posted 10 days ago on techdirt
In gaming circles, Capcom is often seen as the company that brought you the Street Fighter and Resident Evil series of games. More recently, Capcom has become notable for its Ace Attorney series of games as well. But in intellectual property circles, Capcom will always be the game studio that pimped SOPA to the public, foisted broken DRM on its customers, and treated Resident Evil customers both to a secondary-market killing DRM that allowed only one play-through of the game and the removal of promised features and only alerted customers to it after sales had begun rolling in. I think it's fair to say, in other words, that Capcom has been known to be almost cartoonishly pernicious. Speaking of which, Capcom also recently shut down a fan-translated play-through of an Ace Attorney game only available in Japan. Consistency! Dai Gyakuten Saiban is an Ace Attorney spin-off starring an ancestor of Phoenix Wright in feudal Japan that has not been released in English. For O and Garbage, who run a Dai Gyakuten Saiban YouTube channel, it’s their favorite Ace Attorney game. “Since I have an import 3DS, I bought the game just to try it out,” she said over reddit private messages. “Dai Gyakuten Saiban drew me in with it’s aesthetics, and then caught me in a death grip with Asougi [the main character’s rival].” Their shared passion for the game lead them to translate it over a period of about 8 months. Their videos consisted of footage of the game as they played it without commentary, with subtitles added using YouTube’s subtitling options. They finished just in time for the announcement of Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2. “We both loved the game a lot,” O said, “and it was a shame that not everyone would be able to experience it because it lacked a localization.” Ok, so a couple of things to note here. First, the videos in question are quite old. It seems they began the series in 2015, so we're talking a couple of years here. Second, O and Garbage say they purposefully made sure there were no ads or monetization on the videos. They were trying to share the game with others that didn't have access to it, not make coin. Third, I've found nothing to suggest that any English version of the game is even planned, nevermind set for release. Most references for the game suggest there is no planned release for the game anywhere outside of Japan. Given that it's already a few years old, the likelihood of translated versions is beginning to drop. So, we have a fan translation of a game play-through in a language for which there is no planned release, with an audience in a market for which there is no planned release. And Capcom took it down. Why? I already know what you're thinking: "Probably a ContentID or bot-driven DMCA notice is to blame." Nooooooope. Sunday, June 25th, O discovered that the entirety of their translated Dai Gyakuten Saiban videos had been taken down by Capcom. The copy of the takedown notice they showed me indicated that they were manually detected, and not a victim of the automated “Content ID” system that is sometimes overzealous in how it flags gameplay videos. I reached out to Capcom about this and they declined to comment. So Capcom manually took down this fan translation, apparently believing that language is a form of DRM and gamers ought to have to learn Japanese and buy the only version of the game that exists in order to get any sort of peek at a play-through. Keep in mind we're talking about a play-through without ads or monetization on it. I'm struggling to come up with an explanation for why Capcom would do this other than...they're just mean, I guess? Mean to very real fans of its games that just wanted to show off how cool the game was to those that had no shot of getting it for themselves because Capcom didn't make it available to them. While she’s not as frustrated as she was when she first found out, O and Garbage are both “bummed,” as Garbage puts it. But neither of them have very many regrets about starting the project in the first place. “There wasn’t an earth shattering revelation or pull to me doing this,” Garbage said. “I just wanted to share a game that was inaccessible.” 8 months of work down the drain. And for what? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on techdirt
Deescalation isn't something most police officers want to talk about -- especially those who allow their unions to do all their talking for them. But shootings by police have achieved critical mass, forcing the issue to be confronted by law enforcement officials. There are no national guidelines for force deployment. Local law enforcement agencies don't have much in the way of best practices or standards, pretty much allowing officers to decide how much force is necessary on their own, relative to the amount of "reasonable fear" officers can later credibly swear to in court. Cities and police departments may be forced to confront this sooner, rather than later, if for no other reason than to limit the bleeding -- both literally and metaphorically. Civil rights lawsuits are filed daily and settlement amounts continue to escalate. Officers in the US kill ~1,000 people per year, with that number being completely untethered from the "safety" of the job -- at least as compared to violent crime rates and/or officers being killed in the line of duty. Generally speaking, there's less crime in America than there has been for decades, but cops are "fearing for their safety" like it's 30 years ago. Over the past several days, police station CCTV video of a Bangkok police officer disarming a knife-wielding man has gone viral. Instead of greeting a threat with violence, Officer Anirut Malee greeted the potential attack with words… and neutralized the threat completely with a hug. For this act of bravery, Officer Malee was given an award by Thailand's national police chief. And he's become the unofficial poster boy for deescalation. Every situation is unique, some will argue, and what worked here won't work for every person wielding a weapon. This is true, but in the US almost every situation involving a mentally disturbed person carrying a weapon is handled the same way: with a deployment of force, most of it deadly. So, arguments about nuance are worthless in a law enforcement climate where officers are allowed to calm their nerves by firing guns. And the situation above really isn't that unique. A recent controversial killing involved mental distress and wielded knife. Only this one happened in Seattle, and ended in the shooting death of a pregnant woman. It's not as though the officers went into the situation unprepared. They were responding to Charleena Lyle's call to report a burglary. Audio recordings of the officers included discussions about her mental health issues and previous police interactions. And the seemingly-inevitable shooting was preceded by cops telling Lyle they weren't going to shoot her. This shooting took place under a DOJ consent decree meant to curb the use of excessive force by Seattle officers. It doesn't necessarily indicate the decree isn't working, but it definitely doesn't suggest the Seattle PD is approaching these sorts of situations with deescalation in mind. It's almost impossible to imagine a US law enforcement officer approaching a situation like that confronting Officer Malee without a weapon drawn and a whole lot of shouting. There's very little reason for officers to change their approach -- not with courts continually deferring to assertions of fear by police officers and cops who do deescalate situations being fired for supposedly endangering other officers. But the problem isn't just going to go away. Cities and PDs need to address this now, if for nothing other than purely mercenary reasons. It costs money to defend lawsuits and more money to pay settlements. Even if officials don't really care whether the police maintain a healthy relationship with the communities they serve, they can't keep asking taxpayers to pay for the sins of government employees -- not when there appears to be little effort made by these employees to improve the level of their service. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on techdirt
Earlier today, we published Mike Godwin's excellent post about why why everyone should file a comment with the FCC about their views on net neutrality (and, again, we highly recommend reading Gigi Sohn's excellent advice on what to include in your comment if you do). I see a lot of comments on that post with the defeatist and cynical response of "it doesn't matter, Pai's already decided what he's going to do." This is self-defeating, dumb and wrong for a variety of reasons. First, everyone was saying the same damn thing about Tom Wheeler three years ago, and that turned out to be wrong. Despite being a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, and his initial indications that his proposed rules would be weak and allow all sorts of mischief, Wheeler was eventually convinced to go in a different direction. Second, this goes beyond just this current FCC. Even if (as is widely expected) Pai ignores these comments and reclassifies broadband anyway, there is still a court case that will follow -- as well as Congress considering what to do. In both cases, having strong, clearly thought out arguments concerning net neutrality on the record that we can show Pai ignored will help possibly stop Pai's plan from moving forward. Pai is not the end of the story. Third: it's the right thing to do. This is a chance to make your voice heard and participate in the process -- and you should take advantage of that. If you don't, and then you whine about how no one listens to you and how the bureaucrats and politicians don't pay attention to the people -- then you are a big part of the problem. You have a chance to weigh in here and you should. With that said, below is what I just submitted to the FCC. My comments talk about how we, as a company, have relied on an open internet, but also why the existing rules have shown real promise in increasing competition. But, more important, it also discusses why I changed my mind on this issue. Many people here -- even long term readers -- may forget that in the mid-2000s, Techdirt was against having official open internet rules, either via Congress or the FCC. We were afraid that these rules would be bad and harmful. We worried that they would be written in a way that would stifle internet innovation. And, most importantly, we felt that they were missing the point: that the true problem was the lack of competition in broadband access. If there was a real focus on competition, net neutrality would fade away as a problem, as there would be competitive reasons to keep the internet open. But, as we note in our comment, over the past couple decades things have changed. We've seen less and less competition, and now near-total domination of the broadband market by a few players. Even worse, those players have long histories of anti-consumer behavior and have repeatedly made it clear that they wish to end some of the basic principles of the open internet in order to put in place additional toll booths, charging extra to successful internet companies for merely carrying traffic. Finally, with the rules of 2015, we've seen a decrease in bad behavior by internet providers -- such as throttling Netflix upstream via interconnection disputes (even though that's not technically a part of the open internet rules). Similarly, we've seen that the new rules have inspired third parties like Sonic and Ting to increase their competitive broadband buildouts. Given all of that, while we're generally worried about any kind of "regulation" for the internet, this was a case where the market had clearly failed to deliver a truly competitive and innovative market, and light touch rules as blessed by multiple courts under a Title II regime clearly made sense, and they have been working for the past two years. Changing that now makes no sense. And if we could change our mind concerning such rules, so can the current FCC. