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The Internet

Rights Groups Slam UK Government for RIPA changes 43

tenori writes "Want to intercept internet traffic but have a pesky public consultation to get out of the way? Just keep the consultation period as short as you can get away with and exclude the people it affects. Rights groups are questioning why the coalition government has only allowed a month for changes to the RIPA act. The Home Office continues to refuse to meet civil society groups, saying, 'We are focusing on those parties directly affected by the changes to the extent that those parties would be subject to the civil sanction or directly concerned with it, or are directly responsible, where lawful interception is taking place, for ensuring that consent has been obtained to the interception.' The ORG said, 'In other words, the many thousands of people who have been adversely affected by illegal interception, and those who seek to stand up for their rights, are not "directly concerned" according to the Home Office.'"

Steve Furber On Why Kids Are Turned Off To Computing Classes 383

nk497 writes "UK computing legend Steve Furber — co-founder of Acorn and ARM designer — believes students are avoiding computing classes because they teach nothing but the boring basics. Currently studying why the number of students signing up for computing has halved in the past eight years, Furber said schools focus too much on teaching kids how to use spreadsheets, word processors and PowerPoint, rather than teaching more challenging areas such as programming. 'What schools are presenting as ICT as an academic subject is very mundane compared with what students know they can do,' he said. 'It's as if maths was just arithmetic or English was taught as just spelling. It's not unimportant that you can do arithmetic or you can spell, but it certainly doesn't open up the whole world of interest and challenge, if that's all you do.'"

Submission + - Pirate Party UK Launces Election Campaign (

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.

Submission + - The 2010 Election Manifesto of the Pirate Party UK (


The 2010 Election Manifesto of the Pirate Party UK

The Pirate Party is a new type of political party.
A party that talks about issues the other parties ignore.
A party free from corruption and expenses scandals, free from lobbyists and party whips.
A party that is not left wing or right wing.
A party that admits it doesn't always have all the answers, and is willing to listen.
A party that wants to give you more rights not burden you with any more taxes.

Our manifesto covers 3 main areas: copyright and patent law; privacy law; and freedom of speech.

Copyright and Patents

Our copyright law is hopelessly out of date. The Pirate Party wants a fair and balanced copyright law that is suitable for the 21st century.
Copyright should give artists the right to be the only people making money from their work, but that needs to be balanced with 'fair use' rights for the public. We will legalise use of copyright works where no money changes hands, which will give the public new rights;

A new right to format shift (for example, buy a CD then copy it to an iPod — which is currently illegal);
A new right to time shift (record a TV programme for watching later) and
A new right to share files (which provides free advertising that is essential for less-well-known artists).
Counterfeiting, and profiting directly from other people's work without paying them, will remain illegal.

When copyright was first introduced, the government decided it should protect new works for 14 years. Ever since then, lobbyists have spent huge sums of money buying longer and longer extensions to copyright. Currently copyright carries on for more than 70 years after the author of a work dies. We want to speak up for the majority of people who believe that taking money from lobbyists in return for biased laws is wrong. We believe that in this fast moving world, 10 years of copyright protection is long enough. Shorter copyright will encourage artists to keep on creating new work, will allow new art forms (such as mash-ups) and will stop big businesses from constantly reselling content we have already paid for. Our 10 year copyright length will include a renewal after 5 years (allowing works that the creator is no longer interested in to fall into the public domain after 5 years). An exception will be made for software, where a 5 year term will apply to closed source software, and a 10 year term to open source, in recognition of the extra rights given to the public by open source licences. We will remove the loophole in copyright law that allows 'restarting the clock' by simply moving content to a new format, or making a small change to it.

We also recognise the need to warn the public about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology. We believe the public needs to be protected from products that can be remotely turned off by the manufacturer, or products that 'phone home' and would therefore stop working if the manufacturer went bankrupt, or that are 'region coded'. We will therefore introduce a mandatory warning label on products that include DRM which will warn purchasers of the defects built into these products. We also pledge not to introduce any new blank media taxes.

We believe that patents exist to reward the inventors of truly outstanding ideas, not to allow big businesses to stifle competition with an ever-growing tide of trivial, incomprehensible, overreaching patents. We will stop the abuse of patent law by raising the bar on how innovative an idea has to be before it can be patented, and by prohibiting patents on software, business methods, concepts, colours and smells. We will require a working model to be provided to the patent office before a patent is granted, and we will strictly enforce the current rule that patents are invalid if they are "obvious to someone skilled in the art". We will allow more competition in the manufacturing of patented devices by introducing a system of compulsory patent licensing, and we will provide exemptions to patent law for non-commercial use, personal study and academic research.

Pharmaceutical patents are a major problem for the world. We need to strike a better balance between the need to pay for drug research, and the need to end the postcode lottery that UK citizens suffer when patented drugs are too expensive for the NHS. We need to tackle the problem of preventable deaths in the third world caused by high price of patented drugs. We will achieve this by abolishing drug patents, which will reduce drug costs drastically, since all drugs will become generic. This will save the NHS a massive amount of money, and part of that saving will be used to subsidise drug research. The pharmaceutical industry currently spends around 15% of its patent drug income on research; we will replace that with subsidies to the value of 20%, increasing research budgets, while still saving the NHS money. This policy of making all drugs generic will create a massive opportunity for industry to make profits, employ more people, and save lives by encouraging the manufacturing newly generic drugs in this country for sale to the third world.

