Sun, 25 Mar 2007


Today, the UK switched to Summer time - from GMT to BST. This was advertised at 01:00 UTC by the MSF signal, the principal means of disseminating the UK national standards of time and frequency.

This is the last such switch signaled from Rugby, Warwickshire. In a few days, on 2007-04-01 the MSF service broadcast will transfer to Anthorn, Cumbria. Rugby MSF started transmitting standard time in 1950 with announcements every 15 minutes. Time signals were first broadcast from Rugby on 19 December 1927, from the Rugby GBR which continued transmitting time signals until the end of November 1986.

How do all the acronyms in the title of this post relate to each other? They all have something to do with time. See the Soapflake Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late! I wrote a decade ago.

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Wed, 21 Mar 2007

Published in El Reg

Column For the French, the business of exploiting available laws, directives and other rules is an art form. One such inventive use of the constraints is the 'greve du zele' ('working to rules' strike action) where those on strike work more, not less.

When on greve du zele workers observe all rules - however archaic or unsuitable they may be - to the letter with such minutiae that their productivity becomes virtually nil. Greve du zele gives employees who are by law forbidden to go on strike, the ability to protest, making the interdiction moot.

It is most popular with airport staff.

Similar techniques are being applied in the UK. Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square. Several individuals involved in peaceful protests have already been arrested under this law. Comedian and human rights activist Mark Thomas calls it a "mass lone demonstration", and describes how to participate

But one of the most intriguing suggestions has come from British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.

Stafford Smith suggests that musicians use copyright law to hold the American government to account for its use of music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

Music as torture / Music as weapon

Suzanne G Cusick in her article entitled "Music as torture / Music as weapon", describes the history of sound as an instrument of torture. The military has a long history of developing sound itself as a well, using infrasound, or subsonic frequencies, to disorientate battlefield opponents.

Writes Cusick:

"As early as May 2003 the BBC reported that the US Army had used Metallica's Enter Sandman and Barney the Purple Dinosaur's I Love You in the interrogation of Iraqi detainees, playing the songs repeatedly at high volume inside of shipping containers."

She also finds mentions that the US Army used music by Christina Aguilera, Eminem (Slim Shady, White America) and Dr Dre. Stafford Smith adds to this list Aerosmith, Don McLean and Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA).

Bruce Springsteen has already shown a willingness to defend his 'brand': he fought and lost a trademark dispute involving a cybersquatter.

According to Stafford Smith, he has the opportunity, with other musicians, not to have their music used by US government to torture unlawful enemy combatants, to sue under copyright law.

Moral rights

Musicians can use their moral rights (Article 6bis of the Berne Convention) to object to the derogatory treatment of their work to prevent any similar further use and claim compensation for the damage to their honour and reputation.

This aspect of copyright law is not fully recognised by the USA; it is not referenced in the EU-US-Japan-led Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. The USA has historically been fully behind the economic rights and even extended the copyright legislation with the so called Mickey Mouse Act giving more commercial benefits to the industry. Europe has traditionally been more balanced, recognising both moral and economic rights as fundamental. Closely related to the right of integrity is the right of identification, which when implemented let creators refuse to be identified if their work has been edited in a way they object to.

Ironically, moral rights have been under by the Creative Commons utopians. By wanting to liberalise copyright to allow all remixes, they need to get rid of the right of integrity.

The BBC's Bill Thompson notes that Lawrence Lessig dismisses moral rights as "a French idea" that has no real usefulness.

This isn't so. Artists could work with their labels to sue for copyright infringement and demand detailed information as to when and where their music has been played so that they can calculate how much royalties they are owed.

Copyright law, which has been extended for the sole benefit of media corporations, could possibly achieve more for the human rights of many where human right laws have mostly failed. ®

Bootnote Last week, I went to Charing Cross police station and got my Application for Demonstration approved. I'll be demonstrating on my own to call for the 'Police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or shoot them'. I won't tell you where or when I'll demonstrate as this is a lone event. Go organise your own demonstration next month.

El Reg Read and comment on this article at El Reg...

Follow-up posts:

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Authorised demonstration in Parliament Square

Lone demonstration With my Application for Demonstration (approved last week) in hand, after work, I went to Parliament Square to join thirty or forty other lone demonstrators - and Brian Haw. The placard was made with two printouts, a large envelope, two rulers and some tape! We may have to do many more such demonstrations for Parliament to strike down the worst sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Radio 4 recorded some of the demonstators for a programme that will air Thursday 2007-03-29 at 18:30.

