News Digest: World Intellectual Property Organization Moves to Fast–Track Copyright Exceptions for the Visually Impaired

The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week. This week’s top story is WIPO’s decision to fast–track copyright exceptions for the visually impaired.

WIPO assembly moves to fast–track copyright exceptions for visually impaired
IPWatch reports that the WIPO General Assembly has approved the scheduling of high–level negotiations in 2013 for a binding treaty that would introduce vital provisions in international copyright law to secure broad access to adapted reading materials for the visually impaired.

Philippines: High Court suspends contentious internet law
The New York Times reports that the High Court in the Philippines has suspended a controversial new law, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, for 120 days. The move follows the submission to the court of fifteen petitions opposing the law, together with mass online protests, and statements from international NGOs including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the law contained last–minute provisions that would harm online speech.
Report | EFF statement | HRW statement

Brazil: Judge orders Google executive to be taken into custody
The Huffington Post reports that the President of Google Brazil, Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, was arrested and held for two days following the discovery on YouTube of videos that ran counter to the country’s strict pre–election media rules.

US: Publishers’ Association reach deal with Google on book digitization
The New York Times reports on the announcement from Google and the American Association of Publishers that they had reached a deal on book digitization “to allow publishers to choose whether Google digitizes their books and journals.” The commercial deal follows seven years of litigation, which other stakeholders in the case—most notably libraries—had initially hoped would set a new precedent for fair use rights.

Citizen Science: Launch of ForestWatchers.net
The Open Knowledge Foundation blog reports on the launch of ForestWatchers.net, an online project to monitor deforestation in the Amazon basin “based on the convergence of volunteer computing/thinking with free (or donated) catalogues of high–resolution Earth imagery.” The project is an international partnership between Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the Federal University of Sao Paulo, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre (CCC) and the Open Society Foundations.
Report | Project

Knight Foundation announces large investment in OpenStreetMap
The Knight Foundation has announced a $575,000 investment in the open source mapping platform OpenStreetMap. Development Seed and MapBox, the recipients of the grant, say their goals are to “make it easier to add data to OpenStreetMap, make OpenStreetMap.org more social to support the community as it continues its rapid growth, and make it easier for people to get data out of OpenStreetMap to make their own maps”.

Open government: Bids sought for “Making All Voices Count” tender
The Omidyar Network, together with a consortium of funders including development agencies from the UK and US, has announced a new $30–35m fund for “innovation, scaling–up and research in the use of technology to support open government and citizen engagement.” The program, which runs until 2016, is inviting bids.

The Trans–Pacific Partnership and the threat to hard–won consumer rights
Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International provides a helpful overview of the various threats to consumer rights represented by the secretive Trans–Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): “rather than being a race to the top, sometimes globalization can be a race to the bottom, in which national laws to protect the public interest are sacrificed on the altar of free trade."

Unauthorized filesharing: is it wrong?
Joe Karaganis introduces new research in social attitudes towards unauthorized filesharing, expertly dissecting the policy debate around copyright enforcement along the way.

Three reasons why Ushahidi should not help users achieve social impact
Susannah Vila provides a useful counterpoint in the recent debate surrounding crowdsourced geo–platform Ushahidi: “Developing usable technology is a big enough job."

Spotted: World’s first “real” commercial open data curation project!
Francis Irving uses a case emerging in the field of Open Access to Law to celebrate the progress of the open data movement, drawing interesting parallels between open data and the history of open source software.

Should the US Defense Department be funding hackerspaces?
This report for the New York Times examines the controversies brewing in the hacker community over the United States Defense Department’s funding program for hackerspaces in schools.

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