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Blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft, has a long and dubious history when it comes to trying to twist intellectual property laws and requirements to be whatever they want it to be at the time. These instances have mostly revolved around using copyright in an attempt to stop people who use cheat-bots to play the company's games, as well as those who make the bots. The actual tactics Blizzard uses in those cases, which chiefly revolve around twisting copyright into knots as never intended, can get lost because of the hatred most players have for those who game the gaming system. But it's a different story when it comes to Nostalrius, which was the name for fan-servers offering up a "vanilla" version of World of Warcraft to gamers who wanted to play the game without any of the expansion packs that Blizzard has released. Serving thousands of individual gamers, Blizzard decided the fan-server was a threat to its business and used trademark law to threaten those running it into shutting the whole thing down. Smart or not, Blizzard was within its rights to do this. Its explanation as to why, however, is absolutely dripping with bullshit and needs to be called out. We'll start with the now common refrain the company offered as to why it shut down the server, responding to public backlash for having done so. Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server. It's difficult to see how this could possibly be true. Policing the trademark is indeed a requirement within trademark laws generally, but policing doesn't offer a dichotomy between choosing to give up the mark or shutting the fan server down. There are other avenues that could have been explored, such as granting an inexpensive license to Nostalrius, which would allow them to continue as an official arm of Blizzard's IP. That satisfies the requirement and doesn't result in pissing off thousands of Blizzard fans. Keep in mind that Blizzard itself does not offer a similar vanilla version of WoW such as this. Working with the folks behind Nostalrius, it could have claimed to have done so through a third party. Problem solved. Why is it that those that use intellectual property so heavily, assets which are often designed to spur creativity, are the least creative when it comes to how to enforce that intellectual property? As for why Blizzard doesn't just offer up a similar service for gamers? Well: We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty. If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would. However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW. So, Blizzard, a rather large company, couldn't figure out how to accomplish what a single fan server did? Please. And even if that were indeed true, why again not simply utilize what Nostalrius had already built and license it so that it was kosher? Why instead bring the legal hammer down and force the whole thing into shutdowns-ville? Blizzard says they're in talks with the folks behind the fan server now that it's been shut down, but there was no reason to shut it down in the first place, aside from the misguided belief that pissing of your fans will get them to give you more money. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Priceline Group has something of a history with intellectual property. Several years back, Jay Walker, Priceline's founder, appeared to have transitioned to becoming a full-blown patent troll. In the year's since, the company he once founded has been in something of a tussle with the USPTO over its attempt to register a trademark for "booking.com." The USPTO had initially approved of the mark, before reversing its own decision only weeks later due to "booking.com" being essentially descriptive. The Priceline Group appealed, but the appeals board upheld the rejection of the mark, affirming it as being descriptive. You might have thought that this would be the end of the story. It's not. Priceline Group has now sued the USPTO over its rejection. Given that Booking.com filed the trademark application as a “travel agency service,” Booking.com’s lawsuit, filed April 15 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, states “there is no evidence in the entire history of Booking.com’s use of its trademark that any consumers or users of travel agency services refer to such sites as ‘Booking.com’s.'” A Booking.com-commissioned survey found that 75 percent of its users “recognize BOOKING.COM as a trademark, not a common name,” the suit states. The commissioned survey, as you'd expect, concludes exactly what Priceline Group wants it to conclude. Still, that doesn't particularly change the nature or reasoning behind the USPTO's rejection. If I want to go about booking a hotel, "booking.com" is descriptive of the service that is being offered at the site. I'm struggling to see exactly what the argument from Priceline Group actually is here, because this one seems fairly easy to grasp. The crux of this flailing by the company appears to be how much money its invested in transitioning its brand from Priceline to Booking.com. Booking.com stated that it has invested enormous resources in advertising, for example, to spread its brand, which it has used since 2006. The Amsterdam-based Booking.com also stated that it has used the similar mark, Booking.NL, since 1997. Booking.com further chided the appeals panel for finding that BOOKING.COM had not become a distinctive brand among consumers. Booking.com’s lawsuit states that more than 2 million U.S. consumers signed up for its newsletter; it has more than 2.7 million Facebook “likes,” and almost “58,000 members of the relevant public were already ‘talking about’ Plaintiff’s brand on Facebook.com, higher than other accommodations and travel companies such as TRAVELOCITY, HOTELS.COM, TRAVELZOO AND ORBITZ.” Much of which appears to demonstrate just how little the company relies on "booking.com" being a registered trademark in the first place. After all, it appears to be doing quite well in terms of reputation and traffic. And still none of this translates into an argument that the term "booking" isn't descriptive. I'm not sure why the company is spending so much time in the courts with this lawsuit rather than simply continuing the rack up the fees its business is generating. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Space exploration is gradually becoming cheaper and more reliable. Reusable rockets haven't proven to be economical yet, but presumably, they will be. Robot missions that roll around on the surface of other worlds have been shown to be very effective, if a bit slow, and bigger and better robots are probably going to be sent to more and more objects in space. However, people are still dreaming of colonizing the moon or Mars -- and it looks like there has been some progress to be able to do so. SpaceX has always had a goal of reaching Mars, but it's saying it'll make an actual attempt in 2018. Its Red Dragon program isn't going to have a crew (the problem of shielding astronauts from deep space radiation hasn't been solved yet), but carrying cargo to our neighboring red planet and collecting data on the journey is a reasonable preliminary step for Elon Musk's vision for colonizing Mars. [url] Apparently, two species of fungi originally from Antarctica can survive under Mars-like conditions on the International Space Station for at least 18 months. The fungi Cryomyces antarcticus and Cryomyces minteri are microorganisms that seem to be resistant to extreme UV radiation, cold temperatures and low pressure atmospheric environments -- just the kind of life we might be looking for on Mars if it already exists there. [url] NASA is reaching out to the public for ideas on building habitat modules for living in deep space. NASA's Orion spacecraft isn't likely to reach Mars with a crew in the next decade, but NASA will need all the help it can get to design a manned mission that can survive for months in deep space. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The push to reform ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- have been going on basically as long as this site has been in existence (i.e. nearly 20 years). There are lots of problems with ECPA, but the big one that everyone points to is that it considers any communication that's on a server more than 180 days to be "abandoned" and accessible without a warrant. That perhaps made some amount of sense back in 1986 when the law was written, because everything was client-server and you downloaded your email off the server. But in an age of cloud computing and webmail it makes no sense at all. Still, the IRS and the SEC really, really liked the ability to use ECPA to snoop on people's emails. In the past few years, Congress has kept supporting reform, but it always dies when some part of the administration complains and tries to block it. And yet, each time it enters Congress, it gets more and more sponsors. And, finally, the full House has voted to pass the Email Privacy Act. It was no surprise that it passed. The bill had an astounding 315 cosponsors. Seriously: Still, it's impressive that the bill ended up passing unanimously, 419 votes to 0 (and 14 missing votes). On an issue like this, that's surprising. You figured there would be some Congressional rep from somewhere arguing that this would let terrorists and child predators off the hook or something. The bill is certainly not perfect, and could be improved, but it's nice to see the House get the basics right. Now, we wait and see what happens in the Senate... Will the Senate ignore a unanimous House and let this bill just die, or will it finally do the right thing and protect email privacy?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As we've been discussing, the FCC is cooking up a plan to open up the closed cable set top box to third party competition. As we've also been pointing out, the cable industry has been throwing an absolutely epic hissy fit about this plan, given it would destroy the $21 billion in annual revenues cable operators make off of cable box rental fees. Since it can't just admit this is all about protecting set top rental fees, the cable industry has been pushing an endless wave of editorials in newspapers and websites nationwide, claiming more set top box competition will hurt consumer privacy, increase piracy, harm diversity, and rip the very planet from its orbital axis. Most of these editorials are being penned by the usual assortment of entertainment industry and telecom hand-wringers, the majority of whom have a vested financial interest in the status quo and as such have been happy to repeat the talking point that the FCC's well-intentioned plan is just a secret plan by "big Tech" (aka Google) to treat the noble and ultra-innovative cable industry unfairly. Back in March we noted that despite the fact that such rules would obviously help streaming set top vendors, Roku had come out in defense of the cable industry, rather timidly saying it wouldn't be supporting the FCC's plan because it has been trying to secure new, semi-exclusive deals with cable providers:"We have not been advocating for a rule making in this area at this time,” Tricia Mifsud, a Roku spokeswoman, told IBD. “While we are known for selling streaming players, it is only one area of our business. Customers also access our platform through smart TVs and streaming players that operators deploy."Roku's opposition to the FCC's plan became a little clearer last week, when Comcast (trying to preempt the FCC's plan), announced it was launching an initiative to let some Comcast customers access cable content via Comcast apps on third