Russell McOrmond's blog

Happy New Year, State of our Rights

I didn't have time to create a more formal blog entry with all the references I like to have, but I did post some year-end thoughts to the general mailing list. This may encourage others to join the list and comment as well.

Does it Matter Where Your Data Lives?

This is a question that Michael Geist asks in his blog, and I have problems with the focus of this article. The suggestion is that the physical location of where the CPU, RAM and hard disks data is stored on should be our primary concern.

The primary concern should be who controls the software authors who write the software that accesses and manipulates our data. While there are a narrow set of circumstances where geography of the hardware matters, the reality is that we need to be able to trust the vendors who write the software running on computers physically located close to us as much as we do cloud software services.

My comments on version 2.0 of the Open Government Licence – Canada.

(The following is a re-posting of thoughts I posted to the GOSLING mailing list in response to questions about why the government created the Open Government Licence – Canada rather than adopt the generic Creative Commons or Open Knowledge Foundation licenses)

This OGLC license has an advantage to the government in that the license itself answers many of the most common misconceptions (IE: privacy, third party rightsholders, non-copyright rights) when dealing with government data that doesn't seem to come into play with other knowledge sharing.

Will Canada's postal code data finally be released?

The PM has announced Canada's signing on to a G8 Open Data Charter. That charter includes the following under Part Two - Collective Actions:

Action 2: Release of high value data


  • We recognise the following as areas of high value, both for improving our democracies and encouraging innovative re-use of data.
    ...
    Geospatial | Topography, postcodes, national maps, local maps

Does this mean we will finally have the data released to build and freely distribute a replacement for the expensive PCFRF product?

Please help by voting up the release of the postal code database.

CRTC wireless code: Canadians still charged fees to unlock own devices

The CRTC has issued a new wireless code. Much of the talk is about contracts, which weren't what concerned me, but there are also details about non-owner device locks.

Devices must be able to be unlocked, but a fee is still allowed. I know that Fido previously offered unlocking at a $50, which meant that when we travelled to Europe before I got my new Nexus 4 that we purchased an additional $40 unlocked flip-phone rather than unlocking a phone I already owned.

Lack of economic harm from rights infringement not whole story

The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), a scientific institute of the European Commission, released a report with a familiar message: illegal music downloads aren't a substitute for legal music downloads. While I believe this type of research is critical to debunk the outrageous claims about the economic harm abused to justify backward policy choices, I don't think economic impact alone is the entire story.

If someone broke into our home and did not take anything, only rummaged through our belongings (possibly taking pictures, etc), we would still feel violated. Integral to home ownership is the right to decide who can enter our homes, and our privacy and property rights are violated even if nothing was taken or damaged, and there was no economic impact.

"Digital Lock" language from the technology owners perspective

I was pointed to an article on G+ asking for language when someone takes control of their own computer in a way that is designed to be done by the manufacturer, rather than using an exploit that circumvents the intention of the manufacturer. The term "jailbreaking" and "rooting" are often used, sometimes not differentiating between these very different scenarios.

I prefer to use language that expresses the issue from the point of the owner, rather than third parties including device manufacturers or copyright holders.

A device that is comes unlocked, is designed to be unlockable, or where it is designed for the owner to be able to change the locks, could simply be called non-infringing hardware.

WIPO's World Intellectual Property day ideal for discussing WIPO failures

Each year WIPO declares April 26'th as their "World Intellectual Property Day", and I consider this to be an ideal time to hilight the harm that WIPO's narrow-minded policies cause to creativity and other human rights documented within the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I'm of two minds on CRTC mandatory carriage hearings

As I read The Wire Report and Michael Geist's blog reporting on the CRTC's mandatory distribution hearings, I am of two minds.

On one hand I've intervened in front of the CRTC in the past to state that I believe that broadcasters have to choose between mandatory carriage and fee for carriage, with the CRTC never granting both. The only channels that should be mandatory on BDU's (cable, satellite) are those which have no carriage fees. The CRTC may mandate that the channels be offered in an a-la-carte fashion, but never part of the basic package.

On the other hand, I think increasing the price to the point that more people disconnect from BDU's can only be a good thing in the long run.

Access Copyright’s Lawsuit against York University

Universities have been slow in modernizing how they fund educational material, but have finally been moving away from post-payment (primarily monopoly rent seeking) to pre-payment where the authoring, editing and other works is paid up-front with the results shareable royalty-free.  Doing things as post-payments has allowed third parties to extract huge amounts from educational budgets, and it is far past time that universities took responsibility for these costs downloaded on students and the taxpayer.

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