Thursday, November 29, 2007

ISPs acting on Bittorrent

(via Ars Technica) EFF has released a report outlining several practices at Comcast, a popular American ISP. This is controversial, because some ISPs sell themselves as high-speed with no restrictions, which would be violated by bandwidth throttling and traffic shaping. Comcast claims that it delays bittorrent traffic, and does not block it.

What is traffic shaping? It is a method on imposing speed restrictions on certain types of traffic, such as Bittorrent, under the assumption that it slows down the quality of service to those who are not downloading at the moment. Regardless of who you believe, bittorrent hogs a lot of bandwidth in what appears to follow a Pareto distribution where few users use up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth. If that is the case, why should we get upset by ISPs imposing some form of traffic restriction on users that use up a lot of resources? One answer is that the assumption that bittorrent traffic is illegal is not always warranted. Just this week I used bittorrent to download Open Office, Knoppix and SuSE Live CD, all perfectly legitimate open source software. I also downloaded a copy of XP SP2 as my (also legitimate) CD was giving me problems when installing it in my MacBook.

Having said that, it is clear that the vast majority of traffic that uses bittorrent protocols is infringing. If we start with that assumption, it seems fair that other types of traffic be given priority in the network. As an online gamer, I hate network lag and poor quality of service, and any technical issue that can be used to solve such issues should be applauded.

Case against Creative Commons dropped

Those of you interested in Creative Commons may remember that the organisation was sued by a family in Texas as a result of a Flickr image that got misused by Virgin Mobile Australia (more details here). The complaint against Creative Commons from the Chang family was with regards to negligence, as they argued that CC owed a duty of care to its licensors, and should have educated them better. It is not clear from the blog entry about whether this action followed conversations with the Chang family, but I noticed that the plaintiffs also dropped their case against Virgin USA, which leads me to believe that this is not a settlement.

It seems to me that the Chang family has had a look at their case, and probably realised that their strongest claim is against Virgin Australia for their disastrous campaign. Although I think that the case against CC was clearly weak, I do believe that the organisation should think hard about situations in which a licence is offered as the default option. While it may increase licence take-up, it may create more situations like this one.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Virtual week

Last week I was rather quiet for several reasons. On Wednesday I presented a paper entitled "Build Your Own World" at the beautiful Glasgow venue called The Lighthouse (available from the awesome Slideshare website). I was very impressed with the knowledgeable and diverse audience, but I am now a complete convert to Keynote's capabilities to deliver beautiful and useful presentations. This paper was part of a series of events organised by Urban Learning Space, a technology think-tank supported by Scottish Enterprise. I mostly talked about virtual worlds as the next stage in the user-generated content revolution, but I concentrated on some of the legal issues and potential problems that we will face.

After that I attended the screening of Bloodspell, the first Machinima feature-length film, which is also licensed under a CC licence. I should not sound too surprised, but I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. If you don't mind the polygonal characters, the story was very entertaining, and I found myself laughing at the right places. It was actually quite a funny film, and it served to reinstate my faith in the use of new technologies in order to empower creators to distribute their work to a wider audience. The question and answer session was very enjoyable, chaired by the always astute panGloss. The event was organised by London Metropolitan University (thanks again to Fernando), and by the amazing ORG, who just released their second year review.

Speaking of ORG, Jordan Hatcher has informed us that the report on the usage of Creative Commons by cultural heritage organisations is out now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

France set to punish pirates

President Nicolas Sarkozy has a new target: Internet pirates. According to Reuters, France is set to punish illegal downloaders by cutting off their broadband. Apparently, they will receive warnings, and at the third their ISP will be forced to cut them off.

I am sure that many people will make this claim in the future, but can I state for the record that this will not work? Content will be masked, VPNs will be unleashed, and the arms race between content providers and downloaders will continue.

There are however, interesting options on interoperability, and compromises form industry to provide content that plays everywhere. France is indeed becoming the capital of interoperability.

Quoting the opening of Bloodspell (of which I will give a full report soon), piracy is wrong. So don't steal any boats.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another academic scam

I've just received a second academic scam. My comments in green:

From: [this would be more convincing if it was masked as a UN addres]

UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY AWARDS COORDINATOR [actually, there is such thing as the UN University!]
REF NO: 05/0029-UNG/0901-03
BATCH NO: 11-4120/UNG/0307


RE: 3rd Annual University Staff And Students Award.

