Grumbleduke writes: The UK Pirate Party has been forced to shut down its proxy of The Pirate Bay. The Party had been running the proxy since April, initially to support the Dutch Party's efforts, then as a means of combating censorship after the BPI obtained uncontested court orders against the UK's main ISPs to block the site across the UK.
Grumbleduke writes: While not new, the 'Freemen' movement has been gaining popularity recently across the US, Canada and the UK, with various 'gurus' giving information on how people can avoid fines and taxes by using certain legal strategies. Having encountered these sorts of arguments once too often, a Canadian judge has examined and demolished the main points used by these “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants.”
In an epic, 736-paragraph judgment (pdf) Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rooke (Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta) discusses the main arguments put forward by “Detaxers; Freemen or Freemen-on-the-Land; Sovereign Men or Sovereign Citizens” and similar groups, and carefully explains why they are all legally nonsense. He offers guidance for judges, lawyers and others who encounter the techniques, but also directly addresses those using (or planning to use) these methods (paragraphs 663-668). However, he saves his anger for the 'gurus' who “purposefully promote and teach proven ineffective techniques that purport to defeat valid state and court authority, and circumvent social obligations for profit at the expense of naive and vulnerable customers” (paragraphs 669-675).
While this may be of use to legal professionals it remains to be seen whether those spreading these theories will stop, or merely see this as a corrupt system protecting itself.
Vickerman was prosecuted for the controversial offence of "conspiracy to defraud" for 'facilitating copyright infringement', rather than for copyright infringement itself, and it is worth noting that the relevant copyright offence carries a maximum prison sentence of only 2 years, half of what was given.
FACT, the Hollywood-backed enforcement group who were heavily involved in the prosecutionnoted that the conviction "should send a very strong message to those running similar sites that they can be found, arrested and end up in prison", but it remains to be seen whether this will have any effect on pirate sites, or encourage development of the largely hopeless legal market for online film.
However, despite this apparent victory for the Internet, transparency and democracy, the Commission indicated that it will press ahead with the court reference, and if the Court doesn't reject ACTA as well, will consider bringing it back before the Parliament.
The decision was welcomed by the industry groups, but criticised by the UK's Pirate Party, whose leader pointed to the lack of evidence that the law would have any positive effects. A UK copyright specialist noted that the ISPs may still appeal the decision to the UK's Supreme Court, seeking a reference to the Courts of Justice of the European Union, and wondered if the law could now attract the same attention from the Internet as SOPA and ACTA.
The law is still some way from being implemented, and the first notifications are not expected to be sent to alleged file-sharers before 2013, and the next steps could also be open to a legal challenge.
Following a 1999 libel case, it has generally be understood that service providers such as Google are publishers of the content on their systems, and lose any immunity they have as soon as they are warned the content is defamatory, leading to an extra-judical take-down system.
In this case, where Google was being sued by a UK politician over allegedly defamatory comments on a Blogger post, the Judge held that the hosts were not even publishers and so not liable at all. Going further, Mr Justice Eady commented that even if Google were a publisher, they would not be liable as being notified that the comments may be defamatory was not enough to count as "actual knowledge." Google could not be expected to assess whether or not each statement was defamatory, or defensible.
This ruling marks a welcome, if subtle, change in the law. It should reduce the chilling effect of libel threats on UK-based service providers, as they may no longer be required to remove content or face substantial legal costs themselves."
Not only does the replacement message contain a number of factually dubious claims, it also shows the visitor's IP address, browser and operating system, and threatens to track and monitor them.
At a time when copyright lobby groups are strongly pushing for even greater powers through laws such as SOPA and ACTA, one is left wondering why they think they need them, when police can shut down websites such as this at will.
Grumbleduke writes: Following the recent publication of its manifesto the Pirate Party UK has officially launched its campaign for the upcoming general election. The Party — which is pushing for significant reform to copyright and patent law, protection for personal privacy and government transparency, and greater freedoms of speech and communication — is hoping to stand ten candidates across England and Scotland. The Party is now trying to raise the £10,000 or so minimum it will need to fund the candidates. In announcing the campaign Andrew Robinson, the party leader and prospective candidate for Worcester, said, "We have a strong team, who want to stand up for your rights, for your freedoms, for your interests, but we desperately need to raise funds. This is the only chance we will have in the next few years to get our voices heard. Help us get these candidates on to the ballot papers." With the election expected in a little over a month, time is running out for the Pirates to make their first stand in the UK.
Grumbleduke writes: During today's debate in the UK's House of Lords on the much-criticised Digital Economy Bill the unpopular Clause 17 (that would have allowed the government to alter copyright law much more easily than it currently can) was voted out in favour of a DMCA-style take-down system for websites and ISPs. The new amendment (known as 120A) sets up a system whereby a copyright owner could force an ISP to block certain websites who allegedly host or link to infringing material or face being taken before the High Court (and made to pay the copyright owner's legal fees). This amendment was tabled by the Liberal Democrat party who had so far been seen as the defenders of the internet and reason and with the Conservative party supporting them passed by 165 to 140 votes. The UK's Pirate Party and Open Rights Group have both strongly criticised this new amendment.
The Bill is currently in Report stage in the House of Lords, and will then and will then have to pass through the (elected) House of Commons. The government has indicated its desire to push through the legislation before the upcoming election.
Grumbleduke writes: The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has recently reported on the controversial Digital Economy Bill which seeks to restrict the connections of anyone accused of infringing copyright using the internet. According to the BBC, the committee noted the lack of details in the Bill as it stands, asking for "further information" from the government on several issues. They also raised concerns that some punishments under the bill could be "applied in a disproportionate manner" and said that the powers the bill granted to the Secretary of State (i.e. Lord Mandelson) were "overly broad". These echo the concerns raised in recent months by the Open Rights Group, a consortium of web companies including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay and the UK's Pirate Party.
The Bill is currently being scrutinised by the House of Lords and if it passes there, will likely be forced through the Commons quickly, despite the opposition from the public, industry and members of parliament. The committee's full report can be found on the parliament website, here.