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Is Public Debate of Trade Agreements Against the Public Interest?

Posted by timothy on Sunday November 02, 2014 @03:28PM

from the you-can-discuss-it-afterwards dept.

onproton writes The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently being negotiated in secret, has been subject to numerous draft leaks that indicate these talks are potentially harmful to everything from public health to internet freedom. So why isn’t the public involved, and why are the terms of the agreement being debated behind closed doors? According to New Zealand’s current Trade Minister, Tim Groser, full disclosure of what is being discussed would likely lead to “public debate on an ill-informed basis before the deal has been done.” Leaving one to question how revealing the full context and scope of the agreement talks would lead to an increase in misinformation rather than clarity.

via Is Public Debate of Trade Agreements Against the Public Interest? – Slashdot.

In The Netherlands, people spend about half as much on recorded music as they did in 2003. They spend about twice as much on live music as on CDs, downloads, and streaming.

Other countries have shown this shift from recorded to live revenue, including the UK, but nowhere as dramatically as in The Netherlands. However, consumer spending on music bounced back in 2013, arguably due to increased contributions from streaming services like Spotify:

via Adventures in the Lowlands: Spotify, Social Media and Music Festivals | Spotify Insights.

 

The failure of the Fire Phone has been widely cited as the reason for Amazon’s disastrous quarter, but a darker cloud has settled over the world’s biggest online retailer. The core of Amazon’s business—its original reason for being: selling books and other media—has grown wobbly. The problem: many people no longer want to buy stuff. They’d rather rent.

Amazon is not alone. This long-predicted shift in consumer priorities–from ownership to access—also seems to be taking a bite out of Apple, another business that depends on convincing people to buy things. For companies built on the practice of purchasing media, it’s time to reexamine basic assumptions.

During the last quarter, Amazon’s North American sales of media—books, music, movies, games—grew five percent compared to the same time a year ago. This may sound respectable. But that figure turns out to be the lowest year-over-year growth in North American media sales in more than five years, says Colin Gillis, an analyst at Wall Street outfit BGC Financial.

“Given the dispute with book publisher Hachette, it is hard to not view that the very public dust up had a negative impact on media sales, both from the decision to stop selling certain book titles and a possible backlash against Amazon from readers,” Gillis says.

The problem: many people no longer want to buy stuff. They’d rather rent.

But according to Amazon, a leading culprit is something that at least sounds much more innocuous: textbooks. “As you look at our North American media growth rates, one thing that we are seeing is certainly a shift from a textbook standpoint from purchase to rental,” Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak told analysts on Thursday. More customers also are renting rather than buying digital media, Szkutak said.

The irony is that in both cases, these are problems Amazon created for itself. Textbook rentals have exploded in part because Amazon makes it so easy. Instead of a would-be renter and lender having to track each other down one-on-one, the owner of a used text book can simply put it up on Amazon. (It’s a model textbook publishers hate, because they only make money on new book sales, which is one reason textbook prices are going through the roof).

Similarly, Amazon has made streaming media so easy that the practical incentive to buy diminishes. Renting or buying digital video from Amazon, for example, never has to involve a download. You never really have to “have” it. It simply streams from Amazon’s cloud to apps, browsers, and over-the-top internet TV boxes. The setup would seem to work to Amazon’s favor because you’re still paying Amazon money—but not as much, perhaps, as you’d pay to own.

A Bite Out of Apple

At the same time as the stock market started hammering Amazon on Friday, a report surfaced that Apple was having its own problems with owning. The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that digital music sales on iTunes had declined 13 percent to 14 percent since the start of the year. This worries the music industry, the Journal said, because Apple is the world’s biggest seller of music.

If fewer people are buying music from Apple, fewer people are probably buying music, period. The reason is obvious, and much as with Amazon, it’s a problem Apple is largely responsible for creating. The rise of streaming music apps wouldn’t be possible without powerful, portable, connected digital devices that have access to significant bandwidth for transferring data quickly. In other words, the iPhone is very much responsible for streaming becoming a viable, popular way to consume music. As the Journal notes, Apple acknowledged this trend with its purchase of Beats Music, a deal that included both its headphone and streaming music businesses.

In a recent New York Times Magazine piece, writer Dan Brooks lamented the loss of a certain kind of cultural identity deeply tied to the ownership of music: the record collection. The culprit: streaming music services that give everyone everywhere access to nearly every song ever recorded:

The bad news is that we have lost what was once a robust system for identifying kindred spirits. Now that we all share the same record collection, music snobs have no means to recognize one another. We cannot flip through a binder of CDs and see a new friend, a potential date. By making it perfectly easy to find new music, we’ve made it a little more difficult to find new people.

