Thursday, May 31, 2007

iTunes plus watermarks

Apple has just started selling DRM-free versions of EMI's music (thanks, Anselm!). And they're including a secret bonus — by watermarking tracks with the identity of the purchaser.

It's fascinating that watermarking, the ugly twin of DRM, has only now made its mass market debut. It should be slightly tricky, although by no means impossible, for users to remove these marks — by converting tracks to a different format at a lower quality, for example, or by writing software to manipulate the audio. It's an extremely difficult problem to design watermarks that are robust against a number of users colluding using multiple copies of the same media content.

Just like cracking DRM, removing watermarks is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US, the European Union Copyright Directive, and the laws of any other country that has implemented the WIPO Copyright Treaty. However, because watermarks are used to track rather than control media, they have less potential to interfere with users' rights.

Apple seems to be aware of the limitations of watermarks, and using them to track aggregate volumes of audio files uploaded to peer-to-peer networks. They are certainly not strong enough evidence to try suing users (although doubtless we will see the recording industry try).

Policing cyberspace in Russia

Readers of Russian :) may enjoy coverage of a workshop I spoke at last month on "Policing cyberspace".


"The amazing thing is that the entertainment industry keeps on shovelling dollars down the DRM pit. If I were a shareholder at Universal, Fox, Disney, Sony or Warners, I'd fire or repurpose every employee whose job it was to make my products less attractive to customers with magic, nonfunctional anti-copying technology." —Cory Doctorow

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Google justifies privacy invasion on security grounds

In response to veiled criticism from Europe's data protection commissioners, Google is claiming it needs to store personal data on its users for two years for "security" reasons (thanks, Gus!). I am highly sceptical that "security" requires such vast, personally identifiable audit trails.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the anti-trust implications of the GoogleClick deal. Privacy groups are hopeful that data protection concerns will form part of their deliberations.

Cyber-terrorism is real - ask Estonia

Simon Finch thinks that the recent Estonian Denial of Service attacks show that cyber-terrorism is a real threat. But weren't these attacks notable because they were at a level that implied state involvement? So far we have seen much activity from script kiddies and organised crime and little from terrorists, who for now I think will be out-competed for black hat talent by the mafias that have built up a very nice business in extorting cash from online gambling sites.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has published a new communication on its policy on cybercrime.

The internet will revolutionise the very meaning of politics

"The changes now in train could go either way, expanding democracy or contracting it. The same is true of the impact the internet is having on capitalism, handing mega-billion profits to the likes of Google and Microsoft even as open-source technology encourages highly un-capitalistic behaviour such as collaboration and the sharing of knowledge for free. Such a mixed blessing is hardly new either. Lest we forget, the industrial revolution gave us the steam engine — but also the dark satanic mill." —Jonathan Freedland

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

CD market goes kaput

After seeing sales drop by 20%, the US music industry now expects this Christmas to be the final big holiday season for CDs (thanks, Helger!). A drought in new creative talent is also causing problems.

In response the music industry is being forced to innovate, dropping demands for unpopular DRM restrictions on downloaded tracks and diversifying into areas such as music publishing, merchandising and advertising. It would be in a much stronger position if it had made these moves a decade ago as the Internet and other new digital technologies really took off.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Innocent - but on a criminal database

The Telegraph notices the problems of permanent retention of DNA samples from everyone ever arrested in the UK.

Hearts-and-minds trump stop-and-search

"We have millions of Muslim Britons, living in every sizeable conurbation in the country. There is no going back. The family traffic to and from Pakistan and other countries cannot be stopped unless and until this country decides it is in a state of siege and closes the airports. There is no option available for cutting human links to radical Islam. The only option is to win hearts and minds and to keep doing so, year by year, generation by generation. To that extent, al-Qaida is absolutely right: this is a struggle about values and beliefs, which only one side can win." —Jackie Ashley

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Podgy uniformed stalkers

"In Salford, they now have traffic wardens (called parking attendants in the newspeak of the times ) with cameras fitted to their heads. These sons of Warhol will not just film parking violations but, empowered by one of New Labour's bossy innovations, they will also capture those who litter or allow their dogs to defecate in the wrong place. Armed with the evidence, they will issue fixed penalty notices to offenders.

