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June 05, 2006 | Louisiana

Tech-Savvy MPs Come Out Against DRM

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group today launched the report of their inquiry into Digital Rights Management.

ORG is pleased to see the APIG making such a robust and sensible set of recommendations, many of which coincide with ORG's recommendations to the inquiry.

APIG points out tht DRM can have a range of damaging effects, impacting on free trade, distorting markets, discriminating against the disabled and against open source products.

We are particularly pleased to see that APIG has taken note of the Sony-BMG, MediaMax and XCP debacle, and will be asking OFCOM to ensure that companies understand that any Technical Protection Measures they employ must not damage users' computers. The virus-like software used by Sony-BMG would be illegal in the UK, and companies need to understand that they risk being prosecuted if they flout legislation designed to protect consumers from malicious software.

We are also pleased to see APIG recommend that academics be granted exemption from prosecution for research into anti-circumvention measures. It is essential for both consumer protection and for technological advancement that academics be able to examine in detail the anti-circumvention measures created by industry without fear of prosecution.

The recommendation that the British Library should chair a "UK Stakeholders Group" to advise the Department of Trade and Industry on IP and specifically DRM, is also warmly welcomed by ORG. For too long the DRM debate in the UK has been dominated by what the APIG term "the usual suspects" - major rights holders and the content distribution industries - who can afford to pay professional lobbyists to promote their views.

ORG feel that the recommendations could have gone further. The report addresses to specific exemptions to copyright: access for the visually impaired and the supply of material to deposit libraries. ORG sees no reason why the law should protect DRM technology that prevents all users from exercising their fair dealing rights such as limited copying for non-commercial research or private study, or copying for criticism or review. The UK should follow other European countries, such as Slovakia, that allow citizens to break DRM locks that block these rights.

ORG also feels that APIG have missed an opportunity to look more closely at interoperability and open standards for digital content and the hardware that content is played on. Currently, the report recommends that the Office of Fair Trading should use labelling to make the public aware whenever they are buying digital content that could be lost if 'systems are discontinued, or devices fail, or players are replaced by systems from a different manufacturer'. However, a more effective solution to this problem is to mandate interoperability between systems, so that, for example, iTunes Music Store music could be played on any MP3 player. At the very least APIG should have recommended that more research be done into this, as France is doing in its EUCD implementation.

Read coverage of the report - and what Open Rights Group has to say about it - on the BBC website.

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May 23, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Haranguing the crowds at Speakers Corner

We had the monthly London Copyfighter's Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop on Sunday, and despite the rain we had a good turn out. There are a few photos on Flickr, but it was a dismal day and my camera doesn't much like the rain. I think we actually had some of the most persistent heckling that I've seen so far at Speaker's Corner. There is, of course, always a risk of heckling, but there was one guy who was particularly peeved at our presence and who was very loud and annoying, and another guy with a plastic bag on his head who obviously felt that hats were too pass

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May 16, 2006 | Mike Little

New ORG Theme

As you can see, we now have a new ORG theme. We hope you like it.

Thanks to Matt Oakes for the theme design, Denise Wilton, Chris Morrison, et al for the new ORG logo. The WordPress theme was built by me, Mike Little, any errors or mistakes are therefore mine. Let me know if you spot any problems: o r g at zed1 dot com.

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May 10, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

21 May London Copyfighters Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop

The next London Copyfighters' Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop will be held on Sunday 21 May. We will meet upstairs at the Mason's Arms, 51 Upper Berkeley Street, Marble Arch at 12noon for brunch. The Mason's Arms is on the corner of Berkeley Street and Seymour Place. Once we are suitably lubricated (at around 2pm) we will, en mass, go to Speaker's Corner and orate on the subject of copyright, DRM, the weather -- whatever. Speaking isn't mandatory, but it IS highly encouraged. There should definitely be an element of hilarity in this. Photos from past events are on Flickr. Please let me know if you are coming by signing up on the ORG wiki page so that I can get an idea for how much food to order. Nearest underground station is Marble Arch. Turn right at the top of the escalators, then right as you leave the station, then right down Great Cumberland Place, then left down Upper Berkeley Street. The Mason's Arms is on the corner of Seymour Place and Upper Berkeley Street. Any problems, please call Suw on 020 7096 1079 (which redirects to my mobile). Hope to see you there!