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on techdirt
The weird and persistently silly copyright reform process in the EU Parliament continues to get more and more bizarre and stupid. Last month, we told you about the first committee vote, which we feared would be terrible, but turned out to be only marginally stupid, as the worst parts of the proposal were rejected. Now, two more committees -- the Culture and Education (CULT) and Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committees -- have voted on their own reform proposals and the results are really, really bad if you support things like culture, education, research and the public. And, yes, I get the irony of the fact that the Culture and Education Committee in the EU just declared a giant "fuck you" to culture and education with its vote. Among the many problematic aspects approved by these committees is a filter requirement that would block users from uploading legally obtained media into the cloud. This makes no sense -- especially given that the EU already has additional "you must be a pirate" taxes on situations where individuals are making copies of their legally acquired works. And then there's the whole "snippet tax" which legacy newspapers are demanding because they've failed to adapt to the digital age, and they want Google News to send them money for daring to send them traffic without monetary compensation. The whole concept is backwards... and here, it's been expanded. As Copybuzz explains: The press publishers’ right went from applying to ‘digital’ uses of press to all uses, including print. Aside from the fact that this seems a violation of Article 10(1) of the Bern Convention (which establishes a mandatory exception for ‘press summaries’), the impact of such a massive extension is unfathomable. The definition of press publications has become so broad that infringements to article 11 are impossible to predict and hence prevent. The ‘exceptions’ to the applications of this new right just add to the potential legal uncertainty, as the CULT text states ‘The [publisher] rights granted under this Directive should be without prejudice to the authors’ rights and should not apply to the legitimate uses of press publications by individual users acting in a private and non-commercial capacity. The protection granted to press publications under this Directive should apply to content automatically generated by an act of hyperlinking related to a press publication without prejudice to the legitimate use of quotations.’ This paragraph alone opens such a Pandora Box of unanswered questions, such as: What is a legitimate use of press publications? And who’s the judge of the legitimacy? When are you acting in your private and non-commercial capacity? Content automatically generated by an act of hyperlinking related to a press publication: so that mean that when you share a link on social media and that triggers automatically the appearance of a snippet, you are now officially in trouble? When are you ‘legitimately’ quoting? Is that a new criteria imposed on top of the only mandatory exception globally? And if so, who judges if you comply? None of that sounds good or well thought out. It sounds like the kind of thing that someone not very knowledgeable about the subject would put together after just hearing one side from a bunch of whining newspaper execs. And then there's this nonsense, as summarized by Parliament Member Julia Reda: Incredibly, the ITRE committee – responsible for research and usually a staunch defender of open access – even voted to extend the extra copyright to academic publications, which would make open access publishing virtually impossible. It would stop people from linking to academic content, despite the content itself being free. This would apply to both online publications and print journals. The chilling effects on the spread of academic works and information would be substantial. Yes, linking to academic content will now require payment -- even if it's open access. That's... nuts. And, finally, on the "text and data mining" issue -- which is one of the key points that the EU has been fighting over with this new copyright reform effort, ITRE again severely limited who can do data mining to tiny startups. Again from Copybuzz: The ITRE Committee for example has in its extreme generosity decided to leave the benefit of the Text and Data Mining exception limited to research organisations and ‘start-up companies’, defined as ‘any company with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below €2 million and which was established not earlier than three years before benefiting from the exception’. The message for European start-ups is clear: don’t dare scale up your first three years of business if you want to mine content and if you do, move away from the EU (and move anyway after 3 years)! Never mind jobs and growth, the EU mantra we keep on hearing. Oh, and please do not be innovative any longer once you are an established player: we would not want our economy to be competitive on the international scene. This is really a killer for innovation. There's a massive industry now being built up around machine learning and AI and autonomous machines -- and an awful lot of it actually relies on the ability to do text and data mining on the internet. With this proposal, the (of all things) "Industry & Research" committee is basically saying there shall be no such industry or research in Europe. It's pushing one of the most promising up and coming industries out of the EU entirely. Incredible. It's almost stunning how bad these decisions were. But, of course, some of the legacy copyright industry folks decided to celebrate, claiming that the votes showed that the EU Parliament "would not tolerate free-riding platforms." That's complete nonsense and an insult. Again: things like news aggregators and search engines have been enormously helpful in creating new markets and expanding attention and traffic to sites. If anything, legacy content producers have been "free riding" on those platforms. Hopefully saner heads will prevail as this process moves forward, but the EU seems to be going down a dark and dangerous road on copyright policy. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on techdirt
The PiCar-V is an open source robot learning kit on Raspberry Pi, and this deal even includes your own Raspberry Pi 3 board. Equipped with a wide-angle USB webcam, this car is powerful with three new circuit boards, but less complicated than other cars thanks to its simpler wiring and provided Python code. Go for a drive through your PC, mobile phone, or tablet - this car works with anything. Get it for $150 with a Raspberry Pi 3 board or for $110 without the board for a limited time in the Techdirt Deals store. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on techdirt
The global war against privacy tools, VPNs and encryption continues utterly-unhinged from common sense, and the assault on consumer privacy remains a notably global affair. Reddit users recently noticed that India's fifth largest ISP, YOU Broadband, is among several of the country's ISPs that have been trying to prevent customers from using meaningful encryption. According to the company's updated terms of service, as a customer of the ISP you're supposed to avoid using encryption to allow for easier monitoring of your online behavior: "The Customer shall not take any steps including adopting any encryption system that prevents or in any way hinders the Company from maintaining a log of the Customer or maintaining or having access to copies of all packages/data originating from the Customer." Of course enforcement of such a requirement is largely impossible. But You Broadband isn't just being randomly obtuse, and while the ISP's TOS is making headlines, this effort isn't really new. Most Indian ISPs are simply adhering to a misguided (and still not adequately updated) set of 2007 guidelines imposed by India's Department of Telecommunications (word doc) demanding that ISPs try and prevent their subscribers from using any encryption with greater than a 40 bit key length if they want to do business in India: "The Licensee shall ensure that Bulk Encryption is not deployed by ISPs connecting to Landing Station. Further, Individuals/Groups/Organizations are permitted to use encryption upto 40 bit key length in the symmetric key algorithms or its equivalent in other algorithms without having to obtain permission from the Licensor. However, if encryption equipments higher than this limit are to be deployed, individuals/groups/organizations shall do so with the prior written permission of the Licensor and deposit the decryption key, split into two parts, with the Licensor." Which is and of itself is rather hysterical, given that since 1996 or so, most folks have considered a 40 bit key length to be the security equivalent of wet tissue paper. In fact, Ian Goldberg won $1,000 from RSA for breaking 40 bit encryption in just a few hours way back in 1997, saying this at the time: "This is the final proof of what we’ve known for years: 40-bit encryption technology is obsolete." And yeah, that was twenty years ago. But this sort of policy is pretty standard fair in India, which is no stranger to censorship, internet filtering, and blind, often-mindless expansion of surveillance. India's government has also been at the forefront of attempting to impose backdoors in encryption, and there's a recent effort in some corners to attempt to ban Whatsapp as well. I've yet to see any ISP successfully enforce this ridiculous governmental restriction (if you're in India and you have, let us know in the comment section precisely how). But it's still part of an over-arching mindset that sees standard, intelligent privacy and security practices as an enemy that must be thwarted. Usually either to expand government surveillance, prop up idiot ham-fisted internet filters (as we're seeing in Russia, China and India), or to erode consumer rights in the face of what are endless attempts to monetize your online behavior. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on techdirt
