April 10, 2005
WIPO Politics, Quantified (Donna Wentworth)
Earlier this week, David Bollier wrote about how the US and other wealthy nations are pushing developing countries to adopt ever-ratcheting intellectual property protection as an end in itself even as they consider for themselves the smarter approach -- judging a specific IP protection by its performance.
As CPTech's Jamie Love observes in The Financial Times, 'Regardless of what is said in Delhi, back home wealthy countries are backing open standards for the Internet, open-source software, open-access archives for publicly funded scientific research, public domain databases like the Human Genome Project or the HapMap Project and similar open initiatives.' Why? Because there are considerable social and economic benefits to doing so.
Now, in anticipation of next week's historic WIPO Development Agenda meetings (April 11-13), a number of public-interest groups are working together to ensure that all of the delegates have the tools to argue for IP law and policy that accords with their own national best interests. As my EFF colleague Cory Doctorow points out over BoingBoing, this includes a clear-eyed look at what wealthy nations are saying in Geneva while reserving for themselves the luxury of exploring more intelligent approaches at home.
Love has stepped up to bat, providing (1) links to various countries' proposals for interpreting the Development Agenda and (2) a telling 'scorecard' of key words in the proposals, providing an at-a-glance analysis of substantive slant.
Compare and contrast the scorecard for the US and the 'Friends of Development,' which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Venezuela:
All words: 3,059
Access to knowledge: 0
Doha Declaration on the TRIPS: 0
Human Rights: 0
Market failure: 0
Open source: 0
Public Health: 0
Friends of Development (14 countries) [Proposal]
All words: 12,040
Access to knowledge: 7
Doha Declaration on the TRIPS: 3
Human Rights: 2
Market failure: 0
Open source: 1
Public Health: 5
Here we can see even more clearly the farce the WIPO Secretariat is carrying out by barring participation in these meetings by groups that are among the best-qualified to be there. Groups that were founded to address the issues the US isn't addressing.
Bonus headline for the 'big media' journalists who ought to be covering this story: 'IP Justice Barred From Meetings to Address IP Justice.' It would be funny if it weren't true.
April 08, 2005
Bollier on US Hypocrisy Regarding IP Policy for Developing Countries (Donna Wentworth)
Public Knowledge co-founder David Bollier has a must-read piece on the current machinations at WIPO and the 'irony -- if not hypocrisy -- that there is growing debate within the United States and Europe about the actual value of strict IP rules even as they press poor countries to adopt the West's legal regime':
While the US and Europe mull such changes, they are pressuring India to adopt a strong patent law that sanctions only closed and proprietary models for controlling access to knowledge.
Why such intransigence in the West about relaxing IP rules in order to help the poorest, most needy nations develop? Perhaps because in this time of American triumphalism, the West thinks it can prevail through sheer force. This is apparently the plan at WIPO, which has refused even to allow an open debate on the issue.
April 06, 2005
WIPO Spins Lockout of Civil Society Groups (Donna Wentworth)
This media advisory suggests that the General Assembly language binds the secretariat to close out civil society NGOs, but the restrictive gloss on this language is a creation of the secretariat alone.
Previous relevant Copyfight coverage here and here.
Update: More preemptive spin control reported @ IP Watch: The Friends of Development detail their proposals for WIPO reform and rebut US representatives' counter-proposal aimed at minimizing/containing the Development Agenda: '[The] Friends of Development emphasized their view that 'the development dimension of intellectual property is not the same thing as technical assistance.' They affirmed that they attach importance 'to the role of intellectual property in the path towards development' and stressed their belief that 'WIPO could have a new role if it incorporates the development dimension into its work.''"
Posted by mikki at 11:44 PM
March 25, 2005
WIPO Lockout Inspires Global Protest
Residents of 56 Nations and Members of Hundreds of NGOs Sign Petition to Open Meetings on Intellectual Property and the Developing World
Geneva - When the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) earlier this month shut out many public interest groups from two April meetings about the impact of patent, copyright and related regimes on the developing world, many civil society groups greeted the news with concern.
Most of the groups barred from the meetings, which are to focus on whether WIPO should adopt a 'Development Agenda,' are public interest organizations with special expertise on issues of economic development. Without the input of these groups, the meetings can do little to further WIPO's understanding of how patents, copyright, and related rights affect developing nations.
Seeking a more balanced discussion of the Development Agenda, two Brazilian activists, Pedro de Paranagua Moniz and Pedro AD Rezende, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's European Affairs Coordinator, Cory Doctorow, took action: they produced an open letter to WIPO on this issue and solicited comments on the Internet.
