrictive and would cramp their style in relation to their own domestic situation.

Question: does anyone know how far the Irish challenge to the directive has got so far, if anywhere?

More copyright expansionism

The latest in a long line of proposals for laws mandating drm is the proposed PERFORM act, which would ban the streaming of MP3s.

Continually throw enough muck at the wall and some of it eventually sticks. But in a way I'm getting more optimistic about this IP expansionism landscape as even the US think tanks are beginning to understand the downsides.

Fan fiction a force of nature

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor at Tor Books, says there's no such thing as fan fiction really.

"Good fiction gets under our skin. It can change the way we see the world. But whatever its effect, it’s a significant experience. It would be a bizarre thing—unnatural, even—for writers to not engage with that experience. They always have. I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition.

Of course, it would have to be a modern definition. In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year went to March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, published by Viking. It’s a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t. I can only see two differences: first, Louisa May Alcott is out of copyright; and second, Louisa May Alcott, Geraldine Brooks, and Viking are dreadfully respectable.

I’m just a tad cynical about authors who rage against fanfic. Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers. We have a system that counts some borrowings as legitimate, others as illegitimate. They stick with the legit sort, but they’re still writing out of and into the shared web of literature. They’re not so different as all that."

Jonathan Zittrain's Inaugural Lecture

Yestersday evening I attended Jonathan Zittrain's terrific inaugural lecture at Oxford University, (where my year long fellowship at the wonderful Harris Manchester College sadly comes to an end next month).

Both entertaining and informative on the power and the dangers of the network, in concluding he got to the heart of our responsibility as a society to exploit ICT for positive ends especially through education. The Egyptian pyramids, he said, were the symbols of the toil and suffering of generations of slave labour, merely created to act as monuments to a single despotic rulers. Then he invoked the metaphor of an inverted pyramid of knowledge and information which we now have the potential to build through collaboration in the use of networked communications technologies, founded on our existing cultural and scientific heritage.

Building on the shoulders of our historical giants and working together to continually advance science, culture and society, wouldn't that be a legacy worth leaving to our descendents.

Interestingly enough he sees Wikipedia as an obvious place to gather students to offer the fruits of their learning to the world. We've experimented with wikis at the Open University mostly within individual courses and there is a lot to be said for them but they do have their drawbacks too. The difficulty with narrowly focussed, time critical, specific course related tasks, in a distance context is that the socio pychological aspects of the task often trump the mechanics of the task itself. One classic example is where sometimes students spend longer trying to work out who is going to which part of the task than they do engaging in the activity itself. Another fairly simple problem is that to get students to do these tasks they need to be part of the assessment of the course and often students don't like feeling like they are dependent on other students for their grade. That said there are a huge number of ways of engaging students in this kind of collaborative mutual learning (and teaching) process, which afterall is the at foundation of the academy and scientific development.

Update: Suw Charman has a full report on the lecture at the ORG blog. Ethan Zuckerman at Worldchanging also has a comprehensive report on the lecture.

Open Business Interview Benkler

Open Business has a nice interview with Yochai Benkler.

"You also mention “non-monetary” incentives. What are those?

There is something of a joke in the very posing of the question on a business site. Nonmonetary motivations are what make you stop on the street for a moment to answer a stranger who asks you for the time or directions; what makes you travel five hundred miles to be with you family for the holidays, and what makes you tell a friend a joke, or listen to it. They are also the motivations that lead some of the world’s leading minds to work for what, by comparison to other lines of business in which they could succeed, is a pittance–to satisfy their curiosity, for fame, or because of the sheer fun.

These are motivations on which all of us act many times a day, but which have been shunted to the periphery of the economy throughout much of the industrial period. What we see now, as the two core inputs into information production have become widely distributed in the population (that is, computation and communications capacity, on the one hand, and human creativity, experience, and wisdom, on the other hand), these same motivations have moved from the domain of the social and personal to occupy a larger role smack in the middle of the most advanced economies in the world today.