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May 09, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Copyright in a collaborative age

The paper that myself and Michael Holloway, (who helps with admin and research for ORG) wrote for the Journal of Media and Culture is now out. Called Copyright in a Collaborative Age, it takes a look at the impact of new technologies on copyright, a system that was never designed to deal with things like blogs and wikis. Here's the intro:

The Internet has connected people and cultures in a way that, just ten years ago, was unimaginable. Because of the net, materials once scarce are now ubiquitous. Indeed, never before in human history have so many people had so much access to such a wide variety of cultural material, yet far from heralding a new cultural nirvana, we are facing a creative lock-down. Over the last hundred years, copyright term has been extended time and again by a creative industry eager to hold on to the exclusive rights to its most lucrative materials. Previously, these rights guaranteed a steady income because the industry controlled supply and, in many cases, manufactured demand. But now culture has moved from being physical artefacts that can be sold or performances that can be experienced to being collections of 1s and 0s that can be easily copied and exchanged. People are revelling in the opportunity to acquire and experience music, movies, TV, books, photos, essays and other materials that they would otherwise have missed out on; and they picking up the creative ball and running with it, making their own version, remixes, mash-ups and derivative works. More importantly than that, people are producing and sharing their own cultural resources, publishing their own original photos, movies, music, writing. You name it, somewhere someone is making it, just for the love of it. Whilst the creative industries are using copyright law in every way they can to prosecute, shut down, and scare people away from even legitimate uses of cultural materials, the law itself is becoming increasingly inadequate. It can no longer deal with society

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April 25, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Jonathan Zittrain inaugural lecture

