Sunday, December 30, 2007

Egypt to 'copyright' antiquities

According to the BBC, Egypt will pass a new law which will require licence fees from anyone reproducing Egypt's vast archaeological heritage, be it museum pieces or monuments. Although the article is not particularly clear on the details, the BBC interviewed Zahi Hawass, the chair of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who claims that the law is needed to support and maintain Egypt's archaeological treasures. He also claims that the law will have an effect worldwide.

I'm rather curious about this law. It seems like this would be some sort of statutory copyright extension to items which never had copyright. This has been done before in slightly different manner. In the UK, s301 of the CDPA provides perpetual royalties for adaptations and public performances of the play "Peter Pan". These statutory extensions however cannot be enforced outside of the territory that implemented them, which leads me to wonder about the validity of such efforts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The strange world of blog comments

While this blog has achieved decent readership figures, the comment function is still rather under-used. There are several reasons for that: in my experience there seems to be a critical mass of readers vs comments, which I have not reached yet; Blogger's interface does not encourage comments; and also most of my readers do so via RSS feed (250 daily subscribers to the feed).

I do not delete comments, unless they are spam, even if they are critical of what I have written (one warranted criticism here, and one laughable attempt here). The most common type of spam is about Costa Rican property (such as with this post), and about WoW gold farming for obvious reasons, but most intriguingly, this post generates a lot of in-game currency spam! There must be a Korean game named ILAWS...

Despite the lack of comments, there have been some notable exceptions. Some of the most commented posts are on hot topics, such as Free Software, software patents, and P2P. However, there is one post that still generates comments to this day, and it is this post about sex offenders. Given the nature of the comments, I am guessing that the post comes up highly when someone is searching for sex offender registers, or something similar.

However, in a weird sequence of posts I found one that is even stranger, which I reproduce without the names:

"I noticed that you had a variety of sex-orientated posts and they are moderated. Please make sure that when you read this that you don't post it for all to see, I'm a attorney in North Texas and it would cause me and my office manager X all sorts of grief if seen and reported. I'm planning a surprise trip for him, so we can leave between Christmas and February. We're interested in Eastern European countries where the age of consent for same sex is lowered to 13 or 14. To avoid attention could you post a 1 liner, "Fun for boys in Grapevine TX" with the age and county, so that it wouldn't draw any attention, such as "Fun for boys in Grapevine TX 13 Siberia". If you needed to e-mail back to me post the 1 liner, "Fun in Grapevine TX please email me".
I believe a prank (or something nastier) is being played on someone. I googled the combination of names and found a post under this same name in a website advertising gay erotic products. Even more bizarre, the person who is supposed to have made this post is indeed a lawyer in Texas specialising in Family Law, but in a strange twist there are records of disciplinary action taken against him in the Texas bar for, amongst other things, deceit and misrepresentation (suffering a 3 year suspension). As I see it, there are two possibilities here:
  • The comment's author is truly monumentally stupid and decided to leave evidence in a blog of his plans to engage in under-age sex. I find this option highly unlikely.
  • The author is engaged in a systematic smear campaign designed to tarnish a lawyer's reputation through the use of blogs, forums and search engines. The fact that this is a family lawyer could mean that this person has a serious enemy online.
This brings home once more one of the most serious pitfalls in the participatory web. The potentials for misuse of all of these amazing tools is disproportionate. Although these attacks are lost in minor blogs that nobody who knows the person is ever likely to read, the damage would be done through Google. Nowadays we all google potential employees, people we meet randomly, speakers at a conference, etc. Imagine that a person was looking to hire this lawyer. The first page of results shows that he was suspended from practice, and later on he would find some unsavoury pages. The result is easy to fathom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Political power in Web 2.0

Canadian bloggers and IT Law gurus Michael Geist and Howard Knopf have pulled an amazing feat using Facebook and Youtube. They posted a video on Youtube opposing a DMCA-like reform to Ottawa's copyright law, and then created a group on Facebook that opposed the amendments, which managed to get 28,000 members (and spawned a lot of other groups, such as the aptly named "No American Style Copyright Law in Canada"). According to the article, they have managed to postpone the reforms.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Post-modern scam

(via Rena Gertz) When the scam becomes the scam, are we faced with post-modern fraud? This one pretty much redefines chutzpah.

REF/PAYMENTS CODE: UNB/06654 $150,000 USD.

