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February 05 2014

Viral Video of Deputy PM Triggers Cyber Assault in Serbia

Websites were blocked, servers attacked, and Twitter accounts hijacked in Serbia last weekend in a cyber assault on tech hobbyists and “geeks” in Belgrade. The reason? A viral video mocking Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s recent attempt to present himself as a “man of the people” on national news.

Media workers in the country have felt a steady wave of harassment and thug-like behavior by government officials and their aids since the country’s current ruling coalition took power in 2012. But recent events have led to increasingly aggressive actions by government officials, particularly Vucic, a fierce power broker known for using national media to promote his public image. With parliamentary elections fast approaching, he and other leading figures appear determined to preserve and promote their images in both traditional and online media.

Alek u Feketiću from Ivan Đokić on Vimeo.

In this particular incident, an unknown satirist layered humorous subtitles over the above video, in which Vucic “rescues” a child in a snowstorm. The full clip shows two aids arriving with the child and setting up the shot, making it clear that the scene was staged.

The video swiftly went viral. The original footage was taken by state-run public broadcasting service Radio Television Serbia (RTS). But it was Austria-based KVZ Music, an entirely different distribution company with offices in several countries including Serbia, and no apparent ties to RTS, which claimed that the video violated copyright restrictions. A request was filed, and the video was removed from YouTube.

But the video had already made the rounds and been re-loaded and copied onto various sites and blogs throughout the country. Soon, several sites that reproduced the video were blocked — and several others discovered their servers suddenly facing massive DDoS attacks, all of which seem to have originated from sources within the country.

Some administrators of these sites — many of which are blogs that offer independent news or commentary — soon found their Twitter accounts had been hacked, with passwords and associated email accounts changed. The account information was soon restored, but the message was clear: “Don’t mess with us.”

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia, the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, and SHARE Foundation issued a statement the following day, condemning the questionable removal of the videos and Internet censorship, claiming that the “remix culture”, or the practice of combining and editing video and other material to create new online content, represents a “pillar of Internet culture.”

Local media expert and NGO leader Danica Radisic, also an editor with Global Voices, described the attacks as “unprecedented and…almost unimaginable even during the ill-remembered Milosevic era.” Although many details remain unknown, Radisic suspects the attacks were perpetrated by “thugs” or entities working on behalf of the ruling coalition.

I simply don’t see who else would have the motive to spend the time, energy or power involved in these attacks. In fact, I don’t see how this could possibly be a smart move on part of the ruling coalition either, as I assume their goal is to win as many votes as possible in the upcoming early parliamentary elections on March 16th of this year.

October 09 2013

“Lesbianism” and “War Games”: Russian Internet Censorship Continues

E-textbook

E-textbook “Lesbianism for Children.” An art piece hosted by counter-culture website Looo.ch. Screenshot.

Two months ago the Russian government activated a new weapon in its war on Internet freedom — a broadly framed anti-piracy law [Global Voices report] that makes it extremely easy to shut down any online resource on claims of copyright infringement. For now, this law has been exclusively used by copyright owners [ru] to target Russian torrent websites and filesharing forums [Global Voices report], making it harder for Russians to watch Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. Other websites, however, can still run afoul of proper censorship from Roskomnadzor, the agency that runs Russia's Internet blacklist registry.

Looo.ch [ru, NSFW], a counter-culture art blog and media platform with niche content and readership (its front page features male genitalia wrapped in a string of pearls and a young girl aiming a gun at her mouth) is the most recent victim of a Russian law banning the propaganda of homosexuality. It was presumably blocked for hosting an art project: two multimedia “textbooks” [ru, NSFW] titled “Homosexuality for Children” and “Lesbianism for Children,” which are meant to be a “satire of Russian homophobia” and contain erotic photos and texts explaining why homosexuality is “great.” Looo.ch itself says [ru] on their Facebook page that they received no reason for being included in the “forbidden websites” registry on September 19, 2013, and called on their users to access the website through TOR. Being on the blacklist means that Russian ISPs are obligated to block access to the website in question.

While the blocking of Looo.ch itself could have gone largely unnoticed, Roskomnadzor was hoisted by their own petard, cutting off internet access to SquareSpace [ru], a hosting platform similar to WordPress that hosts Looo.ch. Confusion over IP addresses of hosters and websites is a constant issue with the blacklist — Roskomnadzor has previously blocked entire websites over a single infringing page. Because of the latest blanket block thousands of websites (26,439 according to looo.ch) were cut off from the Russian market until the issue was resolved. Looo.ch and its “homosexuality propaganda” only gained in notoriety as a result, thinks [ru] nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin:

был сайт для леворадикальной интеллигенции с дневной посещаемостью в районе 3000 человек, такое развлечение для узкого круга. Теперь же пресловутый “Учебник гомосексуализма” висит на главной Хабрахабра (и тысяч новостных сайтов и блогов с аудиторией в миллионы посетителей), а 26 000 добропорядочных площадок, включая чисто коммерческие, блокированы в России, при этом файл с “Учебником” гуглится за секунду.

there was a website for radical-leftist intelligentsia with daily visits of around 3,000 people, a diversion for a narrow audience. Now the above mentioned “Homosexuality Textbook” is on the front page of [Russian tech blog] Habrahabr (and a thousand other news websites and blogs with an audience of millions), and 26,000 law-abiding websites [hosted by SquareSpace], including purely commercial ones, are blocked in Russia. At the same time the “Textbook” file can be instantaneously found through Google.

Increasing instances of down-times like this are prompting some websites to take pro-active measures. In mid-September users of the popular free internet depository of pirated books (real books this time, not kinky art-pieces), Flibusta.net (see this Global Voices report for more on Russian pirate libraries), found that they couldn't read or download any books through a regular web-browser. Instead they were taken to a sparse webpage [ru] that said “War games in progress” at the top.

What readers of flibusta.net saw when trying to download a book. Screenshot.

What readers of flibusta.net saw when trying to download a book. Screenshot.

The page explained:

Уже принятые и еще запланированные законы против интернета в России так или иначе касаются каждого пользователя. И каждый должен уметь обходить цензуру и блокировки. Наряду с обычным интернетом существуют распределенные анонимные сети I2P и TOR. Их не так просто поставить под контроль. Самое время научиться ими пользоваться.

Anti-Internet laws already passed or in the planning stages in Russia in some ways affect all users. Every person should know how to counter censorship and blocks. Along with the regular Internet there are the anonymous webs of I2P and TOR. They aren't as easily controlled [by the government]. It's high time to learn how to use them.

The page, which remained in effect for several weeks, gave I2P and TOR addresses for Flibusta, as well as links to FAQs [ru] on how to install, configure and use the programs. Essentially, Flibusta has made the attempt to train their audience to become internet-savvy, an educated and sophisticated force of rule-breakers. Of course, people complained about the added bother — not the least because the TOR network was slow at the time [ru] on account of a bot-net problem.

There are plenty of online libraries to choose from, and because of that Flibusta probably lost users who preferred to take the easy way out. Since the new anti-piracy law only targets distribution of pirated video, Russian book pirates are safe from censorship for the moment, unlike artists creating avant-garde art. However, Flibusta's militaristic metaphor is apt — as the steady encroachment on Russian Internet freedoms continues, more people are going to feel like they are at war with the government. In the future they will probably react more positively when a grizzled Internet-wars veteran hands them a shovel and says: “This is as far as they come. Help me dig this trench, son.”

July 15 2013

MERCOSUR and the Future of the Internet in Latin America

MERCOSUR building in Montevideo by Vince Alongi under a Creative Commons Attribution License

MERCOSUR building in Montevideo by Vince Alongi. (CC BY 2.0)

Last Friday, Latin American government leaders issued a strong statement against the mass surveillance of their citizens by the US government at an emergency meeting of MERCOSUR, South America's leading economic and diplomatic alliance. Approaching the meeting, a collective of activists, academics and NGOs from Latin America wrote an open letter [es] to MERCOSUR, inviting leaders to consult with civil society in building human rights-protective policies for the region. The letter put forth a collaborative vision for Internet policy making:

We want Latin America to become the model both of laws and practices allowing and enabling us to exercise our human rights to the maximum degree. The espionage problem we are facing right now is…an opportunity for us. Working together, governments and civil society, we can design a regional policy allowing us to develop in full all the potential of new technologies while protecting our citizens.

Civil society leaders encouraged governments to hold open, participatory policy-making processes and enable citizens to collaborate in the design of a new regional approach to the Internet, embracing principles of free expression, access, openness, privacy and the free flow of information.

In their declaration [es], MERCOSUR leaders rejected the interception of communications, characterizing it as a violation of human rights, the right to privacy, and the right to information (see item 8). They recognized the importance of ICTs for development and the urgent need for robust infrastructure in the region, especially broadband access (see items 45, 46).