The irony, Brooks notes, is that streaming has brought once obscure music out of hiding: searching for tiny acts is as easy as searching for the biggest Top 40 stars. But it’s not only hipster obscurantism that streaming has upended. The most mainstream tech companies, the ones that have made access versus ownership easier than ever, are now experiencing their own losses because they’ve helped make accessing easier than owning. The only winners here seem to be consumers.

Well, except for one thing: If no one gets paid, nothing gets made.

via Apple and Amazon Have a Problem: People Don’t Want to Buy Stuff Anymore | WIRED.

My work—which involved interviews with file sharers as part of a dissertation in Social Anthropology—has focused on the strong non-economic undercurrent to participation in file sharing networks, ranging from the greater sense of agency and freedom they provided in an expanding cultural universe to their role as a perceived alternative to the ongoing Greek delegitimation of most social and political institutions. Freedom of expression, freedom to communicate, access to knowledge and information, excitement at the rediscovery and “rebirth” of old and rare works… All have figured as important motives for engagement with P2P networks. So too do perceptions of the lack of formal infrastructure and institutions for supporting cultural creativity; the successive shrinking of the welfare state; and the ongoing political crisis, shaped by scandals, nepotism and patronage relations. Within this context, P2P networks represent a form of self-organization and reconfiguration of social life outside established channels that has proved both valuable and—for some—inspirational in the context of the larger Greek crisis.

For some Greek youth, especially, the growth of P2P networks in Greece crystallized aspects of their broader social and political disaffection. Since 2008, P2P culture has merged with wider forms of political and sociocultural critique from all sides of the political spectrum. During the riots of December 2008, a popular Greek P2P tracker published a manifesto in which envisioned a full spectrum of social demands, from the development of alternative sources of energy; to free education, health care and public transportation; to the abolition of the anti-riot police units used to suppress protests; to the “copyleft of all spiritual and informative material.”

via File Sharing and the Greek Crisis » infojustice.

 

libraryjournal: Original comic by John Kleckner, modified by an anonymous librarian.

libraryjournal:

Original comic by John Kleckner, modified by an anonymous librarian.

via élet és könyvtár lite (libraryjournal: Original comic by John Kleckner,…).

Digimarc Guardian Customer Support : Announcements.

The future of copyright amendments crowdsourced by the Finnish public appear to be in doubt. The citizen-drafted proposals, which received 50,000 signatures, seek to decriminalize file-sharing, but Finland’s Education and Culture Committee now wants to reject the historic initiative.

via Finland Wants to Kill Crowdsourced Copyright Law | TorrentFreak.

Adobe has just given us a graphic demonstration of how not to handle security and privacy issues.A hacker acquaintance of mine has tipped me to a huge security and privacy violation on the part of Adobe. That anonymous acquaintance was examining Adobe’s DRm for educational purposes when they noticed that Digital Editions 4, the newest version of Adobe’s Epub app, seemed to be sending an awful lot of data to Adobe’s servers.My source told me, and I can confirm, that Adobe is tracking users in the app and uploading the data to their servers. Adobe was contacted in advance of publication, but declined to respond. Edit: Adobe responded Tuesday night.And just to be clear, I have seen this happen, and I can also tell you that Benjamin Daniel Mussler, the security researcher who found the security hole on Amazon.com, has also tested this at my request and saw it with his own eyes.

via Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries – The Digital Reader.

Home StoryFBI chief: Apple, Google phone encryption perilousBy Ken DilanianAssociated PressPosted: 09/25/2014 02:06:09 PM PDT# Comments | Updated: about 18 hours agoWASHINGTON — The FBI director on Thursday criticized the decision by Apple and Google to encrypt smartphones data so it can be inaccessible to law enforcement, even with a court order.James Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters that U.S. officials are in talks with the two companies, which he accused of marketing products that would let people put themselves beyond the law’s reach.Comey cited child-kidnapping and terrorism cases as two examples of situations where quick access by authorities to information on cellphones can save lives. Comey did not cite specific past cases that would have been more difficult for the FBI to investigate under the new policies, which only involve physical access to a suspect’s or victim’s phone when the owner is unable or unwilling to unlock it for authorities.FILE – In this Sept. 23, 2014 file photo, FBI Director James Comey speaks at the FBI Albany Field Office in Albany, N.Y.FILE – In this Sept. 23, 2014 file photo, FBI Director James Comey speaks at the FBI Albany Field Office in Albany, N.Y. Mike Groll/AP Photo”What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law,” Comey said. At another point, he said he feared a moment when “when people with tears in their eyes look at me and say, ‘What do you mean you can’t?'”

via FBI chief: Apple, Google phone encryption perilous – San Jose Mercury News.

The Art of Unblocking Websites Without Committing Crimes | TorrentFreak.

Last month UK police took down several torrent site proxies and arrested their owner. Now a UK developer has created a new & free service that not only silently unblocks any website without falling foul of the law, but one that will eventually become available to all under a GPL 3.0 license.

networkThe blocking of sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Torrentz in the UK led to users discovering new ways to circumvent ISP-imposed censorship. There are plenty of solutions, from TOR and VPNs, to services with a stated aim of unblocking ‘pirate’ sites deemed illegal by UK courts.

