November 06, 2006 | Michael Holloway

As the world pulls back from e-voting, the UK opts for more pilots

Guest post by Jason Kitcat

Summary: This post summarises the newly announced UK e-voting pilots for 2007 and provides action you can take to help stop the pilots.

On October 17th the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Electoral Commission officially announced a prospectus for electoral pilots in May 2007. Pilots can include:

* Internet voting * Telephone voting * Polling place electronic voting machines * Electronic counting * Administrative innovations such as early voting

Explicitly excluded are text message voting, digital TV voting and all-postal voting.

Local authorities have been given until 17th November to apply to run a pilot in their area, although it’s clear that at least some authorities were already preparing their applications before the announcement.

This announcement comes at a time when e-voting has been increasingly recognised around the world as a threat to democratic elections. For example:

* The Netherlands has withdrawn e-voting machines by one manufacturer due to vulnerabilities including emitting radio signals which reveal how votes are being cast. The other brand used has been the subject of a widely reported analysis finding multiple major vulnerabilities. more info

* The Canadian province of Quebec has withdrawn all electronic voting machines from elections. This was after a damning report by the province’s chief electoral office into a controversial and problematic election in 2005. more info

* The Republic of Ireland has a moratorium on the use of their e-voting machines after an independent commission found significant problems. more info

* A Japanese municipal authority have shelved e-voting after the result of a 2003 council election was voided. more info

The United States was the first country to make widespread use of voting machines, starting with the lever machines in 1892. Since the 1970s, when electronic machines began to be used, there have been many detailed reports on the fraud, errors and usability problems experienced culminating in the infamous 2000 Presidential election.

Whether allegations can be proved or not, the doubt that electronic voting systems sow in the minds of voters make any outcome open to debate, which ends up undermining our democracy. Because the results are electronic it’s impossible to know what really happened, whether votes were really stored as the voters intended of if they were changed later on.

E-voting makes fraud on an unimaginable scale possible as never before. Electoral fraud is a problem we need to deal with in this country, as recent convictions have shown.

E-voting, unlike e-commerce, is a difficult technical problem where you need to ensure that voters are who they say they are, that they haven’t already voted and can do so secretly. Remote e-voting, from home or work, threatens our secret vote opening electors to vote-buying, peer pressure and threats. E-voting is also incredibly expensive, for a Sheffield pilot the cost was at least £55 per vote cast!

More information about e-voting:

* Communications of the ACM: Special Issue on E-Voting * Jason Kitcat’s e-voting pages * Rebecca Mercuri’s e-voting pages * Louise Ferguson’s e-voting pages * Voting Machines Pro Con (US site but a useful, balanced, overview)

What can we do about it?

There is easy immediate action we can take to stop pilots happening. A pilot will only be approved if a local council applies to take part. So until the application deadline of 17th November we need to ask councillors to get assurances that your council won’t be applying to run an e-voting pilot.

Brighton & Hove and Camden Councils have already ruled out pilots thanks to people contacting their councillors

The areas most likely to apply are those who have already run an e-voting or e-counting pilot so if you live in one of the following areas it’s vital that you take action:

* Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council * Bolton Metropolitan Council * Broxbourne Borough Council * Chester City Council * Chester-le-Street District Council * Chorley Borough Council * Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council * Derwentside District Council * Epping Forest District Council * Ipswich Borough Council * Kerrier District Council * Liverpool City Council * London Borough of Newham * Rugby Borough Council * Rushmoor Borough Council * St Albans City & District * Sheffield City Council * Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council * South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council * South Oxfordshire District Council * South Somerset District Council * South Tyneside Council * Stratford on Avon District Conucil * Stroud District Council * Swindon Borough Council * Vale Royal Borough Council * Wear Valley District Council * City of Westminster

Contact your councillor via WriteToThem politely asking them to ensure your council doesn’t waste local tax payers’ money on electronic voting pilots. Remember to do it before 17th November!

Please email me the responses you get.

We will be organising an e-voting event in the New Year and will let you know more about that soon.

[Read more]

November 06, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Seven days to apply

If you are interested in taking over the role of Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, don't forget that our deadline for applications is 13 November, i.e. next Monday. More information on this blog post.

[Read more]

October 27, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Release The Music asks: Are you a blogger or podcaster?

If you write a music/MP3 blog, a law/copyright blog, or you are a podcaster and would like to come to the ORG press briefing on copyright term extension for sound recordings, 2pm on Monday 13th November, please contact Michael with your URL and preferred email address and we'll send you a proper invitation with all the details. We have very few places, so please contact us as soon as possible.

