Friday, 29 May 2009

Price fixing in the UK

The UK Performing Rights Society has fixed a new price per track for firms providing streaming music services... more than halved from 0.22p to .085 pence.

Good news...? If it is still a monopoly with central price fixing?

Eager Beavers

I found a nice story over at the Beeb - apparently they are run a trial in Scotland re-introducing the beaver to the British Isles. All in all I think it's a great idea.... though I'm not sure the locals will be so happy when they re-introduce the wolf!?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Among the captains of industry.

Quite by accident I saw yesterday that Anna Troberg, vice chairman in Piratpartiet, was on the closing discussion panel at Bredbandsdagarna here in Stockholm. If I'd seen it sooner I would have made an effort to go and see how the debate went.

Bredbandsdagarna is an event that draws together operators, vendors and analysts in the broadband industry to discuss a wide range of topics both technical and business. In the run up to the EU elections it might seem like a low profile place to be but looking in the longer term it's absolutely the place to carry the debate - and with only one other politician on the speakers list it shows how important the PPs voice is on this issue. Sweden is at the forefront of international debate on the future of the internet, the right to privacy and the need for copyright reform - and Piratpartiet is clearly the voice bringing new ideas and fresh vision to the issue.

It's clear that business opinion carries weight in the debate. Money talks... It's what lobbying is all about. But it's by no means clear that it talks with a single voice. Internet solutions that put costs with operators for policing and income and profit in the media industry don't win any favours with the operators - even if they are effectively hostaged to the media industry to get content for new services. You only have to look at operators reluctance to cough up customer's details under IPRED to see that different players can have very different views...

In the wider scene the media industry is not big business.. telecoms is ... and it's an industry much more accustomed to changing how they do business in step with changing technology - so opinion here can clearly have influence in the wider debate.

New ideas take time to take root, but in any case, first you have to sow the seed. Great job Anna!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Who are the good guys?

Comhem, a broadband supplier here, have been running a marketing campaign recently with the carrot being set top boxes with built in recording capability. Nice. But so far as I know the rights they have for showing films doesn't extend to allowing you the right to copy copyright material. It's an accepted practice, but that's not quite the same thing...

Compare this business to the Pirate Bay.

Comhem promotes and sells a service where a key benefit is being able to record copyright works. They provide you with the media direct to your home and they provide you with the hardware needed to make the copies.

The Pirate Bay on the other hand don't provide copyright material - they facilitate your search for material by providing links. They don't get paid by the people doing the downloading... And they certainly don't provide the hardware to do it.

One of these two business models attracts the unwanted attention of media company lawyers... But not the one actively promoting a business buillt on copying broadcast material.

There is of course one significant difference between these two businesses - one of them is a major media industry customer - but that doesn't really have a bearing on whether they are encouraging breach of copyright does it. It's the principle that counts... Isn't it?

Sittng at home, does it make a difference if I copy from the video channel, or from the web?

This copyright thing.... Isn't it due for reform?

Privacy First:Piratpartiet are standing in the EU elections, coming soon at a polling booth near you!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Voting shennanigans

Britain, as half the world knows has an antiquated electoral system (at least for parliament). You divide the country up into small constituencies, and each one votes one candidate to parliament on a first 'past the post' basis. It's a system that guarantees that the political representation in parliament bears no resemblance to the spread of political opinion in the country.

Voting though is simple.. you get a piece of paper with all the candidates listed and you cross against the one you are voting for.... ALL the candidates.

I mention this for one reason - to explain how farcical it is to me to see the recent debate on alleged election fraud here in Sweden. Each party has a whole list of candidates, so there is a separate ballot paper for each party... You just pick the one you fancy and stick it in the box.

And the state takes care of all the printing and distribution so that's OK. Unless you're a small party and then you have to print and distribute your own...

And then when the voter gets there they check over the assembled ballots and choose. Of course it's bad luck if the electoral officials chose to leave your party's blank ballots on a little table off to the side - or thought they would just ditch yours at the end the day (advance balloting is taking place now). If no one sees your ballot papers you're not likely to get many votes..

Sloppy practice, or a bit of subtle electoral bias? Both Piratpartiet and Feministiska Initiativ have cried foul - hopefully loud enough for abnormalities to be fewer in the last days of the campaign. Piratpartiet have in any case taken a practical and mature response to this risk and drawn up a clear summary of what the law says, and how to escalate.

And purely by coincidence, Sweden is to get independant external election observers for the first time ever.....

Playing a new tune?

