Tag Archives: file sharing

The campaign to repeal the Digital Economy Act and why journalists should pay attention

More than 20,00 people may have demanded “a proper debate” on the Digital Economy Bill, but it didn’t stop it being whizzed through parliament and passed as legislation at the end of the last government.

We previously reported how the new Act affects journalists.

So what now? The campaign hasn’t stopped here.

Repealthedigitaleconomyact.com has a big stopwatch counting the hours since the new government took office: how long will it take to repeal the act? Seven days so far and nothing yet.

The Open Rights Group has started a petition to repeal the act under the current government:

We, the signatories, call on the new Parliament to repeal sections 11-18 of the Digital Economy Act, dealing with copyright infringement and website blocking powers.

We call on Parliament to refuse to pass any Statutory Instrument that would institute interference with families’ or organisations’ communications as a punishment for actual or alleged civil copyright infringement.

At the time of writing, 5,921 have signed.

One of the protest groups on Facebook, Together Against The Digital Economy Act 2010, lays out why it believes UK citizens – and others – should be worried:

– Websites will be blocked for alleged copyright infringement.
– Families accused of sharing copyrighted files will be disconnected without trial. They will have to pay to appeal.
– Even if you don’t live in the UK, it sets a worrying precedent for other countries to follow suit.

Disconnection or “technical measures” like bandwidth throttling will kick in if file sharing does not drop by an incredible 70 per cent. There are no alternative punishments to disconnection, no matter what the damage it will cause, and there is no statutory limit on the length of these disconnections, called, in the weasel words of the Act, “temporary account suspension”.

Despite thousands of letters of concern and a petition with over 35,000 signatures of protest, the Bill was rushed through in the final days of parliament during the “wash up process” – it was not given the full scrutiny that it deserved.

This is a piece of legislation that gives potentially unlimited power to unelected officials, and assumes guilt on the part of those accused of copyright infringement. We can expect the industry lobbies to be out in force to roll back our human right to freedom of expression in the name of copyright very, very soon.

Why journalists should listen up

Paul Bradshaw, director of the online journalism MA at Birmingham City University and publisher of the Online Journalism Blog tells me that journalists “should pay very close attention to the DE Act indeed, on a number of areas”.

“Firstly is the power the act gives to block websites based on an accusation of breach of copyright – or that the website is likely to in the future.

“The scope for abuse is clear – the potential to block access to Wikileaks is the most prominent example given. An organisation whose confidential documents have been leaked could apply to have it blocked in the UK (regardless of where it is hosted).

“Although revisions to the act mean there would have to be consultation there doesn’t appear to be any explicit public interest test and a look at how countries like Australia have adopted similar blacklists doesn’t bode well for accountability.

“Secondly, and more practically, the act threatens public wifi – a tremendously useful resource for journalists on the move, and for potential sources and leads.

“Providers of public wifi are still seeking clarity on where they stand legally – in the meantime, fewer companies are going to be willing to take the risk of providing it and falling foul of the law if someone uses it to download something ‘illegal’.

“Finally, there’s the broader issue of monitoring people’s use of the web in such a way that, for instance, would make it easier to trace and unmask whistleblowers and other confidential sources. It gives corporations power without accountability, which any journalist should be concerned about.

There’s still time, says Bradshaw

“On a more positive note, there is still scope to address the weaknesses of the act – and journalists and their sources should familiarise themselves with anonymising software such as Tor which will provide more confidentiality for both themselves and their sources.

Bradshaw says he was disillusioned by the political process that saw the bill passed: “Apart from the detail of the bill itself I found the use of the wash-up a depressing spectacle that further undermined our sense of proper democratic procedure.

“In the debates MPs themselves lined up to say how they were having to vote for a bill they or their constituents didn’t actually support. The role of lobbyists and party whips need to be addressed one way or another and I guess this challenge does that.

He has used his crowdsourcing investigations site, Help Me Investigate, to track the MPs’ performance over the bill and how MPs have responded to constituents’ correspondence over the bill.

“[I]dentikit responses make it difficult to see how much of that correspondence has actually been seen or understood by the MPs themselves.”

What do you think about the Digital Economy Act and its effect on journalism? Please get in touch (judith [at] journalism.co.uk) or leave a comment below.

BNP members list leak gathers pace online – to link or not to link?

Removing the original online posting of the leaked list of members of the British National Party (BNP) has failed to contain the spread of the information online.

The list and reactions to it are being avidly Twittered, as a search for BNP on Twitter search engine Summize shows, while the document has made its way onto Wikileaks.

According to the party’s website, the blog that posted the ‘outdated’ list was removed from Blogger ‘after urgent legal action was instituted by the BNP leadership’.

In a Guardian.co.uk article, BNP leader Nick Griffin has admitted that the party is relying on the Human Rights Act, which it opposes, to help protect its members’ privacy.

