posted about 3 hours ago on techdirt
The Kansas Supreme Court has just given cops a pass to treat residents' homes like cars on public roads. Being in a car greatly diminishes your Fourth Amendment protections and many a warrantless search has been salvaged by an officer (or a dog) testifying they "smelled marijuana" before tearing the car apart. Unlike a car on a public road, a person's home has traditionally been given the utmost in Fourth Amendment protections. The bar to search a home is higher than the bar to search a vehicle. Cops aren't supposed to be walking up to windows to peek inside. Nor at they supposed to hang out by the door, hoping to catch a whiff of something illegal. But that's exactly what they'll be able to do now. If they can find a reason to approach someone's home, all they need to do is declare they smelled marijuana to get past the front door without a warrant. This completely subjective form of "evidence" can be used as probable cause to effect a warrantless search. The stupefying opinion [PDF] opens with an equally-stupefying bit of exposition: While on routine surveillance at a local convenience store, Lawrence Police Officer Kimberly Nicholson checked a vehicle's license plate. That records check indicated the car had been stopped several weeks earlier with Irone Revely driving. It was noted there was an active arrest warrant for Revely's brother, Chayln Revely. Nicholson confirmed Irone was the driver, and she believed the passenger matched Chayln's description. Nicholson followed the vehicle, looking for a traffic violation that would permit a vehicle stop and might allow the officer to confirm the passenger's identity. No violation occurred, so Nicholson followed the vehicle to an apartment complex. The passenger got out and ran into an apartment. Irone trailed behind. Nicholson approached and asked Irone if the person who ran into the apartment was his brother. Irone did not answer and continued walking toward the apartment with Nicholson following. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the phrase "routine surveillance at a local convenience store" that's just casually dropped into the opening of the opinion as if that collection of words made any sort of sense. Is this how we're spending our law enforcement dollars? Hanging out by local businesses and running plates? It seems, at best, incredibly inefficient. That being said, the 7-11 stakeout (or whatever) led Officer Nicholson to the door of Lawrence Hubbard's apartment. That's when the law enforcement magic happened: Nicholson later testified she was about 2 feet from the front door when Hubbard exited. She further testified she "smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana emanating from the apartment." The officer questioned Irone and Hubbard about the smell. Hubbard denied smelling anything and said his lawyer told him humans cannot detect a marijuana odor. (That last sentence is equally stupefying. Marijuana does have an odor. That being said, that odor is not always present when an officer claims it is. See also: every search predicated on the smell of marijuana that fails to turn up any marijuana.) More officers had arrived by that time and decided they might need a warrant. The officers told everyone present to leave until the apartment could be searched. Three officers, including Nicholson, performed a "security sweep" to make sure everyone had left. During this sweep, officers saw drug paraphernalia, a gun, and a locked safe. The warrant arrived and the safe was pried open, resulting in the discovery of 25 grams of marijuana. Now, let's look at Officer Nicholson's claim: Nicholson said she "smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana emanating from the apartment." Here's what was found: [O]fficers pried open the safe and found 25.07 grams of raw marijuana inside a Tupperware container… So, from two feet outside the doorway, Officer Nicholson smelled raw marijuana located in Tupperware container inside a locked safe inside a bedroom inside the "back bedroom" closet. That's the story she stuck with, which seems facially unbelievable given the facts of the case. Whatever, says the Kansas Supreme Court. Officer Nicholson was declared credible, given her past nasal expertise. The same with the other officer, who also smelled raw marijuana through the Matryoshka-esque layers shielding the contraband from random apartment visitors. Among its factual findings, the court concluded: (1) Nicholson had "detected the smell of raw marijuana 200 to 500 times and burnt marijuana 100 to 300 times" in her law enforcement training and professional experience; (2) when Hubbard came out of his apartment, closing the door behind him, both Nicholson and Ivener could smell what they identified as the odor of raw marijuana coming from the apartment; (3) Ivener testified the smell was "potent" and "overwhelming…" LOL at "overwhelming." One burnt cig and 25 grams in a locked safe inside a sealed Tupperware container. Officer Ivener is more bloodhound than human and is obviously credible as fuck. This third attempt to suppress the evidence fails because the state Supreme Court says assertions that cannot be proven are all that's needed to waive probable cause search requirements. If an officer claims to smell marijuana, the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement kicks in. After all, preventing someone from flushing weed down the toilet is more important than ensuring the rights of the policed. [W]e agree with the panel that the probable cause plus exigent circumstances exception permitted the warrantless sweep. Therefore, to the extent the paraphernalia evidence and the search warrant were fruits of a warrantless search, the sweep was not illegal and the challenged evidence is not subject to exclusion. The sound you hear accompanying this sentence is the Constitution being run through the shredder like Banksy artwork: We hold that the totality of the circumstances surrounding a law enforcement officer's detection of the smell of raw marijuana emanating from a residence can supply probable cause to believe the residence contains contraband or evidence of a crime. There's all officers need to obtain a warrant. And since you can't have anyone destroying the evidence you claim you smell while you're waiting for a warrant, you get a free warrantless peek. The panel focused on the second, fourth, and fifth Dugan factors. Under the second, the court highlighted Ivener's testimony that he did not know how many people had been in the apartment originally and whether they all left, so the officers could not know whether everyone was out. This weighs in the State's favor. Under the fourth factor, the panel noted there was evidence the occupants were aware of the officers' presence, so this also weighs in the State's favor because it demonstrates anyone staying behind would be alerted to the likelihood of an impending search. The dissent says the lower court did not do enough to vet the officers' claims about their ability to identify the odor of raw marijuana a few dozen feet away from where it resided inside a sealed container inside a locked safe. It points out that if officers want to be considered experts on the odor of marijuana, they should be treated as expert witnesses when testifying. Instead, the lower court accepted their claims of expertise (the hundreds of past marijuana odor sniffs) but then decided they should only be held to the same standard as a lay person giving non-expert testimony. From the dissent: The officers in this case were not testifying as mere lay persons. On the contrary, they specifically stated that the origin of their ability to smell and identify the source of their olfactory perception as raw marijuana stemmed from their brief exposure to the identified odor during their study at one or more police academies, followed by their experience with numerous cases in which they had successfully detected the substance. This uncontroverted dependency between the officers' training and experience on the one hand and the opinions they expressed on the other hand qualified their testimony about detecting the strong, potent, or overwhelming odor of raw marijuana as expert opinion testimony. [...] As urged by the defense, the science, if any, behind the officers' apparently sincere belief in their professed ability to detect an odor of raw marijuana should have been subjected to vetting under the rule of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993), which is now codified in subsection (b). The officers' expert opinion testimony should have been admitted on the critical issue of the existence of probable cause at the time of the sweep of the apartment only if "(1) [t]he testimony [was] based on sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony [was] the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness[es] ha[d] reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-456(b). The district judge erred by failing to exercise her gatekeeping function under subsection (b). This would have given the defendant a chance to raise a Daubert challenge during trial, which could have resulted in the lower court finding in his favor on the unconstitutional search argument. Rather than officers simply saying "Oh, I've smelled weed a lot and also this time," they'd actually have to provide some evidence of their claims. Is there anything "scientifically valid" about claiming to have experienced the "overwhelming" odor of raw marijuana safely ensconced in a goddamn safe? Probably not. But we'll never know because Kansas courts won't apply that standard. And the state's courts will never have to apply the standard because the top court has stated it's now OK for cops to rescue a warrantless search simply by saying they smelled something illegal. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 7 hours ago on techdirt
Gamers of a certain age will be very familiar with the insanity from roughly 2010 that was Sony's reaction to having its Playstation 3 console hacked to return functionality that Sony initially advertised and then rescinded via a firmware update. While PS3 owners cheered on the hack, as many of them loved the function that Sony took away, Sony instead began a full on legal war with the Geohot, the hobbyist who gave users what they wanted. The whole thing was a complete mess that made Sony look awful and ultimately resulted in the Playstation 4 of course not having the function that users wanted, and the console being much, much more locked down at release. I'm going to take a moment again to remind you that this all occurred only roughly 8 years ago. Why? Well, because Sony recently released its Playstation Classic retro console... and apparently made it very, very easy to hack. The PlayStation Classic was a great idea that was disappointingly executed. Not surprisingly, hackers have been hard at work trying to crack the novelty console as they’ve done already with Nintendo’s NES Classicand SNES Classic. The job’s been made easier, the hackers claim, thanks to Sony reportedly housing the key to decoding the PlayStation Classic’s firmware on the device itself, rather than utilizing a private key held by Sony. The underlying code that runs on game console is encrypted to prevent people from tampering with it, but in this case the tools to unlock and start changing how the console operates were available to anyone who dug through the code by copying it onto a PC. As first reported by Ars Technica, console hacker yifanlu pointed it out on Twitter late last week in-between streaming his attempts to break open the console’s digital architecture on Twitch. So far they’ve been able to play unincluded PS1 games like Spyro using a thumb drive and are currently working on getting other emulators working on it as well. Here again we see hackers enabling what gamers wanted out of their Playstation Classic devices, but which Sony failed to provide. The biggest disappointment in the Playstation Classic has been the short game library. By screwing around with the console, tinkerers can enable playing many, many more games. And, given that this is Sony we're talking about that just went through all of this with the PS3, you have to wonder just how much of this was done on purpose, and how much is Sony not having things buttoned up on their end. “There really isn’t any security on the device at all,” yifanlu told Kotaku in an email. “Sony managed to accidentally include their firmware update private keys on every console.” If that's true, you have to wonder if another round of stupid of the kind we saw with the PS3 is about to happen. Sony is notoriously protective of its hardware, often leading it down a litigious path. But if the company were to once again attack tinkerers and deprive users of useful features for its product, and did so after so willfully ignoring securing its consoles from this type of thing, that would nearly smack of a honeypot rather than Sony having any true gripe. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 9 hours ago on techdirt
