Tuesday, 31 March 2009

To Dig & Sow

To Dig & Sow
                   This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
It's 360 years since Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers earned their place in English history - with a political doctrine arguing for the rights for the common man to earn their keep from the land, working collectively and in common. They were turbulent times - the monarchy had fallen and been replaced by the English Commonwealth, but still a ruling elite were steadily seizing common land to private ownership - and the poor were starving.

The movement involved relatively few people but the political ideas they put forward - argued from their religious faith - have sent ripples down the centuries. Their tale is well told in Leon Roselssons 'The World Turned Up Side Down' - here on Youtube..

With 360 years being in some degree full circle I thought I'd mark the occassion with some work of my own - a series of watercolours of which this is the first....

Simply put

Rick Falkvinge lifts a quote from ChrisK that provides a pithy comment on the current state of affairs....

"Sometimes I take a step backwards and think (it doesn't happen so often). But how did we even arrive in the situation where freedom of expression and freedom of information is put in the balance with something so banal as copyright? They are not even playing in the same league - more than that, they're completely different sports. And poker sites? Wtf!!
Three of four (Swedish) constitutional laws are about freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Since when did offended copyright holders and gaming monopolies have anything at all do do with it?"

(My translation.. which is of course a derivative work that I should have asked permission for...?!)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

IPRED... legally illegal

"The court is of the opinion that data retention violates the fundamental right to privacy. It is not necessary in a democratic society. The individual does not provoke the interference but can be intimidated by the risks of abuse and the feeling of being under surveillance [...] The directive [on data retention] does not respect the principle of proportionality guaranteed in Article 8 ECHR, which is why it is invalid."

A court in Wiesbaden has ruled on the legality of implementing the measures called for in IPRED. Sweden meanwhile has passed it into law... despite the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) being the foundation for the Swedish constitution. But hej, what are principles for anyway???

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Justice at Bay

The Pirate Bay trial is over... so for those that haven't been following it, here's my brief summary...

Filesharing is a criminal offence in Sweden.

The Pirate Bay is a site that links to Torrentfiles - which in turn link to parts of files that can be downloaded and assembled by a torrent client. The site doesn't link to copyright material or participate in the transfer. (Something the prosecution didn't seem to understand)

Torrent allows distribution of files - it is copyright neutral. There are many people that use it for distributing copyright material - but others that use it for other types of work.

The prosecution wants a conviction because by running a Torrent tracker the Pirate Bay makes it easier for users to find copyright material to download. And downloading according to them costs them money - and The Pirate Bay has money from advertising revenues. And they want BIG damages to scare other alleged offenders.

The defence says:
  • The Pirate Bay should be covered by the EU e-trade directive - which says that the service provider is not responsible for the information provided on the service. This is the same as the telephone company not being liable if I use the phone to arrange a crime, or use the phone book to look up a criminal's number.
  • That the Pirate Bay has not been directly involved in downloading and linking is not illegal. The prosecution say it is (a proposition that has enormous consequences for other Internet use).
  • That the prosecution has built a case on what the Pirate Bay site does - but not shown any concrete link from any individual to any of the concrete cases of copying the case builds on - and that the law requires that they show individual culpability.

The prosecution have argued for enormous damages based on each download being a lost sale - plus additional damages for copying of pre-released material. The lost sales argument is bogus - a fraction of free downloads would become sales if only charged for downloads were available. Also - the damage to the media company of lost sales is a fraction of the retail price - given that they have not incurred any material costs themselves for the download. Particular losses due to pre-released material must surely be a responsibility of those that copied and uploaded he unpublished work? Does the Pirate Bay Site differentiate what the release status of linked torrent files are?

My take is that the media industry have lost income through filesharing - empirically it seems reasonable - but nowhere near their unrealistic claim. And the Pirate Bay has contributed to an infrastructure that make file sharing possible. But file sharing is copyright neutral.

Most probably the accused sympathise with illegal file sharing and are politically opposed to copyright - but they are not on trial for their views. If the e-trade directive holds - or it is legal to run a search service that among it's links includes copyright sources - or if it's not proven beyond reasaonable doubt that they individually contributed to a the specific cases examined - then regardless what political message it sends these guys should go free.

The verdict..

..is announced in April

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

All is not well in the state of...


Two separate news items caught my attention today on Pakistan.  The first was simply sad -  an attack on the players from the Sri Lankan test team...  which, as the saying goes, is simply not cricket.  While (almost) unheard of here, cricket has a huge following in the Indian sub-continent which means this attack will get lots of press coverage and affect peoples attitudes much more perhaps than attacks on tourists at the beach.  However, given the popular support for the sport it doesn't seem like the sort of attack that will go far in winning hearts and minds.  We can hope so in any case....

The other report was much less high profile - but potentially more deadly.  Rival taliban groups in Pakistans Waziristan region are to settle their differences and unite against US forces.  What's most disturbing for me in this is hearing just how much control these extremist groups have within Pakistan - they seem to have fought the Pakistani government to a truce. And the government have now accepted the introduction of Sharia law in the area which sounds pretty much like abdicating control....  

Simply dumb

The Guardian reports that Amazon have caved in to demands by the Authors Guild to give authors controlling rights to remove the text to speech option on their Kindle 2 ebook service.  The service lets you listen to a compute generated voice reading the ebook -  but,  complains the Writers Guild, Amazon's agreements don't give it audio rights to the books.  All of which reads like copyright out of control...

And remember now... you can show this to your friends... but no reading it aloud!

Monday, 2 March 2009

In search of the Pied Piper

In  two curious articles Dagens Nyheter has been trying to dish the dirt on who is behind the opposition in the blogosphere to Swedens new FRA law.  That's the one that says the state can monitor all cross border communications all the time.

It is in a sense a good question -  political 'rent a mobs' have been a part of politics since roman times.  But is it relevant here?  People on all sides of the political spectrum have spoken out against this law and it's implications for personal privacy.  It would come as no surprise to find that those that object to it include people with intellect, initiative and resources - and that some of those are prepared to actively oppose it.  And yes, some of the people that think it's wrong might have spoken with one another and said "What the f*** are we going to do about this crock of s***."

Does that make a storm in the blogosphere into a conspiracy?  I think not. If PR companies could readily manipulate what a stream of individuals choose to write about then I'm sure the relevant question would be 'How much money and resources did the government lay down to generate a favourable tide of opinion to support this?'.  

Though perhaps that is still a relevant question - just how much has the goverment spent to try and 'form' public opinion on this question.  And just as pointedly - how much has the FRA spent to promote the introduction of this law.  What is their mandate to try and form public opinion after their own interests (It is not after all for them to decide what is in the best interests of either the state or the population).

And for that matter... the one group we know is being paid to write about this are journalists - own up guys.  What's your agenda?