Government copyrights are increasingly becoming a problem for society, with data such as maps and postcodes being jealously protected by government departments. We will introduce a new right of access to government funded data, requiring the release of all maps, statistics and so on that have been paid for by the taxpayer in open formats, under a Creative Commons or similar licence, giving the public access to research that they have already paid for. An exception will be made for cases that genuinely have national security or privacy concerns. This will include the output of the BBC, which is funded by the licence paying public and should therefore belong to the licence paying public. We will amend the BBC's charter to prevent the BBC from using DRM technology, and to require the BBC to release all their content under a Creative Commons licence. We pledge to maintain and expand the current list of important national events that cannot be exclusively broadcast pay TV services, and we pledge to put into action the government's existing but widely ignored Open Source Action Plan, which would encourage the use of free software in the public sector, saving money, and making the UK less reliant on foreign software suppliers.


We believe privacy of the individual should be upheld at all times. We feel citizens should have the right to private and confidential communication; and therefore we will forbid third parties from intercepting or monitoring communication traffic (i.e. telephone calls, post, internet traffic, emails), and require specific warrants to be issued by a court before the police are allowed to monitor traffic. We will give the public a new right to encrypt their private data.

We strongly oppose compulsory ID cards, and pledge that we will never introduce them. The proposed National Identity Register will be regulated so that it can only contain trivial information, and data required by a particular government department must be held by that department only. We will introduce a new right to compensation for people affected by government data loss.

We will introduce stronger data protection laws, requiring companies that hold personal information to give consumers more information about their rights, to apply a reasonable level of security to data, and to be clear about their policies on data retention and amendment. We will introduce a new right to apply to a court for compensation where data protection laws have been broken. We will increase the penalties for any breaches of data protection laws, and we will allow the courts to apply these penalties to both the individuals and companies responsible.

We pledge a full review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. We will introduce strong new laws prohibiting the abuse of RIPA powers, and introduce criminal liability for breaking them. We will insist that searches of personal property should only be done with reasonable suspicion of a serious, criminal offence, and that any non-trivial, targeted surveillance requires a warrant.

We will introduce laws on the acceptable use of CCTV. While we recognise the benefits of CCTV, it should not be considered a replacement for police officers on the beat, and it must not be used as an excuse for unrestricted spying on the public. We will introduce a public database, maintained by the Information Commissioner, listing the location and number of cameras, and the contact details for the relevant data controller, and we will ensure camera systems are visible to the people they are watching.

We want clearer guidelines and restrictions on the use of DNA records by authorities, to ensure samples are only be taken voluntarily or when there are reasonable grounds to suspect the individual of having committed a serious offence, to ensure they are promptly destroyed if the individual is acquitted or not charged with a criminal offence, to ensure samples are only held for the length of time where there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed a crime, and to ensure we follow European law on removal of DNA records.

We pledge increased government transparency and accountability. We will introduce a new right for constituents to force a by-election in the event of a loss of confidence in their MP. We will require minutes of all meetings of officials on government business to be accessible through freedom of information requests, that all international treaties be passed through the UK parliament as a standard bill, requiring the full approval of both houses, and that all available information that could be released through a freedom of information request should be made public by default.

We believe that MPs must be held to a higher standard of accountability than unelected citizens. To prevent abuses of their position, such as the redaction of expenses information, their right to privacy will be secondary to the public right to hold them to account for their actions.

Freedom of Speech

We believe that the Internet is instrumental to freedom of speech. We pledge to legislate in favour of net neutrality. We pledge that we will not allow government censorship of the internet for anything but the most extreme reasons (such as military secrets or images of child abuse).

We will solve the problem of false and misleading advertising of internet speeds by giving customers a new right to pay only for the fraction of the claimed broadband speed that the provider actually delivers, so if you sign up for an 8Mb/s connection and only receive 2Mb/s, you would only have to pay a quarter of the agreed price. We will ensure the provision of rural broadband by extending the current universal service provision requirement for telephones to include broadband access.

We will ensure that the UK has as a foreign policy objective the human right of freedom to communicate, and will encourage wider adoption of the encryption and anonymisation technologies that ensure this right.

We recognise the value of whistleblowers to society, and we will defend the right of citizens to expose illegal practices in the workplace and elsewhere, and we will introduce a new legal right to be a whistleblower that will ensure that exposing corrupt or illegal activities will take precedence over contract law and copyright law.

We believe the right to photograph events and buildings in public is important to prevent our society becoming a police state. We will enshrine in law a new right for photographers and filmmakers to go about their business without persecution under anti-terror laws.

We will encourage libraries and museums to digitise their content, and make it available online wherever possible. This applies especially to unique items (for example if a library has the only known copy of a book).

We want better computing education in schools. We will encourage the adoption of open source software in schools, so that children won't be reliant in the future on buying a particular software package from a particular company. Schools should emphasize understanding of computers, including programming for those pupils with an interest or aptitude for it, and they should provide lessons for pupils on the safe use of the internet.

We believe libel law should not be used to smother free speech. We pledge to reform libel law so it serves its intended purpose, by implementing the recommendations of the Libel Reform Campaign

We will promote the inclusion of accessibility features, subtitles, audio descriptions etc for the disabled, by clarifying the current legal position on accessibility with respect to broadcast material, websites, and material available on the internet, to as far as reasonably possible, make content accessible for disabled people, which is especially important in the public sector. We will also introduce a new right for disabled people to demand an unrestricted version of DRM protected content where that is necessary to allow them to access it.

In all other political matters, Pirate Party Candidates are encouraged to listen to their constituents, and make their own minds up, without the intervention of party whips, or political lobbyists.

Submission + - Interview with the UK Pirate Party leader (

VJ42 writes: With the 2010 UK general election fast approaching, The Pirate party of the United Kingdom will be fielding elections for the first time. With the Digital economy bill and ACTA being hot topics for UK geeks, the Pirate party looks to pick up votes. Their leader Andrew Robinson has agreed to answer your questions. Normal Interview rules apply.

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