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December 11, 2014

Google shuts down Google News Spain

Google shuts down Google News Spain – Wikinews, the free news source

Google shuts down Google News Spain

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Google news logo.

Flag of Spain.

On its blog, Google, a U.S. headquartered multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related services and products, announced it would be shutting down the Spanish version of Google News, effective from December 16 of this year. The shutdown came in direct response to amendments to the Spanish intellectual property law —Ley De Propiedad Intelectual— imposing a compulsory fee for the use of snippets of text to link to news articles, by online news aggregators that provide a search service.

The Spanish intellectual property law passed the Senate on October 15, passed Congress on October 30, and would take effect starting in January 2015. Spain made the right to payment inalienable, so that even the news organization quoted is not permitted to waive it. Google News did not run ads on its news service, so did not profit directly, and said continuing to run the service would not be sustainable.

A similar fee had been first introduced in German law in 2013, where it was described as an “ancillary copyright” — Leistungsschutzrecht. International copyright law preserves the right to make quotations without remuneration, the only such mandatory limitation to copyright. In Germany publishers willingly forfeited their right to payment from Google, given how much traffic they would lose from not being indexed on Google News.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had expressed concerns that “these ancillary copyright laws form part of a broader trend of derogation from the right to link.” They continued, “This can be seen when you examine the other parts of the Spanish copyright amendments that take effect in January […] — notably placing criminal liability on website operators who refuse to remove mere links to copyright-infringing material.” EFF quoted the recent introduction of the so-called “right to be forgotten” legislation allowing removal of entries from Google web search results.



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April 12, 2014

weev iPad hacking conviction overturned

weev iPad hacking conviction overturned – Wikinews, the free news source

weev iPad hacking conviction overturned

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

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File photo of Auernheimer, 2010.
Image: weev.

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the conviction of Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, who had been sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison after exploiting a bug in AT&T‘s website, allowing him access to confidential data about their iPad customers.

The hacker and self-described “troll” was convicted of conspiracy to unlawfully access AT&T’s servers and identity theft by federal jury in November 2012 by a New Jersey court under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Co-defendant Daniel Spitler plead guilty.

Spitler discovered AT&T had inadvertently made data publicly available through their website, and wrote a script allowing him to obtain the email addresses of approximately 120,000 customers, including that of then-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Auernheimer passed this information to Gawker, who published a redacted version.

The three judges on the Philadelphia-based court, in a unanimous decision, ruled the New Jersey courtroom was an inappropriate venue for the initial trial. Michael Chagares, circuit judge, wrote “the improper venue here—far from where he performed any of his allegedly criminal acts—denied Auernheimer’s substantial right to be tried in the place where his alleged crime was committed”. The court said the issue represented a basic constitutional right and not a mere technicality.

Prosecutors argued that approximately 4,500 of the affected users lived in New Jersey and the state was therefore a valid place for the trial, but the court noted neither the servers accessed, nor the Gawker reporter, nor the defendants, were based in that state. Auernheimer’s attorney, Tor Ekeland, said that the government was “trying to find courts that are favourable to them”.



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July 3, 2013

Wikinews interviews a Restore the Fourth organizer

Wikinews interviews a Restore the Fourth organizer

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

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A grassroots movement known as Restore the Fourth, dedicated to the protection of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, are to hold protests countrywide on July 4. The planned protests come in the wake of information about NSA surveillance leaked last month, notably the PRISM surveillance program and the collection of Verizon phone records. Wikinews interviewed Jett, a national organizer from this recently created movement.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png First of all, could you explain what Restore the Fourth is all about?

Jett: At its core, RestoreTheFourth is about protecting citizens’ constitutional rights. Specifically, we’re dedicated to bringing awareness and action to the expanding overreach and elimination of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Logo of the PRISM surveillance program.
Image: NSA, Adam Hart-Davis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What is your role at Restore the Fourth?

Jett: My job at RestoreTheFourth could be summarized as ‘project coordinator’. Every person who wants to help can help in a tremendous way. I simply make sure that their skills get used in a way that would be most beneficial to the movement: web development, public relations, etc. I also field questions from the press and promote knowledge of our cause.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What are your plans for direct action, outreach, etc.?

Jett: Our press release includes a list of ‘demands’ for what we want to see in order to restore our privacy rights, including reform of the PATRIOT Act and increased accountability for public officials. In the very short term, these protests and demonstrations bring awareness to the issue, something that’s really important in enacting reform. In the long term, however, we expect to create a legal organization dedicated to restoring these rights inherent to every American. By partnering with various other organizations that share our moral values, we can further these goals.
On July 4, we will have over 100 protests in all 50 states, showing that the citizens of America are truly serious about protecting their rights.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png By what means do you hope to achieve such change?

Jett: This movement started only a few weeks ago, and since then we’ve experienced exponential growth and progress. Since the movement is still very young, plans diverge in the long term on what we hope to achieve. Personally, I’d like to see a combination of legislative and litigative action (something like what the ACLU does), and others want to see further plans of action. With organizations such as the BORDC, stopwatching.us and the EFF behind us, I feel that we can achieve all of this and much more.
HAVE YOUR SAY
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What do you think is the right balance between surveillance and privacy?
Add or view comments

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the movement US-only or will it extend to other jurisdictions as well? Do you think it would be fair for the US to spy on non-citizens?

Jett: I believe that rights are inherent to all humans, not only United States citizens. In the long term I’d certainly like to see people of all nations protected from the slow elimination of privacy that we’re all experiencing.
Cquote1.svg He’s [Edward Snowden] being treated as a ‘martyr’ of sorts. It seems to distract from what he truly believed in. Cquote2.svg

—Jett

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do you think about Edward Snowden‘s whistleblowing?

Jett: I think that too much attention is being given to his personality instead of what he fought for. He’s being treated as a ‘martyr’ of sorts. It seems to distract from what he truly believed in — transparency for the government and inherent privacy for all Americans.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do you think about his future, given the legal grey zone in which he currently is?

Jett: Hard to say. He may be captured by any number of agencies, or he may live a free man. Whatever happens, he has the eyes of millions of people on him, all of whom will yell very loudly if anything occurs.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Thank you very much for your time.

