30 November 2009

Estonia's Open Source Shame

Last week I wrote about the curious case of Mr Kallas, vice president of the European Commission. He seemed to have problems with the word “open”, imagining that this meant “unprotected”, judging by his comments. I put this down to some linguistic misunderstanding as a result of the distance of the Estonian language from English, rather than an intentional and wrong-headed attack on openness. Looks like I was wrong....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Harnessing Openness in Higher Education

Surprisingly, perhaps, education was one of the late-comers to the openness party (couldn't be all those fiercely protective academic egos, could it?) Happily, ground is rapidly being made up in areas like open access, open courseware and open educational resources (OER), with a steady stream of important studies looking at how openness can be applied to make education better.

I've not come across the Committee for Economic Development before, but I like their thinking in this new report "Harnessing Openness to Improve Research, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education". Here's a sample from the summary:

We do not expect OER to simply replace more closed, proprietary educational materials which themselves are increasingly becoming digital. And there are many issues that must be addressed if OER is to live up to its potential. OER has been supply driven, with creators posting whatever interests them regardless of how or even whether it is used; to be successful OER must meet the needs of users. We need to know how OER is actually being used, how effective it is, particularly in comparison with existing materials, and what impact it has on learners. We need to rethink our copyright rules to allow increased non-commercial educational uses of copyrighted materials beyond the traditional classroom in order to facilitate the further development of OER. Just as new approaches to sustainability are being developed to support open-source software and open-access scientific journals, we will need to see if there are ways to sustain the development and distribution of free high-quality, academically rigorous, and pedagogically sound OER that take full advantage of its digital nature.

It also shows a good appreciation of one of the key obstacles to openness in education - and elsewhere:

The intellectual property arguments that have been invoked to oppose public-access mandates for government-funded research and the digitization and partial display of the world’s books suggest to us the need to recalibrate our intellectual property rules for the digital age. Intellectual property rules should serve not only those who first create a work (and subsequent rights holders) but should also recognize the needs of users who often are follow-on creators. When the application of existing intellectual property rules appear to regularly have perverse effects — electronic books having text-to-speech capabilities turned off to the detriment of the visually impaired, or university presses, created to increase the accessibility of scholarly materials, invoking copyright protections to have their material removed from the globally accessible Web — it is time to step back and revisit not only the specific applications of the rules but the rules themselves. Given the complexity of these issues, universities should be forceful proponents for greater openness in legislative debates about IP, and should be educating their faculties about their intellectual property rights.

That's truly remarkable given the background of the Committee for Economic Development that is behind the report:

CED is a Trustee-directed organization. CED's Trustees are chairmen, presidents, and senior executives of major American corporations and university presidents. Trustees alone set CED's research agenda, develop policy recommendations, and speak out for their adoption. Unique among U.S. business organizations, CED offers senior executives a nonpolitical forum for exploring critical long-term issues and making an impact on U.S. policy decisions.

CED is proud of its reputation as a group of business and education leaders committed to improving the growth and productivity of the U.S. economy, a freer global trading system, and greater opportunity for all Americans. CED's Trustees understand that business, government, and individuals are jointly responsible for our mutual security and prosperity.

These are clearly not a bunch of sandal-wearing hippies, but a bunch of hard-headed business people who can see the economic case for more openness in education.

The rest of report offers useful potted histories of openness in education, and even broadens out to include transparency - an interesting indication of this rising meme. Overall, well worth reading for those interested in this area.

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Open Source House

One of the central questions this blog tries to answer is to what extent the principles behind open source software can be applied to other fields. One issue that emerges is whether or not the area in question possesses something like underlying source code: if it does, then the open source techniques can generally be applied; if it doesn't, it's much harder (not suprisingly, really.)

One area that seems ripe for open source ideas is architecture, which does indeed possess something close to source code with its blueprints. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to see things like this:

You are about to witness a quantum leap in design and accessibility of housing in developing countries. The event is the birth of an open source on the web that offers professional designs for affordable, durable, modular and climate-specific houses. The designs are brought in by architects from all over the world and are continually under construction in search of the solutions most suitable to the needs and preferences of the local buyers and future owners of these houses.

We want to make knowledge and creativity in housing accessible to a large group of people and are looking for architects to bring in new ideas. Welcome to Open Source House.

Crucially, the Open Source House project is collaborative, actively soliciting "code" from external contributors:

Discover the OS House platform while becoming an active member

Once inside you'll rapidly get familiar with the intuitive environment we have set for you. By clicking through our 100% sustainable architecture content you'll find ready-to-download designs and information created during our workshops and creative sessions.

This content is our open knowledge database. To keep it growing os-house's platform is currently open to receive any material you have. So, if you have any sketch ideas, drawings or vision on sustainable housing, upload it and share it.

The extent to which these other aspects of open source software practice are implemented is probably a good rough guide as to whether the larger ideas are applicable or not.

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27 November 2009

Time to Abolish the Olympics?

This is incredible:

An American author and broadcaster claims Canadian border officials questioned her about whether she would discuss the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games at a speaking engagement Wednesday evening in Vancouver.


They began to search her notes and computers and those of her two colleagues, Ms. Goodman alleged. They then photographed the journalist and gave her a stipulation to leave the country by Friday night. They were delayed over an hour.

Now, there are two explanations for this. One, is that free speech no longer exists in Canada, which is news to me. I can't imagine even the most zealous border official was really trying *in principle* to restrict Ms Goodman's general right to talk about anything.

The other possibility, seems much more likely: that this was another epiphenomenon of the Olympic trademark insanity, whereby ordinary words are suddenly forbidden to lesser mortals - unless they pay.

In other words, it is precisely the privatisation of language that is used as an analogy for the patenting of algorithms - something so manifestly absurd, that no one would ever do it. Except that in the case of anything touching the Holy Olympics, we are already there.

If it's got to the point where border officials are checking people for "prohibited Olympic words" that they may be about to use without permission, perhaps it's time to call a halt to this corporatisation of language by abolishing the Olympics in their present, hypertrophied form. How about going back to basics: a competition in Olympia, for amateurs, with none of the commercial superstructure that has accrued: just pure sport?

Too much to ask? Yes, probably, until the widespread assumption that intellectual monopolies like copyright, patents and trademarks are in some sense *good* for us, despite all evidence to the contrary, is preceived to be the con-trick it really is.