3. There are some heavily distributed collaborative projects, relying on thousands of volunteers, like the Wikipedia; can they be sustained?

There is no reason to think that these projects cannot be sustained. There are essentially two main concerns people suggest for skepticism: (1) where will the motivations come from over the long haul, and why won’t human selfishness ultimately rend these projects apart? (2) Why won’t these degrade into a cacophonous medley as more people join in who are less competent or engaged than original contributors? The answer to the first objection is that critical to the success of these projects is their ability to be broken down into discrete modules, capable of independent completion in relatively fine-grained increments. Because of this, people can contribute a little or a lot, and given large-scale connectivity as we have today, and diverse human motivations, it turns out that some combination of true believers, people who play around, occasional contributors, and people paid to participate at the interface of peer production and markets sustains these projects... The answer to the second question is that quality control and continuous self-correction is itself susceptible to peer production, and we see most of the successful projects implementing various systems of collaborative peer review of the contributions, as well as collaborative production of the ultimate information good itself."

Arsenal 0 Villareal 0

Unrecognisable from the side that so recently outshone Juventus, Arsenal nevertheless scraped through to the European Cup Final last night. You have to feel sorry for Villareal who outplayed us so comprehensively it looked as if they had three players for every one of Arsenal's, in every area of the pitch.

Success in the Stade de France in three weeks, regardless of whether our opponents turn out to be Barcelona or Milan, will depend largely on whether the side which dazzled Juve at Highbury or the side that looked terrified against Villareal last night turns up.

Congratulations to all at Arsenal. Let's hope we do ourselves justice in Paris.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Optimistic Samuelson at A2K

Susan Crawford took notes at Pamela Samuelson's talk at A2K.

"I took notes of what Pam Samuelson said. She's an activist who has gotten a lot done, particularly when it comes to maximalist approaches to intellectual property issues. Prof. Samuelson is also someone who is optimistic about human nature. Because many of the IP fights she's been involved in are now playing out -- again -- as communications policy issues, I wanted to write today about what she had to tell us on Saturday.

Prof. Samuelson's topic was the political economy of recent intellectual property debates. Here's a paraphrased account of her remarks.

How did we get to this place? For many of you, it is old news that the maximalist IP agenda has dominated the access to knowledge conversation in the past few decades. We can see this as a classic public choice problem -- there are concentrated benefits available for a small group of well-organized, well-financed industry groups, diffuse costs distributed widely among the public, and a collective action problem in organizing people to recognize these costs and take effective action to thwart the maximalist agenda.

The result: the "best laws money can buy" from the standpoint of the concentrated benefits group.

In response to IP maximalists, we spent the 1990s in an intensively defensive struggle -- writing, speaking, and lobbying. We pointed out why the white paper/NII paper were bad information policy; why us shouldn't adopt EU style database protection; why states should not adopt proposed article 2B of the UCC (now UCITA); why WIPO treaties did not require what became the DMCA aniti-circumvention laws.

We scored some defensive victories. The US didn't adopt database protection; UCITA is no longer alive; and the DMCA anti-circumvention rules could have been worse...

We dodged one big thing: the US has not been able to use WIPO to advance its otherwise shaky domestic IP proposals. We were able to put together representatives of telcos, scientific researchers, and IT to make this happen.

But -- now the USTR has been captured by the IP maximalists. "Free trade" agreements have undercut national freedoms to implement IP rules under the flexibility that TRIPS and WIPO treatives would allow (eg, DMCA without exceptions)...

And when it comes to A2K, there is an IP maximalist agenda...

But there are signs of hope:

Canada has been resisting US-style DMCA anticircumvention rules.
Australia is recommending allowing noncommercial creation of tools to allow circumvention.
The WIPO development agenda is proceeding.

