Cybercrime spree

It seems like every day there is a new story on cybercrime. Milena Popova looks at what is going on

So, who hasn’t been hacked[1][2] recently? Every other day I seem to wake up to news of yet another security breach. Most recently, it was the International Monetary Fund, supposedly hacked by a government. Affiliates of the FBI have not been immune either. To turn the tables a little, MI6 has been hacking Al Qaeda, with cupcake recipes. Anonymous has been threatening NATO.

The private sector, too, isn’t faring much better. Citi is having to issue new credit cards to 100,000 North American customers after its systems were broken into. Sony’s Playstation Network was brought down and data stolen earlier this year. (Anonymous: ”It wasn’t us!”) Even the small and harmless knitting-based social networking site (Yep, you read that right! Yours truly is a member) Ravelry had a file with encrypted passwords stolen.

The two stories I find most worrying though involve the security of basic networking infrastructure. The first is the hacking of RSA SecureID - a popular two-factor authentication system used mainly by companies, for instance for VPN login. SecureID tokens are associated to a particular user and generate a pseudo-random number using a seed and an algorithm. The same seed and algorithm reside on the server, so it “knows” what number to expect at any given point for this particular user.

It appears that when RSA’s systems were compromised back in March, both the algorithm and the seeds for a large number tokens were stolen, thus rendering those tokens useless for security purposes. Even more worryingly, it took RSA until June to admit the full extent of the breach and offer replacement tokens to its customers. It appears that it was only the hack of Lockheed Martin using the Secure ID vulnerability that prompted RSA to act.

The other infrastructure security related story dates back to January, when security researcher Thomas Roth announced he had hacked the WPA-PSK WiFi authentication protocol - using brute force and the Cloud. Using the processing power of the Amazon Cloud and a program which checks 400,000 passwords per second, Roth was able to hack a WPA-PSK protected network within six minutes. At 28 cents per minute of Cloud time, that’s a bargain. While not exactly making P = NP obsolete (yet?), the kind of processing power available on the Cloud poses some interesting problems for security.

In the movie 23, a fictionalised account of what was perhaps the first publicised incident of cyber crime and espionage, the main characters struggle to overcome the obstacle of insufficient processing power. In a particularly tragi-comic scene, they end up buying a PDP11 (instead of the more compact Micro PDP11) which is then left out to rust in the rain as they are unable to use it.

We have come a long way since the 1980s - the power of the Cloud is available to pretty much anyone with an internet connection and some spare change. We’ve already seen a botnet infiltrate Amazon’s Cloud. I suspect the next one is only a matter of time. Malicious hacking is here to stay, and we are going to have to develop a host of technological, user education, and legal measures to fight it.


[1] I am a big fan of reclaiming the word “hacker” to its original meaning (“A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.” - Jargon File/Hacker’s Dictionary) I much prefer referring to people who breach computer security maliciously as “crackers”. Having said that, it’s an uphill struggle and with this recent batch of news stories, “hacking” in the popular mind is definitely a malicious activity.

[2] About an hour after I finished writing this article, was taken down.


Milena is an economics & politics graduate, an IT manager, and a campaigner for digital rights, electoral reform and women's rights. She tweets as @elmyra


Image: CC-AT-SA Flickr: sklathill

Meltwater and the newspaper publishers

As the three day hearing in the Meltwater appeal starts, Saskia Walzel catches up with a bitter 24 months legal battle

Today Meltwater is appealing the High Court ruling in The Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd & Ors v Meltwater Holding BV & Ors [2010]. The dispute started innocently enough when the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) demanded a copyright licence from paid for online media monitoring services (OMM). Depending on user base OMMs have to pay the NLA between £50 and £10,000 per year for a “Web Database License”.

OMMs like Meltwater News service basically offer keyword monitoring services to business clients for online news sources. Meltwater sends its end users a URL, linking to the publishers’ website, the title of the article, plus the opening text of the article and the “hit sentence” where the relevant keyword appears.

The “very bitter” legal battle, which started in 2009 at the Copyright Tribunal over whether the licensing terms of the Web Database License are reasonable, has escalated over the question whether end users of OMMs infringe copyright when receiving an email or clicking on a link.

The NLA together with the newspaper publishers covered by the Web Database Licence launched legal action against Meltwater and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) in the High Court in May last year, seeking a declaration to the effect that: "the PRCA and/or its members require a licence or consent from the NLA and/or the Publishers in order lawfully to receive and/or use the Meltwater News Service".

The High Court, referring to PRCA members as “End Users”, made the declaration, based on the reasoning that:

• When receiving or opening Meltwater News email, a copy of that email is made on the End User's computer, therefore the End User makes copies of the headline and the text extract, which is an infringement of copyright;

• When an End User clicks on a direct Link a copy of the article on the Publisher's website is made on the End User's computer, and the End User “is more likely than not to infringe copyright”; and

• An End User who forwards an email will make further copies and thus further infringe by “issuing a copy to the public”.

The NLA is a copyright collecting society which represents eight big UK newspaper publishers: Associated Newspapers, the Financial Times, the Guardian Media Group, the Independent News & Media, Northern and Shell, News International, the Daily Telegraph and Trinity Mirror. The publishers feel a strong grievance against OMMs’ perceived commercial exploitation of their websites. They want a share of the money made aggregating their news.

The dispute first escalated in September 2009 over “Service Fees” included in the terms of the Web Database Licence for OMMs covering online newspaper content not behind pay walls. There was to be either a 5p or 7.5p per “link” sent to each customer, or “end user”, Service Charge.

The Web Database Licence obliges the OMMs to not supply monitoring services to end users who do not pay the Service Fees to NLA or have what is called a “Web End-User Licence”, launched by the NLA in January 2010. Furthermore OMM are required to supply the NLA with contact details of all its customers, and to notify their customers that they must pay the Service Fees or otherwise get a licence from the NLA. Meltwater referred the licence to the Copyright Tribunal on the basis that it was unreasonable.

The question considered by the High Court, and today the Court of Appeal, is whether end users of Meltwater News service infringe copyright by merely receiving a Meltwater News email or clicking on a link. This puts the principles of copyright law on collision course with digital technology, where “copying” is part of the process.

In the old world, when users receive and read a newspaper article they are not thought to infringe copyright, even if the copy they are reading was made without permission of the copyright owner. Those receiving and reading paper news clippings are not required to pay a licence to the NLA.

