30 December 2011

Johnson & Johnson Refuses To License Three HIV Drugs To Medicines Patent Pool; Invites Patent Override

By their very nature, drug patents can create monopolies that allow prices to be kept artificially high. In other domains that may be simply an annoyance or inconvenience, but in the world of medicines, it can be a matter of life or death for those unable to afford those inflated prices. 

On Techdirt.

OpenStreetMap: The Next Wave Of Commoditization For Startups?

One of the striking features of some of the most successful startups over the last ten years – companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter – is that their infrastructure is based almost entirely around open source. Of course, that shouldn't really be surprising: open source allows people to get prototypes up and running for the price of a PC, which is great for trying out ideas with live code. And yet despite these zero-cost origins, open source software scales up to supercomputing levels - the perfect solution for startups that hope to grow. 

On Techdirt.

29 December 2011

The Great Digitization Or The Great Betrayal?

One of the great tasks facing humanity today is digitizing the world's books and liberating the huge stores of knowledge they contain. The technology is there – scanners are now relatively fast and cheap – but the legal framework is struggling to keep up. That can be seen in the continuing uncertainty hovering over Google's massive book scanning project. It can also be observed in some recent digitization projects like Cambridge University's Digital Library

On Techdirt.

27 December 2011

How Even Highly-Targeted Censorship Can Lead To Overblocking

As the battle rages over SOPA and PIPA, censorship is very much on people's minds. But there are many different kinds of censorship, operating at different levels of precision. For example, while some forms are crude and inexact, like Homeland Security's shutdown of 84,000 sites, others are highly targeted, and designed to block in a very specific way. 

On Techdirt.

23 December 2011

Daft Idea Of The Week: Giving People Copyright In Their Faces

Copyright maximalism has proceeded along two axes. The first is the term of copyright, which has been steadily extended from the basic 14 years of the 1710 Statute of Anne to today's life + 50 or 70 years, depending on the jurisdiction. The other is the scope of copyright, where there are constant attempts to make yet more fields of human endeavor subject to it – for example fashion or food

On Techdirt.

Brazil's Copyright Reform Draft Bill: The Good, The Bad And The Confused

As this timeline indicates, Brazil's attempts to draw up a copyright reform bill have been dragging on for five years now. That in itself wouldn't matter too much – the process of updating major laws is by its very nature a complex and slow process; but during those five years there has been a change of administration, and with it, apparently, some major shifts in policy. 

On Techdirt.

22 December 2011

UK Government Open Standards: The Great Betrayal of 2012

Back in February of this year, I wrote about PPN 3/11, a Cabinet Office “Procurement Policy Note - Use of Open Standards when specifying ICT requirements” [.pdf], which contained the following excellent definition of open standards:

On Open Enterprise blog.

21 December 2011

BT Joins the Patent Hall of Shame

Those with good memories may recall the following amusing episode when BT wanted to sue people for daring to use its super-duper patented hyperlink invention:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Do We Really Need Copyright For Academic Publishing?

QuestionCopyright has an interesting article about the role that open access might play in opening up China to new ideas. But what really caught my attention was the following section: 

On Techdirt.

Top Photographer On Why He Doesn't Care If His Stuff Is Pirated

Trey Ratcliff is an extremely successful photographer, who specializes in HDR photography. His blog Stuck in Customs is the top travel photography blog on the internet, with over a million views each week. 

On Techdirt.

Open Access Is Spreading -- But Is It Really Open Access?

The latest big boost to open access has come from in UK government's "Innovation and research strategy for growth" (pdf), which says: 

On Techdirt.

Three Strikes Approach Rejected By Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Gov't Seeks Censorship Plan Instead

The contentious nature of the "three strikes" response to unauthorized sharing of copyright materials can be seen by the legal battles being fought around it across Europe. That's particularly the case in Ireland, which has emerged as a key testing ground for the approach and its legality. 

On Techdirt.

19 December 2011

EU Council Quietly Adopts ACTA, By Hiding It In An Agriculture And Fisheries Meeting

At the end of last week, the Council of the European Union – which is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies – had a meeting. A group of some 40 ministers for agriculture and fisheries signed off on a range of important matters, including: 

On Techdirt.

Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard

Apple has been garnering quite a reputation for itself as a patent bully, for example using patents around the world in an attempt to stop Samsung competing in the tablet market, and bolstering patent trolls. But that's not enough for the company, it seems: now it wants to use patents to block open standards. 

On Techdirt.

Former Tunisian Regime Goes Beyond Spying On Internet Traffic... To Rewriting Emails & More

Most people instinctively appreciate the dangers of government surveillance. But at least it's possible to be on your guard when you suspect such surveillance may be present by taking care what you write and send. You might even use some industrial-grade encryption for the important stuff. 

On Techdirt.

16 December 2011

People in Glasshouses (With Windows) Shouldn't Throw Stones

It's no secret that Windows Phone is struggling desperately in the battle against the smartphone leaders, iPhone and Android. And desperate times demand desperate measures; but even so, this move by Microsoft is pretty extraordinary:

On Open Enterprise blog.

What Should Mozilla Do?

There has been a flurry of excitement about Mozilla recently. Not, as you might hope, about the latest version of Firefox; one of the unintended consequences of the rapid release approach currently adopted is that nobody really gets excited about the constant flow of new versions, which is a pity.

On The H Open.

A Rational Way To Dispose Of Counterfeit Designer Clothes: Donate Them To The Homeless

The narrative around counterfeit goods usually ends with their seizure. We rarely get to hear or see what happens to them afterwards unless some token burning or breaking is laid on for the cameras' benefit. That makes the following story doubly noteworthy: we not only find out where fake designer clothes go after they have been seized in the UK, we discover that they are put to an excellent use

On Techdirt.

15 December 2011

Harkening to Hargreaves: UK Copyright Consultation

The road to copyright reform is a long one, full of false starts and diversions. Those with good memories may recall the Gowers Review from 2006, which made lots of sensible suggestions, all of which were promptly ignored by the UK government. So following the good work of the Hargreaves Report, the very real risk was that it, too, would be simply filed and forgotten.

On Open Enterprise blog.

13 December 2011

Open Data: Europe Starts to Get It

As readers of this blog will have noticed, open data is particularly hot at the moment. Whether that will endure is another matter, but for the moment we should be grateful for all the politicians jumping on this particular bandwagon, and we should grab the open data they are releasing with both hands while we can. Here's the latest convert, the European Commission itself:

On Open Enterprise blog.

EU's Advisor On Supporting Net Activists Previously Forced From German Government...By Net Activists

The Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, Neelie Kroes, recently made quite a stir when she dubbed copyright "a tool to punish and withhold". Now she's back with two major projects: a pan-European open data stategy and the "No Disconnect Strategy": 

On Techdirt.

12 December 2011

HADOPI Wants To Research File Downloads: Shouldn't It Have Done That First?

One of the most important aspects of the UK's Hargreaves Report was that it called for copyright policy to be based on evidence. It also noted that so far that simply hadn't been the case, and that practically all of the so-called "studies" used to justify laws in this area came from the copyright industries, with missing or dubious methodologies. 

On Techdirt.

