posted 11 days ago on techdirt
"Better than nothing" appears to be the motto of the House of Representatives' attempt to implement Section 702 reforms before the end of the year. The USA Liberty Act was introduced in October, bringing with it a few minor alterations to the NSA's collection efforts. Perhaps the best thing about the bill was its codification of the NSA's retirement of its "about" email collection. This would prevent the NSA from restarting a collection responsible for the greatest "incidental" harvesting of domestic communications (that we know of). It also would expand reporting requirements for agencies making use of Section 702 collections as well as extend whistleblower protections to government contractors. Unfortunately, the bill does not close the loophole allowing "backdoor" searches of domestic communications collected by the program. Beyond that, Section 702 stays pretty much intact. It's better than leaving it unaltered, but it's far less comprehensive (in terms of reforms) than the option introduced in the Senate by Ron Wyden. Unfortunately, the Senate is far more likely to pass the zero reform effort offered by the NSA's oversight -- one that allows the NSA to restart its "about" collection, as well as expand the number of criminal activities that will justify backdoor searches of NSA data stores. That's the bill that's already advanced, according to David Ruiz of the EFF, who brings more bad tidings along with this news. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved the USA Liberty Act, a surveillance reform package introduced last month by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI). The bill is seen by many as the best option for reauthorizing and reforming Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which is set to expire in less than two months. Some committee members described feeling forced to choose between supporting stronger surveillance reforms or advancing the Liberty Act, and voiced their frustration about provisions that only partly block the warrantless search of Americans’ communications when an amendment with broader surveillance reforms was introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX). Complicating their deliberations was the fact that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has already reported out a bill with far fewer surveillance protections. The more stringent amendment has been stiff-armed by Congressional leadership, who have made it clear they'll kill the entire reform bill if this amendment remains attached. Still, the Lofgren/Poe amendment has its supporters, but this support is largely composed of representatives on the wrong side of political equation. In a Republican-led house, the support of scattered Democrats is pretty much useless. House leadership apparently does not want Section 702 to undergo any serious reforms. So, it's let representatives know they can have a watered-down reform bill or nothing at all. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)... appeared frustrated with the situation: “I’ll put on record that I resent being held hostage by leadership that does not know the intensity of the work and the responsibilities of the judiciary committee.” This is how things work in the beltway. Top reps with the power to kill bills are willing to nod briefly at reform, but unwilling to undertake the sort of effort required to rein in the NSA and several domestic agencies with access to 702 collections. The administration has made it clear it's not interested in changing a thing in terms of surveillance, giving Congressional leaders all the reason they need to continue toeing the line. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 12 days ago on techdirt
This week, in response to our post about Playboy suing BoingBoing for linking to a collection of centerfold pictures, one commenter suggested they should have known they crossed a "proverbial line in the sand" that would draw legal attention, leading an anonymous responder to win first place on the insightful side by pointing out why that, in and of itself, is the problem: You’ve just described the “chilling effect” you get a silver star. To go for the gold, describe in one paragraph why this is a bad thing. In second place, we've got a short, sweet and perfect response from Rich Kulawiec to the latest example of a company bricking devices because it doesn't want to support them anymore: One more time, for the slow learners If your device depends on someone's cloud service, then it's not YOUR device. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of responses to bad cops. First, it's freedomfan responding to the deputy who shot a family's terrier and complained about the cost of the bullet: Two things. First, someone sincerely claiming that he feared for his safety when "attacked" by a twelve-pound rat terrier isn't suited for police work. Full stop. Policing is a job where officers need to respond with restraint to serious threats. Responding with deadly force to a minuscule (in every since) threat like this shows a disqualifying inability to assess threats. [Some would doubt that the tiny-dog-killing cop was sincere. Perhaps so. There are certainly people with an irrational fear of dogs. But, it's also true that cops are trained to put certain words in a police report when they have discharged a weapon. Either way (irrationally fearful of commonplace things or lying in a police report), they should be fired.] Second, what attitude did this cop have when he did this? For certain, his attitude was not, "I work for these people and this is their pet." In other words, the "Serve" part of Protect and Serve was missing from his attitude. This I'm-in-charge attitude is too commonplace at all levels of government, from law enforcement to politicians. They forget our fundamental civics: In America, we elect our servants, not our rulers. The same is true for non-elected public servants; we are paying these people to serve us, not to be our bosses. They think that the badge signifies that they are in charge in any situation and that everyone else is supposed to obey them, making with the yessirs and nosirs. Except in cases where a serious threat exists (which was not the case here), those servants have it reversed. Until people wake up and demand that their servants act the part, the dog-killings, the beatings, the forced cavity searches, the head stompings, etc. will continue. Newt, it's Anonymous Anonymous Coward with a response to the cop who lost immunity after shooting and headstomping an injured suspect: Cop: I am allowed to do anything I wan't in order to get home for dinner. District Court: OK Appeals Court: No your not, and to boot this appeal has to be paid for by the public, maybe or maybe not sorry for that last. Where in the hell was the District Courts head at? Where in the hell was the cop's head at? Why is this type of behavior continued to be allowed? The answers come from where the supervisors and managers and therefore the trainers of the cops involved heads are at, as well as the District Court's thinking, as well as the rest of the organizations that comprise 'officialdom' of the police estate. Their purpose is not to kill and/or stomp the heads of anyone they suspect, but to bring them to the halls of justice where by the US Constitution they are considered innocent until proven guilty. Full stop. Innocent until PROVEN guilty by a court (and usually with a jury of the defendants peers), and a court that does not take the police at their word but requires evidence, that at least in theory, requires more than the officers word. Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to the accusations against David Boies regarding a spy operation against Weinstein's accusers, which included an investigator under the alias "Diana Filip", with the story prompting Boies to claim "that is not who I am." Roger Strong wasn't really buying it: Uh huh. And I'm sure that "Diana Filip" will claim "I'm a different person now." In second place on the funny side, we have a comment from McGyver regarding the DOJ finally dropping its case against the protestor who laughed during Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing: If laughter is the best medicine, then someone has to control it and overcharge for it... You can't just be laughing out loud for free...? In this case look at the harm it did to poor Jeff Sessions... He'll never be the same... I bet he wakes up at night in a cold sweat thinking of that laughter. What we need is for the Republicans to set up a task force to understand this laugher crisis and how it is unsettling our wise and benevolent leaders... They should first ask Hollywood or Disney to write the laws on this so we care be sure it's fair and doesn't disrupt their profit margins... Then they should go after all unlicensed comics and and funny people that instigate wonton merriment and destructive humor. We'll then need a well funded Bureau of Laughter, Humor and Levity to be immediately set up to control this problem. Think of the children. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous response to Taylor Swift's legal threats against a blogger: Trying to silence a critic is one thing... But demanding that she invents a time machine to retract her statements? That's going a bit too far, methinks. And finally, we return to the story about the DOJ dropping its "laughter" case, where Capt ICE Enforcer was surprised by a key realization: My child was right. Wow, I guess there is a thing called the Fun Police... That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 13 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago This week in 2012, while Twitter was improving its DMCA policy, YouTube copyright claims managed to take down a viral video of a 9-year-old football star and, of course, a video all about fair use and remix culture, just as noted asshole Craig Brittain was launching his DMCA abuse strategy with Popehat in the crosshairs. And the Harry Fox Agency somehow managed to claim copyright over 164-year-old Johann Strauss music, while shortsighted publishers managed to extract a hefty ruling against lyric websites. Ten Years Ago This week in 2007, the huge Writers' Guild strike began, causing all kinds of ripple effects in Hollywood, though not interfering with the Senate's attempts to turn the DOJ into Hollywood's police force. The entertainment industry was really figuring out how to use DRM and the DMCA to stifle innovation by shutting down a DVD jukebox, even as Blu-Ray DRM was being rapidly cracked and other DRM was turning up security holes — not to mention MLB screwing over a bunch of fans who purchased content by changing their DRM scheme and making that content disappear. Fifteen Years Ago This week in 2002 was pretty much exactly the same on the DRM front, with BMG striving to copy-protect all CDs sold in Europe and EMI taking a similar attitude, while two of the biggest names in copy protection technology were merging to join forces in the futile fight, I suppose not listening to the computer scientists pointing out that CD copy protection is worthless But what else could the music industry do? Online CD sales were falling, and who could they possibly blame but pirates? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
