November 24, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Data retention another step closer

Today the LIBE Committee - that's the committee of MEPs who have been 'looking after' the data retention directive - voted on whether or not they liked the amendments that have been proposed in the backroom meetings which have been going on between the various interested parties in Brussels. Thirty three MEPs voted to accept the changes, eight voted against and five abstained. As the the LIBE Committee is responsible for guiding the legislation through the law making process, their amendments will define for a large part what the final directive will look like when it's placed before the European Parliament as a whole. This, you will recall, will only happen once, in mid-December. The current state of play is this:

  1. Telcos and ISPs must retain fixed and mobile traffic data, including location data and internet log-in log-off, for 6-12 months.
  2. E-mail and VoIP logging has been rejected by the Green Party MEPs, but will probably be re-introduced as a Parliament-wide amendment when the legislation comes out of committee.
  3. Governments may, but don't have to, introduce retention for failed caller attempts. (This is an important concession to telephone companies, as they may not currently be logging this information.)
  4. The list of 'serious' criminal offences has been defined as being those crimes listed for use in the EU Arrest Warrant legislation.

Point four is a genuine concern. The arrest warrant list includes "piracy" which, if IPRED2 passes (which criminalises copyright infringement) could possibly include aiding/abetting/inciting to filesharing. The basic issues about privacy, proportionality and the contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights have not changed. The entire directive should be rejected, and once again I would urge you to email your MEP and ask them to vote against data retention.

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November 23, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Music industry tries to hijack serious crime legislation in Europe

When the UK Presidency suggested to the EU that telecoms service providers and ISPs should be forced to retain information about the telephone calls you make and the sites you visit, they stated that it was an essential "balance" struck between liberty and security: a grave compromise necessitated by the threat of terrorism and serious crime. We don't remember them mentioning "and might help the recording industry fish for file-sharing networks, DRM workarounds, and spurious patent infringers". The newly-formed Creative and Media Business Alliance (CMBA), made up of companies such as Sony BMG, Disney, EMI, IFPI, MPA and Universal Music International, this week expressed an interest in communications traffic data so that they can more easily prosecute "intellectual property infringements". Thanks to a combination of two fast-tracked EU directives, they may just get their wish: and allow a UK plan to limit civil liberties to turn into a privacy-invading free-for-all by the entertainment lobby. Data Retention to Fight Piracy? This week, the CMBA emailed all MEPs (Word doc), calling for the data retention legislation currently under discussion in Europe to be widened far beyond its original scope. The CMBA want data retention legislation to be an "effective instrument in the fight against piracy", and believes that "the conditions set out in the proposal are too restrictive and would create obstacles to law enforcement in a number of situations. Moreover, many amendments submitted, including to the Industry Committee, seek to further reduce the scope of the Commission proposal." You can read and cross-reference the amendments that the CBMA object to here, and here. These amendments are some of the few that try to rein in already bad legislation which may well violate the European Convention on Human Rights. For these companies, however, industry interests trump democracy, human rights and civil liberties. The CMBA demands:

1. The scope of the proposal should include all criminal offences The Directive, as proposed, is limited to "the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of serious criminal offences such as terrorism and organized crime" (Article 1.1). The position of the CMBA is that the scope of the proposal should be extended to all criminal offences. Limiting the proposal to "serious" offences would hamper the effectiveness of the Directive and the enforcement activities for other forms of criminal offences.
Liberal Democrat MEP Bill Newton Dunn has already helped the industry out here, by requesting that the word 'serious' be removed from the legislation:
Original version: " is available for ... prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of serious criminal offences, such as terrorism and organised crime." Dunn version: "... data is available for ... investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences."
Remember that under current EU law, copyright criminals include not just large-scale commercial infringement operations, but thanks to the EUCD, also anyone who sells or "distributes ... as to affect prejudicially the copyright owner" circumvention devices or components. In other words, if you put the DeCSS code on a web page - six months of phone calls and sites visited may be used against you. Or if you reveal that putting tape on a CD will circumvent Sony rootkits. Furthermore, the CMBA demands:
3. The access and use of data for law enforcement purposes must not be limited. If the proposed directive is limited, in particular in its scope, it must be clear that it does not preclude the possibilities to obtain data for the enforcement of rights under EU or national legislation, in compliance with Data Protection rules. The possibility for law enforcement authorities to use data in other cases, to be determined by national law or other EU instruments, is essential, otherwise there will be no way to prosecute the infringements that are not covered by this proposal.
Whether or not you agree with the need to retain traffic data for fighting terrorism and serious crime, there can be no benefit to national security from allowing the creative industries to use this information for prosecuting simple "infringement" cases. Copyright Criminals Now tie this in with IPRED2, another nasty bit of legislation which criminalises all "intellectual property" infringement on a commercial scale and "aiding and abetting such infringement", with very thin definitions of what "commercial scale" or "intellectual property" means. The two directives together become even more alarming. IPRED2 mandates that the police work with rightsholders to pursue suspected cases of IP infringement - including patent infringements - or merely vocal encouragement of infringement. And the Data Retention directive provides them with reams of data they can mine for evidence against these suspected infringers. At the latest IPRED2 hearing, that's exactly what the CBMA's parent organisation, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), demanded. This opens up a very ugly can of worms where entire industries can get unparalleled powers of investigation, provided at the taxpayer's expense. Moreover, if the CMBA get their way, the number of data retention enquiries that the telcos and ISPs will have to process will be far higher than if restricted to terrorism and serious crime. This will put far more pressure on the telcos and ISPs who will not only have to bear the cost of storing the data, but also of providing access to the information to the authorities. So, why is this important right now, this minute? Both Data Retention and IPRED2 are being frogmarched through the European Parliament at an alarming speed. Votes are being held by three committees over the next few days on Data Retention, with secret meetings going on in the background between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, with the aim of reaching a tacit agreement on what this legislation should look like. On 13 December 2005, the Parliament votes on the Data Retention directive. Usually, they get two stabs at it, with the Council having a say in between. This time, they get just one vote. This time, MEPs will have just a few days between being presented with the proposed legislation as drawn up in the secret meetings and being expected to come to an informed, considered decision on whether it should become law. Word has it that there are some MEPs who do not even realise that this is a single reading process - they are expecting the normal two reading process instead. Most MEPs have probably not been following the debate around Data Retention in detail, and giving them just a few days to absorb, understand, and analyse the proposals will ensure that, by the time they must cast their vote, they will through no fault of their own still not be in a position to make a reasoned decision. This is not democracy. What can you do? Email your MEP now. Tell him or her that you oppose Data Retention, and that you are concerned about the way it is being rushed through the European Parliament. Read this pamphlet (sent to all MEPs by EDRI) for talking points to discuss. Read up about IPRED2. With all the work going on with software patents and data retention, IPRED2 has not had the coverage it deserves. The FFII (the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) has been doing a fine job tracking it, but it needs more exposure. Blog about your concerns and encourage your readers to contact their MEP and particularly the Green Party, who may yet play a vital role in protecting your civil liberties by tabling a rejection of the Data Retention proposal. The recording industry and the UK presidency are determined to get their way through stealth, not debate. We can't let the European Parliament sleep-walk their way into these statutes.

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November 16, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Invitation to attend 'Digital Rights in the UK: Your Rights, Your Issues'

The emergence of new communications technologies has radically changed the civil rights landscape in our society. Privacy, intellectual property, and access to knowledge are just some of the areas where digital rights are being eroded by government and big business. The Open Rights Group (ORG) would like to invite you to an evening of digital rights discussion, networking and wine at 01Zero-One Hopkins Street on Tuesday 29 November at 6pm to debate these issues. This inaugural ORG event will begin with a short presentation by special guest speaker Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University. Lloyd Davis from Perfect Path will then moderate an open discussion, asking: Which issues are a priority for you? And where would coalitions strengthen your hand? There'll also be plenty of time to meet and talk with fellow organisers and activists. To reserve your place, please email now. There are only 100 places available, so be quick! This free event is open to digital rights campaigners, grassroots activists, the press and the general public, so please do forward this information to anyone you think may be interested. Where: 01Zero-One Hopkins Street (corner of Peter Street), Soho, London, W1F 0HS When: Tuesday 29 November, 6pm - 9pm Guest Speaker: Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford University; Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society RSVP: Map: What is the Open Rights Group? ORG is a new not-for-profit digital rights activist group, working to raise the profile of digital rights issues in the media and help other groups get their voices heard. For more information visit or email Suw Charman, Executive Director, at This event is presented with the support of 01Zero-One's InSync Programme.

