28 April, 2011

Does NZ need a Technology based Political Party?

With the hilarity of the speeches by MPs during the debate of the recent Copyright Bill does NZ need a political party who has a focus on Technology and a clue about what is going on? There is the Pirate Party who does have similar goals but personally I think the branding of calling the party the Pirate party gives the majority of the public the wrong idea. I'm guessing they either need to rebrand or there needs to be another party that can focus on Technology without the linkage to Pirates. The Pirate Party has a lot of good ideas it is just I feel their name portrays the wrong image and is not helping get wider acceptance. I am guessing most people when they think pirates either think about talk like a pirate day, the pirates off the African coast or people who illegally obtain copyrights goods. If you have a read of their site they are not this but have some very good view points on things around technology, privacy, free and equal access, software patents and the ever lengthening time that copyright is for. I have done some digging around other parties and can't find their viewpoints on the below or they are vastly different and are not in the best interests of NZ Citizens.

The policies will be some along the lines of (happy to receive suggestions):
* Fixing the problems I have outlined in the Copyright Act

* Working towards making internet a basic Human Right. This is important as more Government Services move online, VoIP becomes more widespread and people need to dial 111 and banking, education and such also moves online more and more.

* Work on getting a second (and more) international fibre optical cable out of NZ to provide redundancy, competition, greater capacity, greater speed and hopefully cheaper prices.

* Better local peering. UFB should have the equivalent of "Free Local Calling". Thinking along the lines of WIX you should be able to connect and use as much data as you like within a calling area so you can VPN to work, make local VoIP or Skype calls to local places or backup files to friends nearby without it counting towards you bandwidth cap.

* With UFB it should have Net Neutrality imposed on it. Everyone should have equal access and all content must be treated equally and ISP shouldn't be able to make any traffic based on type, source or destination more expensive or more important than any other data. This needs to be imposed as Telecom and Telstra have already indicated that they won't play nice as they depeered years ago form WIX and APE trying to extort more money from content providers and make them pay money and while also charging their customers so receiving money twice for the same data. For the content providers that didin't pay the extortion money it meant the content often gets served from the US rather than NZ based servers so making it slower to access that content thus deceasing the user experience from optional.

* Make it illegal for data enroute to be tampered with or rerouted to deny access or change the data. There is a current example of an ISP injecting their own ads into sites like Apple and Google and intercepting 404 pages and DNS responses that return no result to have their ads in them. There is no excuse for tampering with content or results.

* Look at Spam policies. Maybe need to attack the root cause of spam which is people actually buy from it. Maybe we need better education of the public and maybe some harsher penalties for people buying from spam. If people stop buying from spam or falling for scammers their business model will no longer be profitable and they will shut up shop. For some more info on this have a look at a blog post I write last year.

* The DIA's Great Firewall of NZ needs more oversight. Child porn is bad but I don't think this system is the right way to go about it and is a slippery slope towards the Great Firewall of China. I would guess that this system doesn't actually stop the vast majority of people as I would expect the vast majority of Child Porn people don't use HTTP but use other ways to get the content they want. I feel this is more a PR thing than an actual stop people thing. If it does stay in place it needs greater transparency. It needs:
** Legislation governing what it can and can not do
** An independent over site committee
** Details about data is capture, how it is store, who can access it, under what requirements/scope and when/how it is destroyed
** The list of sites block should be public. They say they only block Child Porn so it should be no issue releasing the list to prove that no other site are blocked. Maybe not a full public release (so not telling people into child porn where to go) but a group of independent people who could verify it. Maybe InternetNZ, TUANZ and representatives of the media?
** A process and workflow to get sites unblocked
** The Australian system before they dropped it had blocked a Dentist's web site. What is there to currently stop the system from blocking web sites of the governments opponents or sites that don't give kickbacks?

* Better education of the public around security and practising safe internet use. A task force should be set up to work with ISP to detect infected machines and help the end users get their computers fixed. This should help make the internet a better for everyone.

* The public needs to be educated that P2P and filesharing is not bad and that it has legitimate and legal uses, it is just the sharing of copyrighted material that is the problem not the systems and networks themselves. Bittorrent is used to distributed things like Ubuntu and Twitter even uses Bittorrent internally for updating their servers. P2P and Filesharing has been unfairly tarred over the years and this need to be put right.

* There should also be public education around the use of public key encryption. Signing of emails may come in handy to stop phishing as banks could sign all their messages so it would make it harder to for the scammers to forge email.