The FCC this week voted yes on a new proposal the agency says will help combat the scourge of robocalls, but critics and consumer groups say opens the door to wireless carriers being able to censor text message campaigns they don't like, or SMS services that may compete with their own offerings. In a 3-1 party line vote, the FCC approved (pdf) redefining text messages as an "information service," therefore freeing such services from FCC oversight. In its announcement, the agency was quick to insist that this was done specifically to help carriers better fight robocalls and robotexts without worrying about running afoul of government rules: "In today’s ruling, the FCC denies requests from mass-texting companies and other parties to classify text messaging services as “telecommunications services” subject to common carrier regulation under the Communications Act—a classification that would limit wireless providers’ efforts to combat spam and scam robotexts effectively. Instead, the FCC finds that two forms of wireless messaging services, SMS and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), are "information services" under the Communications Act. With this decision, the FCC empowers wireless providers to continue taking action to protect American consumers from unwanted text messages. Critics, however, charge that this was another example of the FCC's motives not being made entirely clear to the public at large. As we've noted previously, this particular debate over text message classification began some time back, after Verizon decided to ban a pro-choice group named NARAL Pro-Choice America from sending text messages to Verizon Wireless customers that had opted in to receiving them. Ever since then, consumer groups, worried that cellular carriers would use their power as gatekeepers to stifle certain voices, have been urging the FCC to declare text messages a “telecommunications service," making it illegal for carriers to ban such select SMS services. This being the Ajit Pai FCC, the agency went the complete opposite direction in a move that largely benefits wireless carriers. The fight somewhat mirrors the net neutrality battle involving whether to classify ISPs themselves as "information services" under the telecom act (freeing them from significant oversight), or "telecommunications services"--keeping them locked into oversight by the FCC. Consumer groups like Public Knowledge were quick to issue statements pointing out this had everything to do with ensuring telecom giants are less accountable, and little to nothing to do with actually combating robocalls and robotexts: "No one should mistake today’s action as an effort to help consumers limit spam and robotexts. There is a reason why carriers are applauding while more than 20 consumer protection advocates -- along with 10 Senators -- have cried foul. This decision does nothing to curb spam, and is not needed to curb spam. It is simply the latest example of Chairman Pai’s radical agenda that puts companies ahead of consumers. We urge members of Congress to overturn this decision and ensure that wireless carriers cannot block or censor personal text messages." Those concerns were mirrored by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in her lone dissent: Today the @FCC makes the same mess for text messages it did for #NetNeutrality last year. That means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages themselves. I dissent. — Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) December 12, 2018 Like net neutrality, gutting oversight of companies with decades of anti-competitive behavior under their belts (not to mention flimsy and dwindling organic free market pressure to behave) generally doesn't work out very well for end users or those looking to compete with these entrenched network operators. It's worth noting the ruling doesn't apply to the next-generation texting standard, RCS, though carriers like Verizon have already called for that to occur in future orders; something Ajit Pai is likely to approve as well. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 11 hours ago on techdirt
It's great to know the FBI wants encryption broken so it can forensically molest any devices in its possession to find the mother lode of culpatory evidence these devices always contain. ("Always," you ask? The FBI irritatedly taps the word "always" repeatedly in response.) The reason this is such good news is that the FBI can't even manage to reliably extract content from phones it issues to agents and other personnel. If you can't expertly handle data migration/storage from phones in your control at all times, how badly are you going to bungle forensic evidence extraction at scale if the government ever green lights encryption backdoors? The DOJ Inspector General has just released a report [PDF] detailing its investigation of missing text messages sent by two agents at the center of a Congressional hearing about supposed biased behavior during the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton and Mueller's investigation of Donald Trump. Agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page exchanged text messages expressing their dislike of Trump and made some comments suggesting they would do something to harm his presidential chances. Critics believed this showed these agents -- if not the agency itself -- were guided by political bias when investigating Trump's ties with Russia. Maybe there was more to this than there first appeared to be. Thousands of text messages from the agents' devices went missing -- a gap that stretched from December 2016 to May 2017. The Inspector General's office used forensic tools to recover roughly 19,000 text messages from the two phones. The culprit appears to be standard operating procedure rather than a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence. Strzok and Page had each returned their DOJ-issued iPhones six months earlier when their assignments to the SCO (Special Counsel's Office) had ended. The OIG was told that the DOJ issued iPhone previously assigned to Strzok had been re-issued to another FBI agent… CYBER obtained a forensic extraction of the iPhone previously assigned to Strzok; however, this iPhone had been reset to factory settings and was reconfigured for the new user... The same thing happened to Page's phone. It was reset in July 2017 by personnel at the DOJ's Justice Management Decision. It hadn't been issued to another agent but it had been restored in preparation for reassignment. Resetting phones just makes sense. Nothing about the FBI's handling of records its supposed to be retaining does. Text messages are official communications. They're subject to public records requests and they're often responsive to subpoenas in criminal cases. Wiping a phone without ensuring existing communications have been backed up is monumentally stupid and possibly illegal. To the agency's credit, it does try to retain these communications before resetting issued devices. The problem is its tool works poorly. As does its management: FBI Assistant General Counsel [redacted for some fucking reason] informed OIG that there does not appear to be a directive for preservation of texts by ESOC [Enterprise Security Operations Center], but that ESOC retains text messages as a matter of practice. Define "retain" and "matter of practice" in the context of a six-month gap of non-retention of Strzok/Page text messages. I guess it's the thought that counts? [E]SOC could not provide a specific explanation for the failure in the FBI's text message collection relating to Strzok's and Page's S5 phones… ESOC did offer up a set of possible explanations for the failure, none of which are reassuring. First, it could have been a bug reported by the vendor in 2016 but not fixed until March 2017. The application itself could have been misconfigured. The application may not have been compatible with device software updates. Efforts were made to mitigate the issue. But those failed as well. The FBI phased out Samsung S5s and replaced them with S7s. Nothing changed but the phone model. [A]ccording to FBI's Information and Technology Branch, as of November 15, 2018, the data collection tool utilized by FBI was still not reliably collecting text messages from approximately 10 percent of FBI issued mobile devices… That the OIG was able to recover thousands of messages from forensic extraction and scouring the FBI's enterprise database isn't really good news. It's unlikely the FBI will make the same effort when hit with discovery demands and it already won't thoroughly search databases it has full access to when responding to FOIA requests. So, records are going to go missing and it won't be until the OIG steps in that any effort will be made to find the missing records, much less take a good look at the broken processes that caused them to go missing in the first place. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 12 hours ago on techdirt
Former sheriff (and ongoing blight on the state of Arizona) Joe Arpaio has decided to sue a handful of new agencies for defamation. The slightly-overwrought press release from FreedomWatch (and founder Larry Klayman) alleges defamation per se on the part of CNN, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone and claims these three publications caused $300.5 million in damage to Arpaio's otherwise impeccable reputation. Here's Freedom Watch's zesty summation of the lawsuit: "It's time that someone stood up to the Left's 'Fake News' media, which is bent on destroying anyone who is a supporter of the president and in particular Sheriff Arpaio. My client will not be bullied by the likes of Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone, as he alone has the courage to stand up for not just himself, the President of the United States but also all fair-minded and ethical Americans." Ok, then. If you think the lawsuit itself is a much more buttoned-down affair, then you haven't read a Larry Klayman complaint before. It starts with the usual stuff establishing standing before getting down to the focus of the complaint. The alleged defamation committed by all three defendants is referring to Joe Arpaio as a "convicted felon" when his only conviction was for a misdemeanor. Rolling Stone issued a correction but the other two defendants haven't corrected their original misstatements. Hence the lawsuit -- Arpaio and Klayman's public attempt to stick it to the "Left Fake News media." Here's why Arpaio feels he's owed $300 million for a couple of standing misstatements. Running for an open US Senate seat must pay really well. Plaintiff Arpaio’s chances and prospects of election to the U.S. Senate in 2020 have been severely harmed by the publication of false and fraudulent facts in the Defamatory Article. This also harms Plaintiff financially, as his chances of obtaining funding from the Republican establishment and donors for the 2020 election have been damaged by the publication of false and fraudulent representations in the Defamatory Article. Given the pardon issued to him by the Republican president currently in office, it seems unlikely his reputation suffered any damage from these incorrect statements. If anything, it only further damaged the reputation of these publications, at least in the eyes of Arpaio supporters (which presumably includes a sizeable percentage of Republican voters). Arpaio managed to survive hundreds of self-inflicted reputational wounds during his years as sheriff, so it's a bit of a stretch to claim three "fake news" sources have done anything more than further cement his reputation as a martyr to the cause. Arpaio also claims this has damaged his reputation within the law enforcement community. Again, it seems unlikely to have budged the needle there either. Law enforcement agencies tend to view the press with the same suspicion Arpaio does and probably agree the ex-sheriff was persecuted rather than prosecuted. Nevertheless, there's potential money to be made. And Klayman, representing Arpaio, isn't above using a federal lawsuit as soapbox. At times, the complaint [PDF] more resembles a transcript of a YouTube monologue than a statement of facts and allegations. Defendants are aware of these prospective business relationships and thus, given their malice and leftist enmity of Arpaio sought to destroy them with the publication of the subject Defamatory Publications. Defendants published the Defamatory Publications to influence the RNC, the RNCC and affiliated political action committee and persons, and other donors, to withhold funding for Plaintiff Arpaio’s 2020 political campaign by smearing and destroying his reputation and standing in his law enforcement, government and political community. Plaintiff Arpaio has been harmed as to his reputation as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and financially by the publication of the Defamatory Article. [insert fire emoji] While it's true publications got the facts wrong, Joe Arpaio is an extremely public person. This raises the bar he must meet to succeed in this lawsuit. While the publications may have been careless in incorrectly noting the level of the offense that Arpaio was convicted for, that's not nearly enough to secure a favorable ruling. The difference between convicted felon and convicted misdemeanant probably doesn't mean much when placed in the totality of Arpaio's recent history. Arpaio was convicted of contempt and spent part of the last decade being investigated by the DOJ. Add this to his long history of civil liberties violations and refusal to adhere to court orders, and the difference between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor is a rounding error. Arpaio's reputation has been leaking hit points for a long time, but it has never affected his popularity with his presumed voter base. The rest of America may hate "America's Toughest Sheriff," but his supporters can't get enough of him. Three mistakes by three publications is unlikely to have caused $300-worth of damage to the ex-sheriff's Senatorial chances, much less $300 million. Some people are just defamation-proof and it's a good bet Joseph Arpaio is one of them. Arpaio's welcome to waste the court's time and his own money claiming the "fake news" media dinged his rust bucket of a reputation, but he's not going to be happy when the court apprises him of the above facts. The problem is these three publications will have to spend some money of their own defending against a seriously weak lawsuit. With the DC circuit having decided it doesn't need to apply the District's own anti-SLAPP law to federal cases, it's likely the defendants will be stuck with covering their own costs, even if they prevail. On top of that they'll have to deal with an opposing counsel with a penchant for pissing off judges and treating the courtroom like a heated Periscope broadcast. It's a waste of everyone's time and money but Klayman's. I'm pretty sure he didn't take this on contingency. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 12 hours ago on techdirt
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posted about 13 hours ago on techdirt
