Friday, December 17, 2004

Aharonian sues for software patents

IP consultant and patent advocate extraordinaire Greg Aharonian has presented a lawsuit to attempt to get a court to determine that copyright doesn't protect software adequately and that patents are sufficient protection. Aharonian edits the popular and interesting site Patenting Art, and publishes an email newsletter. It is difficult to tell if this is just a ploy or if he is serious, but Technollama promises to find out. It seems evident that he is making his claim based solely in the American developments for software patents, while many other countries are happy with copyright protection.

New issue of SCRIPT-ed

The new issue of SCRIPT-ed is now online. This issue covers a good range of issues, including an analysis of the German case that has declared the validity of the GPL.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

US Supreme Court readies P2P debate

This is where the great battle of our time will be fought. The P2P debate in the US Supreme Court is upon us, a case that will probably shape the near future of the legal validity of sharing networks.

But one must say that sharing will go on regardless of the ruling, BitTorrent is not under scrutiny here.

Costa Rican canopy tour patent troubles

Some local news from Costa Rica. The weirdest patent claim has made some of the news over here, after a Canadian patented and claimed the ownership of the "canopy tours", a great way to travel on the top of the rainforest to see the wildlife from close range. The problem is that we Costa Ricans have been using similar technologies for more than a century, which sort of invalidates any novelty claims. Besides, there is a dubious claim of patentability of business methods in Costa Rica. Now, the SALA IV (the Costa Rican constitutional court) has ruled that the patent was invalid.

Great news for canopy tour lovers.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Sunny Costa Rica is great this time of year, so I will be heading down there for my holidays tomorrow. Updates will be few and far between.

Marvel sues City of Heroes

This is a great article by Fred von Lohmann about the surreal case of Marvel suing the makers of the popular "City of Heroes" MMORPG game. Marvel complains that City of Heroes is guilty of contributory infringement of copyright and trademark because some players in their site are creating characters that resemble Marvel heroes, such as Wolverine, Hulk and Spider-man. The argument is so ridiculous that it should not require any analysis. What is the damage to the brands if there are some gamers who also like Marvel comic characters and want to generate an avatar that resembles their hero? This is one of those cases in which abuse of IP serves only to provide bad PR for the company involved.

Marvel should not mess with comic-book geeks.

Digital trail

This is an excellent article by Regina Lynn about the dangers of Google and leaving a digital trail. We are increasingly leaving a digital footprint that tells people about our interests, opinions and tastes. People can Google and find some amazing details about who you really are. It makes one think what the world thinks of us, and everybody has googled themselves at one time or another.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Cheap Windows targets Asian markets

Reuters reports that Microsoft is targetting its cheap (sorry, "low cost") version of Windows XP to Asian markets. The stated purpose of this is to try to make Windows more appealing in emerging markets. The real reasons are: to hook home users into Windows, to try to stop the rampant piracy in Asia, and to try to redress the rise of Linux in that part of the world.

I pity the poor people who get this. If Windows XP is buggy (SP2 Anyone?), what will a cheap version look like?

Isn't wireless wonderful?

Technollama is coming to you today from the Playfair Library, where we are attending the very interesting conference named "Towards Utopia or Irreconcilable Tensions: the interface between intellectual property, competition and human rights". More reports later, but I am hoping to load the powerpoints from some of the talks later on.

Open Biotechnology

This is an interesting article in the excellent WorldChanging blog. The article looks at the possibility of using open source models in drugs and biotechnology. Although the article cites many of the possible uses for the technology, it fails to mention that the reason why this is still in "planning stages", or "gathering interest" and not in the licence drafting stage is that it is extremely difficult to translate the open source model into biotechnology.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The year of the blog

2004 has been the year of the blog. The BBC reports that the word "blog" has now been included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The definition reads: "BLOG noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

Contrast that with Wikipedia's entry. I think that this is similar to the difference between the Encyclopedia Galactica and the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy on the subject of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Digital divide in the U.S.