They also embraced free software:

We support free software development, as it will enable us to develop regional ICTs solution, so we will achieve a real appropriation and promotion of free knowledge and free transfer of technologies, reducing our dependence on solutions from transnational companies which are not willing to respect our emergent industries. We affirm our interest in the promotion of free software in all national digital inclusion programs.

The statement emphasized free software principles for the effective use, implementation, research and transfer of technology and established as priority the development of regional public policy to achieve these ends.

If MERCOSUR leaders are able to to act on their stated aims, working with other countries and civil society groups in the region and reforming national-level legislation to meet the standards they put forth last week, the region could provide a powerful example for the global south, becoming a safe haven for expression, innovation and human development.

June 25 2013

Taiwan: Internet Policy Reforms Spark Fears of Censorship

“Don't touch my Internet!” Image by Baagic (CC-BY-SA)

This spring, the Taiwanese government has proposed multiple amendments to existing laws that could impact free expression online, sparking concern among Taiwanese netizens. While many are comparing the amendments to Chinese-style speech control, others have noted the influence of the United States on the legislation.

Copyright Act raises threat of censorship

One controversial bill introduced in mid-May proposed to amend the Copyright Act, allowing the government to more easily block overseas websites containing materials alleged to infringe copyright. Under the amended law, Taiwan's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) would review requests from content owners claiming that their content had been posted online without their permission. The IPO would then require Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to block websites with infringing content. The system would exclude judicial review of content owners’ requests.

Taiwanese netizens criticized the proposal, comparing it to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States. Following tremendous backlash from civil society, IPO revoked the plan in early June and promised to adjust the proposal. The new iteration of the proposal may require that ISPs receive a court order before blocking sites suspected of infringing copyright.

National security policy to cover cybersecurity

On May 30, the government’s executive branch announced plans to submit a proposal [zh] to amend Taiwan's National Security Law which not only asserts that “the protection of national security should expand to the Internet” but also encourages citizens to report on any activity that they believe could endanger national security.

Blogger metamuse commented [zh] on the proposal:

這些條文精神具皆中國對網路的管理辦法與特色,並給予「保防安全」、「國家安全」這類相當漂亮的名目,如果這修正條文在立法院審議過關,台灣又將重回戒嚴時期…即便公民在網路上揭露政府舞弊、貪汙、迫害與各項違法情事,只要被政府以「違反國家安全」為由,就能進行「言論清洗」,能要求各級機關、網站刪除不利言論,公民再也不能獲得真相與了解被隱匿的事實…

These articles resemble the laws by which the Chinese government manage[s] the Internet, and grant the grand justification of ‘protection from espionage’ and ‘protecting national security’. If the amendment is going to be passed in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan will [return] to the age when Taiwan was governed by the Martial Law…whenever citizens reveal government’s corruption and illegal dealings, the government could ‘purify the speech’  under the excuse of ‘endangering national security’, and mandate all the websites to censor the content which is on the opposite side of the government. Citizens can no longer access to and understand the truth…

Telecommunication Act could require ISPs to police content

The third policy change that has stirred concerns of censorship is the amendment [zh] to Article 9 of the Telecommunication Act, proposed by the National Communications Commission (NCC). The amendment requires ISPs to remove content deemed illegal by the government. If the content “disturbs public order and decent morals, the ISPs can disconnect internet services, remove content, or take other appropriate actions.” It is incumbent on ISPs to determine which content violates federal standards, a policy approach that could result in ISPs over-blocking controversial sites in an effort to avoid legal liability.

Giddens, a famous writer in Taiwan posted [zh]  his comment on the amendment on his blog:

如此我所認識的台灣政府,令我相信,我們的政府會慢慢的、漸漸的、偷偷地將「非法資訊」擴張成「政府不喜歡的資訊」,在未來,這個法案會演變成「思想篩選」的最邪惡法案。

The Taiwanese government I know makes me believe that our government will slowly, gradually, and stealthily expand the definition of ‘illegal content’ to ‘the content which the government dislikes.’ The legislation will become the most evil of all which ‘censor thoughts’.

Reviewing the three proposed amendments, CK Hung, a Taiwanese blogger and college professor, pointed to the US influence behind the recent legislation, taking the amendment to Copyright Act as an example:

If US influences were not a major driving force, it would be hard to find logical explanations [as to] why the IPO would propose the comically primitive methods of DNS seizure and IP blocking (as opposed to the more sophisticated — and still bypassable — Golden Shield Project model) when any competent IT professional (if the IPO ever consulted one) would point out their futility from a technical point of view. Equally noteworthy is the absence of any economic experts and domestic copyright holder groups behind the proposal to justify its usefulness for helping national economy, or at least a sector thereof. In fact many people argue that such measures would hurt the interest of domestic copyright holders since the censorship would, ironically, facilitate foreign infringement upon domestic works while keeping the copyright holders in the dark.

The amendment to National Security Law, which would allow the Ministry of Justice to oversee the Internet in order to “protect national security” also reminded Hung of the US Justice Department and its recent controversies:

According to the National Security Law, sitting at the top of the command is the Ministry of Justice, which is reminiscent of the Department of Justice in the US, notorious for the Swartz suicide scandal, the Associated Press surveillance scandal, the mysterious secrecy about Wikileaks and Bradley Manning's prosecution, among other censorship-related controversies.

Taiwanese netizens have initiated a campaign and created a Facebook page [zh] to promote legislation protecting network neutrality and fight against undue government and industry control over content and activities on the Internet.

June 17 2013

Orphaned in US, SOPA Finds Home in Russia

America’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act is back—and it’s poised to become law in a matter of weeks. SOPA, however, isn’t coming to the United States, where a wide coalition of Internet companies, human rights organizations, and concerned citizens defeated the legislation with a massive protest campaign in January 2012. A law that creates similarly harsh penalties for online copyright violations is on the cusp of finding a home in Russia, where it is called “Bill № 292521-6 [ru]: Amendments to the Russian Federation’s Laws Protecting Intellectual Property Rights on Information-Telecommunications Networks.” The media, understandably, is just calling it “the Russian SOPA.”

The lower house of Russia’s parliament, the Duma, approved [ru] a first draft of the legislation today, June 14, 2013, with a vote of 257 to 3 (plus one abstention). This move by lawmakers comes despite unanimous opposition from Russia’s Internet companies, which have rushed this week to publish detailed reports on the legislation’s potentially catastrophic damage to the RuNet.

This image was created by Kevin Rothrock using Vladimir Putin's official portrait by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, 2006, CC 3.0.

This image was created by Kevin Rothrock using Vladimir Putin's official portrait by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, 2006. (CC-BY 3.0)

Russian SOPA’s nuts and bolts

Indeed, Russia’s SOPA-clone contains a number of worrying clauses. The law’s regime for notifying Internet service providers of copyright abuses, for instance, is laughably inadequate. Copyright holders do not need to provide ISPs with the specific location of an infringement (not even a URL address), forcing Internet companies to conduct constant monitoring for possible misuses of (potentially) copyrighted materials.

The law also revises the conditions of limited liability, exposing ISPs and other Internet intermediaries to legal responsibility in situations where they exercise no control over the content in question. Russian search engine Yandex warns [ru]:

[…] позволяет прийти к абсурдному выводу о том, что, получив уведомление правообладателя о потенциальном нарушении, имеющем место при передаче материала, провайдер, осуществляющий передачу, будет обязан каким-то образом прекратить такую передачу в отношении конкретного материала, что технически невозможно.

[The law] allows us to come to the absurd conclusion that, having been notified by the copyright holder of a potential violation occurring in the transmission of materials, the ISP, which performs the transmission, will be required somehow to stop the transfer of some specific material, which is technically impossible.

The Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC), which participated in the Culture Ministry’s working group [ru] on the anti-piracy legislation, has also criticized [ru] the law’s lack of consideration for possible fair use of copyrighted materials. Additionally, the RAEC protests, the law creates circumstances wherein ISPs must take provisional measures before copyright holders have filed a formal claim with the courts. Many opponents of the Russian SOPA cite this aspect of the law as an example of extrajudicial censorship. The reality of the law’s provisions is more complicated.

According to the legislation, the Moscow City Court would serve as the court of first instance in all civil cases involving online copyright infringement. Copyright holders first appeal to the court with a complaint that their property is being misused online, attaching (1) proof that they own the materials in question, and (2) proof that someone else is using them. (The court is supposed to take no action, without these attachments.) The court then determines a deadline, not to exceed fifteen days, by which the plaintiff must file a formal statement of claim, which actually launches the legal suit.

In the two weeks between the initial appeal and the option to file a suit, however, the law empowers the Moscow Court to force ISPs to take “interim measures” to remove the content in question, or risk having their entire IP address blocked, if they fail to comply within three days. If the plaintiff fails to file suit after fifteen days, the court dismisses the case and lifts the order for interim measures.

