Friday, May 25, 2007

Reid to suspend what's left of civil rights

Following the loss of three terrorist suspects, John Reid wants to suspend the remains of human rights laws in the UK. He thinks the reason he lost track of these three, who were subject to restrictive control orders and police and security services surveillance, is that the stupid liberal opposition parties have whinged about his attempts to introduce more and more draconian abusive laws superficially targetted at the war on terror.

The Independent has a terrific cartoon on its editorial page today which sums up what every rational person's response should be - revulsion at his fear mongering rhetoric. It features Dr Reid with a hand held behind his back and lady Justice on her knees, gagged and blindfolded, her hands and legs bound behind her in chains, being kicked in the face by the aforementioned complainant, who is grumbling "It's ridiculous.....ah'm havin' t' fight wi' one hand tied behind ma back"

I'm hoping, though not expecting, that the incoming Brown regime may find a new respect for democracy and civil liberties and clean out the thuggery that has infested the Home Office in the Blair years.

CSS DRM ruled ineffective by Helsinki Court

A court in Finland has produced a very interesting decision on drm. From Ture Legal (via Ian Brown):

"In an unanimous decision released today, Helsinki District Court ruled that Content Scrambling System (CSS) used in DVD movies is “ineffective”. The decision is the first in Europe to interpret new copyright law amendments that ban the circumvention of “effective technological measures”. The legislation is based on EU Copyright Directive from 2001. According to both Finnish copyright law and the underlying directive, only such protection measure is effective, “which achieves the protection objective.”"

It's important primarily because most drm is lousy IP security snake oil. The anti circumvention laws like the DMCA and the EUCD have been a licence for drm vendors to sell easily breakable digital locks to the entertainment industry. It didn't matter that the locks were useless, when it was the act of getting past them that was illegal. Now, at least in Finland, the fact that the drm is crap could easily be a legitimate defense to circumventing it.

"The background of the case was that after the copyright law amendment was accepted in late 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists opened a website where they posted information on how to circumvent CSS. They appeared in a police station and claimed to have potentially infringed copyright law. Most of the activists thought that either the police does not investigate the case in the first place or the prosecutor drops it if it goes any further. To the surprise of many, the case ended in the Helsinki District Court. Defendants were Mikko Rauhala who opened the website, and a poster who published an own implementation of source code circumventing CSS.

According to the court, CSS no longer achieves its protection objective. The court relied on two expert witnesses and said that “…since a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with ease tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge. Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed.” Thus, the court concluded that “CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law.” All charges were dismissed."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

This terrific video short is doing the rounds of the various lists and feeds I subscribe toA Fair(y) Use Tale

Sonny Bono and Proust

I learn that Sonny Bono's 1998 copyright term extension act had the unintended consequence of inhibiting the publication of translations of of Proust

"Bono's legislation effectively froze the date at which works go into the public domain at 1923, instead of marching forward twelve months with each passing year. In Search of Lost Time was caught in this web, because only the first four volumes were published before 1923. The Prisoner, The Fugitive, and Finding Time Again are still protected under U.S. copyright law...

Of course, Viking could have contacted all of Proust's likely heirs, but its legal department probably advised against taking this step on the grounds that someone might be missed, only to turn up later accompanied by a lawyer. Or perhaps the cost was simply thought prohibitive--what if the final heir held out for millions of dollars? In any event, Viking decided to wait until 2019, when the U.S. copyright on The Prisoner will finally expire. It remains to be seen whether the company will still be interested the project at that time."

Apparently, amonsgt those who know about Proust, the new translations are considered to be superior to the 1920s versions but interested Proustians need to import their copies of the latter three works from the UK.

Update: Matthew Yglesias has some well articulated thoughts on why perpetual copyright might not be such a good idea, as does William Stepp
and Iiya Somin. And the ever vigilant Larry Lessig has started a wiki on the subject.

Update 2: Just noticed the Against Monopoly folks have a lot of recent posts on this subject including most of the links I mention above plus many more.

