posted 6 days ago on techdirt
Post sponsored by Call them patent assertion entities, non-practicing entities, or, in the words of John Oliver, raccoons, but whatever you do, don’t call them small inventors. Patent trolls do not create jobs or products, and their profits certainly are not small. In an effort to clear the air of all the misinformation going around by the patent troll lobby, we spent the day with Jeff Glueck, COO of tech startup Foursquare, as he and other Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Engine Advocacy startup members met with members of Congress and their staff to describe his many encounters with patent trolls. A frontrunner in the industry, Glueck has worked in leadership positions at various tech companies, such as mobile software startup Skyfire and now Foursquare. So it should come as no surprise that he needs two hands to count all of his encounters with frivolous patent lawsuits. As he describes it: The typical troll process is to shake down small companies or startups with the expectation that business owners will settle rather than endure the cost of fighting frivolous claims in court. It's sad when you work hard to create real inventions and a group of lawyers with a vague patent — that never should have been granted in the first place — is able to derail your business with a groundless claim. ... Small businesses take it on the chin. Last year, patent trolls targeted small businesses and tech companies about 80 percent of the time. Now, that number is approaching 90 percent. You may as well call it an all-out assault on the innovation economy. In fact, 2015 is on track to be a record-breaking year for the patent troll lobby. Comparatively speaking, patent trolls have filled over 11 percent more lawsuits this year than at this point of 2014. Even worse, they are attacking tech startups more than ever before. Patent trolls traditionally have targeted small businesses that are least equipped to defend themselves. For those select small businesses courageous enough to fight back, the costs are steep financially and the reward is purely ideological. It can take over a million dollars and three years to defend your company going all the way to trial against a troll. Few small businesses or startups have that luxury. And that’s only counting legal fees and legal costs. For small business, a bigger cost can be the time and distraction, or the way that customers and partners may shy away from doing business with you while under a patent assault. As CEO at Skyfire, Jeff saw a baseless patent troll suit against his first major telco customer delay launch of Skyfire’s mobile network software by 15 months. With a deployment on hold, Skyfire couldn’t get paid, and had to keep the company alive at a cost of $15 million dollars until ultimately the troll was defeated in court. Now, in his role at Foursquare, he sees the company dealing with five trolls at any one time, and roughly a million dollars annually in costs dealing with trolls: That’s nearly ten engineers we would hire tomorrow, but instead that money is going to lawyers. As a country, our leadership in software is a huge potential job growth engine. We can have companies focus on improving their products to grow users and revenues globally, or we can have an economy derailed by everyone suing everyone. The current climate is daunting for tech entrepreneurs, and Glueck is focused on a solution. In this case, it’s legislative — the U.S. House of Representatives Innovation Act, which is slated for a floor vote this month: We’re fans of H.R. 9. We need to put a stop to the corrupt process of venue shopping – it’s un-American. Overly burdensome upfront discovery is being used as a weapon and fishing expedition to force companies into settling regardless of the merits of the case.  Narrowing early discovery will take away a weapon for trolls. An automatic stay for innocent users will also help to protect innocent small businesses – from restaurants to tech startups – who just simply use a product. They don’t make it. Ahead of the upcoming crucial vote for the tech community, contact your member of Congress and urge him or her to support innovative startups like Foursquare by reforming America’s patent litigation system. The patent troll lobby is big and its pockets are deep; don’t let these extortionists get away with another cent.                                 (function(d, s, id) {                   var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];                   if (d.getElementById(id)) return;                   js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;                   js.src = '//p2a.co/js/embed/widget/advocacywidget.min.js';                   fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);                 }(document, 'script', 'advocacy-actionwidget-code'));                 Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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On Twitter yesterday, Brian Fitzpatrick, a tech entrepreneur, noted that while trying to enjoy the in-flight entertainment on the United Airlines flight he was taking, the in-flight Wi-Fi system told him he need to install its special brand of DRM. They didn't even try to sugarcoat it with some fancy confusing name. It's literally called the DRM plugin: Today in NOPE News: it's not "Okay" for @United to install DRM on my laptop. pic.twitter.com/kzUL2RqNDO — Brian Fitzpatrick (@therealfitz) July 21, 2015 In case you can't see the image, it says: Click 'Okay' to download the latest DRM Plugin. After installation playback should resume immediately, if it doesn't then you may need to restart your browser. Fitzpatrick kindly sent me a bunch more screenshots and details. That little error message pops up -- along with other error messages -- when you go to watch a movie: This is part of United's "beta test" of its "Personal Device Entertainment" option, that allows you to apparently fuck up your computer, just to get access to the short list of films and TV shows that United has contracted to allow you to watch while in flight. The "requirements" on United's website only shows "the latest version" of various browsers (oddly, Chrome is excluded -- which we'll get to) and Flash Player 15 or higher. Notice that it doesn't say anything about "our own personal malware." The only indication something may be up is in this infographic that says "you may be prompted to download a plug-in." No biggie. Fitzpatrick also realized that if you don't have Flash (which is actually a good security practice) United will helpfully offer to install it for you as well: Because what's flying the friendly skies without the opportunity to push multiple pieces of software that might put your computer at risk! At this point, United will provide lots of detailed instructions on how to install the DRM-you-never-wanted on your machine: Notice the more detailed instructions to get it to work in Chrome (and the earlier note about how this system doesn't support Chrome)? That's because the plugin is using NPAPI, which is a security nightmare and is no longer supported in Chrome for security reasons. As the Chrome team has noted: "NPAPI is a really big hammer that should only be used when no other approach will work." So, not only is United trying to install unnecessary and annoying DRM on your computer, it's also doing so in a way that it is recognized as being a security nightmare. That's encouraging. In the interest of science, Fitzpatrick dug a little deeper and discovered that the "DRM plugin" in question is actually Panasonic's Marlin DRM -- something we actually wrote about years ago, as an attempt to create an "open source" DRM. Though, amusingly, Fitzpatrick notes that the DRM comes with strong copyright warnings itself: This Software Product is protected by copyright laws and treaties, as well as laws and treaties related to other forms of intellectual property. Panasonic Avionics Corporation or its subsidiaries, affiliates, ad suppliers (collectively "PAC") own intellectual property rights in the Software Product. The Licensee's ("you" or "your") license to download, use, copy, or change the Software Product is subject to these rights and to all the terms and conditions of this End User License Agreement ("Agreement"). How sweet. You need to abide by Panasonic's rules when you install its security nightmare of a DRM you didn't want, just to watch an in-flight movie. And, really, after all this, people should be asking but why? What "threat" model requires United to force dangerous malware onto your computer? And the answer is likely that Hollywood requires it, because to Hollywood everything is a threat, and the idea that someone might be paying hundreds of dollars for flights and they might also then make a copy of a movie... well, that's just too much to handle, and they have to first ask you to break your computer and put all your data at risk. Isn't that sweet of Hollywood? Oh wait, no I didn't mean sweet. I meant insane. I'm sure that United Airlines didn't think through much of this and the details when it agreed to these ridiculous terms. It just thought it was adding an option that sounded nice. Letting people have access to more entertainment options, including on their own devices sure sounds like a nice option for some passengers. But if it comes with forcing people to put their computers and information at risk, it gets problematic fast.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Earlier this year, we covered a very troubling situation involving Kim Dotcom and the US government. As you almost certainly already know, Dotcom is fighting extradition from New Zealand to the US to face a bunch of charges concerning criminal copyright infringement. We've written about those charges as well as the extradition fight many times. However, while all of this was going on, the Justice Department filed a separate lawsuit, not against Dotcom himself, but against all of his stuff. We've talked for years about the problems of the "asset forfeiture" program in the US, and Dotcom's case drives all of those points home. And, even if you think that Kim Dotcom is absolutely guilty, a horrible person, responsible for billions of dollars in losses to the film and music industries, you should still be concerned about the asset forfeiture aspects here. Again, this lawsuit is technically entirely separate from the ongoing case against Dotcom himself. Instead, it's USA v. All Assets Listed In Attachment A, And All Interest, Benefits, And Assets Traceable Thereto -- which is a catchy name if you're trying to hide what you're really doing, which is stealing all the assets of someone in a foreign country. The Attachment A in the title of that lawsuit is basically a listing of all of Kim Dotcom's assets. In asset forfeiture cases, since the government is technically filing the lawsuit against the stuff, arguing that the stuff itself is guilty, it leaves only limited ability of the original owner of that stuff to try to block the government from taking it all. And, that was made much more difficult by Dotcom (who has never even been to the US) fighting extradition in the (entirely separate) lawsuit against him. The DOJ, somewhat perversely, used the extradition fight to argue that Dotcom is a "fugitive," to basically say that he can't try to block the forfeiture, and the judge agreed. The end result? The court gave the DOJ a huge green light to legally steal millions of dollars worth of assets from Kim Dotcom despite the lack of any court ruling or admission of guilt. That seems like a rather big due process concern. While a New Zealand court has put a temporary stop to the US government taking the New Zealand portion of the assets, back in the US, there is an appeal going on over the initial ruling. As