Sunday, 8 January 2012

US Threatened To Blacklist Spain For Not Implementing Site Blocking Law

United States government interference in Spain’s intellectual property laws had long been suspected, but it was revelations from Wikileaks that finally confirmed the depth of its involvement.

More than 100 leaked cables showed that the US had helped draft new Spanish copyright legislation and had heavily influenced the decisions of both the government and opposition.

Now, another diplomatic leak has revealed how the US voiced its anger towards outgoing President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero last month upon realizing that his government was unlikely to pass the US-drafted Sinde (site blocking) Law before leaving office.

In a letter dated December 12th and sent by US Ambassador Alan D. Solomont to the Spanish Prime Minister’s office, the US expressed “deep concern” over the failure to implement the SOPA-style censorship law.

“The government has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain,” read the letter obtained by El Pais.

Racing against the clock in the final days of the government, Solomont had one last push.

“I encourage the Government of Spain to implement the Sinde Law immediately to safeguard the reputation of Spain as an innovative country that does what it says it will, and as a country that breeds confidence,” he wrote.

But along with the pleas came the stick.

In the letter, which was also sent to Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde after whom the law is named, Solomont noted that Spain is already on the Special 301, the annual report prepared by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) detailing ‘trade barriers’ based on intellectual property issues.

Solomont’s threat was that should Spain not pass the Sinde Law (described by some as the Spanish SOPA) then the country would be degraded further and placed on the Priority Watch List. This serious step would mean that Spain was in breach of trade agreements and could be subjected to a range of “retaliatory actions”.

In the event Zapatero’s government left office without passing the law, but the incoming Partido Popular (People’s Party) were quickly pressured by the US to take the necessary action.

In another media leak it’s now been revealed that American Chamber of Commerce in Spain chief Jaime Malet wrote a cautionary letter to incoming Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. He warned of the potential flight of foreign investment from Spain and urged him to take action on the protection of intellectual property once in office.

“[The law's] lack of approval before the elections has been a blow to the country’s seriousness in this matter of such importance,” said Malet, while urging Rajoy to “to retrieve the consensus reached.”

Rajoy’s government quickly responded and fully implemented the legislation within 10 days of taking office.

American Police Refused To Hand Over Hackers To France

While the American government requires that UK citizens are dragged into one of their courts to face sixty-year sentences, it looks like it is not even reluctant to hand over one of its own hackers over to a more sensible French court.

The US cyclist Floyd Landis had a go at cracking the PCs of the anti-doping lab that found him cheating during Tour de France 6 years ago. He was charged by the court in Paris, which heard how he and his former coach refused to show up in court. In addition, they both were helped by the government of the United States that refused to co-operate against the US hackers.

It turned out that Landis was similar to a UK hacker looking for UFOs or an Australian who published secret tapes of the US helicopter pilots who laughed as they gun down Reuters journalists. Anyway, the authorities seem to be reluctant to hand over American sporting heroes when they do the same sort of thing.

In fact, the French did have enough evidence to convict both Landis and Baker after a Trojan horse spy program was used 6 years ago to poke into the lab's servers to extract data about Landis' file, several months after he tested positive. After this, Landis admitted that he took drugs in his career. Meanwhile, the police explained that they couldn’t turn up who exactly ordered the hacking, thanks to the American authorities sitting on their hands. The data received during the hack was later used in an unsuccessful appeal to sports authorities. It was supposed to prove that Landis was clean and that the lab work was actually faulty. The court decided that Landis' role was limited to the knowledge that he had about the fraudulent origin of the laboratory data used by him and his defense team. The court also ruled that Landis knew that these lab results were really accurate, because he would admit 4 years later that he had taken drugs since 2002.

While Landis didn’t comment the trial, Baker insisted that the charges weren’t true. He said that he had nothing to do with any hacking and as far as he knew, the lab papers he received while serving as an expert consultant to the legal team were received in a legal way. He believes that everything is part of a plot to protect the laboratory, which appears to be a national French institution. As a result, they were both given a year's suspended sentences, which means that there’s probably nothing to worry about unless they ever commit another crime in this country again.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

UK Cities Will Get Better Broadband

They have announced a list of cities eligible to bid for super-fast broadband funding. However, the experts think that the cash might make no difference to a lot of British cities.

After the authorities have announced that the 4 capital cities in the United Kingdom will be awarded part of a £100 million fund created for developing high speed broadband, they revealed a list of cities who’ll scrap it out for broadband cash.

The permit to grab the remaining money and find themselves a part of the super-fast broadband project was given to Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, and Bradford. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently taking bids from the towns able to plead the best case for receiving the money, which will involve explanation of how they are going to use the 80-100 Mbps speeds to push growth. Meanwhile, the broadband will be supplied by ISPs BT and Virgin.

As you understand, the competition will mean that some cities will lose out on the cash. However, it still seems to make it easier to allocate the resources more fairly. Industry observers think that there are still doubts about the ability to make a difference to 10 cities taking into account the amount on the table. By limiting the funding to 4 pre-selected capital cities, and adding 6 out of the 10 cities only going to get into the project, the UK will least have an idea of how far the money will have to spread. The authorities pointed out that a lot of cities are already approaching existing targets for 2015, like Cardiff, despite the fact that such steps might have been made prior to any knowledge of further funding.

Mainly, the cities have been working towards improving Internet connection, though it is not clear whether some of their projects were going ahead with the prior knowledge that government funding might be available. However, experts agree that the offered amount is little in comparison to the scale of the task in improving broadband systems, but if the authorities will carefully target the worst served locations, it might make a difference. Nevertheless, the best people can expect is that the project will ensure broadband at speeds well above the 2 Mbps available everywhere.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Italy Angry with Switzerland For Protecting File-Sharers

Recently the Swiss government made a decision to endorse a law according to which non-profit file-sharing is considered legitimate. The Swiss government believes that the so-called “illicit” downloads don’t actually hurt the entertainment industry like various anti-piracy groups claims they do. However, this decision has led to a hostile reaction from the Italian government.

Italy is known in file-sharing circles for the legislation pleasing entertainment industry, which it has adopted in a popular form of “three-strikes” regime. Under this law, Internet users accused of copyright violation could have their broadband connection terminated.

Italy has issued a kind of response via Enzo Mazza, the president of the Italian music industry group FIMI (known in the country as Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana), the next day after Switzerland had made an announcement. This response was a bit childish, claiming that Switzerland was the country that had hid the loot of history’s biggest criminals, and whose banks had shielded tax evaders. Now this country is also accused of protecting Internet thieves.

However, Switzerland had reasons to decide so. The country’s government made their decision after consulting a federal study and different researches, all of which conclude, along with some other things, that piracy doesn’t actually cause the country any significant economic damage. Instead, the experts pointed out that file-sharing only affected big foreign companies.

Meanwhile, the same federal study revealed that despite the fact that about 30% of Swiss citizens aged over 15 do have a habit of downloading copyrighted content like films and music, this doesn’t really influence their buying habits in regards to entertainment. In other words, industry experts are sure that the Internet users do not spend less because they download stuff for free. Nevertheless, Italy wasn’t the only country that applied such strict anti-piracy penalties – they have been also introduced by a number of other countries like France, all of them currently receiving much disapproval by the study in question which really doubts the legitimacy of the “three-strikes” regime.