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.