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July 13, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Information Commissioners annual report

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has published his annual report. The Information Commissioner's Office is the UK's independent public body set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.

"Never before has the threat of intrusion to people’s privacy been such a risk. It is no wonder that the public now ranks protecting personal information as the third most important social concern."

"What is the right balance between public protection and private life? How long, for example, should phone and internet traffic records be retained for access by police and intelligence services fighting terrorism? Whose DNA should be held, and for how long, to help solve crime? What safeguards are needed for commercial internet-based tracking services which leave no hiding place?"

"In our annual survey on information rights, protecting people’s personal information was highlighted as one of the top three issues of social importance, with 80 per cent of individuals saying that they were concerned about the use, transfer and security of their personal information. Organisations do recognise that good information handling makes good business sense, with the vast majority telling us it improves customer trust, information management and risk management."

Annual Report 2005 - 2006 - Information Commissioner’s Office

The report also singles out ID cards, children’s databases and spam as worthy of mention.

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July 11, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

BPI asks ISPs to do its dirty work

As reported by Reuters and the BBC, the BPI has asked two ISPs - Cable & Wireless, and Tiscali - to terminate the accounts of 59 broadband users because the BPI claims that they are infringing copyright. Cory Doctorow has an excellent post on BoingBoing explaining why this is a really bad idea, not just for users but for ISPs too:

Notice-and-takedown is a censor's best friend, but as the music and film industry can attest, it hasn't made any kind of dent in copyright infringement. For one thing, it's wholly ineffective against P2P file-sharing -- notice-and-takedown only works on stuff hosted on an ISP's web-server, not on a customer's own PC.

The new proposal for notice-and-termination aims at creating an even more radical version of this judge, jury and executioner privilege the entertainment industry has secured for itself. Under notice-and-termination, you need only claim to be an aggrieved rightsholder to actually knock someone's DSL circuit offline.

This sounds like something similar to notice-and-takedown, but there's a gigantic difference: the cost of connecting a DSL circuit is vastly higher than the cost of putting some files on a web-server. Indeed, ISPs have told me that it can take years to recoup the cost of connecting a customer to the Internet.

This story has also been covered by eHomeUpgrade, where I commented:

It's essential that ISPs resist the BPI's attempt to strong-arm them into becoming the music industry's bully-boys. If the BPI has evidence of wrong-doing, then it must go through the proper channels in order to pursue its case. Producing a list of IP addresses and demanding that the customers who used them be disconnected is no more than an attempt at summary justice. If the end-user is mis-identified - perhaps the IP address was shared or mis-communicated by the BPI - then it will be the ISPs and their innocent customers who will suffer the consequences.
Hopefully, the ISPs will resist the BPI's machinations, but I suspect this is just the beginning of an attempt by the entertainment industry to get a firm grip on the internet's jugular. As Cory says:

The BPI is floating a trial balloon here, but it's not a coincidence that they're proposing something already under discussion at WIPO. Getting countries or even major ISPs to adopt notice-and-termination paves the way for the creation of a takedown treaty -- and the end of the Internet as we know it.

UPDATE: Tiscali tell the BPI to get lost, and sound distinctly unimpressed with the BPI's tactics. From Webuser:

A Tiscali spokeswoman described the move as a 'media ambush'. She said the BPI had “[sent] their letter to the media before we even had a chance to read it and the information they went to press with was not strictly correct”.

And more from Tiscali's letter to the BPI:

You have sent us a spreadsheet setting out a list of 17 IP addresses you allege belong to Tiscali customers, whom you allege have infringed the copyright of your members, together with the dates and times and with which sound recording you allege that they have done so. You have also sent us extracts of screenshots of the shared drive of one of those customers. You state that such evidence is "overwhelming". However, you have provided no actual evidence in respect of 16 of the accounts. Further, you have provided no evidence of downloading taking place nor have you provided evidence that the shared drive was connected by the relevant IP address at the relevant time.