Meanwhile reporting on the incident has raised questions of linking, as this blog post from TimesOnline suggests:

“The Times decided not to link to the list, even though we often do link to material without taking that as some kind of endorsement.

“There were various reasons for the decision, most of them expressed in other comments on our various online reports. Firstly, BNP members have as much right to privacy as anyone else. Secondly, last time we checked it was still a free country: there is no law against membership of the BNP.

“The list is out there now, even if a Google search no longer throws it up. The anti-fascist campaigners and phone-prankers are having a field day. We don’t need to help them.”

Blogger Craig McGill adds the following observation on the list’s travels online:

“I see the list has appeared on file sharing outlets? Will social crusaders claim this is a good use for P2P which is normally associated with piracy?”

Similarly a Google Maps mashup has also been created, though, as TechCrunchUK warns, it’s dangerously inaccurate and has the potential to aid vigilantes – while I write the map was taken down because of inaccuracies.

McGill also suggests that this story was broken first by mainstream media, despite being an online story – is this the case? If so, for an online leak, this could be a good sign of ‘traditional’ outlets upping their game when it comes to online news tracking.

Blogger Matt Waldman suggests the story of the leaked list was broken by the Lancaster Unity blog, while TheRegister.co.uk posted a report on the leak at 2:31pm (GMT) on Tuesday – also citing the Lancaster Unity post. MSM not quite first past the post then.

Waldman goes on to discuss the potential legal implications of linking to it:

“Links to material that is alleged to be defamatory (e.g. reports about Nadhmi Auchi preserved on Wikileaks) is part of the basis for the objections that the law firm Carter-Ruck have put to the New Statesman that have caused them to take down articles about Nadhmi Auchi by Martin Bright. No determination has yet been made whether that will stick under English Libel Law, but if the New Statesman and their legal advisers are taking it seriously I wouldn’t go the other way at this point. You will be relying on not being sued, which is your call.”

I haven’t linked to it in this post (though it’s easy enough to find with or without the directions given) for the reasons cited by both Wardman and the Times’ blog post.

The UK’s national newspaper websites aren’t linking either, though Mail Online posts both a screengrab of the list and pictures of alleged members and individual articles are being posted about ‘members’, their identies and any action taken by employers.

Debate on the blogs also focuses on how the list can be used – both journalistically and otherwise. The list was posted despite an injunction granted by the High Court in earlier this year banning its publication, so how will journalists (and the police and employers) act on it when it has been obtained in this way?

Innovations in Journalism – a plug in to ease sorting through web images and video from PicLens

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. Today, it’s searching easily though web images and video with PicLens.

image of piclens plug in website

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
Hi, I’m Alec Jeong from Cooliris.

We’ve developed PicLens, a plug-in that transforms your browser into a 3D environment where you can search, drag, and zoom around thousands of images and videos across the web.

PicLens makes your online media come to life in a full-screen, cinematic presentation that goes beyond the confines of the traditional browser.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
Journalist regularly search for photos and videos on the web, tediously clicking in and out of web pages and image search engines to find the perfect image or video.

PicLens changes all that, by allowing you to search and view 100s or even 1000s of online photos and videos in an instant.

Need to see the photo in detail? Just click a toggle button and the photo or video will go full screen. Jump to the corresponding page of the image or video? No problem.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?

There is much more, much more to come. In the coming months, we will be adding features that will completely transform the way you use online media.

4) Why are you doing this?

We asked ourselves the question: What would the web be like if, rather than having to browse click by click, we were able find and share information quickly and directly through a single, rich media navigation layer that frees you from the confines of the traditional browser window and web pages?

We believe that you would discover that the web is richer than you’ve believed before, and that the added spatiality would enable you get much more from the rich online media and from your social connections.

5) What does it cost to use it?
PicLens is free to use and available for Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.

The “3D Wall” interface is available now for Firefox and IE and is coming to Safari soon.

6) How will you make it pay?
Our goal has always been to focus on providing the ultimate user experience. With several million downloads of our product in just the past few months, we are on a fast trajectory to bring in the next generation online media experience.

Ohio’s leading newspapers to share stories across web

Eight of the largest newspapers in the US state of Ohio have forged an alliance to share their top stories.

The Columbus Dispatch, The Toledo Blade, the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Akron Beacon Journal, The Plain Dealer are amongst newspapers making up the membership of the newly formed Ohio News Organisation (with the unfortunate acronym, OHNO).

Rather than relying to the Associated Press to decide at the end of each news day whether or not to distribute their stories, the papers will now post content to private website – accessible only to those eight newsrooms – from which partner organisations will be able to select pieces to use.

Ted Diadiun, readers representative for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote in his blog that readerships of individual paper would not be threatened as each covers a distinct city, and that story pooling would help them provide a better news service for readers.