Despite DHS hints that foreign airports were falling down on the "security theater" job, it appears a few customs officials are more than happy to engage in local versions of "extreme vetting." New Zealand customs officials are way ahead of the DHS in this department, having turned airports into rights-free zones where nearly anything can happen... to travelers. According to an investigative report by New Zealand's 1 news, airport customs officials routinely force up to two travelers each day to give up their electronic devices and passwords for searching. According to the customs agents, the program is designed to look for smugglers by performing a "digital strip search" on the phones and laptops of travelers. This does not require a court order, but the agents do claim to adhere to New Zealand's privacy act. Yes, somehow the stripping of someone's electronic privacy still "adheres" to the privacy act. One would think "smuggling" would be routine criminal act, not worthy of "digital strip searches." One would also think some sort of reasonable suspicion would be needed to proceed with this, as compared to anti-terrorist activities which usually result in rights-violation blank checks being issued to customs authorities. The data shows more than 1,300 people have been subjected to these suspicionless "strip searches" since 2015, with less than a third of those being New Zealand citizens. The majority of those searched are foreigners and it appears visitors to the country should somehow expect delays of up to five hours thanks to this supposedly random vetting process. And there is no option to refuse this additional, highly-invasive search. As Techspot reports, travelers refusing to hand over their electronic devices can be subject to fines of $5,000. That makes it a very expensive trip, especially for foreigners. Extra delays, extra costs, zero privacy -- all in the name of keeping untaxed cigarettes out of NZ or whatever. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on techdirt
Today is the deadline for the first round of the FCC's comment period on its attempt to roll back the 2015 open internet "net neutrality" rules. The deadline is partly meaningless, because there's a second comment period that is technically to respond to earlier comments -- but allows you to just file more comments. However, it is still important to make your voice heard no matter which side you're on. We'll be posting our own comments later today, but first, we wanted to share Mike Godwin's thoughtful discussion on why you should comment and why you should provide a thoughtful, careful "quality" comment, which he first posted to the R-Street blog, but which is being cross posted here. If you count just by numbers alone, net-neutrality activists have succeeded in their big July 12 push to get citizens to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission. As I write this, it looks as if 8 million or more comments have now been filed on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back the expansive network-neutrality authority the commission asserted under its previous chairman in 2015. There's some debate, though, about whether the sheer number of comments—which are unprecedented not only for the FCC, but also for any other federal agency—is a thing that matters. I think they do, but not in any simple way. If you look at the legal framework under which the FCC is authorized to regulate, you see that the commission has an obligation to open its proposed rulemakings (or revisions or repeals of standing rules) for public comments. In the internet era, of course, this has meant enabling the public (and companies, public officials and other stakeholders) to file online. So naturally enough, given the comparative ease of filing comments online, controversial public issues are going to generate more and more public comments over time. Not impossibly, this FCC proceeding—centering as it does on our beloved public internet—marks a watershed moment, after which we'll see increasing flurries of public participation on agency rulemakings. Columbia University law professor Tim Wu—who may fairly be considered the architect of net neutrality, thanks to his having spent a decade and a half building his case for it—tweeted July 12 that it would be "undemocratic" if the commission ends up "ignoring" the (as of then) 6.8 million comments filed in the proceeding. There are now 6.8 million comments in the FCC's Net Neutrality docket. Ignoring that is just plain undemocratic — Tim Wu (@superwuster) July 13, 2017 But a number of critics immediately pointed out, correctly, that the high volume of comments (presumed mostly to oppose Pai's proposal) doesn't entail that the commission bow to the will of any majority or plurality of the commenters. I view the public comments as relevant, but not dispositive. I think Wu overreaches to suggest that ignoring the volume of comments is "undemocratic." We should keep in mind that there is nothing inherently or deeply democratic about the regulatory process – at least at the FCC. (In fairness to Wu, he could also mean that the comments need to be read and weighed substantively, not merely be tallied and dismissed.) But I happen to agree with Wu that the volume of comments is relevant to regulators, and that it ought to be. Chairman Pai (whose views on the FCC's framing net neutrality as a Title II function predate the Trump administration) has made it clear, I think, that quantity is not quality with regard to comments. The purpose of saying this upfront (as the chairman did when announcing the proposal) is reasonably interpreted by Wu (and by me and others) as an indicating he believes the commission is at liberty to regulate in a different way from what a majority (or plurality) of commenters might want. Pai is right to think this, I strongly believe. But the chairman also has said he wants (and will consider more deeply) substantive comments, ideally based on economic analysis. This seems to me to identify an opportunity for net-neutrality advocates to muster their own economists to argue for keeping the current Open Internet Order or modifying it more to their liking. And, of course, it's also an opportunity for opponents of the order to do the same. But it's important for commenters not to miss the forest for the trees. The volume of comments both in 2014 and this year (we can call this "the John Oliver Effect") has in some sense put net-neutrality advocates in a bind. Certainly, if there were far fewer comments (in number alone) this year, it might be interpreted as showing declining public concern over net neutrality. Obviously, that's not how things turned out. So the net-neutrality activists had to get similar or better numbers this year. At the same time, advocates on all sides shouldn't be blinded by the numbers game. Given that the chairman has said the sheer volume of comments won't be enough to make the case for Title II authority (or other strong interventions) from the commission, it seems clear to me that while racking up a volume of comments is a necessary condition to be heard, it is not a sufficient condition to ensure the policy outcome you want. Ultimately, what will matter most, if you want to persuade the commissioners one way or another on the net-neutrality proposal, is how substantive, relevant, thoughtful and persuasive your individual comments prove to be. My former boss at Public Knowledge, Gigi Sohn, a net-neutrality advocate who played a major role in crafting the FCC's current Open Internet Order, has published helpful advice for anyone who wants to contribute to the debate. I think it ought to be required reading for anyone with a perspective to share on this or any other proposed federal regulation. If you want to weigh in on net neutrality and the FCC's role in implementing it—whether you're for such regulation or against it, or if you think it can be improved—you should follow Sohn's advice and file your original comments no later than Monday, July 17, or reply comments no later than Aug. 16. If you miss the first deadline, don't panic—there's plenty of scope to raise your issues in the reply period. My own feeling is, if you truly care about the net-neutrality issue, the most "undemocratic" reaction would be to miss this opportunity to be heard. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on techdirt
This week, after we talked about a worrying DMCA ruling for Zazzle, one commenter suggested that selling merchandise eliminates safe harbors, and compared it to an anime fan site. An anonymous reply won most insightful comment of the week by laying out the problems with that comparison: Your comparison is a little silly, Zazzle isn't a "fan site" where the material has an obvious source. A user uploads an image to Zazzle, claims to have the right to use that image, and requests that Zazzle prints that image on a mug, all through an automated process. You then expect Zazzle to be liable down the road if it turns out that the user did not, in fact, have the proper rights? That's an untenable position. Of course, the original commenter there was clearly trying to be thoughtful and polite. Not so with a response to our post about ICE's order to remove all undocumented immigrants, where a commenter whined about us "lefties" saying "to hell with the law" — leading Roger Strong to win second place with what I believe qualifies as an "epic smackdown":

Read More...