[Read more]

October 27, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Key UK Software Patent Ruling

The Court of Appeal has ruled on two cases involving software patents today. It rejected one and unfortunately granted the other. It was hoped that the ruling would confirm that software development which relates only to new business logic does not have to worry about patent threats. As more and more companies in the United States get tied up in business method patent litigation, this decision should be a worry for UK companies. The full ruling is here, for those of you that are really keen. If you want some more details or are a member of the press I recommend you check out the FFII's comments on the Court of Appeal Judgement in Macrossan and Aerotel.

These two cases are of vital interest to anyone concerned with the ongoing debate over the patentability of software and business methods in the UK and Europe. Both of the cases at issue concern patents in the area of software and business methods and so the appeal presented a historic opportunity for the UK courts to reaffirm the clear exclusion of these areas from the scope of patentability as well as to send an important signal to legislators and patent officials at the European level. It has not done so.

Aerotel’s patent that was granted today claims the making of telephone calls using prepayments. The essential idea is to have a telephone exchange which keeps a record of clients’ credit. Clients can then dial into the exchange, and have their calls completed for as long as they have credit to pay for them.

Why are these cases so important? High Court decisions do not establish binding precedents on other High Court cases, but decisions by the Court of Appeal do bind lower courts. Today's decision is the first time the Court of Appeal have ruled on software and business method patentability since 1997, and gives a definitive statement of the UK law in this area.

Both patents do not contain anything novel except new administrative or business logic, with solely administrative and business consequences. At stake was not only the Court of Appeal's decision, but how it decides it. We will be looking closely at these rulings and posting again to provide you more information.

Macrossan’s patent application was rejected by the UK Patent Office. In the High Court, Macrossan appealed against this rejection, but the appeal was dismissed by Judge Mann, finding that although not specifically a business method, it was a method of performing a mental act by a computer. It has been described by one software contractor as an absolutely conventional “fill-in-the-blanks website that picks the right docs based on guided answers, then fills them in appropriately and disgorges them wherever required”. The only new idea was to apply this to the documents needed to incorporate a company. Quite rightly this patent was rejected today on appeal.

[Read more] (1 comments)

