Parody Finally Made Legal In UK

Draft regulations have been published in Britain that will finally end the anomaly where quotation, parody, caricature and pastiche are considered breaches of copyright. If approved by Parliament, they will come into force on June 1st, finally closing the loophole in copyright law that allowed copyright owners to chill criticism and stifle research in cases that are otherwise reasonable.

For more details, see our article on ComputerWorldUK.

Open Source Fonts For Interoperability

Italo Vignoli makes a great point on his blog about the use of fonts. He explains that proprietary software like MS Office uses proprietary fonts by default.

Because of the way they are licensed, they can’t be bundled by other software. That means substitute fonts with different characteristics have to be used. As a consequence, other programs trying to open documents they create — no matter how otherwise interoperable the file format handling becomes — cannot reproduce the same visual appearance or layout since they don’t have the fonts.

The solution to this is open source fonts. They can be freely bundled with software like LibreOffice and thus the documents using them are much more likely to render correctly on other systems.

Crowdsource vs Open Source

The acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus VR by Facebook was announced this week to mixed reactions. Most negative were those who had enabled the Rift VR goggles to be created in the first place — the backers on Kickstarter who provided nearly $2.5m to see the dream become reality. One prominent backer, the founder of Minecraft creators Mojang, was especially upset, deciding that Minecraft will not collaborate with Facebook. In a blog post he wrote:

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

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The Rights of Peer Creators

It’s amazing how often our work lives and personal lives overlap one another; when we write about digital rights, open source, the power of community or the threat of mass surveillance, it’s clear that these are not just workplace issues. This weeks ComputerWorld UK posting is contributed by Miriam and shows how one of her hobbies raises some pertinent questions about intellectual property in the meshed society.

Narrative role playing is a form of collaborative fiction writing, uniquely enabled by the world wide web. Usually building their stories in the existing fantasy worlds of published writers or hit TV shows and films, the work found on narrative role play sites is often dismissed as “mere fan fiction”. Site contributors reject the label on the basis that all characters and plots on the sites are their own original creations. Whilst authors might consider it a compliment to have other people making this sort of work, it seems that they do not always have respect for the rights inherent in original content creation. Site admins claim that they have witnessed multiple cases in which newly published material by an author closely resembles the work found on their narrative role play sites. In most cases the site contributors consider this to be a great compliment to their own creative skills, but questions of copyright and intellectual property theft lurk menacingly in the corners.

This is just one example of peer creators treading carefully around the grey areas of intellectual property law. As new copyright law is drafted, the rights of a whole new generation of creative communities hangs in the balance. Read Miriam’s full article here.

Bitcoin Donations

Observant readers will have spotted the new “Donate Bitcoins” button on the Meshed website (over there on the right).  If you would like to encourage us in our activities, we would be grateful for a few satoshii thrown our way.

The donation mechanism uses Coinbase. We picked this rather than,  say, Paypal because it allows anyone anywhere in the world to easily make a donation in relative anonymity. You can use bitcoin in your own Bitcoin wallet, or you can pay Coinbase in your local currency. Do give it a try so you can tell your friends you have used Bitcoin!

Bitcoin Exchanges: A Beginners Guide

Simon’s been putting together a quick tour of the world of Bitcoin exchanges, based on his experience of trying them out over the last six months. The nature of the services offered by the different exchanges seems to vary  quite a bit, so this handy walkthrough makes a great beginners guide to working out what different services are being offered. If you’re looking for more detail about how you might expect to be treated as a user at the sites mentioned, last weeks InfoWorld article fleshes out some of the details. But for a general overview of what Bitcoin’s good for and some of the ways you can make the most of yours, checking out this slideshow is a solid place to start.

2014: Year of the Linux Desktop

For those thinking that the supremacy of the Linux desktop is closely tied to the success of GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu and the downfall of Windows, this headline might come across as bizarrely fantastical. The reality we live and work in though, is one in which Google Apps adoption, the growth of Chrome OS and the unstoppable tide of Android and Android based devices, mean that Linux servers are powering the large majority of what goes on on our desktops.

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Merkel’s kneejerk reaction highlights internet governance concerns

When it was revealed that Angela Merkel’s own mobile phone was being monitored by the NSA  her sudden personal interest in internet governance and calls for the creation of a European internet seemed more than a little reactionary. There are a couple of important take away points here though. Firstly, Merkel’s concern over the matter of internet governance is well placed and should be shared by all freedom loving internet users, not just those with a passion for digital rights. Secondly, finding a solution to the problem of “re-decentralising the web” is a responsibility too important to be left to the politicians. Geeks everywhere need to make sure that they are not only looking for that solution, but also that their voices are heard by those with political power. Read Alexandra’s full article on ComputerWorld UK.

Bitcoin exchanges need to get their act together

Sometimes it seems as though bitcoin is a required fixture in the news. The recent collapse of Mt Gox is just the latest in a string of headlines that may have you wondering why people even bother. Bitcoin itself though remains a powerful idea and its transparent, open source approach have enabled it to stand up to scrutiny and criticism with head held high. Not only does it hold a lot of potential in its own right, it also stands as a shining innovative example of the potential for distributed, peer-authenticated ledgers. Far more problematic are the “exploitative ad-hoc businesses” which have grown up around it.

Over the last six months Simon’s been trying out a selection of different bitcoin services and exchanges. The different results he’s encountered generally reflect badly on this admittedly young industry and suggest that they have yet to really find their feet. In particular he claims that they need to work on transparency, user trust and business rigor. Despite his experiences, the process of exploring this world has left him confidently re-assured by the underlying potential behind bitcoin as a concept. Read more in this weeks InfoWorld article.