Friday, September 21, 2007


Gikii 2 was a big success on Wednesday. Thanks to all who made it such an interesting day. The presentations are available online. I didn't use PowerPoint slides this time (I rarely do any more, partly for reasons explained much better by Edward Tufte, though some of the presenters showed how it can be a great aid to communication when used effectively) but the paper of my short talk is here.

Update: The entertaining Fernando Barrio has posted his thoughts on the conference.

RIAA Sends Another Wave Of Settlement Letters

RIAA Sends Another Wave Of Settlement Letters Not a lot more to say about that really that hasn't already been said many times before.

Family sues Virgin Mobile over use of Texas teen's photo in advertisement

Here's an interesting case. It seems Virgin Mobile in Australia used a photo from Flickr in their adverts. The photographer had posted the photo with a creative commons license. But the family of the girl, Alison Chang, in the photo are suing Virgin for causing her grief and humiliation.

"The picture of 16-year-old Chang flashing a peace sign was taken at an April church car wash by Alison's youth counselor, who posted it that day on his Flickr page, according to Alison's brother, Damon. In the ad, Virgin Mobile printed one of its campaign slogans, "Dump your pen friend," over Alison's picture.

The ad also says "Free text virgin to virgin" at the bottom.

The experience damaged Alison's reputation and exposed her to ridicule from her peers and scrutiny from people who can now Google her, the family charged in the lawsuit."

The case raise some quite tricky questions about intellectual property, attribution, damage to reputation and privacy. I suspect it is one of those that will be settled out of court but worth watching.

Fashion and the piracy paradox

James Surowiecki has been applying his wisdom of crowds mind to intellectual property in the fashion industry.

"In 1932, a group of American fashion manufacturers found themselves beset by a proliferation of cheap knockoffs. Designs, then as now, were not protected by patents or copyrights, so the manufacturers decided to take direct action to stop the copying. They set up the Fashion Originators Guild of America to monitor retailers and keep track of original designs; if you look at vintage dresses from the thirties, you can find labels reading “A registered original design with Fashion Originators Guild.” Retailers selling knockoffs were “red-carded,” and guild members wouldn’t sell their merchandise to red-carded stores. This was unpopular with the retailers, but it seems to have put a damper on the copying. The only hitch in the plan was that it was illegal: in 1941, the Supreme Court ruled that the manufacturers’ arrangement violated antitrust law, and the knockoff artists stayed in business."

He (or at least two law professor's whose paper he's been reading) reckons that obsolescence in the industry only comes about through widespread copying which then provides an incentive for designers to produce the next big thing.

"More striking, a recent paper by the law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman suggests that weak intellectual-property rules, far from hurting the fashion industry, have instead been integral to its success. The professors call this effect “the piracy paradox.”

The paradox stems from the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion: for the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they must also become dissatisfied with them, so that they’ll buy next year’s."

Spy czar urges extension of warrantless-wiretap law

From Spy czar urges extension of warrantless-wiretap law

NYT drop subscription fees

The NYT are going to drop their subscription fees. It seems their bean counters have been doing some sums and figured out ad revenues from increased traffic to a 'free' site would be worth more than subscription fees.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

WSJ on Microsoft's EU Waterloo

The Wall Street Journal folk are less than impressed that the EU court of first instance rejected Microsoft's appeal against the EU's antitrust ruling. (Full article only available to subscribers)

"The ruling by the European Union's second most powerful court was a judicial slam dunk for Brussels. The court upheld the European Commission's 2004 judgment that Microsoft had abused the dominance of its Windows operating system... and affirmed the record €497 million fine that Brussels levied on the company.

The decision was clear and emphatic... We can't think of anything else good to say about this outcome...

Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, points out that Apple's iPod dominates the MP3 player market, in which Microsoft's Zune is the underdog, and that Google's search engine has whipped Microsoft's MSN and all other comers... Mr. Smith seems to be implying that two can play at this game of making "strategic complaints."

