Julian Huppert’s “One-Speed Internet”

Lib Dems are appealing to the vital online pirate vote at this year’s party conference, putting the membership on collision course with LibDem ministers in the coalition government. In a new IT policy paper called “Preparing The Ground”, a team of party activists led by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert calls for the Digital Economy Act to be gutted of its copyright measures. It also threatens new legislation to ensure all “traffic flows at the same speed”, and wants the IR35 contractor tax suspended.

Senior party figures speaking on condition of anonymity expressed dismay at the proposals. The LibDems are in government for the first time in 70 years, and have attempted to leave behind the Party’s old “sandal-wearing” image as a haven for single-issue-fanatics.
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Google hands millions to ‘independent’ watchdogs

What do you do when a global corporation pays out millions to the watchdogs that we expect to protect us against it? It’s a fair question to ask in light of the Chocolate Factory’s legal settlement this week, over Google Buzz. The privacy class action suit has landed a windfall of millions of dollars to “privacy” groups – but not a cent to ordinary citizens, users of Google Gmail’s service whose privacy was compromised.
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RIP: The copyright quango that wanted to terminate your rights

The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property is to be abolished. The Coalition has decided that dismantling copyright is a task that the Intellectual Property Office is quite capable of performing without assistance, and has folded SABIP’s duties back into the IPO.

SABIP was founded in 2008 in the wake of the Gowers Report, as a quasi think-tank focusing on copyright policy. New technology has allowed many more people to record and distribute material – “everyone’s a creator” – we’re told, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. From publishers such as News International to giant web data aggregators such as Facebook, the pressure to weaken the individual’s rights remains enormous. All are eager to exploit amateur material, and drive down the cost of professional material.
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Open Rights Group musters Flash Mob… of 7

Sorry ORG

Music House — HQ for a number of the UK music industry’s trade groups — was in a lock-down situation this lunchtime as an Open Rights Group Flash Mob descended, protesting against the Digital Economy Bill.

As many as seven protesters could be seen outside the Berners Street offices, according to staff who phoned us from beneath their desks. This is slightly down on the nine who had pledged their support on Facebook.

Twitter was a hive of activity, too. We’d counted two Tweets on the protest in an hour. Photographic evidence below suggests that after an hour, the number had swelled to almost double figures.

In a simultaneous gesture, over at the BPI’s HQ, three protesters handed in a “disconnection notice” to chief executive Geoff Taylor, who apparently wasn’t in.

Music House, the focus of the main protest, is home to the PRS For Music performing rights society, the Music Publishers Association, the Musicians Union, the Music Managers Forum, the British Academy of Composers Songwriters and Authors, and umbrella trade group UK Music.

The ORG’s FlashMob was trailed as a “Stop Disconnection April Fools Flashmob” with the question “Are we being made fools of?”

But with a turnout of less than a dozen, that’s a question that answers itself, really.
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Pirates and the politics of spite

If “digital rights” becomes reduced to gesture politics, only one group can win: the one with the biggest, boldest, daftest gesture

A clear winner is emerging from the Digital Economy Bill – and it’s the UK Pirate Party. The penny only really dropped for me yesterday, after the Open Rights Group’s big demonstration at Westminster.

“What was all that about, Andrew?” someone asked me in the pub afterwards. He’d been at the Commons for a meeting, and walked past the demo too. The confusion was understandable: the ORG’s clever wheeze of blank placards and a silent protest meant anyone walking past had no idea what it was about. The glorious exceptions were a beautiful banner and a large flag from the Pirate Party. The logo is very cool, as you know.

As an exercise in communicating, the Pirates were the only success of the event. At least the logo will have got on TV, and made an impression with passers-by.

Nobody particularly likes the Bill, but as long as the sheer joy of filesharing remains an illicit one, and not part of the legitimate music market place, then Piracy will have a lustre, and the Party will be in with a chance. You may find them childish, ignorant and selfish – as I do – but they have a simple message that eludes other digital campaigners. But I think the Pirates may flourish for a few other reasons. I’ll try and explain what they are.