But the high court has applied the principle of copyright law, made for the analogue world, literally to digital technologies; where receiving or opening a file involves a copy being made. Any copying of a substantial part of a work is copyright infringement, unless permission has been obtained or it falls within exceptions provided in copyright law.

The implications of this case are endless - the High Court has held that newspaper headlines are protected by copyright, and that if Meltwater emails the newspaper headline to its customers, those end users infringes copyright in the newspaper headline. How it will impact on users of what must be the biggest news aggregator of all is murky.

According to the High Court “the Publishers have arrangements or understandings with certain free media monitoring services such as Google News and Google Alerts whereby those services are currently licensed or otherwise permitted.” The High Court notes that the NLA is only seeking the Web Database License from customers of “commercial media monitoring service”, but that end users may well use Google Alerts for their own commercial purposes.

The High Court returns to the “commercial” use by end users, which is not defined in copyright law or the judgement, when ruling on the question whether clicking on a link is infringing copyright in the article on the publishers website. And delivers a mind-bender of a decision: a copy of the article on the Publisher's website is made on the end user's computer and clicking on the link “more likely than not to infringe copyright”.

End users make copies of websites when viewing them, certainly, but the qualifying issue for the High Court appears to be the argument made by the NLA that the terms and conditions of its publishers’ websites state that “they cannot be used for commercial purposes without the relevant Publisher's express consent”.

How do you enforce this? Are end users bound by terms and conditions they have not read when clicking on a link? And what do newspaper publishers such as Guardian News and Media Ltd mean by “commercial use” of their website... any viewing of articles for work purposes, or at work?

Every stage of what is developing into a legal epic seems to be throwing up more questions than answers. The ruling of the Court of Appeal is expected in a couple of weeks, and the Copyright Tribunal is to decide in September whether the terms of the Web Database Licence are reasonable. To be continued...


Saskia Walzel is policy advocate at Consumer Focus. She tweets as SaskiaWalzel

Image: CC-AT-NC-SA Flickr: Scorpions and Centaurs

The Communication Commons

"A community will evolve only when a people control their own communication" - Frantz Fanon. Aaron John Peters on social media and the communication commons.

Facebook, in spite of what the T-shirts in Tahrir Square might say, is not a force for truly radical change. Instead it represents a recuperation by existing power of a frontier where capital has not yet gained hegemony, the broadly non-hierarchical and voluntarist ‘network of networks’ – the internet.

The status quo of the contemporary corporate mainstream media is a ‘communicative ecology’ that permits the perpetuation of what some have called ‘capitalist realism’. Capitalist realism is a state of collective consciousness where ‘the end of the world is seen as more conceivable than the end of capitalism’. A state where the mantra of TINA (There Is No Alternative) is not only applied to national economic policy but even to the inevitability of a Tesco being present on every British high street. This gives rise to the cultural logic of ‘Late Capitalism’ according to Jameson – a logic where all sincerity is rendered irony, where any belief in a better world is kitsch or utopian.

Within capitalist realism the media’s presentation of the ‘possible’ means that collective ambitions for social progress remain within the confines of reproducing existing relations of power. This being in spite of the fact that the ambitions of capitalist realism are perhaps the most ‘utopian’ project of all (in the sense of inviting incredulity).

The corporatized communications ecology has permitted a very small number of persons the ability to not only exercise a monopoly over what and what is not told, but even over what is considered possible. Thus capitalist realism should be viewed as entirely dependent on the existing communicative ecology, with the erosion of publicly owned media strengthening the hand of an increasingly small and powerful media oligarchy. All that has essentially changed with the rise of corporate ‘social media’ is that the likes of Zuckerberg have joined the ranks of Murdoch and Berlusconi.

A faith in the ability of the internet to challenge the existing communications ecology does not mean adhering to the growing orthodoxy that corporate social media is a challenge to existing power. Just as capital’s introduction of new technologies, by potentially freeing huge surpluses of time, has opened up prospects of liberation from work – so its expansion of new communications technologies inadvertently opens up a world of counter-usage. As computerization makes possible either intensified exploitation of labour or subversion of the wage form – so too electronic communication by reducing the neccessary circulation time for information goods, bifurcates into diametrically opposed and antagonistic options.

Either it can intensify the process of the commodification of everything, including social relations – through ‘pay-per’ services and consumer surveillance (as with Facebook and Google) – or alternatively it can lead to a fundamental negation of the commodity form, through the generalised transgression of property rights (as with Wikipedia, Aaaaarg, Vuze and the Pirate Bay).

Social media simply denotes the idea of a media that is socially constituted and co-created without a clear distinction between producers and consumers of content. What the technology naysayers fail to distinguish is the difference between ‘corporate’ social media and the possibility of a commons-based social media, created by the people for the people.

Any radical possibilities within the internet must find themselves mobilized in the name of a ‘communications commons’ – a counterproject against the attempts of capital to enclose the immaterial territory of the internet and social networks in the same way it once enclosed the collective lands of the rural commons.

Karl Polanyi spoke of the various ‘Acts of Enclosure’ throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as marking the advent of modern capitalism with the enclosure of previously common land – this adhering to Marxian notions of accumulation by dispossesion or primitive accumulation. The same process is now being enacted with regards to the ‘commons’ of our social relations and much of our immaterial labour – this being the case with Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay to name just a few. Character, preference, networks of friends, psychological disposition and social values are translated to being of exchange value between Facebook and third parties such as Microsoft that purchase the data. Yet another field of possible returns for capital has been opened up.

What the radical left should be advocating with regards to how we proceed online is not a question of opting out of corporate social media – we must instead build a ‘communications commons’ that permits similar platforms as Facebook and Twitter (such as Thimbl and Diaspora) which crucially undermines the mainstream media and with it grotesque concentrations of power to frame debate and discourse.

The task is to ensure that the same concentrations of power found within the corporate media are not reproduced in the realm of networked media. There are many, be they liberals, libertarians, communists, anarchists or otherwise, who regard the concentration of power – be it in the market or the state – as something to be opposed at every turn.

If we are to act on such sentiments then we must begin to create a communications commons that can well and truly undermine both the state and the market in informing and framing the debate. The other world that we believe is possible will require another media – one that MUST be commons-based. This is not the time for cynicism but for counterprojects.


