Author Archive

Technology as the backbone of copyright – Netopia Spotlight: Prof Eleonora Rosati

Saturday, January 14th, 2023

Intellectual property law was once the focus of a small number of lawyers and experts.

Today, every person comes in contact with it almost on a daily basis in their digital lives. New problems have arrived and there is no shortage of policy in this space. Nothing suggests this trend will slow down, rather intellectual property becomes increasingly important as the knowledge society develops.

What is the long-term view of intellectual property in the digital world and what will be the impact of some of these policies? Netopia turned to law professor Eleonora Rosati for answers.

WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW

Here below is a full transcript – please note this is autogenerated speech to text AI transcription (blemishes and all!).

Hello and welcome to Netopia Video Spotlight interview and my guest today is none other than Professor Eleonora Rosati.

Welcome. Thank you very much Per. I’m very well… and it is a pleasure to be with you and your guest today.

Thank you too. You are a professor of Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University. You also do private Practice and we love to read your comments at the IP kitten website… is that is that a fair summary of your professional status?

Yes, I would say that it is accurate and it is a pleasure to be able also to engage with IP law in different forums and at different levels. So I find this very enriching it and indeed the privilege wonderful. And what is it? That brings You too intellectual property. Why did you choose this path? But I have to say that my encounter with intellectual property was a bit serendipity to serve, because there was no course on intellectual property law at University. I did my law undergraduate degree at the Florence University and I found out about copyright purely by chance by reading the newspaper. There was an Article by professor of commercial law on the challenges of copyright in the internet age or not. So, I wonder what is this? Copyrighted sounds extremely interesting. So after that, you know, became very curious because it seemed to be an area of the law that allowed me to combine. Of course, what I was preparing to become a lawyer with my own personal interests are given the subject matter of copyright protection and also very interesting and torn. Issue said on how the law should respond to technological advancement, and vice versa, even some cases. So after these, I studied the copyright on my own, I had to prepare a thesis to complete my degree and since and Italian civil code. There are a few provisions on copyright. There is, of course a separator copyright acted. I went to a professor of private law and ask them at all. write a thesis in copyright and it told me okay but I don’t know anything about He’s so you are on your own and I did drag this TV set, then I had an opportunity to begin an internship in the AP department of the same Law Firm. And so to see how IP worked out in practice, and after that, I was able to start an LMS at the Cambridge University in the UK and that was the first time for me to study IP. Be in an Institutional setting. So to say so that encounter with that newspaper Article, I read on a Sunday morning was a life-changing for me and copyright was love at first sight. And since then I’ve never looked back, I have to say. So it has been a, I have p and long-standing relationship for me. Okay, that sounds good.

And what about your students? Do you think that there is a Increasing appetite in the students for copyright law

I would say so. And indeed that if we look at the number of specialized Master programs around Europe, just to take one region of the world. That seems to me that we’ve seen a multiplication of educational offerings in the intellectual property field, and we are seeing even further specialization at this stage, so a Masters in entertainment law. In fact, in Patent Law etc. So I think that over the past several years, it has become apparent that of how important intellectual property is, how relevant it is to think about protecting IP assets and accordingly. There is a wealth of law firms specializing in this field companies for which IP is really the bread and butter and the students wanting to know more and specialize in this field, which I think offers the best of all opportunities because the subject matter of intellectual property is very interesting. The legal questions are never the same or actually if they’re the same, the issues are always different. So it is never a dull moment, and I think that also given you’re a professional profile, you would agree with these characterizations.

Yes, I do and I would add that also in policy and in the public debate and in the media, the focus on on copyright and intellectual property issues have really increased in the last decade. Or so, why do you think this is the case with the change in focus?

It is also quite clear that copyright can play a role or two in ensuring the fairness of the marketplace and remedying imbalances