* The Government when making law changes needs to engage with the IT community more around cost, timelines, etc. Currently the Government changes a law and has a date on it and IT has to scramble to make it happen. With this solutions needs to be rushed together and money scarped up from around the place. When time, scope and money is strictly limited quality is what suffers and low quality in IT systems costs more in the long run and doesn't provide optimal service to the public. Also given some the tight deadlines these changes to systems can't be integrated properly with corporate IT strategies, budgets and existing systems.

* Work with the the Entertainment Industry to move them into 21st Century and the time post the Technological Pandora's box that has been opened. This has a lot to with what I discussed in my first blog in relation to the new Act covering the root cause of filesharing. Technology has changed consumers expectations have changed,so the Entertainment Industry needs to help meet those new expectations. It will have to be seen if the Entertainment industry does it willingly or if they need some legislation to help them along. DRM has to be be removed or at least a lot less restrictive. The current eco systems need to be lossen up e.g. everyone mentions iTunes but it only works on Windows or OSX, iPod, IPad, iPhone and Apple TV while what happens if I want to use this media which I have brougth on Linux, a WD TV Live, a Samsung TV and an Andorid phone? Well I am plain out of luck. Devices and platforms will change in the future and I don't want to have to keep rebuying the content over and over. Also DRM is an issue for places like the Natiional Library as it makes it near on impossible to archive the content for future generations. Also instead of inventing new DRM schemes isn't it better to give that money to the artists?

* Along similar lines Government content should be accessible to everyone. People have equal rights to get the same experience independent of OS choice Linux, Windows, OSX, Android, iOS, etc or browser choice Firefox, Webkit, Chromium, IE etc and the same content should be available via screen readers and the like. Proprietary formats should not be used at all so no PDF, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Flash, etc it should be in open formats like HTML, Plain Text, and Open Document Format. This provides equal access to everyone and people will not have to buy or use proprietary application or formats.

* Schools also need better funding for their IT. Currently school IT budgets are small so for support and equipment it is a race to the bottom to find the cheapest people and unfortunately for schools pay peanuts get monkeys. From what I have about the standard of the people that do School IT support it makes me sick that they also call themselves IT Professionals. I am sure there are some good ones out there but I am just going on what I have heard.

* There should be measures put in place to ensure people's privacy online and the protection of the data as well. Like the recent Playstation Network case where the Credit Card detail was encrypted because of financial regulations but the person data like name, address, DOB, etc was in plain text and stolen. There should be requirements about how this data needs to be protected and what type of retention of data.

* Patents should be for revolutionary, innovated and game changing ideas not mere evolutions. Currently too many patents as being given out so instead of fostering and encouraging people to development news things it is actually doing the opposite.

* For passing Bills under urgency there must be an urgent need so all MPs should be in the house for Bills passed under urgency. MPs should arrive before the session starts and must stay in the house to be able to cast a vote in favour. If you are not in the house at the start of reading and/or leave during the reading for any reason you will be counted as a vote against the bill. If you want to vote against the bill you can either be in the house or be outside the house and have your vote counted automatically as a no. Urgent bills are for urgent matter so thus should take priority over all other work so there should be not issue with everyone being the house, if there is it isn't really an urgent matter is it. For MPs on leave their vote should count as an abstain as it is an urgent matter that has come up and given they are not at parliament they will be out of the loop of what is happening so thus do not have access to the information needed to exercise an informed vote.

* State Owned Enterprises should not be sold it may give money to the Government now but in the long run it is better for NZ to keep the assets. For instance Telecom was sold for $4.25 Billion and in 2008 made $0.7 Billion in profit disregarding inflation and what not 4.25/0.7 = 6ish years. So every six years the Government gets the equivalent amount of money with the additional of it continuing for a lot longer. So needless to say it does not make sense to sell off state assets. Also take the Rail Network the foreign companies ran it into the ground to make money then ditched in a dilapidated state. State assents are too important to NZ to be allowed to be run into the ground for a quick profit but should be left in the hands of government to play the long game with and do what is best for NZ.

So is anyone interested in such and idea? Need 500 financial members to like so can register as a party. Membership is 10 cents and I will spot the first 500 people the 10 cents to join.