(This is an edited version of a longer original article that you can view here, by Aaron John Peters published under a CC AT-NC. )

Image: CC-AT Flickr: Jonathan Rashad

On internet history and regulation

Gilbert Ramsay on the history of the internet and the role of governments

So, we learn that one of the big areas on which the US and the UK are supposed to still have a special relationship is that of 'cyberspace'. Or rather, I learned that from my brother Adam, who suggested that I write a piece on it. I ought to be embarrassed to admit that. After all, knowing about 'cyber' stuff is my job, kind of. I teach a course in 'terrorism and the internet' at the University of St Andrews and have just finished writing a module in 'cyberterrorism' for Informa Global.

So you might think that I keep an eagle eye on what the great powers are doing in this area. And I do, kind of. That probably sounds a bit laid back. I think the bit that puts me off is the 'cyber' bit. Usually that's a giveaway that one doesn't have to pay particularly close attention. In my experience, no one who actually knows what they are talking about still uses the word 'cyber' or (William Gibson excepted) cyberspace with a straight face. It's become a word that generals and politicians use because they think it makes them sound cool.

That isn't to say that governments don't have an important role to play with regard to the internet. After all, the internet grew out of government backed projects: the internet itself, for example, was spun off the US military ARPANET project, and later on Tim Berners Lee's invention of the web was made possible through some enlightened decisions at CERN.

We still need government today to defend and uphold the basic principles that make the internet what it is: net neutrality, for example. It's also true that, realistically, we sometimes need governments to decide when certain kinds of activity which basically didn't exist before the internet should be considered a crime. The case that is always cited as an example of this is the I LOVE YOU virus, whose Filipino creator apparently couldn't be prosecuted, because that country had no laws about virus writing at the time.

So when - as the FCO statement on Obama and Cameron's joint policy does - the attention turns to actual concrete meaningful things like the Budapest Convention, then my ears start to prick up again. The Budapest Convention, also called the Convention on Cybercrime, is the Council of Europe's attempt to produce a single framework for international cybercrime law. It has its critics. Some say its provisions are overly broad and lacking in adequate safeguards. But it is at least an example of the kind of thing which governments ought to be doing in relation to the internet.

Nor is it the case that cybersecurity is a non-issue as such. It is perfectly reasonable to governments not to want hackers from anywhere in the world to be able to access their computer systems - though again, that doesn't mean that accidentally deleting some documents on a Pentagon server makes you a 'cyberterrorist' (is it too much to hope that the word 'cyber' coming from an American president could possibly have prompted, perhaps behind closed doors, the words 'Gary MacKinnon' from his prime minister?).

So why is it that talk of 'cyberspace' from governments makes me tend to glaze over? Or, perhaps better, why is it that the endless plans and programmes and policy papers on the subject (a good example of which is the report that Obama commissioned as one of his first acts in office) seem so often to have so little substance? The answer to this question is worth setting out I think, not so much because it has anything to do with cybersecurity per se, but rather because it has something important to tell us about politics in a wider sense.

And in order to tell this story, I shall have to go back a few years, to 2008.

It was in that year that, rather unexpectedly, I found myself employed to write a report for the United Nations on the subject of 'countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes'. I was just beginning a PhD, and although I was very flattered to be approached for the job, I hardly felt qualified - particularly for such a potentially large and ambiguous remit. Realising that I knew very little myself, I set myself to talking to anyone who might have something to say on the subject. In retrospect of course this is called 'research'.

Probably the best single decision I made that year was to attend the 2008 ICANN meeting in Paris. If you Google me, you can see that I still have a caricature on the ICANNwiki to prove it. ICANN is an interesting organisation. It's a non-profit corporation  which has the job of looking after the relationships between 'numbers' (that is, the numerical 'IP addresses' which theoretically tell every computer on the internet where every other computer is), and 'names' like which humans use to find out where the stuff they are looking for is. This is, in essence, the system we call the 'Domain Name System', and it underpins the internet as we know it. So, in so far as anyone does, ICANN runs the internet. But the thing that really makes ICANN interesting is not so much what it does, as its anomalous situation.

Cutting a very long story short, here is a potted (and outrageously simplified) history of internet governance.

Once upon time, it was suggested to the US defence advanced research projects agency (DARPA), that a decentralised, 'packet switched' digital communications network would be much more robust than conventional phone network that existed at the time. In order to turn this idea into a reality, a bunch of brilliant nerds - many of them MIT alumni who had learned about the intricacies of switching technology through that university's legendary model railway club - were hired.

Given relatively free range with the most advanced computer equipment that then existed on the planet, these nerds did what all right thinking employees do. They pissed around. They invented the electronic bulletin board in order to talk about Star Trek. They (well, to give credit where it's due, Ray Tomlinson) invented email pretty much just for the hell of it. Along the way, they also built ARPAnet - the US military network which became the main tributary of the various early computer networks that flowed together to make the internet. Indeed, as Wolfgang Kleinwaechter of the University of Aarhus tells us:

'The domain name system (DNS) was also developed bottom up. It was coordinated by its father, Jon Postel, with one assistant in his California office in Marina del Rey until the early 1990s. He managed the zone files of a database and was not interested in being pulled into policy'.

This basically left a situation in which the US government 'owned' the internet, without really understanding exactly what it owned. Meanwhile, people like Jon Postel simply got on with running it. But while they weren't interested in being 'pulled into policy', that's just not how politics works. Because, of course, even if you aren't interested in politics, it is interested in you. And it sure as hell is interested in you if you essentially hold the keys to the most sophisticated communications network ever devised.

In practice what happened was that, as the internet developed in importance, the US military began to take a progressively more proactive interest in the running of the project they had funded. In particular, this meant commercialisation as companies like Network Solutions were given contracts to sell domain names for money. One day in 1998, this all this became too much for Postel, who quietly took over the entire internet, by writing to eight of its twelve 'name servers', asking them to route queries to his own computer at the University of Southern California, making it in effect the 'root' for the entire net.

As Goldsmith and Wu claim in their brilliant description of this internet revolt, the people running the servers, who were all colleagues of Postel knew what they were letting themselves in for. One even arranged to have his children looked after, fearing his imminent arrest. But they did as they were asked. In what followed, the conversation between Postel and Clinton policy advisor Ira Magaziner asking the computer genius calmly to 'put things back as they were' is priceless.