On Copyright's Authorship Policy

Tim Wu On Copyright's Authorship Policy

"It has long been the stated aspiration of copyright to make authors the masters of their own destiny. Yet more often than not, the real subject of American copyright is distributors, book publishers, record labels, broadcasters, and others, who control the rights, bring the lawsuits, and take copyright as their industries' 'life-sustaining protection.'

This paper offers a new theory and defense of the role of authors and authorial copyright in the copyright system. I argue that the device of making authors rights-bearers can seed new modes of production in the industries under copyright. Rights-bearing authors can, in other words, help unsettle industry structure, by taking their rights to competitive disseminators or new modes of dissemination. Recent examples include the role of authorial rights in the rise of open source software and creative commons, while older examples include the rise of competing publishers in 18th century England."


Morpheus founders sue eBay, Joost over P2P technology

Via Michael Geist: Morpheus founders sue eBay, Joost over P2P technology

Novell signs on to EFF patent busting project

Novell signs on to EFF patent busting project Interesting move given the recent uproar over the Novell Microsoft deal.

The Music Industry Wants to Kill LimeWire

From IEEE Spectrum, The Music Industry Wants to Kill LimeWire No surpise there.

$1 Million Gotham Prize Launched by Leading Scientists

Via James Love,

$1 Million Gotham Prize Launched by Leading Scientists, Hedge Fund Managers to Encourage Innovation in Cancer Research

"A group of leading scientists and hedge fund managers today announced the creation of the "Gotham Prize for Cancer Research" (Gotham Prize), an annual award designed to encourage new and innovative approaches to cancer research by fostering collaboration among top thinkers in the field. The Prize was announced at the annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference, a charity event that brings together a group of nationally recognized investors who share their investment insights to raise money for cancer research. The winner of the $1 million Gotham Prize, as well as an additional prize - the $250,000 Ira Sohn Conference Foundation Prize in Pediatric Oncology - will be selected by a distinguished panel of leading scientists from institutions including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and New York University. Details on the Prize can be found at

In spite of the billions of dollars that have been invested in cancer research, many promising research ideas do not receive support - either because they go against the mainstream, because of a lack of funding to test ideas, or because preliminary research isn't shared for competitive reasons. The Gotham Prize will address these gaps by bringing together the top minds in the field to encourage accelerated progress in the prevention, etiology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The winner of the Prize will receive $1 million for personal use, while the Gotham Prize website will serve as an ongoing forum for cancer researchers to test and exchange ideas. The website will also provide a mechanism to connect scientists with other potential sources of funding from foundations and individuals."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spying on the Home Front

Spying on the Home Front

Excellent PBS documentary on surveillance in the US. Thanks for the pointer Caspar.

IS Gore gonna run in 2008?

Al Gore has been lamenting the assault on reason that constitutes modern politics.

"Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: "This chamber is, for the most part, silent—ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate.

Why was the Senate silent?

In describing the empty chamber the way he did, Byrd invited a specific version of the same general question millions of us have been asking: "Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.

A large and growing number of Americans are asking out loud: "What has happened to our country?" People are trying to figure out what has gone wrong in our democracy, and how we can fix it.

To take another example, for the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War."

Does this mean he's really starting to think about running for president again?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Apparently I'm a millionaire

According to CyberWyre (via Martin) this blog is worth


Martin's is worth $5,662, John's $1,543 and even BoingBoing is down at a mere $13,174,767.

Tell me it's not the triple x, so beloved of mass market idiotic censorware, again...

Peel on policing

"Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law...

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it."

So said Robert Peel. Peel set up the Metropolitan police in 1828 during a stint as Home Secretary and later served two terms as Prime Minister, (though as a stern opponent of Catholic emancipation, he wasn't too popular in my homeland).

Can you even imagine the current incumbents of those high offices, held by Peel, understanding let alone seeking to apply such principles to any of the areas of public service that they have nominally been reponsible for. I suspect Peel would have been contemptuous of the current brand of shallow Blairite political PR and cronyism.