Saturday, October 10, 2009

ContactPoint propaganda home from school

My son came home from school with a copy of the ContactPoint promotional leaflet yesterday.  He had read the leaflet by the time he gave it to me today and explained that it's 'supposed' to make it quicker and more efficient to help children.  I told him what a bad idea it was and why; and even at 11 years old he was flabbergasted that the govenrment seem to believe they can keep kids safe by putting all their personal details on a database to which a third to a half a million people have access to as a routine part of their job.
"They just can't be that stupid dad?!"
When I also explained that the details of the children of prominent politicians and celebrities would be kept off the database he was more than a little indignant.
"Well I suppose they have a point in one way, dad. Lots of people are interested in those people and their families but if it is not safe for them how can it be safe for the rest of us?!!!"
 I couldn't have put it better myself. In fact I'd have been significantly less polite.

Winny P2P creator acquited by Japanes high court

"A Japanese high court acquitted the developer of a free file-sharing program Thursday in a high-profile case over copyright law, a court official said.

The high court reversed a 2006 ruling by a lower court that imposed a fine of $17,000 on Isamu Kaneko, 39, said the court official, who declined to be named, citing department policy...

In the 2006 ruling, a judge said Winny assisted in the perpetration of crimes...

But Presiding Judge Masazo Ogura rejected the initial verdict, saying it "cannot be said that the defendant published the software to encourage copyright infringement," according to Kyodo News Agency"
Kaneko was an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo when originally arrested in 2004.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Eolas roll out the patent lawyers again

From CNet News:
"Eolas Technologies, a company that ground through a years-long patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft, now has sued a large swath of corporate powers for infringement of that same patent and another related patent concerning interactive programs on Web sites.
The list of defendants includes many high-profile companies inside and outside the tech world: Adobe Systems, Amazon, Apple, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, Go Daddy, Google, J.C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises, Staples, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Yahoo, and YouTube.
Eolas' suit is not to be taken lightly. Although the earlier Microsoft case took many years to resolve, and Eolas by no means won a complete victory, the patent involved did overall withstand heavy legal challenges despite many on the Web rallying to Microsoft's aid. Microsoft and Eolas won't describe terms of their 2007 settlement of the patent case"
Update - apologies for losing the CNet link, hopefully now fixed.

3 strikes UK style?

Monica Horten reports that details of the UK government's proposed three strikes plans have been drafted by the music industry.
"Parking-fine style Internet suspension may be proposed by the British government, as a sanction for against peer-to-peer users who are alleged to have infringed  copyright...

The new element is that the users will get a final warning, telling them that a "technical measure" will be applied. The warning notice will give  them  opportunity to appeal before the measure is applied. The appeal will be made to a panel of adjudicators. The panel will comprise legally-trained people, but it is not envisaged that they will be judges, and it is not even clear whether it will be a formal institution or a call centre.

The "parking fine" element is that users would receive a lesser technical measure if they do not appeal, or conversely, they would risk a more severe measure - possibly a longer period of being cut off the Internet - if they do appeal and lose...
It's  understood that the new  proposals were drawn up by the  British music industry at the request of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The request was apparently made because Amendment 138 in the EU Telecoms Package is a problem."
Update: Meanwhile the Council of Ministers in negotiation with representatives of the EU parliament has proposed an addendum to the original amendment 138 to the telecoms package.
"Proposition for Article 1.3.a of the Framework directive.

"Measures taken by Member States regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communication networks shall respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, including in relation to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information and due process and the right to effective judicial protection in compliance with the general principles of Community law. Any such measures shall in particular respect the principle of a fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard.
This paragraph is without prejudice to the competence of a Member State to determine in line with its own constitutional order and with fundamental rights appropriate procedural safeguards assuring due process. This may include requirements of a judicial decision authorising the measures to be taken and may take account of the need to adopt urgent measures in order to assure national security, defence, public security, and the prevention, investigation, detection, and prosecution of criminal offences.""
 It's the standard political move - declare the basic freedoms fundamental and provide a universal get out clause for governments which wish to ignore the requirements - and there's a fairly good chance the parliament reps will buy it.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Finnish evote nullified by Supreme Court

The pilot municipal elections done using evoting machines in Finland have recently been nullified by the country's Supreme Administrative Court.  There's a nice Flash animation of how the machines work at the Finnish Ministry of Justice website. Ed Felten has a succinct report.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Princeton FedThread

