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2012: April-June

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Ofcom Shares its Plans...

New UK measures to protect online copyright and inform consumers

Link Here 27th June 2012

Internet users will be encouraged to download music and films through legal channels under measures outlined today by Ofcom.

Ofcom has published a draft code for consultation that would require large internet service providers (ISPs) to inform customers of allegations that their internet connection has been used to infringe copyright.

The code, which Ofcom is required to publish under the Digital Economy Act 2010, includes measures to help inform the public and promote lawful access to digital content such as music and films.

When notifying customers of reported infringements, ISPs must explain the steps subscribers can take to protect their networks from being used to infringe copyright and tell them where they can go to find licensed content on the internet.

Copyright owners are expected to invest in awareness campaigns to help educate consumers about the impact of copyright infringement and further to develop attractive online services to offer their content. Ofcom will report regularly to the Government on the effectiveness of both the code and these broader initiatives from copyright owners.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's Consumer Group Director, said:

These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK's creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content.

Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders' investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.

How the code will work

The code will initially cover ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband-enabled fixed lines -- currently BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media. Together these providers account for more than 93% of the retail broadband market in the UK.

The draft code requires ISPs to send letters to customers, at least a month apart, informing them when their account is connected to reports of suspected online copyright infringement.

If a customer receives three letters or more within a 12-month period, anonymous information may be provided on request to copyright owners showing them which infringement reports are linked to that customer's account. The copyright owner may then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the identity of the customer, with a view to taking legal action for infringement under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988.

Copyright owners can already seek such court orders under existing law, but the Code is designed to enable them to focus legal action on the most persistent alleged infringers.


Customers would have the right to challenge any allegation of infringement through an independent appeals body. Ofcom will appoint this body and require it to establish transparent, accessible appeal procedures. Copyright owners will need Ofcom approval of their procedures for gathering evidence of infringement before they can be used under the scheme.

Changes to the code

The key proposals of the first draft code, on which we consulted in May 2010, are unchanged in the code published today. However a number of revisions have been made, including:

Evidence-gathering procedures: copyright owners' procedures for gathering evidence of infringement must now be approved by Ofcom, rather than by the copyright owners themselves. Ofcom plans to sponsor the development of a publically-available standard to help promote good practice in evidence gathering; Notification letters: ISPs must now include, in letters to subscribers, the number of copyright infringement reports connected to their account. Appeals: Ofcom has decided that subscribers should have 20 working days to appeal an allegation of infringement. Following a direction from the Government, Ofcom has removed the ability for subscribers to appeal on any grounds they choose; they must now do so on grounds specified in the Digital Economy Act.

Beyond the code, the Digital Economy Act outlined a process for further measures which the Secretary of State might consider to help reduce online copyright infringement. These would require ISPs to take steps (such as internet bandwidth reduction, blocking internet access or temporarily suspending accounts) against relevant subscribers in certain circumstances.

However, those measures could only be considered after the Code has been in force for at least 12 months, and would require further legislation and approval by Parliament. They would also require Ofcom to establish a further independent appeals process with judicial oversight.

Next steps

Ofcom will now consult on the revised draft code.2 Subject to further review by the European Commission, it will be laid in Parliament around the end of 2012. ISPs will then prepare to meet their obligations, and Ofcom will appoint an appeals body. Ofcom currently expects the first customer notification letters to be sent in early 2014.

Ofcom will review the criteria for applying the code to ISPs once the obligations have been up and running for six months.

The revised draft code and consultation, which closes on 26 July 2012, can be found here.

The code includes provisions for sharing of costs between copyright owners and ISPs, as set out in a draft Statutory Instrument on costs being laid in Parliament by the Government. Ofcom is today also publishing a consultation on how these costs are allocated. This consultation closes on 18 September 2012.

See next round of Ofcom consultation



Loyalty to Whom?...

British government asks supermarkets to do their dirty work for them and snoop on people's lifestyle

Link Here 26th June 2012

Supermarkets may be asked to use loyalty card data to snoop on their customers and then offer government advice to their customers on improving their diets and lifestyle.

A Whitehall unit set up to find discreet ways to change behaviour has begun talks with supermarkets over using their vast databases to help improve the nation's heath. The head of the Behavioural Insights Team said that supermarkets had more information about their customers than doctors did and that this information should be harnessed.

Shoppers buying large amounts of fatty foods, alcohol and unhealthy products could be quickly identified and offered advice on changing their diet. Parents buying what appears to be an unbalanced diet for their children may also be targeted.

