Saturday, 28 November 2009

ACTA update - Things afoot in EU, US, NZ & AUS

There has been a lot of vocal opposition to ACTA over recent days - some of it against the secrecy of the process and some of it against the content of the treaty itself.  EFF already have a good round up so take a stop by there as well....

In the US, two senators have sent a letter to the US trade representative asking for ACTA documents to be made public.  Meanwhile Swedish Minister for Communications Åsa Torstensson is on her way to Washington to lobby for opening up the negotiations to more public scrutiny - and to express the Swedish governments view that ACTA opening up for a three strikes policy for internet access termination is unacceptable.

Michael Geist is a good source as usual - reporting amongst other things that the EU has filed it's responses on the ACTA internet chapter - available here. ...that the kiwis are waking up to why ACTA is no good thing -  and an analysis of the impact of ACTA in Australia.  And he also links to a MUST READ piece from the american Library Copyright Alliance on the scope and implications of ACTA.

"ACTA could alter ways in which intellectual property infringement is discovered and penalized;
expand the reach and activity of courts in prosecuting intellectual property infringers; alter the scope of civil and criminal infringement; lower the threshold at which criminal infringement is defined, thus increasing cases of criminal infringement; increase remedies, including monetary damages and reimbursement of legal fees and costs in cases of infringement; increase border searching; and increase instances of confiscation and destruction of goods."

The EFF meanwhile highlight the ongoing double standard, with action to harmonize on the 'best practice' for copyright enforcement, without similar harmonization on best practices for fair use and educational and other exemptions.

"In the U.S. Copyright Office's WIPO treaty consultation, they are claiming that such a harmonization of standard copyright limitations would "begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms."

What comes through is that the world is waking up to the carve up that's taking place behind closed doors and that the ACTA train is starting to see some obstructions on the rails.....

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Legalise filesharing: Wise words from that William Bloke

Billy Bragg..  a leading figure in the Featured Artist Coalition .. has made a press release in conjunction with a concert in Ottawa urging Canadian legislators to legalise filesharing.

"Mr. Bragg..  joined NDP MP Charlie Angus Friday to press Ottawa to avoid criminalizing music downloading when it updates copyright protection law.

The British singer and the New Democrats are calling on Ottawa to let artists find a way to make music file swapping a legitimate part of promotion and sales.

Mr. Bragg and other artists want to see new ways to pay performers for music available online while protecting downloaders. He said record labels will often sell entire catalogues to websites without giving the artists a cut."

Billy is also one of the founders of a2f2a - a blog site aiming to provide a forum for debate between fans and artists.
A2F2A blogging about the press conference quotes Billy as saying:
“The internet brings fans and artists closer together than ever before and brings great benefits to both. Let’s not allow the record industry to keep us apart in order to protect their old broken business model.”
I can't argue with that...

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

ACTA under fire from EFF

The EFF level their sights on ACTA in 'Stopping the ACTA Juggernaut' with a piece that highlights the way process has been manipulated to avoid serious debate on a trade agreement that has significant implications for national legislation on Intellectual Property.

It's hard to have confidence in a process that seems to be entirely based on avoiding any form of critical scrutiny.  It's not consulting stakeholders (for that would include the public) - it's pandering to interested parties......  which may be politics... but sure ain't justice.

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Musicians and the Mona Lisa effect

The availability of music as digital files has made recorded songs a commodity.  Reproduction costs are low and there is a huge and ever expanding choice of artists and titles to choose from.  Market economics say that prices should fall - and consumers clearly expect that to be the case.  It's not unsurprising then to hear that revenues from selling music are falling...

As a consumer I see it as what I call the Mona Lisa effect.  Leonardo's masterpiece has world renown - everyone knows what it looks like.  The original is worth a fortune - (more probably several fortunes) - but a printed copy in a newspaper, or a jpeg image on the web, is practically worthless.  Seeing the copy in the consumer's mind is not the same as seeing the original. 

And that's the way it's going in the music industry.  Listening to the record is not the same as seeing the original.  Musicians are artists - performance artists - and it is in performance that the public value what the artist does.  With that in mind it is interesting to read the figures on the Times Labs Blog showing that artists revenues are increasing thanks to live performances - while record label incomes are falling.  They have a telling graph that highlights this well - also copied and with comment on Boing Boing, and Christian Engström's blog.  The raw data is available here.