This is a rather good report in The Register that talks about the digital divide in the United States, where internet access is still the realm of the high-income white guy. The idea of the cosmopolitan world wide web is still a fantasy, as the average netizen tends to be American white guys.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

All your code is belong to us

SCO's website has been defaced by hackers for two days running. The website's masthead was changed with a new banner that read "We own all your code - pay us all your money". SCO has become the favourite target of software programmers around the world after its case against IBM about the ownership of Unix code and seen as a direct attack of Linux. Darl McBride also earns the hatred of geekdom for his arrogant behaviour and dodgy facial hair.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The war against piracy

The movie industry keeps flexing their muscles to fight piracy. They have won a case against a website that charged its users to download music. Good for them! This serves to lend momentumn to their efforts to sue P2P users who download movies, which has been stopped in court recently.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Two stories relevant to music downloads

The Register brings two stories that are relevant to the music download debate. The first one is that music sales in the UK are still increasing, with growth in the last year of 2.1%. Wait a second! Aren't music downloads supposed to spell the death of music sales? Isn't it true that all of those evil downloaders have brought the music industry to their knees? Apparently not, what music downloading has done is bring CD prices down. The same report states that legal downloads are on the increase.

The other report states that Napster is now offering more than a million songs to their customers. These are amazing news for the industry, and seem to indicate that the music business can survive the existence of P2P networks.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Heirs of famous sculptor ask for royalties

This is sort of old (from last Tuesday), but I haven't seen it posted elsewhere. The heirs of the sculptor Paul Landowski, who is the author of the famous Christ the Redeemer statute in Rio de Janeiro, are asking for royalties from the admittance ticket sales into the attraction. This is a very interesting case because there is no doubt that sculptures are subject to copyright protection, but one would have to see if the author was hired by the Brazilian government to make the sculpture, hence it could be claimed that this is "work for hire" and whoever commissioned the sculpture owns the rights. This would also be interesting case because it would be analogous to artists claiming royalties from museum admittance fees.

Would all of those who have taken pictures of the statute infringing copyright? Am I infringing copyright for presenting an inline image from another site?

I have a headache now.

Hey, Lawyers, leave them kids alone!

Remember Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"? Remember the chorus of kids singing "We don't need to education"? Now, those kids are asking for the royalties that they are due from the recording of those famous lyrics. EMI, Pink Floyd's record label, has declined to comment, but those kids may be due thousands of pounds.

Can I lay a claim for singing the tune in the shower for every day of my teenage years?
Didn't think so.

Open access debate in

This is an interesting exchange of ideas about open access journals between Matthew Cockerill, the editor of BioMed Central, and John Enderby, vice-president of the Royal Society. The centre of the debate is about the fact that publicly funded research is eventually made proprietary because the copyright is assigned to large publishers.

Publishers have been profiting from public research and the work of academics for too long.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Digital divide solutions... with Linux

Groklaw smugly reported this earlier. Steve Ballmer asked computer industry to create a computer worth $100 USD. A company called Solar PC has met the challenge with a small computer that runs Linux by using live CDs.

BTW, aren't Live CDs great? I have tested Knoppix and SUSE 9.2 recently. My wireless is still a bit dodgy though.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Authentication in Half-Life 2 works

The BBC reports that accounts in the popular game Half-Life 2 have been cancelled by the manufacturer. The developers were able to require authentication for the online part of the game, and have been able to shut them down.

I am not sure why they are so enthusiastic about it. I remember that authentication of multiplayer accounts was common as far back as Starcraft. Besides, it is evident that there will be a crack soon. Soon did I say? What about right now?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Kazaa v 3.0 offers internet calling

The latest version of Kazaa now offers internet phone technology from Skype. This seems to be a natural progression for their P2P technology, enhancing the possible non-infringing uses of such networks. However, Kazaa still suffers from spyware, and it has been also losing customers to e-Mule, which has built-in torrent capabilities.

James Boyle on the database right

Trust James Boyle to cut through the nonsense and provide an excellent picture of what is taking place with the calls for more protection for databases. The evidence is finally taking shape that more protection for databases in Europe has not been translated into more innovation. My favourite part of the column is when Boyle comments that those calling for more protection have profit margins that exceed 20%. Why do they need more protection?

I would only add that there is another experiment in protection between the United States and Europe. There is a distinct difference between the approach to software patents (at least for the time being), and while the U.S. is protecting software with as many patents as possible, Europe has no protection. One would expect that this would translate immediately in a collapse of the European software industry. This is not the case. On the contrary, the UK is fast becoming a hub for computer games programmers.

Down with this sort of thing!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Software to tackle art imitations

CNN reports that new software is being designed to tackle art forgeries. The software conducts a mathematical analysis of the piece, uses some algorithms and establishes wether a piece is forged or not. I am guessing that this will work better with classics and not with Brit Art. Can anybody imagine Tracey Emin's bed making it through some software?