It is understood that supermarkets will be encouraged to offer advice to their customers but Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has ruled out Government the getting any stick for the reprehensible snooping. Ministers are thought to be wary of big brother accusations and have no wish to be seen to be studying people's shopping bills.

It was not clear whether supermarkets would want to to the government's dirty work for them. Supermarkets are also wary about being seen to be prying into their customers' lives.



And Then it Dawned on Them...

Licensing police turn up en-mass to ban the pub band '4am'

Link Here 20th June 2012

Confusion over a band called 4am and the time the group was due to perform on stage, prompted a visit from licensing officers and police to a local pub. The Feathers in Laleham, Surrey, had advertised live music from 4am .

Two licensing officers and two police officers visited the pub the day before to stop the performance, before being told it was the name of the band.

The pub's licensee, Kate Dillon, said she was speechless after the visit. She said:

If one official turns up that's funny enough, but if four people come into the pub like they did, it's absolutely ridiculous.

When I calmed down a bit I thought it was absolutely hilarious. They made idiots of themselves really.

The two-piece band, of Joe Becket and John Adams, was named after a track by jazz musician Herbie Hancock.



Empowering the Tut Tutters...

Southwest Airlines apologise after humiliating passenger showing a bit of cleavage

Link Here 19th June 2012

A woman has revealed how Southwest Airlines refused to let her board her flight because she showed a bit of cleavage.

Avital, was due to travel from Las Vegas to New York when airline staff said her dress was inappropriate.

Despite her humiliation, she still walked onto the flight, later making a formal complaint to the airline. Avital told Jezebel:

I didn't want to let the representative's "Big Feelings" about my breasts change the way I intended to board my flight. And lo and behold, the plane didn't fall out of the sky...my cleavage did not interfere with the plane's ability to function properly.

Since Avital's story has been made public, the airline has offered her an apology and a refund as a gesture of goodwill .

But Avital wants to ensure other people do not have to go through the same embarrassing experience. She said:

It seems like only people who raise a big stink get an apology. What I want to avoid is being subject to individual employee's whims. There's no official channel at Southwest to make sure that doesn't happen.'

Southwest Airlines' Christi McNeill said its Contract of Carriage enables staff to refuse transport to a customer whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive, even though the company does not specify a dress code on its website.



Searching for Political Censorship...

Google reports alarming rise of censorship requests from governments including the western democracies

Link Here 18th June 2012

In a blog post, Dorothy Chou, Google's senior policy analyst, wrote about the latest of the company's twice yearly transparency reports:

Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data, in 2010, we noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not.

This is the fifth data set that we've released. Just like every other time, we've been asked to take down political speech. It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect -- western democracies not typically associated with censorship.

For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.

In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn't comply with either of these requests.

Other examples include Google being asked by Canadian officials to remove a YouTube video of a citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. It refused.

Thai authorities asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy, a violation of Thailand's repressive lese-majeste law. The company complied with 70% of these requests.

Pakistan asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirised its army and senior politicians. Google refused.

UK police asked the company to remove five YouTube accounts for allegedly promoting terrorism. Google agreed.

In the US most requests related to alleged harassment of people on YouTube. The authorities asked for 187 pieces to be removed. Google complied with 42% of them.

Update: 49% increase in censorship requests by India

19th June  2012. See  article from  securitywatch.pcmag.com

India had the largest number of government takedown requests (that weren't court orders) during the reporting period. This is likely related to the ongoing legal wrangle between the search giant and India as part of that country's drive to clean up its cyberspace. Last year, the Indian government accused Google of failing to failing to block inappropriate content in the country.

The number of content removal requests we received increased by 49% compared to the previous reporting period, Google said, regarding India.

In response, Google decided to restrict users from viewing some videos in areas where local laws banned speech that could stir up enmity between communities, but left them viewable elsewhere in the world. It also rejected a request to remove online profiles that criticized a local politician.



Offsite Article: Social Workers More Fascist than the EDL?...

Link Here 18th June 2012
Social workers want to seize a baby as soon as it is born because they are concerned about the mother's violent links to the English Defence League

See article from express.co.uk



Creditworthy?... Ask a Facebook Friend...

German credit agency planned to mine Facebook for information to be used for credit checking

Link Here 14th June 2012

Germany is up in arms after it was revealed that the country's largest credit agency was planning to mine data from social media websites to judge creditworthiness.