This is to notify you that you have emerged as one of the recipients of the 3rd Annual University Staff And Students Award Grants of the UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL GRANTS for this year. [Me? I won? Wow!]

Your University email address, picked from your school website and attached to ticket number [I still like the idea of allocating grants this way, saves you filling hateful applications]: 003-0155107-07 with serial number.: AA01/07/003/UNEG which drew the numbers: 10-01-44-86-23 [numbers make it sound soooo official, I'm impressed] which emerged as the 4Th place winning numbers in category "A" amongst other ten email addresses selected from the best 200 Universities worldwide [Nice, Edinburgh Uni is now one of the top 20 universities in the world. We rock!]. Your Award Fund/prize is $500,000.00 (FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS) [wait a second, the other email I received offered me £500k GBP! The dollar is not worth much these days in case you haven't heard] which is credited in cash to file with REF:05/1128-ISA/0001-1.

There are a total of 30 winners in this year's award draw who won under categories "A", "B" and "C". All the winners/recipients of this award were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from the best 200 Universities worldwide [it's teh lottary!]. The award which is given annually since 2005 is promoted and sponsored by the UNITED NATIONS, eminent personalities like the Ovorangwen of Benin, The Sultan Of Brunei, Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein (The King of Jordan) and Bill & Melinda Gates are also donors to this year's award [yes, and I can shoot laser from my eyes].

This award is an initiative towards the development and enhancement of global education, the assistance of the less privileged university undergraduates, the appreciation and compensation of hardworking university staff across the world and the encouragement of the use of internet. [of course I deserve this money! I'm hardworking less privileged university staff that encourages the use of internets.]

Your award fund is deposited with our designated paying bank with your ticket number and serial number. You are warned to keep this award information strictly confidential until your award has been processed and your fund remitted to your account to avoid double claim [or perhaps to.... *gasp* allow the fraud to run its course?]. Please be informed that your above award fund has been insured under insurance fund policy which assures you that you will receive your award fund complete without any deduction from the fund for security reasons [that does not make any sense, but it sure makes it sound official]. There are accredited agents in charge of the claims of the awards in the 3 respective categories who are located in Africa, Asia and Australia [why Australia? There's nothing down there but dingoes and poisonous critters]. You are advised to contact the agent in charge of your category (A) with the necessary information as given below to enable him process the claim of your award fund. Below are the information you are required to email to your agent:

1. Name in full
2. Country of Origin
3. Name of University
4. Contact Address
5. Age
6. Sex
7. Occupation
8. Phone/Fax
9. Batch Number
10. Serial Number
11. Reference Number
12. Amount Won
[Now we're getting somewhere, you want my bank details, together with all sorts of information that will make it easy for them to get all of my money out of my account, right?]

The above listed information are to be emailed to our accredited agent in charge of category "A" award claims with his contact information as provided below:

Name : Rev. Jim Edwards [Reverend? Ah yes, play the religious card. Men of the cloth are intrinsically reliable, right?]
Email: [Hint for future scams: Yahoo accounts are bad idea] [Hint for future scams: Look at the above hint, but replace Yahoo with Hotmail.]
Phone: 011-234-703-045-4042 [Allow me to get a list of World's calling country codes. +234 is Nigeria. Colour me surprised!]


WARNING!!! [Danger! Danger! Your caps key is stuck!]




Brent Adams
University Awards Coordinator,
United Nations Educational Grants.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Second Life PI

Is your wife cheating you on the virtual world? Do you want to check on the extra-curricular activities of a future employee? Hire SL(eye) Investigations! Their services include:

• Vetting & Pre-Employment Screening
• Asset Tracking
• People Tracing
• Theft & Fraud Investigation
• General Research
• Computer Security & Data Recovery

The site seems to be a place holder, but I find the implications fascinating.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Research grants: the new identity fraud scam

We have all become used to identity fraud scams coming from the daughter of the late Prime Minister of Burkina Faso; or lottery winning addresses for the UK National Lottery mysteriously coming from Yahoo Hong Kong addresses. I have just received a first, which I thought I would share with you. This is, to my knowledge, the first scam directed towards academics that I have ever seen. My comments in red:

SUBJECT: GRANT AWARD DONATION!! [Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a deceased mind]
FROM: [what, no or domain?]
REPLY TO: [and even stranger, the reply-to address is different, and from a cheap ISP. I'm getting suspicious now]

