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If you are interested in a career in IT, professional certifications can help you advance and give you a leg up on the competition. Today's deal features two years of access to the iCollege IT Security & Management Bundle for $59 (94% off of the listed price). You will get detailed training for four essential IT certifications: ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and CompTIA Security+ Certification. You need Windows and a highspeed internet connection for the courses. The bundle code must be redeemed within 60 days of receiving it but gives you 2 years of access to the courses. The bundle does not include the tests for certification (you must find your own testing center and pay their fees separately from this deal). This deal isn't around much longer, so hurry over to take advantage. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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iiNet, the second biggest ISP in Australia, has been a bit of a magnet when it comes to BitTorrent lawsuits. In 2008 they were sued by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) for failing to prevent its subscribers from infringing copyright via Bittorrent, a case it won, as the court found it was not iiNet's responsibility. In late 2014, Voltage Pictures – the company behind Oscar winning movie 'Dallas Buyers Club' – started proceedings against Australian users it accused of downloading its movie, just as it has in both the US and Canada. The alleged Australian infringements all occurred between 2 April 2014 and 27 May 2014. iiNet refused to hand over the account details of the 4,726 IP addresses demanded by Voltage, and took it to court, where, in early April, the judges sided with Voltage. However, in a massive blow to Voltage, they required that any letters sent out to people be approved by the court, undermining the key tactic of exaggerating claims in these kinds of cases. Most such cases rely on threatening significant damages at court in order to 'encourage' the recipient to settle, but Justice Perram has indicated that the damages could be as low as AU$10 (US$8), although there could be significant court costs as well. Now iiNet has dealt Voltage another blow, announcing in a blog post: If you do receive a letter you may want to get legal advice. iiNet is working with a law firm that has offered to provide pro-bono services for any of our customers This would be a major setback to the speculative invoicing model used by Voltage, which relies on the high potential damages, plus the significant cost of defending a case (greater than the settlement demanded) to ensure a steady revenue stream. With the court restricting the intimidating language, and the offer of free legal counsel to defend the cases, it may end up being far more costly for Voltage to pursue claims than they can hope to recoup. And while iiNet has jumped to the defense of its customers in this way, it may not be alone. The M2 group has also indicated it may provide pro-bono legal assistance in similar cases, although they have refused to commit prior to a court hearing on May 21st when a date for the transfer of customer information will be agreed. It is not looking like Australia will be a fruitful venue for copyright trolls. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The nice thing about hating both of America's stupid political parties is you get to make fun of everyone. That said, occasionally one political candidate or another says something so stupidly wrong to support a stupidly wrong political position that your brain screeches to a halt aghast. Today's cerebellum stopper is Chris Christie, who most commentators seem to think is going to be running in the next presidential election. If he continues this line of, "Civil liberties are for extremists and NSA spying concerns are baloney because 9/11" rhetoric, however, it's probably going to be a short foray into the primaries. Civil liberties advocates’ fears about the government’s intelligence efforts are “baloney,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will say Monday during a speech in the early primary state of New Hampshire, calling for expanded American military and intelligence programs. The government is not the enemy when it comes to fighting terrorist threats, he will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks provided by his political action committee. Christie went on to say in that speech that the American people should not listen to Edward Snowden, because Snowden is a criminal, and also Vladimir Putin, and especially because 9/11, obviously. It's an interesting political move, I think, considering that a majority of Americans believe the government has overreached on domestic spying, but I'm not here to tell Christie how to run his campaign. I am here to tell him that he isn't allowed to make plainly false claims about this country's ideals and the people that developed them, however. “There are going to be some who are going to come before you and are going to say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. This is not what the Founders intended.’ The Founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people, and we can do this in a way that’s smart and cost-effective and protects civil liberties. But you know, you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.” This, in case you're confused, is absolute nonsense. That's not to say that protecting American lives wasn't high on the founding fathers' list of things to do. It certainly was. It appears just below protecting their freedom, however. Christie suggesting that it was the founding fathers' intention to negotiate some compromise between freedom and safety is fiction. Man, if only there was some catchy phrase from a historical figure that could some this all up for me in an easily reproducable, easy-to-tweet to Christie fashion. Damned extremists, always trying to, you know, start the country that Christie is now going to run for chief executive of. There are other examples, of course, although the chief example of the founding fathers' willingness to put freedom before safety is probably, oh I don't know, the Revolutionary War. I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure that war wasn't all that safe. Look, the point of all this is that 9/11, while certainly not forgotten, is in the rearview mirror and can't be invoked as the boogeyman to push bad, freedom-thieving policy on Americans any longer. We've had over a decade of that and it just isn't going to work any more. But, hey, if Chris Christie wants to make himself un-electable, I'm all for it. Give me a better candidate or give me death. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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I'll never understand the mentality of an employee -- government or otherwise -- who watches porn while on the clock and on company computers. I get that the mind wanders when not otherwise occupied, but rather than surf the web for innocuous time-killers, certain people decide to just head off the deep end and view something that's forbidden in every work environment not actively engaged in the production or distribution of porn. While I may have skirted policies meant to keep time-wasting to a minimum (some days were filled with only wasted time), I have never opted to go the porn route. I have nothing against porn or those who watch it. I would just rather not give my employers (a) the equivalent of the middle finger re: computer use policies and (b) any insight into my personal sexual preferences. (LET YOUR IMAGINATIONS RUN WILD.) Both of these seem like BAD THINGS to do. (Also, there's that whole thing about it that insinuates some sort of self-pleasure is involved, and in a work environment, that's just… amazingly gross. Even the employees at the porn shop don't relish cleaning up the spank rooms. Imagine being told after a few weeks at work that your predecessor [and previous cubicle occupant] was fired for watching tons of porn during work hours. You'd want to shower in decontaminant and return in a hazmat suit.) And yet, we have written multiple stories about employees (most of them in the public sector) who not only watch porn at work, but do so with unimaginable gusto for hours at a time. Here's yet another, involving a Baltimore Department of Public Works employee: Inspector General Rob Pearre Jr. released a report last week revealing the employee, a maintenance supervisor at the facilities division of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, was suspended in September 2014 and fired Jan. 20 at the conclusion of an investigation. The report said officials received an anonymous complaint about the worker in August of last year and monitoring software installed on the man's work computer found he spent 39 of the 82 hours he spent working in a two-week period watching a pornographic DVD on the computer. Nothing handles the ridiculousness of a porn-related firing more aptly than an official report so dry it could apply for disaster relief funds. "HOW MUCH PORN DID HE WATCH?" the studio audience in my mind demands. Here's a per-shift breakdown, listed in this report as "Table 1." It appears the employee's workload tended to diminish over the course of week, with Mondays and Tuesdays (with one exception -- a seven-of-eight work hours marathon) being relatively light and the ration of porn-to-work increasing as the week wore on. Fridays were half-days and, accordingly, roughly half of that time was given over to porn-watching. Now, the employee obviously felt accessing porn via the internet might result in a swift dismissal. His workaround -- bringing a DVD from home -- allowed him to bypass web filters. However, the length of time it was watched, combined with how it was watched, gives the impression that no one really checked on this employee's productivity, much less ever stopped by his desk. The City-owned computer operated by the MSI was connected to a single monitor. OIG personnel noted that when pornographic material was visible, the video was maximized to cover the entire screen. Full-screen porn during work hours is a strong indicator that the employee was neither valued nor popular. Viewing porn in full screen can only be done by those confident their porn sessions will not be interrupted. The Inspector's report then goes on to state the (inadvertently hilarious) obvious. OIG personnel noted that minimal computer activity was performed while pornographic material was visible. Based on these findings, the OIG believes that little to no work was being performed during the time that pornographic material was visible on the screen of the MSI’s City-owned computer. Doh! If only this employee would have reduced it to the upper-corner of the monitor and run a few work-related applications in the background. He might have been able to hold onto this job until retirement -- at which point his porn-watching could have resumed uninterrupted, barring the occasional trip to the bank to deposit his pension check. (Or not, what with direct deposit…) But he didn't. Instead, he did this. OIG personnel noted that the MSI would occasionally maximize his email inbox in the Microsoft Outlook program and then minimize it moments later leaving only the pornographic material visible on the screen. Fortunately for Baltimore taxpayers, there's no pension in the future nor the continued annual funding of Dept. of Public Works porn-watching. $30,000/year for twiddling your thumbs self is damn good money, but there aren't many entities willing to fork that out. (Barring, of course, those involved in the production/distribution of porn…) At an hourly rate of $29.90, the MSI was paid $1,166 for 39 hours for which no work was performed. By annualizing the data gathered during the two-week monitoring based on a 2000 hour work-year, pornographic material would be visible on the screen of the MSI’s City-owned computer for 951 hours which would cost the City approximately $28,400. Also noted in the report: the employee appealed his pending termination briefly before being persuaded to take a 10-day payout in exchange for dropping the appeal he had very little chance of winning. The report wraps up with the DPW and OIG giving each other big, warm hugs for being so competent/cooperative (respectively). And for the moment, all is slightly more right in Baltimore's Dept. of Public Works. