Monday, 15 February 2010

Pullmans malevolent voices: Freedom is too hard for you

"And the new laws whisper:

We do not want to hear you talking about truth
Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours "

The quote above, and below, are from "Malevolent voices that despise our freedoms" by Philip Pullman, on Times Online.  Written for last years Convention on Modern Liberty, it is the best thing I've read all year...  This is just a snippet ... I encourage you.  Go read  it all...
(My friend in serendipity was Charles Pooter, at Little Man, What Now?...)

"It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

And those laws say:
Sleep, you stinking cowards
Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms
Freedom is too hard for you
We shall decide what freedom is
Sleep, you vermin

Sleep, you scum. "

But let's say you are not asleep?  What are you going to do about it???

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Make your voice heard.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Privacy in public places... and for whom?

There's been an interesting piece in the news here recently .. and to be honest I'd missed it until Rick Falkvinge mentioned it on his blog.  It's about a guy, Jesper Nilsson,  that sees two men coming on strong to two teenagers in the underground and decides to take pictures of it.  The men, as he suspects, are plain clothes policemen, and - in a move that perhaps is strangely familiar to brits reading this -they don't take kindly to having their pictures taken (not least when they hear that the guy in question - Jesper Nilsson - runs an on-line newspage.) 

Jesper reports the whole thing in length on his blog - and I have to say it's only his version of events that is fully reported.  What Jesper goes on to tell is how he is put between a rock and a hard place - delete the pictures or get taken in on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs (or a breach of the peace -"ofredande"). In the end he gives in and deletes the pictures.... and a video film that's been recordig while the 'discussion' has been going on.

 But.. being a resourceful chap - when he gets home Jesper manages to recover the image files from the phones memory - and even to get a (slightly garbled) section of the the film after sending the damaged file off for repair.

These all posted on his blog.  He has reported the policemen and enquiry has been started - and, meanwhile, he policemen have reported him for breach of Swedens PUL - data protection legislation that limits the publishing of individuals personal details (including photos).

The story raises all sorts of interesting questions about public life and privacy.

Are you allowed to photograph policemen doing their job in a public place?
In Sweden at least the answer to this seems to be implicitly yes..  In Sweden you may photograph anyone anywhere, as long as you are in a public place or are not forbidden by the owners of whereever you find yourself.

But is the underground a public place?
Stockholms underground is a public sector utility, run on a day to day basis by a private contractor.  Despite being used by hundreds of thousands of people everyday I suspect it doesn't count though as a public place -  there are for instance guidelines on when you need to ask permission to take pictures or film..  but for non-commercial private use you don't need permission.  (Bear in mind that in a recent IPRED case a password protected server was considered not to be private because it could be accessed by around 20 000 people)

So Mr Nilsson may take pictures as long as he doesn't intend to use them commercially..  or publish them (which begs the question of what happens if you change your mind after you've taken a picture?)

But it seems he thought of publishing them from the start, and has in fact now done so... 

So, if he wasn't allowed to photograph, can a policeman tell him not to?
Assuming they understood the details of the photography policy, shouldn't it still be an employee of the underground that objects to them taking the photo?

Mr Nilsson now has pictures in his phone that he perhaps had no permission to take.  Can a policeman order him to delete them?  Well clearly they can - but in Sweden at least they have no right to.... uncomfortable as it may be to be caught on film in the course of duty, they can't ask you to delete them.

Now the next part is interesting...  because the rules for PUL are different if you are a journalist publishing in the news than if you are an individual posting to an unofficial news channel like a blog.  So..  

You've had a bad day and decide to write about it on your blog.  Do you have to censor it to protect the privacy of individuals that have the main role in the events?   On his blog Mr Nilsson risks running fóul of data protection rules - whereas on his online paper he wouldn't.  Nor do all the mainstreams that have since reported the case - including the names of the policement concerned. Should there be different rights to publish what very much seems to be a topic of real public interest if you choose an unofficial channel?

Now interestingly Mr Nilsson never names the policemen concerned - in fact he complains that they never showed him any identification to show they were in fact policemen.  So - in the context of a public official carrying out their duties in a public place - is there an issue in reporting on their behaviour? What's the balance between accountability of public officials and their right to privacy ? - when that right is being invoked as a threat intended to censor?  While it may be right for a spokeperson for the state to remain anonymous - because it is their official position not their private life that's in the public view -in this case it is just that their alleged behaviour doesn't match up to the expected standard of behaviour that makes publishing the event of public interest.. and even in the state's interest.  Faith in the police depends on just and fair dealing with ALL the public.

And of course...  most importantly, what sort of world are we coming to if policemen are using intimidating threats against a member of the public just because they don't like what they are doing? 
Which is not to say that this is common behaviour in the police - but if what's alleged is true it's an horrific abuse of power.


Lastly.. by way of a footnote..  reading the conditions for taking film and pictures in the underground I spotted that it's not allowed to take commercial pictures of graffiti, people jumping the turnstiles and a range of other things that might show the underground in a negative light.

"Det är heller inte tillåtet att filma eller fotografera vandalisering eller graffiti, så kallad plankning, våld mot resenärer eller personal, rökning eller användande av illegala droger eller personer som vistas i SL-trafiken utan giltig biljett."

