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Chemists haven't quite mastered manipulating atoms and molecules, but physicists are making some progress in making/discovering all kinds of new particles -- and not just sub-atomic scale particles. We've mentioned "super heavy hydrogen" before, but there are a few other unnatural bits of matter brewing in labs, too. Check out a few of them below. Powerful X-ray pulses can blast away the guts of atoms, making hollow atoms. Giant Rydberg atoms, antimatter atoms (e.g. antihydrogen) and elements beyond Ununoctium (atomic #118) are extremely difficult to observe (or create in the first place), but these particles might prove useful someday. But even if they don't, it's interesting to see how far we can push the boundaries of atoms and groups of sub-atomic particles. [url] Magnetic superatoms are clusters of atoms with electrons in orbitals that surround the entire cluster instead of just the individual atoms. A stable magnetic superatom VNa8 can be synthesized -- but not in macroscopic quantities yet. These kinds of superatoms could have spintronics applications, but it's really too early to make any kind of useful device out of these things. [url] A variant of atomic force microscopy can produce images of atomic bonds in molecules with amazing detail, gaining picometer resolution. Imaging at this scale could help develop molecular electronics and keep Moore's law from faltering more than it already has. [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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While Google is still seen as (and proclaims to be) a net neutrality advocate, evidence continues to mount that this is simply no longer the case. Back in 2010 you might recall that Google helped co-write the FCC's original, flimsy net neutrality rules with the help of folks like AT&T and Verizon -- ensuring ample loopholes and making sure the rules didn't cover wireless at all. When the FCC moved to finally enact notably-tougher neutrality rules for wired and wireless networks earlier this year, Google was publicly mute but privately active in making sure the FCC didn't seriously address the problems with usage caps and zero-rated (cap exempt) content. While the company pretends this isn't a notable turnaround from previous principles, the evidence is on the table for all to see. As India has been exploring net neutrality rules it's again apparent that, if not at least leaning into the anti-neutrality rule camp -- Google sure as hell is not helping. Both Google and Facebook have come under fire recently for their zero rating efforts overseas, which include exempting some select partner content from usage caps, and setting up walled garden fiefdoms under the banner of selfless altruism. Critics charge that these plans create vast inequalities in connectivity and violate Internet openness, and that if the companies' really want to help the poor, they can help subsidize truly open Internet access. While Facebook has responded to this criticism by insisting that all of its critics are extremists should they dare question Facebook's noble intentions, Google's again chosen a more subtle route; staying mute on the subject publicly but quietly working behind the scenes to weaken the final rules:"Google joined hands with Facebook to try and prevent the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which represents some of the largest Internet companies in India, from taking a stand that counters Zero Rating. According to emails exchanged between IAMAI’s Government Relations committee members, of which MediaNama has copies, Vineeta Dixit, a member of Google’s Public Policy and and Government Relations team, strongly pushed for the removal of any mention of Zero Rating from the IAMAI’s submission, as a response to the Department of Telecom’s report on Net Neutrality. Please note that Google hasn’t responded to our queries, despite multiple reminders...Apparently Google was preparing to launch its own zero-rated effort in India but put those plans on hold once it saw Facebook taking a public relations beating. And while Google's been very careful to even avoid having any of its positions on the record, these e-mails show it pushed India's wireless carriers to make sure they all were on board supporting zero rating:"Dixit’s email to the IAMAI government relations committee, while reasoning that there is no consensus on Zero Rating, asked for its removal from the submission, saying: “We would like to register strong protest against this formulation and would request you to remove this (Zero Rating) from the submission."So yes, this is basically Google's net neutrality modus operandi now: publicly say as little as possible (while harvesting press and public acclaim for being a net neutrality "supporter") while privately undermining real neutrality. As we've discussed with both AT&T's sponsored data and T-Mobile's Music Freedom, such a model gives preferential treatment to larger companies while making life immediately harder for smaller outfits, independents and non-profits. And Google's ok with that. Worth remembering the next time Google (or a press outlet) proclaims that Google's still a noble champion on the net neutrality front.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Over the last few years, we've published a ton of stories about the growing police reliance on Stingray cell site simulator devices (also known as IMSI catchers), that mimic a real cell phone tower and help provide the location of a certain mobile phone. As we've written, these devices have been super popular with police departments, who often receive them from the federal government with strict non-disclosure agreements, which means law enforcement has been known to lie to courts or simply drop cases where the usage is at risk of coming out in court. It seems that this story is getting more and more national attention. Brad Heath, over at USA Today, has a fairly deep dive into the fact that police are using these devices to solve petty crimes all the time, without a warrant, and then refusing to tell defendants how they were caught (which is a bit of a constitutional no-no). Heath specifically was able to get a police surveillance log in Baltimore, which detailed how the devices were used there. The records show that the city's police used stingrays to catch everyone from killers to petty thieves, that the authorities regularly hid or obscured that surveillance once suspects got to court and that many of those they arrested were never prosecuted. Defense attorneys assigned to many of those cases said they did not know a stingray had been used until USA TODAY contacted them, even though state law requires that they be told about electronic surveillance. “I am astounded at the extent to which police have been so aggressively using this technology, how long they’ve been using it and the extent to which they have gone to create ruses to shield that use,” Stephen Mercer, the chief of forensics for Maryland’s public defenders, said. Some of the cases are absolutely ridiculous -- such as the one where an angry husband grabbed his wife's phone and left the house. Police declared it a theft and used an IMSI catcher to track it down... but by that point, the husband had already given it back to his wife, so the police just showed up at her home where she already had the phone. Also, because it's so easy to use these devices to just go and locate anyone, Baltimore police sometimes used it just to find the location of witnesses (i.e., people who haven't committed any crimes). That's going way over the line of what's appropriate. These things are being used so often in so many cases with so little transparency, one hopes that the growing press attention will finally lead to much more accountability on how these devices are used and a requirement for a warrant.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We write frequently about those who abuse the DMCA either directly for the sake of censorship or, more commonly, because some are in such a rush to take down anything and everything that they don't bother (or care) to check to see if what they're taking down is actually infringing. The latter, while common, could potentially expose those issuing the takedowns to serious legal liability, though the courts are still figuring out to what extent. Last week, we wrote about Boston public television station WGBH issuing a bogus takedown on some public domain (government created) video that Carl Malamud had uploaded to YouTube. That doesn't look like an automated takedown, but rather someone working for WGBH's legal team who just decided that anything with "American Experience" in a title must be infringing. Malamud has now published the letter that he sent YouTube, about the whole situation. It includes some more details concerning the insulting manner in which WGBH's legal team, Susan Kantrowitz and Eric Brass, handled the situation, including Brass telling Malamud that this wasn't a big deal because deleting this "particular film" was not that important. Meanwhile, I finally reached the WGBH legal department. Susan L. Kantrowitz, General Counsel, wrote to me that “It is highly unusual for Amex to be in a title and not be one of our shows” and they would “address it on Monday.” Eric Brass, Corporate Counsel, wrote that “the take down request very well may have been an error, but given that it is late on a Friday afternoon in August, I may not be able to get back to you (or YouTube) until Monday.” He then wrote me back and indicated that while perhaps my YouTube account was important, this “particular film” was certainly not. I spoke to him on the phone and he repeated that no harm had been done, but and that after he completed his investigation he would,“follow up with something in writing that might be helpful for you if a question arises down the road about the take down.” I want to stress that the timing of this takedown was not mine, it was instigated by WGBH and it was done deliberately as a formal legal action. Mr. Brass seemed quite peeved that I was upset, even though I was just minding my own business on the Internet when some hooligans from Boston came over and smacked me for no reason at all, then left for a weekend at the Cape. The process of creating a copyright strike is not a casual one. WGBH had to go through several screens to identify the video, fill out their contact information, and checked numerous boxes indicating that they understood this was the beginning of a legal process, then signed a statement indicating that all statements were true and that they were in fact the true and correct owners of that film or portions of that film. In order to respond to that legal accusation, I had to go through a similar process of swearing under oath and accepting a court’s jurisdiction for my counter-claim. Because of all of this, Malamud has suggested that YouTube institute a similar reverse three strikes policy for those who abuse the DMCA takedown process: I believe that incorrectly posting a video that is under copyright is in fact worthy of a copyright strike. However, I think the opposite of that should be true. WGBH committed a copyright foul and should be prohibited from having the capability to take another user’s films down for a six-month period. If they commit 3 copyright fouls, their account should be revoked. WGBH personnel should be required to go to copyright school so that they fully understand their responsibilities under the law. Given the blithe and uncaring attitude of WGBH legal staff, they should also be required to undergo copyright school. Their blase attitude was not impressive, and I can just imagine the reaction of WGBH if somebody had improperly taken down one of their media properties would not have been nearly so casual. The idea of a reverse three strikes policy is not a new one. We first wrote about it back in 2008. Unfortunately, under the current wording of the DMCA, it would be very difficult to do it properly, but it does seem worth considering, considering just how frequency such a power is abused.