ICANN was in essence the compromise deal that came out of this power battle. On the one hand, ICANN is, to the chagrin of many, not formally a part of the international system of UN affiliate organisations - although national representatives attend its meetings. Technically indeed, it remains under contract to the US Department of Commerce, although it chafes against this. It is a 'corporation', but - as I mentioned - it does not work for profit.

The only reason this odd chimera is able to function at all (and, by and large, it actually functions reasonably well) is that it focuses as far as possible on technical matters. When I went there, it had all the trappings of a jet setting international meeting but for one thing. Every now and then amidst all the suits you would come across a bearded guy in a pair of sandals, and the sense was that these people were still running the show - just.

It was into this organisation that I walked, very much suited, utterly ignorant of the workings of the internet, and with a job that had both the words 'terrorism' and 'United Nations' in the title. Perhaps surprisingly, some people were still nice enough to actually talk to me. So I started, naively, to ask my questions.

My big question was basically this: why, since cybersecurity threats are clearly a global issue, is there no global level institution capable of responding to them? The first answer I got was 'trust'. The handful of people who actually, when it comes down to it, know how to run the internet simply will not trust anyone simply because of where they come from. They have to know you personally. They have to know what you can do. And that led on to the second issue: competence. People who know how to run the internet simply don't care who you are. They care about what you can do.

Now, that may sound like an absurdly romanticised idea of how the internet is run. For starters, it glosses over the fact that most of these internet insiders still tend to be white men from rich countries (and it was, after all, the poorer countries that were least pleased about the UN being shut out of running the internet). But it still makes quite a lot of sense when one considers what happens when things go wrong.

For example, when Estonia's electronic banks were shut down by a flood of malicious internet traffic in 2007, they didn't call Interpol. What happened was this: the head of Estonia's 'Cyber Emergency Response Team' had dinner with a guy called Kurtis Lindqvist, who called in a couple of his mates, who in turn called up the places the traffic was coming from and asked them - one computer geek to another - to kick the rogue computers off the network.

Something roughly similar happened a couple of years ago when the evil genius of the conficker worm struck computers around the world. Microsoft and a few other big companies provided the money, but in the end the organisational structure was the same: a handful of people who actually knew what they were talking about (including Rodney Joffe, who very nicely had agreed to talk to me a few months earlier back in Paris) put their heads together, called in favours from friends, and tried their best to fix things.

The point is to all this is that there is something about how the internet in general works, and internet security in particular, that just doesn't institutionalise well. Broad notions like 'cybersecurity' which pour forth from the mouths of policymakers tend to crash against the specifics of what these things actually mean. Indeed, I suspect that the tendency of policymakers to talk about 'cyberspace' as a 'space' that can be 'defended' may have a lot to do with just how poor security sometimes seems to be in some big institutions.

Our own Gary MacKinnon reportedly got into the Pentagon by scanning for administrators who just hadn't bothered to put a password on their accounts. Perhaps they had the notion that somewhere out in 'cyberspace' they had an invincible cybershield that would protect them, like some Star Trek cloaking device. The problem is that computer hacking and computer security, thus conceived, are simply too different to mutually engage: one is all about innovating, for its own sake if for nothing else. The latter seems all to often to be about building institutions and processes without figuring out what's going to go in inside them.

But this isn't really where I'm going with all this. Rather, I think that the moral to this story is something different. The history of the internet is sometimes seen as a battle between a kind of rather American spirit of rugged individualism running rings around bureaucratic bean counters, and then an ongoing struggle to protect the spirit of the 'internet frontier' from encroachments of institutional power. Efforts to control the internet - to regulate encryption, to legislate 'cybersecurity experts' out of thin air tend to be sneered and feared in equal measure.

But the reality is more complex than that. The internet grew out of the generosity of governmental institutions which were prepared to pay bright people to do something and then let them get on with it. It grew out of educational institutions which left people the spare time to mess around. None of these governmental decisions were capable of creating the internet - nowhere near. Nor are they capable of directing its future - except perhaps in a negative sense. But they are capable of providing the conditions in which it can make its own future.

This is a moral that goes well beyond the internet. Today we often seem to be faced with two equally unpalatable principles: one which would micromanage everything, and another that would monetize everything. By being against both of them one is apt to be seen as naive. And yet neither really explains how much of what works in the world actually does work. The first principle would have us believe, for example, that teachers will only teach children to read if we make them fill out forms explaining how they propose to do so. The second would suppose that teachers will only teach children to read if they stand to lose their jobs if they don't.

The reality is that teachers, in whatever kind of school, will teach children to read if they see themselves as teachers. The same goes for computer security, where professionals can only be as good as they are allowed to be playful. Forget Britain and America. It is the special relationship between a human and the outcomes of her or his own work that really matters.


(Speaking of one's own work, I'd like to mention that I borrowed some ideas in this piece. Special thanks go to Alasdair Macintyre, Lawrence Lessig, Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu). This article was originally published here 

Gilbert Ramsay has recently finished a PhD in terrorist use of the internet at the St Andrews University Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. He has undertaken consultancy work on the subject for the United Nations and the European Union

Image: CC-AT-NC-SA Flickr: Barack Obama

You get what you measure

Milena Popova looks at how Google and cinemas are giving people incentives to pirate

You may be familiar with Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book “Freakonomis” - a collection of curious and entertaining case studies from the world of behavioural economics with subjects ranging from sumo wrestlers to drug dealers. In the introduction to the (less entertaining, less well researched) sequel “Superfreakonomics”, Dubner and Levitt reveal the unifying theme of their work: people respond to incentives.

In the business world this is sometimes known as “You get what you measure” - and that may not necessarily be what you actually wanted or intended. Rumour has it for instance that that strange form of English we call Legalese first emerged because lawyers were paid by the word when drafting letters, contracts and other legal documents. Perverse incentives like this are every organisation’s nightmare. A couple of recent stories from the entertainment industry showcase this nicely.

Google is currently in the process of launching a music streaming and movie rental service for the Android platform. In some ways this is brilliant news - the near-monopoly Apple seems to have on digital content distribution with iTunes isn’t good for anyone but Apple, and some competition could potentially benefit both creators and consumers.

Last week, however, it emerged that ”rooted” Android devices would not be able to access the movie rental service due to “requirements related to copyright protection”. A rooted Android device, not dissimilar to a jailbroken iPhone, is one where the user has gained additional access privileges that allow them extend the functionality of the device.