For sure, I think you’re right that since I would say the late 2000s, there has been a real I’m the attention towards it, IP and copyright and if I think about copyright, we’ve seen since the adoption of Lisbon Reform Treaty, and then the policy documents leading up to the former commission’s digital single market strategy. And understanding of our strategic copyright is also to the EU policy of integration and internal market building. I think that also the time frame is not accidental. It is in part also a response to the increasing number of cases that are being litigated in this field and in turn also the number of referrals the Court of Justice and in all these and the Court of Justice has proved to be a court that a place, an absolutely key role in the intellectual property field and if we take the case of copyright specifically some of the policy said that the European commission has proposed or is about to propose, and are in some cases reactive to see rulings, and I’m thinking if you take the DSM directive Article 16. It was meant to address the implication of these private copying ruling or if we think about the provisions on out of commerce works, and their collective lives in this with an extended effect, The are echo of a decision of the Court of Justice is also clear. And right now the European Commission is considering how to address the implications of their judgment not too long ago. So it is a very complex ecosystem and so these are revamped policy that you so correctly outline is a mix of litigation objective uncertainty, a court of justice. That is shaping the IP field as we have it and awareness. that IP plays a key role also in other respects, So it is not just about internal Market building but it is also about competitiveness of a legal system and in this specific case competitiveness of the European Union vis-à-vis countries, and it is also quite clear that copyright can play a role or two in ensuring the fairness of the marketplace and remedying imbalances, … they are in different ways. And an example of the former is, of course, Article 17 of the DSM directive that was dubbed, the “Value Gap” provision, but it is not certainly the only “Value Gap” that is considered in that piece of legislation. The “Press Publishers Right” is another example, and then the contracts of authors and performers vis-à-vis direct contract counterparts, record, labels publishers and so on.

That’s a really interesting answer and you talk about EU policy developments, you talk about competition and of course no surprise you talk about legal developments with case law and such. I would have expected you to say it’s because of the technological evolution. Also starting from from the newspaper Article with the internet and copyright but how much is driven by the policymaker and the court system and how much is technology? And also maybe if I may add my own little theory…. the shift in the economy towards the knowledge economy, how important that this factor for the proper form of right?

Or if we think about the photocopy machine, the VHS, the peer-to-peer file sharing and now all these platform economy operators that are present day….

You are right and that I needn’t express mention this specifically, but of course all these cases that have been popping up over the past few years so they were prompted by technological. – not so technology does clearly play a role and indeed there is an attempt on the one end to try and regulate the direction of technological development but on the other end and I think quite inevitably sometimes the policy and legislative discourse is a reaction to technologies that have been emerging and so trying to understand what, the best response should be to the opportunities but also the challenges that these developments do present but I would say also something else that indeed the technology has always been the backbone of copyright if we go back to the invention of copyright in modern history, the reason why that was born was to respond to the technological challenge of that time. that was the invention of the printing press, and if we then continue it has been like that throughout history for example, When are the US Supreme Court had to decide whether photographs could be protected or not by copyright because that new medium of Photography appear different from traditional Visual Arts. Or if we think about the photocopy machine, the VHS, the peer-to-peer file sharing and now all these platform economy operators that are present day….so it is always new questions but that is nothing new because it is, what copyright has always been about. It has been a about addressing the challenges and opportunities that new technologies will present.

Yes, of course. That’s a point. well made almost like being in your classroom. It feels so thank you for that. But How do you see the…. So I understand that the policy-making response to the outside world technology, economy Etc. And then in turn, that influences the outside world. But what do you see as the long-term impact of of the European Union? Because we’ve seen a lot of policy initiatives in the last few years, you would agree that there’s been a multiplication or an increase of the policy initiatives and intellectual property.

we think about the Orphan Works directive, not that people might have forgotten about it since I am not aware of any case that has stemmed from that but still it was adopted in 2012 as the European response to the Google books library project

That is correct 100% but another point that I think is equally interesting, is the fact that if we look at what the European Union did until quite recently was some reaction to what other legal systems were doing. So, if we think about the eCommerce Directive, the Safe Harbor system. It was the European response to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Or if we think about the Orphan Works directive, not that people might have forgotten about it since I am not aware of any case that has stemmed from that but still it was adopted in 2012 as the European response to the Google books library project and related litigation. So in the past especially the European policy responses in the field of IP and copyright were a bit of a reaction to what others were doing. But since 2015 and onwards the European Union has really taken center stage. And come up with very peculiar and very personal solutions to some of these legal issues. And as a result what the European Union has been doing is now look that with interested criticism approval depending on the perspective from other regions of the world. If I’m thinking about the debate about the Press Publishers Right which in Australia there has been a debate that has been informed by what the terms of the discussion were in Europe and the same has happened in the United States or so, they have the US copyright office conducted a review of the protections available to press Publishers in the US and still The US Copyright office has been considering this Safe Harbor system in that jurisdiction and the reference has been made to Article 17 of the DSM directive. So this multiplication of initiatives has also placed the European Union in a different position vis-à-vis. their country said that also have been considering how best to shape their own IP laws and including copyright.