The 'reason for event', i.e., what's on the placard, is a call I made earlier in my appeal to the outcome of the IPCC-supervised enquiry.

Many thanks to El Reg for publishing Fighting torture with copyright - Moral musos work to rule.

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Mon, 19 Mar 2007

Terrorism definition, plus ca change

Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C. Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has published a 52-page report titled The Definition of Terrorism (Crown copyright). Here are his conclusions:
86. My main conclusions are as follows:
(1) There is no single definition of terrorism that commands full international approval.
(2) The risks posed by terrorism and its nature as crime are sufficient to necessitate proportional special laws to assist prevention, disruption and detection.
(3) A definition of terrorism is useful as part of such laws.
(4) The current definition in the Terrorism Act 2000 is consistent with international comparators and treaties, and is useful and broadly fit for purpose, subject to some alteration.
(5) Idiosyncratic terrorism imitators should generally be dealt with under non-terrorism criminal law.
(6) The discretion vested in the authorities to use or not to use the special laws is a real and significant element of protection against abuse of rights.
(7) The exercise of such discretion requires especial care by those in whom the discretion is vested.
(8) New sentencing powers should be introduced to enable an additional sentence for ordinary criminal offences, if aggravated by the intention to facilitate or assist a terrorist, a terrorist group or a terrorist purpose.
(9) Offences against property should continue to fall within the definition of terrorist acts.
(10) Religious causes should continue to fall within the definition of terrorist designs.
(11) The existing law should be amended so that actions cease to fall within the definition of terrorism if intended only to influence the target audience; for terrorism to arise there should be the intention to intimidate the target audience.
(12) The existing definition should be amended to ensure that it is clear from the statutory language that terrorism motivated by a racial or ethnic cause is included.
(13) Extra-territoriality should remain within the definition in accordance with international obligations.
(14) A specific statutory defence of support for a just cause is not practicable.
(15) A new statutory obligation should require that the exercise of the discretion to use special counter-terrorism laws in relation to extra-territorial matters should be subject to the approval of the Attorney-General having regard to (a) the nature of the action or the threat of action under investigation, (b) the target of the action or threat, and (c) international legal obligations.
(16) The law should not be amended to enable the use in the United Kingdom of the special laws against persons subject to diplomatic immunity.
With the possible exception of (11), Lord Carlile adopts a very prudent approach and dismisses, sometimes even abruptly, the issues he is aware of.
62. The fundamental tests applied are to be found in the 24 pages of the Code of Practice for Crown Prosecutors. It is possible, though far from easy, to challenge some prosecutorial decisions by judicial review. The continuation of jury trial provides an important protection against prosecutions the public find unreasonable or arbitrary. Current dilution of jury trial is understandable where there is a real risk of the jury process being contaminated by corruption or intimidation, infection of the jury process itself. Otherwise the jury remains the jewel in our criminal justice system. Mistakes will occur from time to time in that system, including decisions to prosecute. However, the discretion exercised by the prosecutor should not be discarded lightly on the basis that one day a seriously malign government may come to power and arbitrariness will become the order of the day. That view, expressed to me occasionally by sophisticated commentators, is one I reject.
Let's pass on how mistakes can seriously adversely affect the life of individuals. It would have been welcome to discover the rationales by which Lord Carlile rejects that view. My understanding of the legal system is that most laws survive the government that introduces them, so having a set of over broad laws being passed by a government considered benign can create just the tools needed by a seriously malign government. The Terrorism Act in itself, even with too broad definitions, is possibly not a major risk in and of itself, but combine it with, for instance, the National Identity Register that will be build as a result of the Id Card Act, and the National DNA Database, and you can see how the risks are magnified.

I also find this report disappointing in how it explains that basically we can't improve much as we're bound by international treaties that are possibly as bad but that we can't change. There's a bit of a circular logic which feels like an easy excuse. This is used for the 'Nelson Mandela test' and for ensuring that state sponsored terrorism remains safe.

(I noticed the publication of this report via SpyBlog's analysis of it.)

