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Internet Freedom is Under Attack…

13 Jun

‘Father of the Internet’ warns Web freedom is under attack

“Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf  recently warned that Internet freedom is under threat from governments around the world, including the United States.

Cerf, a computer scientist who was instrumental in the Internet’s creation and is now employed by Google as its “Internet evangelist,” said officials in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe are using intellectual property and cybersecurity issues “as an excuse for constraining what we can and can’t do on the ‘net.

“Political structures … are often scared by the possibility that the general public might figure out that they don’t want them in power,” he said.

He sounded the alarm about the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), arguing the group is poised to assume the role of global Internet cop.

Cerf said the ITU is likely to try and lock in mandatory intellectual property protections as a backdoor for easy Web surveillance. Even good-faith efforts at Internet policymaking should be viewed with skepticism, Cerf said, because balancing freedom and security “isn’t something that government alone is going to figure out.” He criticised the Cybersecurity and Intelligence Protection Act (CISPA) legislation passed by the House to encourage companies to share information about cyber threats with the government, because it lacks “adequate constraints” on how the information is used. Cerf said he has the “optimistic belief” that attempts by hostile governments to restrict access will be circumvented by resourceful engineers around the world. Cerf also urged vigilante groups such as Anonymous to stop using cyberattacks as a means of activism, saying the hackings are counterproductive.

“I don’t think lawlessness is our friend,” he said.Ultimately, there is a legitimate role for law enforcement on the Web, he said, adding that “it would be bad for us as a community to say … that all the good things outweigh the bad.” “That’s not a credible position to take,” he said. Cerf said activists and regulators alike harm themselves by using terms like “cybercrime” because they suggest that “every bad thing that happens on the Internet is a crime.” “Some are just bugs,” Cerf said, while suggesting a better goal for policymakers should be “cybersafety.”

These are my favorite lines, and are what i beleive as well.

I haven’t gotten to the point of believing that governance work is a complete waste of time yet, but have decided it is time to get my programing skills out of mothballs and get back up to speed. It is not easy talk about freedom, safety, neutrality, cybercrime, IP pirate, CISPA…with different interest… personal interest, national interest… business interest of the stakeholders …

Anything that are not following somebody interest will be bad and sometimes considered as a crime … cybercrime…

“Either you with me or against me…..” Sound familiar?  This is the challenge for the future global dialog, not as easy during the period of cerf when he started the Internet everybody has one goal.

Increasingly Governments are moving towards control of Internet Freedom. Freedom of expression, although debatable, is a fundamental right and is often the center piece of a democracy. However, Governments are sometimes preoccupied with finding ways to protect national security and human rights pertaining to Internet usage. I believe that the mechanisms for enforcement of copyright laws  or illegal content laws through DNS filtering is disproportionate and  is too restrictive. In total, DNS filtering undermines security on the Internet and may block legitimate content from the Internet. Therefore, this negatively impacts freedom of expression.

It is important to note that the blocking of domain names does not actually remove illegal content off the Internet.  As a result, there is need for various human right agencies within the government, private sector, academia and civil society to negotiate the terms and conditions for Internet Regulation.  However, I believe that these agencies should have a basic understanding of the Internet before negotiating Internet regulation. Moreover, Governments need to realize that harsh regulations of the Internet may impede innovation through various ICT tools.

Recently we have seen a few examples pertaining to Internet Freedom see below:

“Iran’s telecommunications ministry has barred local banks, insurance firms and telephone operators from using foreign-sourced emails to communicate with clients, a specialist weekly said on Saturday.  “The telecommunications minister has ordered the use of domain names ending with .ir” belonging to Iran, Asr Ertebatat reported.” See http://j.mp/KDVUWK

In addition, we see that India is pushing for the creation of a forum called ‘Committee for Internet Related Policies’ (CIRP) to develop internet policies, oversee all internet standards bodies and policy organizations, negotiate internet-related treaties and sit in judgment when internet-related disputes come up. The catch is that India’s formal proposal is for CIRP to be funded by the U.N., run by staff from the U.N.’s Conference on Trade and Development arm and report directly to the U.N. General Assembly, which means it will be entirely controlled by the U.N.’s member states. See:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3423018.ece

We can effect change let us bring these issues to the fore at the various (ICANN, IGF, WSIS, IETF etc) Internet Governance meetings.

