16 February 2012

The Farcical SOCA Take Down of Rnbxclusive - Part 1

When I first saw the holding page that SOCA put on the seized rnbxclusive website, I was convinced it had to be a hoax.  Notices used in extra-judicial take downs in the US had a similar tone of bravado, but this one was so badly written and amateurish, it seemed inconceivable that it was genuine.  Almost every line was ridiculous:
SOCA has taken control of this domain name.
It was quickly established that this was untrue.  The DNS record had not been changed.  A page had merely been posted at the pre-existing host.
The individuals behind this website have been arrested for fraud.
This just doesn't sound like something that would be written by a competent law enforcement agency.  "Arrest on suspicion of fraud," yes, but not "arrested for fraud."
The majority of music files that were available from this site were stolen from the artists.
At first, I thought this was the standard "copyright infringement is theft" propaganda.  However, the subsequent accusation made was that the files were pre-release items which were taken from the producer, so it might not be quite so inaccurate a use of the word.  What is less understandable is that it presents an accusation as fact in a way that potentially could be in contempt of court.

Then we have the claim that:
If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.
I'm not aware of any law which would allow for that kind of penalty for downloading music, but I can't be sure.  However, if it were a genuine claim, I'd expect to see some legislation reference.

Then we have we IP address box with some imprecise browser and OS sniffing, followed by:
The above information can be used to identify you and your location.
Which of course, it can't.  At best, the IP address could be used by the ISP to work out which account holder it was assigned to, but it wouldn't be sufficient to identify the individual browser.  Then it starts getting really ridiculous:
SOCA has the capability to monitor and investigate you, and can inform your internet service provider of these infringements.
Given that the site has been replaced by the SOCA page, it's nonsensical to threaten action in response to infringements spotted through monitoring, when the alleged means of infringement has been removed.  Then, having threatened 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, it is laughable to have as the final killer blow a threat to inform the viewer's ISP.  It's on a par with saying "we'll tell your mum."  It's also a bit odd that, for a crime which supposedly carries a heavy custodial and financial penalty, investigators would inform ISPs, instead of carrying out arrests.
You may be liable for prosecution and the fact that you have received this message does not preclude you from prosecution.
I can't even fathom that.  I'm not sure who would think that the act of telling somebody they are liable for something would result in them not being liable.
As a result of illegal downloads young, emerging artists may have had their careers damaged.
Probably least ridiculous sentence.  It is true that they may have had their careers damaged, but they may have also had their careers boosted due to the increased exposure.  Without supporting evidence, there's no way of knowing, so it's just baseless speculation.
If you have illegally downloaded music you will have damaged the future of the music industry.
This is an unsupported assertion presented as fact.  It is also odd strategically.  I could understand "...damaged the future of artists" as an emotional appeal, but "...damaged the future of the music industry," implying the currently reviled middlemen, would be more likely to act as encouragement in many quarters.
Visit pro-music.org for a list of legal music site on the web.
Having a law enforcement agency promoting a private industry lobbying group is, unfortunately, not something which I would find surprising.  What would surprise me is the site not even being hyperlinked on a page supposedly drafted an agency investigating cybercrime.

I just didn't think it was conceivable that it was anything other than a poor attempt at a hoax.  Unfortunately, I was wrong...

07 February 2012

Economics Fail

From the BBC:
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) described vacancy rates as "worryingly high" in many parts of the country and called on the government to reduce business rates, which are set to rise by 5.6% in April.
Reducing business rates is more likely to increase vacancy than reduce it, as it makes it less costly for somebody to hold on to an empty building.

25 May 2011

Quote of the Day

John Perry Barlow:
I don't regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me.

14 February 2011

Quote of the Day

Nick Clegg showing that, at the very least, he can talk the talk:
I need to say this - you shouldn't trust any government, actually including this one. You should not trust government - full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good.

06 February 2011

Alain de Botton On Liberty

Over at the BBC, Alain de Botton has a point of view piece entitled "In defence of the nanny state"

Alarm bells started ringing at the start of the article when he offered the strange opinion that:
Modern politics, on both left and right, is dominated by what we can call a libertarian ideology.
At the outset, he gives the impression that he's working with an unconventional definition of what a libertarian ideology is.  Throughout the article, there are other indications that it is the case.  Take, for instance, this section:
All this concern with freedom can be traced back to thinkers like John Stuart Mill, who in his famous book, On Liberty of 1859, explained: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any ridiculous member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."
In this scheme, the state should harbour no aspirations to tinker with the inner well-being or outward manners of its members. The foibles of citizens should be placed beyond comment or criticism...
The conclusion is flawed because the argument conflates the use of power to effect change and the use of comment and criticism to effect change.  Liberty requires that the use of the former be constrained, but not the latter.