October 26, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

UKNOF5: Richard Clayton - Content Filtering

Just popped in to the 5th UK Network Operators Forum to hear ORG advisory Council member Richard Clayton talk on content filtering. Here are my notes: Overview - content blocking system taxonomy - overblocking and other problems - avoiding the blocking altogether - attacking the blocking system - Cleanfeed and the 'oracle attack' - the IWF web site list - the political landscape Taxonomy Three ways of blocking content - DNS poisoning; you arrange for your DNS server to provide the wrong results, so when you look up, say, you are sent to the wrong site and will not find the content you're looking for. Low cost, highly scalable. Can blog an indefinite no. of domains - Blackhole routing; dropping the packets to the bad site. Also low cost, but limited, so will not scale. - Proxy filtering; arrange that all web traffic goes through a web proxy. High cost, but very accurate and allows you to pick out exactly what you want to block. Problems with DNS poisoning People think it's easy, but if you have sub-domains which you don't wish to block, or if you want to allow email but not web traffic, then it's not good enough. West German ISPs, where local government requires to block access to Nazi sites, and most ISPs managed make a mess of it, and managed to block some parts of the site but not the bits they were supposed to block, and all managed to mess up the email. Every ISP made at least one mistake. Blackhole routing Dropping packets will affect every web site hosted at the IP address. So you can't block a single site at one IP address. So useless for sites like Geocities. Useless for huge numbers of other sites. You do not have one IP address per web site. Ben Edelman did a study on 'overblocking', and 87.3% of the sites shared an IP address with at least one other. Some web servers have over 50 sites on them. So ends up blocking innocent sites as well. Proxy filtering No overblocking, but it is expensive. Has costs in kit, and customer satisfaction, because proxies are slower and customers don't like that, and can mess up ability to tell people apart. Not good news for users, but they are the best way of doing precise blocking. Avoidance for clients Some people don't like being blocked and there are tricks for getting round it - use a different DNS server, very easy - use IP addresses instead of the domain name - use a relay, which often encrypts and anonymises; lots of these services out there, marketed to people who want to browse from their office desk but work just as well from home to get around blocks from ISP - people encode requests, (e.g. 'request%73' = requests) to avoid recognition; just look at spam for this. far more complex than it seems to just block domains - send malformed HTTP requests, e.g. multiple HOST protocol elements Avoidance for servers - move your site to another IP address, which is easy - change the port number, which is a bit trickier because we don't have good systems for looking up port numbers - provide the same content on many different URLs, you can send out your spam and arrange that is constant but then put a random string (which also allows you to check which of your spam emails works best) as some blockers don't realise that what comes after the / is irrelevant and end up blocking the whole URL not the domain name. - accept unusually formatted requests BT CleanFeed - CleanFeed is their internal name, but externally it's not called that, but 'anti-child-abuse initiative'. Two stage system from 2004, but similar designs used by other ISPs. - first stage is IP address based, so it checks to see if there might be child pornography and if it is then traffic is redirected to a proxy which then matches URLs, - this is what's publicly known, not covered by NDA Users send their traffic to boundary to BT's network. BT's system decides which traffic is good, and sends it on its way. If it is going somewhere bad, it will go to their proxy and then decide if it's going to a bad site, or somewhere innocent. If it's supposed to be going somewhere bad, then it returns a 404, i.e. no accusations of wrongdoing. Fragile. - evading either stage evades the system, all previous attacks continue to be relevant - plus can attack the system in new ways, e.g. if include IP addresses for innocent sites, like Google or ITunes Music Store, in DNS results for bad sites then that will flood the second stage with legitimate traffic - if they give it local IP address then results in routing loops The oracle attack - can detect the first stage and so can tell which IP address is being blocked. If you sent lots of tcp/80 traffic you can see what comes back and tell whether your traffic is being redirected. Then you can find out which domain names are being hosted and these IP addresses. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) - set up in 1996 to deal with child porn on Usenet - operates consumer hot-line for reports - mainly concerned with web sites now - has a database of sites not yet removed - but sites move around very fast, and database needs to be regularly reviewed Politics - in Whitehall they thought it was impossible to censor or block the net until BT deployed CleanFeed, despite blocking systems in Norway, Saudi Arabia and Chine, for e.g. - ISPA claim 80% of consumers covered by systems that block illegal child images - Minster now wants all broadband to block by end 2007 - which is apparently voluntary but 'if it appear that we are not going to meet our target through co-operation, we will review the situation' Whitehall comprehension? - "recently it has become technically feasible for ISPs to block home users access to web sites irrespective of where in the world they are hosted" - they don't understand the cost of the system, how fragile they are, how easy they are to evade, or how they can be attacked or made less secure or less stable. Also don't understand that you can use the system to reverse engineer a list of sites to look at. After the events in August, Fratini (EU) wants the internet to be a 'hostile environment' for terrorists: "very important to explore further possibility of blocking web site that incite to commit terrorist action" - also blog drugs, gambling, holocaust denial. - don't overlook civil cases: defamation, copyright material, MI6 agent list, industrial secrets, lists of company directors, etc. People will want web sites blocked. But people used to think 'it's not possible' but now they are saying it is, and the more people think it's possible the more they want it. More on this in Richard's PhD thesis, Chapter 7, which is available on his site. Biggest problem country is actually the USA - they are not good at removing pedophile material from the internet. How big is the IWF database? 888 items? Can infer what the IWF publish, because they have said 38% of sites are still active after 2 months, so they are checking it. Problem with doing research into the blocking of child porn because, of course, looking at the sites is illegal, so you can't check the content. Only a small percentage of sites reported to the IWF check actually have child porn. IWF and BT refused to allow Richard to have his site added to their blacklist so that he could check to see how well the system works.

[Read more] (2 comments)

October 26, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Release The Music, 13 Nov 06

Should the term of copyright protection on sound recordings stay at 50 years or be extended?

This question has been hanging in the air for the last couple of years, with the music industry lobbying government for an extension on the grounds that the royalties they earn from old recordings are essential to bringing new acts to the stage and supporting ageing musicians. They believe that copyright term on sound recordings should be the same length as the copyright in the composition, which currently stands at life plus 70 years.

On the other hand, copyright reformers argue that term should remain the same in order to protect the public domain and to free the huge number of old recordings which are no longer commercially viable and therefore not being released by the record labels. They also argue that there is a greater economic benefit to allowing works to pass into the public domain after 50 years so that new works can be made from them and new businesses that specialise in niche markets can flourish.

This question of term extension, along with many others, is now being considered by Andrew Gowers in his Review of Intellectual Property which was commissioned by the Treasury and is due to report before the end of the year.

The Open Rights Group believes that term extension is such an important issue that it deserves focused and rigourous discussion, so we've invited people from number of backgrounds to give us their thoughts and opinions.

We would be delighted if you could join us - the event is free to all, but places are limited so book now!