11 December 2011

Open Source, Open Data, Open Innovation

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference.  This was the first time I'd visited Bolzano/Bozen; although I was only there fore a few hours, it was enough to appreciate its charms and wonderful setting.

For the record here's my speech:

Open Innovation, Open Data and more from SFScon on Vimeo.

As you might notice, this is not in the Queen's English; my slides, however, are, and can be found embedded below (also downloadable).

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

09 December 2011

Spotting Counterfeit Chips Is Hard; Spotting Digital Piracy Is Even Harder

One of the favorite techniques of those pushing for ever-more severe penalties for copyright infringement is to blur the distinction between analog counterfeits and digital copies. The argument then becomes: "counterfeit drugs can kill people, therefore we must come down hard on online filesharing." This trick can be seen most clearly in ACTA, which stands for "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement", but where the most problematic sections concern digital piracy, not counterfeits. 

On Techdirt.

08 December 2011

From Open Source to Open Research: Horizon 2020

Last week I took part in a meeting at the European Parliament entitled “Horizon 2020: Investing in the common good”. Here's the background:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Making AIDS Drugs Affordable With Prizes, Not Patents

Of all the dysfunctional parts of the patent system, drug patents are arguably the worst, since the exorbitant prices that patent monopolies allow mean that millions of people simply cannot afford medicines that would keep them alive or would improve their quality of life substantially. 

On Techdirt.

Who Owns The Data Collected About You From Devices Inside Your Body?

People have started to wake up to the fact that companies like Google and Facebook hold huge quantities of data about their users. That raises questions about who owns what there, and to what extent users should be allowed access. Now Hugo Campos is asking the same question about a different kind of personal data – that being collected by a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest: 

On Techdirt.

07 December 2011

Getting It: In A World Of Digital Abundance, Sell The Scarcities

A recurrent refrain from the copyright industries is that you can't make money from digital goods if they are freely available online. To which Techdirt has been pointing out for years that not only are there many ways of doing precisely that, but lots of people are already coining it as a result. One of the Guardian's columnists has noticed one of them - that in a world of digital abundance, you can make money by selling associated scarcities

On Techdirt.

Open Source Total Cost of Ownership 2.0

Back in 2006, I wrote a piece for LXer called "A Brief History of Microsoft FUD". This ran through successive attempts by Microsoft to dismiss GNU/Linux in various ways. One of the better-known was a series of "Total Cost of Ownership" (TCO) studies. By an amazing coincidence, these all showed that Microsoft Windows was cheaper than that supposedly cheap GNU/Linux.

On Open Enterprise blog.

06 December 2011

More Collateral Damage From SOPA: People With Print Disabilities And Human Rights Groups

As people wake up to the full horror of what SOPA would do to the Internet and its users, an increasing number of organizations with very different backgrounds are coming out against it. Here's one more to add to that list, from the world of non-profit humanitarian groups. 

On Techdirt.

Flood of EU Software Patents on the Way?

The idea of bringing in a unitary EU patent system has been rolling around Brussels so long most people have assumed it will never happen. But there is a clear push on at the moment to realise these plans once and for all. That's hinted at in this very low-key press release from yesterday [.pdf]:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Self-Regulation: Should Online Companies Police The Internet?

For anyone in Belgium on Wednesday, here's an afternoon event open to all that might be of interest: "'Self'-regulation: Should online companies police the internet?" If you can't make it to the European Parliament in Brussels, there's also a live video stream available

On Techdirt.

03 December 2011

Royal Society Claims 1671 Copyright On Newton Letter (Copyright Law Born 29 Years Later)

The Royal Society calls itself "a Fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and... the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence." Its Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking. 

On Techdirt.

The Pirate Party Effect: German Greens Scramble To Draw Up Digital Policies To Hold On To Voters

The founding of the Pirate Party in Sweden in 2006 was regarded by many as a joke. After all, the argument went, who would want to be associated with "pirates" or vote for such a narrow platform? This overlooked the fact that the traditional political parties had consistently ignored the concerns of voters who understood that the Internet raised important questions about areas such as copyright and privacy. By focusing on precisely those issues, the Pirate Party gave disaffected voters the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the old political parties and their outdated policies. 

On Techdirt.

02 December 2011

Why We Don't Need To 'Think Of The Artists': They're Doing Fine

Just as politicians routinely invite us to "think of the children" when they want to push through some new liberty-reducing law, so the copyright industries regularly invoke "the artists" when they want to justify longer copyright terms or harsher enforcement laws. 

On Techdirt.

01 December 2011

More UK Open Data Moves - and Why That Makes Sense

In striking contrast with its disappointing performance in terms of supporting open source, the UK government continues to take huge strides in the world of open data. Details about its latest moves are contained in this document [.pdf] that came out of the recent 2011 Autumn Statement:

On Open Enterprise blog.

29 November 2011

Ubuntu's Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life: 'Whole Patent System Is A Sham'

Mark Shuttleworth is probably best known for three things. Selling the certificate authority Thawte Consulting to VeriSign for about $575 million in 1999; using some of that money to become the second self-funded space tourist; and using some more of it to found and sustain the Ubuntu version of GNU/Linux. 

On Techdirt.

Getting Lost in the Patent Thicket Thicket

One of the many hopeful signs that the Hargreaves team knew what they were talking about was the recognition that patent thickets were an increasing danger in many fields, notably that of mobile technology. One of the actions flowing from the report was to investigate this area further, and now the UK government has released its report [.pdf]:

On Open Enterprise blog.

28 November 2011

Coming To Plates In Europe: Patented Vegetables, Produced By Conventional Breeding

The European Patent Organization (EPO) is a strange entity. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the European Union. Instead, it was set up on the basis of the 1973 European Patent Convention to grant patents under that Convention. 

On Techdirt.

Patent Scandal of Laws Made Behind Closed Doors

The ACTA saga has been grinding on for years now, distinguished by a wilful lack of transparency that is a clear sign that you and I are being right royally stitched up. If, like me, you were wondering where we are in the UK with this charade, the Open Rights Group has put together a useful summary:

On Open Enterprise blog.

24 November 2011

SABAM: A Turning Point in EU Internet Law?

One of the most striking - and disturbing - trends of recent years has been the assumption by the copyright industries that protecting their intellectual monopolies outweighs the rights of the public.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Sarkozy Worried About The Internet 'Stealing Audience Share' From 'Regulated' TV Services

Earlier this week Techdirt reported on the surprisingly forthright statements of Neelie Kroes concerning the failure of the copyright system in the digital world. She made her remarks at the Forum d'Avignon in France, which was about "strengthening the links between culture and the economy". 

On Techdirt.

23 November 2011

New EU Parliamentary Forum To Push For Even More Draconian Copyright Laws And Enforcement

Last year, Techdirt reported on the approval by the European Parliament of the Gallo Report, which calls for harsher enforcement of intellectual monopolies. Although the Report has no legal force, it's important, since it functions as a framework for future legislation in this area. And now the eponymous French MEP Marielle Gallo is at it again, with her new "IP Forum": 

On Techdirt.

A Small Victory For Patent Common Sense: Earth Closet Orders Are No More

Sometimes you just have to shake your head over patent law. Here's a practice from the UK that has been going on since 1876, and involving the Reverend Henry Moule's patented earth closet

On Techdirt.