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Intelligence gathering on intelligence gatherers. Watching the watchers. Whatever you want to call it, Transparency Toolkit is doing it. It has gathered 27,000 publicly-posted resumes from members of the "intelligence community" and turned them into a searchable database. The database -- ICWatch -- was put together using software specifically constructed by Transparency Watch (and posted at Github). Not only can the database be searched through TW's front end, but the data is also available in raw form for data-mining purposes. Some may find this searchable database to be a form of doxxing, but TW says that isn't the intent. Instead, it's meant to give the public additional insight into the inner workings of the intelligence community, as well as allowing researchers and journalists to sniff out information on still-unrevealed surveillance programs. "These resumes include many details about the names and functions of secret surveillance programs, including previously unknown secret codewords," Transparency Toolkit said. "We are releasing these resumes in searchable form with the hopes that people can use them to better understand mass surveillance programs and research trends in the intelligence community." What Transparency Watch has done is simplified a task anyone could have performed prior to the compilation of the ICWatch database. In fact, nearly two years ago, the ACLU's Chris Soghoian pointed out that public LinkedIn profiles were coughing up classified program names posted by intelligence community members in their listed skills and work history. This is all Transparency Watch has done -- only in aggregate and accessible to those without a LinkedIn account. The data was collected from LinkedIn public profiles using search terms like known codewords, intelligence agencies and departments, intelligence contractors, and industry terms, the group said. What Soghoian noted back in 2013 remains true. Searches for known NSA programs frequently bring up other program names, all posted publicly by employees and contractors with an apparent disregard for the agency's "everything is a secret" policies. A search for "PINWALE" brings up a profile listing the following: Cultweave, UIS, Nucleon, CREST, Pinwale, Anchory, Association, Dishfire, SharkFinn, GistQueue, GoldPoint, Mainway And another listing these terms: Snort, TRAFFICTHIEF, PINWALE, BOUNDLESS INFORMANT, BLARNEY, BULLRUN, CARNIVORE You can also find out who's involved in Predator drone flights. Or who's participated in the NSA's Tailored Access Operations. Some may argue that this algorithmic collection of resumes and LinkedIn profiles may be dragging some people under the "intelligence community" umbrella that shouldn't really be there. That's likely true, but this is one of those inescapable outcomes of dragnet operations. They may also argue that turning over this information to the public may cause some of those listed to be subjected to harassment or put them in danger. Also, this may unfortunately be true as well. But there's a simple solution, albeit one that can't be applied retroactively. As the government so frequently points out to us, publicly-posted information carries no expectation of privacy. The same goes for government employees and government contractors in sensitive positions who choose to disclose information about their skills and employment publicly. If any danger to these people exists, it has always existed. ICWatch may make the job simpler, but it's done nothing any person can't do on their own, using simple search tools. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Congressional Research Service conducts research for Congress on a multitude of topics. This information is (theoretically) used to guide policy decisions. The research itself is (again, theoretically) valuable, considering it's free of partisan rhetoric and biased conclusions. This lack of bias and rhetoric helps explain the following actions: First, Congress has again -- for the third year straight -- refused to increase the office's budget. Congress chalks this up to its seldom-seen sense of budgetary restraint. In the new spending bill, the House Committee ominously rejected a CRS request for a $5 million budget increase in 2016, and allocated $107 million, the same as the 2015 level. "The Legislative Branch must set itself as an example for fiscal restraint while continuing to serve the Nation. This bill will require strict fiscal discipline on the part of all congressional offices and all agency heads in the Legislative Branch," the report said. Fiscal restraint is great, but it's always a good idea to take a closer look at the areas Congress decides to apply it. (There aren't many, so it shouldn't take long…) Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' (FAS) Secrecy News blog notes that Congress doesn't have much use for unbiased research. [CRS reports are] the kind of in-depth policy analysis that can only be helpful to those whose policy preferences are not predetermined by ideology or affiliation. Who wants to pay (via taxpayers) for research that doesn't agree with the requester's point of view? Not Congress. So, the CRS will have to make do with the same budget it's had for three years straight. And while it struggles to meet the demands of representatives' requests for research, the CRS will also have to pitch in with the arduous task of answering requests from constituents on behalf of Congress members. What is often deemed most useful is having CRS analysts assist congressional staff in responding to constituent mail, including eccentric or demented requests for information. Like this request, which resulted in the CRS losing an analyst. Why is the US Postal Service "stockpiling ammunition"? That sort of question helped lead CRS analyst Kevin Kosar to leave his job, he explained in an article in the Washington Monthly earlier this year ("Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service," Jan/Feb 2015). This is where Congress feels CRS's limited resources (that it limited) are best deployed -- not providing clear, factual insight into policy issues. Now, on to the second point. This research is crafted to guide policymaking -- policies that affect the public. This research, like everything else on Capitol Hill, is paid for with tax dollars. It's essentially public domain material. And yet, Congress continues to instruct the CRS to withhold this research from the public that paid for it. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) will continue to be barred from releasing its reports to the public, the House Appropriations Committee said yesterday in its report on legislative branch appropriations for the coming year. "The bill contains language which provides that no funds in the Congressional Research Service can be used to publish or prepare material to be issued by the Library of Congress unless approved by the appropriate committees," the House report said. And so, the research remains locked up. Constituents can request this information from their representatives, but they are under no obligation to produce the documents. The same public that paid for the research once now spends its own money maintaining archives of any CRS reports they manage to acquire. FAS hosts hundreds of liberated reports. Wikileaks has posted nearly 7,000 CRS reports to its archives as well. The CRS itself is no transparency angel itself. It, too, has opposed legislation aimed at making the reports directly available to the general public. It's been more than a decade since any effort to free these made it to a vote (a resolution was introduced in 2012 but went nowhere), but in an internal memo obtained by FAS, the CRS claimed (among other things) that this would unduly influence the researchers, if not the research itself. Over time, CRS products might come to be written with a large public audience in mind and could no longer be focused solely on congressional needs. However, another listed concern seems to indicate the service is OK with allowing Congress members to "translate" its reporting for American citizens. The danger of placing CRS, a support agency, in an intermediate position responding directly to constituents instead of preserving the direct relationship between constituents and their elected representatives. This threatens the dialog on policy issues between Members and their constituents that was envisioned by the Constitution. This seems like a legitimate complaint until you realize exactly what's happening here. CRS provides mostly-unbiased research -- something citizens could use to better inform themselves about legislative/world issues. If it allowed these reports out into the wild, Congress members would be unable to twist the findings to fit their own personal agendas or conform with the party line. This "direct relationship" with constituents means molding the data to match the message -- something that's crucial to winning the support of influential figures and cash-heavy contributors. A CRS report out in the open undercuts spin attempts. By not pushing for the release of unbiased research to the general public, the CRS is complicit in allowing politics -- rather than data -- to guide decision-making, while keeping the electorate from being fully informed. 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One of the problems with space travel is that the chemical fuels required to get around in space.. really limit how far a spacecraft can go. A spacecraft can only carry around so much fuel, and then once that fuel is gone, the ship is basically drifting in space. There are some creative solutions to this challenge, though. If you aren't in a hurry, you can try to propel an object with the momentum of light. Or you can shoot very small atoms at high velocity to create thrust. But you cannot change the laws of physics! The Planetary Society is constructing a cubesat with a LightSail -- a 32-square-meter Mylar sail that will capture the momentum of sunlight for propulsion. This Kickstarter campaign will help fund the $5.45 million project to build a spacecraft that will be ready to launch in 2016 (on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket) along with another satellite that will inspect the LightSail and its performance. [url] NASA is still trying to verify the feasibility of "EM drive" technology -- that shouldn't work at all if the universe obeys the conservation of momentum. No peer reviewed papers on this kind of propulsion exist because no one understands how to fully explain the impossible (or merely erroneous) thrust that has been detected from it. [url] Electrically-driven satellites using ion thrusters do actually exist, and Boeing has built two of them. These satellites with xenon-ion thrusters are already in space and will move into their operational orbits by November. A few other electric-propulsion spacecraft from Airbus and Thales Alenia Space will join these satellites in space in the near future, too. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've had a bunch of stories lately about the increase in militarized police and what a ridiculous and dangerous idea it is. As we've discussed in the past, much of this came from the Defense Department and its 1033 program, which takes decommissioned military equipment and gives it to police. This results in bizarre situations like the LA School District police having a bunch of grenade launchers. The program is somewhat infamous for its lack of rules, transparency and oversight. So it was great to see President Obama this week issue an executive order that greatly scales back the program. You'll be happy to know that no future LA School Districts will get grenade launchers (though, to be fair, after bad publicity, the school district did give the ones it had received back): Grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher will no longer be provided to state and local police agencies by the federal government under Obama's order. [....] In addition to the prohibitions in his order, Obama also is placing a longer list of military equipment under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain such equipment, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on its use. For police departments that already have the now "banned" items, they will have to be returned. You'll notice that one of the biggest symbols that people point to of overly-militarized police -- the MRAP -- is not included in the banned list. There are some other limitations here as well. And a big one, as the guy who literally wrote the book on militarized police, Radley Balko, notes: the 1033 program is no longer the biggest supplier of such things to police: Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks. Those companies now have a significant lobbying presence in Washington. I suspect that presence will now only grow stronger. So if the Obama administration really wants to roll back police militarization, this program needs reform, too. Still, as Balko also notes, there is still a lot of importance in the symbolism of the move made this week: From what has been reported, this new initiative addresses these concerns as well and seems to indicate that the Obama administration understands and appreciates that the symbolic component of police militarization is just as important as the practical component. I’m uncomfortable with any military vehicles going to local police. Free societies tend to draw a clear line between cops and soldiers. Blurring that line indicates a failure to appreciate its importance. But this initiative is moving toward reestablishing that line, not moving it or further blurring it. Federal programs are pretty difficult to disband, so a blanket ban was probably never in the cards. Conditioning the acceptance of this gear on increased transparency, accountability and a move toward community policing seems like a good compromise. We’ll either get less use of this military-issued equipment, or we’ll get more and better information about how it’s used. Either outcome is progress. Balko gives some additional (fantastic) background on why President Obama made the announcement in Camden, New Jersey -- a city that had serious problems between the local police and the community, and basically figured out a way to restart from scratch (closing down the local police force and letting the county take over) while creating a much stronger community tie between police and the community, rather than the all-too-common adversarial relationship that has grown up in many places (which is often made worse by the militarization). Not surprisingly... there are already loud complaints from police representatives, who complain (misleadingly) about how this move puts them all in danger: The nation’s largest police union is fighting back against a White House plan to restrict local police forces’ ability to acquire military-style gear, accusing President Barack Obama’s task force of politicizing officers’ safety. Other police are hilariously arguing that this move will actually increase military presence, because police without this equipment will no longer be able to contain crowds, and thus the National Guard will have to be called in more frequently. Of course, all of that seems to assume that violent protests are the norm, rather than a semi-rare occurrence -- and, it also ignores how militarized police often seem to exacerbate such situations, rather than calm them down. This move doesn't end the militarization of police, but it does take a step in the right direction. As Balko notes, if we believe in a free society, we shouldn't have militarized police. This move is an important step up.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Last week, we discussed the many misconceptions that run rampant in the public understanding of copyright. This week, the EFF's Parker Higgins returns for part two of the conversation, looking at how to begin addressing and moving past these false facts. Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If you've been reading Techdirt for any length of time, you know how important it is to guard your data when browsing the internet. Today’s featured deal can help you do so. Get a 2-year subscription to NordVPN at 67% off the original price. With more than 43 server locations in 25 different countries, NordVPN offers secure internet access from just about anywhere. All data sent through NordVPN's networks is double-encrypted, and the service includes an automatic kill switch that protects your data should the VPN connection drop. NordVPN lets you connect two devices, simultaneously, does not limit the amount of data you can send through the service, and has a strict no-log policy. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Last we had checked in on the ongoing legal wrangling between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a court had ruled pretty strongly against Hood, accusing him of acting in "bad faith," for "the purpose of harassing" Google in violation of its First Amendment rights. Checking back in on the case to see what's been going on, it appears that things have continued to get more and more heated. A little while after that ruling slamming Hood, Wingate ordered Hood to provide a bunch of information to Google as part of the discovery process for the case -- including, bizarrely, responses to Techdirt's FOIA request, which we had declined to continue after Hood's office demanded over $2,000 and made it clear that they still likely wouldn't give us anything. However, Judge Wingate thought that Hood's office should turn that info over to Google: Any documents already gathered in connection with the Techdirt Mississippi Public Records Act request that are responsive to Google’s requests. But, more importantly, Judge Wingate ordered Hood to turn over the documents that the MPAA/movie studios and their lawyers at Jenner & Block had written for Hood, as well as emails with the MPAA's government affairs boss, Vans Stevenson: Any draft subpoenas provided to the Attorney General by the third parties identified in Google’s request. Attorney General Hood’s November 13, 2013 email to Vans Stevenson, and any replies or responses thereto; Attorney General Hood’s August 28, 2014 letter to the Attorneys General in all 50 states regarding setting up a working group; Less than two weeks after that, Google told the court that Hood was refusing to turn over a bunch of that stuff, claiming that it was "privileged" material: The Attorney General has withheld most of the documents called for by the Court’s order. But there is no valid basis to assert privilege. Most of the documents in question were prepared by third parties lobbying the Attorney General to take action against Google. Neither the attorney-client privilege nor the work product doctrine permits public officials to shield such interactions from scrutiny. The privilege log provided by the Attorney General confirms that there is no basis to withhold the documents. According to Google's filing: On April 15, the Attorney General served his responses and objections for the five priority document categories, along with a privilege log and 65 pages of heavily redacted documents.... He produced no documents at all within the fifth category specified by the Court, later explaining that while documents had been “identified” in relation to the Techdirt Mississippi Public Records Act request, none had been “gathered.” He also refused to produce much of the responsive material in his possession, claiming that the documents are protected by the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, the common interest doctrine, or some combination thereof. And, Google points out that the idea that Hood has attorney-client privilege over this material makes no sense, as he does not have such a relationship with the people in question: It also concedes that the Attorney General does not know who drafted many of the withheld documents and instead states, “on information and belief,” that they “were prepared by or at the direction of” one of two or three named lawyers in private practice, at the law firms Jenner & Block LLP (“Jenner”), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (“Orrick”), and SNR Denton US LLP (“Denton”).... The Attorney General confirmed that he had no attorney-client relationship with these firms. Published accounts indicate that, in connection with lobbying activities, Orrick represents Microsoft and Jenner represents the MPAA. There's a lot more in that filing that absolutely destroys the arguments that Hood is making as to how these documents, prepared by the MPAA's lawyers, could possibly be privileged material, blocked from discovery. A week later, Hood responded to Google's filing seemingly spending about half of the space simply reiterating one of his misguided rants about how evil Google must be -- none of which seems even remotely relevant to the question at hand, concerning whether or not Hood needs to produce these documents, including the emails from the MPAA and its lawyers, as they plotted to use Hood in their plan to take down Google, a company they don't like. After that, it basically just repeats "attorney-client privilege" and "work product" as frequently as possible, insisting that revealing any of this to Google would completely undermine all that is good and holy by revealing to Google what Hood and his staff were thinking. That, of course, leaves out the fact that it wasn't what Hood was thinking, but rather what the MPAA -- an organization that has made it clear it wants to harm Google -- was thinking in terms of how it could use Hood's office to that end. Allowing Google access to these documents and communications would reveal the nature of the Attorney General’s mental impressions and strategy regarding future litigation against Google. Or, you know, the MPAA's "mental impressions and strategy" which apparently include funding/hiring one of Hood's closest friends (who Hood himself then hired to help with the subpoenas to Google), Mike Moore (the previous Attorney General who helped get Hood elected). The whole reason why the judge ordered Hood to turn this over was to find out about those "impressions and strategy," as Judge Wingate believed that those "impressions and strategy" show a "bad faith" plan to attack Google in violation of the First Amendment. Hiding behind a bogus