Friday, January 29, 2010

Interpol chief questions body scanner rollout

From the Register:
"The head of Interpol has questioned whether the ongoing scramble by western governments to install body scanners at airports is financially worthwhile and said they are is unlikely to stop terrorists."
Good for him!

Geist: ACTA part 5

Part 5 of Michael Geist's guide to ACTA is now available.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Liberal Democrats support strip search machines?

Liberal Democrat MEP, Sarah Ludford has been pontificating about digital strip search machines in the Guardian.
"So the Westminster parliament and European Union lawmakers (including MEPs) must not only guarantee to the travelling public that their images will be deleted. They must also ensure that body scanners will not be physically capable of storage and transmission. This seems the only way to guarantee that the state will not try to further invade our privacy in future, and that images of celebrities, children or others will not find their way onto the internet and TV. Our fundamental human right to a private life demands no less."
No Ms Ludford.  The only way to ensure these machines are not used to invade our privacy is to ban them. 

This woman is the Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman.  To echo Elizabeth Wilmhurst at yesterday's Chilcot hearing it is extraordinary that the political chattering classes can view the world through such distorted lenses as to assume the deployment of strip search machines for the masses is a reasonable response to a failed bomb plot. Remember that these machines do strip search but don't detect incendiary materials.

I wonder what Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman and others who fought two world wars in the name of freedom would have made of the inheritors of their legacy?  Ben Franklin might be tempted to draw on one of his own quotes:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The cost of 3 strikes regimes

More from Michael Geist, this time on ACTA and the cost of 3 strikes regimes.

"Canadian officials travel to Guadalajara, Mexico this week to resume negotiations on the still-secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The discussion is likely to turn to the prospect of supporting three strikes and you’re out systems that could result in thousands of people losing access to the Internet based on three allegations of copyright infringement. Leaked ACTA documents indicate that encouraging the adoption of three-strikes - often euphemistically described as “graduated response” for the way Internet providers gradually send increasingly threatening warnings to subscribers - has been proposed for possible inclusion in the treaty.

While supporters claim that three strikes is garnering increasing international acceptance, the truth is implementation in many countries is a mixed bag. Countries such as Germany and Spain have rejected it, acknowledging criticisms that loss of Internet access for up to a year for an entire household is a disproportionate punishment for unproven, non-commercial infringement."

Geist ACTA guide part 2

Speaking of ACTA, here's Michael Geist's ACTA guide part 2.

"Negotiations in the 7th round of the ACTA talks open this morning in Mexico with civil enforcement issues on the agenda.  Yesterday I postedon the developments to-date, including a chronology of talks, issues, and leaks that have led to this week's round of discussions...

Of far greater importance are the leaked documents.  These have confirmed how the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is designed to extend far beyond counterfeiting and how it would reshape domestic law in many countries, including Canada.  Links to all the leaks are posted below.  Note that many are dated and therefore reflect initial thinking but may have changed over the course of recent discussions.

James Boyle: Obama record on tech policy is mixed

James Boyle has another terrific article in the FT, this time on Obama's mixed record on tech policy

"Let us start 2010 with some good news. In June of last year, I wrote about the Obama Administration’s record on technology policy. There was much to praise in the reinvigoration of the FCC’s commitment to “net neutrality,” (the commitment to a non-discriminatory internet) and a lot to hope for in terms of patent policy.
Unfortunately, in the copyright realm, the Obama administration had devoted itself, like its predecessors, largely to a content industry agenda which has given us mind-numbingly long copyright terms, intrusive legally backed digital rights management, and even a new proposal to cut individuals off from the internet simply for being accused, three times, of illicit downloading."
He goes on to discuss the US's changed stance on the WIPO copyright exceptions treaty for the visually impaired - having originally opposed it the US now supports it - and the secret ACTA negotiations, which if "this were to be debated in public in London or Paris or Washington, those proposals would meet with furious objections by everyone from civil libertarians to the communications and consumer electronics industry."  Read the whole thing. You can't beat James for succinct, engaging, educational reporting on intellectual property and this stuff is incredibly important.

Digital Economy bill debate: quote of the week

Via the wonderful Lilian Edwards, the quote of the week in the House of Lords debate on the government's Digital Economy bill came from Lord Lucas:
"We have to be careful about setting out to criminalise, as he says, a large proportion of our population, particularly when it involves putting them not in the hands of the criminal law with all the safeguards, care and rationality that involves, but in the hands of firms of solicitors who are out to make a

12 Jan 2010 : Column 423

buck from the process. None of these people are nice to deal with."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Court drops Jammie Thomas P2P damages from $1.9 million to $54,000

From Ars Technica:
"Judge Michael Davis is the senior federal jurist in Minnesota. He presides over the gleaming 15th floor courtroom where, earlier this year, P2P user Jammie Thomas-Rasset was slapped with $1.92 million in damages for sharing 24 songs. Davis made no comment on the amount of the award and showed no emotion as it was read out.
But now we know how he rely feels about the jury's work in that case: it led to a "monstrous and shocking" damage award that veered into "the realm of gross injustice."
Davis used his power of remittitur today to slash the damage award by 97.2 percent, from $1.92 million down to $54,000—and he suggested that even this lower amount was too high."