September 19, 2006

Ruminations on the Belgium/Google Fight [10:09 pm]

So, Google and Belgium newspapers in a death spiral: Google expunges references to the papers from its search and cache while the Belgian newspapers “win” their court case. Note, of course, that they both lose — Google loses content to point to, while the papers lose eyeballs for their ads.

And what’s the fight over? Copyright, at least as constituted at law for the moment. Is this really “promoting the arts and useful sciences?” Not really, I would say. Rather, this is an object demonstration of what’s wrong with the construction of this legislated right.

It’s not working, and it’s got to get fixed before these fights blow up in our faces. Because we’re going to be the ultimate losers — the end of the kind of open network of information that has been at the heart of the host of innovations that have made the internet such an exciting experiment.

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“I’m From The Government, and I’m Here To Help” [5:17 pm]

Gonzales wants ISPs to save user data - pdf

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that Congress should require Internet providers to preserve customer records, asserting that prosecutors need them to fight child pornography.

Uh-huh — riiiiight.

The law enforcement officials have indicated to the companies they must retain customer records, possibly for two years. The companies have discussed strengthening their retention periods — which currently run the gamut from a few days to about a year — to help avoid legislation.

During those meetings, which took place earlier this summer, Justice Department officials asserted that customer records would help them investigate child pornography cases. But the FBI also said during the meetings that such records would help their terrorism investigations, said one person who attended the meetings but spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings were intended to be private.

[...] [Gonzales] called the government’s lack of access to customer data the biggest obstacle to deterring child porn.

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Second Verse, Same As The First? [3:08 pm]

Disney sees $50 mln in rev from iTunes in 1st year

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger said on Tuesday the company sold 125,000 movie downloads worth $1 million in revenue through Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes online music store during the offering’s first week.

Disney, which placed 75 movies for download on iTunes last week, expects the movie downloads to generate $50 million in added revenue during the first year of the program, Iger said.

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Sweden’s Pirate Party [1:00 pm]

Voters Keelhaul Pirate Party

The Swedish national elections on Sunday ushered in a huge shift in the political landscape of that country — but failed to bring the copyright reform movement its first political victory.

The Pirate Party not only failed to score the 4 percent required for a seat in Sweden’s Parliament, but appears to have missed the 1 percent that would have afforded the party state assistance with printing ballots and funding staff in the next election.

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Schneier on RFID Passports [8:07 am]

A colleague brought this to my attention, but I’ve been dilatory in posting it: Bruce Schneier - The ID Chip You Don’t Want in Your Passportpdf

This is perhaps the greatest risk. The security mechanisms on your passport chip have to last the lifetime of your passport. It is as ridiculous to think that passport security will remain secure for that long as it would be to think that you won’t see another security update for Microsoft Windows in that time. Improvements in antenna technology will certainly increase the distance at which they can be read and might even allow unauthorized readers to penetrate the shielding.

Whatever happens, if you have a passport with an RFID chip, you’re stuck. Although popping your passport in the microwave will disable the chip, the shielding will cause all kinds of sparking. And although the United States has said that a nonworking chip will not invalidate a passport, it is unclear if one with a deliberately damaged chip will be honored.

The Colorado passport office is already issuing RFID passports, and the State Department expects all U.S. passport offices to be doing so by the end of the year. Many other countries are in the process of changing over. So get a passport before it’s too late. With your new passport you can wait another 10 years for an RFID passport, when the technology will be more mature, when we will have a better understanding of the security risks and when there will be other technologies we can use to cut the risks. You don’t want to be a guinea pig on this one.

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No Wonder We Can’t Write Privacy Legislation [7:49 am]

We can’t even discuss whether HP’s activities were a crime: Fuzzy Laws Come Into Play in the H.P. Pretexting Case

“We believe laws have been broken; we’re just trying to figure out who broke them,” Mr. Dresslar said.

Mr. Dresslar said the state believed that the laws covered not just the person who committed the pretexting, but others who authorized, financed or knew of it and let it proceed. “You don’t have to be the person who sat at the keyboard and did the actual pretexting,” he said.

Still, proof is not always easy. Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University law professor, said there might have been “metaphoric violations” of statutes involving computer data, meant to thwart hackers. But if the pretexters were not using a computer, “it’s going to be a stretch,” he said.

Even if prosecutors can show that private detectives hired by the company violated the law, it may be difficult to establish that executives, managers and lawyers at the company’s headquarters were culpable.

The Washington Post’s article is even more pointed: HP Scandal Shines Light on a Simple, Treacherous Actpdf

Federal legislation is pending that would criminalize the use of pretexting to obtain phone records. Some states have passed laws banning it, and states, phone companies and the Federal Trade Commission are suing data brokers who practice it. Despite such efforts, including a 1999 law banning pretexting to obtain financial records, the industry continues to thrive. It is driven by systemic weaknesses in retail, financial and other sectors; lax company security standards; and demand from lawyers, debt collectors, and even law enforcement and tabloid journalists, experts said.

