Pirate Bay Site down

From Torrentfreak

Last Friday The Pirate Bay moved to Ukraine after its Swedish bandwidth supplier was forced to stop servicing the tracker. In the new setup, traffic to TPB is routed through The Netherlands, but anti-piracy outfit BREIN has now asked ISP NForce to stop handling TPB’s traffic. As a result the site is now down for most people.

Disruption in Uppsala, Memory in Barcelona

Despite needing sleep the presentation in disruptive technology presentation in Uppsala went well. The discussion focused on integrity and social networks and presented some of the early early results of the emerging research project. Now its onwards to Barcelona for the 6th Communia Workshop Memory Institutions and the Public Domain… This is going to be really good.

Mininova must remove infringing torrents

TorrentFreak reports that the torrent search engine Mininova:

…has lost its civil dispute with Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN. The judge ruled that Mininova is not directly responsible for any copyright infringement, but ordered it to remove all torrents linking to copyrighted material within three months, or face a penalty of up to 5 million euros.

The courts attitude towards the site was very different to the Swedish Pirate Bay case since it was not BREIN’s intention was not to shut down the site. But they demanded a filtering of infringing keywords to ensure that copyright holders were protected.

The court agreed with BREIN’s assessment that Mininova is not doing enough to protect the rights of copyright holders, and ordered the site to remove all torrent files that link to infringing content within three months, or pay a penalty up to 5 million euros ($7 million).

The interesting thing is that the courts are demanding that Mininova do more than apply a takedown policy that allows copyright holders to remove infringing torrents but stop short from demanding the site is liable for everything straight away (which was the Swedish approach). The fact that “doing more” is extremely complex (and therefore costly) did not impress the courts.

Why numbers don't mean much – file sharing in Sweden

Presentation is everything. Shame that the truth may interupt an otherwise nice story. The Guardian was not alone among international media commenting on the implementation of IPRED (Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights) in Sweden. The article entitled Swedish internet use plummets after filesharing curb introduced began:

Internet traffic in Sweden – previously a hotbed of illicit filesharing – has fallen dramatically following the introduction of a law banning online piracy.

Lets begin with some of the obvious errors. The “hotbed of illicit filesharing” is a strange thing to call Sweden. We have a high Internet/broadband penetration and the Pirate Bay was launched and maintained by Swedes but there is no way that a county with 9 million inhabitants could be at the top of the file sharing list?

The fact that TPB was launched in Sweden does not mean that its users are Swedish or in Sweden – this is basic stuff – so did the writer want to increase the sensationalism in the article or doesn’t he understand how the Internet works? Check out this map of TPB users around the world.

TPB Tracker Geo Statistics
The statistics is now based on unique users connected per minute! Should provide alot more accurate data.
Keep in mind that a torrent client usually only connects to the tracker once every 15-20 minutes.

The next problem is that the measurements of the 30-50% drop in traffic (depending upon who you read) seems to be that the measurements where taken from a much too small sample and the drop mirrors a similar drop on the measured servers occurring at the same time last year (Sources in Swedish here).

Yes, there are file sharers in Sweden and yes one of the most popular torrent trackers was founded in Sweden. But the files are uploaded and downloaded from all locations across the world and a large dip in traffic may mean a number of things. Having said that there is no doubt that a number of users turned of their file sharing when IPRED entered into force – but only to begin searching for anonymity tools. It is extremely likely that the users who stopped file sharing will return since there is still no viable legal alternative.

No twittering in court

A post on Slashdot this morning dealt with a juror who posted twitter comments about a trial (while it was in progress) and the effects of this may be to declare the trial a mistrial.

“Russell Wright and his construction company, Stoam Holdings, recently lost a $12 million dollar lawsuit brought by investors. But lawyers for the firm have complained that juror Johnathan Powell’s Twitter comments broke rules when discussing the civil case with the public. The arguments in this dispute center on two points. Powell insists (and the evidence appears to back him up) that he did not make any pertinent updates until after the verdict was given; if that’s the case, the objection would presumably be thrown out. If Powell did post updates during the trial, the judge must decide whether he was actively discussing the case. Powell says he only posted messages and did not read any replies. Intriguingly, the lawyers for Stoam Holding are not arguing so much that other people directly influenced Powell’s judgment, rather that he might have felt a need to agree to a spectacular verdict to impress the people reading his posts.”

This is an interesting example of the way in which new technology practice is clashing with established rules and ideas. During the recent Pirate Bay trial in Stockholm there was a vertible information orgy with live audio feed, spectators twittering from within (and outside) the courtroom and live bloggers en masse – in addition to traditional media channels. Yet the interesting thing was that the audio tape picked up the judge telling individuals in the courtroom that no pictures could be taken. On a least two occaissions the judge asked whether a laptop and a phone was being used to film the proceedings.

Everybody was filmed, photographed and interviewed entering and leaving the courtroom. All the participants were activly seen courting and presenting their cases to the media on the courtroom steps – but no photographs in the courtroom.

When a witness who was to be heard at a later date was discovered in the audience he was asked to leave. Before leaving he asked whether he was allowed to listen to the radio. The judge understood the futility of the rules when he replied – well you cannot stay in here.

The “no images” rule in Sweden or the no communicating in the US are rules which need to be explained logically to the participants. Naturally the principles of justice and equality must be upheld and should not need to be questioned at every turn…

The Vulnerable IT Society

The formalities are cleared and I will be responsible for a new course at Göteborg University begining after summer. The course “The Vulnerable IT Society” (Det sårbara IT-samhället) will be in Swedish and there is some more information here.