Whether the decision to exclude rooted devices from the movie rental service is Google’s doing or Hollywood’s isn’t entirely clear - it’s probably a bit of both. What strikes me, though, is that it sends exactly the wrong message. Chances are that users who have the desire and technical ability to root their Android tablet or phone are also perfectly capable of downloading content without paying for it. By deliberately excluding these users from the legitimate, paid-for content service, Google is practically driving them to piracy. I doubt that’s what they intended, but I would be surprised if that wasn’t the effect this measure had.

And just because one own goal isn’t enough for the movie industry, here’s another: The Boston Globe reports that many cinemas (in the US, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was happening in the UK too) are using 3D projection lenses to show 2D movies. The issue here is that showing a 2D movie with a 3D lens leads to up to 85% loss in brightness and a significant loss of colour. You know those adverts you get before movies in the cinema telling you how you shouldn’t pirate movies because you lose the cinema experience? Well, the cinema just killed the cinema experience.

And as BoingBoing points out, one of the main reasons operators don’t change lenses is that Sony’s DRM will often cripple the projector if you make a mistake in the process. From a cinema’s point of view, showing a dimmed movie is better than showing no movie - but how long are cinema goers going to put up with it, if they can watch the movie in the comfort of their own home on the 42-inch HD telly?

People respond to incentives, and if the incentive you give them is to pirate your movie or watch it at home instead of at the cinema, that is indeed what they will do.


Milena is an economics & politics graduate, an IT manager, and a campaigner for digital rights, electoral reform and women's rights. She tweets as @elmyra

Image: CC-AT Flickr: Johan Larsson

Is the internet a human right? No, but....

... disconnecting internet access violates the right to freedom of expression. Saskia Walzel explores the link between the internet and human rights law

Following Mubarak’s attempt to stem an overwhelming tide of protest by cracking down on the media, and taking Egypt offline, a growing number of commentators now speak of the internet in freedom of expression terms. Today the UN Special Rapporteur of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, presents his report on the internet and the right to freedom of expressionto the UN Human Rights Council.

Freedom of expression goes well beyond the more familiar concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Historically it has been printers and publishers who fought the big legal battles on freedom of expression because it was principally through them that the right could be exercised. What the Special Rapporteur is concerned with is the new freedom of expression frontier – “the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet.”

Ever since John Milton’s seminal defence of freedom of expression in Areopagitica 1644 the right to freedom of expression is understood to be threefold and to protect the medium though which it is exercised. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 everyone has the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

According to the Special Rapporteur the internet is probably the most revolutionary information technology to date and a powerful tool for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies. The G8 leaders at Deauville were keen to associate with the Arab Spring, leading to a gushing declaration that the “Internet has become the public arena for our time, a lever of economic development and an instrument for political liberty and emancipation.”

However, the Special Rapporteur is not only ticking off Middle Eastern dictators, but also two of the G8 countries for what is euphemistically known as the ‘graduated response’. The Special Rapporteur says he is “alarmed” by proposals to disconnect users’ internet access for infringing copyright, specifically mentioning Hadopi and the Digital Economy Act. The standard response from the music, film and software industry who is lobbying for this kind of punishment is that the right to freedom of expression does not give people the right to make use of content disregarding copyright.1

Though the Special Rapporteur is not concerned with the nature of the information uploaded or downloaded, but the punishment – that is, disconnection of internet access. Disconnection is coming within the scope of freedom of expression because the internet is now incorporated into virtually every aspect of modern life. Beyond enabling users to exercise a range of civil and political rights, it has also become vital in exercising economic and social rights, such as the right to education. According to the G8 internet access “is an essential infrastructure for participation in today's economy.”

Of course the right to freedom of expression is not absolute. Human rights law permits freedom of expression to be restricted to safeguard the rights of others, such as in the case of child abuse images, hate speech, defamation, incitement to commit genocide, advocacy of discrimination or violence.

But, such restrictions must follow the principles of legal certainty. They must be provided in law, so that the restriction is clear and predictable to those subject to the law. They must be proportional – that is they are necessary and considering the negative effects beyond the intended aim, they are the least restrictive means required for the stated aim of protecting the rights of others. The Special Rapporteur also highlights that any legislation restricting the right to freedom of expression must be applied by a body which is independent of any political or commercial influences, in a manner that is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, with adequate safeguard against abuse.

On the basis of this analysis the Special Rapporteur concludes that disconnecting users from internet access is disproportionate in all case, that is, it does not meet test of necessity and least restrictive means required for the stated aim. He urges for laws which permit the disconnection of internet access to be amended or repealed. So the Special Rapporteur has concluded that disconnection is a disproportionate punishment in case of child abuse images as well as copyright infringement – surprisingly enough his decision in the former is less controversial in a UK context than with regards to the latter.

In the UK restrictions on the use of computers or the internet are commonly imposed through sexual offences prevention orders, or SOPOs, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. SOPOs can be imposed in relation to a number of sexual offences, including the distribution of child abuse images, if the court is satisfied that such an order is ‘necessary’ to protecting the public from harm. A number of early SOPOs imposed a total ban on internet access but such total bans were overturned on the grounds that they were not necessary to achieve the statutory objective or not proportionate to the point of being ‘draconian’.

Instead SOPOs were issued which prohibited the downloading of specific material, or the use of the internet save “for purposes of lawful employment, study, leisure or social interactions with persons over the age of 18.” An early ban on internet access, a restraining order made under the Sex Offenders Act 1997, prevented the defendant from “owning, using, possessing or having any access to any personal computer, laptop computer or any other equipment capable of downloading any material from the Internet”. The order was overturned because such a wide prohibition would also effectively deprive the defendant’s wife and children of access to the internet.2

In France the first letters have been sent under Hadopi, in the UK Ofcom has been tasked with implementing the Digital Economy Act. Both are hangovers from 2009, though the idea of disconnecting internet users as a punishment for copyright infringement, is much older. It was dreamt up in an age when the internet was a luxury to have, now that the internet is becoming essential we are increasingly seeing human rights jurisprudence developing around it.

Disconnecting internet access is not a big deal, if all you do with it is download porn or watch kittens – but today the internet is often the primary communication medium, public services are now “digital by default” and  many depend on the internet for their education and livelihood. As such those who still advocate for disconnection as a punishment ought to answer the question whether it is necessary, and whether it is the least restrictive means required for the protection of copyright.


