Tuesday, 28 April 2009

They shall not pass....

This is one of my favourite songs... remembering the sacrifice made by the volunteers of the International Brigade in the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

That I found this video tonight is thanks to a clip on Leon Rosselson's MySpace page commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Jamara. At 45 minutes though it's quite long..
It ends with this quote from the leader of the Spanish communist party.

"Sometimes you must be prepared to fight, even without a prospect of victory.. for in that way you leave a heritage, you prepare future battles.
So we fought."

Footnote: Jack Jones MBE, union leader and veteran of the XV International Brigade died last week aged 92. May he Rest in Peace.

Hired men and troopers


"From the men of property the orders came; they sent the hired men & troopers to wipe out the Digger's claim"

Time's change, but some things stay the same...

Lyrics from Leon Rosselson

In defence of privacy...

If you've been following things you'll know that Bahnhof - a Swedish broadband operator - have declared that they will be deleting information on customers IP addresses. Yesterday Tele2 followed suit citing customer demand as their reason - although they have a legal obligation to not store personal information longer than is necessary (which other operators don't seem to have noticed).

Peter Danowski - a representative for the media lobby organisation IFPI - sees it as being motivated by filesharing traffic being a large income source for operators (He's obviously never heard of fixed rate tariffs). However in a further comment which has raised some eyebrows here he is reported as saying that if the operators don't toe the line then parliament will have to introduce tougher laws.. which kind of begs the question of who is running parliament these days?

Sadly with EU laws in the pipeline to register all telecom traffic there isn't actually an if in his statement - which makes the Tele2 position only a temporary victory in the fight to retain privacy for the individual. More's the pity.

Sharing is caring

If you've ever watched a movie on DVD you're probably familiar with the slogan - Filesharing is theft.

There is I'm sure a mature adult audience that tuts between their teeth and says 'These young people today - no morals....' But how about you? Where does sharing end and theft begin....?

  • You go to a dinner party and complement the chef - who then asks "Would you like the recipe?" reaching for the glossy, copyrighted, cookbook on the shelf. Did you ever say yes?
  • Perhaps you belong to the generation that knits and sews? "Just let me have a copy of that pattern will you?"
  • Or did you ever... tape tracks from the radio?
  • Copy course notes from a book?
  • Borrow LPs to tape?
  • Borrow discs from the library and copy?
  • Buy a cut price DVD marked 'Not for Resale'?

  • A film you like is playing on the TV.. but you're not home. So you tape it...
  • ..or save it to the harddrive on your new DVD player.
  • You got the settings wrong... so you borrow the DVD from a friend and watch it..
  • ..or borrow the DVD and copy it to watch it later.
  • ..or you borrow the copy they recorded?
  • Your friend has a film you've not seen so you borrow it...
  • ..and copy it to watch later.
  • Your friend has lent it to his brother so you hire it instead...
  • ..and copy it to watch again later.

Or maybe you save yourself the walk and search for it online?

Philosophically speaking - is it morally more acceptable if a thousand people share something with someone they know than if one person shares something with a thousand people they never met?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Vested interest

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group,"

Franklin Roosevelt

Morality on trial?

Going through a process that ultimately involves criminalising a generation of your customers has to be a tricky job at the best of times. In the pirates versus the music industry the moral high ground is thus a much sought after vantage point. And rather like the USA and Guantanamo, taking the high ground and then being caught breaking the rules is absolutely not good PR.

Whether they knew or whether they wanted it that way - having questions asked about the impartiality of the judge at your ground breaking trial is not good news and is sure to undermine the legitimacy of the result.

In some senses it makes sense that in a trial focussed on copyright law the judge engaged should be an expert in the field - but at the same time, for a verdict to have the faith of the public behind it it needs not just to be just but to be seen to be just. And that now is clearlly not the case.