Schufa had launched a project called SCHUFALab@HPI that would have entailed studying Facebook relationships and associations on websites like LinkedIn and Twitter in order to help measure a person's financial status, according to confidential internal documents obtained by German TV broadcaster NDR.

But when news of SCHUFALab@HPI broke, Schufa was hit with a wave of opposition from across German society. Business newspaper the Handelsblatt called it an extreme abuse. Government consumer minister Ilse Aigner issued a sharp condemnation, saying, Schufa cannot become the Big Brother of the business world. The Social Democratic Party said it was a horror scenario, and the Greens accused it of being unconstitutional.

Despite initially defending the plan in a radio broadcast, Schufa now appears to be making a U-turn. German daily the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten has reported that the Hasso Plattner Institute and Schufa have stopped their Facebook project.



Brits earning less than 20-30k told to fuck off elsewhere if they want to live with their spouses...

Human rights to a family life in Britain somehow don't apply to those on less than average income

Link Here 10th June 2012

British citizens who marry foreigners will have to earn at least 20,000 a year if they want to set up their family home in the UK under new proposed human rights abuse.

The planned changes mean lower-paid Britons would be forced to emigrate if they wanted to live with a loved one from overseas.

And if the foreign-born spouse had children, their British partner would have to earn 30,000 or more, depending on how many children they had. They will also have to pass a strict new combined attachment test to prove they share a genuine loyalty to Britain, not another country, and they will remain on probation for five years instead of the current two.

The proposals, to be announced by Home Secretary and human rights abuser Theresa May, are expected to cut immigration, currently standing at 250,000 a year, by 25,000. Tory rights abusing MPs last night welcomed the move .

May is also expected to confirm stringent English-speaking test for husbands, wives or partners of UK citizens applying to come to live in Britain on a family visa.

The new human rights abuse will not apply to partners from within the European Union, as they will continue to have the right to settle here.



Just Don't Mention the Fake Rolexes...

A Thai whinge about Lady Gaga tweeting about fake Rolexes for sale is escalated to diplomatic levels

Link Here 29th May 2012


  Fake Lady Gagas
for sale in Thailand?

The Thai Intellectual Property Department will submit a letter to the US ambassador in Bangkok voicing its concern over pop princess Lady Gaga's tweet about buying a fake Rolex in the city.

Shortly after her private jet arrived in Bangkok, Lady Gaga tweeted:

I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex.

Department director-general Pachima Thanasanti said she was very disappointed with the singer's comment because Lady Gaga herself was the owner of intellectual property as a songwriter and singer.

Lady Gaga should have been a better role model for youngsters. The department will send a letter to express what she claims to be public concern over her conduct, which was seen as disrespectful.

Perhaps Thailand would be better advised to stop selling fake Rolexes in the first place.



Miserable Vietnam...

Vietnam takes aim at pop performers wearing sexy clothes

Link Here 28th May 2012

Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism has proposed to the government a new decree under which scantily-clad stage entertainers could be banned from performance for a period of between three and six months.

According to the proposed decree, besides receiving monetary fines, artists who violate in performing costumes will not be allowed to perform overseas.

The decree seems to be a kneejerk response to a recent event in which the pop singer Thu Minh offended a few nutters for wearing a low cut dress for a performance on the music show Ngan Sao Hoi Tu.

She was fined but the nutter's weren't impressed as they considered the fine just a light slap on the wrist that serves as a poor deterrent compared with the fame the singer attracted after the 'scandal'.

The ensuing public debate included several miserable contributions.

Pham Xuan Phuc, deputy chief inspector of the ministry, said that the penalty should include both fines and bans, like in football.

Le Ngoc Cuong, former director of the Performing Arts Department added:

It's not right to issue fines to singers only, the show's organizer is the one who should be fined.

Singer Thanh Thuy from the Military Zone 7 art troupe said it's time to have detailed regulations on performing costumes. she complained:

Artists who regularly wear ao dai (Vietnam's traditional long gown) cannot be hotter than those who wear just a little or nothing,

Musician The Hien suggested a stricter penalty for decency flouters:

Artists who like revealing their bodies must do community service!


30th April   

Update: Keep Quiet about Massive Queues at UK Airport Immigration...

Border Agency bans leaflets that apologise for queues at immigration
Link Here

A top UK border official sent an email to Heathrow Airport staff berating them for encouraging passengers to complain over huge queues at immigration control.

The email orders airport operator BAA to stop handing out inflammatory leaflets to passengers apologising for the very long delays of up to several hours.

