Friday, June 29, 2007

Google sued for defamation

It has been fairly common for ISPs and webhosting services to be sued for defamation in the UK ever since Laurence Godfrey successfully sued Demon for defamation many Internet moons ago. But now Google is in the defamation firing line, as Brian Retkin, CEO of domain name registrar,, has decided to sue the search giant for libel.

False allegations about Mr Retkin have been repeatedly surfacing and he reckons the only way to stop them is to get Google to remove them permanently. Google for its part has said it has blacklisted the material complained of by Mr Retkin and:

"Google is not responsible for the content of any result of a query which may be presented to a user of Google's web search service. Google has absolutely no connection, control or ability to direct or influence the content of web pages which may be shown as links within any given set of search results."

Whilst you may have come sympathy for Mr Retkin's ongoing predicament and frustrations it can't be right to hold Google responsible in this instance, especially if the company has made a strong effort to address his specific complaints as they have arisen. The devil will be in the detail of the case but this is certainly one to watch very closely, as the knock-on effects of a successful suit on Mr Retkin's part could be substantial.

Another ID card fan takes the helm at the Home Office

The new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is another card carrying ID card fan. Not surprising given the new prime minister's invocation of the empty tough- on-terrorism rhetoric.

24 uploader a danger to public safety?

I wonder, with all the fuss about the UK government releasing convicted criminals early to ease overcrowding in prisons and thereby apparently endangering public safety, whether this guy should be considered sufficiently dangerous to be put away for three years. He has reportedly admitted uploading pirated copies of the latest series of 24 to the Internet. It possibly makes him a danger to the Fox broadcasting network revenues but hardly public safety.

Well I guess Lessig, now he's changing focus, would say that when it comes to politics you've gotta follow the money.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

EU and US Reach Deal on Sharing Passenger Data

EU and US Reach Deal on Sharing Passenger Data. No real details are available yet, though this article says:

"However information from EU sources suggested that under the new draft agreement the 34 types of data now transferred would be reduced to 19 types. The US would be able to store the data for up to 15 years, but after the first seven years it would only be able to access the data under strict conditions."

Biomedical Journals and Global Poverty: Is HINARI a Step Backwards?

Via Teresa Hackett (eIFL) and the A2K list: Biomedical Journals and Global Poverty: Is HINARI a Step Backwards?

Javier Villafuerte-Gálvez, Walter H. Curioso and Oscar Gayoso write:

"Much has been written about how open access to biomedical journals is vital for researchers in developing countries [1], but so much more needs to be done.

Our experience in Peru with the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), an initiative managed by the World Health Organization that helps promote access to scientific information by providing free (or low cost) online access to major science journals, is not as accessible as hoped for and, in fact, is getting worse. When HINARI launched in 2003, it provided access to more than 2,300 major journals in biomedical and related social sciences [2].

In April 2007, we conducted a review of the first 150 science journals available through HINARI with the highest impact factors on the Science Citation Index [3]. We excluded open-access journals and journals that make online access free to low-income countries (e.g., The New England Journal of Medicine, British Medical Journal Publishing Group). We could not access any of the top five journals from major publishers such as Nature and Elsevier-Science Direct. In other words, from the Nature Publishing Group we had no access to Nature Reviews Cancer, Nature Reviews Immunology, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Nature, or Nature Medicine, and from Elsevier ScienceDirect we had no access to Cell, Cancer Cell, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, Immunity, or Molecular Cell. In addition, we could not access any of the first-level journals from Blackwell, Oxford Press University, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, or Wiley and Sons. In 2003, all these journals were available...

Our findings suggest that we not only have access to a reduced number of biomedical journals on HINARI, but we also have no access to the biomedical journals that have the highest impact factors. The HINARI Web site states that it is still incorporating new journal collections. However, we are afraid that any addition that will not provide access to major publishers (such as the Nature Publishing Group, Elsevier ScienceDirect, or Lippincott Williams and Wilkins) could lack real impact according to HINARI's goals...

We fear that the loss of access to many key journals that are published by the major companies could be a major setback to the education of medical students in Peru and perhaps around the world. Furthermore, it could make biomedical research in developing countries like Peru, a key element in fighting poverty, even scarcer.