This is to bring to your notice that we are delegated from the UNITED
NATIONS in Central Bank to pay 150 victims of scam $150,000 USD (One Hundred
and Fifty Thousand Dollars Only each).You are listed and approved for this
payment as one of the scammed victims to be paid this amount, get back to
this office as soon as possible for the immediate payments of your $150,000
USD compensations funds. On this faithful recommendations,we want you to
know that during the last U.N. meetings held at Abuja, Nigeria, it was
alarming on the money lost by various individuals to the scams artists
operating in syndicates all over the world today.

In other to compensate victims, the UNITED NATIONS Body is now paying 150
victims $150,000 USD each in accordance with the UNITED NATIONS
recommendations. Due to the corrupt and inefficient Banking Systems in
Nigeria, the payments are to be paid by Central Bank Nigeria as
corresponding paying bank under funding assistance by the governments of USA

Any benefactor of this compensation award will have to be first cleared and
recommended for payment by UNION BANK PLC. According to the number of
applicants at hand, 114 Beneficiaries has been paid, over a half of the
victims are from the United States, we still have an outstanding of 36 scam
victims left to be paid. Other victims who have not been contacted can
submit their application as well for scrutiny and possible consideration.

We shall feed you with further modalities as soon as we get response from
you on how you intend receiving your compensation payment. Send a copy of
your response and payment code to our remittance officer:

NAME: Mr Steven Ade
UNB/06654 $150,000 USD.
PHONE NUMBER:+234-808-454-0643

Yours Faithfully,

Mrs. May Udoh

Friday, December 14, 2007

SCRIPT-ed December 2007

The fourth issue of the fourth year of SCRIPT-ed, is now live. In this issue:


Peer-Reviewed Articles



Book Reviews

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wikipedia makes a move towards CC

(via Lessig blog and various mailing lists) Licence geeks know that Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GFDL). This is a nifty little licence used for publishing documentation with software projects. However, the GFDL is incompatible with Creative Commons licences. The incompatibility comes because the copyleft clause in the GFDL only allows for redistribution under the unmodified terms of the same licence. It also allows for commercial reuse of the work, which makes it incompatible with the more popular CC licences (BY-NC-SA and BY-NC-ND). The closest licence to the GFDL is Attribution/Share-alike.

Now the Wikimedia Foundation has announced that it will allow migration to Creative Commons BY-SA, which is a huge step in the standardization of CC licences as the option of choice for open content (as an aside, SCRIPT-ed is moving towards Creative Commons as default licensing option). This a momentous change for Wikipedia, and certainly a welcome one. There are several questions as to legitimacy, and whether or not contributors should get a say as to the licensing of each article.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cybercrime in emerging economies

One of the surprises from my trip to Costa Rica has been the prevalence in the media of stories regarding internet fraud, phishing and other hacking attacks. Back in August the police arrested 16 individuals involved in identity theft in order to remove ¢800 million CRC (about $1.6 million USD) from bank accounts.

The relative unfamiliarity with new technologies, coupled with some insecure institutional practices and balances, have meant that cybercrime has become a profitable exercise in Costa Rica. In the UK, users are covered by all sorts of consumer protection at national and European level, but here users run with all of the risks from fraud. With better systems in place, it would be possible to weed out a lot of the most basic attacks, but identity checking is seriously lacking. It seems unfair that users should bear the brunt of the liability for online fraud.

Things are changing however. The national press has been educating readers about phishing and other scams, and some banks have started implementing better checks, or imposing caps on online transactions per day. Scotiabank has even gone as far as to issue consumers with a password generating keyring, a device that randomly generates a new passcode every 60 minutes or so, and which is synchronised with the account (this would however, leave the user vulnerable to mugging, but I digress).

The law has also been changed, there is now a criminal offence against internet fraud which carries a maximum 10 years.

I guess that bridging the digital divide means that the number of potential cyber-victims increases, and the law should change accordingly.

Monday, December 03, 2007

On leave

I'm spending December in the beautiful and sunny Costa Rica, so expect fewer posts than usual. Normal service will resume in January.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pirate Bay loses IFPI domain

Kopimists around the world are grieving the loss of the domain (which stands for International Federation of Pirates Interests) in a WIPO dispute over its ownership. The owner, as such things stand, was the Pirate Bay.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry initiated a domain name dispute with WIPO to earn the transfer of the domain. In a decision dated November 19, a WIPO dispute settlement panel decided to transfer the domain from Pirate Bay back to the IFPI on the grounds that "... The Complainant has provided and the Panel accepts, evidence of its many trademark rights for IFPI and its reputation in several countries including the UK. The Disputed Domain Name is identical to the IFPI trademark."