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Openness as the Foundation for Global Change

What do you do after Inventing the Web? That's not a question most of us have to face, but it is for Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Heading up the World Wide Web Consortium to oversee the Web's development was a natural move, but valuable as its work has been, there's no denying that it has been sidelined somewhat by the rather more vigorous commercial Web activity that's taken place over the last decade.

Moreover, the kind of standards-setting that the W3C is mostly involved with is not exactly game-changing stuff – unlike the Web itself. So the recent announcement of the World Wide Web Foundation, also created by Sir Tim, has a certain logic to it.

Here's that new organisation's “vision”:

On Open Enterprise blog.

26 November 2009

Of Government 2.0, Open Source and Open Data

Great to see this in Australian Senator Kate Lundy's big speech "Government 2.0: co-designing a better democracy":

Open source software as an example of another, often less thought of opportunity for open and transparent government is through the tools we choose to use. Software underpins almost everything we do, whether it be for work, play or creative endeavour. To be able to scrutinise software – to see the human readable instructions and trust it has, if you will – becomes almost a democratic issue, for many in the technology community.


So we consider that the time is now right to build on our record of fairness and achievement and to take further positive action to ensure that Open Source products are fully and fairly considered throughout government IT; to ensure that we specify our requirements and publish our data in terms of Open Standards; and that we seek the same degree of flexibility in our commercial relationships with proprietary software suppliers as are inherent in the open source world.

There's also good stuff on open data:

as has been evident in the US for many years, open access to government data can dramatically increase the value created from the data both socially and economically. This means the society as a whole benefits from access to the data.
Public sector information ought to be available in the public not just to facilitate innovation in the public and private spheres, but to enable individual citizens to make informed choices.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about personal information that we expect to be private and secure. I am talking about general information about the places we live, the environment we live in, the things we do as a society.
A general policy of openness in this area would create a culture of scrutiny and collaboration rather than a culture of secrecy.

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UK Data Retention: the First 70 Years

If you thought retention of communications data was a new habit of the UK government, think again:

What was also new to me is the fact that the British even back then [during the Second World War] demanded that Cable+Wireless provides copies of all telegraphs through their network. And that's some 70-80 years before data retention on communications networks becomes a big topic ;)

Nothing new under the sun...

Who Owns Science? The Manchester Manifesto

One of my heroes, Sir John Sulston, has a piece in the Guardian today with the intriguing headline "How science is shackled by intellectual property":

The myth is that IP rights are as important as our rights in castles, cars and corn oil. IP is supposedly intended to encourage inventors and the investment needed to bring their products to the clinic and marketplace. In reality, patents often suppress invention rather than promote it: drugs are "evergreened" when patents are on the verge of running out – companies buy up the patents of potential rivals in order to prevent them being turned into products. Moreover, the prices charged, especially for pharmaceuticals, are often grossly in excess of those required to cover costs and make reasonable profits.

IP rights are beginning to permeate every area of scientific endeavour. Even in universities, science and innovation, which have already been paid for out of the public purse, are privatised and resold to the public via patents acquired by commercial interests. The drive to commercialise science has overtaken not only applied research but also "blue-skies" research, such that even the pure quest for knowledge is subverted by the need for profit.

Great stuff, but this is actually just a teaser for the launch today of something called rather grandly "The Manchester Manifesto" [.pdf], which states the problem as follows:

It is clear that the dominant existing model of innovation, while serving some necessary purposes for the current operation of innovation, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals in a number of ways. In many cases it restricts access to scientific knowledge and products, thereby limiting the public benefits of science; it can restrict the flow of information, thereby inhibiting the progress of science; and it may hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. Limited improvements may be achieved through modification of the current IP system, but consideration of alternative models isurgently required.

Unfortunately, after asking the right questions, the answer that the manifesto comes up with is pretty thin gruel:

We call for further research towards achieving more equitable innovation and enabling greater fulfilment of the goals of science as we see them.

Further research?

Modified and alternative models of innovation have the potential to address problems inherent in the current system. An investigation and evaluation of these models is required in order to determine whether they are likely to be more successful in facilitating the goals of science and innovation identified above, and if so how they may be deployed.

Hey, let's not get too radical, eh?

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25 November 2009

A Proportionate Response to "Proportionate"

There is a nauseating piece of troll-bait in the Guardian today. It's called "My DNA dilemma", and in it Alan Johnson attempts to convince readers he suffers as much as any of us bleeding-heart liberals at the thought of the terrible, terrible sacrifices of freedom we must make for the sake of security.

I won't bother demolishing the rickety edifice of its spin and half-truths, since that has been done expertly elsewhere. Instead, I'd like to concentrate on the key argument of the piece, implicit in its title:

This is a classic home secretary dilemma. It is not a clear-cut choice between liberty and security – between siding with the civil liberties lobby or the forces of law and order. The far less headline-friendly reality is the need to balance all these factors – protecting the public, but in a way that's proportionate to the threat. I believe that the government's proposals do precisely that but I also welcome the debate as a necessary part of implementing such sensitive measures.

There's a tell-tale word in there that I have been tracking for many months as it silently worms its way into public discourse in this country: "proportionate".

It's the ultimate argument-killer when people raise the big issues like liberty to defend themselves from ever-more intrusive "security" legislation - which strangely always turns out to be "surveillance" of the little people like you and me. Yes, it seems to say, you're right, this *is* a tricky one, but we must find a compromise "to balance all these factors", as Alan Johnson puts it. And the way we do that is by making a *proportionate* response.

How could anyone argue with something so reasonable? After all, that's exactly what we all want: a proportionate response that represents a compromise position.

There's just one little problem. As the UK government has shown by its use of this word time and again to justify everything from ID cards and policing to Internet monitoring and DNA databases, what they really mean is: we're going to do what we've said because it's what we've decided. In effect, this use of "proportionate response" is simply shorthand for the tautological "our response", but dressed up in a costume of apparent concession.

If you don't think this is a serious problem, just watch out next time you read or hear a government discussion of why they realise something is a contentious area, and that there are many people who disagree profoundly: I can almost guarantee that at some point they will roll out the "p"-word, and that will be the end of the argument - because if you argue for something else, you are clearly *against* a proportionate solution, and can therefore be dismissed as part of the lunatic fringe.