22 November 2011

Why The Supreme Court's 'Grokster' Decision Led To More, Not Less, P2P Filesharing

In the 2005 "Grokster" decision, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that file sharing networks could be held liable for copyright infringement if they take "affirmative steps" to encourage infringement. Grokster closed down as a result, and the recording industry pretty much assumed it had won that battle

But as a fascinating analysis by Rebecca Giblin of what happened afterwards points out, against the industry's expectations, P2P filesharing flourished


UK Publishers Moan About Content Mining's Possible Problems; Dismiss Other Countries' Actual Experience

One of the recommendations made by the Hargreaves Review in the UK was that a text- and data-mining exception to copyright should be created, with the following explanation of why that made sense (PDF): 

On Techdirt.

21 November 2011

EU Commissioner Kroes: Copyright Is 'A Tool To Punish And Withhold'; New Business Models, Not More Enforcement Needed

Neelie Kroes is that rare thing: a politician who actually seems to understand digital technologies. Before she became the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, her current post, she was European Commissioner for Competition, and in that capacity made a speech about open standards in 2008 that included the following interesting statements

On Techdirt.

Of Open Data Startups and Open Businesses

Last week I was invited to talk at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference which took place in northern Italy, in the city of Bolzano (disclosure: a paid gig.) As its title indicates, this was a more local, specialised conference than some of its more famous international siblings, but I was impressed just how much activity was going on. It was also interesting to see that open data was already a hot topic here - it's not just national holdings that are being opened up.

On Open Enterprise blog.

19 November 2011

E-Publishing The Chinese Way: Very Fast And Very Cheap

Increasingly, publishers are joining the music and film industries in bemoaning the effects of piracy on the sales of digital products – and some are even starting to sue people for alleged copyright infringement (because that has worked so well elsewhere.) Perhaps they should take a look at what is happening in China: instead of whining about e-book sales "lost" to piracy, publishers there have come up with a business model that embraces the possibilities of the Internet

On Techdirt.

Learning From Beethoven: Speeding Up The Exchange Of Scientific Knowledge

There is a general belief that science proceeds by smooth cycles of discovery and sharing – that scientists formulate theories, investigate problems, produce data and then publish results for other scientists to check, reproduce and then build on. 

On Techdirt.

16 November 2011

Help Fight Against Extrajudicial Suppression of UK Domain Names

With so many bad things happening in the digital world at the moment- ACTA, TPP, Digital Economy Act, HADOPI, La Ley Sinde etc. - there is a natural tendency to focus on your own country's woes. But there's something spectacularly awful going on in the US at the moment that is likely to have very serious ramifications here, too.

On Open Enterprise blog.

14 November 2011

Why Barnes & Noble is an Open Source Superstar

As I've noted many times, one of the biggest threats hanging over open source is patents, because of the way trivial but indispensable software techniques have been patented in some jurisdictions (mostly the US). Things are made worse by the fact that vague threats can be made in this area, for example this famous assertion in 2007:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Want To See Peak Copyright? Here's What To Do

It's a curious fact that the term of copyright only ever gets longer. Since copyright is a government-backed monopoly, and monopolies are generally regarded as bad things, you might have expected some countervailing pressure against this continual extension, and that at some point Peak Copyright would have been reached. You might, if you were extremely optimistic, even expect copyright term to be reduced occasionally. 

On Techdirt.

12 November 2011

Misleading Metaphors That Drive The War On Online Sharing

Certain terms crop up time and again in the arguments around copyright infringement and file sharing. Words like "theft" and "stealing" clearly represent an attempt to frame the debate in a certain way. That's hardly a new insight: many posts on Techdirt have pointed out these attempts to manipulate the discourse. 

On Techdirt.

10 November 2011

Is Google Losing it?

Google matters for open source. First and foremost, it is an example of a multi-billion dollar global company that simply would not be possible without an underpinning of free software. Open source's customisability means that its engineers have been able to fine-tune Linux and other code to meet Google's very specific needs. That, and the fact that there is no licensing fee, has allowed the company to scale its operations to unprecedented levels – rumoured to be over a million servers.

On The H Open.

09 November 2011

Which Causes More Harm: Copyright Or Patents?

One of the recurrent themes on Techdirt is the harm caused by intellectual monopolies – copyright and patents – to the economy in particular, and to society in general. Stephan Kinsella has raised an interesting question: which of them is worse? 

On Techdirt.

Mozilla's Brendan Eich on the Birth of Firefox

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first part of an interview with Brendan Eich, who is Mozilla's CTO. That covered the early years of browsers at Netscape, and the origin of Mozilla. Somewhat belatedly, here's the second part of that interview, which picks up the story at the beginning of this millennium, and reveals the complex sequence of events that led to the creation of Mozilla Firefox.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Russian Internet Content Monitoring System To Go Live In December

Back in April of this year, the Russian government put out a tender:

Last week, Roskomnadzor, Russian Federal Service for Telecoms Supervision, announced a public tender for developing Internet monitoring system. According to the tender, the budget for such system is 15 million rubles (about $530,000) and the job applications should be submitted by April 15, 2011. The system needs to be developed by August 15, 2011 and the testing period should end on December 15, 2011.
On Techdirt.

07 November 2011

Free As In Freedom: But Whose Freedom?

It would be hard to overstate the contribution of Richard Stallman to the digital world. The founding of the GNU project and the creation of the GNU General Public License laid the foundations for a wide range of free software that permeates computing from smartphones to supercomputers. Free software has also directly inspired like-minded movements based around sharing, such as open access and open content (Wikipedia, notably). 

On Techdirt.

05 November 2011

Phorm Still Looking For A Large-Scale Deployment, Still Finding Investors

As a search through the Techdirt archives shows, Phorm's behavioral advertising service based on watching your Web activity was beset by problems in its early days. One of the last Techdirt posts on the company from a couple of years ago explained how Phorm was planning to expand overseas, and here's some news on how that's been going

On Techdirt.

03 November 2011

Academic Publishing Profits Enough To Fund Open Access To Every Research Article In Every Field

The arguments against open access have moved on from the initial "it'll never work" to the "maybe it'll work, but it's not sustainable" stage. That raises a valid point, of course: who will pay for journals that make their content freely available online? 

On Techdirt.

India Wants UN Body To Run The Internet: Would That Be Such A Bad Thing?

The Internet is under attack – but not, as politicians would have us believe, from hordes of cyber criminals, but from the politicians themselves. Alongside national legislation like E-PARASITE and international treaties such as ACTA, there is this proposal that a UN body should take over the running of the whole system

On Techdirt.

02 November 2011

Spanish Judge Gets It: Pirated Copies Not Necessarily Lost Sales, May Boost Purchases Later

One of the favorite assumptions of industries based around copyright used to be that every pirated copy is a lost sale. More recently, that rhetoric has been moderated somewhat, as a review of the area in the report "Media Piracy in Emerging Countries" shows, but a variation of that fallacy lives on, expressed now as vague "losses" caused by piracy. 

On Techdirt.