posted 12 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago This week in 2012, we saw the folks who had recently been defeated by the internet try to sneakily get their way. In Europe, that took the form of resurrecting the all-but-dead ACTA inside the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (and writing clueless columns, of course). In the US, it was Lamar Smith trying to sneak SOPA through in bits and pieces in other bills, seemingly having learned nothing from the experience. The public wasn't oblivious though, and soon a backlash led to some of the problems of CETA being fixed and Smith's new bill falling apart. Ten Years Ago This week in 2007, webcasters lost their fight to delay a big royalty hike when the court denied the requested stay, but then SoundExchange surprised us all by actually being just a little bit decent and holding off on actually enforcing the royalties. Sony BMG tried to redirect some of the blame for its rootkit fiasco by suing a company that supplied one of the pieces of copy protection software, while the silly DRM game of AACS was serving only to annoy legitimate customers. And surprise, surprise: a study found ripped DVDs weren't even a big source of piracy compared to file sharing. Fifteen Years Ago The battle over webcasting had already begun five years earlier in 2002, when it was clear that the labels wanted internet radio stations to go away. Meanwhile, after much concern about various pieces of bad internet legislation, it looked like Congress wasn't going to be moving on any of it anytime soon — but that didn't mean we could ignore a new bad bill that would basically eliminate people's fair use rights, which was unsurprising at a time when it looked like only one person in all of Congress really understood or cared about user rights. Also this week in 2002, in a move that would further cement them both as tentpole internet platforms for years to come, eBay bought PayPal. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Trump's pick to head the FBI -- former DOJ prosecutor Christopher Wray -- appeared before the Senate to answer several questions (and listen to several long-winded, self-serving statements). Wray's confirmation hearing went about as well as expected. Several senators wanted to make sure Wray's loyalty lay with the nation rather than the president and several others hoped to paint him into a Comey-bashing corner in order to belatedly justify Trump's firing of his (potential) predecessor. Wray also spent a lot of time not talking about things he claimed he was unfamiliar with -- covering everything from presidential directives, to Donald Trump Jr.'s Russian emails, to questions about CIA human rights violations that went unnoticed/unprosecuted during his tenure in the DOJ. Sen. Orrin Hatch -- as he did during a recent Comey hearing -- brought up the subject of encryption. Hatch claims he "agrees with Tim Cook," which places him in opposition to Sens. Feinstein and Burr. It also puts him in opposition of the possible new FBI boss, who had this to say about encryption. (h/t Politico's Eric Geller) I think this is one of the most difficult issues facing the country. There's a balance that has to be struck between the importance of encryption, which I think we can all respect when there are so many threats to our systems, and the importance of giving law enforcement the tools that they need to keep us safe. You can already tell where this is going. Encryption is great and all, but what's would be really great is some sort of backdoor-type thingy. Wray continued by swiftly jumping to the other side of the argument -- at least in terms of team uniform. Certainly not in terms of how the "other side" feels about encryption and backdoors. I don't know sitting here today as an outsider and a nominee before this committee what the solution is, but I do know that we have to find a solution. And my experience in trying to find solutions is that it's more productive for people to work together than to be pointing fingers blaming each other. And that's the approach I've tried to take to almost every problem I've tackled. And that's the approach I would want to take here in working with this committee and the private sector. One advantage to having been in the private sector for a while is that I think I know how to talk to the private sector, and I would look for ways to try to see if I could get the private sector more on-board to understand why this issue is so important to keep us all safe. So far, so Comey. New suit in the office, but it fits the same as the last one. Wray thinks both sides should work together but strongly hints the actual work will have to be done by the private sector. The problem, according to a guy who's worked "both sides," is the private sector needs to be more "on-board." And that indicates Wray feels the problem isn't the lack of both sides working together, but the other side not capitulating. That's a problem, and it sounds a whole lot like X more years of Comey. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
The last thing anyone heard about Five Eyes surveillance partnerships via official channels was more than seven years ago. In the intervening years, leaked documents have shed a little light on the information sharing Five Eyes countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) engage in. But the last Five Eyes agreement released is now more than 60 years old. The Five Eyes group has existed since 1946 and the last document officially published about it comes from 1955. Since then, vast technological changes have altered how national security bodies collect and store information. The modern era of Five Eyes surveillance has only been glimpsed through leaked Snowden documents. Coverage of these documents is noted in Privacy International's FOIA lawsuit [PDF] against a handful of US government agencies. PI has been asking for updated versions of the Five Eyes agreements since late last year. Unsurprisingly, the agencies queried haven't responded. The agencies named as defendants (the NSA, ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence], State Dept., and NARA [National Archives and Records Administration]) have all had at least 100 days to respond to PI's requests. None of them have responded positively. The NSA said all records were exempt from disclosure. The ODNI and NARA haven't responded at all, other than to note the request has been received. The State Department offered to "administratively close" PI's request if it didn't respond to the agency's letter within 20 days -- despite the State Department having done nothing to advance the request during the previous 180 days. As the lawsuit points out, the documents PI is seeking are definitely of interest to the public. The last agreement anyone has seen in full predates the internet itself, where most Five Eyes surveillance now takes place. Many individuals today live major portions of their lives online. They use the internet to communicate with others, impart ideas, conduct research, explore their sexuality, seek medical advice and treatment, correspond with lawyers, and express their political and personal views. They also increasingly use the internet to conduct many ordinary activities, such as keeping records, arranging travel, and carrying out financial transactions. Today, much of this activity is conducted on mobile digital devices such as cellular phones, which “could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.” Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2489 (2014). The internet has also enabled the creation of greater quantities of personal data about communications, known as “metadata.” Metadata is information about a communication, which may include the sender and recipient, the date and location from where it was sent, and the type of device used to send it. Metadata can reveal web browsing activities, which might reveal medical conditions, religious viewpoints, or political affiliations. It can also reveal items purchased, news sites visited, forums joined, books read, movies watched and games played. Communications – emails, instant messages, calls, social media posts, web searches, requests to visit a website – that utilize the internet can take any viable route to their destination; distance is not a determinative factor. They have the potential to travel around the world before reaching their destination, even if the information is being sent between two people (or a person and an entity) within a single country, or even a single city. The dispersion of communications across the internet vastly increases the opportunities for communications and data to be intercepted by foreign governments, who may then share them with other governments. Knowing who's allowed to do what with this firehose of information is something people would like to know. Unfortunately, a vast network of surveillance programs have been enacted with little oversight, utilizing secret directives and classified interpretations of existing laws. The ODNI may be engaged in more proactive transparency than it ever has in its history, but it still usually takes a lawsuit to force documents out of its hands. It's the ODNI that ultimately decides whether NSA-related documents get published, so targeting both with FOIA requests is a good way to increase your chances of disclosure. But those chances are still almost nonexistent, thanks to national security-related FOIA exemptions. And, if nothing else, the NARA should have some Five Eyes agreement back issues laying around, but once again, filing a FOIA lawsuit is only one of several steps in a long, arduous, and often frustrating process. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Man's best friend remains a cop's worst enemy. At least, that's what the numbers appear to show. Cops claim the job is dangerous -- hence the ~1,000 people killed every year by law enforcement officers. Trigger-happy cops: "Hold our beer." The exact number of dogs killed by law enforcement officers is difficult to quantify because there is no official record of these deaths across American agencies. Laurel Matthews, a program specialist with the US Department of Justice’s community-oriented policing services office, says fatal encounters are an “epidemic” and estimates that 25 to 30 pet dogs are killed daily by police. Even while suggesting cops are killing ~9,000 dogs a year, the DOJ's specialist still couches the data in cop-friendly language: "fatal encounters." No officers have been killed by dogs, but plenty of dogs have been killed by officers. The fatalities run in one direction. And that estimate may be on the low side. Records of people killed by cops are incomplete, thanks to the DOJ's long-running belief any reporting on police shootings should be purely voluntary. But there's no shortage of reporting on the epidemic, which has deemed law enforcement "puppycide." In Minneapolis, Minnesota, two more dogs have been shot by a police officer for no apparent reason at all. The dogs will survive but the owner is now saddled with medical bills she wouldn't have had if responding officers had handled the situation with more common sense. Returning early from a camping trip, one of Jennifer LeMay's daughters accidentally set off the burglar alarm while attempting to disarm it. LeMay called the company and told them what had happened but apparently officers had already been sent out to investigate. It should have seemed obvious someone was home, but neither officer approached the front door of the house. One climbed over the privacy fence and into LeMay's backyard. When he did, he was approached by one of LeMay's dogs. In the video, posted to Facebook, the dog can be seen approaching the officer, but not in a