Because it is such a slippery, weaselly word, I think we need to try to pre-empt these attempts by claiming immediately that *our* solutions are proportionate. Then, when the government inevitably claims the same for theirs, it comes down to a slanging match - which at least makes it clear that there is no "consensus".

The more we point out the UK government's constant invocation of "proportionate" responses to hide a complete refusal to engage with critics - despite Alan Johnson claiming to "welcome the debate" - the sooner it will drop that tactic. It might not start to listen - that would be too much to hope - but at least we will have reduced the verbal undergrowth in which it can hide.

So, please pass it on about the UK government's "proportionate" meme: after all, it's a proportionate response.

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24 November 2009

And Another Reason that Rupe is Wrong...

...about his plans to gag Google, and embrace the beauteous Bing:

For the plan to work, it will also require that the vast, endlessly proliferating ecology of Internet filters, such as the millions of bloggers or tweeters or Facebook posters who recommend or summarize news stories, are eradicated from the Net. When searching for news, I'd rather find the original Associated Press article breaking a story, but in a pinch I will settle for a summary. The pathways in which information flows on the Internet are near infinite, and until now, have always been expanding in size and scope. I have paid subscriptions to the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, but I rarely have time to sit down and devour the daily publications from "front" to "back." I depend on a network of my own Internet filters to tell me what is important or newsworthy -- without them, there is simply too much out there for me to comprehend or absorb.

Poor Mr Murdoch, bless his cotton socks, is still thinking in terms of command and control - with him doing both; the Internet doesn't quite work like that - despite the best efforts of repressive governments around the world (I'm looking at *you*, Gordon).

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Promoting Open Source Science

Open source science certainly seems to be catching on lately: there have been as many articles on the subject in the last few months as in the prevous few years. Here's a good one, an interview with Walter Jessen. This is his definition of what open source science means:

Open Source Science is a collaborative and transparent approach to science. To me, it means four things:

1. Open Source: the use of open and freely accessible software tools for scientific research and collaboration.
2. Open Notebook: transparency in experimental design and data management.
3. Open Data: public accessibility of scientific data, which allows for distribution, reuse and derived works.
4. Open Access: public access to scholarly literature.

It's well-worth reading, not least for its useful links to related sites.

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The Internet's Infinite Subversion

Another nicely clueful piece in the Guardian:

The emancipatory potential of the free dissemination of intellectual property through infinite replication is overwhelming. Unlike private property that is subject to scarcity, supply and demand laws and other rigid determinations, immaterial property poses an explosive threat to our deeply rooted notions of proprietorship.

It is not only because there can be potentially infinite owners of property that the internet redefines our notion of it. It is also that people who participate in the exchange of immaterial works do not treat them as property. When they exchange music, books or movies, they are not merely transferring ownership from themselves to others; they simply do not recognise themselves as owners in the first place.

Dangerous place, this Internet...no wonder they are trying to lock it down.

23 November 2009

Software Copyright vs. Software Patents

Here's an noteworthy story about the different kinds of protection that can be given to software:

Mit einer Stellungnahme vom 16.11.2009 (PDF) hat sich der Bundesverband Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie e.V. (BIKT) zur anstehenden Urheberrechtsreform (dem so genannten “3. Korb”) geäußert. Der Brachenverband, der nach eigenen Angaben die Interessen von über 600 kleinen und mittelständischen Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie (IKT-)-Lösungsanbietern auf nationaler und europäischer Ebene vertritt fordert von der Politik, dass der Urheberrechtsschutz an Computerprogrammen gestärkt und gegen Patente auf “computerimplementierte Erfindungen” (also Softwarepatente) abgesichert wird. Der Verband sieht die Interessen der Software-Urheber wegen eines Anstiegs von Softwarepatenterteilungen durch das Europäische Patentamt (EPA) in Gefahr.

BIKT weist in der Stellungnahme darauf hin, dass sich die internationale Politik beim Rechtsschutz für Computerprogramme bewusst für einen “copyright approach” und gegen einen “patent approach” entschieden habe. Ein paralleler Patentschutz, der sich an vielen Software-Patenten, die vom EPA gewährt würden, manifestiere, gefährde diese Entscheidung und die Integrität des Urheberrechtsschutzes am Programm. Er führe dazu, dass “Softwareautoren im Wirkungsbereich von Patenten an der wirtschaftlichen Nutzung ihrer eigenen Programme gehindert werden.”

[Via Google Translate: With an opinion (PDF), which was published on 16.11.2009, has the Federal Information and Communications Technology Association (BIKT) for the upcoming copyright reform (the so-called "3 Basket") expressed. The industry organization representing the interests of their own statements to over 600 small and medium-sized information and communication technology (ICT) solution providers at the national and European levels of politics requires that copyright protection for computer programs and strengthened against patents on "computer-implemented inventions" (ie software) is secured. The Association considers the interests of software authors because of the high inventory and further rise of software patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) in danger.

BIKT notes in the comments that are aware of international politics in legal protection for computer programs for a "copyright approach" and had decided against a "patent approach". A parallel patent protection, which manifests itself in many software patents that were granted by the EPO, the decision and threatens the integrity of copyright protection in the program. It leads to that "be prevented from software authors in the scope of patents in the economic exploitation of their own programs."]

What's interesting here is that this position - preferring copyright rather than patent protection - comes from small to medium-sized software companies, but aligns with that of the free software world, which depends on copyright for the efficacy of its licences, but cannot accommodate patents, because they act as a brake on sharing.

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Of Credibility, Openness and Scientific Tribalism

I've steered clear of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) break-in since emotions are still running high, while information content remains low. But aside from the significance (or otherwise) of the emails, one thing is abundantly clear: if the climate data had been released from the beginning, this would really be a story of negligible interest to the wider world.

Here's an insightful post that explores not only that issue of openness, but also an extremely important factor I'd not really appreciated sufficiently before: scientific tribalism.

Tribalism is defined here as a strong identity that separates one’s group from members of another group, characterized by strong in-group loyalty and regarding other groups differing from the tribe’s defining characteristics as inferior. In the context of scientific research, tribes differ from groups of colleagues that collaborate and otherwise associate with each other professionally. As a result of the politicization of climate science, climate tribes (consisting of a small number of climate researchers) were established in response to the politically motivated climate disinformation machine that was associated with e.g. ExxonMobil, CEI, Inhofe/Morano etc. The reaction of the climate tribes to the political assault has been to circle the wagons and point the guns outward in an attempt to discredit misinformation from politicized advocacy groups. The motivation of scientists in the pro AGW tribes appears to be less about politics and more about professional ego and scientific integrity as their research was under assault for nonscientific reasons (I’m sure there are individual exceptions, but this is my overall perception).