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A couple months ago, we wrote about Twitter shutting down Politwoops, a service from the Sunlight Foundation that highlighted tweets that politicians had posted... and then deleted. This was a useful tool for transparency, showing what kinds of tweets politicians delete. Frequently it was silly things like typos, but sometimes it caught and highlighted really ridiculous statements by politicians that they should have thought more about first. Twitters reasoning behind this made no sense at all at the time, claiming that it was about "honoring the expectation of user privacy." That's wrong. If you tweet publicly, there is no "expectation of privacy." You have done something publicly. This weekend, this whole situation got more attention, as Twitter similarly shut down a number of similar services, including foreign instances of Politwoops run by the Open State Foundation. Once again, Twitter gave a reason... that made absolutely no sense: Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice. This is worse than the original reason. First of all, that's not terrifying at all. That's how life is, every day. You say something, people hear it/see it and they can repeat it or call you out on it if they disagree. And you can have a discussion. And, of course, you can later change your words, admit you made a mistake, or, yes, delete your tweet. But people might notice that. And that's fine. It's not terrifying. There's nothing "immutable" or "irrevocable" about Politwoops highlighting things that actually happened. As for the next two lines, again, it makes no sense. There is nothing in Politwoops that makes one user "more deserving" of any ability than any other. Anyone can delete tweets. And anyone who saw the original tweet can call it out and highlight it. Yet, for whatever reason, Twitter has decided that it wants to give extra special protections to some users, by claiming that it's an abuse to actually build a system to automate such things. This is the opposite of enabling free speech. It's stifling it. And, yes, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user's voice -- as is having someone highlight what you deleted. That's how this works. This move is profoundly disappointing by Twitter -- a company that regularly positions itself as a champion of free speech and being engaged in the political process. Politicians say stupid stuff all the time (as does pretty much everyone). And people call them out on it. And no one ever argues that's an invasion of their privacy... except, apparently, Twitter. Once again, this is a reminder of why we should be focused on protocols instead of platforms for the services that enable free expression. When we rely on platforms, we have to live by their rules.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Remember the 4th Amendment? We hear it's making a comeback. Back in May, we had a story about another court explaining to the government that, contrary to popular belief within Homeland Security, the 4th Amendment does still apply at the border, and thus Border Patrol can't just take someone's laptop without a warrant. The case involved a guy named Jae Shik Kim, who the government suspected was shipping items to China that were then being forwarded to Iran. Because of that, DHS grabbed his laptop as he was leaving the US (on a flight to Korea). The DOJ argued that the laptop was a "container" subject to search at the border. The court disabused the DOJ of this notion: After considering all of the facts and authorities set forth above, then, the Court finds, under the totality of the unique circumstances of this case, that the imaging and search of the entire contents of Kim’s laptop, aided by specialized forensic software, for a period of unlimited duration and an examination of unlimited scope, for the purpose of gathering evidence in a pre-existing investigation, was supported by so little suspicion of ongoing or imminent criminal activity, and was so invasive of Kim’s privacy and so disconnected from not only the considerations underlying the breadth of the government’s authority to search at the border, but also the border itself, that it was unreasonable. Given an opportunity to respond, the DOJ has dropped the entire case. The United States, by and through its attorney, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, respectfully moves this Court to dismiss the Indictment against the defendants. As grounds for this motion, the government states the following: in a Memorandum Opinion and Order, filed on May 8, 2015, the Court granted the defendants’ motion to suppress evidence, and the government has decided not to pursue an appeal of that decision. Accordingly, the government is unable to continue prosecuting this matter, and we therefore move the Court to dismiss the Indictment pending against the defendants. Yup. Next time, maybe don't violate the 4th Amendment.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The $39 Investment Banking Training Bundle is a cost-effective way to learn the skills and tools needed to get into investment banking. The comprehensive 99 courses are geared to teach you about everything from analyst accounting to financial modeling to portfolio management. There is a section focused on learning advanced skills in Excel, Word and PowerPoint and how to automate tasks with VisualBasic. There is even a section on becoming a great negotiator and communicator. The lifetime access to this complete bundle will quickly have you fluent in the lingo and basics of investment banking. Courses on corruption, swindling and getting the federal government to bail you out for your biggest failings apparently not included. You'll have to learn that on your own. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The best way to combat speech you find offensive is more speech. Despite it being the best way to handle these situations, it's also the least-used option. And, in legislators' hands, "more speech" is rarely on the table. But "more law" almost always is. An editorial from the Montreal Gazette discussing the Quebec government's proposal for a new "hate speech" law not only points out the potentially damaging side effects of the poorly-drafted bill, but other aspects that should have prevented it from ever getting this far in the legislative process. To begin with, there are already laws in place to deal with "hate speech." Certain types of communication are considered unacceptable, particularly speech that intentionally incites others to violence or hatred against a particular group. The Criminal Code already provides for this, and more importantly, it sets out clear parameters for the successful prosecution of hate-speech offences and specifies the conditions under which statements that some may see as hate speech are legally permissible. And as with all crimes, conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There it is. A law already exists to address these issues. But this law apparently has problems -- like "clear parameters" and requirements for "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." The new law will have neither of those. The legislation, in its current form, fails even to define hate speech, leaving the grounds for a complaint to the provincial human rights commission open to interpretation. Also of concern is that the complainant may remain anonymous. Once a complaint is received, the bill would grant the commission sweeping new powers to investigate an alleged offence, and to then forward cases to the human rights tribunal for action. The tribunal, in turn, could decide — based on a level of proof that it determines itself — whether a person has engaged in or disseminated hate speech, or “acted in such a manner as to cause such acts to be committed.” If so, fines could be levied and names added to a publicly available list for an indeterminate period of time. These changes for the worse have been prompted by critics of the existing law, as it fails to criminalize enough speech and raises the bar too high for those hoping to punish people for offending them. Passing this law would allow hecklers to exercise their veto power more frequently, more effectively and, as a bonus, completely anonymously. The end result, of course, is the chilling of speech. Currently, there's a measure of due process to the proceedings. If this bill passes, that's gone. And with no clear standard expressed in the bill itself, all sorts of previously protected speech will be potentially subject to criminal penalties. But that's only part of the problem. The other issue is that the bill seems to be a quid pro quo exchange meant to give the government a pass on yet another targeted restriction. The anti-hate bill was introduced as part of a “package” of sorts, rolled out in June in response to (among other things) concerns about the radicalization of impressionable young people and a rising tide of public anti-Muslim sentiment. The package also included a detailed anti-radicalization strategy and another bill that would ban the wearing of face-coverings while giving or receiving a public service. The face-covering ban will almost exclusively affect Muslims, so the hate-speech bill could be seen as a kind of olive branch to the community, and another way to defend against increasingly vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric in public discourse. So, the Quebec government wants to crack down on radicalization and force Muslims to look "less Muslim" when engaging with the Quebec government. In exchange, everyone -- not just Muslims -- will be allowed to anonymously report nearly anything that offends them to the commission and allow the bill's vague machinations to take over. It's written from the ground up to be abused. And while it may be a slight nod towards the Muslim community the government is slapping with other restrictions, it's a safe bet that Muslims will also be frequently targeted by hate speech complaints to the tribunal. By leaving the burden of proof entirely in the tribunal's hands, any and all complaints are valid until otherwise determined by a third party in its sole discretion, with no input from the accused. How could that possibly go wrong? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've been covering stories here about studies and claims linking real-world violence and video games for about as long as I've been a reader/writer. An even cursory review of our own record can only lead a reader to conclude that such links are, at best, nebulous, and are perhaps less likely than likely to exist. When coupled with some recent and fascinating revelations about just how easy it is to get a study to say exactly what you want it to say, and to get that study published and reported in supposedly reputable arenas, we're left with the troubling impression that such studies linking violence and gaming are more back-patting endeavors than they are true intellectual efforts. With that in mind, you may have heard of a recent American Psychology Association report that strongly affirms the link between gaming and aggression, which is in this context meant to be synonymous with violence. This was the product of the APA's task force for studying the existence of such a link. It might represent a scientific victory for those who have long claimed that such a link exists, were it not for the predictably massive problems associated with the task force, the studies it took into account, and the methodology for the conclusions it drew. These problems are evidenced by the over two hundred academics who have submitted an open letter to the APA sharing their collective concerns over how this all went down. One of those signees, Stetson University psychology professor Chris Ferguson, spoke with Game Informer, detailing the problems with the task force. Among those problems are details such as the task force being mostly comprised of scholars who have demonstrated in the past a willingness to link violence and aggression, the measures they used for aggression, and task force members having previously publicly supported legislation aimed at keeping games away from