1 This is not strictly speaking correct, as courts have recognised public interest defences on the grounds of freedom of expression in the face of copyright infringement claims, see for example Ashdown v Telegraph Group 2001 [2001] 2 WLR 967 (Morritt VC); rev’d [2002] CH149 (CA) 1

2 Ian Walden & Martin Wasik, The Internet: Access Denied Controlled! Criminal Law Review, April 2011 2

see TO [2010] EWCA Crim 2511; Paul Smith [2009] EWCA Crim 1795; Edmund Smith [2008] EWCA Crim 3083; Hammond [2008] EWCA Crim 1358; Halloren [2004] EWCA Crim 233; [2004] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 57; and Collard [2004] EWCA Crim 1664


Saskia Walzel is policy advocate at Consumer Focus. She tweets as SaskiaWalzel

Image: CC-AT-SA Flickr: mpd01605

The internet natives are revolting

Loz Kaye responds to President Sarkozy's proposal of a 'civilised internet'

The day was clearly ill-starred. It was as if we knew some change in the wind would bring no good. Sure enough something appeared over the horizon - we did not know enough to call it a sail or ship at that time. We gathered on the dazzling white beach of the internets and a figure waded up through the azure waters of livestreaming to say: "Bonjour. I bring you the gift of the civilised internet".

I think it is probably fair to say that few of us held out much hope for the eG8 summit, a kind of electronic mini-me to the talking shop of the G8 economic big boys club. Nevertheless, President Sarkozy's opening speech laid out an agenda more worrying in tone than anything we have heard from any major leader to date. The core message was that global state driven internet regulation is not only desirable, it is necessary.

Perhaps the most striking, if not bizarre, aspect of the speech was the rhetoric that he chose to express himself in. He appealed for a 'civilised internet', with the obvious implication that it is currently uncivilised. Actually it was more than implied, for example he warned against the web's potential to create 'democratic chaos, and so anarchy'. The whole language was that of colonialism- you are a savage, if well meaning, country to be tamed.

If you think I am pushing the point, the speech was full of references to Christopher Columbus, Magellan and "the discovery of the New World". I had sincerely hoped that this narrative had been left behind in the 20th century, but clearly not. It is also not a one off flight of fancy, but a consistent discourse from the French president. Last year in a speech he said:  "The internet is the new frontier, a territory to conquer. But it cannot be a Wild West. It cannot be a lawless place..."

Now the question is whether this should matter to all of us who care about the web, or if we can just dismiss it with a Gallic shrug as political bluster. Why it is significant, is that it is a clearly ideological position- what Edward Said calls in his classic text 'Orientalism' on colonial attitudes "positional superiority".

It is the concept that the established powers, such as our G8 Leaders, are inherently wiser and more enlightened. Sarkozy's speech is full of this attitude– he invokes 'the Rights of Man (sic) and the Citizen' as if he were bringing bright new baubles that we have never seen before. Seldom has the media invention of the concept of 'net natives' seemed so apposite.

This is how you get populations to accept the idea of something like global state driven internet regulation. You take a familiar story- the Wild West to be civilised, and the rest falls in to place, the Cowboys and Indians are cast. Colonialist ideology has two abiding fictions- that of the virgin territory to be exploited, and the hostile territory that will be saved through conquering and civilisation. Despite invoking history throughout the speech, Sarkozy seems unaware that he is indeed repeating it, with potentially disastrous results.

The 'virgin territory' myth is about opening up new areas for economic exploitation. Here we can see that where the whole approach articulated at the eG8 summit goes wider than Deauville. This is one of the key arguments used for the abandoning of net neutrality so that corporations can operate to maximise profit, without regard to a wider social responsibility.

Also it turns the online community in to a potential mine for that most diffuse of economic concepts – 'growth', without heed to talking up yet another financial bubble. Perhaps the most preposterous example of this overvaluing of the next gold rush – intellectual property- was the suit against LimeWire for more than last year's GDP of the entire earth...

Any economic exploitation has its losers, and there is a new level of poverty developing, that of digital exclusion. Lack of participation in the online community will only go to reinforce bad education outcomes for the poorest, cement lack of democratic participation, and disadvantage those who are already struggling. The eG8 were all too silent about how to help these people. In the UK, despite warm words from everyone from the Conservatives to the SNP, rural communities will continue to lag behind in broadband provision- trapped in online "reservations" if you will.

The other myth is one that we are all too familiar with- that internet users are in various ways barbaric threats to order, economic stability and security. All of these were referred to by the President. We have seen the consequences of this idea in proposals for web blocking, 3 strikes legislation, the mooted 'Great European Firewall', takedowns of domain names, targeting of vulnerable people by rights holders, pressures on ISPs to become copyright police and moral guardians.

This is all facilitated by casting the natives as thieves, delinquents, pornographers, antisocial, vandals and security risks. And the favourite insult of all: 'pirate', a term which I take great pleasure in subverting. The inevitable conclusion that Sarkozy makes is that regulation is necessary- no doubt made by the good folks in the hall, rather than the rest of us in the eG7 billion odd outside.

Notably, it was copyright that he chose as the flag to plant in the territory. He did not name it explicitly, but a good deal of his speech was devoted to how creative spirits could be ruined, the fruits of their labours despoiled, and their liberty threatened. It is clear that he had file-sharing in mind, and internet exclusion as solution, but lacked the courage in the company to say so. It seemed to confirm what we in the Pirate Party have been saying for some time now, that crackdowns on file-sharing will lead to a more general restrictive regulation of the internet, but he was too slippery to be able to pin down.

There was a glaring inconsistency at the heart of the speech. Invoking the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt he said how 'the peoples of Arab countries have shown that the internet doesn't belong to States'. But at same time he went on to ask how the internet can help the functioning of the state, to essentially claim that the political system is the only legitimate representative of the general will and how internet big hitters need "to be responsible and help governments create global governance".

Perhaps this idea that the Middle East is where the web is benign and the West is where online interaction is malign will raise a smile with Edward Said. But this prospect of 'global governance', however vague, is a real worry and to my mind the opposite of democratic accountability.

Then what should be the response of us natives? Perhaps not surprisingly the reaction has been to take up the rhetoric of violent confrontation in response to the notional invasion or colonisation. This has been across the spectrum of opinion- @Glinner tweeted about the 'war on the web' to get people to join ORG, Anonymous refer to their lasers and cannons, Pirate Parties talk about the internet being under siege.

