by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 28th 2013 3:05pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 28th 2013 3:38am
from the the-internet-police dept
It appears that at least Twitter has pushed back a little bit, pointing out that it will take down images if the law requires it upon notification, but that it cannot and will not monitor every one of its users to prevent them from posting the image:
Sinead McSweeney, Twitter's director of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said she did not wish to be drawn into commenting on individual accounts.You can argue that it's unfair for Venables, under his new identity, to be connected back to what he actually did, though I'm not sure I buy that argument. But, it's taking it to a whole different level to then seek to prosecute people for merely posting a photo to their social network feed. They then take it to an entirely ridiculous level to order that third party service providers actively police and censor this particular photo. And, of course, all this is doing is calling much, much, much, much more attention to the photo. A lot more people are now seeing the photo than would have if people had just ignored the original postings.
She added: "We work with law enforcement here in the UK. We have established points of contact with law enforcement in the UK where they communicate with us about content, they bring content to our attention that is illegal, and appropriate steps are taken by the company. You may read into those words what you wish in context of the current [issue]."
McSweeney, who appeared alongside officials from Google and Facebook, said Twitter could not be expected to proactively monitor what is published on its social network across the globe each day. She added: "It's important that people increasingly understand that online is no different to offline: what is illegal offline is illegal online."
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Feb 26th 2013 12:01am
from the didn't-really-think-this-out-at-all,-did-you? dept
However, rather than develop thicker skin, some politicians have instead made efforts to keep all the bad people away from the paper vellum they call skin. Some try to shield themselves (and the children!) with vague anti-cyberbullying laws. Others push for "real name" requirements. And some (well, maybe just this one), just tell the offending entity that it's no longer part of the conversation, no matter how ridiculous this "arrangement" actually is.
Christopher Hawtree is a very unusual politician because he dislikes being quoted. The Green councillor, who has just been selected to fight for a parliamentary seat, has told a reporter for his local paper, the Brighton Argus, to stop approaching him after meetings.
So, a local politician who deals with local issues would rather not answer questions from the local paper. One of the correspondents for the offending paper logically asked (via Twitter), "Isn't that his job?"
Why doesn't Hawtree want to talk to his district's paper of record?
Hawtree tweeted in response: "I have a great dislike of the Argus readers' comments and so prefer to appear in other papers."That normally wouldn't be a problem, but Brighton & Hove's only paper is the Argus. Hawtree apparently would like to be the sort of public figure that can coast through several successful terms, untroubled by his local paper and mouthy constituents. But if that's truly the sort of person he wishes to be, he needs to drop the "public figure" part of it.
Not only will he not respond to the paper's inquiries, but he's actively steering anyone who will listen towards an alternative "paper of record."
So, given that the city of Brighton & Hove is served by only one title, what "other papers" does he prefer? The New York Times, evidently, because he urges his followers to sign up for a subscription.I'm not sure how much longer Hawtree's planning to "serve" his community, but I would think his constituents will be trimming a few months or years off that total. It's pretty tough to remain a community leader when you've implied that many in the community are "dreadful" and "hateful." Topping it off by cutting the press out of the loop makes Hawtree look like the sort of person who'd be better off returning to the private sector and becoming a hermit, rather than attempting to bypass all that "unpleasant" communication the real world's known for.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Feb 20th 2013 5:44am
from the let's-get-rational dept
One of the reasons Techdirt rails against exaggerated responses to supposed terrorist threats is that it has caused police forces around the world to lose all sense of proportion -- literally, in the case of this UK story from the Daily Mail.
It began when Ian Driscoll decided to post a picture to his Facebook page. It was of an Action Man doll, accompanied by a toy Alsatian dog. Why? you might ask. Well, "as a laugh", he says, because the Action Man figure looked a lot like him, and he had a real Alsatian -- which sounds entirely reasonable. What Driscoll did not note at the time, though, was that lurking in the background of the picture was another toy: a model mortar.