Artists income from recordings has fallen 27% over four years - but during the same period artist's income from live performance has gone up 70%, giving artists a net gain of 45% over four years.  Not many industries can point to the same good news in the midst of a recession.......

As the Mona Lisa shows - the value lies in the original...   remember that next time you see that enigmatic smile  ;-)

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Danish Anti-pirates give up

In a moment of prescience I mentioned last week the difficulty in providing an adequate standard of evidence to find people guilty of copyright infringement on the web – something that makes the concept of guilty until proven innocent particularly distasteful.

Now the Danish Anti-Pirate group have officially given up. After seven years they conclude that the chance of getting a conviction without a confession are too low to continue working to prosecute infringers.

But it's still OK to cut off peoples internet on the basis of an accusation... isn't it?

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Internet users take privacy into their own hands

The (UK) police and intelligence services are calling on the Government to drop plans to disconnect persistent internet pirates because they fear that this would make it harder to track criminals online
Source: The Times via ORG

If evidence from Sweden is anything to go by it could soon be the case that that horse has bolted. Torrent Freak report on an article ths week in Dagens Nyheter (in swedsh) on the rapid growth of 'anonymising' services - mostly the use of  'virtual private networks' (VPNs) to hide a user's IP address.  A survey of 15-25 year olds found that an estimated 130 000 users in this age group are already using privacy services to surf online.  The survey authors estimated that as much a 6 or 7% of the populaton at large could be doing the same - and the survey also showed that up to 55% surveyed intend to use this type of service if  laws against filesharing are strengthened.

There are many reasons for wanting privacy in your communications - and users don't need to justify why they want privacy - it is a right.  Equally clearly, when users see that government is not protectig their rights they will take the ball into their own court at take steps to protect it themselves.

So if you are not doing it already...  what's it all about?
Using a VPN provides an encrypted secure connection from your PC to a server on the net - at which point the IP address you got from your internet service provider is changed for another anonymous one.  Which means.
  • Your ISP can't see where you surf - or what type of traffic they are carrying for you -surfing, VOIP, filetransfers - all look the same - encrypted...
  • Unless you register on sites you are anonymous when you surf. (Most sites collect the IP addresses of people using the site).
  • You get safer surfing from WiFi hotspots and on your home wireless LAN. Encryption means your traffic can't be read 'off air' - to e.g to snoop or hack passwords.
  • VPNs can usually be used from within firewalls - letting you surf to sites that might otherwise be blocked.
  • If you choose a supplier from another country you will appear to be surfng from that country.... useful if you regularly use sites that restrict content depending on where you are.  (Some suppliers give the option to switch)
  • and it only costs around £5/50kr a month..
Finding a supplier is easy.  Searching for Anonymous surf VPN gives lots of hits.  Here is a very small selection... (but you need to find one that suites you)
UK                  UKiVPN
Sweden      Relakks
or for a bit of everything....  Hide My Ass

You might want to check
  • what encryption do they use?
  • where are they based?
  • is my account or payment traceable back to me?
  • underwhat circumstances can they be obliged to release data to authorities?
  • what data do they store that they could be asked to hand over?
Privacy is your right

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

UK Culture Minister - filesharers to be guilty until proven innocent.

MP Tom Watson has an interview with UK Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw on government plans for cutting off illicit filesharers.  Right at the start he answers the question:

" Given ... the proposals to temporarily cut people off as a result of accusations of illicit file sharing by some sections of the music industry, do you think that those people deserve to prove their innocence in a court of law."

To which the answer was " Absolutely, Yes".  He then goes on to explain how court orders will be taken out on the basis of accusations - and only then will accused copyright infringers be given the opportunity to prove their innocence. 

I was gobsmacked....   How is this an acceptable and fair judicial process? - the burden of evidence (not accusation) ought to lie in proving guilt - not in proving innocence.  What sort of tin-pot country are you running over there? 

It does of course get around the problem seen in countries like Denmark where prosecutors have more or less given up because providing evidence that stands up in court has proved almost impossible to get.

This neatly sidsteps that issue and instead puts the defendant in the tricky position of proving they weren't the one making downloads....

