Fairey gets two years

On Friday Shepard Fairey was sentenced to two years’ probation by the Boston Municipal Court. The sentence is based upon the images he posted on public and private property over the years. (via Designboom)

the well-known illustrator and graphic designer has pleaded guilty to three charges of vandalism, including defacing property and wanton destruction of property under 250 USD. he had 11 other chargers which have been dropped. he has been fined 2,000 USD for graffiti removal. Designboom

Fairey’s most widely spread and famous work (probably) is the André the giant obey mashup (or whatever it should be called).

Multi-affiches Boulevard St Germain 06e? .jpg by yoyolabellut (CC BY-NC-ND)

But he reached new peaks of fame for his wonderful “hope” poster designed during the Barack Obama campaign.

Obama Posters by el clinto (CC BY-NC-ND)

Is this the plight of all known street artists who become famous enough to be identified?

Pirate Bay trial just got dirty

The Swedish Radio went digging for information about Tomas Norström the judge in The Pirate Bay case and found a few unpleasant facts about the judge:

He is a member of the Swedish Association for Copyright a society for spreading knowledge about, and developing the legal field of, copyright. He has worked for Stiftelsen .SE the organisation responsible for Swedens top-level domain name. Monique Wadstedt, the film companies representative during the Pirate Bay trial also worked there. Finally he is on the board of the Swedish Organisation for Industrial Design Protection.

So I would prefer to praise a judge for taking an interest in copyright law so that takes care of his membership in the association for copyright. That he worked for the same organisation as one of the lawyers involved in the case may need some explaining – what did he do there? when did he work there? what was his relationship to Monique Wadstedt?

The final one is more damning he is on the board for an organisation working to strengthen the protection of industrial design and also copyright – this is not good.

How impartial can a judge be? Should his interest in specific legal topics be seen as a negative or a positive if he is chosen to preside over a case. Naturally he should have taken up this with his supervisor prior to the case. Nomatter what, the focus is moving away from law to poltics. – the trial just got dirty.

Children & UK DNA Database

Among the hi-tech tools used by the police in their work is the DNA database. Most countries have or desire one but few have implemented this desire as effectively and frighteningly as Great Britain with their National DNA database.

The Guardian reports that Britain’s National DNA database “is proportionately the biggest in the world and includes the profiles of more than 7% of the population, according to Home Office figures. Almost everyone arrested for a recordable offence is required to provide a DNA sample. Whether or not criminal proceedings follow, DNA records stay on file until the person reaches their 100th birthday.”

Considering the number of innocent (legally not necessarily morally) children stored in the database the 100 year old limit is possibly ageism. The Guardian again:

Genetic information taken from nearly 1.1 million children is now stored on the national DNA database, official figures show, and campaigners believe that as many as half of them have no criminal convictions… The figures show that 1.09 million DNA profiles of people aged under 18 were held on the database with 337,000 under 16.

Of course the police want to keep this tool, and yes the tool is much more effective when more DNA samples are available but maintaining samples of innocent people in this way is, according to the European court of human rights a violation of citizens rights – the courts stated that the methods “…could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society” (BBC & Privacy International)[1].

Terri Dowty, of Action on Rights for Children, said: “Many children get arrested, have their DNA taken and there is no further action against them or they get a reprimand or final warning. We are collecting massive amounts of data on children, including how likely they are to be criminals, and it runs the risk that we will prejudge them.”

It is more than a little bit scary that despite the protests and criticism the police and politicians in Britain struggle to maintain a system which clearly violates human rights not only of children but even of adults. Since the protesters are now focusing on the negative effects on children it almost feels as if the struggle for innocent adults stored DNA is a losing battle.

[1] European Court Rules DNA Retention Illegal (04/12/2008) Decision of the Court (Doc), Press release from the Court (PDF) & Privacy International amicus brief to the Court (PDF)

Women not designed to take life

Here is a nice piece of nostalgia from the newspaper Daily Mail of October, 1 1942 a quote from Major-General Jean Knox:

picture from my flickr photos

Women have won a merited place in the active army, but they cannot be trained to kill. I don’t believe woman can take life as men can. I know nothing of Russia, but I know women. Women give life. They are not designed to take life, even in total war.

So is this a complement or a criticism? It makes you wonder if it is better or worse to be “designed” to take life? On the other hand those struggling for equality find it positive that men and women are equally allowed to take lives in war. Personally I would like to disqualify all genders from taking lives.