What we have learned is that the best defense is a good offence. A2K provides us with a framework for a postive agenda for promoting progressive information policy. We shouldn't just criticize IP maximalist proposals. We have to have arguments based on a positive conception of an information society in which we want to live. We'll win -- because the IP maximalist agenda has no moral compass, so we can appeal to a broader audience.

There's an important role for academics now. We need to be popularizing insights from research; to bridge across disciplinary commmunities; to assist in coalition building by activist organizations; and to promote A2K policy initiatives. We should work on making progress locally.

Here Prof. Samuelson directly addressed the audience, and spoke sternly: I am concerned about some of the writing I see. We need less polemics and less worship. We need more rigor and more grounding in the world. We need to be willing to write about failures in some of these spaces. We need to do better."

Advanced Man

Jonathan Rowe is still in the Phillipines and thinking about what constitutes progress.

"We commons advocates usually dispute this premise on its own terms. We point out that often the imposition of a corporate property regime upon a commons stifles innovation, as when a patent minefield stymies the cause of research, and the over-reaching of copyright impedes the artisitic creation the copyright laws was supposed to encourage. We also point out how the enlisting of a knowledge or resource commons drives the use of thope in the direction of corporate convenience and gain rather than of human good. We get baldness cures instead of malaria vaccines, theme parks instead of wetlands and forests. And yes, commercial television.

These points are all important. But ultimately the question goes deeper, to one we generally don't get to: namely, what is progress in the first place? What does it mean to be more advanced? Does it lie in the tools and devices at out disposal, the conveniences we enjoy -- in external circumstance, in other words? Or does advance lie in ourselves, our capacity to know and do and understand, in some sense, what we are for?

That question occupies my mind whenever I visit my wife's family rice farm here in the Philippines. It is a small farm on the island of Panay, in a remote barangay (village) of the municipality of Lambunao, about an hour and a half by jeepney from the privincial capital of Iloilo. Her father is a small quiet man who, though in his seventies, has the lean wiry body of a teenager. (In fact he's leaner and more wiry than most American teenagers.)

Tatay, as they call him, built the family home himself, with hand tools that could be rejects from a garage sale in America. He cut and split the bamboo, designed the house and constructed it, with inlaid patterns that add an artisitc touch. He designed the plumbing system too, which -- until electricity came a few years ago -- was based on rainwater he collected from the roof, in a big tank he constructed himself out of sheet metal, with a soldering iron he heated over a fire.

This was in addition to his farming, in which he used a caribou -- water buffalo --to plow, and rose at 1:00 AM to do so, to avoid the scorching daytime sun. Tatay no longer works the fields; he has earned some rest. But he still is busy all day, fixing and improving. He's talking about rebuilding the house now, to accomodate his enlarging family. (His seven kids have produced 18 grandkids, and they are still coming.) Just last year he built a bamboo cottage with a thatched roof that is utterly exquisite.

I watch Tatay go about his daily tasks. I see what he has built, and I have to ask -- who is more advanced. Myself, with all the sophisticated devices at my disposal, or him, with his rusty tools? He can build a house with those. With my computer, all I can do, really, is shop. I write too, and yes that's hard. But somehow, on the scale of human development and self-sufficiency, it does not match up to building a house and raising food."

Lords debate on technology in education

Interesting short debate in the House of Lords last week on technology in education. Pity the Guardian gives a be-very-afraid Frankenstein monster slant to Susan Greenfield's contribution. Greenfield raises some important issues but she does work in accordance with a number of implicit assumptions e.g. that the knowledgeable teacher delivering education to the empty headed pupil' is the best approach and that multimedia technologies don't engage our deep intellectual or creative faculties. Neither is universally true.

Sure there are dangers if the technology is used inappropriately and superficially; and we have to understand what the technology can't do as well as what it can do. The naive belief that we can make any aspect education better by doing it with a computer is something that drives me to distraction regularly in my day job. You have to understand the technology for a start. The notion, however, that technology has somehow swallowed a golden age of book based education which turned out hordes of intellectually gifted masses with powerful critical thinking skills is hardly borne out by the qualities of our current cabinet ministers in those areas.