“In today’s world, breaking news is measured in minutes, not days,” he wrote.

“It’s important that we provide our readers with the best news reports we can, as soon as we can, on our website and in the best and most current newspaper possible each day.”

All involved are adamant that the move doesn’t signal the end of journalistic competition.

However, no mention has been made on whether any money changes hands for the use of stories or whether AP will still syndicate the stories that are being placed in the new system.

It could just be a neat way to bypass the wire service and cut the cost of using its copy for local news.

Innovations in Journalism – Skimbit

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on.

Ever tried to organise an event or share research on email for more than two people? Nightmare, hey? Fear it no longer. Today’s IIJ is social scrapbook and decision-making site Skimbit.

image of skimbit website

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
Hello, I’m Alicia Navarro.

Skimbit is start-up I founded, it’s a web tool for gathering the best bits from sites you like, so you can analyse, share, and get feedback on your findings.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
Skimbit is great if you are compiling research and want your results presented in a visual, professional way.

You can form groups and together you can compile research on a chosen topic – all to the same web page. You can also use other people’s research as the basis for your own projects.

3) Is this it?

Hell no! We have exciting product developments in the pipeline, including more ways to skim a page, more ways to view and analyse findings, and a very exciting new user interface upgrade.

4) Why are you doing this?

I came up with the idea for Skimbit after organising one too many group holidays. The process of copying and pasting links to villa or cottage sites into an email, sending to friends for feedback, and collating everyone’s responses, was arduous and inefficient. I also found the process of researching the purchase of a TV difficult, because there were so many factors to consider other than price.

So I designed Skimbit to specifically deal with these issues but found that it had even more wide reaching uses – in fact, a huge proportion of our users have the service for compiling business research.

5) What does it cost to use?
Absolutely nothing! We do offer a white-label of our service that companies can license, and we customise it fully so it becomes part of their site, but for the general public, its free.

6) How will you make it pay?
We earn revenue from licensing out a white-labelled version of the service, and we earn advertising revenue, and soon we will earn some affiliate commissions. But the core ethos of Skimbit is that we don’t influence the content for our benefit: Skimbit is your tool for conducting research, and we don’t push products or sites at you.

Social Media Journalist: “Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored” Matthew Buckland

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Matthew Buckland from Mail & Guardian, South Africa.

image of matthew buckland

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I am Matthew Buckland, the GM of Mail & Guardian Online.

As head of the online division I am responsible for the overall online and mobile strategy, with an overview of editorial, production, technical and online sales.

I am also involved quite heavily in our social media strategies and sites.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I use Twitter, both web and mobile. I blog on my own blog about online media, web 2.0 and technology, thoughtleader.co.za and sometimes on Poynter’s new media titbits.

I use Mybloglog on my blog quite a bit. I use Facebook web and mobile… but less and less these days. At the end of last year I began using Slideshare to share my presentations and see others. I Digg every now and again, and use a local version, Muti.co.za.

I also keep half an eyeball on Linkedin – but don’t really do it justice. I am an occasional Del.ici.ous user. I use both Flickr and Picasa as online photo albums/photo sharing.

For video sharing I use Youtube, obviously. I’m also a wikipediaholic.

I used SecondLife for about a week, but realised it would be best for my health to shut it down and never look at it again 🙂

Generally I find these social media tools are a good way of networking, sharing ideas and content, and building relationships with people. They also waste a lot of time and create noise in my life.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I think of all the hyped up social media tools we’ve seen, blogging has shown that it is more than just a fad, but here to stay.

We’ve seen how mainstream online publishers have embraced blogs both as new publishing formats and newsgathering tool with considerable success.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?

I’m beginning to think Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored, very quickly.

Social Media Journalist: ‘Social networks are an echo chamber rather than a way of being exposed to anything new’ Adam Tinworth, RBI

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Adam Tinworth, RBI.

image of Adam Tinworth

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Adam Tinworth, and I’m currently head of blogging for business publisher Reed Business Information.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I’m a Twitter addict, and am constantly keeping up with the discussions there, either on my laptop or my iPhone.

More stories “break” to me through Twitter right now than any other sources. It’s so quick and easy to publish out with it, you can get news to people before you’re even on the second paragraph of a traditional news story.

I couldn’t live without my RSS feeds. I’ve been an RSS junkie for long enough that I predate Google Reader. I keep my subscriptions in Newsgator, so I can access them in NetNewsWire on my Mac, FeedDemon on my work PC, and the iPhone web version on my, well, iPhone.

While once upon a time I was a heavy forum user (and a Usenet/Mailing List guy before that), most of my conversational reading is in the blogosphere now.

I find the much stronger sense of a huge range of personalities you get on people’s blogs much more appealing than the handful of dominant personalities that tend to dominate forum-like discussion places. And I speak as someone who has been one of those selfishly dominant personalities in the past. I also occasionally flirt with social networks (note that that’s “flirt with” not “flirt in” :)), but find them limited and frustrating.