01 November 2011

Germany To Put Special Monitoring Software On School Computers To Search For Infringement

Just under a month ago, the "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), which styles itself as "the largest European hacker club", had some disturbing news for Germans:

The largest European hacker club, "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), has reverse engineered and analyzed a "lawful interception" malware program used by German police forces. It has been found in the wild and submitted to the CCC anonymously. The malware can not only siphon away intimate data but also offers a remote control or backdoor functionality for uploading and executing arbitrary other programs. Significant design and implementation flaws make all of the functionality available to anyone on the internet.
On Techdirt.

What Exactly Makes A Pop-Up Mall A Pop-Up Mall? On Second Thought, Who Cares?

One of the pernicious effects of once-obscure legal issues surrounding copyright and patents seeping into everyday life is the belief that even the vaguest ideas can be owned, and that such ownership is a thing worth fighting over. Here, for example, is a sorry tale from Christchurch in New Zealand, which suffered a massive earthquake in which 181 people died back in February of this year: 

On Techdirt.

31 October 2011

What Microsoft's Patent FUD Reveals About Its R&D

Microsoft is currently engaging in some incredible rewriting of history. Here's Horacio Gutiérrez, deputy general counsel at the company, trying to defend Microsoft's evolution into a patent troll that is unable to make a smartphone that anyone wants, and thus seeks to tax those who can:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Why Creative Commons Licenses Help Rather Than Hinder Struggling Artists

Creative Commons (CC) has been with us for nearly a decade, so you would have thought people might understand it by now. Apparently not, judging by the title of this blog post: "How Creative Commons Can Stifle Artistic Output." 

On Techdirt.

28 October 2011

Will Anti-Free Trade Protectionist Agreements Be Bad For US Citizens Too?

As we've noted, the US has been using multilateral and bilateral negotiations conducted in secret as a way to craft some very one-sided trade treaties. They seem to offer pretty raw deals to the other nations involved – and correspondingly great ones for the US copyright and pharma industries. But could they turn out to have direct negative consequences for US citizens as well? 

On Techdirt.

Mozilla's Brendan Eich on JavaScript - and Microsoft Buying Netscape

It seems so long ago now, but for those of us lucky enough (and old enough) to have been there, the launch of Netscape's 0.9 version of its Netscape Navigator browser in October 1994 was clearly the beginning of a new era. For a few years, Netscape was the centre of the Internet universe - it's home page was the first you checked each morning for news about what was happening on this strange new Web thing that the company was doing so much to define.

On Open Enterprise blog.

27 October 2011

Leading French Presidential Candidate Would Repeal HADOPI But Keep Net Surveillance

As a recent Techdirt post noted, France's HADOPI "three strikes" policy has effectively criminalized vast swathes of that country. Despite widespread opposition, the law was pushed through in 2009 by the current French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, as one of his pet projects - it's probably no coincidence that he is married to a pop singer

On Techdirt.

Open Source, Open Science, Open Source Science

One of the key inspirations for the free software movement was the scientific tradition of sharing information and building on the work of others. That arose a few hundred years ago, at a time of rapid scientific progress:

On The H Open.

Just Because Something's Fake Doesn't Mean It Can't Be Innovative

The term "shanzhai" literally means a fortified mountain village, and originally meant those places in China that were outside government control, and hence not subject to its law. Today, by extension, it refers to Chinese outfits producing counterfeit goods that ignore intellectual monopolies like patents. 

On Techdirt

25 October 2011

EU Politician Wants Internet Surveillance Built Into Every Operating System

"Think of the children" has become the rallying cry of politicians around the world trying to push for ever-increasing Internet surveillance powers. Since nobody wants to run the risk of being branded as soft on crimes like paedophilia, resistance to such measures is greatly reduced as a result. 

On Techdirt.

Calling the Anti-Net Neutrality Bluff

One of the key arguments used by companies who want to see the end of net neutrality is that with growing use of high-bandwidth services like video on demand, or video telephony, there isn't enough bandwidth to go around, and that other services will suffer as a result. This leads them to call for differential pricing, charging more for such services. 

On Open Enterprise blog.

24 October 2011

Please Respond to the PDC Consultation (and PDQ)

Last month I wrote about the UK government's "Making Open Data Real" consultation. That's actually just the first part of a double-headed enquiry into open government data. The other part concerns "Data Policy for a Public Data Corporation" (PDC). 

On Open Enterprise blog.

21 October 2011

Hint: If You Commit A Crime, Do Not Google Every Aspect Of It Afterwards

Techdirt has reported on a number people accused of murder googling for things like "neck snap break" or "how to commit murder" beforehand, and leaving these suggestive details on their computers. Those were some years back, and since then there has been plenty of attention given to the idea that your search histories provide a great deal of information about what you were thinking - and possibly even what you were thinking about doing. 

On Techdirt.

20 October 2011

Of Open Source, Microsoft, India and Paraguay

One of the recurrent recent themes of IT in the UK has been how moves to open source by local and central government have been stymied by Microsoft - the most famous example being the Newham Council saga. Of course, that's not a problem unique to the UK: it's a pattern repeated around the world, as some recent stories highlight.

On Open Enterprise blog.

London 2012 Olympics Go For Gold in the Extreme 'Ambush Marketing' Law Event: 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent' – And No Streaking Allowed

The Olympic Games are not just about sporting success, but also legal excess – in particular, taking laws to extremes in order to "protect" sponsors, who are routinely elevated to the level of Greek gods during the games, with similarly superhuman rights over lesser beings like you and me.

Techdirt has already written about the UK police getting special powers to enter homes during the 2012 games, as well as free speech being curtailed. Now there are plans to suspend the presumption of innocence too: 

On Techdirt.

18 October 2011

Out ACTA-ing ACTA: All TPP Negotiating Documents To Be Kept Secret Until Four Years After Ratification

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has now been signed by several nations – even if its actual status is by no means clear. But that doesn't mean governments have finished with their trade negotiations behind closed doors. As Techdirt reported earlier this year, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is, in some ways, even worse than ACTA, and looks to be a conscious attempt to apply the tricks developed there to circumvent scrutiny yet further. 

On Techdirt.

'British Cinema's Golden Age Is Now': So Where's The 'Serious Problem' Of Copyright Infringement?

Last week we learned the UK government has precisely no evidence to support its plans for stricter copyright enforcement, which include disconnection upon repeated accusation. Instead, the best it could come up with was: 

On Techdirt.

17 October 2011

Office Suites: LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org?

The office suite has occupied a very strange position in the world of open source. As a key software tool used by practically everyone on a daily basis, it was vital for free software to be able to offer one. And yet what came to be the leading office suite - OpenOffice.org - was widely recognised as deeply unsatisfactory. Its early versions were barely usable, and even in its later incarnations it was hard to get enthusiastic about it. 

On Open Enterprise blog.

Fighting Back Against Public Domain Erosion By Growing The Commons

There have been a number of stories on Techdirt recently about governments diminishing the public domain - not just by extending copyright for future works, but also by putting works currently in the public domain back under copyright, both in the US and EU. Reversing that trend – by pushing back copyright's term closer to the original 14 years, say – will be challenging, to put it mildly. 

On Techdirt.

