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Software Freedom Law Center's 10th Anniversary Conference
In the privacy technologies grad seminar that I taught last semester, Bitcoin proved to be the most popular topic among students. Two groups did very different and equally interesting final projects on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies; more on that below. More broadly, we’re seeing a huge demand for learning the computer science underlying Bitcoin, both at […]
Today, we’re updating our Transparency Report for the tenth time. This update details the number of government demands we received for user information in criminal investigations during the first half of 2014. The update also covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and through National Security Letters (NSLs).
Worldwide, the numbers continue to rise: excluding FISA and NSL demands, we’ve seen a 15% increase since the second half of last year, and a 150% jump since we first began publishing this data in 2009. In the U.S., those increases are 19% and 250%, respectively.
This increase in government demands comes against a backdrop of ongoing revelations about government surveillance programs. Despite these revelations, we have seen some countries expand their surveillance authorities in an attempt to reach service providers outside their borders. Others are considering similar measures. The efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and other countries to improve diplomatic cooperation will help reduce the perceived need for these laws, but much more remains to be done.
Governments have a legitimate and important role in fighting crime and investigating national security threats. To maintain public confidence in both government and technology, we need legislative reform that ensures surveillance powers are transparent, reasonably scoped by law, and subject to independent oversight.
The USA FREEDOM Act, introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Lee (R-UT), Franken (D-MN) and Heller (R-NV) would prevent the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various legal authorities, allow us to be more transparent about the volume, scope and type of national security demands that we receive, and would create stronger oversight and accountability mechanisms. Congress should move now to enact this legislation into law.
Congress should also update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make it clear that the government must obtain a search warrant before it can compel a service provider to disclose the content of a user’s communication. Legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Yoder (R-KS), Graves (R-GA) and Polis (D-CO) and in the Senate by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) would create a warrant-for-content standard that protects the Fourth Amendment rights of Internet users.
This common-sense reform is now supported by a broad range of consumer groups, trade associations, and companies that comprise the Digital Due Process coalition. Additionally, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition urging the White House to back this bill, which enjoys bipartisan support from 266 House Members (well over a majority of the House) and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2013.
There is a growing consensus in support of these reforms. In the remaining days of this session, Congress has a chance to pass historic legislation that will help restore trust that has been lost. We urge them to seize upon this opportunity.
Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security
Tor.com has published a long excerpt from the book, showcasing Jen's wonderful art, character development and writing!
Google’s famous trademark in its name has just survived a challenger’s attempt to have it declared generic. In Elliott v. Google, a federal court in Arizona held last week that despite the public’s use of the word “googling” to mean “searching on the Internet,” the “Google” word mark still functions in the minds of consumers […]
By Richard Stobbe If the term "CASL compliance" is giving you a nervous twitch, you're not alone. Many small and medium-sized businesses in Canada are scrambling to prepare for Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL), whose official title says it all - especially the part about "efficiency and adaptability" (take a deep breath before you read ...
Worse still: people in publishing who are alarmed about Hachette are still allowing their audiobooks to be sold by Audible, the Amazon division that controls 90% of the audiobook market and will only sell audiobooks in a format that can't be legally played with anything except Amazon-approved technology. Audible has already started putting the screws to its audiobook suppliers -- the publishers and studios that make most of the audiobooks it sells -- even as it has gone into business competing with them.
It's profoundly, heartbreakingly naive to expect that Amazon will be any less ruthless in exploiting the advantage it is being handed over audiobooks than it has been in its exploitation of ebooks.
Take Amazon’s subsidiary Audible, a great favorite among science fiction writers and fans. The company has absolute dominance over the audiobook market, accounting for as much as 90 percent of sales for major audio publishers. Audible has a no-exceptions requirement for DRM, even where publishers and authors object (my own audiobooks are not available through Audible as a result). Audible is also the sole audiobook supplier for iTunes, meaning that authors and publishers who sell audiobooks through iTunes are likewise bound to lock these to Amazon’s platform and put them in Amazon’s perpetual control.
As John Scalzi wrote recently:
These businesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil – it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing). If you’re treating these businesses as friends, you’re likely to get screwed.
Anyone who believes that Audible would hesitate to use its market power to extract additional profit at the expense of its suppliers – that is, writers and publishers – is delusional. Not because Audible is evil, but because it is a for-profit corporation that is seeking to maximize its gain. The lesson of Hachette is that Amazon plays hardball when it can, and the more leverage Amazon has over its suppliers, the more it will use that leverage to its suppliers’ detriment.
Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law [Locus/Cory Doctorow]
(Image: DRM PNG 900 2, Listentomyvoice, CC-BY-SA)
In his best-selling novel Ready Player One, Ernest Cline predicted that decades from now, Doctorow (Homeland, 2013, etc.) should share the presidency of the Internet with actor Wil Wheaton. Consider this manifesto to be Doctorow’s qualifications for the job.
The author provides a guide to the operation of the Internet that not only makes sense, but is also written for general readers. Using straightforward language and clear analogies, Doctorow breaks down the complex issues and tangled arguments surrounding technology, commerce, copyright, intellectual property, crowd funding, privacy and value—not to mention the tricky situation of becoming “Internet Famous.” Following a characteristically thoughtful introduction by novelist Neil Gaiman, rock star Amanda Palmer offers a blunt summary of today’s world: “We are a new generation of artists, makers, supporters, and consumers who believe that the old system through which we exchanged content and money is dead. Not dying: dead.” So the primary thesis of the book becomes a question of, where do we go from here? Identifying the Web’s constituents as creators, investors, intermediaries and audiences is just the first smart move. Doctorow also files his forthright, tactically savvy arguments under three “laws,” the most important of which has been well-broadcast: “Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and won’t give you the key, that lock isn’t there for your benefit.”
Last month at the FOCI workshop, we presented a security analysis of the Safeplug, a $49 box which promised users “complete security and anonymity” online by sending all of their web traffic through the Tor onion routing network. Safeplug claims to offer greater usability, particularly for non-technical customers, than the state-of-the-art in anonymous Internet browsing: […]
Neil Anderson from the Association from Media Literacy (which has a great-sounding upcoming conference) has produced an excellent study guide for my novel Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother) -- Anderson's guide encourages critical thinking about politics, literary technique, technology, privacy, surveillance, and history.
I'm immensely grateful to Anderson for his good work here. I often hear from teachers who want to know if there are any curricular materials they can use in connection with my books, and several of them have shared their own guides with me, but this one stands out as an unusually comprehensive and thoughtful one.
7. Word Meanings
Some words that you might use for inferring meanings include:
Marcus Yallow, Homeland’s protagonist, is a male. But there are several female characters: Ange is his girlfriend, Masha is an ally, Carrie is an enemy, and Flor is his campaign office boss.
Does Homeland represent a good balance of male and female characters or is it biased? Why?
Are the male and female characters fairly represented? Explain?
Homeland also includes representation from multiple racial/ethnic groups. Joe is African-American, Ange is Asian, etc.
How might this inclusiveness add to the novel’s authenticity and pleasure?
Some people think that it is important for audiences to see themselves represented in the media texts that they consume; that it helps them enjoy the texts and validates their own existence.
Does it really matter whether Homeland‘s characters represent a range of racial/ethnic groups?
Would the story be equally interesting and entertaining if all the characters were from only one racial/ethnic group?
Imagine that Marcus, Ange, Joe and Carrie are from other racial/ethnic groups, or that their genders are switched.
How might those changes influence readers’ responses to the story?
Homeland Study Guide [Neil Anderson/Association for Media Literacy]
“Hey,” someone said behind me. “Hey, dude?”
It occurred to me that I was the dude in question, and that this person had been calling out to me for some time, with a kind of mellow intensity — not angry, but insistent nonetheless. I turned around and found myself staring down at a surfer-looking guy half my age, sun-bleached ponytail and wraparound shades, ragged shorts and a grease-stained long-sleeved jersey and bare feet, crouched down like a Thai fisherman on his haunches, calf muscles springing out like wires, fingertips resting lightly on a gadget.
Minus was full of gadgets, half built, sanded to fit, painted to cover, with lots of exposed wiring, bare boards, blobs of hot glue and adhesive polymer clinging on for dear life against the forces of shear and torque and entropy. But even by those standards, surfer-guy’s gadget was pretty spectacular. It was the lens — big and round and polished, with the look of a precision-engineered artifact out of a real manufacturer’s shop — not something hacked together in a hacklab.