Just last week we discussed the alarming trend in media companies for putting in place restrictive social media policies for their employees, including their opinion commentators. In that post, we focused on how this move is both dumb and bad for two reasons. First, restricting the opinions of those followed by the public for their opinions is flatly nonsensical. Second, the goal of these policies -- to have the public view companies as non-partisan -- is simply a fantasy in these hyper-partisan times. Nobody is going to decide that the New York Times or Wall Street Journal are suddenly bastions of non-partisanship simply because either muzzled its staff. But there is another negative consequence of these policies that the original post didn't touch: it paints a target on the backs of the employees it governs. Because of, again, hyper-partisanship that has reached true trolling levels, these social media policies will be wielded like a cudgel by every trollish dissenter that doesn't like a particular media outlet. The New York Times, for example, is already having to endure this. This is the same twerp who tried to get me fired for making fun of Milo. pic.twitter.com/nsLkUco6sG — Asher Langton (@AsherLangton) November 7, 2017 You can see what I mean. Because of a social media policy looking to strip anything that might even appear partisan from the social media output of its employees, the New York Times has given true partisans a weapon to wield. A weapon, I might add, vague enough to be a perfect weapon for trollish behavior. When a pair of quotation marks around a word can be used to threaten someone's employment, particularly when the person threatening has a history of contacting the employers of journalists, we have a problem. The solution to this is quite simple. Any media property, conservative or liberal, that is contacted by someone like this bitching about partisan reporting, should have but one response for that person: shove off. Particularly in the realm of opinion politics, cries of bias have reached the level of wolf-crying. It's expected, it means nothing, and it is easily ignored. Again, I mean for that to apply to both sides of the political aisle. But the social media policy disrupts the New York Times' ability to flick away the concerns of a partisan booger. Because of the policy, the booger must be heard and, I imagine, the booger's claims must be validated or invalidated. That, in case it wasn't clear, is fairly stupid and counterproductive. Stop arming boogers, media companies. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
You may recall that Sega released its title Sonic Mania earlier this year, without bothering to inform anyone that the game came laden with Denuvo DRM and an always-online requirement. While Sega eventually patched the always-online requirement out, Denuvo remained, as did a hefty number of viciously negative Steam reviews from gamers that couldn't play the game as they intended or who were simply pissed off that DRM like Denuvo was included without mention to the public. Well, Sega just released another game, Sonic Forces, and once again the complaints are rolling in. This time, however, gamers are blaming Denuvo for flat out breaking the game completely. Sonic Forces has already had a bit of an uphill battle to face releasing after Sonic Mania, but it looks like PC users are going to have an even rougher time of it. Thanks to the magic of Denuvo DRM, most users can't even progress past the second level in the game. Upon reaching the first mission with your custom avatar, the game promptly crashes with little explanation. Sega has been diligent in quickly issuing a patch, at least. So Sega was again quick to issue a patch, but the company should have learned by now that you cannot patch a first impression with your customers. It's important to note that Sonic Forces is a console port to PC, and it is having a myriad of other problems that customers are complaining about, but the reviews for the game are still being weighed down by customers who couldn't play past the second level. The Destructoid post seems to think this should have been hashed out during testing. I know with a lot of PC ports, issues can come down to user hardware configurations. It can be hard to determine whether a person experiencing slowdown or crashes is having a legitimate problem or something on their end. An issue like crashes based on Denuvo, though, is something that should have been noticeable to anyone in the QA department. The easier strategy would be to simply not have any crashes due to Denuvo by not using it at all. After all, it's not like this particular DRM is in any way useful, anyway. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
We have been talking a lot lately about how important Section 230 is for enabling innovation and fostering online speech, and, especially as Congress now flirts with erasing its benefits, how fortuitous it was that Congress ever put it on the books in the first place. But passing the law was only the first step: for it to have meaningful benefit, courts needed to interpret it in a way that allowed for it to have its protective effect on Internet platforms. Zeran v. America Online was one of the first cases to test the bounds of Section 230's protection, and the first to find that protection robust. Had the court decided otherwise, we likely would not have seen the benefits the statute has since then afforded. This Sunday the decision in Zeran turns 20 years old, and to mark the occasion Eric Goldman and Jeff Kosseff have gathered together more than 20 essays from Internet lawyers and scholars reflecting on the case, the statute, and all of its effects. I have an essay there, "The First Hard Case: ‘Zeran v. AOL’ and What It Can Teach Us About Today’s Hard Cases," as do many other advocates, including lawyers involved with the original case. Even people who are not fans of Section 230 and its legacy are represented. All of these pieces are worth reading and considering, especially by anyone interested in setting policy around these issues. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
So much of the debate about SESTA has focused on three companies: Backpage, Facebook and Google. The focus on Backpage was because it's the go to example for why some claim this bill is needed (even though Congress passed another law two years ago to target Backpage, and that law has never been used, and even though there's already a federal grand jury investigating Backpage and there's nothing that stops the DOJ from going after Backpage under federal law). The focus on Facebook and Google is a bit more nebulous, but could be summed up as: "those companies are too big and should do more to stop bad stuff happening online." There's a pretty easy path from "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says internet platforms aren't responsible for what their users do" to "we need them to be more responsible" to "let's amend CDA 230." This line of thinking is problematic for any number of reasons that we've already discussed, so I won't go over them again now. But, as we've tried to explain, SESTA doesn't just impact Backpage, Facebook and Google. Indeed, Facebook and Google are uniquely positioned to handle the burdens (bogus takedowns, trollish threats, baseless litigation) enabled by SESTA. We've already shown how SESTA leaves small sites like our own at tremendous risk (and we're still waiting for anyone -- but especially the bill's authors -- to explain how we avoid that risk), but lots and lots of other sites will be impacted as well. Take Wikipedia for example. The Wikimedia Foundation has published an excellent article describing how Wikipedia only exists because of CDA 230 and how it creates the space for a site driven entirely by its userbase to exist. More importantly, the article, by Wikimedia's Leighanna Mixter, details three ways in which SESTA puts Wikipedia at serious risk by upsetting the careful balance created by CDA 230. And here's where it's important to remind people that CDA 230 actually does two things. Many of its largest critics, incorrectly, think that all CDA 230 does is give websites a free pass to ignore everything that happens on their platform. But it also encourages sites to moderate activity that they don't want on their platform by noting that they don't lose their immunity in doing some forms of moderation. It's this part of CDA 230 that gets less attention, but is potentially more important. And yet SESTA rips that apart. That leads to Wikimedia's first concern: 1. Website operators need freedom to review content without legal risks The fundamental goal of Section 230 is to keep the internet free and safe by encouraging operators to host free expression and remove problematic content without the disincentive of possible lawsuits. SESTA introduces a vague standard for website operators that expands liability for “knowing” support of certain criminal activity. This will encourage websites to avoid gaining knowledge about content (to avoid liability) instead of actively engaging in content moderation. The post then drills down (as we have) to explain why the knowledge standard in SESTA (even as updated) leaves Wikipedia in serious danger. Because Wikipedia is maintained by thousands upon thousands of volunteers -- what will constitute "knowledge" of illegal behavior. If one of the volunteers comes across links to sex trafficking and fails to remove them, does that mean all of Wikipedia has "knowledge"? Do all editors of Wikipedia now need to be deputized to respond to sex trafficking issues? Does Wikipedia need to stop allowing volunteer editing (its entire basis of existing) and switch only to paid editors? A second problem with SESTA is how it opens up any web platform to a whole variety of state laws that smaller sites are unlikely to be able to follow and understand (and which can change over time). SESTA would amend Section 230 to allow, for the first time, civil and criminal liability for websites under state law as well as federal law in cases where the federal sex trafficking law has also been broken. This improves upon an earlier version of the bill, which would have allowed for much broader liability under state law. Website operators should not have to monitor and attempt to comply with differing laws in all 50 states. Doing so would require substantial time and resources just to stay aware of new laws and ensure compliance, which would be particularly difficult for a small company or nonprofit like the Wikimedia Foundation. It also would put operators in an impossible bind if two states passed laws with contradictory requirements. Finally, perhaps the biggest concern is how SESTA opens up smaller sites to what's likely to be myriad new lawsuits, in part because people will be testing the contours of the new law, but also because the standards in the law are so vague. Again, Facebook and Google can handle themselves when faced with lawsuits. Smaller sites? Not so much. As we expressed in our earlier post, small sites like our own and other individually owned blogs will have tremendous difficulty dealing with frivolous lawsuits under the law, but even Wikipedia notes that this would be very damaging. When plaintiffs target online speech, they often go after the website, not the speaker. It can be difficult to track down individual users, and suing a website may appear to be more lucrative. For two decades, Section 230 has protected websites with a shield from civil liability for user-created content. Critically, Section 230 does not prevent websites from being held responsible for their own actions — websites that are directly involved in illegal activities can already be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. However, SESTA would open up websites to more liability under federal and state law, likely resulting in increased litigation. Some of these lawsuits will be legitimate responses to improper conduct by websites; others may simply target the website over the speaker as an easier way to attack online speech. Even if these lawsuits are meritless, getting them dismissed demands significant time and resources. Small internet companies, startups, and nonprofit websites like the Wikimedia projects lack the resources to defend against a flood of lawsuits. Websites shouldn’t be sued into the ground, or afraid to even launch, simply because of holes in Section 230’s protections. Any amendments to Section 230 must take into account their effects not just on large, well-funded tech companies, but on startups and nonprofit organizations as well. For many people supporting SESTA, the discussion seems to start and end with "sex trafficking is bad, this bill says it targets sex trafficking and therefore it's good" (and maybe with a touch of "if it hurts big internet companies, that's fine, they deserve it.") But, the impact of SESTA goes way beyond that (not to mention it doesn't actually do anything to stop sex trafficking and could make the problem worse). It's good to see Wikimedia speak up -- and hopefully someone in Congress will finally start to understand why SESTA is such a bad bill. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