Thanks to Colin Miller for the link.

Open Source superstars against software patents

The website has posted a statement by European OSS superstars Linus Torvalds (Linux), Michael Widenius (MySQL) and Rasmus Lerdorf (PHP) against software patents. The statement pleas to the European Council to consider the damage caused by software patents. They call the proposed directive "deceptive, dangerous, and democratically illegitimate".

Stricter copyright protection in the United States

A new bill has passed in the United States which makes it a criminal offence to record movies in the theatre. The new bill had provisions that criminalised file sharing, but consumer pressure was enough to get them to drop the provisions.

Yes, this is just what we need, more copyright protection, we don't have enough!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Cloning ban banned by UN

Attempts by the United States to obtain an agreement to ban cloning have stalled. Many countries oppose an all-out ban and prefer to maintain options open in things like stem cell research. Good news, but I wonder if the Bush administration had it wrong. I think that they just want to ban Attack of the Clones.

Linux patent scare is FUD

The latest FUD from Microsoft may just be mere rubbish. Steve Ballmer recently made it clear in a conference in Asia that Linux violates 283 software patents. The problem is that this is done by quoting a study that actually says that Linux has similar patent risk than proprietary software.

The state of software patents in the United States has become ridiculous. Companies have to take up patent insurance. Is this an environmnet that encourages innovation?

Google Academics

For those of us who rely upon Google for research, the new Google Scholar service comes at a great time. The service filters search results from several academic databases and journals. I have tested it and it works great.

Is it goodbye to Lexis and Westlaw?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

New virus hits computers

As usual, Windows computers have been hit with a virus. The Sober-I virus has been hitting Windows machines since yesterday. Apparently it replicates itself using Windows mailing programmes, and sends loads of copies of itself. It also deletes and modifies some files, which compromises Windows systems.

I am glad that I have finally made my wireless card work on Linux. Migration is now inevitable.

Internet porn is addictive

Researchers testifying to the U.S. Senate have expressed that porn is more harmful and addictive than hard drugs like cocaine, leading to "addiction, misogyny, pedophilia, boob jobs and erectile dysfunction". They want more research about porn. Is a ban in sight? Hide your porn, quick!

Friday, November 19, 2004

OFT loses credit card test

Out-Law reports that the OFT has lost a test case about section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This section allows people to sue their credit card companies in cases of contract breach or misrepresentation for transactions ranging from £100 to £30,000 GBP. This case tested whether one could initiate an action if the supplier was located outside of the UK. The court has said no.

More details about the reasoning after the case is reported, I haven't been able to find it online yet.

Microsoft using WTO for enforcement

This is an interesting article about the tactics that may be used by Microsoft against Free Software. The author seems to be arguing that Free Software infringes several patents held by Microsoft, so that they may try to use the WTO's enforcement mechanisms to attack countries that use Free Software.

However, the article seems to suffer from a deep misunderstanding of what the WTO's enforcement mechanism actually does. A movement cannot be taken for patent infringement, it is more of a process where a country itself goes against the rules set in TRIPs. It also seems to fail to understand that most countries in the world do not recognise software patents, so how can you take to the WTO a conflict that is not covered by the TRIPs agreement? Besides, as far as TRIPs is concerned, software is protected by copyright.

Double post

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Poland saves Europe from software patents!

Poland's vote against the proposed software patent directive means that the pro-software patent lobby now is 16 votes short of a majority, and it will have to renegotiate their current position with the European Parliament. This is great news because it helps to defuse the coming crisis in software patents in Europe. We cannot allow software patents, they do not serve any purpose other than to allow some few companies to tie up the market through a Byzantine net of patented software applications.

They are sorry

The site shows that many Americans are sorry about the results of the election. The site is great, it shows people holding signs sayng that they are sorry. This has prompted other sites to appear, such as the blog Not Sorry Everybody, and even an international site Apologies accepted.

I have spent the better part of the morning surfing though the messages. It is strangely addictive.

MPAA sues P2P movie sharing users

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is suing an undisclosed number of people who they claim are sharing movies online. This follows the same heavy-handed approach by the RIAA against music downloaders.