The RAEC claims that there is nothing in the legislation to prevent copyright holders from appealing to the Moscow Court every two weeks, without ever filing a formal suit. In other words, determined plaintiffs could keep in force what are supposed to be interim measures, by using the law as a rotating door. The RAEC explains in its report [ru] on the legislation:

Правообладатель имеет возможность не подавать иск, а каждые 15 дней обращаться за применением новых предварительных обеспечительных мер, и никакой ответственности за подобную практику не установлено.

The copyright holder has the opportunity not to sue, but every fifteen days [it can] appeal for the application of new interim measures, and [the law] establishes no responsibility for such behavior.

However, there is a provision in the law that allows ISPs to sue for losses incurred when executing the interim measures, if the plaintiff fails to file a formal suit within the fifteen-day period, or if an arbitration court later rejects the copyright holder’s claim. The current legislation [ru] reads:

Организация или гражданин, права и (или) законные интересы которых нарушены обеспечением имущественных интересов до предъявления иска, вправе требовать по своему выбору от заявителя возмещения убытков […], если заявителем в установленный судом срок не было подано исковое заявление по требованию […], или если вступившим в законную силу судебным актом арбитражного суда в иске отказано.

The organization or citizen, whose rights and (or) lawful interests are violated by ensuring the [plaintiff’s] property interests before the filing of a claim, has the right to demand their choice of indemnity for losses suffered […], if the plaintiff did not file a claim in the required time period […], or if a valid court decision by an arbitration court rejected [the plaintiff’s] claim.

Finally, the RAEC complains that the law creates a jurisdiction overlap with existing arbitration procedure code, and generates an inconvenient and inefficient legal bottleneck by forcing all parties, regardless of their location, to deal with a Moscow court.

Stakeholders propose changes

The new anti-piracy law also calls for blocking entire IP addresses, in the event of noncompliance with court-ordered interim measures. The push for blacklisting entire IPs is surprising, given the growing consensus that this method is more likely to damage legitimate websites than the Web’s copyright infringers, who can easily circumvent an IP blacklist by changing hosts, adopting dynamic IP addresses, and so on. While Internet service providers and industry experts have long criticized IP blocking (which came packaged in Russia’s legislation last year to blacklist online materials harmful to children), even Roskomnadzor—the government body responsible for administering that blacklist—recently acknowledged the inefficiency of IP blocking in a post [ru] on its new public outreach website, “WeCanTrust.net.”

The Duma’s Committee on Culture has also proposed a series of controversial amendments that could appear in the next iteration of the legislation. The Committee’s suggestions include an expansion of the law’s applicability to search engines; the creation of a new blacklist for all websites containing illegal materials; and applying the law not just to audiovisual content, but also to “books, articles, photographs, and other copyrighted objects.”

Yesterday, on June 13, 2013, Yandex sent [ru] the Duma its official list [ru] of comments and suggestions for revising the anti-piracy law, as the bill heads back to committee for more amendments, ahead of its second and third readings on the parliament floor, which could take place as early as next week [ru]. In a blog post [ru] that also sharply criticized the new legislation, Google Russia’s Director of Government Relations, Marina Zhunich, announced that Google, too, has shared with the Duma its recommendations for eliminating the most radical aspects of the draft legislation.

Both Google and Yandex are calling for amendments that would render the Russian SOPA more similar to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, another American law, passed in 1998 by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Unlike the anti-piracy law that Russian legislators are now considering, the DMCA exempts from liability Internet service providers and other intermediaries under a regime in which copyright holders directly notify ISPs of infringement claims, without the application of automatic censorship or state-administered blacklists.

June 08 2013

VIDEO: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Hurt Internet Users

A new animated video by digital rights group Electric Frontier Foundation warns that the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and ten governments from around the Pacific region, could have alarming consequences for Internet users.

The treaty's negotiations, which include input from corporations, are being kept under wraps, but a leaked draft [PDF] of the treaty from February 2011 and other leaked notes have given many advocates cause for concern over copyright enforcement provisions in the agreement's chapter on intellectual property.

According to the group, the treaty could make the Internet an intimidating place for the people and companies that use it. The agreement could encourage Internet service providers to police the activity of Internet users and block legitimate content with only a private notice from the supposed copyright holder in order to protect themselves from liability.

It could also make it illegal for users to work around technical measures put in place to prevent copyright infringement, such as unlocking a mobile phone in order to connect it to another carrier or modifying the format of an e-book to make it more accessible to those with disabilities.

The video, called “TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of”, is available on YouTube and can be found here:

May 29 2013

Copyright Amendment Could Bring Web Filter System to Taiwan

CK Hung believes that  the "black list" for blocking is dictators' favorite tool for censorship. Image from Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog.

Image from Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog.

The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (IPO) [zh] recently proposed [zh] to amend the Copyright Act and provide legal justification of IP and DNS blocking at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level through a black list system. The government claims that the amendment would stop the illegal sharing of movies and music protected by copyright law.

Although IPO has stressed that the Internet service providers will only block overseas online platforms which are “specifically designed for copyright infringement activities” or websites which have “obviously violated copyrights,” such as Megaupload, the authorities will target online platforms that enhance peer-to-peer transmission including Bit Torrent, Foxy, and FTP sharing.

The Taiwanese government proposal is similar to the United States bill, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was suspended last year following criticism from companies and civil society groups asserting that the legislation would threaten online freedom of expression and information flow. If the Taiwanese copyright amendment is implemented, the Island will have a mechanism that blocks and filters away “illegal websites” that host material that infringes copyright laws. This could be detrimental to sites like YouTube, where users regularly upload videos that may violate copyright laws. Although the company has a system for removing these videos, a law like this could lead to the site being blocked altogether.

Many Taiwanese find the proposal backward and contrary to the principle of an open society. Blogger I-Chen Tsai explained [zh] in Q&A format how the amendment has violated citizen's rights:

問:你是不是想看盜版?
答:不,我從不看盜版院線片,每個月平均進電影院兩次。我想捍衛的是一種價值。
如果今天政府找個理由,不經由法律程序,就能立即封掉任何境外網站。那麼,安個「言論影響國家安全」,就能立刻封掉「想想論壇」(hosted byAcquia);安個「影響我國傳統市場秩序」,就能封掉「好魚網」(hosted byAmazon);安個「錯誤引導年輕人就業觀念」,就能封掉「Mr. Jamie」(hosted by Media Temple)。
不管你做平台或電子商務,隨時暴露在歸零的危險裡,脖子上永遠架著經濟部的這把刀。你能接受嗎?
安個「侵權影片過多無法管理」,就能封掉 facebook (hosted by facebook);安個「常被使用於傳送非法軟體」,就能封掉 Dropbox (hosted by Dropbox)。你能接受嗎?
這不是「盜不盜版」的問題,這是「侵害人民權益」的問題。

Q: Do you want to see pirated movies?
A: No, I never watch pirated movies and I go to the cinema at least twice a month to see movies. I want to defend a principle.

If today the government finds a reason to get around legal procedures for blocking foreign websites, some day, it could block Thinking Taiwan [a blog hosting platform] (hosted by Acquia) because it has threatened national security, or block fish.123 [an online shopping platform for fish lovers] (hosted by Amazon) because it has affected our conventional market order; or block Mr. Jamie [a platform for start-ups] (hosted by Media Temple) because it has misled our young people's attitude in their career development.

No matter if you are the operator of a platform or commercial business, you will be exposed to the threat of being blocked. The knife of the IPO is against your throat. Can you accept that?

Can you accept the blocking of Facebook (hosted by Facebook) because there are too many infringed movies or the blocking of Dropbox (hosted by dropbox) because it is frequently used for the transmission of illegal software? This is not a copyright infringement issue, it is an issue of the violation of people's rights.

Ching Chiao, the CEO of DotAsia, an operator of a top-level domain registry, believes [zh] that the amendment is a setback for democracy and offered an alternative solution:

但是, 封網站就是不對, 就是開民主倒車, 勞民傷財的豬頭政策. 有執行封網站政策的國家聯上的是Intranet, 而不是Internet. 封網站是現代國家邁入鎖國的第一步.

智財局若想以行政命令的方式, 用”管好ISP業者就能防堵侵權內容散佈”的思維, 無非是自亂陣腳, 落入了開民主倒車的困境中. […] 要求ISP以黑名單的方式封堵網站, 短期間可能有效, 長期下來必定會造成用戶體驗不佳, 或是用戶繞過ISP既定的路由模式, 自行訪問被封鎖的站點, 情況就如同大陸的網友進行所謂的”翻牆”來訪問Youtube, Facebook等政治敏感的網站.

智財局其實可以積極地對付侵權網站, 尤其是侵犯到我國著作權人經濟利益的網站. 網站的宿主可能是在台灣境內, 可能是境外. 網站使用的網域名稱可能是.tw, 可能是其他如 .com / .net的國際域名, 這些管理單位都有通報機制, 智財局建立起良好的通報和聯繫機制, 讓國內外業者來配合執法, 每年定期出國開會吸取新知新做法, 遠比替自己要到一個封網站落後國家的臭名來的強.