It seems unlikely, reading the press, that there will be a retrial. The trial will in any case go to appeal and any bias in the first trial would be removed. I think that's a shame as I think the question of whether the judge went ahead in spite of a conflict of interest is one that goes to the roots of ethics in the judicial process and is a question the public deserves to have an answer to.
However, the 'mud sticks' principle will sour any moral victory the media industry might have seen - placing them back under suspicion of using all means, fair and foul to hang onto their monopolistic profits.
And then of course there is the 'no smoke without fire' principle to consider...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Ethical justice?

In a new twist in the Pirate Bay trial a Swedish radio report has questioned the impartiality of the judge handling the trial. He is apparently a both member of the 'Swedish Society for Copyright' (Svenska föreningen för upphovsrätt) and a board member for the 'Swedish Society for the protection of Industrial Rights' (Svenska föreningen för industriellt rättsskydd).

But he doesn't think this affects his impartiality in the case...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Singing a different tune..

The Pirate Bay defendants are all convicted - of 'assisting crimes against copyright law'... a year in prison and joint damages of 30M kronor. Except of course that it will go to appeal... There's sure to be a lot of words written on it in the coming days.

It's worth bearing mind though - with the current inevitable focus on The Pirate Bay's use for sharing copyrighted material - that BitTorrent and peer to peer technology is in it's own right a valuable distribution medium for artists working outside the monopolistic framework of the large media companies and 'collective rights' societies. (Which means there's a financial and competitive motive for those interests in shutting it down over and above any copyright infringement). Any verdict which attacks the use or availability of the technology has clear and negative implications for the many legitimate users.

The excellent Jamendo for instance has all it's material available through BitTorrent - over 18 000 albums - more than 100 000 tracks. Go there.. and support Creative Commons artists that want you to download their music.

One I liked to start you off...

Over my dead body..

Svenska Dagbladet has an interview with Peter Sunde, one of the accused in the Pirate Bay trial that has it's verdict today.

At the end of the article the discussion moves to whether or not artists and authors lose out from spreading work on the internet. According to Peter studies show that they can in fact earn more by Internet distribution. But that only applies to the artists and authors - publishers (literary and musical) lose out by being cut out of the loop. And therein lies the nub of current conflict. The middle men that take the lion's share by controlling the channels of distribution.

"The big problem is that a few big companies have become oligopolies. Take authors for example. To get somewhere they have to turn to a publisher because they are sitting on all the distribution contracts. Or musicians: they need to have a contract with a record company to get played on the radio. They don't really have a choice."

The internet can offer a new deal for authors and artists to reach their public.. but only if the vested interests of the media industry step aside..

..which is where the title comes in.....

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Privacy on the frontline

The verdict on The Pirate Bay trial is due tomorrow - and will surely get a lot of coverage in the press.  But since the trial ended the legal landscape here has changed with the introduction of IPRED - legislation allowing copyright owners to gain access to the identities behind an IP address.

So before tomorows hype, how is it going with IPRED?

So far it seems three applications have been made to the courts, and all three raise issues of one sort or another.

The first related to someone allegedly making lots of Swedish literature freely available as e-books on the web.  It sounded fairly clearcut until it came out that the site is not an open site but an FTP server with secure access - raising significant concerns about just how the Antipiratbyrån got access to the site without breaking legislation on data security

The second case is interesting.  A company is seeking information on an IP address that gained unauthorised access to their company systems (including copyrighted information).  The evidence presented reportedly doesn't include evidence of any copied work so it's hard to see it getting approved - but it highlights how this legislation is open to scope-creep...  Using other legislation would man a police investigation, and this way you can investigate yourself (with greater powers than the police).

The third case is a Pirate party member seeking information on who is downloading their songs.  This is meant mostly to test the system - can anyone armed with a screen dump or two go to the courts - and do rights owners really have the same support under the new law that corporate media interests do?  Interesting to watch that one...

