Digital Economy Act: This Means War!

Baking surveillance, control and censorship into the very fabric of our networks, devices and laws is the absolute road to dictatorial hell

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The Digital Economy Act declares war on people who illegaly downloiad TV shows such as second world war drama The Pacific. Photograph: HBO/Rex Features

With the rushed passage into law of the Digital Economy Act this month, the fight over copyright enters a new phase. Previous to this, most copyfighters operated under the rubric that a negotiated peace was possible between the thrashing entertainment giants and civil society.

But now that the BPI and its mates have won themselves the finest law that money can buy – a law that establishes an unprecedented realm of web censorship in Britain, a law that provides for the disconnection of entire families from the net on the say-so of an entertainment giant, a law that shuts down free Wi-Fi hotspots and makes it harder than ever to conduct your normal business on the grounds that you might be damaging theirs – the game has changed.

I came to the copyfight from a pretty parochial place. As a working artist, I wanted a set of just copyright rules that provided a sound framework for my negotiations with big publishers, film studios, and similar institutions. I worried that the expansion of copyright – in duration and scope – would harm my ability to freely create. After all, creators are the most active re-users of copyright, each one of us a remix factory and a one-person archive of inspirational and influential materials. I also worried that giving the incumbent giants control over the new online distribution system would artificially extend their stranglehold over creators. This stranglehold means that practically every media giant offers the same awful terms to all of us, and no kinder competitor can get our works into the hands of our audiences.

I still worry about that stuff, of course. I co-founded a successful business – Boing Boing, the widely-read website – that benefits enormously from not having to pay fealty to a distributor in order to reach its readers (by contrast, the old print edition of Boing Boing folded when its main distributor went bankrupt while owing it a modest fortune and holding onto thousands of dollars’ worth of printed materials that we never got back). My novels find their way onto the bestseller list by being distributed for free from my website simultaneous with their mainstream bookstore sales through publishers like Macmillan and HarperCollins and Random House.

My whole life revolves around the digital economy: running entrepreneurial businesses that thrive on copying and that exploit the net’s powerful efficiencies to realise a better return on investment.

Parliament has just given two fingers to me (and every other small/medium digital enterprise) by agreeing to cripple Britain’s internet in order to give higher profits to the analogue economy represented by the labels and studios.

But today, my bank-balance is the least of my worries. The entertainment industry’s willingness to use parliament todi impose censorship and arbitrary punishment in the course of chasing a few extra quid is so depraved and terrible that it has me in fear for the very underpinnings of democracy and civil society.

In the US, the MPAA and RIAA (American equivalents of the MPA and the BPI) just submitted comments to the American Intellectual Property Czar, Victoria Espinel, laying out their proposal for IP enforcement. They want us all to install spyware on our computers that deletes material that it identifies as infringing. They want our networks censored by national firewalls (U2’s Bono also called for this in a New York Times editorial, averring that if the Chinese could control dissident information with censorware, our own governments could deploy similar technology to keep infringement at bay). They want border-searches of laptops, personal media players and thumb-drives.

They want poor countries bullied into diverting GDP from humanitarian causes to enforcing copyright. And they want their domestic copyright enforcement handled, free of charge, by the Department of Homeland Security.

Read moreDigital Economy Act: This Means War!

Google vs. China: Google Moves To Hongkong, Leaves Censorship To China

China attacks Google for lifting censorship: (Channel 4 News):

China has said Google’s move to stop censoring search results is “totally wrong” and accused it of breaking a promise made when it launched in China.

The ‘Spiegel’ has an interesting article, but not in English.

Translation by Google translator: Here.

Google überlässt Peking das Zensieren (Spiegel Online):

Es klingt wie ein Befreiungsschlag, doch Googles Umzug nach Hongkong bringt den chinesischen Nutzern nicht die Internet-Perestroika. Anstelle des Web-Konzerns übernimmt nun die staatliche Filtersoftware direkt den Zensurjob. Viele Inhalte bleiben gesperrt.