Blocking websites is wrong, it is a setback for democracy, and a stupid policy that wastes people's money. Countries which have implemented ISP-level blocking are turning the Internet into an Intranet, the first step for turning a modern country into a self-enclosed country.

If the intellectual property bureau wants to implement the policy with an administrative order under the rationale of “blocking copyright infringement by pressuring the ISPs,” it will fall into a trap. […] To request ISPs to block websites according to a blacklist may have some effects in the short run. In the long run, the users will be dissatisfied with their online experience and use circumvention technology to get around ISPs to visit the blocked sites, like what has happened in mainland China, they “jump the Great Firewall” to visit politically sensitive websites such as YouTube and Facebook.

There are other measures that could be utilized by the bureau to fight copyright infringement, in particular if the infringement has harmed Taiwanese copyright holders. Every website has to register under a top level domain, the domains can be .tw (local) or .com / .net (international); all of the top level domain registry has a notice system to communicate with government authorities for law enforcement. The IPO should spend more time communicating with the international communities rather than pushing through a notorious policy for ISP-level blocking.

CK Hung, a writer from collective science blog PanSci.tw, pointed out [zh] that most of the copyright-related legislation in Taiwan is serving US-based copyright holders’ interests and that the side product of the blacklist system is the favorite tool of a dictator for censorship:

臺灣的智財法律/檢警體系/教育系統所發生的智財保護政策或重大案件, 從來就是由美國的利益團體在主導的, 從來就不是在服務國內的著作權人。 還記得 Now.in 抄臺事件 嗎? 主導者是 國際著作權權利組織 IFPI。 傷害無辜的獨立創作者不說, 就連正在談權利金的 國內著作權權利組織 MUST 的利益都受到傷害。 請告訴我這個行動保護了國內哪一位創作者的權利?

Most of the policies or incidents related with IP protection in Taiwan have been dominated by US-related interest groups. You still remember the police shutting down music platform Now.in (an online radio and podcast platform) last year? IFPI is behind the incident. The collateral damage has harmed many independent writers and the Music Copyright Society of Chinese Taipei (MUST) [as Now.in has secured initial consensus with MUST for uploading their music online]. Please tell me who in Taiwan can benefit from this kind of incident?

「以 IP 位址或 DNS」 的方式封鎖侵權網站, 這個封鎖黑名單不能公開, 因為一公開就更加替這些網站廣告。 這個清單會一直改變, 因為被封鎖的網站會搬來搬去。 具有這種特性的黑箱作業封鎖清單, 正是獨裁政府最喜歡的言論管制工具。

The blacklist for blocking websites at the IP and DNS level cannot be disclosed or else the list would make them more popular. The list will keep updating as the blocked sites will keep changing their DNS. Authoritarian states love these kinds of blacklists which operate in a black box to help them censor the Internet.

Briian argued [zh] that the policy goes against the emerging business model that is based on online sharing:

早就有研究指出盜版的存在對於正版的銷售有相當大的幫助,連台灣一堆唱片公司 […] 都搶著把自家歌手的 MV 搬上 YouTube 讓大家免費欣賞、免費收聽(以前都是網友私自分享的「侵權」行為啊)。而去年紅透全球的 PSY 江南大叔的騎馬舞也都是免費放上網路上讓大家看、讓大家聽,儘管在唱片的銷售方面可能無法 100% 賺到錢,實際上演唱會、商演與其他周邊的銷售,卻讓該公司賺到了以前的模式賺不到的更多的錢。更別說藉由分享的方式可能讓商品擴及到以前接觸不到的族群或國家、地區。

There is research pointing out that the distribution of pirated copy can enhance the sale of original copy. Even music companies in Taiwan […] now upload their singers MV to YouTube for free consumption (in the past, such kind of sharing was defined as infringement). Last year, PSY's Gangnam Style horse dance became a global hit because of free distribution and consumption online. Although the music company can't take 100 percent of the profit from record sales, it makes a huge amount of profit from PSY's global performance contract and other side products. The free distribution has help the company to extend the market to those countries and regions that cannot be reached before.

Concerned citizens have created an event page [zh] on Facebook to gather information and mobilize against the amendment.

May 12 2013

Peruvians To President: Our Digital Rights Are Non-Negotiable

The original version of this post was published on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Katitza Rodriguez is the International Rights Director for EFF and a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy.

For years, music, film and other content industries in the US have been lobbying, in national law or within trade agreements, for overreaching rules that would break the Internet in the name of copyright enforcement. Lately, such proposals range from termination of users’ account on the mere allegation of copyright infringement to enacting censorship powers that would make parts of the global Internet disappear from view. Proposed policies could also introduce digital locks laws that stifle online innovation and restrict the ability to use lawfully-acquired digital content.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is the latest forum where these overreaching standards are being laundered. The TPP is a secretive treaty that includes a set of intellectual property rules that target the Internet. The 17th round of negotiations over TPP starts next week in Lima, Peru. Up for debate are the provisions dealing with intellectual property – including online copyright enforcement, DMCA-style digital locks, and Internet intermediary liability.

One of the major concerns about TPP is its capacity to rewrite global rules on intellectual property enforcement. All signatory countries will be required to match their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the TPP. Future changes to those laws may involve re-negotiating the treaty. In Peru, this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of Peruvian copyright law and restrict the ability of the Peruvian Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs and realities of Peruvian citizens and their growing technology sector.

This is why a well-known network of Peruvian NGOs, including RedGE and Hiperderecho, have launched a campaign asking President Ollanta Humala Tasso to set clear, non-negotiable limitations to ensure that Peruvians’ fundamental rights in the TPP are respected.

The campaign asks President Humala to:

  • Not accept new conditions in the treaty's intellectual property chapter that hinder or make more expensive our access to medicines and medical treatment.
  • Not accept conditions on the intellectual property chapter that jeopardize the Internet, our freedom of speech or our ability to do research or innovate using art and technology.
  • In the investment chapter, to include the necessary safeguards to ensure the state's ability to enforce national laws, especially on issues of public health and environment.

Miguel Morachimo, Hiperderecho's executive director, is urging other Peruvians to sign the petition:

Would you remain silent if someone is discussing the way you work, create or express yourself? The TPP may change the way we as consumers and professionals interact with cultural goods and technology. But we can stop it if we speak. We invite you to join us in this petition asking the peruvian government to express clear non negotiable lines in this treaty. We won't make it without your voice.

Any changes to the conditions governing limitations on Internet intermediary liability could have a significant and detrimental impact on Internet users’ ability to seek, receive and impart information, and could harm the Internet's end-to-end architecture. How TPP countries approach these issues can determine the future of the global Internet.

If you are Peruvian and think that the President should set clear,non-negotiable limits on the TPP, consider joining the online petition in Peru by signing here http://www.nonegociable.pe/. If you live outside Peru, but want to help with the Peruvian campaign, please get the word out about the campaign in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtags #yaratpp and #notpp).

Campaign image from http://www.nonegociable.pe/.

March 28 2013

South Korean Politician Moves to Repeal Biased Copyright Law

On Friday, South Korea's National Assembly will meet with advocates for and against the country's “three strikes” law that restricts the online activities of Internet users who violate copyright regulations. On March 24, 2013, Mr. Choi Jae-Cheon, a member of the Culture, Broadcasting, and Tourism Standing Committee of the Korean National Assembly, along with other twelve other sponsors, announced his proposal to repeal this provision of the law, which has been in force since 2009.

Korean National Assembly. Photo by Flickr user jeroen020. (CC BY-SA)

According to an official press release [ko], the South Korean government introduced the three-strikes copyright control regime in July of 2009. Originally nicknamed the “netizen-killing law,” the legislation stipulates that if an Internet user violates copyright law online, he or she will receive up to three warnings from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (hereafter “MCST”), which is responsible for media content policy in South Korea. If the user's behavior does not change after three warnings have been issued, authorities can disable the person's web service account or shut down the bulletin board he or she used by administrative order.

This legal procedure is different from the three-strikes copyright regulation in France known as the HADOPI law. (France and New Zealand have adopted three-strikes copyright regulations; the United States has a somewhat similar six-strikes guideline.) In France, a person's Internet access cannot be blocked until his or her case has been reviewed and approved by a judge. But in South Korea, the executive branch is the sole enforcer of the regulation, making the process less transparent and more vulnerable to arbitrary decision-making.

Since the law was enacted, the Korean government has sent 468,446 takedown notices to users and shut down 408 website accounts. The law has affected far more users than it was originally intended to — it was passed with the goal of targeting users engaging in massive amounts of illegal downloading, estimated at about 1,000 users. But in fact, according to Mr. Choi's investigation based on his team's collected data from MCST, among 380 users whose accounts have been shut down, 174 of them inflicted damages of less than US$.90. Mr. Choi argues that their punishment, which constrains their right of access to information, is much harsher than the cost they incurred. Therefore, the law not only violates legal due process — it is also inefficient from an economic perspective, and it imposes a punishment that is disproportionate to the crime.