children. Ferguson tells me that of the seven task force members, four had at anti-media leanings, with another that uses aggression measures that have been called into question by some factions of the psychology community. "To some degree, they're really commenting on their own product," he says. "I think people interpret these things as neutral. You have to remember that they are commenting on their own product. These are people looking at their own research and declaring it beyond further debate. All of us would love to do that, but we don't really get that chance, nor should we." He also notes that all seven members of the task force were over the age of 50, citing a correlation between views on media and age. "I point that out because there is solid evidence that age is a correlate for attitudes about video games, even amongst scholars," Ferguson explains. "Age and negative attitudes toward youth predict anti-game attitudes." For those of us that worship at the altar of science, this serves as a welcome reminder that science is only as good as those conducting it. Bias is omnipresent and omnidirectional and it is something we must always be vigilant against. For instance, cited in the open letter is the fact that the APA previously stated as a matter of policy that violent games should see a reduced exposure to children and that the APA had already made recommendations to the gaming industry about exactly how violence should be portrayed in games, specifically suggesting that real-world consequences should be visited upon violent actors in digital media. In other words, as the letter states, the APA task force essentially reached the conclusion that the APA's previous work and recommendations were on point, using a hand-picked team comprised of researchers perfectly biased to reach just that conclusion. Adding to the letter's concern over some of the sloppy methodology for drawing the task force's conclusions is the kind of simple real-world analysis of data that has me wondering just how any of this made it past the APA's review to begin with. Ferguson and his colleagues also point to data evidencing a decrease in youth violence, which contradicts assertions that media (video games and non-interactive forms) are a public health concern. Ferguson cites colleagues at Oxford, Villanova, Western Michigan University, and more that have presented recent findings in peer-reviewed journals. These studies indicate that there is no connection between violent video games and aggression. A study by Patrick Markey at Villanova indicates that "participants who were not angry tended to be relatively unaffected by exposure to violent video games." In other words, at the exact moment that the APA suggests violence and video games are linked, and at the exact moment that violent video games have exploded in popularity and dissemination, violence amongst youth (and the general public) is trending downward. One would think that if a link existed, we might see some evidence of it outside of ham-fisted studies utilizing questionable methodologies. But, alas, this is the way of things. And you should expect this to continue, probably right up to the point when most of the research of this issue is being done by a generation in which gaming was prevalent in their youth. Then the studies will likely show something more interesting than a self-created echo-chamber of moral outrage. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Discussions about copyright reform in Australia are now entering their fourth year, and the longer they go on, the worse the proposals become. That's in part because there has been a change of government in the interim, and the present Attorney-General, George Brandis, has made it clear he's firmly on the side of copyright companies, and indifferent to the Australian public's concerns or needs in a digital world. One big problem for him and his maximalist friends is that a key recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), in its extremely detailed and rigorous analysis of the state of copyright in Australia, was to introduce a new fair use provision. This is absolute anathema for the copyright companies, which seem to hold that the law should only ever be changed in their favor, imposing a kind of copyright ratchet that prevents the public from gaining any substantial new rights. Simply dropping the fair use idea would be too obvious, so a way needs to be found to kill it off without causing an outcry against the Australian government's blatant favoritism. As ZDNet reports, maybe Brandis has found what he is looking for: The Australian Attorney-General's Department has commissioned a cost-benefit analysis into the recommendation by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to implement a fair use provision in the amendments that the government is proposing to make to the Copyright Act in order to adapt to the digital world. The economic analysis, announced on Wednesday, will examine the cost effects that fair use would impose on copyright holders along with copyright user groups. Although that sounds perfectly reasonable, the ZDNet story adds some important historical context from a year ago that Brandis probably hoped nobody would remember: Brandis again affirmed his partiality toward content owners, claiming that the recommendation to implement a fair use defence was "a controversial proposal" and would weaken the rights of copyright owners. "In considering the recommendations, we will be particularly concerned to ensure and we will approach the consideration of the report with the view that no prejudice be caused to the interests of rights holders and creators," he said in February 2014. Since by its very nature fair use allows the public to use copyright material in various ways without needing to pay a licensing fee, this means there will inevitably be some "prejudice" to the copyright companies, although minor in comparison to the major gains for eveyone else. However impartial and balanced the cost-benefit analysis will be, it is bound to expose the fact that if the public gains any new freedoms there will be a theoretical loss for the copyright holders. And that, presumably, will allow Brandis to refuse to implement the ALRC recommendation on the grounds that he must defend the interests of creators, even though they would be among the greatest benefactors of a fair use provision, which would allow them to use existing works in new and exciting ways. But who cares about art when corporate profits are at stake? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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When a theater chain announced plans to bring TSA-style security to the movies with bag and purse searches, it sounded stupid. But to Johan it sounded suspicious, leading to our most insightful comment this week: My guess that this is a disguised attempt at catching outside food and drink to boost concession stand sales. Just say you're looking out for customer's safety and at the same time remove the contraband twizzlers. Next, after a photographer attempted to sue over the use of his photo by a map company — despite that use perfectly adhering to the Creative Commons license he chose — Arther Moore won second place for insightful by pointing out just how counterproductive the whole ordeal was: The worst thing is the photographer wasted a perfectly good opportunity. Instead of companies seeing that his work was good enough to be used commercially, they'll now see him as someone who is willing to frivolously attack anyone who does more than look at his work. For our first editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a comment from a photographer expanding on that point. Marcel de Jong discusses the benefits of sharing your work for free: Most of my photos are released under CC-BY, a decision I didn't take lightly. And some of them have been used in commercial settings (there's a webshop selling fridge magnets of photos of mine, and several have appeared in magazines and online articles (including one in a cracked.com article)). It just makes for a more interesting line on my resume: "Internationally published photographer" instead of "Hobbyist fool with a camera". I'd love to have one of my photos used as the cover of a book/map. I'd buy a copy of that, instantly, or at first ask if I could get one for free. Next, since it wouldn't be a week in 2015 without a story of police misbehaviour, we turn to one such example in which a woman caught an officer beating a handcuffed suspect only to have him attempt to prevent her from recording the incident. One commenter pointed out that we should all really be using software that uploads the videos to the cloud as they are shot, so that you can tell an officer there's no way to delete the recording, but Rekrul had his own idea: No, don't tell them that it's automatically backed up online. Let them think the recording is gone so that they can file their bogus report. Then once they've lied in their official statement, release the recording and prove that they lied. Over on the funny side, we surprisingly start out on that same not-so-funny story, but only because That One Guy latched on to the quote that "guns don’t belong in the hands of children" and provided a response that scored nearly as many insightful votes as it did funny ones: I actually agree wholeheartedly with this, and it's nice of them to finally admit it. Mind, a little odd that he describes the police as 'children' in his statement, but I suppose a group that regularly throws tantrums when they don't get their way does rather fit the definition. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to replace my irony meter, given it seems to have exploded for some reason. For second place, we head to the story about Jeb Bush's campaign against "creating" encryption, leading one commenter to wonder if he realizes that encryption already exists and is in heavy use around the world. In response, an anonymous commenter paraphrased his requests: "Stop making all this math guys!" For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a response to Xerox's decision to start region-locking ink cartridges. This seemed like a terrible idea, but one anonymous commenter saw a lot of sense in it: Regional ink markets just make good sense. Ink sold in Iowa, for instance, can be sold as 'corn-based'. Markup: 25%. Ink sold in Nebraska can be sold as 'pigshit-based'. Markup: 32%. Ink sold in India can be backfilled with mercury and other cost-effective fillers and sold as 'Murican!' Markup: 13%. Zip code based micro-regions are important in areas like Washington, D.C. Ink destined for the DOJ requires the thick 'Redacto-Blend'. Markup: 325%, while ink going to Congress requires the much thinner 'printed-on-a-tissue-of-lies' blend. Markup: 600%. Yes, ink markets are important, not only for specific customer needs, or "customer needs hahahaha", but for the much more relevant 'where-are-we-going-to-get-the-money-for-our-Caribbean-conferences' requirements. Ink: because the world runs on chumps not knowing any better. Finally, we've got a nice and simple response from Baron von Robber to the folks at Ashley Madison, who are still trying to abuse the DMCA to hide the devastating data leaks: Dear Avid Life Media, I hear pissing into the wind will help too. That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Five Years Ago Throughout these posts we've seen lots of snippets of the history of the Pirate Bay, and this week in 2010 we looked at an presentation by Peter Sunde that tells the whole story. Meanwhile, BitTorrent was beginning to directly promote creators who embrace alternative distribution, the porn industry was once again leading the way by embracing piracy and monetizing experiences, and the Kids In The Hall admitted to pirating their own show because it's so hard to get legally. Amidst all this, a popular graph was going around suggesting that the web was dying because of its dwindling share of overall traffic, with P2P and video on the rise — but the absolute numbers told a different story. Industry groups were negotiating net neutrality (again), and the recording industry saw this as an opportunity to link copyright infringement to child pornography (again). John Mellencamp was calling the internet an "atomic bomb" for music while U2's manager was focusing on anonymous blogging as the core problem. Grooveshark was still going strong, but Universal Music pushed Apple into pulling it from the app store, while we pointed to a chart that nicely illustrated the utter insanity of music licensing. Ten Years Ago Five years before that, we were pointing out that the industry has to let go of DRM before it kills mobile music, and that exclusive mobile content deals don't make any sense. We took a look at just how the DMCA came to be, and were happy to see someone finally fighting back against a RIAA lawsuit. In the world of TV, executives were finally starting to realize that they had to embrace new technologies; in the world of movies, some theaters were trying to offer a better experience while others were blaming their slumps on the simple problem of bad movies; in the video game world people were freaking out as usual about violence while we pointed out that games actually suck for indoctrination; and in the newspaper world, it wasn't exactly shocking to learn that the growth was happening online. But by far the most hyped medium was a relatively "new" one: podcasting. Also this week in 2005, Google piqued a little bit of interest with the purchase of a small, secretive startup called "Android" that wouldn't tell anyone what it was working on beyond "mobile software". We expressed doubts that this meant Google would be developing a mobile OS, as some had surmised, and suggested that it was probably something to do with location-aware search and advertising. Little did we know... Fifteen Years Ago A lot of people were expressing doubts about Amazon recently in 2000, and this week the company hit back with numbers to show it's not worried. Annother huge name at the time, RealNetworks, was rolling out a new business model that sounded a lot like premium cable. And who knew what the future would hold for these two companies...? Digital marketing was all about targeting kids this week in 2000. They were, after all, way more likely than teens to click banner ads, and schools were such a great place for advertising to a captive audience. But why stop there? The Internet Underground Music Archive offered a prize to parents who would name their baby IUMA, and it didn't take long to find the first winner. In the world of futuristic tech (some of which remains futuristic) we saw looks at quantum computing and neural networks, surgery conducted with the aid of robots, and far out musings about controlling the weather with satellites and microwaves. One-Hundred And Four Years Ago With the onslaught of people who insist on calling infringement "theft", it's easy to forget that there's also such a thing as real art theft. Perhaps the most high-profile example happened on August 21st, 1911, when the Mona Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee who believed it should be returned to its native Italy. It wouldn't be found for two years. Amusingly, this instance of real stealing had an effect not unlike the "stealing" that oh-so-terribly happens online: it led to a massive increase in the Mona Lisa's popularity. Prior to the theft, the painting wasn't really known outside the art world, but international reporting of the theft and recovery (notwithstanding a significant public-attention detour after the sinking of the Titanic in between) is what turned it into the world's most famous work of art. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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By now, you've probably heard that there's a giant robot fight coming in the near future: a US team has challenged a Japanese team to a brawl, and the challenge was accepted on the condition that it includes hand-to-hand fighting. Clearly America isn't going to back down because of this requirement, but that means Megabots Inc. needs to upgrade its Mk.II bot — and they're turning to the crowd for help. The Good Three words: giant robot fight. Picture BattleBots (it's back!) but way, way bigger and with the drivers inside the robots. Do you need more than that? Well, the specifics are pretty cool: Mk.II is already a formidable robot, but designed mostly to look awesome and deliver long-range attacks. The team has an overall $1.5-million plan to do a significant overhaul and get the Mk.II ready to take on the Japanese bot — and they're seeking the first $500,000 on Kickstarter. That'll cover new armor, melee weapons, a higher top speed, and the necessary hydraulics and power systems to keep all that operational. If they can break through the target and hit some stretch goals, things start to get even more interesting: at $750k they'll begin designing and testing modular weapons to find the best armament; at $1-million they'll begin working with the winners of a DARPA challenge to give the currently-top-heavy Mk.II advanced balancing capabilities (like the videos of self-balancing DARPA robots that get creepier every day); at $1.25-milion they'll bring in NASA safety experts to make sure the driver is completely protected (should this maybe be... higher priority?); and at $1.5-million they'll apply the icing to the cake in the form of a Hollywood-grade paint job. Even if you don't care who wins this fight, you probably want to see it happen. The Bad ...And if you do care who wins this fight (and are rooting for the US) then you should probably back this project, because at the moment there's plenty of reason to believe that the Mk.II might have bitten off more than it can chew. Its opponent — the Kuratas by Suidobashi Heavy Industry — is an extremely impressive machine. The Mk.II might be a bit heavier-duty, but the Kuratas is far more maneuverable and features some pretty advanced targeting and piloting systems. It's pretty clear why the Japanese team wanted a hand-to-hand combat component: the Kuratas hasn't been seen sporting any particularly heavy firepower (while the US bot, unsurprisingly, has) but it's not hard to picture it taking out the Mk.II up close by trumping it on manoeuvrability and balance — because, like so many robot competitions over the years, there's a good chance this one will end somewhat-disappointingly with one of the bots unceremoniously falling over. $1.5-million worth of upgrades will go a long way towards ensuring this is a fair and intense fight. The Empowering Of course, as much fun as it will be to see these robots in action, the real dream for many will be to drive one — and that's absolutely a possibility. Starting at $1000, all the tiers offer the chance to pilot the Mk.II — with higher prices bringing in the chance to try out its guns and fists. At the top tier of $10,000, you get to join the pit crew and get the inside view of the entire match including watching on-site assembly of the bot — and since all five spots were snatched up far more quickly than expected, the team has added another round of five, and three of those have already been claimed. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It's amazing the kind of trouble that Carl Malamud ends up in thanks to people not understanding copyright law. The latest is that he was alerted to the fact that YouTube had taken down a video that he had uploaded, due to a copyright claim from WGBH, a public television station in Boston. The video had nothing to do with WGBH at all. It's called "Energy -- The American Experience" and was created by the US Dept. of Energy in 1974 and is quite clearly in the public domain as a government creation (and in case you're doubting it, the federal government itself lists the video as "cleared for TV." WGBH, on the other hand, has nothing whatsoever to do with that video. It appears that some clueless individual at WGBH went hunting for any videos having to do with the PBS show WGBH produces, called American Experience and just assumed that based on the title, the public domain video that Malamud uploaded, was infringing. Because that's the level of "investigation" that apparently the censorious folks at WGBH do when looking to issue takedown notices. Malamud reached out to WGBH and apparently the folks there were most unhelpful. The station's general counsel refused to apologize and simply told Carl that since "American Experience" was "unusual" to be in the title, it was okay for them to issue a bogus DMCA notice. Another lawyer , Eric Brass, told Malamud that they wouldn't be able to do anything about it until next week. Thankfully, someone at YouTube found out about all of this and restored the video so you can watch it: The video is also available at the Internet Archive. While some may argue this is no big deal because by making noise about this, Malamud was able to get the video reinstated, that's ridiculous. WGBH is a public television station that claims in its mission statement that its "commitments" include: Foster an informed and active citizenry Make knowledge and the creative life of the arts, sciences, and humanities available to the widest possible public Improve, for all people, access to public media I'm curious how issuing bogus copyright takedowns on public domain material matches with any of those "commitments." Hell, why is such a public television station worried about so-called "copyright infringement" in the first place? And, as Malamud notes, this little "accident" wasted the time of a bunch of people, and put his own YouTube channel at risk, since it initially counted as a "strike" against him. WGBH owes Malamud not just an apology, but an explanation for why this happened and what the station will do to prevent it from happening again.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Under Armour, the clothing brand built on the idea that my belly fat should be clung to by a shirt while I shoot hoops in my backyard, has built up quite a reputation for itself as a trademark bully. To go along with the fun story of its battle against Ass Armor, Under Armour is notorious for trademarking roughly all the things when it comes to sportswear and equipment, and has always had a liberal idea of just how much control the law allows it to have over the use of the word "armor." Most times, very little public attention is whipped up. But now they're picking a fight with God. In 2013, a Bible-quoting high school football champ named Terrance Jackson, upset that most of the clothing options for his 3-year-old son were covered in skulls and crossbones, decided to start his own “inspirational apparel” company with a scripture-inspired name, Armor & Glory. It recently received some major attention from America’s second-biggest sportswear empire, Under Armour, which demanded the small Maryland company change its name or face all-out legal war. “It’s trademark bullying at its finest. I’m the little kid in the group and they’re trying to kick dirt on my new shoes,” said Jackson, 37, who said the name came to him one morning, from “the full armor of God” cited in Ephesians 6:11. “When God gave this [name] to me, I never thought once about those guys. We don’t even spell it like them.” Indeed, much as Ass Armor did, Armor & Glory's name doesn't include the "u," unlike Under Armour. Which is only a minor point, actually, because the chief test here is customer confusion and brand identity, and it takes a more imaginative mind than mine to think up exactly how a company selling a few hundred shirts is going to be mistaken for the clothing company currently chasing Nike for the sportswear crown. More troubling still is the nature of Under Armour's request. The company's legal representation requested not only that all of Armor & Glory's inventory be destroyed, but that it would also have to hand over its domain, profits, and $100k in damages and attorneys' fees. That would equate to about every last dollar the company has ever made, since its 2013 inception. More interesting, for me at least, is that the company's core audience is Christian athletes wearing the gear in part due to the Christianity-inspired names and slogans. Lawyers for Under Armour have gone so far as to state that if Armor & Glory refuses to cease using the bible-inspired name, the result will be "an expensive and time-consuming legal battle." A more bullying statement is difficult to compose. But Jackson, thus far at least, isn't backing down. Why, you ask? Ed Tomlin, Jackson’s partner and a former director of football development for Under Armour (who says he left on good terms), says “it’s a matter of principle and a matter of faith.” The name, he added, “was inspired by God. … To turn our backs now would be like we were being disobedient.” How about that for a fun First Amendment test? If anything can whip up public support in a David v. Goliath legal battle, it's the injection of some honest to goodness bible-thumping. In fact, Armor & Glory has reportedly increased sales and brand-awareness due to the threat from Under Armour, making it all the more silly for the larger company to have engaged in this silly bit of bullying to begin with. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Billions of people around the world eat rice. So if rice can be made to be more healthy, the benefits could be globally significant. Sure, there are plenty of folks trying to genetically engineer better rice (eg. Golden Rice), but if you don't like GMOs for whatever reason, you're not out of luck. There are a few things that might help improve rice without messing around with rice DNA. Cooking low calorie rice can be accomplished by adding coconut oil to the water used to cook rice. The coconut oil prevents some of the resistant starches in rice from becoming digestible starches, thereby reducing the calories available to whoever eats it. [url] Arsenic content in rice can be reduced by relatively simple rinsing and cooking techniques. A coffee-pot percolation method for cooking rice could eliminate more than half of the arsenic in contaminated rice. [url] Studying the microbiome of rice could help reduce the arsenic levels in the grain and plant. Bacteria in the soil has been found to lessen the uptake of arsenic significantly -- potentially increasing food production productivity and improving food safety and chronic health conditions for the people who eat this staple daily. [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 recently covered the complete absurdity that is the Santa Ana police union's legal battle to clear cops caught misbehaving (to put it lightly…) during a raid on a pot dispensary. The cops in question tore cameras out of the wall, disabled the surveillance system and then, when they thought they were "safe," made disparaging comments about a disabled woman, ate presumably pot-laced edibles, played a few rounds of darts and generally behaved like any group of miscreants would if they felt they were unobserved. Among the numerous laughable claims made in the union's effort to block recordings of these actions from being used against the cops performing these actions is that the recording itself is "illegal" as the officers had an "expectation of privacy" while performing their law enforcement duties in a public areas of a publicly-accessible business. The suit also claims the video shouldn't be used as evidence because, among other things, the police didn't know they were on camera. "All police personnel present had a reasonable expectation that their conversations were no longer being recorded and the undercover officers, feeling that they were safe to do so, removed their masks," says the suit. First off, any expectation of privacy only arose because the officers thought they had disabled all of the cameras. In any other reasonable situation, the presence of cameras would alert both police and members of the public that any expectations of privacy were severely misguided. Surveillance cameras in businesses are the rule, not the exception. Just because these cops missed a camera doesn't make the recording "illegal," nor does it somehow grant them an expectation of privacy that logically doesn't exist. The legal action seems doomed to failure, even more so now that the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court -- whose jurisdiction includes Santa Ana, California -- has just issued an opinion, backed by Supreme Court decisions, stating that public areas of public businesses carry no expectation of privacy. This ruling sides with law enforcement over a citizen's objections -- the same thing the misbehaving cops are seeking, but completely in reverse. In this case, a motel owner (Mahesh Patel) claimed Fourth Amendment violations were committed when officers entered his business and cited him for code violations in plain view. He claimed his private business (as in private ownership) granted him an expectation of privacy that was violated by the officers' entry. Not so, says the court: As in Barlow's, the police officers entering the public areas of the Galleria Motel are entitled to observe (without a warrant) anything observable by the public. Camara and See [Supreme Court cases cited by the plaintiff] only allow a commercial property owner to manifest a reasonable expectation of privacy in his property by closing off portions of his business to the public. [...] The areas of the Galleria Motel open to the public are not within the enumerated items in the Fourth Amendment; therefore, no search occurs when police officers enter those areas. Because the complaint alleged only that police officers entered the public areas of the Galleria Motel, Patel has failed to demonstrate a reasonable expectation of privacy pursuant to Katz, rendering Camara and See inapplicable to this case. This affirms the lower court's judgment. The only allegation in the complaint (relevant to this appeal) was Patel's claim that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motion, holding that neither Patel nor HFS had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the areas of the Galleria Motel that were open to the public. So, for consistency's sake, if nothing else, cops can't claim to have an expectation of privacy in areas of businesses open to the public, not if the courts are going to deny the same privilege to citizens. But that's exactly what the police union's filing on behalf of the dispensary-raiding cops is trying to achieve. And, indeed, the judge presiding over the case in Orange County Superior Court has already denied the officers' request for an injunction, stating very briefly that the cops had no expectation of privacy because they were on duty at the time -- never mind everything else about cameras, California's wiretap law (which was invoked by the union) or the public areas of private businesses. The union is still free to pursue its lawsuit against the police department, but it won't be able to prevent the recordings from being used to investigate the participants of the raid. It will almost certainly appeal this decision, but there's nowhere to go with this particular argument. Even if it makes its way up the chain to the federal appeals court, the Ninth has already expressed its opinion on the privacy expectations of public places... and it used Supreme Court decisions to back its assertions up. But police unions and badly-behaving police officers are both known to explore every argument available, no matter how incredibly stupid, simply because to do otherwise is to admit wrongdoing. And there's always a chance a system designed to cut cops as much slack as possible will still somehow come through for them. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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You may remember the bizarre story we had a couple of months ago of how the city of Inglewood, California was suing a critic for copyright infringement. The critic, Joseph Teixeira, does not like Inglewood mayor James Butts. So he takes video (that the city posted online itself) of city council meetings, and adds commentary mocking the mayor. And that, the city claims, is copyright infringement. Not only that, but Inglewood spent $50,000 on a big time lawyer to try to silence Teixeira by abusing copyright law. As we explained, the whole thing was bullshit on multiple levels. First, it's the government trying to silence a critic. That's a pretty big First Amendment no-no. Second, there's no legitimate copyright claim in the videos. Third, even if there were a copyright claim in the videos (and there's not), this would easily be fair use. And, of course, then the city made it even worse -- claiming that Teixeira had altered the videos after the lawsuit to protect himself. The court asked the city to prove it, and not surprisingly the city could not. Because it wasn't true. Adam Steinbaugh, now the "new guy" at Popehat, has all the details of the beatdown the court gave the city, which you can also read directly here. Let's start with the copyright issue. Turns out, as pretty much everyone knew, you can't claim copyright over your city council meetings: The only published authority on the question of the ability of California public entities to assert copyright over works they produce holds that the City may not assert a copyright interest in the City Council Videos. In County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court, 170 Cal. App. 4th 1301, 89 Cal. Rptr. 3d 374 (2009), the California Court of Appeal addressed the county’s denial of a request for a geographic information system base map it had created. The court carefully considered California law, including the CPRA and the state’s policies towards openness and accessibility of the writing of public officials and agencies. Id. at 1320 (citing Cal. Const. art. 1 § 3(b)(1) (the state constitution explicitly recognizes the “right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business” and to provide that “the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”) The court evaluated the statutory language of the CPRA and held in part that in the absence of “an affirmative grant of authority to obtain and hold copyrights” a California public entity may not do so. The court is so unimpressed with Inglewood's attempt to get around all of this that it's not even worth discussing what their reasons were. They were bad, and the city should feel bad (that it's wasting taxpayer dollars on this kind of crap). The court then notes that, even if the copyright was valid, it still would be fair use. The court doesn't even need to go this far, having correctly determined the lack of copyright, but decides to do so anyway, just in case the city is thinking of appealing. A review of the videos is sufficient for the Court to rule that the Teixeira Videos are protected by the fair use doctrine as a matter of law. The Teixeira Videos use brief portions of the larger works in order to comment on, and criticize the political activities of the City Council and its members. He uses carefully chosen portions specifically for the purposes of exercising his First Amendment rights, and in doing so, substantially transforms the purpose and content of the City Council Videos. The city's response is laughable. It's almost as if whoever wrote the argument for the city has never come across fair use before or, you know, being honest in court. The City’s contention that Teixeira is “simply republishing untransformed, copies of the Copyrighted works, and free-riding on the City’s expenses” is plainly incorrect on even the most cursory review of the Teixeira videos. The City’s claim that “[t]he facts alleged a complete lack of transformativeness” is also irrelevant given the reference by the Complaint to the videos themselves. Or how about this time, where they claim he's using too much of the videos (even though it's clear he only uses a small portion of them): The City argues that Teixeira fails to meet his supposed burden of showing that it is “essential” to make the copies for his purpose of commenting on it. The City contends that each topic area of the City Council meetings is “an independent and entire work” and Teixeira cannot show why it is necessary to copy these “entire” works. However, a review of the videos makes it clear that Teixeira