Release The MusicSchedule: 6.00pm - Registration. 6.30pm - Keynote by Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University. 7.30pm - Panel Discussion, moderated by John Howkins, The Adelphi Charter; guests include Caroline Wilson, University of Southampton, Faculty of Law; others TBC. 8.30pm - DJ set by The Chaps, playing a pre-1955 public domain set. 10.00pm - Close.

Date: Monday 13 November 2006


Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square London, WC1 United Kingdom

Nearest tube: Holborn

If you sign up, but find you are not able to come, please do let us know so we can release your seat to someone else.

[Read more] (8 comments)

October 26, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Future of Copyright: Roundtable 3 - Law, regulation and the future

Note: This was the last session on Friday, and again these notes are pretty much verbatim. How could we operate if there wasn't copyright? What's the bare minimum we might exist with? Ideas for topics for discussion in this session - What is the business model for artists when you don't have copyright? How would artists make money? Who are the risk bearers? - When you have conflicting rights, how should those be resolved? How do artists feel they should be resolved? - Restricted acts, broadness of the concept of reproduction and the limits on what is restricted. - Look at alternative remuneration methods. Paradigms that could be extended. - Can copyright protect art from becoming a business activity? - Rights are defined by power, so the only strategy is continuous disobedience. - Different aspects of copyright. Freedoms. - Motivation and incentives. What motivates arts activities, as opposed to economic activities. Actual motivations don't seem to fit with assumed motivations. - Not immediately inevitable that you must do away with copyright to understand ways to remunerate artists; parallel systems and how they are relevant, e.g. academic industry and patronage of the institution. Re-discuss authorship as itself a business model. - Does anyone thing that it matters if copyright law fails to give protection to artists. - Something more idealistic, what other protections could form a basis for an economy. - What is at steak in the tension between the artistic and the business. Want some future thinking. Look at integrity to start with. As humans it's natural to see what one has and prevent others taking it, but you always think that's wrong when others prevent you from doing things. Integrity is a right that in theory gives me control over how others utilise my work, but that prevents me doing things with other people's work. So having more control means having less freedom. Huge difference in France with the right of respect that's existed for a long time. But rather than looking at what the right to integrity is, look at what's produced along the way. In the UK it's not a right that's had a very big effect, there are very few cases and in those nothing very objective has come out of them and in France sometimes we do see a conflict of rights, for example, the one place prevents theatre productions because of the right of respect, and it's a way of using this right to control contemporary culture. Other cases where the right of integrity has done good, look beyond the individuals in the case or the people who might be dead, we find that the right of integrity has done something good for art, for instance that quality has been protected in some cases. If an author has been dissatisfied with the way that his book has been published he could use his right of integrity to make a quality publication to our benefit. Works of art have been protected for future generations through this right. How does this affect the reproduction of art? In performing arts, if the heirs don't want a certain company to perform a play, that effect is clear. How does it affect the way work is reproduced in France. It might mean that the heirs, it's always the heirs never the writer himself who objects, the heirs might simply stop production or interfere with it, and say we don't want... the Beckett Estate didn't want an interpretation with all-female actresses. Might interfere with cultural process. Edward Beckett is a fine flute player, but he treats his uncle's plays as a musical score, so if the tree in Waiting for Godot is in the wrong place, he shuts it down. So this replaces this discourse within society over to the courts. Civil society should have the discourse not the court. But litigation is the end resort when you can't reach agreement in civil society. Video standard metadata, so you can discover films by topic or by these people or whatever. Wanted to encode in this metadata a 'do no evil principle', so wanted to digitally encode the intended uses of the video. Video information gets used in unintended ways, often quite immediately. Phrase they kept talking about was pornographic use of crowd violence. People think that it needs to be a digitally managed because they don't think people are responsible but it's not a good idea. Irony that they don't like copyright but think that they can use legal ways to control thing. Discourse about law going on here, not just copyright. Displacing into court something that should be done in society. But law is a part of society, and to say that something should be done in court not in society is to misunderstand the relationship. Not to defend law, but this notion that it's something sitting on a plinth with no relation to society is wrong. But, the example of the SS Windrush and the fear that a photo of disembarking passengers might be used by the BNP. But there's a difference between your work being used in a context you don't like, and your work being used in a context you don't like with the implication you have authorised it. So if it looks like you authorised it, that's qualitatively different. What's the motivation for the production of a creative work. Motivation makes a big difference. if someone used my brand or name and did something in my name that I didn't like, I'd be cross but if they developed my work in a new direction that I liked that would be good. Before university job, designed web pages, but when client went