Pirate Bay may appeal, but I seriously doubt that they will be successful. You have to give it to them though, they have style.

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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cybercrime under control?

Back in August we reported on a surprisingly visionary paper from the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, which requested urgent government action against cybercrime. Last Friday Blogzilla commented that the official government response was disappointing. The government's response has been that all is well, all legislation is fit for purpose, policing is good, and that the government is "formulating an information assurance strategy for Government". Beware regulators when they assure you that they are formulating strategies. That usually means that they are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, but I digress.

Today the BBC reports that the peers at the Science and Technology committee have not liked this reply, and we cannot really blame them. The Earl of Erroll (try saying that really fast) went as far as to mention heads and sand, and that cannot be a good thing.

Seriously though, according to APACS, card not present fraud in the first semester of this year reached 50% of all card fraud fraud, online banking losses had exceeded £7 million GBP (about $14.4 million USD), and they had handled 7,224 reported phishing incidents. Nothing to worry about indeed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Virtual worlds bad for kids?

Virtual Worlds with commercial toy tie-ins may be bad for kids. This seems to be the message by Lord Puttnam in his opening address to the Virtual Worlds Forum in London (which unfortunately I'm not attending). He seems troubled by the ethical implications of virtual worlds designed specifically for small kids.

I seem to be this premise repeated often in debates regarding new technologies. Paraphrasing something I heard at a conference recently (I can't remember who said it), all technologies that come into being before you are 18 years-old are part of the natural order of things. All technologies that come into being when you are between 18-35 can be adopted and learnt. All technologies invented after you are 35 are the work of the devil and must be banned.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


It was meant to happen sooner or later....

No comments really.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

OiNK shut down

News sources here in the UK are reporting of another piracy site shut down by police, and its owner arrested. OiNK is a subscription-only site which shares pre-released music for a fee (never 'eard of it meself, subtle name though). The man has been arrested "on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law".

I have no qualms whatsoever in applauding such actions, I have no sympathy for subscription websites that charge for services that are never transferred to artists. The difference to cases such as TV-Links is evident. TV-Links and similar aggregators provide links to content hosted elsewhere, while services like OiNK host the content and charge for access to it.

Update: Apparently, news reports were wrong and OiNK is not a subscription service. I'm happy to admit when I've been wrong and withdraw the above comment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TV-Links clampdown

TV-Links, a website hosting links to TV Shows and movies, has been shut down, and the police have arrested the site's administrator. According to FACT, the man was arrested "in connection with offences relating to the facilitation of copyright infringement on the Internet." The man has been released pending further investigation.

TV Links is one of the growing number of websites who do nothing but aggregate links to TV shows. It is not a pirating site as such as it does not contain any content, but one could certainly argue that it serves to facilitate copyright infringement. The interesting legal question of the week is: does providing links to infringing material constitute copyright infringement? The ORG-Legal mailing list has been abuzz with legal analysis of just this question.

The question of linking has had a long and interesting history in copyright law. The issue has been the subject of some debate, but the assumption for the last ten years has been that links as such do not infringe copyright law. The two most cited linking cases have not actually dealt with the subject of linking. Coiepresse v Google was really mostly a trade mark dispute, and Shetland Times v Wills was mostly about deep linking and whether or not web pages were literary works.

One of the reasons why the linking question has been kept alive has been because of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which reads in article 8 that "authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing any communication to the public of their works, by wire or wireless means, including the making available to the public of their works in such a way that members of the public may access these works from a place and at a time individually chosen by them." It seems clear that this article tries to cover online piracy, but as some commentators have remarked, it is not an easy fit against linking. Bittorrent in particular does not seem to be covered by the provisions on the communication to the public.

If the law on linking is so thin and tenuous, how is it possible that this man was arrested? We are not just talking about a civil lawsuit, we are talking about criminal liability here. Copyfighter extraordinaire Becky Hogge from the Open Rights Group phoned the Gloucestershire police, and they informed her that the man had been arrested under Section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994. Trade mark law? Yes indeed! Welcome to IP Maximalist land: when copyright law does not allow you to make a tenuous claim to an action that may or may not be illegal, use an entirely different area of Intellectual Property Law that allows you to get away with the most outrageous criminal claims.