Greenfield is right to say "We must surely choose to adopt technology that will ensure that the classroom will fit the child, and buck the growing trend for technology to be used to make the 21st-century child fit the classroom...

and create an evidence base on which 21st-century education can be built." (rather than the government's 'let's make headlines' with another education initiative approach).

For those interested, the most sensible contributions to the debate were from Lord Stone and Baroness Morris at


Lord Stone:

" I left school in disgrace at the age of 16 with only five O-levels, one of them in woodwork, and I thought myself dim. Since then I have found a useful trait in my character. In school it was vilified, I was criticised for it throughout the first half of my life, and I only recently realised its benefits. That trait is to enjoy and embrace risk and, in doing so, to be creative...
Last September, Sir Paul Judge, in a lecture to the Royal Society of Arts, of which he is chair, said:

"Life is safer than it ever has been, but we seem less prepared to accept risk in anything we do. We need to make sensible decisions about what really is dangerous, formed on the basis of weighing up the facts, rather than on public hysteria. By making everything appear life-threatening, we are in danger of crying wolf once too often".

Sir Paul is so right. When people who profit from panic and chaos play on people's fears and insecurities it is damaging to our society. Much of the media is culpable.

There are legitimate ways of creating enterprise, building businesses and managing risk, but the current trend for interested parties to exaggerate risk and fan hysteria is having a long-term detrimental effect on our society. Misunderstanding risk can affect all fields: business, politics, medicine, the arts, media, sport, and of course technology and science. Science, in particular, is dependent on exploring the unknown and seeking to go beyond the boundaries of existing knowledge. Curiosity and risk go hand in hand. Developing science and technology curricula therefore needs to protect people's ability to seek answers using their creative instincts, unfettered by the confines of excessively risk-averse teaching methods.

In their future lives all students in any field of activity will find that risk-taking increases the probability that one will find something of value, despite the research costs. It creates the possibility of large gains in experience, capacity and knowledge. Those who do not take risks cannot expect these benefits. It is the same in artistic endeavour...

More and better science education, as promoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, is necessary not only for future scientists and technologists, but for everybody. Whether one enjoys taking risks or prefers to avoid them, we would do well to understand the concept of risk from an early age.

This can be taught through the sciences, but as Daniel Barenboim has been saying all this week about music and non-musicians, scientific thinking is important to all, including those who will not become scientists. How young people are helped to think about these issues will affect their well-being and the part that they play in society. It is vital that these points are considered in their education and in science teaching. Balancing risk must be part of the package. That means that we should learn something of numbers, probability, uncertainties, chaos, mechanics and even some of the newer quantum mechanics, or we will become risk-averse and waste our lives hiding from it.

In the end, education is about empowering young people to take control of their lives by encouraging them to take increasing responsibility for their actions...

To close, I bring to the attention of your Lordships an initiative by the RSA, which has established a Risk Commission. We will meet for the first time later this month. The objective of the commission is to examine past scares and future areas of potential risk by taking evidence from a diverse range of experts. From this

20 Apr 2006 : Column 1225

work, a set of guidelines aimed at enabling society to adopt a more rational approach to risk will be developed."

I didn't know about the Risk Commission. It's an important initiative.

Baroness Morris:

" First, that we need to use time, space and skills in a totally different way in our schools. Schools need to look different, they need to use time differently and they need to use space in a different way. They need to smell different and feel different. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that for some children what is wrong with education is the schools...

Secondly, I would like to make mention of a primary school I visited in Birmingham just before I stood down as a Member of Parliament. The research that they were linking into was teaching every one of their children as an individual and trying to develop for them a timetable which enabled each child to learn at the time of the day which suited them best in different subject areas and different disciplines. They even went further and had a classroom that had so many different seating arrangements that the teacher was able, with any one child, to place them in a space with a style of teaching and a time that would suit them best. That is what personalised learning should be. Personalised learning is a great idea and one of the things that we have to develop even more. What personalised learning should be at its best is not enabling individuals to access the present curriculum and the present style of learning more effectively, but to enable us to use what we know about learning to wrap around each individual child and his or her needs so that they can achieve their potential.