So it seems that sometimes the European policies can travel and the European commissions or European institutions influence can have a wider reach than the European geography. Is that right?

it is the European Union framework. that is becoming an absolutely central to what IP law is should be and will be in Europe, but possibly also with the effects in other parts of the world.

Absolutely! But also in so far as national law making is concerned that indeed; If we look at the substantive IP development at the national level in Europe, over the past several years then I’m not sure it is possible to identify something groundbreaking and that is solely done at the national level. So there might be minor reforms, certain adjustments about it on a substantial level. Most of the IP that we are working with today is in response to EU developments. So, it is the European Union framework. that is becoming an absolutely central to what IP law is should be and will be in Europe, but possibly also with the effects in other parts of the world.

So speaking of recent developments and an effect in the outside world, I can’t help but think of Twitter and the recent debate and the attention to the Elon Musk take over. And, and of course he had a much more liberal view on what should be possible for the users of that platform to post. And then previously, for example, copyright work started appearing on Twitter, I think they were removed, but I think that’s an interesting case in point. I mean, how big is the influence of the Law compared to maybe the influence of management and owners and the ideologies of those players, is it possible to regulate the internet platforms like that?

In the case of Twitter it is very interesting. You know, and indeed, they brought first a plethora of IP issues considering the recent events, I’m thinking about the Twitter blue verification. As far as I know it’s currently discontinued but also the case that you are mentioning of a Content moderation. I find it difficult to think of a platform that is targeting the European Union accessible from the EU and being able to escape the application of the EU rules Now, if you are asking me specifically about copyright, of course, there is now Article 17 of the DSM directive in place and the for a platform like Twitter, I would like to have a discussion whether indeed the it qualifies for the application of that provision. So is Twitter and online content sharing service, provider or not. I think we can have a discussion about that, but in any event that we have also case law from the court of justice. That does not exclude the application of a direct responsibility of the platform in other cases. Other 10, indeed, the Article 17. So it is a very Interesting development, but the bottom line is that the there is an application of EU rules. Also two players that might consider themselves as a not been caught within their sphere of application, and the full Article 17. And there is the big question of indeed targeting from outside The European Union does that war of the application of the EU and national copyright laws? I think that we will know more once these rules are all in place, and with those four to litigation are brought before courts because these are all big question marks right now.

Isn’t that also a frustration that sometimes that problems exist for years? Then once the policymaker responds it takes even more years for the litigation to come in place and the national implementation etc… … does it have to be like that, that the law is slower?

I mean, that easy, no, I want a million euros and not even dollars question. Your know that you’re asking or Kronor! But of course, I mean here we are dealing with an environment in which it is not just IP and copyright protection that is at issue but also other rights and be interest. I’m thinking about the freedom of expression information, freedom to conduct a business and all these I have mentioned are fundamental rights and so also finding the right balance is something that is not necessarily straightforward and that I find that also the debate around Article 17 demonstrates that. If we look at the original proposal of the European Commission that was paradoxically a much simpler provision and what is right now it is a probably the longest copyright provisions ever written, and it has taken it three years of debate to get there. and now with the delay in the national transpositions and the challenge of the Republic of Poland. The, you know, the guidance that can be inferred from a other case law of the court of justice, the guidelines of the European Commission itself. It shows that it is a very complex ecosystem and that perhaps, you know, a rushed outcome might be not, ideal considering all the different rights it and interested at that are at stake in the regulation of the internet. I mean, I want way to make things quicker. I might be to rethink the EU instrument that is being used because of course, the directive requires transposition of the national level and what we’ve seen so far is that it is a far from true that member states have been moving in this direction and paradoxically the puzzle that we have now is one that is even more fragmented and what was the case before? So one way might be for the future not to use the instrument of directives but rather regulations. so to skip it is national transposition phase. At least for the major part, Of course. I mean, if we are looking at what is being on the placed on the table in Brussels right now, all these Acts as they are presented, they are all regulations. So probably this tells us something about the opportunity of using Directives to regulate digital and online issues.

Interesting? Yes, so that might be a change in strategy on the part of the European policy maker and it also touches on what you mentioned before about foreign services addressing the European users. What do you see will be the impact of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act? Do you think it will live up to the expectation and do what the European policymakers hope?