Similar requests we have dealt with in the past, have included such information and, indeed, the bodies conducting those investigations have felt that a court would consider it necessary to see such evidence, supported by sworn statements, before being able to grant any order.

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July 11, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

700,000 children fingerprinted by schools

Children are being threatened with exclusion from school unless they submit to being fingerprinted, reports Leave Them Kids Alone. This Daily Mirror story illustrates the size of the problem:

FURY erupted yesterday after it emerged an estimated 700,000 children are being fingerprinted at school.

Systems in 3,500 primary school libraries allow pupils to take out books by scanning their thumb prints instead of using a card.

But campaigners warn the technology is a massive invasion of privacy and a step towards a "database state".

With an average primary school size of 200 pupils, pressure group No2ID says at least 700,000 pupils are regularly having their fingerprints scanned.

Fingerprint scandal of 700,000 kids - The Daily Mirror

For more on children's rights, visit the ARCH website.

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July 11, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Commission Cheats European SMEs in Patent Consultation

The European Commission has been consulting on the future of Europe's patent regime and, as always, the FFII have been doing a good job of monitoring their progress. Fears that this was a third attempt to legalise software patents in Europe prompted a large number of SMEs, software developers and bigger IT firms to respond, but it seems that the Commission did not like the answers they got:

The Commission made an undercover move to get more "useful" answers following the 12 April closing date of its Patent Policy consultation. It sought out small firms across Europe who had used the patent system. It then provided these firms with new documentation and specialist assistance to help them write individual answers. None of the firms answering the online consultation got this help. But when the software firms in this new group came to the same conclusions as the FFII, the Commission concluded that these firms were "lacking knowledge about the patent system".

Commission Cheats European SMEs in Patent Consultation - FFII

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July 10, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

16 July, London Copyfighters Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop with Danny O'Brien

The next London Copyfighters' Drunken Brunch and Talking Shop will be held on Sunday 16 July, and it will be chaired by Danny O'Brien. 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. 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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July 07, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

IPPR/Reuters - The Long Tail: Opportunities in a New Marketplace

The IPPR and Reuters held a seminar on Tuesday 4 July about the 'long tail' and niche marketing, and how it relates to IP. Speakers were Shaun Woodward MP; Chris Anderson, Wired; Azeem Azhar, Reuters. As usual, I took copious notes, a habit which will become redundant if all organisers provide the level of recording that the IPPR has for this seminar. You can read the official summary, and you can listen to Part 1: Shaun Woodward MP, Chris Anderson, Azeem Azhar (21.1MB), and Part 2: Questions from the floor and responses (16.8MB). My notes from the event are over on Strange Attractor.

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July 07, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

EC want to regulate internet TV

The "TV Without Frontiers" directive is a proposed piece of European legislation that would mean that anything that appears to be television and travels over the internet is television, and therefore becomes subject to TV regulations.

The CBI, however, is unimpressed. "The European Commission seems to be ignoring the fact that opposition to the directive has been signed by the business associations of six other countries," says Jeremy Beales, the CBI's head of e-business. "The problem with this piece of legislation is that the EC has focused on television because that's all that they are interested in. Their motivation is to protect public service broadcasters and the TV industry with a catch-all piece of legislation that could affect huge numbers of websites because of a badly phrased piece of legislation."

It's TV, but not as we know it - The Guardian

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July 06, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Data retention conference in Ireland

The Irish Centre for European Law is hosting a conference on “Privacy and the Data Retention Directive” on Wednesday, 19 July 2006, from 2-6pm in Dublin. Speakers will include: Paul Durrant, Internet Service Providers Association Billy Hawkes, Data Protection Commissioner Karlin Lillington, Technology Journalist, The Irish Times Thomas O’Malley, Barrister and Senior Lecturer, NUIG T.J. McIntyre, Chairman, Digital Rights Ireland Unfortunately it's not cheap, with tickets starting at €150 for non ICEL members, #120 for members, €50 for students. There are some discounted tickets available if you don't fall into those categories but still want to go. More details on the Digital Rights Ireland blog.

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