Firms that do so risk little of their own time, energy or money. Once it takes up a case, the Commission does the heavy lifting. The targeted companies incur huge costs to defend themselves. European regulators, and now judges, apparently believe that the proper venue for competition among technology companies is in the courtrooms rather than research labs. Everyone will be worse off, except, of course, lawyers."

Update: The EU Commissioner is not very happy with the DOJ for criticised the Microsoft decision in the EU Court of First Instance.

"A U.S. official's criticism of a European Union court ruling dismissing Microsoft's monopoly abuse appeal was "totally unacceptable," EU antitrust chief Neelie Kroes said Wednesday.

Kroes said it was wrong for a representative of the U.S. administration to criticize "an independent court of law outside its jurisdiction."

"The European Commission does not pass judgment on rulings by U.S. courts and we expect the same degree of respect from U.S. authorities on rulings by EU courts," she said. "It is absolutely not done.""

Volkswagen and the Nazi YouTube parody

According to Wired magazine, Volkswagen are having a legal dispute with YouTube.

"A legal spat between YouTube and Volkswagen is throwing light on the increasing copyright surveillance of social networking sites.

Volkswagen has filed a subpoena seeking the identity of a YouTube user who posted a Nazi-themed parody of a recent VW Golf commercial. Volkswagen's move underscores the privacy risks to a blossoming community of users on sites like YouTube and Yahoo Video, and social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Neglected diseases, differential pricing and drug patents

Nature had some interesting articles on incentives for development and distribution of and access to drugs for neglected diseases in a recent edition. See in particular:

Neglected Diseases: At what price? by Patricia M. Danzon

Neglected Diseases: The road to recovery by Carlos M. Morel et al


Neglected Diseases: Patent sense by Paul Herrling

Thanks to Thiru Balasubramaniam via the A2K list for the pointer.

Microsoft lose the latest round in EU

Microsoft has lost its appeal against the EU's antitrust ruling in the EU's court of first instance, right off the back of numerous US states requesting that the overseer of the company's US antitrust agreement extend her supervision of the company due to its approach to compliance on that side of the pond. Don't expect this to be the end of the story. Microsoft's lawyers are very smart.

Update: The FFII agree that Microsoft's lawyers are very smart:
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) says that Microsoft was expecting the 17 September verdict of the EU's anti-trust case, and will exploit software patents to keep its monopoly grip on the global IT market.

FFII president Pieter Hintjens explains, "The decision seems positive but it is five years out of date. During that time, Microsoft has lobbied for software patents in Europe and bought patents on many trivial concepts. It has claimed patent violations against Linux, put patent timebombs into its formats and interfaces, and turned fear of patents into a core part of its business strategy. It will now open its formats, because that lets it extend its software patent franchise even further."

EU Commission: UK failed to implement a third of the Data Protection Directive

Following the EU's investigation the UK's implementation of the data protection directive, the Commission has surprisingly expressed dissatisfaction with the UK approach to about a third of the Directive.

"The articles of the Directive which the Commission claims have not been implemented properly are articles 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 22, 23, 25 and 28 – just under a third of the 34 articles in the Directive.

These Articles relate to: the definitions used in the Directive (e.g. the meaning of personal data); the scope of the Directive's application to manual files; the conditions when sensitive personal data can be processed; the fair processing notices give to individuals; the rights granted to data subjects; the application of exemptions from these rights; the ability of individuals to seek a remedy when there is a breach; the liability of organisations for breaches of data protection law; the transfer of personal data outside European Union; and the powers of the Information Commissioner.

Data Protection expert Dr Chris Pounder of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that the extent of the objections reflects official attitude towards data protection policy. "All UK Governments involved in implementing the Directive have had a policy of minimising the Data Protection Directive's effect," he said. "The number of problems raised by the Commission seem to indicate that the UK Government may have misjudged the situation and minimised the effect of too many obligations"."

Thanks to Glyn via ORG for the pointer. The UK government had until recently been keeping the details of the EU's complaints under wraps but it seems Out-Law got the information via a freedom of information request. It's a coincidence that the details should begin to emerge now since I had just posted a note about loopholes in privacy legislation to the ORG list in recent days :

"The idea that regulation is a cure for privacy problems is widely held but I don't subscribe to it.