Reading on in the interview we hear that he doesn't know how much the new systerm will cost to implement, and he doesn't know how much artists can expect to gain as a result.  He does however know that the music industy is losng £200m a year from piracy - because they told him.

Then in a wonderful piece of double talk he goes on to tell us that illicit filesharing is potentially devastating for the creative industries - industries that are growing much faster than the rest of the economy.  Strange that - if they have such strong growth given the current levels of file sharing, doesn't that kind of say there is no problem???

Some days I wonder what planet these people are on.....
(There's no date on the blog post so I don't know when it was posted - it is reported on P2PNet as being from Novemeber)

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

EU Parliament sticks to it's guns - 138 text agreed...

"A camel - is a horse designed by a committee"

Christian Engström, Piratpartiets MEP,  reports that the negotiations over the wording of what was amendment 138 are now complete.  The full text is available on his blog.  I dare say lawyers on all sides are now going over it to see what it will mean in practce but on the face of it it provides the main safeguards that parliament had agreed were needed - including a guarantee of a prior, fair and impartial procedure.

The text is not bomb proof.  I suspect in practice that much will depend on an interpretation of whether it is "fair and impartial" to cut someone off and only allow them to test it in a court afterwards.   .. and an interpretation of what is a 'duly substantiated case of urgency' as a reason to circumvent due process.

I for one though want to take the opportunity of thanking Christian, Phillipe Lamberts and all the other members of the parliamentary committee for sticking to their guns. 

I hope now their camel is fit for the course....

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Behind closed doors - more on ACTA

 Michaels Geist's update on the latest discussions on ACTA brought forward this pithy comment.

"Our silly cops here are concerned with trivial things like gang murders, armed holdups, stabbings, crystal meth, tracking rapists etc. I'm sure they would really appreciate being diverted to hunt down unlicensed Mickey Mouse dolls, and infringing mp3s of the latest Metallica album."

The topic under discussion was criminal penalties for copyright offences... 

When governments get together behind closed doors to protect the interests of big business against the winds of change - and aginst the interests of their voters - you start to wonder where democracy went...

Can't we please just cut the terms for copyright back to something sensible (thereby simulating more new work, instead of letting companes live off back catalogs) and decriminilise non-commercial file sharing. 

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Internet enforcement under ACTA

Michael Geist blogs on the details of the latest chapter of ACTA under debate in Korea.  His top level take:

"it is clear that there is no bigger IP issue today than the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being negotiated behind closed doors this week in Korea."

  • Covers enforcement of intellectual property
  • Eliminates sovereign choice of domestic copyright policy
    • making Canada's recent copyright consultation a little pointless
  • Focuses on copyright, not counterfeiting
  • Goes beyond the terms of WIPO
Measures in the text include
  • Third party liability for copyright infringement
  • Restrictions on carriers limitation of 3rd party liability for infringement
  • Termination of subscriptions
  • Notice & takedown to become a requirement
  • Anti-circumvention legislation with ban on DRM circumvention
  • Rights management
  • statutory damages
  • search and seizure powers for border guards
  • anti camcording rules
  • mandatory disclosure of personal information

Cory Doctorow gives his take on it all here....

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

Protect children - but not like this

Sweden, it's proposed, should have a law that bans looking at child pornography - ostensibly because if no one can look at it no one is going to make it.  (It is of course already illegal to make and spread child pornography).

Is that a good idea?  A number of bloggers have already come out to say that it's not - including PP stalwarts Rick Falkvinge & Anna Troberg who go further and say it should be a political issue for Piratpartiet.

So is it a good idea? And does it fall into the scope of pirate politics?

OK - Is it likely to be effective?  Consider that Sweden's population is a fraction of a percent of the global population - and that child pornography is an international problem.  That means unless Swedes are prolific consumer's of child porn it's unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the supply side.  Unless this legislation impacts on the creation of child pornography it is ineffective in improving life for those caught up as children in it's production. It seems that it will fail in it's primary objective.

Then there is the philosophical question - how does someone know you have looked at something pornographic if they haven't looked at it.  And if they have seen it haven't they themselves committed a crime?

..which leads to the practical problem of how do I avoid committing this crime if I have no way of knowing what is in an image - or on a web page - before I've seen it. 