Last month, however, dozens of these went offline when the operator of Immunicity and other related proxy services was arrested by City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit. He now faces several charges including breaches of the Serious Crime Act 2007, Possession of Articles for Use in Fraud, Making or Supplying Articles for use in Frauds and money laundering.

While it’s generally accepted that running a site like The Pirate Bay is likely to attract police attention, merely unblocking a domain was not thought to carry any such risk. After all, visitors to torrent sites are just that, it’s only later on that they make a decision to infringe or not.

In our earlier article we discussed some of the possible reasons why the police might view “pirate” proxies to be illegal. However, there are very good arguments that general purpose proxies, even ones that are expressly setup to bypass filtering (and are able to unblock sites such as Pirate Bay), remain on a decent legal footing.

One such site is being operated by Gareth, a developer and networking guru who grew so tired of creeping Internet censorship he began lobbying UK MPs on the topic, later moving on to assist with the creation of the Open Rights Group’s Blocked.org.uk.

After campaigning and documenting Internet censorship issues for some time, Gareth first heard of last month’s proxy arrest during a visit to the United States.

“I was at DefCon in Las Vegas when the news of the Immunicity arrest reached me and I realized that for all my volunteer work, my open source applications, operation of Tor relays, donations and letters to MPs to highlight/combat the issues with Internet censorship, it was not enough,” the developer told TorrentFreak.

“I felt that this issue has moved from a political / technical issue to one about personal liberty and Internet freedom. e.g. first they came for the ‘pirate proxies’, then the Tor operators, then the ISPs that don’t censor their customers. The slippery slope is becoming a scary precipice.”

Since his return to the UK, Gareth has been busy creating his own independent anti-censorship tool. He’s researched in detail what happened to Immunicity, taken legal advice, and is now offering what he hopes is an entirely legal solution to website filtering and subsequent over-blocking (1)(2).

“Unlike Immunicity et al I’m not specifically building a ‘Pirate Proxy’. Granted people might use this proxy to navigate to torrent websites but were I to sell a laptop on eBay that same person may use it for the same reasons so I see no difference,” he explains.

“In fact Section 44, subsection 2 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007 even states [that an individual] is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offense merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.”

The result of Gareth’s labor is the anti-censorship service Routing Packets is Not a Crime (RPINAC). People who used Immunicity in the past should feel at home, since RPINAC also utilizes the ability of popular browsers to use Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) files.

In the space of a couple of minutes and with no specialist knowledge, users can easily create their own PAC files covering any blocked site they like. Once configured, their browser will silently unblock them.

Furthermore, each PAC file has its own dedicated URL on RPINAC’s servers which users can revisit in order to add additional URLs for unblocking. PAC ‘unblock’ files can also be shared among like-minded people.

“When someone creates a PAC file they are redirected to a /view/ endpoint e.g. https://routingpacketsisnotacrime.uk/view/b718ce9b276bc2f10af90fe1d5b33c0d. This URL is not ephemeral, you can email it, tweet it (there is a tweet button on the left hand side of the site) etc and it will provide the recipient with the exact same view.

“It’ll show which URLs are specified to be proxied, which have been detected as blocked (using the https://blocked.org.uk database) and if the author passed along the password (assuming the PAC was password protected) they can add or remove URLs too,” Gareth explains.

“Each view page also has a comments section, this could allow for a small collection of individuals to co-ordinate with a smaller subset of password possessing moderators to create a crowd sourced PAC file in an autonomous fashion. There is also a ‘Clone’ button allowing anybody to create their own copy of the PAC file with their own name, description and password if the PAC file they’ve received isn’t quite what they need.”

This user-generated element of the process is important. While dedicated ‘pirate’ proxy sites specifically unblock sites already deemed illegal by the UK courts (and can be deemed to be facilitating their ‘crimes’), RPINAC leaves the decision of which sites to unblock completely down to the user. And since no High Court injunction forbids any user from accessing a blocked domain, both service and user remain on the right side of the law.

In terms of use, RPINAC is unobtrusive, has no popups, promotions or advertising, and will not ask for payment or donations, a further important legal point.

“To avoid any accusations of fraud and to avoid any tax implications RPINAC will never ask for donations,” the dev explains. “The current platform is pre-paid for at least a year, the domain for 10. At a bare minimum PAC file serving and education for creating local proxies will continue indefinitely.”

Finally, Gareth notes that without free and open source software his anti-censorship platform wouldn’t have been possible. So, in return, he has plans to release the source code for the project under the GPL 3.0 license.

RoutingPacketsIsNotACrime can be found here and is compatible with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE. Additional information can be sourced here.

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