13 October 2011

Broadcasters Ask Brazilian Government To Protect Them From Interesting Foreign Content On The Web

Last week Techdirt wrote about a draft of a civil rights-based framework for the Internet that is being considered by lawmakers in Brazil. It seems like the Brazilian Radio and Television Association didn't get around to reading it, because they want the government there to "regulate" foreign web content flowing into the country (Brazilian news report): 

On Techdirt.

Does Amazon Want to Monopolize The Entire Publishing Chain?

The launch of Amazon's Kindle Fire at a price well below expectations has naturally focused people's attention on the e-book side of Amazon's operations, and the likely effect of the extended Kindle family on other publishers trying to go digital. But something else is happening at the other end of the publishing chain that could well disrupt the industry just as much, if not more: Amazon is becoming a major publisher in its own right. 

On Techdirt.

12 October 2011

Facebook Says Some of Your Personal Data Is Its 'Trade Secrets or Intellectual Property'

A few weeks back, Techdirt posted a story about a European campaign group called "Europe vs. Facebook", which is trying to find out exactly what information Facebook holds about its users. It is doing this using European data protection laws, thanks to the fact that Facebook' s international headquarters are in Ireland. 

On Techdirt.

What Happens When The Company Backing Up Your Passwords In The Event of Your Death Itself Dies?

The unprecedented public outpouring of grief in the technical community at the death of Steve Jobs seems to go well beyond the fact that he was an undeniably important and powerful figure in that world for several decades. Perhaps it's because the people involved in technology are disproportionately young compared to most other industries: death often seems very far away at that age. The demise of the charismatic Jobs comes as brutal reminder that even leaders of the most successful companies must, one day, die. And hence, by implication, that we too will die. 

On Techdirt.

Microsoft's Subtle Knife Through the Heart of EU Software Industry

One of the striking changes at Microsoft over the last twenty years is how savvy it has become in terms of lobbying and influencing political opinion. There was a time when, like most serious tech companies, it regarded this kind of sneaky activity as beneath it - something that only tobacco companies would stoop to. No more; today, it bombards everyone and anyone with a constant stream of carefully-crafted policy papers and posts designed to achieve its goals.

On Open Enterprise blog.

WIPO Article About Manga Piracy Describes Publishers' Failure To Meet Demand In Graphic Detail

Somehow you rather expect the head of the WIPO to come out with a statement on the potential benefits of patenting the World Wide Web. But you probably don't look to the WIPO website to carry stuff like this: 

On Techdirt.

11 October 2011

Will Nginx Be to Apache What Chrome is to Firefox?

The Netcraft Web Server Survey, which appears each month, is usually viewed as offering the spectacle of a two-player fight between the open source Apache and Microsoft's IIS. Actually, that's giving Microsoft too much credit, since it's never really been a fight: IIS has occasionally tried to claw its way closer to Apache's market share, failed dismally, and then started sinking back again. But there's another story in these graphs.

On Open Enterprise blog.

10 October 2011

EU Greens Come On Board Pirates' Copyright Agenda

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about the striking success of the Pirate Party in the German local elections. Since then, an opinion poll has suggested that, currently at least, the party enjoys a similarly wide support throughout the country - around 8%

On Open Enterprise blog.

07 October 2011

Microsoft's $844 Million Software Giveaway To Nonprofits: Pure Charity Or Cheap Marketing?

Microsoft has just released its 2011 Annual Financial Report. But alongside that document's dry facts about its $69.9 billion turnover, and the operating income of $27.2 billion, Dj Walker-Morgan pointed us to a more interesting publication, Microsoft's 2011 Citizenship Report

On Techdirt.

05 October 2011

Access To Italian Wikipedia Blocked In Protest Of Wiretapping Bill In Italy

If you go to the Italian version of Wikipedia, you will not find a gateway to 847,000 articles in that language, but (at the time of writing, at least) an unusual letter to the reader

On Techdirt.

New UK Banknote Celebrates James Watt, Patent Bully and Monopolist

As do many nations, England likes to put images of its great and good on banknotes. In a somewhat quixotic attempt to stem the decline of what little manufacturing remains in the country, the governor of the Bank of England has come up with the following idea

On Techdirt.

04 October 2011

Brazil Drafts An 'Anti-ACTA': A Civil Rights-Based Framework For The Internet

One of the striking features of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is that it is mainly being signed by Western/“developed” countries – with a few token players from other parts of the world to provide a fig-leaf of nominal inclusiveness. That's no accident: ACTA is the last-gasp attempt of the US and the EU to preserve their intellectual monopolies – copyright and patents, particularly drug patents – in a world where both are increasingly questioned. 

On Techdirt.

German Politician Who Wanted Two-Strike Copyright Law Should Disconnect Himself After Multiple Infringements Found

One of the most noticeable trends in copyright law around the world is the way countries tend to adopt similar approaches. So after the "three strikes" law was introduced in France, the UK followed suit, and other nations are at various stages of doing the same. A cynic might almost suggest the whole thing was coordinated somehow. 

On Techdirt.

03 October 2011

Well, I Do Declare: Washington and Open Government Declarations

There seems to be something in the air (maybe it's the crazy weather): everyone is making “declarations”. 
On Open Enterprise blog.

Microsoft-Samsung Licensing Deal Tells Us Nothing About The Facts, Just About The FUD

As Bessen and Meurer's book "Patent Failure" points out, one of the biggest problems with software patents is their lack of well-defined boundaries. This makes it very hard to tell whether newly-written code is infringing on existing patents or not. The threat of treble damages for wilful infringement removes any incentive to try to find out. 
On Techdirt.

01 October 2011

Registry of Interests

This is a list of my main sources of income, and of any other work-related benefits, as of 1 October 2011. I will update this as and when any major changes occur.

My main sources of income are from writing for Computerworld UK, The H Open and Techdirt. In the past I have occasionally written for other titles, but not recently, and given my many commitments I think that is unlikely to change.

I also get paid to give talks, mostly on free software, intellectual monopolies and digital rights.

I occasionally accept paid-for trips to attend conferences related to my work; I aim to declare that fact in any writing that comes out of such visits. In the past (ten to twenty years ago) I accepted these routinely, as did all journalists. For the record, the company that invited me most frequently back then was probably Microsoft....

I am not, and never have been, a consultant for any company.

As for unpaid positions, I'm on the Open Knowledge Foundation Advisory Board, and also on the Advisory Committee of the Climate Code Foundation.

I do not own (and have never owned) any shares except those that might be hidden away in financial instruments I may have or have had: I have never tried to find out if there are any, or what they might be. Similarly, I do not have, and have never had, investments in any company.

I no longer accept freebies in the form of review software/hardware (though I did a couple of decades ago when this was standard practice.) I buy all my own computers and smartphones at full price (luckily, the software comes free...)

I very occasionally receive free review copies of books on areas I'm interested in, but I'm trying to discourage this since I never have time to write the reviews (er, sorry about that.)

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Dishing the Dirt on Me and Techdirt

I'm sure all my readers know about Techdirt:

Started in 1997 by Floor64 founder Mike Masnick and then growing into a group blogging effort, the Techdirt blog uses a proven economic framework to analyze and offer insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow.
The dynamic and interactive community of Techdirt readers often comment on the addictive quality of the content on the site, a feeling supported by the blog’s ~800,000 RSS subscribers, 45,000+ posts, 600,000+ comments and a consistent Technorati Technology Top 100 rating.

