Friday, February 22, 2008

The euphemisim that is IP

Cory Doctorow explains in the Guardian why he believes "intellectual property" is a silly euphemism.

""Intellectual property" is one of those ideologically loaded terms that can cause an argument just by being uttered. The term wasn't in widespread use until the 1960s, when it was adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a trade body that later attained exalted status as a UN agency.

WIPO's case for using the term is easy to understand: people who've "had their property stolen" are a lot more sympathetic in the public imagination than "industrial entities who've had the contours of their regulatory monopolies violated", the latter being the more common way of talking about infringement until the ascendancy of "intellectual property" as a term of art.

Does it matter what we call it? Property, after all, is a useful, well-understood concept in law and custom, the kind of thing that a punter can get his head around without too much thinking.

That's entirely true - and it's exactly why the phrase "intellectual property" is, at root, a dangerous euphemism that leads us to all sorts of faulty reasoning about knowledge. Faulty ideas about knowledge are troublesome at the best of times, but they're deadly to any country trying to make a transition to a "knowledge economy".

Fundamentally, the stuff we call "intellectual property" is just knowledge - ideas, words, tunes, blueprints, identifiers, secrets, databases. This stuff is similar to property in some ways: it can be valuable, and sometimes you need to invest a lot of money and labour into its development to realise that value."

Google to Store Patients' Health Records

From AP via Findlaw:

"Google Inc. will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand people as it tests a long-awaited health service that's likely to raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information entrusted to the Internet search leader.

The pilot project to be announced Thursday will involve 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google's new service, which won't be open to the general public."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

US Supreme Court reject ACLU challenge to Bush wiretapping

The US Supreme Court has reportedly rejected the ACLU's appeal to hear its challenge to the Bush administration's mass domestic spying program. They gave no reasons for the decision but the Appeals Court had previously rejected the challenge because the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored.

Given the ACLU had evidence, as I recall, from an AT&T engineer who witnesses the installation and operation of the wiretapping equipment at a central exchange the decision would have been very narrowly construed. It might be interesting to see what might happen if the plaintiffs could produce someone who could demonstrate they had been spied upon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Net news archives threaten court cases and should be removed

The former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has reportedly said that news archives on the internet threaten the integrity of some court cases and should be removed.

"Articles relating to high-profile court cases should be removed from online news archives, the former Lord Chancellor has told the BBC.

Lord Falconer believes the action is necessary to avoid news stories written before a case influencing its outcome.

Action would be necessary for around 20 cases a year, he said, in trials which attract a lot of pre-trial coverage."

Thanks to Glyn at ORG for the pointer.

ICO: Data-breach spate 'no worse' than normal

From ZDNet:


The Information Commissioner's Office has said that the rash of data-breach reports in the past five months is due not to more data breaches, but to more people admitting to them.

HM Revenue & Customs' loss of 25 million details of people claiming and receiving child benefit was the catalyst for a surge of data-loss reports, an ICO spokesperson told on Friday.

"More people are stepping forward as they realise the importance of data breaches," said the spokesperson. "We don't think the situation is any worse. Back in July last year we highlighted the need for more data protection."

The ICO released its annual report in July 2007, which criticised "horrifying" security lapses at some of the UK's largest companies."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How the money was really spent by the music industry in the 1990s

John Niven, a former A&R (Artiste and Repertoire) man in the music business explains in the Times where a lot of the money pouring into the music industry in the 1990s really went.

"Post-graduation, in the early Nineties, I was certain of two seemingly contradictory things. 1) I didn't want a proper job of any description just yet, thank you very much, and 2) I wanted - after four years of university plus two of playing guitar in a penniless indie band - to earn some money. Both lazy and avaricious, without even knowing it I was already an ideal candidate for a career in the music business...

The marketing meetings were an eye-opener. Records were “this useless, stinking piece of shit”. Artists were “clowns”, “losers” and “spastics”. Like many a bright-eyed newbie before me I was quickly, viciously, disabused of the notion that record companies loved music.

It also soon became apparent that, if you were lazy and avaricious enough, there was only one area of the music business to be in. The kind of area where you could reasonably expect to be handed a six-figure salary, a BMW and a bottomless expense account in return for rolling out of bed at noon. A&R - Artiste and Repertoire, to give the full handle - is responsible for finding and developing new talent...

There is a Hunter S.Thompson quote that has become the music industry's Magna Carta: “The music industry is a cruel and shallow money-trench. A long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.” It's appropriate enough given that the dominant emotions within A&R culture are fear and loathing: fear that you had - or were about to - signed the wrong thing. Loathing because one of your peers had just signed the right thing...

As you've probably gathered, there was a problem with my A&R career. I was absolutely terrible at it. But then again, so was everyone else. You were a success if you could produce a profitable act every two or three years...

jetting off every other month to some exotic location for a “convention”; a scarcely credible four-day holocaust of drugs and expense-account abuse. Miami for the Winter Music Conference, Cannes for MIDEM, Cologne for Pop Komm, New York for CMJ, Texas for South by South West: hundreds of A&R men spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on flights and entertainment. In a good year these conventions might produce one signing of note."

Read the whole thing and think about it the next time you hear anyone calling for copyright term extension to sound recordings in order to ensure old, poor, retired artists get their pensions.