"And a jolly good thing too, you may say. I cannot agree. If some podgy uniformed stalker with a camera lens sticking out of his hat starts filming me any time soon I will not be answerable for my actions, and it is my fervent hope that the people of Salford will treat these street-spies with all the rude contempt they deserve." —Henry Porter

Saturday, May 26, 2007

UK govt's edge over the DDR

"The Stasi was relentless in its pursuit of data collection, despite its lack of decent technology. The everyday details of the country's citizens were instead logged meticulously by pen on paper. In the 21st century, the UK government is equally obsessed with charting our lives, from the pills we take to the type of sex we have. But it has one massive modern-day advantage over the east Germans - computers." —Victoria MacDonald (thanks, Terri!)

The Stasi's obsessive logging of citizens' activities was brought out well in The Lives of Others. I made a similar point in my presentation to a NATO-Russia workshop last month. You can imagine how well it went down with a room nearly full of current and retired intelligence officers, with one even asking me what was so wrong with the Stasi's activities!

Have you got Google under your skin?

"This week, Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, declared that his business was only just beginning to accumulate personal data about its users. 'We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you,' he said. 'The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as, ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ' In other words, a service that you began using simply to find websites intends to monitor your deepest motivations. At what stage did the 'don’t be evil' start-up evolve into the information society’s most determined Big Brother?" —David Rowan

Friday, May 25, 2007

Helsinki court rules DVD security is ineffective

Funny as it may sound, a Finnish court has had to rule that the DVD Content Scrambling System, an encryption system that was broken nearly a decade ago, is not an "effective" protection technology. This semantic nicety means that the anti-circumvention laws that ban the breaking of such "technological protection measures" no longer apply to CSS. The defendants' counsel, Mikko Valimaki, is triumphant at the impact this ruling could have if followed by other courts:

My understanding is that this is not technology-dependent. The decision can therefore be applied to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD as well in the future.

Those illegal numbers may mean that the new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD protection mechanisms are now legally unprotected across the European Union. Arrrrrgh! The sky is falling!

Brown must be true heir of Thatcher

"Lack of interest in presentation allowed the autocue to obscure Brown's visage in his first setpiece as prime minister-in-formal- waiting. This is seen by much of the media, unsurprisingly, as a weakness. I find it something of a relief. I admired Margaret Thatcher — while abhorring much of what she offered — because she was so clearly a leader of huge substance. Blair was the dismal opposite." —Martin Jacques

Thursday, May 24, 2007

China drops blogger registration

Interesting that China has dropped (for now) requirements for bloggers to register with the government. How long until the relevant technology develops enough for them to try again, with support from western technology companies?

Invasion of the wheelie bin spies

Wheelie binIs an Englishman (and woman)'s home still their castle? It seems that Britons' biggest privacy concerns relate to government surveillance of their household activities, including relatively mundane matters such as rubbish disposal.

The Daily Telegraph lead story today reveals that 3 million wheelie bins have already been deployed by local councils to support the tracking of levels of household waste. Personally I am more concerned about surveillance of my location (via CCTV and mobile phones), communication patterns (via the data retention regulations), website visits (via the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) and all interaction with government and then the private sector (via the National Identity Register). Still, all support for privacy welcome!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A liberal PM?

Rachel Sylvester thinks that Gordon Brown will be a quietly liberal Prime Minister:

The Chancellor's approach to prisons — like his scepticism about ID cards — is driven as much about money as ideology. He hates the idea of spending the equivalent of the cost of a night at the Ritz on somebody who has done wrong. But those who know him say his instincts are also more liberal than Tony Blair's. While the Prime Minister said that the "rules of the game" had changed following September 11, his successor called at his campaign launch for the "hard-won liberties of the individual" to be upheld despite the terrorist threat.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Police warn of surveillance state

Ian ReadheadWe are frequently told by the Home Office that the police are demanding new surveillance powers. But after last week's broadside against ID cards by the acting Chief Constable of Suffolk, we now get this from Ian Readhead, Hampshire's deputy chief constable (via FIPR):

"I have to question: does the camera actually instill in individuals a great feeling of safety and does it present serious offences taking place?

"I'm struggling with seeing the deployment of cameras in our local village as being a benefit to policing; I understand why the local public say this is what we want, but I'm really concerned about what happens to the product of these cameras, and what comes next? If it's in our villages — are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation with cameras on every street corner? I really don't think that's the kind of country that I want to live in…

"We are in a society at the moment where the police have the power that if they arrest a 15-year-old for a recordable offence we can retain their DNA and their fingerprints.

"That information would be kept for life unless there were exceptional circumstances, such as it being proved that no crime was committed.