Jett: Thanks for the opportunity.

Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Edward Snowden#NSA surveillance disclosures
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Verizon Communications#NSA Collection of Phone Records

Sources

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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April 7, 2011

ACLU, EFF challenging US \’secret\’ court orders seeking Twitter data

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Logo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Logo of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

Case background

2009 File photo of Bradley Manning.
Image: Daniel Joseph Barnhart Clark.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

The Manning connection

Gun camera footage of the airstrike of July 12, 2007 in Baghdad, showing the slaying of Namir Noor-Eldeen and a dozen other civilians by a U.S. helicopter.
Image: WikiLeaks.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The United States Government versus WikiLeaks

Logo of WikiLeaks.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

State-of-the-(Black)-Art, or CyberWarfare

Logo of Twitter.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.

Seal of the Catholic University of Leuven.

It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Views of a security expert

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Wikinews

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.

Logo of the Tor project.

First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Liberty, and the Electronic Frontier

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Birgitta Jonsdottir responds

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?

Birgitta Jonsdottir’s Facebook profile picture.

  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.
    I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

Ongoing U.S. Government versus WikiLeaks fallout

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

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October 19, 2009

Listening to you at last: EU plans to tap cell phones

Listening to you at last: EU plans to tap cell phones

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Monday, October 19, 2009

A report accidentally published on the Internet provides insight into a secretive European Union surveillance project designed to monitor its citizens, as reported by Wikileaks earlier this month. Project INDECT aims to mine data from television, internet traffic, cellphone conversations, p2p file sharing and a range of other sources for crime prevention and threat prediction. The €14.68 million project began in January, 2009, and is scheduled to continue for five years under its current mandate.

The INDECT project logo
Image: INDECT website.

INDECT produced the accidentally published report as part of their “Extraction of Information for Crime Prevention by Combining Web Derived Knowledge and Unstructured Data” project, but do not enumerate all potential applications of the search and surveillance technology. Police are discussed as a prime example of users, with Polish and British forces detailed as active project participants. INDECT is funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and includes participation from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Testing Project INDECT’s potential usefulness, and the leaked ‘sales-pitch’

Indicated in the initial trial’s report, the scope of data collected is particularly broad; days of television news, radio, newspapers, and recorded telephone conversations are included. Several weeks of content from online sources were agglomerated, including mining Wikipedia for users’ and article subjects’ relations with others, organisations, and in-project movements.

Leaked presentation video for Project INDECT.
Image: European Union, © 2009.

Watermarking of published digital works such as film, audio, or other documents is discussed in the Project INDECT remit; its purpose is to integrate and track this information, its movement within the system and across the Internet. An unreleased promotional video for INDECT located on YouTube is shown to the right. The simplified example of the system in operation shows a file of documents with a visible INDECT-titled cover taken from an office and exchanged in a car park. How the police are alerted to the document theft is unclear in the video; as a “threat”, it would be the INDECT system’s job to predict it.

Throughout the video use of CCTV equipment, facial recognition, number plate reading, and aerial surveillance give friend-or-foe information with an overlaid map to authorities. The police proactively use this information to coordinate locating, pursuing, and capturing the document recipient. The file of documents is retrieved, and the recipient roughly detained.

Conclusions, implications, potential investigative journalism impact

Technology research performed as part of Project INDECT has clear use in countering industrial and international espionage, although the potential use in maintaining any security and predicting leaks is much broader. Quoted in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Liberty‘s director, Shami Chakrabarti, described a possible future implementation of INDECT as a “sinister step” with “positively chilling” repercussions Europe-wide.

“It is inevitable that the project has a sensitive dimension due to the security focussed goals of the project,” Suresh Manandhar, leader of the University of York researchers involved in the “Work Package 4” INDECT component, responded to Wikinews. “However, it is important to bear in mind that the scientific methods are much more general and has wider applications. The project will most likely have lot of commercial potential. The project has an Ethics board to oversee the project activities. As a responsible scientists [sic] it is of utmost importance to us that we conform to ethical guidelines.”

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Although Wikinews attempted to contact Professor Helen Petrie of York University, the local member of Project INDECT’s Ethics board, no response was forthcoming. The professor’s area of expertise is universal access, and she has authored a variety of papers on web-accessibility for blind and disabled users. A full list of the Ethics board members is unavailable, making their suitability unassessable and distancing them from public accountability.

One potential application of Project INDECT would be implementation and enforcement of the U.K.’s “MoD Manual of Security“. The 2,389-page 2001 version passed to Wikileaks this month — commonly known as JSP-440, and marked “RESTRICTED” — goes into considerable detail on how, as a serious threat, investigative journalists should be monitored, and effectively thwarted; just the scenario the Project INDECT video could be portraying.

When approached by Wikinews about the implications of using INDECT, a representative of the U.K.’s Attorney General declined to comment on legal checks and balances such a system might require. Further U.K. enquiries were eventually referred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who have not yet responded.

E.F.F. Europe reacts

Wikinews’ Brian McNeil contacted Eddan Katz, the International Affairs Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (E.F.F.). Katz last spoke to Wikinews in early 2008 on copyright, not long after taking his current position with the E.F.F. He was back in Brussels to speak to EU officials, Project INDECT was on his agenda too — having learned of it only two weeks earlier. Katz linked Project INDECT with a September report, NeoConopticon — The EU Security-Industrial Complex, authored by Ben Hayes for the Transnational Institute. The report raises serious questions about the heavy involvement of defence and IT companies in “security research”.

On the record, Katz answered a few questions for Wikinews.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is this illegal? Is this an invasion of privacy? Spying on citizens?

Eddan Katz When the European Parliament issued the September 5, 2001 report on the American ECHELON system they knew such an infrastructure is in violation of data protection law, undermines the values of privacy and is the first step towards a totalitarian surveillance information society.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Who is making the decisions based on this information, about what?

E.K. What’s concerning to such a large extent is the fact that the projects seem to be agnostic to that question. These are the searching systems and those people that are working on it in these research labs do search technology anyway. […] but its inclusion in a database and its availability to law enforcement and its simultaneity of application that’s so concerning, […] because the people who built it aren’t thinking about those questions, and the social questions, and the political questions, and all this kind of stuff. [… It] seems like it’s intransparent, unaccountable.