It also instructs them to stop passengers taking pictures of the queues.

The length of queues for arrivals at border control has caused increasing anger, with reports of some passengers storming through because they have grown so furious at the delays.

Airport operator BAA has tried to defuse tensions with a leaflet apologising for the problems, saying that people arriving in the country deserved a warmer welcome and explaining how to complain to the Home Office.

But Marc Owen, director of Border Force operations at Heathrow, has told BAA that the leaflets are inappropriate and that ministers would take a very dim view .

Former transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour's aviation spokesman, said:

This is a pure cover-up. I can understand people wanting to take pictures of the queues. This is further evidence of Border Force trying to hide the severity of the problem.

Passengers need to know how to register complaints and for Border Force to try to prevent them doing so is outrageous.

On Wednesday, a frustrated Spanish passenger at Heathrow barged through passport control, but was intercepted by counter-terrorism officers. But last month, about 20 passengers stormed border control at Birmingham Airport after a two-hour wait. Hotelier Alan Fitzpatrick described how holidaymakers made a dash for it, pushing Border Agency staff aside . He added: There were scuffles, people being knocked to the ground and then resignation from the powers that be, who stepped aside to let the crowd through.

Retired immigration officers will be brought back to ease airport border control queues during the Olympics


28th April   

Update: All Set for the London 1984 Olympics...

Spectators to be banned from posting their own photos on Facebook
Link Here

  Enjoy the Games!

Well it seems that Olympic authorities are predictably going to treat spectators as shit.

Amateur Photographer reports that it will be against Olympic rules to tweet, share on Facebook or in any way share your photos of the event.

Quite how this will be policed is beyond comprehension and one would hope police officers are not going to be expected to pursue anyone seen posting photos on Instagram.

The London 2012 conditions state:

Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally, and may not exploit images, video and/or sound recordings for commercial purposes under any circumstances, whether on the internet or otherwise, or make them available to third parties for commercial purposes.

Coming after moves to restrict public demonstrations, photographers being interrogated on public footpaths and concern around heavy-handed commercial restrictions on what logos you can wear inside the Olympic village, this is yet another worrying development.

Rather than being the celebration organisers promised, London 2012 is rapidly risking becoming one of the most intimidating and restrictive events seen for decades.


28th April

 Offsite Article: Olympics Police Uniforms...

Link Here
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
The chilling (and balaclava-clad) face of modern British policing: London siege reveals armed-to-the-teeth team preparing for the Olympic Games

See article from dailymail.co.uk


21st April   

Dirty Bastards...

US drink censors ban beer brand name
Link Here
You can buy Fat Bastard wine in Alabama, but you'll have to go elsewhere for Dirty Bastard beer.

The state alcoholic beverage control agency have said that it has banned the sale of that brand of beer in the state because of the profanity on its label.

The drink censor's staff members rejected the brand because that parents may not want young people to see rough language on the shelves, said Bob Martin, an attorney with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

That's the whole reason for the rule, to keep dirty pictures and dirty words away from children, he said. Personally, I believe the staff made the right call.

The censors have drawn up a list of objectionable words that should not appear on product labels, Martin said, and the list includes bastard.

The state allows the sale of Fat Bastard wine as the name was cleared before the age of PC nonsense. Martin said the agency considered revoking those earlier approvals when it denied the application for Dirty Bastard, but officials decided against such action.


19th April

 Offsite Article: Security Arses...

Link Here
Passenger at Portland International Airport strips In protest over TSA hassle during a security check

See article from huffingtonpost.co.uk


11th April   

Chateau Protectionism 2012...

Any chance of more reasonably priced wine in Thailand?
Link Here

The European Union could take legal action against Thailand over import charges imposed on alcohol, says the bloc's Trade Ambassador Karel De Gucht.

The additional costs were unacceptable and against the World Trade Organisation's rules, he said on the sidelines of the annual Asean summit.

Taking legal action through the international courts was an option and the matter would be raised in bilateral talks with the Thai delegation. He said: it's a very clear infringement of the rules.

Thailand taxes alcohol imports by up to 60%, despite the fact that tariffs once imposed on producers from within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) were cut to zero at the start of last year, when the Asean Free Trade Area came into force.

That's a major concern for us, De Gucht said. The tariffs are of a purely discriminatory manner.

The EU has already petitioned Thailand over the issue in 2010.

Tanusak Lek-uthai, a Thai deputy finance minister, has proposed a new method of taxing wine which he says would cut imported wine prices and encourage errant importers to pay their revenue bills.

