posted about 2 hours ago on techdirt
Ever since Snowden first leaked the documents he took from the NSA, there's been a (somewhat ridiculous) debate over whether or not he was a "whistleblower" or "a traitor" (or potentially somewhere in between). However, it seems like many fall into one of those somewhat polar opposite positions. To many of us, it's been quite clear that he's a whistleblower. However, to folks like former NSA and CIA boss Michael Hayden, the view has been somewhat different. After all, Hayden has directly called Snowden a traitor, claimed that he was worse than a variety of spies (including the Rosenbergs, Klaus Fuchs, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen), and publicly fantasized about killing Snowden. So it seems at least somewhat noteworthy that, in a moment of what appears to be accidental honesty, Hayden admitted that Snowden was really a whistleblower (spotted by Snowden legal advisor Jesselyn Radack). The video above should start at about 21 minutes and 50 seconds. It's of a panel at the Aspen Security conference, and Hayden clearly states: "When Snowden blew the whistle on the 215 program... that's the metadata stuff, the phone bills up at Ft. Meade...." Of course, he goes on to insist that the program was clearly perfectly legal based on all of the supposed "oversight." He conveniently leaves out the fact that many of the details of the program were not actually known by those who did the approving. For example, he leaves out that the FISA Court's approvals did not involve a full judicial analysis of the program until after the Snowden revelations (7 years after the program started), and that the original approval was based on a twisted interpretation of an approval of a very different program. He leaves out that the approval in Congress was done with most of Congress not being told how broad the program was and that it captured phone records on just about every phone call. He leaves out that the evidence of abuse of the program or the lack of a working audit system to prevent abuse weren't widely known. But, still, he does appear to be admitting that Snowden was, in fact, a whistleblower. Even if it's something of a Freudian slip, it's still telling. Furthermore, at the end of his statement, he does further admit that even those approvals across the branches of government is viewed by many in the public as "consent of the governors, not consent of the governed" and seems to at least acknowledge that this is a legitimate concern. I doubt we'll see Hayden coming around to the views of many of us concerning the gross abuses by the intelligence community (many of which happened under his watch), but these do seems like baby steps in the right direction.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 4 hours ago on techdirt
Upload a document to Scribd, go to prison for at least four years. Ridiculous and more than a bit frightening, but in a case that has some obvious parallels with Aaron Swartz's prosecution, that's the reality Colombian student Diego Gomez is facing. In the course of his research, he came across a paper integral to his research. In order to ensure others could follow his line of thinking, Gomez uploaded this document for others to view. According to Gomez, this was a common citation practice among Colombian students. The important thing is to make a correct citation, attributing researchers’ work by indicating their name and year of publication and, of course, not claiming the work of another researcher, but to recognize it and value it. Therefore, what we usually do is to reference the findings and make them available to those who need them. The paper's author obviously disagreed and sued Gomez. But unlike civil lawsuits in the US, copyright-related lawsuits in Columbia carry with them the threat of imprisonment. Under the allegations of this lawsuit, Gomez could be sent to prison for up to eight years and face crippling monetary fines. To be clear, Gomez did not try to profit from the paper. He also wasn't acting as some sort of indiscriminate distributor of infringing works. But under Colombian law, none of that matters. But to really see who's to blame here for this ridiculous level of rights enforcement, you have to look past the local laws, past the paper's author and directly at the US government. [Gomez] is being sued under a criminal law that was reformed in 2006, following the conclusion of a free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. The new law was meant to fulfill the trade agreement's restrictive copyright standards, and it expanded criminal penalties for copyright infringement, increasing possible prison sentences and monetary fines. More details on the awfulness of Colombia's law (spurred on by US special interests) are available in the EFF's earlier coverage. Colombia gave the US copyright industry everything it wanted in order to secure this free trade agreement… and then it just kept going. Colombia passed a criminal reform bill in 2006 that enacted many of these provisions, but Bill 201 goes even further. Under it, copyright infringers could face harsh criminal penalties, whether or not the individual is aware of committing infringement. It sets up severe penalty provisions including a minimum prison sentence of four years and significant monetary fines. This 2012 bill compounded problems existent in the 2006 free-trade agreement. Like previous US FTAs, it misleadingly defines “commercial scale” to include non-commercially motivated infringement, forcing US trading partners to adopt the US legal standard. This bill was hastily passed as a welcoming gift for President Obama, shoved through the legislative process in order to get out ahead of the administration's appearance at a Colombia-hosted conference. This deference to the US government could cost Gomez at least four years of his life. While Colombia seemed very eager to take the worst parts of US copyright law (and make them even more terrible), it was less inclined to take any of the good. Colombia does not have flexible fair use system like in the United States. It has a closed list of exceptions and limitations to the rights of authors (derecho de autor). This list was issued more than 20 years ago and are narrowly tailored to some specific situations that are not at all applicable to the digital age. Therefore none of these will apply directly to his case even if it was done for educational purposes. The only silver lining here is that the court still needs to consider two aspects before making its decision: mens rea and whether there was any actual economic harm to the author. On the first factor, it seems pretty clear Gomez didn't upload the document to purposefully "rob" the author of his earnings. On the latter, Gomez never made a cent from his infringing upload and actually took it down when he discovered Scribd was planning to charge unregistered users to download papers. Beneath all of this lies the ugly reality of the academic research market. Just as in the US, plenty of useful information is locked up and inaccessible to anyone unable to afford the frequently exorbitant fees charged by various gatekeepers. Copyright's original intent -- "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts" -- isn't served by this behavior. Instead, it's deployed to further separate a large percentage of the population from knowledge. And in Colombia, it's being used to imprison someone actively "promoting the progress of science." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 6 hours ago on techdirt
Oh, Verizon. The company is ramping up its mobile data throttling on its LTE network. Basically, if you're a heavy user, your packets get "de-prioritized" (i.e., throttled). However, Verizon insists it's, like, totally, totally different. Is this the same as throttling?No, this is not throttling. How is this different than throttling?The difference between our Network Optimization practices and throttling is network intelligence.  With throttling, your wireless data speed is reduced for your entire cycle, 100% of the time, no matter where you are. Network Optimization is based on the theory that all customers should have the best network possible, and if you’re not causing congestion for others, even if you are using a high amount of data, your connection speed should be as good as possible. So, if you’re in the top 5% of data users, your speed is reduced only when you are connected to a cell site experiencing high demand. Once you are no longer connected to a site experiencing high demand, your speed will return to normal. This could mean a matter of seconds or hours, depending on your location and time of day. In other words... it's throttling. It may be temporary, and it may only impact top users, but it's still throttling. No matter what they say. As Broadband Reports notes, this bit of Orwellian speak probably doesn't work in reverse: One wonders how Verizon would feel if customers stopped paying them, insisting they were simply "dynamically and intelligently altering payment transit." Of course, if the FCC actually lived up to its transparency demands, perhaps it would ding Verizon for this. What are the chances of that happening?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 8 hours ago on techdirt
As we continue to wait for the White House to finally release the heavily redacted version of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report (the full report is over 6,300 pages and cost $40 million to produce), it appears that those who are likely to take the blame are already preparing their response. As has already leaked out over the past few months, the report will show how the program went further than people expected, that it basically uncovered no terrorist plots and that the CIA regularly lied to Congress about the nature of the program and its impact. The CIA, led by current boss John Brennan, has hit back against these conclusions, but it appears that those who were actually in power during the torture program are even more worried. Former CIA boss George Tenet, who was already considered something of a disgrace for the CIA's intelligence failures prior to invading Iraq, is apparently working hard behind the scenes to coordinate an attack on the credibility of the report -- because it pretty clearly is going to attack his credibility. Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history. The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet. Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. Apparently Tenet and others demanded early access to the report, and eventually Dianne Feinstein, the White House and those former CIA officials negotiated a deal letting them read the report over in James Clapper's offices. The NY Times report also details how Brennan is basically a Tenet lackey whose rise through the ranks occurred under Tenet -- making it more likely that Brennan wants to protect the reputation of his former boss. We'll see how this eventual "response" comes out, but given the initial leaks from the report, it sounds like it's going to be fairly devastating, and make a further mockery of Tenet. As the report linked above also notes, back in 2007 Tenet got angry at a 60 Minutes interviewer and started wagging his finger at the correspondent, while insisting "We don't torture people!" Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.” “No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.” It's pretty easy to say that when no one can fact-check you. But it appears that the report is going to point out that almost none of what Tenet said was true. No wonder he's so concerned about leading the attack on the report.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 23 hours ago on techdirt