part of that, three organizations that you wouldn't normally think of as associating themselves with the likes of Dotcom, have stepped up to argue that the whole civil asset forfeiture effort against Dotcom's stuff is a complete farce. The Cato Institute, the Institute for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have filed an amicus brief in the appeal arguing forcefully about how ridiculous this whole case is (not the case against Dotcom, but the case against all his stuff). As the Cato Institute notes in its blog post about this: The Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause requires an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to defend against government-initiated actions against your property. Unlike an escaped criminal appellant who is scorning the court’s jurisdiction, in civil forfeiture, it’s the government that has dragged Dotcom and the others into court. Moreover, given the amount of abuse in civil-asset forfeiture, the government shouldn’t be allowed both to profit from the forfeiture and suppress defenses by calling residents of other countries “fugitives.” Finally, the reasons for fugitive disentitlement in criminal appeals simply can’t be transferred to civil-asset forfeiture. When an individual is “on the run” from criminal prosecution, courts can’t enforce judgements against them, but a valid forfeiture order would be fully enforceable against Dotcom if the court has jurisdiction over the property. Fugitive disentitlement is also used to deter felons from escaping justice, but there’s no similar concern here, where the property can’t run away and the claimants are merely residing in their home countries. The Fourth Circuit should not only allow the Megaupload defendants to challenge the seizure, it should also consider striking down as unconstitutional all uses of fugitive disentitlement in civil-forfeiture cases. Frankly, if Dotcom is eventually found guilty of that which he is charged with (which is a separate issue altogether), then it could be perfectly reasonable to argue for asset forfeiture of the proceeds from such illegal acts. But to argue for civil asset forfeiture entirely separately from that process and to abuse the process by arguing he's a "fugitive" in order to get those assets is particularly ridiculous: Under civil forfeiture laws, the government can take property without an underlying criminal conviction based only on the allegation of a crime. Those whose property has been seized can get it back by proving that their property is “innocent.” The government, however, is preventing the defendants from even making that argument. Using the “fugitive disentitlement” doctrine, the government is blocking the defendants from challenging the forfeiture. Fugitive disentitlement has historically been applied only to criminals who escaped custody while appealing a conviction, the idea being that a court could decide to dismiss the appeal because any judgment would be unenforceable against an absent defendant. Here, the government has decided that, because the Megaupload defendants aren’t coming to the United States to defend their property, they are “fugitives” who have lost the ability to defend against that seizure — and the district court agreed. As the filing itself notes: Stripping the claimants of their due process rights isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s dangerous. There’s a growing literature on the abuse of civil forfeiture—and those abuses are directly tied to the protections given to the claimants here, as well as the ability of government officials to directly benefit from forfeitures. This court should not ratify a doctrine that would make abuses even easier. Moreover, the reasons for invoking the fugitive disentitlement doctrine in criminal appeals are inapplicable to civil forfeiture actions. First, unlike an order against an absent criminal defendant, a valid forfeiture order where the court has rightful jurisdiction will be fully enforceable. Second, the claimants here haven’t scorned the district court’s authority as a fleeing criminal defendant would. Third, by appearing before the court via counsel, the claimants haven’t disrupted the court’s processes or offended its dignity. Finally, unlike with criminal appellants—who may need to be deterred from flight by the threat of disentitlement—the claimants are merely continuing to lawfully reside in their home countries. Once again, even if you think Dotcom is the root of all evil in the world, even then you should be concerned about this particular aspect of the case(s) against him. It seems telling to me that, in the comment sections on our previous posts, those who have argued that Dotcom is clearly guilty, seem to have no problem with the asset forfeiture. They don't see it as any sort of due process violation because they've already decided he's guilty in their minds, just as the US government has. But that's not how due process works. You're supposed to be found guilty first. If these people are so sure that Dotcom is guilty, why not wait until that's shown in a court of law, rather than having to go through this separate process to take all of his stuff?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Comcast executive David Cohen is, by dictionary definition, a lobbyist. And not just any lobbyist; a gushing profile piece by the Washington Post in 2012 called him a "wonk rock star" and the company's "secret weapon," who uses "his vast network of high-powered contacts" to help craft Comcast-friendly regulations and apply pressure on DC policy makers. You know, a lobbyist. Unless you're Comcast, which has now e-mailed me repeatedly to demand I stop calling him that. After I mentioned that Cohen was hosting a $2,700 per plate fundraising dinner for Hillary Clinton last month, I received this e-mail from Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice on June 18:"Karl – your piece today is offensive and inaccurate. David Cohen doesn’t pretend he’s not a lobbyist – he isn’t by the definition of the legal term – we keep very close records of his time and activities to make sure the law is complied with – to imply that we are not complying with the law with no evidence is irresponsible journalism."You see, the legal DC definition of a lobbyist was beefed up slightly back in 2007, when the Lobbyist Disclosure Act was notably amended by the Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Those changes required that if an employee spends more than 20% of their time lobbying, they have to register with the government as a lobbyist, detail their travel with lawmakers, and more fully outline their contributions to politicians and their myriad foundations. Comcast addressed these changes by simply calling Cohen something else. Cohen's technical title ever since has been Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation, though more recently the company has been calling him the company's "Chief Diversity Officer" with a big focus on "community investment":"David L. Cohen is Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation. David has a broad portfolio of responsibilities, including corporate communications, government and regulatory affairs, public affairs, legal affairs, corporate administration and community investment, and serves as senior counselor to the CEO. He also serves as Chief Diversity Officer for the company."Cohen played the starring role in selling regulators on Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011, crafting conditions it would later be discovered Comcast ignored at its leisure. Cohen's secret weapon during that transaction was Internet Essentials, a program that promised low-income households $10, 5 Mbps broadband for a limited time should they jump through a laundry list of conditions. The program was frequently criticized for being intentionally hard to qualify for, though it provided an endless sea of PR opportunities to help portray Comcast as an agent of pure altruism. Cohen also spearheads Comcast's entirely-above board (and very common in telecom) practice of giving money to minority groups and organizations with the unwritten expectation that they parrot anti-consumer policy positions. These groups then sing the praises of Comcast's latest merger or sell their constituents downriver on issues like net neutrality, helping to create an artificial sound wall of support for Comcast policies, which, as you may have noticed in your travels, often don't benefit Comcast customers or the internet at large. So while Cohen is clearly a lobbyist by dictionary definition or for anybody with optic nerves, he's not a lobbyist by legal definition. He's just a guy that really, really loves minority communities and helping the poor, and just happens to spend the lion's share of his time whispering in politicians' and regulators' ears. In fact, as Fitzmaurice was kind enough to illustrate in another e-mail to me on July 18, Cohen has absolutely nothing to do with lobbying whatsoever:"While I know asking you to be accurate may be futile, David Cohen is not Comcast’s top lobbyist, in fact he is not a lobbyist at all. Lobbyist has a very specific legal definition, and David Cohen does not fit it. David has several different sections of the business which report up to him, only one of which is Government Affairs. The top lobbyist in Washington is Melissa Maxfield."I responded by informing Fitzmaurice that I'm using the Random House definition of lobbyist, not Washington's intentionally flimsy, watered down definition: NOUN 1. a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest; a member of a lobby. I write a lot about Comcast. Without bragging (since frankly it's often unpleasant and I'd often rather be doing something else), I might write more about Comcast than potentially anyone on the internet. By and large my experiences with Comcast's public relations department have actually been very positive, and on the very rare instance where they contact me to let me know a data point or statistic is in error (two or three times in a decade, looking at my inbox archive), I'm happy to correct it. But this is curiously the first issue that the company has felt the need to repeatedly reach out to me on, suggesting it's a potentially sensitive subject for some strange reason. So, out of respect for Comcast's integrity and this nation's great and unimpeachable legal apparatus, I've decided to acquiesce and start calling Cohen something different. I'm tossing around a number of potential titles. Funpants McGillicutty? Comcast's "Overlord of entirely-authentic-and-not-at-all-politically-motivated-altruism"? Doctor Shnitzel-Fuhrer? Surely readers have a few suggestions.