ICE Has Over 7000 Criminal Investigators And Claims Jurisdiction Over ALL .Com And .Net Domains

Ice ShieldSo, not only is the US now claiming that it has jurisdiction over your servers, no matter where in the world they and you are based, as long as you use a .com or .net domain but, and here’s the kicker, the US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has over 7000 criminal investigators working on “anti-piracy”.

7,000 criminal investigators! Seriously, am I on the only one who thinks that both situations here are beyond ridiculous?

It’s amazing what an industry that refuses to evolve can achieve with a focused lobbying group!

From The Guardian:

British website owners could face extradition to the US on piracy charges even if their operation has no connection to America and does something which is most probably legal in the UK, the official leading US web anti-piracy efforts has told the Guardian.

The US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is targeting overseas websites it believes are breaking US copyrights whether or not their servers are based in America or there is another direct US link, said Erik Barnett, the agency’s assistant deputy director.

As long as a website’s address ends in .com or .net, if it is implicated in the spread of pirated US-made films, TV or other media it is a legitimate target to be closed down or targeted for prosecution, Barnett said. While these web addresses are traditionally seen as global, all their connections are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.

Stupid Injunction – Privacy Vs Freedom Of Expression

Dan Bull released “Stupid Injunction” as a response to the ongoing debate which is currently raging int he  UK surrounding the balancing of privacy concerns versus freedom of expression.

As the names of public figures alleged to have taken out ultra-restrictive gagging orders continued to circulate freely on Twitter – and newspapers from Spain to Peru repeated their identities – Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proliferation of information on the web had made a “mockery” of current privacy rules.

Mr Hunt raised for the first time the possibility of a new watchdog to ensure that social media such as Twitter and Facebook were subject to controls similar to those faced by the press and broadcasters, saying there may be a case for converging the regulation of traditional and new media.

In a signal that the Government could consider fresh legislation, he repeated David Cameron’s insistence that Parliament, rather than judges, should be responsible for ruling on the balance between privacy and freedom of expression.

Mr Hunt said: “We are in this crazy situation where information is available freely online which you aren’t able to print in newspapers. We are in a situation where technology, and Twitter in particular, is making a mockery of the privacy laws we have and we do need to think about the regulatory environment we have. In the end, I do strongly believe it should be Parliament, not judges, that decides where we draw the line on our privacy law.”

Alarm in Whitehall at the increased willingness of a small group of High Court judges, including media law specialist Mr Justice Eady, to impose gagging orders whose very existence cannot be disclosed has grown in the last 48 hours as the alleged identities of the super-injunction-protected celebrities circulate freely in cyberspace – while the mainstream media risks criminal sanction if it repeats the information.

Must Listen: The Twitter Joke Trial Gig (Free Speech)

1984 instruction manualAbout a year ago I wrote about “The Day Free Speech Died In The UK” after Paul Chambers was arrested and found guilty of violating (UK Law) section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, with sending a message that is considered to be offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.  Paul  was arrested for making a joke about about blowing up an Airport on Twitter.

Paul appealed his case and lost, but now, with legal and celebrity backing galore, he is about to appeal the case again, this time in the High court as a point of law.

The Pod Delusion, one of my favorite podcasts of the moment, recorded the following show at the “Twitter Joke Trail Gig”, an event to raise funds for Paul Chambers legal fund, which features such notables as  Stephen Fry, Graham Linehan, Rufus Hound, Katy Brand, Paul’s lawyer David Allen Green and the man himself, Paul Chambers.

Well worth the listen!

The Day Free Speech Died In The U.K.

1984 instruction manualAfter Paul Chambers was arrested for making a joke about about blowing up an Airport on Twitter, I wrote about how Facebooks privacy changes (and those of other networks) can help to criminalize all of us by unnecessarily exposing what we think and what we say.

Reports are now coming in that Paul Chambers has been found guilty, received a 1,000 pound fine ($1500) and of course, now has a criminal record.

The ramifications of Chambers being found guilty may be far broader than the U.K. authorities looking like heavy handed, over-reactionist, fools and the effects a criminal record will have on the life of Chambers.

Paul’s story has been documented on the blog Jack of Kent and charges leveled against Chambers make for some eyebrow raising material:

26-year-old Balby man has been charged with sending, by a public communications network, a
message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character

Chambers was not actually charged with perpetrating a bomb hoax.

Instead he was charged with violating (UK Law) section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, under which it appears that people can now be charged with simply sending a message that is considered to be offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.

Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1)            A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)           sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)           causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2)           A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a)           sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b)           causes such a message to be sent; or

(c)           persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3)           A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

I’m not a lawyer, I’ll leave that up to far smarter and more knowledgeable people than myself, but what it boils down to is the following:

Without actually causing harm or disruption and without any need to prove intent, or that anybody even received the message (case law), people in the UK can now be prosecuted for making a joke or statement that somebody finds offensive (and reports) on any form of telecommunications media (anywhere on the internet, blogs, message boards, social networks, forums, cell phones, text messages, telephones, etc…).