More recently it's reported that Internet Service Provider Bahnhof (who offer 'integrity-marked' broadband) don't, and aren't going, to save records of who used which IP address when.  They point to existing laws that require operators to anonymise traffic records 'when they are no longer needed'.   A survey in Göteborgs-Posten shows despite this that all the broadband operators questioned do in fact keep copies of IP Address records.

Deleting IP details like this has been discussed in the press as a loophole - but it is a pre-existing legal requirement and ought to be an existing part of all operators processes.  IPRED doesn't require operators to store information - only to give out the information they have  when ordered by the court.  "We don't have that information" ought then to be the most legitimate answer they can give...

..at least until they change the law.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Green cars

I recent received the latest newsletter from Grönabilister, a swedish consumer group focussed on green motoring.  As usual it's full of interesting news on making motoring more environmentally friendly.

In a quieter moment I'll post more of the interesting facts and figures it includes.  First off though:

Sales of 'miljöbilar' -  cars meeting set environmental standards for emissions and fuel consumption - exceeded one third of new sales for the first time during the first quarter - and in March they were 37% of sales....  


(according to BilSweden)

Internet news: don't tell the British...

Following up on France's continuing democratic farce I went to the BBC news site to see what they had to say on Hadopi...  ..and was a little surprised to find not a single hit on their search engine. (Though the link below is to an article in the guardian.. someone is awake!)

But I'm still trying to understand exactly what the democratic process is over there in France - Hadopi -  legislation targeting copyright misuse on the Internet - passed by 12 votes to 4 - but now, as far as I can tell, the same legislation has been rejected by 21 votes to 15 in a vote just before Easter.  Again, most of the 577 deputies in the National Assembly had gone home.  

A little ironic that :-D
It seems that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Speak up for liberty

"Vi kommer att bli rädda och det är djävligt obehagligt att vara rädd. Men det finns bara ett medel. Hur rädda vi än blir får vi inte tystna.

Tystnar vi blir världen totalitär.  Då går demokratin under"

Anders Widén, forfattare, writes on the threat to democracy -  of laws that hand over our privacy to the state - or worse, to private interests in search of profit.

"We are going to be scared and it's bloody unncomfortable to be scared.  But there is only one way. However scared we are we can't be silent.
If we are silent the world will be totalitarian. Then democracy goes under."

Anders belongs in this quote...

"The foundations of our liberty reside in highly energized and focused minds that insist upon their independence. There are no shortcuts, no structures or doctrines that can be erected, no hallowed documents to be revered, to save us the effort of continually challenging those who would presume to exercise authority over our lives."
— Butler Shaffer

Or as George Orwell put it..

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

Well said that man!

Music... selling like hot cakes?!

"With over 115 million single tracks sold across all formats, 2008 was the biggest sales year on record in unit terms. Digital growth, however, was not confined to unit sales with labels benefitting from new digital models such as We7 and Comes With Music entering the marketplace in 2008."

Piracy is killing music sales...  wasn't that the story?

Today I came across the 2008 report from IFPI that reports among other things on the sales of albums and singles in the UK.  Below you can see how things look over the last ten years - and, while we can see that in recent years album sales have fallen, single sales are booming.  Moreover -it's clear that today album sales are 10% up on ten years ago - and single sales are 56% higher - all that in spite of the loss of 40% of the wholesale chain in the UK in 2008 with the collapse of Entertainment UK.  All of this without looking at additional revenues from DVDs, ringtones, concerts and 'new digital models'.

The industry still claims that over 90% of downloads are pirated - but given that people only have so much to spend on entertainment what can this mean for potential income for the industry?  It's clear that volume sales are not the issue....  (and maybe it's no surprise that people given the choice choose to pick three good tracks rather than pay for a whole album?)

But.. that's not the interesting question in all this.  Look at the graph and consider... that The Pirate Bay opened in 2003.  Correlation, or coincidence?