I am as guilty of using this vocabulary as anyone. But to do so is to fall in to the same trap as Mr. Sarkozy, to take a pre-prepared script which makes real progress all the more difficult. To cast ourselves as freedom fighters is at best hopelessly romantic, at worst, an insult to people who really do risk their lives whether as protestors in the Middle East or as members of the armed services.

Rather we should show that the fundamental principles that are at the heart of the conception of the internet are indeed civilising ones that can benefit all of society. In response to the eG8 summit Jeff Jarvis put it: 'The internet was born open, free and distributed. As conceived and built, all bits are created equal and must remain that way.'

It's not a blank territory, or a collection of tubes, it is a true community. Instead of narrow exploitation, the web emphasises cooperation and sharing for mutual cultural and economic benefit. Instead of isolationism and xenophobia, the web encourages free communication across borders. Instead of staid hierarchies, the web allows us all the opportunity to be active rather than passive participants in the world around us. But this can only remain the case if the internet is allowed to continue without undue interference and fettering.

After all these are values worth fighting for. If I absolutely have to put it that way.

The vessel disappeared behind the horizon once more. All was calm, and the LOLcats frolicked by the beach. But we wondered, when will the ships return? And how many?


Loz Kaye, Leader – Pirate Party UK

Image: CC-AT-NC Flickr: Esthr

A law unto itself

Milena Popova asks, in light of recent controversies on Twitter and Facebook, how do you manage the internet?

You know that the judiciary is terrified of something related to technology when the Lord Chief Justice starts comparing it to the child pornography, as was the case late last week with the spreading of celebrity gossip on Twitter. Lord Judge was so unimpressed with Twitter users breaching a superinjunction that he called for technical measures similar to those designed to curb the distribution of child pornography to be put in place against the social networking site.

A quick recap of the story: I’ve lost track by now of whether I am or am not allowed to name names (though I’d suggest looking on Twitter on in the Sunday Herald if you really haven’t heard it by now), but an English footballer allegedly had an affair with a Big Brother star and took out what may or may not have been a superinjunction to prevent the affair being reported.

When someone on Twitter named him, his lawyers (who, one might note, are the only people making any money out of the whole story) decided to demand that Twitter hand over account details of users who’d breached the injunction. This prompted a flood of “I am Spartacus” type tweets over the weekend, thus ensuring that pretty much everyone with internet access found out about the affair, even if - like me - they’d never heard of either the footballer or the starlet before.

Lord Judge’s comments coincided not only with the footballer case but with the release of a report by Lord Neuberger on the use of injunctions and superinjunctions and the balance between the right to privacy and free speech. What is interesting in this case is that Twitter is not technically subject to UK jurisdiction, which puts it out of reach of Lord Judge and his colleagues.

Having made his extremely ill-advised comments about “new media”, Lord Judge has been strangely silent on the case of the Sunday Herald which ran a front page picture of the footballer in question. As a Scottish newspaper, it too is beyond the reach of English courts.

Another interesting case when it comes to jurisdiction over cyberspace was this story about Facebook removing a fairly innocuous picture of two men kissing. As the Facebook user in question has said himself, this is probably not a reflection of Facebook being a homophobic company so much as a single individual in their support team making a bad judgement call. I am not a lawyer and this did not go to court, but I suspect a case could be made here for a breach of the Equality Act around non-discrimination in the provision of goods a services - a comparable picture of a heterosexual couple would most probably not have been removed.

The big question here, however, is to what extent Facebook is subject to UK law. I have yet to see a definite answer to that. To an extent therefore, Lord Judge is right - Information Society Service Providers (the law’s technical name for companies like Twitter or Facebook) by their online and transnational nature can sometimes defy the laws of particular countries. I must admit to an extent I think this is good thing: I am not a fan of censorship, and ISSPs allow us in some cases to circumvent that.

But equally, I would like companies like Facebook to be subject to laws such as the Equality Act. Unlike Lord Judge, I don’t think I have an answer to this dilemma. More censorship clearly is not the solution, and comparing celebrity gossip to child pornography in an attempt to fan public hysteria is not going to get us any closer to one. I would encourage Lord Judge to educate himself about technology, though - maybe then we can have a productive debate on the subject.


Milena is an economics & politics graduate, an IT manager, and a campaigner for digital rights, electoral reform and women's rights. She tweets as @elmyra

Image: CC-AT Flickr: Zyllan

George Osborne’s open data moment

Reflecting on Osborne's speech on open data, by Chris Taggart

As a bit of an outsider, reading the government’s pronouncements on open data feels rather like reading official Kremlin statements during the Cold War. Sometimes it’s not what they’re saying, it’s who’s saying it that’s important.

And so it is, I think, with George Osborne’s speech earlier this week at Google Zeitgeist, at which he stated, “Our ambition is to become the world leader in open data, and accelerate the accountability revolution that the internet age has unleashed“, and “The benefits are immense. Not just in terms of spotting waste and driving down costs, although that consequence of spending transparency is already being felt across the public sector. No, if anything, the social and economic benefits of open data are even greater."

 This is strong, and good stuff, and that it comes from Osborne, who’s not previously taken a high profile position on open data and open government, leaving that variously to the Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, Nick Clegg & even David Cameron himself.

It’s also intriguing that it comes in the apparent burying of the Public Data Corporation, which got just a holding statement in the budget, and no mention at all in Osborne’s speech.

But more than that it shows the Treasury taking a serious interest for the first time, and that’s both to be welcomed, and feared. Welcomed, because with open data you’re talking about sacrificing the narrow interests of small short-term fiefdoms (e.g. some of the Trading Funds in the Shareholder Executive) for the wider interest; you’re also talking about building the essential foundations for the 21st century. And both of these require muscle and money.

It also overseas a number of datasets which have hitherto been very much closed data, particularly the financial data overseen by the Financial Services Authority, the Bank of England and even perhaps some HMRC data, and I’ve started the ball rolling by scraping the FSA’s Register of Mutuals, which we’ve just imported into OpenCorporates, and tying these to the associated entries in the UK Register of Companies.

Feared, because the Treasury is not known for taking prisoners, still less working with the community. And the fear is that rather than leverage the potential that open data allows for a multitude of small distributed projects (many of which will necessarily and desirably fail), rather than use the wealth of expertise the UK has built up in open data, they will go for big, highly centralised projects.