party devices. Comcast's partners in this new initiative? Samsung and Roku, who'll be offering the Comcast Xfinity app on smart TVs and streaming devices. And while Comcast's plan is certainly a step in the right direction, Comcast being Comcast you can be fairly certain that there will be caveats when the program launches to ensure the impact to set top box revenue is minimized. Comcast's plan obviously also doesn't impact other pay TV operators, so it doesn't really change things for the overall industry. Trying to defend the company's self-immolating position, Roku CEO Anothony Wood decided last week to write an editorial over at the Wall Street Journal, breathlessly insisting the FCC's plan would hurt consumers. And, as with every editorial of this type, Google is trotted out as the bogeyman pulling the FCC's strings in a plan to somehow treat cable companies unfairly:"...With prodding from Google and TiVo, the FCC is proposing new “set-top-box” rules that would force cable companies to make their video services available as an “open” set of streams. In other words, companies like Comcast or DirecTV would be required to provide their video, guide data and encryption for use by other companies who could then create their own hardware and software to deliver cable content. As Google argued in an FCC filing last year, the intent is to “unleash competition in the retail navigation-device market” and drive down costs. This might seem like a great deal for consumers and companies like mine, but once you start peeling back the layers, the picture changes. The proposed regulation would—as we say in the industry—“decouple the user interface” from the video and data itself. This would allow a company like Google to do to the TV what it did on the Web—build an interface without the “inconvenience” of licensing content or entering into business agreements with content companies such as ABC, FOX, HBO, or video distributors like pay TV operators. The unintended consequences of circumventing these kinds of arrangements are likely to include increased costs for consumers, reduced choices and less innovation."But if you actually read the FCC's proposal so far (pdf), you'll notice the plan does nothing of the sort. In short, customers will still have to pay their cable provider to access cable content, it will just be delivered to additional hardware platforms -- using copyright protection standards determined by the cable industry. The content can't just be repackaged without cable companies getting compensation. How letting consumers have access to more, better and cheaper methods to access the same content results in "reduced choice and less innovation" is a logical leap that makes no coherent sense whatsoever. Similarly, this repeated claim that this is some secret cabal by Google -- when the quest for clunky cable set top box reform is decades old -- remains a bizarre narrative unsupported by reason. Would Google benefit from open set top boxes? Yes. So would countless other hardware vendors and developers. Woods also tries to argue that regulation isn't necessary, because we're already seeing innovation in the streaming set top box market:"Regulating the set-top box is unnecessary in the modern age of Internet streaming. Consumers now have tremendous choice for their TV operating system and interface. Robust competition among companies like Roku, Apple, Amazon and Google is already driving rapid innovation and pushing costs down.Right, but we're not talking about streaming players and services, we're talking about the traditional cable set top box. You know, the cable boxes that consumers, on average, pay $231 to rent annually (and thousands of dollars for over the life of the hardware) despite most boxes being worth a fraction of that? And while we have seen some innovation in recent years on the set top box front (voice search, marginally less archaic GUIs), by and large the cable box remains a clunky relic of a bygone era and a cornerstone of the cable industry's antiquated and uncompetitive walled garden approach to customer services. The thing is that if anybody should know better, it's Roku. The company had to file a complaint with the FCC (pdf) after Comcast spent years refusing to let its customers access HBO Go on Roku devices (in order, of course, to push those users toward Comcast's own Xfinity set top boxes and apps). Roku also expressed concerns in net neutrality filings with the FCC that Comcast was using TV Anywhere authentication as yet another way to inhibit Internet video competitors; Roku included:"A large and powerful MVPD may use this leverage in negotiations with content providers or operators of streaming platforms, ultimately favoring parties that can either afford to pay for the privilege of authentication, or have other business leverage that can be used as a counterweight to discriminatory authentication. Additionally, MVPDs with affiliated ISPs can abuse their power over authentication by choosing to authenticate only their own or affiliated offerings."Yet here we are, with Roku's CEO now playing kissy face with that same company because they've struck a new deal that will give Roku its own, special advantage in the pay TV market. It should be noted that Woods wasn't entirely willing to pledge unwavering fealty to Comcast. Nor is his editorial entirely devoid of good points. Though Woods isn't willing to mention his new BFF by name, he does make some vague references to Comcast's decision to give its own content an unfair advantage via usage caps and zero rating:"...the FCC proposal is distracting from the leading risk to the continued evolution of TV—open and fair broadband Internet access for all consumers. In particular, cable companies often control their customers’ broadband access and can take measures against competing streaming services and devices to give their own streaming services and devices an advantage. FCC regulations banning the discriminatory use of data caps and “zero-rating” schemes that selectively exempt certain content from data limits are far more important to the future of TV than “opening” the cable box. If broadband Internet services are accessible and affordable to consumers and there is a level playing field for content providers and devices makers, then consumers will benefit from a revolutionized television experience. Let’s not bog down the revolution with an unnecessary government intervention in a dynamic marketplace.In other words, while Woods is perfectly happy to blow a few kisses to protect his new business relationship with the Philadelphia-based cable giant, he's not willing to entirely sell himself and his company down river by ignoring the problems Comcast is causing on the net neutrality and zero rating fronts. And this is actually the one area I don't disagree with Woods on. With Internet video disrupting traditional cable anyway, it might make more sense for the FCC to focus its efforts on improving broadband competition. And, more specifically, the telecom industry's use of usage caps and zero rating to protect legacy TV from Internet video. By the FCC's logic however, the glacial pace of cord cutting means that traditional cable and ye olde cable box will still be a dominant force for much of the next decade -- and consumers could still benefit from increased cable set top box competition during that period. The problem is that the cable industry clearly intends to fight this proposal tooth and nail, by dragging the FCC's effort out via lawsuit, and funding a major PR offensive in the hopes of convincing the public the FCC's gone power mad. With so many efforts on its plate (from municipal broadband to new broadband privacy rules), the FCC may have to seriously consider just which battles are truly worth fighting, and which problems, like the cable box, may be resolved organically by the market. All of that said, it remains more than a little embarrassing that Woods and Roku are so eager to sell their longer-term success -- and the overall viability of the broader streaming industry -- downriver just to snuggle up a little closer to one of the most anti-competitive companies in the television industry.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We recently wrote about the Rhode Island attorney general's "cybercrime" bill -- a legislative proposal that seeks to address cyberbullying, revenge porn, etc. with a bunch of broadly -- and poorly -- written clauses. Two negative comments written months apart could be viewed as "cyber-harassment" under the law, separating it from the sustained pattern of abuse that one normally considers "harassment." In addition, the proposed law would criminalize "non-consensual communications." If the sender does not obtain the recipient's permission to send a message, it's a criminal act if the recipient finds the message to be distressing -- which could mean anything from emailing explicit threats to posting a negative comment on someone's Facebook page. But that's not Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin's only bad idea. It appears he's behind another legislative proposal -- one that would amend the state's computer crime laws into something more closely resembling the catastrophic federal equivalent: the CFAA. Here's the worst part of the suggested amendments: Whoever intentionally and without authorization or in excess of one's authorization, directly or indirectly accesses a computer, computer program, computer system, or computer network with the intent to either view, obtain, copy, print or download any confidential information contained in or stored on such computer, computer program, computer system, or computer network, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be subject to the penalties set forth in §11-52-5. This would make the following Google search illegal: filetype:pdf site:*.gov "law enforcement use only" Anything deemed "confidential information" -- if accessed by people not "authorized" to do so -- falls under the protection of this legislation, even if it can be accessed by any member of the public without actually "breaking into" a company/government/etc. server. The definition of "confidential information" makes the legislation even more problematic. "Confidential Information" means data that is protected from disclosure on a computer, computer program, computer system or computer network and that the computer, computer program, computer system or computer network does not transmit or disclose unless initiated by the owner of such computer, computer program, computer system or computer network. Something accessible by a Google search is not "protected from disclosure" by any stretch of the imagination. But this phrase, "unless initiated by the owner of such computer…," makes it illegal to obtain documents not otherwise protected. Uploading a sensitive document to a public-facing website crawled by Google is stupid and the person doing the uploading should take any "unauthorized access" as a learning experience. But under the law, it could successfully be argued that the uploading of a document to a publicly-accessible website is not the same thing as "initiating transmission." The proposal makes several exemptions for service providers, software manufacturers and (no kidding) advertisers, so that their trawling of confidential information in the course of their businesses won't be viewed as criminal acts. But what it doesn't do is carve out an exception for security researchers, who often access confidential information during the course of their work. In this form, the legislation is dangerous. It will criminalize security research and punish citizens for the stupidity of others. On