attorney-client privilege claim (when Hood has no such relationship here) is incredibly weak. Finally, earlier this month, Google responded again and laid out the situation in a fairly straightforward manner: The Attorney General served the 79-page subpoena at the heart of this case after sustained lobbying from the MPAA. The Court has found that Google is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, including its claim that the Attorney General conducted his investigation in bad faith. The Attorney General is now trying to throw a veil of secrecy over his interactions with the MPAA and other lobbyists during his investigation, refusing to produce the draft subpoenas the lobbyists wrote, and the multiple policy memos (with titles like “Google must change its behavior”) that the lobbyists sent him. He asserts, for example, that documents created by the MPAA’s lawyers are somehow his work product, and thus beyond the scope of discovery absent a showing of substantial need, simply because he read them. That is flatly wrong. The work product doctrine exists to shield from discovery an attorney’s thoughts and impressions developed in preparation for litigation. It does not protect a trade association’s communications with a government official, aimed at inducing the official to pressure a business rival. It further explains how all those chants of "attorney-client privilege" and "work product" make no sense at all: The draft subpoenas, CIDs, and white papers do not constitute the work product of the Attorney General because they were not created by his counsel or agent, but instead by private third-parties seeking to influence his official conduct. The same documents do not constitute the work product of private counsel because their clients (the MPAA, Microsoft, and others) were not anticipating litigation as a party. And any protection was waived when the documents were provided to the Attorney General to encourage an attack. The letter to attorneys general is not work product because the unredacted portion of the document makes clear its primary purpose was to form a working group to induce Google to change its policies, not to prepare for litigation. And the common interest doctrine does not include unsolicited invitations to join such an effort. Oh, and the Google filing also highlights the fact that both the MPAA and Hood appeared to employ Mike Moore separately to work on this same project, and this also further undermines the attempts to keep these communications a secret: The record also suggests that any privilege was waived by the Mike Moore Law Firm’s parallel representation of the Attorney General and a private lobbying group, as well as Mr. Moore’s repeated disclosures of confidential information to outside interests. This back and forth is kind of fascinating. The Judge has already made it quite clear that he's not buying Hood's story, and it seems pretty obvious from the Sony leaks and deeper reporting from the NY Times last year, that Hood's fishing expedition was based almost entirely on the MPAA's big plan to hamstring Google just because the MPAA really, really doesn't like Google. That Hood would use his office as a state Attorney General to assist in such an action does not speak very well of Hood. That he's now scrambling to hide the details of his relationship with the MPAA only serves to call more attention to that relationship.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Jessica Cooke, a New York native who had recently applied for a position with Customs and Border Protection, asked the only question that needed to be asked after being tased by CBP agents for asserting her rights: "What the fuck is wrong with you?!?" Cooke was driving from Norfolk to her boyfriend's house in Ogdensburg, the northern border of which is the St. Lawrence River. If you cross the river, you are in Canada, but Cooke was not crossing the river. She nevertheless became subject to the arbitrary orders of CBP agents by driving through one of the country's many internal immigration checkpoints, which can be located anywhere within 100 miles of the border (a zone that includes two-thirds of the U.S. population). For some mysterious reason, she was instructed to pull into a secondary inspection area, where she used her cellphone to record a five-minute video of the stop (below). [Language possibly NSFW] These CBP agents -- like too many other law enforcement officers -- had no idea how to react when their authority was challenged. They only saw one route to take: escalation. Cooke knew the CBP agents needed something in the way of reasonable suspicion to continue to detain her. But they had nothing. The only thing offered in the way of explanation as they ordered her to return to her detained vehicle was that she appeared "nervous" during her prior interaction with the female CBP agent. This threadbare assertion of "reasonable suspicion" is law enforcement's blank check -- one it writes itself and cashes with impunity. The CBP supervisor then stated he'd be bringing in a drug dog to search her vehicle -- another violation of Cooke's rights. The Supreme Court very recently ruled that law enforcement cannot unnecessarily prolong routine stops in order to perform additional searches unrelated to the stop's objective. If the purpose of CBP is to secure borders and regulate immigration, then this stop had very little to do with the agency's objectives. Cooke is an American citizen and had not crossed a border. If the CBP's objective is to do whatever it wants within x number of miles of the border, then it's apparently free to perform suspicionless searches. In this case, the CBP was operating in drug enforcement mode, but even so, it still hadn't offered anything more than Cooke's alleged "nervousness" to justify the search and detainment. Additionally, the CBP's decision to bring in a drug dog raised the bar for justification. While nervousness alone might be deemed enough for reasonable suspicion, SUNY Buffalo immigration law professor Rick Su told the local NPR station, "it is not sufficient" to justify a vehicle search, which requires probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. Things escalated when Cooke refused to return to her vehicle and wait passively for the CBP to perform its questionable search. Cooke told the officers she would leave if the search wasn't performed within 20 minutes. The supervisor told her she could leave, but her car couldn't and if she tried, spike strips would be deployed. Shortly thereafter, this exchange occurred: CBP agent: I'm going to tell you one more time, and then I'm going to move you. Cooke: If you touch me, I will sue your ass. Do you understand me? CBP agent: Go for it. Cooke: Touch me then. CBP agent: Move over there. Cooke: Go ahead. Touch me. CBP agent: I'm telling you to move over there. Cue said "touching," followed almost immediately by screams of pain and swearing as Cooke is tased. Before the recording end, you can hear the CBP agent claiming Cooke "assaulted a federal officer." (As one does…) And for all the hassle, the CBP came up with nothing. During an exterior inspection of her vehicle by the unit, nothing was found, Ms. Cooke said. She said agents then opened the car doors, got her keys and opened the trunk. Again, nothing was found, Ms. Cooke said, adding that agents did a second search of the vehicle with the K-9 unit, but found nothing. There will always be those who feel citizens who refuse to meet law enforcement instructions with anything but meek obedience deserve whatever happens to them. "It's tough being in law enforcement," they claim. And it is. But considering the job contains the constant threat of injury or death, a little mouthiness or stubbornness shouldn't be met with this level of force. Things are slowly changing, though. Law enforcement officers can no longer rely on the belief that citizens know less about their rights than they do. They will need to do more to justify searches and seizures in the future, instead of just making vague claims about perceived nervousness. Otherwise, their unconstitutional search attempts are either going to rely heavily on ensuring compliance through inapproriate use of force, or head to the other end of the spectrum, where they won't even get a chance to take a look. [Language possibly NSFW] Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Well, well. We had just been discussing Konami getting YouTube to take down a video it didn't like, one produced by YouTuber Super Bunnyhop, which discussed a supposed breakup between the gaming giant and famed game-producer Hideo Kojima. The excuse for the takedown was apparently something like half-a-minute's worth of game footage from the Metal Gear Solid franchise, a significant portion of which was simply one game's title screen. YouTube, with its content-makers friendly notice/takedown policy, complied with the takedown. Often times, that would be the end of the story. We'd all cry foul, complain that copyright sucks, and head on to the next story. This time, however, is different. Super Bunnyhop challenged the takedown with a notice to Google and Google responded by both reinstating the video and warning Konami to stop screwing around. After reinstating the video, here is what YouTube sent to Konami. It's a standard notice Google sends out when takedowns aren't on the level, but it's still nice to see. Not only does the letter let Konami know YouTube is concerned over the bullshit takedown, but it also helpfully gave the company a quick primer on fair use. There is some polite language requesting additional information should Konami still want to claim the video to be infringement, but any cursory glance ought to be enough to know that the whole thing falls under fair use. YouTube also sent Super Bunnyhop a notice that the video had been reinstated. "This may be the first time YouTube has quickly stepped in and reviewed a bogus copyright claim for a gaming video,” [Super Bunnyhop] said to me over email. “If that’s the case, then my situation may be breaking new ground, and this could be good news for YouTubers everywhere.” Yeah, there's actually no real new ground being broken here. YouTube sends these letters out all the time and it reinstates videos like this when the takedown is crap as well. That said, every fair use victory is a step in the right direction and it's worth reminding everyone out there that the takedown doesn't have to be the end of the story for non-infringing videos. Sometimes intellectual property is used for censorship and there is little anyone can do about it. But that's not always the case and it's important to fight it wherever possible. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in March, TiVo purchased Aereo's trademarks and customer rosters for around $1 million at auction, after Aereo's disruption efforts and clever legal arguments imploded spectacularly last November. Details are incredibly vague, but TiVo appears interested in resurrecting the Aereo service in some capacity, offering an improved -- and legal -- version of the controversial internet video service. Early details are spectacularly vague, but TiVo appears interested in marketing something to cable partners that will help them target cord cutters: "It’s one helluva cheap way for cable operators to have an OTA/OTT device that says, ‘Satellite cord-cutter, I have a broadband package for you with a video component,'" (TiVo CEO Tom) Rogers said. "I think it allows them [the cable operator] to own the low-end and win over satellite subscribers." The problem is that many cable operators don't want to make any truly disruptive over-the-top plays, since any value-oriented, disruptive internet video offering is going to cannibalize existing pay TV subscribers. That's why the cable and broadcast industry's Hulu has remained a dull, glorified ad for traditional cable TV. There has been some traction made on this front (Cablevision offering free antennas with broadband, for example), but by and large, cable execs remain terrified of upsetting the Apple cart. Rogers admits there's still a question as to how to make cable partnerships work: "TiVo reasons that OTA, combined with broadband-fueled over-the-top services, presents an opportunity to help its cable partners target a small but growing number of cord cutters who are seeking less-expensive video and TV alternatives but who are also willing to create their own bundles. "The question is, how do you do that?” Tom Rogers, TiVo’s CEO and president, said during an interview last week at the INTX show in Chicago. “To us, the answer is pretty clear — it’s kind of the Aereo model, done legally and better." The problem is, by the time TiVo's internet video offering arrives, it will be joining a crowded market saturated with services from the likes of Verizon, Dish (Sling TV), Sony and Apple. It's unclear how TiVo intends to truly differentiate itself from the pack, and the TiVo and Aereo brand may not be enough. Aereo's draw predominantly was its low $8 a month price tag, which was made possible because the company wasn't paying retransmission fees. Aereo's entire technical model of leasing customers micro-antennas and cloud DVR space was based on its legal efforts to tap dance around having to pay such fees. A legal version of Aereo couldn't offer the kind of disruption Aereo was capable of, because the courts have declared Aereo's particular brand of innovation to be illegal. In other words, TiVo's version of Aereo will belatedly join a crowded field of over-the-top services, and while the brand name will provide some traction, the end product is likely to only share a passing resemblance to the Aereo people knew.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So many modern conveniences require an electrical outlet or a natural gas line into your house. Sure, there are some nifty gadgets that can generate electricity when you're out camping or otherwise off the grid, but what do you do if you want some appliances at home -- and you forgot to pay your utility bills? Try out a few of these devices. The Drumi from Yirego is a portable washing machine for clothes that can clean 6-7 articles of clothing using pedal power. It's basically a big/fancy salad spinner that you pour detergent into... and the official crowdfunding campaign for it hasn't even started yet. [url] You can build a zeer pot to keep stuff cool without electricity. ICYMI, this is an evaporative cooler that's been used for centuries in Africa. [url] If you want to cook something without lugging around any kind of fuel, you can pre-order a GoSun Grill from this Kickstarter project. It's completely solar powered, and it includes a phase change material to act as a thermal battery, so you can cook even at night (as long as there was some recent sunlight to charge up the battery, that is). [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The cable and internet worlds are not exactly known for being all that innovative, but that's misleading. Those giant conglomerates can be really innovative in figuring out ways to totally screw you over with their billing and customer service practices. For over a decade, we've pointed out how ridiculous it is to see telcos sneak all sorts of crap below the line by adding additional fees that sometimes can make up more than half of the total actual bill. Even all the way back then, we wondered what other businesses would be like if they used the same "hidden fee" system. What about a pizza, for example? You could announce an advertised price of $3, but then toss in a "Heating element recovery fee" of $1.50, a "crust browning surcharge" of $2, a "service fee" of $4, a "universal pizza fund" charge for $1.20, and a $2.18 "cleanup fee." Plus tax. And, let's not even get started with the whole "bundling" business by cable. Or, rather, let's. That's what Funny or Die did with this amusing new video starring Dave Koechner imagining a world where everything was priced the way cable bundles are priced: Sounds about right. Either way, this one ranks up there with the wonderful video from a couple of years ago about the first truly honest cable company: Or, maybe this honest Comcast ad (also by Funny or Die): You know, considering how many such videos there are, you might think that the giant cable/telco companies might finally realize that it's time to act differently, right? But, I guess, as all the videos here show, they really just don't give a fuck because they don't have to.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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I'll be honest: when I wrote about Chris Roberts being detained by the FBI for tweeting about hacking his flight's WiFi, I reacted with a great big eyeroll. On the one hand, security researchers like Roberts look for these vulnerabilities all the time and it's quite helpful when law enforcement and airlines learn about potential avenues for threats. On the other hand, Chris Roberts is quite obviously not Al Qaeda. The whole thing appeared to be a reaction to embarrassment that the vulnerability had been allowed to exist, rather than any belief that Roberts was in any way a threat. But if Roberts is to be believed, he did something really stupid on previous flights: he used his WiFi hack to manipulate the plane's engines. During two interviews with F.B.I. agents in February and March of this year, Roberts said he hacked the inflight entertainment systems of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, during flights, about 15 to 20 times between 2011 and 2014. In one instance, Roberts told the federal agents he hacked into an airplane’s thrust management computer and momentarily took control of an engine, according to an affidavit attached to the application for a search warrant. “He stated that he successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the ‘CLB’ or climb command. He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights,” said the affidavit, signed by F.B.I. agent Mike Hurley. If true, that would go way beyond identifying exploits, mentioning that you could drop the oxygen masks, or really anything else that deals with in-flight wireless hacks. If the affidavit is to be believed, Roberts dangerously manipulated the flight's equipment, potentially putting everyone aboard at risk. We have only the FBI's word for all of this, of course, but the feds are certainly behaving as though Roberts both said all of this and that he's not simply making fictional claims. Roberts, who has been interviewed at least three times by the F.B.I. this year, is under investigation for allegedly hacking into the electronic entertainment systems of airplanes, according to an application for a search warrant to probe seized electronic equipment. The document shows F.B.I. agents investigating Roberts believe he has the ability to do what he claims: take over flight control systems by hacking the inflight entertainment computer. “We believe Roberts had the ability and the willingness to use the equipment then with him to access or attempt to access the (inflight entertainment system) and possibly the flight control systems on any aircraft equipped with an (inflight entertainment system) and it would endanger the public safety to allow him to leave the Syracuse airport that evening with that equipment,” sates the warrant application. Roberts, for his part, has at least suggested to a Wired reporter that the FBI is twisting his words: “That paragraph that’s in there is one paragraph out of a lot of discussions, so there is context that is obviously missing which obviously I can’t say anything about,” he said. “It would appear from what I’ve seen that the federal guys took one paragraph out of a lot of discussions and a lot of meetings and notes and just chose that one as opposed to plenty of others.” That still doesn't say he didn't do it, though. As with too many of these stories, the end result is that we have absolutely nobody to root for. To be fair, Roberts has been warning the airlines and the feds about these exploits for years, without any of it generating much attention. His purported stunt has suddenly brought a little light to what is obviously an untenable security risk, which doesn't in any way excuse manipulating an engine mid-flight. That, plainly, is insane, and I don't think it can be argued that it's an action that deserves punishment. On the other hand, Roberts still isn't Al Qaeda and the end result of all of this may be that planes are safer. Intentions matter, after all. As for the federal government and the airlines: are you kidding me? You're telling me that not only was all of this possible, which is crazy at the outset, but they had been warned about it and had done nothing? Crazy as it sounds, everyone should be thanking the universe that Chris Roberts was the one manning the keyboard on these flights instead of someone with more nefarious intentions. The feds and the airlines should have simply hired Roberts to battle these vulnerabilities rather than letting it get to this point. Instead, we learn this way that it may indeed be possible to get control of a flight through a plane's WiFi. And we learn that law enforcement and the airline's chief strategy to deal with that fact was to pretend it didn't exist. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Over the weekend, the US government announced that special forces soldiers entered Syria to conduct a raid that killed an alleged leader of ISIS, Abu Sayyaf. In the process, anonymous US officials leaked classified information to the New York Times that's much more sensitive than anything Edward Snowden ever revealed, and it serves as a prime example of the government's hypocrisy when it comes to disclosures of secret information. Here's how the New York Times described how the US conducted this "successful" raid: The raid came after weeks of surveillance of Abu Sayyaf, using information gleaned from a small but growing network of informants the C.I.A. and the Pentagon have painstakingly developed in Syria, as well as satellite imagery, drone reconnaissance and electronic eavesdropping, American officials said. The White House rejected initial reports from the region that attributed the raid to the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Read that carefully and pretend it was Snowden who leaked this information, instead of nameless Pentagon spokesmen. US officials would be screaming from the rooftops that he leaked extremely timely and sensitive intelligence (it was literally only hours old), that he will cause specific terrorists to change their communications behavior, and most importantly, he put the lives of informants at risk. (Note: none of Snowden's leaks did any of these things.) Yet despite the fact that the ISIS raid was discussed on all of the Sunday shows this week, no one brought up anything about this leak. Contrast that with Snowden's revelations, where government officials will use any situation to say the most outlandish things possible in an attempt to smear his whistleblowing—regardless of their basis in reality. Take former CIA deputy director and torture advocate Mike Morrell, for example, who is currently on a book promotion tour and has been preposterously suggesting