20 Apr 2006 : Column 1229

The third thing that this will tell us is that we have to learn to value those skills and styles of learning that we cannot measure...

It therefore falls to us to reshape our education system around the needs of children and, using that knowledge, to make sure that we can teach in a way that will enable every child to reach his or her potential. It is exciting and daunting, but it is a task that must be done."

We could transform the entire country within the space of a generation through appropriate approaches to education but the government and we as a society are far too fixated on things that don't matter, (like ridiculously short term, narrow, easy-to-measure targets), tinkering and interfering than on getting it done properly for me to have even the slightest hope that it might happen.

The importance of access to knowledge A2K in all of this just can't be overstated but I doubt any of the contributors to the debate (even the sensible ones) were even aware of the Yale conference.

Daily Mail Picnic

Eclectech, of The Very Model of a Modern Labour Minister and The Swizz of the Cards fame has a new hilarious animation about the dangers of the Internet, Daily Mail Picnic.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Real patent on multimedia streaming

RealNetworks, according to the NYT, have apparently got a patent on multimedia streaming over the Net. I foresee more litigation heading their way via Acacia, which for a number of years has seen a fair degree of success suing broadcasters, the porn industry and educational institutions for infringing their patents on digital transmission via the Net. They've also sued Intel and Texas Instruments, if I remember correctly.

New US Intellectual Property Protection Act

In spite of all the evidence about the negative unintended consequences of the DMCA, eight years on the US Congress are planning to expand the law in the guise of the proposed Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006.

"The 24-page bill is a far-reaching medley of different proposals cobbled together. One would, for instance, create a new federal crime of just trying to commit copyright infringement. Such willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison...
But one of the more controversial sections may be the changes to the DMCA. Under current law, Section 1201 of the law generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices. (That section already has been used against a Princeton computer science professor, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and a toner cartridge remanufacturer.)

Smith's measure would expand those civil and criminal restrictions. Instead of merely targeting distribution, the new language says nobody may "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.

"It's one degree more likely that mere communication about the means of accomplishing a hack would be subject to penalties," said Peter Jaszi...

Jessica Litman, who teaches copyright law at Wayne State University, views the DMCA expansion as more than just a minor change. "If Sony had decided to stand on its rights and either McAfee or Norton Antivirus had tried to remove the rootkit from my hard drive, we'd all be violating this expanded definition," Litman said."

Cliff Richard would be proud.

RIAA sue family without a PC

The RIAA have sued a family for downloading copyrighted songs over the Internet, despite the fact that they don't even own a PC.

They've also failed in their attempt to sue a teenage girl in Mitchigan.

Jack Balkan on Access to Knowledge

Jack Balkan gave a speech at the A2K conference at Yale about his work with Yochai Benkler.

"Today I want to make three points about the theory of access to knowledge.

First, Access to Knowledge is a demand of justice.

Second, Access to Knowledge is both an issue of economic development and an issue of individual participation and human liberty.

Third, Access to Knowledge is about intellectual property, but it is also about far more than that.

Access to Knowledge is a demand of Justice

Access to Knowledge is a set of principles that emerge from a loose collection of different social movements. These social movements, in turn, are responding to changes in economy and society produced by new information technologies.

Information and knowledge are embedded in goods like drugs that have value, and in social structures like education and science that produce value. Moreover, information, like capital, is not just a thing in itself but it's also a set of relationships between persons and groups. Some control it, others don't and law helps enforce that division of power and control.

As the global economy develops, control over knowledge and information increasingly determines global wealth and power. Because not all countries participate in the global economy equally, not all of their citizens enjoy its benefits equally. Different societies prepare their members differently to participate in the information economy, and different countries have competitive advantages in producing information and controlling its distribution.

