Archive for the ‘Law’ tag
Three presentations in this parallel session.
The first was my own, “Law in the Last Mile: Three Stories of Wireless Internet Access”. I will make the paper available shortly. I write about the legal restrictions and risks associated with the sharing of Internet access through wifi, the objections to municipal or community wifi systems, and touch on the ‘white spaces’ Internet access proposals. The bulk of the paper deals with the first, looking at what I argue is the inappropriate use of criminal sanctions against users of open wireless access points and the tools that discourage users from sharing. I believe photos were taken of the special interactive element, which I’ll leave as a surprise for the time being.
The second presentation was given by Anniina Huttunen on behalf of a research group at Helsinki, “Cooling-Off the Over-Heated Discussion of Consumer Digital Rights Discourse by Extending the Cooling-Off Period to Digital Services”. They take as a starting point the problem that there is a high level of protection for physical goods, but almost non-existent for digital services. Consumers are more empowered than ever, and the Facebook user revolt is an example of this, but what is the position of online purchases of software? There is the familiar cooling-off period in EU law – no penalties and no reason needed – for situations like doorstep, time sharing and distance selling. The case study is on software sold as downloaded data. Referring to the revision of the consumer acquis: 34th recital, data files downloaded during cooling-off period not to be included, unfair to allow cooling-off when service enjoyed in full or part. At the moment, many providers have a return policy (well hidden), and also ‘lite versions’ available, or restrictions on return (i.e. download for a second time). The pros of allowing cooling-off are allowing testing of technical and contextual compatibility; no unreasonable cost (physical return) and no wear and tear (so no need to re-sell the product at a lower price), but the cons are the expense for the developer, the design consequences, and seeming to make unauthorised use easier.
The final presentation was Scott Boone’s, ‘Why Study Virtual Worlds‘? It was a report on his own efforts but also evangelical – so that we can consider the advantages. There’s some cynicism – ‘this generation’s D&D’, also critiques that it’s just a fad/hype. But VW give us a means to study possible futures. Borrowing from the discipline of Future Studies, look at simulation gaming (formerly operational gaming). Do things that we can’t do with a real world in terms of understanding scenarios. VWs have a unique set of features and practices, and indeed more focused than the Internet taken as a whole. Already in use are 3D as user interface; what sorts of benefits do we get? and the ‘future of money’ (note disappearance of fiscal currency and privatisation of money). The focus of the paper was then on five potential outcomes of studying virtual worlds: (A) fully realised third paradigm of computing: (1) mainframe/client, (2) personal computing, (3) ubiquitous/pervasive : entirely computer-mediated ‘universe’?; (B) widespread distribution of property without relinquishment of control – do we have emerging issues here – cars on the cellphone model, control separated from use; (C) (nearly) perfect DRM for media distribution – see what the market does; (D) software designed for universal connectivity; this will be a different authorisation, practice etc. Look at business models, EULAs etc (E) augmented reality (though how do we do this without putting in all the variables?) In questions, Boone clarified that his focus was on studying virtual worlds as they currently exist, rather than creating simulations in future virtual worlds (though this too is interesting).
This is the last of my blog updates on the SCRIPTed conference at the University of Edinburgh. Remember, the full list of papers is available here. I will return to the themes of the conference (including the keynote by Prof. Bartha Knoppers) in a later post, and hope that you have enjoyed these fairly rambling updates. There will be one final session that, unfortunately I will miss most of for travel reasons, featuring Lilian Edwards, Andres Guadamuz and TJ McIntyre, which I’m sure will be excellent.
Slightly delayed live blogging (handwritten notes and laptops) from the SCRIPTed conference in Edinburgh: programme here. All errors are mine. Comments from me in square brackets.
The first keynote speaker is Antony Taubman (Director, Global IP Issues Division, WIPO), with a remarkably upbeat assessment of the field.. While his topic was the resonant ‘Centripetal and Centrifugal Trends in International Governance of IP‘, the focus of the talk was the role of traditional knowledge (TK) in the international IP system. He commenced with some general coments on the relationship between the various institutions (not just the ‘worlds in collision’ of WIPO and the World Trade Organisation, but others such as the World Health Organisation. There are various relationships, such as between ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds, or approaches based on indigenous rights vs commodification. There have been fundamental shifts in international IP, at the time of TRIPS but happening again now – this is a sign of success in terms of the system. In the case of TK, he traces an evolution of TK as resistance to conventional IP, through a point of pressure for reform, to a true globalisation or reconceptualisation.
