Friday, June 29, 2007


Last week Windows Marketplace offered to download freely Ubuntu, the most popular distribution of the Linux operating system. According to the description on the page, "Ubuntu is a community developed operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops, and servers. Whether you use it at home, at school or at work Ubuntu contains all the applications you'll ever need, from word processing and e-mail applications [bold added]". When Microsoft realised it, the program had had more than 10,000 downloads and, even it took off-line, the page is still available in the cache of Google…

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

European Intellectual Property Teacher’s Network Workshop

Yesterday I spent most of the day in Aston Business School, where it took place the European Intellectual Property Teachers’ Network Workshop, event that was supported by the European Patent Office. The event officially started on Sunday when the Pre-Conference dinner was held in the ABS. I will repeat it again, but it is important to say that the whole thing was superbly organized by Claire Howell (Aston Business School) and Duncan Matthews (Queen Mary, University of London).
Monday started at 9 with Claire and Duncan’s welcome words, which were followed by Stephen Rowan’s (Director of Industrial Property Policy in the Intellectual Property and Innovation Directorate of the UK Intellectual Property Office) keynote address “Is the Intellectual Property System Fit for the purpose in an Era of Globalization, Digitalization and Increasing Economic Specialisation? The address was too interesting and rich to try to synthesise it here, but one issue that particularly caught my attention was the ongoing conversation between the EPO, the USPTO and the Japanese Patent Office to “recognize” their searches when they handle application for the same invention from the same person. Taking into account the very poor quality of too many US patents, what normally and theoretically might look like a sensible idea becomes a worrisome one. However, Stephen reassured the audience that the idea would go further only if the quality of the patents could be guaranteed.
The keynote was followed by the first session, which was focused on Interdisciplinary IP Teaching. It started with Robert Pitkethly from Oxford University, who made some interesting proposals about narrowing the gap between the education received by those in the IP profession and those in the management area who manage intangible (IP based) assets. One of the proposed solutions consists of placing IP contents within general management modules to avoid having full-IP modules that the will-be managers refuse to take and vice-versa for IP professionals. Next was the time of Michael Kort from the University of Augsburg to reflect on “The Necessity of Interdisciplinary IP Teaching”, by explaining how that had been achieved in Germany through the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center. The MIPLC is a project of the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law, the University of Augsburg, the Technische Universität München, and the George Washington University Law School and it has a LLM program that in addition of covering all areas of European and international intellectual property also include topics from related fields such as economics and business administration. Finally, the session ended with Kevin Scally’s (University College Cork) “Explaining the patent industry to business students; what should we tell the kids?”, where he claimed that teaching only what the law says and is in patents leave out of the picture the fact that a lot of it has nothing to do with innovation, inventors or industry’s development but with the patent industry itself. He went on by saying that non-strictly legal issues should be incorporated into IP (patents in particular) teaching to non-law students because the orthodox view supported the growth of the patent industry, which benefits by having more patents filled and registered regardless of whether the patent gives any advantage to the inventor, company or implies any advancement for the society.
After a strictly enforced 15 minutes coffee break, the second session on IP Teaching and Copyright started with Ronan Deazley (University of Birmingham) talking about “[…]Teaching the History of Intellectual Property and Why it Matters”, where after giving examples on the development of IP legislation in the past (and introducing the Primary Sources on Copyright project, awesome!) he explained how history of copyright can not only help to introduce current topics but it can also be used to deconstruct certain accepted truths about IP in general. Ronan was followed by Willem Grosheide from the Utrecht University, who further gave a European flavour to the meeting and explained how IP rights could be taught with a focus on human rights. The session and the morning came to a close with Maureen O’Sullivan (National University of Ireland, Galway) who departed slightly from her original “Teaching Copyleft and Creative Commons in a Copyright-riddled Academic World” to explain teaching techniques and tricks she used in her IP class in the university (and inviting all of us to join her students in the pub next time).
After the lunch recess the afternoon started with Marielle Piana’s (European Patent Academy of the European Patent Office) address on “IP teaching landscape in Europe”. Marielle introduced some data taken from a study carried out by the Academy about the extent and type of patent teaching in Europe, explained what was what the Academy taught and ended for asking teachers for a closer collaboration with the Academy.
Session 3, on IP Teaching and Issue-Based Learning, was initiated by Eva Nathusius (TUM Business School, Technische Universitat Munchen) who gave a clear and detailed account of the use of a real case-study to teach IP issues in her school. The idea of creating such case-studies (nobody seemed to clain that it was a cheap thing to do) entusiasmated many and I was kept wondering whether a repository of them with some form of licencing would be possible…Christopher Wadlow, University of East Anglia, gave his recount of an “Experience of Problem Based Learning in Two Taught Postgraduate Intellectual Property Units at the University of East Anglia”, and here again the impression was conveyed that issue-based learning and teaching has a lot to offer to both law and non-law students facing the complexities of IP law. This third session ended with Jo Stanley (Anglia Ruskin University) and her “Law into Technologists OK, Technology into Lawyers Won’t Go”, where she explained how the teaching of IP can be carried out following the basic logic used by people on the technology side of this matter and by doing so both lawyers and non-lawyers would increase the understanding of the technical part of IP issues.
The last session was on “Approaches to IP Teaching”, which started with Akalemwa Ngenda (University of Kent) and his “[…] Lamentations of a Journeyman”. In a very colloquial and calm manner, he went through different experiences and the impact that some trends towards a client-corporation relation was having in higher education in general and IP teaching in particular. He was followed by Catherine Colston (University of Strathclyde) and her “Teaching IP by ‘Virtual Means’”, where she explained and demonstrated how her classes were taught via Internet and webcasts, and how the results have been more positive and encouraging than some people thought originally (Charlotte Waelde, also with vast experience in distance learning, asked her a question about the cost but it seems that through it own Learning Technologies group or unit things are well covered in Strathclyde). The last speaker presenter was Spyros Maniatis (Queen Mary, University of London) who draw from the wealth of his own experience to show how practitioners and academics can and do collaborate to then conclude that collaboration was not only possible but necessary.
The day ended with Claire and Duncan words explaining the next steps, which will include setting up a website and expand the network across Europe. Again, the organisation was excellent and Claire and Duncan have set up a very high standard for those that will organise the workshop next year…

