Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Copyright law threatening

On Dec. 13, 1981, Poland’s communist government declared martial law to put down the Solidarity movement. Telephone lines went silent across the country, and once service was restored, each time anyone picked up the telephone they were greeted with a voice: “Rozmowa Kontrolowana.”

“This conversation is being monitored.”

Since telephone service was still a rare privilege in a country where the political establishment feared citizen-to-citizen communication, some could shrug their shoulders because it did not directly apply to them. When, days later, the government set up regional censorship offices to read everyone’s mail, shrugging one’s shoulders ceased to be an option.

Not quite 30 years have passed, and tales like these remain common, from the Egyptian government’s efforts to register and track users at Internet cafes, to Iranian government agents showing up on Twitter this spring to intimidate protesters.

That dictatorships treat their citizens this way is no surprise. What is surprising is that democracies are beginning to do the same.

It is increasingly apparent that modern copyright law is utterly and completely incompatible with the right to privacy. This is at the core of the Pirate movement in Europe which broke through to elect its first members of the European Parliament this summer, and the Pirate Party of Canada, which is collecting signatures on its website to register as an official political party as we speak.

While the name may sound a little humorous, the cause is very serious indeed. Whether you spend a lot of time online or not, the Pirate movement aims to keep the bounds of your and your children’s relationship with their government in a reasonable place, and to make certain that the balance between citizen rights and the bottom line does not tilt in the wrong direction.

What has changed?


(Hat tip: 3Quarks Daily =)

Chaos and censorship at Beijing’s inaugural 798 Biennale


The inaugural Beijing 798 Biennale, held in the sprawling 798 art district in China’s capital, saw a chaotic opening on 15 August, with major works by Chinese artists widely censored by authorities. The biennale was arranged with international contributions operating independently at numerous private galleries in the 798 complex, which were not affected by the censorship and avoided the operational issues that hampered the main exhibition hall.

Billed as the first non-government biennale in China, the event was hampered by a lack of funds, operational support, and some inexperience on the part of the organisers, who were predominantly Chinese art journalists.

In steaming temperatures of around 40ºC, hundreds stood out in the sun to listen to opening speeches by assembled dignitaries. The ceremony was briefly interrupted by a demonstration and water being thrown at the platform. The demonstration, whose purpose seemed obscure, was performed by a group including a deaf mute in ancient Chinese costume, a man wheeling a cart of bedpans and another man wearing a metal mask accompanied by someone dressed as a bride. ()

War protest migrants may face passport penalties

They can’t possibly be serious:

New migrants who demonstrate an “active disregard for UK values”, possibly including protesting at homecoming parades of troops from Afghanistan, could find their applications for a British passport blocked under new citizenship proposals published today.

But migrants who contribute to the “democratic life of the country” by canvassing for political parties could find the application process speeded up so that it takes one year instead of three.

The proposals unveiled by the immigration minister, Phil Woolas, set out a much tougher regime for the 150,000 people who apply for a British passport each year, using a points-based system for “earned citizenship”.



Chinese government critic calls for one-day internet protest

An outspoken critic of the Chinese government today called on the country’s hundreds of millions of “netizens” to stage a one-day protest against the Communist party’s tight controls on freedom of expression.

Supporters of Ai Weiwei described it as a day of mourning for the Chinese internet, which will come under greater pressure from censors than ever before when the authorities introduce new Green Dam censorship software on 1 July.

On that day – also the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist party – Ai said people should stay offline for 24 hours.

While the move avoids direct confrontation with the authorities, it is an unusually public attempt to mobilise opposition to the party that has ruled China for 60 years.

Ai, an influential contemporary artist, said he was trying to create a new vocabulary for demonstrations.

“Normally you have no right to protest, you cannot go on the street, you cannot strike,” he said.

“But the authorities cannot make you touch a computer. We are just trying to show our attitude.”




[An] installation piece named Through fills the entire exhibition room and is comprised of fragments of tables and temple pillars that date back from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Weiwei has reconstructed them so that the angular beams often impale the tables and lean against them.


Censors of the Net



Web filtering is most often indicated by the “Page Not Found” message familiar to all Internet users, free or monitored. In computer lingo, it’s called a “404 error.” The 404 page has always been a problem. According to a charming tech legend, in the early days of the Web, at CERN in Switzerland, researchers who were sick of continually having to restart a failing server located in office number 404 named the failure-to-connect error after this unlucky office. Whether the story is true or not, this error page really does have bad karma.

In Oman, in Bahrain, in Dubai, the 404 page works overtime: you are redirected to a message informing you, in English and Arabic, that the site you are looking for is not authorized in the kingdom. In China, the 404 page doesn’t come with an explanation. There’s no point; the sites are censored. American soldiers in Iraq see it when they try to access YouTube while on base, which is prohibited by the US Army. They don’t have that problem in cybercafés in Baghdad. In Algeria and Egypt, it indicates an actual technical problem. The Web isn’t filtered there, though it is closely monitored. You get it in Syria if you try to go to a site that ends in .il, the top-level domain for Israel. But you’ll have no trouble getting to a porn site. And in Tunisia, the 404 page is just fake. You’ll get an Internet Explorer or Firefox page informing you that your connection failed. The only problem is that the Firefox logo displayed when you’re using Internet Explorer (or vice versa) makes it clear that you’ve landed on a phony page. In Tunisia, this gave birth to the expression a “404 bâchee” (canvas-covered) for the censored pages, a reference to the little canvas-back Peugot pickup truck so popular in Africa. Tunisian Internet users exclaim in unison, “And the driver’s name is Ammar!” Ammar, for the first letter of the ATI (Tunisian Internet Agency), an arm of the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior.


On our cruise through Censorland, we must stop over in Tunisia, the first African country to have access to the Internet, that shining gateway to a computerized citizenry and new technologies. Praised by Bill Gates (”I am amazed by Tunisia”), this country is at the forefront of cybercensorship.


Based on an article published at Le Monde. The biggest surprised remains that ID checks are required by law in Italian internet cafés.

(Via Oneiros)

Hadopi : le Conseil constitutionnel censure la riposte graduée

Le Conseil constitutionnel a censuré, mercredi 10 juin, la partie sanction de la loi Hadopi – la “riposte graduée” – sur le téléchargement illégal. Considérant qu'”Internet est une composante de la liberté d’expression et de consommation”, et qu'”en droit français c’est la présomption d’innocence qui prime”, le Conseil rappelle que “c’est à la justice de prononcer une sanction lorsqu’il est établi qu’il y a des téléchargements illégaux”. “Le rôle de la Haute autorité (Hadopi) est d’avertir le téléchargeur qu’il a été repéré, mais pas de le sanctionner”, conclut le Conseil.