Tag: Wales

MPAA hatches plan to revive SOPA

Big Content has not learnt any lessons after its attempt to get its tame politicians to vote in the SOPA law failed.

Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator, said that he was having words with his friends about trying to rush some SOPA-style legislation on the books.

Ars Technica reports that he was not going to go into any detail because the pesky great unwashed would rise up and stop it.

Asked if the fact that the White House told him to go forth and multiply had created tensions with Hollywood, Dodd said he was not talking about last winter.

He just hoped the president would use his “good relationships” with both Hollywood and the technology industry to bang a few heads together.

However, he did rule out one particular myth – which claimed that the Megaupload raid was to show how powerful the movie industry was after the anti-SOPA blackout. Dodd said that it was just a coincidence. The FBI had been planning the raid for 19 January because Dotcom was planning to hold a birthday party on that day, and so a number of key Megauplaod figures would be there.

Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said that it was amazing that a mere two months after 14 million people voiced their opposition to SOPA and PIPA, that the head of the Motion Picture Association of America said the flawed law could be reworked in the back rooms of Washington.

The chances of anything that looks like SOPA passing Congress in the near future, fingers crossed, seems slim. SOPA has become a term to mean pushing legislation that sparks a major Internet backlash. Dodd’s chums who are still in Congress apparently do not want to be SOPA’d.

One possible canditate to keep the movie industry happy is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Dubbed the new SOPA, it is actually a cyber security bill which encourages the sharing of data between the government and private industry.  It does have a limited anti-piracy component but it worries people more because of the ability of an alliance of private and public organisations to snoop on people.

MPAA boss should be fired

Wikipedia founder Jimmy  Wales has waded into Motion Picture Association of America chairman Christopher Dodd saying that he should be fired.

Dodd angered Wales by telling Fox News that senators bribed by the MPAA to support it should be doing what they are told.

“Don’t ask me to write a cheque for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake,” Dodd said.

He also said that Wikipedia’s decision to blackout its site in protest of SOPA constituted an abuse of power.

Wales pointed out that such statements make the MPAA out to be a corrupt, Congress-buying organisation. He said that 10 million people contacted Congress to call for the axing of SOPA and PIPA.

“That’s not an abuse of power, that’s democracy and Dodd had best get used to it,” Wales said.

According to Venture Beat,  Wales told the audience at the Design Life Digital conference in Munich that he believes digital piracy is a very real problem that needs to be addressed with better legislation.

Hollywood needed to come back to the table and talk to Silicon Valley with a little more humility. The laws need to be tweaked, Wales admitted, but the world does not need a Draconian new regime. 

Wales' Wikipedia SOPA blackout doesn't apply to smartphones

Wikipedia founder Jimmy “I did not date that reporter and change her profile” Wales took the online encyclopedia offline in protest against SOPA, has angered his team of self-appointed PHDs and fake penis experts who act as the outfit’s editors. Plus, you can still access the site from your smartphone.

According to Associated Press, the editors, whose job it is to make people they don’t like disappear, claim that protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work. No, seriously.

Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant said that he was worried that suddenly the organisation is in the role of advocacy, and that’s a slippery slope. The next thing that will happen is that it will be blacked out because we want to save the whales, he said.

Wikipedia has shut down access to its English-language site for 24 hours beginning 4PM AEDT. Instead of encyclopedia articles, visitors will see information about the two congressional bills and details about how to reach legislators. Except if you are using a smartphone.

However, Wikipedia is finding itself having to make such stands as Western politicians try harder to censor the internet. Wikipedia’s Italian site came down once in protest to an internet censorship bill put forward by the Berlusconi government.  Statements like that actually forced the government to backtrack on P2’s attempts to censor the web.

But it seems that the editors don’t like the idea. Some have blacked out their own user profile pages, as if we read them, or resigned their administrative rights on the site, as if that will hurt anyone. Some think the site’s decision to fight censorship with censorship is just plain daft.

“How will the world continue to turn if I do not have the power to stop famous historians publishing facts online that disagree with me,” one editor did not tell us.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argues that the site can maintain neutrality in content even as it takes public positions.

