16 February 2012

Cyberspace March 2012


You’re probably not as loose-tongued as as your average Twitterer (http://twit.com), but some people have managed to ruin their holidays. The Sun reported (http://goo.gl/5NpGf) that two UK citizens recently arrived in Los Angeles for a holiday and were promptly returned to the UK. Why? One of them had tweeted in a fit of pre-holiday excitement that he was going to dig up Marilyn Monroe (a TV show quote), and he tweeted another friend if she was “free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America? x”. Leigh Van Bryan said that “destroy” in slang meant “partying.” The couple were flagged by the USA Department of Homeland Security, and were handcuffed and imprisoned overnight. Watch your tongue.

Digital ownership
Now that many of us download audio books, electronic texts on the Kindle, and download music, the concept of lending second-hand books and LPs/CDs is waning fast. But, why not sell your electronic assets when you’re done with them? You’ve often paid a high price, so why not sell them on? Why can’t you transfer that licence (and the related media) to another person? There are some technical difficulties, since you might have to reliquish usernames and password, but there may be license issues too.

ReDigi (https://www.redigi.com/) decided to have a go at this market by facilitating “the verification and hand off of a digital music file from the seller to the buyer.” They work to ensure the source is legitimate, the vendor really is the licence holder, and that any copies held by the vendor are deleted. Capitol Records didn’t think much of this idea, and in the US District Court, Southern District of New York, in Capitol records, LLC v ReDigi Inc (No. 12 Civ. 95 (RJS)) Capitol sought an injunction preventing ReDigi from carrying on that business. The court denied the injunction, but the real issue is yet to be tried.

The USA has a “first sale” doctrine which permits the purchaser of a copyrighted work to transfer for value a copyrighted article to another person. However, it’s common for licence agreements to state that they are not transferable, and the litigation has been endless. There are cases on CAD software, promotional CDs, the World of Warcraft game and others.

I might buy a CD for $15, or I may “buy” the same album electronically for the same amount. Have I purchased something less by buying the latter? I know I can loan, give or sell to you the CD and I’ve done nothing wrong. If I give you copies of the downloaded music on a USB key, and delete all my copies, where do I stand? Common sense tells me that if I have bought a physical thing for value (like a car) then I should be able to transfer it for value. My car is full of copyright software, and is no doubt subject registered designs, and patents. Of course I can sell it, so what’s the difference? One key difference is that I haven’t copied anything in my car, but to give you my electronic music I have to copy it from my computer. Is that an infringing copy provided that I delete my copy? I have paid the same amount for the music in each case.

I think the real answer lies in the commerciality of the deal. If the purchase price reflects that I no longer receive two rights (the right to loan an article to my friends or family, and the right to sell it second hand) I’m happy. Sadly there’s not much evidence of that in the market.

Cyberspace February 2012 Cyberspace February 2012

Save the trees
Sick of photocopying trolleys of paper for subpoenas to produce? The Supreme Court has issued Practice Note No. SC Gen 18, which commenced on 3 January 2012. It notes that under the UCPR it is possible to produce scanned copies rather than photocopies, as well as copies of electronic documents on disc. Since scanning is physically a similar task to photocopying there should be some savings available.

However, scanned files (the Court suggests PDFs, but the format must be acceptable to the issuing party) need to be named. These might be automatically named by the scanner, but these names are usually fairly arbitrary. The alternative is to check and rename them, which also takes time. At least with photocopies you put them through the machine and you’re done with them.

When producing the documents you can provide them on DVD, CD or a USB device, or even email them to the registry with a scanned copy of the subpoena. This might be very useful where timeframes are short.

The Court also suggests that it is sufficient to produce emails as PDFs. Unfortunately this inherently removes a lot of the meta data from the emails, and it doesn’t satisfactorily deal with attachments. You probably want to specify to the producer that emails should be produced in native form, such as a Microsoft pst file or a Lotus Notes database. Where emails are in other forms, such as Gmail or Hotmail there exist export functions to achieve a similar result.

Documents that are printed to PDF are generally able to be searched by full text tools or using the Find function in your PDF reader. However, documents scanned to PDF require further work before this is possible, and the accuracy of the conversion depends on the quality of the scan. Still, it’s usually better than a pile of paper.

To gain access to the produced material you must provide to the registry blank optical media or a USB device. A one terabyte 2.5” external hard disc can be purchased for $120 these days, and that will hold at least a million of documents. If the volume of informaiton is limited then the registry may simply email you the produced documents.

No internal emails
Atos (http://atos.net) is an IT service company with 74,000 employees and revenues of €8.6B. It recently announced that “Atos' aim is to eradicate all emails between Atos employees by using improved communication applications as well as new collaboration and social media tools.” No more internal emails.

I’m old enough to have received paper memos and distribution group memos that you read, initialled, and passed on. You didn’t receive a lot of them, and when you did they were usually worthwhile. Internal email, of course, is now a different proposition, although it still has great value.

Atos says that “The focus of Atos is to adopt innovative social business solutions in the workplace to bridge the “social business” gap. Built on collaborative technology these solutions provide a more personal, more immediate and importantly more cost effective means to manage and share information ... and enables the Smart Organization... it is encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales. Initial feedback is that these types of tools reduce email by between 10 and 20% immediately.”

This has generated a lot of conversation in the informaiton community, and while I don’t think it’s appropriate to remove email altogether, I have to agree with the Gartner statement: “Email doesn’t erode productivity and encroaches work into our personal lives, bureaucracy does.”