One of the complaints about the current copyright regime is the monopoly of performing rights societies - and that they restrict what musicians and songwriters can do with their work - so it is interesting to see the latest news from STIM.. (the Swedish Performing Rights Society) who are trialling a system to allow artists to publish works under Creative Commons for non commercial use.

STIM have taken the move after pressure from their members - but it is hard to know whether it actually addresses the issues for artists publishing music under Creative Commons. It will be interesting to see the follow up in the press though.

Creative Commons has only been around since 2001 so I guess we should congratulate STIM on their rapid reactions in this swiftly changing marketplace........ ;-)

Unfurl the Jolly Roger

"Every breath you take, And every move you make, Every bond you break,
Every step you take. I'll be watching you..." The Police

Every mail you send, every telephone call you make, each SMS, who you talk to, where you are... logged

Where you surf to... logged

Where you drive.. logged

Mails, phonecalls and texts ....monitored.

State spyware on your PC recording every keystroke...

I don't want to live in a society where people live under constant surveillance... but sadly right now that's the way it is going. But me saying 'no' isn't going to stop things.. it needs a bigger awareness of what is being done in our name. It needs people to wake up and say STOP...

And if I want that to happen I need to be part of making it happen.

...and that is why today I became a Pirate.
By supporting Piratpartiet I support an organisation that puts the rights of the individual first, and will not comprimise those rights to fight terrorism, or organised crime, or to benefit specific commercial interésts. You don't defend democracy by putting it in fetters....

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, 25 May 2009

Silencing the opposition

We need an internet free of government interference... otherwise it is open to political manipulation - like this, latest news from Iran.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Ducking the issue

Last night was the first candidates debate on SVT Agenda - a chance for the party leaders to trade blows on the issues in advance of the EU election. I didn't see it but by all accounts (and disregarding what was said) it was a strange affair.

Even before it went on air Piratpartiet were vocally decrying that they had no invite... This despite now being the third largest party - in terms of membership - and having had several poll results showing they have enough support to get a seat. Not only that but privacy, personal integrity and state intervention in the internet have been big news for the last year - and all have a European dimension.

It could be deliberate attempt to deny the Pirates a voice - but it smacks a little of stage management since the debate didn't in fact focus on EU issues at all ...something that ststsministern Fredrik Reinfeldt was none too pleaased of either.

The issues that the Pirate party campaign on - personal integrity, copyright and patent reform are important enough for the electorate to win them 5% of voter support on just that issue. Many other voters must think it important too but will choose to vote for a party that has a broader platform that they campaign on. A not insignificant slice of the electorate then...

Piratpartiet has the country's biggest youth party - bigger than any other two put together and draws disproportionate support among the young - which includes first time voters in this election - so excluding PP is in a sense alienating young voters at a time when people complain of voter apathy.

Political parties are a bit like banks... We pick one and stick with it.... so it is bad news for the established parties to duck the debate with Piratpartiet. ..and surprising for the programmers as well to miss the chance to have them there. Having PP on the show would sharpen the debate - and give parties a chance to show whether Piratpartiens abstinence on other issues was significant or not...

So, by my reckoning, the pirates missed out, the other parties missed out, and the voters missed out. So who was it for...??? And why run a debate on domestic politics when we are about to vote on representation in Europe?!?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Whales return in Alaska

Good news.... Blue Whales have appeared off parts of Canada & Alaska for the first time since they were eradicated by commercial whaling activities in the last century.

Scientists are now pondering just why they have re-appeared - one of the possible reasons being the affects of global warming on the krill population (krill being the whale's staple diet). Hopefully it's the other reason - that krill , and hence whale migrations, are affected by long term shifts in the pattern of ocean temperatures and that it is these that are bringing the whales northward.

I am not my brothers keeper

A key aspect of the new French legislation is that it makes no attempt to find who is guilty of copyright infringement. Action is taken against the owner of the subscription used. It means of course that people are going to be punished, without a trial, for things they haven't done. The intentiion is that I should police what people in my household are doing. - Including the lodger and and passing friends or family.

And even if it's me that is downloading and that gets cut off - it's still not OK as all those other users get cut off too...

At the same time, to stop just anyone surfing on my WiFi it will be illegal to have an unsecured hub - which the equivalent of making it a criminal offence to not lock your door at niight.

But there are lots of free public wi-fi points around people could use.... So these will be obliged to run a 'white-list'. Net censorshiip...

Bye bye liberty...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Liberté? Egalité? Fraternité?

France consumated it's marriage to the media industry this week with approval of the Hadopi law allowing internet users to be cut off from the Internet without going through the courts.. based purely on accusations from the media industry. To add insult to injury people having their internet service withdrawn are still required to pay their subscription... (if that bit made it to the final legislation?)

