I think I’m a clone now

Dr. Tom Phillips worked on a CREATe project with me, as a research associate (Dr. Keith M. Johnston was the co-investigator).  Our project on Games and Transmedia dealt with a wide range of issue pertaining to law, business and these emerging creative industries – including art/business tensions, formal and informal regulation, and how risk and disputes are handled. One point that we kept coming to, from a range of starting points, was the tricky and often emotive subject of ‘cloning’ in the games industry. I had a few paragraphs on this in my article last year, but the real outcomes of these discussions can be found in Tom’s article, published as open access today (free for anyone to download) in the journal Cultural Trends.

In “Don’t clone my indie game, bro”: Informal cultures of videogame regulation in the independent sector (click to read/download), Tom reports on the history of cloning as an issue, informed by events and conversations in the games world, and academic and legal developments. The article also gives a great insight into discussions we had with a fascinating group of developers and others in December 2013, as part of the project. Tom has made use of many of the key points from those discussions, to try and provide a greater understanding of how the rights and wrongs of cloning are discussed within the industry (or industries). He concludes by wondering whether we have reached a position where further legal interest is inevitable.

Do read the article – and I address this in particular to legal readers of the blog, because Tom’s take on how law affects the development of and conversations within a fast-moving industry is worthy of your consideration.

Abstract:

In the contemporary games sector, independent developers feel there is an inadequate level of protection for their intellectual property, particularly with regards to game clones. There is also a sense that neither players nor policy-makers completely understand the specificities of how IP may be creatively, if not legally infringed. As a result, there has increasingly been a shift towards the construction of a culture of self-regulation for indie developers, attempting to publicly shame cloners via social media, directly impacting infringers’ reputation and sales and bypassing formal regulation.This article uses interviews and workshop discussions with developers to examine the manner in which this informal culture of regulation has been perpetuated in relation to current videogame copyright legislation, and suggests how the interrelation between producers and policy-makers may help to inform the direction of future policy decisions. Examining the way appropriate practice is informally managed in independent gaming, the article considers the soundness of policy in the contemporary videogames industry.

Ubiquitous chipped

(Edit: updated with better formatting)

I’m just returning from a fascinating two-day conference on ‘designing smart cities’ at the University of Strathclyde, chaired by Prof. Lilian Edwards (who is responsible for the title of this post) and supported by CREATe, Horizon, and Glasgow City Council.

I particularly enjoyed this event.  I have an on-off academic interest in the interactions between law and the city (which brings in geography and architecture) (seen most obviously in my ‘virtual walls’ article), and further personal interests in transportation and in modernist architecture.  And, of course, in both domains, “technology”.  Glasgow has received Government funding after a competition: see Future City Glasgow, and so was an ideal location.

There are various plans for audio, articles and the like; these are just a few quick first impressions.  No offence to those omitted – my note taking varied across the two days, especially in and around my own contributions.  (I was there to speak on the sharing economy, which is work at an early stage, and leading me into interesting place – I had a lively lunchtime conversation about English vs London vs Scottish taxi and private hire licensing, on which I could bore for, well, Scotland/London/England…).

Richard Bellingham directs Strathclyde’s Institute for Future Cities, and is involved with the new MSc Global Sustainable Cities.  He was introducing the theme, highlighting that a majority of the world’s population will live in cities, which to be successful will need to be equitable, distinctive, and delightful.  There are drivers for change, which include resources, the ongoing recession, and changes in business processes.  He gave a range of examples of smart city projects, including analysis with multiple datasets.

Rob Kitchin (NUI Maynooth) gave a wide-ranging talk, including a peak into the Dublin Dashboard, but the highlight was addressing 7 critiques of smart cities. Ahistorical, aspatial, homogenizing; the politics of urban data; technocratic governance and solutionism; neoliberal political economy and corporatisation of governance; buggy, brittle, hackable – combining two open complex systems (cities, digital systems); profound social, political, ethical effects; reinforcing power geometries and inequalities. Need to think critically, but there is promise and smart cities are already coming into being.

My former Edinburgh colleague Judith Rauhofer reminded us that there’s always a good reason why the use of a new service makes sense, even when privacy lawyers potentially play the role of  party poopers – one can be tempted to jump into the smart city, or the Internet of things, out of convenience, lack of alternatives (e.g. if smart TVs become the norm and non-smart TVs fade from the market), economic interest, and the public interest (altruism?).  Yet, we see the continued gathering of information, including location (e.g.  eCall – for all new cars – sends out beacon to emergency services – sounds great but), behaviour, as technology becomes  ‘invisible’, and in particular physiological – e.g. FitBit dietary apps, even the smart vibrator.