The E.U. report Katz refers to was ratified just six days before the September 11 attacks that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. In their analysis of the never-officially-recognised U.S. Echelon spy system it states, “[i]n principle, activities and measures undertaken for the purposes of state security or law enforcement do not fall within the scope of the EC Treaty.” On privacy and data-protection legislation enacted at E.U. level it comments, “[such does] not apply to ‘the processing of data/activities concerning public security, defence, state security (including the economic well-being of the state when the activities relate to state security matters) and the activities of the state in areas of criminal law'”.

Part of the remit in their analysis of Echelon was rumours of ‘commercial abuse’ of intelligence; “[i]f a Member State were to promote the use of an interception system, which was also used for industrial espionage, by allowing its own intelligence service to operate such a system or by giving foreign intelligence services access to its territory for this purpose, it would undoubtedly constitute a breach of EC law […] activities of this kind would be fundamentally at odds with the concept of a common market underpinning the EC Treaty, as it would amount to a distortion of competition”.

Ben Hayes’ NeoConoptiocon report, in a concluding section, “Following the money“, states, “[w]hat is happening in practice is that multinational corporations are using the ESRP [European Seventh Research Programme] to promote their own profit-driven agendas, while the EU is using the programme to further its own security and defence policy objectives. As suggested from the outset of this report, the kind of security described above represents a marriage of unchecked police powers and unbridled capitalism, at the expense of the democratic system.”

Related news

  • “Lobby groups oppose plans for EU copyright extension” — Wikinews, February 26, 2008

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September 8, 2008

Alleged \’rights group\’ tries to have 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from YouTube

Alleged ‘rights group’ tries to have 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from YouTube

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Monday, September 8, 2008

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According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a rights group called the American Rights Counsel LLC has attempted to have at least 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from the video sharing website YouTube. Upon further investigation, Wikinews found that most videos and clips were added to YouTube by the copyright holders of the material; as DMCA requests are for the purposes of requesting removal where service providers host material that infringe on the copyright of the complainant, the merit of these requests remain questionable. It was also discovered that the alleged rights group does not exist as a physical entity. In an in-depth report, Wikinews investigated the incident and obtained exclusive information and comments from individuals, including XenuTV producer Mark Bunker.

Within the past 24 hours, according to the EFF, the Counsel “sent out over 4000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube, all making copyright infringement claims against videos with content critical of the Church of Scientology.” A DMCA notice, or Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice means an attempt to limit the use of copyrighted material that is often infringing on the rights of an alleged copyright.

Wikinews made attempts to contact American Rights Counsel LLC for comment on the take-down notices, but was unable to obtain contact details for the alleged organisation. One post on a YouTube discussion page related to the organization states that they “do not appear to exist outside of these claims on YouTube.” Wikinews contacted YouTube several times asking them if they have a process of verifying DMCA requests from individuals or entities claiming copyright infringement, but when they responded, they directed Wikinews to their terms of service saying, “item 8 addresses the DMCA and 8 B addresses counter-notice procedures.”

YouTube’s terms of use in regards to filing DMCA requests states that only “A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed” can make such claims. It also goes on to say, “Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.”

The EFF says the videos attempting to be removed had shown clips from Anonymous protests of the Church and news footage from Australia and Germany which were critical of Scientology. Some videos were also messages from Anonymous to Scientology, and vice versa. Others were also video clips from a City Commission meeting in Clearwater, Florida. Accounts hosting the material were “suspended by YouTube in response to multiple allegations of copyright infringement.”

YouTube does, however, have a process for users that wish to file a counter-notice against a take-down under the DMCA. After the DMCA notices were sent, YouTube users began to revolt, by sending “DMCA counter-notices” to YouTube. The EFF states that the counter attack resulted in many of the accounts being reinstated and their videos restored.

One user claimed that he had shot and uploaded one of the videos that was taken down. “How can someone else file a claim against a video I MADE?,” said ShadowVsScientology, one of the YouTube users who had a video deleted. Since he owned the rights to the video, he alleges that the American Rights Counsel had no legal grounds to request its removal.

A video posted on YouTube by a user called ‘Church0fScientology’, who was responsible for the original ‘Message to Scientology’ in January of 2008 created after the Church had a video of a Tom Cruise interview removed from the site, states that the organization responsible for the DMCAs does not exist and is run by a man named Dr. Oliver Schaper. They state that he “fronts” the organization for Scientology. It also calls Schaper’s actions “deceptive”. Schaper also had an account on YouTube which has since been suspended. Wikinews obtained a cached version of his account page in which he states to the group Anonymous, “I respect your efforts as long your efforts remain within the limits of the law and remain fair. Although I don’t censor any postings, I would appreciate if any conversation could remain civil and insult free.” Schaper also states that he “will not censor because I strongly believe in the freedom of speech.” They accuse him of running and owning media companies that distribute gay pornography, something Schaper later admits, but only that it’s an “adult television network.” Homosexuality is not accepted within the Church of Scientology and is not tolerated. Scientology believes that homosexuality is a disease and can be cured.

A user named “Oschaper” has written articles on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia about Peephole TV and Volksmusik TV. Oliver Schaper is the founder of Peephole TV, and is also involved with Volksmusik TV. In an e-mail to Wikinews, Wikipedia user Oschaper claims that his first name is Olaf, and that he is “not related” to Oliver Schaper. “Olaf” writes: “My name is Olaf Schaper and I use the handle oschaper on Wikipedia. I’m not related to Oliver Schaper and we share only the last name … If you like to contact Oliver Schaper please see his companies website at www.acos.tv”. When asked how he managed to get an e-mail address with that last name, Olaf replied, “I got the email because my best friend works for his networks hence the creation of my postings on Wikipedia.”

Used to describe the war which begun between the internet and the Church on January 19, 2008. Map details internet coverage in countries.
Image: Jason Safoutin.