Details seem hard to find - but apparently the only way to prove your innocence is to accept the installation of government spyware. And failing to accept installation of the software will be taken as evidence of guilt.

Innocent until proven guilty? The right to remain silent? The right to a fair trial even....

It's scary how basic rights and principles arebeing trampled over in the rush to clamp down on copyright infringement. And curious that when half the Internet users in France are breaking current copyright law that the politicians haven't wondered whether they shouldn't be looking at whether the law (and the principles behind it) are due for some serious reform...

The ray of light in this particular dark tunnel is that this legislation conflicts with recent EU decisions to forbid exclusion from the internet without judicial review.. French MEP Guy Bono has said he will ask the European Commission to instigate a lawsuit against France if the law is not first thrown out by a French constitutional court.

My commiserations also to Jérôme Bourreau-Guggenheim who was sacked from his job working with internet innovation within French broadcaster TF1 after an email written to his MP opposing the bill ended up with his employer (after having been forwarded to the culture ministry). Let's add free speech to the endangered species list.......

The scent of sanity in Paris

If I ring my mates to organise a bank raid no one really expects my phone company to end up in court... ..and if I decide my finances need a boost and send out a bunch of fake invoices to a few unsuspecting companies it's not the post office that finds itself in the dock. So why is it that in intellectual property crime the rights holders seem to think the operators and application service providers are fair game for lawsuits and other bullying?

In verdict that has that scent of sanity eBay have just won a case in France against L'Oreal over sales of counterfeit perfumes - basically saying they are not responsible for whether or not goods advertised on their site are genuine or not. More pragmatically, I think the verdict actually means that the court was satisfied that eBay are doing enough to fulfil any duty to protect the public and rights holders from fraudulent advertising.

Of course if we adopted the media industry principle we could see people seeking damages from billboard companies that allowed advertising for cigarettes, and car showrooms up in court for aiding and abetting reckless driving... we could even see consumers being sued because they're sending firms bankrupt by not buying their products.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tell me this is not true...

So you go to court and are found guilty and sentenced to prison and a fine -but you appeal - and also ask for a retrial because the judge has an apparent conflict of interest.  

And then, even before they have set a date for an appeal, they send you the bill for the fine and are ready to freeze your assets and send the bailiffs in.  Geeze, if this was a TV series I'd say they were making it up.  But no... it's just the latest bizarre turn in The Pirate Bay trial.  

..of course the sentence was prison and a fine - and while they want the money now... they don't have to go to prison until the verdict has been tested at appeal.

Are you sure this is not a wind-up?  I always had this idea that justice systems were supposed to just...

Monday, 11 May 2009

This is not the party you are looking for..

Aftonbladet have a nifty link to a 30 question test that will map your political views and compare them to EU political parties - either those where you live - or in Europe as a whole. There's just one small thing they forgot to mention. In the Aftonbladet version of the test they have cut three Swedish parties off the list- which to say, they have actively edited out three of the parties standing in next month's election -ostensibly because they don't currently hold seats in the EU parliament.

If you want to try the uncensored version of the test you can find it over at EU Profiler. Jolly good fun it is too.... apparently I ought to be voting for the Luxembourg Communist Party!

(Oh yes.. the three missing parties: Sverige Demokraterna, Feministisk Initiativ & Piratpartiet)

More or less sustainable...

Sitting on the tube this morning I read in the paper that a trip by car gives out 30 000 times the emissions of the same trip on the tube - which here runs on renewable electricity... Or, to put it another way, I can commute on the tube each day for 125 years for the same emissions as a single day's commute by car.

125 years! ... Or one day. Which did you choose today?

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Money for nothing?

I came across a link at 'The Brand Man' to an interesting report by Handelshøyskolen BI in Norway on downloading of music and CD sales - a consumer survey comparing CD purchases, paid and free downloads from May to November 2008.

What it shows is that young people (15-20yrs) are twice as likely to download music as the rest of us - whether free or paid for. But the really interesting statistic is that young people that donload free music use paid downloads around ten times as much as their peers that don't download.

Less marked, but still of interest is that in the rest of the population people using free downloads are buying around 10% more CDs than those that don't download. (People of all ages paying for downloaded music also buy more CDs)

People that go looking for music are interested in music.... not really rocket science. But it does highlight that by targetting people downloading music for free the music industry is most probably attacking their best customers......

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Hot (green) air on the tube

So you want to keep up to date on the latest environmental news... and you don't want to fall asleep at the same time???

Checkout Zaproot on Youtube.

In this episode... how Swedes are getting hot under the collar...