That is another important question. Of course it is to early to say these are a horizontal harmonization exercises so it’s not they are IP instruments. So they will cut across different policy and legislative areas insofar as copyright are concerned. If we take the DSA, there is a specific mention that it is without prejudice to copyright rules. So one might think that formerly there is no relationship whatsoever but that will be hardly correct because where the copyright legislation does not find application because it does not specifically regulate certain aspect, the DSA will. So to answer your question, whether they will live up to their expectations test, it will be necessary to understand it when the special laws of copyright come into application, when instead, the general law of the DSA applies instead, and secondly, we needed to make sure that these exercise of balancing of different rights and interest is carried out correctly to make sure that that the underlying rational of both legislations – which I don’t think are dissimilar – can be fully achieved. Okay.

Well, so we will continue to carefully to watch that on. We might come back to you for guidance on those topics if you don’t mind but if we look outside the Northern Hemisphere looked at the global south, I would like to hear your view is. Sometimes I come across the argument that copyright might stand in the way of economic development in developing in least developed countries and that there should be various kinds of exceptions, put in place to support them. What do you think about this logic?

I mean, I see merit to that because it would be, you know, incorrect and unfair to think that we are all… you know, in the same condition when it comes to accessing a copyright protected materials and the topic of exceptions and limitations is certainly one of the most important ones in copyright and there is a broader discourse to be made regarding the cost of licenses, the possibility to engage, with content in the first place. And then, of course, the issue of exceptions and limitations, I can also think that It when comes at one specific aspect that there is academic publishing, there is now a great push towards the publishing Open Access, but there is the issue that for example, scholars from developing jurisdictions might not be affiliated with institutions that are able to afford paying these types of licenses and there’s a result also their work is less easy to find access. So it is a broader discourse and I don’t think I can be just framed within a divide between the copyright exclusivity and exceptions and limitations but it is the ecosystem in which copyright stakeholders operated that warrants an international Level playing field that works for everyone and not just a for a certain legal systems or a economies in the world. Q .Okay? But let’s see. See if I can try this idea. Then what about the local… For example, People who make entertainment or art in developing a little less developed countries, music, cinema, books, whatever that needs copied copyright protection. Don’t you think that they might be at a disadvantage if they have a weaker protection than the competitors or fellows from other jurisdictions? Certainly that might be one possible outcome but the other one is also about ensuring an effective accessible and proportionate enforcement of one’s rights because I don’t think it is possible to reason it just in abstract terms, whether you have a strong copyright or not, what matters more than these is whether you can license the use of your content. And if someone uses it that without your permission, how easy is it to access enforcement opportunities. So again, I believe that this discourse and needs to be an organic one that takes into consideration, all these other aspects because otherwise, the picture will be far from complete and my thoughts are risk, giving it, you know, a false narrative towards their copyright eco system is about, it’s not just about having the right on paper, but whether it is possible to exploit it. It how, and how easy is it, or not to protect it and what can you get from your protection efforts? Okay. Okay. Yeah. That makes sense.

Another question on my mind recently has been, and we’ve all seen all over social media. AI generated art….. It appears that that is now in the hands of every social media user. And of course that raises several copyright topics perhaps it’s, it should be. It’s only interview. But how do you see this technological development influence the discussion around copyright.

I would say in most jurisdictions around the world that is clearly a topical issue. And it seems to me that so far big part of the discussion has been the predictability of these AI generated outputs whether there is copyright in AI generated painting if so who owns it should there be or something like that? So certainly this is a forward-looking discussion but not even that forward-looking because it is something imminent to address and you will have seen that for example, before the US copyright office, there have been some applications register with the office AI generated works. And the office in the US has given a different response from what might be the case in other parts of the world. So that is certainly, you know, one big chunk of the discussion but another one that I find, the more pressing right now is the question of liability. So for the AI to be in a position to create a painting in the style of X and Y, or a piece of music in the style of X and Y it needs to be trained on materials that might be or might have been protected by copyright. And of course if they are still protected by copyright, there might be in the question whether a license is needed or not …that you can rely on exception of limitation or not. You will have seen at that right now there are some artists that have expressed their discontent to put it mildly with some AI applications using their content for AI to be trained. So the question of mining of content is the most pressing and important one at this very stage and as you know, the European Union has tried to regulate this field from a corporate perspective through the 2019 DSM Directive. But this discussion is underway also in other jurisdictions? I’m thinking about the debate in the US about “Fair Use” whether and to what extent they cover mining exercises. The Japanese experience with text and data mining. If I’m not mistaken, Japan was the first country in the world to introduce a text and mining exception. So sometimes we focus too much on the output, whether there are Rights and who owns them, but on a more immediate and pressing level, the question of liability is the one that I think I should call for our attention and correct application of indeed relevant legal principles, and ensuring the fair balance of Rights and interested. Okay, good.