threatening way. If anything, the dog appears cautious and curious. But the lesson to be learned here is try not to leave your dogs in the yard if police officers might need to be in there for any reason at all ever. The video, with no audio, shows an officer standing in the backyard. He then approaches the house and goes out of camera range. A moment later, he steps backward rapidly with his gun drawn. Ciroc, a white and brown dog, trots toward the officer and stops about 10 feet away. The dog looks distracted but does not appear to be charging the officer. The officer fires, the dog falls and then scrambles to his feet and runs away. At the same time, a black dog runs into camera range. The officer shoots several times and the dog flees. The officer appears to assess the scene for about 18 seconds before he exits the yard by climbing over the fence. LeMay's 13-year-old daughter saw the whole thing from the upstairs window. That probably wouldn't have made a dent in the official narrative, but the incident was also captured by the home's security cameras. Nevertheless, there's still an official narrative: "We are aware of the recent incident involving MPD officers responding to an audible residential burglary alarm and while at this call an MPD officer discharged their firearm, striking two dogs belonging to the homeowner. Anytime an officer discharges their firearm in the line of duty there is an investigation ... by the Minneapolis Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit. We are in the process of reviewing the video posted online, as well as the officer's body camera video. We have reached out to the owner of the dogs and will continue to do so during the investigation." In other words, the MPD is trying to find some way to spin this. The video looks pretty damning. If the officer didn't want to be scared by someone's pets, perhaps he or another officer could have taken the last step first. After the dogs' shooting, another officer knocked on the front door. The 18-year-old explained that she'd triggered the alarm and that it had been deactivated. Then there's this part of it, which shows MPD officers really don't know what they're doing when it comes to dealing with pets. And they clearly don't understand… or care… how attached regular people are to their canine companions. The family didn't instantly take the dogs to the emergency vet because police told the family that "animal control" would be there in minutes to access the dogs' medical needs. No one showed up, LeMay said. The alarm was accidentally set off at 8:50. The alarm was deactivated by the alarm company after notification by the homeowner by 8:54. For some reason, twenty minutes later, cops show up and one of them shoots two dogs. Even if the cops weren't notified by the security company, what made them think the best approach was to invade someone else's private space and shoot two pets on sight before making any contact with the people inside the house? An overabundance of caution would seemingly indicate staying a safe distance from the premises while they determined who was actually inside the house, not entering the backyard with a gun out and shooting animals that had more right to be there than the uniformed, armed interloper. Then there's the fact the officer left after shooting the two dogs. What happened to the burglary investigation? It could be this was the point the other officer finally knocked on the front door of the house, but once again, this step should have been taken long before a cop invited himself into the backyard and try to kill the yard's inhabitants for reacting -- in a non-threatening way -- to his intrusion. Is no one else alive -- humans or pets -- allowed to feel "fear for their safety?" Or is that solely the "right" of cops, who do things to increase the danger of situations and are allowed to shoot their way out of it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
About a month ago, Buzzfeed's founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti summed up my feelings about watching old news media organizations running around everywhere blaming Google and Facebook for their own failure to innovate: “A lot of the traditional media players are opportunistically attacking Facebook and Google because Facebook and Google have figured out a better model for delivering information and entertaining people which is real-time, personalised, shareable and global – all these things that you can't do in broadcast and print,” he says. “These traditional media companies have had decades of massive cashflow and they decided to stockpile that instead of investing in digital. They just kept managing earnings on their traditional businesses even though we have known for 20-plus years that the internet was going to be a big thing and now all these things have unfolded, with some surprises but in a way that was not that hard to predict. Now we are at the point where Facebook’s and Google's revenues are starting to be a substantial portion of the pie, they are attacking them, saying it is unfair. “The truth is that Facebook and Google have always taken a long term perspective – so has Netflix, so has Amazon – that the internet would win out in the end. A lot of the big media companies always took a quarter-to-quarter perspective, a maximise earnings perspective, and that has resulted in them being in a tough position and so they attack Facebook and Google because of it.” This is, more or less, what we've been arguing for nearly two decades. There are a ton of opportunities for these companies if they actually embraced digital -- but they did so in drips and drabs and often stupidly chasing fads, rather than actually figuring out how to deliver content that people actually wanted in a way they wanted it. So, for the past few years, they've focused on whining about how it's so gosh darn unfair that the companies who did figure it out -- Google and Facebook -- are now making lots of money. And... now those legacy firms are seeking the nuclear option. The News Media Alliance -- formerly the Newspaper Association of America -- has spent the last few years pushing bad idea after bad idea to try to "save" the news organizations that failed to actually innovate (for example: asking Trump to whittle away fair use). We mocked the fair use proposal as complete nonsense, but in order to make it happen, the News Media Alliance is... asking the government for a special exception to antitrust law to allow its members to collude against Google and Facebook... and to generally make the internet less interesting and more expensive. Today, the News Media Alliance – representing almost 2,000 news organizations – called on Congress to allow publishers to negotiate collectively with dominant online platforms. The objective is to permit publishers to have concrete discussions with the two dominant distributors of online news content, Google and Facebook, on business model solutions to secure the long-term availability of local journalism produced by America’s newsrooms. Supposedly there are three goals here: to get greater copyright control over news and to create a snippet tax, to force Google and Facebook to work with news organizations on some sort of subscription program, and to get "a fair share" of revenue and user data. None of these make much sense. As Matt Schruers at the Disruptive Competition Project points out, all three of these goals have issues: Let’s consider those three objectives: IP protection, subscriptions, and a “fair share” of revenue and data. First, news publishers do not need an antitrust exemption to lobby for more IP protection; federal law already allows it. (As I’ve noted before, News Corp. is already quite fond of doing so.) Second, Google and Facebook are already pursuing new strategies for supporting subscriptions. The NMA proposal, however, suggests a collective turn to subscription models, removing consumers’ ability to choose among products with different business models, including ad-supported ones. Individual newspapers should have the freedom to experiment, pursuing the model best suited to their business. Consumers are best served when they can choose between competing models. Third, Chavern wants a “fair share of revenue and data.” In pursuit of this, the NMA would make an end-run around copyright law’s fair use doctrine, which permits the indexing of content, so as to force digital services to pay for the privilege of sending traffic to their sites. As I discuss below, news publishers have tried this in Europe. It hasn’t gone well. There are lots of other problems here as well. As Mathew Ingram pointed out, there's tremendous hubris in the NMA members thinking that they're the only ones producing quality journalism: This sense of entitlement is at the core of what the NMA is proposing. In effect, it is suggesting that mainstream newspaper companies are the only entities capable of producing quality journalism, and therefore they deserve a get-out-of-jail-free card so they can engage in what amounts to collusion. And they are hoping Congress will see Google and Facebook as the enemy. Here’s a thought: What if these newspaper companies had spent a little more time trying to compete over the past decade or so, instead of relying on their historic market control to keep their profits rolling in? What if more had tried to improve their websites and their mobile versions, so that users wouldn’t install ad blockers, or turn to other solutions like Facebook Instant Articles? Every single competitive threat the newspaper industry has faced, from Craigslist to Facebook, has been visible long before it decimated the industry’s profits, and most of the newspapers in the NMA did little or nothing to deal with them until it was too late. Indeed, some more local news organizations are already pushing back against the NMA's plans. The Local Media Consortium, which admits some overlap with NMA members, points out that this whole thing seems like the wrong approach: First, Chavern’s position ignores the LMC’s work during the last four years forging partnerships essential to us as providers of quality local content and local business solutions. Those partnerships align the news industry – print, broadcast and ultimately digital – with tech companies in a symbiotic relationship. The LMC has provided revenue opportunities for all levels of local media – and we’ve done that while leveraging our scale to garner both the attention and respect of the tech platforms. We have built partnerships based on shared value, not entitlement. Second, I am concerned about the mixed messages the NMA’s stance is creating within the industry and our own LMC membership. The NMA board includes several members of the LMC, and these board members may not be fully aware of our relationship with tech companies. Chavern’s op-ed suggests a lack of knowledge of the tens of millions of dollars our partnership with Google has netted the industry, or the inroads we have made influencing innovation with Google, Facebook, Apple and Yahoo That is, the LMC is looking at new tech and innovation as an opportunity. The NMA, on the other hand, seems to be looking at it as the enemy. This is a fairly typical response for legacy industries who failed to adapt, then flail about wildly against those who succeeded, but it's never good for consumers (there's a reason we don't allow collusion to happen after all...). Rafat Ali probably summed all of this up best: The only collective bargaining that'd work for publishers is asking FB/Google to shut down on weekends. Otherwise consumers have spoken. — Rafat Ali (@rafat) July 9, 2017 Look, I get it. Google and Facebook are big and successful and making lots of money. And because these news organizations failed to do much to adapt (or, at best, made superficial embraces of digital), they're pissed and they blame Google and Facebook for their own failures (not unlike the recording and film industries). But that misses the point. There's a reason why this happened, and we shouldn't have the US government reward those who didn't innovate by taxing those who did. The end result would be bad for the public. It would be bad for innovation. And, sure, I'm saying this as a news publication that is concerned about Google and Facebook's power in the market -- but it's on me to figure out how to adapt and leverage the benefits that platforms like that (and others) bring. Not to go running to the government seeking to collude with others and to cement weak business models in place. Frankly, for companies seeking to blame others rather than their own failures, it's probably best that they go out of business sooner, rather than later. Clear the field for others who are willing to innovate and embrace technology, rather than whine about it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Oh boy. It's no secret that the Australian government -- led by George Brandis (who has made it abundantly clear he has no clue what a VPN is or what metadata is) -- is pushing strongly for mandated backdoors to encryption. At this point, it's beating a dead horse, but this is a very, very bad idea for a whole host of reasons -- mainly having to do with making absolutely everyone significantly less safe. And it appears that Brandis' ignorance has moved up the chain of command. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now put out what may be the single dumbest statement on encryption yet (and that's a pretty high bar). After being told yet again that safe encryption backdoors violate basic mathematics, Turnbull became super patriotic about the ability of Australian law to trump mathematics: "The laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that," he said on Friday. "The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia." And, then he pulled out the "nerd harder, nerds" argument: "I'm not a cryptographer, but what we are seeking to do is to secure their assistance," Turnbull said. "They have to face up to their responsibility. They can't just, you know, wash their hands of it and say it's got nothing to do with them." "I am sure they know morally they should. Morally they should." So after admitting that he doesn't understand how this works, he's saying that the "moral" responsibility of cryptographers -- who have basically all told him his plan will make people less safe -- is to make people less safe. Turnbull seems to think he can get around the whole problem by... semantics. You see, if we just redefine things and say we're not asking for "backdoors" then it's fine: "A back door is typically a flaw in a software program that perhaps the -- you know, the developer of the software program is not aware of and that somebody who knows about it can exploit," he said. "And, you know, if there are flaws in software programs, obviously, that's why you get updates on your phone and your computer all the time." "So we're not talking about that. We're talking about lawful access." That bit of word salad suggests that at least a tiny smidgen of actual knowledge made it into his brain. A backdoor is an exploit. But "lawful access" is a backdoor. Pretending they are different suggests a fairly staggering level of ignorance. Not to be outdone, but Brandis then took his own turn at the podium to spew more ignorance: Asked how Australia's proposed regime would allow local authorities to read messages sent with either WhatsApp or Signal, Brandis said “Last Wednesday I met with the chief cryptographer at GCHQ ... And he assured me that this was feasible.” Right. It's pretty well known that intelligence communities can frequently hack into things to get messages, but not because of backdoors to encryption but through other flaws. This includes things like keyloggers or other spyware that effective route around the encryption. But that's entirely different than demanding backdoors. And, of course, this all comes about a week after GCHQ's own former boss argued that attacking the end points was a better strategy than backdoors. It's almost certain that what GCHQ told Brandis is that they can be pretty successful in attacking those endpoints, without undermining encryption -- and that message got twisted in Brandis' mind to believe that it meant that there were already backdoors in Whatsapp and Signal (there are not). This whole thing is a somewhat tragic comedy of errors with completely clueless politicians making policy badly, potentially putting everyone at risk... while astoundingly claiming that laws can trump basic mathematics. What a joke. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Every device connected to the Internet is using a 'DNS'--even your device, right now. By using StreamJack's DNS, your IP address will be routed through their custom global DNS network of 500 fast IPs available in 13 countries. As a result, you'll shield your IP from prying eyes, and unblock geo-restricted content. You can use it on your computer (PC/Mac), on your iOS and Android devices, your routers, and with Linux and Chromebook. A lifetime subscription is on sale for only $29 for a limited time. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Since at least 2009, the DHS has asserted a legal right to copy/search the contents of anyone's electronic devices at the border. Its privacy assessment said no one has much privacy, at least not near US borders. Building on years of judicial national security deference, the DHS has recently expanded its searches of electronic devices, eliminating most of its adherence to the Fourth Amendment in the process. If your devices wander into the country's Constitution-free zones, you can expect to suffer diminished expectations of privacy. Noting that border searches of electronic devices were increasing exponentially (more searches in February 2017 alone than in all of 2015), Senator Ron Wyden did two things: introduced a bill creating a warrant requirement for border electronic device searches and asked the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) about its new demands for social media/email account passwords. The DHS has responded [PDF] to Wyden's questions, and the answers are a bit surprising. U.S. border officers aren't allowed to look at any data stored only in the "cloud" — including social media data — when they search U.S. travelers' phones, Customs and Border Protection acknowledged in a letter obtained Wednesday by NBC News. The letter (PDF), sent in response to inquiries by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and verified by Wyden's office, not only states that CBP doesn't search data stored only with remote cloud services, but also — apparently for the first time — declares that it doesn't have that authority in the first place. This admission about a lack of legal authority contradicts the assertions made in its 2009 Privacy Impact Assessment, which placed CBP agent hunches above anything resembling reasonable suspicion or probable cause. But the answer aren't quite as clear-cut as it might appear from the NBC New summation. With or without legal authority, the CBP is still performing searches of thousands of devices. Returning US citizens aren't exempted from these searches. They are often free to go, even if their devices might need to be left behind so the CBP can search/copy the device's contents. This may be done without reasonable suspicion because, as the letter puts it, any device might hold evidence of criminal activity (terrorism, smuggling, and child porn are specifically named). What the CBP cannot do -- at least according to this letter -- is retrieve information and data not stored on the phone itself. But this would only prevent CBP officers from accessing cloud-based storage. Much of the information contained in email and social media accounts is not stored locally, but there's no practical way to separate local/cloud data when officers have access to the entire device. The letter appears to indicate officers need to restrict their searches to SMS messages, call logs, and photos/videos stored on the device. How this operates in practice is another matter. The letter states CBP cannot demand passwords/pins from American travelers, but points out this may result in their electronics being detained indefinitely even as the citizens themselves are free to go. It says CBP officers have been instructed to stay away from social media/email accounts, but the April 2017 "reminder" appears to be the direct result of Wyden's probing questions, which were sent to the DHS at the end of February. What CBP was doing before the senator started asking questions is anyone's guess, but anecdotal evidence suggests CBP is treating US citizens as badly as it does foreign visitors. What isn't in the letter is a direct response to Wyden's question about the number of US citizens subjected to these intrusive searches. The DHS claims not to have this information on hand but has promised to turn over some data later this year. In the meantime, American citizens are receiving only slightly better treatment than arriving foreigners. Assertion of rights are the border will often be taken as unprompted admission of guilt. While the CBP may not have a legal basis to demand access to social media accounts, it does appear its demands for access to people's phones isn't stifled by many legal hurdles. Considering most phones/laptops contain social media account info, it's up to Americans to believe the CBP isn't accessing data it's been told to stay away from. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
You may have noticed that things aren't going particularly well for the traditional cable TV industry. Ratings for many channels are in free fall, the rate at which customers are cutting the traditional TV cord is accelerating, and the number and quality of competing streaming services is only growing. Cumulatively, this has forced many previously myopic cable and broadcast executives to stop denying the obvious and to candidly admit there's an actual market (r)evolution afoot, even if most of them still aren't quite exactly sure how to adapt to it. And while the headlines are often filled with dire warnings about traditional cable TV being "doomed," that's not really true. Cable operators still lay claim to somewhere around 98 million paying customers. And keeping these users from fleeing to competing streaming services really isn't that complicated. These companies just don't want to do what's necessary. Namely, listen to their customers, offer more flexible and convenient services, shore up their atrocious customer service, and finally begin seriously competing on price. Many traditional cable providers have responded by offering a new suite of so-called "skinny bundles" that profess to offer lower costs and to offer greater channel flexibility. But more often than not old habits die hard, and the industry often saddles these offerings with numerous murky restrictions, or layers of misleading fees. The end result is that these offers either aren't really competitive, or wind up costing nearly as much as traditional cable. Case in point: Charter (Spectrum) is currently hyping a new $20 bundle of a few dozen channels they're testing in a handful of markets. Usually these trials exist to give the impression the cable company is being innovative, but are never launched nationwide for fear of mass-cannibalization of traditional customers downgrading from more expensive plans. But most news outlets were quick to lavish praise on Charter's new offering, many posting the ad for the $20 price point alongside their reports on the new service: Except that "$20" isn't really $20, since the cable industry just can't let go of some bad habits. Trial participants who actually have tried the service say it not only doesn't work all that well, but Charter has chosen to hide a number of obnoxious fees that dramatically jack up the price of the service. Of particular note is the fact that Charter saddles the offering with a $6 per month "broadcast TV fee." As we've noted previously, this increasingly-utilized fee simply takes some of the cost of programming and buries it below the line. Why? It lets the cable provider falsely advertise a lower price. And despite being false advertising, regulators from both parties traditionally haven't given much of a damn. Some companies, like Comcast, have gone so far as to try and claim the broadcast TV fee is just their way of being transparent with consumers, since nothing quite says transparency like customers having no idea what a service they're buying will actually cost. But as the market floods with alternatives from the likes of Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV and more increases, cable and broadcast executives are eventually going to have to realize that the threshold for tolerating this kind of bullshit -- in the face of real competition -- isn't going to be quite at high as they're accustomed to. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
