Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bias in the Pirate Bay Spectrial?

Latest news on the fallout from the Pirate Bay trial is the involvement of the Judge with various copyright protection interests. Swedish radio station, P3 (part of Sveriges Radio, the national public radio service), has investigated the judge's background and found links with film and record companies and their lawyers.

(First my apologies to all Swedes for my attempts at translation and to any of the parties involved if I have misquoted them.)

is a a member of Svenska Föreningen för Upphovsrätt (SFU), the Swedish Copyright Association, which bills itself as a meeting place for discussions between copyright experts. Other members include the lawyers Henrik Pontén, Peter Danowsky and Monique Wadsted who represented rights holders in the trial.
District Judge Monique Wadsted, lawyer for the MPAA.

Lawyer, Leif Silbersky is quoted as saying that the judge should have recused himsel as this was clearly a delicate matter and that this may make it possible to challenge the trial.

Former Judge Rune Lavin said he would not have sat as judge in those circumstances whilst an unnamed Law Professor says "It is very clear he should not have agreed to preside over the trial".

"There are different kinds of bias. The most obvious is whether a judge, for example, is related to any of the parties in the case. That has not happened here. But there is something called delicacy and that means we as judges must not even be suspected of being biased."

When asked about these matters, Tomas Norström said "But I have not felt that I am biased because of those commitments." and in response to the legal experts' opinions he responded "You may have asked them. Each time I take a case, I consider whether I consider myself to be biased. I have not thought so in this case."

"But it does not matter what the judge himself thinks." says Eric Bylander, Associate Professor of Procedural Law at the University of Gothenburg "Regardless of what position the judge has, this could seen as bad. In a high profile case such as this, it surprises me that he has not been more cautious."

Original article by Martin Jönsson for Sveriges Radio P3

Will this result in the verdict being reversed or a retrial? Its to early to say, but lets hope some sanity returns to the proceedings and like Canute and his courtiers, Govenments and the film and record industry realise that the existing model of copyright is a rotting corpse that needs to be buried.

I hear that one of the original jurors (closer to a kind of lay judge in the Swedish system) in the case was forced to step down because he was involved in a music rights group that made him vulnerable to charges of bias. If this applies to lay people, why not judges as well?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Shariah and Security

In response to the reports headlined 'Afghan Marital Rape Law' or something similar I felt it was a good time to right about two apparently separate but in reality, connected areas that of the role of Islam in reconstructing Afghanistan and international security.

My feeling is that rather than spend a small fortune on headline infrastructure projects, a large one on propping up a failing corrupt government and an absolutely enormous one on prosecuting a war which, no matter how successful it may be, is not going to solve the underlying problem, It would be worth diverting a small fraction of that money into providing properly qualified, orthodox scholars from both communities (Sunni and Shi'a) to help train Afghans and rebuild the legal system; some money could also be spent on scholarships to send locals to Universities abroad, both Islamic and secular, hopefully Afghanistan might then become a model for rebuilding failed states in the Islamic world, Somalia springs to mind.

Of course there is going to be resistance to that on more than one front. It would not occur to many western governments to use an Islamic solution, others such as the USA would object to supporting religion let alone spending money on it. Vested interests in Afghanistan would complain about outside interference in their affairs. However I think the biggest objections would come from the Governments of Islamic countries.

It is the states of the Islamic world that ought to be funding and promoting such a programme yet they remain remarkably silent when it comes to coming up with any solution. Perhaps this is because the vast majority of them are run by a mixture of corrupt governments, dictators and small élites whose own interpretations of Islam do not stand up to scrutiny.

And here lies the problem; no one is willing to stand up and make the big decisions, the current situation is the collective responsibility of of the former Soviet Union , the western allies, the Islamic world and the Afghan people, and because this particular boil of international relations has been alloweed to fester for so long it is threatening to destabilise one of the world's most dangerous regions, that of the Iran-Pakistan-India corridor.

India is becoming increasingly nervous, it blames Pakistan for everything, even more than usual. Iran is being flooded with cheap heroin from over the border.

The biggest problem though is Pakistan. From where I sit it appears to be a country tearing itself apart; its political parties are, bar some minor exceptions, run by, and promote the interests of, a small number of ruling families with a history of stuffing their own pockets and those of their friends with as much foreign currency as they can before the next coup or election. The traditional bedrock of the country, the army, is utterly demoralised, the judiciary is, as always, dependent on the whim of those in power and the intelligence services are engaged in their own internecine warfare; with those in the ISI that built the Afghan Taliban, and now support their own domestic version and other extreme groups, trying to purge their own service and emasculate other agencies especially the FIA. If this faction gains control I would expect Pakistan to, if not withdraw all support, at the very least frustrate our efforts in Afghanistan by preventing resupply overland and to increase the support they give to the Taliban.

Without support from Pakistan, the ability to recruit and train there and access to its lawless arms market the threat from the Afghan Taliban would be a fraction of the current level; it would be reduced to little more than another crime funded pseudo-political rebel group like FARC, highly dangerous still, yet mostly limited to certain areas and able to be dealt with at a domestic level.

Pakistan is, IMHO, a country that is on the verge of collapse, whether it disintegrates or falls intact in one direction or another is of vital importance to all of us, as of two years ago it had a median estimate of 65 nuclear warheads and enough enriched material to double that with relative ease. Whilst one might expect foreign intelligence services to have been taking a strong interest in the location and control of this material none of the agencies of the interested parties (China, India, Iran, Israel and the USA) have exactly covered themselves in glory in recent years and even if they had enough quantity and quality of intelligence trying to secure everything would be fraught with difficulty. Maintaining some kind of stability, principally in its military apparatus, might seem cynical but may be necessary for all our sakes.