PS: Julian Webb also wrote about the day in his blog

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dirty tricks with official domain names in Argentina

It seems that the same winds that have consistently made many Latin America nations to be in continuous process of under-development are blowing again, and I am not talking about any ominous foreign influence but about the lack of rule of law and the use of the public resources to benefit a person or political party. And the government of Argentina, probably jealous for loosing the regional leadership in not respecting the rule of law to some of its friends a little norther, has decided to commit some domain name registration anomalies to try to regain the title as the one that respects the law less in the area.
Not happy with having the wife of the President representing the country and even signing international treaties on behalf of it, which clearly represents a very lax interpretation of the principles established in the Argentine Constitution, especially arts 72 and 99 (you would imagine that only the president or the minister of foreign affairs would do that, but in Argentina, being a senator and wife of the President is enough qualification even if the senate has not given its authorization as required in the art. 72 of the Argentine Constitution), it seems that the wife of the President is a public institution on her own merits, or at least she is one for domain registration purposes.
On 9 May the domain was registered by the presidency's spokesman, Miguel Núñez, even the official rules limit the domain names using to government organizations at federal, provincial and municipal level, being barred its use for particular persons. If that irregularity wasn’t enough, the same person, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner got a very exclusive top-level domain name,, without any gov. com. or anything like that, of which are only few in the whole country. There are less than twenty .ar domain names, belonging to organizations that pre-existed the Network Information Center Argentina or that have a supra-governmental purpose, like (since the first category does not apply, is the NIC suggesting that the President wife’s candidacy is a State’s matter that goes beyond the government aims? (with “beyond” meaning “above” or "more important" here)). Not satisfied with violating the NIC Argentina rules for domain name registration, the domain name, which was liked to, is owned by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with domicile at 24 Balcarce Street, the address of the Presidency’s office also known as the Pink House.The domain name has as contact the mentioned Miguel Núñez, who also gives as his address the Pink House and as his phone numbers his offices’ ones. Needles to say that even some Argentine legislation may seem bizarre, the law clearly does not goas as far as allowing the use of public resources to benefit a potential candidate.
Another questions that pop into people’s minds is how the procedures were handled. According to the law, a domain name registration can be completed online, but the data submitted has the character of sworn statement and for a domain name a official letter with letterhead and signature of the official in charge (in original) needs to be submitted to the NIC. Who signed that request?
Are these the people that took power to get rid of the “old politics”? If they cannot get rid of the “old politics”, can they let the domain name systems out of their dirty business?
I hope that situations like this help to explain why in several informal conversations during the IGF in Athens I said that it was better to keep ICANN as it is and far from some countries public officials’ hands…