on to use same design for posters etc. and was really cross because felt should be paid. But just because was broke. Jaime wrote an article for a magazine, which then put it up online. Someone then took the article he'd written, rewrote it, and made it look like it was his work. Felt 'People are going to think that I've written this crap and that I'm working for this magazine' and felt a sense that integrity relates to some primal ideas about the way we project into the environment and the way we relate to each other. Seems to be on the one hand a way of justifying schemes of property, think of issues of ownership, e.g. you think that you have a sense of ownership for a child as an extension of yourself, but that doesn't mean you have property rights over it. Relationship between integrity and censorship, it's a bulwark against certain types of censorship. Exploitation, that's what's been done. Different people who are involved in cultural production have different relationships with their cultural product, some people feel a close connection, some feel alienated, some feel responsibility, some don't care how it's used, some see it as an extension of their personality, some see it as associated with reputation. And some of these comments are around the association between cultural production and reputation. How can we build a legal system that is respectful of this variety of relationship between cultural production and what they produce. So we have to take into account even people with what we might think of as overblown relationships. But all those other people can renounce or ignore bits they don't like. But there is a trade-off, because the stronger the right the more you interfere with others rights. Emphasising respect for one group, how does that affect others? Clearly everyone agrees that taking your stuff, changing it, and putting your name on it is bad, and should be stopped. But what if we do stuff and don't put your name on it. Everything that's being said about integrity fits in with the model we discussed when we discussed authorship. Need to overcome the idea that when we read a text we need to understand what the author meant, so the death of the author is the birth of the reader. In the case of the reworked article, Jaime found himself being surprisingly upset. Cyber rape case which was reproduced online with names of other people. But this is about identity and identity is not always the same as authorship. So this relates to all sorts of other things about how we're related as social beings. But can the author of the work regulate how the work is used? Roland Bathes' essay comes out of a tradition of intention-based reading. Author as repository of meaning in a text. What we're talking about here, and the links to reputation and the industry is not the same thing. When we're talking about integrity, it's about authorial control over the reader? But the integrity of the work is different from the action of the reader. If you make something available it's going to be reproduced, so it's nothing to do with the Windrush/BNP example. Integrity protects it against abuse. But if I reproduce it with racist statements on it? Can we deal with the variety of relationships artists and their work within the law? We have different opinions and we can't contain everything within the law. Law is the result of a political process but do we need it to reflect all relationships. Law as a reference tool? That we bounce ideas against. But we are talking about a wider issues. There are huge cultural industries that contribute to society with stories, and they will use the right of integrity to say you are not entitled to change a movie, but there is other uses for this. But not allowed to do it, because large capitalists are defining what stories we can and can't tell. Tate had a felt suit, as a work of art, that was eaten by moths and the artist's estate had said the damage was so bad that it was no longer a work of art. So the remnants are no longer a work of art which is not by Joseph (??). It's like deconsecration. Preservation is crazy. New museum that has a lab to preserve works of art made in chocolate. French case from the 90s where there was a modernist retrospective in Paris, there was a urinal and the case was about an unknown artist who broke the urinal and then urinated on it, and he was claiming to be the author of a new work, and it was agreed that it wasn't just destruction, he'd actually created something new. He was made to pay 30% of reconstruction, but did get to say he'd made something new. Technological determinism about debate about integrity. Talking about artworks or software... within the GPL, within that model of innovation, the right of integrity would cut right underneath that process. You're not creating software as a cultural activity, but within arts you are creating with a cultural aim. Questions around that. Within the arguments of integrity there's a strand of American views that finds integrity problematic because of property, idea that property exists and needs to distribute it. Marxist analysis of property is that if it is poorly distributed is a problem. Well, known integrity right in software - e.g. with Perl, you can take the code and do with it what you will be you're not allowed to call it Perl if you change it. Difference between integrity and control. Postmodernism says there is no integrity. Built on transgression of integrity, moves away from both ideas of integrity, i.e. retention of original condition and who built it. Aesthetic challenge to the demands we might make of the law. Jamie King: Why am I frustrated by this discussion and why does it not interest me? I suspect it's because I'm saturated with an online informational overload. The idea of trying to stop people I disagree with doing stuff with stuff, I have a problem with. For every informational object there is I am almost immediately confronted with the tools to disrupt it. Can edit and change anything, everything offers itself to reconfiguration. People want to have all the benefits of distribution, but don't want it disrupted, and it's beyond the capacity of rules to control that. Want all the benefits but don't want to take the