February 19, 2010

P2P Sharing and Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

Having a reasonable expectation of privacy is the basis for the application of the 4th amendment of the US Constitution which provides protection against illegal searches and seizures.  If you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the items to be searched the police must get a warrant before any search.  Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule (exigent circumstances, search incident to arrest, etc.)... but let's talk about a computer.

Do we have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of our hard drives?  It depends on what software you are running.  The law says that if you run a peer to peer, you impliedly accept that people can access the contents of your files.  Therefore, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  As a consequence, if the police find evidence of illegality, such evidence can be used to prosecute you.

This is what case law says about file-sharing and this  principle was recently reaffirmed in a child-pornography case.

The defense attorneys in this case tried to distinguish the facts arguing the complexity of the tools used by the police to access the computer of the suspect and his subjective mental state.  Of course, the subjective mental state is irrelevant and the argument of "system penetration" (AKA hacking) was trumped by the circumstance that the data was otherwise accessible through a "widespread" exposition to the public.  In fact, there was not any system penetration and the government only used a hash-mark analysis as a sorting mechanism to prevent the government from having to sift, one by one, through suspect's already publicly exposed files.

However, this case is important in clarifying at least one principle.
What if you are using a sharing software that you think is not publicly accessible?  If the functioning of the software implies exchange of communication, you are advised of your reduced expectation of privacy.  

Here is the decision.

February 18, 2010

Europarliament Says No to SWIFT

Last week (on Feb 12) the European Parliament did not renew its commitment to the SWIFT agreement.  Such agreement was adopted after 9.11 as an anti-terror measure that allowed US authorities to monitor EU financial transactions.

The news went under the radar, but it is a very significant change in the EU attitude towards data protection and civil liberties.  Also, this is a result of Treaty of Lisbon, which gave lawmakers the power to review and approve measures that effect internal security.

The political rationale of such position may be summarized as follow: "We need to apply EU standards to EU data", "to give people a right of redress" in the event of misuse of personal data, and to allow access to data "on a case by case basis".

Here the press release of the Civil Liberty Committee.  Here the comment of the WSJ.

February 17, 2010

La SIAE e i Monopoli di Stato contro i Video Poker illegali (in ITALIAN)

La SIAE ha siglato un accordo con i Monopoli di Stato per contribuire alle ispezioni relative all' "utilizzo illegale degli apparecchi da divertimento e intrattenimento" (forse i video-poker manomessi? ).

Premesso che non ho letto l'accordo e non so quale sia la legal-basis per questa collaborazione -- solo alcune riflessioni da profano.

1) Sicuramente e' un importante contributo alle attivita' di enforcement e una interessante soluzione per sfruttare la capillare presenza della SIAE sul territorio. La SIAE indubbiamente svolge un serivizio utilissimo;

2) E' anche un modo creativo di esplorare nuovi "stream of revenues" che poterbbero aiutare la ristrutturazione dell'ente e re-interpretarne (in parte) la funzione sociale (anche a seguito delle polemiche degli ultimi giorni);

3) Ma cosa c'entra il diritto d'autore?  E gli eventuali compensi riscossi (immagino una percentuale delle sanzioni o una flat-fee versata da parte dei monopoli) andrebbero distribuiti agli associati?

In altre parole, e scusate la banalizzazione, a che titolo Adriano Celentano potrebbe ricevere una frazione della multa pagata dal bar di quartiere di Centocelle per avere manomesso il flipper... e in quel bar, peraltro, il mangiacassette e' rotto da anni e non si verifica alcuna diffusione di opere protette...  :)

February 14, 2010

International Patent Filings and Economic Downturn are Correlated

WIPO observed that the number of patent filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2009 was significantly lower that the preceding year.
Here is what WIPO observed in details.
This is probably because the economic downturn that has affected both the inventive activity (less resources for R&D) and the IP protection strategy adopted by firms.
It is arguable than many firms and small inventors preferred a local approach to patent filings, perhaps envisioning that global protection might make sense only at a later stage.