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The availability of NFL games online has long been a bit of a joke when compared to the NBA or MLB, in large part thanks to the league's exclusive deal with DirecTV for out of market games. The televised bastard child of this unholy union is NFL Sunday Ticket, which charges consumers between $250 and $350 a season to watch their favorite games. And while DirecTV has eased up a little on the restriction that you need to subscribe to DirecTV's other services to get Sunday Ticket, trying to order the standalone broadband-only service over at the DirecTV website results in the user being accosted with a bevy of fine print:"*NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV service is only available to non-DIRECTV customers who live in a select apartment building where DIRECTV service is not available, attend select universities, or live in one of the following metro areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco. NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV UNIVERSITY only available to students enrolled in eligible universities. Blackout rules and other conditions apply.Even if you qualify, it's still a pretty far cry from services like MLB.TV, which is available for as little as $60 a year. Each time the exclusive arrangement is up for renewal, wiser NFL fans quietly pray the NFL will realize the benefits of broader, less-exclusive distribution of games, but ultimately a huge check from DirecTV almost always wins out (this last check clocked in at around $12 billion for an eight year deal). There is, however, some fleeting legal fisticuffs on the horizon that might (but probably won't) shake up this cozy arrangement. Last month, DirecTV and the NFL were hit with a class action lawsuit (pdf) alleging that the companies' exclusive distribution arrangement for NFL games under the NFL Sunday Ticket brand violates antitrust laws. The suit took specific aim at the inflexibility of the packages sold to consumers:"The league and DirecTV offer NFL Sunday Ticket only as all-or-nothing. Purchasers of NFL Sunday Ticket must buy all out-of-market games for all teams even if they are only interested in watching the games of a particular team. Likewise, consumers must buy the complete season of games and may not purchase individual games."Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have been hit with similar suits (which the NFL is also included in), and both leagues have so far responded with slightly-more-flexible fare (like NBA's League Pass, which allows the purchase of individual games). The NFL, however, is also now facing a second lawsuit (pdf) from a sports bar owner in San Francisco alleging that locking bars to DirecTV service to extract "monopoly rents" (From $2,500 to $120,000 depending on size) constitutes an "illegal monopoly":"Defendants have colluded to sell the out-of-market NFL Sunday afternoon games only through DirecTV. Such an arrangement eliminates competition in the distribution of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games and requires anyone wishing to view these games to subscribe to DirecTV and purchase NFL Sunday Ticket at the supracompetitive price dictated by DirecTV."It's unclear if either suit will convince a judge to blow up the NFL and DirecTV's cozy cuddling, but a successful suit could have far-reaching implications. AT&T's $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV is contingent on DirecTV maintaining its exclusive relationship with the NFL, meaning AT&T can walk away should the arrangement crumble. Regardless of the suit(s), you'd hope that the NFL some day wakes up and realizes the benefits of broader, more flexible NFL game distribution when it comes to battling pirated game streams and users who are having to use VPN to get cheaper international NFL streaming options.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Techdirt has been covering discussions to establish a harmonized pan-African legal framework for the protection of plant breeders' rights for a couple of years now, in particular the fears that this will benefit Western seed companies the most, at the expense of Africa's plant diversity and seed independence. As the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) website reports, what is now known as the "Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants" has been agreed: The ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants has been adopted by the Diplomatic Conference that was held in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania on July 6, 2015. … The Protocol seeks to provide Member States with a regional plant variety protection system that recognizes the need to provide growers and farmers with improved varieties of plants in order to ensure sustainable Agricultural production. Eighteen Member States of the Organization were represented at the Diplomatic Conference namely; Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda Zambia and Zimbabwe. As well as those African nations, a number of international organizations took part in the discussions: the World Intellectual Property Organization, the EU's Community Plant Variety Office, France's National Seeds and Seedlings Association, the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The inclusion of representatives from the US, EU and French plant organizations is indicative of some of the key driving forces behind the Arusha Protocol. That stands in stark contrast to a rather significant absence from the talks: the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), an association that champions "Small African Family Farming/Production Systems based on agro-ecological and indigenous approaches." AFSA writes on its site: Despite AFSA's well-established track record of constructive engagement with ARIPO on the Draft ARIPO PVP Protocol, and despite it being a Pan African network of African regional farmers and NGOs, working with millions of African farmers and consumers, AFSA was purposely excluded from the Arusha deliberations. This is not the first time that AFSA has been unwelcome at ARIPO meetings, as we reported last year. That's presumably because AFSA has long-standing concerns about the whole move towards giving plant breeders greater rights in Africa. Here's its view on the new Protection of New Varieties of Plants (PVP) protocol: The Arusha PVP Protocol is part of the broader thrust in Africa to ensure regionally seamless and expedited trade in commercially bred seed varieties for the benefit, mainly, of the foreign seed industry. Multinational seed companies intend to lay claim to seed varieties as their private possessions and to prevent others from using these varieties without the payment of royalties. Germplasm developed by farming households over centuries is increasingly under threat of privatisation; and ecologically embedded farming practices risk being destabilised and dislodged. The broader modernisation thrust of which the Arusha PVP Protocol is an intrinsic part, is designed to facilitate the transformation of African agriculture from peasant-based production to inherently inequitable, inappropriate and ecologically damaging Green Revolution/industrial agriculture. Such a transformation will lead to many farming households being threatened with marginalisation or extinction, without alternative options for survival. While AFSA is worried that the new Protocol will harm traditional cultivation practices, supporters claim that it will lead to more and better plant varieties being created, to the benefit of farmers. That would obviously be welcome, assuming it isn't simply a cover for multinational companies to privatize and industrialize Africa's food production. Unfortunately, the refusal to allow the participation of representatives of traditional African farming in drawing up the new Arusha Protocol has to raise fears that this is precisely what is planned. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Police misconduct and abuse allegations are always greeted with defensive department statements about "thorough investigations" and "taking allegations seriously." And yet, when it's all said and done, very little has been done to prevent future abuse. The most common outcome is a temporary reassignment. Sometimes there are suspensions, most of which are simply paid vacations. Even if a cop manages to get fired, his union will step up to try to get him his job back. In some cases, officers are allowed to resign rather than face firing -- a move that ensures vacation, sick time and pensions are paid out. The public is supposed to take these various levels of wrist-slapping very seriously. And law enforcement officers and agencies are supposed to make sure this illusion of accountability isn't completely shattered. But one former officer of a Canadian police department has just stripped the veneer of respectability coating the law enforcement discipline process. Back in 2011, Constable Craig Markham did all sorts of things a cop shouldn't do. On September 28, 2011, the Appellant [Craig Markham] received a text on his personal cell phone from A.S. inquiring about her common law partner, N.C., who had just been arrested and was in police custody facing serious drug related charges. N.C. was an acquaintance of the Appellant. The Appellant accessed the Service’s internal records system as well as CPIC and searched out information regarding N.C. He then proceeded to the cells where N.C. was being held and had a discussion with him. After leaving N.C., the Appellant phoned a mutual acquaintance of theirs, E.C., and advised him that N.C. had been arrested. The Appellant again accessed the Service’s internal records, copied the synopsis form and the occurrence report pertaining to N.C.’s arrest to his Service email account, and emailed it to his personal email account. The next day the Appellant again accessed the Service’s system to inquire about E.C. and A.S Markham was fired for passing confidential information to a member of the public. Or, rather, the Waterloo Police Service attempted to fire him. He appealed the decision, which resulted in three years of paid suspension while he waited for his case to be heard. Markham was finally, officially fired for these violations early last year after his case was heard. No. Wait. He resigned because the Waterloo Police Service Board gave him this option. The Hearing Officer gave the Appellant seven days to resign or he was to be terminated from all employment with the Service. The Appellant sought a lesser penalty. You would think that being allowed a graceful exit and three years of fully-funded free time would be payment enough. But no, Markham had to rub it in. In what has to be one of the stupidest moves ever performed by a disgraced public servant, Markham sent an email to the department's legal rep gloating about his paid time off. (via Information Liberation) A former Waterloo Regional Police officer who was suspended with pay for three years sent an email to police thanking them for his continued salary while he sat at home, played golf, travelled and took a course to become a firefighter. “I am very thankful and fortunate to have received such a nice gift from WRPS over the last three years. You have opened up other doors for me and have paid me to sit back and watch. What a dream come true,” Craig Markham wrote in an email on March 27 addressed to the police service’s solicitor. Markham made over $90,000 a year pursuing his hobbies while his case was being appealed. He might have gotten away with it if he hadn't felt compelled to apprise his former department of the details of his extended vacation. Unfortunately for him, his audaciously moronic move pissed off his former boss. Police Chief Bryan Larkin presented the letter to members of the Region of Waterloo Police Services Board at a meeting last week. “He (Markham) mocks what is supposed to be a fair and judicial system,” Larkin said in an interview. “It sends a bad message to the community,” Larkin said. “More importantly, it harms and takes away from the incredible work of the 760 officers who are out there everyday putting their lives at risk.” Larkin is completely right. And every police department that allows (or is forced to by union contracts) its misbehaving officers to take paid vacations as "punishment" for wrongdoing is making the situation worse. Markham just exposed the system for what it really is: a great way to abuse the public's trust and get paid for doing nothing. Unbelievably, Markham is now trying to play the victim. “I think it’s disgusting that Bryan Larkin released my email,” Markham told the meeting. “He is using me as a scapegoat.” Whatever Larkin is using Markham for, it's the first thing he's earned in over three years. Markham claims the email was sent in a "moment of frustration," but it's rather difficult to square that with his boasts about using unearned paychecks to travel and play golf -- the total of which approaches $350,000. But despite his email's jocular recounting of hobbies pursued and unearned money spent, Markham still maintains he's still an upstanding dude. “I’m not the taxpayer bandit,” Markham said. “It’s not like I came in during the middle of the night with a mask on and robbed the taxpayer.” “It just sounds like I laid on the beach and drank pina coladas for three years.” As for the first part? No, it's actually worse. Markham robbed taxpayers behind their backs, collecting paychecks he hadn't earned while fighting to reclaim a position he didn't deserve. He abused the public's trust and spent more than three years taking their money in exchange for nothing at all. As for the last? I can't think of anyone else to blame for what this "sounds like." If Markham doesn't like being misrepresented by his own words, maybe he should have chosen them more carefully. The only silver lining (beyond a possible overhaul of disciplinary policies in Waterloo) is the fact that only the province of Ontario allows its law enforcement officers to collect paychecks while suspended. If Markham had done the same thing anywhere else, he might have actually felt the sting of accountability. But he did it in Waterloo and managed to continue abusing the public's trust even after exiting the field of public service. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Apollo 11 Moon landing was a pretty big deal in 1969 (and it still is). It's been just 46 years since a human being first set foot on the moon, and it's a bit disappointing that we haven't been back more recently. Fortunately, there are some folks still working on manned space exploration (phew, SpaceX..), so people won't be limited to just visiting the ISS or Tiangong 1. If you're a space enthusiast, check out a few of these links on manned spaceflight stuff. Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit isn't on display for the public to gawk at (for its own protection), but a Kickstarter project is aiming to raise a cool half million bucks to digitize the suit and document it thoroughly so that it can be made more accessible to the public. Donations to this project will go to the Smithsonian Institution, and a portion of every donation may be tax deductible. Too bad none of the rewards include a 3D printable file of an entire suit.... [url] China has a unique place in space faring history -- with its taikonauts gaining equal footing with US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. The Chinese space program has been back to the moon with a lunar rover, and it plans to bring back moon rocks in a couple years. People may walk on the moon again in a few years, too, but they probably won't have NASA logos on their suits. [url] Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe, and Douglas Hurley will be the next US astronauts... to fly on private spaceships. The first test flights will begin as early as 2017 with SpaceX and Boeing taking astronauts to the International Space Station. Commercial tickets to get to the ISS will cost under $60 million (less than a Soyuz trip), but there's not that much room on the ISS for tourists. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The NYPD doesn't care for transparency. Its relationship with open records requesters ranges from "frosty" to "antagonistic." It even employs its own in-house, completely arbitrary classification system in order to prevent even more of its documents from making their way into the hands of the public. And, despite policies specifically mandating the preservation of records, NYPD officials are apparently preemptively deleting certain communications to ensure they'll never be made public. Attorneys for the city have failed to turn over even one email from the files of former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly or former Chief of Department Joseph Esposito regarding summons activity over the last eight years, attorney Elinor Sutton writes in new filings in Manhattan Federal Court seeking sanctions against the city. “It is simply not tenable that Commissioner Kelly and Chief Esposito did not — in the entire period of 2007 through the present — write or receive emails using terms” related to the word “summons,” Sutton writes. Seven years of discussing police business and not once did Kelly or Esposito use the word "summons," one of the most common terms used when discussing police business. How can this possibly be? Well, when you're looking for evidence that NYPD bosses and supervisors instituted illegal quotas, the word "summons" would figure prominently in responsive documents... if said documents hadn't been memory-holed for the preservation of the greater good their positions. And it's not just the top two men in the NYPD that have a "summons" hole in their communications. Searches for responsive emails/texts from three other high-ranking NYPD officials came up empty as well. What Sutton has obtained that points to an unofficial quota system has come from whistleblowers and "other means." Sutton has copies of emails and texts -- sent using NYPD phones/email accounts -- that discuss quota-like "expectations" for officers and reprisals for failing to hit these numbers. But the NYPD's own search for these same documents has found nothing. This either means the NYPD isn't performing thorough searches or it has been destroying incriminating documents. Either way, the NYPD's lack of responsive documents looks very suspicious. And the city itself is complicit in the "vanishing" of possibly culpatory evidence. [C]ity lawyers didn’t advise the NYPD to preserve communications related to summonses until 2013 — three years after the suit was filed, Sutton says. The city won't say much about the lawsuit or its police department's actions, but this contradictory set of sentences says a lot more than the city rep probably intended it to. In a response filed last week, city attorney Qiana Smith-Williams said the alleged evidence destruction was “short on meritorious claims” and that the sides had not yet “exhausted the possibility of a settlement.” If you believe the opposition's case is lacking in merit -- and you have an inexhaustible amount of (public) funds to fight it -- why would you be entertaining a settlement? The obvious answer is this: a settlement would allow the city to end the discovery process, maintain its secrecy, allow those involved in the quota scheme to avoid further examination/punishment. Handing out (public) money to the plaintiffs in settlement form also allows the city/NYPD to move on without having to admit wrongdoing. A payout means nothing changes. Quotas will still remain, but steps will be taken to ensure it's better hidden. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Muckrock has a story of Alex Richardson, seeking information on the IRS's Whistleblower Office, which has been receiving some scrutiny lately. Richardson filed a bunch of FOIA requests and discovered that the IRS apparently would like to make his life as difficult as possible. First he got an infamous GLOMAR "neither confirm nor deny" response -- which was supposed to be limited to national security issues. However, with at least one request, a package with a CD just arrived... and Richardson was dismayed to find the contents of the CD encrypted. That seems a bit strange for a response to a FOIA request, since whatever is being delivered is supposed to be public, but whatever. The letter accompanying the CD explains, for reasons unknown, that while the IRS was only returning 6 of the 23 pages that had been located, it was doing so with encryption, and it would send the key separately. Again, this seems like weird operational security for public documents. Now, also, in the response letter, it noted that the reason only 6 pages are included is because the rest were withheld under FOIA exemptions: So you had to imagine that in those 6 pages, there should at least be some relevant information. Nope. It appears that the IRS went through all that to give a final middle finger to Richardson, because when he finally decrypted the documents... they're all redacted too. Six pages, entirely blacked out. Which makes you wonder why the other 17 were "withheld" in the first place. What difference could it have made? As Muckrock notes at the end of its piece: Just GLOMAR us next time, IRS. Save us both a lot of grief, and it's a lot less cruel. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A few years ago, there was no reason to see Apple and Google as direct competitors — but thanks to the mobile space, all that has changed. Now the two tech giants are going head-to-head in a contest for the mobile device market share, but their approaches to this race remain very different. This week, we discuss the nuances of this competition and what these two different approaches can teach us about business models and innovation. Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to vet a DMCA takedown request for false positives, especially when the request only includes 28 URLs. You'd be wrong. TMG (Germany's Tele Munchen Group, which acts as a European distributor for several motion picture studios) issued a takedown request on behalf of Universal Pictures France, hoping to delist links to a few movies. But its algorithm is obviously flawed. To start with, it listed our article on the Hacking Team hack under its list of supposedly infringing URLs for the movie "Hacker." Now, Hacking Team itself announced shortly after the data dump that "law enforcement was involved" and that orders were being sent out to have their leaked documents and emails removed from the web. Without a doubt, Hacking Team does have law enforcement involved somewhere, but takedown notices from the company itself have yet to arrive. (Third parties seem to be a bit more active on that front.) And with the documents stashed multiple places around the web, any takedown requests will be little more than symbolic. I doubt it's using distant third parties to achieve its takedown goals, but clumsy, automated, Googling, "content protection" companies and rights holders are perfectly capable of inadvertently achieving the same aim. It appears TMG's search for infringing URLs includes little more than the title, as this same request also targets a Reddit post that has nothing to do with its "Hacker" movie. Instead, this links to a twitch.tv account of a gamer allegedly using hacks to get an edge in DotA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2). Obviously, this has nothing to do with copyright infringement. And, for good measure, TMG's efforts on behalf of Furious 7 in the same takedown request targets the movie's IMDb page. Because why not take down a wholly legitimate page on a wholly legitimate site that not only offers a wealth of information on the movie itself, but also acts as an unpaid promotional platform, what with its ample supply of trailers and links to retailers. And, yes, some people will point out that most of what is targeted appears to be infringing content (or links to it). But here's the thing. It doesn't take long to vet small requests like these for false positives. At the very least, TMG owes it to the rights holders that pay for these services to issue legitimate takedown requests. Something like this making its way to Google makes TMG look, at best, clumsy, and at worst, incompetent and censorious. And while it's rarely a concern for rights holders and content protection companies, they also owe it to the rest of the internet to do their best to avoid targeting legitimate URLs -- especially those that have absolutely nothing to do with the content being "protected" and are, as in the case of IMDb, sites that can actually increase sales. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Charge up to 5 devices with the Speedy 50W USB Charger now available for $22 in the Techdirt Deals store. It is compatible with any USB-charging device and is lightweight and compact enough to slip into a bag and take with you so you can keep your phones and tablets topped up throughout the day. You can charge 5 phones or 4 tablets simultaneously. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As we've noted for years, the security on most "smart" or "connected" cars is aggressively atrocious. And in fact it's getting worse. As car infotainment systems get more elaborate, and wireless carriers increasingly push users to add their cellular-connected car to shared data plans, the security of these platforms has sometimes been an afterthought. Hackers this week once again made that perfectly clear after they demonstrated to a Wired reporter that they were able to manipulate and disable a new Jeep Cherokee running Fiat Chrysler's UConnect platform. While the reporter was driving it: As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That’s when they cut the transmission. Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun. Uconnect utilizes Sprint's cellular network, and hacker/researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to pwn manipulate nearly everything about the vehicle with a laptop in a house ten miles away. All thanks to one, unspecified vulnerability: From that entry point, Miller and Valasek’s attack pivots to an adjacent chip in the car’s head unit—the hardware for its entertainment system—silently rewriting the chip’s firmware to plant their code. That rewritten firmware is capable of sending commands through the car’s internal computer network, known as a CAN bus, to its physical components like the engine and wheels. The two used to have to physically modify cars to get access to these systems, but as vehicles have gone cellular, it has opened the door to a world of new exploits. And if you've ever experienced the incomprehensibly-clunky in-car GUI of most in-car infotainment platforms, rest assured that the quality of the system's security is usually in the same ballpark. Miller and Valasek will publish a portion of their exploit online during a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next month. The exploit appears to work on any Chrysler vehicle with Uconnect from late 2013, all of 2014, and early 2015. Chrysler/Fiat posted a notice to its website last week informing users that they need to update their in-car software either via USB stick (you can download the update here) or by taking it in to a dealer. Of course like many patches, most users won't be paying much attention to the warning. And we're only talking about Chrysler's UConnect; there's a bounty of half-assed security measures implemented in infotainment systems from automakers worldwide just waiting to be tinkered with by pranksters (or worse). Of course cars aren't the only tech sector where security has failed to keep pace with ambition. "Smart" TVs have been shown to have similarly awful security, often sharing unencrypted user info (even conversations) with any hacker with a modicum of talent. In the rush to embrace the gee whizzery of the "Internet of things," there are more than a few companies that apparently forgot to bring security and intelligence along for the ride.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For quite some time now, the Snowden haters out there keep wanting to prove that Ed Snowden somehow caused damage with his leaks. It's been over two years now and they keep coming up empty. Former Senator and staunch surveillance state supporter Saxby Chambliss was out making claims yesterday about how when the US government "gets our hands on" Snowden, it should "hang him on the courthouse square." Because nothing says "freedom" like convicting someone without a trial and then killing them barbarically, right? But, Chambliss also claimed that "lives have been lost" because of Snowden, ridiculously comparing his leaks to the OPM leaks: "Just like with Snowden, we’re going to lose American lives as result of this breach." Going to? It's been two years and no one can point to a single life lost -- so this bit of fearmongering is stretching pretty thin at this point. But, still, the Snowden fearmongering continues... with an assist from the NY Times. An article by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard, about the latest on ISIS and how it's structured, contains a random nonsensical dig at Snowden: The Islamic State has also studied revelations from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about how the United States gathers information on militants. A main result is that group’s top leaders now use couriers or encrypted channels that Western analysts cannot crack to communicate, intelligence and military officials said. Except that a year ago, an actual study of how these groups communicate showed that they were already using such methods long before Snowden and nothing had changed in the aftermath. That research, by Flashpoint Partners, pointed out among other things: Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them. As a result, the Snowden revelations likely merely confirmed the suspicions of many of these actors, the more advanced of which were already making use of – and developing –secure communications software. The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden. And, of course, it's been well-known for years that Al Qaeda used couriers and encryption to avoid communications channels that could be easily monitored by the NSA, so it's not like ISIS needed Snowden to reveal what was already known. Here's an article from two months before anyone knew Ed Snowden's name, talking about Al Qaeda adapting to the NSA: Suddenly al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was up against the National Security Agency and the Predator drones that can hover out of sight and intercept phone calls. So it adapted. It went underground, enduring a monthslong U.S. led bombing campaign. It emerged as a more disciplined and professional organization. It ditched cell phones in favor of walkie-talkies and coded names. Information was passed through intermediaries. If someone needed to send an email, it was shielded by highly sophisticated encryption software. Anyone who thinks that ISIS suddenly discovered the need for this kind of thing after Snowden is either lying or ignorant. The two NY Times reporters who should know better should never have included that bogus tidbit. It seems to serve no purpose other than to let anonymous government officials spread a lie about Snowden.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Self-driving cars are on the way, and in their wake, they'll leave a variety of entities slightly less better off. Insurance companies may be the first to feel the pinch, as less-than-risk-averse drivers are replaced with Electric Grandmothers more than willing to maintain safe speed limits and the proper distance between vehicles. And as goes the car accident, so go other areas of the private sector: personal injury/DUI lawyers, hospitals, body shops, red light camera manufacturers, towing companies, etc. But the public sector will take the hit as well. "Flow my tears," said the policeman. Consider the following. This past year, the City of Los Angeles generated $161 million from parking violations. Red light violations have a fee of $490. Californians caught driving under the influence are fined up to $15,649 for a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction and up to $22,492 for an under-21 equivalent. Cities in California collect, on average, $40 million annually in towing fees that they divide with towing firms. Simply put, the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from poor driving-related behaviors provide significant funding for transportation infrastructure and maintenance, public schools, judicial salaries, domestic violence advocacy, conservation, and many other public services. Since California legalized driverless vehicles, Google has logged more than 1.7 million miles during the testing phase and been involved in 11 accidents, none of which were the fault of the driverless vehicle. Tesla, Mercedes, and others are not far behind. It turns out that automated vehicle technology—unlike humans—abides by the law. And that’s bad news for local government revenues. In other words, once driverless cars become mainstream, deep revenue sources acquired from driving-related violations such as speeding tickets and DUIs will decrease greatly. Someone has to pay for the roads and other government activities, but it won't be drivers. So, as the Brookings Institution report points out, new revenue streams will have to be sought. The obvious suggestion is tax-per-mile billing, but that puts the government right in your vehicle -- an idea that's not going to gain in popularity any time soon. While the loss of revenue will have an impact, the picture painted here is skewed. For many years, communities have treated police departments as revenue generators, rather than crime fighters. This has skewed incentives so badly that some small towns have become nothing more than profitable speed traps. That's one end of the issue: the pressure (or the willingness) to overpolice minor traffic violations to keep city governments (and the police departments themselves) funded. But that's only part of it. The situation looks rather dire, especially if one doesn't examine what's not being said in these paragraphs. As Scott Shackford at Reason points out, the Brookings Institution report does some mighty fine cherry-picking for its list of potentially-affected government services. Without a doubt, a downturn in revenue will affect good government programs like public schools and domestic violence programs. But it will also cut back funding for far more dubious government spending. What an interesting list of government-financed uses they've chosen. Notice they left off "Poorly made third-party database software that will stop working properly in less than three years and that was purchased from somebody belonging to the same frat as the assistant city manager," "police abuse settlements," and "blatant pension spiking." These "losses" will also be somewhat offset by less tax revenue being spent on traffic enforcement, accident response units and other related law enforcement activities. This will also mean fewer law enforcement officers will need to be employed, which should further reduce government expeditures. The problem is that most governments aren't capable of heading off this sort of "threat" to their livelihoods, even with years of advance notice. Trimming back unneeded public sector employees won't happen until years after it's obvious they're no longer needed and will often come accompanied with expensive severance packages. New tax revenue streams won't be explored until they can be put off no longer, and often will just be added on top of existing taxes, rather than replacing those that have slowed to a trickle. Worse, those most affected by this sort of shift will be the same people most affected by most government tax increases: the poor. The lowest income brackets will be the last to adopt driverless vehicles, leaving them the most exposed to fines for traffic violations (fines that will likely increase as revenue dwindles), as well as new costs like per-mile taxation. They're also most likely to see support programs they rely on suffer cuts as traffic enforcement money dries up. The report somewhat addresses this outcome with a discussion of income inequality and the "disappearance of the middle class." While some of it is accurate and some of it is mostly buzzwords in search of a point, there's no doubt that traffic enforcement revenue will mostly be collected from those who can least afford it. After all, governments have done this for years -- something that helped fuel the outrage and backlash in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown. Is Brookings actually trying to blame the gap between billionaires and the poor for the racial tension in Ferguson? Which venture capitalist was it who told the Ferguson police to step up fine collection to rake in more money for the city's coffers? Which hedge fund manager invented the bureaucratic court system in Ferguson and other St. Louis County cities designed to wring every last cent from any indigent minority who couldn't afford an attorney? Which Wall Street "fat cat" is adding additional fees to every little fine so that getting pulled over for something as simple as not signaling a turn could end up costing hundreds of dollars for somebody who could end up losing his license and his ability to even work? While driverless cars hold a great deal of disruption potential, when it's all said and done, governments will remain largely undisrupted. Whatever changes are made in response will arrive well after they're needed and be badly implemented. The same people who suffered in the previous system will find no improvement in the next one. While one would hope the drastic reduction in traffic enforcement would result in better, smarter policing more focused on serious criminal activity, old habits die hard. Cops will just go where the driverless car ain't, rather than trim that area of law enforcement to the minimum required. And cities will cut programs deemed expendable, rather than subject their own spending habits to greater scrutiny. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We had two separate stories late last week about copyright issues in the UK, and it occurred to me that a followup relating one to the other might be in order. The first one, from Thursday, was about the UK's plan to try, once again, to push a new "education campaign" to teach people that "copyright is good." We've seen these campaigns pop up over and over again for decades now, and they tend to lead to complete ridicule and outright mockery. And yet, if you talk to film studio and record label execs, they continually claim that one of the most important things they need to do is to teach people to "respect" copyright through education campaigns. My guess is they say this because an education campaign is something they can actually do, so they can make it look like they're "doing something" no matter how ineffective it will be. And, you can go back centuries and find that no education campaign has ever worked in magically making people respect anti-copying laws. That brings us to story number two: on Friday, the UK's High Court confirmed that ripping your legally purchased CDs and DVDs to make a digital copy for personal use is no longer legal (something that the government had only "made" officially legal a few months ago). The court even left open the possibility that anyone who relied on the official change in regulations to rip their own CDs might now face punishment for doing so. This court ruling came about after an organization run by the record labels, UK Music, challenged the legal change. Combine these two stories, and you have to wonder what the recording industry is thinking. As Matt Schruers noted on Twitter, this latest court ruling can only serve to destroy any credibility that copyright might have held for people: If one set out to burn up the credibility of #copyright in a single act, saying there could be liability for CD ripping just might be it. — Matt Schruers (@MSchruers) July 18, 2015 And this is the part that legacy copyright industry extremists still don't get. You don't get respect for copyright through propaganda education campaigns. You get respect through earning it. And that means responding reasonably to things that people do. People want to rip music to make it more convenient to listen to. You should support that. You shouldn't try to make it illegal. You shouldn't sue your biggest fans. You shouldn't go after people for obviously non-commercial use of works. You shouldn't put ridiculous statutory damages on works. You shouldn't tax blank media. You shouldn't pull works down from the internet because a few seconds in the background contain some copyright-covered music. You shouldn't try to pass laws that limit free expression. And yet, the recording industry does all of that, and then they think that a lousy (and misleading) education campaign will make people "respect" copyright? What are they thinking?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Techdirt has written a couple of times about European sensitivities regarding data protection, in particular when it comes to privacy rules requiring local storage of personal data. It turns out that Europe is not alone in its concern that agreements like TAFTA/TTIP and TISA could jeopardize this approach. An article in The Tyee points out that two of Canada's provinces -- British Columbia and Nova Scotia -- have requirements that sensitive personal data must be stored locally, and that they are likely to fall victim to TPP because the US insists the laws are "non-tariff barriers": U.S. negotiators are pushing hard to eliminate national laws in TPP countries that require sensitive personal data to be stored on secure local servers, or within national borders. This goal collides with the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Act and similar regulations in Nova Scotia, which are listed as "foreign trade barriers" in a 2015 United States Trade Representative (USTR) report. According to that report, the B.C. privacy laws "prevent public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using U.S. services when personal information could be accessed from or stored in the United States." Irrespective of your views on whether such local storage requirements are reasonable or not, what's significant here is that TPP, ostensibly a trade agreement, may force Canada to repeal local privacy laws. That fact underlines why the secret nature of the negotiations is profoundly anti-democratic: matters are being decided behind closed doors that should rightly be debated openly. Data flows are just one example: TPP and other "trade" agreements like TAFTA/TTIP and TISA will have profound implications for many aspects of everyday life in signatory countries. And yet the public in those nations will be able to provide almost no input into the negotiating process, largely on the grounds that the discussions are "just" technical adjustments to trade rules. Indeed, most people aren't even aware of what is being done in their name: a recent poll suggests that three in four Canadians have never heard of TPP, so the chances that a massive wave of public outrage might yet save those local data privacy laws are pretty close to nil. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The digital era has redefined evidence "staleness." The evidence that law enforcement often claims needs to be grabbed quickly (and, often, violently) to save it from destruction is the same evidence that could conceivably live on forever if never subjected to a concerted destruction effort. Back in 2012, Judge Posner detailed this shift in inadvertent evidence preservation in the US v. Sevier decision: “Staleness” is highly relevant to the legality of a search for a perishable or consumable object, like cocaine, but rarely relevant when it is a computer file. Computers and computer equipment are “not the type of evidence that rapidly dissipates or degrades.” United States v. Vosburgh, 602 F.3d 512, 529 (3d Cir. 2010). Because of overwriting, it is possible that the deleted file will no longer be recoverable from the computer’s hard drive. And it is also possible that the computer will have been sold or physically destroyed. And the longer the interval between the uploading of the material sought as evidence and the search of the computer, the greater these possibilities. But rarely will they be so probable as to destroy probable cause to believe that a search of the computer will turn up the evidence sought[.] How long is too long? The answer is entirely open-ended. A recent decision from a California appeals court says a 23-year gap between the crime and the search warrant doesn't render the evidence "stale." A reopened "cold case" investigation into the apparent murder of a Los Angeles police officer resulted in the issuance of warrant in 2009 to search the defendant's current possessions, including the computer she didn't own (if she even had one) back in 1986. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence, but the court said her "staleness" argument didn't apply. (But the "good faith exception" did... [It almost always does.]) Both warrants were extremely broad. The first permitted authorities to search appellant’s residence and several vehicles registered to her. It sought electronically and digitally stored material, documents, and records related to the homicide, Rasmussen or Ruetten, including “letters, diaries, journals, writings, newspaper articles, books, correspondence, [or] greeting cards”; photographs of Ruetten and Rasmussen; items that may have belonged to Ruetten or Rasmussen; information identifying persons “who may have associated with or [may] have known” Ruetten, Rasmussen or appellant; medical or dental records tending to establish whether appellant received treatment for injuries after February 24, 1986; “bills, receipts, papers, reports or forms” from 1986 generally; and all .38/.357 caliber firearms in appellant’s possession. The second warrant, issued by a different magistrate, gave permission to search the “computers, storage media, computer hardware and digital evidence” seized pursuant to the first warrant, including “[email], internet browsing histories, cached information, partially deleted files, records, receipts, screen captures, photographs, logs, [and] printouts.” The lower court had some issues with the breadth of the warrants, but managed to talk itself out of its queasier feelings. The court agreed there was a plausible argument for overbreadth in the requests to search for “bills, receipts, paper or reports or forms from 1986” and for the names of all “people who may have associated with” Rasmussen, Ruetten or appellant. The court was “uncomfortable” with the request to search appellant’s computers because they were unlikely to have been in existence at the time of the crime. It also suggested it had no business telling magistrate judges how to do their jobs. However, the court concluded that warrants should not be read in a hypertechnical way and that it was up to the issuing magistrates to tell the detective to “‘tighten [the] language’” or “beef it up.” The defendant argued that there was no "nexus" between the original crime and her current residence, not to mention the fact she had no computer back in 1986, so any search of her current computers was predicated on an unsupported assumption that these would contain evidence related to the 1986 murder. The appeals court didn't find either argument persuasive. It pointed out that, while both warrants were broad, they were supported by probable cause. And, more importantly, the lack of a "bright line" measurement for "staleness" -- along with the common use of computers as "permanent" storage of copies of physical items -- allowed for this sort of search, despite the length of time elapsed since the initial investigation. With respect to her contention that her move from one residence to another precluded a finding of a nexus between her current home and the evidence sought, the warrants specifically sought photographs, journals and diaries. A person does not normally discard such items, even after several moves. That handles the