Wikinews contacted Schaper for exclusive comments. Schaper replied saying that he is a “very strong advocate for the Church of Scientology, the religion of Scientology and a free speech advocate” and “I don’t need to go into details but I felt that my family and myself have been direct targets and in an attempt to control the situation, I started to track down and remove online links between me and my religion. This included postings made by HouseSpiderAnon on his videos, who publicly connected the dots and made them available to a larger audience.”

“I requested several times to have my information removed from his videos as I wanted no association with his work but he refused, even after I stated several times that he has the right to protest but that I would like to enforce my right of privacy. He refused and demanded documentation of the attacks, something I refused because it was not my attention to allow more documents to be available online in public hand,” added Schaper who also said he has been a victim of identity theft and now has the FBI involved in investigating his claim.

“Tustin PD [police department] has been on the case and now the FBI is involved as well. Social Security has been notified and we have seen about 200 attempts to use the SSN [social security number] for fake credit cards applications,” Schaper told Wikinews.

Schaper admits that he contacted YouTube to have videos which contained images of him that were being used without permission and videos “which violated [his] privacy removed.” Those requests made by Schaper were eventually accepted by YouTube but “videos that contained just a text messages directed against me or my church remained,” he added. He also admits to owning “several broadcasting companies, ACOS Broadcasting Corp. (eight mainstream television and two radio networks) & Media House Enterprises, Inc. (adult television network PEEPHOLE TV).”

“I had the power to go fully against copyrighted material because we own or licensed large amounts of content. But it was not my responsibility to enforce all copyright violations on YouTube. In addition with the attacks on our servers, websites and infrastructure, no time would have been available to take on a fight,” added Schaper.

Schaper also denies any involvement with the alleged rights group and also states he was just notified that it doesn’t even exist.

“As many other people, and even members of the Church of Scientology received information about a company that removed anti-Scientology content from YouTube, shit hit the fan and members of Anonymous went on a full attack on me. I still have to this date no information about the American Rights Counsel and I have no connection, knowledge or involvement in this company which I have been informed of does not even exists,” Schaper told Wikinews.

One critic of Scientology, television producer Mark Bunker also had his accounts deleted by YouTube, but had them quickly restored. Bunker also believes that the American Rights Counsel does not exist.

Mark Bunker.
Image: XenuTV.

“American Rights Counsel LLC does not exist. When I got my take-down notices from YouTube I tried to file a DMCA counter-notice but in order to do that you need to get the name of the contact person to be served with the notice and the contact information of the company which the government lists on the web,” said Bunker to Wikinews who also added that their name is not registered with the United States copyright office.

“I next did a google search for American Rights Counsel LLC which brought up absolutely no results so clearly this was fraud from the beginning. I contact[ed] YouTube and they quickly restored everything to my account and others,” added Bunker.

Wikinews has also learned that a contributor on Wikipedia, claiming to be a member of Anonymous, has posted what is allegedly personal information of Schaper. The edit, made to the article Peephole TV states that he is a lawyer, employed with a firm on Ricklinger, Stadtweg in Hanover, Germany. It also stated that he is affiliated with the “Tustin Org” in California. In what seems to be a gathering of information on Schaper from other online sources, according to Enturbulation.org, the result of releasing the information has resulted in legal and physical threats from Schaper to someone, known as ‘HouseSpiderV2’ on Enturbulation, who has claimed to have released e-mail correspondence between him and Schaper.

“Don’t think I will not be able to track you down and serve you with papers. I would make the case so expensive for you that you would not be able to even fight this on your own funding as I have the money at my disposal,” allegedly states Schaper to ‘HouseSpiderV2’ in an e-mail. “You have 24 hours to remove the postings or I will start to make this a legal issue. That makes it simple,” he added.

Despite the claims that the Wikipedia contributor is Oliver Schaper, he claims to have never registered an account with Wikipedia. He also says he has never made any threats of physical harm to members of Anonymous.

“I had not the need to register an account with Wikipedia and after all this trouble will not get involved at all. There has never been any threat of violence against Housespideranon or any other member of Anonymous made by me,” Schaper told Wikinews.

Cquote1.svg It would be worth a subpoena to find out who committed this crime. Cquote2.svg

Mark Bunker

Bunker, who recently spoke with Schaper, says he believes Schaper is not involved, but that he also doesn’t know who or what was responsible for filing the DMCA requests.

“I had never heard of Schaper before he was accused of this. I don’t know anything about him other than he contacted me and said he was not involved. I don’t know who was responsible. 4000 deletions in a matter of hours is a pretty major feat. It would be worth a subpoena to find out who committed this crime. I wouldn’t blame Schaper without knowing he did it,” Bunker added.

 
This story has updates
 
See Alleged ‘rights group’ involved with removal of anti-Scientology videos from YouTube doesn’t exist; says EFF
 



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  • “YouTube accounts of Scientology critics suspended” — Wikinews, April 18, 2008

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July 4, 2008

Judge orders YouTube to hand over video view records

Judge orders YouTube to hand over video view records

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Friday, July 4, 2008

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This past Tuesday, a United States federal judge ordered the popular video sharing website YouTube to hand over a record of every video that users have watched, including registered accounts and IPs.

Viacom, which owns several U.S. television networks such as MTV and Nickelodeon, launched a $1 billion lawsuit last year alleging that YouTube wasn’t doing enough to stop its copyrighted material from appearing in over 160,000 unauthorized clips that have been viewed over 1.5 billion times. Viacom argued that since they claimed that copyright material is more popular than user-made videos, they needed access to the information to strengthen the case, in which US District Court judge Louis L. Stanton agreed and ordered Google to turn over such information.

Google argued that this would cause privacy issues, but Stanton said it was just speculation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy advocate group, said the ruling was “a setback to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube.” said EFF’s senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.

Viacom had also requested for the code used to search keywords for each video and access to Google’s advertising database to see if Google was receiving revenue from ads from the alleged videos, but these requests were denied by the judge, arguing that code and ad data was too valuable.

There are concerns that Google is violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which allows a video provider service to not to be sued if it removes copyrighted material.



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March 29, 2008

Huge interest takes Wikileaks offline

Huge interest takes Wikileaks offline – Wikinews, the free news source

Huge interest takes Wikileaks offline

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wikileaks logo
Image: Wikileaks Media Kit.