I have now become so accustomed to abuses against copyright law that I thought nothing would ever surprise me, but this one has. I would believe that the criminal offence typified by s92 of the Trade Marks Act is very specific, the offender must commit the infringing act "with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another". I believe that the only part of s92 that would apply to this case might be paragraph 3:

"(3) A person commits an offence who with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another, and without the consent of the proprietor—
(a) makes an article specifically designed or adapted for making copies of a sign identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark, [...]"
Even this would be an extremely convoluted reading of the act. Daithí Mac Síthigh has commented that apparently this is one of FACT's favourite criminal sections, as it is listed in their site, and also has been used before. Why? because it allows for some draconian sanctions:
"(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or both. "
Ouch! Perhaps FACT could suffer the fate of IFPI's dot com domain, which has been snatched by Pirate Bay.

Update: A search engine in China has been cleared of linking to infringing content, which lends strength to the proposition that linking is not infringement.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Three years of llamas

TechnoLlama is now three years old, my first post to this blog was on October 20 2004. In that period of time I've written 812 post at an average 5,000 words per month, have infringed copyright hundreds of times by in-lining pictures, and drank Cthulhu knows how many mugs of coffee upon the completion of each post.

Since I started gathering statistics, the blog has had 53,335 unique visits, with 68,012 hits. The largest number of visits on one single day were 1,805 as a response to a story about Facebook. The number of readers has also been increasing, from just over 20 per day back in 2005, to an average 300 readers per day on a weekday, 200 of which subscribe via RSS or email.

The search engine impact of the blog has also gone up. In November 2004 there were 3 sites linking to the blog in Altavista. In April 2006 the figure had increased to 1,700; while in November 2006 there were 2,590 links to the blog. At the start of the month Altavista listed 11,800 links, while today there are 15,600 (the word I've been looking for in my mind is 'momentum'). The Technorati impact appears to remain at an acceptable 57.

I really wanted to thank my readers (habitual and casual) for making it all worthwhile.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bragg v Linden Labs

The dust is starting to settle in the widely publicised case of Bragg v. Linden Research, which was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. However, one must assume that plaintiff Marc Bragg has done rather well out of the deal, as his alter ego Marc Woebegone has been restored to the virtual world.

Mr Bragg is an attorney who exploited a vulnerability in Second Life's land auction system, which he then used to purchase $8,000 USD (approximately $2 million Linden dollars) worth of land for only $300 USD investment. Linden Labs froze his in-game assets, confiscated the land and terminated his account. Bragg sued Linden Labs for breach of contract, unfair trade practices, and later expanded his claims in order to obtain an injunction disallowing Linden Labs to terminate users' accounts (more details here). The case generated considerable interest because it seemed to be the first suit involving virtual property.

The first important legal question solved was a ruling by Judge Robreno denying a motion to compel arbitration. Second Life's terms of service contained an arbitration clause which read:

"Any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with this Agreement or the performance, breach or termination thereof, shall be finally settled by binding arbitration in San Francisco, California under the Rules of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce by three arbitrators appointed in accordance with said rules (...)"
Judge Robreno adequately ruled that such clause was unconscionable as the agreement was an adhesion contract that imposed unduly punitive and expensive restrictions on user's remedies. As current and former students know, I always repeat that in this side of the Atlantic such clause is inherently unfair under the Unfair Contract Terms Regulations.

Besides the arbitration woes, this suit asked a couple of particularly interesting legal questions. Firstly, is virtual property analogous to real property, and therefore would property owners be owed some form of compensation in case of confiscation? Secondly, is the use of a game exploit reason enough to cancel an account? In other words, are game exploits hacking? It is a pity that we are not going to get a judgement on these questions. However, I have to say that I hold no sympathy for either party. Nic Suzor has made an excellent point about Linden Labs' behaviour, stating that "You simply can’t encourage people to invest and ‘own’ virtual land, run around telling them that they can make lots of money, and then act as if they have no interest in it whatsoever." Similarly, Bragg is a cheat, and I do believe that his behaviour is more akin to fraud and hacking than to innocently exploiting an in-game vulnerability. Normal game cheats do not allow you to obtain a profit of more than $7,000 USD.