Wow, but sitting in Oxford University's Examination Halls is intimidating. I'm here for Professor Jonathan Zittrain's inaugural lecture, entitled Internet Governance and Regulation: The Future of the Internet - and How to Stop It. The Lecture Has a 'nerd-like joy' in what the technology offers. One pair of concepts that are evolving because of the internet is the public and the private. Slide of people queuing to see the queen on her 80th. Clear who is public. In the internet, the private is the realm of privacy, which JZ is tired of, specially 1. Privacy as Defence, views the gov't as trying to defend our privacy against those who would intrude: e.g. firms whom we ask to come up with a privacy policy which no one reads. Do they matter? I think not. Some legislative expansion - in CA, if you expose your customer data to others, you have to tell the public that their data has been compromised. Privacy has meant wondering about how tech could lock things up. E.g. DRM ebooks which stop you printing, but also feeds back info on which pages you linger on. Some backlash, e.g. against Sony BMG DRM rootkit debacle. Has commercial implications. Top 3 Sony XCP-related CDs 3. The Invisible Invasion - The Coral 2. Suspicious Activity - The Bad Plus 1. Healthy in Paranoid Times - Our Lady Peace This could lead to differential pricing, depending on people's attention. Or perhaps differential discounts. If you use a loyalty card, then perhaps the price of a loaf of bread becomes indeterminate - the sticker price is never paid, you just get a different discount. Or you could use this data for different level of service. Figure out who the good customers and bad customers are, and change the level of service. 2. Privacy as Strategy What is at the core of privacy. iPods. The market for iPod accessories is extraordinary. 32 million ipods, one every second. $1 billion for accessories, e.g. small dog that dances. Or the HMS Daring, a British warship with iPod docks and surround sound. We have an identity with that object that transcends its function as an MP3 player. Taking that identity and vesting it in other things is an expansion of the private sphere. YouTube.com allows people to submit videos and rate them. Makes 100m page views a month, but none of the content belongs to YouTube. Or iTunes podcasts, e.g. Harry Potter podcasts. Or virtual worlds, 100m people a month play interactive computer games. People invest their identities into the world to the point where if a game is shut down, it's like a piece of your identity is lost. Lots of examples where people invest some aspect of themselves, or create a new aspect of themselves. E.g. SorryWorld.com, after the election of George W.Bush, spawned a book, and ApologiesAccepted, and SorryJustIsn'tGoodEnough, and WeHaveNothingToBeSorryFor. What makes people do this? When we don't judge by a number of page views, but look at the way people relate, we are impressed. The way that these spheres expand, indicate: 3. Private is the New Public Yochai Benkler pointed out the NASA clickworkers study - bitmap images of the moon that people drew circles round. Asked the people round the world to do this, and did it in a week. OCR can take Tim Berners-Lee and turn it into The Timberners League... so can make OCR turn out better by turning it into a game where people shoot down the typos. ShotSpotter, mics in a neighbourhood which picks up a gunshot, triangulates and calls the police, and augments with a neighbourhood watch online that allows people to keep an eye on things and call the police. Central example of private positions cohering into a public whole is Wikipedia. Entries that we think most controversial are the ones that reflect the most care. Example, the Rachel Corrie page, which has a lot of controversy. Kinds of discussions over this entry that you could expect in an editorial office at Britannica. So you can see not just what the entry says, but also the discussion behind it, the logic in the decision. Wikipedia is a culture, an ethos, which helps the wiki to run. Pledgebank, started by Tom Steinberg. Allows people to pledge to pick up litter from the banks of the Isis if only 20 other people do too. Hence was the Open Rights Group was formed, with the commitment to pay £5 per week, if 1000 people also did. That's a new kind of public coming out of people feeling at home with these technologies. 4. Public vs. Government Example, the Chinese internet police. Or in the States, people protesting about AT&T handing your data to the NSA. Tor, the onion server that anonymises data via a route through lots of people's clients. Your choice of how you use the network affects how other people can - e.g. if you use Tor, you make it easier for other people to use Tor. Tor do not believe in anonymity at all costs, they have accountability methods to help them limit damage done by servers which misbehave. Recently in China, Google has submitted to censorship. If you try to set up a blog in China, MS Spaces will censor your title. Think about Google and other search engines. They offer no unique content, they just crawl other people's and rank it, by the rank the public assigns by linking to it. It taps into people's judgement. We can tap into people's judgement. For example, if you wanted to create a filter gauge, where people can triangulate where the blockage in the net is - with your computer config; your firewall; the net; your government. Need more study to have an understanding of the phenomenon of the internet which keeps pace with our ability to be the phenomenon. 5. Public vs. Public The force of aggregating people who feel really empowered to move their private selves into public spaces, is so powerful that it can be used for things that may seem undesirable. The number of security incidents on the net has increased dramatically. Spam on the rise, has been for a long time. Rise of MAPS, a list of net addresses believed to be spammers. Made it available to Hotmail as a blacklist, so if one person didn't like you you couldn't email Hotmail. How do think about net security? In other places it's done by the authorities, but not online. How do you tell the p2p consciousness of the net to mind due process? 