Looking through the history of our posts on the topics of fair use and fair dealing, you find plenty of examples for why these exceptions to copyright law are so important. These exceptions are, at their heart, designed to be boons to the public in the form of an increased output in creative expression, educational material, and public commentary on matters of public interest by untethering the more restrictive aspects of copyright law from those efforts. Without fair use and fair dealing, copyright laws are open for use as weapons of censorship against unwanted content, rather than being used for their original purpose of increasing expression and content. Still, in the history of those posts, you might struggle to find what you would consider the perfect example of why fair use laws are necessary. Well, look no more, because we have that example in the case of the production company behind The Cosby Show suing the makers of a documentary entitled Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon. The production company that made The Cosby Show has sued the BBC (.pdf) over a documentary the British network aired about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Carsey-Werner, the production company that is the plaintiff in the case, says that the documentary is infringing its copyright because it uses eight audiovisual clips and two musical cues from The Cosby Show The complaint lists eight video clips that are used in the documentary. All are between seven and 23 seconds long, except for one clip that lasts 51 seconds. Adding together the time that viewers are either seeing a clip or listening to one of the musical cues, lawyers for the plaintiff say that "the Infringed Works were either seen or heard (or both) in Fall for a total of 234 seconds," or a total of 6.5% of the hour-long documentary. Those clips, totaling less than four minutes of total run-time, were enough for the Carsey-Werner Company to file this suit, complaining that the clips were unlicensed and, therefore, infringing upon its copyright of the show. The complaint also insists that the documentary could have and should have been made without those clips at all, indicating that this is not a fight over lost licensing revenue, but the use of the clips at all. Even more absurdly, the complaint claims that the documentary used the clips because the filmmakers knew that clips of The Cosby Show would "appeal to viewers." Anyone with a cursory knowledge of fair use laws will realize that the use of the clips in this case is obviously protected for any number of reasons. The clips are short in length and in no way compete with the original show. The purpose of using the clips is not to compete with the show at all, in any case. Finally, the use of the clips is undertaken as part of a commentary on a public and maligned figure in Bill Cosby. Literally everything about this screams for a fair use defense, all the way up to and including the fact that the clips weren't used to "appeal" to viewers at all, but rather to show Cosby's one-time status as an American icon and, I surmise, to give viewers the impression that watching the shows knowing what we know now is just kind of gross. There's simply no way to make this documentary properly without including some clips of the show. Norma Acland, Carsey-Werner's general counsel, seemed to acknowledge as much when asked if any licensing agreement would even have been entertained. When I suggested Carsey-Werner might decline to license any clips at all for a documentary about criminal allegations against Bill Cosby, Acland said the right to decline licensing is "one of the major parts of being a copyright owner, isn't it?" Asked whether Carsey-Werner would have agreed to license clips for the documentary at all, Acland said, "I don't know the answer to that. But at least we would have had the choice, wouldn't we?" Except that removing that choice from the copyright holder is the very purpose of fair use laws. And it's important too. The Cosby documentary is a perfect example of this: it's about a public figure involved in allegations of sex crimes that are certainly in the public interest, therefore no commentary should be under threat by the copyright holder of that public figure's work. To suggest otherwise is plainly against the public interest and, frankly, more than a bit crazy. I asked Acland if she was concerned about the possible implications on freedom of speech if copyright owners could stop documentarians from using television clips without permission and payment. "I didn't realize you wanted to have a conversation about that," she said, declining to answer questions related to free speech. One imagines Acland will be forced to speak on this topic at trial, should it ever get that far. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
By now, most Techdirt readers are well aware that net neutrality violations are just a symptom of the lack of competition specifically in the broadband industry. If we had lawmakers that were genuinely interested in policies that improve competition, we wouldn't need net neutrality rules protecting consumers from often-unchecked duopoly power. In the absence of said competition -- or lawmakers willing to stand up to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- the FCC's current net neutrality rules, however imperfect, are the next best thing. And to be clear, net neutrality is something specific to the uncompetitive telecom industry. Yet we've watched for years as people have tried to take the concept and apply it to other, competitive sectors. AT&T, for example, has tried to foist regulations on Google by insisting the company violates "search neutrality." Other folks, like Blackberry CEO John Chen, have similarly tried to push regulation on Google and Apple by trying to insist we need protections for "app neutrality." Usually, these folks are only interested in saddling their own competitors with additional regulation, not actually improving the internet. These folks consistently ignore the fact that this is an apples to oranges comparison. You don't need search or app store neutrality rules because those markets are actually competitive. While there are certainly some exceptions, users offended by Google or Apple's app store policies, privacy practices, or search engine behaviors have the choice of using a myriad of other services. The same can't be said of the broadband industry, where 75% of the public technically only has one choice for broadband (as defined by the FCC at 25 Mbps). These problems aren't directly comparable. And while Al Franken has been a welcome and outspoken defender of net neutrality, he too fell into this trap this week during a speech given at the Open Markets Institute, a think tank devoted to fighting monopoly power. While engaged in a well-intentioned rant warning of the perils of unchecked social media power at the likes of Facebook, Franken conflated net neutrality with, well, something else entirely: As tech giants become a new kind of internet gatekeeper, I believe the same basic principles of net neutrality should apply here: no one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t. And Facebook, Google, and Amazon – like ISPs – should be “neutral” in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platforms. Following years of hard work and dedication, we found in the Open Internet Order a strong and time-tested framework to protect net neutrality. While we fight to preserve the Order, we must now begin a thorough examination of big tech’s practices in order to secure the free flow of information on the internet. Again though, net neutrality isn't this universal concept you can just pick up and apply to other markets to try and make a point. And conflating the uncompetitive duopoly shitshow that is the telecom market with more competitive social media markets just doesn't work. Users can and should choose to not visit Facebook if they find the company's ethics troubling. You can use Duck Duck Go if you're understandably wary about Google's schnoz up in your business. There are options. There is competition in these markets. Net neutrality is about ensuring duopolists can't interfere in the free flow of information. What Franken's proposing here is the advocation of interference, and urging government to dictate "search neutrality" or "website neutrality" could prove to be a muddy free speech rabbit hole, as Wired was quick to point out: As with much of the backlash against big tech, Franken’s suggestions contain their own contradictions. Applying net neutrality rules to Google or Facebook, for example, could make them obligated to distribute content from political extremists and even foreign propaganda under some circumstances. Unfortunately for Silicon Valley, lack of solutions never stopped a congressional hearing. Again, it's fine to want to pressure Facebook, Twitter, and Google to better handle disinformation and propaganda (though it's hard to "legislate away" a problem we don't fully understand yet). It's also perfectly reasonable to be concerned about the growing power these companies hold, particularly as it pertains to privacy. But these are very complicated and very different problems that require different solutions and different conversations. Conflating net neutrality here only aids companies like AT&T, which have long wanted to distort the concept of net neutrality to heavily regulate their Silicon Valley nemeses to ill effect. We went down said rabbit hole once with the fairness doctrine, believing government was competent and incorruptible enough to be trusted to dictate "acceptable" speech. It would be a shame if we used the entirely different fight for net neutrality to justify making that mistake again. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