This week, Verizon got rather snarky about its dispute with Level 3 over traffic congestion and slow Netflix speeds — and in doing so, essentially admitted that the problem was its fault. Both of our top-voted comments for Insightful this week come in response to that post, and first up is Scote with an apt analogy: This is like a company demanding UPS shove all the packages it ordered for it's company headquarters be delivered through a 6" mail slot and then blaming UPS for the congestion. It's Verizon's customers who ordered the data, data Verizon promised to deliver them at high speed. Netflix sends it straight to Verizon at locations near where the data was requested, all paid by Neflix and delivered via via Level 3, and instead of saying "thanks for getting that to us" Verizon is saying "how dare you! You should pay us!" This is just all sorts of effed up. In second place we've got Noah Callaway with a noteworthy observation: It is telling that the Level3 blog post has 192 comments, and Verizon's blog doesn't allow for comments. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with the story about a musician attempting to sue for defamation over reports on his history of poor crowdfunding efforts. One anonymous commenter noticed a problem with his threats: "ive been building a case with my lawyer for 3 years now." Sounds like a bluff. The statute of limitations for defamation in California is one year. CCP 340(c). Next we've got another anonymous commenter who had the intriguing idea to co-opt the language of copyright maximalists to fight back against government surveillance: Since everyone is misusing the word "theft" and "steal", tell the government to stop stealing my metadata. On that note, we head over to the funny side. This week we saw a ridiculous proposal to nationalize big internet companies to prevent abuse, which would itself have been pretty funny if it had been a joke. Dale won first place for funny by quickly laying the idea to waste: Well - if 'nationalizing' is the cure for 'abuse behaviour'... ..then let's 'nationalize' the NSA! Oh, wait.... Of course, this week has some competition for "stupidest idea", since it's also the week federal prosecutor Sally Quillian Yates made the claim that "Copyright infringement discourages smart people from doing innovative things". Michael took second place for funny with his simple response to that assertion: Well Yates, you have certainly dodged a bullet then. For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more response to Yates' comments, this time from the devil himself: As a smart person, I'm often called upon to do innovative things. One of my highest achievements was to convince otherwise intelligent people that nebulous ideas could be stuffed into a bag and stolen like so many doughnuts. - Lucifer And finally, we've got an anonymous response to the highly-questionable claim that Comcast is the "number 1 rated" broadband provider: Just like how chlamydia is the number 1 rated STD! That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Time for another look back through Techdirt history. Five Years Ago... This week in 2009, we launched the original Techdirt CwF+RtB offering. It was a set of tiered rewards inspired by the creative experiments we saw so many musicians and other artists trying, and in time it would grow into the Insider Shop of today. Remember when the Associated Press hatched an ill-fated scheme to DRM the news? Yup, it was only five years ago, even though — as we pointed out the same week — newspapers haven't truly charged for news in 180 years, and their true fear (that Google was raking in cash off the backs of their content) wasn't exactly true. Conversely, the world was starting to realize that YouTube wasn't the profit-sink many people believed it to be. Of course, not all media companies had figured out how to use it, with Disney using copyright to pull a trailer for its own movie from YouTube in a moment of critically forgetting the point of advertising. And while Disney was shooting its own foot, a growing number of artists were complaining that their labels were shooting their feet for them by taking down all their music videos. Examples like these made it doubly absurd when the director of the Australasian Performing Right Association tried to claim that "without the content industries, the internet would be empty". Ten Years Ago... This week in 2004 was a time of dangerous tech legislation being pushed at every opportunity (not that we ever get much respite from such attempts). On one hand, congress was racing its way through anti-spyrware legislation with little thought given to the true consequences. On the other hand, it was also grappling with the INDUCE Act to outlaw P2P systems, which Sen. Orrin Hatch essentially admitted was wrong, but supported anyway. AT&T Wireless launched 3G service (under slightly odd circumstances), while pressure from attorneys general convinced all the wireless players to start revealing their coverage maps. Verizon, for its part, was also heavily focused on fiber — and making some claims that raised skeptical eyebrows. But, perhaps the most plain and drastic change: this week in 2004 we reported on the massive growth of the internet in China, where the number of users had just hit 87-million people. Today that number is 632-million. Fifteen Years Ago... Anyone remember the online grocery delivery service Webvan? This week in 1999 it was valued at $4-billion (within only two years, it would be bankrupt and go down as one of the largest dot-com flops in history). And what about online retailer CDNow? This week they sued Lycos over an advertising spat. This was also the week that Apple launched the very first iBook (the candy-colored clamshell one). On the far opposite end of the scale, Compaq shocked people by selling computers at the low price of $299. Microsoft decided to enter the instant messaging game in 1999. The hook for their offering was that it could inter-communicate with AOL Messenger users — a feature that AOL wasted no time in blocking. 226 Years Ago... This week, it's a milestone in music history: on July 25, 1788, Mozart completed his Symphony No. 40 in G minor. Of course, since it's now long out of copyright, it's lost all value and has been almost completely forgotten, left to dwindle in the public domain where proper money-making works go to die. After all, you've never ever heard this song, have you? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 2 days ago on techdirt
Please support our net neutrality reporting today » We're in the final days of our big crowd funding campaign for our net neutrality reporting. We're about 65% of the way there as I type this, which is amazing... but not yet enough to get us over the hurdle to actually get the funding -- or the matching funds from our matching donors, Namecheap and Twitch (and we may have another one to announce soon...). I know that we live in an age where everyone's asking for money, and you have an infinite number of places where you can spend that money. Hell, every week, in this very spot, we put up three or four interesting and compelling crowdfunding campaigns that I know many of you end up supporting. But, hopefully you also recognize just how important all of this net neutrality business really is to the future of the internet you love. And you also realize how complex this topic is -- partly on purpose by the very broadband providers and bureaucrats who are trying to confuse everyone to get what they want. To really fight back, we need to be out there digging for the truth, looking at what people are saying and what it really means -- so that we can report back to you and everyone else, so that we're informed and can really take part in this process. And we can't do that without your help. As I mentioned in the past, our reporting on SOPA was toxic to many advertisers. On the advertising side of things, the blog went from profitable to unprofitable as a result of the SOPA fight -- even as our traffic doubled. Our revenue from advertising was cut by more than 50%. And the net neutrality fight is the same way for many as well. I'm not complaining about it, because we knew that was a risk of standing up for what we believe in, and we wouldn't change a thing. But, because of that I need to ask directly for your help today. If we can reach this goal, it will allow us to do a variety of things, including bringing in some additional writers and guests, spending more time digging through various FCC filings and other paperwork for important details (rather than spending time trying to find advertisers). It will hopefully give us the time to conduct interviews with a variety of key players in the fight, including bringing them to the blog to answer you r questions. By digging in, we can bring you details about how lobbyists are funneling money to minority groups to get them to speak out against their own best interests. We can discuss how the broadband players claim to be so against Title II, but beg to be classified under Title II when it gives them tax breaks and subsidies. We have a lot more of those kinds of reports we've wanted to do. In the last week, I, personally, have dug out over a dozen very questionable filings to the FCC from individuals parroting telco talking points in a curious way. And I've reached out to a few of those writers to find out who they are and why they're saying what they're saying. There's an interesting story there, but I simply haven't had the time to work on it. If we can reach our goal, it'll free us up to do a lot more, and to dig a lot deeper. But we need your help. In the sixteen years of doing Techdirt, we've offered you a few ways that you can support us, but we've never made a strong push or given a deadline. This time, I'm asking you to support our campaign, to tell your friends and family, and to share with them just how important true independent reporting on the net neutrality fight is going to be to the future of the internet. Or, you know, you can give your money to the dude doing a potato salad Kickstarter campaign. But, in the future, which one do you think is going to be more important? Please support our net neutrality reporting today » Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
Senator Ron Wyden is apparently getting tired of waiting for the White House to use up its buckets of black ink in redacting everything important in the Senate's big torture report. He's publicly pondering the idea of using Senate privilege to just release it himself. As you may recall, the Senate Intelligence Committee spent years and $40 million investigating the CIA's torture program, and the 6,000+ page report is supposedly devastating in highlighting (1) how useless the program was and (2) how far the CIA went in torturing people (for absolutely no benefit) and (3) how the CIA lied to Congress about all of this. The CIA, not surprisingly, is not too happy about the report. At all. Still, despite its protests, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary of the report. However, the CIA got to take first crack at figuring out what to redact, which seemed like a massive conflict of interest. Either way, the CIA apparently finally ran out of black ink in late June, and asked the White House to black out whatever else was left. The State Department has already expressed concerns that releasing anything will just anger the public (our response: probably should have thought of that before sending the CIA to torture people). And, now it appears the report is being held up due to "security" concerns. At least some are getting anxious about this. Senator Wyden has apparently deliberately mentioned Senate Resolution 400 to two separate reporters recently. The key part of Resolution 400 is as follows: The Select Committee may, subject to the provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such disclosure. Whenever committee action is required to disclose any information under this section, the committee shall meet to vote on the matter within five days after any member of the committee requests such a vote. No member of the Select Committee shall disclose any information, the disclosure of which requires a committee vote, prior to a vote by the committee on the question of the disclosure of such information or after such vote except in accordance with this section Now, this still means he'd need to get the rest of the Committee to go along with the plan, which could be difficult. But, really, it seems that this move is just an effort to remind the White House that if it keeps dragging its feet, the Intelligence Committee (the majority of whom have already supported releasing this document) can take matters into its own hands.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