that Snowden's leaks somehow led to the rise of ISIS. For the sake of hypothetical argument, let's take Morrell's claims at face value. Let's put aside the fact that, despite their "sky is falling" rhetoric, the US government has consistently refused to release specific information showing that terrorists have "changed their behavior" due to the Snowden leaks, and that terrorists were sophisticated users of encryption for more than a decade before anyone heard Snowden's name. Let's also ignore that the US government has been caught blatantly exaggerating how leaks have "damaged" national security in the past, and that officials have already admitted their nightmare scenarios in this case have not actually come to pass. Here is what Morrell told NPR when asked about Edward Snowden and the damage he thinks he caused to national security: So I can't get into specifics, but I'll tell you that there was a program that he disclosed that was vital to the United States' ability to see what terrorists are doing. And they all changed their communication habits because of that disclosure - al-Qaida in Pakistan, al-Qaida in Yemen and al-Qaida in Iraq, which morphed into ISIS. So there is no doubt in my mind that that change in behavior on the part of al-Qaida in Iraq and ISIS contributed to ISIS's rise. And here's what he said on 60 Minutes the same week: "What Edward Snowden did has put Americans at greater risk because terrorists learn from leaks and they will be more careful, and we will not get the intelligence we would have gotten otherwise." Every single thing Morrell said applies to what US officials leaked this weekend, if not more so. But since the leak about the ISIS raid was meant to glorify the Obama administration, instead of embarrassing it or exposing wrongdoing, everyone in the US government will pretend like it never happened. Either leaks exposing the "sources and methods" of surveillance are damaging to national security or they are not. Administration officials can't have it both ways. Republished from the Freedom of the Press Foundation Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Against all the odds, legal challenges to UK surveillance are succeeding, as Techdirt has reported. At the forefront of bringing cases against GCHQ is the rights group Privacy International. In May 2014 it asserted that GCHQ's activities were illegal under the UK's Computer Misuse Act (CMA), which criminalizes breaking into digital systems. A year later, and just hours before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing of Privacy International's complaint against GCHQ, the UK government revealed the following: only a few weeks after the claim was filed, the [UK] Government quietly introduced legislation on 6 June 2014 that would amend the CMA to provide a new exception for law enforcement and GCHQ to hack without criminal liability. The change not only affects Privacy International's claim, but also grants UK law enforcement new leeway to potentially conduct cyber attacks within the UK. That is, the UK government was implicitly admitting that GCHQ's activities were, once again, illegal, but fixed that problem with the simple expedient of changing the law to make them legal. That on its own is questionable, although some might say that spies and the police need to have immunity when carrying out certain authorized acts. But the real issue here is another: the fact that this change was pushed through with none of the usual scrutiny or debate accorded to laws with important effects. As Privacy International explains, although the UK government published an explanatory note about the proposed amendment, it neglected to mention its true impact. Moreover: It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner's Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes. There was no published Privacy Impact Assessment. Only the Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office, GCHQ, Police and National Crime Agency were consulted as stakeholders. There was no public debate. This is essentially secret law-making, where the only people consulted are the ones who will benefit. That's troubling at the best of times, but especially so in the context of a government abusing its powers to avoid yet another embarrassing defeat in the courts. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Phew. For quite some time now we've been following the curious case of Cindy Garcia, who by all accounts was duped into being an actress in a film that was eventually sorta/partially released on YouTube as "Innocence of Muslims" and was cited by some as causing violence around the globe (a claim that others dispute). Garcia, for perfectly good reasons, was not happy to be appearing in a controversial film that was entirely different than the film she thought she was in. However, she then tried to use copyright law to take the film down. This seemed laughable on its face, and the district court quickly dismissed it. To the surprise and horror of many, however, on appeal, the 9th Circuit, led by Judge Alex Kozinski, overturned widely settled law for decades and claimed that the copyright claim was valid and further ordered Google/YouTube to block every copy of the movie -- which most people thought was a clear case of prior restraint against the First Amendment. After some back and forth, the 9th Circuit agreed to rehear the case with a full slate of 11 judges (en banc). The case was heard late last year and just today, the 9th Circuit dissolved its previous ruling and is now upholding the district court ruling against Garcia. Judge Kozinski dissented, not surprisingly. Disclaimer: We filed an amicus brief in this case as well. The ruling, written by Judge Margaret McKeown gets right to the point, copyright is not supposed to be used for outright censorship: In this case, a heartfelt plea for personal protection is juxtaposed with the limits of copyright law and fundamental principles of free speech. The appeal teaches a simple lesson—a weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship. As pretty much everyone has noted, the court also points out that it's sympathetic to the position that Garcia was put in by events out of her control. However, that is no excuse for abusing copyright law for the sake of censorship. We are sympathetic to her plight. Nonetheless, the claim against Google is grounded in copyright law, not privacy, emotional distress, or tort law, and Garcia seeks to impose speech restrictions under copyright laws meant to foster rather than repress free expression. Garcia’s theory can be likened to “copyright cherry picking,” which would enable any contributor from a costume designer down to an extra or best boy to claim copyright in random bits and pieces of a unitary motion picture without satisfying the requirements of the Copyright Act. Putting aside the rhetoric of Hollywood hijinks and the dissent’s dramatics, this case must be decided on the law. And, what that means is that Garcia has no copyright interest just because she appeared in the film. The court repeatedly notes (as did many others) that even the US Copyright Office denied Garcia's attempt to copyright her performance. And, further, notes that if the court were to accept Garcia's claim it would create quite a mess for copyright law: Garcia’s theory of copyright law would result in the legal morass we warned against in Aalmuhammed—splintering a movie into many different “works,” even in the absence of an independent fixation. Simply put, as Google claimed, it “make[s] Swiss cheese of copyrights.” Take, for example, films with a large cast—the proverbial “cast of thousands”—such as Ben-Hur or Lord of the Rings. The silent epic Ben-Hur advertised a cast of 125,000 people. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, 20,000 extras tramped around Middle-Earth alongside Frodo Baggins (played by Elijah Wood). Treating every acting performance as an independent work would not only be a logistical and financial nightmare, it would turn cast of thousands into a new mantra: copyright of thousands. The court actually spends a lot of time on this, noting what a ridiculous situation it would make for the entire movie industry, which again raises serious questions about why the MPAA chose not to participate in this case. Untangling the complex, difficult-to-access, and often phantom chain of title to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of standalone copyrights is a task that could tie the distribution chain in knots. And filming group scenes like a public parade, or the 1963 March on Washington, would pose a huge burden if each of the thousands of marchers could claim an independent copyright. Even beyond the whole swiss cheese thing, the court rightly points out that copyright is given to those who "fix" the work in a tangible medium, and Garcia did, well, none of that: Garcia’s copyright claim faces yet another statutory barrier: She never fixed her acting performance in a tangible medium, as required by 17 U.S.C. § 101 (“A work is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.”) (emphasis added). According to the Supreme Court, “the author is the party who actually creates the work, that is, the person who translates an idea into a fixed, tangible expression entitled to copyright protection.” .... Garcia did nothing of the sort. For better or for worse, Youssef and his crew “fixed” Garcia’s performance in the tangible medium, whether in physical film or in digital form. However one might characterize Garcia’s performance, she played no role in fixation. On top of this, Garcia claims that she never agreed to the film’s ultimate rendition or how she was portrayed in Innocence of Muslims, so she can hardly argue that the film or her cameo in it was fixed “by or under [her] authority.” Finally, even though it notes it does not need to, the court addresses the question of "irreparable harm" which was a key part of Kozinski's original ruling. Here, the court rightly points out that, while Garcia may face harm, it's not because of the copyright and abusing copyright law to protect against such harm is not what the law allows. Although we do not take lightly threats to life or the emotional turmoil Garcia has endured, her harms are untethered from—and incompatible with—copyright and copyright’s function as the engine of expression. In broad terms, “the protection of privacy is not a function of the copyright law. . . . To the contrary, the copyright law offers a limited monopoly to encourage ultimate public access to the creative work of the author.” The court further cites cases such as Scientology abusing copyright to try to suppress a study and Hulk Hogan suing Gawker to suppress a sex tape, to show that, while many people seek to abuse copyright law in this manner, it is totally inappropriate. And then there's this: Ultimately, Garcia would like to have her connection to the film forgotten and stripped from YouTube. Unfortunately for Garcia, such a “right to be forgotten,” although recently affirmed by the Court of Justice for the European Union, is not recognized in the United States. And, finally, the ruling smacks around the original injunction from Kozinski for its clear First Amendment problems: The takedown order was unwarranted and incorrect as a matter of law, as we have explained above. It also gave short shrift to the First Amendment values at stake. The mandatory injunction censored and suppressed a politically significant film—based upon a dubious and unprecedented theory of copyright. In so doing, the panel deprived the public of the ability to view firsthand, and judge for