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It's hard to decide which is more infuriating: culture being stymied by copyright abuse, or simply by intricacies, stupidities and failures at the systemic level (with a dash of apathy and negligence thrown in). The latter is what led to the death of a classic game re-release this week, prompting Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously to win most insightful comment of the week with a simple suggestion to fix the issue of orphaned and ambiguously-owned works: I propose the same solution as for those `disappeared' mortgage contracts: contest the ownership in court and if it isn't quickly proved, the judge can declare a forfeit on the ownership (basically public domain-ing the content). In second place, we've got a response to the idea that the government's seizure of Kim Dotcom's assets is justified by his failure to come to the US and appear in court. Jupiterkansas offered a poetic summation of the situation: The high court of wolves said, "Of course the sheep can have justice. All it has to do is walk into our lair. If the sheep won't do that voluntarily, then obviously the sheep has done something wrong." For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an excellent anonymous comment responding to a call for more moneymaking institutions for creators: By institutions do you mean institutions like Kickstarter and Patreon, or services like bandcamp and Youtube, which are already being built; or do you mean new forms of publishers, who take control of works for their own profits? All the creative arts are changing, and the balance is shifting towards models where the creator forms a more direct relationship with their fans and supporters. The changeover will be painful for the traditional publishers, and the creators who rely on them, mainly because the alternatives can function with mush smaller fan bases, so long as the role of middlemen is kept to a minimum, and the creators look to try and make a reasonable living, rather than a vast fortune. Next, we've got another anonymous comment, this time in response to the idea that patents protect small inventors from big companies: Patents protecting small-time inventors from the big corporate baddies is the kind of nonsense you read in fairy tales. Even acquiring the patent in the first place is expensive (USPTO cost summary here), let alone suing for infringement, let alone the countersuit the big baddies can and will file against the upstart. How many lawsuits can a basement genius afford? They'd be hard-pressed to design a system more rigged against the mythical "poor, lonely inventor". Over on the funny side, first place goes to That Anonymous Coward for thoughts inspired by SpaceX's public domain release of photos: When they start launching people, I have a list... oh they have to be willing? Nevermind... In second place we've got jakerome, who responded to a slight misquote in our post about the tech-confused Rep. John Carter with a credible impression of a Techdirt troll: Another massive mistake by The Masnick It's not "big super computers" as you hyperventilate in your post. Rather, the well-informed representative was placidly referring to "big giant super computers." Try to get it straight next stop & end this dedication to pursuing your agenda from clouding your judgment. For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more response to that post, this time from David with some recommendations for the esteemed Representative: Perhaps he needs to get out more. This new-fangled encryption stuff is scary. Maybe he needs to relax and go see a nice movie. I've heard "The Imitation Game" is good. Finally, we've got a comment from Ninja, who responded to the image of a cannon-defended Music Biz Island with some small revisions for accuracy: Too modern, I'd picture them throwing rocks while brandishing a few roughly assembled weapons made of wood and stone and making grumbling noises. The mere sight of the led lamps in the boats is met with wild and violent reactions. It seems they haven't discovered fire yet. Sounds like Back To The Future IV: Jurassic Music. That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Five Years Ago This week in 2010, as is so often the case, there were lots of stupid and/or troublesome moves in the entertainment world. Hollywood was still making up statistics about piracy for the AP to parrot, Warner Bros. was working on a confusing release strategy that favored Blockbuster Video, Universal Music was funding another propaganda campaign against file sharing, and Sony Music somehow managed to take down Beyonce's official videos for piracy. Viacom's true intent in its YouTube lawsuit became clear — pretending that the DMCA requires filtering — and the band MGMT, following a leak of its album, was blocked by its label from releasing the official version for free. Additionally, FIFA was attacking an airline over an ad that didn't even mention FIFA, and the Olympics was trying to block ICANN from offering a .sports TLD. Amidst all this, we also wondered why the government can use the term "music piracy" in court. This week also saw the full ACTA draft leaked to the public, raising serious constitutional questions. The UK was still grappling with the Digital Economy Bill, making extremely weak concessions to due process while some noted that it sets up a China-like censorship system. And while pushing for this bill that would enable kicking people offline, the government was also looking at moving all public services online. Ten Years Ago 2005 was when Hollywood really started getting the FBI on board as its private police force. The movie business was even more confused then than it is now, with bizarre aims like trying to become more like the IRS, and muddled strategies like advertising on Grokster while also suing it. The Chinese film industry was realizing that movies are a social experience, while the US television industry was trying to figure out if TV really is. (Broadcast TV still wasn't digital, by the way). People were acknowledging the deaths of plastic discs and newsprint and trying to figure out what would come next, Clear Channel was hopping on the podcast bandwagon, and the world was starting to notice the unexpected impact of Skype. Fifteen Years Ago This week in 2000, we were looking to the future. Some were discussing the new input devices heading towards the market, others were making better fiber-optics; Intel was showcasing VR, speech recognition and more while scientists were making unexpectedly fast progress on quantum computing; the convergence of phones and PDAs was on the horizon, as was the ascendance of ebooks. And China began taking its first baby steps towards the great firewall with a slew of new internet regulations. Despite all this, one global survey found that 40% of people just didn't really care about the internet or have any interest in using it. Twenty-Two Years Ago My first family computer, when I was very young, had an Intel 286 processor. Eventually we upgraded to a 386, then a 486, and then we waited for the next iteration. The pattern was so well-established that I continued to casually call my first Pentium a "586" for quite some time. Why am I telling you all this? Because it was on March 22nd, 1993, that Intel released the very first Pentium processor, choosing that name because they were unable to secure a trademark on the numerical names and didn't like the fact that competitors were using them too, as with the AMD Am486. The name itself was coined by the same branding company that came up with BlackBerry, PowerBook, Zune, Swiffer, Febreze, DeskJet, Dasani, OnStar and many other brand names. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For this week's awesome stuff, we've got some technology focused on improving your mobile music listening experience in a variety of ways. MAGZET For people with Apple laptops, the days of destroying your power cable by tripping on it are over thanks to the MagSafe connector. Unfortunately, the days of destroying your audio jacks and headphone connectors persist, and everyone knows the pain of having to jostle a broken plug around to get its weak connection to kick in. MAGZET aims to fix that by letting you turn any audio jack into a magnetic connector by connecting the small, two-piece device. As they point out, the standard audio jack hasn't been updated in a long time, and this could be just the smart revolution it needs. UAMP There have been many attempts to create products that will stymie the ascendance of lower-quality audio in the mobile device era, but most are overwrought and place too high a bet on the assumption that people truly care. The UAMP, however, is a nice and simple solution that can be easily adopted by those who want better sound without needing to go buy whole new specialty players: a small inline amplifier that lets you get more amplification at higher fidelity than those built into most consumer devices. It's USB-chargeable and about the size of an iPod Shuffle, and aims to retail for around $100. Aivvy Q The Aivvy Q is an interesting idea. Not only is it a pair of headphones with a built-in music player, controlled by touch gestures on the side — it actually aims to be a whole music solution for busy people. It grabs songs automatically from its own service while charging, then builds custom playlists and rotations based on your decisions to skip, listen, replay, etc. Of course, the big question is: where exactly is it pulling these songs from, will it require a subscription, and how confident are the makers that they can keep it licensed and robust? Though some of these things remain to be seen, the tech itself looks very cool. They do lose some points for the nonsensical claim that they are about "streaming music without internet", though (that appears to be their odd way of saying it downloads tracks while connected, then automatically plays or "streams" Pandora-style generated playlists from its internal storage later). Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It doesn't happen often, but a judge has called out police officers for using a non-existent offense -- "contempt of cop" -- to justify the use of force against a detained person. Multnomah County (OR) Judge Diana Stewart cleared 16-year-old Portland resident Thai Gurule of several charges brought against him after he was pummeled and tased by police officers for… well, basically for responding angrily to a somewhat derogatory gesture. Police that night had been looking for a group of seven to nine African American men, including one shirtless one, who had been walking the streets, reportedly damaging property and yelling profanities. Within minutes of receiving the group's last known location, police several blocks away focused their attention on a group of three young men: Gurule, his 20-year-old brother and their friend. That was the narrative up to the point where Thai Gurule found himself on the receiving end of fists and Tasers. Ignoring the fact that this group had little in common with the suspects other than race, we come to what turned this incident into a confrontation and, finally, a one-side melee. The following comes from the judge's statement on the dismissal of charges: As the youth walked past, Officer Hughes said, "Hey" to the youth and when the youth continued, he again said, "Hey" and clapped his hands. Thai Gurule turned to face Officer Hughes and in an angry or aggressive voice said "Don't fucking clap your hands at me". Officer Hughes stepped forward while the youth stepped back. Cue escalation. The officers decided to cuff Gurule (for "resisting arrest," apparently). As a crowd began to gather, the officers decided to move Gurule into a prone position for cuffing, supposedly for officer safety. But rather than let Gurule move to a prone position, one of the officers decided to speed up the process by sweeping Gurule's feet out from underneath him. From that point, it became an uncontrolled beating. One officer held Gurule by the hair while the other two wrestled him to the ground and hit him multiple times with their