As a result, this week over 800 individuals and groups, including EFF, signed an open letter to WIPO urging it to allow more groups to participate in these historic meetings. Residents of 56 different nations signed on, along with members of non-government organizations (NGOs) ranging from a Brazilian AIDS health group to Yale University. The letter, called the 'WIPO Manifesto for Transparency, Participation, Balance and Access,' asks that public interest NGOs be allowed to participate in the Development Agenda meetings as ad hoc observers and calls on WIPO to provide assistance in creating a global regime that facilitates open access to knowledge.
'WIPO is undertaking a long-overdue and halting journey from a place where industrial interests meet to safeguard their marketplace advantages, to a place where the UN's humanitarian values hold center stage,' said Doctorow. 'This letter is the latest step in the important campaign to refocus WIPO on providing effective technical assistance that meets the real needs of its developing country members.'
The open letter was delivered to Dr. Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO, on March 23, 2005, with more than 800 signatories, and it is still open for signature.
European Affairs Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
International Affairs Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
(Via EFF: Press.)
Posted by mikki at 08:53 PM
February 19, 2005
The Definition of Internet Governance a la WGIG
Once again, users are ignored. Thank the Gods that Karl Auerbach once again is here to point it out. How unfortunate that the UN has fallen into the same trap that doomed ICANN from the start.
Below are my latest comments for the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). (A few typos have been corrected.)
Regarding the document working definition of internet governance, posted at http://www.wgig.org/docs/WorkingDefinition.pdf:
In the second paragraph the listed participants in this system of governance are:
- the private sector
- civil society
- international organizations.
Sadly, this list does not include living, breathing, thinking people.
Has the concept of governance fallen so low that people no longer have a place?
Why should legal fictional persons (i.e. corporations) receive seats via "the private sector" while those who ultimately endure and suffer the burdens of governance and who ultimately pay the price of governance, the individual people of the nations of the Earth, are excluded?
The claim has been made many times that "people don't [need] entrée into the halls of internet governance because they are represented by their respective government[s]." Were that claim true then "the private sector" and "civil society" would also be represented by their governments.
Do we really want the internet to be regulated through a system of governance that is based on preference for some and exclusion of others?[CaveBear Blog]
January 25, 2005
EFF Announces Endangered Gizmos List (Donna Wentworth)
Here is one of the reasons I've been relatively scarce of late -- we at EFF have been working on a brand new campaign to demonstrate the many ways that the copyright cartel is spoiling the environment for innovation:
FCC Chairman Michael Powell calls TiVo "God's machine," and its devotees have been known to declare, "You can take my TiVo when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!" But suppose none of us had ever been given the opportunity to use or own a TiVo -- or, for that matter, an iPod? Suppose instead that Hollywood and the record companies hunted down, hobbled, or killed these innovative gizmos in infancy or adolescence, to ensure that they wouldn't grow up to threaten the status quo?
That's the strategy the entertainment industry is using to control the next generation of TiVos and iPods. Its arsenal includes government-backed technology mandates, lawsuits, international treaties, and behind-the-scenes negotiations in seemingly obscure technology standards groups. The result is a world in which, increasingly, only industry-approved devices and technologies are "allowed" to survive in the marketplace.
This is bad news for innovation and free competition, but it also threatens a wide range of activities the entertainment conglomerates have no use for -- everything from making educational "fair" use of TV or movie clips for a classroom presentation, to creating your own Daily Show-style video to make a political statement, to simply copying an MP3 file to a second device so you can take your music with you.
Rather than sit back and watch as promising new technologies are picked off one-by-one, EFF has created the Endangered Gizmos List to help you defend fair use and preserve the environment for innovation.
For more on precisely these themes, check out:
- Why Hasn't TiVo Improved? by Ed Felten @ Freedom to Tinker;
- Matt Haughey's response @ PVR Blog;
- Debunking a DRM Press Release by Cory @ BoingBoing; and, finally, the ever-so-delicately titled,
- DVD CCA Is an Innovation-Stifling Cartel, by Julie Jacobson at CEPro Magazine.
September 25, 2004
WIPO 2.0: A Declaration for the Future of IP (Donna Wentworth)
There's a battle going on at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) -- one that could accurately be described as a struggle for the soul of the organization. The central question is whether WIPO will coninue to promote the protection of intellectual property for its own sake -- IP "uber alles" -- or, as a number of developing countries and others are advocating, pursue a range of initiatives that reflect such notions as "balance," "innovation," or "access." What's at stake is much more significant than the harmony or disharmony of IP regulations. As James Boyle points out in his Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property, WIPO decisions affect everything from the availability and price of AIDS drugs, to the patterns of international development, to the communications architecture of the Internet.
Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) has been working at the front lines of this battle for many years, and today he forwarded a document proposing that WIPO formally adopt a "development agenda" and other reforms to unlock the organization's considerable power to help humanity. The document, called the Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization, lists a number of problems that a new direction for WIPO could address:
- Without access to essential medicines, millions suffer and die;
- Morally repugnant inequality of access to education, knowledge and
technology undermines development and social cohesion;
- Anticompetitive practices in the knowledge economy impose enormous
costs on consumers and retard innovation;
- Authors, artists and inventors face mounting barriers to follow-on innovation;
- Concentrated ownership and control of knowledge, technology, biological resources, and culture harm development, diversity, and
- Technological measures designed to enforce intellectual property rights in digital environments threaten core exceptions in copyright laws for disabled persons, libraries, educators, authors, and consumers, and undermine privacy and freedom;
- Key mechanisms to compensate and support creative individuals and communities are unfair to both creative persons and consumers;
- Private interests misappropriate social and public goods, and lock up
the public domain.
So what's the antidote? According to the declaration, the key is recognizing the opportunities implicit in the "astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models" and resolving to act upon them:
Humanity stands at a crossroads -- a fork in our moral code and a test of our ability to adapt and grow. Will we evaluate, learn and profit from the best of these new ideas and opportunities, or will we respond to the most unimaginative pleas to suppress all of this in favor of intellectually weak, ideologically rigid, and sometimes brutally unfair and inefficient policies?
The proposal for a development agenda has created the first real opportunity to debate the future of WIPO. It is not only an agenda for developing countries. It is an agenda for everyone, North and South. It must move forward. All nations and people must join and expand the debate on the future of WIPO.
Delegations representing the WIPO member states and the WIPO Secretariat have been asked to choose a future. We want a change of direction, new priorities, and better outcomes for humanity. We cannot wait for another generation. It is time to seize the moment and move forward.
Internet Governance Has Become a Non-Issue
It's funny, but I recall the battle cry that the WWW was "free" back in its early days. When contributing game concept to the early and great gaming pioneers like Infocom, there was such a great esprit-du-corps amongst our team regarding the fun as well as utility that the WWW offerred. In retrospect, we were so naive. I recall the days when guys like Bill Gates prided themselves on being such a great "hackers" - it was a noble term back then. [CircleID]
September 22, 2004
EFF Files Brief in Email Privacy CaseAn important privacy issue is being examined by the court. EFF is stepping up to the plate.
Councilman Case Should Be Heard Before Full Court
Boston, MA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in a case that will have a profound effect on the privacy of Internet communications.
The brief argues that US v. Councilman, previously decided by a panel of First Circuit judges, should be reheard by the entire First Circuit Court of Appeals. In the earlier panel decision, the court ruled that it does not violate criminal wiretap laws when an email service provider monitors the content of users' incoming messages without their consent.
The defendant in the case, Bradford Councilman, is a bookseller who offered email service to his customers. Councilman configured the email processing software so that all incoming email sent from Amazon.com, a competitor, was secretly copied and sent to his personal email account before it arrived in the intended recipient's mailbox. The court ruled that this is legal. As the panel itself stated in the ruling, "it may well be that the protections of the Wiretap Act have been eviscerated as technology advances."
Co-authored by Orin Kerr and Peter Swire, law professors specializing in Internet privacy issues, the amicus brief is co-signed by EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the American Library Association (ALA). Amici argue that a rehearing is necessary because the Councilman decision disrupts the traditional understanding of Internet surveillance laws, raising significant constitutional questions under the Fourth Amendment.
"This court decision has repercussions far beyond a single criminal prosecution," said Kevin Bankston, EFF attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis fellow. "The panel decision effectively rewrites the field of Internet surveillance law in ways that Congress never intended. If private service providers like Councilman can avoid the Wiretap Act's criminal prohibition on interception by a technicality in the way the messages are transmitted, it follows that the government will also be able to monitor our communications without having to ask a judge for a wiretap order. If the decision is allowed to stand, it will eliminate the Wiretap Act as the primary curb against private and government snooping on the Internet."
EFF Attorney, Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis fellow
Posted by mikki at 08:43 AM
September 21, 2004
Linux Australia "Shot in the Dark" by MPAA (Donna Wentworth)
This following tactic is precisely what happens with domain name litigation, and causes many legitimate domain name holders to give up their rights rather than fight an expensive battle. Regardless of whether or not they will win, the fear of paying huge legal fees to ensure one's rights causes many to cave rather than fight.
One topic of discussion this weekend at the EFF staff and board retreat was what Wendy calls the "Attack of the Subpoena-bots" -- that is, the trend toward automatic weapons-style litigation campaigns. This is when companies or industry groups like the RIAA and MPAA use key-word searches and the like to target possible infringers before firing off round after round of seemingly indiscriminate cease-and-desist letters. The problem with this is that even if the recipient is 100 percent innocent, he or she may have no idea of how to respond to the intimidating legalese/exhorbitant demands in these letters. Rather than risk doing the wrong thing, and eager to avoid the expense of an attorney, the recipient frequently decides to give up rather than to fight -- leading to the widespread chill of perfectly legitimate activities.
