Google has changed its mind about banning sexually explicit blogs on its Blogger platform.
After a ton of feedback the firm has decided to continue with its current policy instead, it says.
Explicit blogs must continue to identify themselves as adult . This means a warning page is shown before readers are transferred to the site. Google also reserves the right to add an adult tag to Blogger blogs if it feels the
description is appropriate.
The acceptable use policy link currently redirects users to a posted message which reads:
We've had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their
So rather than implement this change, we've decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.
As long as bloggers have correctly identified their adult blogs they need take no further action, the message adds.
Andrus Ansip, Europe's Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, wants to abolish geoblocking. Restricting user access to content based on their location, which Netflix, YouTube and others do, is discrimination, he says. I want to pay --
but I am not allowed to. I lose out, they lose out, Ansip notes.
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library. The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.
These regional blockades are a thorn in the side of Andrus Ansip , Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in the European Commission. In a speech this week he explained why these roadblocks should be abolished.
Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well. This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe
has to offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating.
The EU is currently discussing how copyright legislation in Europe should be overhauled and the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market hopes that measures against geoblocking will be part of the new rules.
Internet users who look at copyrighted material online aren't breaking copyright by doing so, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has declared. This is a useful ruling that will now apply across the EU.
The declaration was part of the British Meltwater case. Meltwater is a Norway-founded media monitoring service that sent out daily digests including the headlines and the first bit of the article of the newspaper stories, together with links to
the full online articles. It did not pay for these snippets. The company found itself sued in the U.K. by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). The case was really about whether Meltwater could use headlines and portions of articles in a
commercial service without copyright holder's permission but a side issue arose about whether web surfers are allowed to view content without copyright permission.
The NLA claimed that when you look at online content, you're making 2 copies, one on the screen and one in your browser's cache. The agency claimed that this required the authorization of the copyright holders.
But the CJEU ruled:
Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on
the user's computer screen and the copies in the internet cache of that computer's hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient
or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation
of the copyright holders.
Our new report
Careless Whispers has highlighted that 6,329 people have been charged or cautioned under out-of-date communications legislation. Focusing on the impact on communications made on social
media, the report highlights an increase in cases.
The report features a foreword from John Cooper QC, Barrister for the defence in the 'Twitter joke trial', who warns that there is "a lack of training in many police forces and the CPS as to how this older law
applies to a very modern medium."
The figures, which were obtained under Freedom of Information law, show that there have been at least 355 social media cases brought under the legislation. Only 13 of the 42 police forces provided details of the number of
social media cases they have been involved with, so the figure is likely to be far higher.
The report focuses on two pieces of communications legislation which were both drafted before the existence of the most widely used social media platforms. Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which was created to
deal with public electronic messages that were either grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character and was most famously used in the Twitter joke trial .
And the Malicious Communications Act 1988 was first created to deal with poison pen letters or hate mail but was expanded in 2001 to cover electronic communications. The Act was used in the Poppy Burning case of 2012, when
an individual was arrested for posting an image of a burning poppy on a social network site on Remembrance Day.
Based on the figures contained in the report, Big Brother Watch calls for:
Section 127 of the Communications Act to be repealed, and for the words "grossly offensive" to be removed from the Malicious Communications Act.
A full review of the way communications legislation is being used to police social media.
A common approach to enforcing the legislation by police forces, including introducing a standardised approach to recording social media offences.
US and UK spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other TPP signatories to accept the United States' excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70
years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains extreme DRM anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any
number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users , likely leading to more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright
enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.
Here, we'd like to explore yet another set of rules in TPP that will chill users' rights. Those are the criminal enforcement provisions, which based upon the latest leak from May 2014 is still a contested and unresolved issue. It's about whether
users could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over allegations of copyright infringement.
Dangerously Low Threshold of Criminality
The US is pushing for a dangerously broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports
language in which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.
This distinction is crucial. Commercial infringement, where an infringer sells unauthorized copies of content for financial gain, is and should be a crime. But that's not what the US is pushing for--it's trying to get language passed in TPP that
would make a criminal out of anyone who simply shares or otherwise makes available copyrighted works on a commercial scale.
As anyone who has ever had a meme go viral knows, it is very easy to distribute content on a commercial scale online, even without it being a money-making operation. That means fans who distribute subtitles to foreign movies or anime, or
archivists and librarians who preserve and upload old books, videos, games, or music, could go to jail or face huge fines for their work. Someone who makes a remix film and puts it online could be under threat. Such a broad definition is ripe for
abuse, and we've seen such abuse happen many times before.
Fair use, and other copyright exceptions and limitations frameworks like fair dealing, have been under constant attack by rightsholder groups who try to undermine and chip away at our rights as users to do things with copyrighted content. Given
this reality, these criminal enforcement rules could go further to intimidate and discourage users from exercising their rights to use and share content for purposes such as parody, education, and access for the disabled.