Naturally the new course already has a blog http://techrisk.wordpress.com which will focus on the vulnerabilities of the information technology society. So basically I am looking for students, bloggers and general interest in the subject – but all in Swedish this time.

Information control in a connected world

In 1973 in Stockholm a bank robbery went wrong and resulted in a six day hostage situation when the police showed up and the would be robbers withdrew into the vault with four hostages. The police managed to enter the bank and close the vault door. The police then opened a hole in the vault roof in order to communicate with those inside (short piece on Wikipedia). While in the vault the hostages began to fear the police and sympathize with their captors in a psychological process which has come to be known as the Stockholm Syndrome. But I digress.

An interesting factor was the way in which communications took place. The authorities (including the Prime Minister) and criminals communicated via telephone. The robbers inside the vault had no way of monitoring the outside world or communicating with it freely.

Now fast forward to Mumbai last week. According to Gizmondo the terrorists inside the hotel did not rely on traditional communications methods

Commandos were not only surprised to find the devices [BlackBerrys] in the terrorists’ rucksacks, but that they used the internet to look beyond local Indian media for information, watching the global reaction in real-time as well.

There is something shocking, and at the same time predictable, about the authorities naivete about the terrorists use of technology. Why wouldn’t a terrorist be monitoring the outside world for reactions?

In addition to this the way in which the outside world understood what was happening inside the hotel was not a traditional news source controlled and transferred by authorities. In a hallway conversation Martin Börjesson (a colleague) and I exchanged notes about our news uptake from the Mumbai attacks. Naturally we used traditional media – but neither of us believed that they really knew anything. More interestingly we followed news feeds such as twitter and a flock of blogs (or what is the right word?)

Following blogs is something both Martin and I do everyday so we were not surprised by this. What was interesting however was the experience that some online sources were clearly political disinformation attempting to place the blame for what was happening at the door of different states. (Bruce Schneier has some interesting takes on the outside conversations and analysis). Clearly following live feeds is also demands a questioning of sources.

Mumbai has shown that web technology is used: (1) by the terrorists (2) by the world (3) by the media. The result is an amazing mix of rehashing of information, the transmitting of live experiences (from within and from those witnessing) and formal channels. The question is can, and should, the authorities be able to control this information? The first answer is that controlling this information is only possible at a great cost and at a great loss in the ability of others to transmit innocent information. It is doubtful whether a media blackout is at all possible. Should it be possible – not sure. As the BlackBerry’s show the terrorists monitored the outside world and possibly profited from the information, but would the outcome have been much different if they did, or could, not?

Information control is not dead but it is being taken to a new level… to be continued…

Ten years with the DMCA

Its been ten years since the implementation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and in order to commemorate this decade the Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a report entitled Unintended Consequences: Ten Years Under the DCMA. A collection of disturbing real life stories, the report reads like “a trip down memory lane for those who have followed digital freedom issues over the past decade”.

Wow, ten years! Time flies when we are having fun.

Open debate, free speech & copying

On Thursday last week a group of Swedish artists and writers spoke up in an op-ed on the topic of file sharing. Their motives and point of view are clear. Their timing is also to act out in support of the coming parliamentary vote that will create a harsher environment around illegal file sharing.

The op-ed begins with the idea that they [the artists/writers] had been too silent in their opposition to file sharing. The reason they state for this silence is the fear of “hate attacks from notorious file sharers” (my translation from: “hatattackerna från notoriska fildelare”).

This is an incredibly interesting position. These artists/writers are public figures and as such have a position from which they can easily publicise any and all opinions they may have. They are the media elite – when they talk reports listen. And yet they are asking for sympathy from the public since they are the victims of a group which does not have the same platform. The very fact that they have written and published an op-ed in one of Sweden’s largest and most important newspaper should suffice to prove this point.

This false humility, this wringing of hands, this wearing of sack-cloth and ashes is irritating but it could also be seen as a rhetorical move. Even so, the position of the poor-little-me-I-am-just-a-pop-star attitude is patently false and more provocative than they seem to understand.

The group of artists/writers who signed the op-ed seem to desire a world where they have the ear of the media, the platform to publish and to be discussed (in polite terms) but are not ready to meet criticism from the broader public – from those who they are selling to!

Whether it is culture or whether it is hamburgers the seller must be able to accept the criticism and choices of the buyers. I am a vegetarian and I will criticize any attempts meat sellers make to portray happy livestock. If an artist/writer makes an uniformed/stupid statement from the platform of fame and position of importance they have achieved, then I have the right to criticize them from below – without this being referred to as a hate-attack. If you speak out in public you must expect a reply. You may not like that reply but if you are unable to cope with the reply then you should not have entered the public arena.

This post was going to be about the content of the opt-ed but as you may have noticed I got stuck on the introduction and could not move beyond. So I take the easy way out and quote from the Industrial IT Group and a blog post they entitle: Stupidity in the age of information

…digital products are, by definition, open for being copied. This is the essence of the notion of digital. While some see this as a curse many of us see this as a blessing. Reinforcing laws surrounding filesharing comes at a prize and I see it as neither possible nor desireable to fight filesharing.

To this I would just like to add the schizofrenic position of encouraging and praising the importance is consumerism through digital gadgets and widgets while attempting to limit their use…

To the politicians about to vote on the coming legal proposals, a question: When you give your child an 120GB ipod – what are you expecting that they will do with it?