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Global thinking

As mentioned before, one of the things I was doing in St Louis was a series of TV programs with the Higher Education Channel. The premiere will be on 27 June and the channel's magazine explains what is the idea.

There are no certain details for continuining filming new programs, but conversations are on to do several more of them or even keep it as an almost permanent program...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Two on Google Book Search

Two pieces of news related to Google’s book scanning project caught my attention.
The first relates to the agreement that Google reached with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which includes the University of Chicago and the 11 universities in the Big Ten athletic conference (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, 11 on the big ten? somebody is in need of a mathematician there). CNN reports that Google will digitize select collections in each of those universities, comprising up to 10 million volumes, which the universities say that Google will scan and index materials complying with copyright law (I would suggest that the committee let Google say so), because the company generally makes available the full text of books in the public domain and limited portions of copyrighted books.
The other piece refers to the actions of Richard Charkin, Chief Executive of Macmillan Publishers (I have a contract with Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan to write/publish my textbook in Business Law), who took two laptops from Google’s stand at the Book Expo America. According to Charkin’s blog, his “justification for [that] appalling piece of criminal behaviour [can be found in that fact that Google] had not specifically told [him] not to steal it. If s/he had, [he] would not have done so. When s/he asked for its return, [he did so. It is exactly what Google expects publishers to expect and accept in respect to intellectual property.
'If you don't tell us we may not digitise something, we shall do so. But we do no evil. So if you tell us to desist we shall.'”
Both stories raise similar issues. While it is understandable and practical that Google gets some type of agreement to scan millions of books sitting on libraries’ shelves, from the Copyright point of view, if they are in the public domain the company does not need the agreement (still the agreement makes a lot of sense because otherwise if the copies are unique or rare, Google employees would have to register and borrow the books from the libraries). Then, with the “limited portion of copyrighted books”, which clearly refers to the doctrine of fair use, how much can be copied to not amount to infringement is a matter of fact that a court will have to decide. Furthermore, because Google Book Search will be available in every country with Internet, the material will also be available in jurisdictions where the doctrine of fair use does not exist, which could be understood as copyright infringement there.
The actions of Richard Charkin, technically a crime, exemplify with clarity the problems with Google’s argument that they can copy unless you ask them not to. In addition of the oddity of claiming that you have the right to infringe somebody’s rights or break the law unless expressly told not to do so, they know too much copyright law for me having to tell them that that is the function of copyright law: to tell you “do not copy”…
(keeping in line with the disclosures, this blog is provided for free by Google, and I personally don't understand how we could live before Google was created)

Friday, June 08, 2007

G8: Much ado about nothing...or more of the same

The G8 Summit, in addition of wasting time and money in discussing irrelevant things as the anti-missile shields and other nonsense (if a fraction of the money spent in those things that will never be used was used in solving the world problems, probably there would not be need of caring about security, illegal immigration and other issues high in the international agenda), had things to say about Intellectual Property Rights and development and it did; not very balanced though. When it had to satisfy developed countries' industries willing to have more enforcement the G8 was very clear, but when it had to address the issue of millions dying due tuberculosis and Aids in Africa its response was to promise to work with international organizations and donors "to respond constructively to requests by African developing countries without manufacturing capacities with regard to the use of the flexibilities referenced in the WTO Doha declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, while respecting WTO obligations"...very vague, no? And, which part of TRIPS don't they understand? African countries don't need to "request" using the flexibilities, they have to use them.
In contrast, the very vague vocabulary that precedes was replaced by a very clear call to "to implement concrete measures which will improve and deepen cooperation among G8 partners and deliver real enforcement results", and where to deal with the ailment of several million people in Africa "international organizations and donors" were mentioned, to streamline and harmonize "the international patent system in order to improve the acquisition and protection of patent rights world-wide" and to "combat piracy and counterfeiting", the list of organization that should "strengthen cooperation in [these] critical area[s]" loses all vagueness and specifically refers to "the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), WTO, the World Customs Organization (WCO), Interpol, the World Health Organization (WHO), the OECD, APEC, and the Council of Europe". Not to say that the treatment is different at all...
(Still, nothing justify what some "rebels" do by creating chaos and using violent tactics wherever the G8 meets)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Copyright infringement and privacy case in France