..and what constitutes a pornographic image of a child?   That's undoubtedly defined somewhere for those working in enforcement - but will a layman know?  .. this last is pertinent as the legislation will apply for images of models under 18.  How can you tell from an image how old the person is???  ..before you've even seen the image?

But, practical issues apart - there is a big issue with the scope.  You see there is one group of people that take lots of pictures of semi-clad teenagers -  doing innocent and not so innocent things, and that is teenagers themselves.   Now you might think it unseemly and immodest - but what happens legally between consenting young adults is more than likely going end up on camera sometimes.  Fine - but this law would make it illegal to ever look at those pictures....

And if you think this is improbable you don't need to look further than the USA in March this year where teenage girls were threatened with being convicted of 'sexual abuse of children' for sharing semiclad photos - of themselves....

Fighting child porn is, or should be about working to protect the innocence of the child victims of that industry.  Legislation that would make criminals where there are no victims is bad legislation -  and criminalising teenagers for doing something that their elder peers can do legally is hypocritical, and an injustice.

Add to that the question of enforcement. How do you know who has looked at what?  Legislation is pointless if it's not enforceable.    What kind of surveillance powers are going to be needed to ensure compliance - monitoring everyone's surfing?  Police trojans on every desktop? 

So if we sum up:  Ineffective, disproportionate and with serious risks for our rights to a private life... 
not least for millions of teenagers who deserve the right to grow up unmolested by intrusive legislation.

Guilty until proven innocent - if they can decide.

Democracy....  You all cast your vote and all these reprsentatives gets together and decides things.  They vote.. and that's how it's going to be.

EU democracy.... You all cast your vote and all these representatives gets together and decides things. They vote..       Then they choose a number of representatives who may or may not agree with what parliament decided and go and talk with nominees from national governments. The representatives change what parliament has already decided on and then change it again until the nominees are happy that what parliament has decided doesn't affect them any more.....

Tomorrow is the day... when the representatives from the EU parliament meet the Council of Ministers again to discuss new wording for amendment 138- and unless the representatives find some backbone the will of the parliament is going to end on the cutting room floor.

Innocent until proven guilty.  NOT negotiable....

HAX on this weeks EU proceedings

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

Who is reading your mail?

I think most of us take t for granted that email works like the post.  What you write gets sent by the postal (email) service and delivered to the recipient . and no-one is going to read it alnog the way.

EFF reports on two court cases in the US should make you think again.  Both are about government investigations getting access to emails stored with third parties. The cases make interesting reading - but to cut a long story short they reach different conclusions on whether handing your mail over to be stored on a third party server means you have given up your right to privacy - in american terms, are you protected by the Fourth Amendment.

The EFF do their usual professional job of explaining in chapter and verse why the good guys got it right.  Of course you can expect the same protection of your privacy of communication on the web as you can on snail mail or on the telephone.  Isn't that want we all want and expect?

What these two different cases mean for American legal precedent is not clear to me - but it is clear for me that if the law doesn't protect our privacy it is the law that needs to change.  And of course it's really convenient for police forces and government agencies to be able to gather information on criminals, political activists and undesirables (by whose definition)  - but respecting our rights is fundamental to the society you are there to protect.  Don't go there!

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A trillion tons: The clock is ticking...

Continuing the theme of BIG numbers -  Climate Feedback has links to a new site giving an estimate of the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions over the last 250 years (now somewhere past 530 000 000 000 000 tonnes)- and predicting when this figure will exceed 1 trillion tonnes - a limit calculated to keep average temperature rises below 2 degrees.

The point of course is that we need to see radical change NOW to head off an otherwise inevitable warming of the climate.  Change here meaning global cuts in emissions of between 2.1 and 4.5% per year .    What it doesn't say - but is important to understand - is that the earlier cuts are made the more effective they will be.

What are you doing for your 4.5% cut???

For the spy that has everything?

What do you give to the spy that has everything?  Somewhere to keep it all....

In this case the spy in question is Uncle Sam, in the form of the National Security Agency, who needs somewhere BIG to put all that data they are eavedropping.  Estimates of the storage they need range from a mere couple of hundred petabytes (200 000 000 000 000 000 bytes) to a mindblowing yottabyte (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes).

And I thought it was the citizens duty to keep a watch on government - not the other way round.

Wisdom and justice are not found in a database......

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.