We've written in the past about things like "super injunctions" in the UK and elsewhere that often put a huge and near absolute gag order on writing about a famous person enmeshed in some sort of scandal, and apparently Australia has such a thing as well -- and it's now scaring off tons of publications from writing about the fact that George Pell, the Vatican's CFO and often called the "3rd most powerful person in the Vatican" was convicted on all charges that he sexually molested choir boys in Australia in the 1990s. However, the press is barred from reporting on it based on one of those gag orders. The Herald Sun in Australia did post a brilliant, Streisand Effect-inducing front page display about how it was being censored from publishing an important story: Front page of Thursday's edition of Australia's Herald Sun: "CENSORED" "A statement to our readers...The world is reading a very important story that is relevant to Victorians. The Herald Sun is prevented from publishing details of this significant news." https://t.co/bzFOluucy9 pic.twitter.com/J0vSkBrB1g — Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 12, 2018 Though, if you click on the link in that tweet it now shows an error message reading Error 400 and "Content is deleted, expired or legal killed." Legal killed. And here's the thing. Very few publications -- even those outside of Australia -- seem to be willing to pick up on the story. To their credit, the NY Post, owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch has posted about it as has Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post, who included an impassioned plea for this kind of censorship to not be allowed to continue. The secrecy surrounding the court case — and now the verdict — is offensive. That’s especially so because it echoes the secrecy that has always been so appalling a part of widespread sexual abuse by priests. That has changed a great deal in recent years — in part because of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation in 2002 that broke open a global scandal and was the subject of the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.” (Current Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron was executive editor at the Globe at that time.) But clearly, it hasn’t changed entirely. And the news media shouldn’t be forced to be a part of keeping these destructive secrets. Steven Spaner, Australia coordinator from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests told the Daily Beast he felt frustrated and left “in the dark” because of the suppression of news about Pell. “It’s hard to know if there are any shenanigans going on — things the church did that are illegal themselves,” he said. “There is always suspicion when you don’t know what is going on.” The story itself was actually broken by The Daily Beast (first link up top), but as that site's editor told Sullivan at the Washington Post, they were a bit worried about doing so: Editor in chief Noah Shachtman told me that he waded carefully into the dangerous legal waters. “We understood there could be legal, and even criminal, consequences if we ran this story,” said. “But ultimately, this was an easy call. You’ve got a top Vatican official convicted of a horrific crime. That’s major, major news. The public deserves to know about it.” Shachtman said the Daily Beast did its best to honor the suppression order, consulting with attorneys here and in Australia, and even “geo-blocking” the article so that it would be harder to access in Australia, and keeping headlines “relatively neutral.” If you do look around, there are a bunch of news articles, including some in Australia, all published after the verdict, talking about how the Pope has "removed" Pell from his "inner circle" and hinting at "historical sexual offences" but not saying that he's been convicted. And even the news of the removal is made to sound rather benign: A Vatican spokesman said Francis had written to the prelates “thanking them for the work they have done over these past five years”. Or here's an article from the Australian again published after the conviction, but not mentioning a word of it, and making it sound like Pell's removal was merely his term being up: The Vatican said it had written to Cardinal Pell and his two colleagues in late October, telling them their roles on the C9 council had expired at the end of their five-year tenure. [....] “In October, the Pope had written to three of the more ­elderly cardinals — Cardinal Pell from Australia, Cardinal ­Errazuriz from Chile and Cardinal Monsengwo of Congo — thanking them for their work,” he said. “After a five-year term, these three have passed out for the ­moment.” And the Washington Post's Editor, Marty Baron, has now had to defend publishing Sullivan's piece: Statement from @washingtonpost editor @PostBaron about Australian press suppression order involving conviction of Cardinal George Pell: pic.twitter.com/pxUv3Zgimf — Paul Farhi (@farhip) December 13, 2018 If you can't read that, it says: This story is a matter of major news significance involving an individual of global prominence. A fundamental principle of The Washington Post is to report the news truthfully, which we did. While we always consider guidelines given by courts and governments, we must ultimately use our judgment and exercise our right to publish such consequential news. Freedom of the press in the world will cease to exist if a judge in one country is allowed to bar publication of information anywhere in the world. It seems heavily implied by this statement that the Washington Post has been contacted about its story. Some may argue that there is, in fact, a good reason for the suppression orders. Specifically, the idea is to have trials of prominent figures be "impartial" and not influenced by media coverage. And you can understand the basic reasoning for that -- though, in this case, there is already a conviction, and that seems obviously newsworthy. The response to that argument is that Pell is still facing more such charges in another trial. I'm sympathetic to these arguments, but only to the point that I understand the emotional position from which those arguments are made. I cannot, however, agree that they are good reasons. Yes, media sensationalism around a trial can be an issue, but in the US we've been able to deal with that fairly successfully over the years with the way courts treat jurors and order them not to read the press coverage. Is it a perfect system? Nope. Not at all. But it does mostly function. On the flip side, the ability to do damage through these gag orders is immense. Among other things, it hides the details of what's happening at the trial, and those details can really matter, as Sullivan's article quote above makes clear. In addition, only being able to reveal details way after the fact very much dilutes or even totally destroys the impact of such stories. It is much harder to make people care about this news much later, after it has been suppressed, than when it first comes out. On top of that, all of this relies on the idea that those issuing these gag orders always do so with the best of intentions, and that's a huge leap of faith. The opportunity for mischief here is great, as we've seen in the UK with some of its super injunctions. This kind of thing is one of the reasons why we're so concerned here about encroachments on free speech by governments. The ability to order platforms to censor material is a massively slippery slope. Indeed, in searching for the news coverage about this, I couldn't find any of the actual coverage of the convictions on Google News. I could only find the stories about the much more tame "removed from the inner circle." It may be that Google News algorithms picked up on that story more prominently (in part because there are many more such stories) or it could be because Australia has told Google News not to post such stories. At the very least, it's ambiguous and concerning. Having a free and open press is a pretty key aspect of democracy. Australia is making it clear that it doesn't buy into that, and tragically, it's leading to new publications around the world choosing not to report on a huge story with immense public impact. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 16 hours ago on techdirt
Last year, FCC boss Ajit Pai repeatedly hyped the creation of a new "Broadband Deployment Advisory Council" (BDAC) purportedly tasked with coming up with creative solutions to the nation's broadband problem(s). Unfortunately, reports just as quickly began to circulate that this panel was little more than a who's who of entrenched telecom operators with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. The panel has yet to really offer up a meaningful proposal, but it has been rocked by several resignations due to cronyism, and at least one member who was arrested for fraud. As the FCC looks to expand the council's charter for another few years, the panel itself has been pushing a plan that pretty clearly highlights the cronyism intentionally inherent in its design. More specifically, the panel has been pushing the FCC to adopt a new system that urges states to tax Netflix and Google to fund rural broadband deployment: "A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate. If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising." To be clear, this is extremely unlikely to come to pass, even in the most myopic of states. Still, if you're playing along at home, this is just an extension of a multi-decade effort by ISPs to force somebody else to pay for network upgrades they refuse to fund, despite having received countless billions to accomplish this goal. In fact this push to have content companies pay for ISP network upgrades is really what began the net neutrality fight back in 2003 or so, when former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre proclaimed that Google should pay him an additional troll toll just to access his network. You know, just because. This mantra was long rooted in telecom envy of Silicon Valley online ad revenues, and a belief by telecom executives that they're somehow "owed" a cut of those revenues. Over time it evolved into endless claims by telecom sector allies, think tankers, and other cronies that companies like Google and Netflix were somehow getting a "free ride" on incumbent ISP networks, despite having invested billions into their own global transit and network operations. Over time it became a global telecom executive mantra of sorts, even if it never made coherent sense. People forget, but it's this telecom industry attempt to "double dip" that truly launched the modern net neutrality debate just about fifteen years ago. That point has gotten lost as ISP efforts to extract unearned rents have gotten more elaborate over the years, but at its heart the fight has always been about monopoly ISPs trying to offload network construction and operation costs off to somebody else, while already earning fat revenues thanks to limited competition. Of course AT&T, who generally drives most dubious DC telecom policy moves and would reap the lion's share of said tax, had originally tried to insist that the panel's recommendations (and the proposed tax) should apply to pretty much all traffic that touches the internet: "An AT&T executive who is on the FCC advisory committee argued that the recommended tax should apply even more broadly, to any business that benefits financially from broadband access in any way. The committee ultimately adopted a slightly more narrow recommendation that would apply the tax to subscription services and advertising-supported services only." The real problem here (or one of many) is that companies like AT&T and Verizon were already given billions upon billions in taxpayer dollars to fund these upgrades years ago. American history is filled with examples of these companies getting massive tax cuts or subsidies to deploy fiber, then using their lobbying prowess to wiggle out from under the obligations after the fact. Had the government ever conducted any real audit, you'd likely find American taxpayers have paid to upgrade the country with fiber several times over, yet still somehow often only have access to pricey, sluggish DSL. That, nearly two decades later, AT&T's still running a lame variation of the same ploy is equal parts frightening and sad, but seems to be par for the course for a country that refuses to learn from history, and an FCC that has made it abundantly clear it's a glorified rubber stamp for lumbering natural monopolies and their very worst instincts. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As numerous Techdirt posts have explained, there are two really problematic areas with the EU's proposed copyright directive. Article 13, which will require pretty much every major online site to filter uploaded content, and Article 11, the so-called "link tax", more formally known as an "ancillary copyright". It's yet another example of the copyright ratchet -- the fact that laws governing copyright only ever get stronger, in favor of the industry, never in the other direction, in favor of the public. We know for sure that Article 11 will be a disaster because it's already been tried twice -- in Germany and Spain -- and failed both times. Despite that fact, the German and Spanish laws are still on the law books in their respective countries. VG Media, the German collective management organization handling copyright on behalf of press publishers and others lost no time in bringing a case against Google. It alleged that the US Internet company had used text excerpts, images and videos from press and media material produced by VG Media's members without paying a fee. Alongside the issue of whether Google did indeed infringe on the new law, there is another consideration arising out of some fairly obscure EU legislation. If the new German ancillary copyright law is "a technical regulation specifically aimed at a particular information society service", then it would require prior notification to the European Commission in order to be applicable. The German court considering VG Media's case asked the Court of Justice of the European Union, (CJEU), the EU's top court, to decide whether or not the link tax law is indeed a "technical regulation" of that kind. As is usual for CJEU cases, one of the court's Advocates General has offered a preliminary opinion before the main ruling is handed down (pdf). It concludes: the Court should rule that national provisions such as those at issue, which prohibit only commercial operators of search engines and commercial service providers which edit content, but not other users, including commercial users, from making press products or parts thereof (excluding individual words and very short text excerpts) available to the public constitute rules specifically aimed at information society services. Further, national provisions such as those at issue constitute a technical regulation, subject to the notification obligation under that Directive. It follows therefore, that in the absence of notification of these national provisions to the [European] Commission, these new German copyright rules cannot be applied by the German courts. Although that sounds great, there are two caveats. One is that the CJEU is not obliged to follow the Advocate General's reasoning, although it often does. This means that it is quite likely that the top EU court will rule that Germany's link tax cannot be applied, and thus that Google has not infringed on any snippets produced by VG Media's members. The more important caveat is that even if the CJEU does take that view, it won't affect Article 11, which is EU, not national, legislation, and not finalized yet. So we are still facing the dire prospect of an EU-wide ancillary copyright that not only won't work, but also is something that many publishers don't even want. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For those of us who have fallen in love with the world's most personally infuriating sport, golf, the name The St. Andrews Links Golf Course is of course quite notable. The famed "Cathedral of Golf" also happens to be located in a town of the same name, St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is a fairly common term in the naming of locations and famous landmarks. Despite this, The Saint Andrews Links went to the EU's Intellectual Property Office to request it be granted a trademark for "St. Andrews" in roughly every category, including broadly in apparel and sports goods. When that request was denied in 2016 on grounds that location names have high bars to clear to get trademarks and are therefore relatively rarely granted, St. Andrews Links took its case to Luxembourg on appeal. There, the EU General Court dismissed the appeal, arguing again that "St. Andrews" is primarily a reference to the town of St. Andrews, not to any provider of the type of goods that St. Andrews Links wanted to hold trademarks for. But having had its application to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) turned down in 2016, an appeal against the decision has now been dismissed by the EU General Court in Luxembourg.  According to official documents, the appeal board argued “the expression ‘St Andrews’ referred above all to a town known for its golf courses though not particularly for the manufacturing or marketing of clothing, footwear, headgear, games and playthings.” The court said EU and UK law generally excludes the registration of geographical names as trade marks “where they designate specified geographical locations which are already famous, or are known for the category of goods or services concerned.” In other words, the town itself is also well known and, because the mark applied for consisted of the name of that famous town, St. Andrews Links can't lock up "St. Andrews" for itself in a bunch of categories not directly related to its business. Readers here will likely be nodding along, understanding that this all makes perfect sense. The reason I'm highlighting all of this is because of how frustratingly rare it is for an intellectual property office and appeals court to get this so, so right. Too often, corporate wishes are simply granted, especially when dealing with an entity like St. Andrews Links, which is itself rather famous and is a point of pride for the region. It sure would be nice if other IPOs applied the intent of the law this strictly. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Today was the latest set of "Trilogue" negotiations for the EU Copyright Directive, between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament. When the trilogues were first scheduled, this was the final negotiation and the plan was to hammer out a final agreement by today. As we've been reporting lately, however, it still appeared that there was massive disagreement about what should be in Article 13 (in particular). And so, today's meetings ended with no deal in place, and a new trilogue negotiation set for January 14th. As MEP Julia Reda reports, most negotiators are still pushing for mandatory upload filters, so there's still a huge uphill battle ahead -- but the more regulators realize how disastrous such a provision would be for the public, the better. Also worrisome, Reda notes that after the Parliament rejected Article 13 back in July, MEP Axel Voss agreed to add an exception for small businesses that helped get the proposal approved in September. Yet, in today's negotiations, he agreed to drop that small business exception, meaning that if you run a small platform that accepts user generated content, you might need to cross the EU off your list of markets should Article 13 pass. One other important thing. Earlier this week, we noted that the TV, film and sports legacy companies were complaining that if Article 13 included a basic safe harbor (i.e., rules that say if you do certain things to remove infringing content, you won't be liable), then they no longer wanted it at all -- or wanted it to just be limited to music content. That suggested there might be some separation between the film/TV/sports industries and the music industries. But, no. Right before the trilogues, the legacy recording industries released a similar letter: The fundamental elements of a solution to the Value Gap/Transfer of Value remain, as acknowledged by all three institutions in their adopted texts, to clarify that UUC services now defined as Online Content Sharing Service Providers (“OCSSP”) are liable for communication to the public and/or making available to the public when protected works are made available and that they are not eligible for the liability privilege in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive as far as copyright is concerned. We continue to believe that only a solution that stays within these principles meaningfully addresses the Value Gap/Transfer of Value. Moreover, licensing needs to be encouraged where the rightsholders are willing to do so but at the same time not be forced upon rightsholders. Therefore, proposals that deviate from the adopted positions of the three institutions should be dismissed. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the text now put forward by the European Commission would need fundamental changes to achieve the Directive’s aim to correct the Value Gap/ Transfer of Value. For example, solutions that seek to qualify or mitigate the liability of Online Content Sharing Service Providers should be considered with an abundance of caution to avoid the final proposal leaving rightsholders in a worse position than they are in now. Any “mitigation measures”, should they be offered to OCSSPs, must therefore be clearly formulated and conditional on OCSSPs taking robust action to ensure the unavailability of works or other subject matter on their services. This is pretty incredible when you get passed the diplomatic legalese. These music companies are flat out admitting that the entire goal of this bill is to hit internet companies with crippling liability that makes it literally impossible for them to host any user generated content. This isn't -- as they claim -- about a "value gap" (a made up meaningless term). Rather this is the legacy entertainment industry going all in on an attempt to change the internet from a platform for the public, to a locked up platform for gatekeepers. In short, they want to take the internet and turn it into TV. Europe should not let this happen. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For years we've noted how the FCC's broadband availability maps are just comically bad. If you'd like to confirm that take, you can just plug your home address into the agency's $350 million broadband availability map and watch as entire ISPs and speed availability are largely hallucinated. This is a problem that never gets fixed, largely because the nation's entrenched broadband providers (and the politicians paid to love them) have a vested interest in pretending that the US broadband industry isn't just an aggressive hodge-podge of broken monopolies and duopolies nickel-and-diming the hell out of captive customers. Senators have been bitching about the maps a little more lately as states vie for FCC Mobility Fund Phase II Auction subsidies, which will dole out $4.5 billion to under-connected states over the next decade. Back in August, Montana Senator Jon Tester went so far as to suggest that said maps "stink" and that somebody should have their "ass kicked" for the terrible data the FCC uses for both subsidies and policy. Last Friday the Sisyphean quest to stop our maps from sucking turned an interesting corner, when the FCC announced (pdf) it was finally launching an investigation into whether "one or more" mobile carriers submitted false coverage data to the FCC. The FCC appears to be responding to a complaint (pdf) filed earlier this year by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), which stated that Verizon was "grossly overstating" the company's 4G LTE broadband coverage in its filings with the FCC. FCC boss Ajit Pai likes to talk a lot about how he's "closing the digital divide," despite the fact his policies (like killing net neutrality or weakening the very definition of the word "competition") generally tend to make problems of broadband availability and affordability worse. But the pressure coming from states as they clamor for their chunk of subsidies appears to have finally forced Pai (whose post-FCC political aspirations are fairly obvious) to take action: "My top priority is bridging the digital divide and ensuring that Americans have access to digital opportunity regardless of where they live, and the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II program can play a key role in extending high-speed Internet access to rural areas across America,” said Chairman Pai. “In order to reach those areas, it’s critical that we know where access is and where it is not. A preliminary review of speed test data submitted through the challenge process suggested significant violations of the Commission’s rules. That’s why I’ve ordered an investigation into these matters. We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed." Those concerns were mirrored by Pai's fellow Commissioner Brendan Carr: "It is deeply concerning that FCC staff's preliminary analysis of the challenge data shows that one or more major carriers potentially violated the Commission's MF-II mapping rules and submitted incorrect maps. Today's announcement aligns with concerns I shared with Chairman Pai, and I look forward to working with him and our able staff to complete this investigation." A big part of the Mobility Fund Phase II subsidy process involves incumbent carriers like Verizon providing accurate broadband availability maps to determine which areas are in most dire need of subsidized help. But because companies like Verizon don't want to both advertise their network shortcomings or help drive funds to would-be competitors, they tend to overstate coverage of both mobile and fixed-line networks. Last August, Verizon denied to Ars Technica that its broadband availability data was inaccurate after the data was called a "sham" by the RWA. This rose-colored glasses approach to broadband mapping is decades old, so any surprise you're hearing from government probably isn't all that authentic. As such, any applause should be held until actual action is taken and the companies involved are adequately punished (especially given Verizon used to be Pai's employer). Still, it's great to see Pai and the FCC at least pay some attention to a problem that has plagued the telecom sector for years, allowing it to paint an inaccurate picture of broadband availability and competition, thereby hampering any efforts to actually do something about it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Arkansas state rep Johnny Rye is in galaxy mind mode. He's introduced a bill that aims to stop "censorship" by social media platforms by allowing the government to compel speech. I'm sure the irony is lost on Rye. But it's probably not the only thing sailing over Rep. Rye's head. (h/t Sarah McLaughlin) What Rye is trying to stop is social media companies moderating their own platforms. He appears to feel conservatives are being "censored" by Facebook, Twitter, etc. and thinks rolling over the First Amendment and Section 230 immunity is going to cure this perceived ill. Holy hell, the bill [PDF] is a mess. I'm going to have to quote from it at length because it's the only way any discussion of it can achieve semi-coherence. Here's the gist of it, from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times: The bill would allow plaintiffs to seek damages of a minimum of $75,000 "per purposeful deletion or censoring of the social media website user's speech" plus actual damages and punitive damages if aggravating factors are present. Only social media companies with at least 75 million subscribers would be subject to Rye's bill. Slightly more specifically, the "Stop Social Media Censorship Act" says this: The owner or operator of a social media website who resides in this state is subject to a private right of action by a social media website user if the social media website purposely: (i) Deletes or censors a social media website user's religious or political speech; or (ii) Uses an algorithm to suppress religious or political speech. How does Rep. Rye get around the fact that private companies can moderate content on their platforms however they'd like without it being "censorship?" Easy. He just unilaterally declares Facebook, et al to be "public utilities." Problem solved. A social media website is considered a public utility under this section. Pretty cool. I didn't know writing worked that way. Let me see if I've got the hang of this… Rep. Rye is considered a nuisance and threat to public safety under this section. Now I just need to send the cops around to restore public safety by taking Rep. Rye out of the rotation. The good news is social media companies can limit the monetary damages by restoring/uncensoring posts a user complains about. (Presumably using an in-court complaint form, rather than the site's online forms.) There's your compelled speech, which is just another misshapen cherry on the top of shit sundae. Here's Rye's tiny concession to the First Amendment, which isn't really a concession, nor even compliant with the First Amendment. This must be Rye's idea of "narrow crafting." A social media website is immune from liability under this section if it deletes or censors a social