Scientists are of course human, and short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most, and it seems difficult to spin many of the emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the assessment process. I sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality reflect what they appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to continue explaining the individual emails and the broader issues of concern.

This analysis exposes the worrying possibility that the fractures within the scientific community can be further exploited by those who wish to see climate change science damaged and the necessary measures it calls for delayed or even dismissed.

It looks like the greatest enemy to climate change science comes not from the denialists - be they fools or knaves - but from narrow-minded tribalists within the scientific community itself who cannot see the bigger picture. Perhaps we should be grateful for the ugly fissures that the CRU incident seems to reveal, since it gives the people concerned a chance to heal them before they lead to irreversible fractures.

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Has Microsoft Got a Job for You...

Since it's Monday morning, I thought I'd start the week gently, with a little humour, courtesy of a Microsoft job ad. After all, who could read the following without laughing?

On Open Enterprise blog.

22 November 2009

Opening up the Black Box of Scientific Research

I've written before about the idea of applying openness/open source ideas to science, but here's an interesting new project that attempts to go much further:

our fundamental goal is to render transparent the black-box of scientific research by affording all individuals an opportunity to both access and participate directly in the scientific research process. To achieve this goal, we are working toward developing an entirely research-based scientific curriculum, and three additional resources (the discussion forum, research microfinance platform, and research log platform) which shall function to dynamically feed information to this curriculum - thereby ensuring the accuracy of the information contained within it, and its ability to maintain par with the course of scientific research.

In addition, each of these resources will also serve to increase the accessibility of the scientific research process for non-researchers by allowing individuals to (1) directly invest in research projects (via the research microfinance platform), (2) pose questions directly to researchers working at the cutting edge of scientific research (via the discussion forum), and (3) observe the progress of ongoing publicly-funded research (via the research log platform).

Not quite sure how this will scale, but anything whose "fundamental goal" is "to render transparent the black-box of scientific research" sounds good to me.

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A Modest Proposal: "How to Fix Capitalism"

"How to Fix Capitalism" is an insanely ambitious post that ranges over, well, just about everything concerned with business and all it touches. The following proposals give some hint of its deep wisdom:

# Abolish patents. They have not been proven to speed progress: the evidence seems to be to the contrary. They definitely increase costs, are an inefficient way of funding R & D and allow oligopolists to block competition.

# Reduce the copyright term to the optimal length suggested by research of about 15 years. It ought to be obvious that works produced in the reign of Queen Victoria should not be in copyright in the 21st century.

# Exclude works distributed with DRM from copyright to ensure that copyright works do fall into the public domain when the copyright expires.

# Reduce the copyright term on computer software to two years, and make copyright contingent on disclosing source code (so others can alter the software when it comes out of copyright).

This section also warmed the cockles of my collaborative heart:

by telling people that they are expected to be selfish, they become more selfish. Economics students become more selfish because they are repeatedly taught to expect that people are rational and selfish: the association between the two can only strengthen the effect.

Society is permeated, especially in business, politics and economics, with the idea that is people pursue their own interests, this will automatically lead to the best outcome, and that, therefore, people should be selfish. This cannot be fixed by endless incentives to align interests: life and business is too complex for that to work. A free market is not a substitute for integrity.

Just share it...

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The Copyright Ratchet Racket Explained

I and many others have noted how changes in copyright law only ever work in one direction: to *increase* copyright's term and to give greater powers to copyright holders. In effect, it's a ratchet. But until now, I've not seen a good explanation of what's driving all this (although I had a pretty good idea). The motor behind the ratchet (assuming such mixed metaphors are permitted) is harmonisation:

Simply put, “harmonization” is a concept whereby the intellectual property laws of different countries are made consistent, mostly to facilitate international trade and business. The concept of harmonization is not unusual; almost all the states and territories in this country are signatories to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a model law in the U.S. that makes consistent (or “harmonizes”) the law of contracts, sales, banking, and secured transactions. This allows firms in one state to reasonably, predictably, and consistently do business with firms in another state.


From a linguistic perspective, harmonization suggests a voluntary coordination that the parties to an agreement will be held to the same, core standards and will be working under the same rules. Ideally, each country’s intellectual property laws should have similar weight and effect where harmonization occurs.

But in reality, harmonization of intellectual property laws is different. The term has become a euphemism for the global, one-sided spread of United States’ intellectual property laws. One could argue that under the guise of harmonization, intellectual property law has become America’s chief 21st century export. In the harmonization model, U.S. intellectual property law effectively becomes the world’s de facto intellectual property law, effectively overriding the voluntary coordination principle that should be inherent through the Berne Convention.

This is a fantastic post, with useful links, that fleshes out the following basic argument:

The dismissal of voluntary coordination occurs because the U.S. leverages its economic power to force other countries to adopt U.S. copyright law in lieu of their own if the U.S. thinks the foreign country’s laws are insufficient to protect American intellectual property. It is a “carrot and stick” approach: If a foreign country wants to do business with the U.S. (or get U.S. support to enter into the World Trade Organization), it must adopt U.S. copyright standards and codify them into their statutes.

For most foreign countries, this quid pro quo has become the price of doing business with the U.S. On the other hand, it is unusual that the U.S. would agree to agree to another country’s intellectual property regimen: It doesn’t have to. Therefore, harmonization really is doublespeak for a worldwide adoption of the American intellectual property standard.

Indispensable reading for anyone who cares about the global copyright racket - and that should mean anyone who is online, since the tricks used to bolster copyright around the world will have a profound effect on ordinary users there, as the current UK Digital Economy bill makes all-too plain.

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20 November 2009

Mandelson's Madness

The trajectory of the Digital Economy Bill has been extraordinary, constantly experiencing will-he-won't-he moments as successive consultations and comments and rumours have contradicted each other over whether “three strikes and you're out” would be part of the plan. Today, the Bill is finally published, but that particular element now looks almost mild compared to what is apparently coming...

On Open Enterprise blog.

