Sun, 22 Apr 2007

More mass lone demonstrations in one day than in 18 months

Lone demonstration As mentioned previously, following the initiative of comedian Mark Thomas to demonstrate the dangerous absurdity of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA), in particular of its Section 132, many had requested prior authorisation from the Police to hold lone demonstrations this past Saturday. Section 132 outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1 km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square.

According to the Home Office, ‘during the period 1 August 2005 to December 2006 1,379 demonstrations have taken place [in the SOCPA zone] with an authorisation’. The aim was to have 2,000 mass lone demonstrations. The demo-ometer on Mark Thomas' website shows that 2,294 applications to demonstrate on Saturday 2007-04-21 were handed in.

My own demonstrations was to ‘call for the police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or to shoot them’. This is one of the issues I raised in my appeal to the outcome of the IPCC-supervised enquiry (I called the IPCC earlier in the week and apparently my appeal was to be reviewed the the IPCC legal team during the week). I demonstrated on the very same issue, a month ago.

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Wed, 18 Apr 2007

Creative use of the Data Protection Act - literally

The UK 2005 version of the manifesto for CCTV filmakers is described as:
MANIFESTO FOR CCTV FILMMAKERS declares a set of rules, establishes effective procedures, and identifies further issues for filmmakers using pre-existing CCTV (surveillance) systems as a medium in the UK. The manifesto is constructed with reference to the Data Protection Act 1988 and related privacy legislation that gives the subjects of data records (including CCTV footage) access to copies of the data. The filmmaker's standard equipment is thus redundant; indeed, its use is prohibited. The manifesto can easily be adapted for different jurisdictions.
Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel created the movie Faceless under the rules of the 'Manifesto for CCTV Filmmakers'.

(Discovered via the billblog. Bill will chair a session titled ‘Control Technology: Knowing Me, Knowing You – Ah ha! –’ at the Enter_ conference in Cambridge on 2007-04-27 to which Manu Luksch will participate.)

See also:
2007-04-18 EDITED TO ADD reference to SpyBlog

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Tue, 10 Apr 2007

At the end of March, I wrote, for The Register, Fighting torture with copyright - Moral musos work to rule about the idea first expressed by Clive Stafford Smith for musicians to use copyright law to possibly achieve more for the human rights of many than human right laws have so far. The story has been picked up by others with a couple interesting twists.

Roger Parloff in the Legal Pad at CNN Money investigates whether torture is fair use in the context of copyright law. He takes at heart whether songwriters and music publishers can increase their income thanks to the US army as ‘[m]usic-as-torture seems to offer rare growth potential in an industry otherwise in distress’. Issues being explored include whether use of music in torture constitutes a public performance. For this entry, Parloff consulted William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and the author of a treatise on copyright law (and of the The Patry Copyright Blog), professor Jane Ginsburg of Columbia Law School, and Fred Koenigsberg of White & Case and ASCAP's general counsel.

Guillaume Champeau on French site Ratiatum asks what if the US army was to buy the music labels? It would solve the copyright infringement issue (and the financial difficulties of some labels). If music is a weapon for war, then maybe it should belong to the army.

So far I haven't heard of any concerned musician starting a legal action against the US Government, but I did discover that the Society for Ethnomusicology issued a Position Statement on Torture in which it ‘calls for full disclosure of U.S. government-sanctioned and funded programs that design the means of delivering music as torture; condemns the use of music as an instrument of torture; and demands that the United States government and its agencies cease using music as an instrument of physical and psychological torture.’

In the same article, I also wrote about Mark Thomas' mass lone demonstrations (MLD) to undermine Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) that outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1 km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square. The day it was published happened to be the third Wednesday of March and that evening I was in Parliament Square. ‘We understand from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that during the period 1 August 2005 to December 2006 1,379 demonstrations have taken place [in the SOCPA zone] with an authorisation’ according to the Home Office. On 2007-04-05, Mark Thomas and a group of regulars at the MLD brought 1,184 requests for demonstrations to Charing Cross police station; the demos will take place on Saturday 2007-04-21. The aim is for people to carry out 20 demos each in the SOCPA zone in one day and to get as many people as possible to do so. To participate, you have until 2007-04-15 10.30am to get your forms in. The regular MLD scheduled for the third Wednesday of the month, is on 2007-04-18 this month.