 Doesn't that smack a little of censorship???

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Privacy, Copyright & Integrity: Steps in the right direction..

I've been a bit busy recently - but things are happening out there in the big wide world...

You no doubt saw that in Australia they've ruled that an ISP shouldn't be held to account for the content carried...  a revalidation of the 'pure carrier' doctrine with it's analogy in "don't shoot the messenger".  A great commentary on the judgement by Technolama

In the UK, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights were not at all happy with the provisions of the governments proposed Digital Economy Bill - which is hardly surprising but reasuring to hear.  Meanwile the EU parliament think the privacy of their citizens merits protection and have said no to the Swift agreement that gives the USA bulk access to european banking data. Thanks you guys (& gals)!

The EFF today reports on a victory in the US courts that confirms the 'first rights' principle that if you buy something it's yours to enjoy, share and sell as you like - no matter what small print a company may add on the box.  You bought it, you own it.

..and Cory Doctorow explains how if you look into the issues with IP, copyright and innovation you come to very different conclusions than if you crib your research from lobbyists... (from the tireless Michel Geist).

And of course Christian Engström, Piratpartiet's MEP, celebrated making it to the big 50.  Congratulations Christian - keep up the good work!

Friday, 5 February 2010

What makes a pirate?

In an election year in both Sweden and Britain it's interesting to understand - what is a pirate anyway? Or more to the point - what does the Pirate Party stand for?  And that's just the question that Michael Davies has put on his blog with an open letter to Andrew Robinson, leader of the Pirate Party.  He asks a number of pertinent questions, on politics and pirates, on copyright and patents and on the importance of the rights that copyright enforcement increasingly infringes.

The entry has seen promises from both Andrew and Piratpartiet leader Rick Falkvinge to answer in more depth - responses I look forward to reading.  In the meantime, on The Pirate Party Forum, JohnB has given a long and full answer of his own...    and maybe, in the fullness of time I might try and add my view on these questions here...

Put simply...  the internet has brought huge changes in how we communicate - and equally huge changes in the possibilities to track and monitor our everyday lives.  How society decides to use or constrain these forces, for better or worse, is an intensely political question and one which demands focus and attention by us, the populace - otherwise other interests in industry, law enforcement and in government will do what they can get away with.  They will do what they can - not what they should.

If you want it any other way you need to make your voice heard.

Shouting louder, means shouting in unison.... 

Welcome on board.....

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Old Bill and the Geraniums: A digital fable

Old Bill the pirate woke up one fine sunny morning and looked out his window. The view was nice but something was missing. "What I need" he thinks "are some flowers for my windowboxes". And so, after breakfast, Bill went down to Mr Warmer's nursery and bought a dozen big geranium plants.

"They're a beautiful colour" said Bill.
"Aren't they just. " said Mr Warmer warmly "I call them 'Copper riots'. I bred them myself."

Old Bill took his geraniums home and soon had the finest windowboxes in the village... Everyone that passed said how nice they were, and everyone that asked he told them how he'd got them from Mr Warmers.

The plants thrived in the sunshine and pretty soon they were big and bushy. "I could take some cuttings" thought Bill .. and so that's just what he did. But he didn't need lots more geraniums really so when the cuttings were ready he put them in a box on his veranda with a BIG sign saying 'Geranium cuttings, Help yourself'. His neighbours, and his friends and even a few folk he didn't know did just that.

It happened though that Mr Warmer was passing by and he saw the box of cuttings and stopped and said "You can't do that Old Bill - you've copied my geraniums and now you're giving them away. That's stealing! If you don't stop that at once I'm going to call the police." Poor Old Bill didn't know what to say..... but as it happened he didn't need to say anything for just then the vicar came by and overheard their conversation.

"But Mr Warmer, what an extraordinary thing to say...." he chimed in cheerfully. "Those are the geraniums that came from your nursery" - pointing to the window boxes "..and Old Bill paid you for those. These are his cuttings... anyone can see that. I think it's really public spirited of him to share them like this. Don't you? Think how it will brighten up the village with a nice splash of colour!"

"But they're my Copper Riots! He copied them! " said Mr Warmer, getting hot under the collar...

"But Mr Warmer", said the vicar - "he just grew new ones... with a bit of sunshine and water and some tender loving care... (and a little help from the Almighty) .. That's hardly stealing now is it?"

"How would it have been for our Lord if he'd stood there with five loaves in his hand feeding the multitude and the baker came and said 'You can't do that, you're copying my bread...'"

"You do see don't you?"

Mr Warmer looked at his shoes, and shook his head and went on his way mumbling... about how he was going to stop selling physical geraniums and just licence digital copies, and ask the mayor if he couldn't send the police round to check that no-one else was growing cuttings without him knowing, and wondering if he could get someone to watch Old Bill's house just in case he was 'up to something'.

"What a funny character" said Old Bill.
"Oh he's all right really" said the vicar. "He just gets these funny ideas...
By the way... my wife's got some fuschia cuttings on the go if you'd like some?
.. and you don't happen to have the recipe for those lovely scones you did for the church fête do you? They were very good...."

And the moral of this story?

The Vicar says.... 'Sharing is Caring'...

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party - Working for copyright reform.