Bragg's protestations sound hollow. He's on record saying that: "If they're not running their auctions properly to begin with ... the onus is on them to do that". Oh, really? Imagine a hacker using that excuse about a bank's security, or a phisher uttering such words about a consumer, and you will see how Bragg's behaviour is not only morally suspect, it could be even criminal.

Pah, who wants to buy land in Second Life anyway?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One-click patent claims rejected

(via Lilian Edwards and Boing Boing) Several claims belonging to the infamous Amazon One-Click patent (U.S. 5,960,411) have been rejected by the USPTO. For those who have never heard of it, this patent is for a "method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network" a broad claim on the inventive use of cookies to make consumer transactions faster and easier.

The third party re-examination procedure was brought by one Matthew Graham in 2006, and has just been decided. The claims rejected are 1-5 and 11-26, which completely eviscerates the patent. The examiner has decided that many of the claims are already covered by previous patents, and therefore have prior-art.

Just in case we are feeling smug about the madness sweeping through the other side of the Atlantic in an effort to patent anything under the sun made by man, I would suggest that people have a look at European Patents EP1678658 and EP1825357 held by Amazon. Computer implemented inventions are alive and well in Europa.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ILAWS launch

I attended the launch for ILAWS, a new IT centre at the University of Southampton led by our very own PanGloss. The introductory lecture was given by Professor Chris Reed, who talked about making business online, where he concentrated on legal issues ranging from some of the traditional IT subjects to rather more interesting Web 2.0 issues.

As is usually the case with introductory lectures, the subject tends to be rather on the broad side, but there were some interesting points made. Particularly, flags of convenience for electronic commerce joints and risk management in an online environment. A point that I usually make is that a lot of activities online are probably a crime somewhere in the world, and assessing risk is usually a problem for users. Professor Reed made a point about the pitfalls of managing such activities online, and issued a word of warning.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mac migration blues

Most people would agree that Windows Vista has been an unmitigated disaster. I have finally taken the plunge and sold my old and trusty Toshiba laptop to a friend (although I forgot to photograph all of the swag). I have migrated to a MacBook Pro, and I must say that I'm loving it. The migration process has been relatively painless, and I've been impressed by Tiger's functionality and the range of quality open source software available to compliment the pre-installed applications. And yes, Keynote makes PowerPoint look like the second-rate bullet point churning nightmare that it is.

The migration has got me thinking about interoperability. One reason why I've found it easy to migrate is the fact that I have been using computers for years and years, and getting used to new interfaces and methods of doing things is just part of the process. In my time I have worked in an Apple Macintosh, DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, and XP; and in SuSE Linux 6-10.2, with a little bit of Ubuntu and Vista thrown in. These computing experiences have taught me the value of keeping all of my personal files ready to go, and in formats that are export-friendly. While it is early days with Mac OS, something that I find slightly frustrating is that I cannot look under the hood as I would do in Linux, and there seems to be less obvious control to customise the OS experience.

Having said that, I am seriously thinking of giving up on Linux altogether. I always kept a running version of Linux in my laptop, but with Mac OS, I have to wonder what's the point any more. I might install Ubuntu alongside Windows XP using Parallels just as a curiosity, but I do not think I'll use it that much. Let's be honest, the Linux desktop has failed to live up to its early promise, and Linux usage has not expanded outside of the geek communities despite the Vista fiasco. It seems to me that Mac is picking up those people in the middle. People who know enough to install Linux on their laptops and get it to work, but who cannot be bothered with the countless hours getting it to work and reading hardware compatibility tweaks and FAQs any more.

Now, I just need to get Leopard installed in my home PC, and the Kool-Aid will have been thoroughly consumed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Linux patent infringement suit

(via Groklaw) Red Hat and Novell, owners of the two largest Linux enterprise distributions, have been sued in Texas (where else?) by patent troll IP Innovation, part of the troll tribe Acacia. The subject of the litigation is U.S. Patent 5,072,412, which protects a user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects. The abstract reads:

"Workspaces provided by an object-based user interface appear to share windows and other display objects. Each workspace's data structure includes, for each window in that workspace, a linking data structure called a placement which links to the display system object which provides that window, which may be a display system object in a preexisting window system. The placement also contains display characteristics of the window when displayed in that workspace, such as position and size. Therefore, a display system object can be linked to several workspaces by a placement in each of the workspaces' data structures, and the window it provides to each of those workspaces can have unique display characteristics, yet appear to the user to be the same window or versions of the same window. As a result, the workspaces appear to be sharing a window."
I went through the complaint to see if it could elucidate what this steaming pile of gibberish means, but there was little clue. It took me a while going through the entire claim in order to get an idea of what this entails, as I could not believe that such a broad patent could exist. I thought initially that they were talking about previews, or even application linking. However, it seems that this is all about user interfaces, and it could easily apply to any sort of graphical display using nested windows linked through an operating system. It is important to note that IP Innovation sued Apple using the exactly same patent (a case that was settled out of court).