media website user's speech or uses an algorithm to disfavor or censure speech that calls for immediate acts of violence, is obscene, or pornographic in nature. Rye is generously allowing platforms to engage in the sort of moderation they already engage in. They're free to moderate certain kinds of speech, just not the kind of speech Rye likes. And if users aren't willing to sue over "censorship" themselves, the state is empowered to draw inferences on their behalf. The Attorney General may bring a civil cause of action under this section on behalf of social media website users who reside in this state whose religious speech or political speech has been censored by a social media website. If you're wondering why Rep. Rye has crafted this monument to his own stupidity, David Ramsey has your answer: Rye's bill comes in the same week that Sen. Jason Rapert vociferously complained about being temporarily barred from sending tweets by Twitter. A tweet that Rapert sent out regarding Muslims was found by the company to violate its "hateful conduct policy." The company imposed a timeout that lasted at least 12 hours, according to a printout of Twitter's communication that Rapert held up to the camera in a Facebook Live post. The offending tweet has apparently been removed. Here are a couple other things Rye is pitching this legislative session: Make it a felony to relocate, alter, remove, rename, rededicate or otherwise disturb historical monuments on public property without the permission of the Arkansas History Commission. Create a special license plate for members of the Arkansas Masonic Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. So, a "no tearing down Confederate war hero statues" bill, and a special license plate for himself. From Rye's bio: He is active in the Lions Club and Masonic Lodge. This wave of proposed legislation follows last year's failed attempt to repeal the state's recognition of same-sex marriages. And he's looking for even more internet regulation, this time under the guise of fighting sex trafficking. This bill [PDF] would ban anyone from selling any devices that access the internet without pre-installed "blocking software." This is at least as batshit as his social media censorship proposal. A distributor shall not in this state manufacture, sell, offer for sale, lease, or distribute a product that makes content accessible on the internet unless the product: (A) Contains active and properly operating blocking software that renders obscene material inaccessible; (B) Prohibits access to content that is prohibited under this chapter; (C) Prohibits access to revenge pornography; (D) Prohibits access to a website that facilitates prostitution; and (E) Prohibits access to a website that facilitates human trafficking. The list of "prohibited content" includes revenge porn, "specified anatomical areas," and obscene material. The reseller or manufacturer violating this law is subject to a $500 fine… wait for it: ...for each prohibited image, video or audio depiction, or website found to be accessible at the time of the offense. On top of adding new software to their devices, resellers and manufacturers will also foot the bill for a 24/7 complaint hotline to report overblocking/underblocking. The good news (I guess) is that Arkansans still have the option to see turgid penises and whatnot. All they have to do is pay $20 and state, in writing, that they're above the age of 18 and definitely want to see as many "specified anatomical areas" as possible. Proof of age must also be submitted. The bill does not specify whether this will restore access to revenge porn or trafficked humans, but one would assume it's an all-inclusive fee. Sex trafficking will somehow be prevented by the state AG dumping collected fines into a strongbox marked "for the children," because nothing's too on the nose for Johnny Rye: Fines levied by a court under subdivision (a)(2)(A) of this section shall be deposited into the Safe Harbor Fund for Sexually Exploited Children. Whew. What a time to be alive. And in Arkansas. And knowing you still have two more years before you can unceremoniously return Johnny Rye to the private sector he so very badly wants to harm. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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This seems to be the year for awful internet regulation by the EU. At least there were some redeeming qualities in the GDPR, but they were few and far between, and much of the GDPR is terrible and is creating real problems for free speech online, while simultaneously, undermining privacy and giving repressive governments a new tool to go after critics. Oh, and in the process, it has only made Google that much more dominant in Europe, harming competition. And, then, of course, there's the still ongoing debate about the EU Copyright Directive, which will also be hellish on free speech. The entire point of Article 13 in that Directive is to wipe away the intermediary liability protections that enable websites to host your content. Without such protections, it is not difficult to see how it will lead to a widespread stifling of ideas, not to mention many smaller platforms for hosting content exiting the market entirely. But here's the thing: both of those EU regulations are absolutely nothing compared to the upcoming EU Terrorist Regulation. We mentioned this a bit back in August, with the EU Commission pushing for the rule that all terrorist content must be taken down in an hour or face massive fines and possible criminal liability. Earlier this year, Joan Barata at Stanford wrote a compelling paper detailing just how extreme parts of the proposed regulation will go. Among the many questionable bits of the Terrorist Regulation are that it will apply no matter how small a platform is and even if they're not in the EU, so long as the EU claims they have a "significant number" of EU users. Also, if a platform isn't even based in the EU, part of the proposal would require the companies to hire a "representative" in the EU to respond to these takedown demands. If the government orders a platform to take down "terrorist" content, a platform has to take it down within an hour and then set up "proactive measures" to stop the same content from ever being uploaded (i.e., mandatory filters). Oh, and of course, this mechanism for rapid and permanent censorship based solely on the government's say so, has... a ridiculously vague "definition" of what counts as "terrorist content." 'terrorist content' means one or more of the following information: (a) inciting or advocating, including by glorifying, the commission of terrorist offences, thereby causing a danger that such acts be committed; (b) encouraging the contribution to terrorist offences; (c) promoting the activities of a terrorist group, in particular by encouraging the participation in or support to a terrorist group within the meaning of Article 2(3) of Directive (EU) 2017/541; (d) instructing on methods or techniques for the purpose of committing terrorist offences. There are all sorts of problems with this, and as the IP-Watch site notes, this appears to be a recipe for private censorship on the internet. Recently, a large group of public interest groups sent a letter to EU regulators laying out in great detail all of the problems of the regulation. I'm going to quote a huge chunk of the letter, because it's so thorough: Several aspects of the proposed Regulation would significantly endanger freedom of expression and information in Europe: Vague and broad definitions: The Regulation uses vague and broad definitions to describe ‘terrorist content’ which are not in line with the Directive on Combating Terrorism. This increases the risk of arbitrary removal of online content shared or published by human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists or individuals based on, among others, their perceived political affiliation, activism, religious practice or national origin. In addition, judges and prosecutors in Member States will be left to define the substance and boundaries of the scope of the Regulation. This would lead to uncertainty for users, hosting service providers, and law enforcement, and the Regulation would fail to meet its objectives. ‘Proactive measures’: The Regulation imposes ‘duties of care’ and a requirement to take ‘proactive measures’ on hosting service providers to prevent the re-upload of content. These requirements for ‘proactive measures’ can only be met using automated means, which have the potential to threaten the right to free expression as they would lack safeguards to prevent abuse or provide redress where content is removed in error. The Regulation lacks the proper transparency, accountability and redress mechanisms to mitigate this threat. The obligation applies to all hosting services providers, regardless of their size, reach, purpose, or revenue models, and does not allow flexibility for collaborative platforms. Instant removals: The Regulation empowers undefined ‘competent authorities’ to order the removal of particular pieces of content within one hour, with no authorisation or oversight by courts. Removal requests must be honoured within this short time period regardless of any legitimate objections platforms or their users may have to removal of the content specified, and the damage to free expression and access to information may already be irreversible by the time any future appeal process is complete. Terms of service over rule of law: The Regulation allows these same competent authorities to notify hosting service providers of potential terrorist content that companies must check against their terms of service and hence not against the law. This will likely lead to the removal of legal content as company terms of service often restrict expression that may be distasteful or unpopular, but not unlawful. It will also undermine law enforcement agencies for whom terrorist posts can be useful sources in investigations. The European Commission has not presented sufficient evidence to support the necessity of the proposed measures. The Impact Assessment accompanying the European Commission’s proposal states that only 6% of respondents to a recent public consultation have encountered terrorist content online. In Austria, which publishes data on unlawful content reports to its national hotline, approximately 75% of content reported as unlawful were in fact legal. It is thus likely that the actual number of respondents who have encountered terrorist content is much lower than the reported 6%. In fact, 75% percent of the respondents to the public consultation considered the internet to be safe. And that's not all. The UN's Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (yup, that's the title), David Kaye, has also sent a letter warning of the problems of such a regulation on free speech. It's 14 pages long, but the key point: ...we wish to express our views regarding the overly broad definition of terrorist content in the Proposal that may encompass legitimate expression protected under international human rights law. We note with serious concern what we believe to be insufficient consideration given to human rights protections in the context of to the proposed rules governing content moderation policies. We recall in this respect that the mechanisms set up in Articles 4-6 may lead to infringements to the right to access to information, freedom of opinion, expression, and association, and impact interlinked political and public interest processes. We are further troubled by the lack of attention to human rights responsibilities incumbent on business enterprises in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In other words, yet another European regulation targeting internet companies (many of whom are not based in Europe) that will ultimately lead to (1) greater censorship (2) more consolidation by internet giants, as smaller platforms won't be able to compete, and (3) massive "unintended" consequences for the internet as a whole. Maybe it's time we just kick the EU off the internet. Let them build their own. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Ajit Pai FCC's attacks on net neutrality have received ample attention. Less talked about is the fact that the attack on net neutrality was just one part of a much broader effort to eliminate what was already pretty tepid oversight of one of the least liked and least competitive tech sectors in America. The Pai FCC's Orwellian-named "Restoring Internet Freedom" order not only killed net neutrality rules, it dramatically rolled back FCC authority over big ISPs like Comcast, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC ISP lobbyists know full well lacks the authority or attention span for telecom oversight. In addition to that, the FCC (again at big telecom's behest) has set about trying to claim states can't protect consumers either. With neither competition nor state or federal oversight keeping natural monopolies in line, it shouldn't take a degree in genetics to ferret out the potential pitfalls. One of the key arguments underpinning most of the telecom sector's lobbying shenanigans of late involves one central claim: that state or federal efforts to hold giant ISPs accountable somehow violates Comcast and other ISPs' First Amendment rights. You'll recall ISPs tried to claim that net neutrality somehow violated ISPs' free speech rights, despite the fact that as simple conduits they don't engage in "editorial" decisions, making the argument rather silly. The courts didn't agree with broadband providers then, but in his dissenting opinion during those earlier court battles new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh did. Susan Crawford over at Wired offers up a solid piece explaining why, with Kavanaugh now positioned in the highest court of the land, ISPs are very eager to start pushing this argument more forcefully in the months and years to come: "The addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court roster gives the industry a significant boost. In a 2017 DC Circuit dissenting opinion, Justice Kavanaugh made it clear that he supports giving internet access providers "speaker" privileges, saying that "the First Amendment bars the Government from restricting the editorial discretion of Internet service providers." She goes on to explain how the perils of embracing this argument opens the door to a future where little to nothing constricts Comcast's worst impulses: "Treating the transmission of data as "speech" will make it virtually impossible for the government to say anything at all about internet access. If the government tries to regulate someday, you can be confident that the industry will make a lot of noise in the form of lawsuits focused on cable's First Amendment rights to carry out its "editorial discretion," in hopes that Justice Kavanaugh will get a chance to lock in the industry's status as a member of the press. The "speech" of a handful of giant companies will be privileged over the ability of all Americans—including all other American businesses—to communicate." Again, the lower courts so far haven't much agreed with ISP arguments on this front. The claim was shot down during several court rulings and appeals during the net neutrality fight, and shot down again recently when Charter tried to wiggle out of allegations of racially-motivated treatment of a minority-owned broadcast channel Charter booted from its cable lineup. Charter (aka Spectrum) has also flirted with the argument unsuccessfully in its ongoing battle with New York State over years of poor service and violated merger obligations. Again, ISPs are simply conduits to information, not acting as editors, making the whole thing a rather stupid argument. But it's a stupid argument being made in an era when stupidity is decidedly en vogue; and ISPs' very much hope to use it as a blunt weapon should any of these fights stumble their way to the Supreme Court over the next few years. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Seven years ago, the First Circuit Court of Appeals released its Glik decision. This decision found that recording public officials was protected by the First Amendment, overriding Massachusetts state law. The state wiretap law says recordings must have consent of everyone captured on the recording. The Appeals Court said recording police officers while they performed their duties in public was clearly covered by the First Amendment. The opinion also dealt with some ancillary Fourth Amendment issues, but seemingly made it clear these recordings were protected activity. The law remained on the books unaltered. Thanks to legislative inaction, the law is still capable of being abused. Since the Appeals Court didn't declare the law unconstitutional, or even this application of it, it has taken another federal court decision nearly a decade later to straighten this out. (h/t Courthouse News Service) The ruling [PDF] deals with two First Amendment cases. One deals with activists recording cops. The other deals with another set of activists -- James O'Keefe's Project Veritas -- and its secret recording of Democratic politicians. The specifics might be a bit different, but the outcome is the same: recording public officials is protected by the First Amendment. The state law is unconstitutional. Consistent with the language of Glik, the Court holds that Section 99 may not constitutionally prohibit the secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public spaces, subject to reasonable time, manner, and place restrictions. That just reiterates Glik's findings. The Massachusetts federal court goes further, though: The Court declares Section 99 unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officers, performing their duties in public spaces, subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The Court will issue a corresponding injunction against the defendants in these actions. The court also points out the state government's response to the Glik ruling was wrong. The ruling did not limit itself to "openly" recording public officials. It said the First Amendment protected the recording of public officials performing public duties whether or not government officials knew they were being recorded. In October 2011, the bulletin was accompanied by a memo from the Commissioner citing the Glik decision. The memo instructs officers that “public and open recording of police officers by a civilian is not a violation” of Section 99. The cover memo for the May 2015 recirculation “remind[s] all officers that civilians have a First Amendment right to publicly and openly record officers while in the course of their duties.” [...] But Glik did not clearly restrict itself to open recording. Rather, it held that the First Amendment provides a “right to film government officials or matters of public interest in public space.” The court says siding with the government's interpretation would just result in more bogus arrests under the state's wiretap law. But the training materials go beyond telling officers when it is impermissible to arrest; taking a narrow construction of Glik, they also communicate that it is permissible to arrest for secretly audiorecording the police under all circumstances. In other words, it gives the green light to arrests that, as the Court holds below, are barred by Glik. This ruling should put an end to that. You'd think the last ruling would have done the job, but despite the Appeals Court never ruling that secret recordings of public officials were illegal, the state decided to interpret the decision this way, leading directly to the lawsuits requiring the record to be set one more time, seven years down the road. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Athletic clothing maker Under Armour has graced our fair pages a few times in the past, always for being on exactly the wrong side of the trademark equation. Between trying to torpedo tiny Christian companies like Armor & Glory, and ensuring that every member of the public is aware that its own executives don't have a sense of humor that they are aware of by suing Ass Armor, the mega-company has been quite busy making sure the entire world knows that only it is allowed to use the word "Armour." Notably important in all of this is that the company is exactly wrong in this claim, as trademark law nearly always comes down to whether customers will be confused by the use of words and trade dress, and it is not a platform for a single company being able to lock up a fairly common word. This is a lesson that apparently hasn't stuck for the folks at Under Armour, however, as the company has recently fired off a C&D letter to another tiny clothier, Cascade Armory. According to Source Weekly, a start-up clothing store in Bend, Oregon named Cascade Armory has received a cease and desist order from the gigantic corporation claiming that the tiny store's brand could cause confusion to the billions of dads and bro-dudes who wear Under Armour's ass-ugly athletic gear. As you can see from the [below] picture, the logos of both companies share almost no similarities—other than the word "armor" which UA seems to have trouble spelling. Here are the logos in question. The first thing that should immediately jump out at you is just how insane any claim that there is the potential for customer confusion here would be. Cascade Armory isn't even using the word "armor", never mind the British spelling that Under Armour uses. On top of that, all of the dress and iconography is significantly different. Add to all of this that Cascade Armory isn't an athletic clothing maker, but a traditional one, and that should be the final nail in all of this. Under Armour can play make-believe pretending it lives in a world where it can tell everyone else on the planet that they cannot use any words that are even close to "armour" if it wants, but it simply isn't true. And, yet, the company makes demands far outside its legal rights. In the cease and desist order, Under Armour demanded that Cascade Armory abandon with prejudice its application for trademark and any other applications and registrations for marks comprised of or containing the term armory, armoury, armor, armour or any misspellings or variations thereof. The company demanded Cascade Armory permanently quit using, registering or applying to register the Cascade Armory mark and any versions containing the same versions of 'armory' or 'armor.' Also, they demanded that Cascade Armory deactivate its website and social media pages that contain the same words. These demands are flatly obscene given the flimsy nature of Under Armour's basis for all of this. Of course, we've said many times that big companies play the trademark bully because it works, largely because it can scare the hell out of startups and small companies that don't have a comparable legal war chest with which to work. While the owners of Cascade Armory, Alex and Diana Short, have no intention of kowtowing to Under Armour's bullying tactics, they also admit that a legal fight against the conglomerate would put their young business in peril. Which is why companies like Under Armour get away with this nonsense. Why they feel the need to do so is an open question. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Predatory publishing -- the pay-for-play practice that allows anyone to have their research published as soon as the check clears -- may end up costing a professor his job. Derek Pyne, associate professor of economics at British Columbia's Thompson Rivers University, has managed to turn his own campus against him simply for telling the uncomfortable truth. His 2017 paper, The Rewards of Predatory Publication at a Small Business School, exposed the ugly side effects of the constant pressure on researchers and academics to be published. "Publish or perish," the saying goes. And if you can't get published by someone who thinks your research is worth publishing, get published by someone who thinks everyone with enough cash on hand deserves to be published. What Pyne found was schools rewarding publication, whether or not the publication was bought and paid for. It finds that the majority of faculty with research responsibilities at a small Canadian business school have publications in predatory journals. In terms of financial compensation, these publications produce greater rewards than many non-predatory journal publications. Publications in predatory journals are also positively correlated with receiving internal research awards. Some of those who were reaping the rewards of being published by taking advantage of pay-for-play publications were Pyne's associates at Thompson Rivers University. They didn't appreciate being the data set Pyne used in his research paper. This backlash has led to Pyne being ousted from the campus of the school that employs him. (via Reason) As a result of that 2017 paper and the media attention that followed, Pyne says, he’s been effectively banned from campus since May. He may visit only for a short list of reasons, such as health care. Teaching is out and so, too, is the library. It’s unclear when, or if, Pyne will be allowed to resume his normal duties. This isn't the only thing Pyne has done to piss off his colleagues. He's also engaged in a number of heated arguments with faculty about the quality of the school's grad programs and brought his numerous complaints to the press. Administrators claimed coworkers were afraid of him and demanded he undergo a psychological evaluation. His keys were taken and he was banned from campus. Pyne cleared the psych eval -- one that found (understandably) Pyne felt persecuted by his employer. He's now back on the payroll, but has been told to "cease communicating inappropriate, defamatory and insubordinate statements" about the school. Fortunately, Pyne has a few allies. Retraction Watch -- an essential site with zero sympathy for predatory publications -- is now involved in Pyne's fight against the university. Ivan Oransky, Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and co-founder of Retraction Watch, has followed Pyne’s case for over a year. He said recently that he was “puzzled” about “what's actually going on. It's not very helpful when a university takes action like this but doesn't say why.” That's why Retraction Watch has argued for the release of university investigations, he said, citing an article on why Cornell University hasn’t released its findings in the Brian Wansink research misconduct case, among other similar incidents elsewhere. He also has some free speech warriors of the Canadian variety helping him out. Canada's Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship has appealed to Thompson Rivers on Pyne's behalf. The Canadian Association of University Teachers, similar to American Association of University Professors, is also looking into the case. Thompson Rivers has refused to participate in that investigation so far, David Robinson, CAUT’s executive director, said recently. “This is a very peculiar case,” Robinson said. “But certainly criticizing colleagues’ research or his administration is intramural speech protected by academic freedom. These are matters of educational quality. He may be correct, or he may not be correct. But he certainly has a right to express his views on educational quality.” Entities that can't handle criticism love shooting the messenger -- especially when that messenger is pointing out the university's willingness to reward quantity over quality. Whatever reputational damage the school and its pay-for-play professors are suffering isn't the result of defamation or inappropriate statements from Pyne. It's a direct result of their actions and the incentives the university employs. The university says it will reward educators who publish. And those educators are hastily shoving receipts from sketchy publications into their pockets as they make cases for merit raises. The university could have responded by altering its incentive programs, and those stung by Pyne's research could have acknowledged their gaming of the system. Instead, they're doing this, which is unfortunate, but also just as unfortunately, unsurprising. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So we already knew numerous reporters, the GAO, and the New York State AG's office are already looking into who was behind the millions of bogus comments that plagued the FCC's net neutrality repeal. And we've already noted how the Ajit Pai FCC has been trying its very best to hinder those inquiries, whether we're talking about the way that it has been blocking and stalling on journalist FOIA requests, or actively ignoring numerous, previous inquiries from law enforcement. The FCC's efforts to obfuscate the culprit by refusing to share data on this subject may have just become more... complicated. Over the weekend, Daily Beast reporter Kevin Collier noted that two additional AG's offices (Massachusetts and Washington, DC) -- and the FBI -- have also started digging into those fake comments as well: "The Justice Department is investigating whether crimes were committed when potentially millions of people’s identities were posted to the FCC’s website without their permission, falsely attributing to them opinions about net neutrality rules, BuzzFeed News has learned. Two organizations told BuzzFeed News, each on condition that they not be named, that the FBI delivered subpoenas to them related to the comments." New York's AG began its investigation last year, but stated in a public letter a year ago that the FCC had actively blocked all efforts by the AG to obtain server, API, and other data that could help identify who was behind the fraudulent comments, some of them mysteriously made by dead people. The AG's office stated Pai's office ignored nine inquiries over a period of five months for more details: "We made our request for logs and other records at least 9 times over 5 months: in June, July, August, September, October (three times), and November. We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work. Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None." According to the NY AG's office, about 9.5 million of the more than 22 million comments filed with the FCC during the repeal's open comment period were filed using peoples' names without their consent (including my own and those of two Senators). Last October, the New York AG announced they had expanded their probe, issuing subpoenas to both numerous ISP-linked lobbying and policy organizations (like the industry's dubious Broadband for America policy vessel) as well as a few pro net neutrality consumer groups. Last week, numerous outlets falsely reported that "Russia" was behind these comments. There's no actual evidence of that (500,000 Russian email addresses were used, but that doesn't mean Russia itself was involved). As we've seen during the similar bogus comments plaguing other US government proceedings in recent years, the usual culprit is almost always the companies that stand to benefit from the regulatory efforts in question, since there's several DC policy shops that apparently sell these kinds of services (read: bogus support for terrible policies) as a value added service. And while it's pretty clear that the Ajit Pai FCC doesn't want anybody knowing which firm tried to stuff the ballot box and who was funding the initiative, the involvement of the DOJ and several additional AG offices means hiding the truth just got immeasurably more difficult. And depending what investigators find, that could seriously complicate next February's opening arguments in the net neutrality lawsuit against the FCC, which, if the FCC and its ISP allies lose, could end with the restoration of the FCC's 2015 rules, bringing us fill circle. If it turns out the broadband industry or some proxy organization paid a DC lobbying firm to stuff the ballot box (which has always seemed the most likely explanation given historical precedent), such a self-inflicted wound would be utterly legendary. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Last week, as the last round of "trilogue" negotiations were getting underway in the EU on the EU Copyright Directive, we noted a strange thing. While tech companies and public interest groups have been speaking out loudly against Article 13, a strange "ally" also started complaining about it: a bunch of TV, movie and sports organizations started complaining that Article 13 was a bad idea. But... for very different reasons. Their concerns were that regulators had actually finally begun to understand the ridiculousness of Article 13 and had been trying to add in some "safe harbors" into the law. Specifically, the safe harbors would make it clear that if platforms followed certain specific steps to try to stop infringing works from their platform, they would avoid liability. But, according to these organizations, safe harbors of any kind are a non-starter. Those same groups are back with a new letter that's even more unhinged and more explicit about this. The real issue is that they recently got a ruling out of a German court that basically said platforms are already liable for any infringement, and they're now afraid that Article 13 will "soften" that ruling by enabling safe harbors. In a letter of 1 December we alerted the three EU institutions that the texts under discussion would undermine current case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which already makes it clear that online content sharing service providers (OCSSPs) communicate to the public and are not eligible for the liability privilege of Article 14 E-Commerce Directive (ECD). The proposal would further muddy the waters of jurisprudence in this area in light of the pending German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) referral to the CJEU in a case involving YouTube/Google and certain rightholders, addressing this very issue. The initial goal of Article 13 was to codify the existing case-law in a way that would enable right holders to better control the exploitation of their content vis a vis certain OCSSPs which currently wrongfully claim they benefit from the liability privilege of Article 14 ECD. Unfortunately, the Value Gap provision has mutated in such a way that it now creates a new liability privilege for big platforms and therefore even further strengthens the role of OCSSPs to the direct detriment of rightholders. First of all, it is complete and utter bullshit to claim that Article 13 was "to codify existing case law." Article 13 was designed to create an entirely brand new liability regime that deliberately sought to avoid Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive (ECD). The ECD functions somewhat akin to the DMCA's safe harbors in the US, in that they include intermediary liability protections for sites that comply with takedown notices in a reasonable manner. The entire point of Article 13 in the EU Copyright Directive was to take copyright out of the E-Commerce Directive and to remove those safe harbors. To claim otherwise is laughable. It is, of course, hilarious that these companies are now pretending that just because they got a good ruling in their favor on this point, that they're suddenly freaking out that any safe harbor might exist for internet platforms, but here they're explicit about how against a safe harbor they are: Last week, we proposed a balanced and sound compromise solution consisting in guidance on the issue of OCSSP liability with reference to the existing jurisprudence of the CJEU. This solution would ensure rightholder collaboration in furtherance of the deployment of appropriate and proportionate measures as well as addressing the potential liability of uploaders where the platform has concluded a license, without the creation of any new safe harbours for big platforms. We continue to believe that this reasonable approach would have broad support, including in the rightholders community and could at the same time conciliate different views of Member States and different political groups in the European Parliament, without the need to give powerful active platforms the gift of a new liability privilege which goes beyond the stated intent of the proposed copyright reform. We also indicated that if, on the contrary, any new safe harbour/”mitigation of liability” would be part of a final trilogue agreement, we want to be excluded from the entire value gap provision. It's also hilarious that they refer to this as "the value gap provision." The "value gap" is a made up concept by some legacy copyright companies to complain that their business models aren't as all powerful as they used to be, and therefore the government must step in to force other companies to give them money. Also note the messaging here: they don't talk about what would be best for the public. Just for "the rightsholder community." Anyway, if they want to be "excluded" from Article 13 entirely, I think that's fine. The best solution here is the obvious one: the EU can drop Article 13 entirely. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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DMCA takedown abuse is nothing new. But it normally involves bogus takedown requests claiming copyright violations. TorrentFreak has uncovered a new form of abuse that involves the DMCA, but unlike normal copyright claims, doesn't allow the target to contest the claims. One of the most recent scams we’ve seen targets various popular game piracy sites, including gamestorrents.tv, fitgirl-repacks.site, freegogpcgames.com, crotorrents.com, nosteam.ro, pcgames-download.com and skidrowreloaded.com. The notices in question are seemingly sent by prominent names in the gaming industry, such as Steam and Ubisoft. However, the sudden flurry of takedown requests appears to be initiated by scammers instead. These scammers appear to be going after competitors. The entities behind this wave of bogus takedown notices are gaming Google's search engine via DMCA notices. Much like shady characters trying to vanish unflattering news and blog posts from Google's search results, these shady characters are trying to move their malicious sites higher in the rankings by targeting similar sites offering a similar selection of cracked software. But rather than go with a straight copyright claim which could be contested and result in a reinstatement, the scammers are using another part of the DMCA -- one that provides no adversarial process. [T]he notices are not regular DMCA takedowns. Instead, they are notifications that the URLs circumvent technological protection measures such as DRM, which is separately covered in the DMCA. “Google has been notified that the following URLs distribute copyright circumvention devices in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201,” Google informed the site owner. “Please find attached the notice we received. There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs. If you dispute that you are distributing circumvention devices, please reply with a further explanation.” That's the way the law works. Takedown notices claiming DRM circumvention (most pirated software involves some sort of circumvention) cannot be contested. Google is allowing replies in these cases, but what it's doing isn't mandated by law. Google, however, is obliged to comply with requests unless it feels the complaint isn't legitimate. How strongly it feels sometimes depends on the manpower available... or the attention the issue is receiving elsewhere on the web. The notices collected by TorrentFreak hardly seem legit, even with only a cursory review. They're littered with typos and make unrealistic/absurd claims, like supposedly filing on behalf of Steam even though Steam doesn't actually own or produce the game titles listed in the takedown notice. As TorrentFreak notes, thousands of URLs have already been taken down, pushing malware-loaded sites higher in search listings. Internet users seeking free games now may find they've picked up bitcoin-mining hitchhikers after visiting these scammers' sites. The good news is Google is paying more attention to these takedown requests and has reinstated some URLs targeted by these malware purveyors. But the fact that this sort of search engine gaming is still effective is further proof the DMCA enables abuse by treating the accuser as inherently credible while limiting the options of those falsely accused. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Ultimate Cisco Certification Super Bundle will help you prepare to gain certifications necessary to work with Cisco Networking Systems. The 9 courses cover interconnecting Cisco networking devices, LAN switching technologies, IPv4 and IPv6 routing technologies, WAN technologies, infrastructure services and maintenance, network security, and much more. Each course is designed to help you prepare to take various Cisco certification exams. This bundle is on sale for $49. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Have you heard that all of the opposition to the EU Copyright Directive and its hugely problematic Articles 11 and 13 is really being driven by Google lobbying? Most of you probably realized this was nonsense, but it now turns out that not only was the lobbying almost entirely dominated by the legacy copyright players, but a key plank of their lobbying campaign was to falsely allege that all opposition was just Google. If you've been paying attention at all to the crazy fights over the EU Copyright Directive, you may have heard some claims being passed around that it's somehow "Google" lobbying heavily against the bill. Indeed, all over Twitter, that's the talking point from tons of EU Copyright Directive supporters. After the EU Parliament put the breaks on the bill back in July, I even saw a former RIAA exec (who has since blocked me on Twitter, so I can't show it to you) tweet that this was a clear perversion of the "will of the people" by Google's corporate lobbying. Of course, it's hilarious for that to come from an ex-RIAA exec, who was heavily involved over the past 3 decades in pushing through all sorts of protectionist, anti-public, anti-musician legislation and trade agreements. But... it's a talking point. And it's one that lots of people have jumped on. Digital Music News, who is always quick to restate the recording industry's talking points, claimed that Google spent more than $36 million lobbying over Article 13. Billboard Magazine published a similar claim. Various music industry groups, in what appeared to be closely coordinated messaging, all started blaming Google and "the tech giants" for any opposition to the EU Copyright Directive -- which, mind you, would change the fundamental ways in which the internet works. Yet, in their minds, all of the opposition came from the internet giants. Here's Geoff Taylor from BPI: The US tech lobby has been using its enormous reach and resources to try to whip up an alarmist campaign... And here's Richard Ashcroft from PRS for Music: the Internet giants... have whipped up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage. And how about UK Music's Michael Dugher who really wants to blame Google for everything: Some absolute rubbish has been written about the EU’s proposed changes on copyright rules. Amongst the ludicrous suggestions from the likes of Google is the