themselves, a film at the center of an international uproar. [....] The panel’s takedown order of a film of substantial interest to the public is a classic prior restraint of speech..... Prior restraints pose the “most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,”... and Garcia cannot overcome the historical and heavy presumption against such restraints with a thin copyright claim in a five-second performance. Well done, 9th Circuit. Of course, it's still bizarre it took you two tries to get it right. There is a "concurring" opinion from Judge Paul Watford, in which he argues the majority decision went too far in making broad claims, and he would have preferred a more narrow (and less useful) ruling, focusing solely on the "irreparable harm" question and leaving aside the entire (important) question of whether or not Garcia had any copyright interest in the film. Thankfully, the majority of the panel did not agree with him. And, finally, we get to Kozkinski's panicked defense of his own original ruling: Garcia’s dramatic performance met all of the requirements for copyright protection: It was copyrightable subject matter, it was original and it was fixed at the moment it was recorded. So what happened to the copyright? At times, the majority says that Garcia’s performance was not copyrightable at all. And at other times, it seems to say that Garcia just didn’t do enough to gain a copyright in the scene. Either way, the majority is wrong and makes a total mess of copyright law, right here in the Hollywood Circuit. Wait, what? The 9th Circuit is "the Hollywood Circuit?" I mean, sure, technically Hollywood is in the 9th Circuit, but... In its haste to take internet service providers off the hook for infringement, the court today robs performers and other creative talent of rights Congress gave them. I won’t be a party to it. Kozinski is wrong. As most of the rest of the court and the Copyright Office and tons of copyright experts all seem to recognize, Garcia has no copyright interest in her performance. She did not fix it in a tangible medium. Kozinski goes on to argue that this ruling is what will create a true mess of copyright law: The implications are daunting. If Garcia’s scene is not a work, then every take of every scene of, say, Lord of the Rings is not a work, and thus not protected by copyright, unless and until the clips become part of the final movie. If some dastardly crew member were to run off with a copy of the Battle of Morannon, the dastard would be free to display it for profit until it was made part of the final movie. And, of course, the take-outs, the alternative scenes, the special effects never used, all of those things would be fair game because none of these things would be “works” under the majority’s definition. And what about a draft chapter of a novel? Is there no copyright in the draft chapter unless it gets included in the published book? Or if part of the draft gets included, is there no copyright in the rest of it? I think the majority ruling does a damn good job responding to this point, by pointing out that it's "moral outrage and colorful language" more than legal analysis: The dissent spins speculative hypotheticals about copyright protection for book chapters, movie outtakes, baseball games, and Jimi Hendrix concerts. See Dissent at 35, 38. This hyperbole sounds a false alarm. Substituting moral outrage and colorful language for legal analysis, the dissent mixes and matches copyright concepts such as collective works, derivative works, the requirement of fixation, and sound recordings. The statutory definitions and their application counsel precision, not convolution. All in all, while it's ridiculous that we had to go through this in the first place, after quite some time, the court finally got it right, no matter what Kozinski has to say.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
Backyard BBQ season is upon us giving us great reasons to head outdoors with family and friends. It's always nice to have a little background music to set the mood. The Sound Kick Bluetooth Speaker (50% off in the Techdirt Deals store) can give you up to seven hours of playtime and could be the speaker you're looking for. This award winning speaker combines portability (it weighs less than two pounds) with a full sound. It has a USB power port that allows you to charge your device while plugged into the speaker and it comes with a simple line-in option that works with a standard headphone jack. This deal comes with free shipping to the continental US. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
So things just keep getting stranger and stranger online. A bunch of mobile operators are apparently planning to start automatically blocking all mobile ads. Now, for those of you who hate ads online, this might seem like a good thing, but it is not. If you want to disable ads on your own, that should be your call. In fact, as we've noted before, we think people on the web have every right to install their own ad blockers, and we find it ridiculous when people argue that ad blocking is some form of "theft." But this is different... and this is dangerous. As the reports make clear, this move has nothing to do with actually protecting the public from malicious or annoying ads... and everything to do with the mobile operators hoping to shake down Google. The plan – which would be devastating to companies reliant on advertising – is not limited to a single European network. Its apparent aim is to break Google’s hold on advertising. The FT report says that “an executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year” and will be available as an “opt-in service” however they are also considering applying the technology across their entire mobile networks. And, the clear plan is to then go to Google and say "give us money or else": The unnamed European carrier in the Financial Times article is reportedly planning to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue. The companies are using a product called Shine, which has a big bullshit claim on its page that it "champions the consumer's rights to control mobile ads." If that were the case it would be offering the tool to consumers. It's not. It's selling to big service providers, and then letting those service providers spy on all of your surfing in order to remove the ads. This should be a serious concern for anyone using a service that signs up for Shine. Even if it's an "opt-in" offering, what the company is really doing is a form of deep packet inspection and blocking your mobile internet from acting the way it should. In other words, this looks like a net neutrality violation on a large scale. As we've pointed out in the past, the broadband providers aren't stupid. They know that if they go for a direct plan of blocking or degrading apps you like, it gets people angry. So they look for ways to break net neutrality that look like they're doing the consumer favors -- things like zero rating, and now this. But that's not what's happening at all. This is all just the exact same plan as many broadband providers have had for years: figure out a way to pressure Google into coughing up some of its revenue, not by earning it, but by creating a mess for the company. And, in the process, it's causing a mess for users by mucking with their internet connections, doing deep packet inspection, and blocking content.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
Considering the extent of its (most web-related) censorship efforts, South Korea must consider itself fortunate to be next-door neighbors with North Korea. Any time another censorship effort arrives, all the government has to say is, "Hey, at least we're not as bad as…" while pointing its index fingers in an upward/roughly northerly direction. It blocks sites and web pages with gusto, subverting its own technological superiority by acting as a Puritanical parental figure. Not that it helps. Every time the government ropes off one area, citizens carve out another. Four years ago, it attempted to pass a law making government-approved computer security software installation mandatory, supposedly in hopes of heading up the enlistment of citizens' computers into botnet armies. Now, it's telling parents they must install government-approved and crafted spyware on the smartphones of any children under the age of 19. The app, "Smart Sheriff," was funded by the South Korean government primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content online. But its features go well beyond that. Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child's location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as "suicide," ''pregnancy" and "bully" or receives messages with those words. Last month, South Korea's Korea Communications Commission, which has sweeping powers covering the telecommunications industry, required telecoms companies and parents to ensure Smart Sheriff or one of the other monitoring apps is installed when anyone aged 18 years or under gets a new smartphone. The measure doesn't apply to old smartphones but most schools sent out letters to parents encouraging them to install the software anyway. No one appears to have taken a close look at the inner workings of "Smart Sheriff" at this point, but a similar app known as "Smart Relief" also allows parents to monitor their children's' smartphone activities and sends alerts triggered by any of the 1,100+ words on its watchlist. Some terms it monitors (both in text messages and searches) would obviously raise concerns in parents. Threat, kill, shut up, violence, destroy, handicap, crazy, prostitute, garbage, thief, porn, suicide, pregnancy, inn, obscene, sex, sexual crime, sexual relationship, prostitution, motel, beer, rape, adultery, run away from home, outcast, invisible person, don't have friends, jealousy, lonely, stress, don't want to live, loser, complaint, help, worry, menstruation, adoption, divorce, rape, homosexual love, single parent, IS, terrorism, poison Other trigger terms seem to do nothing more than give parents a reason to lock their kids up until they're old enough to move out: Girl I like, boy I like, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, breakup… This new mandate is obviously creating a chilling effect. Some have noted the Smart Sheriff app may give government agencies access to minors' communications, all under the pretense of helping parents out. Nearly 80% of South Korean schoolchildren (teens and elementary students) own smartphones. That's a whole lot of communications potentially being delivered to law enforcement and intelligence agencies (if not also to schools and service providers). As a result, smartphones are now no longer viewed as essential equipment by teenagers. To get around the regulations, some students say they will wait until they turn 19 to get a new phone. "I'd rather not buy a phone," said Paik Hyunsuk, 17. "It's violation of students' privacy and oppressing freedom." Open Net Korea, which has tracked South Korean censorship efforts for years, has a translation of the law's stipulations, which not only requires installation of government-approved spyware apps, but also stipulates cellphone providers actively hassle parents who don't seem to be taking the mandated monitoring seriously. Article 37-8 (Methods and Procedures for Providing Means to Block Media Products Harmful to Juveniles, etc.) (1) According to Article 32-7(1) of the Act, a telecommunication business operator entering into a contract on telecommunications service with a juvenile under the Juvenile Protection Act must provide means to block the juvenile’s access to the media products harmful to juveniles under the Juvenile Protection Act and the illegal obscene information under Article 44-7(1)1 of the ICNA (“Information harmful to juveniles”) through the telecommunication service on the juvenile’s mobile communications device such as a software blocking information harmful to juveniles. (2) Procedures prescribed below must be followed when providing the blocking means under (1): At the point of signing the contract: a. Notification to the juvenile and his/her legal representative regarding types and features of the blocking means; and b. Check on the installation of the blocking means. After closing the contract: Monthly notification to the legal representative if the blocking means was deleted or had not been operated for more than 15 days. So, not only is it censorware and spyware, but it's also apparently nagware -- with telecom reps calling or emailing every month to remind parents to perform their duties as proxy surveillance operatives for the South Korean government. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 10 days ago on techdirt