has copied only the parts of the City Council Videos that serve his purpose of making comment on them, or criticizing very particular statements by Butts. This use of another’s material has been frequently recognized as protected fair use.... The City’s exceptionally narrow view of an “entire” work is without merit and contrary to the purpose of the fair use doctrine, which permits the use of reasonable quantities of a work for the purpose of criticism and comment. Oh, and then there's the bit where the city claims that Teixeira's video will harm "the market" for its videos. The court sees right through that. Not only is that a ridiculous argument (I mean, really, what's "the market" for the city of Inglewood's city council meetings?), it's also true that the city is barred by law from making money off of those videos. The City argues that the factor favors its position because Teixeira’s copying denies the City of the opportunity to “recoup its expenses” and “deprives [the City] of potential revenue.” This argument is without merit and flatly contradicted by the California law that governs the City’s creation and use of the City Council Videos. California law prevents public agencies from charging the public anything more than the “direct costs of duplication” when providing public records. Cal. Gov. Code § 6253(b)... the Legislature “specified . . . that the sole charge should be that for duplication” and specifically for “the direct cost of duplication” and not for “indirect” costs of duplication). The City therefore may only collect fees to reimburse for the direct costs of providing copies of any record it creates, including the City Council Videos. It is specifically barred by law from charging any fee to recoup the costs of original production. And it is certainly not permitted to use the City Council Videos to generate any form of revenue. There can therefore be no commercial market for the City Council Videos and no activity by Teixeira can deprive the City of any revenue. And thus, the City of Inglewood has no legal leg to stand on, not that it ever did: Having reviewed the accused videos, the Court determines that – even assuming the City has any copyright interest to assert – they are clearly protected by the fair use doctrine. Indeed, the Court can scarcely conceive of works that are more appropriately protected by the fair use doctrine and § 107 than the Teixeira Videos. He is engaged in core First Amendment speech commenting on political affairs and matters of public concern. To do so, he has taken carefully selected and short portions of significantly longer works, and embellished them with commentary and political criticism through music, his voice, and written subtitles. Even if California law allowed the City to assert a copyright claim, Teixeira’s activities plainly fall within the protections of fair use. The City accuses Teixeira of wanting “to criticize the City without doing his own work” by “posting substantially all of the full [City Council Videos] with [his] comments posted on top of them.” .... Even if the City’s characterization of the Teixeira Videos were accurate, fair use would allow such use for the purpose of commentary. All of this should make you wonder how the case got this far at all. How did the lawyer, to whom the city agreed to pay $50,000, not tell them that this would end badly? Also, what kind of city sues its critics, first of all, and then completely abuses copyright law to do so? As the LA Times noted about this case: There's something fundamentally outrageous about using tax dollars to sue a taxpayer over the use of a public record that taxpayers paid to create. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The government seems to have lost interest in finding anyone to hang for Snowden's all-access tour of the NSA's internal servers -- access that greatly aided in his absconding with a number of documents revealing the surprising extent of the agency's surveillance programs. It certainly still wants to hang Snowden -- literally, if some legislators get their way. It has, however, decided to nail one handy scapegoat to the wall. This would be the contractor who allowed Snowden to get in the door in the first place. The Register's Shaun Nichols reports that the DOJ is fining US Investigative Services (USIS) $30 million for generally being completely terrible at the one thing it's supposed to be doing: vetting applicants for sensitive government jobs. The DoJ announced on Wednesday that US Investigations Services (USIS) will give up a $30m (£19.14m) payment in exchange for settling charges that it violated the US False Claims Act by failing to properly screen applicants for government security clearances. According to the DoJ, USIS failed to properly screen federal security clearance applicants and, in some cases, submitted incomplete background check reports to the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The USIS wasn't simply mediocre. It was awful. Shortly after Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leaks, USIS was revealed to have riddled the government with security holes over most of the past decade. One contractor was caught interviewing dead people during background checks. Another singlehandedly submitted 1,600 falsified reports. Then in January of last year, the revelations got even worse. The DOJ accused USIS of faking background checks on 665,000 federal employees -- something the DOJ understatedly called "taking shortcuts." The USIS won't actually be paying this fine, however. It will instead work its debt off doing the DOJ's dishes doing the same thing it couldn't be trusted to do in the first place when it was still collecting a paycheck. Why this hasn't resulted in a permanent pink slip for the contractor is beyond me, but it does show the government's endless willingness to forgive… well, certain contractors. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We just wrote about a FOIA request where the government said there were no responsive documents, even though it had already released the very responsive document. It appears that this kind of thing is a common problem in the government -- and it doesn't seem to get solved until you sue the government. Here are two examples. First up, Gawker had sought the email communications of Hillary Clinton deputy Philippe Reines, focused on his conversations with journalists. The State Department came back with a no responsive records reply, which was clearly bullshit, since Reines was known for regularly emailing reporters. So Gawker sued and guess what just happened: the State Department just magically found 17,855 emails that are likely responsive. How about that? Next, we've got Vice, where "FOIA terrorist" Jason Leopold is employed. As you may remember, back in 2014, Ed Snowden claimed that he had made multiple attempts at raising concerns internally at the NSA. Eventually, the Director of National Intelligence released a single email between Snowden and the NSA's General Counsel, which was just asking a specific question. The NSA did hint (in a different FOIA request response) at the likelihood of there being more emails it didn't plan to release. Leopold sent a more specific FOIA request to the NSA... and was told there were "no responsive documents." And, as he's done more than basically anyone, Leopold sued. And at a hearing in that case, the government is now admitting that there are three more emails that Snowden sent to the NSA's Oversight & Compliance Office, though the DOJ claims that none of these emails were actually raising questions about NSA surveillance. It's certainly possible that, in this case, it's true that there really were no more responsive documents, but the late addition noting these three other emails, once again, suggests that when sued, the government suddenly starts finding more documents than when directly asked under FOIA.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As you may have heard, yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the fact that Spotify changed its privacy policy in a way that people are calling creepy and eerie. And there's a ton of chatter on Twitter from people insisting that they'll never use Spotify again because of this. The specific changes that have people up in arms sure do sound creepy at first glance. The key problems are that Spotify's new privacy policy says that it "may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files" and that it "may also collect information about your location based on, for example, your phone’s GPS location or other forms of locating mobile devices (e.g., Bluetooth). We may also collect sensor data (e.g., data about the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit)." There's some other stuff about how it may share information with third party services. I understand, instinctively, why so many people freaked out about this -- but it's a pure overreaction for a variety of reasons, which we'll dig into here. There are problems with this whole scenario, but it has a lot more to do with (1) the stupid reliance on "privacy policies" rather than "user controls" for privacy and (2) Spotify's apparently asleep-at-the-wheel PR team. Privacy is a Trade-off Not a Thing As we've said before, if you ever want perfect privacy, you'd never leave your house. The second you leave your home, you're giving up some level of privacy. But it's a trade-off most people think is perfectly reasonable. Privacy is always like that. It's a trade-off between the benefit you get from giving up a little privacy in order to get the thing that you want. The idea that privacy is some absolute "thing" is a weird way of looking at privacy and makes it difficult to do things in a reasonable manner. The real issue, then, is making sure that people understand the trade-offs involved (and we'll get to that below). Spotify's Privacy Policy is Not that Crazy. Much of the reaction is because people immediately assumed that there was some nefarious reason why Spotify was going to collect all this information on people. Yet, as a few people pointed out when everyone started freaking out -- and which Spotify eventually clarified in a blog post "apologizing" for the poor roll out, there are legitimate service reasons for each of these requests. Also, the company made it clear that before it actually accesses any of this content, it would first ask your permission. In short, it's like when various services ask if you'd like to "find friends" using a service, you have to first approve it. Same would be true here. And, note, that each of the uses would be for services that some people might actually like (personalizing cover art, voice control, etc.): Photos: We will never access your photos without explicit permission and we will never scan or import your photo library or camera roll. If you give us permission to access photos, we will only use or access images that you specifically choose to share. Those photos would only be used in ways you choose and control – to create personalized cover art for a playlist or to change your profile image, for example. Location: We will never gather or use the location of your mobile device without your explicit permission. We would use it to help personalize recommendations or to keep you up to date about music trending in your area. And if you choose to share location information but later change your mind, you will always have the ability to stop sharing. Voice: We will never access your microphone without your permission. Many people like to use Spotify in a hands-free way, and we may build voice controls into future versions of the product that will allow you to skip tracks, or pause, or otherwise navigate the app. You will always have the ability to disable voice controls. Contacts: We will never scan or import your contacts without your permission. Spotify is a social platform and many people like to share playlists and music they discover with their friends. In the future, we may want to give you the ability to find your friends on Spotify by searching for Spotify users in your contacts if you choose to do that. The Real Problem is that