The DHS has decided air travel is the unsafest thing of all. In the wake of multiple fear mongering presidential directives -- including a travel ban currently being contested in federal courts -- the DHS has introduced several measures meant to make flying safer, but in reality would only make flying more of a pain in the ass. The government has argued in court that flying is a privilege, not a right, and the DHS seems hellbent on making fliers pay for every bit of that privilege. We've seen laptop bans introduced as a stick to push foreign airports to engage in more security theater and a threat to rifle through all travelers' books and papers to ensure nobody's reading explosive devices. Now, the DHS is going to be scanning everyone's faces as they board/disembark international flights. The Department of Homeland Security says it’s the only way to successfully expand a program that tracks nonimmigrant foreigners. They have been required by law since 2004 to submit to biometric identity scans — but to date have only had their fingerprints and photos collected prior to entry. Now, DHS says it’s finally ready to implement face scans on departure — aimed mainly at better tracking visa overstays but also at tightening security. The DHS swears it won't be retaining face scans of US persons, but apparently never considered limiting the collection to foreign travelers. Instead, the DHS will "collect them all" and supposedly toss out US citizens' scans later. John Wagner, the Customs deputy executive assistant commissioner in charge of the program, confirmed in an interview that U.S. citizens departing on international flights will submit to face scans. Wagner says the agency has no plans to retain the biometric data of U.S. citizens and will delete all scans of them within 14 days. This sounds good (other than the collect-them-all approach) but Wagner's not done talking. The DHS is obviously hoping to make use of US persons' scans at some point. However, [Wagner] doesn’t rule out CBP keeping them in the future after going “through the appropriate privacy reviews and approvals.” This makes the promise of a 14-day deletion period dubious. The DHS would seemingly prefer to keep everything it collects, so this deletion promise may morph into data segregation, with the government keeping domestic scans in their own silo for possible use later. The program is already being deployed at a handful of major airports. During the trial run, passengers will be able to opt out of the collection. But the DHS's own Privacy Impact Assessment [PDF] makes it clear it won't be optional for long. Privacy Risk: There is a risk to individual participation because individuals may be denied boarding if they refuse to submit to biometric identity verification under the TVS. Mitigation: This privacy risk is partially mitigated. Although the redress and access procedures above provide for an individual’s ability to correct his or her information, the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling. [emphasis added] Individuals seeking to travel internationally are subject to the laws and rules enforced by CBP and are subject to inspection. To opt-out is to not travel. Considering this affects international flights, the DHS has a very good chance of achieving 100% compliance. But there are other percentages to be concerned about, like accuracy. The DHS has a 96% accuracy requirement for face scanning tech (but, oddly, not for its TSA employees...), but its Privacy Impact Awareness report doesn't actually say whether vendors have been able to hit that mark. In practical terms, what's being deployed could still be well under that percentage. Considering the number of things that need to go right to obtain a useful face scan, the error rate could be far above 4% once less-than-ideal capture conditions are factored in. Whatever privacy assurances are being given now, expect them to be whittled down in the future, especially if the government continues to engage in reactionary, fear-based lawmaking. With the exception of some post-Snowden surveillance reforms, the government's desire to collect databases full of US persons' info has only steadily increased since September 11, 2001. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
Techdirt readers will probably recall a long-running saga involving corporate sovereignty, $500 million, the US pharma company Eli Lilly, and drug patents. In its claim against the Canadian government, made using NAFTA's Chapter 11, Eli Lilly insisted it should have been given some drug patents, despite Canada's courts finding that they had not met the requirements for patentability -- specifically that there was no evidence that the drugs in question provided the benefits in the patent. Eli Lilly said that Canada was being unreasonable in setting a slightly higher bar than other countries by demanding that a patented drug should actually do something useful. As Mike reported back in March, even the lawyers that made up the corporate sovereignty tribunal hearing this case agreed that Canada was within its rights to take this view. They not only dismissed the claim, but ordered Eli Lilly to pay Canada's legal fees. This was a huge win for Canada in particular, and governments in general. At the time, it all felt a little too good to be true. And now seems it was: as infojustice.org reports, the Supreme Court of Canada has just overturned decades of precedent -- and implicitly the Eli Lilly ruling -- by making it easier for Big Pharma to gain patents on medicines that don't really work: This reversal in AstraZeneca Canada Inc. v. Apotex, Inc. is particularly disconcerting because Canada had just won an investor-state arbitration award in the long awaited Eli Lilly v. Canada case upholding its more stringent promise/utility doctrine that had been used successfully to overturn two dozen secondary patents, particularly those claiming new uses of known medicines, where patent claimants failed to present evidence in support of the prediction of therapeutic benefit promised in their patent applications. Thus Canada's Supreme Court has inexplicably thrown away the government's earlier victory, and undermined the country's more rigorous approach to granting pharma patents. Writing for infojustice.org, Brooke K. Baker believes this stunning capitulation is a result of unremitting bullying from the US: Canada had been under intense pressure from the US, which had placed Canada on its Special 301 Watch List for five years threatening that the promise/utility doctrine unreasonably harmed Big Pharma in the US and from the pharmaceutical industry itself which claimed that the doctrine violated global patentability criteria. President Trump's hardball campaign promise to rewrite or leave the North American Free Trade Agreement because of its failure to adequately protect US intellectual property interests may also have played a role. Likewise, President Trump's more recent assertions that US payers are unreasonably subsidizing biomedical research and development because other countries, like Canada, are paying lower prices for innovator medicines than insurers and other payers in the US may also have increased pressure on the Court. It's really sad to see the Canadian court kowtowing like this, undermining its own independence and moral authority in the process. Weaker patents will lead to the Canadian taxpayer paying higher prices for less-effective drugs. Worst of all, the Big Pharma bullies, aided and abetted by a newly-aggressive US government indifferent to other countries' health problems, will be encouraged to push for even more patent protection all around the world. That will lead not just to higher prices, but to more suffering and avoidable deaths, as crucial medicines become unaffordable for poorer patients. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
If you're going to fight in the Cyber Front, you're going to want the most up-to-date office chairs. Here's an unlikely use of federal tax dollars, as spotted by the EFF's Dave Maass: "FBI Cyber Security Furniture." Disappointingly, the FBI isn't actually looking for something along the lines of Matrix dental exam chairs for office drones to monitor... uh... multiple monitors during crucial cyber operations. Instead, the FBI is looking for standard office furniture to furnish its new Colorado cyber security office. But the scope of work doc [PDF] indicates not just any office furniture will do. On the FBI's Cyber Titanic, reshuffle-ability of deck chairs is crucial. The furniture solution for the workspace (individual and team) is expected to be adjustable, adaptable and easily interchangeable into different configurations as required by the work force. [...] Technology will be integrated at all levels of the project. Furniture must be adaptable to the continuously changing technology solutions required to maintain a collaborative, mobile, and sustainable work environment. In total, the FBI is looking for 24 workstations, 30 office chairs, and an out-of-the-box "STEELCASE Private Office" [pictured below]. If any vendors carry something more cybertastic than what's described in the request, they are cordially disinvited from responding. The FBI is going sole-source and pouring federal dollars back into the local economy. The General Services Administration has a new requirement that it intends to sole source for New Steelcase and Mayline Office Furniture from Officescapes, LLC a local dealer in Colorado. The sole-source provider won't have it easy, though. The demands for bog standard office furniture are far more rigorous than most demands for off-the-shelf solutions. It needs to do far more than prevent FBI cyber warriors from having to perform their duties sitting on the carpet. The new furniture must also work as a "quality of life patch" for the field office. Here's part of a long list of things purchased furniture is expected to do: Improv[e] work/life balance Attract and retain the best talent Hopefully no employees signed with the new Cyber Security office in hopes of being part of the office of the future. Team Cyber (Denver, CO) will be doing its work in the more familiar "office of the present," with all of its boring chairs, workstations, and conspicuous lack of monitor-covered walls. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