David Murakami Wood, once of Newcastle but now at Queen’s University in Canada, gave a keynote address and also participated in a panel.  Unfortunately I missed the start of the keynote, but was able to catch much of it, including his distinction between three uses or approaches (rational spatial planning in the European style, technology as a driver in US approaches, and discourses of modernisation and nationalism e.g. India.  He wry noted how smart city debates have become a vehicle for another round of ideal cities, although this time the corporate involvement is particular significant.  Amusingly, the ISO is already on the case with an attempt to standardise what a smart city is, with 46 core and 56 supporting indicators.  (More on David’s contributions in the note below).

Other issues discussed included CCTV, the position of Singapore, transition towns, and a barnstorming and much-anticipated presentation on driverless cars by engineer Prof. John Miles.

We had a neat wrap-up session (with eloquent people, and me), and I made two general points as part of this final panel.

The first is how some of the debates and experiences from the early period of the commercial Internet (1995-2000) still have value.  The conference included critiques of terra nullis portrayals (Rob Kitchin, Ayona Datta), a thorough investigation of the role of intermediaries and brokers (Alison Powell), a call for open platforms and to be wary of company towns and a drive towards ambient government (David Murakami Wood), a need to interrogate algorithms and data (Rob Kitchin), and bubbling away, how to handle questions of privacy and consent (Judith Rauhofer and Derek MacAuley).  All of these things, to some extent, were up for debate as lawmakers ‘met’ the Internet, some for the first time.

The second was the degree to which questions of subsidiarity shone through, especially in the sessions on energy.  For instance, Francesco Sindico wondered what role cities should be playing in global debates (and negotiations) on climate change, characterised as they have been so far by traditional negotiations between sovereign states, while others on his panel considered questions ranging from the innovation within post-stock transfer social housing to Singapore’s international strategy to the regional impact and consequences of the feed-in tariff in England.

(Apologies again. I’ll update this post when the proper stuff comes out…)

Televised debates and the General Election

I spoke with Raidió na Gaeltachta this morning on the upcoming TV events and debates in the UK general election campaign (which I guess starts officially today with the proroguing of Parliament, in advance of dissolution on Monday).  It has of course been a long time getting here – not just the long-running campaign, but the attempt to agree a format for the debates and “debates”. For someone working both in media law and in public law, it’s a fascinating topic.

The conversation is in Irish; listen again here.

Edit: A follow-up discussion, the morning after the night before, is available here.

SLS Media and Communications – 2015 Call For Papers

Paul Wragg has recently taken over as convenor of the Media & Communciations section of the Society of Legal Scholars, which is certainly good news after my three years of dictatorial misrule in the post.  I’m pleased to post this call for papers on his behalf, for this year’s annual conference (University of York, 1st-4th September 2015)  The deadline has been extended to 31st March 2015.

The Media and Communications section will meet in the second half of the conference on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September. If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract by Tuesday 31st March.

All abstracts must be submitted through the EasyChair conference system. If you have not used this system before, you will need to create an account before making your submission.

I would welcome proposals for papers on any area of media and communications law, including (but not limited to): media regulation; defamation; privacy; breach of confidence; telecommunications law; media ownership and pluralism; the laws, practices and codes affecting journalism (e.g. contempt of court, subterfuge, court reporting, recognition/status of journalists); the control of marketing, advertising, and sponsorship contract and rights issues affecting the media and communications sectors (for example, television coverage of sporting events); image rights; universal design / access in relation to communications language and minority rights and the media whether they address this year’s conference theme (Law’s Subjects: Subject to Law) or not. Alternatively, if you would like to propose a topic of current interest for a panel or roundtable discussion, please do get in touch to see if this can be arranged.

As the SLS is keen to ensure that as many members with good quality papers as possible are able to present, we discourage speakers from presenting more than one paper at the conference. With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could let me know if you are also responding to calls for papers from other sections.

Please note that whilst you need only send a proposed title and abstract at this stage, speakers are encouraged to submit a full paper via EasyChair before the conference. The SLS offers a Best Paper Prize which can be awarded to academics at any stage of their career. The Prize carries a £250 monetary award and winning papers are published in Legal Studies. To be eligible:
• speakers must be fully paid-up members of the SLS;
• papers must not exceed 11,000 words including footnotes (as counted in Word);
• papers must be uploaded to EasyChair by Monday 24th August; and
• papers must not have been published previously or have been accepted or be under consideration for publication.

Programme for The Campbell Legacy

Registration is now open for our one-day conference on misuse of private information, breach of confidence and the world since Campbell v MGN. You can register online here.

Here’s the draft programme (click to enlarge):

Poster Thumbnail

Dr. Daithí Mac Síthigh, Newcastle Law School