18 November 2009

Sir Tim: "Public Data is a Public Good"

The man - er, knight - himself comments on the opening up of the Ordnance Survey, and concludes with these thoughts:

Data is beginning to drive the Government’s websites. But without a consistent policy to make it available to others, without the use of open standards and unrestrictive licences for reuse, information stays compartmentalised and its full value is lost.

Openly available public data not only creates economic and social capital, it also creates bottom-up pressure to improve public services. Data is essential in enabling citizens to choose between public service providers. It helps them to compare their local services with services elsewhere. It enables all of us to lobby for improvement. Public data is a public good.

Yup, yup and yup. (Via Free Our Data.)

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Free Culture Forum: Getting it Together

As regular readers will know, I write a lot about the related areas of openness, freedom, transparency and the commons, but it's rare to find them literally coming together like this, in the Free Culture Forum:

Across the planet, people are recognizing the need for an international space to build and coordinate a common agenda for issues surrounding free culture and access to knowledge. The Free Culture Forum of Barcelona created one such space.

Bringing together key organizations and active voices in the free culture and knowledge space under a single roof, the Forum was a meeting point to sit and find answers to the pressing questions behind the present paradigm shift.

The Forum was an open space for drawing up proposals to present the position of civil society on the privatization of culture and access to knowledge. Participants debated the role of government in access to knowledge, on the creation and distribution of art and culture, and other areas.

The list of participants is impressive, and includes well-known names like the EFF, the P2P Foundation, the Knoweldge Ecology International, La Quadrature du Net, and many others. Even better is the extremely thorough charter; here's it's opening section:

We are in the midst of a revolution in the way that knowledge and culture are created, accessed and transformed. Citizens, artists and consumers are no longer powerless and isolated in the face of the content-providing industries: now individuals across many different spheres collaborate, participate and decide. Digital technology has bridged the gap, allowing ideas and knowledge to flow. It has done away with many of the geographic and technological barriers to sharing. It has provided new educational tools and stimulated new possibilities for forms of social, economic and political organisation. This revolution is comparable to the far reaching changes brought about as a result of the printing press.

In spite of these transformations, the entertainment industry, most communications service providers governments and international bodies still base the sources of their advantages and profits on control of content and tools and on managing scarcity. This leads to restrictions on citizens’ rights to education, access to information, culture, science and technology; freedom of expression; inviolability of communications and privacy. They put the protection of private interests above the public interest, holding back the development of society in general.

Today’s institutions, industries, structures or conventions will not survive into the future unless they adapt to these changes. Some, however, will alter and refine their methods in response to the new realities. And we need to take account of this.

That will all be pretty familiar to readers of this blog. There then follow an amazingly complete list of Things That We Need - which will also ring a few bells. Here are the areas covered:

Reverse Three-Step Test
Knowledge Commons and Public Domain
Defending access to Technological Infrastructures and Net Neutrality
Rights in digital context
Stimulating Creativity and Innovation
Access to works for persons with reading disabilities

There's also an important section headed "Guidelines for Education and Access to Knowledge", which naturally considers open educational resources, and has this to say on free software, open standards and open formats:

Free/libre and Open Source Software allows people to study and learn concepts instead of black boxes, enables transparency of information processing, assures competition and innovation, provides independence from corporate interests and increases the autonomy of citizens.

The use of open standards and open formats is essential to ensure technical interoperability, provide a level playing field for competing vendors, enable seamless access to digital information and the availability of knowledge and social memory now and in the future. Thus we assert that:

* Educational entities should use Free/libre and Open Source Software as a learning tool, as a subject in itself and as the base for their IT infrastructure.
* All software developed in an educational environment and publicly funded must be released under a free license.
* Promote the use of Free/libre and Open Source Software in textbooks as an alternative to proprietary software to perform learning-related tasks such as numerical calculus, image editing, document composition, etc. where applicable.
* Develop, provide and promote free editing tools to elaborate and improve didactic materials.
* Technologies like Digital Rights Management must be refused to assure the permanent access to educational resources and enable lifelong learning.

All-in-all, this is an extraordinary document with which I find myself in pretty much total agreement. It's an great achievement, and will be a real reference point for everyone working in the fields of digital freedom, openness and transparency for years to come.

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17 November 2009

Has Ordnance Survey Managed to Find a Clue?

This is better than I was expecting:

Speaking at a seminar on Smarter Government in Downing Street later today, attended by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the Prime Minister will set out how the Government and Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, will open up its data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mid scale mapping information.

The Government will consult on proposals to make data from Ordnance Survey freely available so it can be used for digital innovation and to support democratic accountability.


Data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries as well as postcode areas would be released for free re-use, including commercially. Mid-scale digital mapping information would also be released in the same way.


The highest-specification Ordnance Survey products and services – such as those used by property developers or the utility companies – would be charged for on a cost-reflective basis.

This suggests that people in government are gradually beginning to understand that they can give away much of their data - well, actually, *our* data - and still generate revenue by targetting particular remunerative sectors.

I was also interested to read this:

Freely available facts and figures are essential for driving improvements in public services. It puts information, and therefore power, in the hands of the public and the service providers to challenge or demand innovation in public services.

The Prime Minister has set out the importance of an open data policy as part of broader efforts to strengthen democracy – creating a culture in which Government information is accessible and useful to as many people as possible in order to increase transparency and accountability, improve public services and create new economic and social value.

Now, I'm not so naïve as to believe this signals a massive sea-change in the present UK government's attitude to open data, openness and transparency. But what's significant is that it clearly feels the need at least to mouth the words: that is, it's aware that it is not in Kansas any more, and that the Ordnance Survey in its current form won't be providing any maps for them....

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16 November 2009

British Library's Bitter Digital Milestone

Oh look, the British Library thinks it has passed a milestone:

The British Library has added the 500,000th item to its long-term Digital Library System. The milestone item was a digitised copy of a newspaper originally published in 1864 and scanned as part of the Library's 19th Century British Library Newspapers project, which recently made more than 2 million pages of historic newspapers available online at http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs/

In eight pages of densely-packed text, The Birmingham Daily Post dated Monday 19 December 1864 offers a vivid snapshot of life 145 years ago. Along with accounts of an 82-year-old man who died after falling out of bed and two men before the courts for bigamy, the paper also reports on President Lincoln recommending to the US congress the passing of a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery, and 'a number of the worst "roughs" of the town' who pelted churchgoers with snowballs after several inches of snow had fallen.