top of that, the law would pretty much turn every whistleblower into a criminal by treating the access of confidential information as a crime, no matter what the circumstances are. Running it through an editing process involving politicians surrounded by "cyberwar" hype is unlikely to improve it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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With the EU making the first big antitrust move against Google in the EU over Android bundling practices (and more still expected over search), it seems that lots of other companies that have had trouble adapting to the internet are coming out of the woodwork to file complaints of their own (well, everyone except Microsoft, which has agreed to drop its complaints -- despite kicking off much of the EU antitrust focus on Google). Last week, we wrote about News Corp. confusingly arguing that Google News was an antitrust violation, because it both linked to its content and because it wouldn't link to its content (don't ask me, I don't understand it either). Next up? Getty Images complaining about Google Images. According to Time, Getty has filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU, apparently arguing that Google's image search is undermining Getty's licensing business and "encouraging piracy." Photography company Getty Images is accusing Google of scraping images from third party websites and encouraging piracy, adding a new wrinkle to the Mountain View, Calif.’s ongoing legal battles in Europe. In its complaint to the European Union’s antitrust commission, Getty says Google Images, which displays full-screen slideshows of high-resolution copyrighted images, has hurt the stock agency’s licensing business as well as content creators worldwide. Google first introduced the feature in Jan. 2013. Previously, the search engine only displayed tiny thumbnails of images. Getty has not actually released the complaint but put out a press release with a few more details and had its General Counsel Yoko Miyashita, post an open letter. The big issue, it seems, for Getty is that three years ago Google made its Images search act a little different, in that you can display full resolution images, rather than just purely thumbnails. Getty claims that this is decreasing the rate of clickthroughs to its site, where it might be able to extract some licensing fees. Getty, of course, has a troubled history with the internet. It has a pretty long history of fairly idiotic bouts of pure copyright trolling, demanding cash as a bully, often in cases where there was no legitimate infringement at all. We were cautiously optimistic a couple of years ago, when the company finally started experimenting with offering up images for free, via a system that would let you embed many images (though there were some concerns about the setup and conditions). Reading between the lines, it sounds like that effort has not taken off to the level Getty had hoped... and rather than recognizing that people just aren't comfortable with embedding images from Getty (or that they don't really know about the program), the company appears to be blaming Google Image search. And that's doubly weird since an actual analysis of why Getty's internet efforts haven't taken off shows that it's got nothing to do with Google's Image search and everything to do with cheap stock photo sites and Getty's inability to understand basic search engine marketing practices. Rather than take that to heart and adapt, the company joins many others in just whining about another company that is more successful. The whole complaint is confusing. Most people searching Google Images aren't going to be licensing a photo in the first place. People who are looking to license a photo go elsewhere. So it's not like Google Images is likely to have a real impact on Getty. But that's not how Getty sees it: Because image consumption is immediate, unlike other mediums searchable through Google, such as news or music, once an image is displayed in high-resolution, large format, there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site. These changes have allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend. This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates. Of course, this is interesting, because you'll note that Getty isn't filing a copyright case here, it's filing an antitrust case. If this were really about "piracy" why not file a copyright case? It's because Getty knows damn well it would lose any such copyright case. And it would lose badly. So it's filing this antitrust case as a sort of backdoor copyright case, hoping that in the EU's current hatred towards Google, regulators won't pay attention to the nuances. Getty Images’ General Counsel, Yoko Miyashita says: “Getty Images represents over 200,000 photojournalists, content creators and artists around the world who rely on us to protect their ability to be compensated for their work. Google’s behavior is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the word – present and future. By standing in the way of a fair marketplace for images, Google is threatening innovation, and jeopardizing artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works. Artists need to earn a living in order to sustain creativity and licensing is paramount to this; however, this cannot happen if Google is siphoning traffic and creating an environment where it can claim the profits from individuals’ creations as its own.” I've read this four times now and none of it makes sense. Again, people searching Google Images aren't looking to license images. Getty is breezily mixing up very different markets because of just how weak its overall argument is here. Also, the whole "artists need to earn a living" bit is similarly misleading. It's a favorite line that comes up over and over again but is bullshit. Most artists don't earn a living doing artwork. That's just a fact. That's true with copyright and without. It's not the copyright that pays people. It's having a good business model that people find worth supporting. That's it. And, really, if Getty were really in this to help photographers get paid, then why is it so easy to find photographers online bitching about the ridiculously low royalties that Getty Images pays? This isn't about helping photographers get paid. This is about Getty Images and the fact that it hasn't figured out how to make a compelling product on the internet. And, going back to the way in which Google displays images, it does so because it knows that it's providing a better consumer experience. When people are looking for images online, they want to see the images, and thus Google is delivering what people want. Getty may not like that, because it hoped that Google would fail to deliver what people want, thereby forcing them over to the also terrible Getty Images experience, but it's difficult to see how that's an antitrust issue. If Getty wants to compete, why doesn't it compete? Build a better image search engine and layer its business model on top of it. But, no, instead, it whines to the EU about "antitrust" and pretends that it's helping photographers, all while making sure they get only a tiny percentage of any money that Getty actually makes from selling their photos.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As we've explained over and over again, copyright and censorship go hand in hand. People who want to censor seem to love the power that copyright conveys on them. Take, for example, the Brazilian media giant Globo. As you may have heard, there's a big political fight down in Brazil, as the Congress there looks to impeach the President, Dilma Rousseff. It's a big political mess, made even more ridiculous by the fact that many of the leading voices looking to impeach Rousseff have themselves been indicted for corruption or are being investigated for corruption. Last week, David Miranda wrote an article for the Guardian, arguing that the whole thing is political, and that the corruption claim against Rousseff is just a pretext for an opposing party to gain power. In that article, he blames the major media properties in Brazil for supporting the fiction in pushing an anti-Rousseff story. The story of Brazil’s political crisis, and the rapidly changing global perception of it, begins with its national media. The country’s dominant broadcast and print outlets are owned by a tiny handful of Brazil’s richest families, and are steadfastly conservative. For decades, those media outlets have been used to agitate for the Brazilian rich, ensuring that severe wealth inequality (and the political inequality that results) remains firmly in place. Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs. This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation – heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar? Globo TV was apparently not happy with that and asked the Guardian to post its response, written by the company's Chair of the Editiorial Board, Joao Roberto Marinho, who apparently is the heir to the Globo empire. Miranda then responded to Marinho over at the Intercept, to show why Globo has been extremely biased in pushing one side of the story in Brazil. Miranda goes through Globo's somewhat sordid history as a propaganda arm, and then goes point for point debunking Marinho's claims. Towards the end he tries to show just how one-sided Globo's coverage has been: For more than a year, one Globo-owned Epoca magazine cover after the next used manipulative, demonizing art to incite the public in favor of impeachment. The Twitter feeds of Globo’s stars — both news and entertainment — are filled every day with pro-impeachment propaganda. Even when Jornal Nacional tries to deny that it is placing its heavy finger on the scale in favor of pro-impeachment protests, it cannot help itself: It glorifies those pro-impeachment protests and gives them far more airtime than their pro-democracy counterparts: After this, he linked to a video demonstrating all of this... but soon after his article went up, that video became this: Yup. Globo suddenly decided to make a copyright claim on the video that was being used in an article demonstrating how its coverage has been incredibly biased. That video had been up for months before that with no problem, but just a little while after it was included in Miranda's article it was gone. Poof. And people still want to claim copyright isn't regularly used as a tool for censorship? Yes, the content in the video is content from Globo. But it's not taking it down over any concern over licensing issues or "piracy." It issued the takedown to clearly hide the video from the public viewing Miranda's article. It is purely a censorship move, and copyright is just a convenient tool. Thankfully, others have been reuploading the videos elsewhere, but just think what will happen if the legacy entertainment industry is successful in pushing a "notice and staydown" regime? This kind of censorship will become much, much more effective.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The BOBINE Blackout series of chargers for iPhones is durable and flexible. The Blackout Anywhere Mount and the Blackout Auto Mount are on sale for $30 each in the Techdirt Deals Store. These chargers allow you to plug into any USB port and then allows you to twist it and shape it into any design to help hold your phone at whatever your preferred angle. The Anywhere Mount comes with an extra extension piece to give you more flexibility with where you can plug in and how you can position your phone. The Auto Mount comes with two dashboard stabilizer mounts to help you find the perfect hands-free position for your phone in your car. BOBINE also makes an Apple Watch charger. Simply snap your charging cable’s magnetic puck into the circular holder and twist it into any shape you want. The charger comes with stabilizer mounts for your dashboard so you can charge on the go. It reaches 2 feet in length when fully extended and is made of a light-yet-sturdy material that supports your watch without yielding to its weight. It is on sale in the Deals store for $18. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Post sponsored by As part of our funding campaign for our coverage of encryption, we reached out to some companies that care about these issues to ask them to show their support. This post is sponsored by Golden Frog, a company dedicated to online privacy, security and freedom. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is claiming that, according to NSA estimates the Snowden revelations sped up the adoption rate of encryption by 7 years. Apparently, that's based on NSA estimates of the adoption curve of encryption. As reported by Jenna McLaughlin at the Intercept: “As a result of the Snowden revelations, the onset of commercial encryption has accelerated by seven years,” James Clapper said during a breakfast for journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The shortened timeline has had “a profound effect on our ability to collect, particularly against terrorists,” he said. When pressed by The Intercept to explain his figure, Clapper said it came from the National Security Agency. “The projected growth maturation and installation of commercially available encryption — what they had forecasted for seven years ahead, three years ago, was accelerated to now, because of the revelation of the leaks.” Of course, it's worth noting that, in the past few months, it seemed as if the NSA and the intelligence community was moving away from its kneejerk hatred of encryption, pushing back against the FBI's argument that we need to backdoor encryption. But, apparently they're not willing to go quite this far. Basically, the NSA wants strong encryption out there, but it doesn't really want you to use it. Asked if that was a good thing, leading to better protection for American consumers from the arms race of hackers constantly trying to penetrate software worldwide, Clapper answered no. “From our standpoint, it’s not … it’s not a good thing,” he said. Yup. James Clapper would prefer that the American public be less safe by not using encryption, rather than protecting their digital lives. Of course, many other people do think it's a very, very good thing. Including Ed Snowden: Of all the things I've been accused of, this is the one of which I am most proud. https://t.co/1qybuvnmpt https://t.co/yoAF71KFXc — Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 25, 2016 So, the guy in the US government is upset that the public is more safe, and the guy that people want to accuse of being a traitor is proud of helping Americans to better protect themselves. Maybe we ought to reverse their roles... Privacy & Security on the Golden Frog Blog: Encryption Fundamentals: What Everyone Should Know Encryption: A Quick Guide to the Basics Feinstein/Burr Draft Backdoor Encryption Bill Causes Concern VyprVPN from Golden Frog is the world's fastest highly-secure VPN.Get 25% off VyprVPN now » Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
Just last week, we wrote about another ruling in one of the many cases kicked off when the FBI took control over a Tor-based child porn site, called Playpen, and ran it for two weeks. While the courts have said that it was okay for the FBI to run a child porn service for two weeks as part of a sting operation, they've been having a lot more trouble with the fact that the FBI then used its control over the service to infect any visitor with malware in order to figure out who they were. In the ruling last week, in the case against Alex Levin, in the Massachusetts District Court, the court said that the malware/hacking tool represented an illegal search under the 4th Amendment and suppressed the evidence. The key issue was that the warrant was issued for searches in the Eastern District of Virginia, but Levin clearly was not there. Now a court in the Northern District of Oklahoma, in a case against Scott Arterbury, has more or less reached the same conclusion. Specifically, Artebury's lawyers pointed out that his computer was "seized" by the malware (called the Network Investigative Technique or NIT), and that was clearly in Oklahoma, beyond the bounds of the warrant. The government tried to play some games, arguing that it was the data that was seized in Virginia when it accessed the FBI-hosted site. The court doesn't buy it. The NIT acted in Oklahoma, not Virginia: The Court is not persuaded by this argument. The property seized in this instance was Arterbury’s computer, which at all relevant times remained in Oklahoma. The NIT warrant allowed the Government to send computer code or data extraction instructions to Arterbury’s computer, wherever it was located. The Government “seized” that computer and directed it to send certain information to the Government – all without Arterbury’s knowledge or permission. Arterbury’s computer was never in the Eastern District of Virginia and subsection (b)(2), therefore, does not apply. Furthermore, even if the property seized was electronic information, that property was not located in the Eastern District of Virginia at the time the warrant was signed. This information only appeared in Virginia after the Warrant was signed and executed and the Government seized control of Defendant’s computer in Oklahoma. None of this, of course, is to absolve those who were actively engaged in activities around child pornography. But, as the judge notes, the FBI could have easily gotten an appropriate warrant: Furthermore, the drafters of Rule 41 knew how to avoid the territorial limit on issuance of warrants when they wished to do so. Rule 41(b)((3) removes the territorial limitation in cases involving domestic or international terrorism. In such cases, a magistrate judge “with authority in any district in which activities related to the terrorism may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant for a person or property within or outside that district.” Rule 41(b)(3). The drafters of Rule 41 could easily have included child pornography in Rule 41(b)(3) and, thereby, avoided the territorial limitation of Rule 41(b)(1) & (2). They did not do so. The Court can only conclude that they did not intend to remove the territorial limit in cases such as the one before the Court. The court then delves a bit deeper to determine if it should order the evidence suppressed. Even in some of the other cases where the court found the NIT to be an illegal search, it still allowed the evidence to be used, often because of the "good faith exception." But not here. After a long discussion about the good faith exception... the court explains it just doesn't apply here, because this wasn't just a technical error, but an error that destroys the entire warrant. I conclude that where the Rule 41 violation goes directly to the magistrate judge’s fundamental authority to issue the warrant, as in the violation presented here, it is not a “technical violation” of the Rule. The warrant is void ab initio, suppression is warranted and the good-faith exception is inapplicable. Once again, it's looking like the FBI and DOJ's failure to respect the 4th Amendment means that evidence will be suppressed.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
For several years now, broadband providers have been taking full advantage of the lack of competition in the broadband market by expanding usage caps and overage fees. More recently, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Suddenlink have taken this practice one step further by charging users a $10 to $35 per month surcharge if consumers want to avoid usage caps. In other words, consumers are paying more money than ever for a service that costs less and less to provide, thanks again to limited competition in the broader broadband market. And while companies like Comcast have used the same approach seen in the boiling frog metaphor to slowly expand its usage cap "trials" and hope nobody notices, people are definitely noticing the rising temperatures. The Wall Street Journal filed an FOIA request with the FCC, and has found that consumer complaints about broadband caps have been skyrocketing over the last year: "Fearful of crossing data limits, some customers say they are canceling the streaming services, including Netflix, Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue. Consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about data caps rose to 7,904 in the second half of 2015 from 863 in the first half, according to records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act. As of mid-April, this year’s total was 1,463." Though we've warned about this for years, the Journal almost-but-not-quite comes to the realization that usage caps have nothing to do with congestion or financial necessity, and everything to do with hamstringing Internet video and protecting legacy TV revenues. Companies like SlingTV and Netflix make that abundantly clear in their comments to the Journal, though Comcast clings to a familiar narrative in trying to justify why it's charging more money for the same service:"Comcast says its aim is to ensure the heaviest users are paying more than lighter ones, since 50% of its bandwidth is consumed by just 10% of its customers. Comcast set up the trials to show “people who are consuming the most should carry more of the bill rather than raise everybody’s bill by the same amount,” says Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president of consumer services at Comcast."But we've long noted how that justification is nonsense. The cable industry itself admitted years ago that congestion had nothing to do with usage caps. Comcast's own leaked support documents and comments from company engineers have also acknowledged as much. Meanwhile, if a small fraction of your customers are consuming an "excessive" amount of bandwidth (and ISPs never provide hard data on this front), you could easily push them to business-class tiers without having to impose a draconian and confusing new pricing paradigm on your entire customer base. No, Comcast is imposing usage caps to simultaneously cash in on, and thwart, Internet video. Granted the company can't just come out and admit that, so we often see flimsy claims that imposing huge new rate hikes on its entire userbase is about fairness, even if Comcast's cost to deliver broadband services remains fixed or declining. Not too surprisingly, Comcast tells the Journal that the company's a gift to the Internet and would never, ever behave anti-competitively:"We everyday contribute to the use and the growth of the Internet,” Mr. Jenckes says. “There is absolutely no anticompetitive belief or objective." The reality is that when it comes to complaints about caps, we're only starting to see the tip of the consumer annoyance iceberg. Not only are companies expanding usage caps, companies like Comcast are now exempting their own content from these caps -- a fantastic way to give their otherwise underwhelming Netflix alternatives an unfair advantage in the market. Other companies like AT&T are using usage caps to attack cord cutters in another way, by socking them with overage fees unless they sign up for traditional TV services they may no longer even want (something AT&T tells the Journal is just a "really compelling" offer). And despite the soaring complaints, and the broad anti-competitive implications of such arbitrary limits, the FCC has remained largely mute about usage caps -- often supporting the industry narrative that this is just "creative pricing experimentation." The hope at the FCC has been that its policies to encourage broadband competition will make a specific crackdown on usage caps unnecessary, but so far it certainly hasn't worked that way. Though less talked about, it's also a problem that the FCC has failed to ensure that ISP usage meters are accurate; as a result they often aren't, with some consumers being billed for usage when their modem is off or the power is out. Broadband competition isn't going to magically fix itself, and outside efforts like Google Fiber or community broadband are only helping a fraction of the market. As such, complaints submitted to FCC systems will only grow as more and more consumers realize that usage caps and overage fees are a giant con perpetrated on an already annoyed and captive market.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
