02/06/2010

Open WIFi is already problematic without any DEAct implications

There's been varied article and Twitter coverage of Ofcom warning that people offering free WiFi are going to be classified as 'subscribers" under the Digital Economy Act (DEA) so they will have copyright infringement notices sent to them rather than their users.

Ofcom's code of practice for the DEA says that they will only regard an ISP as someone with more than 400,000 customers i.e. only covering the big players which cover over 90% of the UK's broadband users. ISPs have to deal with sending notices to users and if necessary cutting them off.

Ofcom have chosen the figure of 400,000 as it makes life easier for everyone, however they can reduce that figure to 1 if smaller players are also consistently having users that share copyrighted data.

Therefore people have seen offering WiFi services as a get-out so that they're classified as an ISP rather than a subscriber as by offering a service to a 3rd party, the DEA defines you as an ISP.

Ofcom have obviously seen the whole in the definition, so they are saying WiFi must be offered as part of a service to be classified as an ISP. So say a coffee establishment can offer WiFi as part of their service as they are charging for the coffee (as could a pub or anyone charging for services including those charging for WiFi services).

Charging for WiFi makes life a lot easier as then you generally know who your users are (or at least have a billing relationship with them, which means Ofcom or the Police have somewhere to start if the user does something wrong).

Offering free WiFi was thought to be another way to get out of the DEA, unfortunately Ofcom have chosen to take the opinion that then the WiFi isn't part of a service which means the ISP excuse cant be used and any copyright infringement notices will be sent to the WiFi operator themselves.

The last section is what's causing people to get upset. However it has ALWAYS been an issue. Altruistic WiFi may sound good on paper, but not knowing who your users are has implecations under the law.

Imagine an open WiFi access point and someone uploads child porn to a known site which the Police monitor. Child porn is illegal (rightly so) and the Police take a dim view of it. So they track where the porn was uploaded from and lo and behold it's appeared from the user running the open WiFi access. The user in question denies all knowledge of the offence as they have an open access point. The Police on the other hand don't quite see their point of view, all the know is that child porn was uploaded from the user's network so the confiscate all their computer hardware - EVERYTHING.

Eventually, after it's gone into the queue of a Police forensics lab (many months), the Police may drop the charges as they find no traces of the child porn on the computers and have discovered the access point is configured as open. Of course they may decide there's other content of a suspicious nature and the user must be good at erasing their data as they are technical, so it may go the other way.

As a technical household there may be many computers, media units, servers, hard drives etc. They will ALL be confiscated and the more there are, the longer the case will take.

(The above has actually happened to an acquaintance)

Now that's just part of it, it's not just the process of uploading child porn (though that's a worst case scenario) the Communications Act covers WiFi etc. It's just that using WiFi as an excuse to get around DEA issues isn't going to work and copyright infringement is probably going to happen more than child porn offences and Ofcom are rightly showing that it's an issue.

Going back to the Communications Act, ANYONE offering communications services is classified an Electronic Communications Network or ECN under the Act. An ECN has obligation under the Act (everybody offering communications services has read the Act and knows their obligations of course - ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law).

If the communications services are offered to the public, they are then considered an Public Electronic Communications Network or PECN which has even more obligations than an ECN.

Mostly it doesn't matter, as Ofcom are never going to go around to everyone who is an ECN and ensure that they're compliant. However they could. Currently only big telcos or ISPs pay fees to Ofcom (they have a turn-over greater than some point set by Ofcom), but if WiFi operators become an issue, they can just say that they'll impose a fee on all ECNs or PECNs or those that meet whatever criteria.

So the issues of open WiFi have been understood for a long time, it's just now Ofcom saying "that under this new law we're not exempting open WiFi users and they have to take responsibility for their networks as the law says they should anyway"

01/06/2010

It's all go with MeeGo (for netbooks anyway)

Nokia have announced the availability of MeeGo v1.0 for netbook type devices. MeeGo is the Linux based OS that is the combined efforts of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's MobLin.

The main features are: -

* Visually rich Netbook user experience, building on the latest open source technologies.

* Instant access to your synchronized calendar, tasks, appointments, recently used files and real-time social networking updates through the home screen.

* Aggregation of your social networking content. This allows you to see your social networking activities on one screen, easily interact with your friends, and update your status and site information.

* Easy to use applications for email, calendar and media player.

* Highly optimized for power and performance.

* Languages: Japanese, Korean, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Swedish, Polish, Finnish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, English, British English

The release comes in two version, one fully open source using Google's Chromium browser and one where the end-user has to agree to Google's EULA for Google Chrome.

The core platform (which is common to all releases) contains: -

* Kernel based on 2.6.33

* DeviceKit and udev for interacting with hardware devices

* Modern 2D / 3D graphics stack including Kernel Mode Setting, non-root X

* Voice and data connectivity with Connman connection manager, Ofono telephony stack and BlueZ Bluetooth

* Qt 4.6

* Universal Plug and Play (gUPnP)

* Media frameworks

* Next generation file system BTRFS, as the default file system

Nokia have also quietly released a version for the N900 smartphone, though Nokia will continue to support Maemo as the "officially" supported N900 OS. It also seems there are ports of MeeGo to the N8x0 units too.