We Use Privacy Policies at All For many years, we've been pointing out that this whole system of privacy policies is broken. It's one of those ideas that people came up with years ago that sounds good, but isn't. And yet, we're not only stuck with it, we have politicians who keep pushing more requirements for more privacy policies. But that's stupid. First: the only way you can legally get in trouble over privacy issues is by violating your privacy policy. So every company is incentivized by law to create privacy policies that are very broad and expansive, making it less likely they'll violate them in the first place. The only time such a broad privacy policy backfires is if the public suddenly has a viral panic about it, like this time, but that rarely happens because no one reads privacy policies. In fact, one of the worst things about privacy policies is that people simply believe if you have a privacy policy it means "oh they'll keep my info private" even if the privacy policy says "we're going to share your information with everyone." Let's face it: privacy policies are a stupid way to deal with privacy. They don't work. They fuck up incentives. No one reads them. And yet, because politicians are clueless, they're often "required." You end up with grandstanding politicians who play gotcha games on privacy policies, without caring about actual privacy practices. The Way to Deal With Privacy is MORE TRANSPARENCY and MORE USER CONTROL Rather than using privacy policies, the real way to deal with privacy is to give the end user more transparency into what's happening and more control. I don't have an iPhone, but I believe it already offers the ability at an individualized level to allow users to block apps from accessing certain features/data on a phone. And I know that the next version of Android is moving to a similar model, including only asking you to approve privacy permissions at the moment the app is requesting it. In other words, when Spotify wants to access your photos, the app will directly ask you for permission at that moment -- and, assuming it's for something you want to do (like customizing your cover art), you're more likely to grant permission without thinking it's creepy at all. The Real Problem Here Was The Perception Problem And this is something Spotify should have prepared for much better. The company probably assumed, incorrectly, that no one would really read the new privacy policy, because no one reads privacy policies. But that didn't happen. What Spotify should have done is from the beginning describe the new features it was offering -- with a direct explanation of why that feature might then require a change in the privacy policy, along with the promise that the app will ask permission directly at the time of use. Spotify eventually kind of got there, but they did it after, not before. This goes back to the "more transparency" aspect above. Do it that way, and you have less of a freakout. So, really, to everyone freaking out over Spotify's privacy policy, I understand the gut reaction reasons for doing so. Of course, at first, it seems fucked up that a music player wants to access your contacts or your location. But there are perfectly legitimate, non-nefarious reasons for doing so. And Spotify could have cut off the freakout by being more transparent and upfront about things at the beginning. But, really, the problem here is our stupid reliance on privacy policies, rather than user controls.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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People have been wondering for more than two years how it was possible that Team Prenda was still allowed to practice law. With both John Steele and Paul Hansmeier having moved on to shaking down small businesses by abusing the ADA, while still getting regularly smacked around in court, it seemed amazing that they were still practicing law. After all, it was in May of 2013 that Judge Otis Wright referred Team Prenda to their associated state bars (along with the feds and the IRS). And nothing seemed to be happening -- though, as Ken White noted, long ago, the wheels of justice "turn slowly, but make no mistake, the wheels turn." And it appears they've finally come around on John Steele. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has just filed a humdinger of a complaint against John Steele. It's worth a read, but we'll go through some highlights below. Let's just say that the IARDC may have taken a long time to get this done, but there appears to be a good reason for that. Pretty much everything is in there -- and it must have taken quite an effort to pull it all together. It goes through the history, with Hansmeier and Steele starting a copyright trolling business, and then pretending to hand it off to Paul Duffy* but still actually running the copyright trolling business they pretended they'd left behind. There are seven counts against Steele, and if you've been following the Prenda saga, none of them will surprise you. The first count is for "Dishonest Conduct and Fraud on the Court," involving everything from Alan Cooper's fraudulent signature in the AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 cases, to pretending those cases were not connected. The complaint goes through a rather detailed blow-by-blow account of all of Steele and Hansmeier's questionable activities. And it concludes that all of the following were misconduct by Steele: bringing a proceeding without a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, by conduct including filing lawsuits without supporting facts, under the names of fictional entities, and misusing the identity of Alan Cooper, for purposes of exacting settlements, in violation of Rule 3.1 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal by conduct including failing to abide by Judge Wright’s order quashing discovery, and failing to appear as ordered at the OSC hearing, in violation of Rule 3.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; in a pretrial procedure making a frivolous discovery request(s), by conduct including filing the motions for early discovery on behalf of shell corporations in violation of Rule 3.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; in representing a client, using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or burden a third person, or using methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person, by conduct including sending the settlement shakedown letters in violation of Rule 4.4 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by conduct including filing lawsuits without supporting facts, under the names of fictional entities, misusing the identity of Alan Cooper as a principal of Ingenuity 13 and AF holdings, for purposes of exacting settlements, in violation of Rule 8.4(c); and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including failing to respond to reasonable inquiries posed by the tribunal regarding lawsuits Respondents initiated, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. So, yeah. And that's just the first count. I love the fact that the ARDC flat out calls them "settlement shakedown letters." No beating around the bush here. The second count involves the lawsuit that Alan Cooper filed against John Steele and Prenda for forging his signature and getting Cooper wrapped up in Steele's shakedown business. It turns out that Steele "settled" the case by paying Cooper $35,000. However, he, nor Duffy, ever wrapped up the fact that the lawsuit was also against Prenda Law. Apparently just last month, the court found that Prenda was in default and should pay Cooper another $5,000 for humiliation and $250,000 for punitive damages. Steele appears to have ignored basically all of that. Oops. Count number three involves Guava v. Spencer Merkel case, in which Team Prenda was once again smacked around and ordered to pay a pretty big set of attorneys' fees. If you don't recall, this particular case had some "special" features. It started with a fairly sketchy CFAA claim rather than a copyright claim (this was tap dancing, in which Steele pretended that people had "hacked" into the computer to download the videos that he himself had apparently put up). There were also claims that team Prenda would find the opposing lawyer who was actually working with them, leading one judge to flat out ask if the two sides "were in bed together." And that story was given a lot more credence when Spencer Merkel admitted that he'd agreed to "take a dive" for Team Prenda in exchange for getting off easy in Prenda's accusations against him. After running through the detailed history there, it lists the same basic "misconduct" list from the first charge, but for the Guava case. Count number four is about the Lightspeed v. Anthony Smith case (the one where Team Prenda was just last week ordered to pay another $94,000). Once again, the IARDC walks through all the details... and charts out the misconduct list again. Count number five is still about the same Lightspeed case, but this time related to "obstructing discovery and dishonest conduct." As you may recall, Steele directly reached out to falsely tell parties that subpoenas had been quashed, even though they had not been. These were subpoenas looking into whether or not Steele was lying in pleading poverty to the court to try to get out of paying yet another ruling against him. Or, hell, let's just let the IARDC tell it: On February 19, 2014, Judge Herndon entered an order denying Respondent’s motion to quash the subpoenas Smith issued in case number 12-CV-00889. Respondent learned of the order shortly after it was entered. On March 3, 2014, two weeks after Judge Herndon had denied Respondent’s motion to quash, at Respondent’s direction Paul Duffy sent a file-stamped copy of the motion to quash to JP Morgan. Paul Duffy’s actions, in sending the file-stamped motion to quash to JP Morgan after it had already been denied, were intended to mislead JP Morgan officials into believing that they did not have to respond to Smith’s subpoena because it was subject to a motion to quash. As of April 16, 2014, there was no stay in place in 12-CV-00889. On that date, Respondent Steele sent an e-mail to officials at Sabadell informing them that a stay was in place in case number 12-CV-00889. Respondent Steele’s statement was false and Respondent Steele knew it was false because he knew that a stay was not in place when he made that statement in his e-mail, and his statement that a stay was in place was intended to mislead Sabadell officials into thinking that they did not have to comply with the subpoena Sabadell had received. The misconduct here included: making a false statement of fact to a tribunal, by conduct including claiming an inability to pay the sanction awards imposed against them, in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal by conduct including failing to comply with reasonable discovery requests, in violation of Rule 3.