14 July 2008

Cyberspace July 2008

Virtuality

The Lawyer (http://www.thelawyer.com) recently reported "Linklaters is set to launch a series of virtual offices based in London as it axes its real offices in Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague. The firm will install ­country desks in London for Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia." I assume that one has to speak in the relevant language when hovering around a country desk, but it does raise a few thoughts... What are the local admission requirements? Do they have an empty serviced office in each country with a table, chair, monitor, web-cam and a microphone for virtual meetings with clients? Or perhaps it's cheaper to fly there on a regular basis rather than maintain a regular office? It certainly solves some expatriate business migration problems. I wonder how that could work in the wide open spaces of Australia? A number of firms have occasionally attended offices in smaller centres, and I doubt that it would be cost efficient to do anything except jump in the car once a fortnight. But what if you could build a virtual office in Collarenabri (http://www.nnsw.com.au/collarenebri/tourism.html)? Your clients could attend an office, opening the door via a one-time keypad PIN that you had given them over the phone. Once inside there would be a room with a table, chairs, 32" screen, web cam and microphone, a document scanner, printer and a computer screen that you can control and share with the clients. After discussing a contract which was viewed on the computer screen, you could print out the document you just collaboratively amended, ask your clients to sign it and drop it into the feeder on the scanner. A few minutes later you have a high-resolution image of the document in your office, your client has a copy they can keep (or post if necessary), and everybody's happy. All you need now is a credit-card reader for them to swipe so they can open the door to exit.

Cybercrime

The Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime (http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/185.htm) isn't something you're likely to have read much about, although it was recently reported that the Federal Government is considering becoming a signatory to it. The Convention requires member countries to pass legislation dealing with specified issues, such as making certain activities criminal offences, such as copyright infringement, access to computer systems without permission and creating software cracks. It also requires the enactment of enabling powers, such as preservation of evidence and the tracking of data. The implications of Articles 16 and 17 are huge, as it will require ISPs to log and maintain a great deal of information about their clients. It also requires the expeditious disclosure to an authority of data enable the identification of ISPs involved in transmission of data. Like all wide-ranging laws these could be used for great good, and could be manifiestly misused as well. I wouldn't like to see them enacted in places where political dissidents are arrested and imprisoned. Fortunately we don't currently live in a place like that, but I deeply trust that the Federal Government will engage in wide consultation before becoming a signatory to the Convention.

It's mine

A USA District Court upheld the right of a man to sell software that he had purchased. Sounds self-evident, doesn't it? Autodesk, the manufacturer of AutoCAD, tried to stop him selling the software on the basis that he didn't own his copy of the software - it was merely licensed to him. The Court held that he owned his copies of the software and was entitled to sell them on eBay, even though the original licence forbade the sale or transfer of the licence. Imagine buying a car, and then when you wanted to buy a new one you had to give the old one back!