A coalition of Korean Internet companies, experts, and civic groups including Jinbo.netIP Left, and newly formed digital rights group Open Net [ko] have all voiced their support for repealing the law. In a post [ko] entitled “Why We Can't Just Watch the Corruption of Copyright Law,” Open Net questioned the alleged economic motivations of the policy:

삼진아웃제 시행 3년이 지난 지금 정부의 주장과 달리 삼진아웃제의 규제 대상은 헤비업로더가 아니라 일반 이용자들임이 드러났습니다. 삼진아웃제 때문에 행정부로부터 경고를 받거나 실제로 계정정지를 당한 이용자 계정은 무려 47만 개나 됩니다. 2009년 당시 천 명에 불과하던 헤비 업로더가 3년만에 갑자기 급증하였기 때문일까요? 아닙니다. 실제로 계정정지까지 당한 이용자들 중 저작권 침해물을 전문적으로 유통한 사람은 거의 없습니다. 어떤 이용자는 침해액이 고작 9천원에 불과한데도 계정정지를 당했습니다. (…) 삼진아웃제를 어떻게 헤비 업로더 규제 제도라 할 수 있을까요?

Three-strikes law has been in force for the past three years. But it is already apparent that the government targeted not the heavy illegal down-loaders, but lay users. About 470,000 website accounts were warned by the government under the three-strikes law. In 2009, the government analyzed that number as only 1,000. Are we to believe that it has exponentially increased in the past couple of years? No way. Among users whose accounts have been shut down, there were none who traded copyrighted materials for commercial benefits. Some users were punished even though the amount of their indemnity was marginal, at US$0.9.

[...]

How then we can call the three-strikes law a regulation targeted at heavy down-loaders?

This and other Internet-related policies have brought together professors and activists who are forming new non-profit organizations focused on Internet rights. This emerging public coalition shows a promising sign of a new counter-force against state-guided Internet and communication policy making processes in South Korea.

February 26 2013

“Don’t Fear the Internet”: Exceptions to Copyright in Chile

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

In a previous post in the #NoTemasaInternet [es] (Don’t Fear the Internet) series, we explained why exceptions to copyright are necessary and desirable, especially in digital contexts, like this video shows:

After civil society mobilizations [es] and debates took place around Chile's new intellectual property law, Chilean advocates managed to expand the rules on exceptions to copyright. For example, today students are allowed to translate an article for private use without having to ask for authorization from the copyright holder of that text. A few years ago, the law didn’t allow for fair use in situations like this, leaving students and others wanting to use texts for academic or learning purposes at risk of criminal infraction.

The expansion of exceptions to copyright is a victory for the public and also for creators of artistic, academic, and scientific works. Although we could have more and better exceptions, and there are continued threats against these exceptions [es], the scenario we have today is more encouraging than what we had years ago, and has even set a positive example for many countries in Latin America.

With this new infographic [es] from #NoTemasaInternet (Don't fear the Internet), we want you to learn which exceptions to copyright we have in Chile. We also want to encourage you to use them without fear. It’s your right!

February 18 2013

[Video] “Don’t Fear the Internet”: Wikipedia, Copyright, and Free Expression Online

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

It is no exaggeration to say that Wikipedia has revolutionized the way we create and access information, showing a sustainable and collaborative model of intellectual work and of understanding of phenomena such as intellectual property. This platform has managed to make us all connect to knowledge differently, and it has also jeopardized closed models of access to knowledge.

In this recent interview from the #NotemasaInternet (Don’t fear the Internet) campaign on online copyright, we talked to Osmar Valdebenito, president of Wikimedia Argentina (and former president of the Chilean chapter), a foundation that coordinates and makes the infrastructure of Wikipedia possible worldwide. We spoke with Osmar about how Wikimedia works, but also about how online freedom of expression is fundamental for its development, and how initiatives that seek to be even more restrictive with online copyright (SOPA, PIPA, etc.) would make the existence of Wikipedia as we know it impossible.


Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

January 26 2013

Understanding Free and Open Source Software

FOSS by opensourceway (CC BY-SA 2.0)

FOSS by opensourceway (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We received an email from Richard M. Stallman (RMS), after publishing the article about the Egyptian demonstration calling for the government to adopt Free Software. I can't deny that one of the motives behind writing this article is to show off that someone as important to the history of computers as RMS is reading what we write here. Nevertheless, the main reason for writing this article is the following:

In his email, RMS was more than pleased with such movement taking place in Egypt, but he also highlighted that our post was misleading in some points regarding Free Software. We do agree with that, especially that our main objective then was to spread information about the Egyptian movement, and we didn't pay much attention to elaborate more to our readers about what is Free Software. So, we decided to write this two-part follow-up article, and in it we are going to break one of the main Global Voices Online (GVO) rules. We normally have to quote social media rather than main stream media, however in this case, there are two reasons not to strictly adhere to this rule.

  • The first reason: A lot of what we are going to quote here falls in a grey area between mainstream and social media. Take Eric's Random Writings as an example, it is not a blog per-se, yet many posts there predate blogs and blogging, so you can see it as the blog of that time.
  • The second reason, which is our main reason: Although most of the information we are going to mention here is already available since decades, we want to make use of the huge network of translators in GV Lingua and our readerbase to spread the message about Free and Open Source Software, especially that Free Software shares a lot of values with GVO. The two try to defend users freedom and their right to be heard. The former defends their right to create and have control on the software they use, and the latter - among others - defends users' right to be the media, rather than just being a consumer of the media.

What is Free Software?

Thankfully, in my language, there are two different words for free (gratis) and free (libre). The fact that there is one English word for the two concepts and that people normally don't pay money for most of the free software, makes a lot of people confuse the word “free” in free software, thinking it means the former concept, while the latter is what is really meant there. The authors in GNU's website (we will come to GNU later on), put it this way:

Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”.

They then elaborated more on what they mean by that kind of software freedom:

“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

They summarised it in a list of four essential freedoms a software user should have:

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Having that said, it is clear that free software developers do have the choice to sell their software if they want to, provided that they adhere to the four freedoms mentioned above. Take NeoOffice as an example here. On the other hand, if some software developers decided to release their software for free, yet they do not respect the Free Software essential freedoms, then their software cannot be called Free Software. Many of those closed-source Shareware and Adware programs, can serve as examples here. In those cases, users cannot access their source code, hence they cannot modify it or study how it works. As long as you don't know how a software works and have access to its code yourself, you cannot blindly trust it, it can track your activities, modify your computer, or do anything that you do not want it to do.

The source-code can be distributed with the software, or as one of Stack Exchange users added:

Making source available does not mean download. IT might be that you must get a written request and you send a photocopy of a listing. You are allowed to charge a “reasonable” handling / copying charge. But you can not escape the obligation to make your own source code available.

Should we call it Free or Open Source Software?

So far, we have been using the terms Free Software and Open Source Software interchangeably. It's true that the two terms are very close to each other, and being Free implies that it should be Open Source, however since 1998, the two terms are sometimes used to refer to two slightly different things.

Eric S. Raymond (ESR), another advocate for Open Source software, noticed that for Free or Open Software to be adopted by the masses, bigger corporations have to get involved. It's hard to convince people to install GNU/Linux on their laptops, if it is not going to identify their wireless card or CD-ROM driver or whatever hardware module of that laptop. And for this to happen, the hardware vendors should release special drivers for GNU/Linux, or else the open source developers will have no other option but to reverse-engineer those drivers, which does not succeed all the time. ERS wrote:

The term “free software” is older, and is reflected in the name of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), an organisation founded in 1985 to protect and promote free software. The term “open source” was coined in 1998 by a group of people — the founders of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) — who also supported the development and distribution of free software, but who disagreed with the FSF about how to promote it, and who felt that software freedom was primarily a practical matter rather than an ideological one.

ESR emphasised that their practical approach makes it possible for people to accept what they call for without being obliged to change their position on whether intellectual property was good or evil. He added that the term Free Software on the other hand results in making a lot of corporate types reluctant to get involved there:

The term makes a lot of corporate types nervous. While this does not intrinsically bother me in the least, we now have a pragmatic interest in converting these people rather than thumbing our noses at them. There's now a chance we can make serious gains in the mainstream business world without compromising our ideals and commitment to technical excellence — so it's time to reposition. We need a new and better label.

The debate between the two continues. ESR elaborated more why he finds RMS's approach not appealing to corporates.

RMS's manifesto attacked closed source code on moral grounds; he asserted a right of computer users to access and modify the code they depend upon, declared a crusade against the ownership of software, and proposed a program of building an entire production-quality environment of ”free software” modeled on the powerful Unix operating system … On the other hand, RMS's general attack on intellectual property and the quasi-Marxist flavor of much of his propaganda turned off many hackers and utterly alienated most software producers and customers outside the hacker culture itself.