The Wikileaks website, which publishes sensitive and censored material submitted by anonymous contributors, has experienced unprecedented levels of Internet traffic today through public interest. This interest has caused the website’s servers to be unable to meet the demand of over 164 gigabytes of download traffic within twenty-four hours, leading the site to be temporarily inaccessible.

The film Fitna, directed and produced by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, has caused controversy for its presentation of Wilders’ negative view of Islam as being committed to world domination and acts of terrorism. A trailer for the film was widely uploaded to many video sharing sites, including YouTube and Google Video; this met with anger from Islamic nations, the debacle culminating in Pakistan’s government ordering the nation’s internet service providers to block the YouTube site. This caused YouTube to be inaccessible to residents of other countries whose Internet service providers’ equipment automatically began routing traffic to YouTube via Pakistan Telecom’s servers, due to their ban accidentally propagating to other providers. Ultimately, YouTube acquiesced to the demands made by Pakistan and other organisations, in exchange for access being restored. The site LiveLeak originally hosted a copy of the trailer, which has now been replaced with a video message stating that the lives of their staff have been put at risk due to hosting it.

As a consequence of this censorship, Wikileaks mirrored the video, receiving heavy access traffic through hosting one of the few copies remaining on the Internet. Wikinews has obtained an exclusive statement from a representative of Wikileaks, affirming that the site has not been taken off-line due to external pressure, and is instead suffering technical problems due to this high demand. The representative gave the following statement:

It seems that due to a more than less overwhelming interest in the Fitna video and recent other media coverage from the protests in Tibet, as well as a few dozen new documents leaked on the portal in the last few days, parts of the portal have given up service and need a few warm words from a friendly Wikileaks operator. Please standby, the portal will be back soon.

Wikileaks gained recent public attention in the Bank Julius Baer vs. Wikileaks lawsuit, following publication of leaked documents that were alleged to provide evidence of money laundering, tax evasion and asset hiding by Swiss financial institution Bank Julius Baer. The documents are said to have been uploaded by Rudolf Elmer, a former chief operating officer of the bank’s Cayman Islands division, who was sacked following an investigation by the bank that involved polygraph testing. Wikileaks has not, however, stated that Elmer was the source of the documents. Bank Julius Baer sought an injunction against the operator of Wikileaks’ domain name, Dynadot, to remove access to the site from the Wikileaks.org domain; this was granted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The site was consequently inaccessible through this domain, although access could be obtained through many alternate addresses. Following activity by organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, who sought to defend the right to free speech that Wikileaks relied upon, the lawsuit was dropped and access was restored.

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February 28, 2008

Rights groups: Forcing Wikileaks.org offline raises \’serious First Amendment concerns\’

Rights groups: Forcing Wikileaks.org offline raises ‘serious First Amendment concerns’

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have sided with Wikileaks.org and will defend them against a lawsuit which took the site off line in the United States. Wikileaks is a website dedicated to hosting leaked documents that are “anonymous, untraceable, uncensorable.”

On February 18, 2008, a permanent court injunction issued in the California Northern District Court in San Francisco by judge Jeffrey White, California to Bank Julius Baer (BJB), a Swiss Bank, took the domain name offline. However the site remained online via its IP address and alternative domain names. Wikileaks previously published hundreds of documents obtained from a whistleblower of the Swiss Bank, “purportedly showing offshore tax evasion and money laundering by extremely wealthy and in some cases, politically sensitive, clients from the US, Europe, China and Peru.”

“Blocking access to the entire site in response to a few documents posted there completely disregards the public’s right to know,” said Ann Brick a lawyer for the ACLU. At least 18 other organizations have signed documents in defense of Wikileaks. Those documents have been forged into a ‘joint Amici Curiae (“friends of the Court”) brief; which will be submitted to the court and used as defense evidence in a hearing scheduled for Friday February 29.

Despite the attempts by the ACLU and others, Bank Julius Baer says that their lawsuit has nothing to do with the rights of free speech.

“This action has been brought solely to prevent the unlawful dissemination of stolen bank records and personal account information of its customers. Many of those documents have also been altered and forged,” said the Bank.

Recently the Bank has made allegations that they have been “unable to negotiate with Wikileaks” at all before or during legal proceedings. Wikileaks, in a press release denies the allegations.

“Wikileaks at all times responded with grace and dignity to BJBs highly irregular demands and left communication open,” said Wikileaks which also adds that the correspondence with the Bank is available on its website on servers in Denmark. “BJB did not submit the correspondence to the court, although it must be absolutely central to the issues held there. We wonder why?”



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  • “‘Wikileaks.org’ taken offline in many areas after fire, court injunction” — Wikinews, February 18, 2008

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February 26, 2008

Lobby groups oppose plans for EU copyright extension

Lobby groups oppose plans for EU copyright extension

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

People from all over Europe came to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s party, which coincided with FOSDEM 2008.

The European Commission currently has proposals on the table to extend performers’ copyright terms. Described by Professor Martin Kretschmer as the “Beatles Extension Act”, the proposed measure would extend copyright from 50 to 95 years after recording. A vast number of classical tracks are at stake; the copyright on recordings from the fifties and early sixties is nearing its expiration date, after which it would normally enter the public domain or become ‘public property’. E.U. Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy is proposing this extension, and if the other relevant Directorate Generales (Information Society, Consumers, Culture, Trade, Competition, etc.) agree with the proposal, it will be sent to the European Parliament.

Wikinews contacted Erik Josefsson, European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (E.F.F.), who invited us to Brussels, the heart of E.U. policy making, to discuss this new proposal and its implications. Expecting an office interview, we arrived to discover that the event was a party and meetup conveniently coinciding with FOSDEM 2008 (the Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting). The meetup was in a sprawling city centre apartment festooned with E.F.F. flags and looked to be a party that would go on into the early hours of the morning with copious food and drink on tap. As more people showed up for the event it turned out that it was a truly international crowd, with guests from all over Europe.