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The problem with ‘substitution’ studies…

A study for the international chamber of commerce reckons 2.7 million jobs have been lost since 2004 in Europe because of unlicensed internet downloads, and warns economic losses could treble to €32bn by 2015. The report is backed by trade unions, including the TUC.

The work was led by Patrice Geffon, an economist at Paris Dauphine University, for consultants Tera. It uses the WIPO definition of creative industries, including software, databases and printing as core jobs, and support and consultancy for example as non core jobs. It’s likely to strengthen calls for legal measures to deter downloaders, since picking up unlicensed music, movies and software is currently largely pain and risk free.

“Stemming the rising tide of digital piracy should be at the top of the agenda of policy makers,” the authors conclude.

But it’s not going to be without controversy. Debate over such studies focuses on the net substitution effect – the degree to which a digital download substitutes for a genuine purchase, minus any positive effect of spending on a legitimate good which might not otherwise have taken place. This ratio varies significantly across various types of goods.

For digital music, most academic studies put the figure at 1:10: for every ten CD downloads, the consumer typically forgoes one legitimate purchase. This is significantly lower than the 1:1 ratio some music industry figures insist upon. But still it’s a net negative effect.
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Panorama on the Digital Economy Bill

BBC1’s flagship current affairs program was devoted to file sharing last night, and contained something to piss off a range of lobbyists.

Usually when this happens, BBC producers often conclude “they’re doing something right”, and pour themselves a large, congratulatory drink. They shouldn’t, because while the program succeeded in trying to be “fair”, it failed in its larger mission to present the issue properly – something we already understand.
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LibDems drop net blocking, blame activists

LibDem peers agreed to drop their controversial net-blocking clause from the Digital Economy Bill after the government advised that the proposal would be legally unenforceable. It means the Bill now heads for the Commons with one of the key copyright infringement countermeasures up in the air, although it’s likely to be a return to Plan A (ministerial superpowers) rather than judicial oversight by the Courts, as the LibDems’ Plan B proposed.

The original Section 17 was written to deal with music and movie business concerns that a third of infringing material was being downloaded via cyberlockers, such as RapidShare. It gave the Minister considerable powers to order new countermeasures – extending copyright law on the hoof.

A clearly exasperated Lord Clement Jones, who had tabled the replacement Clause 17, said he’d done so in response to the concerns of internet activists, such as the ORG, who had objected to the ‘Ministerial Superpowers’.
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LibDems back copyright takedowns

Two LibDem peers have tabled an amendment allowing the Courts to grant injunctions against ISPs – blocking off sections of the internet found to host infringing material. It’s similar to the DMCA-style proposal punted by the BPI in the new year, which we exclusively revealed.

Injunctions are already a legal tool against infringement, but the LibDem Lord gives them a new scope and spin.
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Obama plagiarist has a legal posse

Artist Shepard Fairey is facing a Grand Jury probe for falsifying evidence in a copyright case. Fairey was suing Associated Press over the use of an copyright image Fairey had used as the basis for a popular Obama election poster.

To the dismay of the Boing Boing crowd, Fairey turned out not to be a "copyfighter", but a freetard fraud. Fairey lied about the photograph he’d used, falsely submitting a similar AP photo from the same event, rather than the identical one that truly provided the basis for his derivative works. He maintained the fiction for eight months, before admitting the deception in October.

AP has asked for damages to go to its emergency relief fund.

Other artists have noted Fairey’s tendency to plunder the history of radical and revolutionary art for personal profit – he has a clothing line – without adding anything new along the way; Fairey simply scans or traces the original, usually badly.

"Simply reproducing the work of others robs you of your imagination and form-making abilities. You’re not developing the muscularity you need to invent your own ideas," designer Milton Glaser wrote in Print magazine.

"It largely ransacks leftist history and imagery while the artist laughs all the way to the bank," wrote artist Mark Vallen in a withering essay entitled Obey Plagiarist Shepard Fairey, that you can read here. " It is machine art that any second-rate art student could produce."

But it’s also a case of the biter bit – Fairey uses intellectual property legislation aggressively.

In 2008 year Fairey set his legal team upon a graphic designer Baxter Orr who created a derivative work on Fairey’s ‘Obey’ poster design (originally ‘Andre the Giant Has a Posse’), itself a derivative work of course.