Saturday, October 30, 2004

Blogger in trouble over blog

The BBC reports that stewardess (sorry, air hostess) Ellen Simonetti, known in blogging circles as Queen of the Sky, has been suspended for posing for photographs that appeared in her blog. She is wearing a Delta Airlines uniform and is posing revealingly, but nothing spectacular. I wonder, how did the good people at Delta find out? Could it be that she had some hidden fans in Delta Human Resources?

Anyway, I guess that from now on I will have to be careful about what I post here.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Lancet estimates 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths

(Link requires registration, again, use Bugmenot). An article in the influential medical journal The Lancet estimates that the war in Iraq has produced an excess mortality of 100,000 civilians. The estimates are the highest yet, but the journal editors have said that these are only conservative estimates. and that civilian casualties could be higher. The study is peer-reviewed. The summary states: "Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

Creative Commons article in The Guardian

Creative Commons keeps making its unstoppable stride into the mainstream with the publication of yet another newspaper article. The article concentrates on music, as most of these do, but it is a rather good attempt to explain what the movement is all about.

The CC-UK project is still going through consultation and redraft process. Good luck to all of those involved.

Judge Cameron Lecture now online

Judge Cameron's excellent lecture at the University of Edinburgh is now online.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

More about Bush's website international blocking

The Register comments on the strange blocking of international addresses by Bush's website. For one, it is thought that this may try to prevent attacks from Denial-of-Service attacks.

Could it be simply that Bush doesn't know that the rest of the world exists? Surely, he must know that Iraq is not somewhere near Mexico!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Spammer trial begins

Three people are being charged in Virginia for breaking the state's anti-spam legislation. They could get up to fifteen years sentence if convicted. We don't like spammers, but 15 years? Seems a bit excessive!

And no Monty Python jokes please.

Bush doesn't like them foreigners!

I guess it is because they have long unpronounceable names, and they don't clap him adoringly at the UN.

Interesting eBay case

Grace v eBay is a new case in California (where else?) that is posing some interesting questions about intermediary liability, unfair contract clauses and online defamation. The case was brought by Roger Grace, an eBay seller who was subjected to a defaming campaign by another eBay user, who bought several items from him and then posted feedback that said "SHOULD BE BANNED FROM EBAY!!!! DISHONEST ALL THE WAY!!!!" apart from the annoying use of the caps lock key and the use of multiple exclamation marks (which, according to Terry Pratchett, is a sure sign of a diseased mind), the statement was deemed to be defamatory. Grace complained to eBay, they refused to remove the comments, and then Grace sued the seller and eBay for libel and violation of the unfair competition law. eBay then removed the comments.

The ruling exonerates eBay on the basis that their user agreement excludes liability in cases of defamation as they are exonerated "from claims, demands and damages (actual and consequential) of every kind and nature, known and unknown, suspected and unsuspected, disclosed and undisclosed, arising out of or in any way connected with such disputes." It is interesting that this clause has been accepted in the U.S. because I believe that this clause would probably not stand to scrutiny in Europe.

eBayers, this case indicates that you can still leave negative feedback, but be fair (and please stay clear of the multiple exclamation marks!!!).

European domain name goes live

(Warning: The link requires registration. Are your tired of all of those sites that require registration? Why not use Bugmenot?). The Times Law section has a great article about the registration process for the .eu top level domain name. The registration process will be in phases. In phase one those with registered trademarks, public bodies and territories will be able to register. In phase two, owners of company names, unregistered trade marks, trade names and family names can apply. After this "sun period, the domain name will be open to registration.

This is great news, and it is designed to diminish the risk of cybersquatting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Music download case in Australia

This is a new case against a site that offered MP3 music. The problem is that the article is not clear on the type of technlogy that was being used to serve the files. It seems that the accused was not serving files, but was offering hyperlinks to other sites that hosted the files. This makes it an interesting case on hyperlinnking. If one follows some similar cases on linking to infringing material in the United States (such as the DeCSS cases), then one could argue that the site was indeed acting against the law.

Interesting case.

Wikipedia Rulez, OK?

Seems like Wikipedia has finally been discovered by the mainstream, the article in The Guardian actually does a decent job in describing the strenghts and weaknesses of the encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a great resource because the articles are written, edited and updated by the users. This makes it extremely up-to-date, but it also leaves it open to inaccurate information being entered into it. Although this is true, the article in The Guardian makes it clear that when people deface the encyclopedia with rubbish or abusive comments, the comments are fixed almost immediately by other users.

Monday, October 25, 2004

CD sales and music downloads

This is an oldish study, but we believe that it deserves all of the attention that it can get. The study analyses the economic impact to CD sales of music downloads. The study confirms what many of us music downloaders already knew (I hope that the BPI doesn't sue me). Music sales are not greatly affected by music downloads because most of the people who are downloading would not have purchased the CD anyway, and many who download music go ahead and buy the CD.

