Monday, January 26, 2009

Countdown to the Digital Britain report..

Latest from The Times:

"Internet service providers will not be forced to disconnect users who
repeatedly flout the law by illegally sharing music and video files, The
Times has learnt.

Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, said last year that the Government
had "serious legislative intent" to compel internet companies to cut off
customers who ignore warnings not to pirate material.

However, in an interview with The Times, David Lammy, the Intellectual
Property Minister, said that the Government had ruled out legislating to
force ISPs to disconnect such users. "

The official announcement's now been delayed again, and against all rumour was not trailed at last week's Oxford Media conference. Looks like BERR're finding this one a wee bit tricky. Could that have anything to do with the music industry forcing Virgin to abandon its legal P2P offering? Remember the deal the Memorandum of Understanding offered back in July was new sanctions against filesharers, but only in return for new business models and in particular new legal ways to access music online using P2P .. not much sign of that..

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Google times are here again

Pangloss has found (via Google, how else!?) a rather interesting blog called

It contains a little gem called Google Robot which certainly makes you wonder just how sensible our current legal interpretations of the Google spider are.

"Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: November 1st, 2030

What are Google Robots?

Google Robots are our human-like machines that walk the earth to record information. They do no harm, and they do not invade your privacy.

What are Google Robots good for?

Our Google Life search website is powered by the Google Robot crawler program. On the Google Life website at, you can:

  • Find out what menus the local restaurant offers at what prices
  • See a perfect 3D shape of all houses in your city
  • Know how crowded the bar is you want to go to tonight
  • Know what items to find at your local mall
  • Find out if your library has a certain book available (Also see: What's a book?)
  • Know what you said and who you met 3 weeks ago (this feature is available only to My Public Life™ subscribers)
  • Locate your friends (this feature is only available if your friends subscribed to My Public Life™)
  • And much more!

I saw a Google Robot entering a library and reading books in it. Is that legal?

Our Google Robots do not record private information. As the books in a library are considered to be public, our Google Robots reserve the right to scan them. However, we do respect the copyright of individual works, and will only show a "fair use" portion on our website." "

Another story off this site is that the German Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons has put a pro anorexia blog hosted on Google’s Blogspot on the index of youth-harming media. It is already well known that Google censors its search in countries like Germany and France according to local laws which prohibit spech often legal in other states (such as the USA). The interest for Pangloss is that this follows on from the news that Germany's Communications Minister is pushing for a UK IWF-style Cleanfeed system. (So is Belgium - bad week for free speech huh - oh and Romania. ) If the German scheme transpires, would URLs like this go on to it? That is pushing censorship past child porn, and an exact example of what I'm worrying about in the upcoming pornography chapter from Law and the Internet (3rd edn ) I quoted earlier.

John Ozimek of the Register whose coverage has lately been excellent, says "Undoubtedly, 2009 is going to be the year of the internet filter." Hmm.

Interesting times: Pope Lambasts Facebook

The Pope, no doubt flushed with the media attention paid to his launching of a new Pope-Channel on You Tube, has also weighed in against Friends whoring onFacebook:

"The key quote, which clearly seems to refer to Facebook friending (or at least to so-called 'friend harvesters'): "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction."

Here's the full paragraph: "The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. ... We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialise the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."

Perhaps the Pope has been reading too many articles about the sad but rather silly story of the man who killed his wife for changing her status on Facebook to single.

As anyone who's ever used Facebook much probably knows, FB operates on the "closed universe" assumption that anyone who deletes any preference actually intends to mean the opposite. So various friends of mine have found that if X decides not to keep displaying the fact that she is married to Y (for example), FB sends a note to all your friends (or "friends") saying "X ended her relationship with Y". This tends to create a flurry of emails asking whatever happened, so at least it's a way of connecting with old friends :-)

If that is what happened in this case though, it really would be beyond silly into near tragic.

Connectedly, Pangloss is saying something or other about virtual worlds, social networking and privacy at the rather interesting looking Digital Lives conference run by the British Library in London on Feb 9-11. She may or may not mention the Pope...

While I'm at it, Pangloss (rescheduled from last year when I was ill) is also talking on social networking sites and the law at PLC (Practical law Company) in London on February 24. Details at but I understand it's already full, although there is a waiting list. End advert!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Security: Two factor Authentication Spreads

One for Technollama this :-)

We all know about the physical tokens or dongles you can now get to provide two factor authentication for your online banking services. In fact Pangloss was recently surprised to discover she could now not set up a new online payee without the use of one, on her RBOS account: it arrived in the post this morning by which time she had made the payment by phone:-) Anyway.

Some World of Warcraft players are now apparently so worried at the idea of their account being haXXored (leet spelling not authenticated..) by Chinese gold farmers etc that Blizzard is selling them two factor authentication as well. Interesting..

BERR, the music industry and file sharing: also stupid porn law ideas

Sorry for long silence. A bit of a catch up here of some recent very important stories..

Ray Corrigan helpfully reminds me that the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform has published the responses to their P2P filesharing consultation.

"None of the options highlighted in the consultation won widespread support. Rather there was a marked polarisation of views between the rights holder community and consumers and the ISPs over what action should be taken.