Congress has mostly stayed away from any attempt at copyright reform since the great SOPA blackout of 2012, afraid that anything will set off the public again. However, in 2013, Copyright Register Maria Pallante called on Congress to create the "next great copyright act" designed to update copyright for the 21st century. The House Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings and roundtables every few months since then, some of which have been more encouraging than others. Copyright law is clearly broken and a true fix for the 21st century would be welcome. But what are the chances that Congress would actually do a good job, rather than make it worse? Well, we may soon find out. Yesterday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte put out a statement and a video claiming that they're finally ready to start releasing some proposals: Goodlatte lists out a bunch of things that have been discussed, and then notes that he'll be focused initially on releasing proposals where he believes there is some "consensus": In the weeks ahead, we will identify areas where there is a likelihood of potential consensus and circulate outlines of potential reforms in those areas. Then we will convene stakeholders for further work on these potential reforms. And you have my personal commitment that as the review shifts to more focused work on potential reforms, the process will be transparent and the Committee will continue to ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to weigh in on issues of concern to them. Our copyright system deserves no less. The way that's put obviously sounds better than the way things have been done in the past, where the legacy industry basically wrote the bills for Congress, and our elected officials just put their names on it. But I'm still concerned with the framing of this whole thing. Goodlatte's talk continues to falsely suggest that copyright policy is about copyright holders vs. the public: ...it is critical that Congress understand the overall impact of any changes in copyright law before proceeding with formally introduced legislation. It is also clear that neither a solely copyright owner focused bill, nor a copyright user focused bill, could be enacted by Congress today, nor should they be. But, again, as we've been explaining for years, thinking of copyright in such zero sum terms is the wrong way to go about it. A proper copyright system, focused on "promoting the progress of science" shouldn't put the best interests of either party at risk. These interests should be aligned. The public benefit of copyright should be to encourage creators to create and for that content to spread and be experienced. We should be looking at what kinds of policies best lead to that outcome. Instead, because of past history and the mental framework that the Judiciary Committee has had since the beginning, it seems that they want to set this up as a fight between Hollywood (representing "copyright holders") and the tech industry (which they're using as a weak and misleading proxy for "the public.") The actual public is not involved. Nor are many actual creators. There are, of course, cynical political reasons for doing this. Congress learned years ago that if you want to get a big pile of donations, the best thing to do is to hint at a bill that would put two large industry in conflict with one another. Then both feel compelled to fund politicians campaign warchests. But that leads to bad policy. It leads to policy based on the interests of funders and industry, rather than the public. Again, the purpose of copyright law is to benefit the public by creating incentives for content creators. The interests of content creators and the public should (and absolutely could) be aligned in all of this. Let's create systems that encourage the creation and distribution of content, without treating the public as criminals. Let's hope that's actually what Goodlatte and the Judiciary Committee have in mind, but from the framing he has used so far, I'm concerned that what comes out of this is likely to be something else.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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By now, the theoretical risks of including corporate sovereignty chapters in TPP and TAFTA/TPP are becoming more widely known. But as Techdirt wrote back in 2014, there's already a good example of just how bad the reality can be, in the form of the monster-sized case involving Russia. An investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunal ruled that Vladimir Putin really ought to pay $50 billion to people who were majority shareholders in the Yukos Oil Company. The Russian government didn't agree, and so naturally took further legal action to get the ruling overturned. As The New York Times reports, it seems to have succeeded: In a major victory for the Russian government, a Dutch court on Wednesday overturned an award of more than $50 billion to former shareholders of the defunct oil company Yukos that Moscow was ordered to pay in 2014. The award was thrown out because of something mentioned in the earlier Techdirt article: the fact that the claim was brought under the Energy Charter Treaty, which Russia signed, but never ratified. Because the ISDS arbitration panel had met in The Hague, in the Netherlands, Russia took its case before Dutch judges, who agreed that Vlad need not pay in these circumstances. But the ruling is unlikely to signal the end of this case -- after all, some pretty serious sums of money are involved. According to The New York Times, the international arbitration practice representing the Yukos shareholders intends to make an appeal to higher courts in the Netherlands against the decision. And even if it fails to get the latest court ruling overturned, it's still quite possible that GML, the company that controlled a majority of the Yukos shares, will be able to collect its $50 billion elsewhere. As the NYT says: GML is pursuing legal efforts to collect the Russian money in a half-dozen other countries: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, India and the United States. There have not yet been rulings in those cases, and it was not immediately clear on Wednesday how the decision in The Hague might affect them. That lack of legal clarity underlines one of the worst aspects of ISDS: the fact that it does not sit neatly within traditional legal systems, but in many ways lies outside them. Far from helping to uphold the law, as supporters of corporate sovereignty like to claim, it makes it arbitrary and unpredictable. When you're talking plus or minus $50 billion, that's a pretty serious flaw. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It's a source of wonder and excitement for some, panic and concern for others, and a whole lot of cutting edge work for the people actually making it happen: artificial intelligence, the end-game for computing (and, as some would have you believe, humanity). But when you set aside the sci-fi predictions, doomsday warnings and hypothetical extremes, AI is a real thing happening all around us right now — and achieving some pretty impressive feats: AlphaGo has already conquered the game many thought a computer never could, but can it master the more "human" game of poker? The statistics it can handle, but what about the behavioural cues? [url] Can machines be as creative as humans? Or moreso? There's plenty of reason to believe they are already well on the way. [url] This cluster of IBM chips mimics 16-million neurons and 4-billion synapses to provide an insanely fast platform for neural network applications. The Lawrence Livermore National Lab is seeing if it can replace more traditional supercomputers. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
We've talked quite a bit around here about the saga of the Washington Redskins trademark cancellation. The long-held mark by the football team was cancelled after a group of Native Americans petitioned against it, claiming that the team's name was disparaging of their people. After I, dare I say, flip-flopped from cheering on the cancellation to having the team itself change my mind with a delightfully vulgar ruling, which demonstrated that the USPTO grants all kinds of marks on "offensive" terms, the current status of the trademark remains cancelled. Well, the team has now appealed to the US Supreme Court, not only seeking to have its own case reviewed, but also seeking to tie their case to another that we've talked a bit about, that of the Asian music group, The Slants. The Slants' case is different from the Redskins', with the music group never getting its trademark registration, also based on the notion that its name was disparaging of the very group of people who comprised the band. An appeals court declared the refusal of the band's trademark applications was a First Amendment violation, rightly. But the USPTO has appealed to the Supreme Court. The Redskins, meanwhile, have petitioned the Supreme Court to take the two cases in tandem, arguing that the slight differences between the two would give the court a well-rounded look at the question of whether blocking disparaging trademarks was a constitutional violation. If this Court grants certiorari in Tam, the Court should grant certiorari before judgment here to consider this case as an ideal and essential companion to Tam. This Court repeatedly has granted certiorari before judgment on those occasions, like this one, when the consideration of complementary companion cases offers the best way to decide important questions of constitutional law. As the government acknowledges, this case squarely presents the same First Amendment question presented in Tam, a question of undeniable, fundamental national importance. Tam is the short-form reference to The Slants' case. It's a savvy move by the team, seeking to pair its case with that of The Slants, who by any measure ought to be seen as deserving of more sympathy generally than the football club. After all, there does seem to be a difference in texture between a group of Asian people who want to call their band The Slants and a football team owned by Dan Schneider that wants to have an admittedly racist term for Native Americans serve as its team's name. But the question of law is certainly similar enough that I would agree it would make sense to review both cases together. Under the law, either refusing marks based on disparagement is constitutional or it isn't. There's no provision for who is applying for, or holding, the trademark in question. Another reason it's a savvy move by the Redskins is that The Slants are coming into the SCOTUS review having won its appeal. In their case, it's the USPTO doing the appealing to SCOTUS. The team likely sees the band having an easier time getting a win before the court, having won on appeal, and is arguing that if The Slants' case holds up, then the cancellation of the team's trademark would make no sense. And the Redskins are right. The team's name may be antiquated, but under the law, the government has no business applying its schizophrenic sense of morality to speech under the First Amendment. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 9 days ago on techdirt