Following a ruling (in French) from the Conseil d’Etat, or Council of the State or Supreme Court for administrative Justice of France, record companies can now automatically track the activities of users that share more than fifty files within 24 hours using Peer-to-Peer networks and keep their records for further legal proceedings. The decision follows a challenge by music labels and distributors of a order given by the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, CNIL (National Commission of Information Technology and Liberties or French Data Protection Authority), which in 2005 ruled that automatic surveillance of P2P networks violated local privacy laws. Still, the Council upheld the a part of the CNIL decision that stated that copyrights holders cannot send users warning e-mails because translating their Internet Protocol addresses into e-mail accounts can only be done under a court order or police mandate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Privacy of computers attached to a network

While doing research for a paper on privacy rights and freedom of speech in academic networks in UK and looking for how the law and courts deal with the issue in others parts of the globe, I found a fairly recent case (April 5th 2007) of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that gives a mixed message about the issue. The case is USA v. Heckenkamp, where the issue was whether evidence colleted during warrantless remote search of a student's hard drive by a university network administrator who was acting in association with the FBI was admissible in court.
In the course of an investigation on unauthorized access to the computer systems of Qualcomm, the FBI determined that the intruder likely accessed the company’s systems from a computer on the University of Wisconsin network and the Feds sought and received assistance from the University. The UW investigation of network information led it to Jerome Heckenkamp, a graduate student in computer science and renown hacker (check about him on page 6 of the Hacker's Digest), and the computer in his dormitory room, and without a search warrant a UW network administrator used his computer to remotely search the hard drive of Heckenkamp's computer a day before that the FBI obtained the first search warrant and seized the student’s computer and searched his room.
The hacker moved to suppress evidence gathered from the University’s warrantless remote search of his computer and the search conducted pursuant to the FBI's search warrant, motion that was denied by the District Court. Then, Heckenkamp pled guilty to two counts of “Fraud and related activity in connection with computers”, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, conditioned upon his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress (the importance of the point is in the fact that suppression of evidence in this case may enable the student to escape punishment for a crime to which he pled guilty).
The court, focusing on two points, affirmed the District Court's denial of Heckenkamp's motion to suppress evidence under the special needs exception to the warrant requirement, because it found that federal prosecutors can use evidence collected in a warrantless computer search to prosecute a student for hacking computers outside of the university network, when the university acted out of an independent concern to protect its own computer systems and not to aid the federal investigation per se.
Since a prerequisite to establishing the illegality of a search under the Fourth Amendment is that the defendant shows that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place searched, the first issue that the Court of Appeals dealt with was whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in a computer attached to a network. In this point, it found that Heckenkamp had a legitimate and objectively reasonable subjective expectation of privacy in his computer and his dormitory room, which was not extinguished or eliminated when he attached his computer to the network, especially due to the fact that the University did not advice users that that information transmitted through the network is not confidential and that the systems administrators may monitor communications transmitted by them.
The special needs exception constituted the second issue where the Court of Appeals put its focus. It said that the search of the Heckenkamp’s computer was justified because under the special needs exception a warrant is not required when special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable, and while it was true that the University knew of the FBI investigation regarding unauthorized access to Qualcomm's computer it had an independent concern about the security of its own computers, even if the evidence collected by the warrantless search of the computer was used to obtain the conviction in the FBI's case.
It is a case that should give reasons to celebrate and to worry to privacy advocates because on one hand makes clear that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in computers even when connected to networks, but on the other allows the use by law enforcement agencies of information that they acquired via circumventing the constitutional guarantees. A more rational approach by the court should establish that when the special needs exception is used, the information obtained by that course cannot be used for purposes different than those that justified the use of the exception (in this case to verify a breach on the University of Wisconsin computer’s security)…