Whereas, RMS argued he decided to stick to his approach because he believes that the presence of non-free software is a moral rather than practical issue:

The two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, essential respect for the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only. It says that nonfree software is an inferior solution to the practical problem at hand. For the free software movement, however, nonfree software is a social problem, and the solution is to stop using it and move to free software … In practice, open source stands for criteria a little weaker than those of free software.

In the end, as Gabriella Coleman - Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University - wrote in her book, Coding Freedom, the two often travel on the same path even though their reasons are different. By the way, the book is published under Creative Commons license, which is a license that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge, and is inspired in part by the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

They designate the same alternative licenses and collaborative methodologies, but they differ in their moral orientation: the term free software foremost emphasizes the right to learn and access knowledge, while open source tends to flag practical benefits.

It's more than software

Probably, GNU/Linux is the most famous open source project out there. The GNU project started in 1983/4 with the goal to create a free operating system. Later on, Linus Torvalds built the Linux kernel and the combination of the two with many other open source software resulted in what we have today as a fully functional operating systems competing with the likes of Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. Other than that you may think of many other software such as Mozilla Firefox, Apache Webserver Server, Android, and many others that are sometimes more widely adopted and trusted than their non-free alternatives.

Nevertheless, the movement does not stop at software only:

Software manuals must be free, for the same reasons that software must be free, and because the manuals are in effect part of the software. The same arguments also make sense for other kinds of works of practical use — that is to say, works that embody useful knowledge, such as educational works and reference works. Wikipedia is the best-known example.

 

Gabriella Coleman wrote:

I argue that F/OSS draws from and also rearticulates elements of the liberal tradition. Rather than designating only a set of explicitly held political, economic, or legal views, I treat liberalism in its cultural registers. Free software hackers culturally concretize a number of liberal themes and sensibilities— for example, through their competitive mutual aid, avid free speech principles, and implementation of meritocracy along with their frequent challenge to intellectual property provisions. Indeed, the ethical philosophy of F/OSS focuses on the importance of knowledge, self- cultivation, and self- expression as the vital locus of freedom.

Watch George Osborne MP - Open Source Politics:

Finally, the ideas of freedom and openness can be seen nowadays everywhere from Wikipedia to projects tracking every government financial transaction across the world, to those promoting sharing educational material and research papers.

See “Egypt: Why Open Source Software?” for more details why Egypt (as well as almost any other countries) should adopt Free Software.
Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

January 25 2013

Colombia: Copyright Law Rejected by Constitutional Court

On Wednesday night, October 23, 2012, the Colombian Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional Articles 13 and 14 of the Law 1520, better known as Lleras Law 2.0, since it “violated the fundamental rights of expression and communication.” The proposed law provides for sanctions of online copyright infringement, in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement signed between Columbia and the United States.

Contra-copyright by Marco Gomes

Contra-copyright by Marco Gomes (CC BY 2.0)

The Court considered that Article 13, which forbade the broadcast of TV signals without express permission of the content's rights owners, and Article 14, which made illegal the breaking of Digital Right management (DRM)—technologies used to block access to copyrighted digital content—and the making private copies of even legally acquired content, constituted a breach of fundamental rights to education, information and equality.

The Court also declared that the entire process of passing the law was flawed for formal reasons, since it should have been treated as a statutory law and not an ordinary one, thus making void the rest of the law which is considered null.

This outcome is the result of a law suit filed by Senator Jorge Robledo before the Constitutional Court almost a year ago [es]. He argued that the law restricted the use of Internet to transmit information and forbade the broadcast of TV signals, limiting, without justification, citizens’ rights to access and divulge information.

It is also the result of a mobilization by netizens and civil rights organizations. Since the law passed the parliament, back in May, a campaign of “citizen interventions” and protests expressed widespread indignation against the law.

Yesterday, however, upon the announcement of the rejection of Lleras Law 2.0 by the Constitutional Court,  the Colombian blogosphere was in a celebratory mood. Blogger @pazpena, from the ONG Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) is happy. He writes [es]:

un resultado feliz para toda la sociedad civil que se movilizó y para los representantes que supieron escuchar sus demandas.

a happy outcome for all the civil society [who] mobilized [itself] and for representatives who were able to listen to their demands.

Now, the Executive will need to draft a new bill on Intellectual Property in order to meet the requirements of the Free Trade Agreement signed between Colombia and the US, which will, again, have to be approved by the Constitutional Court before it becomes a law.

The battle is not over yet.

January 19 2013

South Korea: Stricter Online Games Regulations Face Discontent

On April 29, 2011, the South Korean national assembly passed a revision of the Juvenile Protection Act. The Online Game Shutdown provision forces online game providers to shutdown their services for teenagers (aged 16 and bellow) from midnight to 6 am. The Ministry of Gender Equality & Family, responsible for developing policies for Korean youth, took the lead on the drafting of the law and extended its scope despite many criticism on its legitimacy and effectiveness.

Many Korean net users are worried about the “unintended consequences” of this “overzealous regulation” that, they say, could threaten freedom of expression online and the privacy of Korean youth and hinder the growth of a booming Korean game industry.

Bureaucratic politics played key role in implementing the regulations

The idea of shutting down online games after midnight was first proposed by Korean civil society groups back in October, 2004. At the time the rationale was to “protect teens' right to sleep.”

A proposal was then introduced to the Korean national assembly by the right-wing majority Grand National Party in August, 2008 (the party was renamed the New Frontier Party since February 2012). However, the bill failed to pass because of a strong lobbying from the online game industry and the opposition of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The Ministry of Gender Equality & Family, in favor of the bill, took the offensive and launched a campaign to regulate the online game industry. It resulted in a compromise between the two opposing parties within the government that made the revision of the Juvenile Protection Act possible.

In the process, the online game industry and Internet users were sidelined. This resulted, predictably, in an escalating confrontation between government regulatory agencies on the one hand, and the online game industry and members of the civil society on the other.

The Ministry of Gender Equality & Family. They shared their office with the National Human Rights Commission. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lawinc82 (CC BY-SA)

Netizens react to government regulations

Since the government announced the new regulations, reactions from netizens were generally negative. They lamented about the government's myopic understanding of the social causes behind youth addiction to online games.

Blogger Studioxga criticizes [ko] the government for not respecting the cultural rights of the youth that, he says, include playing online games. He writes:

이 법안은 청소년을 무조건 보호 받고 규제 받아야 하는 대상으로 보고 있는 것이 문제입니다. 기존 셧다운제도 마찬가지입니다만, 청소년의 문화를 향유할 자유를 제한하고 헌법에 보장된 자유를 이렇게 마음껏 유린하고 있습니다. 청소년은 이렇게 규제하고 하지 못 하게 막을 대상이 아닙니다. 그들 역시 하나의 자아를 가지고 있는 존재입니다. 그들의 선택권을 이렇게 제한하는 것이 아니라 청소년의 결정권을 존중하면서 함께 할 수 있는 사회가 되어야 합니다.

This bill only views teens as the subject of protection and regulation. That is the heart of the problem and it has been since the online game shut down policy was introduced. The law oppresses teens to fulfill their right of enjoying culture which is valued by the Constitution. Teens should not be the subject of regulatory politics. They also have their distinguished personalities. The society we must pursue is not a society which limits their deserved freedom of choice but respects them and grows with them.

Blogger realfactory analyzes [ko] the causes of misunderstandings and the nature of youth Internet use that captured the minds of Korean policy-makers:
여성가족부에서 내세우는 논리는 무려 수면권 보장이다. 아이들이 잠을 잘 수 있는 권리를 누리기 위해 게임을 하지 못하게 한다고 한다. 이러한 표면적 논리의 기저에는 ‘게임 혐오'가 숨어 있다. 청소년 문제가 발생할 때마다 죄 없이 까이는 게 게임이다. 이미 2001년 게임에 중독된 중학생이 동생을 살해했다고 하는데, 그 게임이 무려 영웅전설과 이스 이터널로 아주 아기자기한 게임이다. 11년이 지난 2012년에도 게임에 중독된 고교생이 친구를 살해했다고 하는데, 그 게임은 한 발 더 떠서 피파 온라인!

The rationale used by the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family is to protect teens' right to sleep. They said the regulation is necessary to help teens enjoy the right to sleep. Nevertheless, that is a lie. The real reason is their “hatred of youth playing games.” Whenever some juvenile problems emerged, they used online games as a scapegoat. In 2001, when a middle school student killed his younger brother, the media and government criticized his addiction to games. But the games he played were The Legends of Heroes and YS Eternal, extremely delicate and soft ones! 11 years later, in 2011, they also said a game addict high school student killed his friend! But the game he played was FIFA Online!