The EFF and ACLU -- along with the assistance of a very fortuitous public records request by Stingray-tracker extraordinaire Mike Katz-Lacabe -- have uncovered more hidden use of IMSI catchers by law enforcement. A criminal prosecution relying on real-time tracking of a suspect's cell phone has finally led to the admission by Wisconsin police that they used a Stingray to locate defendant Damian Patrick. The information wasn't handed over to the court until the EFF, ACLU, and Katz-Lacabe's FOIAed documents forced the government to admit it used the device. Up until that point, testimony given by officers gave the impression that tracking Patrick down only involved the use of records from his service provider. They also claimed the information pinpointing Patrick's location in a parked vehicle was just a tip from an "anonymous source." As we’ve seen in other cases involving Stingrays, the government did everything it could in this case to hide the fact that it used a Stingray—from the court that issued the pen register/trap and trace order, the court that heard Patrick’s motion to suppress the evidence, and even from Patrick, himself. In police reports, the officers said only that they “‘obtained information’ of Patrick’s location; . . . had ‘prior knowledge’ that Patrick was occupying the vehicle; . . . [and] ‘obtained information from an unknown source’ that Patrick was inside the vehicle at that location.” This charade continued through an evidentiary hearing, where the judge refused to allow the defense to coax more specific information out of the testifying officer. [E]ven at an evidentiary hearing where officers admitted to cellphone tracking, they would only acknowledge, cryptically, that they’d received “electronic information” confirming Patrick was in the vehicle. When Patrick’s attorney asked what “electronic information” meant, the officer on the stand would say only that it involved “tracking [a] cell phone.” The judge cut off any further questioning at that point. And that's where Katz-Lacabe's FOIA request played a significant role. Katz-Lacabe had obtained Stingray logs using Wisconsin's public records laws. Contained in those logs were Stingray deployments matching up to the government's tracking and locating of Damian Patrick. The government has now begrudgingly admitted as much, via a letter from the DOJ to the court regarding the Milwaukee Police Department's Stingray deployment. Per our conversation last week, the government has determined that on October 28, 2013, the Milwaukee Police Department used a cell site simulator to locate Damian Patrick. At this time, we do not intend to seek leave to supplement the record pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 10. The government is still arguing that the MPD complied with the Fourth Amendment, even if it never obtained a search warrant to deploy the Stingray. In any event, the affidavit it submitted (for what appears to be a pen register order, rather than a warrant) did not mention the use of a Stingray. Still, it argues no evidence should be suppressed… because circular reasoning. [T]he government also argues it didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment in this case because it actually got a warrant—or maybe, in the alternative, the equivalent of a warrant (the police had a warrant to arrest (not search) Patrick and a court order (not a search warrant) to track Patrick’s phone). In a confusing and somewhat circular argument, the government asserts that because it submitted a “sworn affidavit” in support of its request for the pen/trap order, the order must have actually been a search warrant—if it hadn’t been a warrant, then it “wouldn’t have needed a finding of probable cause, which it contained.” Dumping probable cause into a pen register application is a nice nod to the Fourth Amendment, but it's not required and it doesn't turn a court order into a warrant. An arrest warrant is not a search warrant, and it's likely the MPD would not have been able to serve its arrest warrant without the use of its Stingray-obscuring pen register order. The admission that Stingray surveillance should require the use of a warrant is, again, a nice nod to the Fourth Amendment, but it means nothing if that's not how the Milwaukee PD actually operates. And, yet again, the long battle to uncover evidence of Stingray tracking makes it clear the PD is hiding this information from judges when applying for court orders and warrants. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Recently, some Facebook staffers raised an interesting question: should the social media giant employ its significant power to stem the rise of Donald Trump? This week, we discuss that notion and the broader question: should the internet companies that influence so many aspects of our communication and information gathering use their position to pursue political goals? Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Let's take a trip in the wayback machine a bit. It's late October 2004, and Wired Magazine has just released its November issue, which has a cover story about how sampling is the future, in which the magazine was able to get a bunch of well-known artists to contribute Creative Commons licensed songs, which shipped with a physical CD (remember, this is back in the day) and were also posted online and free for people to share and to reuse and remix. The article about it is worth reading. It talks about the nature of creative artwork: Building on what other musicians have done – with or without their blessing or collaboration – is what it takes to make new music, music that will delight and sustain people. That, after all, is why it's called making music (playing music is something else altogether). Elvis Presley, that pioneer of appropriation, put it best: "Fair exchange bears no robbery, and the whole world will know that it's true. If you wanna be hugged, well, you gotta hug me too." It also talks a lot about Creative Commons and the efforts it took to get all these well-known artists to contribute their songs. Hell, the very same issue even (shockingly) included an article by former RIAA boss Hilary Rosen, talking about how much she now loved Creative Commons, after Larry Lessig convinced her to change her views. Lots of people wrote about all of this in one way or another. We, somewhat sarcastically (hey, what do you expect?) covered Rosen's conversion to being a CC supporter. Most of the coverage, however, focused (rightly) on the music. This included a young copyfighter named Derek Slater, who back in the olden days when blogs were blogs, wrote one on Harvard's website called A Copyfighter's Musings. He was so excited about the Wired issue and Creative Commons music CD that he wrote about it and posted the mp3s. This was, of course, all perfectly legal. These tracks were released under one of two Creative Commons licenses, but both allowed the basic tracks to be shared online. As the Wired article noted: The licenses come from Creative Commons, the innovative nonprofit founded by Wired columnist and Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig. The songs on this CD use one of two Creative Commons licenses.The Noncommercial Sampling Plus license permits noncommercial file-sharing and noncommercial sampling. That means, first, that you can swap the songs on a peer-to-peer network (just don't sell them). And second, that you can sample from them, mash them up, use them to make something fresh – and then share that work, too (though again, you can't sell it). The Beastie Boys, Chuck D, and My Morning Jacket opted for the Noncommercial Sampling Plus license. The other 13 artists on the CD went a step further and released their songs under the more expansive Sampling Plus license. Like the noncommercial version, it allows file-sharing. But it also allows commercial use of samples – meaning you can insert a slice of these songs into your own composition and then try to sell the new track. The only restrictions: Use in advertisements is not permitted, and the new work must be "highly transformative" of the original (translation: A flagrant rip-off like "Ice Ice Baby" doesn't cut it). More details on the licenses and their permissions are available at creativecommons.org/wired. Okay... enough reminiscing in the wayback machine. Fast forward to today, where record labels and their trade associations -- rather than helping the industry adapt -- are spending all their time whac'ing moles by sending pointless takedowns via automated systems that never bother to check the details. The IFPI -- basically the international version of the RIAA -- is particularly crappy at this, regularly caught sending totally bogus takedowns. As you've probably figured out, that historical world and today's world have clashed. IFPI, in its infinite (and most likely automated) cluelessness, has sent Harvard a DMCA takedown notice over one of the songs in the Wired Creative Commons collection -- the song "One Big Holiday" by the band My Morning Jacket. You can get it here because it's freely available thanks to Creative Commons. You would think (wouldn't you?) that before sending out takedown notices, folks like IFPI are supposed to check on the licensing situation around those songs and whether or not IFPI even has the right to send such a takedown. In this case, even if they control the copyright, they most certainly do not have the authority to send a takedown, because doing so violates the terms of the license which the copyright holder agreed to when the song was released. Thankfully, Harvard passed the notice along to Slater, who had lawyer Lila Bailey (occasional Techdirt guest poster) respond on Derek's behalf, basically saying, "IFPI, WTF?" By sending this notice, you have knowingly materially misrepresented that this content is infringing in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 512(f), resulting in personal harm and financial expense to my client. As a courtesy to you and without prejudice to any further action we may take, I am writing to inquire whether you wish to withdraw your takedown notice.... [....] Even the most basic investigation would have indicated that Mr. Slater's use is lawful and consistent with the Creative Commons license granted by the copyright owner. Under the United States Copyright Act, rightsholders are required to consider whether a use is lawful before issuing a takedown notice, and that requirement was plainly not followed here. This notice reflects an unfortunate pattern by IFPI, sending bogus takedown notices without any investigation into the rights status of the claimed works. Of course, as we've discussed in the past, 512(f) of the DMCA has been rendered mostly toothless by the courts, but a good case could potentially change that. And issuing a DMCA over Creative Commons released music seems like a good test case, yes? I'm guessing that IFPI will take back its bogus takedown notice, but one wonders if it will actually change how it sends these things...Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The insanity around Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his insanely thin skin is getting worse. As we've discussed, Erdogan has been going crazy suing anyone in Turkey who he claims insults him (over 1800 cases in just 18 months). And he's tried to take things internationally as well. Even when visiting the US, his team tried to silence the press. And then he whined about a song on a German TV station mocking him. That resulted in a German comic writing some more direct insults, and Erdogan somehow discovering a nearly forgotten German law that allows for criminal cases against anyone who insults a foreign leader. People are completely up in arms over the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the political choice and gave in to Erdogan's request, allowing the comedian, Jan Bohmermann, to face charges that could land him in jail. Merkel, the pundits claimed, "needed" to do this because she needs Erdogan's support in dealing with the refugee crisis going on right now. The one bone she threw to critics was that the law in question should be changed -- a process that is moving forward rapidly. Of course, all this has really done is increase attention to all of this (gee... doesn't that sound familiar?) and create more people mocking Erdogan and his thin skin. Bruno Kramm, the head of the German Pirate Party, went to the Turkish Embassy in Berlin and conducted a "literary analysis" of Bohmermann's satirical (if over the top) poem -- leading to Kramm being taken into custody by the police. Meanwhile Erdogan's assault on free speech in Europe is spreading. The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has apparently been urging Turkish nationals to send in reports of any insults directed at Erdogan. That comes right after the Netherlands realized that it has a similar law to Germany's and decided that it should probably get rid of it too: The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has urged Turkish nationals to report examples of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan being insulted and denigrating comments made about Turks in general, Dutch media say on Thursday afternoon. Various Turkish organisations in the Netherlands have been emailed by the consulate, urging them to make a note of the insults. The call comes a day after the Dutch government said it would scrap legislation which makes insulting a friendly head of state a criminal offence. And, it appears, the Turkish authorities are not messing around. Just as all of this was happening, Turkish police arrested a Dutch journalist, Ebru Umar, who was vacationing in Turkey, but who had just written a column critical of Erdogan (and had criticized Erdogan's supporters on Twitter). If Erdogan thinks this will actually suppress criticism, it appears he may have miscalculated. The biggest newspaper in the Netherlands released Monday's paper with a giant caricature of Erdogan as an ape crushing free speech: Wel benieuwd of De Telegraaf vandaag ook in de Turkse krantenkiosken te koop is... #Erdogan pic.twitter.com/dPNZBqEmip — Mike Muller (@_MikeMuller) April 25, 2016 And, that's not all. The Turkish consulate in Switzerland has filed an official complaint about an art exhibit in Geneva because, it turns out, Switzerland has a law like Germany and the Netherlands. It's quite amazing how Erdogan became such an expert on these laws in Europe so quickly... The Genevan authorities have confirmed that they have received a complaint from the Turkish consulate to Switzerland. Just like Germany, Swiss law contains a clause prohibiting insults towards foreign leaders. The offending photograph is part of an exhibition from photographer Demir Sonmez. The photo in question shows a protest in Istanbul in which a banner proclaims that Erdogan was responsible for the death of a teenager. Thankfully, it does not appear Erdogan has discovered a similar such law over in the UK, where The Spectator has launched a contest asking for the most offensive and insulting poetry about Erdogan. The price is £1,000 (and, I assume, a lifetime ban from visiting Turkey). Meanwhile, back in Turkey, a court in Istanbul has told the editor-in-chief of a local publication, Cumhuriyet, that he must pay approximately $10,000 for "insulting public figures" because the publications released some details on a probe into corruption. But the guy, Can Dundar, is still facing other charges around "espionage, attempting to overthrow the government, and revealing state secrets." He may be sentenced to life in prison for that. So, yeah, as amusing as this is from miles away, actual people doing basic things like reporting on facts are facing their entire lives being destroyed. In the end, a quote from a Turkish expat, Orhan Selim Bayraktar, living in the Netherlands and working for the main opposition party to Erdogan's made the most sense -- asking why someone so thin-skinned is in politics at all. As Bayraktar told Sputnik News: "If the president does not want to be criticized and insulted, he should leave the political arena. Because for me, as a politician, it's obvious that if you choose to enter politics, you will have enemies who will insult you, and friends who praise you. If you cannot get used to this, you have no business being in politics. The Turkish president should abandon the persecution of his own citizens. He must serve as the guarantor of our freedoms, instead of assisting in their limitation." Seems like common sense. But there's apparently no room for that in Turkey.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've written many times about how copyright is frequently used for censorship, and just recently we wrote about law professor John Tehranian's excellent article detailing how copyright has a free speech problem, in that people using copyright to censor has become more common and more brazen. Whenever we write this kind of thing, however, I get pushback from copyright maximalist lobbyists and lawyers, who insist that no one really wants to use copyright for censorship purposes, but merely to "protect" their works. I'm finding those claims difficult to square with the following story, which I only found out about because the Copyright Alliance -- a front group for the big legacy entertainment companies, and put together by some well known lobbyists -- tweeted out a link to a story on a blog by Hugh Stephens, entitled A Whale of a (Copyright) Tale. Stephens is a former copyright policy guy for Time Warner as well as a former diplomat, who blogs about copyright issues in Canada. He happily tells the tale of how the Vancouver Aquarium has successfully blocked filmmaker Gary Charbonneau, who made a documentary critical of the Aquarium's treatment of dolphins and whales, from using clips from the Aquarium's website. In the original version of the documentary, approximately five minutes of the hour-long film came from clips he pulled from the Aquarium's own website. The Aquarium wanted to get the entire film blocked by the court, giving you a pretty clear vision of how they were looking to censor the film. While the courts have not gone that far, they did order Charbonneau to make a new edit and remove all of those clips. Stephens not only thinks this is a perfectly grand solution, he mocks Charbonneau for not having thought more carefully about the copyright issues here (really): Charbonneau may be facing substantial damages if he is found to have violated the Aquarium’s copyright. You would think that Charbonneau, as a film-maker and creator himself, would have given this greater thought. It would have been so much simpler and straightforward to have taken a little more care to consider the implications of using copyrighted content without permission, and accessing clearly-legal alternate sources if necessary. That is the true moral of this story. Wow. It's as if Stephens has no idea that filmmakers regularly rely on fair use -- and that's especially true of documentary filmmakers. It's why, here in the US, there's been a big movement to build best practices concerning fair use to help better protect documentary filmmakers in making use of the works of others. Yes, this case is in Canada, rather than the US, and they have a somewhat different set of rules involving fair dealing, but let's cut through the semantics and get to the basics: The Vancouver Aquarium did not need copyright to produce videos to put on its website. It made those videos to help market the aquarium. The Vancouver Aquarium did not sue Charbonneau because they were concerned about copyright. The Vancouver Aquarium did not sue Charbonneau because they were protecting the vast licensing market for the marketing videos they put on their website. The Vancouver Aquarium sued Charbonneau because they don't like his film, wanted to make life difficult for him and wanted to censor the film. And copyright maximalist lawyers and lobbyists are cheering this on. I guess it's good that they're making their true colors known, but it is rather sickening. The details of the case just make this look more and more ridiculous. The Aquarium claimed -- and the judge accepted -- that leaving the clips up in the movie while a full trial happened would create "irreparable harm." What possible irreparable harm would happen here? Yes, the Vancouver Aquarium's reputation may be harmed, but that's not a copyright issue. Again, it's difficult to see what copyright related harm could possibly come from this. Would it harm the Aquarium's ability to license those clips? It's hard to believe there's a very big market for that. And, even if there were, that's the kind of thing where a monetary remedy would fix any such harm. The only conceivable harm comes from what would normally be protected speech if one actually supported freedom of expression. Hell, even the Aquarium more or less admits that it brought this lawsuit not because of any copyright issue, but because they don't like Charbonneau's message: The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre said in a statement it's pleased with the decision. The centre said it's seeking to protect copyrighted materials developed to raise awareness about ocean conservation. "We feel strongly that the conservation, research and education programs we lead need to be fairly represented and protected from those who choose to deliberately make false claims," said the statement. So sue him for defamation, not copyright infringement. Stephens, in his blog, also suggests that it's no big deal for Charbonneau to re-edit the film without those clips, because Charbonneau was quoted elsewhere saying many of those clips "were filler." I must admit, I always find it quite comical how those who claim to represent the interests of artists then think that it's fine for lawyers and judges to make artistic choices for the content creators. Charbonneau had creative reasons for using those clips. We should be quite worried when lawyers, lobbyists, judges and diplomats suddenly think that they're in the business of deciding which creative choices are allowed and which are not. So, remember this story the next time you see these people claiming that (1) they stand up for the artist or (2) that copyright is not used for censorship. They're lying.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 10 days ago on techdirt
