Internet access *is* a Human Right

English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...
Emblem of the United Nations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus sayeth the UN after a resolution was passed unanimously by their Human Rights Council.

This is a Good Thing, as the resolution declared that the right to be able to get online and express oneself freely was a right of every person on the planet. Wonderful, and something I wholeheartedly agree with.

However…

a) How could China, with it’s famous “Great Firewall“, sign this with a straight face? While Chinese people can access the internet, they do not get access to the same level of information as people in the West. They also certainly cannot express themselves freely as many recent news stories have demonstrated, with people being arrested for even drawing attention to certain topics let along going into detail about them.

b) France has a “three strikes and you’re cut off” policy for those accused of (note: not necessarily “found guilty of”) downloading copyrighted material. The UK has been looking at similar plans as have other countries. This resolution is going to knock that kind of legislation for six, surely? It’s worth pointing out that neither France nor the UK are current members of the United Nations Human Right Council, so did not sign the resolution.

Enhanced by Zemanta

gTLDs

ICANN Logo
ICANN Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First geeky post in an absolute age…

ICANN started selling new “generic” top-level domains for silly sums recently. There are the last bit of a web address, and originally were limited to the liked of “.com” and “.org”. They expanded to include “country level” ones such as “.uk”, “.ca” and so on.

The recent move is apparently the help companies spread their branding or make web addressed easier to remember or something. They also include non-Roman characters for the first time, which could allow those using different scripts to access the web entirely in their own languages.

All very money-grabbing, but the pointlessness of it was demonstrated by the example given by the BBC. Apparently Canon are one of the handful of companies which have jumped in to buy some of these domains, which would allow them to have:

www.products.canon

instead of

www.canon.com/products

Now, colour me skeptical but surely they’d be just as well off using a subdomain along the lines of:

products.canon.com

which would cost them the grand price of utterly bugger all, with the added bonus of not confusing an already overly-befuddled system?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Stop SOPA

At midnight tonight, a WordPress plugin will kick in which “blacks out” this blog (and my travel blog). I know I only get a few hits a day (around 50-100, usually), but it’s my small way to take part in the STOP SOPA Wednesday.

For those who don’t know, SOPA (and also PIPA) are motions to be put through the US legal system in a bid to allow large copyright holders power to close down websites simply because they don’t like them. OK, it’s a little more complex than that but that’s what it boils down to. SOPA has, in fact, already been shelved as a result of public outcry but PIPA is still alive and threatening horrific levels of censorship.

Essentially what these laws will do is allow a copyright holder (read “rich media company”) to force any website to be taken offline if it claims said site infringes on its copyright. Forget about any discussion over “fair use”, similar content which isn’t actually copied, mistakes and the like – it’s “guilty until proven innocent, which you won’t be because the people putting in the complaint have more money than you”.

Notice, that I said “site”. Remember the case a couple of years back with a baby dancing to a Michael Jackson track on YouTube? Jackson’s record company attempted to sue the baby’s parents for breach of copyright as they dared to put a dodgy recording of part of a song by dead weirdo onto a publicly accessible website. Obviously, this would cost them a fortune in lost revenue. Tossers.

Under SOPA, the media company could force YouTube offline. An extreme and unlikely example, but under the wording of the legislation completely possible. The host is liable for the content uploaded by its members. Even if those members number potentially in their billions.

The methods used to remove sites from the internet is also flawed and involves messing about with the internet’s central servers – something which has had industry experts who actually know what they the hell they’re on about (therefore obviously not politicians, lawyers or record company execs) up in arms.

I’m glad SOPA has been shelved, but I fear it will return. Right now we have to ensure that PIPA is also put down. Although obviously focussed on the US, this will affect anyone using the internet if it goes through. It could also lead to similar legislation being put in place in other countries.

Many sites, far bigger than this little bunch of rants and reviews, are also blacking out for 24 hours. Reddit, WordPress.org, TwitPic and Wikipedia are amongst them. Imagine an internet without them – and many other sites who are not participating. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Blogger.

Frankly it beggars belief. Yet the ignorance and stupidity of the media companies trying to push this madness through does not.