I have no doubt, the good intentions are there, but let’s hope they don’t do a Team America here (and this isn’t meant as a back-handed reference to Beth Noveck, who I have a huge amount of respect for, and who’s been recruited by Osborne), and destroy the very thing they’re trying to save.


By Chris Taggart. This article was originally posted here

Image: CC-AT-SA Flickr: altogetherfool

Criminal prosecutions for file-sharing continue

'Rights-holder groups became effectively that of investigators, witnesses and experts in their own case,' by David Cook

It was reported in the national media on Tuesday 10th May that Anne Muir, a 58 year old woman in Glasgow has pleaded guilty to criminal file-sharing offences, for which she will be sentenced later this month. Although not a party to that case, I believe that this is a stark reminder of where we are at.

It seems to me that the media consciousness has been diverted by the Digital Economy Act 2010, and all that it entails. The infringement notification procedure and “technical measures” suggested for alleged file-sharers and website blocking has understandably caused great concern. However, the elephant in the room remains s.107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). This legislation is the source of the ability of the state to prosecute someone in a criminal court for a copyright offence.

It is still possible for a criminal prosecution under CDPA, despite the availability of the civil remedies of which the public are now more than aware. The Digital Economy Act 2010 not only leaves the criminal copyright provisions unchanged, but, in fact, ups the ante. As well as the Crown Court having the power to impose a 10 year custodial sentence and an unlimited fine, the Digital Economy Act now gives the Magistrates Court the power to impose a £50,000 fine. Be under no illusions - people can and will continue to be prosecuted in criminal courts for file-sharing offences.

Reports that the BPI and IFPI played a major role in the prosecution of Anne Muir are of great concern.

In the recent OiNK case, in which we successfully defended a boy accused of similar file-sharing allegations, the IFPI and BPI used their influence to gain entry to our client’s family home, gather evidence and dictate the direction of inquiries. Despite Government ministers categorically stating they do not want to see teenagers arrested in their bedrooms for file-sharing, such assurances are evidently hollow. That prosecution was not only incompetently handled, it was also never in the public interest and the CPS were forced to admit that in March 2010 when they discontinued their case in the face of the rigorous and aggressive defence that we had forwarded.

In February 2011, we had another case before the UK courts. Again, a rights-holder group was heavily involved in the prosecution. The FileSoup prosecution was aimed at the peer-to-peer distribution of films, so the Federation Against Copyright Theft was the relevant body. Again, we mounted a robust defence and, again, the CPS dropped the case, offering no evidence and allowing our client to be formally acquitted by the Crown Court Judge.

It is of concern that our clients in the OiNK and FileSoup cases were members of the public whose alleged criminality appeared extremely limited. In OiNK, it was alleged that our client had found the music on one publicly accessible music site and simply moved it onto a members-only site (OiNK).

In FileSoup, the prosecution was initially focused on a film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) for which they had already prosecuted the person responsible for the real criminality in this case – the original leaker. That film was then circulated on the internet for a considerable period of time and its distribution was widespread. FACT then took the decision to prosecute a non-profit making community forum of film buffs. This FileSoup prosecution was clearly not directed at the person responsible for any loss or to blame for any leaks.

The OiNK and FileSoup investigations were carried out almost entirely by the rights- holder groups, who then gave the police and CPS the evidence they sought to rely upon, in order to prosecute. However, the duty is on the police and the prosecuting authority to independently investigate alleged offences. It appears that they simply did not do so in those cases.

FACT, BPI and IFPI are funded by the media industries and it was they who controlled the OiNK and FileSoup investigations. Little or nothing independent was carried out by the police. The role of the rights-holder groups became effectively that of investigators, witnesses and experts in their own case.

These internet sites are evidently, in the view of the rights-holders, encouraging breaches of copyright. While there is no doubt that a copyright holder is entitled to the protection of the law, it is nevertheless fundamental that a prosecution is conducted impartially and independently. This was not our experience in the OiNK and FileSoup cases.

I only know about the case of Anne Muir from the media reports that have been published. However, I am willing to bet that the rights-holder groups have acted in a similar way in the prosecution of Muir.

It was our view that the rights-holder groups target the people with the least chance of resisting a prosecution of this nature; those having made no commercial gain and often with little funds to defend such a case. They have prosecuted the very people who spend significant amounts of their time and money in pursuing their interests in music and film.

It certainly appears that rights-holder groups are avoiding taking on those with funds at their disposal, perhaps for fear of them exposing the manner in the way in which these groups go about such investigations. It was only through a methodical and painstaking consideration of the evidence that we were able to draw the attention of the Court to the investigative failures and flawed evidence in the OiNK and FileSoup cases.

It is reported that Anne Muir was not a leaker or a site administrator, but a simple file-sharer on the Direct Connect client. She therefore appears to be an unremarkable file-sharer – part of a class of people that must include the vast majority of UK citizens between the ages of 14 and 30. This legislation and series of cases seek to criminalise a large proportion of the youth of this country.

The inequality in real terms is substantial. FACT, BPI and IFPI wield enormous financial resources and clout. They clearly lobby Parliament and pressure prosecutors to take cases on their behalf. FileSoup and OiNK operated as forums for people with an interest in films and music and were not commercial or profit making organisations. Anne Muir was not alleged to have made any money from her file- sharing activities.

FileSoup, OiNK and the prosecution of Muir were directed at people who are considered in the most vulnerable groups of society. Our OiNK client was a 17 year old boy. Our client in FileSoup was, due to illness, largely housebound in his flat in Scotland. Anne Muir is reported to have suffered mental health problems.

These are the people who the mighty US film and music industries choose to pursue. The frustrating part is that it falls to the British tax payer to fund these prosecutions. The defence funding, also borne by the British tax payer, is based on a page count of disclosed material controlled by these rights-holders groups. In the OiNK and FileSoup cases, the funding we were able to receive was inadequate to cover the costs that we had incurred in defending the prosecutions. These are the conditions in which alleged file-sharers are supposed to defend against the limitless resources of the US media industries.

As news of Anne Muir’s conviction washes over an indifferent British public, the repercussions may eventually be felt as the rights-holder groups become more buoyant by their successes in Court and through their lobbying. With vast proportions of the UK public involved in file-sharing to some degree, who will be next?


David Cook is a solicitor from Burrows Bussin Solicitors in Manchester, he tweets as CopyrightSol

Image: CC-AT-NC Flickr: thomashawk (Thomas Hawk)

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