Das Manöver mutet an wie ein Befreiungsschlag im Kampf gegen die allmächtige Web-Zensur in China: Google leitet seit Montag Suchanfragen aus der Volksrepublik auf nicht-zensierte Server in Hongkong um. Das klingt auf den ersten Blick nach mehr Inhalten für Chinas Nutzer, tatsächlich aber dürfte sich für sie wenig ändern.

Der Umzug nach Hongkong hat für Google dennoch einen entscheidenden Vorteil: Der Suchmaschinenbetreiber macht sich die Hände nicht mehr selbst schmutzig. Fürs Filtern sind jetzt die chinesischen Behörden direkt zuständig. Die Nutzer der Suchmaschine im übrigen China spüren nun auch deutlicher, dass zensiert wird. Es ist etwas anderes, wenn Suchanfragen versanden, als wenn man eine Auswahl der regimefreundlichsten Treffer erhält.


Google vs. China

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Google’s China headquarters remains open in Beijing on March 19, 2010. Google will close its business in China next month with an official announcement early next week, Chinese state media reported Friday. (UPI)

BEIJING, March 23 (UPI) — Search engine giant Google is apparently sidestepping Chinese censorship by directing users to a Hong Kong site where browsers can surf the Internet unfettered.

Chinese officials declared the move was in violation of Google agreements with Beijing regarding access to the huge Chinese market.

The move by Google is seen as related to allegations hacking attacks on activists’ e-mail accounts and Google sites were traced to Chinese locations.

Google, on its Web site, said Monday it stopped censoring searches on its Chinese site.

“We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced — it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China,” Google said.

Read moreGoogle vs. China: Google Moves To Hongkong, Leaves Censorship To China

Censorship: New Zealand’s Internet Filter Goes Live

The Department of Internal Affairs’ (DIA) internet filter is now operational and is being used by internet providers (ISPs) Maxnet and Watchdog.

Thomas Beagle, spokesperson for online freedom lobby Tech Liberty says he’s “very disappointed that the filter is now running, it’s a sad day for the New Zealand internet”.

He told Computerworld the filter went live on February 1 but DIA has delayed announcing that until it held a meeting with its Independent Reference Group. He says he’s disappointed the launch was conducted in such a “stealthy mode”.

The manager of the Department of Internal Affairs’ Censorship Compliance Unit, Steve O’Brien, denies any subterfuge in the launch, saying the trial has been going on for two years and that has been communicated to media for “quite some time”.

“The Independent Reference Group has met and the filter system processes were demonstrated as set out in the code of practice, that is that the website filtering system prevents access to known websites containing images of child sexual abuse,” says O’Brien.

Beagle says the DIA refuses to say which other ISPs will be joining the filter, claiming the right to negotiate in secret.

Read moreCensorship: New Zealand’s Internet Filter Goes Live

Internet Censorship: France leapfrogs past Australia in Big Brother stakes

Lock up your kids and lock down your PC’s

internet-censorship

France yesterday put in its bid for an unlikely prize, becoming the first western country to make even Australia look liberal when it comes to state powers of internet censorship.

In the teeth of fierce opposition both inside and outside parliament, the National Assembly approved, by 312 votes to 214 against, a first reading of a bill on Internal Security – the quaintly titled “LOPPSI 2”.

LOPPSI – otherwise known as Loi d’Orientation et de Programmation pour la SÈcuritÈ IntÈrieure (pdf)- is a ragbag of measures designed to make France a safer place. Like similar UK legislation – most notably the various Criminal Justice acts brought in over the last decade – LOPPSI brings together a number of apparently unrelated proposals which would severely restrict individual rights in all walks of life.

Last week, for instance, the Assembly agreed to include within the new law a measure that would allow Prefects to sign off on a curfew for children aged under 13, out unaccompanied between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.

The bill also includes measures that would increase police spend on “security”, create additional penalties for counterfeiting and ID theft, increase CCTV surveillance, and widen access to the Police DNA database.

However, it is in the online area that some of the most radical proposals are to be found, with the criminalisation of online ID theft, provision for the police to tap online connections in the course of investigations, and most controversially of all, allowing the state to order ISPs to block (filter) specific internet URLs according to ministerial diktat.

It has also been suggested that the state should have the right to plant covert trojans to monitor individual PC usage.