Luckily, Driscoll was there, and was able to defuse the situation by showing them the mortar in question. He was able to point out that it was in fact only slightly larger than the nearby Playstation that was clearly visible in the snap he had posted, and considerably smaller than the table that was also prominent in the Facebook picture. He might even have pointed out that the figure and dog in his upload were quite obviously toys to anyone who spent more than three seconds examining the picture. The police had presumably decided not to waste those precious three seconds before acting. Instead, as a spokesperson later said:
'We are sure that the community would rather we acted quickly on information given to us of this nature, in case it had turned out to be a weapon.'
Well, no, actually: what the community would really like is for the police to use some intelligence before reaching for the sub-machine guns. If they had just stopped and looked carefully at the picture, it would have been evident that there was no possible threat here. And that's likely to be the case for many other incidents around the world where the police have assumed the worst.
That not only represents a huge waste of their valuable time and resources, it also perpetuates the corrosive idea that we should be constantly afraid and ready to report anything and anyone odd or vaguely suspicious, no matter how absurd it would seem to anyone looking at things rationally. This then creates a self-sustaining loop of public fear and police over-reaction. It's time to scale the rhetoric back, and to make common-sense judgments common again.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 11th 2013 11:45am
Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics: How The BPI Cherry Picks Its Averages To Pretend File Sharers Spend Less
from the add-back-the-missing-zeroes dept
Appearing to debunk the common belief that filesharers spend more on music than other consumers, Kantar Worldpanel found that the average spend over a 12-month period for professed filesharers was lower than the spend of consumers who only use legal services. Kantar Worldpanel’s respondents diarise their music purchases on an ongoing basis – there are no estimates made of past purchasing, just an accurate recording of spending patterns over time. The panel data demonstrated that filesharers spent an average of £26.64, compared with £33.43 by legal-only consumers, refuting the popular argument that filesharers are the heaviest spenders on music.Of course, when you're talking about averages, it's not difficult to fudge the numbers a bit, and as TorrentFreak explains, that's exactly what BPI did. If you break out the specific numbers, you can tell a very different story:
- Legal only digital music buyers spend an average of £33.43 a year.TorrentFreak confronted BPI on this, and they shot back that TorrentFreak's analysis was unfair:
- File-sharers, in total, spend an average of £26.64 a year.
- File-sharers, the 44.8% who are not buying, spend an average of £0 a year.
- File-sharers, the 55.2% who are buying, spend an average of £48.26 a year.
"You cannot just wave away the 44.8% of file sharers who are not spending anything on music, despite being music 'consumers', and pretend they don’t exist or are not relevant. What happens if only 5% of file sharers are spending on music? Do we disregard everyone else who is freeloading?," a BPI spokesman said.Fair enough... except that BPI's own numbers "wave away" all of the people who consume music legally for free, but don't spend anything on music. That is, there is a very large percentage of people who don't pay for music, but who also do not infringe. These people may listen to music on the radio or while walking around in stores, but neither purchase any music, nor file share infringing works. And if the BPI was being intellectually honest they would have to average all of those £0s into the average for "legal only" if they want to require all the £0s to be added into the infringing side as well. Basically, BPI is picking and choosing who it includes and excludes to make their argument look better. When it hand waves away all the zeroes on its side of the argument, while including all the ones on the other side of the argument, of course it'll make the numbers look better for its argument. However, if you're going to do an apples-to-apples comparison, you have only two choices. Either you include all the people who don't buy on both sides or on neither. BPI didn't do that. They only chose the ones who don't buy on the file sharing side.
"It's not credible to discount the people who consume music, for free, illegally."