We had mentioned in passing that wacky Aereo-wannabe FilmOn, run by the eccentric and frequently ridiculous Alki David had declared itself a "cable service" following the Supreme Court's Aereo ruling -- though we pointed out that anything that FilmOn or Alki David says should be taken with a very large dose of salt. Unlike Aereo, who is trying to follow all of the procedures to make sure that it can be classified as a cable service to pay retransmission fees under Section 111, FilmOn just announced that it was a cable service and kept on streaming. And, not surprisingly, one of the courts that had already ruled against FilmOn has found the company in contempt. It probably did not help that the case was before the very same judge who ruled that ivi couldn't qualify as a cable company. The judge here... is not happy. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald totally dismisses the idea that the Supreme Court's ruling in Aereo (where it says Aereo is a cable company) actually means that any internet company qualifies for Section 111 compulsory retransmission rates. Basically, we're back to the quantum CATV where it's a cable system for some parts of the law, but not for others. FilmOn’s second argument is also unavailing because it hinges on a mischaracterization of the holding in Aereo. Defendant is correct that, throughout the Aereo opinion, the Court likened Aereo to a cable company.... But defendant attaches far too much importance to the Court’s analogizing. A series of statements that Aereo (and, by extension, FilmOn, ...) is very similar to a cable system is not the same as a judicial finding that Aereo and its technological peers are, in fact, cable companies entitled to retransmission licenses under § 111 of the Copyright Act. Defendant may argue that the Supreme Court’s language in Aereo implies that FilmOn may be entitled to a license under § 111, but an implication is not a holding. Once again, it seems that David's brazen and brash responses to legal setbacks are leading to bad law. It's been suggested more than a few times that David's real role here is to be the buffoonish version of Aereo, basically underminding Aereo's much more sound legal reasoning and arguments at every turn, and that may be true again here. The court slams FilmOn for basically lying to the court in claiming that it didn't mean to stream its content into NY where the injunction from this court blocked it. However, the court points to FilmOn's own press release... which "boasts that defendant's mini-antenna technology continued to make available to FilmOn subscribers across the country the local broadcasts of eighteen major American cities, including New York." The court, at the very least, points out that Aereo seems to understand how this process works, and has temporarily shut down its operations, but FilmOn just kept streaming. Furthermore, the court points out that, as Aereo is attempting to do, to make use of Section 111, you need to first get a license from the Copyright Office. FilmOn does not have, and has never had, a license from the Copyright Office. Indeed, defendant admits that it did not even apply for a cable license until July 10, 2014, after plaintiff submitted this order to show cause -- a fact that undermines any claim by defendant that it was truly committed to complying with the letter of the law.... Fundamentally, FilmOn cannot choose to ignore the Injunction merely because it anticipated someday being able to retransmit plaintiffs’ content legally. The court then goes on to point out that the Copyright Office itself has said it doesn't think the Supreme Court's ruling has any impact on the ivi ruling and rejected FilmOn's (and Aereo's) request to be granted a license. Not only is hope no defense to the violation of an injunction, but defendant’s faith that the Copyright Office would grant it a cable license was misplaced. On July 23, 2014, the Copyright Office, citing ivi, expressed its view that FilmOn, as an internet retransmission service, “falls outside the scope of the Section 111 license,” and that the Office did not “see anything in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in [Aereo] that would alter this conclusion.” ... Thus, not only was FilmOn’s expectation of a license irrelevant, but it was erroneous as well. Moreover, even if the Copyright Office had granted a license to FilmOn, this development would not have excused defendant’s decision to preemptively stream content in violation of the Injunction. The Copyright Office’s decision does, however, provide additional support for our conclusion that FilmOn’s use of the mini-antenna technology clearly falls within the ambit of the Injunction, and defendant should be held in contempt for willfully violating its terms. The judge also calls out David himself for contempt, and in the end orders FilmOn to pay $10,000 per day for nine days. It calculated the nine days from the day Aereo shut down its service until FilmOn also shut down it's offering. Thus a total of $90,000, but it also says the networks can get attorneys' fees as well, so that could add up. There are legitimate legal questions about whether or not the ivi ruling is still valid, and whether or not an internet streaming company can qualify for Section 111 retransmission rates. But the last company that should be in court defending that position is FilmOn.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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At some point, it might become useful for Facebook to release some data on exactly how many dumb criminals have been brought to justice via some aspect of the social media giant. For reasons I can't fathom, it seems like we see this all the time. Criminals share the police station's status update implicating themselves. Fraternities vomit their crimes all over their Facebook pages. Fugitives from the law occasionally post pictures from their vacations, alerting police to their exact whereabouts. It's a brave and utterly stupid new world out there for criminals and they're just not handling it well. The latest example is Danielle Saxton, who thought it was a good idea to steal a distinctive leopard-print dress (very tasteful) from a clothing boutique and then post pictures of herself wearing the stolen property to Facebook mere hours later. Police say 27-year-old Danielle Saxton stole from a downtown boutique last week. Then, she posted pictures of herself wearing the merchandise. Investigators say Saxton shared the pics just a few hours after the theft. The images quickly spread on Facebook, and led officers straight to her. Police say the pictures are evidence of shoplifting committed by Saxton. The theft happened at Mortie's Boutique in West Frankfort, where multiple items disappeared last Friday. It takes a special brand of hubris to put stolen property on display in this manner. Why not just steal the Hope Diamond and dangle it from your ear like the world's most obnoxious earing? The shop's owner, Kert Williams, had security cameras on the premises and posted about the theft on the shop's own social media page. The enterprising, facebook-ing public did a Perry Mason and alerted the authorities, who picked Saxton up for theft. An arrest she feels is grossly unjust, mind you, with some rather impressive reasoning. “Her excuse was there was nobody in here. We were in the back working, and that she could just take it. You know, not really much of an excuse there,” Williams told News 3. Well, no, it isn't much of an excuse, but we're not dealing with Carl Sagan here, if you take my meaning. Enjoy those court dates, Danielle. Try not to wear any stolen merchandise to the courthouse, mmkay? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
Americans drink billions of gallons of bottled water each year. Despite a significant fraction of bottled water being simply re-packaged tap water, consumers still buy water is relatively expensive bottles when potable water in generally available for free (or at subsidized prices). Studies have shown that, in blind taste tests, people can't really tell the difference between tap and bottled water. (Wine drinkers have also failed similar kinds of taste tests over inexpensive versus expensive wines.) So here are just a few links on the curious phenomenon of drinking bottled water when equally healthy tap water is widely available. A water sommelier is a serious profession in the $12+ billion bottled water industry. Drinking water might not seem like a luxury item now... (let's hope free sources of potable water continue to exist). [url] The water in various beverages can be traced back to its geographical origin by the isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen. Bottled water, beer and soft drinks can be analyzed, and the purchase locations of these drinks can be roughly determined. [url] The price of bottled water is not highly correlated to the cost of the water or the materials used in making the bottle. Processing/Distribution and marketing are significant components of the price of bottled water, but ultimately, bottled water prices are set by what consumers are willing to spend on a refreshing bottle of H2O. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Dr. Edward Tobinick was the subject of an LA Times article in 2013 -- I'd link to it, but it appears to have disappeared, though I don't know why -- which highlighted his (apparently now discontinued) practice of prescribing a particular drug, Enbrel, for Alzheimer's patients. Enbrel is approved for the treatment of arthritis. Steven Novella, a physician at Yale and who maintains the ScienceBasedMedicine blog which (you guessed it) focuses on playing up science-based medicine while criticizing more quackery-based medicine, wrote a critical blog post about Tobinick's practice. Novella carefully lays out his arguments as to why Tobinick appears to be engaged in what he believes is quackery. It's actually fairly even-handed, laying out various possibilities, and noting that there is some gray area for off-label uses of the drug. But then he points out that Tobinick appears to be making claims way beyond what any evidence supports: The claims of Tobinick, however, are not in the gray area—they are leaps and bounds ahead of the evidence. Further, the conditions he claims to treat are not clearly immune-mediated diseases. It’s one thing to use an immune-suppressing drug to treat a disease that is known to be caused by immune activity, and probably the kind of immune activity suppressed by the drug. Tobinick, however, is claiming that a wide range of neurological conditions not known to be immune mediated are treated by a specific immunosuppressant. On his website he cites many studies, but none of them establish the effectiveness of Enbrel for any of the conditions he is treating. Most of them are simply identifying that TNF is increased in the condition. This is very weak evidence, however, as markers of immune activity are frequently increased in diseases that are not caused by immune activity. The immune system is very reactive—it reacts to disease with inflammation (often what we refer to as the cleanup crew). The inflammation is not causing the disease, it is simply the body’s reaction to it. Tobinick was apparently upset about this and asked Novella to take down the blog post. Novella, quite reasonably, refused. Thirteen months later, Tobinick sued Novella and Yale University. Over what, you might ask? Well, there's clearly no defamation claim here, so Tobinick claims that Novella's blog post is an advertisement and represents "false advertising." He also claims that it's trademark infringement, and then demanded the blog post be taken down via an injunction. Novella is fighting back in court and on his blog. On the blog, he highlights the ridiculousness of Tobinick claiming this is an advertisement: An interesting wrinkle of this suit is that Tobinick is claiming that my blog post is an “advertisement.” This is a legal maneuver as the threshold for forcing someone to remove an advertisement is much lower than the threshold for suppressing their free speech. I can only assume that he and his attorneys are not bothered by the fact that blog posts on SBM are blatantly not advertisements. In the case of the Enbrel article he had to make the absurd claim that the post (which does not mention my own practice) was an advertisement for my neurology practice at Yale, designed to attack a “competitor.” He would have us believe that Yale neurology in Connecticut is concerned about a distant clinic. Further, Yale Neurology is an academic practice. Our problem is too many referrals and long wait times, not competitors. To see how desperate the claim is, he argued that because I use Botox, which can be used to treat symptoms following stroke, that his treatments for stroke represent a competitor. However, I don’t use Botox to treat stroke patients. I mostly use it to treat migraines, as I am a headache specialist. From there, he digs in, with even more detail about his criticism of Tobinick's "practice." Tobinick is not