27 April, 2011

What I see wrong with the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011

I will start out by saying IANAL

To have a read of the Act in question: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2011/0011/latest/DLM2764312.html

Given the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 and the speeches in Parliament it is quite clear that MPs do not have a collective clue about technology. Then there are people like Melissa Lee who spoke in favour of the Act when just the day before on twitter said was listening to a compilation CD put together by a friend, which is copyright infringement and illegal filesharing so is rather hypocritical (I am unaware of any physical CDs or download services that have a license that allows sharing by burning CDs to give to friend. Thus this is copyright infringement. If one does exist and was used I happy to correct this but as of yet there has been no information on this). The Music Industry has a report a Music Piracy site so I highly recommend everyone point out that tweat to them and get her and her friend down for copyright infringement.

I have already discussed in an earlier blog post about this Act covering the symptoms but not hitting the root cause of fixing why people actually file share.

There are many things wrong with this Act which steam from the MPs not having a clue about technology and it doesn't address why people file share and deal with the root cause.

If you have a read of the comments on the bill they mention that they want define file sharing in such a way as not to cover email. Well the definition in the act covers email. The act defines file sharing as "material is uploaded via, or downloaded from, the Internet using an application or network that enables the simultaneous sharing of material between multiple users; and uploading and downloading may, but need not, occur at the same time". Well last time I checked email clients were able to send emails to multiple people and they were able to received emails from multiple people. They are also multi threaded so are capability of sending and receiving simultaneously. A very interesting angle would be to get the MPs done for copyright infringement and have their internet shutdown. What I am thinking is to send an email to an MP with the following as the signature "©2011 I am the copyright holder of this file/email. I only grant permission for this file to be viewed by the people explicitly named in the To and CC fields. Any sharing of this file by electronic, physical, spoken, visually, summarised or other means outside (by the people or machines) the the people explicitly named above will be infringing on my copyright and be considered illegal file sharing. If you would like a license to share this email you can email about obtaining one. Licenses start at NZ$15000 per person". Sending emails to MPs will work well as on the whole they are answer by their staff and not the people explicitly named so thus infringing on the copyright I have over my email. Also spam filters will read the message proper as well. Mail servers only need to read the header information to know where to send they don't need to read the actual body of the email. We would most probably need to from a group which represents our copyright interests in email so we can send notice so the one person doesn't need to send all three notices. Adding the lincense cost to the signature would mean I can hopefully claim the entire amount of the $15k max fine that the tribunal can hand out.

On mere accusation you are guilty. Some liken this to a speeding ticket. But there are great differences Police Officers have gone through Police College so have had to prove their understanding of law and process. With speeding tickets there are clear guidelines about what evidence needs to be gather. The tools used have to be certified and calibrated. The officer is available to present the evidence in court. The Police have procedures around chain of evidence and tampering with evidence. The law does not cover anything around what evidence needs to gather, who can gather the evidence and what qualifications they require and what access you have to see the evidence.The only requirements set out in 122N is that the copyright holder can fill out the infringement notice form correctly, it has nothing to do with evidence or proof.

You are not allowed to bring a lawyer along without special leave from the tribunal, yet what are the chances that the advent for the copyright will be covered by one or more of the following a solicitor, barrister, have a law degree, be part of a legal team, have access to near unlimited legal advice, do these hearings on a regular basis? Given that shouldn't you be able to have legal help at the tribunal? Remember you are guilty on mere accusation until you prove yourself innocent beyond reasonable doubt. This is not a particularly level or fair playing field, especially when it is already sloped such that you are guilty already.

Another aspect would be entrapment. If they are are going Bittorrent for example to prove that you have downloaded the file they will either have to upload to you the whole file and them there selves download the whole file off you. As the part of work has been removed so only the whole work counts. As you are allowed to use part of the work for review or satire. If the entertainment industry is on bit torrent they would be activity saying here come download from me or hey got a copy I could download? The fact they are saying that one could argue entrapment as if they weren't saying I have this file or can I have the file. If a police offer walked down the street offering drugs they couldn't charge you as they were advertising/offering that they had drugs. If they were sitting quietly and you just randomly asked them then that is entrapment. Given how bittorrent everyone is always asking and offering so thus could be considered entrapment.

IPv6 throws an interesting spanner in the works which is not covered by the bill. ISP will allocate end users a block of IP addresses an IP address block is a very different entity and concept from the IP address described in the act. Your computer automagically will assign itself an IP address from that block. That being the case does the copyright holder have to get the computer that automagically assigned itself an IPv6 address to send you a notice? And the ISP in this case should not send you a notice as they had nothing to do with that IP address.