A number of key issues were identified by respondents including copyright protection, protections afforded under eCommerce legislation and the impact on the wider economy. Consumers (individuals and consumer organisations) in particular highlighted concerns over data protection and privacy. The role of technology was addressed by most respondents, however there were conflicting views as to whether it could offer all or part of any solution. For almost all the options, questions were raised as to their legality under the existing legal frameworks and again, views varied.

There was a degree of consensus that any solution must involve the provision of new legal sources of attractive content and the need for education on the importance of copyright in the wider economy.

A number of replies suggested alternative models to those options proposed. Copies of all non-confidential responses received have been placed on the BERR website."

Meanwhile documents leaked to the Financial Times apparently show that BERR is planning in the wake of this to introduce an "ISP tax scheme":

"Ministers intend to pass regulations on internet piracy requiring service providers to tell customers they suspect of illegally downloading films and music that they are breaking the law, says the draft report by Lord Carter.

It would also make them collect data on serious and repeated infringers of copyright law, which would then be made available to music companies or other rights-holders who can produce a court order for them to be handed over.

With the creation of a body called the Rights Agency to be paid for by a small levy from the internet service providers and rights-holding organisations, these measures would form the spine of a new code of conduct for the internet industry. The draft report says the code would be overseen by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, according to people who have read it.

The guiding philosophy of the report is that the internet and music industries have failed to sort out the problems of illegal downloading between them, and the government sees this as its preferred solution."

As others have commented, that last sentence is posibly accurate :-)

Until we get details it doesn't seem worth commenting much on this. First impression is that it is certainly preferable to either the compulsory filtering of allegedly copyright content out, or the "3 strikes and you're out" type scheme we have feared since March 2008. On the other hand the privacy implications of this scheme are still not good.

Why for heavens sake if we are going to start imposing taxes , can't we simply do the sane thing and install a tax/levy system on broadband use, which would pay for all music to be downloaded "free"? (A: because the music industry don't want it that way. Well, hello.)

According to Becky at ORG,

"The official government response to the consultation will be published as part of the interim Digital Britain report, which is expected at the end of this month."

In other news, DRM is dead. Well for music. I mean if iTunes has decided it isn't worth using, who the hell else is going to?

In still other news, turning from music IP to Net porn, Burnham talks Bollocks. Well, so no change there. I won't address this one in detail here either, because I just have in the (very heavily) revised version of my chapter on pornography, censorship and the Internet which will be appearing in the 3rd edition of Edwards and Waelde Law and the Internet, hopefully soon..

(This bit isn't so bad though. According to the Telegraph "
Mr Burnham also wants new industry-wide “take down times”. This means that if websites such as YouTube or Facebook are alerted to offensive or harmful content they will have to remove it within a specified time once it is brought to their attention." The vague definition of "expedient" in the E Commerce Directive Art 14 has long been unhelpful to both hosts and ISPs, so Pangloss approves of this as long as it is practicable.)

Here's a taster of my views , in the new section on the global rise in compulsory top-down invisible Internet content filtering..

Effectiveness. Web filtering can be easily avoided by those who really want to, and any government wishing to install it must consider the impact of this on effectiveness. Depending on how filtering is achieved, blocking can often be evaded by a proscribed site changing its URL, or merely its underlying IP address. Users in turn can simply use a foreign proxy server site to anonymise their surfing destinations[1]. Steps can be taken to inhibit avoidance, but they are likely to result in serious over-blocking – for example, the EFA paper on the Australian scheme notes that a serious web filtering system would also need to block the Google cache, the Way Back Machine[2], and numerous other Internet archive sites where content is mirrored. It can be argued that child porn web filtering systems merely inhibit the ignorant or lazy or those who stumble on illegal material by accident[3], and do not stop for a minute those who are ostensibly the real targets of the efforts involved – serious paedophiles who may go on to commit actual abuse.

A key anti-avoidance issue is whether filtering is only to be imposed on websites or on other types of digital content, such as Internet newsgroups[4], P2P filesharing systems, instant messaging (IM) and email, as well as mobile phone traffic. As we have discussed above, illegal content is now known to be more commonly swapped in encrypted P2P “darknets” than on the open Web, which begs the question, why bother to filter the Web at all? In response to such criticisms, the Australians have claimed they intend to extend their reach to cover material traded via the P2P protocol BitTorrent and the EC has instructed research into P2P content blocking[5]. Such research is still likely to prove useless in the face of modern evolving encrypted P2P systems. At present such systems (eg Tor and Freenet) are rarely used by the average EU or US citizen because they are user-unfriendly and slow – but in go-ahead Japan, the leading P2P systems, enabled by their fast next generation consumer broadband networks, are both encrypted and consumer-popular. It will not be long before such systems make the leap to Europe and the US as home broadband networks are upgraded here too. At that point only the most foolish pedophile would attempt to access child porn using the open Web.