And I have asked you about some of the questions that I find fascinating in this field and that are current and topical and relevant. But looking ahead, do you see something else that that we don’t talk about so much that you think should be on the in the spotlight that we should think about going forward. What’s the next? What’s coming around the corner?

But I think that around the corner is the discussion of contracts of authors and performers. Because as you know, the DSM directive sets… quite ambitiously some harmonized principles and criteria, but the member states are given quite a substantial leeway in the wrong transpositions. So I think that, what we’ll see around the corner is an attempt at one, the standard, whether what member states have done or have been doing. Is enough… allows one to reach the end results and what the specifically individual authors and performers can and should do. So this issue of contracts I think is going to be a great part of the debate for the next few years. And then, of course, there is always the issue of new technologies that emerge all the time and how we regulate them. I don’t think that for example, the discussion around Article 17, and the Platform Liability is exhausted. Probably it has just began and in the years to come we will see many questions popping up regarding the application of the rules that were adopted in 2019. We might end up In a context in which what was quite straightforward in 2019,no longer in a 2025… 2027 and so on.

Okay, this was fascinating. Thank you so much. I’m afraid we’re out of time. I have more questions. Perhaps I should sign up to your classes Professor Rosati. Thank you so much for coming to Netopia Video Spotlight

My pleasure, and an honor, and you’re way too kind. So thanks so much for taking the time to invite me to speak with you. Thank you very much. I thank you for watching. And I now stop the recording, perfect.

To view the full Netopia Spotlight video on Vimeo, go here

Domains of Danger – Covid Consumer Con Job

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Three questions to Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance

In the corona crisis, bad actors have abused the domain name system for fraud against worried consumers. No end to the innovation in internet crime. Digital Citizens Alliance wrote a report on the topic, Netopia spoke to its executive director.

How did criminals use domain names for Covid-scams?

Like in every crisis, there are bad actors who take advantage of people’s fears.

Like in every crisis, there are bad actors who take advantage of people’s fears. In the case of COVID, the Digital Citizens’ investigation found scammers peddling fake vaccines and poor quality face masks. The FTC and FDA reported tens of thousands of domains registered during the early days of the COVID crisis – many with phrases such as “covidcure” designed to dupe consumers.

Your research covers the United States, can you say something about Europe?

Whether the domains are based in Europe or in the United States. That is why we need a global response

The Internet is border-less, so scams created in one region can exploit people around the globe. That is true with COVID scams, whether the domains are based in Europe or in the United States. That is why we need a global response to the issue of COVID scams, whether the domain is a .eu, .fr, .us, or .com.

What should be done to stop or avoid this? Who has the power to take action? Government? ICANN? Courts?

Combatting Internet frauds, scams and crime takes a broad global effort. That means law enforcement and regulatory action, potential new laws, and vigilant work by consumer-protection organizations both in and outside government. For example, Digital Citizens created a COVID scam awareness campaign to alert consumers about the risks.

 

Tom Galvin is Digital Citizens Alliance Team Executive Director and is “focused on bringing a voice to consumers, including those who have been victimized online. By putting a face on the victims of online crime, Digital Citizens will serve our fellow citizens and issue a wake-up call to policymakers and Internet companies that they must do more to protect us.”

Read more Netopia interviews here

Tangible Rules for a World Dictated by Big Tech Giants

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Three questions to MEP Alex Agius Saliba about the Digital Services Act (DSA)

What is your most important priority for the Digital Services Act?

Digital services have become the new utilities of our time. Their importance for our social and economic lives will only continue to grow. With the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), we aim to shape the digital economy at the European Union level and be a standard-setter for the rest of the world, as we did with data protection.

We should also aim to regulate digital services, including online platforms and marketplaces, by creating a digital environment built on trust, choice, and a high level of protection for all consumers, citizens, and SMEs. The DSA should protect and safeguard citizens’ and consumers’ rights and guarantee a better and safer digital environment with real, tangible rules in a virtual world where there are no borders, which have been dictated, so far, by the Big Tech Giants.