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November 11, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Illegal Arts EULA

ELECTRONIC END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT FOR VIEWING ILLEGAL ART EXHIBIT WEBSITE AND FOR USE OF LUMBER AND/OR PET OWNERSHIP NOTICE TO USER: BY METABOLIZING YOU ACCEPT ALL THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, USE OF YOUR HOME AND CAR BY THE AUTHORS OF THIS AGREEMENT. This Website End User License Agreement accompanies the Web Pages and related explanatory materials ("Crap"). The term "Crap" also shall include any upgrades, modified versions, or repaintings of the Website licensed to you by either The Prince of Wales, a sentient washing machine, or my old Rabbi (the one who used profanity). Please read this Agreement carefully. At the end, you will be asked to accept this agreement and provide this Website with a warm, lingering, creepy hug. If you do not wish to accept this Agreement, simply click the "I do not accept" button while forcefully shoving your computer off the back of your desk ("Card Table").
Click 'I do not agree', I dare you.

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November 02, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Remix Commons

Remix Reading, the group dedicated to promoting free culture and Creative Commons locally in the Reading area is expanding into four cities across the UK and establishing a new project, Remix Commons, to bring Creative Commoners together. Says Tom Chance:

We've got most of the infrastructure ready; we have people in Brighton, Deptford (East London), Leeds, Milton Keynes and Reading working on ways to promote free culture and Creative Commons locally; we have a bunch of events lined up over the next few months, and we're in touch with lots of other local arts organisations and local government people. Soon we'll unleash the coolest free culture network yet, creating a national repository of free content (on the Remix Commons web site) and a network of local projects providing a local energy and presence. You'll also be able to see, for example, all the work produced by people in Reading, to cement that local presence on the web. But... we need more techies! We're currently limping along with two people who barely have the time to maintain the current Remix Reading web site, let alone expand and support the network. People with PHP knowledge (especially Drupal), people who are good at maintaining a server, people who know how to run an icecast (webradio) server, people who are good in making HTML and CSS layouts, and so on, and so on. Just one or two extra technical hands with enthusiasm could make a huge impact. It should also be an interesting challenge as we expand and improve.
If you're interested in helping out, contact Tom at Remix Reading.

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October 26, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

New web host and URL

You might have noticed a bit of funkiness with the blog recently. This was because we've been moving hosts from a corner of my server to a proper hosted site with proper support people and a proper domain. If you have a link to the old blog, please update it to, and if you haven't linked to us, what on earth are you waiting for?! We will continue to tweak the blog over coming weeks, so don't worry if things go a bit pear-shaped once in a while. It's just me, breaking things behind the scenes and then hurriedly trying to fix them again before anyone notices.

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October 15, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Launch of the RSA's Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation & Intellectual Property