a neurologist, and yet he feels it is appropriate for him to treat multiple neurological conditions with an experimental treatment. It is generally considered unethical for physicians to practice outside of their area of competence and expertise. He is trained in internal medicine and dermatology and is certified in those specialties. He has never completed a neurology residency nor is he board certified in neurology. Despite his lack of formal training and certification, he feels he has ushered in a “paradigm shift” in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that has proved challenging for actual neurologists for decades. His treatment of choice is perispinal etanercept (Enbrel), which basically is an immunosuppressant drug. He is using this treatment for not only Alzheimer’s disease, but neurological deficits following stroke, traumatic brain injury, and pain resulting from vertebral discs. He therefore claims that the neurological deficits in these various conditions result from active inflammation (specifically tumor necrosis factor – TNF) and by inhibiting TNF “rapid improvement” in neurological function is possible. These claims are highly implausible, and in my opinion reflect his lack of training and expertise as a neurologist. Strokes cause ischemic damage to the brain – brain cells in severe stroke die. Inflammation following stroke is incidental, not causative. Yet Tobinick claims that 10 years following a stroke, long after any neurological recovery would have occurred, patients can improve by inhibiting TNF. He makes the same claim for Alzheimer’s disease, despite the fact that this is a neurodegenerative disease resulting in loss and destruction of brain cells. An anti-inflammatory drug is not going to bring back dead brain cells, yet he claims “rapid improvement” is possible. There's more of that. The response to the request for the injunction, written by lawyer Marc Randazza is (in typical Randazza fashion) well worth the read. Here's just a snippet. Dr. Novella’s critical opinions of the Plaintiffs are not outlier views. In fact, the prevailing view seems to be that Dr. Tobnick is, at best, irresponsible. On the first page of Google alone, there are numerous other articles written by other authors, entirely unrelated to the article at hand, that also express critical and unflattering opinions of Tobinick and Plaintiffs’ “medical” practices. For example, in 2008, The Alzheimer’s Forum published an article criticizing Tobinick, his treatment of patients, and his self-promotional “studies.” That article evaluated a paper published by Tobinick, in which he presented a study involving one patient who purportedly improved his Alzheimer’s condition within minutes of receiving Enbrel injections (as if such a thing were possible). The article’s author reached out to seven independent researchers, who all “expressed unease about the way in which these studies were performed.” Furthermore, in that article, Cynthia Lemere, associate professor of Neurology at Bringham and Women’s Hospital in Boston stated “[t]his is exciting, but very preliminary information. The appropriate way to pursue it at this stage is to apply to FDA and NIH for support to run a rigorous trial, not to promote it to the general public.” That article presented the opinion that Tobinick’s use of Enbrel gave false hope to Alzheimer’s patients, without being based in scientific and clinical research, and pointed to a number of fatal flaws in the case report authored by Tobinick. More importantly, also on the first page of a Google search for “Dr. Tobinick” is an article published by Casewatch.org, outlining the history of disciplinary action against Tobinick in California, including the formal accusations filed by David Thorton as the Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, Department of Consumer Affairs. The stated allegations in the disciplinary action were for unprofessional conduct relating to his advertisement of Enbrel for the treatment of neck and back pain, in violation of the California Health and Safety Code, constituting unprofessional conduct. The second cause of action was for Tobinick’s unprofessional conduct relating to his failure to obtain a permit for use of “Institute of Neurological Research” as a fictitious name. The disciplinary action was settled, resulting in a one-year probationary period for Tobinick, in lieu of the revocation or suspension of his medical license and surgeon’s certificate, as proposed by Thornton. The response also takes on the ridiculousness of arguing that this is an "advertisement" and a trademark claim rather than an attempt to do an end run around defamation law. Plaintiffs have cleverly attempted to disguise this defamation claim as a Lanham Act claim – presumably to ensure the availability of Federal Court jurisdiction and to try to sidestep the clear case law that cuts against them in defamation actions. But, no matter how eloquently someone may call a “dog” a “chicken,” it will never lay eggs. And styling a specious defamation claim as a Lanham Act claim does not remove the underlying speech from the protections afforded by the First Amendment. Plaintiffs come to this Court seeking extraordinary relief in the form of an impermissible prior restraint on Defendant’s speech because of allegedly “false advertising.” Tobinick’s request for this exceptional relief is impermissible under the First Amendment, and a request for this Court to impose a prior restraint on Defendant’s speech. “The clearest definition of prior restraint is an administrative system or a judicial order that prevents speech from occurring.” There has been no judicial determination as to whether Dr. Novella’s article is “false,” nor whether it is “advertising.” (It is neither.) Yet, Plaintiffs come to this Court requesting Constitutionally extraordinary relief – the suppression of speech without due process. The motion must be denied. So, the end result of a questionable, bogus SLAPP lawsuit in an attempt to silence a critic -- is much more attention paid to the original claims and other aspects of Tobinick's past.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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This is one of the most painful Congressional videos you'll ever see. A freshman Congressman, Curt Clawson, was in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, where two senior US government officials -- one from the State Department and another from the Commerce Department -- were testifying. Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar are both Americans. But apparently Clawson had absolutely no clue -- even though he was in the hearing and both of the panelists were introduced as US officials. Spotted by Foreign Policy, Clawson was apparently so confused by the color of their skin and their names, that he just assumed they represented the Indian government. The video is... just painful. Clawson starts out by talking about how much he loves "your country." He also, apparently, talked about his favorite Bollywood movies. But when he wanted Biswal and Kumar to "commit" to better relationships concerning investment from the US into India, a very, very awkward pause followed. Finally, Biswal says: "I... I... I think your question is to the Indian government. We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S." In response, Clawson, with a very awkward smile says "Of course! Ok. Let's see some progress!" We've seen some awkward Congressional testimony situations before, like when a Senator walked into the wrong hearing and asked an unrelated question for a witness who wasn't there. But that was just reasonably laughed off. Just this morning, we wrote about Rep. John Conyers mid-question epiphany that his stance on copyright conflicted with his stance on preventing overcriminalization. But Clawson's confusion is really at quite another level of ridiculousness. People make mistakes, of course, but if you're in a Congressional hearing, you should at least know who is testifying and if you don't know, you probably shouldn't assume their nationality based on the color of their skin and their names.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Finally, our long, national nightmare is over. If you'll recall, last year I brought you the story of Earnest Evans, better known as 60's rock legend Chubby Checker, and his lawsuit against a smartphone app designed to measure the size of a man's naughty bits, better known as the Chubby Checker. Should you need a refresher, the rocker sued HP and Palm for $500 million under the auspices of trademark, unfair competition, and publicity rights claims. This, by the way, was in reaction to an app that had been downloaded a grand total of 84 times. One would imagine the rebuke from the court would have come quite swiftly. Not so much, as it turns out. It took until quite recently for the case to be settled, with the unfair competition and publicity rights charges dismissed, but his trademark claims allowed to go forward. HP, likely not wanting to bother with any of this, and certainly not admitting any guilt, paid to have this go away. The company claimed in a motion to dismiss that it had authorized the app without knowledge of Chubby Checker’s trademarks, and that upon learning of them in the 2012 cease-and-desist letter from Evans’ attorneys, had removed the app within days. A judge sided with Evans that he was "internationally known" as Chubby Checker and that HP's "detailed" app approval process should have discovered his name. Evans' trademark infringement claims were allowed. Honestly, I still don't get it. What is the chance of confusion here? Earnest is a decades old rocker and this app measures penises. Where's the customer confusion? It probably doesn't matter all that much. While there were no terms of the settlement disclosed, it seems pretty clear reading between the lines that no serious amounts of cash are changing hands here. All that this might have accomplished is to remind everyone that Chubby Checker still walks the Earth, which I guess might be some kind of publicity. Why he'd want to tangentially associate himself and his stage name with penis-measuring applications, on the other hand, is beyond me. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've been covering the discussion around copyright reform down in Australia for a while, and it's continuing to get worse and worse. As you may recall, after a long and detailed process, involving careful input from a variety of stakeholders on all sides of the equation, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) came out with a set of proposals that were actually pretty good, including things like introducing fair use to Australia. Of course, rather than pay attention to this detailed and thoughtful process, the current Attorney General, George Brandis, decided to only listen to Hollywood. This created quite a telling discussion when Senator Scott Ludlam asked Brandis if he had consulted any consumer rights groups or other copyright experts concerning his copyright plans, and Brandis refused to answer, instead getting angry and insisting that Hollywood's interest is the public interest. Brandis also claimed -- totally incorrectly -- that Australia has no laws against online piracy and is "the worst offender of any country in the world when it comes to online piracy." That's simply bogus, and appears to just be a Hollywood talking point. Given all that, it was fully expected that Brandis would basically obey Hollywood's orders -- especially given that the main discussions he'd been having came with the "Australian Screen Association," which is a rebranded version of AFACT, which a Wikileaks State Department cable revealed was 100% controlled by Hollywood interests in the US. And, indeed, Brandis has delivered his gift proposal to (or, should we say from?) Hollywood. It involves three main proposals, but the big one is overturning the important iiNet decision that highlighted that ISPs are protected from liability for users infringing, because they're not the proactive party. In other words, under that ruling, ISPs can't be forced to be copyright cops. Brandis' plan would wipe that out, requiring ISPs to spy on user activity and try to block any "bad stuff" from happening, or they would face liability: The Government believes that even where an ISP does not have a direct power to prevent a person from doing a particular infringing act, there may still be reasonable steps that can be taken by the ISP