claim that the shake-up will mean the end of memes, remixes and other user-generated content. Some have said that it will mean ‘censorship’ and even wildly predicted it will result in the ‘death of the internet’. This is desperate and dishonest. Whilst some of the myths are repeated by people who remain blissfully untroubled by the technical but crucially important details of the proposed EU changes, in the worst cases this propaganda is being cynically pedalled by big tech like Google’s YouTube with a huge vested and multi-million-pound interest in this battle. MEP Axel Voss, who was the EU Parliament Member who lead the charge on the Copyright Directive, and who has long been seen as being in the pocket of the copyright interests, even put out a press release recently blaming the tech giants and their lobbying: After the vote, rapporteur Axel Voss (EPP, DE) said, “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.” There's been a lot more like that. On Twitter, whenever I talk about Article 13, the same crew that has been falsely attacking my views for years immediately start attacking me, claiming that it's all Google lobbying against Article 13. So... about that. The wonderful site Corporate Europe Observatory, has a very thorough and very in-depth write-up about just who is lobbying on the EU Copyright Directive. And, quite incredibly, it's almost entirely dominated by all of those legacy copyright industries: Since November 2014 there were 765 declared encounters between lobbyists and the Commission with “copyright” as a subject 1 Over 93% of these were with corporate interests, but the list of main actors might be quite surprising: the lobbyists with the highest access were in fact not big tech, but the collecting societies, creative industries (including big film and music studios) and press publishers. The most frequently listed names are: IFPI - Representing recording industry worldwide (37 meetings) whose members include Sony Music and Warner Music, followed by the Federation of European Publishers (27) which represents national associations of book publishers, and GESAC - the European lobby for collecting societies (25), whose members include big EU collecting societies such as PRS for Music, the US giant recording label Universal Music Group International (22), and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (22), which represents national collecting societies. Of the top 20 lobbyists by meetings, only two represented tech interests – Google, ranking number seven, and one of the trade associations it belongs to, DIGITALEUROPE, ranking 18th – while one sole NGO, the independent consumer organisation BEUC, ranked 12th. The real story is even worse than that. Because I have abundant free time, I went through the file that Corporate Europe Observatory linked to detailing these lobbying meetings, and I went through all 205 entities and added up how many lobbying meetings were held by legacy entertainment interests, tech interests or public interests. Here's the breakdown: While Corporate Europe Observatory lists 765 meetings, their spreadsheet actually shows 784. Also, there were a few organizations/lobbyists/lawyers where it was not exactly clear who they were lobbying for or on what side of the debate. To be as fair as possible, I simply included all of the ones I was unsure of into the "lobbying for tech" list. So, uh, for all the talk that Google was the one lobbying here, over 80% of the lobbying efforts came from the legacy copyright industries. That's pretty stunning. Of course, it's also disappointing to see that only 6% of the lobbying came from civil society groups. As CEO notes: The voices of civil society organisations, small platforms, libraries, academics, citizens and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression were the collateral damage of the dispute between competing big business lobbies. Lobbyists and groups with a vested interest dominated the debate, while citizens’ opinions and interests were crowded out of the discussion. Very depressing. For what it's worth, I included the "small platform" lobbying efforts in the "tech" list above (again, to be as careful as possible), but many of them view this issue even more strongly than Google, and are more focused on the public interest arguments. Anyway, that chart is just for lobbying the EU Commission. CEO looks at some other available data for lobbying the EU Parliament as well (tragically, not that much info is public), but based on what is public it comes to the same conclusion: Overall, the limited information which is available about lobby meetings shows the intense level of lobbying taking place on the Copyright Directive, but it also interestingly exposes that the biggest lobbies were not in fact big tech companies and their associates, as many headlines claimed, but the publishers, creative industries and collecting societies. Incredibly, the narrative that all the lobbying is coming from Google has caused EU regulators to flat out discount complaints from people warning about problems with the proposal, while treating petitions supporting the Directive very differently. For example, the CEO report notes that organizations supporting both sides of the Copyright Directive set up "email your MEP campaigns," but the reaction to them was... let's just say, uneven. Email your MEP campaigns are a common tool used by civil society organisations who mobilise their communities and supporters to exercise their democratic rights to engage with their elected representatives. Identity verification standards vary according to the tool used, but in this case, it seems that the campaign did not require email verification. That means that technically speaking, people could lie and change their identity in those emails. De Cock explained that when they started the campaign they did not expect that so many people would participate, and so they themselves were surprised by the strength and impact of the campaign. But even then, can it really be labelled a denial of service attack? Such attacks are generally quite hostile, and aim to shut a website down completely. This is a remarkably different objective from that of an Email Your MEP campaign, which aims to ensure that MEPs are aware that there is popular support for certain causes and issues. Astoundingly, ALDE MEP Jean Marie Cavada even said in an interview: “After having analyzed the platform from which all emails come, I realized that it does not require a valid email address from the “users” to send emails. Thus, as sometimes we receive dozens of emails per minute, we can conceive that it is actually robots that send all these emails, which luckily makes this movement lose credibility.” Many MEPs simply wrote back to the senders to confirm their identity. De Cock, for instance, was then forwarded several of these exchanges between MEPs and their constituents. It seems Mr Cavada did not write back to the people who had contacted him. It is worth noting that PRS for Music also created a tool to email MEPs in advance of the vote, with the call to action: “PRS Member – Take 90 seconds to influence the vote”. This tool did not even include a return address, and yet there were no claims that these emails were sent by bots. It is interesting that C4C seem to have been criticised simply because of the volume of emails, which arguably simply indicates the level of concern from constituents on the issue. However, both the C4C and PRS can be criticised for the loose use of internet tools to email MEPs. In other words, because so many more people used the tools to say that they were against Articles 11 and 13, at least some MEPs derided them as fake, while saying nothing about the many fewer people emailing in favor of those articles. Hmm. Oh, and what about that claim of $36 million spent lobbying by Google all against Article 13. Turns out that that number is also bullshit (and Billboard should really issue a retraction). That same week, immediately before the JURI committee vote, the UK Music Industry body published a press release stating that “figures show Google’s €31m EU lobbying bid” on copyright. UK Music simply took the entire lobby budget declared by Google in 2017, €6 million, and added to that the budgets of all the organisations and think tanks it is a member of, declaring that the “The combined value of Google’s indirect lobbying of the EU amounts to €25.5m”. This is a highly problematic and flawed interpretation of the Transparency Register. Google’s entire self-declared lobby budget does make it one of the EU’s highest spending lobby groups. However, only a portion of the declared €6 million would likely be spent on copyright, especially as Google is also fighting several other significant lobby battles in the EU (for example on the anti-trust law cases being brought against Android, digital tax, terrorist content, fake news etc). According to available meeting data, it looks like most of Google's lobby meetings were in fact on issues from the Copyright Directive, so it appears that this is not their priority at the moment. The €31 million figure also assumes that all the associations and think tanks of which Google is a member focused their entire declared EU lobby spending on copyright in 2017. That would include, for example, BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ lobby, which are not necessarily active on the Copyright Directive, and if they are would only spend a marginal part of their budget on this issue. In most cases these groups (such as Friends of Europe, Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, Bruegel etc) did little or nothing at all on the Copyright Directive, so these amounts should clearly not be included in the calculations. Incredibly, CEO reports that much of the lobbying effort... was focused on blaming Google for too much lobbying. No, really. In the copyright discussion, claims that GAFA, and particularly Google, were behind all opposition to Article 11 and 13 were again a strong message from publishers, and harder to counter. For instance, in the lobby newspaper produced by the news agencies, both the text from AFP’s editor Katz, and the ‘editorial’, mention what they call deceptive lobbying. Katz wrote that the “reform has been fiercely opposed by Facebook and Google, who have campaigned on a complete fabrication: a supposed threat to people’s free access to the internet”. He even declared that “I am convinced that the members of parliament who have been misled by deceptive lobbying now understand that non-paying access to the internet is not at risk.” So, let's be clear: there are lots of corporate interests at play here, and tragically, the voice of the public is getting drowned out. But if anyone claims that any of this process has been driven by the big tech firms, they are flat out lying. Don't let them get away with it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
So for years we've been pointing out that Verizon's attempt to pivot from grumpy old telco to sexy new Millennial ad brand hasn't been going so well. Oddly, mashing together two failing 90s brands in AOL and Yahoo, and renaming the coagulated entity "Oath," didn't really impress many people. The massive Yahoo hack, a controversy surrounding Verizon snoopvertising, and the face plant by the company's well-hyped Go90 streaming service didn't really help. This week, Verizon was forced to acknowledge that Oath was now effectively worthless, at least in full context of what Verizon paid for it, and the company's past claims that the company would be taking on Facebook and Google in the online advertising wars for a generation to come was over: "Verizon announced Tuesday that it would take a $4.6 billion writedown on its the media unit, which includes Yahoo and AOL. Oath's brand value is now worth just $200 million, according to Verizon. That's a stunning decrease in value since it formed in 2017. Verizon said Oath's brand was worth $4.8 billion when it last accounted for the company's goodwill valuation. With virtually no goodwill brand value, Oath's overall value (assets and goodwill) is now worth half of what it was a few years ago. While some folks reacted with "shock" on Twitter, none of this should really have been a surprise to anybody who has watched Verizon do business over the last decade or two. Pretty much every time Verizon wanders outside of its core competencies (operating admittedly excellent networks, lobbying to hamstring competition, being misleading about net neutrality), Verizon falls flat on its face. Whether it's the company's failed Go90 platform, failed video joint venture with RedBox, failed news website Sugarstring (which you may recall tried to ban reporters from talking about surveillance or net neutrality), its app store, its "me too" VCAST apps, or any of a dozen other countless efforts to expand into less familiar territory, Verizon failed. Usually semi-spectacularly. This happens because having spent the better part of a generation engaged in turf protection and lobbying, telcos really can't innovate. We've known this for more than a decade, yet somehow, each time Verizon announces some new pivot, we forget. Telecom executives tend to think they can overcome this character flaw via megamerger, which usually just saddles the company with oodles of additional debt, but doesn't really address any of the sector's core shortcomings, built on the back of being largely government-pampered natural monopolies for the better part of a generation. A big part of Verizon's attempted pivot to Millennial video ads was courtesy of former CEO Lowell McAdam, who left the company last summer. His predecessor, Ivan Seidenberg, believed that Verizon should remain focused on what it does best (sometimes): building better, faster networks. Seidenberg was a big reason for the company's $24 billion push into pure fiber with "FiOS." McAdam came in, froze most of those deployments, then tried to turn a legacy telco into Google. It didn't work, and anybody who is surprised by that hasn't watched Verizon do business. All of that said, a company SEC filing effectively blamed McAdam and his team for the failure. As of this writing, that appears to have been enough to satisfy the company's investors, who are clearly eager to ride the hype waves emanating from Verizon's next big unfulfilled promise. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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