I am not sure what the economic argument is. DVD sales and rentals are more than robust, and movie attendance figures have not suffered whatsoever. Seems like yet another attempt to cover the sun with one finger.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Chemical Rights Management?

Sounds like something taken from Mission Impossible: "This DVD will self-destruct in 5 seconds". The movie industry is hoping to bring out self-destructing DVDs that can be viewed only twice. They have a chemical cover that destroys the information. This is not really a DRM as the protection is not electronic locking. We need another acronym. What about CRM?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Meet the patent hoarders

This is Intellectual Ventures, which is suppossed to be the factory of the future. They don't build anything; they hire some few researchers to claim that they actually produce some of their own patents. But their real business is buying patents from others, particularly those who may be used to sue their investors (and the investors include Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Nokia, Apple, Google, and eBay. The company acts as a patent hoarders, which means that those patents their investors can rest knowing that they won't be sued (Microsoft is still fighting the Eolas patent), but it also means that they can license the patents that they have acquired.

A very profitable company model, but is it moral?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

More about searches

The BBC has an interesting test to search engines, as the competition to Google becomes fierce. The test puts five search engines to the test, Google, Yahoo, MSN, AskJeeves and A9.

The veredict? Google is still king, with A9 and AskJeeves offering some good options. MSN and Yahoo did not fare too well, but it must be said that it is in Beta test.

I am still a Googler, but I may get back to AskJeeves, which I used before Google became my only choice.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Novell sues Microsoft.

Groklaw reports that Novell has filed an anti-trust suit against Microsoft regarding WoprdPerfect. The filing states that:

"By reason of Microsoft's anticompetitive acts, WordPerfect's share of the word processing market, which was nearly 50 percent in 1990, fell to approximately 30 percent in 1994, and to less than 10 percent by the time Novell sold WordPerfect and the related applications in 1996. Over the same period of time, and due to the same anticompetitive acts, Microsoft Word's share of the word processing market rose from less than 20 percent prior to 1990 to a monopoly share of approximately 90 percent by 1996."

This is a very interesting case, but it seems like Microsoft is immune to these sorts of attacks. In 2000 it looked like their anticompetitive days were over, but then a certain Texan was elected president, and all changed.

Friday, November 12, 2004

So, downloads do affect sales

Yet another study about the economic effect of music downloads. This one says that downloads are damaging to sales. The link will only take you to an abstract, the paper is offered for sale, or can be downloaded while in a developing country.

Students Against Copyright

Students don't like copyright? You don't say! Seriously though, is an international student movement that tries to promote the ideas expressed in Lessig's Free Culture. The site includes calls to action, ideas about how to promote Creative Commons, and other cool stuff such as ways to convert your backpack into a Creative Commons fashion statement (don't kids worry about bullying these days?).

This is a great idea, web activism at its best.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Microsoft goes searching

So, Microsoft wants to do to Google what it did to Netscape. MSN Search Beta has been launched in an attempt to make Google a thing of the past. This follows a number of attempts by other search engines to dethrone Google. There is Copernic, which searches stuff in your computer (very handy for those of us who have loads of files and emails). AlltheWeb is supposed to be very good, even if it has a certain Google feel to it. Then there are oldies like Altavista, which is supposed to index more pages than Google.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

ECJ erodes the database right

The ECJ has returned rulings on four different cases that seriously diminish the claims of companies that claim that the investment in synthesizing data compiled in a database does not count as substantial investment as required by the Database Directive.

In each case brought before the court, an organizer of sporting events (one horseracing and three football organisers) sought database right protection for sporting event schedules against providers of gambling services. The ECJ refused to find that the organisers were incurring in substantial investment by arranging the information.

For example, Fixtures Marketing Limited processes fixtures information for English and Scottish football leagues. They sued three betting providers alleging that their fixtures were substantial investment. The ECJ did not buy the argument. See this case as an example of the reasoning used. You can also found the ruling here.

Firefox 1.0 released!

For all of us old enough to remember the early days of the internet, Internet Explorer was not always the only browser around. Most people used Netscape (before it was seduced by the dark side and was bought by AOL). Netscape has the great honour of prompting the coining of the term open source by releasing its source code to the public in 1998. For those who used the internet before 1995 (we are talking pre-history here), there were a bunch of browsers that used to compete for our attention, including Cello, Mosaic, and Lynx (a text-based browser).