It's important to note that an analysis of the UK market by economist Will Page, back when he was with PRS for Music, noted that only 40% of the UK adult population actually bought any music at all. So you've got 60% non-buyers, some of whom are file sharing and some of whom are not. The BPI report chose to only include those who file shared, and ignore those who didn't. That's a clear methodological problem with their data. If they're going to include the non-buyers on the file sharing side, they need to include the non-buyers on the "legal" side, or they're simply lying with statistics.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 1:30pm
from the oops dept
On [Hollywood's] case, a copyright owner's claim would not even be limited to the infringer's profits: in principle, the entire proceeds of sale would be held on trust for the copyright owner. That might both be unfair and stultify enterprise. The proceeds of an infringement might be out of all proportion to the profits generated (e.g. because of the cost of raw materials used in the infringing product). It might not seem just for even a deliberate wrongdoer to have to pay the copyright owner the amount of his gross receipts, and an infringer need not have known that he was breaching copyright. Further, were Mr Spearman's [lawyer for the studios] submissions correct, a person might be deterred from pursuing an activity if he perceived there to be even a small risk that the activity would involve a breach of copyright or other intellectual property rights. As was submitted by Miss Lambert, that could have a chilling effect on innovation and creativity.Basically, the judge is recognizing that the entertainment industry is completely overvaluing the content, and arguing that any and all money made is 100% due to the content, and not due to any other factors. And that's ridiculous. The judge used some analogies:
Suppose, say, that a market trader sells infringing DVDs, among other goods, from a stall he has set up on someone else's land without consent. The owner of the land could not, as I see it, make any proprietary claim to the proceeds of the trading or even the profit from it. There is no evident reason why the owner of the copyright in the DVDs should be in a better position in this respect.The Motion Picture Association responded to this loss by saying that this is just "one particular point" in the case, and that it is planning to appeal. And, either way, they point out, what really matters is that Hollywood shut down Newzbin2. Yes, Hollywood killed another service that had figured out how to distribute content better than Hollywood. And, in the end, isn't that all that really matters? So long as Hollywood can keep killing services who do things better than Hollywood, the rest is just gravy.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Feb 5th 2013 3:27am
from the what's-the-problem? dept
As Techdirt reported last year, some copyright maximalists in the UK seem to be against the whole idea of basing policy on evidence. Last week saw the launch of CREATe: Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise and Technology, a new UK "research centre for copyright and new business models in the creative economy." One of the things it hopes to do is to bring some objectivity to the notoriously contentious field of copyright studies by looking at what the evidence really says; so it was perhaps inevitable that it too would meet some resistance from the extremist wing of the copyright world. What's surprising is that it seems to have happened during the launch itself, as Paul Bernal, an academic who was there, reports:
A key idea is that some of the CREATe projects will be gathering evidence -- and attempting to determine what's really true about what's going on. Indeed, the first publication from CREATe is a piece about what will actually constitute evidence from the many, varied perspectives of the different groups involved -- you can find it here. CREATe represents an invaluable opportunity for this gathering of evidence -- to have the money, the expertise and the time for the kind of research that can really look into this is something very, very special. And yet even before the launch event had finished, not even a day into the four year project it appeared that the lobbyists were already trying to suggest that the project was likely to be unfair and biased. The question that immediately springs to mind is what are they afraid of? Don't they want real evidence? Are they worried that the evidence will suggest that their current models both of business and of enforcement are flawed and ineffective? Are they afraid that CREATe will help put together new business models -- and that the new environment will have no place for the 'old' content industries?
In the spirit of academic enquiry, answering these questions is left as an exercise for the reader....
from the good-move dept
Conservative Party peer Lord Jenkin of Roding had tabled an amendment to establish a new post of Director General of Intellectual Property Rights. The holder would have responsibility for promoting the creation of new intellectual property; protecting and promoting the interests of UK IP owners; coordinating effective enforcement of UK IP rights; and educating consumers on the nature and value of intellectual property.Note those four responsibilities. Increase "new" intellectual property (it's unclear if they mean laws or content itself...), protect IP owners, increase and coordinate enforcement and "educate" consumers. Notice that nowhere in there is any recognition that the supposed purpose of those laws is to benefit the public. It would seem a lot more reasonable that any such role should be about increasing the spread of knowledge, watching out for over-enforcement, protecting the interests of the public and educating IP owners on not abusing the law. But, apparently, that sort of thing is what governments are interested in these days.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 22nd 2013 10:33am
from the who-owns-your-words dept
Singer is somewhat obsessed with Churchill, running an entire bookstore devoted to Churchill. As such, he actually says he's had a very good relationship with Churchill's heirs for years. But when he finally sought to write a book on Churchill himself, the family went the usual route and claimed no quotations unless you pay. The approximate rate: 50 cents per word. Quoting other Churchill relatives also costs money and the rates may differ. As Singer explains, he basically had to significantly cut back on what he quoted, and completely excise some Churchill family members from the book. But he did have to pay for the 3,872 words he used that included direct quotations from Churchill -- though the family gave him a slight discount, such that he had to pay £950 -- which works out to about 40 cents per word.