Fortunately for the Internet community, every once in a while a stray round hits the wrong guy -- someone not only willing but eager to fight back. Which is evidently what happened when the MPAA recently sent cease-and-desist notices to Linux Australia for providing access to two copyrighted movies: "Grind" and "Twisted." Except that what Linux Australia actually did was provide access to a download of the Twisted framework written in Python, and Valgrind, a tool for developers to locate memory management.
Needless to say, Linux Australia was not amused. And as luck would have it, the group has the legal chops and resources to do something about it:
"This seems to be a huge misuse of resources, an infringement upon various global spam laws, an infringement upon our own Copyright Act under Section 102 and needless stress and cost upon small Australian organizations and companies," [Linux Australia President Pia] Smith said.
"Linux Australia is concerned that this kind of shoot-in-the-dark approach to copyright protection is potentially damaging for Australian organizations and companies," Smith added. "Organizations that participate in such behavior should be held accountable, and forced to put at least some effort into researching the validity of their keyword searches."
Here in the states we're waiting for a ruling to come down that may provide additional protection for those inappropriately targeted by infringement claims: the decision in OPG v. Diebold. As Wendy notes in a recent OJR article, there's a seldom-used section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) aimed at stopping misuse: 512(f), which provides that anyone who knowingly misrepresents material as infringing "shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys' fees, incurred by the alleged infringer."
[Section 512f] allows one who has been hit with a purposely abusive demand letter to reply, "Not only am I not in the wrong, but you don't have the right to say I am," says Seltzer.
What I'm wondering is what the court will require to prove that Diebold knowingly abused the DMCA to silence its critics -- and how that might compare to what it takes to prove that someone has knowingly violated copyright law. [Copyfight]
September 04, 2004
We've moved the DNRC website
We've moved the blog and the entire website to new hardware. If you happen to notice anything that isn't quite working right, or any other issues regarding our site, please write to admin at netpolicy dot com. Thanks.
Posted by mikki at 10:42 PM
February 24, 2004
U.S. Still Mining Terror Data
When Congress deep-sixed the Total Information Awareness program for fear it would compromise individual privacy, the government simply moved its research to various intelligence offices. [Wired News]
Posted by mikki at 12:03 PM
February 05, 2004
Share this MP3 (MGM v. Grokster)
Also found on Wendy's Blog. There isn't much more to be said. Listen to the MP3
Here's an MP3 of yesterday's fantastic oral argument in MGM v. Grokster, before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It's public domain, so share freely on the peer-to-peer networks whose legality Fred von Lohmann and Mike Page eloquently defend.[Wendy: The Blog]
January 27, 2004
ICC Paper on Clearing Up Confusion Over Internet Governance
This piece from Circleid.com could become very important in the future of Internet governance.
I just wanted to call people's attention to this International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) paper on Internet governance. I don't endorse it; haven't actually read it yet, but their say will play a big role and should be widely known: "Coming barely a month after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, and prepared by ICC's Commmission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms, the paper divides the issue of Internet governance into three main components - technical... [CircleID]
Posted by mikki at 10:27 PM
January 21, 2004
Northwest Gave U.S. Data on Passengers
Yet another airline breaching passenger privacy, using personal information for purposes NOT disclosed. Once again we come to the obvious conclusion that a property right in personal information should belong to the INDIVIDUAL, not to the collector!
Northwest Airlines provided information on millions of passengers for a secret U.S. government air-security project soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, raising more concerns among some privacy advocates about the airlines' use of confidential customer data. [Washington Post: Front Page]
January 15, 2004
Domain registrars sued over URL patent
Take a look at THIS story. How could the USPTO be lame enough to grant a patent like this? What's next?
Two Web entrepreneurs accuse Network Solutions and Register.com of selling e-mail addresses and URLs that infringe on their naming method patent. [CNET News.com]
January 12, 2004
U.S. to Push Airlines for Passenger Records
Despite stiff resistance from airlines and privacy advocates, the U.S. government plans to push ahead this year with a vast computerized system to probe the backgrounds of all passengers boarding flights in the United States. [Washington Post: Front Page]
December 22, 2003
Jon Johansen Cleared
In a ruling that is a victory for fair use rights, Jon Johansen has been cleared by a Norwegian court
From IP Justice
(Oslo) A Norwegian appeals court today cleared Jon Johansen of all charges for viewing his lawfully purchased DVDs on a DVD player that is not approved by the Hollywood movie studios.