THE UK FOUNDATION FOR BASIC RESEARCH. [I'm going to ignore the fact that such body does not exist] [ ]

The Uk Foundation for basic research would like to notify you that you have been chosen by the board of trustees as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development [aren't I the lucky one?].The Uk Foundation for basic research was conceived with the objective of human growth, educational and scientific research, with a mind also for Community development. [you forgot to mention World Peace]

In conjunction with the ECOWAS [the Economic Community Of West African States? I'm starting to guess where this is coming from] ,UNO and the EU We are To celebrate the 30th anniversary program, We are giving out a yearly donation of £500,000.00 (five hundred thousand pounds sterling) each to 100 lucky recipients. These specific Donations/Grants will be awarded to 100 lucky international recipients worldwide; in different categories for their personal business development and enhancement of their educational plans. This is a yearly program, which is a measure of universal development strategy.

Based on the random selection exercise of internet websites and millions of supermarket cash invoices worldwide [wait, research grants given on the basis of supermarket cash receipts? Well, there's an idea for the UK research councils!], you were selected among the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of ( £500,000.00 ) Five hundred thousand dollars as charity donations/aid from the Uk Foundation, ECOWAS, EU and the UNO in accordance with the enabling act of Parliament [I'm guessing that telling us which Act of Parliament is out of the question?]. (Note that all beneficiaries email addresses were selected randomly from over 100,000 internet websites or a shop'scash invoice around your area in which you might have purchased something from).

You are required to contact the Claims Processing Manager below, for qualification documentation and processing of your claims. Please endeavor to quote your Qualification numbers (N-222-6647, E-910-56), REF Number: SW/90/0021/7896/56 BATCH No: 34/0065/KJY in all discussions [meaningless yet official-looking numbers make everything look better].

Executive Sec. MR. George Jackson.
Claims Processing Manager
TEL: +4470 1114 6946
FAX: +4470 9287 1710

1. Full Names:
2. Residential Address:
3. Direct Phone No:
4. Fax Number:
5. Email address:
6. Qualification numbers:
7. Sex:
8. Nationality:
9. Occupation:

[Now we're getting somewhere! They want my personal details... I smell identity fraud down the line].

Finally, all funds should be claimed by their respective beneficiaries,no later than 20 days after notification. Failure to do so will mean cancellation of that beneficiary and its donation will then be reserved for next years recipients.

On behalf of the Board kindly, accept our warmest congratulations [the comma should go after Board].

In your best interest to avoid mix up of numbers and names of any kind, we request that you keep the entire details of your award strictly from public notice until the process of transferring your claims has been completed, and your funds remitted to your account [Oops, does that mean that I won't be getting my research grant? Say it isn't so!]. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants/nonparticipants of this program [unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of others? Whoever heard of such a thing?].

Sincerely Yours,

THE PROMOTION COORDINATOR, [Note to future frauds: choosing a believable name would make your scam more effective. Mary Jackson would be a better option].

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

High Court to review software patents

(via press release) Four UK technology companies have appealed a ruling from the Intellectual Property Office denying them patentability over a computer implemented invention. The self-styled High Tech Four ( Astron Clinica, Software 2000, Surf Kitchen and Cyan Holdings) had an adverse ruling from the IPO where it applied its guidelines on patentable subject matter issued last year in the wake of Aerotel's decision.

I have not had time to read through their claims, but it seems that they object to the restriction of patentability of software as such, and they want to reverse current practice at the IPO which is unfavourable to the patenting of computer implemented inventions, and they claim is contrary to current practice at the EPO and other continental patent offices.

It seems like we will get another software patent ruling soon, which has to be welcome. However, being the shallow person that I am, I cannot help but comment on the name the High Tech Four. What are they? Patentabilty super heroes? Their motto: "We Fight for Justice, Freedom, and Fair Rulings in IPO Subject Matter Decisions!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Bad Web

The Internet is a bad, bad place. I'm reading "The Cult of the Amateur", the much maligned book by Andrew Keen, and it does not make happy reading. He has a bone to pick with the web as we know it, elsewhere he commented that:

"When I look at today’s Internet, I mostly see cultural and ethical chaos. I see the eruption of rampant intellectual property theft, extreme pornography, sexual promiscuity, plagiarism, gambling, contempt for order, intellectual inanity, crime, a culture of anonymity, hatred toward authority, incessant spam, and a trash heap of user-generated-content (whew, what a mouthful!). I see a chaotic humans arrangement with few, if any, formal social pacts."
All revolutions need their grumpy sceptics, and Keen is making a lot of money as the outspoken critic of Web 2.0, peer production and what he considers is an environment that glorifies communist ideals. One needs to see who is praising Keen to understand who his audience is: the Daily Mail, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, etc.