80% of students in the US have an entry in Facebook. People take photos and put them up and tag them. Won't be long before cameras upload to Flickr as soon as they are taken. With Riya, once one photo is tagged with a person's name, all of them are. This is troubling. The Christian Gallery took photos of women seeking abortions, so suddenly your identity is searchable online as soon as a photo is taken. Makes for a much more identifiable world than a more chaotic world. Gawker Stalker. As soon as a star is spotted, its online so people can go see celebs. There's a chance here now to enter a cafe and know if any friends are within 100 yards, any of my friends' friends? Graduates of Oxford? Can use reputation system to winnow large groups of strangers down. Cyworld -rating sexiness, fame, friendliness, karma, kindness. That can end up in the real world. All this can be aggregated together. But it can throw up odd juxtapositions. Then the logic moves towards systems that say 'this subversive read this, this subversive read that, that person read both so may be a subversive'. How do we determine the validity of judgements of others about us when we can't see them? IETF Principles, at the beginning of the internet - anyone can join - keep it simple - keep it open - tech meritocracy - hum consensus (ask people to hum if they agree) - people are reasonable - people are nice This is embedded in the fabric of the internet, e.g. the way ethernet works. This is one institution that gives us a hint about having faith in people, even though people might let you down. Wikipedia is good at this too - when people do something horrible on Wikipedia, they get sent a nice not asking them to be constructive. On the other hand: ICANN ITU Worlds Summit on the information society All the wrong way to think about Internet governance. Best thing about them is that they keep the busybodies in a room talking to each other. The right questions for us to ask is: What are the digital environments that inspire people to act humanely? - town hall vs. mob; the smaller the group the better sometimes. - apprenticeship; people come to understand the culture that they are looking to master from the people who are already there - availability of exit; if you don't like it, you can leave - having a stake in what you're doing; get people involved in something that matters. includes the freedom to do wrong. what makes Wikipedia work is that you have the opportunity to do wrong, and every time you go there and don't do it, you affirm something to yourself and to others. Third set of institutions - university. People in lectures use their laptops poorly, playing cards, poker, etc. Not just the pupils, but also the staff, using things like 'SA Grader', a site that grades your essay. But this sort of automatic semantic analysis, you get the same grade if you just list the words alphabetical. Try to protect the wrong things, e.g. trying to copyright lectures. Why you saw Fathom.com, which is now an archive, but hasn't figured out that the future of the internet in this environment should be great. They should put the same kind of effort in as arranging a playlist. Should have lecture playlists - these are the books and readings i think are great, and this is the order you should read them in. Should know that if classes are studying the same thing, they should be connected. That's the functionality that the internet invites us to build. What we ask students to do is write essays, turn them into one person who reads them. What if we asked them to put them on Wikipedia. Innocentive.com, which puts a bounty on problems in chemistry. It's a wonderful thing that libraries are scanning the works of dead people to make them available to the rest of us forever. Our next challenge is how to make sure that the works we produce anew are ones that stand on the shoulders of our technology in ways that weren't possible before the net. The internet Archive, trying to make sure that everything on the web stays forever, for future historians. Looking forward, we have a chance to build monuments to humanity. Not the pyramids, made as a monument to one person. Instead, what can we build together as a group where, yes, there will be inaccuracies but our role is to join the fray. Our role as academics is to invite people in.

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April 24, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Copyfighters' picnic in the rain

Last month, Cory Doctorow passed over the reins of the London Copyfighers' Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop to ORG, and yesterday we had our first brunch in the new format - a picnic in Hyde Park, followed then by the traditional oration at Speakers' Corner. Unfortunately for us, my prediction a month ago that we'd break the run of sunny Sundays we've had since Cory started this a year ago was entirely on the money. Some brave souls ventured forth despite the rain, though, and despite the crowd being small, we had some great talks and managed to steal away a good percentage of listeners from the usual crowd of ladder-toting fringe cases. The photos are on Flickr.

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April 24, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Internet Governance and Regulation: The Future of the Internet - and How to Stop It

ORG Advisory Council member Professor Jonathan Zittrain is giving his inaugural lecture at Oxford University tomorrow, 25 April, at 5pm at the Oxford University Examination Schools, High Street (building 22 on the map):

The lecture will propose a theory about what lies around the corner for the Internet, how to avoid it, and how to study and affect the future of the internet using the distributed power of the network itself, using privacy as a signal example.
The lecture will be webcast, with a live stream available ten minutes before the event starts.

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