In conclusion, students and researchers in developing countries such as Peru, working at the frontlines of global health problems, need to access more biomedical journals in order to practice evidence-based health care and conduct high-quality research. The recent loss of access to many key biomedical journals in Peru could be a step backwards. We hope the situation described in this letter might help lend support to the proposal of Godlee et al., who suggested that the World Health Organization and its partners should take the lead in establishing an international collaborative group along the lines of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to achieve the goal of “Universal access to essential health-care information by 2015” or “Health information for all” [4]."

The book is nearly there

The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed a new image of a book cover in the left hand column. My publishers tell me that the plan is for my book, Digital Decision Making: Back to the Future, to be available within the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I own that recipe and I'll sue

From the NYT:

"Sometimes, Rebecca Charles wishes she were a little less influential.

She was, she asserts, the first chef in New York who took lobster rolls, fried clams and other sturdy utility players of New England seafood cookery and lifted them to all-star status on her menu. Since opening Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village 10 years ago, she has ruefully watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers “knockoffs” of her own.

Yesterday she filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the latest and, she said, the most brazen of her imitators: Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years."

NY evote code remains public for now

It seems that attempts by evoting vendors lobbyists and Microsoft to weaken evoting laws relating to making voting machine software code publicly accessible have failed.

"With this year's New York Senate and Assembly session now ended, local voting activists are chalking up a victory for the public at the expense of Microsoft Corp. and the e-voting industry.

The activists had feared that Microsoft and a handful of e-voting device vendors would quietly weaken the state's strict e-voting software escrow law before the current legislative session ended on Friday. Approved two years ago by the legislature (download PDF), the law requires voting system vendors to place all source code and other related software in escrow for the New York State Board of Elections so it can be examined as needed. The law also dictates that a voting system vendor waives all intellectual property and trade right secret rights should the software need to be reviewed in court.

Microsoft, whose Windows software is used in some of the vendors' devices, sought to amend the law to avoid the strict escrow provisions."

Thanks to David Gerard via ORG for the pointer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mother sues RIAA

In a twist to the usual p2p tales, a mother who was on the receiving end of an RIAA lawsuit, which that auspicious organisation eventually dropped, has now sued the RIAA alleging their investigation methods are criminal.

" Tanya Andersen, who had been defending herself against a debilitating RIAA lawsuit for about two years before the RIAA dropped its case, has launched a bigtime offensive against her former accusers, filing suit today against Atlantic Recording Corporation, Priority Records, Capitol Records, UMG Recordings, and BMG Music, the RIAA, MediaSentry, and Settlement Support Center.

Andersen's Complaint (on Internet Law and Regulation) calls out the labels, their legal prosecution/lobbying arm (the RIAA), and the oft-maligned software it uses to find alleged infringers (MediaSentry). It claims the RIAA's methods are criminal, and that their lawyers are needlessly vicious in pursuing defendants."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Big brother comes to Univeristy

Troy University in Alabama has reportedly decided that the way to ensure the integrity of exams taken online is to install a camera in the student's home to monitor them during the exam. In addition the device allegedly locks the student's computer to prevent them searching the web for answers whilst taking the exam.

It won't work of course, for the same reasons drm doesn't work and Internet voting doesn't work. The Open University has been doing distance teaching and assessment for a long time now. We have not yet found a way to do remote exams in the student's place of residence without having an invigilator present. Generally when it comes to exams, students travel to a local centre at a set time and date, along with their peers in that particular geographic area and take their exams like 'conventional' students. People, following carefully crafted procedures, still trump technology when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the examination process.

Thanks to Michael Geist for the link.

Don't be evil: fight Net censorship

It seems that Google are trying to get back into the good books of cyber-rights geeks by asking the US government to make Internet censorship an international trade issue.

"The online search giant is taking a novel approach to the problem by asking U.S. trade officials to treat Internet restrictions as international trade barriers, similar to other hurdles to global commerce, such as tariffs.

Google sees the dramatic increase in government Net censorship, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, as a potential threat to its advertising-driven business model, and wants government officials to consider the issue in economic, rather than just political, terms.

"It's fair to say that censorship is the No. 1 barrier to trade that we face," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of public policy and government affairs. A Google spokesman said Monday that McLaughlin has met with officials from the U.S. Trade Representative's office several times this year to discuss the issue.

"If censorship regimes create barriers to trade in violation of international trade rules, the USTR would get involved," USTR spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said. She added though that human rights issues, such as censorship, typically falls under the purview of the State Department."