The Gadget and the Burn [Cory Doctorow/Medium]
The course is designed to teach you to use privacy technologies and good practices to make it harder for police and governments to put you under surveillance, harder for identity thieves and voyeurs to spy on you, and easier for you and your correspondents to communicate in private.
I'm a visiting professor at the OU, and I was delighted to work on this with them.
We shop online. We work online. We play online. We live online. As our lives increasingly depend on digital services, the need to protect our information from being maliciously disrupted or misused is really important.
This free online course will help you to understand online security and start to protect your digital life, whether at home or work. You will learn how to recognise the threats that could harm you online and the steps you can take to reduce the chances that they will happen to you.
With cyber security often in the news today, the course will also frame your online safety in the context of the wider world, introducing you to different types of malware, including viruses and trojans, as well as concepts such as network security, cryptography, identity theft and risk management.
Congress 2014 was held at Brock University this past spring; included among the customary panel discussions was a series of debates concerning copyright, fair dealing, licensing and open access. Titled Copyright and the Modern Academic, the series sought to widen discussion about the means by which information flow is facilitated in learning, teaching and research. Videos of the series are available at the Canadian Association of Learned Journals (see here) and at the Brock Video Centre (see here).
I was particularly interested in the third debate, Access Copyright—Friend or Foe, with speakers Howard Knopf and Roanie Levy. Knopf is a lawyer with Macera & Jarzyna, author of Excess Copyright, and a long-standing advocate for a more nuanced understanding of copyright and fair dealing. Levy is the Executive Director for Access Copyright, formerly General Counsel and Director of Policy & External Affairs for Access Copyright, and equally passionate about the roles of protection and licensing towards development of content. (Fuller biographies of both speakers are given approximately 5:30 minutes in.)
The arguments of Knopf and Levy were lively and thought-provoking, but what remains uppermost for me is the first issue raised from the audience at the beginning of the Q/A (at approximately 58 minutes in). It focused upon Access Copyright’s licensing terms that protect teachers and students in the context of teaching and learning, but not the subsequent behaviour of the student:
Most of us use Blackboard or Moodle; we upload links to articles, we upload articles, we create wikis, we want students to comment, we are creating a discourse community among our students asking them to critically analyze concepts or issue … It is not surprising that many times students download those articles and then those articles could now be posted on a student’s blog or on a student’s Facebook page … we all know how things move across the Internet. … I would personally find [the licensing terms] quite limiting, if I had to worry about that (emphasis mine).
Levy was reassuring that the discourse community, composed as it is of students and teachers (more broadly speaking, the educational body associated to the license) were safe within their actions. Levy was also emphatic that the educational community did not extend to the world at large: “students need to be made aware that content cannot just be shared with the entire world … sharing proprietary content that is not their own should not be encouraged.”
To which Knopf immediately stated that such sharing should be encouraged: “if what the student or professor is doing is fair dealing.”
Levy’s and Knopf’s remarks are not mutually inconsistent – quite the opposite in fact. Each statement reinforces the other. It is entirely plausible, and beneficial, for teachers to simultaneously state that piracy is undesirable and fair dealing is desirable. Discussion will, over time, encourage students to understand the nuance and care that goes into an evaluation of fair dealing. In the more immediate future, such conversation between teachers and students further exemplifies that post-secondary institutions take this matter seriously and are developing systems of good practice that amount to more than merely posting rules to a website.
Regrettably, with time running out and other questions waiting for attention, the crux of the first question was not addressed. More specifically, does a teacher have to worry about the personal conduct of a student outside the activities encouraged within class, with materials licensed at the choice of the teacher? The short answer is No.
A longer answer would suggest that in the scenario where a student’s personal behaviour is alleged as infringing, the copyright holder of the material in question might bring a complaint to the attention of the ISP providing the platform used by the student. Depending on the jurisdiction, the ISP might remove the material (under notice-and-takedown as found in American law) or forward the complaint to the student (under notice-and-notice as set within Canadian law). In neither case is the teacher involved.
An even longer answer would suggest that if anyone should insinuate that the teacher and/or university were liable, a look at CCH Canadian will quickly allay any worries. While that case is known best for its support of fair dealing, the Justices also confronted a claim that libraries were responsible for the conduct of its patrons with regard to self-serve photocopiers. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for a unanimous court, rejected that claim:
[E]ven if there were evidence of the photocopiers having been used to infringe copyright, the Law Society lacks sufficient control over the Great Library’s patrons to permit the conclusion that it sanctioned, approved or countenanced the infringement. The Law Society and Great Library patrons are not in a master-servant or employer-employee relationship such that the Law Society can be said to exercise control over the patrons who might commit infringement. … Nor does the Law Society exercise control over which works the patrons choose to copy, the patron’s purposes for copying or the photocopiers themselves (para 45).