However, Keen's message may have a resounding endorsement in the way some governments respond to online threats. Instead of better policing, the UK gets a scaremongering campaign that tells us to beware of social networking sites and open wireless spaces. We need education and proper policies, but the UK governments is only giving us message that reeks of Daily Mail Luddism.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The technophobes strike back

So Marina Hyde at The Guardian is at it again. The UK hosts now four million blogs, and all she can say is "Oh Noes!" The article makes an interesting point about the loss of privacy awareness in the younger generations, which is true, but then goes on to equate this phenomenon with blogging, as if all bloggers were posting their daily events all the time. Instead of celebrating the wonderful diversity in opinion and the rise of a more informed an self-empowered society, the technophbes of the world resent us having opinions and making them known.

It is true that the blogosphere is full of dross and inane content, but so what? It is true that simply by writing a blog one is not assured visitors, but so what? Millions of people are writing down news of interest, posting their thoughts, sharing their pictures, and this is a bad thing why? Not all bloggers use their real identity, so why equate blogging with privacy concerns? Ms Hyde has confused her Web 2.0 tools, she must be thinking of social networking.

This inane blogger is now signing off.

Friday, November 09, 2007

EU asks US to remove internet gambling restrictions

The EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, is on his way to the United States to continue compensation talks with trade representatives in order to reach a settlement over the internet gambling ban. Mandelson has commented that the US should not discriminate against EU online gambling firms.

The US lost the WTO trade dispute with Antigua and Bermuda over whether online gambling was discriminatory against trading partners by imposing a double standard. The US has escalated its ban, which is seen by many as over-reaching its borders. Perhaps the solution lies in some of the threats made by the smaller nations. If the US will not comply with WTO disputes, then they will not enforce TRIPS.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Another Second Life sex toy dispute goes to court

(Via ZDNet News) Back in July we covered an incipient IP dispute involving sex toys in Second Life. The conflict involved the makers of the popular Second Life line of sex toys called SexGen, which include such items as the SexGen Platinum Base Unit v4.01. I have done some research, and apparently the aforementioned virtual devices help Second Lifers simulate intercourse with their avatars. Were I a lesser blogger, I would hereby insert various tawdry and crude jokes about such inane waste of virtual time, but I will avoid the temptation and behave.

SexGen toys are owned by Eros LLC, which is operated by one Mr Stroker Serpentine (subtle yet effective avatar name). Eros sued an alias (avatar by the name of Volkov Catteneo), a dispute that is still under way. Now Eros has filed another trade mark complaint, this time against one identifiable person (one Thomas Simon, aka Rase Kenzo), and ten John Does. Eros claims that the defendants have been selling items bearing the SexGen mark, and misrepresenting that they are legitimised to do so.

We wish the best of luck to Eros in their litigation efforts. There is obviously a lot of money involved in the virtual sex industry, and the economic model followed by these companies relies heavily on their brand.

I don't know why, but all of this talk of sex in Second Life makes me feel like I'm missing some importaint detail, much like I have arrived late at a movie and I'm trying to catch up. Perhaps it is just that I am unimaginative and I just don't get it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Crime Investigation 2.0

Three people are being held under suspicion of murdering British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia. What makes this murder investigation different to others is that it comes with a Web 2.0 angle, as investigators trawl through Facebook and Myspace accounts in order to obtain clues.

The use of social networking as a tool for criminal investigation is a logical step, as most victims know their killers (in the United States for example, only 14% of murders are committed by strangers). That being the case, more and more police investigations will move online to try to get an idea of potential perpetrators from pictures, friends lists and mailing lists.

*looks twice at Facebook friends list*

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Urban Spaces event in Glasgow

More self-promotion of speaking arrangements. Well, if I cannot have self-promotion in my own blog, then where can I have it? Anyway, here is the information:

Build your own world
Andres Guadamuz, AHRC
21 November 2007 10am - 12.30pm The Lighthouse, Glasgow Free

Andres Guadamuz is an academic interested in the ownership implications of new technologies; in particular he researches intellectual property issues in User Generated Content and the so-called Web 2.0 phenomenon. He will deliver a presentation in which he will look at the creation of urban spaces within so-called virtual worlds, such as the popular environment known as Second Life. He will ask about the ownership issues that surround the creation of intangible property, putting forward the idea that we already have legal tools to think about virtual existence.