to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement. Extending authorisation liability is essential to ensuring the existence of an effective legal framework that encourages industry cooperation and functions as originally intended, and is consistent with Australia's international obligations. "Extending authorization liability" sounds so polite. But what it really means is "making ISPs into copyright cops" and encouraging them to spy on and block all sorts of activity, legal or not, to avoid liability from massive copyright infringement lawsuits (like the one against iiNet). Also note the famous "consistent with international obligations" line. We've been saying for nearly a decade now, whenever anyone brings up "international obligations," you know they're being intellectually dishonest. The second part of the proposal is basically Australia's version of SOPA. It would allow for website blocking of "infringing overseas sites." And it would be like the original SOPA, with a "private right of action," allowing entire websites to be blocked on the say so of the copyright holder. A court would have to approve it, but it would likely be an incredibly one-sided hearing, as it's unlikely foreign websites will travel to Australia. A similar provision in Australian law could enable rights holders to take action to block access to a website offering infringing material without the need to establish that a particular ISP has authorised an infringement. The final piece of the plan appears to be an attempt to buy off internet companies that are likely to oppose this plan, in that it extends safe harbor protections to more of them. Basically, this is a cynical ploy to try to split the obvious opposition of this plan. Without this, it would clearly be both internet companies and internet access providers (ISPs) opposing. But here the idea is that if they barely extend a few safe harbor protections to more internet companies, maybe those guys won't oppose this effort as strongly. Either way, this is pretty much what was expected. It's an evidence-free proposal based on the fear mongering claims of Hollywood, and an attempt to turn ISPs into Hollywood's personal copyright cops, spying on your usage and doing anything to block infringement, even if that also wipes out plenty of legitimate speech as well. Thankfully, Senator Ludlam (who exposed Brandis' unwillingness to even answer whether he met with consumer rights groups) has already spoken out about this proposal: Such a move would unleash a wave of lawsuits as giant film and TV studios re-open legal action to try and get Australian ISPs to act as ‘copyright police' in penalising their customers for online copyright infringement. The paper also discusses a range of other options for tackling the issue, including forcing ISPs to block websites, sending users warning notices, and even limiting the broadband connections of those who are only suspected of pirating content online. What the discussion paper doesn't contain is any attempt to address the real reason why Australians pirate films and TV shows online - the ongoing refusal of giant corporations to make their content available in an affordable and timely fashion. Just getting access to watch HBO's popular Game of Thrones show can cost Australians up to $50 a month - and the show is only available week by week from one source: pay TV giant Foxtel, which is co-owned by Telstra and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The Greens believe the Abbott Government is trying to protect an outdated dinosaur of a business model where a small group of mega-corporations control all access to the content Australians want to access. This isn't a surprise, given the hundreds of thousands of dollars film and TV studios have recently donated to the Coalition. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've written a few times about the highly cynical astroturfing practice in Washington DC, in which certain lobbyist groups basically have "deals" with certain public interest groups. The basic deal is that the lobbyists guarantee big cash donations from their big company clients, and then the lobbyists get to write letters "on behalf of" those organizations for whatever policy they want enacted (or blocked). We quoted a story from Declan McCullagh in 2008 which included this classic line from a lobbyist who worked in one of these shops: "You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'" That first option, "the Latino people" turned out to be rather prescient. During the last net neutrality fight, in 2009, it was revealed that a bunch of Latino groups magically supported the telco position -- leaving out the bit about how they were funded by the telcos. Here's Matthew Lasar, back in 2009, revealing some details: Take the go-slow on net neutrality commentary filed in late September by the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) and 19 other civil rights groups. Their statement warns that net neutrality policies could inhibit investment and "leave disenfranchised communities further behind." The coalition describes themselves as having a common purpose, serving communities "that are among the most severely impacted by a lack of access to technology." And indeed the list includes signers from venerable organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). But the groups signing the letter have something else in common: financial support from AT&T (and sometimes Verizon and Comcast). These advocates don't hide this. For example, the website of one of the signers, the Japanese American Citizens League, says "Website made possible by the generous sponsorship of AT&T." 100 Black Men lists AT&T as a "partner" and "sponsor" of the group. AT&T Foundation's 2007 tax returns show that 100 Black Men received $100,000 that year and $75,000 in 2006. Similarly, the NAACP, which also signed the statement, lists AT&T and Verizon on its Centennial Event sponsors page. LULAC's website indicates that it received a $1.5 million Technology Access Grant from AT&T. Comcast Foundation's records indicate that it gave the LULAC Institute $60,000 in 2007. And in 2006 the AT&T Foundation gave LULAC numerous grants to support computer education centers across the United States. And some of these groups have even more direct ties to the telcos. The Asian American Justice Center's Advisory Council includes Anne H. Chow, listed as "AT&T Chair" on the group's website. In 2006, AT&T identified her as a senior vice president for the company. Her AAJC bio says that Chow "played a key role in the AT&T/SBC merger with overall responsibility for the Sales and Marketing integration planning effort." And then, jump forward to 2011, when AT&T was trying to buy T-Mobile. The merger received some unexpected support: The Hispanic Institute and the Latino Coaltion have decided that supporting the merger of AT&T with T-Mobile is of utmost importance to them. A further report noted: One DC insider informs us that rumblings on K Street suggest AT&T had called every civil rights group in the United States for support within fifteen minutes of the deal being announced. Fearful of losing AT&T donations -- most of these groups quickly got to parroting prepared AT&T statements, unconcerned about the actual impact of a T-Mobile deal. Getting funding for a new events center apparently dulls any ethical pangs felt using your organization as a hired stage prop. Then, last year, the Center for Public Integrity decided to explore the nature of these various "civil rights groups" and their ties to the big broadband players, and found the situation to be quite suspect, especially with regards to the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), which helps coordinate many of these filings for the FCC: From 2009 through 2011 MMTC received at least $725,000 in contributions and sponsorships from network neutrality foes including Verizon, Time Warner, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, according to MMTC tax filings and sponsorship lists. MMTC’s relationship with Verizon demonstrates the group’s various methods of obtaining industry revenue. In 2009, at the height of the net neutrality debate, Verizon made a direct $40,000 contribution to MMTC. From 2010 to 2013, MMTC documents list Verizon as funding at least $160,000 in MMTC conference sponsorships. Additionally, MMTC worked with Verizon on a $189 million sale of wireless spectrum licenses to minority-owned Grain Management this year �” a deal announced in conjunction with a larger $1.9 billion license sale to AT&T. A spokesman for Verizon says money paid to MMTC wasn’t intended to influence its policies but to support its mission of promoting inclusion in the industry. So it should come as little to no surprise that a bunch of these same groups, once again, filed a pro-telco comment with the FCC, arguing that reclassifying broadband under Title II would somehow be harmful to minorities. Note that the filing was coordinated by HTTP and MMTC -- both groups discussed above as taking money from the big broadband guys. The argument they're presenting makes absolutely no sense, but no one cares how sensible the argument is. HTTP partnered with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) and 35 other national minority organizations to file comments in the FCC’s proceeding to protect and promote the open Internet. The group urged the Commission to focus its broadband policies on promoting adoption, engagement, and informed broadband use by minorities, and to exercise its Section 706 authority to protect all consumers’ rights to an open Internet. In the filing, the organizations opposed Title II reclassification of the Internet under the 1934 Telecommunications Act, arguing that it would stifle broadband adoption among vulnerable populations, and would limit investment and innovation that have benefitted its constituents. Six HTTP member organizations also joined independently in the filing: Dialogue on Diversity; LISTA; MANA: A National Latina Organization; the National Puerto Rican Coalition; SER Jobs for Progress; and The Latino Coalition. The difference this time, however, is that other groups, representing Latinos, Hispanics and other minority groups who are not funded by the big broadband guys, are now paying attention. And they filed their own FCC comments supporting Title II reclassification: On Friday, the Voices for Internet Freedom coalition filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of more than 50 civil rights, human rights, community-based and media organizations in support of strong Net Neutrality rules that protect the digital rights of communities of color. In the filing, the groups called on the FCC to treat Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers, which would allow the Commission to reestablish its legal authority to adopt Net Neutrality rules that prevent telecommunications companies from blocking, discriminating against and interfering with Web traffic. The coalition also called on the agency to ensure Net Neutrality protections are applied equally to both wireline and wireless Internet access. The group opposes the framework for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules, which would allow ISPs to discriminate by creating fast and slow lanes online.... Voices for Internet Freedom is a coalition of nearly 30 organizations advocating for communities of color in the fight to protect Internet freedom from corporate and government discrimination. The coalition is led by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Center for Media Justice, Free Press and ColorOfChange. And now the fight seems to be getting personal. Alex Nogales, the head of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, called out the Congressional Hispanic Leadership (which has come out in support of the broadband company's plan to kill net neutrality) by pointing out that they held a briefing that was sponsored by the telcos and totally one-sided. The event was so over-the-top biased that even some in the mainstream media highlighted how ridiculous it was. Martin Chavez, from the telco-supported Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership, posted a blog post that purports to be a "can't we all just get along" type post, but which really personally slams Alex Nogales for what Chavez claims was an "angry outburst and lapse of judgment." Nogales isn't taking that sitting down and responded by pointing out that Chavez seems to conveniently leave out who pays his salary: What is most interesting about Marty’s statement is what it doesn’t say. Notably, he did not address his employment with Ibarra Strategy Group, a lobbying firm whose clients include Verizon �“ the main opponent to strong and enforceable Open Internet rules. One would think that a person with such an egregious conflict of interest would, at least, disclose it in his public statements. Marty, unfortunately, does not. Regrettably, what Marty did say in his statement is just as deceptive as what he conveniently left out. Of the many fabrications, Marty said that ‘most Latino organizations’ oppose the FCC using the sound legal authority found in Title II of the Communications Act to restrict blocking or discrimination online. This is patently false. A number of highly respected Latino organizations have sided with the community and come out in favor of strong Open Internet rules based on Title II authority, including: the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), Presente.org, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Institute for Latino Policy, News Taco, Latino Rebels, and more. It certainly is disappointing to see groups like this fight, but it's worth noting that there certainly does seem to be a clear pattern, as noted years ago, that the groups with funding from the broadband guys magically support the broadband players' position, while the ones who are not funded that way actually seem to recognize the importance of not giving in to the broadband guys' plans to kill net neutrality.