As a simple example, if I say that the argument Alain de Botton put forward in those two paragraphs is logically flawed, I am not infringing his liberty by offering that comment or criticism.  On the other hand, if I say that, because I believe the argument is flawed, somebody should exercise power to forcibly prevent Alain de Botton from expressing it, I am suggesting something which would infringe his liberty.

There are also some sections which attribute, to libertarianism, opinions which are held far more widely, such as this section, contrasting religious codes with what is claimed to be a libertarian approach:
In secular society, by the libertarian's reckoning, a firm line should divide conduct that is subject to law from conduct that is subject to personal morality. Thus, the stealing of an ox is a matter to be investigated by a police officer, whereas not having enough sex with your wife if you're a camel driver is not.
I would agree that a libertarian generally wouldn't generally believe that you should be able to get the police involved because your other half isn't putting out.  However, I don't think that's a belief which is particularly restricted to libertarians.  I think you'd struggle to find many people who think that is a purpose the police should serve.

It is, however, the false equivocation of the use of persuasion and the use of force which seems to cause most of the confusion:
A libertarian state truly worthy of the name would accept that our freedom is best guaranteed by an entirely neutral public space. It would judge that it was no assault on liberty to deprive us of all advertisements in fields, city streets, taxis, websites, phone booths, tube stations, dentists waiting rooms, airport concourses or Hollywood films.
By most broadly accepted definitions, freedom of expression is compatible with liberty, while the use of force to restrict freedom of expression isn't, yet this assumes the complete opposite to be true.

There is one section where the generally accepted meaning of liberty is acknowledged:
In a society that took seriously our laziness about being nice, an occasional paternalistic reminder would not necessarily constitute an infringement of our "liberty" as that term should be properly understood.
Yes, that's the way it should be understood and generally, it is.  It's certainly compatible with the position taken by John Stuart Mill, which was quoted at the start.

The article wraps-up with a piece of "heads I win, tails you lose" reasoning.
It is perhaps in the end a sign of immaturity to object too strenuously to sometimes being treated like a child
So, if you believe that you need to be treated like a child by a paternalist state, then you should be.  On the other hand, if you object to being treated like a child, then you are obviously immature and need to be told what to do by a paternalist state.  Either way, the conclusion is the same.

As well as a general disdain for the idea that one group of people should have the right to force people to behave in a certain way, because they believe that they are somehow superior and know better, I dislike the the way the approach is compared to parenting.  It is an approach which has nothing in common with real parenting, where the only reasonable objective is to take somebody from being a completely dependent new-born to being a competent, capable, independent adult.

If a libertarian were to be put in the position of being the parent to society, I imagine they'd do what a real parent worthy of the name would do - encourage people to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their own actions, not foster an ongoing sense of dependence.

05 February 2011

The People's Supermarket - 160 Years Late

To recap, in 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers established a set of principles for co-operative organisations.  The principles provided such a successful framework that 160 years later, the food retailer with the most outlets in the UK is a co-operative.

Strangely, the makers of Channel 4's The People's Supermarket seem oblivious to this, as they promote their show in which they set you out to "start a high street revolution and change the way Britain shops for food" by creating a supermarket which gives the shoppers "a chance to vote on how the supermarket is run."

Maybe after this show, they could make a program about their attempts to start a transport revolution by inventing the wheel.


09 December 2010

Strangely Directed Argument of the Day

From a BBC story about the DDoS attacks on organisations withdrawing services from Wikileaks:
Carole Thierault, a security researcher at Sophos, warned against getting involved with the Anonymous campaign.

...

Ms Thierault said downloading and installing the LOIC attack tool was very risky.

"No-one should download unknown code on to their system," she said. "You're giving access to your computer to a complete stranger."
In general, it's a good point.  At the most basic level of computing, if your machine is running a Microsoft or Apple operating system, you've no way of knowing exactly what the code you've got installed is doing.  It's an argument that can be applied to most software that you might go out and buy.  The one type of software it can't be applied to is free and open source software, which is precisely what LOIC is.

17 November 2010

Not Necessarily...

From the BBC:
Culture minister Ed Vaizey has backed a "two-speed" internet, letting service providers charge content makers and customers for "fast lane" access.

It paves the way for an end to "net neutrality" - with heavy bandwidth users like Google and the BBC likely to face a bill for the pipes they use.
Why do so many journalists automatically assume that the internet will operate the opposite way to every other information transmission mechanism, where the broadcaster generally pays the content producer, not the other way around?

Musicians don't usually pay radio stations for playing their songs; the cash generally flows the other way.  Likewise with TV broadcasts.

In order to attract customers in the suggested landscape, ISPs would have to offer quality access to sites that people want to use.  I just don't see it being feasible for ISPs to threaten to hobble or block YouTube unless Google hand over cash, when Google know full well that people who want to use YouTube would just switch to other ISPs.