At the same time the Islamic Human Rights Commission points out:
The Islamic Human Rights Commission is very concerned by the latest terror statistics published by the Home Office according to which, of 1126 arrests made under the Terrorism Act 2000, only 211 have been charged with terrorism offences with only 40 of those convicted.

IHRC notes that the anti-terror laws are so broad that what would normally be considered as relatively minor offences have been included in the 40 successful terror convictions. For example, the statistics include convictions of individuals for wearing badges bearing the logo of proscribed organisations related to the conflict in Northern Ireland, such as the UVF.
I briefly commented on these statistics in Not enough innocents arrested, let's do an ad campaign.

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Wed, 14 Mar 2007

Creative use of the law as a form of protest

The French have perfected the art of using the law and other rules as a form of a protest culminating in the regular ‘grèves du zèle’. Those on grève du zèle do their work but observe all rules to the letter with such minutiae that their productivity is virtually nil. This is a form of protest that is accessible to those that are by law forbidden to go on strike. It is most popular with airport staff.

This same spirit is gaining traction in the UK.

Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) outlaws protests without police permission within 1 km of the Parliament. Several individuals involved in peaceful protests have been arrested under this law. Last year, Mark Thomas spotted a way to use the SOCPA law itself as a way to undermine it: ‘for people to apply for mass lone demonstrations and in doing so highlight the danger and stupidity of having this law in a democracy’. Mark provides all the practical details you need to participate.

Earlier today, I went to Charing Cross police station and got my Application for Demonstration approved. I'll be demonstrating on my own to call for the ‘Police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or shoot them’. I won't tell you where or when I'll demonstrate as this is a lone event, go organise your own.

From Charing Cross I rushed to attend a debate on the death penalty organised by Reprieve with human right lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, Nick Yarris who spent 23 years on Pennsylvania’s death row before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2004, journalists Mark Dowd and (as the dissenting voice) Peter Hitchens, and chaired by broadcaster Charles Wheeler.

Nick Yarris' way forward to end capital punishment in the USA is through economic pressure. He is determined to convince European governments to bring about trade sanctions against the five US states who hold most of the death row population: California, Florida, Pennsylvania Texas and Virginia. Nick claims the UK is the largest overall foreign investor in Pennsylvania, a reason he moved to the UK from Pennsylvania. Trade sanctions or the prospect of bank loans have been effective means of enforcing so called intellectual property rights (IPR). A common way to impose sanctions is to have them voluntarily accepted as a condition to join a club, that's how the World Trade Organization has foisted on many nations the EU-US-Japan-led Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And the USA can impose economic sanctions, under the Special 301 legislation of the Trade Act of 1974, on countries it deems not effective in protecting IPR.

From reading and watching presentations by Clive Stafford Smith, he always seems ready to share interesting anecdotes in how he constructively used US laws. (In a lecture to Glaswegian law students, unfortunately not online anymore, he recounted how he got Georgia's court to overturn the five years jail sentence for his client having committed the crime of oral sex with his consenting wife; his legal arguments included demanding assurances from prosecution lawyers that they were not guilty of the same offense.) Last week's debate was not the place for too many anecdotes, but he did offer one of his more off-the-wall suggestion: for someone to provide ‘death row insurance’ alongside travel insurance for those flying to the US. You may want to check the available videos of him as his enthusiasm and pragmatism are contagious. In the latest Reprieve newsletter, Clive Stafford Smith suggests for musicians to use Copyright law to hold the American government to account for its use of music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

In the latest Reprieve newsletter, Clive Stafford Smith suggests for musicians to use Copyright law to hold the American government to account on its use of torture. The US military is known to have used music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. Music from Aerosmith, Eminem, Don Mclean, Bruce Springsteen, Tupac, and Meatloaf as well as the theme tune of the TV show Barney have been used to torture. All the artists involved can sue the US government for copyright infringement and request detailed information as to when and where their music has been played so that they can calculate how much royalties they are owed. Copyright law, which has been extended for the sole benefit of media corporations, could possibly achieve more for the human rights of many where human right laws have mostly failed!

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Wed, 07 Mar 2007

The Met is still registered with the Information Commissioner, and the entry is public... again

Sometime last year when updating the Innocent in London page I realised the link to the registration entry of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in the register of data controllers maintained by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was not working anymore. I looked for an updated entry and none were to be found. I simply updated the page with the annotation: ‘[update: the link to the entry – – is now dead and I cannot find the new DPR entry for the Met]’.