As I said I’m not a lawyer so don’t take my word for the implications of Chambers being found guilty, instead check out the excellent write up on The Lawyer.

Barring a successful appeal, this could well be the point at which freedom of speech dies in the U.K.

First The Pirate Bay, next Google?

You might think I’m taking the piss but I assure you that I’m not. I’ve just read the AP piece about the 4 guys from The Pirate Bay getting convicted for facilitating users to illegally download music, movies and video games.

Now, while I fully believe that this ruling will be overturned by the higher Swedish courts, I find myself asking what happens if it isn’t? Who will be the next target, and as I look at the extract from the ruling by Judge Tomas Norstrom quoted in the piece I can’t help think that the next target will be any and every reasonably functional search engine.

The court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations by providing a Web site with "sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the Web site."

So, the pirate bay boyos provided a website with:

  • sophisticated search functions – Google et all.
  • simple download – Just do a search for an mp3 or video on Google and see how easy it is to download one.
  • storage capabilities – Gmail on it’s own gives you almost 7GB, through extensions (GSpace) and other apps (Gmail Drive & Gmail FS). Not to mention the fact that you can send up to 20mb as an attachment making it ridiculously easy to email that downloaded song to all your friends.
  • Tracker – okay, Google doesn’t have a tracker but then again it doesn’t need one, it’s got the most comprehensive index of the internet in existence.
    Okay maybe I am jumping the gun a little, but I really don’t think so. The entertainment industry is a monolithic conglomeration of companies that would rather litigate than innovate and have proven time and time again that the pursuit of money and protecting their outdated business model is all that matters to them. What better direction to take than to go after those with the deepest pockets? Especially now that they have a precedent ruling against what is essentially just a search engine.

Innovation! Who cares about something as stupid as that?

The RIAA and MPAA try ,once again, to shoot American innovation in the foot as this article from EFF: Deeplinks explains.

Draft legislation making the rounds in the U.S. Senate gives us a preview of the MPAA and RIAA’s next target: your television and radio. (Please write your Senator about this!)

You say you want the power to time-shift and space-shift TV and radio? You say you want tomorrow’s innovators to invent new TV and radio gizmos you haven’t thought of yet, the same way the pioneers behind the VCR, TiVo, and the iPod did?

Well, that’s not what the entertainment industry has in mind. According to them, here’s all tomorrow’s innovators should be allowed to offer you:

“customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law.”

Had that been the law in 1970, there would never have been a VCR. Had it been the law in 1990, no TiVo. In 2000, no iPod.

Also, Ars Technica has posted it’s own take on this:

In other words, if it does anything heretofore unheard of with the digital content that it receives, then it’s illegal. And if it does anything “customary” that could also possibly lead to unauthorized redistribution, then it’s also illegal. So all the bases are covered!

But go ahead! Stifle US innovation, those of us living in the rest of the world won’t stop producing new devices, new features and new ways to distribute media. I find myself agreeing with Dvorak here:

What the articles fail to mention is that innovation won’t really stop. It’ll only stop in the US. Every other nation will be free to continue innovating with technology. Thus, we’ll be even farther behind in the technological race. It’s bad enough we can’t manufacture the stuff, but when we can’t design it or even buy it, we’re in trouble. In twenty years we’ll be a third world nation all because we wanted to protect outdated business models.

Induce Act

“It may soon be possible to carry around an AK-47 assault rifle and an iPod with you down the street – and be arrested for carrying the iPod.

That’s according to critics of a Senate amendment to the copyright code proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch this week called the ‘Induce Act’. He wants to make the ‘intentional inducement of copyright infringement’ an offense, and this will extend liability to any manufacturer of a device which plays infringed material, or a shop that sells such a device, they say”

Check out this story by Andrew Orlowski over at The Register.

First Anti-Spyware law

The Register reports that it looks like the US is going to pass the first anti-spyware law. About time many people say.

The SPY Act, for “”Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass,”” would oblige companies and individuals to conspicuously warn consumers before giving them a program capable of automatically transmitting information gathered from a user’s computer. Though the bill carries no criminal penalties, and doesn’t allows users to sue spyware merchants, anyone in the US caught uploading such a program without obtaining the consumer’s consent could face civil prosecution by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A last-minute addition to the SPY Act also prohibit keystroke logging and the display of advertisements that cannot be closed.

Dutch courts clear MP3 search engine of copyright violation

A Court in Harleem has cleared Techno Design, the owners of search portal zoekmp3.nl of copyright violation after finding that while distributing copyrighted content is illegal, providing links to an MP3 files is not. Basically, Techno Design is not itself, distributing illegal content just providing links to it, and that in itself is not in violation of Dutch copyright law.

The decision means that the portal will not be shut down, and can continue to be used by users to search for music on the internet.

You can find more on this story here.. as reported by DMeurope.com

What are the consequences of this ruling? Well, as I see it, a whole new set of search engines will start to appear hosted on Dutch websites pointing to copyrighted material. After all, linking to it is not illegal. However, we could see the Dutch coming under pressure to change this law… but for now it’s happy days for all those who download music off the net instead of buying it…