Pam at Groklaw has put forward the theory that Microsoft is behind this case, but I disagree, as Novell still seems to be in their good books. However, the fact that this preposterously broad patent has been used against Apple and now Linux would seem to indicate some involvement from a certain large software corporation based in Richmond, WA. Nevertheless, what seems evident is that patent trolls may start turning their heads towards open source, and large Linux providers are the obvious targets.

I was also wondering about the terribly adequate choice of name for this particular troll. IP Innovation, a company that does not make anything, it only tries to find innovative ways to detach true innovators from their cash. I say that all open source developers should leave the United States and move to Europe, it is a little bit saner over here. Our patent trolls are very small.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Re-thinking virtual world strategies

A couple of separate pieces exemplify some of the problems and opportunities for virtual worlds.

Firstly, Reuters reports that several companies are re-thinking their virtual world strategy. Companies spent millions to jump into the Second Life bandwagon only to find that nobody visits the vast corporate environments ("if you build it they will come", they thought, ha!). The problem with hyped technologies is that bandwagon jumping rarely works, the first innovators reap the rewards, and then there is a vast number of imitators that intend to get their share of the rewards, but rarely do (and usually are the ones who disappear when the bubble bursts). This seems to be happening with companies who spent millions into Second Life, and now realise that what people want to do with the technology is "to log on to Second Life to hang out with friends and play casual games, not visit a 3-D version of a corporate Web site."

The BBC reports that IBM has partnered with Linden Labs in order to test an avatar export utility that will allow users to, you guessed it, use their avatars across virtual worlds. I am guessing that this will encompass some form of virtual avatar standard that will map certain characteristics that can be easily transferred to other virtual worlds. I have to admit that this is an appealing prospect. Could I bring my heroes into WoW or other games? The Metaverse could be around the corner, Hiro Protagonist beware.

The uniting theme in these two items is that beyond the initial rush, there are people seriously considering the real business potential of virtual worlds. IBM seems to be betting on serving as a standard provider, and I would wager that they own a patent or two on the technology (I was not able to find one for this specific application, but look at U.S. Patent 6271843). While avatar export tools have great potential, I wonder if competitors will see it that way. The saubscription system banks precisely on the fact that some games can keep their customers for as long as they possibly can, and would not like to promote cross-platform applications.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


(via EFF) Yahoo Music's general manager has had it with DRM. Just to refresh everyone's memory, the growing rebel alliance against technological protection measures now includes EMI, Apple, Universal, eMusic and Amazon.

There is also the growing phenomenon of the DRM-free online release band. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have found out that they are famous enough to bypass intermediaries, and are going to release their content online.

It does not take a genius to figure out that loading music with technological protection was a bad business model. Music is a shared experience in a level unlike other entertainment media. Music is to be shared, listened to in groups, discussed and talked about. The MP3 has been with us for more than a decade, why is it that the music industry has taken this long to realise that people prefer this format to all others?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Costa Ricans vote YES to CAFTA

Costa Rica held a referendum on Sunday October 7th to decide whether or not it would approve the Dominican Republic and Central America Free Trade Agreement with the United States, and the ayes have the day with 51.6% against 48.4% nays.

I have always been conflicted about DR-CAFTA. This is a TRIPS-plus agreement implementing an IP maximalist agenda of strict anti-circumvention measures, erosion of exceptions and enactment of parallel import measures that may hinder access to generic medicines. However, for small countries located in the trade shadow of the U.S., any competitive advantage could prove crucial in attracting or repelling fickle foreign investment. While all of our neighbours have voted the agreement and fully implemented it, Costa Rica has held out because of tremendous popular opposition to the agreement. Not voting the agreement could open the gates to a migration from high-tech companies vital to the Costa Rican economy (such as Intel). I also believe that Costa Rica needs a good incentive to break the public monopolies in some sectors, particularly telecommunications and insurance, and DR-CAFTA may very well be the kicking that we require.