At the tail end of June, The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity turned heads when it began asking states for confidential voter data. The Commission was formed via executive order back in May as part of a supposed effort to crack down on what the Trump administration has insisted (without any supporting evidence) is an epidemic of widespread voting and voter registration fraud. As part of the data collection the Trump administration demanded voter names, political affiliations, addresses, dates of birth, criminal records, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, and more. But it didn't take long for the entire effort to unravel. The commission's first misstep was asking states to submit this personal data via unencrypted e-mail. The commission also offered states the ability to deliver the data via a system called SAFE—the Safe Access File Exchange. Traditionally used by the military for the transfer of unclassified files too large for email, the service does allow encrypted transfers via civilian computers, but would have required numerous technical steps and guidance (the commission didn't take or offer) to adequately protect the data's integrity: "But the site’s HTTPS setup, which enables data transmitted from a browser to the site to be sent over an encrypted connection, is problematic for civilian users in state governments. In fact, when state government officials visit the website, they are greeted with a conspicuous warning telling them that their connection is not private—implying that the data could be stolen or altered in transit." The commission's attempt to obtain private voter data by insecure means was quickly and surprisingly laughed off by the majority of states concerned with the obvious privacy implications. Only Arkansas has fully complied with the President's request, and many states expressed concern that the request and insecure transfer of private data could violate respective state voter privacy laws. Trump's response to these entirely legitimate, bipartisan concerns about voter privacy? Taking to Twitter to accuse the states of trying to hide something: Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017 Things have been notably complicated by a lawsuit by the ACLU, which claims the commission violated federal public access requirements by holding its first meeting in private, without public notice. The effort has also been hamstrung by a request by The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the administration's request until the privacy issue can be litigated in court. That has subsequently forced the Trump administration and its commission to suspend its data collection efforts until a Judge rules on the request: "Today, July 10, 2017, the Commission also sent the states a follow-up communication requesting the states not submit any data until this Court rules on plaintiff's TRO motion," the government wrote (PDF) the court. The commission e-mailed state election officials early Monday that, "Until the judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data." EPIC is suing the commission on accusations that the requested information violates the privacy of American voters. EPIC also says the commission is asking the states to forward the data to an unsecure website, the Department of Defense Safe File Exchange site. The commission said that, if it prevails, it will "use an alternative means for transmitting the requested data." This all appears to be driven by Trump's belief that the only way he could have possibly lost the popular vote is due to fraud (which again, nobody has found any evidence of). Bubbling under all of this is the additional concern that this entire effort has little to do with actually policing voter fraud, and everything to do with finding new and ingenious methods of voter suppression down the road. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
So we've seen some unique and amusing trademark disputes in the past, but this one beats them all. Canadian lawyer Rob Kittredge got to send a rap video cease-and-desist to Coca Cola. Yes, you heard me correctly. A rap video cease and desist. Not a cease and desist letter about a video. The video is the cease and desist letter. Check it out: And... yes, it appears that Rob is, in fact, the lawyer in the video as well. As background -- if you somehow missed it -- a few years ago, there was a virally popular rap song and video, by Brendan "B.Rich" Richmond, called Out for a Rip, spoofing Canadian culture/stereotypes. It got over 12 million views, and has become a bit of an anthem. So, yeah. Coca Cola is using the phrase "out for a rip" on its Coke bottles and Richmond and his lawyer Kittredge decided the best way to respond was to write a song calling out Coca Cola on this and then recording a whole video. At the end of the video there's an actual letter (part of which is dictated in the song itself) which is also pretty damn amusing: Dear Coke, I represent Brendan (B.Rich) Richmond (a.k.a. Friggin' Buddy). You jacked his catchphrase, but you already know that. Buddy owns the registered trademark "OUT FOR A RIP" in Canada (TMA934277). The music video for buddy's original composition "OUT FOR A RIP" has been viewed more than 12 million times. Canadians associate the phrase "OUT FOR A RIP" with him. Personally, I'm pretty psyched about this once-in-a-career opportunity to send a demand letter in the form of a rap video. Nonetheless, unlicensed use of OUT FOR A RIP violates my client's rights. From what I understand, you guys do fairly well for yourselves - at least in comparison to most other multinational corporations, the GDP of most countries, or, say, the average musician, right? No room in your budget to clear IP rights? Contact me no later than August 1, 2017 to discuss settlement of this matter. If you do not wish to discuss settlement, we require that you immediately cease using the OUT FOR A RIP mark, recall all OUT FOR A RIP bottles, and take immediate steps to preserve all relevant evidence in anticipation of possible litigation. Regards, Rob Kittredege So... yeah. I have no idea if this is a valid trademark claim, though it certainly sounds plausible. The trademark certainly exists, and does cover the phrase on "mugs, coffee mugs, travel mugs, cups, drinking cups and beer steins." I've seen some people complain that "out for a rip" was in common usage going back decades, but in searching for the history of it, the phrase does show up in Urban Dictionary... but entered by "B. Richmond" about a week after the original song was released. So it certainly seems pretty credible that the public associates the phrase with Brendan Richmond. Either way, I actually think this kind of response is pretty clever, no matter what. Despite being a legal cease and desist, it certainly doesn't come off as bullying -- and actually does a pretty good job of just publicizing Richmond and his music -- no matter what happens with Coca Cola. If Coke is smart -- and I'm hoping its lawyers are -- I would imagine that responding along the lines of what's suggested in the video would be the best way to settle this situation with everyone coming out of it looking good. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
The cable and broadcast industry goes to some amusing lengths to downplay cord cutting and streaming competition's impact on ratings and subscriber totals. Initially the impulse was just to insist that cord cutting wasn't real. When the data made outright denial impossible, the industry began insisting cord cutting was only something done by irrelevant nobodies living in mom's basement or Millennials who would see the error of their ways once they procreated. Of course data repeatedly showed that these people were the norm, and now we're looking at potentially one of the biggest quarterly subscriber losses in television history. As ratings have reflected the industry's dying cash cow, they've also taken consistent aim at viewership measurement systems as well. A bone of particular contention has been Nielsen, which is stuck between trying to accurately measure the damage and cater to myopic cable and broadcast clients that can't hear well with their heads buried firmly in the sand. A few years ago, Nielsen was forced to stop publicizing the rise in broadband-only (not TV) households. More recently, ESPN tried to publicly shame Nielsen when the company accurately highlighted the massive subscriber exodus happening at the channel. But the cable and broadcast industry has been engaged in some other notable shenanigans to try and protect the illusion that everything is going swimmingly. The Wall Street Journal indicates that the industry has increasingly been going so far as to intentionally misspell their programs in program listings. Why? Because when they know a show is going to see a ratings dip, listing it under another name prevents its core listing from being impacted in the Nielsen ratings: "That explains the appearance of "NBC Nitely News," which apparently aired on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year, when a lot of people were away from their TVs. The retitling of “NBC Nightly News” fooled Nielsen’s automated system, which listed “Nitely” as a separate show. Hiding the May 26 program from Nielsen dramatically improved the show’s average viewership that week," the report adds. "Instead of falling further behind first-place rival 'ABC World News Tonight,' NBC news narrowed the gap." The Journal goes on to note how this has been a sort of "open secret" in the industry for several years, but as cord cutting has begun to accelerate, its use has increased. At one point, NBC intentionally misspelled "NBC Nitely News" every night for a week. And all of this appears to be happening with the blessing of Nielsen, which again tries to walk a tightrope between being taken seriously as a rating metric system and keeping paying cable and broadcast clients happy with manufactured tales from fantasy land. For its part, NBC issued a statement that features a number of words, but at no point addresses the issue at hand: "As is standard industry practice, our broadcast is retitled when there are pre-emptions and inconsistencies or irregularities in the schedule, which can include holiday weekends and special sporting events,” a show spokesman said." Granted that sounds so much nicer than "we intentionally misspell our own programs to try and pretend our industry isn't facing a massive revolution we're ill-prepared for." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on techdirt
Cut the cord and lose virtually nothing with the Ultimate Cord Cutting Kit. You get a SelectTV subscription, an HDTV digital antenna, plus six free months of premium services including HBONow, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, SlingTV, and Amazon Prime Video. With SelectTV, you get a single source to access over 400,000 TV episodes, 100,000 movies, 30,000 radio stations, while still getting access to 2,000 live channels all from the same, simple browser interface. You can easily compare prices on the latest blockbusters and premium TV shows with the Pay-Per-View Deal Finder, and find the premium content that's available to you for no extra cost through the Subscription Manager. SelectTV is compatible with Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.6 or later, Android, iOS, and Google Chromecast. The HDTV digital antenna redemption offer is only available for a limited time (you must pay $7.99 shipping and handling through your SelectTV dashboard after purchase of SelectTV subscription). There are three tiers of prices offered during this sale: 1 year for $20, 3 years for $40, or lifetime for $90. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...