Another blogger urges [ko] the Korean government to think about youth culture and the real causes of juvenile problems. He writes:
게임 혐오보다 더 아래로 파고들어가면 결국 아이들이 누리는 문화에 대한 기성세대의 몰이해가 깔려 있다. 아이들이 즐기는 문화에 대한 혐오는 비단 게임에만 국한되는 것이 아니다. 만화도 예전부터 분서갱유의 대상으로 학교에서 압수 대상이었으며, 이는 최근 조선일보의 웹툰 조지기에서도 알 수 있다. 만화와 게임은 아이들은 널리 그 문화를 향유하지만, 부모세대의 이해가 깊지 않다는 공통점이 있다. 결국 가장 큰 문제는 자녀교육에 대한 무책임이다. 현재 기성세대의 만화, 게임 등을 무조건적으로 막음으로 해결된다는 믿음을 가지고 있다. 그리고 정치인들은 표심을 위해 이를 부채질한다. 셧다운제는 근본적으로 청소년들이 “왜 게임에 중독되는지”, “왜 심야에 게임을 하는지”에 대한 고민없이 도입된 제도라는 점에서 근본적인 문제가 있다.

The root of their [Korean adults including government agencies] hatred of youth playing games is their total ignorance of youth culture. Youth culture is not limited to playing games. In the past, comic books were censored and prohibited by schools. As a matter of fact, this practice hasn't disappeared, and we see how Chosun Ilbo [the largest conservative newspaper in South Korea] is still trying to demonize online cartoons. The biggest problem is Korean parents' lack of responsibility. They have a faith in the idea that if we prohibit everything their children will stop seeking to enjoy comic books or online games, then all the worries will be gone. Politicians [because they know those parents are their voters] nurture this idea. This is the fundamental problem on this issue. This distorted view does not help us better understand why in the first place Korean teens can enjoy anything but “playing online games” and why they have to play games “during the night” [due to their heavy school works to survive in an increasingly hyper-competitive society].

On January 8, 2013, New Frontier Party member In-chun Son [ko] led the Online Game Addiction Prevention Bill [ko] and Online Game Addiction Healing Center Construction Bill [ko] to enlarge the scope of the current online game regulatory regime. If Son's bill is passed, it will become illegal for Korean youth to play online games after 10 pm and the Korean online game industry will have to provide around 1% of its revenue to support establishing addiction healing centers nation-wide. On the other hand, Byung-hun Jun [ko], a member of the opposition Democratic party member, has prepared a rival bill that intends to nullify the current Online Game Shutdown policy.
The game is not yet over.

South Korea: How to Regain Ownership of the Internet

On January 11, 2012, Network Neutrality Forum (ko), an alliance of South Korean Internet freedom-concerned civic organizations, hosted a public workshop at the Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, to address concerns over waning civic participation in global Internet governance.

Internet policy expert and lawyer Borami Kim moderated the whole event and Professor Dongman Lee, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), one of the early participants in Korean Internet governance, joined as a main speaker. The panel also included Eung Hwi Chon, a seasoned Internet civic activist at the Green Consumer's Network, and Jae Yeon Kim, an activist and member of Creative Commons Korea and Global Voices Online.

Lawyer Borami Kim. Photo by Jinbonet (CC BY)

The inconvenient truth about Internet governance

During his lecture, Professor Dongman Lee emphasized what he called the inconvenient truth about Internet governance: “Many people are tempted to believe that the cyberspace is a de facto level-playing field,” he says, “but that is hardly the truth.” At least at the level of Internet critical infrastructure resources, such as domain names and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the controversies regarding who controls the net are the more conspicuous. In recent years, many nations, especially emerging powers such as Russia and China, have constantly challenged the U.S. control of the roots of the Internet. The U.S., on the other hand, have faced difficulty balancing their global leadership with their so-called national interest. These unresolved problems were demonstrated quite vividly in recent global public debates, especially during the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) held in Dubai in late 2012.

Although the Internet was not directly mentioned in the WCIT final resolution, Pr. Lee warned of the potential implications of Article 5A which deals with security problems on the network. As a technology expert, he warned that this particular clause in the final WCIT document may bring about problems in terms of global filtering of the free flow of information. He asserted that such scenario will be fatal for the future healthy growth of the Internet as a liberating medium for all.

Professor Dongman Lee from KAIST. Photo by Jinbonet (CC BY)

How net regulations hindered Korean civil society's participation in global internet governance

Eung Hwi Chon's presentation followed Professor Lee's lecture an was more focused on how South Korean net regulations have hindered Korean civil society's participation in global Internet governance. He stressed that initially Korean civil society had been responsible for the management of distributing domain names and IP addresses. For example, from 1986 to 1994, KAIST lab—the birth place of Korean Internet where Professor Kilnam Chon led his group of students including Professor Lee to pioneer the Internet in Asia—had managed Internet governance in Korea. As a matter of fact, that trend had been consistent from 1986 to 2004.

However, Korean government intervened in this self-regulating Internet governance environment in 2004 by establishing the Internet Address Resource Law (in Korean “인터넷주소자원법”). The law empowered the Korean government which was then able to distribute domain names and collect commission fees without a sufficient auditory structure.

Korean civil society has no say as to how that money is used. Government monopoly over domain name distribution in South Korea has brought about a lack of transparency and accountability. Furthermore, an opaque decision-making culture is prevalent in the Korean information communication technology (ICT) industry, making the market resiliently oligarchic. It is no surprise then, that in terms of revenue, Korea Telecom (KT) has dominated almost half (49.3%) of Korean Internet backbone market in 2010.

Activist Eung Hwi Chon. Photo by Jinbonet (CC BY)

How can transnational activism keep the Internet free 

In his presentation, Jae Yeon Kim raised the question of what a multistakeholder approach, as a governing principle of Internet-related resources, really means and how it can work.

He started by noting that from the very first years of Internet development, the format of public discussions on the Internet has been persistently bottom-up, consensus-based and transparent. This approach, also known as multistakeholderism, has not changed up to date. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the venue for global discussions on Internet governance, and even the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are adopting the multistakeholder approach as a basic principle and a globally accepted norm.

Nevertheless, the tricky part of multistakeholderism is its implementation. Bringing individuals and organizations who have diverse interests and norms in the same room does not guarantee they will come up with a better idea.

In South Korea, there is a tradition of perverting the idea altogether: the government usually uses experts and cherry-picked civil society members to legitimize a quasi clandestine decision making process. The government often invites those who are in favor of its policy proposals. This is far from the spirit of multistakeholderism. Therefore, Kim insisted that not only appearance but substance counts in Internet governance processes. He proposed that the principles of transparency and accountability be compulsory for Internet policy-related decision-making processes in South Korea.

Kim also stressed the fact that fighting against net control within South Korea is not enough. Since the Internet is a global communication system, isolationism cannot guarantee the victory. A local net control system can rapidly become a global filtering system. Therefore, transnational activism advocating Internet freedom can be an answer to create a counterweight against the forces trying to control the free flow of information. We are now only seeing the beginning of Internet freedom-related transnational activism. How that social movement will become institutionalized in domestic and international settings still is largely unknown.

Activist Jae Yeon Kim. Photo by Jinbonet (CC BY)

In the follow-up discussion, the attendees from Korean online service providers such as NHNDaum Communications, and SK Planet, and government agencies, such as Korea Communications Commission (KCC) and Korea Internet Security & Agency, and other civic activists shared their diverse opinions on the problems of Korean Internet governance and the ways to solve those problems and achieve higher goals.

December 18 2012

Right to Forget: Between Data Protection, Memory and Personal Life in the Digital Era

The embarrassing pictures we were tagged in ten years ago, the messages we've sent and received on our e-mail accounts, the chat record, the searches made through Google or Yahoo!, the online purchases, or information on our private lives posted by third parties on a portal; is it possible that Internet may ‘forget' all that data?

A new essay [en] by the Freedom of Expression on the Internet Initiative from the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE, for its Spanish name) addresses the debate around the creation of a new “right to forget”, that might give back to individuals the control over their own information and, additionally, free them from their “digital past”.

This new right (or the broadening of the right of ‘habeas data’) would allow, for instance, for a firm to no longer possess certain information about someone, that certain pictures might be deleted from social networks, or that a search engine may exclude from its results false rumors that once affected that individual's reputation.

Image via Shutterstock. Copyright: Anneka

For those who criticize this proposal [en], this digital forgetfulness would suppose a problem for public interest issues: an officer that asks to delete a video where he accepts a bribe or a doctor trying to suppress a record about a professional malpractice, just to mention some examples.

This new essay by CELE aims to provide a general overview of the issue: it outlines a definition of the right to forget and its potential tension with other existing rights, it addresses its links with data protection or habeas data, and refers to some practical proposals to introduce some kind of forgetfulness in the digital landscape.

The document [pdf; es] notes:

Even though we point to reasons that make the discussion around the right to forget important, we don't pretend to assume the defense of it being implemented. We consider that, above all, it's important to understand the arguments at stake, to locate –especially- the different stances and to start to think about the issue from Latin America.