Eddan Katz, the new International Affairs Director of the E.F.F., had come over from the U.S. to connect to the European E.F.F. network, and he gladly took part in our interview. Eddan Katz explained that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is “A non-profit organisation working to protect civil liberties and freedoms online. The E.F.F. has fought for information privacy rights online, in relation to both the government and companies who, with insufficient transparency, collect, aggregate and make abuse of information about individuals.” Another major focus of their advocacy is intellectual property, said Eddan: “The E.F.F. represents what would be the public interest, those parts of society that don’t have a concentration of power, that the private interests do have in terms of lobbying.”

Becky Hogge, Executive Director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group (O.R.G.), joined our discussion as well. “The goals of the Open Rights Group are very simple: we speak up whenever we see civil, consumer or human rights being affected by the poor implementation or the poor regulation of new technologies,” Becky summarised. “In that sense, people call us -I mean the E.F.F. has been around, in internet years, since the beginning of time- but the Open Rights Group is often called the British E.F.F.

The interview

Cliff Richard’s pension

Becky explained to us that she was in Brussels to gather support for a European movement against this proposal. She pointed out to us that compelling economic evidence shows that this measure will not help the E.U. single market, and she hopes that other Directorates will oppose it once they get wind of this fact. We asked Becky Hogge to tell us about the new proposal and why she thinks it is not a good idea.

From left to right: Becky Hogge (Open Rights Group), Erik Joseffson (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Brian McNeil (Wikinews) and Eddan Katz (EFF, right).

Becky Hogge: The legislation we are talking about is about the copyright term, as in the length of time a piece of, in this case music, remains in copyright, and in particular the term for sound recorders. Apparently the term for that in the European Union is 50 years. That means that after 50 years, sound recordings enter the public domain. That’s the body of work that includes Shakespeare, Goethe, Bach, Beethoven, … the cultural heritage of human culture.”

In America the term is 95 years but in the U.K. the term is 50 years, and those in the recording industry and the performer’s union were getting together and going to the European Commission and saying ‘we would like the terms extended’. Now, in the U.K. we knew about copyright term extension. There’s a process by which governments say: ‘When this cartoon was drawn, we said that that could be in copyright for 45 years, but now it’s about to fall out of copyright, so we’ll give you another 45 years, or we’ll give you another 10 or another 20… and continually stopping those pieces of our cultural heritage from entering the public domain, along with their brothers Shakespeare, Mozart and Beethoven, like an afterlife in the public domain where we knew they could be mixed, they could be shared, and that they become a public part of our culture.

The reason why I think this is unfortunate, is because is actually, it’s very hard to see who gains from extension. Well, it’s very easy to see who gains from copyright extension on the one hand; those that are still mastering cultural iconography, you know, The Beatles back catalogue or if you are in possession of the Elvis back catalogue, or whatever it is, they’re all going to gain substantially from that. But if you think about what other sound recordings that were made at that time, all the other bits that were written, all the other plays that were written, not all of them are going to be successful 50 years after they were laid down, and it’s only a tiny minority of tracks that are going to be commercially successful.

Behind all of this info about copyright law, you need to know about the basics. Copyright law is about a balance, about a trade-off. Artists put a lot in to creating a piece of work, and once that piece has been created, in a sense, it’s very easy to replicate. So, Cliff Richard sings a song, and it’s very easy once he has sung this song, it’s laid down to be copied and copied and copied, unlike the making of a table or a shoe where you have to go back to the original creator to get a new pair. Copyright is a kind of monopoly that is granted to the creator so that they may get the revenue that they need, enough to incentivise[sic] them to make the initial work. So copyright is a trade-off between the interests of us, the public, the audience, human beings who need culture to survive and thrive, and artists who in order to make this culture need an incentive. In the law it is said that for a certain length of time, you have the rights to exploit this cultural product that has come from your loins and after that, it enters the public domain, and everyone enjoys it without restrictions.

What you’ve got at the end of the day with copyright term extension is basically … rent seeking by special interest groups lobbying governments to change the law in order that they may economically gain directly.
-Becky Hogge, Open Rights Group Executive Director (left).

Extending that term has a lot of implications. The first question that comes up is, you say: why? Are we going to incentivise Cliff Richards’ to record any more tracks in 1958? Clearly not, because it’s not 1958 any more. And then you ask yourself the second question: are you going to incentivise artists who are recording tracks now to record more tracks, because they have more incentive, because their monopoly over these neighbouring rights will be knocked up? Economists have looked at this and they say, ‘any rational act of making a decision does not look at what’s going to happen in 50 years time, let alone 95 years time, we simply don’t do this. So what you’ve got at the end of the day with copyright term extension is basically, and I hope this is not too bold, it’s basically rent seeking. It’s rent seeking by special interest groups lobbying governments to change the law in order that they may economically gain directly.

This is were you get to the sort of Cliff Richard argument with pension. Cliff Richard is a recording artist who didn’t write his own songs and will stop receiving royalty. You’ve got Cliff Richard saying ‘copyright is a pension for us’. There are artists that are saying 50 years after they’ve started their career, started recording, they’re old, they’re pensionable aged, they need their income and this royalty income is stopping. I simply don’t like that argument because every other citizen of the E.U. has contributed to their pension during their working life. This argument for me is really designed to do something very clever, which is exact sympathy from the general public for people who are already very rich. If you’re still getting royalties after 50 years, you are a very successful artist indeed.

Eddan Katz: There’s a strategy here that needs to be named, by copyright interests, major entertainment companies that have most to benefit from the extension of copyright without any incentive added; it’s a strategy to section it off, to make a story, and pinpoint one segment with that story in trying to justify an overall extension of copyright, which is particularly meant to profit and to remove works from the public domain that were set to be there. And also to really blind the pockets, and change the law in order to be able to raise the rent. It’s also being justified under harmonising; harmonising is used to justify a ratcheting up, it generally means more exclusive rights to be granted, and layered on top of existing exclusive rights. It’s not meant as harmonisation is intended to be, and as the European project is supposed to be, to find a way to create real markets. It’s not to justify the continuing increasing of exclusive rights as one specific theory about incentivising creativity when we see so much evidence that there’s a lot of creativity coming out of systems outside of long term exclusive rights.

Perpetual patents?

