Tuesday, 8 December 2009


"Rather Than Blaming Twitter, NY Police Using It To Track Gang Activity" (TechDirt, 01 December 2009)

Virtual worlds and theft

Apparently, somebody has been arrested for theft for hacking into accounts, use avatars and steal the virtual possessions. "Real-world arrest for man who stole RuneScape virtual characters" (Times, 30 November 2009)
For disapproval, "If You Gain Unauthorized Access To A Character In A Virtual World, Is It Theft?" (TechDirt, 01 December 2009)
Contra: "Is virtual boom our industrial revolution?" (TheGuardian, 10 September 2009)

Two controversial decisions

How on earth is it possible? That is my first immediate reaction. Compliance with rith to privacy dictates that private people cannot obtain access to what police forces can obtain... "Police right to hand over seized hardware, says judge" (ZDnet.co.uk, 17 November 2009)

And for encryption issues, "UK Man Jailed For Refusing To Decrypt His Files" (TechDirt, 02 December 2009)

Towards an international protection for privacy

The CNIL (French quango to protect freedom of information and liberties) website reports of a conference to elaborate/create international standards that would overcome the patchy protection offered by national legislations to internet users. The article is in English, and is also available in French
"Privacy Policy: a first step towards international standards" (CNIL, 10 November 2009)

Different issues on fraud and malware and a few arrests/suspicions

Well, I would have thought they were an obvious target? "Online bank fraud targeting corporate accounts" (ZDnet.co.uk, 04 November 2009)

"Facebook denies mass hijack was down to flaw" (ZDnet.co.uk, 11 November 2009) but a few weeks later, decides to change its approach to security as company policy! "Facebook forms safety advisory board" (07 December 2009)

I think here Google is over optimistic. Actually data security and privacy is the very reason why I choose not to use the different services available, despite the fact that it would have made my life much easier. "Google: Data is more secure in the cloud" (ZDnet.co.uk, 03 November 2009)

"UK police make Zeus Trojan arrests" (ZDnet. co.uk, 19 November 2009)
"Former YouSendIt chief accused of DoS attack" (ZDnet.co.uk, 02 November 2009)


"US gov't agencies sued over Facebook surveillance" (ZDnet.co.uk, 02 December 2009) Different watchdogs decided to ask the US federal government for their guidelines in how they use social networks to monitor citizens' behaviours.

A similar policy would not be amiss in the UK given the new UK cybersecurity Centre and the complete inadequacy of the RIPA to protect citizens' privacy from interference by whichever government agencies "Government curbs councils' Ripa powers" (ZDnet.co.uk, 04 November 2009)

"UK cybersecurity centre starting operations in March" (ZDnet.co.uk, 13 November 2009)

and the more general view of Thomas Berners-Lee "Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities" (Euractiv, 04 December 2010)

Nasa Hacker....

FYI, "MPs urge Nasa hacker clemency" (ZDnet.co.uk, 12 November 2009)

because "Home secretary considers Nasa hacker plea" (ZDnet.co.uk, 11 November 2009)

"McKinnon case puts IT ethics in the dock" (ZDnet.co.uk, 05 October 2009)

The end of the road...

"'Godfather of Spam' sentenced to four years" (ZDnet.co.uk, 25 November 2009) and £ 150,000 to forfeit, if Alan Ralsky has them....

Smartphones and malwares

Not a surprise that smartphones start to be the target of viruses and other malwares. They are powerful computers when one think of their size.

"iPhone worm could be used to create botnets" (ZDnet.co.uk, 23 November 2009)
"Un nouveau virus s'attaque à l'iPhone" (JDN. 24 November 2009)

which in turn, means good jobs for technicians and ex-hackers/malware writers "Rickroll virus author hired by iPhone app company" (ZDnet.co.uk, 27 November 2009)

The new UK piracy Bill and the anti-piracy lobby

The new Bill works on the model of the three strikes law, with obviously no intervention of an independent body. Anybody can request the ISP to file a notice and it is the ISP that makes the decision. What about a fair trial in the UK?
Moreover, the list of 'offenders' can be requested by anybody victim of copyrights infringement. But in the past, did we not need a search warrant? i.e. a judge assessing the claim made by prosecution/victims?
For the bill itself, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/001/10001.i-ii.html

For a preview before the Bill went to Parliament, "Mandelson puts 'three strikes' internet plan in motion" (ZDnet.co.uk, 28 October 2009)

"Digital Economy Bill gets tough on file-sharers" (ZDnet.co.uk, 20 November 2009)

"Digital Economy Bill: Industry disputes gov't claims" (ZDnet.co.uk, 20 November 2009)
"Web giants attack Digital Economy Bill" (ZDnet.co.uk, 02 December 2009)

"GCHQ supplier pans government file-sharing plans" (ZDnet.co.uk, 27 November 2009) and
"UK Politicians Pushing Back On Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill" (TechDirt, 03 December 2009) but on the contrary, "Virgin Media to monitor traffic for file-sharing" (ZDnet.co.uk, 26 November 2009)

"Yes, But Will Sergey Brin Take Peter Mandelson Out To Dinner At A Fancy Resort?" (TechDirt, 02 December 2009)

The funny side of things is that mobile industry cannot identify offenders. So guess what? do not use your home computer. Use your smartphone! "Mobile industry 'cannot identify pirates' " (ZDnet.co.uk, 24 November 2009)

To put the whole debate in perspective, read this interesting article that shows how powerful is the lobby against piracy. There is nothing about morals here, but only about economic gain, and some cynics may add, about economic greed. "European ISPs attack secret Acta copyright talks" (ZDnet.co.uk, 02 December 2009)

See also, more generally on the use of the internet for surveillance purposes but without the traditional safeguards of a warrant, the interview of Tim Berners-Lee, the "Web inventor: 'Snooping' authorities threaten Internet" (Euractiv.com, 03 December 2009)

And the EU stand against this new trend of legislation, even before the UK Bill was drafted: "European 'internet freedom' law agreed" (ZDnet.co.uk, 05 November 2009) "One promise needed for internet freedom" (ZDnet.co.uk, 05 November 2009)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Origins of copyrights -

I am just in the middle of writing an article on criminal law and virtual worlds and I am reviewing quite a bit of materials to understand the offences of theft, larceny and the related offences. That meant reviewing the concept of property. Two interesting bits came up:
  1. first, Blackstone's understanding of property was that of physical property (one author calls it physicalisation of property, Vandevelde K, "The new property of the nineteen century: the development of the modern concept of property", (1980) 29 Buffalo Law Review 325 ; most of us still use the term of tangibility) and that of exclusivity of property. Obviously, with information, the two paradigms are challenged: full intangibility with no possibility to transform it into something tangible; no exclusive control that would exclude per se the (legal) intervention of another
  2. secondly, the origins of copyrights are indeed into protecting the printing guilds. They had the right to copy; protection of the book trade. With the licensing system being abolished in 1694, the printing "firms" could not benefit from copy rights. Hence, they demanded that the authors should be granted copyrights, a request made with the hope that they, as printing press, would benefit indirectly from this right in the same way that they benefited from the original copyrights existing prior to 1694. The lobbying of Parliament resulted in the Statute of Anne 1709. Hammon G., "The legal protection of ideas", (1991) 29 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 93. I found this piece of history fascinating because most articles published (but not books!!!) do not bring a single penny to their authors, but do allow publishers to make a living out of it ... like in the good old days of the licensing system enforced at the time when printing was invented. Not that everything is bad with the new system, but, as I highlighted earlier, copyrights are not simply about the authors. The problems we face with online piracy should be seen under that light.