Whilst the latter measures are put forward on the grounds of child protection, critics have been quick to point out that, in the absence of any judicial oversight mechanism, this is a power just waiting to be abused.

Read moreInternet Censorship: France leapfrogs past Australia in Big Brother stakes

Australian Government Requests Google To Censor YouTube

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Not that we already have more than enough censorship!


Google says it will not “voluntarily” comply with the government’s request that it censor YouTube videos in accordance with broad “refused classification” (RC) content rules.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to Google’s censorship on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments in making his case for the company to impose censorship locally.

Google warns this would lead to the removal of many politically controversial, but harmless, YouTube clips.

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt, one of Australia’s top communications experts, said that to comply with Conroy’s request Google “would have to install a filter along the lines of what they actually have in China”.

As it prepares to introduce legislation within weeks forcing ISPs to block a blacklist of RC websites, the government says it is in talks with Google over blocking the same type of material from YouTube.

Read moreAustralian Government Requests Google To Censor YouTube

Arrivederci alla Libertà di Internet in Italia: Italian government wants users to seek permission for uploads

Arrivederci alla Libertà di Internet in Italia

PROPOSED WEB VIDEO RESTRICTIONS CAUSE OUTRAGE IN ITALY

New rules to be introduced by government decree will require people who upload videos onto the Internet to obtain authorization from the Communications Ministry similar to that required by television broadcasters, drastically reducing freedom to communicate over the Web, opposition lawmakers have warned. The decree is ostensibly an enactment of a European Union (EU) directive on product placement and is due to go into effect at the end of January after being subjected to a nonbinding appraisal by parliament.

On Thursday opposition lawmakers held a press conference in parliament to denounce the new rules – which require government authorization for the uploading of videos, give individuals who claim to have been defamed a right of reply and prevent the replay of copyright material – as a threat to freedom of expression. [No!! Realmente??!!]

Bruno Leoni is turning over in his grave.

Posted by David Kramer on January 17, 2010 10:26 PM

Source: Lew Rockwell


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The government of Italy is proposing Internet restrictions on uploaded video content by Italians. The proposed initiative would require citizens to seek authorization from the government before uploading videos.

New restrictions by the Italian government will force Italian Internet users who upload video content onto websites to seek authorization from the Communications Ministry, which is similar to what is required by television broadcasters, according to the San Francisco Gate.Opposition legislators warn that the latest proposal will reduce the level of freedom that Italian Internet users have.

The decree could affect websites of newspapers, IPTV and Mobile TV, which would force them to take on the same legal standards as television broadcasters.

On Thursday, the lawmakers who oppose the bill held a press conference in Parliament to state that the legislation is a serious threat to freedom of speech. The Members of Parliament provided one example of the legislation: Article 4, which requires ministerial authorization of “moving pictures, with or without sound.”

Opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Paolo Gentiloni told the press conference, “The decree subjects the transmission of images on the Web to rules typical of television and requires prior ministerial authorization, with an incredible limitation on the way the Internet currently functions.” Gentiloni’s party colleague Vincenzo Vita added, “Italy joins the club of the censors, together with China, Iran and North Korea.”

Pseudo Anonymous reports that Italian Internet users will be unable to share clips from television shows or goals in the Italian football league.

Read moreArrivederci alla Libertà di Internet in Italia: Italian government wants users to seek permission for uploads

China Tells Google and Other Internet Companies to Follow the Law

Google May Close Operations in China (Video):

CNBC interview with David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, who discusses the Internet giant’s reaction to an assault by hackers who sought to penetrate the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Google considers to shut down business operations in China (Official Google Blog)


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A worker in the lobby of Google’s office Wednesday in Beijing.

BEIJING – Two days after Google announced that it would quit China unless the nation’s censors eased their grip, the Chinese government offered an indirect but unambiguous response: Companies that do business in China must follow the laws of the land.

The comments, by two different officials Thursday, suggested that China was unlikely to give ground on Google’s demands that its search engine results be unfiltered. In announcing its decision Tuesday that it might leave the world’s biggest Internet market, Google also cited a series of cyberattacks aimed at breaching the accounts of human rights advocates on its e-mail service, Gmail.