“The simplicity of acquiring information like this is almost sad,” said James Rapp, who made $1 million annually using the technique — which included getting information on JonBenet Ramsey and Monica Lewinsky– until he was convicted on racketeering charges and put of out business in 1999.

“Companies make a statement that we have privacy, but when it gets right down to it, if you or anybody calls up and asks for information on me, if you ask nice enough, they’ll give it,” Rapp said.

[...] Authorities have focused their efforts on the data brokers but have largely ignored the brokers’ clients. “There is mounting evidence that attorneys are top consumers of pretexting services,” Chris Hoofnagle, former West Coast director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, wrote in a February letter to state bar ethics committees and the American Bar Association. The center has urged state ethics boards to review the technique under their ethical rules.

[...] The bottom line is, the phone companies need to tighten their security measures, said Jeannine Kenney, a senior policy analyst with Consumers Union.

“The carriers would very much like to act as though the only problem here are the bad actors fraudulently obtaining phone records,” she said. But, “they share the records far too liberally with their contractors and other third parties. In some cases, they may sell it. They don’t have sufficient safeguards in place to make sure someone can’t fraudulently obtain it.”

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Belgian Objection To Google News (revised) [6:45 am]

Although the news article seems to think this is a link/copyright fight, my high school french suggests that Google’s move into Google News is being tested here. (And, as it turns out, a helpful english version of the decision is also available <G>) Belgian Court Tells Google to Drop Newspaper Excerpts

A court ordered Google to remove on Monday all links to French- and German-language newspaper reports published in Belgium after an association of local publishers won a case that accused the company of violating the country’s copyright laws.

[...] Copiepresse, an organization that helps enforce the copyrights of some of Belgium’s best-known newspapers, including Le Soir and Le Libre Belgique, sued Google for publishing summaries of articles in the newspapers along with a link to the Web sites of the newspapers.

The Belgian Court of First Instance warned Google that failure to remove all material from the Belgian newspapers from Google News would result in daily fines of 1 million euros ($1.27 million) a day.

“I hope this is a trend,” said Pierre Louette, president of Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, which brought two legal actions against Google last year.

“The Belgian story is a good sign for the news media in Europe because Belgian copyright law is very similar to copyright law right across the European Union,” he added.

Google contends that copyright law protects its service under fair-use provisions.

The case was heard on Sept. 5, but Google said it found out about the court hearing and its outcome on Friday.

[...] Mr. Louette of Agence France-Presse said that [Google's redaction-on-demand] stance missed the point. “Effectively,’’ he said, “they are offering us an opt-out from appearing on Google, but this doesn’t address the real problem, which is that they attach no value to the headlines, pictures and text from around the world that we spend a lot of money producing.”

The ChillingEffects link to the notice; local copy of the PDF. While my high school French doesn’t get a lot of exercise these days, it appears to me that this is actually a fight over Google News, rather than Google Search. To wit:

Attendu que l’expert GOLVERS, qui avait notamment pour mission de décrire la manifère dont sont présentès les articles de presse et l’interactivité entre le visiteur et le site web de Google News, conclut que “Google News est considerer comme un portail d’information et non un moteur de recherche.” ;

Or, in the english translation

Considering that the expert Mr. GOLVERS, who had as particular assignment to describe how the press articles are presented and the interactivity between the visitor and the web site of Google News, concludes that “Google news must be considered to be an information portal and not a search engine”;

In other words, it appears that Google is being held to the standards of a news outlet, rather than that of a search engine, given that this expert opinion is being cited. Moreover, the EU database laws are being brought into the picture as well. Of particular concern seems to be the cacheing of articles once the newspaper www sites remove the content (!!)

Considering that his research has led him to prove that, while an article is still online on on the site of the Belgian publisher, Google redirects directly, via the underlying hyperlinks, to the page where the article can be found, but as soon as the article can no longer be seen on the site of the Belgian newspaper publisher, it is possible to obtain the contents of it via the “Cached” hyperlink which then goes back to the contents of the article that Google has registered in the “cached” memory of the gigantic data base which Google keeps within its enormous number of servers;

Because, by doing this, Google makes it impossible for the publishers to charge for their archives or, as put in the opinion, “causes the publishers of the daily press to lose control of their web sites and their contents.”

This is going to be an interesting test — will Googlezon come to be?

Later: Ballsy Google Kicks Belgian Newspapers’ Asses looks at what happens to newspaper web traffic when Google gives them what they asked for; also Slashdot’s Google News Removes Belgian Newspaper

Later: Google Won’t Follow Belgium Court Order - pdf; (2006 Sep 22) Google loses appeal on posting court ruling - pdf

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