I have posted vid of this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwtTUMXpxLk&list=PL18388B00C798AEFC

The Internet is the next stage of human evolution. We look at ourselves as separate beings but the reality is that humans are far more interconnected than a hive of bees. The Internet is our collective minds. We are externalizing our collective intelligence. It allows us to collectively comprehend the universe. And since we are the universe – we are the universe contemplating it’s own existence. And it is the Internet that creates the physical structure to allow humanity to this as one and we can contemplate what no single person could ever do.
My 2p worth.
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A quick look at the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership or Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

13 May

The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership or Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-nation trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe. The nine nations currently negotiating the TPP are the U.S., Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. Like ACTA, the TPP is being negotiated in secret, and on a fast timetable. We don’t know what’s in the TPP IP chapter, or even what the U.S. trade representative is pushing for in this agreement. There is mounting criticism of the U.S. role in pushing the negotiations forward in secrecy, despite the public’s overwhelming disagreement with TPP goals.

“The TPP has been branded as a trade ‘negotiation’ by its corporate proponents, but in reality it’s a place for big business to get its way behind closed doors,” said Pete Rokicki of Occupy Dallas. “This anti-democratic maneuver can be stopped if the public gets active—just look at the movement that killed the ill-advised SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) law a few months ago. That’s why Obama’s trade officials lock the public, the press and even members of Congress from the trade negotiation process.”

One of the major criticisms is the lack of transparency. Trade agreements are often negotiated in secret, but it is the inclusion of a chapter on copyright and other IP measures that has people focusing on the TPP, much in the same way as people protested the discarded IP legislation SOPA/PIPA, other trade agreements like ACTA, and the provisions on IP legislation that were subsequently removed from CISPA.

There has been criticism of some provisions relating to the enforcement of patents and copyrights alleged to be present in leaked copies of the US proposal for the agreement. Overall, the USTR proposal for the TPP intellectual property chapter would:

  • Include a number of features that would lock-in as a global norm many controversial features of U.S. law, such as endless copyright terms.
  • Create new global norms that are contrary to US legal traditions, such as those proposed to damages for infringement, the enforcement of patents against surgeons and other medical professional, rules concerning patents on biologic medicines etc.
  • Undermine many proposed reforms of the patent and copyright system, such as, for example, proposed legislation to increase access to orphaned copyrighted works by limiting damages for infringement, or statutory exclusions of “non-industrial” patents such as those issued for business methods.
  • Would eliminate any possibility of parallel trade in copyrighted books, journals, sheet music, sound recordings, computer programs, and audio and visual works.
  • Requires criminal enforcement for technological measures beyond WIPO Internet Treaties, even when there is not copyright infringement, impose a legal regime of ISP liability beyond the DMCA standards.
  • Requires legal incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials.
  • Requires identifying internet users for any ISP, going beyond U.S. case law, includes the text of the controversial US/KOREA side letter on shutting down web sites.
  • Requires adopting compensation for infringement without actual damages.
  • For copyright and trademark, criminal punishment would apply even to non-for-profit infringement.

The proposals have been accused of being excessively restrictive, providing intellectual property restraints beyond those in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and ACTA.

The US trade representative is clamping down on public participation to minimize the spread of information which challenges their hard-line IP maximalist agenda that seeks to empower corporations at the expense of public health and knowledge. In addition to increasing reliance on intersessionals, like this week’s Santiago meeting, where stakeholders are not given a forum to participate, USTR has now effectively reduced stakeholder participation in the official negotiating rounds by eliminating their opportunity to give presentations to negotiators in an official forum.

SOPA’s defeat proved that the netroots can beat IP maximalism and rulemakings from Washington designed to curb Internet freedom, while the populist response to ACTA has shown that policy laundering attempts by industry and their allies in government will face serious resistance. Ambitious, secret economic agreements have been defeated before through public awareness and organizing.

Anonymous, Decentralised And Uncensored File-Sharing Is Booming

7 May

The file-sharing landscape is slowly adjusting in response to the continued push for more anti-piracy tools, the final Pirate Bay verdict, and the raids and arrests in the Megaupload case. Faced with uncertainty and drastic changes at file-sharing sites, many users are searching for secure, private and uncensored file-sharing clients. Despite the image its name suggests, RetroShare is one such future-proof client.