Similarly, I have been troubled by the fact that the CAFTA trade struggle has become the latest battleground in the ongoing cold war between the United Stated and Venezuela. With many countries moving to the left as a response to decades of American intervention in the region (and Hugo Chavez and his big chequebook), I have seen my country of origin become a proxy in the Bush - Chavez struggle for the heart of Latin America. I do not like either of them... one an uneducated buffoon and the other a character from a Magical Realism novel.

Almost on cue, S&P has given a stable rating to the Costa Rican economy as a response of the referendum. For a more detailed look at some of the issues, see the report on CAFTA and e-commerce by Jordan Hatcher, Abbe Brown and yours truly.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Company sued in Scotland for listening to radio

(via BBC) Tyre and brake fitters Kwik-Fit have been sued in Edinburgh by the UK's Performing Rights Society. The subject of the action is the fact that according to the plaintiffs, Kwik-Fit employers have been playing their radios loudly, where it can be heard by other employees and customers. This is a public performance, and therefore subject to licence fee payment to the PRS (see a list of prices for shop owners here).

While the case is on its early stages, the Court of Session has issued a ruling denying a plea by the defendants to dismiss the case as irrelevant. Lord Emslie took the claim of copyright infringement seriously enough, and commented that:

"For the purposes of this debate, neither party saw fit to address me on the law as to what might properly amount to the public playing or performance of copyright works. Both maintained that difficult questions of fact and degree might arise in that area, depending on how the evidence turned out at any proof, and that there was thus little to be gained by considering such issues in any detail at the present time. At one point during his submissions, however, I understood counsel for the defenders to accept, in broad terms, that if copyright music was audibly performed to members of the public or to workers as a group that could well constitute infringement."
The PRS has produced recorded evidence starting in 2005 of pervasive and constant radio listening in Kwik-Fit garages across the country, loud enough that the music could be *gasp* heard by the customers. The public has heard music blaring from a commercial enterprise, someone must pay! I would laugh if it was funny, but I reckon PRS are going to win this one, it all comes down to volume levels, et cetera.

I'm curious as to why the action has been brought in Scotland and not in England. Could it be that Scottish courts are perceived as being more IP-friendly?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Open database licence

Jordan Hatcher has published a draft of the Open Database Licence, which is an agreement intended to allow users to "freely share, modify, and use" databases while maintaining the same freedoms for others.

I've gone through the draft, and it is pretty good stuff. The licence clearly helps to plug a glaring hole in current licensing solutions on content and software, and finally recognises that whether we like it or not, databases are subject to the database right in Europe, and although the existing sui generis right has been criticised extensively, the current regime is going to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Friday, October 05, 2007

RIAA wins download case

Jammie Thomas, the Minnesota woman on trial for making music available in the Kazaa network, has lost her jury case and will have to pay the plaintiffs $220,000 USD (that's $248,000 AUS). The Duluth jury held her liable for $9,250 for each of the 24 songs that were subject to the lawsuit. This is perhaps the biggest victory for the music industry in their long fight against P2P file-sharing. Forget Grokster, this is the one that people will remember.

In case you are curious, the songs are:

  • Aerosmith "Cryin'"
  • Bryan Adams "Somebody"
  • Def Leppard "Pour Some Sugar on Me"
  • Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills"
  • Janet Jackson "Let's What Awhile
  • Gloria Estefan "Here We Are"
  • Gloria Estefan "Coming Out of the Heart"
  • Gloria Estefan "Rhythm is Gonna Get You"
  • Goo Goo Dolls "Iris"
  • Green Day "Basket Case"
  • Guns N Roses "Welcome to the Jungle"
  • Guns N Roses "November Rain"
  • Journey "Faithfully"
  • Journey "Don't Stop Believing"
  • Linkin Park "One Step Closer"
  • No Doubt "Bathwater"
  • No Doubt "Hella Good"
  • No Doubt "Different People."
  • Reba McEntire "One Honest Heart"
  • Richard Marx "Now and Forever"
  • Sara McLachlan "Possession"
  • Sara McLachlan "Building a Mystery"
  • Sheryl Crow "Run Baby Run"
  • Vanessa Williams "Save the Best for Last"
I will not comment on whether this list deserves a payout equivalent to 531 iPods. Heck, I even have some of these songs on my own play list (before BPI comes after me, I own the CDs). I may be accused of being a conspiracy theorist, but I'm certain that whoever compiled that list of songs was trying to make a point (they had more than a thousand to choose from) . Perhaps the RIAA will adopt "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" as their anthem. Take it away, Gloria...

