Saturday, 17 April 2010

And that is that

Just finished the final day of the law paper - I was studying: Human Rights and Education in NZ and USA. It was fascinating. I was very fortunate to do this while Jim Ryan was still in the country - for a highly informed US perspective. Co-teaching with him was Paul Rishworth - also not someone to be sniffed at.

The pair's contrasting styles included a generosity and indulgence which was also extended to Cathy when she sat in on one of the lectures, to the extent of allowing her to voice opinions and answer her questions.

Now I have a 12000 word paper to write on something - my usual approach is to write about software freedom - but it is hard to put that in a human rights context. I could treat it as an equality of access issue - discrimination by wealth which we call "the digital divide". But it is tenuous.

Then I read that major "cloud computing" providers are announcing privacy to be dead, teachers are concerned about how much they can censor students on the web, and Bruce Schneier tells me that there is a shift of emphasis in privacy issues from secrecy to control.
When your health records are sold to a pharmaceutical company without your permission; when a social-networking site changes your privacy settings to make what used to be visible only to your friends visible to everyone; when the NSA eavesdrops on everyone's e-mail conversations -- your loss of control over that information is the issue. We may not mind sharing our personal lives and thoughts, but we want to control how, where and with whom. A privacy failure is a control failure.

A quick look at the literature tells me this is a hot topic and Prof. Jim says, "Thairt wud be ay grayt tarpic."

I usually write two papers side by side and see which one takes off, in this case I've been floundering for days on the technology one and five mins into privacy and I have huge progress. So I think it is pretty obvious what I'll be doing: To what extent do students in the public school system have a reasonable expectation of privacy - particularly with respect to surveillance by school authorities?

On another topic - anyone see Close Up yesterday? The bit about nail polish?

The contention was that some nail salons were refilling brand-name nail lacquer with a cheap generic, then passing that off under the brand.

The journalists investigated, using a kind of sting operation. They found that one salon was mixing different colours to make a new colour - all within the brand, while two others used different manufacturers products at different stages in the treatment.

The issue at hand is one of counterfeiting. Close up contended that there was counterfeiting going on at all three salons and consumers should go only to "approved" salons. However, no such contention was proved. So the show was misleading in its representation of the businesses and the results of the tests that were performaed.

The main question to draw from the show is whether, having legally purchased several different colours of a brand of nail lacquer, can you mix the contents of the bottles without abusing the trademark?

The same may go for anything you can mix - if I mix different Dulux paints, is the end result still a Dulux paint? In the hardware industry, Dulux seem happy with this and even supply mixing facilities to allow customers to maximise their colour choice.

The bottom line is: if the brand-owner feels that their trademark has been infringed by these salons, then they should take action through the courts. This sort of smearing someone's name through the media, though indirect, is not on.

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