fists and knees. Finding the one-sided "struggle" to be ineffective, Sgt. Lile deployed his Taser. After they were done throwing blows, the officers threw the book at Thai Gurule, listing all of the following charges on the police report: Aggravated assault Simple assault Criminal threats Disorderly conduct Interference with public safety Resisting arrest The accompanying reports filed by the officers maintained that Gurule repeatedly swung his fists at officers and tried to choke one of them. Unfortunately for these officers, multiple recordings of the incident that contradicted their narrative were made available to the judge. Judge Stewart was obviously irate at the thick stack of lies delivered to her in the form of police reports and sworn testimony. She also was none too happy with the officers' justification for initiating the arrest of a person who had done nothing more than fail to treat Officer Hughes with as much deference as he felt he deserved. Not only did she dismiss the charges, but she read the entire damning dismissal order out loud. In discussing the "resisting arrest" charge, Judge Stewart also addressed the pure BS motivating the officers' arrest of Gurule. She points out there's an exceedingly low bar that needs to be met to satisfy the requirements for bringing this charge, but the officers couldn't even meet that. Actual restraint was placed upon the youth at the moment that Officers Hughes and Hornstein placed control or escort holds on the youth. At that moment, even given the broad authority described above, there is insufficient evidence before the court that the Officers were operating under their community caretaking function, or therefore under color. At that time, there is no evidence of concerns about a crowd forming. That concern arose as much as a minute later when the officers decided to take the youth to the ground. Establishing this, she gets to the heart of the matter. The only facts before the court are that the youth failed the attitude test when he turned and aggressively complained about Officer Hughes clapping him hands. Officer Hughes stepped forward and the youth stepped back and Officer Hughes, immediately followed by Officer Hornstein placed the holds restraining the youth. And there it is: the bogus arrest was prompted by a little disrespect Officer Hughes just couldn't handle. It is surprising enough that a judge would call out an officer for this sort of behavior. It's even more surprising that she would move on to allowing an arrested suspect's self-defense claims stand. In most cases, the judicial branch shows deference to police officers who use excessive force in their self-defense ("feared for their safety"). In this instance, the deference went the other way. [W]hile a person may not use physical force to resist what is actually or perceived by the defendant to be an unlawful arrest, a person may use physical force in defending oneself from excessive use of force by an arresting officer. Any injury caused to an officer in the course of engaging in a justifiable use of force to defend oneself may under such circumstances be justified and not criminal. [...] In this case, the youth's age is a relevant factor which the court considers even without the testimony of youth. Therefore, the question before the court is whether this youth and a reasonable 16 year old youth in his position would have believed that the use or imminent use of force against him exceeded the force reasonably necessary and whether he was entitled to defend himself with a degree of force which a reasonable 16 year old would reasonably believe to be necessary for the purpose. [...] The take down, although intended to be gentle and with adequate warning was nothing like that plan. Officer Hornstein swept the youth's feet out from under him causing him the sensation of falling forward without the use of his hands to break his fall. The next 35 to 45 seconds was a melee of fists and punches and bodies falling upon him. Prior to reaching the wall, the youth was attempting to regain his footing and get back on his feet and remove himself from what a reasonable person would have felt was a senseless and aggressive use of excessive physical force. Once at the wall, the independent evidence of the video clips is less clear but continues to show the youth trying to struggle away from the officers rather than engage in a physical altercation… [...] [G]iven that confusion, rapidity of events, the tangle of officers and the youth and the confusion caused by the crowd, I find that as to all charges herein, the state has not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the youth was not reasonably justified in the use of self-defense as to all of the charges herein. And with that, Thai Gurule is no longer facing criminal charges. As of yet, there's no word of what consequences, if any, are awaiting the officers involved. The city's police department is only a couple of years removed from a DOJ investigation, but incidents like these show there's still work to be done. And, of course, the local police union has greeted this decision with assertions that the officers involved did nothing wrong and that Judge Stewart is nothing more than an armchair quarterback, but you'll have to click over to Popehat to read Ken White's entertaining/infuriating take on the union head's counterclaims. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Bear witness to the genesis of a new era, fellow sports fans. I've begged and pleaded in the past for the major professional sports leagues to take the harness off of the ability to stream games. Even as the trend of cord-cutting has progressed along nicely, I have always argued that the only dam keeping a flood of cord-cutters at bay has been professional sports broadcast deals. Those deals have almost universally been saddled with local blackout restrictions, making streaming games all but useless for the majority of fans. The past few years, however, have seen inched progress towards wider availabitily for streamed offerings. The NBA's most recent contract went out of its way to make sure streaming is expanded, for instance, not to mention the deal Dish and ESPN made to make the cable channel's broadcasts more accessible for streaming. But those were baby steps, too often leashed by a cable subscription requirement. But, now, the NFL is finally dipping its toe in the streaming waters. Please understand that, even if this is just another inch gained for streaming, this is a huge deal. On Monday, the NFL announced the Oct. 25 regular season game between Jacksonville and Buffalo will be put up for bid on national digital platforms. The game is being played in London, meaning the broadcast will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET and 6:30 PT. That's not exactly prime time for U.S. fans, or broadcast television, but it is 'prime time' in China, where the NFL is struggling to gain a toehold. "It's a one game test. We will evaluate fan feedback," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said via an email exchange. "It's too early to tell about the future [of streaming games]. Will test this season with the one game and evaluate after." Separately, the NFL said it's going to drop its so-called blackout rule, which prevents local broadcasts of games if they're not sold out 72 hours before kickoff. NFL media executive Brian Rolapp said the league is "testing alternative ways to distribute games," The NYT reports, and acknowledged the obvious: "The world is changing very quickly." If this seems like a small step, you don't know how savvy the folks in the NFL's media department are. They absolutely know where the trends have us all heading regarding media consumption and I can promise you they are keenly aware of how many people are currently watching streaming NFL games on illegitimate sites. The most consumed sport in the United States doesn't turn on a dime, but the league also doesn't put up this kind of test balloon without having a fairly certain idea of how it's going to play with its customers. Assuming the quality, cost (free?), and accessibility of this test game is anything remotely comparable to, say, baseball's MLB.TV offering, expect this to end up as an insanely successful test-run. I'd actually say that this test game feels more like the NFL looking for an excuse to jump fully into a streaming offering than some kind of fact-finding mission. After all, you only drop the blackout rule in conjunction with expanding streaming if you expect the locals to run with the offering full-force. And they will, I assure you. The NFL's DirectTV and network deals mean streaming won't explode immediately, but everyone can see what the NFL is doing to position itself for the future. Given its agreement with DirecTV and television networks -- the NFL signed $27 billion worth of contracts in 2011 -- the league will be restricted on what it can offer online, at least in the near term. But the NFL is "a master of dicing and splicing content in order to extract the greatest value," [media analyst Walt] Piecyk says. "It's not like they're committing to put a bunch of games [online] but I think they want to get more comfortable so if Google or Apple or Amazon comes down the pike and says 'we want to buy a larger chunk of games' they can get comfortable on tech front." And speaking of MLB.TV, reports are that professional baseball is due to get its own expanded streaming offering. The MLB.TV service has long been the standard in sports streaming, with no other league offering really even coming close. The problem, however, was that local games were blacked out, so the service was only useful for out-of-town fans or die-hard baseball fans that will watch any MLB game any time it's available (me, for example). If recent reports are to be believed, however, MLB is looking to take a small step to changing the blackout rules for streaming. Major League Baseball is expected to announce in the next few days a deal with a national distributor, like a wireless provider, to stream local games of every MLB team, a source close to the situation said Thursday. To stream games of the New York teams, fans would have to be a customer of the distributor and pay for the YES Network or SNY, the regional sports networks (RSNs) that carry Yank and Met games, respectively. The price to stream has not yet been set. This is an imperfect first step, of course, particularly as it carries with it the anchor of either a cable subscription, a specific wireless device provider, or both, but it's an important step in the right direction. It's something akin, actually, to the DirectTV deal the NFL has, except that it's more mobile and more widely available on a variety of devices. You should also expect any deal MLB signs for this streaming to be less locked in than the NFL/DirectTV deal, because, again, everyone knows where this is all heading. And, if the reports are true, even the television broadcasters are resigning themselves to reality. Talks between MLB and Fox Sports, which owns 15 RSNs, including YES; Comcast, which owns six, including a minority stake in SNY; and DirecTV, which owns four, have been on-again, off-again for more than a year. The talks have accelerated in the last two weeks, and both sides are optimistic a deal will be reached before Opening Day, April 6. Under that agreement, fans would deal directly with their pay-TV provider. Is it as perfect a solution as simply working out deals to unleash the local broadcasts on the MLB.TV stream that customers have been watching all the non-local teams on? No, absolutely not, but this first iteration's imperfection will only catalyze MLB to go the correct route in the future. Because the trends are clear: streaming is up and cable subscriptions are down. Even if the NFL and MLB don't get this right the first time, they will absolutely be forced to get it right in the near future. Either way, one eventual reality is coming ever-closer to fruition: cable television, and perhaps television as a whole, may soon be over. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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People eat all kinds of different things in different parts of the world. Some countries have well-known traditional meals and menu items, and foodies all over the internet are posting pictures of what they're eating all the time. Food-obsessed folks seem to like to capture snapshots of food -- both good and bad -- for fun and commentary. Here are some global food snapshots for you to look over that might not be all that appetizing. Military food rations from different countries have surprising variety. There are some similarities, such as: chocolate, isotonic drinks, muesli, pâté, coffee, chewing gum and disinfectant wipes. [url] Kids all over the world are posting pictures of their school lunches on the internet. However, some of the photos that are supposed to represent a country's school lunch program aren't very accurate -- and it's fascinating to see some comparisons of what could be served and what actually is. [url] Oxfam reports that the Netherlands is the easiest country in the world for getting a balanced, nutritious diet. The US and Japan tied for a spot in 21st place, and Canada landed at 25th. Obviously, the global food distribution system could use some improvements since there's enough food for everyone, but obesity and starvation still exist. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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I can't honestly claim to know a whole lot about e-cigarettes. That's because when I was still smoking, I smoked the old fashioned kind of cigarettes. You know, the ones made from tobacco, that cured acne, and that made my breath smell as cool and fabulous as a pub toilet. Plus, everyone was doing it and my lungs weren't going to give themselves cancer, so you know. But, even knowing little about e-cigarettes, I know enough to know that they aren't ale houses located in Riverdale, New Jersey. This is a conclusion that the lawyers over at Lorillard, makers of "blu" e-cigarettes, think is likely to escape the larger population, as they have decided to file a trademark dispute against Blu Alehouse over its name and logo. The lawsuit filed by Lorillard Technologies Inc. centers on a logo that NJ Ale House LLC is using at its Blu Alehouse in Riverdale, N.J., Law360 reported. According to the news website, the logo features "the word 'blu' surrounded by smoke or flames." The subsidiary of Greensboro-based Lorillard (NYSE: LO) claims that the logo is too much like the branding for blu eCigs. Let's leave everything else aside for a moment and simply take a look at the two logos to see if they look substantially similar on their own. First is the logo of Blu Alehouse. Note that this logo normally appears alongside the full name of the establishment. And now the logo for blu Cigarettes. Neither logo is particularly complicated, but even failing to correct for the simplicity of the designs, the two logos are distinctly different. If both logos didn't incorporate the word "blu" in them, there would be absolutely nothing to argue about here. And, again, that's strictly taking the logos into account with no other context. Because once we use the likelihood of customer confusion and the markets of competition tests, I'm failing to see how this wasn't tossed immediately upon a judge's review. An ale house isn't competing with cigarettes in any way. Add to that that it would be quite difficult for even the most moronic and hurried citizens to mistake the two companies for each other, what with the ale house's logo typically appearing alongside other signage that identifies itself as an ale house. Strangely, an actual judge reviewing the claim thought differently. U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty found that Lorillard — along with another subsidiary, LOEC Inc. — made "plausible claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition," and he ruled that the case could go on, Law360 reported. How is the claim of unfair competition even possible? The two companies aren't competing with each other at all. The only mention of competition in the court filing by Lorillard is over the fact that sometimes they advertise their cigarettes at drinking establishments. LTI and LOEC allege that Blu Alehouse bar and restaurant is directed at a similar consumer base as LTI and LOEC's BLU products because BLU products are promoted at bars, restaurants, and lounges. But that doesn't actually put the companies in competition with one another. That would be like Budweiser claiming that Big Buds Magazine, here to serve all of your marijuana information needs, infringed on Budweiser marks because they occasionally sell beer to high people. Why should that matter at all? Hopefully as this case moves forward, a more sensible conclusion is reached. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The world of online privacy was changed forever by Edward Snowden's revelations of massive, global spying by the US, UK and others. And the repercussions of his actions continue to make themselves felt. Two countries particularly affected by the surveillance conducted against them, Germany and Brazil, have led efforts to appoint a new rapporteur (special expert) for privacy at the United Nations Human Rights Council, and with surprising success. Despite fears that the US or UK might try to block the move, or neuter the role, they both accepted the following resolution, which was adopted by consensus, without a vote: The Council invites the Special Rapporteur to include in the first report considerations on the right to privacy in the digital age; calls upon all States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of the mandate, including by providing all necessary information requested by him or her, to respond promptly to his or her urgent appeals and other communications, to consider favourably the mandate holder’s requests to visit their countries and to consider implementing the recommendations made by the mandate holder in his or her reports. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Rapporteur comes calling on the NSA and GCHQ asking for more details of their surveillance operations. The resolution affirmed a general right to privacy: according to which no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the right to the protection of the law against such interference...; recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet and the rapid advancement in information and communications technology as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms; and affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy. The Rapporteur will have no real powers to demand information or enforce recommendations. But at the very least, the creation of this new role will help to increase international awareness of the importance of privacy in the digital world, and of the scale of the threats ranged against it. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Origin, Electronic Arts' online store and license-check-in system is a hilarious study in how to build a platform to serve legitimate customers and identify infringing copies of the game that both inhibits legitimate customers and misidentifies what is an infringing copy of a game. Add to this the fact that the Origin platform has in the past been found to be in and of itself a massive security exploit and one wonders how the service is still around today. But around it most certainly is, and still screwing with legitimate customers, too, as a group attempting to run benchmark tests on EA's Battlefield Hardline found out. Guru 3D writer Hilbert Hagedoorn has discovered some pernicious DRM in Battlefield Hardline while attempting to do a "VGA graphics performance" test with the game for a feature article (thanks Blue's News). Apparently the DRM monitors hardware changes - something Hagedoorn was doing a lot of when testing different cards with the game - and when it hits a certain threshold it locks the user out of the game. "Here's what EAs DRM is doing," Hagedoorn writes. "They don't just verify the number of PCs you work on slash use, nope .. they dare to monitor hardware changes now, which I am sure is a privacy breach on many levels. So once we insert new hardware (graphics cards) the hardware id # hash changes and if that happens a couple of times they are rendering your activation invalid." For the record, EA has already responded to Game Politics with a wonderfully silly answer: it ain't our DRM, it's the Origin DRM, yo! "Origin authentication allows players to install a game on up to five different PCs every 24 hours," the EA spokesperson told us this morning. "Players looking to benchmark more than five hardware configurations in one 24 hour period can contact our Customer Support team who can help." Hoo-boy, EA, that's quite a trip of a rebuttal, considering Origin is your platform and the check-in system you're describing is in fact a form of DRM. So a statement that essentially boils down to, "It wasn't our game DRM, it was our platform DRM!" is absolutely useless. Is the Origin authentication that lets customers install on five different machines in a day fairly lenient as these things go? Sure, except for a couple of things. First, it clearly doesn't work all that well, since simply swapping out a GPU suddenly counts as a whole new machine. Second, why have this restriction at all? If your platform can't be relied upon to properly determine legitimate copies of games, then ditch the platform. Don't back that failure up by annoying paying customers with restrictions designed to buttress your failed attempts. But all of that may end up being besides the point, because Hagedoorn's early point is the key: why is EA sniffing around our hardware configurations? The company had damned well better be sure that there is something in the EULA that allows for them to sniff out hardware swaps, something quite common amongst PC gamers, nevermind benchmarkers. But even if the EULA allows for this... what the hell? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Windows: the still-dominant operating system is the 800 lbs. gorilla, so one fully expects to see tons of insult-darts shot at the thing to try and tranquilize it. And, in the age of technology fan-boy-ism, some techie folks are big on drawing lines in the sand and loudly proclaiming the superiority of one piece of software over another. But, still, when your German basketball team faces relegation into a lower class of league because a windows laptop crashed and then ran an update just before game time, you can kind of understand if they're pissed off about it. The March 13 match between the Chemnitz Niners and the Paderborn Baskets was set to begin normally, when Paderborn (the host) connected its laptop to the scoreboard in the 90 minutes leading up to the game. In an interview with the German newspaper, Die Zeit (Google Translate), Patrick Seidel, the general manager of Paderborn Baskets said that at 6:00pm, an hour and a half before the scheduled start time, the laptop was connected "as usual." "But as both teams warmed up, the computer crashed," he said. "When we booted it again at 7:20pm, it started automatically downloading updates. But we did not initiate anything." After all the updates were installed, Paderborn was ready to start the game at 7:55pm. Oops. Paderborn ended up winning the game, but Chemnitz filed a protest, arguing that the delay in starting the game constituted a violation and that Paderborn ought be penalized. The league agreed, taking a point in the standings away from Paderborn, which lowered its rankings such that it now faced relegation. Relegation, for you Americans who aren't Premier League Soccer fans, is a shift in which leagues a team plays in based on the year's performance. For Paderborn, this will mean not even being able to play at the championship level next year, instead being forced to play in the lower "ProB" league. Seidel is pissed, of course. "You can’t blame Chemnitz," Siedel added. "But as an athlete and a man, let me of course tell you something else. We beat Chemnitz twice in sportsmanlike, tight games. Therefore, this entire issue has nothing to do with sports." Nope, just a Windows update costing you a potential championship next year. N00bs. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Today's deal is a whopping 94% off of the Learn to Code 2015 Course Bundle. Whether you're new to coding or looking to brush up on your techniques, these courses from Udemy are designed to help you master everything from HTML & CSS to python to PHP and more. Hurry as the deal expires in just 4 days. Don't forget to use the code TECHDIRT10 to get an additional 10% off of your first purchase. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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About a month ago we covered the basics of the lawsuit by which the US government was seeking to keep pretty much all of Kim Dotcom's assets, despite the fact that Dotcom himself hasn't been tried -- and, in fact, it hasn't even been determined if he can be extradited to the United States (a country he's never visited). This week, that case took another step, with the judge, Liam O'Grady, who had already ruled that Kim Dotcom could be considered a "fugitive," more or less finalizing the theft of Dotcom's assets by declaring a default judgment in favor of the US. This isn't the end of the process (not by a longshot), but it highlights just how the US government can use some ridiculous procedures to steal millions in assets from someone who hasn't been shown to be guilty of anything. As we discussed last time, the story of the raid on Kim Dotcom's rented home in New Zealand, the seizure of all of his cars, money, bank accounts, computers, servers, etc. is well known. That was part of a case for which Kim Dotcom was indicted (under what appears to be questionable legal reasoning -- but that's a separate issue). As has been widely reported, that case is still on hold while Dotcom fights extradition from New Zealand. The extradition fight will finally go to a New Zealand court later this summer. Once that's done, if Dotcom loses, he'll be sent to the US, where he'll face a criminal trial based on the indictment. But this is actually separate from all of that. You see, when the US government grabbed or froze all of Dotcom's assets, they did so using an asset seizure procedure. Asset seizure is allowed in such cases, but the government then has to give that property back. What the government really wanted to do is keep all of Dotcom's tens of millions of dollars worth of assets -- and in order to do that it has to go through a separate process, known as civil asset forfeiture. It's technically a civil (not criminal) case, but (and here's the part that people find most confusing), it's not actually filed against Kim Dotcom at all, but rather against his stuff that the government already seized. Yes, it's technically an entirely separate lawsuit, that was only filed last summer (two and a half years after the government seized all of his stuff and shut down his company), entitled United States Of America v. All Assets Listed In Attachment A, And All Interest, Benefits, And Assets Traceable Thereto. And, as we noted last time, Attachment A is basically all of Kim Dotcom's stuff. This whole process is known as an "in rem" proceeding -- meaning a lawsuit "against a thing" rather than against a person. And the "case" basically says all this stuff should be "forfeited" to the US government because it's the proceeds of some criminal activity. You would think that in order for such civil asset forfeiture to go forward, you'd then have to show something like a criminal conviction proving that the assets in question were, in fact, tied to criminal activity. You'd be wrong -- as is clear from what happened in this very case. Once the Justice Department effectively filed a lawsuit against "all of Kim Dotcom's money and stuff," Dotcom did what you're supposed to do in that situation and filed a challenge to such a ridiculous situation. And here the DOJ used the fact that Dotcom was fighting extradition to argue that he was a "fugitive." Judge O'Grady agreed with that last month, and that resulted in the decision earlier this week to then declare a "default judgment" in favor of the DOJ, and giving the US government all of Kim Dotcom's stuff. A "default judgment?" As you know if you regularly read Techdirt, that's usually what happens when a defendant simply ignores a court case filed against him. As the court notes in this ruling, for that to happen in a civil asset forfeiture case, it means no one tried to block the claim: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 permits the court to grant a motion for default judgment when the well-pled allegations of the complaint establish plaintiff's entitlement to relief, and where a defendant has failed to plead or defend as provided by the rules.... In the civil forfeiture context, default judgment is permitted where no potential claimant has filed a response to the complaint... A defendant in default, and a claimant who fails to assert a claim in rem, is deemed to have admitted all of the plaintiff's well-pled allegations of fact, which then form the basis for the judgment in the plaintiff's favor. But, wait, you say: Kim Dotcom did file a complaint about the asset forfeiture, so how could a default judgment happen here? That's where the whole "fugitive" bit comes in. Because Dotcom won't come to the US, he's been deemed a fugitive, and thus the Judge simply hands over all of his stuff to the US government. And thus, without any sort of criminal conviction at all, the US gets to steal millions of dollars from Dotcom. If that sounds insane, you're absolutely right. And, again, it is entirely possible that when all of this is over, Kim Dotcom will be found guilty of "criminal conspiracy." If that's the case, then at that point it's reasonable to discuss whether the government should get to keep all of his stuff. But it seems an absolute travesty of concepts like due process for the government to be able to take all of his money and stuff based on purely procedural reasons having to do with a separate criminal case that hasn't even been tried yet. The process isn't over yet. Dotcom can still appeal this ruling, though the real problem is with the civil asset forfeiture process, rather than how it was applied in this particular case. Dotcom also has other options for the assets that are in New Zealand and Hong Kong, in using the local courts in those places to try to block the transfer of those assets to the US government. Not knowing enough about the law in either place, it's difficult to say what the chances of success of such a strategy would be. Either way, this seems like a classic case demonstrating how the civil asset forfeiture process appears to be little more than legalized theft by the US government.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The TSA's PreCheck program also expedites security screening for "notorious convicted felons" and "former domestic terrorists." Who knew? From the sounds of its in-depth pre-screening efforts, you would think (unnamed) convicted felons wouldn't be able to sail past the checkpoint without even slowing down, but apparently, that's exactly what happened. And it's not just any former felon/domestic terrorist, but one who was previously convicted of murder and offenses involving explosives. (via Kevin Underhill/Lowering the Bar) The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) received a whistleblower disclosure alleging a sufficiently notorious convicted felon was improperly cleared for TSA Pre✓ screening, creating a significant aviation security breach. The disclosure identified this event as a possible error in the TSA Secure Flight program since the traveler’s boarding pass contained a TSA Pre✓ indicator and encrypted barcode. The good news (such as it were) is that the TSA did not grant the unnamed felon/terrorist PreCheck approval through its laborious and intrusive application process. It also didn't wave him/her through because lines were backing up at the normal checkpoints. (This is called "Managed Inclusion" by the TSA, but it more resembles "For the Hell of It" in practice…) That ends the good news. It did, however, use its "risk assessment rules" to determine the terrorist/felon to be of no threat. This might be encouraging news for former felons/domestic terrorists, perhaps signaling that government agencies may ultimately forgive some criminal acts and not subject former felons to additional security harassment in perpetuity. Then again, this may just be the TSA's excuse for waving someone with questionable PreCheck clearance through security because a checkmark -- and its own internal bureaucracy -- told it to. We also determined the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) followed standard operating procedures, but did not feel empowered to redirect the traveler from TSA Pre✓ screening to standard lane screening. The OIG recommends more "empowerment" for rank-and-file. Good luck with that. If officers don't feel empowered, it's because management has shown them that questioning the (broken and wildly inconsistent) system isn't an option. Neither is doing any independent thinking. When this officer attempted to push it up the line, he/she ran into a pretty predictable response. [T]he TSO knew of the traveler's TSA Pre✓disqualifying criminal convictions. The TSO followed the standard operating procedures and reported this to the supervisory TSO who then directed the TSO to take no further action and allow the traveler through the TSA Pre✓ lane. As a result, TSA does not have an incident report for this event. One of the TSA's Behavioral Detection Officers (highly-trained in the art of the mental coin toss) was also contacted by the concerned officer. And, again, no further action was taken/recommended. In the end, a felon/terrorist boarded a plane because the TSA's bureaucratic process can't handle contradictory variables. The PreCheck approval said "yes," but the previous convictions said PreCheck approval should never have happened. The TSA deferred to the obviously incorrect checkmark on the boarding pass. And now we have the punchline to the joke that starts, "A murderer with explosives experience walks into a PreCheck lane…" The OIG's mostly-redacted recommendation criticizing the TSA's over-reliance on fallible pre-screening processes was mostly ignored by the agency. TSA officials did not concur with Recommendation 1. In its response, TSA said that with respect to individuals who may pose an elevated security risk to commercial aviation, theU.S. Government's approach to domestic aviation security relies heavily on the TSDB and its Selectee List and No Fly List subcomponents. TSA said, had the intelligence or national law enforcement communities felt that this traveler posed an elevated risk to commercial aviation, they would have nominated the traveler to one of these lists and prevented the traveler from being designated as lower-risk. To which the OIG responded, "Well, that 's obviously not working because this traveler should have been automatically denied PreCheck approval." We consider TSA's actions nonresponsive to the intent of Recommendation 1, which is unresolved and open. TSA said it relies on the U.S. Government watchlisting process to identify individuals that represent an elevated risk to commercial aviation. However, not all non-watchlisted passengers are lower-risk and eligible for TSA Pre✓. For example, TSA has established disqualifying criteria, in addition to the watchlisting process, for an applicant seeking TSA Pre✓ Application Program membership. TSA will deny membership to an applicant convicted of any of the 28 disqualifying criminal offenses or not a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Even though the traveler is not watchlisted, the traveler would be permanently ineligible for TSA Pre✓. And yet, a convicted murderer has been PreCheck approved. The TSA wants to blame the rest of the government. The OIG just wants someone to use common sense, rather than never questioning a boarding pass. The OIG has a good point. The TSA claims it's shifting to a smarter, more responsive travel security, like the PreCheck program and its many Behavioral Detection Officers. But when a situation involving both arose, it left the thinking to its brainstem -- unwavering faith in databases and policy -- rather than making any move indicative of higher thought processes.