The digitised newspaper joins hundreds of thousands of other items including e-journals, digital sound recordings, born-digital material received through voluntary deposit arrangements with publishers andmore than 65,000 19th century digitised books. The Digital Library System within which these items are now stored has been developed by the British Library to enable long term storage of the digital material that forms an increasing proportion of the nation's intellectual output.

Fab stuff...except:

To access the subscription-based articles in this database, you will need to first register as a user and then purchase either

* A 24-hour pass that provides you access to 100 articles over that period.
* A 7-day pass that provides you access to 200 articles over that period.


a 24-hour pass for £6.99 allowing you to view up to 100 articles, or a seven-day pass with 200 article views for £9.99

That is: digitising content that is out of copyright, in the public domain, and then making us pay through the nose - us as in muggins public, which has kept the British Library going for two centuries thanks to our taxes, in case you'd forgotten - for the privilege of viewing it online.

Thanks a bunch, BL, for locking up "an increasing proportion of the nation's intellectual output" behind a paywall, where few will ever see it: that's what spreading knowledge is all about, isn't it? Great work from a quondam great institution, more millstone than milestone...

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15 November 2009

Free Software for All Russian Schools in Jeopardy

I've written before about Russia's ambitious plan to install free software throughout its education system. Worrying news suggests that things are not going smoothly:

Президент РФ Дмитрий Медведев поручил разобраться с ситуацией с поставками в российские школы свободного программного обеспечения (СПО). С просьбой об этом к нему обратился глава IT-компании "Армада" Алексей Кузовкин, который считает, что программа поставок Linux в школы находится под угрозой срыва.

[Via Google Translate: President Dmitry Medvedev instructed to deal with the situation with supplies in Russia's school of free software (ACT). The request for this approached by the head of IT-companies "Armada" Alexei Kuzovkin, who believes that the program supplies Linux to schools is in jeopardy.]

Part of the problem is money:

В 2009 году планировалось установить СПО во всех школах страны, а с 1 января 2011 года — отказаться от закупок коммерческого ПО для школ за счет федерального бюджета. Но с начала года финансирование проекта было урезано в три раза, говорится в письме "Армады", а конкурс на внедрение СПО во все школы до сих пор не объявлен. 13 июля Министерство образования и науки приняло решение о разделе работ по проекту 2009 года на три лота. В письме "Армады" говорится, что это "неизбежно приведет к провалу всего проекта в результате размытия ответственности среди исполнителей".

[In 2009, planned to be installed in all ACT schools across the country, and from January 1st 2011 - refuse to purchase commercial software for schools at the expense of the federal budget. But from the beginning of the year funding for the project was pared down to three times, the letter says "Armada", a competition for the introduction of ACT in all the schools have not yet been announced. July 13 The Ministry of Education and Science has decided on the topic of the project in 2009 to three lot. The letter "Armada" states that it "will inevitably lead to failure of the project as a result of spreading responsibility among the performers.]

Another factor seems to be problems with the free software discs that were sent out:

Но опыт рассылки пакетов с СПО в этом году не удался (выполнял IBS), вспоминает один из участников рынка: "Данный пакет был разослан, но с ошибками, которые возникли при записи ПО на диски". Быстрый отказ от платного ПО вряд ли возможен, считает аналитик ИК "Финам" Татьяна Менькова. По ее мнению, прежде всего школьникам нужен будет достаточный объем различного прикладного софта, причем простого и понятного, а с этим у производителей СПО традиционно есть проблемы. Кроме того, скорее всего, придется платить за обновление операционной системы, за апдейт того же прикладного софта. "Достаточно много ресурсов потребуется на переобучение учителей, большинство из которых привыкли к Windows. Конечно, в перспективе нескольких лет это все равно будет в разы дешевле закупки решений от Microsoft, но есть и издержки для экономики. Так, на Linux приходится всего около 1% пользовательских ОС, то есть стране все-таки нужны специалисты, знающие Windows",— указывает Татьяна Менькова.

[But the experience of sending packets from the ACT this year was a failure (served IBS), recalls one of the market participants: "This package was sent, but with errors that occurred when recording to disk. Quick refusal to pay software is hardly possible, says analyst IK "Finam" Tatiana Menkova. In her opinion, first of all students will need an adequate amount of different software applications, with simple and understandable, and with that the producers ACT traditionally have problems. In addition, most likely have to pay for upgrading the operating system update for the same application software. "Quite a number of resources needed for retraining of teachers, most of whom are accustomed to Windows. Of course, in future years it will still be many times cheaper to purchase solutions from Microsoft, but there are costs to the economy. So, on Linux there are only about 1% custom operating system, that is, the country still in need of professionals who are familiar with Windows ", - points Tatiana Menkova.]

Finally, Microsoft has been up to its old tricks of offering special deals for its software: $30 per computer (it's not clear whether that's just for Windows XP, or includes Microsoft Office too):

Контракт на поставку лицензионного программного обеспечения в школы в течение 2007-2009 годов получил системный интегратор "Компьюлинк". Конкурс Рособразования под номером НП-17 подразумевал поставку в 60 тыс. российских школ (650-700 тыс. компьютеров) пакета лицензионного ПО в 2007-2009 годах. В пакет вошли: ОС Windows XP, Microsoft Office, словарь Abbyy Lingvo 12, антивирусное ПО Kaspersky Work Space Security, Adobe Photoshop CS3 и другие. Источник в Рособразовании знает, что Microsoft согласилась лицензировать ОС Windows на всех ПК примерно за $20 млн (около $30 за компьютер).

[The contract for the supply of licensed software in schools during 2007-2009 was the system integrator "Compulink". Competition Rosobrazovanie numbered NP-17 meant the supply of 60 thousand Russian schools (650-700 thousand computers) license software package in 2007-2009. The package includes: operating system Windows XP, Microsoft Office, dictionary Abbyy Lingvo 12, anti-virus software Kaspersky Work Space Security, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and more. A source at the Federal Agency of Education knows that Microsoft has agreed to license the Windows on all PCs for about $ 20 million (about $ 30 per computer).]

So has free software lost its big chance to form the minds of a generation? And has Russia condemned itself to years more dependence on Microsoft's products? Stay tuned for further instalments of this exciting Russian epic...