That said, both Seesmic and Flickr, which have strong similarities with forums, are sites I wish I had more time to explore the true potential of.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?

Honestly, I think we’re only just scratching the surface of how blog-based CMS could completely change the way we deliver news to interested people.

I suspect that the news sites of the future will have much more in common with blogs that than monolithic sites with clunky, slow back-ends we build right now.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
Facebook (and social network sites in general). I think they’re interesting “walled garden” communication tools, but their strength is also their weakness: they only expose you to the thoughts and recommendations of those you already know.

They are something of an echo chamber, in which existing relationships are reinforced, rather than a way of being exposed to anything (or anyone) new.

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Should public broadcaster seek competitive advantage online by offering users content for free?

Image of Kristine LoweKristine Lowe is a freelance journalist who writes on the media industry for number of US, UK and Norwegian publications. Today Online Journalism Scandinavia asks if public broadcasters should be more restrained in the content they offer for free online.

The head of the online division of Norway’s public broadcaster (NRK) has admitted that it intends to use its public mandate of supplying content for free as a competitive advantage on the web through increasing activity with file-sharing and social networks.

“I believe all public broadcasters more and more think along the lines that it is a competitive advantage that they can deliver content without charging it for it,” said Bjarne Andre Myklebust, head of the online division of NRK.

He added that the organisation is actively working to use its public mandate as a competitive advantage to strengthen its position online.

Not only are they working to make NRK’s content more easily available to download and share on social sites, such as YouTube and Facebook, but are also experimenting with file-sharing services such as BitTorrent and Joost.

NRK recently made its first programme series available to download in Bit Torrent, they liked it so much, they are thinking of doing more. (You can read about their experiences so far here.)

The broadcaster has also been working to get its own channel up and running on Joost, a project that has been delayed somewhat by the challenge of obtaining permissions from all the copyright holders involved.

In addition, it has recently made some of its footage available to use under a creative commons license on Flickr. Something Germany’s public broadcaster has also dabbled with.

So is this the way forward? A good way to give value back to all its license fee payers, or just a way of completely skewing the competition in the broadcasting market?

What if the BBC, in a time of intensified competition, started extending its own free delivery of content across Facebook and bit-torrent sites? It’s probably only a matter of time, but is it an unfair advantage over commercial broadcasters, news and otherwise?

Is it a way of better fulfilling its public mandate, or just an outright example of the rampant commercialism of public broadcasters using public funding as an advantage against others that find it more difficult to distribute content for free?

Innovations in Journalism – EditGrid

Each week we give technology developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. This week it’s data as journalism with online spreadsheets from EditGrid.

image of editgrid logo

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
Hello, I’m David Lee, from EditGrid.

EditGrid is an online spreadsheet service that does for numbers what blogs and wikis do for text.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
It can be useful for journalist in multiple ways: managing simple lists and mini-databases so that the data can be shared, collaborated and accessed anywhere (including iPhone and Facebook) and publishing of tables and charts.

The Daily Kos has used us to publish quick and easy charts of US primary election results.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?
We keep enhancing the sharing and publishing capabilities to make EditGrid more powerful.

In the future it will be the platform to access live data (financial and much more). Users already created live financial spreadsheets attracting tens of thousands of users and million of views.

4) Why are you doing this?
Spreadsheet is a technology area in which the fundamentals haven’t been changed for more than 20 years.

Now we can make online spreadsheet running in a web browser which multiple people can edit at the same time with changes synchronising in real-time.

We see much potential in it and believe it will revolutionise the ways people use spreadsheets.

5) What does it cost to use it?
Free of charge for personal users, US$5 per user for organisations.

6) How will you make it pay?
We offer most of the features for free but we charge organisations $5/user/month and provide more administration and security features.

Currently, we’re more interested in growing our base to hundreds-of-thousands of users, we may charge for future value-added features and/or premium data access but what our users can enjoy for free now will remain free forever. 🙂

Innovations in Journalism – Pownce.com

Each week we give technology developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are are working on. This week it’s file sharing site Pownce.


 1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
Hi, I’m Leah Culver, co-founder of Pownce.

Pownce is a social messaging website where members can send messages, files, links, and events to their friends.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
A journalist could use Pownce to distribute a link to a story and get feedback. It’s a great way to gather information and share ideas.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?
There are plenty more features on the way including a more complete API and a new way to view links and files.

4) Why are you doing this?
We started Pownce as a better way to share stuff on the web. We were very frustrated with the current methods for sharing files and decided that we could do better.

5) What does it cost to use it?
It is free to use, but if you’d like to share very large files you can purchase a pro account for $20 a year.

6) How will you make it pay?
Right now we make money by selling advertising and pro accounts.