Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I'm disturbed...

...or concerned. Or maybe both. A number of things buzzing round the blogosphere/twitterverse/tinterwebs which are making me uncomfortable.

I'm concerned about the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently working its way through the House of Lords and is the legislative response to the Digital Britain Report. It seems to be to be unduly draconian in its response to copyright and file sharing. I truly believe that the current copyright laws are not appropriate for today's digital age - if you don't believe me, listen to Larry Lessig. This bill does not help, in my opinion, and in fact will only serve to reduce the advantage we should be taking of new technologies, putting undue pressure for example on account holders and holding them responsible for the behaviour of other users. Our own Professor of Law has already written that she fears that it could lead to the demise of free w-ifi networks.

I'm disturbed by the involvement of the police in what seems to be a spat between two bloggers. The BBC correspondent Rory Cellan Jones covered it today, but currently there are many blog posts about it - most expressing support for the blogger who received a visit from the police and subsequently took his blog down. Even more interestingly, it is alleged by the blogger that the police got his personal details from the University where he was a student (not confirmed by the University), and that they "relayed a message from the head of ICT department that I shouldn't be using university property in such ways" - also not confirmed. There are a couple of aspects to this case which disturb me. As a blogger, I'm worried that if I post something that someone else doesn't like they could complain to the police and I might get a visit. As an IT Director I need to question what we would have done in these circumstances. How much information would we have asked for before releasing personal details to the police? What does our code of conduct say about use of University facilities, and what are our views on students posting controversial, but legal, blog posts? Peter Tinson has posted a good summary of the issues for University IT Directors here.

Finally - I am bloody angry about this. Irish blogger posts a fairly innocuous post last November about what it was like being a female air traffic controller when she first started nearly ten years ago. Quite a chatty post, nothing particularly controversial, some comments about how things have changed - that's all. Some (insert suitable adjective here - I can think of plenty) "journalist" called Luke Byrne at the Daily Mail found it and published an article under the heading "The Male Chauvinist Pigs of Irish Air Traffic Control" complete with picture of blogger. She knew nothing about it, wasn't contacted for comment, wasn't asked for permission to have pieces of her blog misquoted, or her picture used. Utterly disgraceful, sloppy, lazy journalism. I wish her all the best and hope she gets some sort of retraction or apology from them.


Chris Willis said...

re: digital economy bill - As I'm sure you're already aware (although others may not be) Andrew Cormack has a very interesting blog over at http://www.ja.net/development/legal-and-regulatory/ with some recent commentary on the Digital Economy Bill

We've recently tweaked our own policy relating to copyright abuse to actually make it a little more lenient. Up until recently we suspended network access and contacted the alleged offender; now we contact the offender and if no response is received in a couple of days we temporarily suspend network access. Much better imho for students who simply left filesharing on whilst at home and then get caught out smack bang in the middle of exam time.

It *seems* to work well. The majority of offenders reply before having network access suspended, very few fail to reply before having all of their accounts suspended. Even better in the last 3 months we've only had one repeat offender and that appears to have been a case of misplaced trust in shared accounts and flatmates!

re: bloggers - Peter Tinson's blog post reflects my understanding of how we would (or would not) release information about a member of the University. Our Code of Practice is similar to the one in Peter Tinson's blog and staff should be aware of how to handle enquiries from investigating authorities. Communicating a reminder of policy and procedures is on the to do list; I might just bump it up a notch or two! ;-)

re: daily mail - I ain't saying anything for fear of it being headline news!

Anonymous said...

The Mail on Sunday thing reminded me of this:
http://www.mil-millington.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/saga.htm when they ripped off this:

Anonymous said...

Reading this on THE: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=410137&c=1

It links into the blog posting with police response, hoewever this was handled differently by the complainant at least.

Anonymous said...

Surely, if you police your own blog and remove comments people have made/ anything you personally don't like then you can't complain being policed yourself....bit hypocritcal me thinks

Chris Sexton said...

Re last comment. Not sure what you mean, and how it relates to the things I posted about. If you'd care to explain a bit more, I'd be more than happy to respond. Nice to see you back by the way ;-)