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Buenos Aires elections in Second Life

The Argentine newspaper Clarin reports that the elections to Mayor of Buenos Aires also were held virtually in Second Life. Interestingly enough, the results mimicked quite closely the results of the real election, that took place last Sunday in Buenos Aires, which could be used to argue that the population of Second Life resembles the real population of modern and sophisticated places. It is important to note that Buenos Aires is a city with about 3 million people (the usually referred 13 million include what is called the Great Buenos Aires, an area where different towns are physically as one but with distinct legal and political organizations), very modern and with a very sophisticated population. According to Argentina's electoral law, campaigns must stop a couple of days before the election and engaging in political activities during those days is an offence. Taking into account that the limit between game and business-platform is becoming more and more blurred in Second Life, one would wonder whether carrying out a virtual election during the black-out period does not infringe the law...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Finish Court kills DRM

A Helsinki District Court ruled that, because it has been circumvented many times, the CSS (Content Scrambling System) now used in DVD movies is “ineffective” as the term is used in the Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, also know as the 2001 European Union Copyright Directive, and the law of Finland. The EUCD, in its article 6, requires EU member states to provide adequate legal protection against the circumvention of any “effective technological measures,” and s. 3 states that “[t]echnological measures shall be deemed ‘effective’ where the use of a protected work or other subject-matter is controlled by the rights holders through application of an access control or protection process… which achieves the protection objective [bold added].”
After Finland adopted the directive into national law in 2005, a group of Finnish computer hobbyists and activists created a website where they posted information on circumventing CSS, to then tell police that they had potentially violated copyright law. The Finish implementation of the directive says, in its s.50 a §, that it is prohibited copying works for personal use if the work is protected by an "effective technical measure".
A unanimous court ruled that CSS no longer achieves its protection objective because, since its first circumvention by a Norwegian hacker in 1999, end-users have had access to many kinds of decoding software on the Internet, some of it free, and accordingly, finding that CSS protection can no longer be held effective as defined by law, the court dropped all charges.
The decision can have enormous consequences throughout the EU and beyond because the term “effective” comes directly from the EUCD. The Directive makes clear that the word ‘effective’ must be defined by some sort of empirical test, such as whether a technological protection measure can be broken by technology experts or by random end-users, and the Finish court thought that clearly the second option applies. Beyond the EU, the decision may represent a headache for the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA), the California group that licenses CSS to DVD player manufacturers in Europe and Asia, because European device makers could refuse licences. Furthermore, taking into account that the decision appears to be technology-neutral, it could apply to other technologies as well, which may leave in shambles the whole DRM field…

PS: Andres just told me that Mikko Valimaki wrote an article about this case, which will come out in June's SCRIPT-ed

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spamm King in Jail

Robert Alan Soloway, a 27 years old who managed to become one of the most prolific spammers, was arrested last Wednesday in Seattle, accused of using networks of compromised “zombie computers" to send out millions upon millions of spam e-mails. A federal grand jury returned a 35-count indictment last week charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, to which Soloway pleaded not guilty. Here you can see the Arrest Warrant, Indictment, Search Warrant, Arraignment and the MOTION for Pre-Trial Detention.

Prosecutors said that Soloway used computers infected with malicious code to send out millions of junk e-mails since 2003 and he continued his activities even after Microsoft and the operator of a small Internet service provider in Oklahoma won $7 million and $10 million civil judgements against him respectively, which he never paid (and since the Oklahoma ruling also forbid him from spamming again and he continued doing it, he should have been jailed before for contempt).

Soloway used the zombie networks send out unsolicited bulk e-mails urging people to use his Internet marketing company to advertise their products, and people who clicked on a link in the e-mail were directed to his Web site where he advertised his ability to send out as many as 20 million e-mail advertisements over 15 days for $495.

The case is the first in the US where federal prosecutors have used identity theft statutes to prosecute a spammer for taking over someone else’s Internet domain name and by forging email addresses. Soloway could face decades in prison.

It seems that the law and the authorities are finally catching up with things done online and are willing to go beyond using the anti-spam legislation and use the whole book to stop spammers that think are untouchable. The indictment makes reference to the CAN-SPAM Act’s Criminal Liability part and to identity theft