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13 November 2009

The Economics of Ecosystems

The general area of the economics of ecosystems is something that I have been banging on about for while. Now we have a Web site and even a glorious PDF report on the subject:

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Basically, we'd be mad - not just for environmental reasons, but economic ones too - not to look after our global commons. After all, it's the only one we've got....

11 November 2009

The Embedded Market Beds Down with Linux

Never a dull moment in the embedded Linux market. First Intel acquires Wind River, now the slightly less well-known Cavium acquires MontaVista:

Cavium Networks, a leading provider of highly integrated semiconductor products that enable intelligent processing for networking, wireless, storage and video applications, today announced that it is has signed a definitive agreement to acquire MontaVista Software for $50 million, comprised of approximately $16 million in cash and approximately $34 million in Cavium Networks common stock.

More interesting, perhaps, are the reason for the latest move:

Today embedded Linux is fast becoming the operating system of choice for hundreds of millions of devices ranging from very large carrier grade equipment to consumer electronics. Traditionally embedded devices used a proprietary OS or commercial real-time operating system. However, there is a major trend towards using embedded Linux. This rapid adoption of Linux in embedded networking, wireless, consumer electronics, mobile devices and storage is driving the demand for a high quality, commercial grade embedded Linux along with support for multi-core processors and embedded virtualization.

MontaVista Software is a leader in multi-core embedded Linux operating systems, virtualization, development tools and professional services with a broad array of Tier-1 customers. As the first commercial embedded Linux vendor, MontaVista provides the industry’s leading Carrier Grade Linux that has been widely adopted by industry leading companies that include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia-Siemens, NTT, Motorola, Samsung and many other Tier-1 vendors. MontaVista is also the innovation leader in the embedded Linux market segment with deployments in Tier-1 Consumer Electronics manufactures such as Sony, Samsung and Philips; MID and Mobile vendors such as NEC and Garmin; Industrial Automation vendors such as HP, Kyocera-Mita and Fuji Xerox and leading Automotive infotainment suppliers. One of MontaVista’s signature, high profile deployments includes Dell’s latest innovative enterprise notebook the Dell Latitude ON that uses MontaVista's Montabello software platform.

Note that this very positive assessement comes not from some open source fanboy (like me), but from a semiconductor company that has just plunked down $50 million on its bet. Against that background, there seems little doubt that Linux will soon become the de facto standard in the world of embedded systems.

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Brazil to Allow Private Copying and Mashups

I always said Brazil was a civilised country:

O MinC proporá que a cópia privada de qualquer tipo de obra digital seja permitida sem a autorização expressa ou remuneração ao titular para uso privado e desde que seja apenas um exemplar, além de permitir o uso do conteúdo original em outra mídia que não aquela que o consumidor comprou originalmente.

Na prática, quem comprou um DVD ou um CD poderá criar uma cópia de backup para uso próprio ou então poderá repassar o filme ou as músicas para o computador, trocando o suporte físico (como o disco plástico do CD ou DVD) pelo digital (esteja o arquivo em MP3, WMA e OGG ou AVI e MPEG).


A reforma prevê ainda "a utilização (...) de pequenos trechos de obras preexistentes, sempre que a utilização em si não seja o objetivo principal da obra nova e que não prejudique a exploração normal da obra reproduzida", dando respaldo legal à criação de mashups musicais ou visuais.

[Via Google Translate: The MinC propose that private copying of any digital work is permitted without the express permission or compensation to the owner for private use and provided that only one copy, and allows the use of original content in other media than the one that consumer originally purchased.

In practice, those who bought a DVD or CD can create a backup copy for personal use or you can pass on the movie or the music to your computer, changing the physical medium (such as the hard plastic of the CD or DVD) to digital (whether the file to MP3, WMA and OGG or AVI and MPEG).


The reform also provides for "(...) the use of short extracts from existing works, where the use itself is not the main purpose of new work and does not prejudice the normal exploitation of the work reproduced, giving legal backing to the creation of mashups music or visual.]

(Via Remixtures.)

The Next Bill Gates, or the Next Tim B-L?

On Twitter, I have just been followed by @nextbillgates, which is associated with the eponymous Web site:

Consider yourself to be an IT wizard – just like Bill Gates?

If the answer is yes, why not enter our brand new, national search to find the UK version of the next Bill Gates?

This is rather sad. If we're searching for an "IT wizard" to hold up as an example, why not look closer to home, and choose Sir Tim Berners-Lee? He not only invented the Web, he *gave it away*, as one of the most glorious acts of altruism we've seen in recent years, kick-starting technological, economic and social changes that are probably unmatched since the Industrial Revolution.

Isn't that something worth celebrating, and encouraging others to emulate? Or are we so mired in greedy materialism that we must instead hold up a man who not only accumulated a truly obscene amount of money by overcharging people for defective software through smart marketing, but is also founder of a company that was found to be a monopoly?

What kind of future do we really want: one based on taking, or one based on giving?

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Why SAP is a Sap

There's some interesting turbulence in the blogosphere about the following call from Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of SAP:

To ensure the continued role of Java in driving economic growth, we believe it is essential to transition the stewardship of the language and platform into an authentically open body that is not dominated by an individual corporation. Java should be free of any encumbrances to permit fair competition between compatible implementations for the benefit of customers. By preserving the integrity of Java, the IT industry can ensure a vibrant developer community and continued innovation for enterprise software customers. This ensures the continued global economic success brought about through open innovation.

Matt Asay rightly calls him out on this:

Irony, thy name is SAP.

SAP, after all, is hardly the most open-source or open-process friendly company on the planet. Despite early involvement in Eclipse, some interaction with MySQL (MaxDB), and a new commitment to the Apache Software Foundation, SAP remains a firmly proprietary company.

Even Microsoft, which arguably has the most to lose from open source, has consistently and continually experimented with greater open-source involvement.

SAP? Not so much. In large part, SAP hasn't been forced to embrace open source because it hasn't been threatened by it. ERP (enterprise resource planning) is such a complex beast that it has remained largely impervious to open source (with the exception of open-source start-ups like Compiere and Openbravo, to which I'm an adviser).

Now, Dirk Riehle is stepping into the fray:

I don’t think that this is a fair critique. SAP has always provided the source code of its main business applications suite to user-customers as part of a commercial license, and users have always customized SAP’s business suite to their heart’s content. In fact, it is the only way to make it work for their needs.