File Sharing in Britain

Virtual Law@LSE writes that BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse have all signed up to the Government’s new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on File Sharing. [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]

The MOU means that the companies have to work to create a “significant reduction” in illegal filesharing. This may sound easy enough but spying on customers and accusing them of violating copyright law is not really good business – especially for companies whose business it is to sell faster (and more expensive) broadband. The ISP’s have in the MoU agreed to send out “informative letters” to customers whose accounts have been identified as being used for potential file sharing. But as Virtual Law@LSE writes:

It would appear many thousands of people will get letters from their ISPs telling them that the BPI has identified them as potentially being in breach of copyright. The ISPs should be careful here in terms of customer relations. It is never a good idea to tell a customer of your that someone believes them to be a copyright infringer. It will (a) suggest you are snooping on them (which to an extent is true), (b) suggests you are entitled to lecture them on their activities online and (c) suggests you are serving the interests of the BPI not their own customers.

In order to be able to send the letters to suspected file sharers the ISP’s must either monitor all data traffic or only monitor those who use unusually high amounts of broadband. Either way the ISP’s are uncomfortably close to violating peoples privacy. Maybe not in a legal sense and maybe they are acting within the limitations of their customer contracts but still tantamount to surveillence and a violation of privacy.

It is also a form of privatized regulation through technology which sits uncomfortably with the potential freedom that the technology enables…

Apes more deserving than Bulls

Last month Time Online reported that Spain is to become the first country to extend legal rights to apes. This is the result of a long process (I blogged about this in April 2006) but I had missed the news that Spain had implemented the proposal.

The Declaration on Great Apes consists of three main points:

  1. The Right to Life
  2. The Protection of Individual Liberty
  3. The Prohibition of Torture

Let’s start by saying that this is an excellent initiative. BUT it is amazing that this initiative comes from a country so closely associated with bullfights. Naturally animal rights acitivists must be very confused by these results.

Bullfight 1“, photo by Jiddle_L (CC by-nc-nd)

It’s obvious that Spain has decided to be strangely selective to which animals are worth protection and base the need for rights not on the ability to feel pain but rather with the animals closeness to humans (in genetic terms?) This approach is discriminatory and clearly a form of specie-ism, and the worst thing is that the only defences for the conservation of bullfighting is tradition and entertainment.

Singer in Stockholm

The philosopher Peter Singer will be giving a lecture in Stockholm on the 29 May on the “Ethical Aspects of the Difference between Secular and Religious Approaches”, read more about his lecture here. Unfortunately it is Stockholm but I will see if I can go up to Stockholm to listen to him.

The lecture will be followed by an existential discussion between Ann Heberlein (blogged about her recent book)
Georg Klein & Peter Singer.

Place: Lärarhögskolan, Stockholms Universitet (Aulan, Konradsberg) at 7 pm (more details here)

Aweful truth: The real cost of green

While much of the world suffers from lack of food, malnutrition and occasional starvation the rest of us seem not to have noticed. Via Monbiot I became aware of a terrible little fact:

The World Bank points out that “the grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol … could feed one person for a year”   (World Bank, 2008. Biofuels: The Promise and the Risks)

Something worth sharing…

Comment on the Open Source Decade

It’s been ten years since the term open source was launched and one of the architects behind it, Bruce Perens, discussed this in an interview

“No. If Bruce Perens could change anything from that day in February 1998 when he announced the Open Source Definition and the Open Source Initiative he’d alter the very way open source licenses are ratified, to halt what he regards as the chief threat to the next ten years of open source: license proliferation.

Perens said the growth in licenses, especially the emergence of “badgeware”, or attribution licenses used by numerous open source companies, such as last year’s Common Public Attribution License (CPAL), is dangerous. Today, we have 68 licenses ranging from the well-known GNU General Public License (GPL) to the, well… the OCLC Research Public License 2.0 recognized by the OSI.”

For more on this check out the State of Open Source Message on Bruce Perens’ own website

Return of Toi Moko

The trade in morbid exotic items has filled several museums around the world who were competing to fill up with body parts, mummies, bones, skins and skulls. The winners of the competitions built the biggest, most impressive and best respected museums in the world.

The problem is that the wind has changed. Many of these artifacts are not acceptable in museums any more (even though some are still considered OK). Some of the remains are returned but many large museums with large collections are hesitant since returning their large collections would be a significant loss to them.

A recent argument in France is a good illustration of the problem. It all began when the Natural History Museum of Rouen tried to give back a toi moko to New Zealand (toi moko were originally the heads of Maori warriors killed in battle). When the French Culture Ministry heard this they stopped the return.

These situations are complex but it is fascinating to see the evolution of morals. The question worth asking is which of our actions today will be seen as totally immoral tomorrow?

Read more about the French toi moko at the New Zealand Herald & USA Today. Liverpool returns toi moko (2006)& Scottish return of toi moko (2005)