Update: I was interviewed by the Duluth News Tribune. I like the fact that I'm part of the tech-savvy world now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Virgin v Thomas continues

The trial of Jammie Thomas in Minnesota continues. Some very interesting revelations so far, including an RIAA spokesman claiming that making even one copy of a song is "stealing", and the prosecution proving conclusively that the KaZaa login subject of the trial is the same that Thomas used in several other sites, including and Yahoo. This should prove deadly for the defendant, who claims she was not the person sharing the songs.

A victory by the RIAA in this case may prove their best ever tool, as this case is likely to get wider coverage.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

VII World Congress of Computer Law

Erick Iriarte has sent this message for distribution:

VII World Congress of Computer Law / VII Congreso Mundial de Derecho Informatico
When: 3-7 December 2007
Where: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Steering Committee: University of Puerto Rico / Puerto Rico Bar Association / Inter American University of Puerto Rico / Alfa-Redi

About Congress:

The Puerto Rico Bar Association, the School Of Law of University of Puerto Rico, the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and Alfa-Redi, cordially invite you to the VII World Congress on Cyber Law to be held from December 3 to December 7 in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The VII World Congress on Cyber Law is a continuation of the worldwide congresses held in the cities of Quito (Ecuador), Madrid (Spain), Havana (Cuba), Cusco (Peru), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) y Edinburgh (United Kingdom).

These congresses have been the starting point of new proposals, the development of laws adopted in several countries, and laws that were welcomed as guidelines by different decision-making public and private organizations involved in the area of new technologies and the development of the information society. These international events are directed towards academic, regional and international stakeholders, government employees, and individuals representing organizations from the Civil Society involved in the processes related to Policies and Regulatory Framework of the Information Society at a regional and international level.

These spaces of dialogue are evoked to promote encounter, discussion and proposal developing in diverse topics of the Information Society, as can be shown in the different Web pages of past Congresses.

The subjects raised for this congress are:

1. Privacy and Personal Data Protection
2. E-Governance
3. Information and Communication Technologies in the Information Society
4. E-Commerce and Cyber-banking
5. Virtual Worlds
6. Copyrights and Intellectual Property
7. E-gaming

Given the global, international and transforming nature of the thematic relationship among policies and the regulatory framework of the information society, we consider of utmost importance the participation of international experts to provide a perspective to the participants of the event who will be able to make comparisons with their own experience, emphasizing on the harmonization processes that have been promoted by diverse international organizations.

This Congress will include workshops which will be imparted by international organizations interested in delivering lectures on specific subjects. These workshops will have a duration of one to two hours, being held during the first two days of the Congress, concerning issues such as Privacy and eGovernment, FTAs and Information Society, Licensing models of contents, Playing games in the net and E-commerce, realities and perspectives. If your organization is interested in delivering a lecture on any of the above mentioned subjects, please contact us.

More Information:

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mother v RIAA

(via Wired) Jammie Thomas, a 30-something mother from Minnesota accused by the RIAA of sharing 1,702 audio files, will go to court to defend her innocence this week. Welcome to Virgin v Thomas, the first jury trial in the RIAA's four year campaign to sue 20,000 of its potential customers, a move that has not deterred music sharing, and on the contrary, it has made them the target of animosity and ridicule from music fans across the world.

This case will be one to watch for several reasons. Firstly, the RIAA has gone for broke and is asking for almost $4 million USD in damages (that's 26 million Myanmar Kyats). After all, if you're going to get involved in an unpopular suit, you might as well get your money's worth, right?

Secondly, the case is likely to unearth some of the RIAA's investigative tactics, which should prove interesting reading for those involved in the copyfight. And the most interesting and relevant point will be to see what happens if the RIAA loses the case. This could really be an embarrasing defeat for them, and a result is not assured by all means.

You can follow the case here, and here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

SCRIPT-ed September 2007

The September issue of SCRIPT-ed, the online journal of Law and Technology, is now live. This issue is packed with quality (says the person who wrote the editorial, so I'm clearly biased).

In this issue:

Peer-Reviewed Articles
Book Reviews