ACTA

The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is the latest attack on your digital rights: and it will live or die because of the campaigning work of European citizens like you.

Earlier this year, tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets, and 1.4 million of us signed AVAAZ’s petition against the Treaty. People were livid and EU ratification stalled as a result.

The ACTA treaty is not what it sounds. It is not a simple trade agreement, or even primarily targeted at ‘counterfeit’ goods. It was suggested by US trade officials as a means of clamping down on online and pharmaceutical infringements of intellectual property. It is being agreed as a high standard of enforcement among a small group of mainly developed nations, with the aim of bringing other states in later.

After…

Privacy battles

Every year recently, privacy threats have grabbed the headlines. Identity cards, credit cards being leaked by Sony or personal details of UK citizens being lost by government: bad systems and bad ideas seem to lead directly to serious debacles. And it is unclear if our governments know how to fix the problem.

2012 is no exception. But this year, while I can’t predict who will bungle their network security, I can tell you how the battles for our privacy rights will be shaping up.

You’ll know exactly why the problems is developing at root. Our computers are getting better and better at collecting, storing and processing information. There’s no reason to suppose the trend will slow down or stop. And as we get better at using all this data, new ways to strip our privacy emerge,…

Copyright controversies

The war in the USA between the open Internet and copyright industries pushing for draconian controls took an unexpected twist in the last weeks.

The Bills – SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protection of Intellectual property Act) – were withdrawn. President Obama threatened to veto SOPA. Republican candidates were highly critical.

It looks like a straightforward victory for common sense: which would be an unexpected twist. Normally, copyright industries seem to cloud political judgements to an extraordinary extent. Internet activists don’t expect their campaigns to be easy or quick. Victories are often last minute, down to the wire affairs.

The proposals – for Internet censorship of foreign “infringing” websites, interference with DNS, possibly intrusion into…

Pioneering Diaspora

Trying it out

Everyone likes to be first. But in a social network, being first can be a bit lonely. Thus, finding and building a small community on Diaspora has been a bit of a challenge.

First off, you have to persuade people that they can actually try Diaspora today, which they can, very easily. They then need to try to find their friends too, and start talking.

In practice, the most active users are talking about the platform, and what they want it to do. There are people trying the new features too. This is all fine, as far as it goes.

The main lack, is groups. Tags work to help focus public discussions and find like-minded users, but private discussions centre around people currently. That’s not quite how it needs to be.

The…

What will really defeat FPTP: local change

The AV referendum is pretty depressing, everyone agrees. Already Lib Dems are apparently debating the consequences of defeat.

In retrospect, Lib Dems may find this was the wrong change to ask for right now, although I like many others wanted them to get something to change in our voting system. It was too early to ask for full blown PR, but the cracks in first past the post are nevertheless growing. What advocates of change should have asked is how to allow a more diverse politics to develop.

Part of the shift to smaller parties is sociological – as people are no longer focused around large, unionized workplaces or belonging to sizeable church congregations. People are more educated and expect more responsive politics. Party loyalties are prone to shift, and there…

One thing the No campaign got right

The True Wales No to law making powers campaign, fantastically amateur as it seemed to be, got at least one thing right, when they claimed that a Welsh legislature would need more than sixty AMs.

Fourteen of the Welsh AMs make up the cabinet. There are five scrutiny committees, five legislative committees and nine other committees.

Assuming half the sixty AMs make up a government, nearly half the government benches…

Brighton tries to use copyright to censor Councillor

A friend of mine, Councillor Jason Kitcat, who is also involved in ORG, is being disciplined for posting clips of Brighton & Hove Council meetings to Youtube.

The clips are said to be a “political” use of “Council resources”.

Their documents say Jason attempted to “hold the administration politically to account” by trying “to highlight what the he believed were the administration’s deficiencies”, while using “the council’s intellectual…

Copyright and free speech in conflict

Some very interesting copyright events being reported this weekend. The most concerning is from the New York Times, who report that Microsoft lawyers are co-operating with Russian police to suppress environmental and civil society campaign groups, by taking the groups to court for violations of Microsoft copyright.

The strategy seems to be to pick government enemies exclusively, and raid their premises to find copyright violations; ie, copied, unlicensed software. Since illicit copying of software is rampant in Russia, the chances of success are high, and the penalties are conveniently very severe.

Over in Mexico, environmental protesters are apparently also being attacked…

Great disappearing record collection

Along with my books, a bunch of records arrived here last week, including the vinyl I purchased back in the 80s. I’ve not hooked up my turntable to my desktop Mac yet, so I’ve no way of digitising my albums; plus a few things have gone missing. So I thought I’d see if could get these missing greats on mp3 download anywhere. I was listening to a lot of African music at the time, which if you remember was undergoing a wave of popularity as a refreshing change from the plastic pop we were being served as a musical staple at the time.

Philip Tabane and Malombo: Malombo

Out of print, no downloads available

Tabane is now an honorary Doctor, awarded for his contributions to South African music. He plays a mad combination of traditional…


Reunited with my books

Books at my flatWhen I moved to London, I arrived with very little of my stuff, as I didn’t have anywhere permanent to live: and as a result my books have been in boxes for a serious while. I’ve just got them back. Here’s a few of the things I’ve been living without:

Steve Bell’s If... from the early and mid-80s. 

Steve Bell needs no introduction, but these early volumes were very influential for me. Do cartoons change politics? Maybe not, but they can certainly turn the unpalatable into genuine entertainment. Didn't you realise how much you’d miss Norman Tebbit once he left the front bench?

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: Rogue Planet

These…

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