14 October 2012

Stop the UK Badger Cull: Letter to My MP

I had been vaguely aware that the proposed cull of badgers in the UK was controversial, but had not fully realised that the evidence against it was so overwhelming.  That was confirmed by this letter in the Observer today, with some of the top scientists in the country coming out against it, and this short video, which usefully explains the issues and why the cull will make things worse.

As a result, I have been moved to send a missive to my MP, using the wonderful WriteToThem service.  Here's what I've written:

I am writing to you to express my deep concern over government plans to cull badgers.

As a Londoner, this is not a topic I normally concern myself with. I naturally have no objection to farmers seeking to minimise losses to their herds from serious diseases such as TB. However, as the letter in today's Observer (at http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/oct/14/letters-observer) from 30 leading professors with expertise in this area points out, a badger cull is likely to make the situation worse, not better.

The reasons why are well explained in this video (http://justdosomething.org.uk/badgersmatter), which includes a contribution from Sir David Attenborough among others: shooting badgers will lead to a dispersion of them from their current locations. If any of them are infected with TB, they will carry that with them to new areas. A far better solution would seem to be the use of vaccination of badgers against TB, something that is apparently already efficacious, but which could benefit from funding to refine.

Given the overwhelming – indeed, near-unanimous – view that the badger cull will not only fail to achieve its goals, but will actually exacerbate the situation, I am disturbed that the Government is nonetheless planning to proceed with it. It is crucially important that policy be evidence-based, not the result of pandering to groups that have apparently taken an unscientific view for reasons best known to themselves. I would be grateful if you could convey my concerns to the relevant minister, along with a request that the cull be suspended and more efficient and humane methods deployed instead.

Thank you for your help.
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13 October 2012

Last Chance: Consultation on Net Neutrality in EU

Back in July, I wrote about a consultation on net neutrality from the EU, entitled On-line public consultation on "specific aspects of transparency, traffic management and switching in an Open Internet". Just to remind you, here's the background:

On Open Enterprise blog.

CryptoParty Like It's 1993

As Techdirt stories regularly report, governments around the world, including those in the West, are greatly increasing their surveillance of the Internet. Alongside a loss of the private sphere, this also represents a clear danger to basic civil liberties. The good news is that we already have the solution: encrypting communications makes it very hard, if not entirely impossible, for others to eavesdrop on our conversations. The bad news is that crypto is largely ignored by the general public, partly because they don't know about it, and partly because even if they do, it seems too much trouble to implement. 

On Techdirt.

UK Continues To Criminalize Bad Taste And Stupidity In Online Postings

In the wake of the Twitter joke trial fiasco, which saw Paul Chambers dragged through the courts for two years before being acquitted, the UK's Director of Public Prosecutions announced that there should be an "informed debate" about the boundaries of free speech for social media. That really can't happen soon enough, as the UK continues to arrest and punish people for the crime of posting stupid and tasteless messages online. Here are some of the latest developments. 

On Techdirt.

Snooper's Charter: 19,000 Emails Against, 0 In Favour

Back in August, I urged people to respond to the consultation on the truly dreadful Draft Communications Bill, aka Snooper's Charter. Obviously, I wasn't alone in doing that: many organisations concerned about the impact on civil liberties in this country have done the same. For example, both 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group (ORG) provided suggested texts and asked people to contact the Joint Parliamentary Committee that has been considering the Bill - and doing rather a good job of it, I must say.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Yes, Network Effects Are a Problem for Open Formats

As we know, lock-in is one of the biggest obstacles to moving from closed, proprietary formats, to open ones. But so far as I know, no one has tried to quantify the extent to which people cling to old formats. That makes the following piece of research useful, at least as a first stab at finding out what is really going on:

On Open Enterprise blog.

The French Pigeons Are Revolting -- And That's Good

One of the reasons the copyright lobby has been able to get so far with Net-hostile legislation like SOPA/PIPA and treaties like ACTA and TPP is that the companies affected adversely -- both big Internet players and smaller startups -- have failed to make their voice heard effectively. That's finally starting to change, as Google ramps up its lobbying efforts, and Net entrepreneurs start to get organised. 

On Techdirt.

German Gov't Inadvertently Reveals Police Monitor Gmail, Skype, Facebook & Use Snooping Malware

Transparency is worth having for itself, since governments often tend to behave a little better when they know that someone is watching. But occasionally, requests for data turn up something big and totally unexpected because someone failed to notice quite what the information provided implies. 

On Techdirt

Open source's secret ally: Moore's Law

Linux went from being a cool personal hack in a bedroom to software that would eventually change world just over 21 years ago when Linus sent out his famous "Hello everybody out there using minix" message that invited people to join in. As I noted last month, that open, collaborative approach was really quite new and proved key to the uptake and development of Linux.

On The H Open.

The Philippines' Awful New 'Cybercrime' Law Put On Hold -- For Now

Last week Tim Cushing wrote about the hugely-worrying new "cybercrime" law passed in the Philippines that seemed likely to criminalize all kinds of everyday online activities. As an article on Radio Australia's site reports, the Philippines' highest court has now stepped in after being petitioned to block the legislation

On Techdirt.