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Another day, another story of abuse by federal prosecutors. The latest is that they're now regularly reading the emails between inmates and their lawyers. These are the kinds of things that most people believe should be part of confidential attorney-client privilege. And, for quite some time, prosecutors respected that. However, now they're claiming that since prisoners using the prison email system agree to a notice upfront saying their communications may be monitored, they gave up that right. Inmates’ calls to or from lawyers, however, are generally exempt from such monitoring. But across the country, federal prosecutors have begun reading prisoners’ emails to lawyers �” a practice wholly embraced in Brooklyn, where prosecutors have said they intend to read such emails in almost every case. The issue has spurred court battles over whether inmates have a right to confidential email communications with their lawyers �” a question on which federal judges have been divided. The "divide" from judges seems pretty ridiculous. Some judges say it's okay in part because inmates have other ways to communicate privately with their lawyers, but everyone with a basis in reality notes that those "other ways" (mainly letters) take forever and really hamper the ability of an inmate to work with his or her lawyers. But, some courts just don't care. The judge overseeing that case, Allyne R. Ross, ruled on Thursday that the government was allowed to review the emails. “The government’s policy does not ‘unreasonably interfere’ with Mr. DiFiore’s ability to consult his counsel,” she wrote. In Dr. Ahmed’s case, the judge, Dora L. Irizarry, ruled against the government last month, barring it “from looking at any of the attorney-client emails, period.” This certainly seems like one of those issues that's destined for the Supreme Court in the near future.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We just wrote about how the FCC is now claiming that it will enforce its "transparency" rules that require some sort of truth in advertising. If that's the case, it might want to take a close look at Comcast's recent "truthy" advertising campaign, which it's running online, in newspapers and on TV, claiming that it's a huge supporter of "net neutrality." In fact, in a recent video ad, Comcast flat out claims that it wants to "extend net neutrality protection." Here's a newspaper ad from the Washington Post making the same dubious claim: And it's running web ads that make the same claims. Here are some screenshots a reader sent me of parts of a Comcast ad he spotted on Daily Caller: Comcast defends this position by claiming, first, that it's bound by the original 2010 FCC open internet rules, as part of the conditions of its big merger with NBC Universal. That part is true. Just about everything else is misleading or bogus. First, the FCC's 2010 open internet rules were always a weak sauce. They barely allowed the FCC to do anything and there were tons of loopholes. Being bound by those rules was never really being bound by any true sense of net neutrality. Also, as Brian Fung at the Washington Post points out, the merger conditions only last a few more years. And then Comcast is free to do whatever it wants within the "new" rules: But what Comcast doesn't say is that its commitment to "full" net neutrality expires in 2018. After that, it will no longer be legally bound to follow the 2010 rules, and it'll be free to abandon that commitment literally overnight. Comcast does not note this detail in its ads; nor does it explain how its policies may change in 2018. In a statement to the Post, Comcast said the expiration of its net neutrality commitment was a "red herring" because it didn't have a problem with the 2010 rules and continues to "have no issue, long term, with them." That's not the same as laying out what'll happen in 2018, however... And, of course, the FCC won't do anything about this, and Comcast can continue to claim it as true, mainly because the FCC is pretending that it's currently proposed rules, under Section 706 are about preserving net neutrality. That's why Comcast is among those whose filings with the FCC were about how great the FCC plan is. Because it allows them (and AT&T) to pretend that they're "supporters" of net neutrality when the truth of the matter is that the plan would fling the doors wide open on the end of a neutral end-to-end internet. The problem, in part, is that there's been so much "noise" about what is and what is not net neutrality, that Comcast has embraced this incredibly cynical (and really misleading) plan to claim to be for full net neutrality -- even extending net neutrality -- when the reality is that it's actually supporting the FCC's current plans under Section 706, which have a loophole you can drive a cable truck through to end net neutrality, with the term "commercially reasonable." And, of course, since your everyday person-on-the-street doesn't know the details and the differences between Title II and Section 706, they might actually believe that Comcast has their back -- when it's really stabbing them in the back.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The 9/11 Commission has released a followup to its original report, detailing the government's activity in response over the past decade. Unfortunately, those who feel the 9/11 attacks ushered in a new era of government overreach and diminished civil liberties will be hard-pressed to see anything encouraging in this report's concerns and recommendations. Some of the Commission's findings are unsurprising. Yes, terrorist groups and tactics have evolved since 9/11 and yes, the government's counterterrorism efforts seem largely focused on preventing stuff that already happened (this being the TSA's particular area of "expertise"). But the report also warns that our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks are in danger of faltering due to "fatigue" and a "waning sense of urgency," while failing to point out that the government itself is largely to blame. Many Americans think that the terrorist threat is waning—that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong. The absence of another major attack on the homeland is a success in itself but does not mean that the terrorist threat has diminished. The threat remains grave, and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction. We cannot afford to be complacent—vigorous counterterrorism efforts are as important as ever. Without public support, the government will not be able to sustain the robust capabilities and policies needed to keep Americans safe. The government has repeatedly attempted to portray the nation as being under the constant threat of attack. While there are certainly threats out there, the danger posed has been overstated -- and the Commission echoing this only makes it worse. This "fatigue" will only intensify if the Commission's suggestions are acted on. To date, the NSA has been unable to point to much evidence that its broad collection efforts have actually reduced the terrorist threat, much less prevented any attacks. The FBI, whose main focus shifted to counterterrorism shortly after 2001, has been even worse. The terrorist plots "disrupted" by the investigative agency have almost exclusively been handcrafted by the FBI itself. The Commission's "one page summary" (which in true bureaucratic fashion is actually two pages) is a good place to start to get some idea of how many bad ideas are espoused in the 40+ page report, like calling for CISPA/CISA-esque legislation, giving the government even more access to private companies' data in the name of fighting cyberterrorism. Congress should enact cybersecurity legislation to enable private companies to collaborate with the government in countering cyber threats. Companies should be able to share cyber threat information with the government without fear of liability. Congress should also consider granting private companies legal authority to take direct action in response to attacks on their networks. Other suggestions aren't nearly as bad. For one, the Commission suggests an overhaul of DHS oversight, something that is currently handled (in one way or another) by 92 committees and subcommittees. It also encourages more transparency, something the two administrations involved in the post-9/11 "War on Terror" have thoroughly avoided. The National Archives and the administration should work expeditiously to make all remaining 9/11 Commission records available to the public. National security leaders must communicate to the public—in specific terms—what the state of the threat is, how the threat is evolving, and what measures are being taken to address it. But when the Commission begins discussing what it finds the US has handled well post 9/11, the wheels start to come off. Dubious statistics are deployed to portray the terrorist threat as constant and growing. The number of people currently on the government's "no-fly list" is presented without the faintest trace of incredulity, as if "20k+" splashed in bold, colorful text actually means the TSA is keeping 20,000 dangerous individuals from entering US airspace. The report also cites the State Dept.'s statistics showing that terrorist attacks around the world increased 43% from 2012 to 2013. While it acknowledges this increase was almost completely relegated to regions where terrorist attacks have always been common (Pakistan, Iraq, etc.), the Commission goes on to claim this doesn't indicate a decreased threat to the US and cites in support… attacks in Libya and Kenya. While there's no doubt certain terrorists still harbor plenty of enmity towards the US, the likelihood of them succeeding in an attack on American soil still remains where it was on Sept. 10, 2011, Sept. 11, 2001 and every day since then: exceedingly minimal. The report takes a turn for the ridiculous when discussing cyberattacks, going from warning against complacency and inadequate national security measures to praising the US for its highly symbolic, hypocritical and politically dangerous indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking US companies' computers. The Department of Justice’s May 2014 indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking into the systems of large American companies has helped bring attention to this problem, but the American people remain largely unaware of the magnitude of the cyber threat. That needs to change. Senior leaders in the executive branch and Congress must describe to the American people, in terms as specific as possible, the nature of the threat and the tools they need to combat it. Things go to completely absurd in the next sentence, which attempts to bring the cyberwar home by quoting copyright industry talking points. Former NSA Director General Keith Alexander has described the ongoing cyber theft of American companies’ intellectual property (IP) as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” According to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, the