He said that the encyclopedia will always be neutral, but its community need not be, not when the encyclopedia is threatened.

Wales defends being the everywhere boy

The Wikipedia boss who never dated Fox News pundit Rachel Marsden has defended his mug appearing on every page of the online encyclopedia.

At the moment if you look up any page of Wikipedia you will see a picture of founder Jimmy Wales. Apparently the reason is because the outfit, which is not short of cash at all, is fundraising at the moment.

The banner advert with Wales’ mug on it lands directly above the subject title on all of Wikipedia’s 3.7 million pages. Sometimes with unfortunate results, the picture appears above every title.

It is a little ironic that Jimbo allows himself to be the Everywhere Boy when his encyclopedia spent a long time trying to kill off the Everywhere Girl.

Some people find it bloody annoying. Reddit user kecr emailed Wales and pleaded with him to “discontinue using Wikipedia to further your own personal celebrity”.

Wales wrote back and said that he was very sympathetic. “Unfortunately, we have done extensive testing and my banner performs much better than banners of readers or even of most editors. A few have done well, and we are using them too. I find it very annoying – I don’t want to be a celebrity. – Jimbo”

Kecr told the Reddit community – and the Wikipedia donation page – that his reason for donating was to “compensate for my shame”, so clearly Jimbo Wales managed to convince someone.

Jimmy Wales mistaken for Julian Assange

UK immigration officials thought they had caught the infamous Julian Assange bail jumping earlier this year.

Officials were absolutely stunned when a bloke showed up at a UK airport claiming to be the CEO of Wikipedia.

To the surprised officials, this would have meant that Assange, in a desperate bid to avoid a court appearance in Sweden on charges of being the world’s worst date, managed to board a plane in the US without a passport. 

Jimmy Wales said that the immigration woman dropped her pencil with surprise. He had to explain that he did not work for “WikiLeaks,” was a different guy and not wanted in Sweden, or anywhere else for that matter.

The case of mistaken identity came out in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and was designed to show that no one knows who Jimmy Wales is these days.

In the interview, Wales pointed out that the vast majority of people who work on his online encyclopedia are men.

Over 85 percent of people who participate are male, and Wales has a glorious five year plan to get more women involved.

He thinks it is because women find the whole thing intimidating – which sounds a bit like the quote from Spinal Tap when they were asked why the audience was predominantly young boys: “They’re really, they’re quite fearful. They see us on stage with tight trousers. We’ve got, you know, armadillos in our trousers. I mean, it’s really quite frightening, the size.”

Wales said what within Wikipedia there was no crazy relativist view that every opinion is just as valid as everybody else’s. He said that Wikipedia is very keen on reliable sources and verifiability, making sure that whatever’s in Wikipedia has a good source to back it up.

The article is worth a read because it is clear that the writer quite likes Wales and talks about his “capacity to play fair and find compromises.” We guess the reporter was not around when Wales ignored his editor’s decisions and deleted thousands of images that some deemed pornographic, including images with children, from Wikimedia Commons.

He also allegedly tinkered with the biography of his girlfriend, Rachel Marsden, and was accused of using the cash strapped Wikipedia like his personal piggy bank.*

Still, on the plus side Wales likes Dr Who, so he must be ok.

*Here’s what Jimmy Wales recommends: “TechEye apologies [sic] to Jimmy Wales for the insinuations in this story and wishes to clarify that he does not accept a salary or expenses for his work at Wikipedia, so there is no truth to the allegation mentioned. Additionally, there is no truth to the claim that he doctored the biography of Rachel Marsden, which he never edited.”

First Twitter libel case lost by a Welshman

A former Welsh mayor became the first Briton to be ordered to pay libel damages over a Twitter entry.

Colin Elsbury, a former mayor of Caerphilly, had tweeted ahead of a council election that his challenger Eddie Talbot had been “forcibly removed” from a polling station by coppers.

According to the Times, he twigged that he had got the wrong bloke and the person chucked out of the polling station was not his rival after all.

Elsbury tried to correct the tweet, but Talbot was hugely miffed and sued for defamation anyway.

