The Creative Coalition Campaign’s Guardian ad, deconstructed

Today, in the Guardian, the Creative Coalition Campaign published an advertisement urging MPs to vote for the Digital Economy Bill. An ad from the Open Rights Group (with which I am involved) and 38degrees also appeared, urging MPs to vote against. The difference? We’re standing up for people’s rights to due process, for constitutional propriety and for people’s digital liberties. They’re standing up for retrograde legislation to protect their own interests, at the expense of ours. And they’re not being very honest about it, either. Today marks a critical day for the UK’s creative industries, as the House of Commons will debate the Digital Economy Bill. If passed, the Bill will provide urgently needed support for our creative talent and the businesses which have made the UK one of the leading creative economies in the world. Indeed. A day where, after an afternoon’s discussion, a bill will be voted through ...(Read More)

Don’t let the Government zap your internet connection

The government have just announced that they do intend to introduce technical measures to reduce illicit file-sharing after all, and have tacked some extra questions onto an existing consultation file-sharing consultation. You need to write to your MP. Yes! You! Among the points you could make: This regulation is unnecessary File-sharing is on the wane. Legal services like Spotify and are extremely popular, and heavily used. Spotify have been gaining 40,000 new users per day. The market is solving this problem. Heavy-handed regulation is not necessary. These measures are disproportionate The Government intends to introduce measures that would allow Ofcom to strip people of their internet connection. This is an extremely severe measure. The Internet is not a luxury that can reasonably withdrawn on a whim. It is a crucial part of modern life. Increasingly it is the medium by which we interact with the state, with each other, ...(Read More)

Ernest Marples: the first month

Well, it’s nearly been a month since Richard Pope and I launched at OpenTech 2009. The site offers a free API to convert postcodes into latitude and longitude coordinates. This is an important thing to be able to do: the postcode is a de facto standard for specifying locations on the web. Any site that needs to know your location will ask for your postcode — from mapping, to political engagement, to useful local services. Unfortunately, the Royal Mail owns the postcode database, and maintains a stranglehold on it. They won’t let you use it for a website unless you pay them exorbitant fees (£1000+). This might be ok if you’re a big company, but lots of the most useful services aren’t. Those people have no choice but to use whatever data they can find on the web — something which, among other things, is very inconvenient. We decided ...(Read More)

Should there be copyright in NPG’s photos?

There’s a pretty good chance that there is copyright in the National Portrait Gallery’s photographs of paintings, which are currently the subject of a legal spat between NPG and a volunteer for the The Wikimedia Foundation. Intuitively, that seems like a bad thing — but is it? And if so, what does it mean for the future of digitisation? Others have done a much better job of explaining the legal situation than I could, so I won’t talk about that. I’m more interested in the policy position that we should be adopting than the one we’ve found ourselves in. Intuitively, I feel that there shouldn’t be copyright in the images that Wikimedia are using. That their importance trumps NPG’s desire to exploit them commercially: these paintings are an important and unique part of our culture’s history. This isn’t just academic: it has real impact. All that said, a policy position ...(Read More)

The International

Just got home from seeing The International at the Odeon in Holloway, London. I was impressed — solid story, nice ending and a completely spectacular gunfight set across several levels of the Guggenheim in New York. Despite the seedy halls, sticky floor, patronising copyright messages and grotesque expense of — well, everything — I had a good time. I haven’t seen a decent thriller in ages, and it delievered.