Friday, 1 June 2012

IPR And Digital Rights: A Rollercoaster Week

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster for IPR and digital rights news this week, and I've been so caught up with those two issues, not to mention the Creative Hive Live event, that I completely failed to mention the Facebook IPO. Okay, I wasn't really interested in the Facebook IPO. But things in the digital world have been moving so quickly that it's hard to keep up with it all. Here are the highlights.

The main news events on the digital rights front started with Kim Dotcom's case, then some stories on the ACTA/TPP front, then some legal shenanigans in the Oracle V Google case, then some political wheeling and dealing over cyber-spy bill CISPA, then the Flame trojan, then some nutbaggery from across the pond, then a few spats over copyright with the usual suspects. Oh, and the USA wants to own the internet.

Kim Dotcom/MegaUpload

It started as a cut-and-dried-he's-guilty-yeronner case that looked as though Kim Dotcom could go down for fifty years for copyright infringement, but the latest mind-blowing revelations from New Zealand have exposed the corrupt and fraudulent approach of a copyrights-holder-led attack on a man who is more naughty than nasty in a way that denied him due process. The whole mess did more to undermine SOPA/PIPA and whatever the US plans to replace them with than all the blackouts and protests put together. This, my friends, is what it looks like when you're guilty until proven innocent and due process is for wimps or something.

Anyway, MegaUpload's lawyers have filed a motion with a Virginia judge to dismiss the case against them and to unfreeze their assets and return their money, noting that the US had no jurisdiction in New Zealand and that since MegaUpload had no offices in the USA, the FBI had no right to seize their website and property. The procedural errors are a catalogue of failures and heavy-handedness from the USA, whose agents showed nothing but contempt for New Zealand law from the beginning till they hightailed it home with copies of the hard drives from Kim Dotcom's computer. Then they tried to deny him access to the evidence they have against him. And they still expect New Zealand to sign TPP? Good luck with that. The fact that they've refused to comply bodes ill for any further attempts to extradite Dotcom, who may yet face criminal charges nonetheless.


The controversial treaty looked as though it was going to sail through, but a wave of pan-European protests has pretty much derailed it. Behind the scenes, the European Commission has been trying to push ACTA forward but even Vice-President Neelie Kroes can see that it's the wrong tool to combat any wrong-doing and can actually harm European interests and internet freedom. Then the Dutch Parliament smacked the treaty down with three resolutions in favour of rejecting it and calling for IPR law reform. Finally, three of the European Parliamentary committees rejected ACTA. There are three more to go, and I've already been in touch with the committee members asking them to reject ACTA on the grounds that it's ineffective as an anti-c0unterfeiting tool; it's invalid because USTR has no authority to negotiate IPR treaties — that's Congress's purview; and the biggest counterfeiters, Russia and China, aren't going to sign it. It doesn't help that it was secret from the start and the USTR's heavy-handed approach didn't help.


The USTR hasn't made any more friends as it seeks to close negotiations on TPP before the Presidential elections in November. EFF says "the end of the year" so I'm guessing that's where they're drawing the finishing line. Anyway, human rights blog Public Citizen has quoted the Chief Negotiators fron the participating countries as saying,

We are mindful that there would not be evergreening because that would stifle future innovation. ~ Singapore

Then came the fun part:

We all know who the largest recipient of FDI (foreign direct investment) is, and it’s not Singapore. ~ Vietnam

It's actually China. You know, the most egregious offender where IPR violations are concerned. So why is IPR protection so important again? If there was any truth in that statement, the USA would have put sanctions on China already, but they're trading with them despite making accusations against them over IPR violations. When what they say and what they do are so divergent, how can we possibly take them seriously?

Oracle V Google

In a week where Open Standards are being discussed in round table talks, it's heartening that Judge William Alsup has seen sense and dismissed Oracle's claim for copyright on its APIs. Mind you, I suppose it helps that he is a programmer.


Politicians trying to sell CISPA as a valid cybersecurity treaty caught my attention but I really should have checked the Reddit report instead of just accepting it. But Fight for the Future were behind it! But Internet Freedom Movement admin Roger H. King proved it was FUD and referred me to the relevant documentation. I'll refer you to his post. It's the third comment. Okay, sometimes I get it wrong!


A nasty new trojan, discovered by Russia-based antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab, is basically a cyberspying program that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years. They're calling it Flame and believe it is fiendishly complex. The Israeli government has apparently all but admitted it. Supporting this claim is a statement from a senior minister.


The Republican Party in the USA, also known as the GOP or Grand Old Party, have been making horrible, repressive laws that have resulted in horrible incidents, the most recent of which is the story of a rape victim being denied the morning after pill because it contravened a doctor's religious belief system. It's all part of an overall plan to turn the USA into a theocracy or something. However, since the most vicious and frightening adherents are a dwindling minority, good luck with that. Meanwhile, in an outbreak of common sense, President Obama of Kenya (if you're a Birther. Don't get me started!) has unveiled the unveiling of a plan to enable a privacy-protecting cybersecurity plan that will actually have real security value. If we could only convince him of the value of IPR law reform...! I haven't even mentioned the "zombie attacks." Some guy ate another guy's face off. Yuck!


The whole TPP/ACTA debacle has reminded Techdirt of a clause in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 that provides for training and equipping foreign judges in IPR law enforcement. Meanwhile more artists are coming out in favour of the abolition of copyright (I'm not sure that is a good idea) and the RIAA are moaning about Google not doing enough to prevent or address infringement despite not doing enough to prevent or address the issue themselves.

Who owns the internet?

The USA is determined to control the internet and the UN is questioning this because they want to control it. Here's what the US had to say:

"These are terrible ideas," Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing. They could allow "governments to monitor and restrict content or impose economic costs upon international data flows," added Ambassador Philip Verveer, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

Erm, isn't that what America has been trying to do with bills like SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA? Dear me. Here's what father of the internet Vint Cerf had to say:

Several other proposals from member states would dramatically limit free expression on the web. Others would subject cyber security and data privacy to international control, and allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for international Internet traffic – perhaps on a “per-click” basis. As a result of these efforts, there is a strong possibility that this December the ITU will significantly amend the International Telecommunication Regulations – a multilateral treaty last revised in 1988 – in a way that authorizes increased ITU and member state control over the Internet. These proposals, if implemented, would change the foundational structure of the Internet that has historically led to unprecedented worldwide innovation and economic growth.

Because the ITU answers only to its member states – rather than to citizens, civil society, academia, the tech industry, and the broader private sector – there’s a great need to insert transparency and accountability into this process and to prevent expansion of ITU or UN authority over the operation of the Internet.

Over-regulation is bad. We know! But no regulation is also bad. What we need is a multi-stakeholder approach that keeps the internet working as a free medium of global communication. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is considering legislation that would put the internet on a footing with cable television providers. Lauren Weinstein told me in a G+ conversation that would be an opportunity for content providers to bury online streaming services.

Meanwhile, over here in the UK, police have welcomed the efforts being made by social media websites to clamp down on anti-social behaviour. This is way better than having legislation foisted on us.

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