That may well be the case, but I think it's irrelevant.

The real reason SAP's call is hypocritical is this document [.pdf], essentially a love-letter to software patents, submitted as an amicus curiae brief to the European Patent Office. Software patents are simply incompatible with free software, because they are government-granted monopolies designed to *stop* people sharing stuff. They also prevent hackers from writing new code because they represent an ever-present digital sword of Damocles hanging over them.

SAP simply cannot claim to be a true friend of openness while it also supports software patents in any jurisdiction, in any form - the same applies to other companies, too, I should note. They can share as much code as they like, but until they repudiate software patents - for example, by placing their patent portfolios in the public domain - that's little more than window-dressing.

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06 November 2009

θαλασσα θαλασσα

Since I've been using the Web for over 15 years, it's not often that a site leaves me gob-smacked. But of all the sites I've seen recently, Marine Traffic is definitely one of the most amazing:

This web site is part of an academic, open, community-based project. It is dedicated in collecting and presenting data which are exploited in research areas, such as:

- Study of marine telecommunications in respect of efficiency and propagation parameters
- Simulation of vessel movements in order to contribute to the safety of navigation and to cope with critical incidents
- Interactive information systems design
- Design of databases providing real-time information
- Statistical processing of ports traffic with applications in operational research
- Design of models for the spotting of the origin of a pollution
- Design of efficient algorithms for sea path evaluation and for determining the estimated time of ship arrivals
- Correlation of the collected information with weather data
- Cooperation with Institutes dedicated in the protection of the environment

It provides free real-time information to the public, about ship movements and ports, mainly across the coast-lines of Europe and N.America. The project is currently hosted by the Department of Product and Systems Design Enginnering, University of the Aegean, Greece. The initial data collection is based on the Automatic Identification System (AIS). We are constantly looking for partners to take part in the community. They will have to install an AIS receiver and share the data of their area with us, in order to cover more areas and ports around the world.

Basically, then, it shows in *real-time* the positions of ships along major sea-lanes around the world. Hovering over their icons brings up information about that ship, including its speed and heading. Other pages have background data on ports and the ships. But the most amazing thing is just watching the shipping traffic gradually *move* in front of your eyes...

Free, open and gobsmacking: what more do you want? (Via Global Guerillas.)

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Microsoft's Biological Implants

Microsoft's up to its old tricks of offering pretty baubles to the innocent with The Microsoft Biology Foundation:

The bioinformatics community has developed a strong tradition of open development, code sharing, and cross-platform support, and a number of language-specific bioinformatics toolkits are now available. These toolkits serve as valuable nucleation points for the community, promoting the sharing of code and establishing de facto standards.

The Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) is a language-neutral bioinformatics toolkit built as an extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework. Currently it implements a range of parsers for common bioinformatics file formats; a range of algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to biological Web services such as NCBI BLAST. MBF is available under an open source license, and executables, source code, demo applications, and documentation are freely downloadable from the link below.

Gotta love the segue from "strong tradition of open development, code sharing and cross-platform support" to "here, take these patent-encumbered .NET Framework toys to play with".

The point being, of course, that once you have dutifully installed the .NET framework, with all the patents that Microsoft claims on it, and become locked into it through use and habit, you are part of the Microsoft-controlled ecosystem. And there you are likely to stay, since Microsoft doesn't even pretend any of this stuff will be ported to other platforms.

For, under the misleading heading "Cross-platform and interoperability" it says:

MBF works well on the Windows operating system and with a range of Microsoft technologies.

Yeah? And what about non-Microsoft operating systems and technologies?

We plan to work with the developer community to take advantage of the extensibility of MBF and support an increasing range of Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools as the project develops.

Well, that's a complete irrelevance to being cross-platform: it just says it'll work with other stuff - big deal.

If I were a biologist I'd be insulted at this thinly-disguised attempt to implant such patent-encumbered software into the bioinformatics community, which has a long and glorious tradition of supporting free software that is truly free and truly cross-platform, and thus to enclose one of the most flourishing and vibrant software commons.

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03 November 2009

ACTA's All-out Assault on the Internet

Michael Geist has some deeply disturbing details about what may well be in the Internet section of ACTA:

1. Baseline obligations inspired by Article 41 of the TRIPs which focuses on the enforcement of intellectual property.

2. A requirement to establish third-party liability for copyright infringement.

3. Restrictions on limitations to 3rd party liability (ie. limited safe harbour rules for ISPs). For example, in order for ISPs to qualify for a safe harbour, they would be required establish policies to deter unauthorized storage and transmission of IP infringing content. Provisions are modeled under the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, namely Article 18.10.30. They include policies to terminate subscribers in appropriate circumstances. Notice-and-takedown, which is not currently the law in Canada nor a requirement under WIPO, would also be an ACTA requirement.

4. Anti-circumvention legislation that establishes a WIPO+ model by adopting both the WIPO Internet Treaties and the language currently found in U.S. free trade agreements that go beyond the WIPO treaty requirements. For example, the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement specifies the permitted exceptions to anti-circumvention rules. These follow the DMCA model (reverse engineering, computer testing, privacy, etc.) and do not include a fair use/fair dealing exception. Moreover, the free trade agreement clauses also include a requirement to ban the distribution of circumvention devices. The current draft does not include any obligation to ensure interoperability of DRM.

5. Rights Management provisions, also modeled on U.S. free trade treaty language.

This is nothing less than the copyright cartel's last stand against the Internet - a desperate attempt to lock down everything. As Geist observes:

it provides firm confirmation that the treaty is not a counterfeiting trade, but a copyright treaty. These provisions involve copyright policy as no reasonable definition of counterfeiting would include these kinds of provisions.

That is, the Powers-that-Be *lied* to us, as usual. We must fight this, or we will be paying the consequences for years to come.

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WIPO Boss: ACTA Should be Open, Transparent


On the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Gurry said that WIPO too did not know a great deal about the talks.

“Naturally we prefer open, transparent international processes to arrive at conclusions that are of concern to the whole world,” he said, citing WIPO’s role as an international, United Nations agency. And, he added, “IP is of concern to the whole world.”

If even the head of WIPO is saying ACTA needs to be drawn up as part of an open, transparent process, isn't it time for the relevant governments to listen?

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