Now, the era of Internet Explorer may be at an end with the release of Firefox 1.0. I have been using early releases, that were not too great, but the final release is great, it imports your settings, bookmarks and cookies from IE. Technollama greatly recommends that you break the Microsoft monopoly and install it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Post Office joins Napster!

A couple of days ago we commented that Tesco's music download service is now online, a move that we believe is the death of the music download coolness. There appears to be a conspiracy by the music industry to make music download a thing of the past. It is now the time for the Post Office to enter the digital music revolution. The Guardian reports that the Post Office has agreed to sell Napster music vouchers.

Yes, boys and girls. Music downloading is officially, completely and uncontroversially uncool. Who needs a legal suit when you have the twin towers of uncoolness looming large against you? Music downloads are sooo 2003.

Dubs strikes back

For those of you following the BELETS scam saga, here is the latest reply from our friend, Mr. Dubs Parker. I think that I will stop the scam baiting here, I am not willing to give Mr Parker any physical info. Here is his latest email:

Dear A,

Thank you very much for your response to my mail, I am indeed very happy and very much assured that you are willing to share from the estate. I will like you to send me your contact telephone and Fax numbers, in other for me to verbally communicate the next process of the entire procedure to you.

I will be expecting the mail from you with this information, as soon as I receive it I will contact you. You could also contact me on this number +31-xx-xxx-xxxx.

Kind regards

D Parker.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Torrent rules the web

35% of all internet traffic is Torrent traffic. As Kazaa and other P2P sites diminish because of legal attacks, BitTorrent increases. The problem for copyright owners is that Torrent technology is very much capable of non-infringing uses, as the recent lecture by Cory Doctorow proves.

Nevertheless, the first case against BitTorrent sites will surely come, and Technollama will be there to bring you the news.

Tesco opens music download site

So, music downloads are now officially uncool. Yes, once Tesco starts offering "legal" music downloads; you know that the whole thing is now as cool as buying broccoli. Who is next? Asda? M&S?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

German courts erode eBay purchases

A very interesting link that arrives courtesy of Bob Rietjens. A German court has given users the right to return items purchased from eBay within two weeks of purchase, provided that it has been bought from a commercial supplier. This seems consisten with the Distance Selling Directive, but this only gives seven working days to return items.

A very interesting ruling. It still doesn't affect normal C2C customers, but it seems like the borders between consumers and commercial suppliers are becoming blurred in eBay. Who knows?

The plot thickens

You may recall the letter from BELETS Consultants. I replied, and received another one that shows this to be a more complex 419 scam, perhaps the most complex 419 that I have seen before.

The scam is actually rather elegant. They first send an email making enquiries about a possible lost relative. Then Dubs Parker (I mean, Dubs Parker? Couldn't they come up with a better name?) sends you an email saying that he is a rogue bank official, that he wants to get even with the bank, and that he wants to transfer some money to your account. What follows is the usual attempt to get your bank details. Here is the letter, but I am not sure if I want to continue playing along (without giving any personal details). Should I continue playing along? I mean, you have to give them some credit for trying, although I would very much doubt that there ever was a person that shares my name. I will slightly change the message to remove my name (I just want to make it salightly harder for them to find me).

Dear X,
I am Dubs Parker Corporate and Institutional Banking Service and Sales Manager Bank of Scotland including private Banking. A staff of BELETS CONSULTANT on behalf of Bank of Scotland contacted you earlier concerning MR. STANLEY XXXXX (coded account name) and an investment placed under our banks management
3 years ago. I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail confidential and respect the integrity of the information you come by as a result of this mail. I contacted you independently of our investigation and no one is informed of this communication.