Infiltrating the Vegan Underground

By a kind of circuitous route I ended up at an interesting blog post on Greenisthenewred with the interesting title "10 easy ways to be labelled a "Terrorist" by the government". ..meaning of course the American government.

I liked number 8 - attend Vegan Potlucks.......

..but ... the article gives a scary reminder that legislation aimed at stopping suicide bombers and plane hijacks gets pointed at a completely different scale of activity - including things that are explicitly legal (not least in constitutional America). Running a website reporting on activist activities for instance.

In a separate piece the same author - Will Potter - highlights the hypocracy in labelling activists as 'Eco-terrorists' when it is in fact big corporations that are actively polluting the environment - and at times breaking the law to do so.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Levellers Day 2009

"On 17 May 1649, three soldiers were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire. They belonged to a movement popularly known as the Levellers, with beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance."

The 35th annual Leveller's day will be held in Burford, Oxfordshire on May 16th. This year's theme is "The Energy Poverty Crisis"

Leveller's day is an assembly and procession in Burford to debate, listened to music and remembered the Levellers and the importance of holding on to ideals of justice and democracy.

A bit of a shame it's such a long way to go....

Democracy is dead - a French farce

"France is to press ahead with its campaign to bar surfers who download files illegally from accessing their broadband accounts. Under new laws which were introduced by Culture Minister Christine Albanel, a new state agency to be called the High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet, or Hadopi, will be set up to track pirates.

The anti-piracy agency was introduced as part of a new raft of legislation designed to encourage responsible use of the internet."

The French National assembly passed the so called Hadopi legislation by 12 votes to 4. Breaking with conventional procedure the vote was taken without prior notification at the end of the debate on thursday - at 22:45 at night..... when most of the 577 delegates to the assembly had already gone home. That's democracy?!?

Maybe they should be looking into responsible use of the legislature instead???

Public Consultation on ACTA - in Canada

Michael Geist - who holds the Canadian Research chair in Internet and E-Commerce law has made public on his blog a copy of the Canadian governments public consultation on ACTA from 2008. It doesn't say so very much on the tabled agreement - and as it assembles 'stakeholder' views it contains a wide range of conflicting views - but it's interesting reading nevertheless.

Curiously - at various points the document uses underlining to highlight a particular opinion. Almost exclusively this is used for opinions supporting the status quo and in opposition to increased legislative powers, restriction on users rights etc. It is good to see that stakeholders a full spectrum of views are represented - but at the same time - when one is considering change shouldn't the starting point for consideration be that what we have is good enough?

Should it be remarkable to hold the view that:
  • ACTA should not increase the criminal penalties for 'counterfeiting and copyright'.
  • provisions under the agreement should not invest 'police type' search and seizure measures in private sector organisations
  • the enforcement of IPR must not preclude, replace or assume the domestic adjudication and interpretation of the scope and limits of IPRs at the judicial level
  • statutory damages for non commercial infringement should be lowered
  • ACTA should not include provisions on Technical Preventive measures or technologies to circumvent such measures.
  • obligations under ACTA should not shift liability onto Internet Sevice Providers

But then what faith can the public have in a negotiation framework that is by design outside of public scrutiny?

Friday, 3 April 2009

Sinners & Saints

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
"They dazzle us with Heaven and the damn us into hell"

The Diggers argued their position based on a religious ethic - which may have been a true belief or a pragmatic and necessary feature of 17th century political life. Religion is a subjective reality and a pretty poor base for an objective moral position. Nevertheless they clearly aim to expose the hypocracy and låck of compassion of the established church - with a vested interest in supporting the establishment to the detriment of the poor.
Politically the Diggers broke new ground - but perhaps their view on religion were just as novel?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

No Copyright Extension in EU?

The Open Rights Group report some progress in stopping the extension of copyright terms. COREPER, the European Committee representing EU member states and the Council of Ministers, voted against the proposal.

The blog goes on to say it's not a conclusive step - but it is at least a step in the right direction...