(Yes, 45,000+ posts in 14 years: makes me look positively un-serious....)

One reason I'm pretty sure anyone who follows my microblogs will know about Techdirt is that I tend to post a huge number of links to its stories. Indeed, sometimes I think it would be just easier to hook the Techdirt RSS feed in directly and save myself all the trouble of doing it manually.

That's an indication of how closely aligned Techdirt is with much of the key stuff that I'm interested in: copyright, patents, digital rights, business models, digital abundance etc. Techdirt not only offers extremely knowledgeable analysis that you simply won't find elsewhere, it makes it all freely available – thus offering a good example of precisely the kind of models based around giving stuff away that it discusses and advocates.

Mike has already run some of my pieces there, and I'm delighted that he's asked me to contribute stories to the site on a regular basis. One knock-on effect will probably be fewer standalone posts on this blog, but overall the number of posts I write will probably rise. As for my writing on other titles, I'll post links to everything here, which will remain the central reference point in that respect.

Given this move, now seems a good time to produce a formal registry of interests, which I have made a separate post for easy reference.

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28 September 2011

Openness: An Open Question

Last week I went along to OpenForum Europe, where I had been invited to give a short talk as part of a panel on “Tackling “Societal Challenges” through Openness”. Despite my attendance, the conference had some impressive speakers, including the European Commission's Neelie Kroes and Google's Hal Varian.

On Open Enterprise blog.

27 September 2011

Why It's Time to Party Like It's 2011

The Pirate Party has hovered on the edge of politics for a while now, acting as a kind of gadfly to traditional parties - annoying but not able to inflict much damage. Its seats in the European Parliament have proved important in terms of raising issues and obtaining access to hitherto restricted information. But last week's events in Germany are perhaps even more significant:
On Open Enterprise blog.

23 September 2011

OSS Please!

It has been a recurrent theme of these pages that the UK government is miles behind other administrations when it comes to adopting open source. Recently, we have had some encouraging words on the subject - but no buttered parsnips as yet.

We need a campaign to get this really moving, but you can't have a campaign without some catchy slogan (or a good #hashtag). I think Mark Taylor, that open source stalwart, has just come up with both as part of a throwaway tweet:

OSS Please!

This sums up brilliant what we want, and does it memorably and politely - a kind of more positive "Atomkraft? Nein Danke", updated for the 21st century. Now all we need is a logo...

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21 September 2011

The True Cost of the Patent Trolls: Half a Trillion Dollars

I've written a number of pieces about the inherent flaws of patents, especially in the field of software. Those are mostly to do with how the good intentions of patents are not realised. But alongside those who try to use patents as they were supposedly intended are another group who are essentially parasites - those who seek to game the system, and extract money from its weaknesses: the patent trolls.

Aside from the patent trolls themselves, few have a good word for them, since it's pretty obvious to everyone that they suck money out of companies that make stuff, and thus act as a brake on real innovation. But those feelings have been largely unquantified. Now, thanks to recent work of the authors of the seminal book “Patent Failure”, James Bessen and Michael Meurer, along with a third author, Jennifer Laurissa Ford, we have perhaps the first rigorous estimate of the damage they cause. It's even worse than we thought:
On Open Enterprise blog.

19 September 2011

Making Open Data Real: A Response

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the “Making Data Real”consultation, promising to post my response. I have to admit that replying to the questions it asks has been far harder for this than for any other consultation that I've responded to.

I should hasten to add that this is not from any failing in the consultation itself. Indeed, it is commendably thorough both in its exposition of the issues, and in terms of the questions posed. But that's almost the problem: it is asking very deep questions in an area where few people - myself included - have really managed to frame anything like coherent responses.

On Open Enterprise blog.

13 September 2011

Copyright Theft

The ideas that "copyright theft" is widespread, and that people are "stealing" digital content from creators, are favourite tropes of the copyright maximalists.  It's total rubbish, of course.  The law clearly states that if it is anything it is copyright infringement, and simple logic tells us that digital copies aren't stealing, because they do not take away, but add.

Yes, there is a question of whether that unauthorised duplication leads to a loss of revenue, but the answer is by no means as clear-cut as people would have you believe.  A range of studies shows that such sharing actually boosts sales, acting as unofficial - and free - marketing.

That's why I've long been advocating independent research into this area - after all, if the copyright industries are so sure that file sharing is leading to revenue loss, what have they to fear from objective research into this area?  And yet strangely they seem reluctant even to countenance the idea.

But whatever your views on that particular issue, it seems likely that the following will only exacerbate the problem [.pdf]:

The [European] Council today adopted by qualified majority a directive extending the term of protection of the rights of performers and phonogram producers on music recordings within the EU from 50 to 70 years.

What this means, in practical terms, is that there is very little chance that I - or any of my more musical contemporaries - will ever be able to use today's music recordings to create new works.  As with the other media, contemporary recorded music will live in a closed, antiseptic bubble that no one is allowed to penetrate for nearly a hundred years or so.

That's all very distant and theoretical; it's hard to see what the problem is, perhas.  So let's look a little more closely at what has happened here by imagining a strange parallel world, remarkable like our own until yesterday, when the following happened:

The [European] Council Council today adopted by qualified majority a directive reducing the term of protection of the rights of performers and phonogram producers on music recordings within the EU from 50 to 30 years.

As you can see, this is almost exactly the same as our world, with the very minor difference that the copyright term for music recordings was reduced by 20 years, instead of being increased.  Pretty minor, you might think - after all, what's 20 years plus or minus?  If it can be increased, it can be decreased, no?

But in that parallel world, imagine the howls of anger and pain that would be issuing forth from the music industry at this outrageous and unjustified appropriation of their rightful dues.  Musicians would be marching in the streets, and the companies that live off them would be lobbying as never before to get this terrible result reversed.

Luckily for them, that was in a parallel world.  But thanks to the symmetry of copyright - that it represents a bargain between creators and the public, with grants of a temporary monopoly to the former in return for the passage into the public domain of the work after that monopoly has expired - that very same expropriation has taken place - from you, me and everyone that goes to make up that nebulous "public".  The only really difference is that no one is marching in the streets to reverse it.

When the musicians recorded their songs, the deal was that they would receive copyright for 50 years (or maybe less, depending on when they recorded it).  In return for that 50 years, they agreed that the public domain would be enriched so that we, the public, could do as we wished with that music.

That compact, freely entered into by both sides, has just been broken.  The recordings will no longer enter the public domain on the agreed date; instead, we must wait yet another 20 years.  In effect, then, we have had 20 years public domain use stolen from us, since nothing was given in return for this sudden loss.

There can be no quibbling here about whether this is really theft, because something we had before has been taken away without our permission.  Yes, the European Council may theoretically be acting in our name, but I don't remember being asked at any point whether I agreed to this.  The fact is that the Council acted unilaterally, at the behest of the music industry that wanted something for nothing - not because we, the public, were begging politicians to change the law in this way and to make us poorer than we were before.

This is what *real* copyright theft looks like: the stealing from the public by yet another unjustified and undemocratic extension of copyright.