Andres is a keen blogger (, a member of Creative Commons Scotland, and he has also acted as a consultant for the World Intellectual Property Organization. Currently Andres is a Lecturer in E-Commerce Law at the University of Edinburgh, where he is also a co-Director of SCRIPT.

To reserve a place, please contact ULS Events Manager Yvonne Kincaid at or call 0141 225 0103. Please note that places are strictly limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Interest has been high so please book early to avoid disappointment. If you are unable to attend this event, presentation slides and a podcast recording of the event will be available to download from our website.

for more information on this event please visit

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bloodspell and the raise of machinima

Bloodspell: The rise of machinima
Viewing and panel

22 November 2007
5.15 - 8.30pm
London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre
166-220 Holloway Road
London, N7 8DB

Bloodspell is the world's first feature-length machinima, and it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. Bloodspell "is a story of a world where men and women carry magic in their blood, and spilling it can unleash terrible power."

This event is organised by the London Metropolitan Business School and the Open Rights Group (special thanks to Michael Holloway and Fernando Barrio for their excellent organisation skills in putting this together). For those new to the topic, "machinima", in very basic form, involves the use of software that has been designed to create video-games to produce films with their own script and narrative. The word “machinima” was coined some time ago by Hugh Hancock, who has also written and directed Bloodspell.

The evening will start with Hugh Hancock introducing the concept of machinima and the movie, to be followed by a viewing of Bloodspell. After the viewing a panel will address the issues raised by the film to then open the floor for discussion. The panel includes:

Professor Lilian Edwards, Director of the Institute for Law and the Web at Southampton (ILAWS) of Southampton University

  • Holly Ayllet, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at London Metropolitan University and Managing Editor of Vertigo Magazine.
  • Ian Brown, Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute of Oxford University
  • Andres Guadamuz, Co-Director of SCRIPT, the Centre for Research in IP and Technology Law at The University of Edinburgh.
Join the Facebook event group.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

LARP: bringing games to life

Reading about the Tower of London GPS game has got me thinking about the future of role-playing gaming, gadgets, and some potentially interesting legal issues (this is a technology law blog after all, despite my efforts to forget that fact from time to time).

The growth of ubiquitous smart phones and GPS devices has opened up the world to the massification of Live Action Role-Playing Games (LARPs or LRPs). LARPs are not a new development. Dramatic re-enactment of open-ended scenarios has been with us for a while. However, up until now it has been seen as an uber-geek thing to do, designed only for people who like dressing up in weird costumes wielding swords and shouting at one another. However, new technologies have the potential to bring this practice back to life by using all sorts of portable devices that we already own.

The interaction between LARPs and new technologies have also the potential to resurrect Virtual Reality. Remember VR? It was one of the central plots in Cyberpunk novels of the early 90s, and it has been considered a bit passé. However, there seems to be a trend forming in bringing back some form of virtual reality. I'm currently reading Halting State, which in my opinion manages to depict the best application of what could be called the overlay world. Imagine goggles that allowed you to see everything normally, but with super-imposed data from the Internet that gave you directions, told you when your bus was coming (with a nice arrow display that told you where it was), and even marked people with criminal convictions (Stross jokingly mentions that the overlay could show neds with ASBOs). In the same book, Stross describes LARPs through the use of GPS and mobile phones, one of which is people playing at being football hooligans. Another recent book where this augmented reality is discussed is William Gibson's Spook Country, which describes potential artistic uses of AR displays to superimpose crime scenes involving dead celebrities, or to show giant objects that are not really there.

The implications for gaming are clear. If we could use a combination of GPS and AR goggles to display gaming overlays, the world would become a playground. See the success of the Wii in bringing gaming to non-gamers, and you can see the potential for the technology. Imagine games where you are part of a murder story, you go along with your normal life, but you could be given prompts to clues depending on your location.

And what about the legal implications? Where to begin? The first one is the potential ownership issues with the vast amounts of data that could be made available through these devices. Some content would have to be encrypted, or only available via specific proprietary devices, which brings the issues of payments, hacking and technological protection, not to mention RFIDs, privacy and all sorts of other issues.

Happy Late Halloween

Best. Pumpkins. Ever.

Some other great examples at Wired.