Before and After ACTA - the Video

In the last year I've written what some might have felt were rather too many thousand words about ACTA. But I'd argue that it was an important moment, not least because of the European Parliament's refusal to ratify the treaty, which was quite unprecedented for an international agreement of this kind.

On Open Enterprise blog.

EU Unitary Patent Vote: It's On, Again, Probably

This is getting silly. Over the last year I've been warning about problems with the EU's plan to bring in a Unitary Patent system, culminating in a call to write to your MEPs a few weeks ago about an imminent vote that was taking place in the crucial JURI committee. That didn't take place, but word is that the committee vote will now take place this Thursday:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Fighting Lack of Transparency And Engagement With Parliamentary Openness

A recurrent theme here on Techdirt is the persistent lack of transparency during the drafting of new laws or the negotiation of new treaties. Most governments, it seems, retain the view that they know best, that the electorate shouldn't worry about all those tiresome details being discussed in secret backroom negotiations, and that since the public will be able to see the result once it's all finished, what's the problem? 

On Techdirt.

Lacking Fair Use Rights, Argentina Tries To Increase Access To Copyright Works, With Mixed Results

If you think copyright is bad in regions like the US or Europe, this post from Intellectual Property Watch points out that things could be much worse

On Techdirt.

Creepy Smartphone Malware Re-creates Your Home For Stalkers

It's become something of a cliché that anyone with a mobile phone is carrying a tracking device that provides detailed information about their location. But things are moving on, as researchers (and probably others as well) explore new ways to subvert increasingly-common smartphones to gain other revealing data about their users. Here's a rather clever use of malware to turn your smartphone into a system for taking clandestine photos -- something we've seen before, of course, in other contexts -- but which then goes even further by stitching them together to form a pretty accurate 3D model of your world: 

On Techdirt.

Emerging Countries Take Note: Big Pharma's Losing Patent Battles In India

Techdirt has been following the important story of the kidney and liver cancer drug marketed under the name Nexavar since March, when India granted a compulsory license for the first time since re-instating patents on pharmaceuticals. Naturally, the patent holder, Bayer, fought back, and appealed against that decision. Now we learn from Intellectual Property Watch that Bayer has lost

On Techdirt.

German Pirate Party Makes Some Shockingly Unshocking Proposals For Copyright Reform

As Techdirt has reported, after a year of amazing successes, the German Pirate Party is going through something of a bad patch at the moment. One reason is that it seems to spend more time squabbling in public than on crafting policy documents that will win over the public. That makes the recent appearance of proposals for copyright reform particularly significant. 

On Techdirt.

Declaration on Parliamentary Openness

An increasing number of Open Enterprise posts are about moves to open up government in myriad ways. That's not really surprising, since open source clearly is a perfect match for public administrations, as are open standards, and open data is a natural outgrowth of software openness. 

On Open Enterprise blog.

Teenage Engineering: If Our Parts Are Too Expensive, Here's How To Print Your Own

There's plenty of breathless writing about the imminent 3D-printing revolution, but realistically, what is it likely to mean for most people? They probably won't all be printing out their own planes, but they may well be printing out small replacement parts for goods they own. Here's an early example of that from the world of electronics, spotted by the Shapeways site: 

On Techdirt.

California To Commission 50 Open Textbooks For 2013; Finnish Teachers Write One In A Weekend

Techdirt has been following open textbooks for some time now, and 2012 looks to be a bumper year for them. Here, for example, is a major initiative in the US

On Techdirt.

European Parliament Committee Calls For Creation Without Copyright To Become EU Policy

The European Union's governmental machine is a complicated beast, with its intertwining of supra-national, national and party-political levels (if you're interested in understanding how it works, the digital rights organization EDRI has put together a useful introduction (pdf).) That makes it quite hard to tell what is going on behind the scenes with this new Opinion of the International Trade Committee on a Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy (pdf.) 

On Techdirt.

Why ECJ Must be Ultimate Arbiter of the Unitary Patent

As I've noted a couple of times, one of the key issues that has yet to be resolved concerning the proposed EU Unitary Patent system is which court will have the final say. Will it be the European Court of Justice (ECJ), or the main Unitary Patent Court? Or, put another way, will Articles 6 to 8 of the Unitary Patent Regulation to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament be deleted or not? If they are removed, ultimate power rests with the Unitary Patent Court; if they remain, the ECJ has the last word.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Out of Africa: More Microsoft FUD

One of the most heartening developments recently has been Africa's current embrace of computer technology. That includes open source: for example, Nigeria has been running an open source conference for several years now, and the Kenyan government is starting to deploy free software widely. 

On Open Enterprise blog.

EU Copyright Holders Cling To Old Levies, As New Ones Start To Appear On Cloud Storage

Levies on blank storage media are a relic of older times when copying was a new possibility for copyright works. You no longer needed an LP pressing plant, say, you could copy music in the comfort of your own home, first on analog cassette tapes, then later on digital media like CDs and MP3 players. At that time, it was easy to see each of those copies as somehow replacing purchases, and so the argument for levies was born: people should pay indirectly for the "lost" sales their copying caused. 

On Techdirt.

First Open Forum Academy Conference Proceedings

Last week, I mentioned that I attended the Open Forum Europe 2012 conference. Preceeding it was the first meeting of the Open Forum Academy (OFA), of which I am a member. Here's how it describes itself:

On Open Enterprise blog.