The Norwegian appeals court upheld a January 2003 ruling from an Oslo City Court acquitting Johansen on all counts and rejecting the prosecutor’s theory that Johansen was guilty of violating Norwegian Criminal Code Section 145.2, which outlaws breaking into digital data that one has no right to access. Because Johansen accessed his own DVD and did not commit any copyright infringement the city court found Johansen innocent on all counts.
The penalty for breaking this Norwegian law is two years in prison if convicted. Johansen’s case marked the first time this law was used to prosecute someone for accessing his own property.
Johansen was first charged by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit (OKOKRIM) at the request of the Motion Picture Association in 2000. After the Oslo City Court acquitted Johansen in January 2003, Hollywood pressured Norwegian prosecutors to appeal the decision and the retrial was scheduled to begin on December 2nd and wrapped on the 11th. Prosecutors may appeal this ruling to the Norwegian Supreme Court.
"It is delightful to see the Norwegian courts stand up to Hollywood and defend the rights of its citizens to engage in lawful, but unauthorized, uses of DVD movies," said IP Justice Executive Director Robin D. Gross. "Both the Norwegian city and appeals courts have wisely recognized that when you buy a DVD, you own it; and Hollywood does not have the right to tell you how you may use your property," explained the intellectual property attorney based in San Francisco.
Johansen was represented on appeal by Halvor Manshaus from the Oslo law firm Advokatfirmaet Schjødt, who also defended Johansen at the lower court.
"The ruling draws up the line of demarcation between the interests of owners and distributors of intellectual property on the one side, and consumers on the other," stated Manshaus. "The court mentions that optical storage media easily can be damaged, making it important for consumers to have the option of making a back-up copy within already defined "fair-use" terms. In addition, the Court states that although DeCSS can be used to make illegal copies, this was not the intent of Johansen, nor has he made copies in violation of intellectual property regulations," Manshaus added.
At 15, Johansen helped to create DeCSS, a computer program that unlocks DVDs in 1999 and first published on the Internet. DeCSS was written as part of an effort to build a DVD player for the Linux operating system and set off a fire-storm of Hollywood lawsuits to ban the software’s publication in 1999 and 2000.
Posted by mikki at 11:53 AM
December 12, 2003
Proving once again, he who has the gold makes the rules...
Microsoft couldn't get what it wanted under US law, so it forum shopped around the world until it could find a court that would finally give it a preliminary injunction, barring rival Lindows from using the name.
Read more from InfoWorld.
Posted by mikki at 12:55 PM
December 03, 2003
How Much Is Privacy Worth?
The Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the government is automatically on the hook for illegally releasing private data. The feds say individuals must prove harm before claiming compensation. By Ryan Singel. [Wired News]
Posted by mikki at 08:34 AM
November 26, 2003
Army Quietly Opens JetBlue Probe
Two months after the airline admitted coughing up passenger records to a defense contractor, the Army finally says it's investigating the matter. By Ryan Singel. [Wired News]
October 27, 2003
Cyberpiracy north of the border
Michael Geist - outspoken Canadian Law Professor offers a unique perspective on fairness, Internet freedom, and how Canadians view "DMCA Gone Wrong." Well worth the read.
Are Canada's file swappers next in line to be prosecuted? The University of Ottawa Internet expert Michael Geist tells CNET News.com what to expect.
Is Canada a freer country when it comes to the Internet, as a result?
Based on an innovation perspective, we haven't run into the same problems the United States has, with lawsuits brought against researchers, garage door manufacturers and printing companies. Most Canadians look at those cases and are rather puzzled. [CNET News.com]
October 23, 2003
CAN SPAM Bill Passes Senate Unanimously
The Senate has passed S.877 the Anti-Spam bill introduced by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The main provisions of the bill provide the Federal Trade Commission, attorneys general and Internet Service Providers more tools to go after commercial mailers who deliberately conceal the routing information of their messages. Several amendments where added to the bill at the last minute including a provisions to: encourage bounty hunters to track down spammers; create a do-not-spam list to be run by the FTC; and a labeling requirement for pornographic messages. October 23, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
Posted by mikki at 04:58 PM
Comments to DNRC Website
We're very sorry to do this, but due to "spam comments" (comments with no content but contain links to generally pornographic sites) we must shut down the ability to comment to stories in our weblog.
If you have comments to individual articles, please submit them to admin at netpolicy dot com and we will post them if they are not spam, or post to the forums. Thank you for understanding.
Posted by mikki at 09:09 AM
October 22, 2003
Why Do We Care About Names and Numbers?
An interesting article on one perspective on why names and numbers are important to the Internet
An article based on the most recent study for the European Commission on the Policy Implications of Convergence in the Field of Naming, Numbering and Addressing written by Joe McNamee and Tiina Satuli of Political Intelligence.