One way of looking at the history of computing is as the story of how the engineering focus rose gradually up the stack, from the creation of the first hardware, through operating systems, and then applications, and focusing now on platform-independent Net-based services. Underneath it all, there's still the processor, even if most people don't pay much attention to it these days. Unregarded it may be, but the world of the chip continues to move on. For example, for some years now, Intel has incorporated something called the Management Engine into its chipsets: Built into many Intel Chipset–based platforms is a small, low-power computer subsystem called the Intel Management Engine (Intel ME). The Intel ME performs various tasks while the system is in sleep, during the boot process, and when your system is running. This subsystem must function correctly to get the most performance and capability from your PC. That is, inside recent Intel-based systems, there is a separate computer within a computer -- one the end user never sees and has no control over. Although a feature for some time, it's been one of Intel's better-kept secrets, with details only emerging slowly. For example, a recent article on Network World pointed out that earlier this year, Dmitry Sklyarov (presumably, that Dmitry Sklyarov) worked out that Intel's ME is probably running a variant of the Minix operating system (yes, that Minix.) The Network World article notes that a Google project has found out more about the ME system: According to Google, which is actively working to remove Intel's Management Engine (MINIX) from their internal servers (for obvious security reasons), the following features exist within Ring -3: Full networking stack File systems Many drivers (including USB, networking, etc.) A web server That’s right. A web server. Your CPU has a secret web server that you are not allowed to access, and, apparently, Intel does not want you to know about. Why on this green Earth is there a web server in a hidden part of my CPU? WHY? The "Ring-3" mentioned there refers to the level of privileges granted to the ME system. As a Google presentation about ME (pdf) explains, operating systems like GNU/Linux run on Intel chips at Ring 0 level; Ring-3 ("minus 3") trumps everything above -- include the operating system -- and has total control over the hardware. Throwing a Web server and a networking stack in there too seems like a really bad idea. Suppose there was some bug in the ME system that allowed an attacker to take control? Funny you should ask; here's what we learned earlier this year: Intel says that three of its ME services -- Active Management Technology, Small Business Technology, and Intel Standard Manageability -- were all affected [by a critical bug]. These features are meant to let network administrators remotely manage a large number of devices, like servers and PCs. If attackers can access them improperly they potentially can manipulate the vulnerable computer as well as others on the network. And since the Management Engine is a standalone microprocessor, an attacker could exploit it without the operating system detecting anything. As the Wired story points out, that critical bug went unnoticed for seven years. Because of the risks a non-controllable computer within a computer brings with it, Google is looking to remove ME from all its servers, and there's also an open source project doing something similar. But that's difficult: without ME, the modern systems based on Intel chipsets may not boot. The problems of ME have led the EFF to call on Intel to make a number of changes to the technology, including: Provide a way for their customers to audit ME code for vulnerabilities. That is presently impossible because the code is kept secret. Offer a supported way to disable the ME. If that's literally impossible, users should be able to flash an absolutely minimal, community-auditable ME firmware image. Those don't seem unreasonable requests given how serious the flaws in the ME system have been, and probably will be again in the future. It also seems only fair that people should be able to control fully a computer that they own -- and that ought to include the Minix-based computer hidden within. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
There's an interesting article on Medium by James Bridle that's generating plenty of discussion at the moment. It has the title "Something is wrong on the internet", which is certainly true. Specifically, what the article is concerned about is the following: Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level. I recommend reading the article so that you can decide whether it is a perspicacious analysis of what's wrong with the Internet today, or merely another of the hyperbolic "the Internet is corrupting innocent children" screeds that come along from time to time. As an alternative -- or in addition -- you might want to read this somewhat more measured piece from the New York Times, which raises many similar points: the [YouTube Kids] app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes. The piece on Medium explores a particular class of YouTube Kids videos that share certain characteristics. They have bizarre, keyword-strewn titles like "Bad Baby with Tantrum and Crying for Lollipops Little Babies Learn Colors Finger Family Song 2 " or "Angry Baby vs Spiderman vs Frozen Elsa BABY DROWNING w/ Maleficent Car Pink Spidergirl Superhero IRL". They have massive numbers of views: 110 million for "Bad Baby" and 75 million for "Angry Baby". In total, there seem to be thousands of them with similar, strange titles, and similar, disturbing content, which collectively are racking up billions of views. As Bridle rightly notes, the sheer scale and downright oddness of the videos suggests that some are being generated, at least in part, by automated algorithms that churn out increasingly-deranged variations on themes that are already popular on the YouTube Kids channel. The aim is to garner as many views as possible, and to get children to watch yet more of the many similar videos. More views means more revenue from advertising: alongside the video, before it, or even in it -- some feature blatant product placement. Young children are the perfect audience for this kind of material: they are inexperienced, and therefore are less likely to dismiss episodes as poor quality; they are curious, and so will probably watch closely to see what happens, no matter how absurd and vacuous the storyline; and they probably don't use ad blockers. As Bridle says in his Medium post: right now, right here, YouTube and Google are complicit in that system [of psychological abuse]. The architecture they have built to extract the maximum revenue from online video is being hacked by persons unknown to abuse children, perhaps not even deliberately, but at a massive scale. That may be overstating it, but it is certainly true that YouTube's "revenue architecture", based on how many views videos achieve, tends to produce a race to the bottom in terms of quality, and a shift to automated production of endless variations on a popular themes -- both with the aim of maximizing the audience. Given the potential harm that inappropriate material could produce when viewed by young children, there's a strong argument that Google should apply other criteria in order to de-emphasize such offerings. A possible approach would be to allow adults to rate the material their children see, using a mechanism separate from the current "like" and "dislike". Google could then use adverse parental ratings to scale back payments it makes to channels, while good ratings from adults would cause income to be boosted. Parents would need to sign up before rating material, but that's unlikely to be a significant barrier to participation for those who care about what their children watch. Although there is always a risk of such systems being gamed, the sheer scale of the audience involved -- millions of views for a video -- makes it much harder than for material that has smaller reach, where bogus votes skew results more easily. Google would anyway need to develop systems that can detect attempts to use large-scale bots to boost ratings. The fact that the company has become quite adept at spotting and blocking spam at scale on Gmail suggests it could create such a system if there were enough pressure from parents to do so. If Google adopted such a reward system, Darwinian dynamics are likely to lead to better-quality content for children, where "better" is defined by the broad consensus of what adults want their children to see. Other ways that Google could encourage such content to be produced would be to allow parents to boost further what they regard as valuable content with one-off donations or regular subscriptions. Techdirt readers can doubtless come up with other ways of providing incentives to YouTube channels to move away from the automated and often disturbing material many are increasingly filled with. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Time and time again we've highlighted how in the modern era you don't really own the hardware you buy. In the broadband-connected era, firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony Playstation 3. And with everything now relying on internet-connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv. The latest example of this phenomenon is courtesy of Logitech, which annoyed consumers this week by announcing that it would be shutting down all support for the company's Harmony Link hub. Released in 2011, the Link hub provided smartphone and tablet owners the ability to use these devices as universal remotes for thousands of devices. But users over at the Logitech forums say they've been receiving e-mails informing them these devices will be effectively bricked in the new year: "This is an important update regarding your Harmony Link. On March 16, 2018, Logitech will discontinue service and support for Harmony Link. Your Harmony Link will no longer function after this date...There is a technology certificate license that will expire next March. The certificate will not be renewed as we are focusing resources on our current app-based remote, the Harmony Hub." Again there's no monthly subscription fee for the service, and Logitech is compounding the problem by not really clearly communicating why it's deciding to completely brick Link units. On the plus side, Logitech says it's giving Link owners under warranty a Logitech Hub for free, and providing out-of-warranty Link owners a one-time, 35-percent discount on the Hub. But many users in the company's forums and over at Reddit are questioning why the hardware needs to be crippled entirely (instead of just, say, ending formal support): "This exact situation right here is why Ive always said “if it requires a cloud service to function, I dont want it” hosting things locally on my own network is where its at. Indeed. While this entire fracas was unfolding, several Reddit users discovered that the company was banning users from using the phrase "class action lawsuit," which unsurprisingly is only making frustrated Link owners more annoyed. Update: After some notable backlash, Logitech has announced that all existing Harmony Link owners will be upgraded to the company's Harmony Hub, for free. Which is nice, but doesn't really change the reality that you no longer actually own what you buy. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Playboy apparently has lawyers with itchy trigger fingers. As first spotted by Law360, Playboy Entertainment Group has sued the BoingBoing, the popular and awesome blog that covers a variety of issues around culture and technology. The case is technically against the company that owns BoingBoing, called Happy Mutants LLC. Law360 claims the lawsuit claims that BoingBoing "stole every centerfold ever." But... that's not at all what the lawsuit says. It appears that the issue is this blog post from February of 2016, written by one of BoingBoing's core writers, Xeni Jardin. Here's a screenshot of the post from the lawsuit: As you can see, it's a blog post titled "Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever." There's a very short paragraph that reads: Some wonderful person uploaded scans of every Playboy Playmate centerfold to imgur. It's an amazing collection, whether your interests are prurient or lofty. Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time. And then it links to the Imgur page. Beneath that, it links to and embeds a YouTube video that apparently contains the same 746 images. Both the reddit collection and the YouTube video are missing now. Any sane and competent lawyer would recognize that this is BoingBoing reporting on and commenting on the existence of this collection. But not Playboy's lawyers from the law firm of Doniger / Burroughs, which describes itself, laughably, as "California's premier fashion, art, entertainment and technology law boutique." To those lawyers, BoingBoing, by writing about these collections, is magically responsible for them. No amount of pointless and excessive legalese employed by these lawyers can hide just how dumb and misguided this lawsuit is: Plaintiff PLAYBOY owns 477 original photographs commonly referred to as Playboy Centerfolds (“Subject Works”) that have been registered with the United States Copyright Office. Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a chart listing the 477 Subject Works. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that following PLAYBOY’s publication of the Subject Works, Defendants, and each of them used the Subject Works without Plaintiff’s authorization for commercial purposes on its website, including, but not limited to, their use in articles and advertising. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that one such use of the Subject Works by Defendants, and each of them, was an article from February 29, 2016 touting the availability of “Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever” for viewing or download without Plaintiff’s authorization, as shown below Reporting on such a collection is clearly fair use. BoingBoing wasn't distributing the files. It wasn't hosting the files. It wasn't copying the files. It was just reporting on the existence of them (and saying nice things about them). And while Playboy may have a perfectly legitimate copyright claim against whoever uploaded all of the images to Imgur, it's ridiculous to argue that BoingBoing writing about the collection was infringing, or that it would harm Playboy in any way, shape or form. Frankly, this feels like yet another pure SLAPP suit, and is yet another reminder of why we need a federal anti-SLAPP law. Even though this is filed in California, it's unlikely that California's anti-SLAPP law would apply, since the claims are copyright claims, which are federal, and state anti-SLAPP laws only cover state law based claims. Thankfully, copyright law does enable fee shifting for questionable lawsuits, and this one seems ripe for fee shifting. Again, Playboy seems to be going after the entirely wrong target here. And while it can even be argued that it's dumb for Playboy to go after someone uploading the collection elsewhere, arguing that BoingBoing is responsible, merely for writing about the collection and linking to it, is pure nonsense. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Oh, to be a lawyer retained by Taylor Swift™ -- free of concerns about your client's financial health or the nuances of intellectual property law. When not pursuing bogus defamation claims or targeting clear fair use cases, you can always bring the power of Swift® to bear on the unofficial adoration of the probably-not-a-white-supremacist singer's fanbase. Legal threat after legal threat sent following trademark filing after trademark filing in hopes of capturing 100% of all available SwiftDollars™. Why only collect royalties when you can submit individual lyrics from songs to the US Patent and Trademark Office to lock everyone else out of the Swift Merch Machine®? Ron Coleman -- who knows a thing or two about viable trademark registrations -- cuts to the heart of Swift's now-trademark trademark bullying. Quoting a more respectful article by Billboard, Coleman sets the stage: Earlier this month, Swift moved to trademark key phrases from her music: the title of her upcoming album Reputation, her latest single “Look What You Made Me Do” and one of the lines from said single, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” Swift plans to use the phrases on a variety of licensed merchandise, from t-shirts to notebooks and guitar picks. “Look What You Made Me Do” is already emblazoned across t-shirts on Swift’s online merch store, which has likely generated significant sales in conjunction with the singer's controversial Ticketmaster Verified Fan campaign that rewards merch and music buyers with a better shot at good tickets. [...] Etsy shop owners who pedal [sic] unofficial, Swift-inspired goods have been seeing a spike in cease and desist letters, according to BuzzFeed. The latest trademark filings follow registrations for such lyrical inanities as "party like it's 1989" and "this sick beat" -- the latter of which could have been "coined" by anyone countless times before Swift™ decided she should be the sole proprietor. Ultimately... it's trademark bullying — the continuation of IP law by other means — from which the recipients of these baseless legal threats have no realistic recourse. Is it utterly insane to suggest that if a celebrity (whether an athlete, “artist” or whatever they’re famous for these days) coins or brings fame to a phrase, other people should not be able to profit from it without the celebrity getting some of the vigorish? Yes, it’s utterly insane. I won’t give Congress credit for thinking this through, but the way it turns out neither the trademark regime nor the copyright regime protect clever wordplay, and they’re not meant to. Why? Because not everything should be monetized. Especially when it already is. Every time one of these fans sells something with a Taylor Swift “lyric” (and, really — puh-lease) on it, each use of that something is an advertisement for Taylor Swift. There’s your monetization, Taylor. Hope that helps you make the rent this month. As Coleman points out, attempting to trademark lyrical phrases isn't unheard of, but it's also rarely guaranteed to result in a legitimate trademark. Swift maybe doesn't know this, but her lawyers do… or at least should. What her lawyers do know is someone side-gigging on Etsy isn't going to push back much when a threat letter claiming nothing more than a pending trademark registration shows up in their mailbox signed by a lawyer with a string of Roman numerals after his name on the letterhead of a high-powered law firm. So, the abuse will continue and Swift™ will continue to lock fans out of being fans on their own terms. They're always welcome to add themselves to the Taylor Swift Official Revenue Stream®, which will allow Swift, Inc. to dictate the terms of the relationship as well as the markup on goods and services. And so homage is forbidden; unofficial inspiration is punished; the brand is “managed”; the fan base is still, in the main, slavishly dedicated to buying Officially Licensed Garbage; the legal fees are earned; the world spins on with a bunch fewer Etsy shmattes devoted to the star’s fabulous self; and all is well with the world. That's not to say Swift has cornered the market on ridiculous IP litigation. Swift is also being sued for infringement for allegedly jacking one of the most unimaginative lyrical lines ever written. The songwriters behind 3LW's "Playas Gon' Play" say Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" infringes on their lyrics. The aughts girl group sang "Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate” more than a decade before Swift declared "[T]he players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” Sean Hall and Nathan Butler co-authored the 2001 song and claim they popularized the now ubiquitous phrase. Considering the tautological nature of the disputed phrase, it's unlikely Hall/Butler were the first to use this phrase, much less the only ones to ever think of describing the actions of players/haters as being, respectively, playing/hating. But lawyers gonna law, as they say [trademark registration pending]. And here we are, watching two artists dispute the origin of two banal takes on players/haters. Given the stupidity on display, we should be more than willing to hate both the players and the game. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The Learn to Code 2018 Bundle will give you a wide breadth of programming knowledge. Pay what you want for it and you'll get an introduction to R, a powerful programming language that helps developers solve even the most complex data problems. If you beat the average price listed in the store, you open up access to 9 other courses. They cover Angular, HTML, CSS, Bootstrap 4, Node, Java 9, React, C#, iOS 11 and Swift4, Python, JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL. It's over 140 hours of instruction to help get you up to speed on the latest in coding. 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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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Actor/director Tommy Wiseau has, for some reason, been trying since June of this year to block the release of an unflattering documentary about his infamous 14-year-old film, The Room. Why Wiseau would be concerned about a documentary detailing the making of one of the worst films ever is beyond me, considering Wiseau's post-The Room career has generally been held together by the film's cult status as the worst film of all time, which has led to additional revenue and a number of personal appearances at screenings. Wiseau seems to want to have it all: the box office receipts from the film's cult status and a desire to be "respected" as an actor and director. These two desires are in constant competition, which is why Wiseau is now suing the director of a documentary Wiseau himself participated in making. (And why he's gone after other critics in the past using similar tactics.) The documentary, Room Full of Spoons, details the making of The Room. Up until June, Wiseau seemed relatively at peace with filmmaker Rick Harper's effort. At some point, Wiseau pulled out over "creative differences." This means Wiseau felt the documentary wasn't going to be respectful enough to its subject matter, Tommy Wiseau. Alex Ritman of The Hollywood Reporter has more details on Wiseau's exit from the documentary. Harper claims he was issued with a growing list of impossible and crazy demands ("make the film 60 percent more positive") from his former collaborator, who then went after any festival or theater who agreed to have it in their schedule, forcing them to remove it. He even went so far as to post a trio of amateurish, angry and explosion-filled videos on YouTube entitled 'Shame on You' aimed at discrediting the doc, the third ending with a Room Full of Spoons poster being blown up (the first, naturally, ended with a minute long advert for Tommy Wiseau underwear*). *Unisex underwear that, according to Wiseau, "improves your sexuality by 40 percent." Wiseau went to court and obtained an injunction blocking Harper from distributing, exhibiting , or even talking about his documentary, Room Full of Spoons. Fortunately for Harper, that injunction has been lifted. Here's why Wiseau wanted the film blocked, according