If the Supreme Court of Canada has deemed that a library is not responsible for activity conducted within its premises, with materials provided by the library and via the library’s own equipment, because of an absence of control of people, materials, or equipment, then it is illogical to suggest that a teacher is liable for activity of a student, carried out by the student’s own initiative, on a platform independent of the classroom.
Regardless of the status of the material involved (licensed, purchased, or utilized through exceptions to copyright), teachers are not implicated by personal copyright infractions of their students.
Librarians and historians alike may well feel somber as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Le sac de Louvain, a collective punishment meted out by German forces to the people of Louvain for seeming resistance to the German presence. Included among the sites of destruction was the library of the University of Louvain. Set ablaze the night of 25 August 1914, by the next morning its contents had been reduced to ashes.
In 2013, Mark Derez, Archivist of University Archives and Art Collection Leuven (Louvain), presented the story of that destruction, response, and reconstruction. An abbreviated version of his presentation was published in 2014 by the WWI Daily. Derez writes:
The destruction of Leuven had not been unique – in four Belgian provinces, 18,000 houses were destroyed and 5,000 Belgian civilians were killed … [But] there was an emotional element at work… Of all the atrocities committed, that which spoke most to the imagination was the devastation of the university library, for in no way could it have been considered a military target. … [This assault] produced a worldwide stream of solidarity. While the war was still on, twenty-five committees were formed in neutral and Allied countries to collect money and books.
Among those who took it upon themselves to encourage donations of books by Americans and American libraries, was Theodore Wesley Koch. A scholar of Dante, and an internationally respected librarian, Koch’s appreciation of the benefit wrought by libraries for the public was all too evident. As Librarian for the University of Michigan, he had introduced measures that allowed students to borrow books (previously only the professoriate enjoyed that privilege) and allowed public access to the periodical collection.
In a publication titled The University of Louvain and its Library, produced in London and Toronto in July 1917, Koch details the history of the university and the depth and breadth of the library’s contents. It began with a bequest of 852 volumes in 1627, “rich in history and theology,” from former student Laurent Beyerlinck. Subsequent patrons and librarians worked together through a period of nearly 300 years to amass over 250,000 items including rare manuscripts, incunabula, and university archival material beginning with the original papal bull authorizing its foundation.
Koch draws particular attention to the work of C.F. de Nelis, appointed as University Librarian in 1752, whose first act was to: “… ask the Government to require Belgian printers to send to the University Library at least one copy of every book printed by them (p.17).” (A condition that sounds very much like that included within the Statute of Anne (1710), where publishers were to remit nine copies of each book produced, “printed upon the best paper,” to various university libraries.)
The library was successfully reconstructed, inside and out. But it opened in 1928 to both acclaim and controversy. Architect Whitney Warren had sought to design not merely a modern library in neo-renaissance style, but also a war memorial replete with a bell tower whose carillon would ring forth patriotic anthems. Derez describes in detail the clash between those who sought to demilitarize the halls of learning and those who wanted the atrocities to be immortalized. So too does Matthew Battles in Library: An Unquiet History (2003). The final design and play list stopped short of overt jingoism but was memorial enough to attract unpleasant attention from Germany in the next world war. Merely 12 years after it opened, the library was once again destroyed in the 1940 shelling.
The library has since been rebuilt again to Warren’s design. Complete with its bells.
The rallying of the international library community in support of public benefit continues to this day. Preservation of our past, and preparation for our future, were prominent topics of discussion at the satellite conference and the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) held in Strasbourg and Lyon over the past few weeks. In her opening remarks, IFLA president Sinikka Sipilä spoke of strong libraries as integral to strong societies; and emphasized that “access to information supports development by empowering people to exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, learn and apply new skills and make decisions and participate in an active and engaged civil society.”
To that end, the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development was unveiled on 18 August 2014; it calls upon Member States of the United Nations to ensure that information access, sharing, and use are incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda. Details are here; at the time of this writing, 134 organizations have given their support.
Other key sites