physical "nexus" argument. Here's the court on the digital end of it: Appellant claims that the warrant was overbroad in granting permission to search her computers, as there was no evidence she owned any of them at the time of the homicide. The fact that she may not have owned those computers at the time of the crime did not preclude the possibility that she had transferred information or records -- particularly photographs -- to computers owned at the time of the search. (Cf. Arkansas Chronicle v. Easley (E.D. Va. 2004) 321 F.Supp.2d 776, 795 [recognizing that photographs and video preserved in computer format are “easily transferrable”]; U.S. v. Christie (10th Cir. 2013) 717 F.3d 1156, 1164 [observing that personal computers often hold “diaries, calendars, files, and correspondence”].) Now that the near-permanence of digital evidence is ensured by long-lasting storage and even longer-lasting cloud service backups, "staleness" is no longer an issue. But while that may give law enforcement a pass of serve search warrants years after alleged criminal activity occurred, it should also factor into discussions about warrantless searches based on exigent circumstances. The government argued in the Riley case that the omnipresent "threat" of evidence destruction necessitated instant, warrantless access to arrested suspects' cellphones. (This was presented to the court without any supporting evidence that automated wiping or other uncontrollable evidence destruction had occurred with any frequency). But the opposite actually seems closer to reality: whatever is on a cellphone (or someone's computer) will last almost indefinitely unless a person makes active, time-consuming efforts to thwart evidence recovery. From Posner's 2012 opinion: When you delete a file, it goes into a “trash” folder, and when you direct the computer to “empty” the trash folder the contents of the folder, including the deleted file, disappear. But the file hasn’t left the computer. The trash folder is a waste paper basket; it has no drainage pipe to the outside. The file seems to have vanished only because the computer has removed it from the user interface and so the user can’t “see” it any more. Most people never make it past "Empty Recycling." Even though plenty of options exist for common users to ensure deleted files are actually deleted (read: overwritten), Posner points out that "use of such software is surprisingly rare." This coincides with the very low number of incidents where law enforcement has run into the use of automated tools to destroy digital evidence. And yet, the government insisted the possibility of evidence destruction should allow it to warrantlessly search cellphones and other devices at the time of arrest. But it really shouldn't get to have it both ways. Either there's a good chance the evidence sought is intact -- and will be for possibly decades to come -- or it's all vanishing before it can get its hands on it, in which case the argument for "staleness" must be addressed in more detail. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has put an end to law enforcement's insistence it must have access right now. That's good news, especially when combined with the unavoidable conclusions courts will reach when dealing with storage options that preserve evidence for years. The government can't be allowed to claim there's no time to get a warrant when it's readily apparent they have all the time in the world. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Volcanoes are not exactly predictable, so the best way to avoid getting killed by one is probably to just live far, far away. But Nature doesn't worry about death and destruction, so all kinds of life seems to thrive around active volcanoes, even where no one would expect life to be able to survive at all. Sharks have been discovered at the bottom of Kavachi, an active underwater volcano in the Pacific ocean. It's not clear how large animals deal with the possibility of dying instantly in an eruption -- or if they just don't realize they're hanging out in a caldera at all. [url] A tiny scaleless blackfish appears to enjoy growing up in the warm, acidic waters near underwater volcanoes. A research vessel found this new species off the coast of Australia, and it looks like the warm waters from volcanoes foster all kinds of tiny creatures nobody was expecting to find. [url] Until 1977, scientists thought that all life on Earth depended on the photosynthetic food chain. Underwater volcanic vents near the Galapagos Islands presented us with a different ecosystem that feeds on chemicals released from geological activity. [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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For years, Charlie Hebdo waged a brutal, often ugly war on good taste, restraint and self-righteousness. The satirical magazine took on every major religion, along with anything else it could satirize. It only had problems with one particular target: Islam. Rather, it only had problems with followers of Islam who believed brutal acts of violence were a perfectly acceptable way of resolving religious differences. After years of publication that were marked with multiple attacks (some political, some physical), the worst case scenario finally happened. Two Islamist gunmen entered Charlie Hebdo's offices and killed twelve employees. This was met with outrage by journalists, satirists and cartoonists around the world. For weeks, people who felt free speech -- no matter how offensive -- should never be punishable by death, expressed their solidarity using the phrase "Je Suis Charlie." This attack was also met with outrage by government officials, who expressed their concern in the usual way: by calling for more surveillance and restrictive laws. To these figures, the attack had very little to do with free speech and everything to do with terrorism. It was just another nail and governments had plenty of unused legislative hammers just dying to be deployed. That their proposals were the antithesis of free and open societies -- the sort of thing espoused indirectly by Charlie Hebdo's satirical War on Everybody -- was completely lost on them. It was an opportunity to seize more control, provided by some very helpful terrorists. The solidarity expressed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks soon fell apart, however. Charlie Hebdo, still mourning its dead, was attacked by its own colleagues -- journalists and artists from around the world. The PEN American Center chose to bestow its annual "Freedom of Expression Courage" award on Charlie Hebdo, a move that was met with protests from other PEN members including Teju Cole, Joyce Carol Oates and Eric Bogosian. To them, the award did nothing more than award "racists" for "punching down" and adding to anti-Islamic sentiment. Not only was the protest completely tone-deaf in the wake of the massacre, it was a willful and very selective misreading of Charlie Hebdo's body of work. While Charlie Hebdo was famous for its caricatures of Muhammad, it also attacked other major religions. The only difference was that no other religion's acolytes did anything more than fire off angry letters. That these writers and artists would basically side with those who killed Charlie Hebdo's staffers -- even inadvertently -- is sickening. Even if these artists felt Charlie Hebdo's work was reprehensible, there were -- and continue to be -- much greater issues at stake. Hundreds of journalists, satirists and artists around the world have been imprisoned by governments in order to silence them. By siding against Charlie Hebdo, these artists sided with not only extremists who feel killing is an appropriate reaction to being mocked indirectly, but these governments who feel creative efforts targeting certain individuals or ideas should be punishable by imprisonment or death. What happened to Charlie Hebdo could happen to anyone. All it takes is angering the wrong people. But the 145 artists and writers who signed the protest letter felt this abandonment of their colleagues was the high moral ground. Fortunately, PEN didn't see it this way. It offered a succinctly brilliant response to the misguided protest: PEN, in a statement posted on its website earlier this week, reiterated its position that the intent of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons “was not to ostracize or insult Muslims but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority of radical extremists to place broad categories of speech off limits.” But now, a few months later, the terrorists have won. And they had help. Last week, in an interview with German newsweekly Stern, Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau waved a white flag, stained with the blood of 12 murdered colleagues and comrades, when announcing that he would no longer draw cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. It was clear that Charlie Hebdo — of which Riss owns 40 percent — was also done with Muhammad mockery. This comes just a few months after cartoonist Renald “Luz” Luzier said that drawing Muhammad “no longer interested” him. He quit Charlie Hebdo not long after. The editor of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was more forthcoming about why he too was done with the prophet. As the newspaper that kicked off the “Muhammad cartoon crisis” in 2005, Jyllands-Posten would not be republishing anything from Charlie Hebdo, he stated bluntly, because the staff feared a repeat of the the massacre in Paris. This is why terrorists do what they do. These are the results they want. And as much as it is disheartening to see this decision being made, it's also a completely understandable reaction. Dying for your art may be a romantic ideal, but it's hardly the sort of thing any person should honestly expect themselves or others to do. We may be disappointed that Charlie Hebdo no longer has the strength of its convictions that saw it weather previous attacks, but when 12 people are gunned down for making fun of one religious figure, those who wish to avoid the same fate know exactly what to remove from the equation. But it's not just the threat of attacks. The lack of support from its peers and their accusations of racism have also contributed to this decision. Not only is it literally dangerous to "attack" one particular religious figure, it's also unpopular. The relentless campaign against Charlie Hebdo by those accusing it of “racism” or “punching down” has had an effect. Because once deployed, as the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo discovered, the racism charge sticks to the accused’s skin like napalm. And no one is immune — even murdered cartoonists — because there are no penalties for filing a false report. So if they expected unmitigated solidarité after their staff was machine gunned (while planning their participation, it should be noted, in an anti-racism event), they were surely disappointed when non-Francophone writers who hadn’t previously heard of Charlie exploded with denunciations of its racist intent. It's one thing to work while keeping an eye out for gunmen in the hall. It's even harder to do when other beneficiaries of free speech protections decide your speech isn't worthy of similar respect. Charlie Hebdo didn't lose its courage. It lost its comrades. So one can't begrudge Riss and Luz and all the other survivors at Charlie Hebdo the decision to go soft on those who most demand mockery and derision. But we should begrudge those in media who shrugged at the assassin’s veto, claiming they couldn’t publish satirical cartoons out of respect for religion, for whom Je Suis Charlie was merely social media signaling. Those who went soft were those whose convictions couldn't even hold up to an attack that happened to someone else. Then there were plenty who never held these convictions at all, but Je Suis Charlie'd right up to the PEN Award nominations before deciding the few people shouting "racist!" were the voice of reason. And they sold out Charlie Hebdo -- along with every persecuted artist and journalist in the world -- by decrying its offerings as being unworthy of their consideration, respect and support. I'm sure the terrorists feel they have won. We should ask Teju Cole, Joyce Carol Oates and the other 200+ signers of the anti-Charlie Hebdo petition if they feel they've achieved a victory as well. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So we had just written about Newegg -- after waiting 20 months for a ruling in a patent case -- going to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) to ask for an order telling the district court in East Texas to actually do its job. The move worked, getting Judge Rodney Gilstrap to finally issue the order (overturning a jury award on a bogus patent), but still taking the time to scold Newegg for daring to go above his head. We quoted Newegg's top lawyer Lee Cheng pointing out that if, as Gilstrap stated, part of the issue was his overwhelming schedule, then Gilstrap and other East Texas judges should be much more willing to grant transfer requests to courts outside of East Texas. As has been known for the better part of a decade, patent trolls love to file in East Texas because the courts there are super friendly to trolls. There is no legitimate reason for them to be in Texas, though some of the trolls set up fake empty offices in Texas just to pretend. Either way, it looks like Google took Newegg's idea and decided to run with it as well. It, too, has now gone to CAFC to seek a writ of mandamus telling the East Texas court to rule on its request to transfer a patent troll lawsuit to Northern California: This petition arises out of a patent infringement suit filed against Google by Brite Smart Corp. in July 2014, which was assigned to a magistrate judge. On October 24, 2014, Google moved to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The magistrate judge received Brite Smart’s response on November 10, 2014, and Google’s reply and Brite Smart’s surreply by December 1, 2014, but has yet to rule on the motion. Nonetheless, the magistrate judge has ordered the parties to engage in extensive discovery, including the taking of depositions and exchanging infringement and invalidity contentions, and held a Markman hearing. At times, a lengthy delay in ruling on a request for relief can amount to a denial of the right to have that request meaningfully considered.... [....] Here, Google filed its motion to transfer approximately eight months ago. Yet, despite the obligation to “promptly conduct” such proceedings, ... there has been no ruling, not even a hearing. Meanwhile, the magistrate judge has pressed forward with the case, proceeding through to the close of discovery and conducting both a Markman hearing and a hearing related to several discovery disputes. Brite Smart makes much of the fact that Google moved to supplement its motion to transfer. However, Google’s supplement amounted to less than two pages highlighting seven lines of deposition testimony. It does not account for the previous months of district court indecision. And Google expressly asked the district court to deny the request if it meant further delay on the transfer motion. Given this passage of time and magistrate judge’s ordering of substantive development of the case, Google has made a compelling case that the magistrate arbitrarily refused to consider the merits of its transfer motion. We therefore direct the magistrate to rule on the motion to transfer within 30 days and to stay all proceedings pending completion of the transfer matter. We remind the lower court that any familiarity that it has gained with the underlying litigation due to the progress of the case since the filing of the complaint is irrelevant when considering the transfer motion and should not color its decision. Again, it seems that there is no excuse for this, other than that the East Texas courts are buried under all these patent lawsuits, and the easiest way to deal with that problem is to promptly transfer out cases that don't belong there.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Soundcloud has been having some issues of late trying to "balance" (stupid word, but we'll get to that) the interests of copyright holders and people who use its platform for remixes. Soundcloud -- a site that is essentially a YouTube for audio, and which has long been a key place for DJs and remixers to upload their crafts -- has been going back and forth with an angry recording industry for a few years, trying to appease the industry, often by defaulting to the "take it down!" side of the ledger to avoid lawsuits. There was a big kerfuffle a year ago when Soundcloud gave more power to the labels to take content down from its service. However, in the last few months things have gotten much crazier, as Soundcloud clearly ratcheted up its takedown procedures leading to many vocal complaints from angry Soundcloud users. We've even seen the company tell someone that "fair use" is no defense, since fair use is only in the US and Soundcloud is available globally. That's beyond troubling for a variety of reasons, and as someone who pays Soundcloud to host our Techdirt podcasts, it has me concerned and looking for alternatives. But even getting beyond the fair use question, things are getting even more ridiculous. TorrentFreak has the story of a UK-producer and songwriter named Lee Adams who took part in an official remix competition of boy band One Direction's music, put on by the band and its label, Sony Music. The stems for remixing were released on Soundcloud. The rules of the contest required entrants to upload their remixes on Soundcloud... and that's exactly what Adams did. And yet those works still got taken down via copyright claims from Sony Music as infringing. Hey, Sony Music, if you want people to participate in your remix contests, maybe don't accuse them of being infringers when they do? In this case, it's even more ridiculous, because it initially happened during the contest period, held last year, and Adams reached out to everyone and finally got the work reinstated. As Adams told TorrentFreak: “I messaged SoundCloud back saying it was part of a remix contest. Then they told me that doesn’t mean I own the copyright,” Lee says. “I then explained that if the stems had been put out by the record company officially, then they had given permission. They still argued that I didn’t own the copyright.” Undeterred, Lee contacted the company running the competition on Sony’s behalf. “As it was only a couple of days before the contest closed, I emailed TalentHouse themselves to see if they could do anything,” Lee explains. “They were very good and after a couple of emails SoundCloud reinstated my track. Interestingly, TalentHouse made the comment that ‘this kind of thing happens all the time with SoundCloud’.” All good, right? Nope. Because with the latest expansion of Soundcloud takedowns, Adams finds himself back in the same situation again: @onedirection your record company are a joke. Copyright infringement takedown on a track that I made for a remix contest that THEY put on — Lee Adams (@LeeAdamsMusic) July 15, 2015 It's great that labels like Sony are embracing "remixing" as a legitimate form of expression by holding contests like this in the first place, but issuing takedowns on people who enter seems kind of backwards, doesn't it? And then they wonder why no one "respects" copyright any more?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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NY City Mayor Bill de Blasio has apparently decided to pick a fight with Uber -- a move that has already backfired and appears to be getting worse by the day. He's been pushing a proposal, obviously put together in support of legacy taxicab owners, that would limit the number of such car-hailing drivers allowed in the city. Basically, it would take the ridiculous taxi medallion system and apply it to these new services, limiting supply, keeping prices high and not serving the public very well at all. Uber responded forcefully last week by adding an amusing "de Blasio" feature to its service, showing riders how much longer they'd have to wait for a car if the plan moves forward. The story is getting more and more attention, and it's becoming clear that this has become personal for de Blasio, for reasons that are unclear. He can't win this fight and it's only making him look worse and worse. Not only that, but he is apparently threatening other "business" groups to "stay out" of the fight, threatening retaliation if they didn't stay away: Mayor de Blasio bullied business groups to stay out of the Uber debate in the weeks leading up to the City Council vote this week on controversial bills to curtail new licenses for e-hail cars. Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris called Partnership for New York City’s Kathy Wylde and the Association for a Better New York’s Bill Rudin to alert them to the bills — and to threaten them to stay on the sidelines, sources said. “Their message is, ‘This isn’t your fight. Stay out of this and we’re not going to bother you,’ ” said a political source familiar with the outreach. The implication was that if the groups defied the mayor, City Hall would “limit your business opportunities,” he said. Meanwhile, it appears that the out of touch de Blasio and his staff have absolutely no clue how widely Uber is used and how popular it is, insisting that it's just a small group of tech elites who use the service: City Hall doesn’t buy the notion that Uber is growing fast enough for a cap to disrupt the service.... And the mayor’s circle also doesn’t believe that Uber is broadly popular, or represents anything most New Yorkers care about. “It’s a boutique side issue,” said a top City Hall ally. “There’s a small set of excited tech people who are reading Mashable and might think the mayor isn’t innovative enough.” How can one be mayor of New York City and not realize that how people get around the city is a major issue to the public, and that Uber is increasingly one of the preferred ways of getting around. Furthermore, it appears that de Blasio's people are misreading their own data to argue that this cap on drivers makes sense. And, of course, it's not just the riders that should concern de Blasio, but the many people now making a living as drivers for these various services. When running for mayor, de Blasio got strong support from the taxi drivers -- and many are seeing this as his repayment of that debt. But, going against what the public wants -- especially when it comes to helping get people around more efficiently -- seems like a huge miscalculation on the part of de Blasio. Even for people who think that Uber's practices are problematic (and this move impacts all the other companies in the space as well...), it's hard to see de Blasio's move as anything but trying to raise prices and limit options for the public for no good reason at all.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We're featuring the pay what you want deal on the Web Hacker Bundle from Eudonix Learning Solutions. Pay what you want to get the first two courses which cover learning Docker and Apache Cassandra. If you beat the average price, you will unlock access to five more courses covering Django, Python, Ruby on Rails, PHP, MYSQL, JavaScript, JQuery and Bootstrap development. It's 73 hours of instruction with lifetime access. A great bonus is that 10% of the profits are given to Creative Commons. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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