There are a bunch of different cases going on right now concerning the FBI secretly running a hidden Tor-based child porn site called Playpen for two weeks, and then hacking the users of the site with malware in order to identify them. The courts, so far, have been fine with the FBI's overall actions of running the site, but there are increasing questions about how it hacked the users. In FBI lingo, they used a "network investigative technique" or a NIT to hack into those computers, but the FBI really doesn't want to talk about the details. In one case, it was revealed that the warrant used by the FBI never mentions either hacking or malware, suggesting that the FBI actively misled the judge. In another one of the cases, a judge has declared the use of the NIT to be illegal searches, mainly based on jurisdictional questions (the warrants were for Virginia, but the individuals were far away from there). In yet another case, the one involving Jay Michaud -- his lawyers have now told the court that the DOJ has made it clear that despite the court ruling earlier this year that the FBI must reveal the details of the NIT/hacking tool, it will not do so (first revealed by Brad Heath). The redacted filing is in response to a (sealed) motion for reconsideration by the DOJ, but reveals more or less what the DOJ said in that filing: If you can't see that, the relevant portion reads: The Government has now made plain that the FBI will not comply with the Court's discovery order... [REDACTED]... The Government further acknowledges that "there may be consequences for this refusal." [REDACTED] Pursuant to the law discussed below, the consequences are straightforward: the prosecution must now choose between complying with the Court's discovery order and dismissing the case..... The dilemma is one entirely of the Government's own making, and nothing in its Motion for Reconsideration or renewed requests for secret proceedings changes the analysis. The filing goes on to point out how the FBI has similarly been refusing to reveal details of its Stingray mobile phone surveillance tools (something we've discussed here quite a bit), leading to convictions being overturned. As Michaud's lawyers point out, the situation here is basically the same. If the FBI refuses to obey a court order, then the case should be dropped. As the Maryland court observed, the FBI’s obstruction of disclosure “from special order and/or warrant application through appellate review – prevents the court from exercising its fundamental duties under the constitution.” ... “[I]t is self-evident that the court must understand why and how [a] search was conducted,” and “[t]he analytical framework requires analysis of the functionality of the surveillance device and the range of information potentially revealed by its use.” ... These conclusions mirror the conclusions reached by this Court at the February 17 hearing. The filing also highlights how important it is to get the details, noting that the FBI has a history of incorrectly raiding homes because it doesn't understand how Tor works: The Government’s refusal to comply with the discovery order is all the more untenable given the exceptional technical complexities that are involved with the Tor network and the FBI’s use of sophisticated hacking “techniques.” Just a few weeks ago, Seattle police raided the home of two people who use the Tor network, based on an allegation that their IP addresses had been linked to child pornography, when in fact illicit traffic had merely passed through their connection to the network..... But perhaps even more amusing, the lawyers point out how the DOJ/FBI's claims here run exactly counter to the DOJ/FBI's arguments about Apple's obligation to respond to the DOJ's court order to help unlock encrypted phones: Their complaint is that the DOJ said that Apple could use a secure location to keep the code safe, but rejects such a solution here -- but the comparison could go even deeper. After all, the DOJ kept saying that Apple was acting as if it was above the law in telling the FBI that it would not write special software to help break into a phone. Yet, here, the request is much more straightforward. The FBI doesn't have to write any new code at all... it just has to reveal what it has been told to reveal by a court: the software it used to hack into someone's computer. Of course, there's also the fact that because of the whole Apple/DOJ fight, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr started pushing a bill to ban encryption that opens with the following: Somehow, I get the feeling that both Feinstein and Burr will feel differently when it's the FBI/DOJ refusing to comply with court orders, and will claim the government is correct here. I wonder if anyone else in the Senate will now release a companion bill to the Burr/Feinstein bill suggesting that the DOJ itself should start complying with court orders, as it is not "above the law."Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 10 days ago on techdirt
For several years now we've noted how instead of adapting to the cord cutting age, many in the cable and broadcast industry have responded with the not-so-ingenious approach of aggressive denial, raising rates as fast as humanly possible, and stuffing even more ads into every television hour. And when broadcasters can't get the ads to fit, they'll just resort to speeding up or editing programs to ensure that they're hammering paying customers with more ads than ever. Given the rise in alternative viewing options, this obviously isn't the most ingenious form of market adaptation. But in a sign that somebody over at the Comcast NBC Universal media empire is at least making a fleeting attempt at sector evolution, the company has announced that it will be dramatically reducing ad loads in some programs. More specifically, the company says it will be reducing the advertising load in each episode of "Saturday Night Live" by around 30%:"NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is paring down its commercial load, with plans to cut about 30% of ads out of the sketch comedy show next season. It will do this by removing two commercial breaks per episode, giving viewers more content, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman-advertising sales and client partnerships, NBC Universal."The catch? The company's going to be experimenting with more native, sponsored, and product placement advertising as part of the attempt to combat cord cutting and ad-skipping simultaneously:"And for advertisers, NBC will also be offering a limited opportunity to partner with "SNL" to create original branded content. These native pods will only occur six times a year, Ms. Yaccarino said. "As the decades have gone by, commercial time has grown," Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer, "Saturday Night Live," said in a statement. "This will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live."While it's not entirely clear what these "native pods" will exactly look like, it's not so much an evolution in advertising as it is a return to the bygone era of fifties TV sponsored product placement:This isn't NBC's first flirtation with making a 180 industry turn back to content of this type, and the company has previously stated that advertisers can pay $300,000 or more just to get their feet in the door with product placement and native ads. And while quality and humor are certainly subjective, the problem is NBC's past experiments on this front really aren't that funny, and occasionally stumble into what feels like desperation. That opens the door to damaging your brand if your attempt to pitch laundry detergent or pharmaceuticals during a sketch is too ham-fisted. NBC and advertisers are responding to the fact that prime time ratings and traditional cable TV subscribers continue to drop. Nielsen (the same company that used to call cord cutting "purely fiction") notes that most broadcasters continued to see up to a 4.1% decline in the number of homes tuning in to traditional television last month. That's again thanks to both cord cutting and "cord trimming," or the act of cutting back on the number of channels or premium networks a users subscribes to -- both in turn a response to high prices, restrictive viewing options, and flagging quality. And while creatively experimenting with how ads get delivered is certainly part of the solution, it's not going to be a substitute for the one thing broadcasters (and by proxy cable companies) have been totally unwilling to do: offer the same content at a lower price. Ultimately the sector's going to have to take it on the chin, lose significantly more money, and begin seriously competing on channel bundle flexibility and price. That's an utterly unappealing proposition for an industry used to raising prices at four-times the rate of inflation, but the alternative is letting pesky, innovative upstarts walk away with legions of younger, disenfranchised television viewers.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Techdirt has naturally been following closely the battles over government attempts to bring in ever-more intrusive surveillance laws, particularly in the US, UK, and China, which are some of the worst culprits in this regard. But it's important to remember that this is a struggle that is taking place all around the world, even in the smaller countries that often get overlooked by mainstream media. For example, Georgia -- the country, not the state -- is witnessing exactly the same tussle between the politicians and the courts that we find elsewhere, as reported here on the civil.ge site: Georgia's Constitutional Court ruled on April 14 that legislation allowing security agency to have direct, unrestricted access to telecom operators' networks to monitor communications is unconstitutional. As the article explains, the key issue is over the use of "black boxes" sitting on communication service providers' networks. In 2014, efforts were made to address concerns that the system would be abused, by adopting the following approach: Legislation gave the office of personal data protection inspector the right to electronically authorize law enforcement agencies' lawful interception of communications once there was a relevant court warrant -- this system, involving security agency having direct access to telecom operators servers and personal data inspector having power to authorize monitoring is informally called "two-key" model. The passage of the the two-key legislation was fraught: it was adopted by the Georgian Parliament, vetoed by the Georgian President and then reinstated by the Parliament. As a result, complaints were lodged with the country's Constitutional Court, which has just handed down its judgment against the two-key system. One of the problems, the judges said, was the following: The State Security Service possesses technical capabilities for eavesdropping and monitoring online communications, which allow mass (actually unrestricted) collection of personal information in real time. The court was also unhappy with the metadata retention allowed by the legislation: The court said that retention of metadata for 2 years represents "unreasonably lengthy period of time, which results into disproportionate interference into [constitutional] rights." After making both of those reasonable comments, the judges went on to give the Georgian politicians a reasonable amount of time to sort things out: The Constitutional Court said that it understands "fundamental legislative amendments, as well as institutional and technical application of the new system", stemming from this verdict, requires time and for that reason it set March 31, 2017 as the deadline for implementing this decision of the court. All in all, Georgia emerges rather well from this episode, with democratic processes working as they should, and constitutional judges doing a good job. If only the same could be said for all the other countries going through the same painful experience. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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