A judgehanded down a fine of £3,000 and ordered Elsbury to pay costs of around £50,000 as well as apologise publicly to Talbot on his Twitter feed.

Elsbury, a member of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party, said after the verdict that it was a case of mistaken identity which he had already said sorry for.

The case should act as a warning to people, including politicians, to be extremely careful when using Twitter and other social media such as blogs.”

Sueing over Tweets is quite common in the US, where they will sue if a cup of coffee is too hot.  But there has not been another case in the UK yet.

UK Lord Chief Justice lets people Twitter in court

The UK’s Lord Chief Justice has issued an interim guidance ruling today that reporting on Twitter from courtrooms is permissable with immediate effect, but only on a case-by-case basis.

The approval only applies to England and Wales, but it’s a major breakthrough for journalists who employ social media to keep people informed about major developments. With such high-profile cases like that of Julian Assange being brought before the courts, using Twitter and other social media is becoming a popular way to stay up to date on proceedings.

The ruling today also applies to text messages from mobile phones and email. Other social media sites like Facebook and MySpace were not explicitly mentioned, but the guidelines suggest that they would also be allowed.

Only journalists and media organisations can avail of this ability, however, as the judge believed that allowing anyone to use it could intefere with the proceedings or cause distractions. 

Permission must be sought from the judge in question before using social media in the courtroom and that permission may also be withdrawn from reporters if it is believed that it will intefere with the case in any regard.

The ruling current acts as a guidance only, with a consultation on the use of social media in courtrooms being planned between the following bodies: Judiciary, Secretary of State for Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Bar Council and Law Society, Press Complaints Commission and Society of Editors. Members of the public are also invited to offer their views.

Today’s decision follows a ban on the use of Twitter and other social media in the courtroom by Mr. Justice Ouseley last week. The judge ruled that reporters and members of the public who had gathered at Julian Assange’s hearing should not tweet the proceedings of the court while the case was being heard.

Wikipedia man slamdunks Wikileaks

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales criticised Wikileaks during a conference today, reports AFP. Wales was quoted as saying that he would distance himself from Wikileaks, wishing the whistleblower website would not use the W-word in its name. Wales claimed using the W-word made the site famous in the first place, certainly not the content, tut tut.

Wales went on to say leaks like the Afghan War Diaries must be handled responsibly, which did happen as journalists working for  The Guardian, Der Spiegel and The New York Times disseminating them to a certain extent.

He went on to say: “I think it is really important when we have sensitive information, that we do rely on responsible journalists to sort through it for us… it’s much better than dumping all kinds of crazy information online and get people killed,” thereby criticising Wikileaks for its plan to release an additional 15.000 related documents.

Wales stated he thought not redacting the further documents might be enough to get good-hearted people killed, saying Julian Assange was irresponsible about releasing everything.

However, Assange has asked for cooperation from the White House and has not yet simply dumped the entire affair into its War Diaries database.

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen how long Wikileaks will need to sift through the rest, as the organisation is seemingly falling into disrepair and is prone to a bonfire of vanities engulfing its leadership, as an interview at Der Spiegel with former German Wikileaks speaker Daniel Schmitt recently showed.

Schmitt stated Wikileaks was having large problems coping with the growth of the organisation, leading to internal mishaps and technical problems. In addition, Julian Assange stopped Wikileaks from disseminating and publishing important leaks on a local and a national level, in favour of international affairs.

Schmitt’s criticism was rebuked by Assange, who said Schmitt wasn’t loyal any more and suspended him four weeks ago in fears Schmitt was trying to rob him of his throne.

According to Schmitt, dissent inside of Wikileaks is growing – if personal animosities and agendas abound, the organisation may become its own victim, without any outside dealings.

Why it's good to be a geek

The world of geekdom is truly a land of the good, the bad and the just plain ugly.

Luckily, the good guys can still punch their weight when it comes to power and influence.

Take Tim Berners-Lee.

The man responsible for inventing the world wide web has been sharing his ideas with others with his talks at the Do Lectures at a campsite in the wilds of west Wales. 