I would like to intimate you with certain facts that I believe would be of interest to you. In 2000, the subject matter, Stanley came to our bank to engage in business discussions with our private banking division. He informed us that he had a financial portfolio of $18.35 million United States dollars, which he wished to have us turn over (invest) on his behalf. I was the officer assigned to his case, I made numerous suggestions in line with my duties as the de-facto chief operations officer of the private banking sector, especially given the volume of funds he wished to put into Our bank. We met on numerous occasions prior to many investments being placed. I encouraged him to consider various growth funds with prime ratings. The favored route in my advise to customers is to start by assessing data on 6000 traditional stocks and bond managers and 2000 managers of alternative investments. Based on my advice, we spun the money around various opportunities and made attractive margins for our first months of operation, the accrued profit and interest stood at this point at over 10 million United States Dollars, this margin was not the full Potential of the fund but he desired low risk guaranteed returns on investments.
In mid 2001, he asked that the money be liquidated because he needed to make an urgent investment requiring cash payments in Antwerp (Belgium). He directed that I liquidate the funds and had it deposited with a firm in Holland. I informed him that Bank of Scotland would have to make special arrangements to have this done and in order not to circumvent due process, the bank would have to make a 9.5 % deduction from the funds to cater for banking and statutory charges. He complained about the charges but later came around when I explained to him the complexities of the task he was asking of us. Cash movement across boarders has become especially strict since the incidents of 9/11. I contacted my affiliate and had the funds available in Europe. I undertook all the processes and made sure I followed his precise instructions to the letter and had the funds deposited a British based security and consultancy firm, this is an especially private firm that accepts deposits from high net worth individuals and blue chip corporations that handle valuable products or undertake transactions that need immediate access to cash. This small and highly private organization is familiar especially to the highly placed and well-connected organizations.

Stanley told me he wanted the money there in anticipation of his arrival from Norway later that week. This was the last communication we had, this transpired around 25th February 2002. In June last year, we got a call from the security firm informing us that the inactivity of that particular portfolio. This was an astounding position as far as I was concerned, given the fact that I managed the private banking sector I was the only one who knew about the deposit, and I could not understand why Stanley had not come forward to claim his deposit. I made futile efforts to locate Stanley. I immediately passed the task of locating him to the internal investigations department of Bank of Scotland. Four days later, information
started to trickle in, apparently Stanley was dead. A person who suited his description was declared dead of a heart attack in Cannes, South of France. We were soon enough able to identify the body and cause of death was confirmed.

The bank launched an investigation into possible surviving next of kin to alert about the situation and also to come forward to claim his estate. If you are familiar with private banking Affairs, those who patronize our services usually prefer anonymity, and also some levels of detachment from conventional processes.
In his bio-data form, he listed no next of kin. In the field of private banking, opening an account with us means no one will know of its existence, accounts are rarely held under a name; depositors use numbers and codes to make the accounts anonymous. This bank also gives the choice to depositors of having their mail sent to them or held at the bank itself, ensuring that there are no traces of the account and as I said, rarely do they nominate next of kin. Private banking clients apart from not nominating next of kin also usually in most cases leave wills in our care, in this case; Stanley died interstate.

In line with our internal processes for account holders who have passed away, we did institute our own investigations in good faith to determine who should have right to claim the estate. This investigation has for the past months been unfruitful. We have scanned every continent and used our private investigation affiliate companies to get to the root of the problem. It is this investigation that did result in my being furnished with your details as a possible relative of the deceased. My official capacity dictates that I am the only party to supervise the investigation and the only party to receive the results of the investigation. You have unfortunately declared that you are in no way affiliated with this individual.
What this means, you being the last batch of names we have considered, is that our dear late fellow is dead with no known or identifiable family member.
This leaves me as the only person with the full picture of what the prevailing situation is in relation to the deposit and the late beneficiary of the deposit.

According to practice, the firm will by the end of this year broadcast a request for statements of claim to Bank of Scotland, failing to receive viable claims they will most probably revert the deposit back to Bank of Scotland. This will result in the money entering the Bank of Scotland accounting system and the portfolio will be fully out of my hands and out of the private banking division. This will not happen if I have my way. What I wish to relate to you will smack of unethical practice but I want you to understand something.

It is only an outsider to the banking world who finds the internal politics of the banking world aberrational. The world of private banking especially is fraught with huge rewards for those who occupy certain offices and oversee certain portfolios. You should have begun by now to put together the general direction of what I propose. There is US$ $12,370,000.00 deposited in Amsterdam, I alone have the deposit details and they will release the deposit to no one unless I instruct them to do so. I alone know of the existence of this deposit for as far as Bank of Scotland is concerned, all outstanding interactions in relation to the file are just customer services and due process. The firm has no single idea of what?s the history or nature of the deposit. They are simply awaiting instructions to release the deposit to any party that comes forward. This is the situation. This bank has spent great amounts of money trying to track this man?s family; they have investigated for months and have found no family.
The investigation has come to an end. My proposal; you share similar details to the late fellow; I am prepared to place you in a position to instruct the firm to release the deposit to you as the closest surviving relation.
Upon receipt of the deposit, I am prepared to share the money with you. That is: I will simply nominate you as the next of kin and have them release the deposit to you. We share the proceeds 35% for you and 65% for my collegues and me. I would have gone ahead to ask the funds be released to me, but that would have drawn a straight line to me and my involvement in claiming the deposit. But on the other hand, you with the same very name as the original depositor would easily pass as the beneficiary with right to claim. I assure you that I could have the deposit released to you within a few days. I will simply inform the bank of the final closing of the file relating to Stanley I will then officially communicate with the firm and instruct them to release the deposit to you. With these two things: all is done. The alternative would be for us to have the firm directly send the funds to another bank with you as account holder. This way there will be no need for you to think of receiving the money from them we can fine-tune this based on our interactions. I am aware of the consequences of this proposal.