Several of those who said their e-mail accounts were hacked provided more details about the assaults Thursday.

After a day of silence, the Foreign Ministry said that China welcomed foreign Internet companies but that those offering online services must do so “in accordance with the law.” Speaking at a scheduled news conference, Jiang Yu, a ministry spokeswoman, did not address Google’s complaints about censorship and cyberattacks and simply stated that “China’s Internet is open.”

The remarks, and those of another high-ranking official who called for even tighter Internet restrictions, may speed Google’s departure and increase friction between Beijing and the Obama administration, which has made priorities of Internet freedom and online security.

Read moreChina Tells Google and Other Internet Companies to Follow the Law

Google considers to shut down business operations in China

“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”


A new approach to China

Google

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.

Read moreGoogle considers to shut down business operations in China

DHS Threatens Blogger Who Posted New TSA Screening Directive

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TSA Special Agent John Enright, left, speaks to Steven Frischling outside the blogger’s home in Niantic, Connecticut, after returning Frischling’s laptop Wednesday.
Photo: Thomas Cain/Wired.com

Special agents from the TSA’s Office of Inspection interrogated two U.S. bloggers, one of them an established travel columnist, and served them each with a civil subpoena demanding information on the anonymous source that provided the TSA document.

The document, which the two bloggers published within minutes of each other Dec. 27, was sent by TSA to airlines and airports around the world and described temporary new requirements for screening passengers through Dec. 30, including conducting “pat-downs” of legs and torsos. The document, which was not classified, was posted by numerous bloggers. Information from it was also published on some airline websites.

“They’re saying it’s a security document but it was sent to every airport and airline,” says Steven Frischling, one of the bloggers. “It was sent to Islamabad, to Riyadh and to Nigeria. So they’re looking for information about a security document sent to 10,000-plus people internationally. You can’t have a right to expect privacy after that.”

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said in a statement that security directives “are not for public disclosure.”

“TSA’s Office of Inspections is currently investigating how the recent Security Directives were acquired and published by parties who should not have been privy to this information,” the statement said.

Frischling, a freelance travel writer and photographer in Connecticut who writes a blog for the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, said the two agents who visited him arrived around 7 p.m. Tuesday, were armed and threatened him with a criminal search warrant if he didn’t provide the name of his source. They also threatened to get him fired from his KLM job and indicated they could get him designated a security risk, which would make it difficult for him to travel and do his job.

“They were indicating there would be significant ramifications if I didn’t cooperate,” said Frischling, who was home alone with his three children when the agents arrived. “It’s not hard to intimidate someone when they’re holding a 3-year-old [child] in their hands. My wife works at night. I go to jail, and my kids are here with nobody.”

Frischling, who described some of the details of the visit on his personal blog, told Threat Level that the two agents drove to his house in Connecticut from DHS offices in Massachusetts and New Jersey and didn’t mention a subpoena until an hour into their visit.

Read moreDHS Threatens Blogger Who Posted New TSA Screening Directive

United Arab Emirates Removes Sunday London Times From Newsstands

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DUBAI — The Sunday London Times newspaper was removed by authorities from shelves in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday amid intensive reporting of Dubai’s debt problems, an executive at the paper said.

The National Media Council ordered the paper blocked by distributors without providing a reason, an executive at the paper in Dubai told Zawya Dow Jones.

The Sunday Times edition available in the U.A.E. on Nov. 29 featured a double-page spread graphic illustrating Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum sinking in a sea of debt. The Times wasn’t given a reason for the block, or a timeframe when it will be lifted, the executive said.

A government official in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the U.A.E., said that the picture of Sheik Mohammed, which accompanied a story entitled: The sinking of Dubai’s dream, was “offensive.”

Under the U.A.E.’s media code, publications are prohibited from criticizing the sheikdom’s rulers. Local media and government officials have criticized international press coverage of Dubai’s debt crisis. Markets around the world fell last week after the government requested a debt standstill for one of its biggest conglomerates.

Read moreUnited Arab Emirates Removes Sunday London Times From Newsstands