Penalties That Must be Sufficiently High
The penalties themselves could be enough to intimidate and punish users in a way that is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Based upon the leak, which showed no opposition in key sections, it seems TPP negotiators have already agreed to more
vague provisions that would oblige countries to enact prison sentences and monetary fines that are sufficiently high to deter people from infringing again. Here is the text :
penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity;
Already in many countries , criminal punishments for copyright grossly outweigh penalties for acts that are comparatively more harmful to others. So the question as to what crimes copyright infringement corresponds to in gravity is
obscure. What's more alarming is that countries without existing criminal penalties or whose penalties are not sufficiently high to satisfy the US government, may be forced to enact harsher rules. The US Trade Representative (USTR) could
use the certification process , at the behest of rightsholder groups, to arm-twist nations into passing more severe penalties, even after the TPP is signed and ratified. The USTR has had a long history of pressuring other nations into enacting
extreme IP policies , so it would not be out of the realm of possibility.
Property Seizure and Asset Forfeiture
The TPP's copyright provisions even require countries to enable judges to unilaterally order the seizure, destruction, or forfeiture of anything that can be traceable to infringing activity , has been used in the creation of pirated
copyright goods , or is documentary evidence relevant to the alleged offense . Under such obligations, law enforcement could become ever more empowered to seize laptops, servers, or even domain names.
Domain name seizure in the name of copyright enforcement is not new to us in the US , nor to people running websites from abroad . But these provisions open the door to the passage of ever more oppressive measures to enable governments to get an
order from a judge to seize websites and devices. The provision also says that the government can act even without a formal complaint from the copyright holder. So in places where the government chooses to use the force of copyright to censor its
critics , this could be even more disastrous.
Criminalization of Getting Around DRM
We've continued to raise this issue, but it's always worth mentioning--the TPP exports the United States' criminal laws on digital rights management , or DRM. The TPP could lead to policies where users will be charged with crimes for
circumventing, or sharing knowledge or tools on how to circumvent DRM for financial gain as long as they have reasonable ground to know that it's illegal to do so. Chile, however, opposes this vague language because it could lead to
criminal penalties for innocent users.
The most recent leak of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed new exceptions that would let public interest organizations--such as libraries and educational institutions--get around DRM to access copyrighted content for uses protected by
fair use or fair dealing, or content that may simply be in the public domain. But even if it's legal, it would be difficult for them to get around DRM since they may not be equipped with the knowledge to do it on their own. If someone else tries
to do a public service for them by creating these tools for legally-protected purposes, they could still be put in jail or face huge fines.
Like the various other digital copyright enforcement provisions in TPP, the criminal enforcement language loosely reflects the United States' DMCA but is abstracted enough that the US can pressure other nations to enact rules that are much worse
for users. It's therefore far from comforting when the White House claims that the TPP's copyright rules would not change US law --we're still exporting bad rules to other nations, while binding ourselves to obligations that may prevent US
lawmakers from reforming it for the better. These rules were passed in the US through cycles of corrupt policy laundering. Now, the TPP is the latest step in this trend of increasingly draconian copyright rules passing through opaque,
These excessive criminal copyright rules are what we get when Big Content has access to powerful, secretive rule-making institutions. We get rules that would send users to prison, force them to pay debilitating fines, or have their property
seized or destroyed in the name of copyright enforcement. This is yet another reason why we need to stop the TPP--to put an end to this seemingly endless progression towards ever more chilling copyright restrictions and enforcement.
If you're in the US, please call on your representatives to oppose Fast Track for TPP and other undemocratic trade deals with harmful digital policies.
'Justice' Secretary Chris Grayling has been speaking of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which was expected to get Royal Assent today,
This bill extends the definition of extreme pornography to include the depiction of rape with vague definitions that will surely see hundreds of people likely to become victims when police make commonplace and routine computer searches.
The government has also increased the maximum penalty to 2 years for those who send internet insults that the authorities deem to be abusive.
Four lords who champion the surveillance state have been defeated for a 2nd time in reviving the Snooper's Charter.
Former Tory defence secretary Toim King finally withdrew the massive amendment in the face of defeat by the combined vote of Labour/Tory and LibDem peers.
The amendment would have required every phone and internet company to store for 12 months the entire personal online history or communications data of all their customers, in such a manner as to facilitate invasive database searches for
information by the police and secret services.
Tom King said:
Our failure to take this exceptional opportunity which could have sent this to another place [the Commons] means that the risk to fill this gap will be longer than it need be. We just have to pray that we do not pay too high a price for that.
King was backed by three other senior peers, Labour's Alan West, the Liberal Democrat Alex Carlile and crossbencher Ian Blair, a former Metropolitan commissioner.
David McLean, who chaired the parliamentary joint committee examining the bill, said they had spent six months going through the same proposals in the draft communications bill in detail in 2012 and came to a unanimous verdict. They reported it
was too sweeping in scope, that it failed to address the issue of blogs, that it needed safeguards against fishing expeditions , and that it needed to be substantially redrafted to prevent it being a snooper's charter.