The study claims that "We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales [...] Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale."

Fun eBay listings.

eBay has been a lot in the news recently with reports of some rather interesting listings. There is the great one about a guy in Aberdeen flogging a wedding invite:

Everything is being sold on eBay these days, but one should always look at the lenghthy list of restricted items. It seems logical that you cannot sell human parts, fireworks and lockpicking devices. But did you know that you can't sell football and lottery tickets, drug paraphernalia and surveillance equipment?

Windows v Linux in security

The Register reports on a new study that attempts to settle once and for all the Linux v Windows security debate. Unsurprisingly, Linux comes out smelling of roses, while Windows is attacked for having a bad track record in fixing vulnerabilities.

This would seem quite straightforward, telling us stuff that we already know. However, this is an area of heated debate, as some defenders of Windows (generally, those in Bill's payroll) have claimed that Windows is not that vulnerable and that Linux is guilty of many problems as well.

This report finally lays the claims to rest. Read the PDF here.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Dream job!

Yes, there is somebody who has a better job than me. No, I am not talking about being an actuary, which is supposed to be one of the best jobs in the USA (and confirms my general impression about the mental soundness of some people who live in the land of the WWE). The job that I am talking about is that of academics that study video games! The Center for Computer Games Research at Copenhagen's Information Technology University. Yes, they are actually a social science driven project that studies many of the social implications of computer games, and their interaction with fields of study like psychology, film theory, social interaction studies, cognitive science, narrative theory etc. In their words:
"Computer game researchers do not play computer games all the time, but just like film theorists watch films and literary theorists read novels, it is an integral part of the study of computer games to play games yourself and to study how other people play them."

Time to move to Copenhagen?

New Accronym

I hadn't heard this one before: DDoS. This means distributed denial of service, which is being used to attack sick servers that are being used to serve child pornography. It works in a similar manner to the distributed computing technology of SETI@Home, where users pool their collective idle processor power for a good cause. Other distributed network efforts include PiHex, a project to calculate Pi;; a project to break encryption secret keys.

My favourite is Lifemapper, a project that analyses the world's biodiveristy.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Phishing blues

The BBC reports that phishing is on the increase, spearheaded by hi-jacked computers that serve emails. This vulnerability happens from virus attacks that exploit several Windows vulnerabilities and leave computers open to hacker manipulation.

I promise to migrate to Linux when I get my *!"£$%& wireless card to work.

Software patents conference

A software patents conference will take place in Brussels between the 9 and 10 November 2004, organised by the Open Society Institute, the Greens and FFII. We support the attempts to curb software patents in Europe. Software patents = bad.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Judge Cameron lecture

Judge Edwin Cameron delivered the British Academy Inaugural Law Lecturein the Playfair Library Hall on the 19th October. In his lecture"Patents and Public Health: Principles, Politics and Paradox", JudgeCameron talked about his own experience of living in South Africa as anAIDS sufferer and the difficulties posed by intellectual property protection offered under the current patent system in making medicines available to those in poorer countries. Some six million people sufferfrom HIV or AIDS in South Africa creating a moral obligation for those in more affluent Western nations to seek alternatives to a restrictive regime, particularly in light of the investment from public funding forthe development of pharmaceutical drugs. In a paper, co-written with Jonathan Berger of the AIDS Law Project at the University of Witwatersrand, to be published by the British Academy, Judge Cameron proposed that solutions might lie through a tax on medicines in thedeveloped world, or a levy based system on generic drugs. The lecturewas co-hosted by the AHRB Research Centre in Intellectual Property andTechnology Law and pre-empts a major international conference examining the themes of intellectual property, competition and human rights to be held in December this year.

Nvidia in patent trouble

The Register reports that popular video manufacturer Nvidia has been sued by patent holder Opti Inc. This is a worrying development as it seems that the battle that is raging through the software industry is about to spill out into the chip manufacturing industry.
Let's hope that software patents are defeated in Europe.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Cory Doctorow lecture

Last week, Cory Doctorow gave a lecture at the University of Edinburgh entitled "Web 2.0": how the P2P copyright crackdown, Digital Rights Management systems, anti-circumvention laws and big media are slowly taking the Web away from public control and out of the hands of the average citizen". Unfortunately, the IT Llama could not attend this event because he was grazing in the green pastures of the deepest darkest Peru. However, the lecture video file is now available via BitTorrent here:

If you do not know what BitTorrent is, then you should really go to this link and download the client ASAP.


This is my first blog. It sort of shows, doesn't it?
Anyway, feel free to make comments about Technology Law in here. I will try to keep the blog as updated as possible.