Are you concerned about pushback, as was the case with the DSM-directive? What is your biggest fear?

Tangible rules in a virtual world where there are no borders, which have been dictated, so far, by the Big Tech Giants

There will be a lot of interest and pressure in future discussions on the Digital Services Act. I think it is still early stages, to be precise, and we need to evaluate the Commission proposals once they are published. Still, I think this time, the European Parliament is better equipped for the future discussion, as MEPs just voted three DSA reports coming from three different Committees that are already setting the general framework and level of ambition of the forthcoming talks. I hope that the Commission and the Member States will support the European Parliament in the last plenary session’s measures. And together, we can produce an ambitious package that will make a difference for all European citizens and companies.

Will the DSA be the end station for European digital policy? Or do you see other needs around the corner?

The Digital Services act is not an end in itself, but it is a means to achieve a fairer and safer digital environment for citizens and businesses. Shopping, connecting with friends and family, sharing experiences, watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book, booking a trip – those are all activities from our everyday life. For anyone of these activities, there is one or multiple online platforms and digital services. The Digital Single Market is all around us and will continue to evolve and change in the future, and so is the European digital policy. One could only hope that the Digital Services Act is as successful as the E-Commerce Directive in withstanding the next few decades’ digital challenges, but it will not be the end station for me.

 MEP Saliba is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Digital Services Act, his report is available here.

Human Dignity vs Oppressive Force of Internet

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

Three Questions to Douglas Rushkoff

Netopia asks three questions to media theorist and writer, Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Present Shock et al.

His current book Team Human focuses on how society is under threat by a vast corporate infrastructure and it undermines human ability to connect. Money, a system; education, a production line; and the internet has divided us into atomized and radicalized groups.

Rushkoff champions the need to return to meaningful relationships created by humans that will tackle the anti-human problems fomented by big tech.

How did it come about that we accept that machines are in charge that we are simply here to react? Your phone buzzes, and you react – that we are not in charge.

The origins of that aren’t the internet, the origins are the utilitarian exploitation of human beings, and the recent origins of that are the late medievalism when the market place of people was replaced. I think this recent wave of it started five or six hundred years ago when we developed a charter of monopolies and decentralized currency and all these mechanisms that were designed to stop human beings from creating and exchanging value.

I guess there was a brief period between when we were peasants of feudalism and when we were workers of capitalism and there was this moment of opportunity for people to begin creating value, then we created new means to repress or control people. And instead doing it overtly through coercion we did it covertly via new systems of oppression.

And all that we’ve done now is we’ve seen the possibility for a genuine human renaissance or a power shirt with the emergence of digital technology, but we decided not to do that. We decided to embed it with those same extracted values.

The internet has been programmed to be one of those oppressive forces.

It’s the same as money is not an oppressive force, but if you programme money to be an interest borne bench of capitalism or central currency then it will be.

Is language that? Yes, and no – language can connect people, as well as influence and control people. So I think the tools have certain biases, certain affordances, but if you are aware of the affordances you can counteract them, but we’re not.

We’re using digital technology to atomize people and control behaviour and reduce us to these brain stem like responses.

On social media bad behaviour is often rewarded before good behaviour? Just take Pres. Trump’s behaviour as an indicator.

The internet has been programmed to evade people’s critical faculties to bypass the frontal lobes of the brain and trigger our most reactive, reptilian sensibilities. Y’know, of course, if it’s our social media platforms and news feeds are trying to get us to react in a sensationalist or fear based or hateful way, then they are going to engender a less productive human, advanced, mature socially healthy behaviours. In some of us it’ll make us kill or kill ourselves or be mean to others or whatever. It doesn’t care, it doesn’t say “I want people to be bad”, it just says “I want people to be controllable and predictable”. So it exacerbates whatever we are doing. I think of it as a centrifuge that spins people out into the most extreme versions of themselves.

You are Team Human – the notion of meaningful relationships created by humans – so is that legislate the internet? What’s your solution? Who is responsible for this?

Everyone is responsible. I’m arguing in my latest book (Team Human) we need to increase our immune system as people. Y’know we need to develop resilience and genuine social networks so we can resist the thrall of these coercive technologies more. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do policy. Or shouldn’t try alternative business strategies or organise politically it’s just I’m not sure we can do it all at once and most people are not ready to try to think up policy for debate in parliament or congress or wherever, but they can think about their own behaviour and own approaches and what they are doing. They can dis-empower the market place by choosing not to buy or participate in certain things. Yeah, I’m all for better policy and legislation and regulation. Go from all angles.