Access to knowledge can be a confusing term because it actually refers to four different things. Here I borrow Yochai Benkler's typology:

* 1. Human knowledge-- education, know-how, and the creation of human capital through learning new skills.

* 2. Information-- like news, medical information, data, and weather reports.

* 3. Knowledge-embedded goods (KEG's)-- goods where the inputs to production involve significant amounts of scientific and technical knowledge, often but not exclusively protected by intellectual property rights. Some key examples are drugs, electronic hardware, and computer software, but in contemporary economic life, information and intellectual property provide an increasingly important share of almost all valuable goods.

* 4. Tools for the production of KEG's-- examples include scientific and research tools, materials and compounds for experimentation, computer programs and computer hardware.

The goal of access to knowledge is to improve access to all four of these components of the knowledge economy:

* 1. Access to human knowledge
* 2. Access to information
* 3. Access to KEG's
* 4. Access to tools for producing KEG's

Access to knowledge is a question of distributional justice, both within a society, say rich and poor, men and women, and across different societies, say countries in the North and the South. Given the long term trend in the world economy toward increasing the share of wealth going to these four components of the knowledge economy, what does justice require?

I think we can make two claims:

First, if you can produce the same or greater amounts of these four components and distribute them more widely and equitably both within countries and across national borders, justice demands this.

Second, if you can spur additional innovation and information production in areas that existing market structures currently do not serve-- e.g., drugs for diseases in the third world, educational materials for persons in the poorest countries-- justice also demands this.

Let me put it another way: Access to knowledge means that the right policies for information and knowledge production can increase both the total production of information and knowledge goods, and can distribute them in a more equitable fashion. The goal is first, promoting economic efficiency and development, and second, widespread distribution of those knowledge and informational goods necessary to human flourishing in our particular historical moment– the global networked information economy.

I repeat: It's not just a trade off between equity and efficiency. We are not simply fighting about how to divide up a pie. Access to knowledge is about making a larger pie and distributing it more fairly. Or, at the risk of extending this pie metaphor well beyond its appropriate scope, access to knowledge means giving everyone the skills to make their own pies and share them widely with others."

The whole thing is highly recommended. There's an A2K conference wiki and the Lawmeme are naturally offering commentary.

Blair and Clarke annoyed at criticism on civil liberties

Tony Blair and Charles Clarke have decided to respond to the journalists who have been accusing them of systematically undermining civil liberties in the UK in an attempt to appear tough on crime and terrorism. All the usual soundbites are trotted out so I won't bother to repeat them. The Independent's leader writers are not impressed either.

"The wisest counsels in history have usually pleaded for the passage of only a few laws, long in gestation. Charles Clarke and his predecessors have done the opposite, stacking hastily drafted law upon law and so progressively diminishing the impact of each of them. It is indicative of a mindset that cannot be bothered to think through any of our society's ailments but which instinctively reaches for a quick "ban" or "curb", as long as it makes the headlines. This newspaper makes no apology for having condemned this tendency. Given the feeble state of the opposition during most of the Government's lifetime, it has been a positive duty. Much harm has been inflicted on Britain's civil liberties under the guise of suppressing crime and terrorism. If it annoys Mr Clarke to draw attention to it, so be it."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

ID cards to include medical details

From the Sunday Times: "IDENTITY cards are to carry medical details, despite repeated government assurances that concerns about privacy meant it would not happen."

Ian Brown was at a meeting during this past week that demonstrated that at least some governments (the French and the Austrians) are talking about a sensible approach to identity architectures. The UK proposals just get progressively sillier, as superficially attractive suggestions which in reality are counterproductive, get whispered in ministers' ears. Has anyone told the Home Office yet about the difficulties being experienced with the £6 billlion NHS IT system? Match these up with the unworkable ID scheme they're planning and you've just got more information chaos.