Published 28 June 2012
Dotcom Copyright Farce Makes a Mockery of the Law
More fallout from the sloppy work done on raiding Mr Dotcom’s home in NZ earlier this year with the SMH reporting that the initial warrant has been ruled invalid. So they are prepared to go to the trouble of landing by helicopter on the grounds, and storming the place with guns drawn (and destroying a service elevator) but it’s not important enough to them to make sure what they were doing was legal. Nice. Just another demonstration of the badness of copyright and its presumption that it is above all other laws. In the US, there’s a problem with service (and therefore power of the court to hear the case) because the company is not resident there. For good measure, the FBI have unlawfully taken data from the NZ raid overseas.
It is Kim Dotcom today, but tomorrow it will be Richard O’Dwyer. In a year or two it will be ordinary schmucks like you and me. Copyright is out of control.
The judgment is available from TVNZ here, assuming that is, the site isn’t brought down by some overzealous law enforcers before you get to it.
Published 21 June 2012
R18+ Games – I told you so [updated]
As I predicted in December 2009, we now have an R18+ category for the classification of computer games. The reason an R18+ category was a foregone conclusion was that it is a necessary precondition to establishing an internet censorship regime in Australia which, apparently, is still part of the Labor Government’s policy, but is opposed by the opposition and minor parties.
As an aside, the current classification system is broken. It is, for example, not legal for a shop to sell an x rated video in NSW (I think outside ACT or NT), but a NSW resident can readily download one from the internet. When they do that they don’t have the benefit of any classification system. This is partly because getting a classification costs money, so why would anyone be bothered?
For my purposes, the classification system is of some help in deciding what programmes are appropriate to show to my children, but a classification is never sufficient. I always look at somewhere like commonsense media to get an idea about what is appropriate and inappropriate in the film. For example, Groundhog Day is rated PG, but it contains a sex scene which parents might reasonably consider inappropriate for their children to watch. Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan is also PG, but contains two scenes of concern – first the not very graphic, but pretty scary, scene in which ceti eels are inserted into two crew members, and a later, quite gruesome scene where they discover the crew of the space station has been murdered. While I am at it, the law should recognise the inherent right of viewers to copy and modify media for the purpose of viewing them to remove or mollify these errors in direction.
Common sense media and similar sites are much more useful. The classification scheme in Australia really should be overhauled away from a formal classification system towards one in which producers of material or viewers can classify their own material, perhaps in accordance with guidelines. The current scheme is too blunt an instrument.
Open Source Law Releases Report On Open Standards
Update: UK Open source principles released
I have been doing a bit of work for a variety of people recently relating to standards and standards setting. In early May I saw that the UK open standards consultation process had been extended because of a potential conflict of interest by one of the facilitators. Linux Australia commissioned a report from me about Open Standards. That report (link below) was completed last week and, I understand, Linux Australia has used it as a basis for a submission to the UK Open Standards Consultation process. The report covers a variety of issues relating to open standards. Some of the issues it covers are:
- the difference between open formats and open standards. I think if government focusses on open “standards”, then that’s a big problem. In practice it would resolve to “open standards or anything goes”, with no middle ground. However, there are plenty of viable open formats which have not been standardised. Moreover, invariably any format used by an application will initially not be standardised, so there needs to be an incentive for that first format to be open. The report suggests, for example, that open formats should be preferred to closed standards;
- what is open in relation to a format. The word “open” is tossed around in government with varying degrees of precision. Often it can mean no more than “specified”. Thus, a format which requires the payment of extensive licence fees can nevertheless be “open”. The report endorses the proposition that if some format gives a preference to a particular bidder, then it’s not open.
- discriminatory “non discriminatory” terms – the report draws attention to the fact that licensing terms for standards are commonly overtly discriminatory. For example, the requirement to pay per copy licence fees directly discriminates against any open source implementation of the standard. Despite this obvious bias, such terms are routinely permitted to be categorised as “non-discriminatory”. The report rejects the usefulness of terms like “RAND/FRAND/RANDZ”.
The report is licensed under a creative commons licence.
The full report can be downloaded here.
Here are the figures:
Figure 1: Govt Cost Shifting
Figure 2: File Format Feedback
Figure 3: Format Grid