I ask that if you find no interest in this project that you should discard this mail. I ask that you do not be vindictive and destructive. If my offer is of no appeal to you, delete this message and forget I ever contacted you. Do not destroy my career because you do not approve of my proposal. You may not know this but people like myself who have made tidy sums out of comparable situations run the whole private banking sector. I am not a criminal and what I do, I do not find against good conscience, this may be hard for you to understand, but the dynamics of my industry dictates that I make this move. Such opportunities only come ones way once in a lifetime. I cannot let this chance pass me by, for once I find myself in total control of my destiny. These chances wont pass me by. I ask that you do not destroy my chance, if you will not work with me let me know and let me move on with my life but do not destroy me. I am a family man and this is an opportunity to provide them with new opportunities. There is a reward for this project and it is success for us. I have evaluated the risks and the only risk I have here is from you refusing to work with me and alerting my bank. I am the only one who knows of this situation, good fortune has blessed you with a name that has planted you into the center of relevance in my life. Lets share the blessing.
If you give me positive signals, I will initiate this process towards a conclusion. I wish to inform you that should you contact me via official channels; I will deny knowing you and about this project. I repeat, I do not want you contacting me through my official phone lines nor do I want you contacting me through my official email account. Contact me only through the numbers I will provide for you and also through the email address supplied. I do not want any direct link between you and me. My official lines are not secure lines as they are periodically monitored to assess our level of customer care in line with our Total Quality Management Policy. Please observe this instruction religiously. Please, again, note I am a family man, with a wife and a child. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to what the consequences, but I know within me that nothing ventured is nothing gained and that success and riches never come easy or on a platter of gold. This is the one truth I have learned from my private banking clients. Do not betray my confidence. If we can be of one accord, we should plan a meeting, soon.

I await your response.
Dubs Parker.

Blogger down

Blogger was down most of yesterday, hence the lack of updates.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Yet another stupid software patent.

The Register reports that graphics company Tektronix is trying to enforce a 1987 patent (Patent 4,734,690) . This patent is for a "graphics display terminal performs a pan operation with respect to a view motion center to effectuate spherical panning, thereby providing perspective and non-perspective views". In plain English, this means that the patent protects the 3D display in a 2D display. This is the basis for all modern games, and it could be worth trillions in litigation.

Spammers convicted!

A jury in Virginia has finally decided the first ever spam prosecution, which has resulted in 9 years jail sentence for Jeremy Jaynes, and $7,500 USD fine for Jessica DeGroot.

9 years? They mean business in Virginia!

Another very interesting scam.

This other variation of the Nigeria 419 scam looks quite good, until you realise that it has two main problems: it doesn't have a return physical address, and it comes from Tony Gray, but it is signed by Rob Lenox. It also comes from an Italian ISP.

Sent: 29 October 2004 13:21

My name is Tony Gray.I am a senior partner in the firm of BELETS Consultants: Private Investigators and Security Consultants. We are conducting a standard process investigation on behalf of The Bank of Scotland, the international Banking conglomerate. This investigation involves a client who shares the same surname with you and also the circumstances surrounding investments made by this client at The Bank of Scotland.

The Bank of Scotland Private Banking client died intestate and nominated no successor in title over the investments made with the Bank. The essence of this communication with you is to request you provide us information/comments on any or all of the four issues:
1-Are you aware of any relative/relation who shares your same surname whose last known contact address was Cannes, France?

2-Are you aware of any investment of considerable value made by such a person at the Private Banking Division of The Bank of Scotland?

3-Born on the 1st of June 1927

4-Can you establish beyond reasonable doubt your eligibility to assume status of successor in title to the deceased?

