These defenders of the net can’t possibly be for real, but they’re lawyering up


PrismOpenDiscussion Photo by Bruce Sterling (all rights reserved)


A crypto kiddie with a knack for picking unfortunate metaphors; a nervous leak platform provider; a French net activist; and a Pirate Party member of EU parliament from Iceland.

What connects the four? They were all part of a panel at Share Conference/Republika on Tito’s ship Galeb in Rijeka, Croatia, discussing the implications of government surveillance.

Boy, what a discussion. It ranged from brilliant into bizarre tin foil hat territory and back several times over. Most noteworthy, though, was this: The discussion ended with the unveiling of Share Defense, a new policy think tank:

SHARE Defense is a part of Share Foundation established with a goal to fight for the public’s interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights within the fields of privacy, free speech, government transparency and efficiency, surveillance and human rights and to promote the positive values of openness, decentralization, and free access to the exchange of knowledge, information and technology. In long term our goal is to fight to obtain sustainability of free and decentralized Internet and implement standards of human rights in digital environment.
Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, artists, and technologists, SHARE Defense protects the rights of Internet citizens within its mission to stop the oppression, censorship and surveillance of future generations. As a policy think-tank, SHARE Defense is conducting research and proposing new policy approaches to the issues in intersection of law and technology. As a watchdog organization, SHARE Defense, through analysis of proposed and current regulations and laws as well as practice, critically monitors the activities of governments and provides policy support to any social, technological and regulatory change that could affect our digital rights and liberties. As a legal team, SHARE Defense is conducting strategic litigation in order to defend powerless Internet users, online media and entrepreneurs with a goal to improve legal practise, expand application of existing human rights standards and establish legal certainty and predictability in digital environment.

Share Defense already has a first publication out, too, together with the EFF: A visualization of Google’s transparency report.


Unveiling of Share Defense


It sure is an interesting time in the evolution of civil rights in the digital sphere and at the intersection of the digital and physical spheres.

Personally, I like the approach that EFF and Share Defense choose, too: To lawyer up and fight for legal protection rather than by trying to out-crypto government snooping of dubious legality.

For one, we can never expect the majority of the population to become great cryptographers. But more importantly, citizens should not have to try to defend themselves against governments except in moments of state crisis – rather governments exist to protect the citizens they represent and who they are elected by. For a sustainable defense of civil rights, a legal approach seems to me to be the most promising.

So as for the four misfits mentioned above? Bruce Sterling summed it up nicely:

A spy apparatus that can’t officially exist being attacked by people who can’t possibly be for real.

They can’t possibly be for real, but they’re lawyering up and institutionalizing like there’s no tomorrow.

What could’ve entered the Public Domain on Jan 1, 2012 – but hasn’t


culture is not a crime

Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain shared a list of works that could have entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2012 – under the law that existed until 1987. It features works like Rebels Without A Cause, The Body Snatchers and Tolkien’s The Return of the King, to name just a few.

US copyright law in 1978 protected cultural works for 28 years after publication, with an option to add another 28 years. Now that period has been lobbied to a ridiculous 70 years – after the death of the author.

Think about this for a moment: Instead of making sure the author gets a certain window of opportunity to exclusively exploit their work commercially (in other words: to make some money of their work in order to produce more), that right now extends pretty much indefinitely and can be transferred to an heir or, as far as I know, even a company.

This, of course, is good news for the rights holders. It also means tremendous losses for society, producers of culture, innovation, and any one of us. These works can’t be used, can’t enrich our culture. They are, for lack of a better word, locked away. And a good chunk don’t even have a known author who might profit of their copyright, they’re so-called orphan works – author unknown, work inaccessible.

And here’s some concrete numbers from Duke:

If the pre-1978 law were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works created in 1983 enter the public domain on January 1, 2012. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Such works could be digitized, preserved, and made available for education, for research, for future creators. Instead, they will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even into the next century. Think of the cultural harm that does. In addition, because most of these works are orphan works — works that are still presumably under copyright, but commercially unavailable and with no identifiable copyright holder — no one is benefiting from continued protection, while the works remain both commercially unavailable and culturally off limits.

Think of the damage. In fact, read about the damage. The Duke article refers to two articles that tell a pretty clear story:

There’s not that much we can do about copyright as it is, except to bring it up with your local law maker of choice. And, of course, to support those who fight the good cause here, namely organizations like the EFF – have you donated yet?

Image by Dawn Endico. Some rights reserved.

You donated $9.55 to EFF through my ads (thanks!)


A little while back, I proposed to run social ads on blogs and to donate the revenue. This, it seemed, would be the easiest way to raise some funds and to donate money, paying with your attention. Eyeballs for money, the usual model for ads, applied in a social way. Here’s the ad I put on my blog. Every time someone clicked the ad, some money came in through Google Adsense:

Of course the deal is still on: Click the ad, I’ll donate for a good cause.

Not too many people clicked, but those of you who did raised $9.55. Not huge, but not so bad for just a few clicks, eh?

EFF.orgSo this time, a round $10 will go went to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect bloggers rights and our privacy. The money raised in August will go to Stiftung Bridge (“Bridge Foundation”), a German non-profit that fights for digital rights by supporting small projects.

Thanks a lot, all of you. And please consider doing the same thing.