The Do Lectures mini-festival, held at the weekend, saw a load of geniuses invited to a former chicken farm two miles south of Cardigan to give talks and inspire each other. 

Or, in the words of co-founder David Hieatt, “The idea is a simple one: That people who Do amazing things can inspire the rest of us to go and do amazing things too.”

Lectures were held in rustic teepees, with cosy singing around the campfire and communal breakfasts…. as we didn’t get an invite, we’ll have to quote The Guardian on this, but the Doers were also reported to be able to try their hand at jam making, take part in bakery workshops and go on rustic walks in the woods… you get the picture.

And the 2010 Do Lectures ‘Secret Speaker’ was Berners-Lee.

The British brainbox was among the first day’s speakers taking their turn at the lecture tree stump.

“I am a geek, by the way,” he confessed to the audience, “and proud of it”.

Although his comment was met with “whoops from the like-minded” in the audience, this affiliation with techies was to be short-lived. When Berners-Lee asked the assembled group who among them had ever written a computer program, very few hands shot up, according to The Guardian, making our internet guru look sad.

“But programming computers is really very creative,” he said. “And what’s disappointing is that kids at school tend to see computers like a fridge.”

Apparently, even more depressing for Berners-Lee was that just a fifth of the world’s population uses the web. But the World Wide Web Consortium, of which Berners-Lee is a director, hopes to remedy this and to make the internet available to everyone.

Other speakers at the Do Lectures included conservationist and social entrepreneur Alasdair Harris, who talked about the need to quickly rethink commercial fishing – or risk losing our sea stocks forever, and former British Army captain Ed Stafford, just back from becoming the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River – with only a laptop for company.

And what did Berners-Lee make of the Do Lectures?

“Well, having people from different disciplines criss-crossing each other here can be inspiring,” he told The Guardian. “But what really stimulates me is being in this beautiful rural environment.”

Ah, bless.

For Berners-Lee, it is possible to be influential and successful and still be one of the good guys. Or should that be good geeks?

He joins that group of nice nerds who have selflessly done things for the benefit of others.

Take Free Software Foundation (FSS) founder Richard Stallman who believes we all deserve software that is “free from restriction, free to share and copy, free to learn and adapt and free to work with others”. 

According to the FSS website, the charity’s campaigns aim to empower people against specific threats to their freedom and move us all closer to a free society. This includes the recent Software Freedom Day (September 18th) which encouraged people to spread the word and connect with other free software activists. 

Stallman himself still spends much of his time traveling the globe and talking about free software and just, well, trying to make the world a better place.

We think some of the other guys in the good geek camp would include the father of Linux Linis Torvalds and, going further back into history, we’d have to take our hats off to the inventor of modern computing, Alan Turing. 

And looking to the future, we’ve got a warm glow after discovering the recently formed Geeks For Good website – a volunteer programme that aims to match nerds and their skills with not-for-profit organisations in the US

According to the site, it lets experts in tech fields such as graphic design, web design and social media all do their bit – and get their own nice warm glow inside. 

We especially loved the catchline on their site: “Rebuilding our world one geek at a time”. 

Pensioner billed £129,000 for broadband

The government’s unshakeable belief that it can get private enterprise to shell out for rural broadband connections has been shaken by the news that an OAP has been charged £129,000 by BT to connect her to the world wide wibble.

Beverley McCartney, of Salem, near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, has wanted a broadband connection for years but been told that it could not connect her

.Last week it sent her a letter saying it could if she could help a bit with the costs.  BT said it will pay £8,000 if she would come up with £129,613.54 plus VAT is paid.

McCartney wondered if there was a mistake in the decimal point so she gave them a ring and found out that other people in rural areas have bills for much more than this

.A sheepish Chris Orum of BT said there were rare cases where additional charges need to be applied because of an exceptional amount of work required to the network in order to provide service.

This means that the charges reflect the additional line plant and equipment needed to provide broadband to a particular location. However the matter must be embarrassing to the new government which is convinced that it can give the whole of Blighty broadband by leaning on its chums in the telco industry.

It is looking like they can’t, the telcos think it is fine to charge a pensioner £129,613.54.