We raised the point that many common people also see copyright as a good thing and something that supports artists, while copyright violation has been said to have led to huge financial losses for the music industry.

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Cquote1.svg If the music industry continues to push this side of the bargain, all they do is to serve to grow people’s disrespect for the law even more, such that nobody wants to respect copyright any more. Cquote2.svg

—Becky Hogge (Open Rights Group)

Erik Josefsson: Copyright is like tax: ‘Taxes are good, so more taxes are better’. The man in the street would say ‘No’. ‘Okay, so you don’t want any taxes?’ ‘Oh no, I want taxes’, the man in the street is completely aware of its value, you have to have a common financial structure. The tradition of copyright, what is the purpose of copyright, is to strike a balance, to have a thriving cultural life.

Becky Hogge: If you think about what copyright does for the internet culture: if we didn’t have copyright, we wouldn’t have Creative Commons. Copyright is an incredibly sensible piece of law, and in fact serves to benefit a lot of what goes on online in the way that it’s been used in things like free and open software, in things like Creative Commons. These things wouldn’t exist without the framework of copyright law. I’m always very careful to say that copyright law is a benefit to society, but I think Erik’s comparison to taxes is spot on: it’s not about black and white.

Are the record companies sitting on their back catalogues because they can no longer earn the same income in the digital age? I think if they are doing that, I credited them with more intelligence than that. Because number one: what’s the point of having copyright when everyone is infringing them? It doesn’t matter if we have one record of the Beatles or if we have 500 records if everyone shares the one copy of the Beatles that we have already. So I would imagine that’s not why they’re doing this. And number two, and I think more fundamentally, actually what people inside the industry that I speak to are realising, is if they continue to push this side of the bargain, all they do is to serve to grow people’s disrespect for the law even more, such that nobody wants to respect copyright any more. If we see copyright as a law that is written on behalf of the recording industry for politicians, then -and this is not my point, this is Andrew Gowers’ point- you have to make the law something that people can understand and respect. You do that by making the balance right. Soon the recording industry, or some of them will see that if they continue doing this, they’re going to hurt themselves more.

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We also noted that the term public domain seems to have a more profound meaning in the United States, and that many Europeans don’t even know the term.

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Cquote1.svg After 95 years, is RCA really going to want to give up the Beatles then? Or will we get another extension to 150 years, or to 200 years, or to 250 years? What would the world look like if everything was in perpetual copyright or in a perpetual patent? What would have happened if the invention of fire was under a perpetual patent? I think we’d all still be living in caves. Cquote2.svg

—Becky Hogge, Open Rights Group

Eddan Katz: European civilisation had a lot of innovation and creativity before the legal mechanisms of copyright and patents were produced. There’s been a long history of productivity, innovation and creativity that has happened without a specific exclusive rights system. Talking about culture in Europe and that depth of history: the degree of which people do create and write on the shoulders of giants, they work off the great works that we know in history, build off of what was before, reference it and build on it, and that’s what makes it meaningful -that’s something that I think is particularly something to defend in Europe. You said that the terms public domain are foreign to Europeans: I’m actually trying to point out that the public domain existed in Europe before the concept of America existed.

Becky Hogge: If you imagine every time there was a school play, the nativity play, or the works of Shakespeare, or a concert was put on by Mozart… people have been taking advantage of the public domain a lot more than they realise. There’s so much that people do with the public domain every day, but they just don’t realise it. This is something I’ve thought about for a long time: I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a creator, I’m not a programmer, and so what is it about this debate that has gotten me into it. It’s this idea of what it would be like. Sound recordings are a good example: we didn’t really have great sound recordings until about 50 years ago. I see this move now to extend the term in sound recordings as just one of many. After 95 years, is RCA really going to want to give up the Beatles then? Or will we get another extension to 150 years, or to 200 years, or to 250 years? What would the world look like if everything was in perpetual copyright or in a perpetual patent? Even though we all accept that artists need to be given incentive, I think all fair humans have a natural ability to want to share knowledge. What would have happened if the invention of fire was under a perpetual patent? I think we’d all still be living in caves. I think there’s actually something in the balance between keeping stuff and sharing that keeps us human and keeps us developing and civilised and that’s my best argument at the moment towards the man on the street.

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The fight moves from the U.K. to Europe

We asked Becky Hogge to tell us the history behind this proposal from a U.K. perspective.

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EFF flags party.jpg

Becky Hogge: Where this started was back in 2006… well in fact even before that, the Labour government in the U.K. made a manifesto pledge to examine the issue of copyright term extension in a previous election. What that turned into is called the Gowers review of intellectual property. It actually got the most submissions to an independent review ever. There were a lot of submissions from the recording industry, and if I remember Andrew Gowers’ words specifically, he said they took the prize for the amount of submissions they got from the recording industry.

They were saying: we want this copyright extension now. I think what’s motivating it is a golden age of recorded sounds, seminal soul, rock and roll, reggae recordings, are about to enter the public domain; the recording industry recognises it, and recognises that actually they probably didn’t plan for this to happen in their own business models, they’re going to lose a small percent of their income.

The record industry submitted lots of evidence to the Gowers review of intellectual property, but public interests groups set in too. An international group called the Adelphi Charter wrote to Gowers, and they had been sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts, which is the society that promotes arts and culture in the U.K. They had come up with very convincing arguments why you should never extend the term of these exclusive rights retrospectively, much like the arguments that I’ve given you just now. They got submissions from the Open Rights Group which were sent in its infancy, but also from librarians, from educators, from public domain record labels, from the issue market, from people who needed a base of copyright-free public domain recorded sounds to achieve their creative goals, they got submissions from artists, … they got submissions from a very wide spectrum of people.

