Friday, June 12, 2009

Will this amount to violation of rights?

I feel I am becoming irritatingly inquisitive about data/information these days. It’s probably the frequent bombardment of sensitive data handling tips and insights which have lead to these adverse affects. I got into the office bus this morning and occupied my favorite aisle seat. My neighbor was engrossed in the morning newspaper and I happened to read the headlines as I occupied my seat. It was not like I made a conscious attempt to read; the bold lines just flew through my eyes. This made me think.

Is reading a newspaper not bought by me, an act of violation of the publisher’s or the new owner’s right?

Though it might not be like an illegal copy/download of songs and videos; it might still amount to use of printed information in part or whole without the prior consent of the author or the publishers as you are not paying for it. In short it might be some form of piracy, and piracy hurts. You might argue that the contents of a newspaper are actually generic and there cannot be any copyright on news; the fact that newspapers also carry editorials and articles will force a rethink. The authors or owners in this case will be the newspaper publication group who stand to lose. Given the short life span of a daily newspaper, every unsold copy is a loss (let’s discount the salvage value of paper from the scope of this blog). Another point is that, it’s mostly the headlines and pictures that most go through, unless the news bit is of interest. Considering that the headlines and pictures are more prominent and visible from a distance, there is little need for an extra effort to gather them. Also, there are people who are only interested in the sports or in the crime beat section, who would satisfy themselves with a quick peep and will not bother to buy a newspaper. So I think, reading a newspaper not bought by me, might actually be a violation of either the publishers or the new owners (person who bought the newspaper) right.

But again, a newspaper is actually available on the public domain. Until an author or a company is awarded the rights on their asset, the asset on a public domain can be used by anybody. Maybe it is the design and layout of the newspaper which the company will hold rights on and not the actual content. If at all some proprietary material is published, the owners will have to take enough precautions by providing a legal box or a copyright symbol or something. They cannot put words highlighted in bold and display it in public and expect nobody other than the buyer to read it. If they are doing that, it might be really to attract customers because a strong customer base will in turn help them augment their revenues by attracting advertisers. The buyer of the newspaper on his part has to keep it out of public view or should take precautions to make sure that no one else reads the newspaper he has bought. He cannot expect privacy while displaying/reading it in public. So maybe reading a newspaper not bought by me, might not be a violation of either the publishers or the new owners (person who bought the newspaper) right.

Even though I could think of an “against” argument for every “for” argument, I am still not very convinced. Probably it’s my lack of knowledge on information security, which is to be blamed.

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Friday evening

It was more than 20 minutes since the bus had moved an inch. Friday evenings were always bad and today was no different. It had been a hot afternoon and the inside of the (filled) bus was warmer than outside. He was in a habit of coming and leaving early on Fridays. But today, he was in the evening bus though he was early in office. Everyone in the bus; his colleagues and coworkers appeared to be in their own world. A few were chatting while the majority were engrossed in the evening newspaper or had their ear phones with FM radio on. A few were motionless and gazing outside the window and he was one among them.

A tiny drop of sweat rolled down his forehead and slowly disappeared in his eyebrows. He was deep in thought and continued gazing outside the window. He showed no intent to wipe his moist forehead. Every now and then he would unlock his cell phone and check if he had missed a call or a message.

Things had been rather bad in his company in the earlier two quarters. Profits were shrinking and new work orders were becoming far and few. Like most other businesses his company was also cutting costs and most measures seemed trivial except for a few which had drawn criticism from the employees. None of the exercises had really made an impact. Then, there were rumors of layoffs and the most wide spread among them was that the layoffs were happening only on Friday evenings. The chosen employees were called and were asked never to return. Though he had never himself come across anybody who was sent home, a Friday evening telephone meeting request from his manager had been enough to send shivers down his spine.

The sudden flashing lights of the ambulance, struck in the traffic next to his bus, shook him alert. The siren of the ambulance was not on but the flashing lights had been turned on. “Poor guy”, he said to himself, as he looked at the ambulance, even though he could not see anyone inside. His thoughts had changed direction and he was now thinking about the unseen patient inside the ambulance. He tried to look around to check if there was a way the ambulance could be steered into the opposite lane; but all the lanes were jammed. “Really unfortunate”, he said to himself as he slid back in his seat closing his eyes.

The sounds in the bus suddenly seemed incoherent. He could see people around confused. They were all saying something. He looked around and was in a totally different place. It was dark everywhere except for some flashing lights next to him. He could feel the pull at his shirt and looked down to see his manager struggling on the floor. He wasn’t sure what had happened but could see people trying to lift his manager towards the flashing lights. There were too many people around……….

A vigorous shake suddenly shook him awake. It was actually his cell phone vibrating with an incoming message. He unlocked his cell phone to read the message. It was a message from his manager. The message read “Meeting has been postponed to Tuesday morning. Happy weekend!”. He looked around and could see that his bus was in the same place where it was when he dozed off. The flashing lights of the ambulance showed the smile on his face; A smile, first time since afternoon.

~ Narendra V Joshi