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Do We Need a Covenant for Open Source Businesses?

It's no secret that businesses built around open source tend to favour one model in particular - that involving dual licensing. The basic idea is simple.
A company acquires the copyright of the main codebase, which might begin life as a small-scale, single-coder project, and is then “taken commercial” thanks to a little greasing of palms (providing a well-earned payback for all those hours of lonely coding.) 

On Open Enterprise blog.

12 September 2011

UK Government: Open Standards Must be RF, not FRAND

As regular readers of this column will know, one of the key issues for open source - and openness in general - is what is meant by open standards. Too loose a definition basically allows the other kinds of openness to be undermined from within the citadel.

On Open Enterprise blog.

09 September 2011

Help Stop the Blind Being Kicked in the Teeth Again

I frequently cover the subject of copyright on this blog because increasingly it is impacting the lives of readers, both as individuals and as people working in companies, in an adverse way. But these problems of accessing texts, say, are even greater for a particular subset of readers: those who are visually impaired. 

I am sure that everyone reading this blog who is not visually impaired would agree that this group of people deserves extra consideration to help them overcome any obstacles that get in the way of accessing information - so vital in the modern world. In a humane society, then, our political representatives would bend over backwards to aid this and similar groups through legislation and treaties designed to make things at least a little easier.

We do not live in that world, and the following disgraceful copyright saga is the proof.

On Open Enterprise blog.

08 September 2011

Michael Hart (1947 - 2011): Prophet of Abundance

I've never written an obituary before in these pages. Happily, that's because the people who are driving the new wave of openness are relatively young, and still very much alive. Sadly, one of the earliest pioneers, Michael Hart, was somewhat older, and died on Tuesday at the age of just 64.

What makes his death particularly tragic is that his name is probably only vaguely known, even to people familiar with the areas he devoted his life to: free etexts and the public domain. In part, that was because he modest, content with only the barest recognition of his huge achievements. It was also because he was so far ahead of his times that there was an unfortunate disconnect between him and the later generation that built on his trailblazing early work.

On Open Enterprise blog.

07 September 2011

Democratising OpenCourseWare

OpenCourseWare - putting texts and videos of educational lectures online for anyone to download, use and often build on - is a great idea.  But it's still a case of knowledge being handed down from on high by the university priesthood.  What about if anyone could upload lectures they have attended?

Enter LectureLeaks.org:

Welcome to LectureLeaks.org, your personal OpenCourseWare repository. You can now record, save, and upload your college lectures directly from your iPhone or Android device. You can also browse our library of recordings and learn any time, anywhere.

We believe that higher education should be available to all, for the good of society. Anybody who wants to learn should be able to, so we're trying to develop technology which allows that.

Begin recording by pressing Record during all of your lectures, then upload them to us so we can share them with the rest of the world.

Before sharing any recordings, we encourage you to ask your instructor's permission. We are affirmative for open access education, but we also maintain full compliance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

All recordings are released under the Creative-Commons Attribution license, and our server doesn't record any personally identifying information like IP addresses.
LectureLeaks is a 100% Free and Open Source Project, and uses technology produced by the OpenWatch Project.

Only you can spread knowledge from the privileged few to curious minds everywhere, one lecture at a time.
Fab idea.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

06 September 2011

Now That's What I call (21st-Century) Music

Thanks to the good offices of @nzJayZee, I have just been sent to this musician's rather heartwarming Web site, wherein he says the following:

There are lots of ways to get music from me, whether you’re a cyborg from the future with an iPod in your skull, or a little old granny in Idaho with nothing but an antique “CD Player.” Lots of it is freely available depending on how technical you are – you can get all of it for free if you really try. But please remember I do make a living this way, so if you like what you hear I’d certainly appreciate you throwing a little payment or donation my way. If you can’t afford it, for goodness sake please send copies of everything to all of your friends.
Wow - kudos to Jonathon Coulton for being such a wonderful example of what it means to be a musician in the 21st century.  Long may he prosper.

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05 September 2011

The Great Copyright Conspiracy Laid Bare

My last post might have seemed slightly over the top - and indeed was meant to be.  After all, it's not as if the US really wants to subvert the entire edifice of European civil liberties simply to sell a few more albums and films, is it?

Well, those cables have delivered again, and suggested that is *precisely* what is going on here:

Among the treasure troves of recently released WikiLeaks cables, we find one whose significance has bypassed Swedish media. In short: every law proposal, every ordinance, and every governmental report hostile to the net, youth, and civil liberties here in Sweden in recent years have been commissioned by the US government and industry interests.
I can understand that the significance has been missed, because it takes a whole lot of knowledge in this domain to recognize the topics discussed. When you do, however, you realize that the cable lists orders for the Swedish Government to implement a series of measures that significantly weakens Sweden’s competitive advantage in the IT field against the US. We had concluded this was the case, but had believed things had come from a large number of different sources. That was wrong. It was all coordinated, and the Swedish Government had received a checklist to tick off. The Government is described in the cables as “fully on board”.
Since 2006, the Pirate Party has claimed that traffic data retention (trafikdatalagring), the expansion of police powers (polismetodutredningen), the law proposal that attempted to introduce Three Strikes (Renforsutredningen), the political trial against and persecution of The Pirate Bay, the new rights for the copyright industry to get subscriber data from ISPs (Ipred) — a power that even the Police don’t have — and the general wiretapping law (FRA-lagen) all have been part of a greater whole, a whole controlled by American interests. It has sounded quite a bit like Conspiracies ’R’ Us. Nutjobby. We have said that the American government is pushing for a systematic dismantlement of civil liberties in Europe and elsewhere to not risk the dominance of American industry interests, in particular in the area of copyright and patent monopolies.
But all of a sudden, there it was, in black on white.
It's a long post, from the indefatigable Rick Falkvinge, but I really urge you to read it, because it lays out in extraordinary detail how the US has pushed Sweden to meet six demands that will be all-too-familiar to readers of this blog:
  1. Adopt “Three Strikes” making it possible to disconnect prople from the internet without a trial (“injunctive relief“), and implement the IPRED directive in a way that the copyright industry can get internet subscriber identities behind IP addresses (which was not mandatory, my note).
  2. Prosecute to the fullest extent the owners of The Pirate Bay. (This doesn’t really need translation, except that it’s very noteworthy that the executive branch is ordered to interfere with the work of the judicial one, which is illegal in Sweden too.)
  3. Transfer scarce police resources from investigating real crimes and devote them to safeguarding American monopolistic interests against ordinary citizens.
  4. Take large-scale initiatives against people sharing music, movies and porn.
  5.  Make it possible for the copyright industry to sue people (“pursue new civil remedies“) with a minimum of hassle.
  6. Abolish the messenger immunity, making Internet Service Providers liable for copyright monopoly infractions happening in their wires, and force them to interfere with the traffic.
That is, the US has been driving the entire copyright legislation programme for Sweden.   And it would be remarkable if it had not made exactly the same demands to every other European country - indeed, we know from previous leaks that it has, at least for some of them.

In the face of this incontrovertible evidence that European governments have been abjectly serving the US government and copyright industries, not their own electorates, we must make sure that they are forced to explain this almost unbelievable betrayal of the political system that elected them, and must not allow them to pretend that nothing has happened, and that it is business as usual.