It is pertinent that you inform us ASAP whether or not you are familiar with this personality that we may put an end to this communication with you and our inquiries surrounding this personality. You must appreciate that we are constrained from providing you with more detailed information at this point.

Please respond to this mail as soon as possible to afford us the opportunity to close this investigation.

Thank you for accommodating our enquiry.
Rob Lenox

For:BELETS Consultants

Interesting variation of a Nigerian 419 scam.

I just received an email that is an interesting variation of your average Nigerian 419 scam email. I have received many of these scams in my time, and I am even saving some of the most original ones. This one is even less plausible than the Iraqi version of the scam, which is something practically taken from the script of Three Kings. Notice the manager's poor grammar, and the Jesus-speak at the end.

From The Desk Of
The Manager
Absa Bank OfSouth Africa.
Direct: Tell/Fax: 27-11-5076966
Ref: 00367/ABSA/XX004 Date: 3rd November 2004.

Dear Beneficiary, Good day to you and your family, I am, Dr. Cronje Danie the Chairman of (Absa Bank, South Africa), I got to know your contact through Absa Bank Internet Search Engine and this gave me confident that you will be of good assistance to me, on this very proposal I am going to explain to you.

We discover that US$12 million was paid into one of our overseas investor’s account and our bank do not have the knowledge that the beneficiary of the said fund died last year been June 17 2003 on his way to cape town. So I myself been his Chairman I have every information with regards to his account.

So my reason of willing to contact you is because I believe in myself that you can handle business of such magnitude. Really, the beneficiary did not know that any fund was deposited on his account before his death. So;We are only seeking for assistance form a honest person who we will use his bank account through a right channel to transfer this fund out of the Absa bank to an offshore account for our personal use and this can be done if on your side you agreed to the terms and can provide an account that we will use to transfer this fund. We have agreed that you will be giving 35% of the amount for your kind assistance and 5% has been set aside for settling any expenses that might incurs during the processing of this transaction before sharing.
We wish to let you know that this transaction is 1000% risk free and have to be kept highly confidential which will only be a top secret between you and my other partners. Upon receipt of your reply indicating your readiness to assist by providing an account to be use for the onward transfer of the fund, which will take not more than 5 bank working days. We will then give you the full details and steps to be taking for smooth transfer of the fund into your nominated bank account that you will provide for the transaction.

Endeavor to contact me on my direct Tel/Fax number: +27-11-5076966.

I await your response.

NOTE: My GOD well strengthens every Man and Woman, which this mail has gotten to in JESUS Name AMEN, With GOD All Things Are Possible.

Yours Faithfully,

The Chairman. (Absa Bank South Africa).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Another study about music downloads and sales

There is a new study about the effect of music downloads on actual sales. This seems to corroborate that the actual effect of music downloads on sales is much less stronger thant the music industry would like to make us think. The summary of the study states that:

"Each album download reduces purchases by about 0.2 in our sample, although possibly much more. Our valuation data allow us to measure the effects of downloading on welfare as well as expenditure in a subsample of Penn undergraduates, and we find that downloading reduces their per capita expenditure (on hit albums released 1999-2003) from $126 to $100 but raises per capita consumer welfare by $70."

Spam wants to regain their name

Hormel, the makers of the original SPAM, want to make sure that their name is still remembered as the original salty and meaty ham thingie (what is SPAM anyway?). They are about the start a new campaign to emphasise that you can actually eat the thing, and that it is not something that has to do with the enlargement of certain body parts.

The fight to reclaim their name has some interesting legal implications. Hormel has sued anti-spam software manufacturer Spamarrest over the use of their trade mark. Spamarrest is fighting the suit, and has requested for a summary judgement in the case. Although it cannot be doubted that Hormel has a trade mark over the name SPAM, the term has become ubiquitous, and is now even in the dictionary as a generic term that describes unsolicited email.

Perhaps Hormel should just enjoy the free publicity. Anyway, here is a disturbing image to haunt your dreams:

There goes the neighbourhood

The BBC reports that AOL is now going to include blogging software in their basic package. Does this mean the end of the blog as we know it?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

BAILII's Birthday

The website British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) is now five years old. Technollama has been away down in London to attend the celebrations, which were attended by a good number of very important people. Congratulations to BAILII, and we look forward to many more anniversaries.

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.