"My real worry is this. Fifteen years from now we are still holding that DNA and that arrest information — should we be doing that? Is it right that that may impede that person — who's never been arrested again — from getting a job? I'm not sure that sits comfortably with me."

Staff asked to snoop for police

The Home Office is pushing new plans to force government workers to circulate gossip about individuals they suspect might commit a violent crime (thanks, Ross). This is a sure fire way to discourage contact between marginalised individuals that need help with the parts of government that might provide it — and hence cause some of them to become a much greater risk to society.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Generation Y and privacy

I've heard endlessly over the last year or two that "young people couldn't care less about privacy." Here is an interesting riposte from an unexpected source with some of the first good data I've seen on this issue:

"To try to gauge how this generation feels about privacy, I commissioned market research company YouGov to carry out a simple survey of attitudes to privacy. The responses it received from a sample group of 2,274 showed that the population as a whole remains very concerned by privacy and easily values it above such qualities as freedom of speech and open access. We also found that while 18- to 24-year-olds prize freedom of speech rather more highly than older generations, even within their own peer group 'privacy' and 'avoiding harm and offence' rate well above freedom of speech and open access.

"So, despite the carefree enthusiasm with which some of the younger generation exploit social networking technology, when confronted with some of the dangers, they are almost as concerned as older age groups. I interpret this as a group who love the powerful social networking that is now possible, but still have a clear sense of privacy."—Peter Endemol, producer of Big Brother

How to bring back stable government

"If Brown seriously wishes to break with the Blairite past, I have a modest proposal. He should penalise ministers who appear busy. Initiatives should be banned. Even suggesting a new computer system should bring instant dismissal." —Michael Portillo

Friday, May 18, 2007

MPs back 'squalid' curbs on FoI

The House of Commons has voted to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act. One of the few principled campaigners against the bill, David Winnick MP, is horrified:

"I believe it is wrong. I believe it is against the interest of parliament. I believe we are in danger of bringing ourselves into disrepute.

"The House of Commons should set an example to the country of honesty and integrity, not find some squalid little way in order to get out of the law."

We now have to hope that the Lords will support open government and squash the bill.

Farewell Falwell, the religious bigot who failed

"For all its supposed grip on the Republican Party, for all the apparent transformation of American government into an intolerant theocracy, the Religious Right has been a bit of a failure. If there has indeed been a Moral Majority, it has been heavily outmanoeuvred and roundly defeated by the Immoral Minority." —Gerard Baker

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Torture is a sure way to lose wars

"The torture methods that [George] Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it." —Generals Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar (via Andrew Sullivan)

Russia launches cyber-attack on Estonia

It seems that attacking European ambassadors by proxy in Moscow was not enough of a response to the Estonian removal of a Red Army statue from central Tallinn:

The crisis unleashed a wave of so-called DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, attacks, where websites are suddenly swamped by tens of thousands of visits, jamming and disabling them by overcrowding the bandwidths for the servers running the sites. The attacks have been pouring in from all over the world, but Estonian officials and computer security experts say that, particularly in the early phase, some attackers were identified by their internet addresses - many of which were Russian, and some of which were from Russian state institutions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Parliament must intervene in ID card debacle

The London School of Economics has called upon Parliament to intervene in the ongoing ID cards debacle (thanks, Sarah!). Meanwhile, the chief constable of Suffolk has said the idea that ID cards will stop terrorists is "fatuous."

Culture committee demonstrates ignorance of copyright law

MPs on the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have demonstrated their capture by the recording industry with a call to extend copyright in musical performances. Given my previous encounters with committee chair John Whittingdale MP, this does not surprise me in the least.

The committee's report seriously misconstrues the basis of UK copyright law. The UK-US approach is economic: to incentivise creativity by giving a limited monopoly to creators. The "moral" property right they suggest is the continental European approach; but changing 300 years of UK copyright law to this "moral" basis is a far more radical suggestion than extending the term of performers' rights. As the UK's first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, said in 1710, copyright is granted "for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books" — this basis has not changed. As the Gowers report showed in great detail, there is no economic argument to extend the term of performers' rights, and several arguments to reduce that term.

Besides which: if it's really so important that the rights of songwriters and performers be the same, why haven't they considered reducing the copyright term in music from the excessive 70 years after the death of the writer?

Jerry Falwell's first time

Falwell's homosexual bogeymen
My opinion of the "Reverend" Jerry Falwell, who died yesterday, is unprintable in a family blog such as Blogzilla. Boing Boing is not so restrained, while Jesus' General carries a guest post by Tinky Winky on the debt he owes to Falwell. Don't forget the funniest cartoon in history: Searching for Falwell's Jewish Antichrist.

