Tech: Apologies, But I’ll Be Reporting Tech

When Simon offered me the chance to cover technology for Libertarian Home, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, (Thursday) I have been trying to figure out how best to cover all of the rather significant events that occurred just this past week. A new week is beginning, so I have decided to settle for a short review of each issue. Going forward, I intend to provide fast regular reporting of what’s going on in the world of tech.

So, welcome to what will hopefully become justified as deserving the term, “tech column”. I’m not sure if I’ll be reporting on issues beyond state involvement on the matter (and of course any truly noteworthy events) but we’ll see how this thing goes. On to the news:

CISCO Routers Service New TOS : No Porn For You!

CISCO rolled out a firmware update for 2 of its routers, the EA4500 and EA2700, which required users to sign up to it’s new cloud service before the routers would continue operating. The TOS for the service however included:

“You agree not to use or permit the use of the Service: (i) to invade another’s privacy; (ii) for obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes; (iii) to infringe another’s rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights; (iv) to upload, email or otherwise transmit or make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, spam, junk mail or any other form of solicitation;”

I’m not a lawyer, but to me this appears to be concerning the use of the actual cloud service. However, the collective that is the internet, understandably, got quite annoyed over the idea of having to sign up to a cloud service for a router in the first place, leading to ArsTechnica’s article detailing how to roll back the firmware to a previous update. All this however becomes null when you read…

EU’s Court Of Justice Rules EULA’s Resale Restrictions Void

Once again confirming the state’s complete indifference to concerns for privacy of contract, the European Union’s Court Of Justice has ruled that software companies cannot restrict the resale of software under End User License Agreements.

“An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his ‘used’ licences allowing the
use of his programs downloaded from the internet.”

More concerning is the rationale behind this judgement.

“Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right. Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy. Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”

As somebody who respects property rights and now, unsurprisingly, seems to understand them better then a COJ judge, this is an extremely worrying rationale, effectively stating that:

A) The ruling, although at this time specifically being concerned with EULA’s, treats property and intellectual property, the tangible and intangible, as the same thing.

B) Right of ownership of property rules any contracts signed concerning the property with an outside party, void. So, if somebody wants to sell, for example, an ornate historically significant chair, with the condition that it never be thrown in a wood chipper, that contract cannot be made, since the buyer owns the chair.

The law is also vague as to the original seller’s responsibility to provide the necessary functionality for resale. As somebody who primarily relies on digital distribution for his entertainment in games and film, none of the services I use provide the capability to resell the games you’ve bought, being instead tied to your personal account. Considering their EULA’s up until now made it illegal to resell your purchases, this is understandable.

Steam, the most popular game provider and arguably one of the best if not the best digital service provider, so good it received a (fake) terrorist threat for not having its summer sale this week, allows you to gift any extra copies you may have of a game to others. It does not allow you to disassociate your games from your accounts however.

Whilst I’d obviously appreciate the ability to resell my digital purchases, I’d rather have any day a government which respected and held inviolate the voluntary associations and agreements of its citizens. Instead, we have a state which has decided to once again insert itself into what is otherwise a non issue.

FBI To Cease Providing Replacement DNS Service For Malware

This saga has been running for a while but tomorrow it comes to an end. At least until some major computer stops functioning.

The 60 second summary is a piece of malware was created by some Estonians that effectively corrupted the Domain Name Service on the victim’s machine and instead redirected users to a server the malware’s writers were running, which would in turn redirect users to other websites then the one they were trying to access, for the Estonians profit. This clickjacking scheme was discovered and resulted in 6 Estonians and a Russians arrest.

However, the malware is independently capable of preventing any update that would lead to it’s removal. Since that time, the FBI have stepped in to provide the DNS servers necessary to keep redirecting users to the sites they are trying to access. Tomorrow however, those servers are going offline which means those users are suddenly going to find themselves without internet access.

In an attempt to find the malware’s victims, a page has been set up which displays a green background if you aren’t infected. This requires people to be aware of the virus first. Personally, I am at a loss as to understand why they don’t simply redirect all requests to a simple page informing the user of the malware on their computers instead of continuing, for the next few hours at least, to send people to their normal destinations. I expect someone will come along with “Well, we can’t interrupt someone’s browsing,” to which I would like to point out the slightly more inconvenient disruption that they will be facing tomorrow.

Ron And Rand Paul Back Misguided Internet Freedom Manifesto

Campaign For Liberty, a non profit founded by Ron Paul, has written a peculiar manifesto concerning internet freedom. While I completely agree with it’s stance on regulation of the internet, by which I mean, I do not support regulation of the internet, it has come out on a position of being anti net neutrality and anti public domain. Now I think there’s a legitimate place for net neutrality, one to be determined by the market and most certainly not to be created through government regulation or monopoly, and I accept and can see a number of ways in which customers would NOT want net neutrality. However, the Campaign For Liberty manifesto treats the idea as a creation of communist devils seeking to destroy the free internet. It does the same with the idea of public domain.

Whilst this is a minor stain on the impressive career of a 76 year old congressman and his son, it is peculiar concerning how vehemently the 2 fought against other internet regulations that stood before them. Techdirt has a brilliant summary of the manifesto’s flaws.

Libya’s NTC Using Gaddafi’s Surveillance Tech To Spy On Citizens

So in the story that surprised no one, the National Transitional Council of Libya has begun using Gaddafi’s surveillance equipment to spy on Libyans. Performing those most important duties to establishing a new democracy, the NTC has set up 2 national security agencies with the intention of seeking out any remaining Gaddafi supporters. Full story at The Register.

References:
1. CISCO Router Update Story: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/07/freeing-your-router-from-ciscos-anti-porn-pro-copyright-cloud-service/
2. European Union Court Of Justice ruling on EULA: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2012-07/cp120094en.pdf
3. DNSChanger Malware Story: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/07/dns-changer-going-dark/
4. TechDirt On CFL Manifesto:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120705/10581919594/ron-rand-paul-net-neutrality-public-domain-are-really-evil-collectivist-plots.shtml
5. CFL Manifesto: http://www.scribd.com/doc/99193487/The-Technology-Revolution-Final-Rev-629
6. Libya NTC Snooping: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/06/libya_surveillence/