In January, SpyBlog also looked for the MPS entry in the register and couldn't find it either. SpyBlog called the staff at the Information Commissioner's Office but they ‘could not seem to find any current or pending Data Protection Register entries on their internal systems either’. (I commented on this in an earlier entry: Where is the Metropolitan Police entry in the data protection public register?)

Early February, as I had to contact the Public Access Office of the MPS, I took this opportunity to ask ‘for the registration number(s) or name(s) under which the MPS data controller(s) is registered under the Data Protection Act as I can't find any entry for it any more in the ICO's register of data controllers’. First time I asked, this query was ignored. Second time I asked, it was ignored again.

Later that month the Mayor of London (MOL) blog raised this issue as well.

Last week, I emailed the Metropolitan Police Authority asking whether they could find out whether the MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act or whether I should ask a question to the Clerk to the Authority (I had used this procedure last year). They ‘asked the MPS to provide [them] with the information that [I] have requested’ and today I got the following reply:
The MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act with the Information Commissioner. The Data Protection Registration No. is Z4888193, the entry expires on 8/9/07.
You can verify this for yourself by searching for the registration number at the ICO's register of data controllers search page. (Permalinks to the register don't tend to be permanent, but here's one to the entry itself). I can't reproduce the full entry here for copyright reasons (the copyright is listed at the bottom of the entry).

This is a positive development as if the MPS had not been registered it would have meant that all the police databases such as the Police National Computer, the National DNA Database, IDENT1, the National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Database, etc. would have been unlawful. That being the case, it would have been likely for some trials to be dismissed on pure technicality. We are all safer with police databases being operated lawfully.

What is curious is that this entry, originally registered on 09 September 2000, suddenly reappears today after multiple enquiries by SpyBlog and myself to the ICO, the Public Access Office of the MPS and to the Metropolitan Police Authority. The data controller is listed as COMMISSIONER FOR THE METROPOLIS. The searches done by SpyBlog, MOL and myself would have found this entry if it had been present.

Through the independent efforts of SpyBlog and myself, both the MPS and the ICO have been aware that the MPS entry in the data controler register could not be found. (Visitors from the MPS are regulars to the Innocent in London page and they are also likely to have noticed the update note there.) Only a nudge from the MPA, it seems, made it reappear as if by magic. Why it disappeared from the public register for several months, in the first place, remains a mystery.

2007-03-07 EDITED TO ADD: SpyBlog posted this news on its sister FOIA blog. An earlier post is about SpyBlog's FOIA request to the ICO.

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Not enough innocents arrested, let's do an ad campaign

In the same week, the Met launched a counter-terrorism ad campaign calling Londoners to report anything they suspect, and announced some terrorism arrest statistics showing that more than half of arrested terrorist suspects since 2001-09-11 have been released without charges.

From September 2001-09-11 upto 2006-12-31, more than half of the 1,166 persons arrested by the UK Police as part of a terrorist investigation were released without charge (652 out of 1166); and as of 2007-03-05, only 40 were convicted for terrorism related offences. (The original statistics are currently available on the Home Office website. Some other analysis include the BBC, the Guardian and Jurist.)

Read Techie and terrorist behavioural profiles are the same to realise that we're all suspects, then go browse the Met's ‘if you suspect it, report it’ ad campaign and be scared. When will they learn from their past mistakes?

Do whatever you can to reclaim your civil liberties before you get denounced for having a non conforming behaviour and are arrested.
Some suggestions.

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Tue, 06 Mar 2007

Chris Lightfoot 1978-2007

A post on Chris Lightfoot's blog announced his death last month. Chris has done much more than most to prevent the further erosion of our civil liberties in making politicians accessible and accountable. You may not know his name, but you're likely to have benefitted from some of the projects he contributed to such as WriteToThem, HearFromYourMP, PledgeBank and No2ID. These tools and campaigns have become indispensable to our democratic activism.

Tributes from his colleagues and friends at MySociety, No2ID and SpyBlog.

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Sun, 04 Mar 2007

No record found

'I can find no record to confirm that Southwark Police did submit a report to the NJU about your arrest.'

Details on Innocent in London

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