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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About a year ago, when we switched to default HTTPS, we pointed out that one of the major reasons why other news sites refused to do the same was that most ad networks would not support HTTPS. In fact, we had to end a number of relationships with ad partners in order to make the move (but we felt it was worth it). In fact, the really crazy part was that many of the ad network partners we spoke to clearly had absolutely no clue about HTTPS, what it was and why it's important. But, over the past year, more and more attention has been placed on the value and importance of encrypting web traffic, so it's great to see that the internet ad industry is starting to wake up to this, even if it's pretty late in the process. The Internet Advertising Bureau -- the IAB -- the main standards-setting board for the internet ad industry has released a statement saying that it's time for the internet advertising world to embrace HTTPS: It’s time to talk about security. In fact, last year was the time to talk about security. From The New York Times to Google, the call went out for websites to encrypt communications with their users, protecting the integrity and privacy of information exchanged in both directions. Even the U.S. government heard this call, and is working to require HTTPS delivery of all publicly accessible Federal websites and web services. This year, the advertising industry needs to finish catching up. Many ad systems are already supporting HTTPS - a survey of our membership late last year showed nearly 80% of member ad delivery systems supported HTTPS. That’s a good start, but doesn’t reflect the interconnectedness of the industry. A publisher moving to HTTPS delivery needs every tag on page, whether included directly or indirectly, to support HTTPS. That means that in addition to their ad server, the agency ad server, beacons from any data partners, scripts from verification and brand safety tools, and any other system required by the supply chain also needs to support HTTPS. Let’s break that down a bit more - once a website decides to support HTTPS, they need to make sure that their primary ad server supports encryption. That ad server will sometimes need to include tags from brand safety, audience and viewability measurement, and other tools - all of which also need to support encryption. The publisher’s ad server will often direct to one of several agency ad servers, each of which will also need to serve over HTTPS. Each agency ad server also may include a variety of beacons or tags, depending on how the deal was set up, all of which similarly need to have encrypted versions available. That’s a lot of dependencies - and when one fails to support HTTPS, the website visitor’s experience is impacted, initiating a costly search for the failure point by the publisher. While I question that 80% number -- given that we had difficulty finding many ad providers who supported HTTPS a year ago -- it's good to see the industry finally recognizing how important this is.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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I'll miss the Cuban embargo. The easing of relations that it brings with it will likely mean the end of the 1950s-style spy games and crazy plots -- like the CIA plot designed to make a leader's beard fall out. Instead, we've finally decided that the United States is open for Cuban business. And you know what that means: trademark lawsuits! The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a Cuban state-owned company and refused to intervene in a dispute over the “Cohiba” trademark. This is the most recent development in the long-standing rivalry between General Cigar Co Inc., an American (and Scandinavian) company, and Cubatabaco, a Cuban company. How fun! We finally open up the borders for some business with Cuba and one of the Castro companies decides it's trademark time! Keep in mind, of course, that the state that owns Cubatabaco is a communist nation, but not so communist that they'll refuse to use our capitalist tools to make that money. This dispute actually goes back nearly two decades, with Cubatabaco originally filing a trademark claim in 1997, which was eventually tossed in 2005 by the Second Circuit court, finding that any transfer of property, including a trademark, to a Cuban company would violate the embargo. But now that the embargo is gone, Cubatabaco has refiled, with a lower court ruling that the Cuban company could challenge General Cigar's mark with the USPTO even before the embargo was lifted -- a ruling the Supreme Court has refused to send back for review. So there appears to be nothing standing in the way of a trademark challenge. All that said, it's difficult to see how valid a challenge is, actually, given several factors. First, the two companies as yet don't compete in the same markets, due to the legacy of the embargo. Second, the word "cohiba" might not deserve a trademark held by anyone, given that it is simply a foreign word that means "tobacco" in Taino, a language of the Caribbean. That would be like getting a trademark on your beer brand, Cerveza. However this turns out, welcome officially to business in the States, Cuba! Now that the embargo doesn't keep property from transfering your way, it's all trademark, patents and copyright from here on out!Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Airplanes have been commonplace for quite some time now, and we've grown accustomed to what an airplane should look like. Ask any kid to draw a plane, and you'll probably get familiar results. However, this doesn't mean we've reached the end of novel plane designs. Plenty of unconventional planes are being designed and tested, and here are just a few. NASA is testing an experimental wing design with 18 electric motors as part of its Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech) project. Each motor can be optimized for better ride quality and noise reduction -- and possibly improved fuel consumption. [url] The Russian PAK TA concept is a supersonic transport that could be ready for military service by 2024. A 200-ton capacity plane traveling at 1200 mph with a range of 4,000 miles sounds a bit futuristic because it would be amazing to see a plane actually capable of doing it (but maybe not so amazing in another 10 years or so). [url] DARPA wants to make a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft that's much much better than a helicopter or existing VTOL designs. Boeing has a Phantom Swift design that's been built (as a 17% scale model) -- one of four contenders aiming to meet DARPA's technical specs. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Cyber-this and cyber-that. That's all the government wants to talk about. The NSA, which has always yearned for a larger slice of the cybersecurity pie, is pushing legislators to grant it permission to go all-out on the offensive to protect foreign-owned movie studios the USofA from hackers. NSA director Mike Rogers testified in front of a Senate committee this week, lamenting that the poor ol’ NSA just doesn’t have the “cyber-offensive” capabilities (read: the ability to hack people) it needs to adequately defend the US. How cyber-attacking countries will help cyber-defense is anybody’s guess, but the idea that the NSA is somehow hamstrung is absurd. Yes, we (or rather, our representatives) are expected to believe the NSA is just barely getting by when it comes to cyber-capabilities. Somehow, backdoors in phone SIM cards, backdoors in networking hardware, backdoors in hard drives, compromised encryption standards, collection points on internet backbones, the cooperation of national security agencies around the world, stealth deployment of malicious spyware, the phone records of pretty much every American, access to major tech company data centers, an arsenal of purchased software and hardware exploits, various odds and ends yet to be disclosed and the full support of the last two administrations just isn't enough. Now, it wants the blessing of lawmakers to do even more than it already does. Which is quite a bit, actually. The NSA runs sophisticated hacking operations all over the world. A Washington Post report showed that the NSA carried out 231 “offensive” operations in 2011 - and that number has surely grown since then. That report also revealed that the NSA runs a $652m project that has infected tens of thousands of computers with malware. That was four years ago -- a lifetime when it comes to an agency with the capabilities the NSA possesses. Anyone who believes the current numbers are lower is probably lobbying increased power. And they don't believe it. They'd just act like they do. Unfortunately, legislators may be in a receptive mood. CISA -- CISPA rebranded -- is back on the table. The recent Sony hack, which caused millions of dollars of embarrassment, has gotten more than a few of them fired up about the oft-deployed term "cybersecurity." Most of those backing this legislation don't seem to have the slightest idea (or just don't care) how much collateral damage it will cause or the extent to which they're looking to expand government power. The NSA knows, and it wants this bill to sail through unburdened by anything more than its requests for permission to fire. The bill will do little to stop cyberattacks, but it will do a lot to give the NSA even more power to collect Americans’ communications from tech companies without any legal process whatsoever. The bill’s text was finally released a couple days ago, and, as EFF points out, tucked in the bill were the powers to do the exact type of “offensive” attacks for which Rogers is pining. In the meantime, Section 215 languishes slightly, as Trevor Timm points out. But that's the least of the NSA's worries. It has tech companies openly opposing its "collect everything" approach. Apple and Google are both being villainized by security and law enforcement agencies for their encryption-by-default plans. More and more broad requests for user data are being challenged, and (eventually) some of the administration's minor surveillance tweaks will be implemented. Section 215 may die. (Or it may keep on living even in death, thanks to some ambiguous language in the PATRIOT Act.) But I would imagine the bulk phone metadata is no longer a priority for the NSA. It has too many other programs that harvest more and face fewer challenges. The NSA wants to be a major cyberwar player, which is something that will only increase its questionable tactics and domestic surveillance efforts. If it gets its way via CISA, it will be able to make broader and deeper demands for information from tech companies. Under the guise of "information sharing," the NSA will collect more and share less. And what it does share will be buried under redactions, gag orders and chants of "national security." Its partnerships with tech companies will bear a greater resemblance to parasitic relationships than anything approaching equitable, especially when these companies will have this "sharing" foisted upon them by dangerously terrible legislation. But until it reaches that point, the NSA will keep claiming it's under-equipped to handle the modern world. And it will continue to make the very dubious claim that the best defense is an unrestrained offense.