Still, we do have the reverend to thank for the lawsuit he filed against this hilarious Hustler parody, which led to a decisive defeat for censorship in the United States:

FALWELL: My first time was in an outhouse outside Lynchburg, Virginia.

INTERVIEWER: Wasn't it a little cramped?

FALWELL: Not after I kicked the goat out…

Starring in a CCTV movie

Faceless movie shotLondon-based Manu Luksch has directed and starred in a new movie made entirely from CCTV clips retrieved using the Data Protection Act (thanks, Dave!)

Unfortunately she might not currently be able to use those rights, at least until the faulty Court of Appeal ruling on Durant is overturned. More from my colleague Andrew Adams.

Monday, May 14, 2007

MPs and ministers try to squash Freedom of Information

Philip Johnston is not impressed by the attempts of former Tory Chief Whip David Maclean MP to water down the UK's Freedom of Information Act:

"There is a threat here to the whole FoI concept, which in this country is, let us remember, still very much in its infancy. What message will it send to all those other official bodies and public authorities, more than 100,000 of them - many of whom have never been happy with the requirements of transparency - if MPs, the very people who legislated to make them open up, should now close the shutters on their own activities?

"Not only would it be an act of quite staggering hypocrisy, it would also be extremely stupid. The Government is using the Maclean Bill as a Trojan horse to bring down the city it built but no longer likes. If MPs vote to support it on Friday, they will undermine years of effort to end the instinctive secrecy of the British political culture."

I just sent this letter to my MP, Frank Dobson, via the wonderful

Monday 14 May 2007

Dear Mr Dobson,

I see that David Maclean's private member's bill to exempt Parliament from provisions of the Freedom of Information Act is under consideration again in the Commons this Friday.

I do hope that you will be able to attend the debate in order to vote against this pernicious attempt to water down one of the Labour party's big successes in improving public trust in its elected representatives.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Ian Brown.

Who cares what the PM has on his iPod?

"Deep down, people know that politics is more important than Pop Idol. They understand that it is utterly irrelevant what a would-be prime minister has on his iPod. They do not care if he is a devotee of Arctic Monkeys. In fact, they would prefer that those who serve them spent their spare time thinking about the economy or public services than in pathetic populist posturing. They appreciate that Hansard is not Heat magazine without the pictures. Westminster is not Hollywood. Politics is about ideas or it is about nothing." —Tim Hames

God will not be Blair's only judge over Iraq

"Blair has the audacity to say that God will be his judge over the Iraq war. This is a curious attitude for a democratic politician to adopt. History will surely pass a harsh judgment on Blair. He has the worst record on the Middle East of any British prime minister in the past century, infinitely worse than that of Anthony Eden, who at least had the decency to accept responsibility for the Suez debacle." —Prof. Avi Shlaim

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thanks for the optimism

"I watched again the latest of the Prime Minister's departure announcements. It was the point at which he told us - hanging unspoken the story of his disastrous adventure in Iraq - that, yes, he'd made the odd mistake. 'But I ask you to accept one thing,' he said. 'Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.'

"And there it was: 'Heart nav directed me into path of train.' The thing is, I think he's telling - more or less - the truth. I don't doubt his sincerity, his self-belief, his unwavering conviction in the purity of his own intentions. But you could see the whole decade-long shebang as having been an education for him in the fact that sincerity and self-belief are necessary but not sufficient qualities for government: that you don't just need to follow the heart nav; you need to read the instructions at the level-crossing, too." —Sam Leith

Straw signals rethink on ID cards

How delightful if Brown's "Bank of England" moment upon coming to power was to scrap ID cards. His campaign manager Jack Straw was one of the strongest cabinet opponents to the botched scheme at the time it was pushed through Parliament.

Former Bill Clinton administration member Richard Sennet aptly juxtaposes the careers of Straw and his successor as Home Secretary David Blunkett in today's Guardian:

Blair has proved a poor judge of character. His most disastrous misjudgment is the faith he placed in George Bush, but he has relied too much on people such as the fixer Lord Levy. His cabinet choices, like David Blunkett at the Home Office, have often put people into jobs they did not command; ministers who gave him dissenting advice (Robin Cook, for example) were sidelined or banished.

