Last 10 days on the Internet: Free Software and transparent policy making, Trackography, PirateSnoop and EFF Alerts, the Public Domain Day
2014, a shitty year for copyright, privacy and net neutrality, is finally over. 2015 will hopefully be a better year for our rights. It already promises to be a year with some orientation towards transparency and transparent policy making. Free Software is a key element in transparent policy making. The European Parliament seems to be wiling to improve its transparency by allocating one million Euro, from the EU budget for 2015, for a project to audit Free Software programs in use at the Commission and the Parliament, in order to identify and fix security vulnerabilities. Together with measures like encrypting communications among the EU institutions, a pilot that uses Free Software and Open Standards to help civil society actors participate in lawmaking and a project which is intended to enable the European Commission to make unclassified documents publicly available by default – the first steps are made towards a more transparent, open and safe decision making environment within the top European political institutions. MEP Julia Reda (Pirate Party) is one of the leading figures both on these issues and on the copyright reform.
Emphasizing on transparency, the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations’ lack of transparency, created a lot of criticism since its existence was made public through leaked documents. The pressure seems to have determined the EU Commission to make the first bold move in these negotiations and publicly propose measures to boost TTIP transparency. By accepting that openness is likely to help the progress of TTIP, rather than harm it, European Commission aims to release key documents routinely, thus pressuring even more the US negotiators’ outdated position.
While the political scene is struggling with transparency, channels for public participation and other related issues, some organizations are taking action in making those things happen in the public realm. The Guardian Project is proposing as their focus for the next five years, the idea of “security so easy and seamless, that it is boring”. Tactical Technology Collective is launching Trackography, an interactive map that shows which companies track us and how some of them handle our data based on their privacy policies. Furthermore, The Pirate Bay is said to be sailing to the home base, mysteriously counting the days till the beginning of February, when something new is expected to happen. RARBG, one of the most-used torrent sites, launched PirateSnoop, a free web browser designed to easily ignore web blockades. Lastly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launches EFF Alerts, its first app which notifies you when there’s a new action you can take to support EFF and help preserve digital rights in your country, and around the world (unfortunately only for Android smartphones, not iPhone users due to bad Apple Store practices).
In the land of the copyright industries, Universal is suing companies selling “care packages” that prisoners’ families are sending to them in prison. The reason is that some of these packages include mix tapes featuring Universal artists like James Brown, Eminem, Tupac, LL Cool J to name just a few. Considering the high number of prisoners in US, Universal is looking to a big copyright infringement case (subtle).
Every year, on the 1st of January we celebrate the Public Domain Day, when new works get free of copyright constraints. Public domain is where culture becomes open for everybody to access and experiment with. Unfortunately in US this day will not be celebrated until 2019, for works made in 1920’s, 1930’s, like the first Batman comics or one of the first feature films to be shot in color The Wizard of Oz.