In the end they got so many submissions that they said ‘we can’t do this by ourselves’, and they went to a group of economists, and they said ‘look, please, can you look at this for us?’, because the Adelphi Charter says that the economic evidence really needs to be there before you make any retrospective change of term. So this group of economists came back and reported back to the Gowers review. They said there was a weak economic case for extending the term, that is that minorities would benefit from this, as we know the recording artists who are still popular 50 years later, the managers of those back catalogues. But there was a very strong economic case for not extending the term, and that was based on the money that was going to come out of consumers’ pockets for these recordings, that was based on the costs to follow on innovators, people who remix content, the costs to archivists, … the cost to culture as a whole. And this would negatively affect the balance of trade. And so this meant that the Gowers review of intellectual property documented that A) copyright term should not be extended, and B) copyright term should never be retrospectively extended, ever. And the U.K. government accepted this in full. And the Open Rights Group and all the other people who had submitted to this evidence were deeply, deeply satisfied with that result.

But we knew that it wasn’t going to end there. The recording industry, when this announcement came out -in fact it was leaked a week before it came out- they made it very clear that they would take their fight to Europe anyway. They continued to get politicians on their side in the U.K., they lobbied the culture committee, it’s been a history of quite hard lobbying. We knew it was going to happen.

Still, last week when commissioner Charly McCreevy, who is the commissioner of the Directorate General Internal Market, came out and said I propose to do this, that we extend the copyright term of sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. We were surprised that it had come that quickly, and we were also surprised that, well, the commission basically has a mandate up until the beginning of next year and then it’s re-elected, so there is very little time for this to become law before the commission gets a new mandate and all that is lost. So we were quite surprised.

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Reclaiming democratic processes in the E.U.

Cquote1.svg Becky Hogge: One of the reasons I’m in Brussels this week, and specifically this weekend at FOSDEM, there’s going to be a lot of people from all over Europe and the world who see different potential for incentivisation models for creativity that aren’t based on contributor’s rights. It’s to start a Europe-wide campaign to show that there is political as well as theoretical and factual opposition to this taking place. Because it’s very easy for copyright holders who are concentrated in one place, it’s very easy for them to gather their resources, to take those resources to show political support. But the general public and the people who stand to lose out from this move are a very diffuse set of people, and it’s much harder for them to get together and oppose something like this. What I’m hoping is that we do spread the word about this issue, and about what it means for not only for creativity and culture, but also in a sense for the way the laws get made in Europe. Because, you know the Gowers review presented compelling economic evidence, the D.G. Internal Market has compelling economic evidence that this isn’t right; they got in touch with a place called IVIR in Holland [Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, ed.], and they came up with an even stronger case against copyright term extension. And yet the evidence is being ignored.

Erik Josefsson: The public interest is to have a proper discussion adapted to problems of democracy, transparency, and that the decisions are taken and prepared in a decent way.

Becky Hogge: And I think that’s even more important when you get to issues that centralise on technology, because often the media and politicians don’t have access to independent advice about technological changes. Certainly in the U.K. context, we find that politicians and the media don’t often understand the technologies but comment anyway and the result can be poor law and a poorly informed public. There have been instances were the government have only been given technical information and input from private interests.

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Erik admitted he was disappointed when he compared the way laws are currently made in the European Union to his experience with Swedish politics.

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It’s one of the worst proposals in a long time, and still it’s being proposed, and still it will have members of the European parliament defending it. This is to me, outrageous! I cannot understand, I cannot accept that this is Europe. If the man in the street could see what is happening, he would be appalled. The man in the street expects people to be decent, up until the highest levels of decision making, and unfortunately what we see here in Brussels, is the opposite in many cases.
-Erik Josefsson, Electronic Frontier Foundation (right)

Erik Josefsson: The way things were discussed, prepared and legislated in Sweden before was like a dream compared to what is happening now. The expert advice comes from a limited sector of the spectrum of ideas. In the Swedish tradition, it was the responsibility of the legislator to listen to everybody. I see that tradition is basically wiped away, not necessarily intentionally, but the European project is changing fundamentally in democratic processes and structures, and very fast, in such a way that it’s a challenge for any NGO that interacts with European policy makers.

Structurally, you have an inter service consultation, but you really don’t know how to be able to interact with that process. [To Becky, ed.] You’re envisioning kind of marching in the streets thing, or at least an online petition campaign of the size of a million signatures, … I’m saying that it’s unfortunate that the respect for rational discussion has been deteriorating to that extent that you have to counteract bad policy with campaigns in that sense. I would like to just underline the problem we have with the lack of discussion, which also means the knowledge distribution within society that finally would reach the political layer. In this case, understanding is close to zero in many segments of the political spectrum.

Eddan Katz: With the lack of democratic processes, I think what’s important to demonstrate from the general public in a letter-writing campaign, in making your voice heard, is a reclaim culture, to not allow that term to be captured by people who have very specific interests of how that work should be interpreted, and to reclaim that culture, the culture that’s now exploded in the internet age of all of us being able to produce things and publish things and make them available to the world instantaneously and without restrictions. That’s the culture that needs to be reclaimed, and that’s the feature here that needs to be seen. There’s no economic justification -to just return to the copyright term extension. Something has already been created, so since it has already been created, there’s no need incentivise creating it. You need to reclaim the democratic processes of Europe, you need to reclaim the term culture.

As you point out [to Becky, ed.], the danger is that there’s a very sophisticated campaign to describe certain people with the term piracy, and to describe those people who are advancing culture by appropriating it and adding to the way we produce and act as knowledge creators, to describe those people as thieves or worse. There is an opportunity to describe an alternative vision of what European culture is, what’s important about it, rather than to limit the interpretation of what that means for the future in a globalising world to private interests with very specific powers in the European institutions. I think our expectations should look towards the future, and the regular person should welcome and be excited for the opportunities that are made affordable by the internet, rather than the momentum and trend of legislation and political effort now, that try to lower those expectations. That’s were the focus should be in thinking about these issues: what is made possible by the new technologies, and not how existing companies can take advantage of controlling the law regarding the internet.

Erik Josefsson: The copyright extension proposal is a perfect example: there’s no justification from a legal point of view, from a financial point of view, from a cultural point of view. It’s a pure land grab. It’s one of the worst proposals in a long time, and still it’s being proposed, and still it will have members of the European parliament defending it. This is to me, outrageous! I cannot understand, I cannot accept that this is Europe. If the man in the street could see what is happening, he would be appalled. The man in the street expects people to be decent, up until the highest levels of decision making, and unfortunately what we see here in Brussels, is the opposite in many cases.

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