The worship of words or letters.




the deliberate use of equivocal or ambiguous terms




strained or paradoxical use of words either in error (as `blatant’ to mean ‘flagrant’) or deliberately (as in a mixed metaphor: ‘blind mouths’)

Google's "Double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" tax strategies under the microscope

Fascinating article on the strategies employed by Google and other multinational technology firms to minimise corporate income taxation by funneling income into tax havens:

Google’s income shifting - involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” - helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 per cent, the lowest of the top five US technology companies by market capitalisation, according to regulatory filings in six countries.

Income shifting commonly begins when companies like Google sell or license the foreign rights to intellectual property developed in the US to a subsidiary in a low-tax country. That means foreign profits based on the technology get attributed to the offshore unit, not the parent. Under US tax rules, subsidiaries must pay “arm’s length” prices for the rights - or the amount an unrelated company would.

In Google’s case, the US-developed tech is licensed to Google Ireland Holdings Ltd, which sublicenses to Google Ireland Ltd, where 88 per cent of its global advertising income is derived. But 99 per cent of that income is shifted into Bermuda, where the holding co’s “effective centre of management” (two nominee directors out of a Bermuda law firm) is located.

French 3 strikes regime sees ISPs inundated with notices

It’s unclear whether the recent Creation and Internet Act 2010 (FR) is having much of an impact on digital piracy. However, according to copyright owners, around 25,000 notices of alleged infringement are being sent to the state-administered digital enforcement body (HADOPI) each day:

French labels trade body director general David El Sayegh revealed the 25,000 figure. He added that labels were not aware of the subsequent number of warning messages sent by HADOPI to suspected copyright infringers.

The impact of HADOPI on digital sales in France remains to be seen. “It is too early,” says El Sayegh, who is looking towards the end of 2010 for the first indications of how it has worked, and the end of the second half of 2011 for a more conclusive sales impact.

Botnet hosts strongly clustered around safe haven providers

Interesting survey of the connection between website hosts and botnet ‘command and control’ servers, which are used to direct networks of malware-infected clients:

For the first half of 2010, almost a quarter of botnet CnC servers were hosted by service providers in the US, with the top three countries (US - 23.9 per cent, Germany - 17.9 per cent and France - 8.6 per cent) hosting more than half of all CnC servers.

“Half of the servers used by cyber-criminals for the purpose of controlling their botnet empires are located in commercial hosting facilities within countries not traditionally associated with this kind of crime,” writes Gunter Ollmann, VP Research at Damballa.

Internet hosting firms 1&1 Internet AG in Germany and AT&T have unwittingly become favourite control points for cybercrooks, according to Damballa. 1&1 Internet alone accounts for more than one in 10 botnet command and control servers.

Government department blocks open government website

Today’s irony award goes to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which last week blocked access to Open Australia, a website (modelled on They Work For You) which helps people track what their MPs say in Parliament. In fairness, the blockage occurred because a third party border proxy classified the content as a ‘blog’:

In an emailed response from Customs to [the website operator], it said that the site had been classified by its third-party internet filtering software as a blog.

“The website and it’s [sic] charity foundation are classified by the filtering software … as ‘blogs’,” the department said.

It could not allow “general access” to websites classified as blogs “due to the threat websites within this category can pose to the security of the Australian Customs and Border Protection network”, the email said. …

Customs said that it was “important to note that the filter list is provided by a third-party” and that it “simply consumes this list”. “We do not make decisions on what category a website should be placed in,” it said.

Of course, exactly what threat such blogs pose to network security remains unclear. I wonder what the filter list provider’s responsibility for the blockage is — presumably, its terms of service disclaim all liability for false-positives.

Trespass by Light? Cricket Australia and Big Ben

For a few hours around midnight last Wednesday, Cricket Australia projected an image onto the Big Ben clock tower which contained the message “Don’t forget to pack the urn”, referring to the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia. (It was a clear allusion to the English Cricket Board’s projection in 2008 of a similar image onto Sydney Harbour Bridge.)

Now the Westminster City Council is considering legal action. But on what basis?

Westminster Council’s deputy leader, Robert Davis, told The Guardian: “The Palace of Westminster is part of a Unesco world heritage site, and it’s both inappropriate and insulting for this important location and its buildings to effectively be abused in this manner. It’s also a criminal offence.

“If an organisation wishes to display advertising on it, or any other building in Westminster for that matter, they should apply through the normal channels like any right-minded person with respect for the law.

An administrative fine is one thing, but any civil action (in trespass, or perhaps conversion) would surely fail — what’s the interference or appropriation?

US-Style Fair Use Coming to England?

David Cameron included this cryptic announcement in a speech about establishing a high-tech sector in East London:

The second new announcement I can make today is to do with intellectual property. The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain. The service they provide depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the United States.

Over there, they have what are called “fair-use” provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America.

It’s interesting to see the connection being made between exceptions to infringement and ‘breathing space’ for innovation. Whether this review will amount to anything remains to be seen.

A Rock and an Island

When in doubt, refer to pop music lyrics: semantically illuminating and it demonstrates judicial hipness:

The Government argued that the Notty was in international waters or on the “high seas” because “Saint Vincent Rock is a rock. If it was an island, it would be called Saint Vincent Island, not Saint Vincent Rock.” Ultimately, we must determine whether it is a rock or an island according to the statutory definitions provided by the Archipelagic Act. We note in passing that for some purposes, the label is not altogether satisfying. Thus, for example, in the metaphysical sense, we can discern no reason why something could not be both a rock and an island at the same timeSee Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, I am a Rock, on Sounds of Silence (Columbia 1966) (“A winter’s day, in a deep and dark December. I am alone, gazing from my window, to the streets below, on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island. Don’t talk of love. Well I’ve heard the word before. It’s sleeping in my memory. I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved, I never would have cried. I am a rock, I am an island. I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.”). Of course, neither Simon nor Garfunkel has been identified as a nautical expert.

Citation: 336 F 3d 1269 (11th Cir, 2003)
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