"With relation to the Internet and also IP addresses, the "scarcity" is more complicated: there are not only intellectual property issues with regards to domain names, but there is also an issue of managing the integrity of the system. For any naming... [CircleID]
Posted by mikki at 10:12 AM
October 21, 2003
CDT Urges Action on Anti-Spam Legislation, Opposes Labeling
CDT's information is well worth looking at.
CDT urged members of the House Commerce Committee to support balanced spam legislation containing an anti-spoofing provision and opt-out, but warned that a labeling provision in the current draft was probably unconstitutional. CDT called for the addition of a private right of action and recommended that states be preempted from regulating spam only for a few years, to see if the federal law was having an impact. Anti-spam bills have been stalled in both houses of Congress. A controversial proposal for a Do-Not-Spam List is the stumbling block in the Senate. October 16, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
Posted by mikki at 11:42 AM
October 16, 2003
Feds admit error in hacking conviction
Federal prosecutors ask an appeals court to reverse a computer-crime conviction that punished a California man for notifying a company's customers of a flaw in its e-mail service.
Filed on Tuesday in San Francisco's Ninth District Court of Appeals, the unusual request conceded that federal prosecutors in Los Angeles erred in bringing a criminal case against, and obtaining the conviction of, 30-year-old Bret McDanel. The one-time system administrator has already served his 16-month sentence and is currently on supervised release, during which time his access to computers is curtailed.
The conviction stems from an incident in September 2000, when McDanel notified the customers of his former employer--Tornado Development, which has since closed its doors--that the company's Web-based e-mail system had a flaw that could allow an attacker to gain access to a user's e-mail. The prosecutors successfully argued that that act--and the 5,600 e-mails sent to customers--had essentially damaged Tornado's system.
Posted by mikki at 10:05 PM
October 15, 2003
Senators Introduce Bipartisan Effort to Curb PATRIOT Act Powers
The Center for Democracy and Technology has spearheaded an excellent effort that should be supported by freedom loving citizens.
Three Republican Senators and four Democrats last week proposed legislation to add procedural safeguards to some of the most far-reaching sections of the PATRIOT Act. The SAFE Act, S. 1709, is spearheaded by Senators Craig (R-ID) and Durbin (D-IL). It covers sneak & peek searches (secret searches of homes and offices in ordinary criminal cases) and the PATRIOT Act provision granting broad access to sensitive personal information in the hands of businesses. It also specifies limits on roving wiretaps and would "sunset" some additional provisions of the PATRIOT Act at the end 2005. October 15, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
Posted by mikki at 11:23 AM
October 07, 2003
The Aftermath: How ISPs Responded to Site Finder Around the World
It is heartening to know that the Internet still "routes around breakage" in this manner
During the 2+ weeks for which Site Finder was operational, a number of ISPs took steps to disable the service. A study just released reveals details and analysis, including specific networks disabling Site Finder during its operational period. For example, China blocked the traffic at its backbone, and Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom and Korea's DACOM also disabled the service. US ISPs seem to have been slower to act, in general -- but US ISP Adelphia disabled the service September 20-22... [CircleID]
Posted by mikki at 08:16 AM
September 28, 2003
Remembering the People Who Give Back to the Net, and All of Us
From Dan Gilmor's eJournal
The Internet has become a grossly commercialized Wild West in so many ways. But the community spirit on which it was founded is alive and well. The Net depends on the same spirit that motivates volunteers in the physical world: a commitment to solve problems and make life better for those who might otherwise not have the resources or expertise. [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
Our Apologies Again
It seems that our T1 line into DNRC headquarters has decided it is time to give up the ghost after over 10 years of service. The doomed cable is scheduled to be replaced "sometime soon." We are now back up for the foreseeable future, and are hoping that the replacement is sooner, rather than later, and goes smoothly.
September 27, 2003
First Law of the Internet
From Karl Auerbach
Several times over the last few years I have referred to a formulation that I call "The First Law of the Internet".
I believe that this First Law represents the proper balance between public and private effects of internet activity. This First Law is in need of significant refinement, but is there anyone out there who believes that this First Law does not point the proper direction? If so, I encourage the articulation of that view.
Given the recent private acts on the net by Verisign, acts that have a broad public impact, I believe that it is worthwhile to visit the most basic questions regarding what the internet is and how we accommodate competing and conflicting uses.
The First Law of the Internet
Every person shall be free to use the Internet in any way that is privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental.
The burden of demonstrating public detriment shall be on those who wish to prevent the private use.
Such a demonstration shall require clear and convincing evidence of public detriment.
The public detriment must be of such degree and extent as to justify the suppression of the private activity.[CaveBear Blog]
September 24, 2003
Power Has Been Restored
Power to DNRC Headquarters was restored yesterday at approximately 3pm. A big Thank You to Dominion Virginia Power. May everyone else come back online quickly as well.
