Friday, 28 August 2009

Pirate Party ... it's official

While I've been off sailing the high seas, the Pirate Party have been taking big steps forward in getting the Pirate agenda on the map in the UK. In case you've forgotten that's:

  • Reform of copyright and patent law. To legalise non-commercial file sharing and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection, and to ensure that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders. We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.
  • To end the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.
  • To ensure that everyone has real freedom of speech and real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.

So what's new?

From the top...

  • The Pirate Party is now just that - a registered political party.
  • ...with elected officials...
  • ..and a leader, Andrew Robinson
  • that you can join
  • The Pirate Party is also getting into the news... including this article in the Telegraph and this nice one in the Guardian
  • PPUK is also on Facebook. (Yesterday the group passed the 5000 mark) .
  • ...and Twitter

If you are interested in fairer copyright, the right to privacy and want to halt the march of the surveillance society then check out the homepage and get involved....


..or one of the other International Pirate organisations near you.

Copyright. Consultation UK style

And while the Canadians are doing their best to find out what the public want the UK government continue their Dickensian march towards public floggings and debtors jail for persistent copyright offenders. (Wouldn't keel-hauling or walking the plank be more appropriate?).

Having put out their plans for consultation they have come back before the consultation is concluded with more radical proposals for cutting off internet access for offenders a process that unfairly penalises other people relying on the same Internet accout). To conclude after the consultation that measures needed to to be tougher would be one thing... to change your mind mid-stream rather smacks of having made your mind up and not being interested in what the consultation results in, making a mockery of the whole process.

The Times has a thoughtful article on the issue by John Nouhghton, a professor in Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University.

The Open Rights Group is also clear in it's opposition to this latest move, encouraging people to contact their MP with their views. You can also contribute with your views to the copyright consultation. More information on doing that is available in a wiki here.

Labour MP Tom Watson also has an interesting blog post on why the government needs to tread warily on handling online piracy.

The Pirate Party are campaigning for copyright reform, including legalising non-commercial file sharing and reducing the excessive length of copyright protection.

Note that I've not commented on speculation that the process has been influenced by personal contacts between government ministers and influential media industry figures. Nothing so nepotistic would happen in Britain surely?

Copyright. Ask the audience

While we are getting used to being back from holidays, over in Canada they are in the midst of public consultation on what direction their copyright legislation should go. Michael Geist highlighted this interesting piece by Ivor Tossell on what's come out of the process so far...

Well... don't expect me to tell you. Go read!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

What price art?

Imagine you went into a clothes store and bought a designer jacket..
..And when you get to the till they ask you what you are going to use it for...
"I want it for a play I'm staging..."
"Ahhhh" they say... "We have a special price for jackets for use in the theatre". .. And you need it so you reluctantly pay the extra....

Your play goes ahead and someone at the shop notices that a fine designer jacket is pretty central to the plot and pretty soon after you get a bill from the shop for a hefty wedge more. "But, I paid for the jacket you say" - " Yes, you did, but you never said it was important to the play. You can't use this jacket as an important prop unless you pay us more..."
"But we already paid extra to use it in the theatre.... We're not going to pay you again!"
"Oh yes you are... See you in court!"

You'd laugh wouldn't you? But right now a music company is suing Stockholm Stadsteater for using the "Sounds of Silence". the theatre have paid the performing rights fees they should - but since the music plays an important role in the play the rights owners want more.

To me it smacks of opportunistic exploitation... Wanting your cake and eating it. it's a symptom of the monopolistic rights granted under copyright law - and in this instance it's a leech sucking at the creativity of the playwrite and actors creating something new from something that really ought by now to be part of our shared cultural heritage.. (How many theatres get grants from the public purse to make ends meet?)

Copyright exists to encourage creativity... If that's not what it's doing it has no role today - at least not in it's current form.

No surprise then that Piratpartiet is working for copyright reform

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Little Green Apples

" ..and God didn't make the little green apples...."

The season is upon us. Swedish apples have appeared in the shops again. Fresh, and good, local produce..... Great!

Do the earth a favour. Stop buying peaches, bananas, kiwis, nectarines and all that exotic imported stuff and fill your fruitbowl with the real McCoy. Just do it!

Shooting the messenger

The legal dance around The Pirate Bay took a new turn yesterday. The newspaper headlines were that they were shut down after their ISP was was defeatecd in court and threatened with fines as an accessory to copyright enfringement.

As I understand it it took about 3 hours for TPB to reappear. In the meantiime the judgement and consequences have raised solme eyebrows. Firstly, the TPB trial is up for appeal... So whether or not the Pirate Bay itself can be held responsible for abetting copyright enfringemenr is still not a matter of judicial certainty - and prosecuting someone for aiding and abetting aiding and abetting starts to sound somewhat tenuous...

But there are at least two other key issues that this judgement ignores. The first is that TPB is a channel of distribution for independant software and music providers. Closing TPB down has a direct impact on these players who are in no way involved in the copyright litigation. It seems deeply unjust and heavy handed to serve one groups commercial interests over those of other users of the site.

Perhaps more critical though is the issue raised by the Piratpartiet in their press release. This judgement sets a very dangerous precedent in making carriers responsible for the content of what is carried. It's constitutionally unsound, and ulimately leads to a complete loss of privacy of communication - a basic human right.

The courts perhaps made the 'correct' judgement based on the law, and 'Black Internet' responded in the best way to protect their commercial interest - but fundamentally this is a poor result for us the public. Applying copyright law to justify a breach of fundamentall rights and safeguards iis simply a travesty.

Thumbs down.....