As if Section 132 was not enough of a threat to anyone who wants to be heard by his or her Member of Parliament and Lords, on 2007-05-012007-06-01 the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House Site will be added among the new sites designated under Section 128 (offence of trespassing on designated site) of the same SOCPA. Come MayJune, attending an event in a Committee Room or meeting your MP in Portcullis House can land in you in jail for up to 51 weeks.

Morning Star

2007-04-28 EDITED TO ADD: The Morning Star picks up on the story and Michal Boncza writes The new torture, published in the 2007-04-28 edition.

2007-04-10 EDITED TO CORRECT: different documents have different start dates for the additions to S.128. It seems that June is the correct commencement date.


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Sat, 07 Apr 2007

Turning Britain into a nation of suspects - 3

At the House of Lords debate on Police: DNA Database on the 2007-03-08, Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office) stated that “[t]here were nearly 3.8 million persons on the DNA database as at the end of January 2007”, confirmed that “each sample is kept on the database indefinitely” and explained “we should be clear that negotiations on the Prum treaty have not been completed” (the Prum treaty is a European treaty, which gives European member states direct access to national DNA records).

In other news last month, we learn that “five civil servants who help run the national DNA database have been suspended after being accused of industrial espionage” but don't worry as “[t]he Home Office insisted there was no question information held on the database had been 'compromised'”

The Home Office published a consultation on Modernising Police Powers: Review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 (closing date for responses: 2007-05-31) in which it suggests the creation of short term holding facilities (STHF) in shopping centres: “The function of the STHF would be to confirm the identity of the suspect and process the person by reporting for summons/charging by post, a penalty notice or other disposal. Persons detained would be subject to detention up to a maximum period of 4 hours to enable fingerprinting, photographing and DNA sampling. The STHF would not be used in cases where the arresting officer considers that an investigation was required and authority to transfer a person from a STHF to a designated police station would require the authority of an Inspector.” The document goes as far as suggesting to remove all exisiting limitations on taking DNA samples: “Is there scope to populate identification databases and remove unnecessary operational constraints on the extent to which police are able to use fingerprints etc. to prevent, detect and investigate crime?”

(Background information on DNA: Should the Police keep your DNA forever?)

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Spying on its customers is ok... as long as you can lie about it

Sir Swinton Thomas, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, authored the Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005-2006 in February 2007:
vi. The Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are very important in this process and their staff do essential work. They are very co-operative and dedicated. I talk to them regularly and they are totally opposed to the concept of intercept being admissible in Court. The present regime provides a high degree of protection to the CSPs and particularly to those members of their staff who work in this sensitive field, and their strong co-operation referred to could easily be undermined. Here again, I think that it is essential for people holding views on this subject to talk to the CSPs, and to listen to what they say, and understand the basis of their strong opposition to any change in the present law.
From the minutes of evidence taken before the joint committee on human rights on 2007-03-12 (uncorrected transcript of oral evidence to be published as HC 394-i)
Q21 Nia Griffith: You mention in your annual report that communication service providers are strongly opposed to intercept being admissible in court. Can you tell us why that is and should their agreement be a precondition to relaxing the ban?

Sir Swinton Thomas: I visited all the major telephone companies and internet companies at least once a year and more often with some of them, as was necessary. There are two aspects. The companies themselves who are extremely co-operative in providing the material which is needed for the intercept are very concerned about their capacity and the way in which they go about dealing with these issues being made public. There is probably a commercial aspect to that which is difficult for me to deal with in public. I dare say that if you have a chairman of a company dealing in communications, he would say, "Quite frankly, we would prefer that our customers did not know that we were passing all your calls across to a government agency" [my emphasis], which is a fairly natural response. A more important one is that they think - and I think they are right - that if there was a change in the law all the ways in which they go about providing material would be open to examination and cross-examination, which is something they do not want to happen. Members of the general public probably know very little about it. [...]
Is the main issue regarding use of intercepts in court really that it's not good for business if we, the public, know that our calls are passed to NTAC, GCHQ or a similar agency?

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