You do have a right to challenge the notice but you have to have it back your ISP within 14 days of when they sent it to. They will deliver the notice by the normal means in which they send you a bill and given the clock starts ticking from when they send it given that post isn't the fastest thing, especially when different cities are involved and that there are weekends and holidays and need time to respond, get legal advice etc it will be very hard to meet this requirement. Given that these notices are part of potential legal procedures I feel these should be served upon the person either in person or by registered mail and the clock starts ticking from when it is served.

When it comes to cutting of people's internet there is nothing covering people using VoIP, as cutting off their internet connection will stop there phone connection and deny them access to calling 111. Committing fraud using a phone does not get you phone turned off, so you can still dial 111 an emergency, so why should this be different? Remember with UFB and Fibre to the home those phone connections will all be VoIP based.

Also more and more government services moving online so you will be denying people access to use government services when you disconnect their internet. Also banking on the whole is done online as well. So instead of cutting off the Internet shouldn't we be looking at making it a basic human right?

When motor vehicles first came out the horse coach building companies lobbied the governments of the time to make driving motor vehicles less attractive by forcing them have some one walk in front waving a red flag, is this law any different really? This act is about companies trying to protect their current business model rather than changing with the times? Given my last blog post there a lot more productive/positive ways to sort this issue out.

It is easy to frame people. Having a read of some research about the DMCA there have been instances of printers being framed by people using spoofed IP addresses. The printers didn't actually do any downloading someone just managed to get the IP address of the printer listed in the list of the person acting on behalf of the copyright holder. Spoofing IP addresses isn't too hard to do so will be interesting to see things like this happen. With my example of email above there are ways of violating this Act without you touching your computer, e.g if you forward your email like national.org.nz autoforwards to the MPs staff at @parliement.govt.nz addresses.

I'm sure there are also more holes in the Act, guess a lawyer really needs to sit down form a full template defence for this I guess. Though just as I was finishing this post up I stumbled across some else's post on Facebook which is well worth a read as well.

26 April, 2011

Fixing the root cause of file sharing

After the Government passed the controversial File Sharing bill I put forward the following questions to the Government about what they are doing to address the root cause of file sharing. The symptoms will not go away until you get to the root cause of the problem. The letter goes as follows, I haven't thus far received no response from the PM or the Minister of Commerce Simon Powers. I sent this on the 17th of April


You have just passed the Internet Copyright Bill, which covers the symptoms which is sharing of copyrighted material. I am wondering what your are working on to fix the root cause of the problem.

Want I am wondering is what plans do you have in place to start working on fixing the root cause of the problem? How I see it people download content because:
* The content isn't available in NZ in a timely manner. For instance a lot of shows aren't shown in NZ until 6 months to a couple of years later if at all, while they are available on the internet within 30 minutes of it first airing.
* The content needs to provided in forms that consumers want. For instance I want to watch one episode on my TV, the next one of my Linux desktop and the third episode on my Android phone. I also want to be able to watch it more than once and not be restricted in how long I can watch it for. With DVDs and CDs I can watch it unlimited times a lot of services overseas only allow one view and have a 24 hour expiry. This should also be via one service (all forms via one server but there should be multiple services so no one has a monopoly on the distribution of the content) and one download. One download is very important in NZ seeing we have very small and expensive data caps compared the rest of the world.
* It needs to be in the quality the user wants. With video content I want to watch it on my 1080p TV or Computer monitor (also capable of 1080p or higher) and I want it to look good. Currently TVNZ Ondemand is low quality and looks very blockly when viewed on a large screen. With audio it should be lossless so get the full CD Quality of the Audio not a compress lossey version on the audio in an AAC or MP3 format.