September 21, 2003
You may have noticed that the DNRC website has been up and down quite a bit over the past four days. Hurricane Isabel has knocked out power to DNRC headquarters, and our only power is a small generator that we can only keep on intermittently. The Dominion Power crews are in the area, and we are hopeful to have power soon. Please excuse our absence.
September 18, 2003
Australian legislation cooks spammers
Yet another country beats the US to spam legislation.
Spammers could incur up to $733,000 in penalties per day for sending junk e-mail--and one lawmaker calls on the United States to follow suit with similar legislation. [CNET News.com]
UK bans spam messages
The UK has made spam a criminal offence to try to stop the flood of unsolicited messages. [BBC News | TECHNOLOGY]
September 17, 2003
Bug Reveals the Snooper in VeriSign's Site Finder
And the plot thickens. Check this out from CircleID
Here's another interesting angle on the Verisign Site Finder Web site. VeriSign has hired a company called Omniture to snoop on people who make domain name typos. I found this Omniture Web bug on a VeriSign Site Finder Web page... [CircleID]
September 02, 2003
Privacy Groups File Brief in Supreme Court Privacy Act Case
EPIC, CDT and other privacy groups filed a "friend of the court" brief in the US Supreme Court arguing that the federal Privacy Act authorizes citizens to collect minimum monetary awards when the government has breached their privacy, without having to quantify their damages. The brief argues that this concept of liquidated damages is crucial to the enforcement regimes of many federal privacy laws. The case, involving improper disclosure of Social Security Numbers, will be decided later this year or next year. August 25, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
August 21, 2003
Commission Recommends All Postal Mail Be Identified
A Presidential Commission on the Postal Service released a report calling on the US Postal Service (USPS) to aggressively "explore the use of sender identification for every piece of mail, commercial and retail." CDT believes that intelligent mail can offer substantial benefits to mailers, especially in the commercial context, but the Commission ignored privacy concerns and the Constitutional right of anonymous political speech. August 21, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
Microsoft Strongarms WIPO
Global Group's Shift On 'Open Source' Meeting Spurs Stir
by William New
A request for a meeting on open development issues has plunged the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) into a Washington political battle, causing it to shift its position on the issue.
At issue is whether WIPO should hold a meeting next year on "open and collaborative projects" such as "open source" software, which allows users to view and modify underlying code.
August 19, 2003. Technology Daily PM Edition
The meeting was proposed in a July 7 letter sent to WIPO Director General Kamil Idris by 68 distinguished scientists, academics, technologists, open-source advocates, consumer advocates, librarians, industry representatives and economists worldwide.
Although the letter cited a broad range of open collaborative projects such as the World Wide Web and the Human Genome Project, the fight has focused on open-source software and on one signer of the letter -- James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, who has actively pushed for the meeting.
WIPO's initial response to the idea was so favorable that proponents began planning for a meeting. After receiving the letter, Francis Gurry, WIPO's assistant director and legal counsel, e-mailed a statement to a Nature magazine reporter calling such open development models "a very important and interesting development."
"The director general of WIPO looks forward with enthusiasm to taking up the invitation to organize a conference to explore the scope and application of these models as vehicles for encouraging innovation," he wrote.
But a few weeks later, WIPO backed off the idea. Gurry said he and other WIPO officials received "many calls" from consumer groups, trade associations, professional associations and representatives from governments.
"What happened in the intervening weeks is that a request for an open discussion on a range of 'projects' became transformed into an increasingly domestically, as opposed to internationally, oriented, polarized political and trade debate about one only of those 'projects', namely open-source software," Gurry told National Journal's Technology Daily on Tuesday. "In those circumstances, the possibility of conducting a policy discussion on intellectual property of the sort that might be appropriate for an international organization devoted to intellectual property became increasingly remote."
U.S. government officials have argued that WIPO is an inappropriate place for such a meeting.
One developing country representative to WIPO on Monday expressed disappointment at hearing that the meeting is in doubt, and Love and representatives from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) were furious to learn of the shift. Love last week called the decision a "temporary setback," and vowed, "We're going to make this happen." But for meeting opponents, he said, it would be "as if you made an atheist pope for the day."
CCIA President Ed Black said on Tuesday: "Does this indicate that WIPO is abdicating authority and responsibility for these issues, including open source for the future? If so, we will all live by that, but then so must they. They should step up the plate or step aside. ... It is inexplicable that they would shut the door on what are clearly important issues."
U.S. Official Opposes 'Open Source' Talks At WIPO
by William New
An international intellectual property body is not the place for discussions about "open source" software, which allows users to view and modify the underlying code, because it falls outside of the organization's mission, a senior U.S. official argued on Monday.