The right to criticise ‘faith-heads’

“Blasphemy is a victimless crime… I believe that, given proper encouragement to think, and given the best information available, people will courageously cast aside celestial comfort blankets and lead intellectually fulfilled, emotionally liberated lives." —Prof. Richard Dawkins

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hammy to the end

Blair dogHaven't we had enough Americanisation of politics by Blair, without this barf-inducing US-style piece of ludicrous exceptionalism?

"This country is a blessed country. The British are special. The world knows it, we know it, this is the greatest country on earth."

Cost of ID cards rockets by £840m

Look what slipped out while the world was focused on the resignation of our Dear Leader:

The official estimated cost of the controversial national identity card scheme has soared in the last six months by an extra £840m to a total of £5.75bn, according to new Home Office figures published today.

A bloody warning to today's occupiers

"The lessons of 1857 are very clear. No one likes people of a different faith conquering them, or force-feeding them improving ideas at the point of a bayonet. The British in 1857 discovered what the US and Israel are learning now, that nothing so easily radicalises a people against them, or so undermines the moderate aspect of Islam, as aggressive western intrusion in the east. The histories of Islamic fundamentalism and western imperialism have, after all, long been closely and dangerously intertwined. In a curious but very concrete way, the fundamentalists of all three Abrahamic faiths have always needed each other to reinforce each other's prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the others." —William Dalrymple

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hollywood's broadcast love slaves

"Four or five years ago, I started attending WIPO meetings at the UN, fighting to kill this [Broadcast] treaty. At the time, we couldn't get any of the tech companies whose asses were on the line to sign onto a letter or show up. Most of them were in Hollywood already, supporting the made-in-the-USA version, the Broadcast Flag.

"What a difference half a decade makes: now the same tech companies and telcos have figured out that selling out to Hollywood doesn't make them rich, it makes them into the love slaves of a pack of technophobic plutocrats who honestly believe that it's both possible and desirable to make computers worse at copying." —Cory Doctorow

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The moral cost of the war in Iraq

"In reassessing the war, in other words, the moral cost to America must come into the equation. The Iraq war has removed for a generation the concept of the U.S. military being an unimpeachable source of national honor. It has infringed civil liberties. It has legalized and institutionalized torture as a government tool - and helped abuse and brutality metastasize throughout the field of conflict. To be sure, abuse of captives always happens in wartime. What's different now is that the commander-in-chief has authorized and legitimized it, and so the contagion has spread like wildfire." —Andrew Sullivan

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reasons to be cheerful

"Most commentators agree that Bush and the Republicans are a spent force. They were roundly defeated in the midterm elections and a staggering 50% of the electorate now identify themselves as Democrats, compared with 35% as Republicans. Not so long ago the Republicans had a slight edge.

"The chances of a Republican victory in 2008 are slim. Policy change will surely follow, with a reinstatement, albeit incomplete, of the civil rights and liberties that the Bush administration has so carelessly and irresponsibly removed." —David McKay, Professor of American government, University of Essex

Poor design invalidates 5% of postal votes

It seems that poor design of new postal vote security mechanisms is causing voters to leave out vital information from their ballot, invalidating around 5% of votes in today's elections. This is compounded by faulty software that is wrongly rejecting around 20% of signatures. Unfortunately, the resulting chaos is leading some returning officers to call for basic security mechanisms (like checking the voter's signature) to be scrapped.

If postal votes cannot be properly secured, the government will simply have to return to the previous situation where they were only available to those away from home on polling day.

Privacy is for child murderers

At least, so thinks a senior government Chief Information Officer.

Russian mobs show Putin's true colours

Vladimir PutinShockingly, government-sponsored mobs have been attacking EU ambassadors to Moscow after Estonia's decision to remove a monument to the Red Army from Tallinn. Why should a country maintain a monument erected by an occupying force every bit as brutal as the Nazis they replaced?

Perhaps we should be grateful to President Putin for showing his government's true colours before western Europe becomes totally dependent on Russian energy supplies.

A sad departure

"Lord Browne will have many regrets, not least over his mistake in trusting someone who then asked for money shortly before contacting a paper (which, as the judge came close to implying, sounds like a sort of blackmail), which then paid his expenses. It might have been easier if he had mentioned earlier that he was gay - but there was no compulsion on him to do so. It might have been better not to have sought an injunction; absolutely better to have stuck to the truth. But beyond all this, Britain, a liberal land, has seen a man forced from his job primarily as a result of a paper deciding it was a sensation that he was gay." —The Guardian

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Illegal numbers are fun!