A slightly easier target is mobile content. In Europe, many mobile operators already provide filtering software and filtered content for children, and UK operators since 2004 have voluntarily signed up to Ofcom-brokered codes of conduct requiring filtering of content to under 18s and labeling of over 18 content on their servers[6]. Reliably imposing these restrictions on children given cheap anonymous pay as you go phones, may however be a harder than foreseen task.

Resources. Even if we only look at filtering the Web, realistically, classifying the
ever-expanding billions of Internet pages manually as “illegal”, “inappropriate”
or whatever will cost billions of dollars and be an
ever moving target
[7].This has not however stopped the Culture Minister Andy
Burnham recently suggesting exactly this for the UK

The IWF avoids this problem by being complaint-driven - which
means its list is,of course, very partial
[9] and thus of questionable success. In reality,
blocklists in commercial filters are
usually generated partly by automated and partly
by manual means, which as the ONI note, means they are
inevitably prone to both
over- and under-blocking.

[2] Interestingly, the Register has also reported that the IWF had added images on the Wayback Machine to its block list, which had lead to some ISPs banning the entire 85 million web page archive. Details were not given as to what images had been banned and ISPs involved gave 404 “page not found errors”. See “IWF confirms Wayback machine porn blacklisting” ,The Register, 14 January 2009.

[3] Mike Galvin of BT, one of the creators of the IWF “cleanfeed” system, admitted in an interview with the Guardian on 26 May 2005, that Cleanfeed “won’t stop the hardened pedophile” and went on to say that its main aim was to stop accidental access by users following links such as those in spam emails.

[4] Internet newsgroups have largely fallen out of common use but are still extensively used for porn trafficking: see January 2009 report of USA conviction of 7 paedophiles following the bust of a well organised network that used Internet newgroups to distribute illegal items to its members over a two year period. See “Child porn in the age of teenage “sexting” “, The Register, 16 January 2009.

[7] The EFA pages (supra n XX) estimate that even if a 1000 people were employed full time for a year , they would fail to categorise more than 0.1% of all the pages on the Web , and at the end of that year the list would be hopelessly out of date.

[8] See BBC report, 27 December 2008 , at .

[9] Testing of the IWF Cleanfeed system for use in New Zealand found that their list contains probably only only about 10-15% of offending websites (statistic cited in EFA pages, op cit supra n XX)

BILETA 2009, April 21-23, Winchester

And more!!

BILETA 2009 - The 24th Annual Conference

Tuesday 21 - Thursday 23 April 2009
Hosted by the University of Winchester Law School

"To Infinity and Beyond: Law and Technology in Harmony?"

Technology impacts increasingly on all areas of our lives, from e-commerce to e-learning. This year's annual conference focusses on the ways in which law and technology can move forward operating in harmony across the spectrum. Papers will fall into a wide range of categories including:

  • Intellectual property - including copyright, open source etc
  • E-learning
  • E-commerce
  • Virtual worlds / SNS
  • Intermediaries - IP providers
  • Infrastructure - including regulation and computer misuse
  • Privacy and data-protection
  • Cybercrime - including criminological aspects
  • Legal theory and critical perspectives
  • New technologies
The deadline for the call for Papers is 31 January 2009 and we would still like more, particularly from non UK speakers. Pangloss is part of the Programme Committee and will be there, probably giving a paper on (guess what!!) either phishing or suicide websites :-)

More details at .

Winchester is a beautiful city , especially in April, and this should be a fun and exhilarating conference. The conference dinner wil take place in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral - not to be missed!

The keynote speakers are :

Jeremy Phillips, Intellectual Property Consultant with Olswang, Solicitors and Research Director of the Intellectual Property Institute, and the well known leader of the IP-KAT team.,


Dr Richard Clayton of the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge 'It’s time to repeal Internet Legislation'

SCRIPT-ed conference

Apologies to anyone who has seen this before, but this is a potentially fantastic conference, worthy of re-promotion! The editors of the well-known online SCRIPT-ed journal, which comes out of the AHRC/SCRIPT Centre at Edinburgh University, have decided to put on a conference playing especially to their established strengths in cutting edge IT and IP law and medical/biotechnology law.

Although the CFP is past, there is still room to squeeze one or two more papers into the programme if you hurry - they would like more US and Canadian speakers especially. Pangloss will be there (as an Editor of SCRIPT-ed, no escape) - probably giving a paper on either phishing or suicide websites. (Would readers like to vote for which they would prefer to hear?)


An International Interdisciplinary Conference
March 29-31, 2009
University of Edinburgh


The conference will focus on evolving and emerging technologies and new-technology-driven practices and their impact on the overlapping fields of (1) healthcare, (2) information technology and (3) intellectual property, each of which are increasingly important in the post-genomic and post-AI world, with its heavy reliance on new technologies and their distribution.

The keynote speakers are:

Stream 1 ‘Medicine and Healthcare’:
Professor Bartha Maria Knoppers, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
“Population Biobanks: International Collaboration and Access”

Stream 2 ‘Information and Communication Technology’:
Professor Dan Hunter, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
“Information Monoculture”

Stream 3 ‘Intellectual Property’:
Dr Francis Gurry, Deputy Director World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
“The Future Direction of the International Patent System”

More details at . Particular queries should go to .