risks. Code and transmissibility and reproduction creates problems for rule of law, of legal code, because it becomes hard to enforce. Law can be used as a reference and a final defence. Challenge as artists, performers and creators, what is the future system? How do we operate beyond copyright? If you don't have copyright the advantage is that huge cultural industries don't invest so heavily in blockbusters, so have a more level playing field. Just a normal market in which you can all relate to the public, and not be pushed aside by giants that make it impossible for you to distribute. If there is no dominant market force, many artists will make money and recoup their costs, and curious to hear individual cases to see what would that look like? See it in news reporting. Journalists spend most of their time reading blogs and feel usurped. But that's an ecosystem not a one way street. Journalists used blogs but blogs need the mainstream media too, so the idea that journalists are going to be usurped by bloggers is a false argument. Some may feel that way, but that's generally because they don't understand what blogs are and what bloggers intentions and ambitions are. Films that use uncleared clips, get theatrical release even though they are candidates for a copyright crackdown but it has not happened. Group called Eclectic Method, a group of DJs, who remixed copyrighted material, mostly feature films, and their biggest clients are in the music industry because they don't care that the stuff's not cleared because it's not their stuff. So there's pragmatism - is it worth suing? But ask less about exceptions or tests, but how do you fund creation that's not based on reproduction. If you say 'I am a journalist, and these are the things I've written. I would like to write an article about X and my price for doing this is £15k, and this is how I break down this cost. When I receive at least £8000 in donations I will begin to do this, and when I am done I will release it into the public domain.' Because then people can say 'right, this is this person, he's good, he's reliable, and I want to see this thing that he's making, so I'll pay £5. The result is that everyone benefits, even if they didn't pay, but the journalist doesn't care because he gets his money, and doesn't have to worry about further reproduction, but benefits from reputation not from republishing rights. Because then he can come back and say 'ok, this time my proposition costs £60k'. If you do it this way, you don't need to limit reproduction. [I thought at this point that Jamie was talking about Jay Rosen's Net Assignment, but when I asked him at the break, it turns out this was an idea he had off the top of his head, not influenced by Rosen at all.] Alternative forms of remuneration already exist. To some extent, the government via benefits. But if you take the Tate, practically none of the copyright payments go to the artists. But the artists are supported through fees, etc. Art world is unusual. If one imagines Harry Potter without copyright, is it true there wouldn't be 20 pirates piling in? There are good examples of people giving away their books under a Creative Commons licence and still getting good sales, so the idea that lifting the copyright barrier will necessarily remove economic incentive to publish is not correct. Ambulance blogger Tom Reynold's book, Blood, Sweat and Tea is both available under a CC licence, and each blog post that's in the book is still freely available on his blog, yet he reached 15 in Amazon's best seller list, and has been consistently outselling many big names. This, despite the fact that his publisher is a small independent publishing house. Other examples include Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig. Free rider problem - people will free ride. Upfront funding on a co-ordination basis, there is a huge incentive to say no. People will, however, contribute in kind because they benefit. Difference between remuneration for artists and looking after them, and a different question to the future of copyright. Don't think that it's helpful to mix them up. Equally, pernicious effect of copyright. Attempts to talk about remuneration are biting off such a big bite to chew because the vested interests are working against them. What's intriguing with the art world is the multiple sources of respect, and different creative strategies within the art world are because of those alternative structures. Stuck in a deterministic model to do with the way we use technology. Future Shock was the first book to say that there was a stage beyond industrialism, called the information society. Got used to this idea that history was fractured, and then got used to a three phase history, to do with feudalism, then industrialism, then information society. Then IP becomes key and we argue about how that relates to technology, so it's just another phrase in the dialectical struggle. But is it really this simple. Their assumptions that their information society come from this elephant in the room. We want it to be that simple in moments of crisis. People who are moaning about lack of protection from copyright are corporations. Not reading letters in your paper from individuals about lack of protection, individuals moan about being stopped of doing things. We are all breaking the law and getting a richer culture from that, so what are we here for? Who owns the most copyright? An incredibly relevant question, which is not who owns the most copyright, but who asserts it? Who brings cases? If you analysed the money, we'll see who 'owns' most copyright. Copyright only protects the people with the money. I many cases, IPR for individuals don't mean anything until it comes to enforcement, so they are not really 'there'. We can't see it all until it's enforced. Different relationship with patents where it is registered. That manifestation of rights through enforcement, is a worrying development with patent law, how it's relevant to production at the beginning. Examine by litigation, so it's up to the consumers of the patents to regulate the system. This might not happen but it happens, in a sense, with copyright. People who've made money in one area move into the media