The avalanche of negative file-sharing news over the past weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed to users and site operators.

From SOPA to Megaupload, there is a growing uncertainly about the future of sharing.

While many BitTorrent sites and cyberlockers continue to operate as usual, there is a growing group of users who are expanding their horizons to see what other means of sharing are available if the worst case scenario becomes reality.

Anonymous, decentralised and uncensored are the key and most sought-after features. For some this means signing up with a VPN to make their BitTorrent sharing more private, but new clients are also generating interest.

Earlier this month we wrote about Tribler, a decentralised (not anonymous) BitTorrent client that makes torrent sites obsolete. We’ve covered Tribler for more than half a decade, but it was only after our most recent post that it really took off with more than a hundred thousand downloads in a few days.

But there are more file-sharing tools that are specifically built to withstand outside attacks. Some even add anonymity into the mix. RetroShare is such a private and uncensored file-sharing client, and the developers have also noticed a significant boom in users recently.

The RetroShare network allows people to create a private and encrypted file-sharing network. Users add friends by exchanging PGP certificates with people they trust. All the communication is encrypted using OpenSSL and files that are downloaded from strangers always go through a trusted friend.

In other words, it’s a true Darknet and virtually impossible to monitor by outsiders.

RetroShare founder DrBob told us that while the software has been around since 2006, all of a sudden there’s been a surge in downloads. “The interest in RetroShare has massively shot up over the last two months,” he said.

“In January our downloads tripled when interest in SOPA was at its peak. It more than doubled again in February, when cyberlockers disabled sharing or shut down entirely. At the moment we are getting 10 times more downloads than in December 2011.”

RetroShare’s downloads at Sourceforge.

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RetroShare’s founder believes that there is an increased need for security, privacy and freedom among file-sharers, features that are at the core of his application.

“RetroShare is about creating a private space on the Internet. A social collaboration network where you can share anything you want. A space that is free from the prying eyes of governments, corporations and advertisers. This is vitally important as our freedom on the Internet is under increasing threat,” DrBob told TorrentFreak.

“RetroShare is free from censorship: like Facebook banning ‘obscene’ breast-feeding photographs. A network that allows you to use any pseudonym, without insisting on knowing your real name. A network where you will not face the threat of jail, or being banned from entry into a country for an innocent tweet.”

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It’s impossible to accurately predict what file-sharing will look like 5 years from now. But, a safe assumption is that anonymity will play a more central role than it ever has.

Recent crackdowns have made operators of central file-sharing sites and services more cautious of copyright infringement. Some even went as far as shutting down voluntarily, like BTjunkie.

In the long run this might drive more casual downloaders to legitimate alternatives, if these are available. Those who keep on sharing could move to smaller communities, darknets and anonymous connections.

Looking at ACTA

14 Apr

ACTA

On a global scale, several treaties and multilateral agreements have been signed in order to bring about some form of uniformity and protection for intellectual property rights. For example, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a plurilateral agreement for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. It is a broad agreement that aims to create uniform international standards to protect the rights of those who produce music, cinematic works, medicines, fashion and other products that are vulnerable to intellectual property theft.

The agreement was signed on 1 October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States, largely without any meaningful protests. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed ACTA, bringing the total number of signatories to 31.

The idea for the treaty was born in October 2007, as a collaborative effort between the United States, the EU, Switzerland, and Japan. The general public remained mostly unaware of negotiations.  ACTA would set up a legal framework and independent governing body, rather than amending existing national laws in signatory countries. This would give ACTA a much wider reach than SOPA/PIPA, and would require changes to US copyright law and would be administered by US authorities. 

Counterfeiting, copyright and trademark infringements are covered by ACTA; thus, creating a one-size-fits-all instrument of enforcement which doesn’t meet the unique needs of each sector.

Furthermore, the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE) concerned by the lack of definition of key terminologies on which the ACTA enforcement mechanisms are based; It fears that this creates legal uncertainty for European companies and in particular SMEs, technology users, online platform and internet service providers.[1]

Amnesty International also expressed concerns that ACTA contain vague and meaningless safeguards. Instead of using well-defined and accepted terminology, the text refers to concepts such as “fundamental principles” and goes as far as inventing a legal concept of “fair process”. “Fair Process has no legal definition in international law.  “Worryingly, ACTA’s text does not even contain references to safeguards like ‘fundamental rights’, ‘fair use’, or ‘due process’[2].