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by conduct including obstructing discovery and misleading the court in an effort to avoid paying sanction awards imposed against them, in violation of Rule 8.4(c); and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including obstructing discovery and misleading the court in an effort to avoid paying sanction awards imposed against them, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. Count six is about more of the same in another Guava case -- one of the ones involving what appeared to be another Alan Cooper situation with the ever changing person "Allan Mooney"/"Alan Mooney"/"Alan Mony." This was in one of the St. Clair County CFAA cases, that sought to hide that it was really a copyright case. Again, the IARDC finds all sorts of misconduct. Finally, the seventh count involves that time when Steele (and Duffy and Prenda) sued Alan Cooper and his lawyer, Paul Godfread, (and a bunch of internet commenters) for defamation. As you may remember, Steele quickly dismissed his own direct lawsuit against them (perhaps once he realized that he had not followed the proper procedures in Florida for filing a defamation case), though the case technically filed by Prenda lived on -- and was finally tossed out a few months ago. But, as you may recall, there were some shenanigans there as well, where the original Prenda suit was filed in Illinois state court, which Cooper and Godfread removed to federal court, correctly noting that the plaintiffs were in Illinois and they were in Minnesota (which creates diversity, which allows the case to be removed). Except, Team Prenda then lied to the court, said the original complaint had not been served, and then filed an amended complaint that randomly added Paul Hansmeier's Minnesota law firm, so that there would no longer be diversity (diversity is only if there is no overlap in states between plaintiffs and defendants). Not only was this a pretty blatant (and bullshit -- since none of the already questionable statements that the suit claimed were defamatory about Hansmeier's law firm) attempt to try to get around having the case removed to federal court, it also involved lying to the court to file that amended complaint. Then there were more games, where Duffy tried to get the case sent back to the state court again, playing some more tricky games (this post is getting long enough so you can read the full story to get the details). And, yup, the IARDC was paying attention to all of that too. In the end, it's difficult to see how Steele gets out of this in a manner that will ever let him practice law again. There's a lot in there. The IARDC filing is pretty damn thorough, though it does miss a few of Steele's other adventures -- such as his infamous comedy routine in a Florida court where he was not allowed to practice law (but appeared to be doing so anyway). Also missing: the evidence suggesting that Steele himself was uploading all the videos he'd later claim were infringing. But, you know, there's plenty in there already. One wonders if something similar will show up for Hansmeier in Minnesota at some time soon. And if the federal investigations will eventually become public as well... * As a side note, Duffy, the third wheel with Hansmeier and Steele, who was the only official partner of Prenda Law, passed away last week, which explains why he's discussed throughout, but is not listed as a respondent himself.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 8 days ago on techdirt
Play your music anywhere with great sound to boot with 60% off of the Sound Step Lightning 2 Bluetooth Speaker. You can choose to play your tunes via Bluetooth, audio jack plug, a Lightning dock for iPhones or with the Soudfreaq radio app. The speaker has a dedicated sub-woofer and a USB port for charging your device while it plays. You can control everything from your device or directly on the speaker, or with a handy remote control. At around 3 pounds, this little speaker can pack a big sonic punch at your bbqs, tailgates, around the house and more. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A few years back, we did a deep dive into the actual numbers for how the entertainment industry had been faring in the post-Napster era, and found that, contrary to the doom and gloom stories the legacy entertainment industry has been stating, the sky was rising, not falling. Since then, we've continued to release updated versions of our Sky is Rising reports, which continue to show the same basic thing: more creative output than ever before in history, more people creating content than ever before in history, more people making money as content creators than ever before in history and more money being spent on content than ever before in history. In other words, the whole idea that the internet and file sharing somehow killed the entertainment industry is complete bunk. It appears that people are finally starting to notice. Steven Johnson, who has written some fantastic books over the years (and built a few startups) has a thorough and detailed piece in this weekend's NY Times magazine, basically making the exact same point that we made in our Sky is Rising reports, going through a lot of the same data. He calls it "The Creative Apocalypse that Wasn't (which is perhaps more catchy than our title). The short version: things are really, really good for creative content. He starts with musicians: What do these data sets have to tell us about musicians in particular? According to the O.E.S., in 1999 there were nearly 53,000 Americans who considered their primary occupation to be that of a musician, a music director or a composer; in 2014, more than 60,000 people were employed writing, singing or playing music. That’s a rise of 15 percent, compared with overall job-­market growth during that period of about 6 percent. The number of self-­employed musicians grew at an even faster rate: There were 45 percent more independent musicians in 2014 than in 2001. (Self-­employed writers, by contrast, grew by 20 percent over that period.) Of course, Baudelaire would have filed his tax forms as self-­employed, too; that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also destitute. Could the surge in musicians be accompanied by a parallel expansion in the number of broke musicians? The income data suggests that this just isn’t true. According to the O.E.S., songwriters and music directors saw their average income rise by nearly 60 percent since 1999. The census version of the story, which includes self-­employed musicians, is less stellar: In 2012, musical groups and artists reported only 25 percent more in revenue than they did in 2002, which is basically treading water when you factor in inflation. And yet collectively, the figures seem to suggest that music, the creative field that has been most threatened by technological change, has become more profitable in the post-­Napster era — not for the music industry, of course, but for musicians themselves. Somehow the turbulence of the last 15 years seems to have created an economy in which more people than ever are writing and performing songs for a living. And, as we saw in our report, it's not just in music that this is happening. The O.E.S. numbers show that writers and actors each saw their income increase by about 50 percent, well above the national average. According to the Association of American Publishers, total revenues in the fiction and nonfiction book industry were up 17 percent from 2008 to 2014, following the introduction of the Kindle in late 2007. Global television revenues have been projected to grow by 24 percent from 2012 to 2017. For actors and directors and screenwriters, the explosion of long-form television narratives has created a huge number of job opportunities. (Economic Modeling Specialists International reports that the number of self-­employed actors has grown by 45 percent since 2001.) If you were a television actor looking for work on a multiseason drama or comedy in 2001, there were only a handful of potential employers: the big four networks and HBO and Showtime. Today there are Netflix, Amazon, AMC, Syfy, FX and many others. Ah, but some will respond, all this new content is mostly crap. Well, there have been some attempts to look into that as well, which found the opposite. The flood of content has actually created more absolute great content (and, yes, more crappy content with it, but it's easy to ignore). In other words, more content across the spectrum, catering to more tastes. Johnson's research found something similar. He points out that basically everyone agrees that TV is better now than in the past, so there's little argument there. And he presents some evidence of great new films, though they're often financed through different and independent means, rather than the big Hollywood studios. How about books? The one thing that he finds is that the data there is mixed, but he finds it noteworthy that while big chain bookstores have been falling by the wayside, indie bookstores are thriving. This would be even more troubling if independent bookstores — traditional champions of the literary novel and thoughtful nonfiction — were on life support. But contrary to all expectations, these stores have been thriving. After hitting a low in 2007, decimated not only by the Internet but also by the rise of big-box chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores have been growing at a steady clip, with their number up 35 percent (from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,227 in 2015); by many reports, 2014 was their most financially successful year in recent memory. Indie bookstores account for only about 10 percent of overall book sales, but they have a vastly disproportionate impact on the sale of the creative midlist books that are so vital to the health of the culture. Johnson concludes the piece by looking at why this has happened, and why the fear mongering and doom and gloom of the RIAAs, MPAAs, Authors Guilds of the world, and the politicians who often repeat their talking points, were all completely wrong. He points out that while content may now be easier for users to access, that also means people get exposed to a lot more -- and there are many new ways to pay for it as well. Also, perhaps more importantly, without the need to hand over so much money to gatekeepers (who like to take pretty much everything), the ability to go direct, and leverage various platforms, means that even if a particular artist is grossing less revenue, they're keeping more. And, further, as the tools of production have gotten cheaper, the upfront capital costs of creating, promoting and distributing content has dropped massively. It's a worthwhile read, though it won't be surprising if you've read our reports. However, hopefully, with this appearing in the NY Times, it means this concept is finally going mainstream.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've written a few times now about the leak of data from Ashley Madison, the "dating site for people who want to cheat on their spouses," mostly discussing the company's bizarre infatuation with abusing copyright law to try to take down anyone posting content from the leak. We haven't taken part in any of the stories about naming and shaming individuals who have been found in the database (or just where they might work). As a lot of people have been noting (thankfully) in their stories, for no clear reason, Avid Life Media (the company that owns Ashley Madison) doesn't do email verification. That means anyone can create an account using anyone else's email address. In fact, last month, reporter Farai Chideya noted that someone had created an account using her email. And, apparently, someone thought it would be funny to do the same to me. Yesterday afternoon, I got a message telling me "Welcome to Day 1 of your Ashley Madison Experience." Someone using my email signed me up, using the rather creative account name "masnicator." I'm kinda surprised that Ashley Madison is still even allowing online signups (let alone not using an email verification system, or for that matter even keeping the site up at all). But, perhaps even more ridiculous is that in the "welcome" email, it highlights how the service is "100% Secure." Perhaps even more amusing is that just three minutes after this fake registration, I also got a fake message from someone. And, no, I'm not going to see what the message is, nor even let the image show up (not even for journalistic curiosity). But this certainly adds that much more support to the theory that the site regularly used fake profiles and fake come ons to get men to pay up. As if anyone is (1) still using the site at all and (2) going to respond to an obviously bogus account three minutes after it's created. As if to hammer home just how bogus the whole thing is, the site sent me another email just a few hours later, claiming that it was showing me new people who had just signed up near me. Of course, if anyone is actually "signing up" now, I'm guessing it's for the same reason that someone signed me up: to mess with people or to joke around. Not sure why whoever did this did this, though, I guess thanks for the story?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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