Timely is very important:
* Example one I will use Top Gear which is widely reported to be the most watched and the most downloaded TV show. Prime is getting better at showing this in a timely manner but is still twoish months behind. Top Gear is recorded weekly so a lot of jokes, comments and news is very timely and current to the current week, so when it is showed in NZ a lot this is out of date and lacks the effect it would have if it was shown in NZ 12 hours after airing in the UK (shown in NZ evening like it is shown in UK evening).
* Example two is the Hurt Locker movie:
** It was screened at some film festivals and got some good reviews
** Some more film festivals and more good reviews
** Gets nominated for some Oscars
** Wins some Oscars
** People now if not earlier go "hmm must be a good movie I should watch it". They have a look around and can't find it at the cinemas, they can't find it in DVD Rentals and they can't find it the DVD Store. So where do people go and find this great movie? Well they download it as there is no legal method to get it.
** The Hurt Locker decides to sue people for downloading it
** Finally gets a general wide scale cinema release
** Even later a DVD release
** What the entertainment industry needs to realise is that it is a global market these days. News through the media spreads throughout world nearly instantaneously. There is now only a global market place; countries aren't their own separated market places any longer, it is one world wide market and needs to be treated such. TV and Movies also have online fan communities and if you are not watching things at the same time as your peers in the communities you either can't be part of the community as you haven't it seen it or you risk having it spoilt by people discussing the plot.
* The NZ movie Boy was very similar. Lots of NZers discussed it with friends and families overseas and the only way to see it overseas was via download it wasn't going to be available to them in a timely manner if at all. So NZ needs to get international quickly but also the flipside if NZ content is doing well it needs to be release quickly overseas so the people hearing the good things about it have a legal way to get it.
* TV companies point of "Northern Hemisphere shows have a large break over their summer which is our winter which is the peak viewing time" some counter points:
** Well people are currently downloading and watching TV on a Northern Hemisphere schedule and and watching it heavily over the NZ Summer so people will keep watching
** Maybe the NZ content could be shown over the NZ Winter. If the NZ winter is highest TV watching time to get the best return on NZ on Air funding shouldn't the NZ TV shows be shown during peak viewing?
* Sport on the whole is not often illegally downloaded as it is normally available worldwide live (and replays at convenient times the next day for events during the NZ night for the people not awake to see it live), so people will watch it through legal avenues. So that is an example of showing how timely broadcast results in lower illegal download rates. I will say events like the Olympics are more downloaded but then not all events are shown live or at all in all countries.
* So how are you working with the Entertainment industry to provide the content to NZers within 24 hours of it screening overseas to help reduce the timely aspect of why people download?

Provided in a form that people want:
* These days with big screen TV, computers, tablets and smart phones people want to watch content on their terms when and where they want. From the one download people want to be able to consume the content on multiple devices time shift and watch more than once and not be limited to watching when have an internet connection and within the 24 hours or 2 weeks that is often imposed. For instance I may want to a whole series and sit down one weekend and what the whole season in one go.
* It needs to be in one download as seeing in NZ we have very small and expensive data caps multiple downloads for different devices or streaming to all the different devices is rather cost prohibitive given what ISPs currently charge for data.
* Need to loosen up the ecosystems somewhat.
** Services like Hulu, BBC iPlayer and Netflix aren't available in NZ unless you jump through hopes and get overseas proxies, overseas VPNs, overseas credit cards and overseas mailing addresses. It is order of magnitudes easier to get the content via P2P than via the legal means. The legal means needs to be as or even easier and convenient and needs suiting than the illegally method for people to switch.
** These systems are also locked to particular makes of TV, set top box, computer operating system. Running the Linux Computer Operating System means there is no legal way of purchasing or consuming this content. For instance iTunes only runs on Mac and Windows. This is really going to come to a head soon as Android based Smart Phone now commands the largest market share out of the Smart Phones and Andriod Phones (and tablets) run on top of Linux.

Quality is also very important:
* For music via iTunes and over online digital sellers they only provide the music in a lossy format (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Lossy_compression) such as MP3 or AAC. This means they audio will never sound as good as a CD. Online retailers of music need to release Music in a Lossless (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Lossless_compression) format such as FLAC (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/FLAC). FLAC and other lossless audio codecs can provide the quality and fidelity of CD which a lossey codec such as MP3 or AACs can't.
* Video is similar. Most people these days have TVs and Computer Screens that are capable of 1080p yet there is very little content of that quality out there. When lower quality is scaled to a large display device it looks blockly and other compression artefacts are very apparent. TV On Demand is fairly low quality for instance its native size is the small box you see on your computer screen (computer screen can't get it on my TV of course) that takes a very small portion of the screen and if you scale it up it looks downright awful. The media provides need to provide the content in the same quality which is availability through file sharing networks which is either Blu-Ray, DVD or 1080p which the source is available in.

So I am very interested to hear how you are working with the entertainment industry to provide a legal way to get the content in the manner that consumers want. If you really want to work on reducing copyright infringement you need to go to the root of the problem and work your way up from there, not just slap a band aid on the symptoms of the root problem. The root of the problem is lack of legal access to the content in a timely manner, in a form people want in a quality that people want. Then and only then will you start to fix the problem of copyright infringement.