This week, the man behind the Stanford Prison Experiment went on a tear against videogames and all sorts of associated culture (reduced to its most gauche symbols). PaulT took first place for insightful by tearing apart his vitriol: "When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft" ...as opposed to the "I'll wish I was doing almost anything else" that was the norm before WoW existed? Or, is he pretending that the world was full of dedicated studious children before that? "When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected." Because porn is a brand new thing that never existed before the internet, and teenagers would never fear rejection if it weren't for porn? "Zimbardo defines excessive porning and video gaming as more than five hours a day" How does this compare to other similar activities such as watching TV? I'll never take any of these people seriously if they pretend that watching hours of trashy reality TV and soaps is OK or that lounging around watching football is fine but it suddenly becomes a problem when you have a controller in your hand. "He added that young men are drinking Coke instead of alcohol and becoming "fat-asses." ...because nobody got fat from drinking beer? Because instead of a fatass playing games in their room, what you really need is a pissed-up teenager with nothing productive to do outside the home? "Unsurprisingly, Zimbardo has recently published a book dealing with these very issues." Ah, OK. So, instead of a dickhead being paranoid about videogames and presenting half-assed research and long-outdated stereotypes as mere fearmongering, he's doing it to make money from book sales? That's not better. What a shame that people will swallow this rubbish rather than dealing with some of the real issues (such as parents who use games and TV as babysitters because they don't have time for productive parenting, have swallowed the 24 hour news cycle exaggeration of danger outside the home, etc). Meanwhile, in a guest post, law professor Michael Carrier laid out countless examples of how technology has benefited musicians, and jupiterkansas won second place for insightful by pointing out that not only does this disprove the RIAA's idea that the music world is ending, it makes them look pretty useless, too: This article lists over a dozen services that any of the major record labels had more than enough resources to create in the last 20 years as a service to musicians - the kind of service they're supposed to be providing. It's their own fault they couldn't see the future past the bottom line. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with the story of yet another company trying to retain ownership of the stuff it sells you via copyright on the software. In this case it was John Deere, prompting one anonymous commenter to point out just how absurd the entire idea is: Additionally, there is about zero market for pirated tractor software. The software is useless unless you own a compatible tractor (and thus you already own a copy of the software.) The copy protection does nothing legitimate. Next, we've got a response from John Fenderson to the latest murmurs from the Internet Security Task Force (actually a coalition of movie studios) — not so much its unsurprisingly-ridiculous statements, but its blatantly manipulative branding: I also like how they call themselves the Internet Security Task Force (ISTF). This is obviously intended to cause confusion with the legitimate and not-corporate-lobby-group, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They're probably hoping that they will benefit from the established legitimacy of the IETF. Way to not be sleazy, guys! Speaking of entertainment branding, our first place comment on the funny side this week comes in response to the cable industry's decision to distance itself from the word "cable" and drop "The Cable Show" as the name of its annual trade conference. One anonymous commenter had a suggested alternative: Ok let's just call it the Anti-consumer Show then. Next, we've got a bit of an odd one. The aforementioned post about the benefits of technology for creators, and the lies and failures of the RIAA, prompted a vicious but completely-unsupported rebuttal from someone named Phil. It certainly didn't seem like a joke, so the fact that it won second place for funny really illustrates the difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at": As a professional musician earning a terrible living in the industry since 1999, I want to say that the level of ignorance of what musicians are dealing with in 2015 expressed by the authors of this blog and by the commentors here is astounding and depressing. In the 5 minutes I spent reading this rant and the comments that followed it, I was overwhelmed by the number of misinformed or logically faulty arguments expressed. I love debating on the internet and I've had no problem dealing with presidential elections, hot-button social issues, pressing scientific controversies, etc. But the sheer asshattery and blindness expressed here just leaves me speechless. All of you musically ignorant fucks completely deserve the dark ages of original music that is forming even as you dissemble and make endless excuses for the low value that our modern economy has affixed to original music... That sad thing is that from what I can tell, most Americans' musical literacy is so abysmal that they will never be aware of what they have lost. For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got two quick and punchy lines. First, a response from Michael to Wyoming's attempt to control reporters and hide the fact that its streams are contaminated with e. coli: Bullshit in streams leads to bullshit in legislature. Finally, we've got what might be the simplest, most elegant response possible to the sad, amusing announcement that Verizon is buying AOL: Two turkeys don't make an eagle. That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 11 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago This week in 2010, another shot was fired in the ongoing Apple-Nokia patent war, and in the Apple-HTC war as well. Wired was thus inspired to take on the smartphone patent thicket, and all this was at a time when the USPTO was ramping up patent approvals. On the flipside, though, we also saw the birth of the Defensive Patent License. The RIAA racked up another legal win, this time in its lawsuit against LimeWire, while the YouTube-Viacom case was still winding its way through the court with some amicus briefs that tried to rewrite the DMCA. The Hurt Locker producers were just gearing up for their now-infamous plan to go after thousands of filesharing fans, Games Workshop was suing a Warhammer fan site over trademark issues, and music publishers were still trying to get money from lyrics websites. At least the EU Digital Commissioner recognized the market created by piracy, Brazil decided against a notice-and-takedown system, and the estate of Roy Lichtenstein backed down from threats against a band that appropriated some of the same material used by the famous artist. The Humble Bundle, now an online fixture, was just beginning to strut its stuff and show off some extremely impressive numbers. While the Bundle was going open-source, Rockstar was amusingly caught selling a pirated version of their own game on Steam in order to get around the disc-based DRM they had originally saddled it with. But President Obama was brushing off the whole world of videogames (and tablets, and iPods...) as diversions and distractions. Ten Years Ago In 2005, Napster was in its "legal service" phase, and trying to get into the ringtone market (though record labels were getting fighty over those, too). Speaking of tough rebrandings, former RIAA CEO Hilary Rosen (architect of lawsuits against individual downloaders and anti-consumer policies) was trying to pass herself off as a consumer rights defender. Former Universal Music head Edgar Bronfman Jr., since moved on to Warner Music, was not doing so great in his new gig, and we started to notice other businesses facing new digital challenges, like wedding photographers. Also in 2005: Google went down for a terrifying 15 minutes this week in 2005, followed by some serious eBay outages; Bill Gates made the not-at-all-biased prediction that Windows-based phones would replace iPods (though I guess he was only one word off) while Microsoft was doling out the intellectual property propaganda; Blockbuster was getting ready to give up on online rentals, people were starting to catch on to free credit report scams, and newspapers were trying their hardest to beat Craigslist at its own game. Last but not least, Techdirt held a party to celebrate our 25,000th post. Fifteen Years Ago Bill Gates had some stupid things to say this week in 2000, too. This time it was the claim that if Microsoft was broken up into separate companies, there would be no tablet PCs and Windows never would have had a taskbar. Uh, sure. Napster's position was far more nebulous at this time, with the CEO giving interesting interviews while also caving to Metallica's ban-demands. Of course, this latter event inspired someone to (probably jokingly) start working on a Napster-clone for Metallica songs only. Volkswagen was the first carmaker to get their dealers on-board for direct online car sales (somehow). There were other areas of retail where it wasn't clear that brand mattered much at all. The broader world of ecommerce, plus issues surrounding Napster and eBay, started raising serious liability questions. The internet was of course still raising various underthought social objections too, but some people were starting to push back, noting that the internet keeps lots of people in touch who wouldn't be otherwise, and genuinely makes people closer. And, nearly fifteen years before the launch of our new podcast, Techdirt made a foray into online radio. Forty Years Ago Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, the battle fought over Sony's Betamax technology which established the legality of home recording, was a major turning point in modern copyright law. It introduced the question of "substantial noninfringing uses" that has come up time and time again in more recent lawsuits over copying and sharing technology, with mixed results. But it was on May 10th, 1975 that the seed was planted for the whole shebang: Sony released Betamax, in Japan, for the very first time. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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