Professor James Boyle John Howkins Sir John Sulston Paul Crake, Chair These are my notes from the speeches given to introduce the Adelphi Charter at the RSA, on Thurs 13 October. John Howkins The question that was in mind 3 or 4 years ago when they had the idea for the charter was a very simple question. Getting question right is essential for getting the right answers. What is intellectual property for? What is the purpose of intellectual property? Of copyright and patents? Hard to come up with an IP policy unless you know what you're doing it for. Several answers come to mind. The first answer is that they are to incentivise people, to motivate people to create work. This doesn't stand up to examination: e.g. algebra, the world wide web. Paintings didn't used to be copyrighted and yet the same amounts of skill etc. have been put into older paintings. The argument that if you make something you should have protection so you can make money of it seems like a good answer. Reward is important, but it doesn't really do it. Third argument is counterintuitive. It's to enable people to have access what others make. To use it and have access. E.g. patents require you to publish your work. How do you compromise and balance between the two? How do you decide where the limits are? IP - hardly any debate going on, hardly any evidence. There's a claim that we should have longer copyright term but there's no evidence one way or the other. RSA now producing some principles that would fit the public service that they identified to help creativity and innovation. No body likes the phrase 'intellectual property', it is a divisive phrase. So that's why they renamed it the Adelphi Charter. The charter is in two parts: - a set of principles that should be the foundation of any IP policy, that they should sustain a society's creativity and innovation - a list of public interest tests that they hope the government will adopt and subject their legislation to. [A short film describing the charter was then played.] Professor Jamie Boyle Alternatives to monopolies is prizes. Goal was to be banal, to make points that no one could argue with, but which in this bizarre world at the moment are seen as extreme. For example, the point that law and policy should be based on evidence and facts. What we should learn is not hostility towards IP, what it is is a tool which is constantly being re-examined. Is it doing its job? Some examples of applying the principles. In the US, you used to get 28 years copyright with 28 registered renewal. That was abolished and it became automatic. But only between 7 and 11 per cent were renewing. This means 89 per cent didn't want a renewal, so abolish balance for just 11 percent of people and content is locked up. Benefits small, costs high. Should never have happened. Software patents. Requires inventor to disclose details to a level that allows people to recreate things entirely. Information that might have been secret comes eventually into the public domain. Open source. Distributed creativity, GPL. Robust model, and economically robust model. US/WIPO says they are promoting IP rights not giving them away. But IP rights are a tool not an end. Broadcaster's Right. Another layer of rights above and beyond copyright where broadcasters have rights over what they broadcast. Theory is that broadcast will collapse without it, and that webcasters need it too. But 100 countries haven't adopted this existing right, but looking at what happened in those countries, to examine real evidence is anathema to the policy makers. Sir John Salston Wasn't always aware of the principles that we're discussing now. Involved in the Human Genome Project. The task of sequencing was completed a couple of years ago to the level currently possible, but understanding it is another matter. DNA is a 3,000 million letter code. Have a mass of knowledge that needs sharing and using for centuries to come. Some implications of it now is that we're better at medical, diagnostics where DNA has a bearing. Will be new drugs, new therapies, but that's not why it was done. It was the done because wanted a full understanding. Doing this was inevitable, but what was not inevitable was that the library was going to be open, because they only narrowly avoided a monopolistic source for this data which would have required a hefty fee to access this information. Having a proprietary monopolistic database at the centre of a business plan would have destroyed communication in this whole field, because it would have required to be successful a clamp down on the sharing of information. So scientists would be unable to talk to those who had not paid a fee, or even each other. This had an effect on Salston, that they had only so narrowly managed to get this information into the public domain. This attempt to privatise the human genome has many parallels which need fighting. Excessive enclosure throttles research and innovation, ethics, widens gap between rich and poor specially on a global scale, and this economic imbalance that arises as the rich enclose and get richer should give people pause. All endeavors of the human race. What are we here for? Exploration, research and understanding. So important not to throttle activities by focusing on what is marketable. Lynn Brindley, Chief Exec of the British Library There is evidence that some of the rubbish of 100 years ago is the centre of research today, and the role of libraries has been to look after that, and provide access. But what is that role in the digital age. The Charter provides a set of principles and a framework in which practical work can sit. Used to be that the scholarly information chain was very clear. But the internet has blown that to bits, so how do you cope with that? A particular issue is statutory mission to be the intellectual and scientific memory of the nation. What does that mean digitally? UK has taken some steps in terms of legal deposit, but it's complex, taking a long time, need to balance public's rights and those of the copyright holders. If we don't crack that there'll be no access to this material in 50 to 100 years time. Cory Doctorow, EFF Social contract for creativity and public access has ruptured. Napster came, but within months, was gone. The response to the response has been clear. Now 1 in 50 lawsuits in the US is the record industry suing a fan. The contract we're being offered now is unilateral and is being renegotiated without our permission. Industry sees value in everything, and there is value, but they are trying to get access to that value which before was on the public side of the copyright bargain. DRM is an attempt to make a grab at that public side. The Adelphi charter is a social contract that explicitly spells out the public side of the copyright bargain. [There was a Q&A afterwards, but I've not taken notes from that. Bit too verbose for me to distill out the points.] The RSA have published the charter in a pretty little pdf on their Adelphi Charter site, but frankly PDFs are a pain in the arse, so I'm copying the whole thing here, in toto.

Adelphi Charter on creativity, innovation and intellectual property Humanity

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October 08, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Links for 8 Oct 05

Time to clear out my browser and pass on a few URLs: Your Right To Know: Why we must cut the costly Crown copyright - Heather Brooke from The Times on why Crown copyright has just got to go. FT.Com: James Boyle More rights are wrong for webcasters - The Broadcasting and Webcasting Treaty is going to be a disaster for pretty much everyone, and has been drafted without any regard for the facts. Bill Thompson: Extending Copyright Term RSA Seminar - Bill blogs about the Lessig vs. the Industry seminar I also went to. New Statesment: Capitalising on Creativity - write up of a round-table discussion held by the Smith Institute about 'how Britain might capitalise on its creativity' (free downloadable PDF). Don't expect any dissenting voices. Virtual Rights Institute Annual Digital Identity & Human Rights Symposium in Costa Rica, 18 Nov. How I wish I had the budget... Wikipedia: Data Retention - good piece on Wikipedia about data retention, with sections that focus on the UK. Information Today: Open Content Alliance rises to the challenge of Google Print - Brewster Kahle and a bunch of others take up the Google Print baton and start scanning everything they can get their hands on. ZDnet: Tsunami appeal site 'hacker' found guilty - disgraceful conviction of Daniel Cuthbert simply for typing ../../../ into his browser to see if a site was phishing or not. Not good.

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