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As I noted earlier this week, at the launch of the Copia Institute a couple of weeks ago, we had a bunch of really fascinating discussions. I've already posted the opening video and explained some of the philosophy behind this effort, and today I wanted to share with you the discussion that we had about free expression and the internet, led by three of the best people to talk about this issue: Michelle Paulson from Wikimedia; Sarah Jeong, a well-known lawyer and writer; and Dave Willner who heads up "Safety, Privacy & Support" at Secret after holding a similar role at Facebook. I strongly recommend watching the full discussion before just jumping into the comments with your assumptions about what was said, because for the most part it's probably not what you think: Internet platforms and free expression have a strongly symbiotic relationship -- many platforms have helped expand and enable free expression around the globe in many ways. And, at the same time, that expression has fed back into those online platforms making them more valuable and contributing to the innovation that those platforms have enabled. And while it's easy to talk about government attacks on freedom of expression and why that's problematic, things get really tricky and really nuanced when it comes to technology platforms and how they should handle things. At one point in the conversation, Dave Willner made a point that I think is really important to acknowledge: I think we would be better served as a tech community in acknowledging that we do moderate and control. Everyone moderates and controls user behavior. And even the platforms that are famously held up as examples... Twitter: "the free speech wing of the free speech party." Twitter moderates spam. And it's very easy to say "oh, some spam is malware and that's obviously harmful" but two things: One, you've allowed that "harm" is a legitimate reason to moderate speech and two, there's plenty of spam that's actually just advertising that people find irritating. And once we're in that place, it is the sort of reflexive "no restrictions based on the content of speech" sort of defense that people go to? It fails. And while still believing in free speech ideals, I think we need to acknowledge that that Rubicon has been crossed and that it was crossed in the 90s, if not earlier. And the defense of not overly moderating content for political reasons needs to be articulated in a more sophisticated way that takes into account the fact that these technologies need good moderation to be functional. But that doesn't mean that all moderation is good. This is an extremely important, but nuanced point that you don't often hear in these discussions. Just today, over at Index on Censorship, there's an interesting article by Padraig Reidy that makes a somewhat similar point, noting that there are many free speech issues where it is silly to deny that they're free speech issues, but plenty of people do. The argument then, is that we'd be able to have a much more useful conversation if people admit: Don't say "this isn't a free speech issue", rather "this is a free speech issue, and I’m OK with this amount of censorship, for this reason.” Then we can talk." Soon after this, Sarah Jeong makes another, equally important, if equally nuanced, point about the reflexive response by some to behavior that they don't like to automatically call for blocking of speech, when they are often confusing speech with behavior. She discusses how harassment, for example, is an obvious and very real problem with serious and damaging real-world consequences (for everyone, beyond just those being harassed), but that it's wrong to think that we should just immediately look to find ways to shut people up: Harassment actually exists and is actually a problem -- and actually skews heavily along gender lines and race lines. People are targeted for their sexuality. And it's not just words online. It ends up being a seemingly innocuous, or rather "non-real" manifestation, when in fact it's linked to real world stalking or other kinds of abuse, even amounting to physical assault, death threats, so and so forth. And there's a real cost. You get less participation from people of marginalized communities -- and when you get less participation from marginalized communities, you lead to a serious loss in culture and value for society. For instance, Wikipedia just has fewer articles about women -- and also its editors just happen to skew overwhelmingly male. When you have great equality on online platforms, you have better social value for the entire world. That said, there's a huge problem... and it's entering the same policy stage that was prepped and primed by the DMCA, essentially. We're thinking about harassment as content when harassment is behavior. And we're jumping from "there's a problem, we have to solve it" and the only solution we can think of is the one that we've been doling out for copyright infringement since the aughties, and that's just take it down, take it down, take it down. And that means people on the other end take a look at it and take it down. Some people are proposing ContentID, which is not a good solution. And I hope I don't have to spell out why to this room in particular, but essentially people have looked at the regime of copyright enforcement online and said "why can't we do that for harassment" without looking at all the problems that copyright enforcement has run into. And I think what's really troubling is that copyright is a specific exception to CDA 230 and in order to expand a regime of copyright enforcement for harassment you're going to have to attack CDA 230 and blow a hole in it. She then noted that this was a major concern because there's a big push among many people who aren't arguing for better free speech protections: That's a huge viewpoint out right now: it's not that "free speech is great and we need to protect against repressive governments" but that "we need better content removal mechanisms in order to protect women and minorities." From there the discussion went in a number of different important directions, looking at other alternatives and ways to deal with bad behavior online that get beyond just "take it down, take it down," and also discussed the importance of platforms being able to make decisions about how to handle these issues without facing legal liability. CDA 230, not surprisingly, was a big topic -- and one that people admitted was unlikely to spread to other countries, and the concepts behind which are actually under attack in many places. That's why I also think this is a good time to point to a new project from the EFF and others, known as the Manila Principles -- highlighting the importance of protecting intermediaries from liability for the speech of their users. As that project explains: All communication over the Internet is facilitated by intermediaries such as Internet access providers, social networks, and search engines. The policies governing the legal liability of intermediaries for the content of these communications have an impact on users’ rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to privacy. With the aim of protecting freedom of expression and creating an enabling environment for innovation, which balances the needs of governments and other stakeholders, civil society groups from around the world have come together to propose this framework of baseline safeguards and best practices. These are based on international human rights instruments and other international legal frameworks. In short, it's important to recognize that these are difficult issues -- but that freedom of expression is extremely important. And we should recognize that while pretty much all platforms contain some form of moderation (even in how they are designed), we need to be wary of reflexive responses to just "take it down, take it down, take it down" in dealing with real problems. Instead, we should be looking for more reasonable approaches to many of these issues -- not in denying that there are issues to be dealt with. And not just saying "anything goes and shut up if you don't like it," but that there are real tradeoffs to the decisions that tech companies (and governments) make concerning how these platforms are run.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Well, this is (potentially) good news. New York is going forward with the first "right to repair" bill in the nation, as pointed out on Twitter by Amanda Levendowski. The bill will allow constituents to bypass manufacturer-authorized dealers/repair centers and use smaller (and cheaper) repair outlets. Or, if neither seems within the price range, they're more than welcome to perform these repairs -- using previously-hidden manufacturer specs and instructions -- themselves. Perhaps the best thing about the bill (if it passes with as few loopholes as possible) is that it will eliminate the sort of ridiculousness that has been the end result of this tight grip on repair "permission." Like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raiding repair shops for using aftermarket products. Or teens being sued by multi-billion dollar companies for doing the same. Or local governments requiring unrelated licenses to be obtained before a person can start offering repairs. Here's what's being authorized before the exceptions kick in. (ALL CAPS in the original.) MANUFACTURERS OF DIGITAL ELECTRONIC PARTS AND MACHINES SOLD OR USED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK SHALL: I. MAKE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE BY INDEPENDENT REPAIR FACILITIES OR OTHER OWNERS OF PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED BY SUCH MANUFACTURER DIAGNOSTIC AND REPAIR INFORMATION, INCLUDING REPAIR TECHNICAL UPDATES, UPDATES AND CORRECTIONS TO FIRMWARE, AND RELATED DOCUMENTATION, IN THE SAME MANNER SUCH MANUFACTURER MAKES AVAILABLE TO ITS AUTHORIZED REPAIR CHANNEL. EACH MANUFACTURER SHALL PROVIDE ACCESS TO SUCH MANUFACTURER'S DIAGNOSTIC AND REPAIR INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR PURCHASE BY OWNERS AND INDEPENDENT REPAIR FACILITIES UPON FAIR AND REASONABLE TERMS; AND II. MAKE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE BY THE PRODUCT OWNER, OR THE AUTHORIZED AGENT OF THE OWNER, SUCH SERVICE PARTS, INCLUSIVE OF ANY UPDATES TO THE FIRMWARE OF THE PARTS, FOR PURCHASE UPON FAIR AND REASONABLE TERMS… EACH MANUFACTURER OF DIGITAL ELECTRONIC PRODUCTS SOLD OR USED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK SHALL MAKE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE BY OWNERS AND INDEPENDENT REPAIR FACILITIES ALL DIAGNOSTIC REPAIR TOOLS INCORPORATING THE SAME DIAGNOSTIC, REPAIR AND REMOTE COMMUNICATIONS CAPABILITIES THAT SUCH MANUFACTURER MAKES AVAILABLE TO ITS OWN REPAIR OR ENGINEERING STAFF OR ANY AUTHORIZED REPAIR CHANNELS. EACH MANUFACTURER SHALL OFFER SUCH TOOLS FOR SALE TO OWNERS AND TO INDEPENDENT REPAIR FACILITIES UPON FAIR AND REASONABLE TERMS. That's the good part. But there are potential loopholes in the bill already, including a major exception for one of the most tightlipped industries: auto manufacturers. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL APPLY TO MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS OR MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS AS DEFINED IN THIS SECTION. If any industry needs to be covered under a "right to repair," it's the auto industry, which has continually abused intellectual property laws to keep the general public from diagnosing their own vehicles in order to perform their own repairs. There's other potential bad news in there as well. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO REQUIRE A MANUFACTURER TO DIVULGE A TRADE SECRET. Yeah. Guess what's going to start being declared "trade secrets?" Probably almost everything the bill orders manufacturers to make available to the public. Even if this bill passes, there's going to be a ton of litigation over what does and does not define a "trade secret." In the meantime, the public will be no better off than they were before the bill's passage. And there's this exception, which would seem to pick up whatever slack "trade secrets" can't. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO REQUIRE MANUFACTURERS OR AUTHORIZED REPAIR PROVIDERS TO PROVIDE AN OWNER OR INDEPENDENT REPAIR PROVIDER ACCESS TO NON-DIAGNOSTIC AND REPAIR INFORMATION PROVIDED BY A MANUFACTURER TO AN AUTHORIZED REPAIR PROVIDER PURSUANT TO THE TERMS OF AN AUTHORIZING AGREEMENT. "Non-diagnostic" could become the new "diagnostic." And the use of the word "and" seems to make "repair information" off-limits if any agreements are already in place with authorized dealers and repair shops. There's also a good chance the bill's "fair and reasonable terms" will be construed as permission to price independent repair shops and the general public out of the market. Legislators obviously can't set base prices (or even determine a fair market price -- that information is kept under wraps as well), so the suggestion of a "fair" price is open to advantageous interpretation. There's an attempt to set some limits in the bill's definitions, with the most significant one being "THE ABILITY OF AFTERMARKET TECHNICIANS OR SHOPS TO AFFORD THE INFORMATION," but that, again, is going to generate a lot of friction (possibly of the litigious variety) when manfacturers and the rest of the public repeatedly fail to agree on the definition of "affordable." Still, it's more than most governments are willing to attempt. Massachusetts passed one in 2013 -- one that targeted auto manufacturers and dealers. It met with the usual resistance from the auto industry (both ends) but gathered 86% of the public's votes, clearly signaling unhappiness with the automakers' closed systems. A federal "right to repair" law has been mooted several times, but has never gained significant traction. If this bill is going to succeed as a law, legislators need to do some loophole stitching pre-passage, and regulators will need to keep a very close eye on reticent manufacturers after it becomes law.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Today's Daily Deal focuses on 88% off of the Cyber Security Developer Course Bundle. For $49, you get 60 hours of training through 6 separate courses on subjects ranging from secure PHP coding to learning all about VPNs to training to take the CISA certification exam. It's never a bad idea to brush up on your security skills. And don't forget to use the code TECHDIRT10 to receive an additional 10% off of your first purchase. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Since the Snowden leaks began, there have been several efforts made -- legislative and administrative -- in response to the exposure of the NSA's domestic surveillance programs. Some have been real fixes. Some have been fake fixes. Others have targeted the thing the NSA desires even more than seemingly limitless access to data from all over the world: funding. But none of these, not even the President's weak reform efforts, have managed to take hold. Neither will this, most likely, although you have to admire the audacity of the bill's authors, Reps. Thomas Massie and Marc Pocan. The bill would completely repeal the Patriot Act, the sweeping national security law passed in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, another spying law that the NSA has used to justify collecting vast swaths of people's communications through the Internet. If anything's due for a complete revamp, if not a complete repeal, it's the Patriot Act. It wasn't even good legislation back when it was passed. At best, it was "timely," which is a term that gives the rushed, secretive, knee-jerk legislation far more credit than it deserves. Pocan and Massie's (the latter of which has just introduced a new phone-unlocking bill with Rep. Zoe Lofgren to replace the bad one passed by the House in 2014) "Surveillance State Repeal Act" doesn't waste any time "tinkering around the edges." Not only would the bill repeal the law, it would reset anything (amendments/additional government powers) brought into force by the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. On top of that, it would demand the immediate deletion of tons of data from the NSA's collections. DESTRUCTION OF CERTAIN INFORMATION.—The Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General shall destroy any information collected under the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56) and the amendments made by such Act, as in effect the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, concerning a United States person that is not related to an investigation that is actively ongoing on such date. The bill, oddly, also describes a path towards FISA Judge For Life positions. TERMS; REAPPOINTMENT.—Section 103(d) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1803(d)) is amended— (1) by striking ‘‘maximum of seven’’ and inserting ‘‘maximum of ten’’; and (2) by striking ‘‘and shall not be eligible for re-designation’’. Which is fine (not really) if you like the judges already appointed. But this is the sort of thing that leads to the permanent appointment of judges favored by either side of the surveillance question. And so far, presidential administrations have come down in favor of domestic surveillance. Removing the term limits just encourages the appointment of permanent NSA rubber stamps. The bill creates a warrant requirement for the acquisition of US persons' data under the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333. It also expressly forbids a government mandate for encryption backdoors, although the first sentence of this section seems to be a rather large loophole. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not mandate that the manufacturer of an electronic device or software for an electronic device build into such device or software a mechanism that allows the Federal Government to bypass the encryption or privacy technology of such device or software. If this bill somehow manages to pass a round or two of scrutiny, language tweaks will certainly be requested -- possibly leading to a complete subversion of the bill's intent. But that's a huge "if." Very few legislators have the stomach to gut the Patriot Act or the FISA Amendments Act. Many will be happy to entertain smaller fixes, but most won't be willing to essentially strip the NSA of its domestic surveillance powers. No one wants to be the "yea" vote that's pointed to in the wake of a terrorist attack and only a few more are actually willing to go head-to-head with the intelligence agency. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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CNN and Fox had the market cornered on ridiculous airplane crash theories, up until recently. When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 just up and vanished, CNN produced wall-to-wall coverage seemingly cribbed from low-rent conspiracy theory sites. UFO? Black hole? Any and all theories were entertained. Fox News hasn't exactly been the epitome of restraint, either. While it managed to avoid following CNN down these plane crash rabbit holes, it too has entertained some theories better left to operations that don't claim "news" to be a major part of their offerings. Fox News host Anna Kooiman suggested the metric system was to blame, what with kilometers being different than miles and Celsius and Fahrenheit not seeing eye-to-eye, potentially leading to some sort of in-flight calculation error. MSNBC has decided it won't let its competition be the only "news" agencies spouting ridiculous theories. In an effort to get out ahead of the facts -- black box recordings indicated the co-pilot of the aircraft deliberately crashed the plane after locking the commanding pilot out of the cockpit -- MSNBC allowed the following theory to be presented -- completely unchallenged -- by one of its guests. “There’s one possibility that no one has brought up, and I wonder could this be a hacking incident?” former commercial pilot Jay Rollins told MSNBC’s Diaz-Balart. “This is very similar in my mind to what happened when the U.S. lost that drone over Iran. The same thing, suddenly the aircraft was responding to outside forces…" Rollins said that the plane’s descent was “worrisome” because “it makes me think about hacking, some sort of interference into the computer system.” Now, hacking a plane isn't impossible. At 2013's Hack in the Box conference, German security consultant Hugo Teso used his own app -- PlaneSploit -- to demonstrate that an Android phone could be used to reroute a plane, send it diving towards the ground or to set off every alarm in the aircraft. Or not. Teso's demonstration involved sending flight information to airborne planes with these instructions (in a simulated environment, of course) via ACARS (Aircraft Communications and Response Addressing System) to the FMS (Flight Management System). But there were multiple problems with his plan. First of all, the flight computer has to accept the new instructions and, secondly, pilots would have to be unable to override bad instructions. Neither of which are a distinct possibility. Patrick Smith, another commercial airline pilot, albeit one far less likely to openly speculate on "hacked" planes than Jay Rollins, pointed out the flaws in Teso's hack. The problem is, the FMS — and certainly not ACARS — does not directly control an airplane the way people think it does, and the way, with respect to this story, media reports are implying. Neither the FMS nor the autopilot flies the plane. The crew flies the plane through these components. We tell it what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Whatever data finds its way into the FMS, and regardless of where it’s coming from, it still needs to make sense to the crew. If it doesn’t, we’re not going to allow the plane, or ourselves, to follow it. The sorts of disruptions that might arise aren’t anything a crew couldn’t notice and easily override. The FMS cannot say to the plane, “descend toward the ground now!” or “Slow to stall speed now!” or “Turn left and fly into that building!” It doesn’t work that way. What you might see would be something like an en route waypoint that would, if followed, carry you astray of course, or an altitude that’s out of whack with what ATC or the charts tells you it ought to be. That sort of thing. Anything weird or unsafe — an incorrect course or altitude — would be corrected very quickly by the pilots. So, the problem isn't that hacking is impossible. It's just very, very unlikely. And in this case, hacking had nothing to do with the plane crash. No, the problem is that news agencies looking to wring every bit of ratings possible from a tragedy are willing to make viewers stupider under the guise of "news." When facts just aren't available, 24-hour news teams lean heavily on whatever theory will provide the most entertainment (for lack of a better word). Former pilot Jay Rollins may have three decades of experience, but his speculation draws on none of it. Instead, it just takes a bit of what's selling right now (anything "cyber") and what has always sold (fear) and leaves the viewers with less information than they would have obtained by skipping the coverage completely. The truth, however, is simultaneously more horrific (in that there's little that can be done to thwart a pilot determined to crash a plane) than the "hacked plane" theory and more mundane -- at least in terms of "exciting" news coverage. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For many years, we've noted that while some in the legacy entertainment industry seem to think that there's a "battle" between "Hollywood" and "Silicon Valley" it's a very weird sort of war in which one of those parties -- Silicon Valley -- keeps supplying more and more "weapons" to the other party to help it adapt and succeed in a changing world. There are many examples of this, but the clearest is with the VCR, which the MPAA fought hard to outlaw in the 1970s and 1980s. The MPAA's Jack Valenti famously said in 1982 that "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." It was just four years later that home video revenue surpassed box office revenue for Hollywood. It wasn't the Boston strangler, it was the savior. Similar stories can be told elsewhere. The legacy entertainment industry has sued over MP3 players and YouTube, yet has now (finally) embraced online music and video years later than it should have. And yet, that same legacy industry keeps trying to do everything to hamstring innovation that will only help it. A few years ago, we wrote about a fantastic post (sadly now gone from the internet) by Tyler Crowley, talking about the entrepreneur's view of innovation options and how many areas are welcoming for innovation -- which he described using the analogy of islands: For tech folks, from the 35,000' view, there are islands of opportunity. There's Apple Island, Facebook Island, Microsoft Island, among many others and yes there's Music Biz Island. Now, we as tech folks have many friends who have sailed to Apple Island and we know that it's $99/year to doc your boat and if you build anything Apple Island will tax you at 30%. Many of our friends are partying their asses off on Apple Island while making millions (and in some recent cases billions) and that sure sounds like a nice place to build a business. But what about Music Biz Island? Not so much: Now, we also know of Music Biz Island which is where the natives start firing cannons as you approach, and if not stuck at sea, one must negotiate with the chiefs for 9 months before given permission to dock. Those who do go ashore are slowly eaten alive by the native cannibals. As a result, all the tugboats and lighthouses (investors, advisors) warn to stay far away from Music Biz Island, as nobody has ever gotten off alive. If that wasn't bad enough, while Apple and Facebook Island are built with sea walls to protect from the rising oceans, Music Biz Island is already 5 ft under and the educated locals are fleeing for Topspin Island. As we pointed out, this leads to the legacy entertainment companies poisoning the well that contains the innovation water it desperately needs. There's a parallel to this in terms of copyright laws. As the legacy entertainment industry keeps pushing for more draconian copyright laws, it only serves to scare more investors away. When we get good results, like the ruling in the Cablevision case saying that cloud-based services were legal, it resulted in a huge growth in investment in cloud services -- in contrast to much less spending in Europe, where the laws were a lot more ambiguous. A new study from Fifth Era and Engine takes this finding even further, highlighting how bad or vague copyright laws are seriously scaring off investment in necessary platforms and innovation. A big part of this appears to be worries about absolutely insane statutory damages awards. The study surveyed tons of investors around the globe and they found an obvious concern about investing in areas where lawsuits could so easily destroy platforms: In all eight countries surveyed, early stage investors view the risk of uncertain and potentially large damages as of significant concern as they look to invest in [Digital Content Intermediaries]. 85% agree or strongly agree that this is a major factor in making them uncomfortable about investing in [Digital Content Intermediaries]. And they're very specific about how the direct concern involves music and videos and the threat of a lawsuit that could simply put those companies out of business: 88% of worldwide investors surveyed said they are uncomfortable investing in [Digital Content Intermediaries] that offer user generated music and video given an ambiguous regulatory framework. This is really unfortunate on a number of different levels: First, it limits the necessary innovation in services and business models that are likely to create the success stories of tomorrow. We need more experiments and platforms that allow places for artists and creators to create, promote, connect with fans and make money for their efforts. Yet if the legacy industry is scaring away all the investors, that's not going to happen. Second, it locks in the few dominant players of today. Want to build the next YouTube? Good luck. You'll need lots of money to do so, but you're less likely to get it at this stage. The legacy players keep hating the big successful platforms, but don't realize that their own moves lock those players in the dominant positions. Third, without competition in these spaces and platforms, content creators are less likely to get the best deals. When the legacy industry basically allows one player to become dominant, then it can set terms that are more in its favor. This is what so many from the legacy content industry are complaining about today -- without recognizing that their own actions regarding copyright law have helped create that situation. Of course, many in those legacy industries actually see this sort of thing as a feature not a bug of pushing for greater copyright protectionism. They think -- ridiculously -- that by hamstringing innovation and investment they get to hold onto their perch longer. This is just wrong. It's trying to hold back the tide, while driving fans to alternative and often unauthorized platforms instead. Rather than supporting the innovation they need, pushing for bad copyright laws only helps to alienate the innovators the industry needs the most and the biggest fans whose support the content industry needs to thrive.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As we just got done saying, while the new net neutrality rules are certainly a great step forward, there are probably more questions than answers in terms of just how far the FCC will be willing to go when it comes to policing anti-competitive behavior. For example, while the agency says it will keep on eye on "interconnection" fights, we won't know what the FCC will determine as "anti-competitive" until we see the agency act. Similarly, while numerous countries including Canada, The Netherlands, Chile, Slovenia and Norway all have neutrality protections that outright ban "zero rated" apps (letting apps bypass user caps), the FCC so far seems to think zero rating is perfectly ok. That's potentially a problem, given the bad precedents set by programs like AT&T's Sponsored Data and T-Mobile's Music Freedom, which the FCC has indicated are ok under their interpretation of the rules. These programs profess to be boons to the consumer, yet by their very nature automatically disadvantage smaller internet players. As such, the future of neutrality involves violations accompanied by skilled sales pitches that result in consumers not understanding -- or in some cases even cheering -- when the idea of net neutrality is compromised. First case in point is HBO and Showtime, which appear eager to determine just where the FCC intends to draw the line. According to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, both companies are working closely with ISPs on deals that would not only give their upcoming streaming video services delivery priority, but would exempt them from carrier usage caps:"Those companies have talked to major broadband providers such as Comcast Corp. about having their Web TV services treated as “managed” services, according to people familiar with the discussions. In effect, that would move them away from the congestion of the Internet, which they fear will only get worse as more people opt to stream movies and TV shows on the Web. The other benefit: A separate lane would be exempt from monthly data-usage thresholds operators enforce for public Internet traffic, saving customers from the surcharges that can kick in if they binge on too many episodes of “Game of Thrones” or “Homeland."The article's descriptions of things like "managed services" and "special treatment" are phrased so ambiguously I get the impression the Journal's reporters may not have fully understood what their sources were telling them. However, there's no ambiguity to the idea that Showtime and HBO are interested in having their content specifically made exempt from what are already arbitrary usage caps. The article proceeds to note that Comcast, with a merger awaiting regulatory approval, is nervous about running afoul of the FCC. Dish Network, meanwhile, makes it clear they'd see such a deal as a neutrality violation:"At least one emerging online TV player, Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV, believes the managed-service arrangement would be a negative overall. “It’s a bad thing for consumers and a bad thing for innovation,” said Roger Lynch, Sling TV’s chief executive, adding that big companies like Dish could afford to cut special deals like this but small companies can’t. "It makes a mockery of net neutrality,” he said, adding that Sling would strike such a deal only “under duress,” if other companies did first."So again, while our new net neutrality rules are certainly a solid step forward, until we see what the FCC specifically determines is a violation -- and how the consumer complaint process will work -- it's hard to tell just how effective they're going to be. If it's ok for T-Mobile to exempt the biggest music services as part of its Music Freedom plan, is it ok for ISPs to similarly exempt Showtime and HBO from their usage caps? Where exactly is the line going to be drawn? The rules don't specifically say, but they won't be worth much if the FCC considers usage caps and "pay to play" cap bypass schemes just innovative market pricing.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Given the magnitude of the effect that TAFTA/TTIP could have on the economies and daily life of both the US and EU, it is surprising that there has not been more analysis of its likely impact. In particular, you would have thought that the governments who favor it would have made great efforts to deploy plenty of evidence supporting the agreement. Instead, the European Commission simply repeats the same set of figures from the 2013 analysis that it commissioned from the London-based CEPR group (pdf), while the US side seems to think even one study is one too many. Analyses from the public's political representatives are also surprisingly thin on the ground. That makes a new report from one of the UK Parliament's specialist committees, which are made up of current MPs, particularly welcome. It comes from the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee, so you might expect it to be really upbeat about the TTIP negotiations. Instead, it is pretty unimpressed by the debate so far: The BIS Committee finds that while a lack of detail on negotiations makes it difficult to assess the benefits of TTIP, all involved in the debate -- campaigners, lobbyists, business groups, the UK Government and the European Commission -- must ensure they take an evidence-based approach when assessing TTIP’s potential. The report focuses on two main areas: TTIP's economic benefits and the corporate sovereignty provisions, also known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). As it notes, the main figures used time and again in support of the trade deal come from the European Commission's CEPR report. Leaving aside its many debatable assumptions, one key fact that has emerged is that the core prediction for the best-case scenario -- US and EU economies to grow by 0.4% and 0.5% respectively as a result of TTIP -- refers to cumulative growth by 2027, and therefore amounts to around 0.05% extra GDP per year, on average. Regarding this fact, the economist Dean Baker wrote: "As growth policy, this trade deal doesn't pass the laugh test." On this issue, the Committee commented: When we challenged the [UK Trade] Minister on the accuracy of the estimated benefits of TTIP, he appeared to agree that they should not be taken as fact. In doing so he quoted JK Galbraith, who said that the only purpose of economic forecasts was to make astrology look respectable. The Committee was equally unimpressed with the arguments in favor of including a corporate sovereignty chapter: We have yet to be convinced of the need for ISDS provisions in TTIP. The UK Government and the EU must demonstrate that the advanced legal institutions of the EU and the US cannot protect foreign investors before any ISDS is considered in the TTIP. Again, coming from a naturally pro-business Parliamentary Committee, that's a pretty damning comment. It shows just how much work the US and EU governments need to do in order to convince people -- even those favorably inclined to the idea -- that TAFTA/TTIP is worth bothering with at all. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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