because it's about influence. People invest in it. What have we got with copyright? How can it best be used? What is superfluous? First issues are what do we decide to protect? What kinds of things? And in what circumstances? Copyright has been largely around objects? What about going beyond objects? Or one that confines it to a very narrow set of cultural objects? Copyright can include the works of a genius or someone's scribbles - copyright does not discriminate between the poet and the peasant. Do we want copyright to discriminate? Is there another threshold - the law's threshold is that there must have been some effort. What level of protection do we want? What sort of rights to we want to give copyright owners - rights over reproduction; over commercial reproduction; derivative works; communication. Has been granted on all those things right now. Length, life plus 70, can agree that that can come down. Life plus 7; or life; or a fixed term of years; 14 + 14. Limitations. Even if we give these rights, do we want to limit them? Particularly about derivative uses. American dogma of fair use. Moral rights? Protecting integrity and attribution. Want to make it more author-oriented, to build in restriction of what rights can be given away. Three kinds of needs we should think about. - Instrumental needs. What activities do we need to incentivise, if any. - What ethical values do we want to incorporate. What rights do we want to give users. Respecting various relationships of authors to their work. - What symbolic values matter? We do care about art and literature, and we will put these things in law just to tell you people that we care about it. To place a value on this work. Can copyright protect art from becoming a business activity. What I don't mean is can certain individual artists use copyright to protect their works against business, but can copyright be used to protect the commons? Lots of contemporary artists have the primary concern of their resistance to business. Is copyright forcing people to be small commodity producers, when this is not what they want to be. The answer is no. Introduced race relations act and sexual discrimination act in the late 60s, but things might not be worse but are not much better. Law is part of a social system and so reflect social values. What law tries to do is channel social and political conflict into what lawyers see as technical disputes. It's interpretations of rules. To the extent that copyright is associated with two or three major cultural or philosophical ways in which the world has arranged itself in the last 300 years, of property, rights, these things are a part of a coherent development that's lasted 100 years. You are asking copyright law to do something revolutionary. People thought in the 60s that you pass a race relation act and racism goes away, and we've seen it doesn't. If the property right is so over-valued and its transmission is like shares in a company instead of the rights of an individual creator then the kind of exploitation we've described becomes an easy shot. Can we minimise that? The question was can we use copyright law to have a revolution, and the answer is no. Some of the ideas are so part of the society we live in and we'd need a revolution to do away with them. But there are some ways that copyright can be used against the system. Moral rights have a disruptive capacity. If we made that paradigm extreme and injected a big does of copyright law to it, would it result in people being paid to read the book. Has happened with people being paid to go to the cinema. The Pirate Cinema, though, didn't pay, they gave people things. But the rights administrators are key. Is it about carefully describing the transfer of rights and whether they can be Rights returning to creators when the publishing company is no longer publishing it. The majority of music recordings currently under copyright, for example, is not commercially available, it's just languishing on the record company's ledgers. Should rights revert to the creator once the rights holder (or licensee) has stopped commercially exploiting it? In Soviet Russia, they did respect copyright, did pay rights, but there was also a parallel system of state-run authors. Not totally dissimilar to the Salon in Paris, which were state controlled. But state-controlled systems generally look worse than the copyright system. What would you prefer, the artists dealing with copyright or the Arts Council deciding who gets a salary. But there is a fundamental problem with copyright being seen as a property right. The obvious hope is that we can have up-front funding, but without the bureaucratic constructs deciding who gets the money. The alternatives are not state control vs. copyright. Difference between this type of property than other types of property we recognise. One is that it's intangible and it's not wasteable - it doesn't disappear when you use it. What people mean is the property relation, but the discourse is around a property relation, rather than that it's wasteable. If you think about which bits of copyright we don't like, can you roll back what we don't like about copyright in order to change the symbolic nature of the system? Or do we need more fundamental changes. A lot of the answer might lie in the concept of authorship. Multiple constant transgressions carried out by almost everybody almost all the time, changes things, and that is actually happening. Should we look at a model of copyright that provides more choice, between the extremes of 'all rights reserved' and 'no rights reserved' as Creative Commons does? The least bankable property is on CC, but the pernicious problems, which are the real problems, they are never going to be dealt with that by. Any licensing system is an assertion of authorial control. CC is not a bad thing but it's pernicious. Concern with the CC England and Wales licence is that it is a system about the creator making things available to users, because of revocability. You can't create irrevocable licence in the UK in the same way you can in the US. So it makes the user vulnerable. Been two cases, Netherlands and Spain, on CC, because it has a rosette social value, rather than a real