There is no public interest in this tittle-tattle

"Whatever the press may claim, there is no scandal here, and suggestions that Lord Browne may have described a dinner with the Prime Minister or a discussion with Peter Mandelson strike me as pathetic attempts to attach a public interest tag to what is really just a juicy bit of tittle-tattle. I would defend to the death the media’s right to talk about the private lives of semi-public figures; what disgusts me is the pretence of high-mindedness. It is Lord Browne himself, whose immediate resignation yesterday afternoon was in the interests of his company alone and cost him a vast sum personally, who comes honourably out of this." —Matthew Parris

Postal voting falls 80% after fraud inquiry

Tony Blair's government is dangerously determined to make voting easier regardless of the cost to the integrity of the voting process. They have ploughed ahead with universal postal voting and e-voting trials despite a barrage of criticism from election and technology experts.

We are now seeing the inevitable outcome of the resulting collapse in public confidence in the system.

A decade of spin and deceit

"Politicising the Civil Service; deleting e-mails; massaging figures; manipulating facts; 'burying bad news'; presenting – and I put this more gently than Labour deserve – one-sided cases to the public, even on taking this nation to war; all this is more disreputable than anything we have seen before from a modern British government." —John Major

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The homophobia Rorschach test

Lord Browneaka Lord Browne's resignation:

The Guardian: BP chief quits after privacy case

The Times: BP boss quits after lie in ex-lover case

The Telegraph: Lord Browne resigns over gay lover lies

The Daily Mail: BP chief resigns after lying over affair with gay lover

The Sun: BP chief resigns over gay affair

Seems like the Torygraph, Hate Mail and Sun race away with the bigotry crown. The Financial Times has the most sensible reaction:

Devising privacy laws that do not interfere with the freedom to pursue and publish journalistic investigations into potential wrongdoing is notoriously difficult. But since the British remain unwilling to give up their fascination with the personal lives of the rich and famous it is time to take another look.

Vote early, vote often

David Hencke is hugely sceptical of the e-voting trials taking place during this Thursday's local elections (thanks, Owen!):

It is not that problems have not already arisen elsewhere. Quebec has a moratorium on the use of electronic voting machines because they are not regarded as reliable and the US has cancelled plans to allow the military to vote on the internet because of fears it was not secure.

Not so the gung-ho attitude of the men and women from the DCA. If things go wrong next Thursday, they will deserve opprobrium. I only hope the Electoral Commission — which this time did bark to warn of the problems — has the guts to bite them, and hard, when it comes to its report on how these elections were run.

Making monkeys of the music moguls

"The idea that, in order to play music to an audience, you have to sign a record deal, pay a promoter, hire a venue, charge for tickets and sell drinks was one that had gone unquestioned for decades. Today's new bands whip up a crowd through online word-of-mouth, turn up, and play for the hell of it — in someone's living room, on a Tube train, in a disused building.

"To subvert an industry as powerful and established as the music biz creates a very significant precedent. In the simple pursuit of a laugh, British music has demonstrated the means; it surely won't be long before it is harnessed to some more profound kind of end." —Tom Horan

Criminalising the consumer

"Belatedly, music executives have come to realise that DRM simply doesn’t work. It is supposed to stop unauthorised copying, but no copy-protection system has yet been devised that cannot be easily defeated. All it does is make life difficult for paying customers, while having little or no effect on clandestine copying plants that churn out pirate copies." —The Economist (thanks, Andrew!)

Children have nothing to hide either

Parents who have concerns about their children's medical records being shared here, there and everywhere should be considered proto-abusers, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

BBC Trust bizarrely locks up BBC archive

BBC TrustThe BBC Trust has approved the BBC's "catch-up" service, which will allow programmes to be viewed online up to seven days after broadcast. However, they seem rather confused about the market test they must apply to new BBC services:

The trust, though, said that it could not allow the BBC to replicate its giveaway of Beethoven’s works, because the regulator was “mindful that the market for classical recordings is in a precarious state”. It barred the BBC from releasing classical music without copyright protection, even though two thirds of listeners consulted said that the BBC should be allowed to do so.

Clearly, the BBC should not be spending licence-payers' money creating new content that would anyway be provided by private companies. But preventing the release of existing archived content is wastefully requiring licence payers to pay twice to get privately financed performances of such works. Unlike much of the archives, this classical content is not tied up by restrictive rights agreements; it is BBC recordings of the BBC's own orchestras performing works long out of copyright.

This decision is a sad demonstration that the barely-out-of-nappies Trust is paying more attention to the interests of the recording industry than the viewers and listeners it is supposed to represent.