The bulk of the presentation was a discussion on what developments in TK mean:
(a) Empirical, e.g. more activity from developing countries, patents based on TK, even the current International Patent Classification having new, more appropriate categories [my thought: this is a very provocative and controversial definition of success]
(b) Jurisprudential, e.g. work on new or improved understanding of concepts in IP law like innovation and person skilled in the art, which can be different in contexts such as patent review
(c) Negotiations, where nations include aspirations re TK as part of their approach to WIP and others
(d) Development – WIPO development agenda, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People article 31 as a collective right – ‘an international soft norm’ [aren't all norms quite squishy?] – the “trade and” approach (trade and – cultural, environmental, HR, political – TK a good example of this trend). Gives the illustration of NGOs etc opposing particular patents as an assertion of cultural integrity.
A general reflection from Taubman: who ‘owns’ international IP normsetting; what is the benchmark for ‘legitimacy’; debate on collective rights (which these reforms must engage with) is controversial even within international HR law alone – what is the purpose of such normsetting, a ‘global IP law’, administrative convergence, or boundary-setting/dispute settlement? Will we see small, selective regimes (with like-minded countries) before adoption in international mainstream.
Parting shots: choice of forum? how do we like trade and IP law (& ethical idea: fair, legitimate trade/unfair competition – cf Paris Convention article 10bis)? Is legitimacy defined through formal structures or is it just a framework? Are worlds colliding ore ‘are regimes remixing’? [a very appropriate phrase] – an ‘emerging multifaceted multistakeholder galaxy of jurisprudence’, with TK being very useful in bringing a sustainable approach to light.
April is a mini-conference-season for law in the UK, with a number of big ones taking place – I’m due to be attending two and aware of another. Probably the biggest (but not in my diary, alas) is the Socio-Legal Studies Association, meeting in Leicester in the first week of the month. Up in Edinburgh, as previously blogged, SCRIPT-ed’s Governance of New Technologies conference is almost here. And finally, down in Winchester, BILETA meets for its annual conference on 22nd/23rd April, with a draft programme showing that there is a wide range of topics due to be covered. Coverage of last year’s BILETA conference is available through my (too lengthy) posts tagged bileta2008. I hope to do the same this year.
The big event in Ireland this month was the third annual Legal Education Symposium, held this year at UCD. Eoin O’Dell’s even more detailed reports are available at his blog, cearta.ie.
A pat on the back for Lord Justice Toulson, who has expressed the collective frustration of the academic and practicing (political and paramilitary?) wings of the legal world in relation to up-to-date legislation (in this decision). It drives me up the wall, and some of the areas I’m interested in are particularly badly served, with a range of new definitions from EU directives and the like. It has often taken me a couple of hours to get to the bottom of something that should really take no more than a few minutes. It’s great that the Statute Law database and OPSI areheading towards completion (and good things are happening in Canada, so it’s not impossible), but if you pick a new statute, there will probably be a further list of ‘unimplemented’ changes flagged with a warning (you have to then search for and put the changes together yourself).
Toulson LJ makes four points, which I paraphrase as follows:
- The majority of legislation is secondary legislation.
- The overall volume of legislation has increased and is still increasing.
- The legislation is spread across various statutes and statutory instruments.
- There is no straightforward way for an individual to find out what the law in force is.
The pay-databases are helpful, but to a point, and as is rightly pointed out by various commentators, this is something that should be available to the public. If a team of trained librarians and a bouquet of database subscriptions is necessary in order to figure out whether that section was modified by the fifth schedule to another Act, the words given a different meaning by s. 573(a) of the Regulation transposing the Directive (with reference to the nineteenth recital), disapplied in Wales by the Order-in-Council and the penalty increased by a further Act, is it really law at all?
Here are the other, more scattered privacy stories as promised:
- The Information and Privacy Commissioner in the Canadian province of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, is organising the ‘Privacy By Design Challenge‘, a workshop and presentations on how technology can be used, and in particular designed, to promote personal privacy. The fact that this event is organised by a statutory privacy commissioner is still quite remarkable (and welcome) and I look forward to finding out how it goes. Spotted via Mediacaster.
- Another Canadian one: the 2007 and 2008 report of the federal Privacy Commissioner has been published: get it here
- The Bar Council gets visited by some tea-leafs, who run away with the contact details of all of the barristers in England and Wales, and more besides (BBC News)
- In related news, the Open Rights Group has a new tool to find out if your data has been disclosed, Who’s Been Losing Your Data? Nice.
- And finally, unlucky for lawyers: Law firms are expected to register as data controllers in the UK – if not, like these three firms, they may end up paying a fine, and more importantly, probably never get a privacy case again…