Thursday, May 29, 2008

Finnish appeals court overturns controversial CSS ruling

From Afterdawn: Finnish appeals court overturns controversial CSS ruling

"The Helsinki Court of Appeals has overturned a controversial ruling made last year, which found that CSS copy protection in use on almost all retail movie DVDs was "ineffective". Finnish copyright law (amended in 2006 by adoption of EUCD) prohibits circumventing "effective technological measures", but the court original found that CSS cannot be described as an "efficient copy protection mechanism" anymore...

However, there have been two major errors claimed in the appeals court decision. Firstly, the court claimed that circumventing an access control would have been legal but that the defendants had circumvented a full copy protection system (CSS). In reality, the defendants actually had only circumvented an access control.

Secondly, the court found that the circumvention was only legally ok if no additional software was installed to perform the process, and claimed that you always need to install some form of "hack" software to watch DVDs on Linux. Again, this is not true as you can get legal players that can play DVDs"

Thanks to Rob Myers via the ORG list for the link.

ACTA takes aim at iPods

From the Ottawacitizen:

"The Canadian government is secretly negotiating an agreement to revamp international copyright laws which could make information on iPods, laptops and other personal electronic devices illegal and greatly increase the difficulty of travelling with such devices.

The agreement could also impose strict regulations on Internet service providers, forcing those companies to hand over customer information without a court order.

Called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the new plan would see Canada join other countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, to form an international coalition against copyright infringement.

Details of the agreement, which is expected to be tabled at July's meeting of G8 nations in Tokyo, were leaked on the Internet on Friday.

The agreement is being structured much like the North American Free Trade Agreement, except it would create rules and regulations regarding private copying and copyright laws. Federal trade agreements do not require parliamentary approval.

The agreement would create an international regulator that would turn border guards and other public security personnel into copyright police. The security officials would be charged with checking laptops, iPods and even cellular phones for content that "infringes" on copyright laws, such as ripped CDs and movies.

The guards would also be responsible for determining which content infringes on copyright laws."

The ACTA document is available here and here.

Blackberry spurns Indian spy call

From th BBC: Blackberry spurns Indian spy call

"The Canadian manufacturer of Blackberry mobile phones has rejected demands by the Indian government that it help decrypt suspicious text messages.

Research in Motion says its technology does not allow any third party - even the company itself - to read information sent over its network.

The Indian authorities have been reluctant to allow the widespread use of Blackberries in the country.

They fear militants and criminals may take advantage of the secure system.

A number of other countries around the world have expressed similar fears. "

Jury hands feds first guilty verdict for Web music piracy

From CNet news blog:

"For the first time ever, the federal government has successfully won a jury verdict against someone accused of illegally downloading music, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A jury in Alexandria, Va, found Barry Gitarts, 25, allegedly a member of Internet music piracy group, Apocalypse Production Crew (APC), was found guilty of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

Gitarts faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and must make full restitution, according to a statement released by the DOJ. "

Belgian copyright group demands Google pay up to €49 million

From the IHT: Belgian copyright group demands Google pay up to €49 million
"Belgian French-language newspapers said Tuesday they want search engine Google Inc. to pay up to €49 million (US$77 million) in damages for publishing and storing their content without permission.

The newspaper copyright group Copiepresse said it had summoned Google to appear again before a Brussels court in September that will decide on their claim that they suffered damages of between €32.8 million (US$51.7 million) and €49.2 million (US$77.5 million).

The group called on Google to pay a provisional amount of €4 million (US$6.3 million)."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nottingham student to be deported for accessing 'terrorism manual' on US government site

On the face of it, this story about a student being arrested and marked for imminent deportation because he dowloaded a research document - described by the Gaurdian as 'the al-Qaida training manual' - from a US government website, should be of concern not just to academics, students and university administrators, but to every citizen. The government's repeated leaning on universities and academics to report any student that might possibly engage in suspicious behaviour showed shades of Mao's cultural revolution and the former eastern bloc communist states. But few outside of the civil liberties community took them too seriously because of the "it could never happen here" mindset and the relatively benign and generally welcoming nature of the UK and its governing infrastructure.

It is difficult to know for sure, without complete details of the case, what parameters in particular led to the authorities' decision to deport the man at the centre of this controversy. Inevitably, though, when paranoia and fear are widely promoted, as they have been by politicians and the media in the wake of the 11th September 2001 attacks, innocent people suffer. Friends of Hicham Yezza, the student facing deportation, have set up a website to campaign for his release.

Polly Curtis and Martin Hodgson at the Guardian say:

"A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the "psychological torture" he endured in custody.

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a "prevent agenda" against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.

Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrator's computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabir's family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation...

A spokesman for Nottingham University said it had a duty to inform police of "material of this nature". The spokesman said it was "not legitimate research material", but later amended that view, saying: "If you're an academic or a registered student then you have very good cause to access whatever material your scholarship requires. But there is an expectation that you will act sensibly within current UK law and wouldn't send it on to any Tom, Dick or Harry."

At its annual conference next week the University and College Union will debate a motion on "assaults on academic freedom by the DIUS [Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills]". Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: "If we really want to tackle problems like extremism and terrorism, then we need to be safe to explore the issues and get a better understanding. The last thing we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue or research a subject because they fear being arrested or reported."

The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, said: "The government does not want to or has never asked for staff or students to spy on their colleagues or friends. We want universities to work with staff and students on campus to isolate and challenge the very small minority who promote violent extremism.""

I suspect Mr Hicham Yezza and his friends and colleagues at Nottingham will derive little consolation from such sophistry on the part of the minister, who as someone in charge of Higher Education, should know better. Could I suggest the minister read ( or re-read?) Professor Ian Loader's letter to Tony Blair when he was the Prime Minister advising him about balance in the criminal justice system.

Update: The Resistance Studies Network at the University of Göteborg are suggesting academics should protest by downloading the manual. They provide a link containing the files but the DOJ has now removed the manual from its website.

Monday, May 26, 2008

DRM on Nokia phones

The drm on nokia phones locks N-Gage games to individual handsets, so when you upgrade you need to buy a new copy of the game. Nokia gamers are not very happy.

"Nokia has said it is "working on a solution" to allow people to transfer N-Gage games between handsets.

The announcement was made following anger by gamers who found out that titles bought for a handset were locked to the device forever.

Nokia said it had made the decision to lock down the system to prevent piracy and guarantee revenue for games makers."