annual losses from IP theft are over $300 billion—approximately the amount of U.S. exports to Asia. This ongoing plunder will harm American competitiveness, depress job creation, and ultimately reduce the U.S. standard of living. Elsewhere, the Commission congratulates the TSA on a job well done, never acknowledging the fact that the agency's efforts are largely useless and mainly focused on reacting to the last threat that escaped their pre-boarding processes. (Shoe bomber, eh? Everyone start taking your shoes off!, etc.) Senior leaders agree that America’s layered approach to homeland defense, which recognizes that no single security measure is foolproof, has improved our security. Each layer is effective in its own right, and each is supported by other layers of security. The system begins with intelligence gathered overseas and at home about individuals and organizations who may intend to do us harm. It includes screening systems that prevent suspects from boarding planes or entering the country via other means. At its best, a layered system integrates the capabilities of federal, state, and local government agencies. More bizarrely, the same Commission that pointed out that the failure to share data between agencies allowed the 9/11 terrorists to reenter the country undetected now praises the "response" to the Boston Bombing as an example of "learning the lessons" of 9/11. The Commission glosses over the fact that the same sort of mistakes were made (info not passed along to other agencies, certain intel ignored) that could have prevented the attack. America’s resilience has improved as well. Federal, state, and local authorities have absorbed and applied the lessons of 9/11 over the last decade. For example, joint federal, state, and local exercises staged in Boston over the last several years paid dividends in the well-executed response to the Boston Marathon bombings. Years of investment and planning helped ensure that the consequences of a terrible tragedy were dealt with in a controlled and systematic way. The Commission also plays directly into the intelligence/national security narrative in its choice of language. While pressing for greater transparency and a larger emphasis on safeguarding civil liberties (in hopes of bringing Americans "back on board" with expensive, invasive counterterrorism efforts), the Commission poisons the well with these sentences. Since 2004, when we issued the report, the public has become markedly more engaged in the debate over the balance between civil liberties and national security. In the mid-2000s, news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs caused only a slight public stir. That changed with last year’s leaks by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who stole 1.7 million pages of classified material. Documents taken by Snowden and given to the media revealed NSA data collection far more widespread than had been popularly understood. Some reports exaggerated the scale of the programs. While the government explained that the NSA’s programs were overseen by Congress and the courts, the scale of the data collection has alarmed the public. With this tone established, the Commission calls for greater oversight of the NSA, which it does need. But its brief nod towards protecting civil liberties doesn't even rise to the level of lip service. The Commission seems to feel that if the NSA/administration just talk about surveillance programs more openly, the American public will be more receptive. In summary: Americans just need to be told why their civil liberties are being violated and they'll be cool with it. Senior leaders must now make this case to the public. The President must lead the government in an ongoing effort to explain to the American people—in specific terms, not generalities—why these programs are critical to the nation’s security. If the American people hear what we have heard in recent months, about the urgent threat and the ways in which data collection is used to counter it, we believe that they will be supportive. If these programs are as important as we believe they are, it is worth making the effort to build a more solid foundation in public opinion to ensure their preservation. More transparency and specificity would be appreciated, but a "discussion" on national security isn't one small but powerful group telling everyone else how it's going to be, no matter how many details are included. There are many more troubling assertions and suggestions scattered throughout the report. The Commission revisits the TSA, again praising the no-fly list and making a blatantly false statement in its defense. Before September 11, there were only 16 names on the no-fly list. Today, there are more than 1,000 times that many, along with a redress process to correct mistakes. Bigger isn't always better and the redress process is such a joke that a judge has declared it to be unconstitutional. The Commission also calls for faster implementation of REAL ID and biometric databases. So much for the civil liberties concerns, apparently. With the REAL ID Act gradually being implemented by the states, the country is poised to fulfill our recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.” But another key recommendation, a biometric exit-tracking system, has still not been implemented, and there is no end in sight. In total, the Commission's report is everything the DHS/NSA/FBI, etc. could have hoped for. It calls for more of the same, only faster, harder and with bigger budgets. Very little of what has sprung in place as the result of hasty post-attack legislation is questioned. The ongoing farce that is the TSA is given a solid thumbs-up. The only problem with the DHS is that it answers to too many masters. The major problem, it seems, is that the American public isn't nearly as comfortable with a no-rules, by-any-means-necessary "War on Terror" as it was in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The Commission believes the only thing really missing is a governmental voice persuasive enough to talk the public out of its civil liberties in exchange for some shiny "safety" baubles. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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One part of the FCC's original "open internet" rules that were allowed to remain in place following February's appeals court decision was its transparency rules that are supposed to make sure that if ISPs are mucking with your connection (i.e. breaking net neutrality), they at least have to be "transparent" and tell you about it. A few days ago, the FCC decided to briefly make some noise by randomly reminding ISPs that rule was still in place. Of course, as we've long been noting, when it comes to the interconnection issue, there's been a problem for quite some time where ISPs are selling consumers something (access to websites) and not delivering it. In fact, the interconnection issue has become a way for the big broadband access providers to kill net neutrality without killing "net neutrality." It's been a big loophole where they get exactly what they want anyway -- and it was all done without any "transparency." So, in theory, it might be nice if the FCC stepped in and told the broadband providers that they were clearly violating the transparency requirements by letting its border routers clog without revealing what they're really doing. But is there any chance that the FCC will pick up on that? Hell no. As Karl Bode over at DSL Reports notes, the FCC has a very long history of letting broadband access providers be incredibly opaque in screwing over subscribers. Yet as I've noted numerous times over the last decade, ISPs consistently are allowed to bury all manner of nonsensical fees below the line, allowing them to covertly jack up consumer broadband bills while leaving the advertised price the same. This is technically false advertising, but I've never seen the FCC (or any other regulator) seriously address the practice. The practice not only fools consumers into paying more for service, it skews telecom policy debate and discussion. Most international and domestic price analysis comparisons use the advertised price. The United States already has some of the most expensive broadband in the world (OECD data); imagine how we rank were one to include fees? These days of course there's numerous activation, installation, router and modem rental fees, fees for paying your bill in person, fees for paying your bill via credit card over the phone, etc. These fees, usually communicated "transparently" via mouseprint, are all used to jack up the already-high price of US broadband and television services, but at least some of them are tied to actual costs incurred by the ISP. There's numerous other fees charged that involve companies doing absolutely nothing, and exist solely to pad the advertised price post sale. Bode goes even further highlighting more fees, something we've discussed in the past as well. From there, he concludes: Is letting these kinds of fees continue for a decade the kind of tough enforcement the FCC and Tom Wheeler are talking about? Before anybody can take FCC threats of tough transparency enforcement seriously, they'll need to address the fact they've let ISPs engage in aggressive false advertising on price for almost as long as broadband and television have existed. For pretty much as long as I've followed the FCC, it's bark has been much worse than its bite. It rarely does anything that it should actually be doing to protect consumers. It frequently talks a good game, but action rarely happens. And that's been true through at least the last four bosses. So it seems rather unlikely that any of the broadband guys are actually worried about the FCC's latest "warning."Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 4 days ago on techdirt
When it comes to the title holder for shooting down anything interesting made by fans that in any way involves their IP, Square Enix probably takes the trophy. The company that insists that DRM is forever also insists that fan-made games, films, and even weapon replicas shall not exist. Part of the reason Square Enix is found doing this is that it has created and/or owned some truly beloved franchises in the video game medium, including the Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy franchises. The fans of these properties are exceptionally devoted and passionate to and about them, which naturally leads to the wish to expand the universes even further through their own creation. That Square Enix wields a level 99 copyright hammer at all of these efforts is an unfortunate slap in the face to some of its biggest fans and best customers. It's a crappy situation all around. But it's when the company does this kind of bullying with the timing of a CIA extraordinary rendition agent that we have to wonder if Square Enix is run by masochists. The latest example of this concerns Final Fantasy Type-O, an RPG released for the PSP, a handheld console barely holding on to any relevance in the industry. See, the game came out three years ago, in 2011, but only in Japan and with no English-language version having ever been released. A group of Final Fantasy fans, spearheaded by someone going by the handle SkyBladeCloud, began working on an English translation. That was over two years ago. The proposed patch and its development amassed a decent following. If Square Enix wasn't going to release the game in English, well, hey, at least we could all still play it. Over the next two years, Square stayed silent about the fate of Type-0 in the west. Though Square's executives would occasionally drop vague hints about the game in interviews, there was no concrete news, and the few times I did ask Square about the game, they sent over non-answers like "we have nothing to announce at this time." Meanwhile, the fan translation team kept plugging away, and at the time, project lead SkyBladeCloud said he wasn't concerned about legal repercussions. "I'm not worried since I live in Spain and different laws apply," Sky told me in an e-mail earlier this year. Fast forward to mid-2014 when this entire thing turns into the kind of shit-show that leaves everyone looking dirty. In March of this year, the translators announced the patch would be ready in August. Despite the fact that the project had received a decent amount of attention, it was only then that Square Enix's lawyers reached out to SkyBladeCloud and informed him that their efforts would be fought by the company. They