At the end of the paper CELE recommends, among other things, that when looking for solutions referring to digital forgetfulness, it's advisable to have in mind all the actors involved in Internet –starting from the users– and that the mechanisms to be implemented may be adjusted to international standards in topics such as freedom of expression and access to information.

November 08 2012

Same Technology, Different Freedoms: How U.S. Copyright Law Can Restrict Mobile Devices

From a user’s perspective there is not much difference between a smartphone and a tablet. Both devices are portable touch-screen computers, and while the a smartphone might have a dedicated dialing application by default, the ability to make voice calls or connect to a cellular network is not an exclusive feature. However, thanks to U.S. Copyright law the difference between an iPhone and an iPad is not just the screen size, it is the freedom to install software without a gatekeeper.

Image via Flickr user Pete Prodoehl CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)t

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in 1998, banned the circumvention of technology tailored to protect copyright. Due the the potential for these digital locks to prevent otherwise legal practices, such as transferring the music from  CD to your computer, the DMCA instructed the U.S. Copyright office to consider exemptions to the law every three years.

In 2010, the last year that exemptions were published, the U.S. Copyright Office ruled (PDF) that installing the software of your choice in your mobile device would be exempt from the DMCA. Jailbreaking and rooting, modifying the software of iOS and Android devices, respectively, to modify the operating system, delete unnecessary applications, or simply install applications that might not be available in the designated application stores, became officially legal.

This past October the U.S. Copyright Office issued the latest decision (PDF) in this triennial rulemaking, extending the exemption for jailbreaking and rooting for smartphones but not expanding the same freedom to tablet users. As a result two very similar devices with the same processor, operating system, and dedicated application store offer very different degrees of freedom.

The ruling also rolled back the freedom to circumvent digital locks in order to unlock a handset. In the United States wireless carriers often sell mobile devices that are restricted to operate on a limited number of wireless networks. This prevents users from taking their phone with them to another carrier or even using a different SIM card when traveling abroad. In 2006 the Copyright Office granted an exemption allowing users to unlock their own device, an exemption that was extended in 2010. The most recent rule-making eliminated this exemption and starting in January 2013 users will technically violate copyright if they unlock their smartphone without their carriers’ permission.

Although the recent DCMA rulemaking primarily impacts U.S. users, the U.S. has actively pushed other countries to adopt restrictions against circumventing copyright protections including through trade agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which was rejected by the European Parliament but recently passed in Japan. Similar language has also been included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (PDF).

Combined, these efforts are a stark reminder on how copyright protections can extend beyond media and capture the basic freedoms of control over the devices we purchase and use.

November 07 2012

Chile: Why do we Need Exceptions to Copyright?

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

In a previous post we explained how copyright can clash with freedom of expression. But are there legal alternatives in a copyright system that is increasingly restrictive? If all works are always an interpretation of other works, can we have access to them without necessarily becoming “delinquents”? The good news is that yes, we can, although there are limitations. Here we try to explain why.

The problem

In general, the copyright system gives the author of a work certain rights to use that work, in an exclusive manner and for a period of time consisting of the entire life of the author of the work plus 70 years (in Chile). These “rights to use” can only be exercised or authorized by the author or “owner” of the copyright of the work. In short, these copyrights consist of making any copy of the work (reproduction), making the work available to the public (public communication), modifying the work (modification), distributing the work or publishing it.

If we also take into account that it’s not necessary to register a work for it to have this legal protection, there are a series of daily actions and activities that become complicated from a legal standpoint. For example, quoting from a textbook or photocopying part of a book would infringe on the right of reproduction. There are many examples: playing a song at a party or projecting a movie at home would go against the right of public communication; making a parody of another person’s work would infringe on the right of adaptation.

A model like this one, presented as an absolute, is unsustainable because in all situations we would have to get authorization from (and probably pay)  the owner of the copyright of the work, regardless of whether the purpose behind using the work is commercial, educational, journalistic, or artistic.

The way out


Note: The video above was created and uploaded three years ago.

Considering the information above, it is impossible to think of a copyright system without exceptions or limitations. These allow us to make certain uses with the public interest in mind, like using works in libraries, copying short fragments, showing movies in educational institutions, adapting books for people with disabilities and, where possible, regulating exceptions that allow creative uses of the works in line with the right of freedom of expression.

In Chile, thanks to the effort of organized civil society, the latest reform to a copyright law from 2010 allows some uses mentioned previously. Today, a library can make copies of its catalogue to preserve its books, it is legal to adapt a book to the braille format, it is possible to parody works, and we are allowed to make “incidental and exceptional” uses for special purposes

These freedoms -although scarce and not a solution to the problem of the growing inflation of copyrights (more rights, more years, more criminalization of infractions)- need to be put into practice to show that they don’t infringe upon authors and that, in fact, they are perfectly reasonable, especially in a platform like the Internet.

That’s why we think it’s important to be informed about exceptions to copyright in Chile. We have released a new video in the #NoTemasaInternet [es] (Don’t fear the Internet) campaign and will soon upload more material about this issue. We hope this material will become an invitation to reflect on how a copyright system that strikes a stronger balance between the interests of creators and the public can enhance works to unsuspected levels and help new forms of expression. Don’t fear copyright exceptions,#NoTemasaInternet [es].


October 09 2012

Hong Kong: Derivative work Concern Group Condemns Youtube for Deletion of Authorized Work

Derivative Work Concern Group in Hong Kong recently issued a statement condemning Youtube for the deletion of an authorized derivative song for commemorating the victims of recent ship crash.

[Update: an initial response from Google explains the procedure of the take down process: once they scan the song, they would ask the copyrights holder, in this case UMG how to deal with the case. The copyrights holder has three options: 1. leave the video as it is; 2. put ads on it and generate venue for UMG; 3. infringement take down. As for the argument of fair use, the dispute is between the copyrights owner and the derivative work composer. Youtube cannot be the court in deciding the content because of the web neutrality principle. Yet UMG have issued a public statement [zh] saying that Youbute hasn't consulted them about the Take-down.]

The song, Hong Kong with Love,《大愛香港》, was a derivative work of original song's lyric was composed and music directed by Adrian Chow. With the authorization from Chow, famous derivative song writer, San Kala (山卡啦)composed the new song which was sung by G Major (G大調). However the song was taken down soon after uploaded onto Youtube.

The song was uploaded by G Major. According to G Major the warning letter issued by Youtube was written in threatening tone. It said: If we received another infringement notice, we would delete your account and all the videos that you've uploaded…. Please delete all the videos that you don't have all-rights-reserved and please don't upload any video that infringe others' copyrights”.

Youtube's copyrights infringement warning letter to @Gmajmusic

The concern group's statement on October 8 states that such warning has deprived G Major, San Kala and other derivative work creators' rights to expression.

The concern group has cross-checked with Universal Musical Group (UMG), the company copyrights holder on the matter. The company claimed that they did not issue any complaint letter to Youtube and explained that the take-down was done by Youtube's automatic detection.

In the warning letter, Youtube said the take-down practice was according to the U.S copyrights Ordinance. If this is true, derivative work should be under the protection of fair use and the first amendment of the U.S Constitution. That's why in the U.S.A, the parody of “Oh, Pretty Woman” has won the case.

The concern group demands Youtube:

1. To restore the video “Hong Kong, with Love”
2. To correct Youtube's previous statement that San Kala and G Major have infringed the rights of original copyrights holder.
3. To apologize to San Kala and G Major
4. Instead of using the auto-detection and delete the works without asking if authorization has been granted or if the work is a fair use case, Youte should stop the pre-assumption of a derivative work as guilty.
5. Explain to the public how is the decision of the take down of Hong Kong with Love is made.

Concern Group's statement in Chinese

September 28 2012

Chile: “I’m in Dicom,” New Video on Copyright and Freedom of Expression

Note: Article [es] by Derechos Digitales originally published in Spanish, translated by Silvia Viñas.

Translator’s note: Dicom [es] is a credit reporting agency in Chile owned by Equifax. The phrase “estoy en Dicom” [I’m in Dicom] is commonly used by Chileans to indicate they have a bad report.

The case of the movie “I'm in Dicom” [es] is highly instructive for understanding how intellectual property can affect freedom of expression. The case includes two curious legal actions: first, Equifax, the company that owns Dicom, attempts to revoke the domain estoyendicom.cl because the film was allegedly taking customers away from their product. But then, according to the company, “I'm in Dicom” already exists, since it is supposedly the name of a literary work that was previously registered by an Equifax employee.

Both actions clearly sought to prevent the development and release of the movie at all costs.

In this new video from the #NoTemasaInternet [es] (“Don’t fear the Internet) campaign, makers of the movie “I’m in Dicom” tell us why they don’t fear the Internet, describing these legal actions and how, despite Equifax’s attempts, they trust that their right to freedom of expression will prevail over the copyright claims presented in the case.


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