benefit. What's pernicious is the promotion of the idea that the licences should be read before you decide to do anything with stuff - because we're not lawyers and shouldn't be asked to be. CC is providing a service, it's not doing much campaigning. It's just providing a bunch of licences that people can use if they want. These pre-drafted license are useful to some people. CC is not copyright, it's contract law. As simple as it is, it's still contract law. CC does put more difficult language between people. Suddenly there's a contract between us based on law, we shouldn't be conditioning people to think in these terms. But also thinking that civil disobedience, if we are remixers, we have access to more culture than we have ever done. As an artist there are more specialised weird films than ever before. So if I am stopped from downloading they limit my ability to transpire culture. Point about CC is that it works best as a series of basic signposts that have some recognition. Works very differently in different areas. What you choose depends on what sort of media you are working with - works better with open access journals. Objection to it is that the more that these issues are discussed, the more problems we create. Lots of things used to happen without any sort of awareness of copyright, and if you start thinking about property and ownership in the early phases it does change and hinder things. If you are collaborating and you start thinking about which bits you own, that causes a problem. Problem is that this is being buried into places where it never used to have a role ad that's one of. Renouncing copyright. There is a difference between choosing not to enforce copyright and renouncing copyright. [I have been told by a number of IP lawyers that it is not possibly in the UK to dedicate a work to the public domain, i.e. to renounce all rights in it. The lawyer here looked puzzled at that, and insisted that it is possible to renounce copyright and that if one wanted to create a register of renounced works it was doable.] Philip Glass is much mimicked, but when someone asks him to use some music on a film, and he doesn't like the film he asks for a huge amount because he doesn't want to be in the film. So they steal it instead, because they know that the legal settlement is less than the fee. Problem of Chanel No. 5. being too popular, and so using jazz in adverts to put people off buying it. What are the other options? Could view it as a right to remuneration. system was proposed by people in the late 19th century. Labour laws in a way are about a right to remuneration. Even with in IP there are two examples - performers have a right to remuneration, and the get that through the PPL. In patents, rights that are given are property then if they are not used then they are subjected to compulsory licensing, so you have to pay an amount set by patent office. Both also have a property relation in there somewhere. To make it effective, need an administration system. There was an analysis of surrealism which suggested that the poetry of surrealism could be mathematically mapped out. Intrigued with the way that the discussion follows dichotomies - IP vs public domain - individuals vs network - private vs public - copyleft vs copyright etc. there's an association with certain ideas that we have in relation to copyright, that we fall into these binary frame of mind. Can't sum up the last day and a half, there are things we didn't talk about. Huge attempt to construct ideologies in quite concerted ways, there was a way to construct CC in a certain way which is why it gets up people's noses. Whole other debate which we didn't have, which is the faith that policy makers have in knowledge economics makes them vulnerable to representation from the industry. Ideologies about the way artists think about their practice. Copyright protects the author, but from the point of view of other authors your access to work is restricted. It does take us back a bit to the discussion, that do we have to pay each time a reader reads the text. Copyright must interrupt the flow in order to capture the value, so we need to have a way to capture value without interrupting, that would be a way to rebalance the system. Look at what user liberties are there in the law, and revitalise those rights and see how they interact with rights of the authors. Music industry is talking about renting music rather than buying, because they realise that if you can put yourself between one person and another in a communications system you can make money from it. So in the old days you buy the record and play it until it's scratched, but the new model is you buy 50 or 100 plays and you keep renting it back. There's an intriguing relationship that what you make with the object is important and your interactions with the entity is where meaning is created, and the business strategy is to interpose yourself in that meaning-making process. END I have to say that although we didn't reach any solid conclusions, it was an interesting day and a half. Certainly it was good for me to hear about copyright in areas other than text and music. I'd love to see more work done on the future of copyright, though - what future copyright schemes could we imagine? If we threw away everything we had and did a radical overhaul, what should it look like? It might seem like an intractable problem, but it's one we really have to tackle.

[Read more] (2 comments)

October 25, 2006 | Kevin Marks

EU 'Television Without Frontiers' Regulations Widely Rejected

The European Union's plan to regulate the net as if it were TV - Television Without Frontiers - picked up a lot of attention in blogs this week, after the Times covered it.

The basic idea is flawed - TV involves handing a monopoly over spectrum to organisations, so regulating how they use it makes some sense, but there is no spectrum scarcity online, as all you need is a webserver. So the EU limits on local content, advertising intervals and content labelling don't fit at all.

I spoke about this on the Technorati videoblog last week, and the BBC's Pods and Blogs show last night. You can hear me about 30 minutes into this show recording.

[Read more] (1 comments)