The EU and its member states have mountains of privacy regulations. Frequently when these regulations come under pressure, such as with the EU-US safe harbour provisions for transfer of personal data or the PNR agreement with the US, they buckle. In addition there are numerous loopholes that dedicated privacy regulation evaders can drive a coach and horses through. Even where the loopholes don't apply and in the face of the efforts of people like the Information Commissioner to explain the dangers and sound legal opinions to the effect that they will breach existing privacy regulations, the government still push through ID cards, the Children's Index database ContactPoint, data retention and an unending stream of terror, crime, immigration and other laws and regulations that undermine current protections (at best, though some would argue they destroy the existing protections completely).

Privacy is a complex issue and can't be addressed through regulation alone any more than complex systemic messes like terrorism or immigration can be solved by regulation (and imagined magical computer systems that keep everyone under surveillance then point out the
baddies) alone. Privacy levels and awareness are an emergent property of a whole series of complicated interracting and dynamic factors, relating to social, psychological, market, environmental, technological (in the Lessig architectural sense or possibly more accurately in the Kim Cameron/ Stefan Brands/ Caspar Bowden/ Ben Laurie/ etc. architectural sense) prevailing winds (and I'm sure members of the list can think of many more).

Apologies for the rant."

MediaDefender Internal Emails leaked on BitTorrent

From TorrentFreak:

"When we reported in July that an Anti-Piracy Gang Launches their own Video Download Site to Trap People and that the company was called Media Defender and, as anyone who aims to be a credible news resource would, we checked and double checked our sources. We said, with some confidence:

Media Defender, a notorious anti piracy gang working for the MPAA, RIAA and several independent media production companies, just launched their very own video upload service called “”. The sole purpose of the site is to trap people into uploading copyrighted material, and bust them for doing so.

However, in comments made to Ars technica, Media Defender’s Randy Saaf chose to rubbish our claims, calling it an ‘accidentally un-secured internal project’.

From the emails we cannot be sure that it’s an entrapment site or that it is related to the MPAA (perhaps it’s a legit a P2P video client?), but it does look suspicious.

Unfortunately for Media Defender - a company dedicated to mitigating the effects of internet leaks - they can do nothing about being the subject of the biggest BitTorrent leak of all time. Over 700mb of their own internal emails, dating back over 6 months have been leaked to the internet in what will be a devastating blow to the company. Many are very recent, having September 2007 dates and the majority involve the most senior people in the company. Apparently this is not the first time that a MediaDefender email leaked onto the Internet."

Interesting insight into the kind of tactics being used by the entertainment industry to combat online copying and distribution of their wares. It also raises loads of interesting legal questions. If this one is genuine, for example:


Another thing we can do to increase Google and other search engine traffic is to get more link-ins. At the next MiiVi meeting, I’m going to ask Randy for permission to incentivize people to link-in a MiiVi video on their MySpace. Colin is already doing this and it helps the word-of-mouth spread, even if the link-ins are nominal. I’m not sure what we could do in the link-in regard early on, but getting the cumulative ~1000+ MySpace friends of MediaDefender employees to see MiiVi link-ins can’t hurt….

Colin — start coming up with a list the list of keywords and descriptors for hidden metadata entries, per Dylan’s e-mail below.


Wouldn't it amount to entrapment? It certainly suggests a honeypot at least, which MediaDefender has apparently denied. The very Mr Randy Saaf who made the denials though has apparently been actively trying to hide teh company's connection with the honeypot site.

"From: Randy Saaf
Sent: Wed 6/13/2007 12:54 AM
To: Colin Keller
Cc: Ben Grodsky; Steve Lyons; Jay Mairs
Subject: miivi emails


Set up your email so that you always reply with a,, or an address respectively. I don’t want MediaDefender anywhere in your email replies to people contacting Miivi. Steve and Ben can help you set up your email for this. Make sure MediaDefender can not be seen in any of the hidden email data crap that smart people can look in.

I am setting up to forward to


This one could run for a while.