Enhanced by Zemanta

ACS:Law and other dodgy organisations

Stories are reaching the mainstream news outlets now about the incredibly dodgy workings of ACS:Law. Their name is well known online amongst the geekier members of their community due to their shady tactics of trying to extort money from people for alleged illegal downloads. It has taken the crashing of their website and release of their unprotected email archives to expose exactly how underhanded and (to a large extent) illegal their operation is.

Judging from several reports, they could be facing a fine of around £500,000 for possibly the most serious breach of the Data Protection Act ever seen since the Act was put into force. BT are also in line for a kick in the teeth on that one.

What really got my goat, though, was the contents of the mail archives. They detailed numerous cases where the legal team attempted to force money out of people who they had absolutely no evidence against them. The letters were very much along the lines of the ones I was getting from ParkingEye (which I realise I’ve not detailed on here… that’ll be up soon).

Essentially, the letters stated that the person who paid for the internet connection was liable for illegal downloads on that connection which had taken place. And that if they coughed up £495 chosen as it was below the psychological £500 barrier), further action would not be taken. Otherwise there were threats of possible legal action, courts and so on.

This was, of course, bullshit.

One of the stories highlighted that ACS:Law were only targeting, in the first instance, people they reckoned had downloaded one particular music track, or porn. Any porn. So going for the embarrassment tactic, then.

Has anyone seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels? There’s a story given in a monologue that I’d heard of before the film and essentially it is this – to get a lot of cash, advertise something in the dirty magazines. Let’s say, huge double-ended sex toys for men. They’re twenty quid. You don’t have any – you just wait for people to pay you and hold the cash for a bit. Then you send out apologies (“sorry, our supplier let us down” or similar), and a cheque for £20. But the company the cheque is from is called “HUGE SEX TOYS FOR MEN WITH TINY PENISES plc” or something.

Most people will be too embarrassed to cash the cheque and will just write off the £20.

This is the tactic, I feel, that ACS:Law were using. Hit people with a “you or someone in your home was downloading copyrighted filth” charge and a lot of people may well have just blushed, lumped it and coughed up. Indeed, a lot did. Courtesy of the hideous lack of security on ACS:Law’s servers, the credit cards details, addresses and so forth of hundreds of these victims is up for grabs on the internet.

What ACS:Law have done is a mixture of incredible naivete (believing that it’s so easy to link an IP address to an individual) and bare-faced cheek. Reading the emails is, frankly, stomach-churning as you see just how disparagingly they treat their victims.

The whole tone is simply “can we get money out of these people?”. In so far as being a system of punishment, their methods are no better than speed cameras. You’re “guilty” until you can prove yourself innocent by incriminating someone else.

A complete and utter shambles, kicked off by a terrible system that allowed them to jump onto this money-making bandwagon in the first place. It’s only a terrible shame for those who’s details have been leaked that it took such a breach of their privacy for these disgusting tactics to be revealed to the general public.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Twitter is NOT free on Three

Image representing Ping.fm as depicted in Crun...
Don't use Three - use Ping.fm!

Don’t believe the hype. After their trial back in February, Three are now offering “free” Twitter if you’re a customer. The only thing is, it’s not flipping free!

Once you register you can set it so you receive texts when certain people you follow post a tweet. This is free. However, you tweet by sending texts to a shortform number (86xxx – something like that) which costs 10p a pop. These texts can’t be part of your contract bundle so you will face this charge even if you have unlimited texts per month.

How they can advertise this as being “free” is beyond me.

If you have an unlimited texts plan, then I still recommend ping.fm – it is free. Sign up, tell it your mobile number and when you text them they forward your posts to Twitter. Or facebook. Or anywhere else they support. The phone number is a genuine UK mobile and I’ve been using them for months so I can promise you they’re included as part of a UK texts package (unlike the actual Twitter number, which is based in the Isle of Man so doesn’t count, resulting in surprise charges on your bill).

They’ll also forward photos you send on to Flickr or facebook, though I prefer to do that via email.

Either way, just make sure you always read small print on things like this. And then wonder how something that costs money can be advertised as being free. Advertising Standards Authority anyone? Mind you, they’re the muppets that let broadband companies advertise “unlimited” capped broadband.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]