About the Book

Team Human is a manifesto—a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature.”

Don’t Hack the Messenger

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Across the world people gathered last month to remember murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. They gathered in Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto, in Europe’s capital cities and the length and breadth of Kuciak’s native Slovakia.

The person who ordered the killings has not been officially identified. At a media freedom conference in Bratislava on 5.3.2019, Slovakia’s outgoing President Andre Ciska addressed this question with leaders of Europe’s publishing community. Meanwhile during the twelve months since 21. February 2018, those who seek to silence investigative journalists in order to cover up corruption have switched to other methods.

Cyber weapons are being offered for sale on the Dark Net. According to the hackers who are selling them, they can take down a news website or re-write the news, for example by changing a headline. And this service is offered for as little as $200!

Less sophisticated, but even more effective, is the use of Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS actions.

Malta’s opposition news portal The Shift News experienced a devastating DDoS attack on 14. January 2019. It followed the publication of a healthcare scandal involving the concession to run three hospitals. The site went offline. Deploring the “chilling effect” of this attack, the Council of Europe raised an official alert on its Platform. The Shift News restored its site and the story is online again.

However the Maltese journalists investigating corruption know that they are in grave personal danger too, ever since reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated by a car bomb near her Malta home in 2017. DDoS is only one cyber weapon used to intimidate journalists. Editor-in-chief of The Shift News, Caroline Muscat and activist Tina Urso have experienced a flood of hate speech and threats in social media. Urso’s personal details and her parents’ home address have been shared. Much of this vile abuse is automated using bots. Yet some of the human authors of this cyber-bullying are close to the Maltese government, so they enjoy impunity.

Paragon of Press Freedom

In contrast, the Finnish authorities have set down a marker that online bullying of journalists will not be tolerated. Finland is famous as a paragon of press freedom. Yet it is on the frontline of the information wars between its neighbour Russia and Europe. So when Finnish YLE TV journalist Jessica Aro started getting online threats and abuse, Russia was where she went to find the trolls behind it. Aro tracked down the criminals to St Petersburg. Her investigation earned her the Bonnier Award for Journalism, Scandinavia’s top prize. But she had a long wait for justice. Two and a half years later the judge at Helsinki District Court imposed a 22-month prison sentence on Ilja Janitskin, founder of the pro-Kremlin HV-Lehti website. He and his accomplices had to pay 136,000 euros in compensation.

Peter Warren of the UK-based Cyber Security Research Institute comments: “The attack on journalists is now physical and murderous as well as technological. Attempts to intimidate journalists should be strenuously countered by national governments, the EU, United Nations and NATO, because truth is a weapon. If it were not, countries like China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and the USA would not make such efforts to control it in their own interests.”

Another think tank, the US Institute for the Future, revealed widespread state- sponsored trolling.

There is also constant blocking of Twitter accounts by the Turkish government, documented by Alp Toker of Net Blocks (formerly Turkey Blocks). And there have been repeated attacks on Meydan TV, run by exiled journalists from Azerbaijan. Meydan and other critical media sites were legally blocked by the government on the grounds of “national security” during the 2018 election campaign and a judge upheld the blocks. At that time the Meydan YouTube channel was taken down by its owner Google in response to a spurious claim of copyright infringement.

State Trolling

Because so many attacks on the press come from state actors, it is rare for trolls to be convicted and jailed and in Europe penalties for computer-based crime are typically more lenient than in the United States, for example.

It is not even a crime to publish personal details alongside threats and insults. This is known as “doxing” in hacking circles. A twenty-year-old man from Hesse was arrested in January 2019 after a massive data theft from the German parliament and online publication of politicians’ and journalists’ personal details. According to Die Welt newspaper, the hacker told police he wanted to “expose people whose public pronouncements annoyed him”.  Later he erased the data by deleting it 32 times from his hard drive and took the computer to a municipal recycling depot. After questioning he walked free.

This example of doxing, although less malicious than the Malta cases, is just as damaging to the journalists involved. For they rely on information from sources and whistleblowers who trust them to keep their identities and the inside information they provide safe and secret. If the journalists cannot even keep their own identities secret then the circle of trust is broken.