Reviewing the original mission of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said Lois Boland, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) acting director of international relations, it is "clearly limited to the protection of intellectual property. To have a meeting whose primary objective is to waive or remove those protections seems to go against the mission."
Boland was referring to a July request by a group of scientists, academics, open-source advocates and others for a meeting at WIPO on "open and collaborative projects," including open-source software. The WIPO secretariat initially replied favorably to the idea.
In a telephone interview, Boland gave several reasons why the Geneva-based WIPO should not hold the meeting, including a tight budget and late scheduling. She also said WIPO's agenda should be driven by member nations, and the idea came from outside the organization.
Officials from the 179 WIPO nations will convene in late September to decide their agenda for the next two years; the agenda has been in the works for months and does not include open-development issues. "It would have been somewhat unusual for such a meeting to materialize out of nothing," Boland said.
In the past six months, WIPO has had to cancel several meetings on topics directly relevant to the organization due to budgetary issues, she said, adding that with those problems, the organization should not "go out on a limb and express receptivity" to an open-development meeting.
U.S. government officials have had "informal" communications with WIPO,
Boland said. A WIPO official said that since receiving a wide range of communications, WIPO has stepped back from the idea of a meeting but has not fully rejected the possibility of addressing the topic.
The U.S. government has an interagency process for developing formal positions at WIPO. A meeting that included officials from PTO and the Copyright Office was held last Thursday at the State Department. The Commerce Department and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are part of the interagency process, too.
Boland said the United States "would certainly have some rather bureaucratic objections" to WIPO considering a policy on open-source software. "There are technical and legalistic arguments to that." Open-source software is not protected under copyright law but only contract law, which is not the domain of WIPO, she said. That point has been heavily disputed by copyright experts.
Boland suggested that the U.S. government supports open-source growth as a development tool and she proposed it for consideration by a U.N. body focused on development.
She also reprimanded WIPO officials for publicly giving the impression that the body might consider open-source issues. "We think people working within the organization need to be better stewards of interactions" with nonprofit groups and other non-member organizations, she said.
August 20, 2003
Will The Internet Become Less Useful?
There are indications that the internet, at least the internet as we know it today, is dying. I am always amazed, and appalled, when I fire up a packet monitor and watch the continuous flow of useless junk that arrives at at my demarcation routers' interfaces. That background traffic has increased to the point where it makes noticeable lines on my MRTG graphs. And I have little reason for optimism that this increase will cease. Quite the contrary, I find more reason to be pessimistic and believe that this background noise will become a Niagara-like roar that drowns the usability of the internet. Between viruses and spammers and just plain old bad code, the net is now subject to a heavy, and increasing, level of background packet radiation. And the net has very long memory - I still get DNS queries sent to IP addresses that haven't hosted a DNS... [CaveBear Blog]
August 06, 2003
ABA: Cyberspace Law Excellence Award
On August 8th, Professor Lessig will be honored with the first ever American Bar Association Cyberspace Law Excellence Award. The award recognizes “substantial contributions to the development of the law of cyberspace through scholarship, participation in the legislative process or litigation.”[Lessig News]
August 01, 2003
Senate Bill Would Place Checks On PATRIOT Act Powers
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act, cosponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), legislation that would place modest checks and balances on the most troublesome provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The bill is backed by a range of organizations from across the political spectrum. August 1, 2003 [Center for Democracy and Technology]
July 31, 2003
Privacy, and other costs of price discrimination
Andrew Odlyzko, author of such gems as Content Is Not King, has a new paper available: Privacy, economics, and price discrimination on the Internet.
Perfect price discrimination has long been raised as one of the justifications for DRM (price discrimination depends on preventing arbitrage, that prevention may be enforced by DRM-backed no-resale clauses); Odlyzko suggests that consumers tend to rebel against overt price discrimination, and will therefore be subject less to DRM than to more covert forms such as bundling. I'm not sure that reduces the dependence on DRM, since DRM and anti-reverse engineering law often enforce the bundling. Price discrimination is one explanation for Lexmark's strategy: Selling printers at a loss but making it up on toner cartridges enables Lexmark to charge use-based pricing on the package.
I think we'll also see trusted computing called into the service of perfect price discrimination. With trusted computing, everyone may be able to get (only) a customized version of software or media, at a "custom" price if a vendor chooses.
The non-monetary privacy costs are high, however. Price discrimination demands the ultimate "know your customer." We trade personal data for frequent flyer discounts, but also for an identification that may allow sellers to charge us more when they recognize we need a product or can afford to spend more. The more price discrimination becomes part of the fabric of online transactions, the less we'll economically be able to opt-out of identification schemes.[Wendy: The Blog]