Talks between the EU and Thailand on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have stalled amid the political ructions that followed the September 2006 coup. The dispute over tariffs on imported alcohol remains an important stumbling block and there are fears Thailand could be missing out while its rivals within Asean forge ahead with trade agreements involving the EU.


2nd April   

Twin Big Brothers...

Coalition government proposes extreme internet surveillance
Link Here
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping

UK Police and intelligence officers are to be handed the power to monitor people's messages online in what has been described as an attack on the privacy of vast numbers of Britons.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, intends to introduce legislation in next month's Queen's Speech which would allow law-enforcement agencies to snoop on citizens using Facebook, Twitter, online gaming forums and the video-chat service Skype.

Regional police forces, MI5 and GCHQ, the Government's eavesdropping centre, would be given the right to know who speaks to whom on demand and in real time and without a warrant. Warrants would only be required to view the content of messages.

Civil liberties groups rightfully expressed grave concern at the move. Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, described it as

 An unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as in China and Iran.

David Davis, the former Conservative shadow Home Secretary, said:

The state was unnecessarily extending its power to snoop on its citizens.

It is not focusing on terrorists or on criminals, the MP said. It is absolutely everybody. Historically, governments have been kept out of our private lives. They don't need this law to protect us. This is an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary innocent people in vast numbers.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats had resisted greater surveillance powers when in opposition:

This is more ambitious than anything that has been done before. The Coalition bound itself together in the language of civil liberties. Do they still mean it?

May is confident of enacting the new law because it has the backing of the Liberal Democrats, once strong supporters of civil liberties, but now obviously not. Senior Liberal Democrat backbenchers are believed to have been briefed by their ministers on the move and are not expected to rebel in any parliamentary vote. A senior adviser to Big Brother Clegg said he had been persuaded of the merits of extending the police and security service powers

The Home Office said that the legislation would be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows , and said:

We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes. Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call or an email address. It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of Government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications.

However these claims about not snooping on contents seem somewhat contradictory when considering the proposed extension to social networking. There the communications only exist as the contents of a web page. There are no dialled numbers and email connections on Facebook, just the messages on your wall.

According to The Sunday Times, which broke the story, the ISP's Association, which represents communications firms, was unhappy with the proposal when it was briefed by the Government last month. A senior industry official told the paper: The network operators are going to be asked to put probes in the network and they are upset about the idea... it's expensive, it's intrusive to your customers, it's difficult to see it's going to work and it's going to be a nightmare to run legally.


Guy Herbert, General Secretary of NO2ID said:

Astonishing brass neck from the Home Office, attempting to feed us reheated leftovers from the authoritarian end of the Blair administration. It is not very far from a bug in every living room that can be turned on and turned off at official whim. Whatever you are doing online, whoever you are in contact with, you will never know when you are being watched. And nobody else will either, because none of it will need a warrant.

Put aside privacy – and the government has – the scheme is an astonishing waste of money. What problem does it solve that is worth billions?

Comment: Acquitted

2nd April 2012.  See  article from  press.mu.no2id.net

Guy Herbert, General Secretary of campaign group NO2ID said:

Astonishing brass neck from the Home Office, attempting to feed us reheated leftovers from the authoritarian end of the Blair administration. It is not very far from a bug in every living room that can be turned on and turned off at official whim. Whatever you are doing online, whoever you are in contact with, you will never know when you are being watched. And nobody else will either, because none of it will need a warrant.

It looks like the Home Office is setting out to leapfrog China and gain the UK an unenviable position as the most monitored society in history. The automatic recording and tracing of everything done online by anyone -- of almost all our communications and much of our personal lives, shopping and reading -- just in case it might come in useful to the authorities later, is beyond the dreams of any past totalitarian regime, and beyond the current capabilities of even the most oppressive states.

The vague assertion that all this is needed to deal with the usual bogeyman, terrorism, is worthless. It is hard to imagine any threat that is serious enough to justify it. But something that aims to make surveillance easy will create a demand for surveillance. Unless it is subject to proper controls from the beginning, then the pretexts for access will multiply. That would mean the end of privacy.

Put aside privacy -- and the government has -- the scheme is an astonishing waste of money. What problem does it solve that is worth billions?

Comment: Same Old Policy

3rd April 2012.  From David

It's interesting that the new email/phone snooping thing is *exactly* the same as that about to be brought in by Labour in 2006 - methinks this one is down to the long-term Whitehall Mandarins, rather than any particular party....


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