Monthly Archives: February 2013

Linking is legal again

Seventeen senior academic lawyers have published a powerful opinion that internet hyperlinks, to copyright infringing content is legal. The EU Court has been asked for an opinion/ruling by the Swedish Government, the case is summarised on the marvellous 1709 blog in an article entitled “CJEU to consider copyright implications of linking and framing”. The lawyers have published this opinion under the auspices of the European Copyright Society. This is not exactly news but it’s an important statement of common sense.

Let’s hope the Judges agree!

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A night with the Open Rights Group

I dropped into the #openrightsgroup meetup last night. Jim Killock presented on the coming legislative challenges, the crawl of the DE Act to execution, the resurrection of the CDDP, the corporate lobbying of the Tories and the EPP in European Parliament to weaken the EU’s proposed Data Privacy regulation. The resurrection of DRM in the standards world (HTML5) was raised, as was retaining the capability to help scrutinise electronic counting of paper votes, and oppose the full automation of elections. Jim announced that the ORG are organising an ORGCON North and an ORGCON in London later in this year. Welcome to #ORGCON13

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Does the Labour Party want “all member” management meetings?

When the Labour Party was founded, for various reasons, it adopted throughout it’s structures the ability for its supporters to act as an individual full member or as part of an affiliate, or both. This is happens at Conference, the UK Labour Party’s supreme decision making body, and on the National Executive Committee by the representation of the Trade Unions and other affiliated societies. It is also represented at the Constituency level where the General Committee (GC) is made of delegates from individual membership branches, trade unions and other socialist societies, who serve for one year. Constituencies also have a smaller, executive committee, known as the EC, the officer members of the EC are elected by the delegates on the GC from amongst themselves, and the remainder is appointed by individual membership branches.

One of the proposals emanating from the Labour Party’s review, “Refounding Labour” is to convert these delegate bodies into all members meetings. This proposal was debated in the Lewisham Deptford party. On Thursday night, the delegate GC instructed its executive to prepare rule changes to replace the GC with all members meetings.

The main argument in favour of all members meetings are that it will increase membership involvement and reduce the elitism of local leaderships. I am curious as to where the evidence that this will happen is, but I do accept voting to exclude ordinary members is a bit shit, and I have come to the conclusion, as a result of the debate that the year long term of office of the GC inhibits new members become politically active in the management of the Party quickly. People need to wait for the next AGM and build the record of activity and trust to win election to the GC.

However in my mind, the first beneficiaries of a move to members meetings will be those elected borough councillors who are not currently elected delegates because they attend the meetings anyway. In some ways, this is potentially bad, as it may increase the power of the political leadership, rather than increase its accountability.

One of the delegates, from one of the smaller branches raised the question, that if members’ most powerful expression of their politics within the Labour Party was at GC, what would happen to the Branches. He suggested that there is a risk that the activism within the Branches might be diminished. (In CLPs with serious branch viability issues, it may be that all members meetings would be more effective form of governance.) It was suggested that Branches could/should focus on Councillor accountability. This isn’t easy in a London Borough with an executive Mayor since the Councillors have few powers and taking register is not political activism.

Another delegate, stated that he opposed the move from delegate meetings because gender quotas apply to the delegate election, but can’t be applied to all member’s meetings.

A third delegate stated that all member’s meetings would be easier to caucus and pack.

It was suggested that the expense would   … » Read more …

Is not just hackers, its leaking as well

I have suggested in two blog articles, that the should the UK’s security services build their proposed internet surveillance system, that it will be accessed illegally by the well resourced and technically savvy, and legally by those that can afford the lawyers, mainly big business or the sensitive libel litigators. There is well proven precedent that laws designed for a narrow purpose will bleed into broader areas.

We already have example of the Norwich Pharmacal case, where HMRC were subpoenaed to release records to a party in a civil case. This has bled from intellectual property to other cases. It should be noted that giving HMRC the facts they require is mandatory. It’s this bleeding of law from its original purpose to others that often makes the worse law.

The inland revenue refused point blank to take on the Child Support Agency’s collection duties and also fought tooth and nail to keep its data private from the CSA. They felt that many men would tell the truth to them, but seek to avoid co-operating with the CSA; inter-agency co-operation would in their eyes make their duties more difficult; they’d loose co-operation of many of taxpayers.

The decennial Census is mandatory. The privacy guarantee is that neither individual returns nor micro-sets that allow the identification of individuals will be published, yet this was run by Lockheed Martin, an organisation subject to Patriot Act supervision?

The establishment of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has also created another luge, from the specific to the general. It was created to ensure that staff in schools criminal records were known. It is now used for parent volunteers and it is becoming common place for large employers to ask for a criminal records check before offering work. The CRB won’t release their data to organisations with no child protection roles without the permission of data subject, so guess what the options are if you want or need the job.

(That’d be quite a good caveat, no non law enforcement organisations can access the snoopers database without permission of the data subjects, but we need to change RIPA, since very large number of organisations can issue.)

This is all an interesting contrast as private (i.e. legally confidential) data is made available to the interested, but public data is being privatised.

Actually the Tories seem conflicted, their manifesto promises and early actions suggest they’d like to live with and act on the view that public data should be made available to allow the crowd-sourcing of innovation using the data, such as TFL and the train locations, enabling the private sector to create jobs and income on the back of a public sunk investment. They were persuaded that the public or the taxpayer as they like to see it had already paid for the data. However, the cutting of the Universities funding system weakens the public claim on the research output of these institutions; enabling the enclosure of this research by the academic publishers.

Alec Muffett has performed a   … » Read more …