Singer admits that, while some lawyers told him he could fight this, he gave in to keep up his strong relationship with the family. Of course, that only brings to mind Churchill's quote:
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile--hoping it will eat him last.Also:
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.It's too bad Singer chose not to stand up more.
To be honest, the podcast is a little weak in that it doesn't go too deep into the legal issues here and how they can impact history, culture and research. Furthermore, it does little to explore the actual law and how far the Churchill estate is overreaching. Oddly, it seems to suggest that this is just "the way" that the UK's copyright laws work (not quite true) and then does a little section on the attempts by the UK government to reform the laws -- even though the UK government decided to reject the idea of including a US-style fair use exception.
Stephen Dubner then talks to Steve Levitt about copyright in general, and claims that his take is "un-economic" because he doesn't seem to care much for stringent enforcement of copyright, and would prefer to share his own works more widely. I don't see how that's un-economic at all. In fact, as Levitt notes, his own status goes up as the work is more widely shared, increasing all sorts of opportunities elsewhere. I actually found this part of the discussion kind of disappointing, as there were a bunch of interesting nuanced directions in which it could have gone, including a much deeper analysis of the economics of copying, but instead, they went with the standard line from people who are just exploring this topic for the first time, which I'll paraphrase as: "well of course copyright is important, and we don't want anyone copying our book, but perhaps it goes too far in some cases."
The parts on Churchill are interesting, and hopefully Dubner (and Levitt?) will follow up in more detail down the road. For example, it would be great for them to bring on Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala, who they've had guest-post for them in the past, considering they've written an entire book on these kinds of things.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jan 16th 2013 2:19pm
Another Notch In 'Cyber Threat' Rhetoric's Belt: Former UK Head Of Cyber Security Brings 'AIDS Epidemic' Into The Mix
from the the-true-risk-of-'unprotected'-surfing dept
The UK's former head of cyber security has taken a slightly different tack, avoiding the terrorist imagery in favor of something even more dubious.He's got that last part right. The government isn't in charge of cyber space, no matter how much it wishes to be. But owners of "private computers" have had "cyber hygiene" information available for years. If the UK government wishes to start a campaign to inform the public of the dangers prevalent on the web, I have no problem with that. The campaign will be mostly redundant and will have little impact on the number of infected private computers, but that's the way these things go. Actively keeping a computer free of malware, spyware and viruses takes a little effort and knowledge (and sometimes, a little money), but for many people, that "little" extra is too much.
Major General Jonathan Shaw, a former head of cyber security at the Ministry of Defence, said people must be told to improve their computer security because the UK is "extremely vulnerable" to attack by criminals and terrorists.
He said there is a "special responsibility" on all citizens to improve their "cyber hygiene" as private computers are the easiest to attack.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Major General Shaw said the Government must "launch a cyber hygiene campaign like they did with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s".
He said individuals are "on the front line" and must be warned their computers are at risk, as the Government is "not in charge of cyber space".
Furthermore, it's tough to see how private individuals are "on the front line" of this so-called "cyber war." If there are key areas of infrastructure (say, the ever-popular power grid) that seem vulnerable to attacks by criminals and terrorists, how does erecting a firewall on a home computer prevent that? If these agencies feel they are threatened by cyberattacks, they need to do more policing on their end and make sure that critical systems are inaccessible from "personal" computers -- like preventing "cross-contamination" by keeping possibly infected "personal" media (thumbdrives, etc.) from connecting with critical systems or issuing "locked-down" computers for telecommuters. There are many more effective actions that could be taken by the "threatened" entities, but trying to keep the public's private computers from being conscripted into the latest botnet isn't one of them.
Lastly, conflating malicious activities with a communicable disease, even indirectly, is hardly a good idea, especially when the disease chosen is one with a loaded political and sociological background. It trivializes the impact of AIDS and generally makes the public feel the severity of the threat is overstated. Even if the aim is admirable (get more computer users to protect themselves from attacks), Shaw's unfortunate wording undermines his message.