Pot pourri

Wendy Grossman reflects on an incident-packed 2012 - only two weeks into the year

Image: skOre_de under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

You have to think that 2012 so far has been orchestrated by someone with a truly strange sense of humor. To wit:

- EMI Records is suing the Irish government for failing to pass laws to block "pirate sites". The way PC Pro tells it, Ireland ought to have implemented site blocking laws to harmonize with European law and one of its own judges has agreed it failed to do so. I'm not surprised, personally: Ireland has a lot of other things on its mind, like the collapse of the Catholic church that dominated Irish politics, education, and health for so long, and the economic situation post-tech boom.

- The US Congress and Senate are, respectively, about to vote on SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), laws to give the US site blocking, search engine de-listing, and other goodies. (Who names these things? SOPA and PIPA sound like they escaped from Anna Russell's La Cantatrice Squelante.) Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) have proposed an alternative, the OPEN Act (PDF), which aims to treat copyright violations as a trade issue rather than a criminal one.

- Issa and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) have introduced the Research Works Act to give science journal publishers exclusive rights over the taxpayer-funded research they publish. The primary beneficiary would be Elsevier (which also publishes Infosecurity, which I write for), whose campaign contributions have been funding Maloney.

- Google is mixing Google+ with its search engine results because, see, when you're looking up impetigo, as previously noted, what you really want is to know which of your friends has it.

- Privacy International has accused Facebook of destroying someone's life through its automated targeted advertising, an accusation the company disputes.

- And finally, a British judge has ruled that a Sheffield student Richard O'Dwyer can be extradited to the US to face charges of copyright infringement; he owned the now-removed TVShack.net site, which hosted links to unauthorized copies of US movies and TV shows.

So many net.wars, so little time...

The eek!-Facebook-knows-I'm-gay story seems overblown. I'm sure the situation is utterly horrible for the young man in question, whom PI's now-removed blog posting said was instantly banished from his parents' home, but I still would like to observe that the ads were placed on his page by a robot (one without the Asimov Three Laws programmed into it). On this occasion the robot apparently guessed right but that's not always true. Remember 2002, when several TiVos thought their owners were gay? These are emotive issues and, as Forbes concludes in the article linked above, the more targeting gets good and online behavioral advertising spreads the more you have to think about what someone looking over your shoulder will see. Perhaps that's a new-economy job for 2012: the digital image consultant who knows how to game the system so the ads appearing on your personalized pages will send the "right" messages about you. Except...

It was predicted - I forget by whom - that search generally would need to incorporate social networking to make its search results more "relevant" and "personal". I can see the appeal if I'm looking for a movie to see, a book to read, or a place to travel to: why wouldn't I want to see first the recommendations of my friends, whom I trust and who likely have tastes similar to mine? But if I'm looking to understand what campaigners are saying about American hate radio (PDF), I'm more interested in the National Hispanic Media Coalition's new report than in collectively condemning Rush Limbaugh. Google Plus Search makes sense in terms of competing with Facebook and Twitter, but mix it up with the story above, and you have a bigger mess in sight. By their search results shall ye know their innermost secrets.

Besides proving Larry Lessig's point about the way campaign funding destroys our trust in our elected representatives, the Research Works Act is a terrible violation of principle. It's taken years of campaigning - by the Guardian as well as individuals pushing open standards - to get the UK government to open up its data coffers. And just at the moment when they finally do it, the US, which until now has been the model of taxpayers-paid-for-it-they-own-the-data, is thinking about going all protectionist and proprietary?

The copyright wars were always kind of ridiculous (and, says Cory Doctorow, only an opening skirmish), but there's something that's just wrong - lopsided, disproportionate, arrogant, take your pick - about a company suing a national government over it. Similarly, there's something that seems disproportionate about extraditing a British student for running a Web site on the basis that it was registered in .net, which is controlled by a US-based registry (and has now been removed from same). Granted, I'm no expert on extradition law, and must wait for either Lilian Edwards or David Allen Green to explain the details of the 2003 law. That law was and remains controversial, that much I know.

And this is only the second week. Happy new year, indeed.

Wendy M. Grossman's Web site has an extensive archive of her books, articles, and music, and an archive of all the earlier columns in this series.

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Comments (1)

  1. erigena:
    Jan 17, 2012 at 02:53 AM

    Finally the music companies are suing Ireland for failure to have any implementable copyright legislation;

    http://entertainment.ie/music/news/EMI-launches-lawsuit-against-Irish-state/97275.htm


    Even the most "cynical/daring" comments on this topic really don't get it. Ireland has not been run as a normal state since 1998 or so, and there was every indication from back then that the music industry - in the mid 90's perhaps the biggest in the world pro capita - began to be used for the creation of huge scams

    Please be open to the idea that Ireland was positioning itself to be a zone where copyright laws did NOT apply, and where the "financial services center" was to be a magnet for every scumbag in the world

    However, the 2000 copyright act in Ireland should have anticipated all these problems. In 2000, the Internet was a reality and frims like MP3.com had already had their day;

    http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2000/en/act/pub/0028/index.html

    The problem is that the act was drafted by criminals. In a rather famous incident, while the act was being drafted, the member of Parliament piloting the Copyright and Related rights Bill 2000 got a record contract for his son David Kitt through Warner Bros;

    "Kitt has a charmed life and he escaped public opprobrium before when it emerged that in 2000 he had given a demo tape of his son, singer David Kitt, to Dennis Woods, head of Warner Studios and chairman of Phonographic Performance Ireland. This would have been an exchange hardly worth mentioning were it not for the fact that Kitt was then piloting the Copyright and Related rights Bill 2000 through the Dáil; that this legislation benefited PPI members and that the PPI, one of the organisations most affected beneficially by the act, lobbied the Government strongly."

    See also

    http://davemarsh.us/?p=951

    We can continue with the admittedly labyrinthine narrative on

    http://seanonuallain.com/id2.html

    To summarize; musicians start to notice that their song copyright registrations are altered when they attempt to repatriate them from Britain and the USA to the nascent Irish music "rights" organization (IMRO). Companies close to the government suddenly "own" part of the songs. The musicians check further, and notice that they are credited with writing songs that don't exist, often spelled in Gaelic with a letter missing.

    They get the police involved; one of the police is made a job offer he can't refuse, but parliamentary questions keep the investigation going. It is possible that the government simply wanted to find out what we knew.

    Then someone in IMRO's London counterpart panics and - lo and behold! - it is revealed that Shay Hennessy, chair of IMRO, HAD STOLEN HUNDREDS OF COPYRIGHTS AND WAS USING IMRO TO PERPETUATE THE THEFT. Quis cutodies cutodiet? AS it happens, the police investigation was aborted with a leak to the papers

    http://www.politics.ie/forum/current-affairs/36672-corruption-dpps-office.html

    Hennessy was the main advisor on the copyright act that has caused this snafu;

    http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/miscellaneous-retail-retail-stores-not/4602230-1.html

    It is important to remember that, when referring to Ireland 1997-2011, we are not talking about a modern democracy; it is a third world country, with the prime minister paying a fortune of taxpayers' money to promote the musical and other "artistic" careers of his daughters and their partners, including the horrible "PS I love you".

    U2, among many others, took advantage of the artists destroyers' exemption, which allowed them trade with dissolved companies and steal at will from far better musicians than them (see Dave M's site).


    You all would do us Irish people a favour if you boycotted us while we sort out our country. No more bailouts, please

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By Wendy M Grossman on Jan 16, 2012

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