Ed Felten reports on the latest civic technology project at Princeton.
"Today we are rolling out FedThread, a new way of interacting with the Federal Register. It's the latest civic technology project from our team at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy.
The Federal Register is "[t]he official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents." It's published by the U.S. government, five days a week. The Federal Register tells citizens what their government is doing, in a lot more detail than the news media do.
FedThread makes the Federal Register more open and accessible. FedThread gives users:
  • collaborative annotation: Users can attach a note to any paragraph of the Federal Register; a conversation thread hangs off of every paragraph.
  • advanced search: Users can search the Federal Register (going back to 2000) on full text, by date, agency, and other fields.
  • customized feeds: Any search can be turned into an RSS feed. The resulting feed will include any new items that match the search query. Feeds can be delivered by email as well.
I think FedThread is a nice tool, but what's most amazing to me is that the whole project took only ten days to create. Ten days ago we had no code, no HTML, no plan, not even a block diagram on a whiteboard. Today we launched a pretty good service."
 He also explains that there were 3 primary reasons for them being able to produce such a service in such a short period of time.  Firstly the government provided access to the data in an open standard format, xml, that was easy for the software to handle.  Secondly there a great tech. tools available and thirdly they had a group of smart individuals.  This is right in Tony Hirst writetoreply territory and the potential for these kinds of services built on open access to government data is huge. Congratulations to the Princeton team and hopefully FedThread will get widely used.

Post Office legal threat closes postcode feed

From the BBC:
"Websites that help people find jobs or hospitals have been hit by legal action threatened by the Royal Mail.
The threat was issued against the company supplying them, and many other sites, with postcode data.
Royal Mail said the legal action was threatened to stop "unauthorised access" to the postcode data., which supplied the address data, said it did not have the resources to fight a legal battle so has turned off its feed...
Commenting on its action the Royal Mail said: "We have not asked anyone to close down a website.
"We have simply asked a third party to stop allowing unauthorised access to Royal Mail data, in contravention of our intellectual property rights," it added in a statement."

Monday, October 05, 2009

EU Parliament to discuss Telecoms Amendment 138 with Council of Ministers

According to La Quadrature du Net some representatives from the EU parliament are to get together with counterparts from the Council of Ministers to sort out their differences over a technical amendment to the EU telecoms package.  Amendment 138 would effectively block the implementation of 3 strikes regimes without judicial oversight in member states.

IP geeks will recall that Commissioner Reding released the Commission's official views on the parliaments amendments to the package at the end of July.  Copyfighters were concerned about the penultimate paragraph in that document
"Concerning Amendment 138 the Commission accepted it in its amended proposal after the European Parliament's first reading but supported the European Parliament-Council compromise text afterwards as a balanced solution. The Commission could, therefore, accept the amendment, but will do its utmost to facilitate the emergence of a compromise between the co-legislators on this issue."
Prior to the issuing of that opinion there had been significant manoeuvrings behind the scenes. The amendment was variously dropped and re-worded and the parliament had voted overwhelmingly on two occasions to support it, for example.  There remains considerable mutual animosity between those who support it and those against.  So it will be interesting to see where these latest discussions lead, especially since the French have passed their latest attempt at 3 strikes legislation in mid September and the UK government have indicated a committment to doing likewise.

The amendment itself (now confusingly Amendment 46 (scroll down to page 41/93 in the amendments) reads
"Council common position – amending act
Article 1 – point 8 – point fb (new)
Directive 2002/21/EC
Article 8 – paragraph 4 - point fb (new)
Council common position

(fb) in paragraph 4, point (fb) shall be
“(fb) applying the principle that no
restriction may be imposed on the
fundamental rights and freedoms of endusers,
without a prior ruling by the
judicial authorities, notably in accordance
with Article 11 of the Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European
Union on freedom of expression and
information, save when public security is
threatened in which case the ruling may
be subsequent.”

This AM restores AM 138 adopted in first reading by Parliament on 24 September 2008,
T6/0449/2008 (Rule 62(2)(a))."
The compromise position referred to the in Commission's official views, I believe facilitated the terminations of suspected copyright infringers' internet services but left open a possible right of appeal to an independent tribunal, not necessarily the courts, after the event.  As to the notion of 3 strikes itself, it trips over so many legal, technical and economic hurdles it's difficult to know where to start but I can't beat Lilian Edwards condemnation of the idea at the Musicians Fans and Online Copyright event last year.

Update: The latest French 3 strikes law HADOPI 2 has apparently been referred to the Constitutional Council which declared its predecessor unsconstitutional.

Information underload - lost opportunity for digital archives

Page 3 of this morning's Guardian laments how legal delays have blown a hole in UK's digital heritage.
"Digital literature, online scientific research and internet journalism that should have been saved in the nation's main libraries over the past five years may have been lost because ministers have failed to give them the legal power to copy and archive websites, the Guardian has learned.
Senior executives at the British Library and the National Library of Scotland (NLS) are dismayed that legislation giving them the right to collect online and digital material is still not in force, more than six years after it was passed by parliament.

The omission has meant the libraries – which are legally required to archive books, newspapers and journals – have failed to record online coverage of major events such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the MPs' expenses scandal."