also made some mention of finding some common ground that would keep everyone happy and on the level, though Square Enix has in the past been known to be a turncoat when it comes to those kinds of efforts. Still, non-disclosure agreements were signed and talks went on. People contributing to the translation project discussed internally not releasing their patch if Square Enix actually announced an English release of Type-O, the theorized reason for their lawyers finally reaching out. All of that discussion ceased, however, when SkyBladeCloud suddenly announced the patch would release in early June instead, despite it being incomplete and not ready for prime-time. It was downloaded roughly 100,000 times. Two days later, Square Enix dropped the other shoe. On Tuesday, June 10, Square dropped a bombshell of their own: Type-0 would be coming west, not for handheld systems but as a high-definition remake for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. (A consequent Vita announcement flub left a bad taste in some fans' mouths, and led many of them back toward the fan translation patch.) Despite denials from SkyBladeCloud, pretty much everyone who knows this story is speculating that he knew the Square Enix announcement was coming and released the patch early out of spite, given a speculated ugly turn of tenor in talks with Square Enix and its lawyers. The timing certainly fits like a jigsaw puzzle piece. As does the sudden legal flurry set forth by Square Enix's lawyers which, despite SkyBladeCloud's earlier theory, caused him to take down the patch and all related online content referring to it. In its place he put up an announcement: Unfortunately I'm forced to remove my posts and pages related to the popular Final Fantasy Type-0 fan translation project. That's right, certain game company thinks that threats and false accusations are the way to treat its biggest fans. For the time being I can't answer questions related to this matter, but I'll write a more comprehensive post about all this once I get the chance. I hope you understand, and as always I appreciate your support (that I might need more that ever in the near future). Thank you very much: ~Sky While SkyBladeCloud's antics might be shady, and they certainly fractured his translation team in a serious way, he isn't wrong: this is all unnecessary. The simple fact is that Square Enix now clearly has no intention of releasing an English version of a 3-plus year old game on the console for which the team was translating. Sure, they're releasing it on some of the newer consoles, but many PSP owners may not have those consoles. The end result is going to be a whole lot of Final Fantasy fans being unable to play the game at all, simply because Square Enix decided to use its copyright hammer. That certainly won't win Square Enix any fans, even if some of the folks doing the translation handled themselves poorly. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 4 days ago on techdirt
Parents have a lot of decisions to make that they may be encountering for the first time -- choosing between formula or breastmilk, letting a kid have more than 2 hours of screen time per day, determining when a kid is mature enough to be left alone, and the list goes on. Decades ago, some of these decisions didn't even exist, but recently, it seems debatable parental choices can be criminal offenses under exactly the wrong circumstances. Here are just some examples of the increasing societal judgment of bad parenting. A 46yo mother left her 9yo daughter alone in a park with a cell phone, resulting in the mother losing custody of her child. And she would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids parents and authorities in South Carolina. [url] The case of Justin Ross Harris alleges that he murdered his young son by leaving him in a hot car for hours. There have been similar deaths that were purely accidental (around 30-40 deaths each year), but maybe the publicity of this case will raise awareness and put an end to this particular kind of tragedy. [url] Would leaving a 4yo in a car to go shopping for less than ten minutes sound like horrible parenting in the 1970s? Perhaps it's not surprising that it can be a legal gray area in the present day. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For years -- since before he was NY State's governor -- we've raised questions about Andrew Cuomo's activities. When he was Attorney General, he often used that position to grandstand around various issues that sounded good politically, but were real world disasters. He browbeat ISPs into policing the internet, when they had no legal obligation to, with bogus threats of lawsuits -- even pushing them to install spyware to snoop on everyone's traffic. He was among the leaders of the group of Attorneys General who wanted to blame high-profile internet companies for the way consumers used them, and he tried to broker a "3 strikes" system to kick file sharers offline. Since becoming governor, he's been embroiled in a bunch of scandals, including having staffers use private email accounts to hide their work from Freedom of Information laws. Now, however, things are heating up. The NY Times has reported that Cuomo's greatly hyped "corruption commission" appeared to be nothing more than a front group for Cuomo himself. That is, he seemed fine with it investigating "corruption" of others, but if it came anywhere near him or his friends, Cuomo's people ordered the commission to back away -- and they did. The crowning anecdote: It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party. The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010. Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse. “This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive: “Pull it back.” The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon. “They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote. That last line is fairly incredible, isn't it? They don't even come up with any kind of excuse. They just admit that when the government asked them to stop digging into things involving his friends, they did. The NY Times article is incredibly damning, highlighting how Cuomo promised the committee would be totally independent, even directly saying that it was free to investigate him and his associates. But, the reality was quite different. And Cuomo doesn't seem to care. His response is that of course he was allowed to meddle in the commission's affairs since it was his commission. Here's what Cuomo said when the commission was set up: Mr. Cuomo said early on that the commission would be “totally independent” and free to pursue wrongdoing anywhere in state government, including in his own office. “Anything they want to look at, they can look at �” me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman,” he said last August. Here's what his "office" said now in response to the NYT's inquiry about the story: First, your fundamental assertion is that the Commission was independent. It wasn't. No Moreland Commission can be independent from the Governor's office. It is purely a creation of the Governor's power under the law, which vests subpoena power in the Governor or his designee. Right. Furthermore, Cuomo's response is that it would be a conflict of interest for the panel to investigate the governor, since he had appointed them. Talk about a brilliant anti-corruption strategy. The prevailing party gets to appoint the panel, block its use against any friends or those in the ruling party, and then the panel can only target the Governor's enemies. Damn. That's sneaky. And obnoxious. And, well, it seems to us, incredibly corrupt. Larry Lessig, who (of course) has been studying corruption, explains just how corrupt this whole thing was: The corruption here is different �” and much much worse. If an aid to the chief corruption reformer in NY has corruptly interfered with a corruption investigation, then NY doesn’t need that “corruption reformer” anymore �” because that’s not what he is. If this charge is true, then this is a governor who believes himself above the law. THAT is the keystone of corruption. Lessig notes that Cuomo should resign over this scandal, though it seems unlikely that will happen. Either way, the level of corruption infiltrating our government these days is absolutely sickening. Federal prosecutors are apparently now investigating the situation, though, it's not all that often that those in power will take down "one of their own." Sure, it happens (pretty much all the time if you're in Illinois), but chances are Cuomo will skate by this one as well. Because that's how the system functions.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Could the organization calling itself the "Authors Guild" (from its behavior, better understood as a lobbying arm for big publishing houses) get more fearful and brittle? In response to a typically lopsided AG blog post yesterday, in which the Author's Guild mentioned, but failed to link to, a petition in favor of low ebook prices and fair wages for authors, I left the following comment: For anyone inclined to consider thoughts a bit less hidebound than those of the "Authors Guild," here are a few good posts: More Preston Nonsense Authors United? I Wish It Were So Amazon/Hachette -- The Sounds of Silence Konrath and Eisler vs Richard Russo: The Sequel Not for the first time, my comment didn't make it past the censor moderator. Why? Did I use obscene language? Insult anyone? Engage in unacceptably trollish behavior? Or did I simply link to a few posts that offer opposing viewpoints? It's funny, I write about the AG, and former president Scott Turow, and AG pitchman Richard Russo, and Douglas Preston's self-serving anti-Amazon efforts fairly regularly. And I always link to, and extensively quote from, anything I'm discussing. Not just because I want my readers to be able to make up their own minds. Not just because I have some integrity. But also because I want people to see exactly what the AG and its legacy-publishing shills are saying. Their positions are so illogical, so self-contradictory, and so self-serving that I believe the more light I can shine on them, the better people will understand what the AG and its people are really about. But when an organization tries to conceal what its critics are saying, it's fair to surmise that something else is driving its behavior. And I don't know what that thing could be other than fear of contrary opinions the organization senses are more compelling than the organization's propaganda. Because really, what can you say about an organization so brittle, so insular, so fearful... that it won't even permit a few contrary links in a comment section? What can you say about an organization calling itself an "Authors Guild"... that censors the voices of authors whose opinions it doesn't like?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in March, we reported on an interesting case where a UK court ruled that information stored electronically is not property. Now senior judges in New Zealand have agreed (found via @superglaze), as the Lexology site explains: Jonathan Dixon, the Queenstown bouncer who accessed CCTV footage of the England Rugby Captain in a bar during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, appealed his conviction for dishonestly obtaining property on the basis that the digital data did not come under the definition of 'property' in the Crimes Act. The New Zealand Court of Appeal yesterday agreed (but substituted his conviction with one of dishonestly obtaining a benefit). Lexology goes on to explain: The accepted legal position is that confidential information is not property, but protected by the law from abuse, as a matter of 'conscience' arising from the circumstances in which the information was obtained. The New Zealand Court of Appeal considered that a computer file's "stored sequence of bytes available to a computer program or operating system… cannot meaningfully be distinguished from pure information", and therefore was not 'property' for the purposes of the Crimes Act. Although two court cases do not make a definitive answer, it's significant that they were in different, albeit related, jurisdictions, and that the judges based their decisions on very different legislation. It certainly adds fuel to the already heated debate about whether it is possible in any sense to "steal" digital files containing copyright material. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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