While the ambition of ACTA was to strengthen key industries within the EU, it contradicts the European Parliament’s Digital Agenda which promotes net neutrality and access to the online digital market for SMEs.

SOPA/PIPA and the Digital Economy Act in the UK both required approval from their respective national legislatures to become laws — the major reason SOPA/PIPA were shelved. However, ACTA’s negotiations and signings have largely gone on behind closed doors, and they do not require the approval of national legislative bodies (which cannot undo it once ratified), or citizens, because it does not involve changes to existing laws or constitutions. 

The EU says ACTA will also not shut down any sites or cut off internet access for anyone, unlike SOPA, which threatened to target those posting pirated content on sites and host sites directly.[3]

The Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN), a non-governmental think tank based in Berlin, Germany, said that the “shockingly [un]transparent and undemocratic” international negotiations for ACTA confirm the urgent need “for a global watchdog that is elected by the world’s citizens. There was no meaningful public consultation, no involvement of parliaments or elected representatives, the drafts were only published very late and after strong public protests, and on top of that, governments did invite global corporate lobbyists to provide feedback, giving them, and not the public and their elected representatives, an opportunity to influence the treaty’s regulations according to their wishes.”

…to be continued…


[1]

[2] COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY, R. A. E. 2012. DRAFT OPINION of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for the Committee on International Trade on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Mexican States, the Kingdom of Morocco, New Zealand, the Republic. In: PARLIAMENT, E. (ed.).

[3]COMMISSION, E. 2012. ACTA – Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement [Online]. European Commission.  [Accessed 15 March 2012].

Shocking Surprise! P2P users in a Bit Torrent are not in a conspiracy

2 Apr

Fluffeh writes “Judge Holderman ruled against copyright holders who were trying to paint a rather distorted picture. They sue just one Internet user, but use that lawsuit as a pretext to subpoena other defendants who had participated in the same BitTorrent swarm. The plaintiffs in these lawsuits claim that the other users had participated in a “conspiracy” to assist one another in distributing particular copyrighted works. Because the copyright holder’s threat is based on the cost of litigation (and risk of public embarrassment —as this is a tactic used increasingly by the pron industry) more so than the damages a defendant would face in the event of a loss, innocent defendants have virtually as much incentive to settle as guilty ones do. That’s not how things are supposed to work, and more and more judges are refusing to play along. Coupled with recent rulings in Florida, the copyright holders seem to be finding less and less favor with judges.

Hentes writes “France has one of the strictest anti-piracy laws. After 17 months of operation, Hadopi has released a report, claiming that illegal P2P downloads have been reduced significantly in the country: the studies they cite measured 43% and 66% decrease in copyright infringement. But that huge amount of ‘lost revenue’ doesn’t seem to show up in the French
recording industry, as the overall recorded music market decreased by 3.9% in 2011. Even more interesting is that digital music sales have skyrocketed in France. Could it be that it’s not piracy killing the traditional recording industry but strict piracy laws?”

Tech Industry Sees Harm To Internet In US “Rogue Website” Bill

19 Mar

Trade associations representing US technology industry interests this week attacked a new House of Representatives bill aimed at fighting so-called “rogue” websites, calling it “an alarming step backwards in internet policy” that would create “a thicket of internet regulations containing 16 new legal definitions for evolving internet technology.”

Introduced last week, the bill, HR 3261, called the Stop Piracy Online Act, is intended to increase powers of IP rights holders and law enforcement to take down websites selling counterfeit and pirated products (IPW, US Policy, 27 October 2011).

The tech companies say it would undermine the previously constructed balance between rights holders and internet companies as well as user privacy.

“This is not a bill that targets “rogue foreign websites,” the letter said. “Rather, it allows movie studios, foreign luxury goods manufacturers, patent and copyright trolls, and any holder of any intellectual property right to target lawful U.S. websites and technology companies.”

The tech industry letter is here [pdf]. Signing organisations include the NetCoalition, Consumer Electronics Association, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association.