It would be nice to think that this final flood of cables from Wikileaks will clean Europe's Augean stables of all this stinking political manure, but I'm not holding my breath - just my nose....

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Europeans Care About Civil Liberties: US Shocked

The leaked US cables will clearly provide a rich vein to be mined for many months to come.  I don't really have the time to go digging down there, so I was grateful that @airvpm alerted me to this particular gem from 2009.

The context is "European privacy and data protection concerns" and the tendency of those concerns to get in the way of more important issues - like making obscene profits, ensuring that people can be tortured without any of that tiresome oversight business, and generally propping up the decaying US global hegemony through any means:

European privacy and data protection concerns continue to jeopardize our commercial, law enforcement, intelligence and foreign policy objectives.

More specifically, this is the nub of the problem:

The Commission has failed to exercise a strong policy leadership role vis-a-vis other EU institutions. In this vacuum, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the Article 29 Working Party have asserted expansive roles. These bodies regularly make high-profile public statements on areas outside of their formal competence (including the HLCG and Third Pillar issues). Their interpretations of legislation tend to give primacy to civil liberties-based approaches for the EU's Single Market, consumers, or law enforcement, and have gone largely unchallenged by the Commission. 

So the Euro-trash Data Protection Supervisor and the Article 29 Working Party tasked with protecting privacy in the EU have dared to assert themselves and stand up for European citizens by giving "primacy to civil liberties-based approaches for the EU's Single Market, consumers, or law enforcement", while the US's official lapdog in Yurop, the European Commission, has somehow failed to smack them down.

Can you believe it?  I do hope we haven't hurt the feelings of our lords and masters in Washington...

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The Origins of Europe's Suicidal Copyright Policies

One of the most important recent pieces of research to appear in the field of copyright and its enforcement was "Media Piracy in Emerging Economies".  If you haven't read it, please do so now - I'll wait...

The author of that study, Joe Karaganis, has now penned perhaps the best short explanation of why Europe's policy on strong enforcement of copyright does not make economic sense:

where do the EU’s economic interests lie?  Let’s look at the numbers:
*** According to the World Bank, Europe’s audiovisual imports exceed its exports by a ratio of around 4-1.  In 2008, Europe (EU 27) imported roughly $14.7 billion in audiovisual and related services (basically, licenses for movies, TV, radio, and sound recording).  In contrast, it exported about $3.9 billion, for a net trade deficit of $10.8 billion  (International Trade Statistics 2010: 156).
*** About 56% of those imports ($8.35 billion) come from the US.  The EU, in turn, exports about $1.7 billion to the US, resulting in a net negative trade balance of around $6.65 billion.  This does not include software licenses, where US companies monopolize larger parts of the European consumer and business markets.
*** The US, in contrast, is a large net exporter of audiovisual goods, with roughly $13.6 billion in exports and $1.9 billion in imports.
For countries or regions that are net importers of copyrighted goods, higher IP standards and stronger enforcement will result in increased payments to foreign rights holders.  Because the US thoroughly dominates European audiovisual markets, stronger enforcement in these areas is, in practice, enforcement on behalf of Hollywood.
So pirating of US audiovisual products actually reduces the outflow of money from the European economy.  Ah, yes, the industry pundits will retort, but what about the loss of revenue due to pirating of copyright works that circulate purely within the EU?
Domestic piracy may well impose losses on specific industrial sectors, but these are not losses to the larger national economy. Within a given country [or in this case, region], the piracy of domestic goods is a transfer of income, not a loss. Money saved by consumers or businesses on CDs, DVDs, or software will not disappear but rather be spent on other things—housing, food, other entertainment, other business expenses, and so on. These expenditures, in turn, will generate tax revenue, new jobs, infrastructural investments, and the range of other goods that are typically cited in the loss column of industry analyses. To make a case for national economic harms rather than narrower sectoral ones, the potential uses of lost revenue need to be compared: the foregone investment in the affected industries needs to represent a better potential economic outcome than the consumer surplus generated by piracy (Sanchez 2008). The net impact on the economy, properly understood, is the difference between the value of the two investments. Such comparisons lead into very complicated territory as marginal investments in different industries generate different contributions to growth and productivity. There has been no serious analysis of this issue, however, because the industry studies have ignored the consumer surplus, maintaining the fiction that domestic piracy represents an undiluted national economic loss.

For our part, we take seriously the possibility that the consumer surplus from piracy might be more productive, socially valuable, and/or job creating than additional investment in the software and media sectors. We think this likelihood increases in markets for entertainment goods, which contribute to growth but add little to productivity, and still further in countries that import most of their audiovisual goods and software—in short, virtually everywhere outside the United States.
This is a point I've made elsewhere, and which is almost universally overlooked in analyses of the economic impact of piracy.

The paper then provides a fascinating analysis of one particular industry, that of films.  It looks at what films are made in which countries, and who really benefits.  Not surprisingly, it reveals that the European film industry is completely in thrall to Hollywood, and it is this that is guiding copyright policy in Europe:
It’s this junior partnership that should be weighed against the wider sacrifices of privacy and freedom of speech built into so many recent national and EC-level IP enforcement policies, such as the French ’3-strikes’ plan, which will cut French citizens off of the Internet for the piracy of Hollywood productions.  Strong enforcement reinforces status quo positions in the market, but at an escalating public cost as consumer behavior becomes the real focus of enforcement activities.  There is nothing in these policies will alter the balance of cultural power or change the direction of payments.  That’s why I’ve characterized the EC enforcement plan as: “send money to the US.”
Moralizing IP rhetoric is also a handicap in this context.  Continuing to defend IP as a fundamental right long after it has been made an object of trade policy is to surrender any real leverage in making deals.  A trade negotiator would be very lucky have such a partner on the other side of the table.  
And that's precisely what the US has in Europe, not least thanks to Sarkozy, who has been the main proponent of Europe's counterproductive copyright infringement agenda.  The key statement of that topsy-turvy policy was made by him during the global joke known as the e-G8 meeting:
I know and understand that our french conception of author’s rights isn’t the same as in the United States or other countries. I simply want to say that we hold to the universal principles proclaimed in the American constitution as much as in the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789: that no one should have the product of their ideas, work, imagination–their intellectual property–expropriated with impunity.
Each of you understands what I say here because each of you is also a creator, and it is in virtue of these creator’s rights that you have founded businesses that today have become empires. The algorithms that give you your strength; this constant innovation that is your force; this technology that changes the world is your property, and nobody contests it. Each of you, each of us, can thus understand that the writer, the director, or the performer can have the same rights. – French President Sarkozy, opening the ‘e-G8? conference that he convened this past April.
As Karaganis points out:
With this fulsome praise of tech and media CEOs at the e-G8, Sarkozy expressed the basic European cognitive dissonance on IP:  the embrace of universal rights as a way of pretending equality with the real powers in the room.
The rest of his piece looks at how Europe ended up in this position where it would be arguing strenuously for an approach that was against its own best interests.  As such, it provides invaluable context for today's moves, and should be read by anyone wanting to understand them - and to counter them.

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