The Noble Art of Self-Defense

That is where Daniel Moßbrucker comes in. A human rights defender at Reporters Without Borders, he trains media workers in digital self-defense. But it is an uphill battle.

The latest danger, experienced by British journalist Rori Donaghy, is spyware delivered through the Apple Iphone, using an Imessage. This gives the spy – be it a state actor or a corrupt business owner – access to all the data and photographs on the phone as well as details of its owner’s movements.

Commenting on Moßbrucker’s January 2019 self-defence workshop in Berlin, Dutch investigative reporter Sanne Terlingen said: “The technological tools need to be appropriate for the context. Before I set off, I got all this technical kit and knowhow. But when I arrived in Djibouti I was the only white person with two satellite phones and all this encrypted technology. So that made me conspicuous rather than enhancing my security.“

Some encryption tools used by journalists can become a liability in themselves. The Turkish government cited the fact that he used Bylock to hide his communications as a reason for detaining Vice News fixer Mohamed Rasool for more than four months. Turkey’s attacks on journalists extend to outright blocking, too. Constant blocking of Twitter accounts by the Turkish government has been documented by Alp Toker and the activists at Net Blocks (formerly Turkey Blocks).

Yet despite all these attacks, the truth will come out. The European Commission is investing thousands of tax Euros to support cross-border investigative journalism. Two of the teams funded have continued the work of Daphne Caruana Galizia and of Jan Kuciak, and published damning reports. They prove that cyber attacks, trolls and even bombs and bullets can never kill the truth.

 

 

Wikipedia Black-Out

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Rather ironically, during the EU Copyright Directive vote stages Google funded Wikipedia blacked out in various countries and encouraged users to remonstrate with MEPs citing #saveyourinternet as a hashtag, claiming not doing so would lead to #uploadfilters, and restricting content.

Wikimedia Black Out - Limiting Users

The Filternet

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

We are repeatably told that any attempt to make the internet fair, to close the value gap or ask large platforms to play fair will “break the internet”, because measures, or policies that limit infringement are not viable. Below is a far from complete compilation of some filters currently active on the internet.

The internet runs on filters. Without filters, the internet would break down. Here’s some of them.

The Filternet - filters on the internet sometimes called upload filters

 

 

Deceitful Campaign towards MEPs

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

In June 2018, the European Parliament received an unprecedented number of automated emails, with some MEPs reporting 40,000 emails crashing their inbox in a short space of time. The net effect was many were classified as spam given the content was “cookie cutter”, and the emails sending the messages could not be reached, or verified. In the weeks that followed, an investigation has uncovered a warren of deceit and finance for the campaign of robo-calls, spam emails and auto-tweets against the Copyright directive that leads back to N-Squared, Google and cohorts with many saying these organisations were responsible for spamming MEPs – a hack on democracy. Suffice to say, MEPs were not impressed.

To view the infographic in hi-resolution please click here

 

 

Digital Regulation Points of View

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Creativity and cultural diversity are Europe’s best cards

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Three questions to Börje Hansson, co-founder of independent film production company Bright Pictures

1. What would be the impact on the film producers of current EU-policy proposals on territorial licensing?

We are very worried that our ability to agree territorial licensing to raise capital to produce films and TV content will be compromised to a degree where we simply cannot fund the budgets to match our creative ambitions. We also stand to lose the focused local marketing exclusive distributors undertake in foreign markets – creating a local audience for our films and TV content. The various efforts from EU institutions to erode territorial exclusivity would tear down the very business model of the European film industry – but territorial exclusivity is the commercial reality of film industries across the world.

EU institutions should recognize that cultural and creative diversity, jobs in the film and TV sectors and sustainable businesses are important political goals which should not be compromised

By proposing to limit our ability to work with territorial exclusivity in the European Union, the European film industry is then placed as a competitive disadvantage while territorial exclusivity can be deployed elsewhere in the world.

2. What would you like to see instead?

EU institutions should recognize that cultural and creative diversity, jobs in the film and TV sectors and sustainable businesses are important political goals which should not be compromised by trying to address unsubstantiated demand for cross-border access. That is why I and several of my European producer and distributor colleagues have written to the EU institutions to remind them of their responsibilities both to our sector and to our audiences.

3. Don’t you agree that Europe needs a digital single market to be globally competitive?

Creativity and cultural diversity are Europe’s best cards in a global market place. A good story well told is the key ingredient for success and we work hard every day with our creative partners to deliver that to our audiences.