to the court's recounting [PDF] of the original complaint. The affidavit makes three broad complaints about the defendants and Room Full of Spoons: (i) The documentary mocks, derides and disparages The Room. (ii) The documentary "casts aspersions on" Mr. Wiseau's character and invades his privacy. (iii) The defendants are in material breach of copyright law. In other words, Wiseau wants to abuse at least a couple of aspects of Canadian law to shut down a film he no longer likes. The judge isn't going to let him and starts by addressing the first -- and most ridiculous -- part of his complaint. Although Mr. Wiseau complained in his affidavit that the documentary mocks, derides and disparages him and The Room, he did not disclose that The Room's fame rests on its apparently abysmal quality as a movie. People flock to see The Room because it is so bad. People see the movie for the very purpose of mocking it; a phenomenon that has won the movie its cult status. Citations are provided. Published reviews of The Room are consistent with this view. By way of example: (a) The BBC wrote that "it's not just bad–it's intoxicatingly awful… [it] is a car crash of incompetence and catastrophic misjudgment." (b) Entertainment weekly reported that the film is the "Citizen Kane of bad movies." (c) The Huffington Post stated: "… Anyone at the premier could see that the film was an unmitigated disaster. Wiseau as he often told his collaborators, had attempted to create a dramatic movie in the vein of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." Instead, he had created a 99 minute train wreck." (d) Variety.com, an entertainment industry internet publication described The Room as "a movie that prompts most of its viewers to ask for their money back–before even 30 minutes have passed." Wiseau claims about "aspersions" and "invasions of privacy" are also dismissed. Wiseau claims the documentary states he financed his film with drug dealing. The court points out the film never makes that assertion. Rather, cast and crew from The Room speculate as to the origin of the film's financing, Rumors of drug dealing are discussed but no one states affirmatively that The Room was financed with drug money. The judge also points out the documentary seems to resolve the issue by providing details on the retail stores Wiseau operated before embarking on his filmmaking career. The invasion of privacy claim hinges on the film's questioning of Wiseau's relationship with Greg Sestero, Wiseau's friend who helped him make the movie. Mr. Wiseau complains that Room Full of Spoons has invaded his privacy by alleging as fact that he had a sexual relationship with Mr. Sestero. Here too, the documentary makes no such allegation. The documentary does contain a portion where various actors and crew members of The Room describe the friendship between Mr. Wiseau and Mr. Sestero. One actress then comments that "a couple of others seemed to think they were a gay couple." She then adds immediately that Mr. Sestero seemed to want to follow Mr. Wiseau along like a younger brother. In addition to misstating what the documentary says about his friendship with Mr. Sestero, Mr. Wiseau did not disclose that Mr. Sestero's mother asked Mr. Wiseau not to have sex with her son, that Mr. Sestero described that exchange in his book and that this information has been in the public domain since 2011. Finally, the judge gets to the alleged copyright violations and dispenses of those quickly and mercilessly. In his affidavit, Mr. Wiseau suggested that, if the documentary were released, he would lose control and exclusivity over copyright in The Room. Mr. Wiseau made this allegation based on the fact that the documentary contains seven minutes of excerpts from The Room. If the allegation has any legal merit, it would have been relevant to disclose that The Room has been available in its entirety on YouTube for approximately four years and that Mr. Wiseau had not taken any steps to have it removed from YouTube before he obtained the ex parte injunction. In addition, Mr. Wiseau did not draw the court's attention to the fact that he would not lose exclusivity of copyright if the defendants use of excerpts from The Room amounted to "fair dealing" under the Copyright Act RSC 1985, c. C-42. Mr. Wiseau was well aware that the defendants were relying on the concept of fair dealing. They had raised it with Mr. Wiseau's lawyers as early as April 2016. Further discussion on the lack of merit to this claim follows several pages later, but they are key to the documentary maker's fair dealing defense. It is clear from watching Room Full of Spoons that the purpose of showing brief excerpts from The Room is not to reproduce the movie but to provide a base for commentary that the documentary provides on the clip in question. Room Full of Spoons follows a fairly consistent pattern in this regard. It introduces the excerpt through an interview with an actor, crewmember or fan of the movie who provides some sort of commentary. The clip is then shown to validate or amplify on the commentary. In some cases the order is reversed. In other cases, the clip is framed by both an introductory and conclusory comment. What is clear is that the clip is reproduced to provide analysis, not to reproduce the movie. A country's legal system shouldn't be used every time you're slightly aggrieved. Wiseau apparently thought he was getting a 60% more respectful tribute from the documentarian and sued when he discovered it wouldn't be making him appear at least 40% more flawless. The court points out the documentary is still ultimately respectful of its subject matter, even if Wiseau is still somewhat bothered fourteen years later that his film became famous for all the wrong reasons. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
For years we've noted how large ISPs like Comcast quite literally write and buy protectionist state laws preventing towns and cities from building their own broadband networks (or striking public/private partnerships). These ISPs don't want to spend money to improve or expand service into lower ROI areas, but they don't want towns and cities to either -- since many of these networks operate on an open access model encouraging a little something known as competition. As such it's much cheaper to buy a state law and a lawmaker who'll support it -- than to actually try and give a damn. And while roughly twenty three states have passed such laws, Colorado's SB 152, co-crafted by Comcast and Centurylink in 2005, was notably unique in that it let local towns and cities hold local referendums on whether they'd like to ignore it. And over the last few years, an overwhelming number of Colorado towns and cities have voted to do so, preferring to decide local infrastructure issues for themselves instead of having lobbyists for Comcast dictate what they can or can't do in their own communities, with their own tax dollars. Yet another vote on this front was held this week in Colorado Springs. Note that the vote only opened the door to letting city voters consider building such a network, yet Comcast and Centurylink broke local spending records in their attempts to scuttle the law. That included numerous misleading videos trying to convince locals that if they voted yes on ignoring the protectionist state laws, the city would struggle to pave roads and develop affordable housing. According to the Coloradoan, none of these efforts worked: "Voters on Tuesday approved a city proposal that would permit the City Council to establish a telecommunications utility to provide broadband services. Unofficial, partial returns as of 12:42 a.m. showed the measure passing with 57.15 percent of the vote. Ballot Question 2B does not require the council to create the utility. It gives council flexibility in setting up a business model for providing high-speed internet, including entering into a partnership with a private company." Again, this doesn't mean Fort Collins will build a network. But it should be obvious why large duopolies like Comcast (which is actually seeing a growing monopoly in more regions than ever) want to prevent towns from even discussing the idea. Actual competition would put an end to Comcast's long-standing ability to charge more and more money (including usage caps and overage fees) for what's quite literally the worst customer service in America. And as telcos in countless markets refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines, Comcast's power is only growing. Like net neutrality, for years Comcast successfully framed municipal broadband as a partisan debate to sow discord and stall these efforts. But disdain for Comcast's abysmal service obliterates such partisan divides, and over time people have realized that more creative, government-involved approaches are necessary if we want to compensate for a broken market and improve the country's mediocre broadband. If Comcast doesn't like the idea of towns and cities getting into the broadband business, there remains an ingenious solution to the "problem": provide better, cheaper, and faster service. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
It's been no secret that the MPAA has been sticking its nose in the copyright laws and enforcement of Australia for some time now. From pressuring government officials in the country to force ISPs to act as copyright police, to trying to keep Australian law as stuck in antiquity as it possibly could be, to trying to force the country to enforce American intellectual property law except the parts it doesn't like, the MPAA nearly seems to think of itself as an official branch of the Australian government. Given the group's nakedly hostile stance towards fair use, it should be no surprise that it doesn't want to see that sort of law exported to other countries and has worked to actively prevent its installation Down Under. It seems these efforts are not working, however, as the Australian government is currently entertaining not only adopting American-style fair use laws, but also adding exceptions to geo-blocking as well. The MPAA, as you'll have already guessed, is not happy about this. This whole thing started with the government responding to its own Productivity Commission's report on ways to make copyright law in the country better, so as to make Australian citizens more productive. Two months ago the Government responded to these proposals. It promised to expand the safe harbor protections and announced a consultation on fair use, describing the current fair dealing exceptions as restrictive. The Government also noted that circumvention of geo-blocks may be warranted, in some cases. The MPAA snapped into action, essentially suggesting in its absurd foreign trade barriers 2018 list that fair use, which the MPAA hates, works in America because our legal system has matured on copyright law in a way that Australia's has not. Put another way, fair use is good enough for America, but Australia is not good enough for fair use. “If the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, they could result in legislative changes that undermine the current balance of protection in Australia. These changes could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPAA writes. “Of concern is a proposal to introduce a vague and undefined ‘fair use’ exception unmoored from decades of precedent in the United States. Another proposal would expand Australia’s safe harbor regime in piecemeal fashion,” the group adds. This is flatly absurd. The fair use model Australia is considering is essentially the American model, which has produced a boon of creative and educational output. What the MPAA is suggesting is that fair use should not be implemented because Australian courts haven't produced enough caselaw to make room for it. How the country would ever pile up that caselaw without implementing fair use is an open question the MPAA doesn't seem particularly interested in answering. But its comments on geo-blocking relief are just plain weird. There is something of a "Nice economy you have there. It'd be a shame if something happened to it" ring to all of this. “Still another would allow circumvention of geo-blocking and other technological protection measures. Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments. Local policymakers should take care to ensure that Australia’s vibrant market is not inadvertently impaired and that any proposed relaxation of copyright and related rights protection does not violate Australia’s international obligations,” the MPAA adds. Based on comments like that, you would be forgiven for thinking that the MPAA had the best intentions for Australian economy at heart. Why that would be is another open question nobody seems to want to answer, likely because the obvious truth is that the MPAA doesn't care about the Australian economy at all, it only cares about the Hollywood bottom line. It hates that fair use exists in America, so of course it doesn't want to see it exported elsewhere. It loves exerting every kind of control over its product, so of course it doesn't want geo-restriction laws to be relaxed. Why the MPAA should have any say in how Australia governs itself is a mystery for the ages, but it sure seems to think its opinion on these things matters. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
In disturbing, but sadly unsurprising news, a law enforcement officer is being accused of killing a family pet -- one that very likely did not need to be killed. Kelli Sullivan's dog was shot by a sheriff's deputy when the deputy responded to Sullivan's call about being harassed by a neighbor. Sullivan soon learned why you're taking the lives of everyone and everything into your own hands by asking for law enforcement assistance. The dog was 12 pounds, and Sullivan says about ankle height on most people. She said the dog did not seem like a threat to the officer. She said after the deputy had taken care of a neighborhood disturbance, her son’s dog escaped from their house. "The dog got out. I walked to the end of the driveway to try to catch her. My daughter was running around trying to catch her. I thought we were going to go back in the house. I walked back to the house opened the door, turned around, (and) boom, he shot her," Sullivan said. "It was a horrific event. He shot the dog up close and blew her skull apart in front of my children. Like her eyeballs were out of her head." According to Sullivan, the dog had no history of biting and was behaving normally for a dog of her breed. Sullivan's dog was a rat terrier -- a breed not really known for aggressive behavior. Nonetheless, the deputy's report said the dog posed enough of a threat he had no choice but to shoot it in the head. In his official report, the deputy said, “…alone [sic] came the house dog charging at me in an aggressive manner and grabbing at my leg and my boots. I swung my baton at the dog to scare it away. The house dog then charge [sic] at me again in an aggressive manner and once swung my baton. The [sic] Mr. Sullivan couldn’t contain the dog. For a third time the house dog charged at me in an aggressive manner I then fire one shot with my hand gun and killing the dog [sic].” But that's not the end of it, although that would probably be more than enough. A deputy unable to handle the "aggressive manner" of a 12-lb. dog is going to have severe difficulties handling aggressive behavior by full-grown humans. Nope, the deputy then allegedly had the audacity to: A. Claim his killing of the dog was in the family's best interest, and B. Complain about the cost of the bullet. According to Kelli Sullivan, after killing Leia, the deputy told her that if she had bitten him, he’d have to sue, and that shooting her was the better option. He then told her, “It was a shame I had to waste that bullet, it was a really expensive hollow-point bullet.” At this point, all we have is the family's story. There's no video of the incident and the sheriff's department has yet to respond to calls for comments and/or statements. But the allegations are far from unusual. This is something that happens dozens of times per day in the US. The exact number of dogs killed by law enforcement officers is difficult to quantify because there is no official record of these deaths across American agencies. Laurel Matthews, a program specialist with the US Department of Justice’s community-oriented policing services office, says fatal encounters are an “epidemic” and estimates that 25 to 30 pet dogs are killed daily by police. If there's ever going to be a downturn in this number, it starts with the police departments and runs right through the court systems. Police departments can provide better training, equipping officers with knowledge and techniques to better ensure animals make it out of these "interactions" alive. But the bigger step towards lowering this number (and, consequently, the number of humans killed by police officers) has to be taken by the nation's courts. At this point, pretty much all officers have to do to justify killings is claim they feared for their safety. In cases involving humans and their pets, this is usually enough to allow them to escape civil liability, if not criminal liability. Unless there's plenty of evidence stating otherwise -- something that usually includes recordings of officers' statements and accidents during these incidents -- the courts will usually find it impossible to discount the subjective feelings of the involved officers. The silver lining at this point is more and more courts are viewing the killing of people's pets by law enforcement officers as something potentially in violation of the Fourth Amendment. [A]ccording to Charlotte-based attorney Scott MacLatchie, who represents law enforcement agencies and officers in civil suits. "Six (out of 11) federal circuit courts of appeal have ruled that the killing of a pet does represent a Fourth Amendment seizure," he says. Let's not forget another basic fact: pets aren't instantly cowed by uniforms and waved weapons. Animals respond to certain stimuli and having strangers invading their territory seldom makes them comfortable. Owners can do whatever's possible to restrain pets, but what owners see as normal, non-threatening behavior by their pets is often seen as potentially harmful by people trained specifically to see potential danger in almost every interaction. And for most pets, the more aggressive the stranger is -- especially one using every physical tool available to "secure the scene" -- the more defensive they'll be. The problem is no one can "cop-proof" their home. It's impossible. What seems normal to them seems suspicious or threatening to law enforcement officers. They can't stop pets from running to greet the new person in the house in whatever fashion the pet normally greets strangers. They can't stop people from walking out of rooms or through doors unexpectedly. All they can do is hope everything goes as uneventfully as possible. That completely skews these interactions. Those with the hours and years of specialized training are expected to be treated like heavily-armed babies -- shielded from surprises, loud noises, or unexpected movements. And, for the most part, the courts have treated these completely backwards rules of engagement as completely normal expectations. That's how you end up with dead 12-lb. terriers and cops complaining about the cost of bullets: the constant shifting of responsibility back on the untrained citizens who thought they might end up with some help, rather than a dead pet, when they called the police. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Six firefighters fired over a racist incident are the possible, but unlikely, beneficiaries of Florida public records law. Here's how they ended up fired, via the Miami Herald, which broke the story. (h/t Boing Boing) Miami’s fire chief on Thursday blasted six fired firefighters accused of draping a noose over a black colleague’s family photos, and released images of the “egregious and hateful” vandalism. Photos of the scene at Fire Station 12, located on Northwest 46th Street near Charles Hadley Park, show that someone took a black lieutenant’s family photos out of their picture frames, drew penises onto the pictures, then reinserted them in their frames and placed them on a wood shelf next to a teddy bear figurine. Someone also hung a noose made of thin, white rope over one of the photos. Five more firefighters are still under investigation. The six firefighters -- Capt. William W. Bryson, Lt. Alejandro Sese, David Rivera, Harold Santana, Justin Rumbaugh and Kevin Meizoso -- were all terminated after the completion of a Miami police investigation. We know their names and what they look like, thanks to the Miami Herald's reporting and an apparent misstep by a Miami government agency. On Thursday, ahead of a press conference scheduled for Friday morning with Miami’s mayor, Miami Fire Rescue also released the fired firefighters’ department photos even though Florida law exempts pictures of current and former firefighters from disclosure under the state’s broad public records laws. Now, the city -- facing a possible lawsuit from the firefighters union -- is throwing CTRL-Z notices at local news agencies. Just after midnight Friday morning, an assistant city attorney wrote an email to multiple news outlets demanding that the media “cease and desist from further showing the firefighters pictures in your coverage of this event.” Jones said the photos of the six men had been released accidentally. “As former first responders, their photos are confidential and exempt under Florida’s public disclosure law and should not have been released,” wrote Kevin R. Jones. Too bad. That's a problem for the city, not journalists. The Miami Herald will be keeping the photos up. So will WPLG, which interviewed the victim of the racist acts. It's been relegated to a sidebar, but the photos are still there. ABC News has also kept the photos up, albeit as an image that lasts only as long as it takes for the autoplaying video to load. Those looking for a longer-lasting image will have to make do with the sidebar thumbnail. The images are already out there. Telling the media to unpublish the photos is a ridiculous move. The union plans to sue the city for releasing the photos, but that's not going to do anything to return the internet to the state it was in prior to the accidental photo dump. As for the firefighters inadvertently left unprotected by this "violation" of Florida's open records law, it would seem the best way to keep your photo from being displayed in stories about racist acts by public servants is refraining from engaging in bigoted acts while employed as public servants. Trying to turn online media sources into self-serving time machines only ensures maximum visibility. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Following the Senate Commerce Committee voting SESTA out of Committee this morning, Senator Ron Wyden quickly announced that he is placing a public hold on the bill while at the same time issuing a warning about just how damaging the bill could be: “Today I am announcing my public hold and a public warning about SESTA. Having written several laws to combat the scourge of sex trafficking, I take a backseat to no one on the urgency of fighting this horrendous crime. However, I continue to be deeply troubled that this bill’s approach will make it harder to catch dangerous criminals, that it will favor big tech companies at the expense of startups and that it will stifle innovation. “After 25 years of fighting these battles, I've learned that just because a big technology company says something is good, doesn't mean it's good for the internet or innovation. Most innovation in the digital economy comes from the startups and small firms, the same innovators who will be harmed or locked out of the market by this bill. That said, I appreciate that Senators Thune and Nelson worked to improve SESTA, including by narrowing its scope. While it still makes inadvisable changes to bedrock internet law, those changes are narrower than originally proposed. Those are fighting words -- and it's good to see him come out and directly say that just because big tech companies are for SESTA it doesn't mean it's a good thing (now will some people finally stop falsely claiming that Wyden just represents the big tech companies?). Last week's decision by the Internet Association (which represents the largest internet companies) along with Facebook's direct support for SESTA remain very troubling. These organizations have experience with intermediary liability laws and know how important they are, and how weakening them gets abused. Wyden knows that too. In some ways, this reminds me of a similar situation, almost exactly seven years ago, when Wyden blocked COICA, an alarmist censorship bill pushed by Hollywood, which eventually morphed into SOPA and PIPA. As with SESTA, COICA was seen as an "easy" win for Congress and passed out of Committee with a unanimous vote. Wyden put a public hold on it and forced Senators to go back to the drawing board -- and eventually the entire bill was killed. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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David Boies is one of the highest profile lawyers in the country. I first became aware of him when he (as outside counsel) represented the Justice Department in the overreaching antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s. However, I think most people became aware of him when he represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore. Since then, nearly every time he's popped up in Techdirt, it's been doing really, really sketchy things. He was the lawyer for SCO in that company's insane "set open source on fire" lawsuit against IBM over Linux. He represented Oracle in its ridiculous lawsuit against Google over whether APIs are covered by copyright*. He represented Sony Pictures after its email was hacked and threatened lots of journalists -- including us! -- for publishing stories based on those leaked emails (we told him "go pound sand.") And, honestly, until earlier this week, I thought the most egregious efforts by Boies had been his connection to Theranos, the disgraced medical devices company, where Boies wasn't just a lawyer for the company, but on the board, and participated in terrible and far-reaching attempts to punish whistleblowers at the company. But, it turns out that Boies' activity in trying to stifle whistlebowers and reporters regarding Theranos and Sony Pictures were just the warm up act for a truly horrifying bit of business revealed by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker this week. It was widely reported that Boies was a key player on Harvey Weinstein's legal team, responding to the claims of sexual harassment and assault, but the Farrow article shows just how deep the campaign went, with Boies allegedly orchestrating an "army of spies" to try to trick Weinstein's accusers and reporters working on the story to reveal what they knew. The whole article is incredible, but here's just a snippet, involving one of Weinstein's most outspoken victims, Rose McGowan: In May, 2017, McGowan received an e-mail from a literary agency introducing her to a woman who identified herself as Diana Filip, the deputy head of sustainable and responsible investments at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Filip told McGowan that she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace, and asked McGowan, a vocal women’s-rights advocate, to speak at a gala kickoff event later that year. Filip offered McGowan a fee of sixty thousand dollars. “I understand that we have a lot in common,” Filip wrote to McGowan before their first meeting, in May, at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Filip had a U.K. cell-phone number, and she spoke with what McGowan took to be a German accent. Over the following months, the two women met at least three more times at hotel bars in Los Angeles and New York and other locations. “I took her to the Venice boardwalk and we had ice cream while we strolled,” McGowan told me, adding that Filip was “very kind.” The two talked at length about issues relating to women’s empowerment. Filip also repeatedly told McGowan that she wanted to make a significant investment in McGowan’s production company. Filip was persistent. In one e-mail, she suggested meeting in Los Angeles and then, when McGowan said she would be in New York, Filip said she could meet there just as easily. She also began pressing McGowan for information. In a conversation in July, McGowan revealed to Filip that she had spoken to me as part of my reporting on Weinstein. A week later, I received an e-mail from Filip asking for a meeting and suggesting that I join her campaign to end professional discrimination against women. “I am very impressed with your work as a male advocate for gender equality, and believe that you would make an invaluable addition to our activities,” she wrote, using her wealth-management firm’s e-mail address. Unsure of who she was, I did not respond. Filip continued to meet with McGowan. In one meeting in September, Filip was joined by another Black Cube operative, who used the name Paul and claimed to be a colleague at Reuben Capital Partners. The goal, according to two sources with knowledge of the effort, was to pass McGowan to another operative to extract more information. On October 10th, the day The New Yorker published my story about Weinstein, Filip reached out to McGowan in an e-mail. “Hi Love,” she wrote. “How are you feeling? . . . Just wanted to tell you how brave I think you are.” She signed off with an “xx.” Filip e-mailed McGowan as recently as October 23rd. In fact, “Diana Filip” was an alias for a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces who originally hailed from Eastern Europe and was working for Black Cube, according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation. When I sent McGowan photos of the Black Cube agent, she recognized her instantly. “Oh my God,” she wrote back. “Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.” And, yes, apparently it was Boies who signed the contract that made all this possible: Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein’s abuses.... Oh, and the latter part of that sentence is fairly stunning as well: ... while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case. That seems like a pretty massive conflict of interest, which Boies denied: Boies confirmed that his firm contracted with and paid two of the agencies and that investigators from one of them sent him reports, which were then passed on to Weinstein. He said that he did not select the firms or direct the investigators’ work. He also denied that the work regarding the Times story represented a conflict of interest. You know who did think it was a pretty bad conflict of interest? The NY Times. Boy, was the NY Times pissed off: We learned today that the law firm of Boies Schiller and Flexner secretly worked to stop our reporting on Harvey Weinstein at the same time as the firm's lawyers were representing us in other matters. We consider this intolerable conduct, a grave betrayal of trust, and a breach of the basic professional standards that all lawyers are required to observe. It is inexcusable and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies. And, by Tuesday night the Times had fired Boies: Like other large firms, the Boies firm asked us to waive certain conflicts in advance. We understood that to mean that it could openly bring actions that may be adverse to our interests and we would be free to terminate our relationship with the firm if we felt the new representation posed a serious conflict. We never contemplated that the law firm would contract with an intelligence firm to conduct a secret spying operation aimed at our reporting and our reporters. Such an operation is reprehensible, and the Boies firm must have known that its existence would have been material in our decision whether to continue using the firm. Whatever legalistic arguments and justifications can be made, we should have been treated better by a firm that we trusted. Boies is now trying to salvage his reputation by apologizing: “I regret having done this. It was a mistake to contract with, and pay on behalf of a client, investigators who we did not select and did not control. I would never knowingly participate in an effort to intimidate or silence women or anyone else, including the conduct described in the New Yorker article. That is not who I am.” Let's be clear though: this is absolute bullshit by David Boies. It is who he is. Again, he's threatened plenty of media properties in the past -- including us -- with bogus threats attempting to stifle a free press and to intimidate reporters into not covering his big name clients. He did it with Theranos. He did it with Sony Pictures. And it certainly appears that he did much more than that for Harvey Weinstein under significantly more shocking circumstances. So isn't it about time that people took Boies down off the pedestal he's been on for many years? He may be famous, but he's been doing horrible things for the rich and powerful, often attacking and threatening a free press for years. Hiring spies for Harvey Weinstein is just the latest -- and perhaps most horrific -- example. * Boies "representation" of Oracle in that case resulted in what remains a truly classic benchslap from Judge William Alsup for Boies making downright silly claims about programming. JUDGE ALSUP: All right. I have -- I was not good -- I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial. But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple. The idea that somebody copied that in order to get to market faster, when it would be just as fast to write it out, it was an accident that that thing got in there. There was no way that you could say that that was speeding them along to the marketplace. That is not a good argument. MR. BOIES: Your Honor -- JUDGE ALSUP: You're one of the best lawyers in America. How can you even make that argument? You know, maybe the answer is because you are so good it sounds legit. But it is not legit. That is not a good argument. MR. BOIES: Your Honor, let me approach it this way, first, okay. I want to come back to rangeCheck. All right. JUDGE ALSUP: RangeCheck. All it does is it makes sure that the numbers you're inputting are within a range. And if they're not, they give it some kind of exceptional treatment. It is so -- that witness, when he said a high school student would do this, is absolutely right. MR. BOIES: He didn't say a high school student would do it in an hour, all right. JUDGE ALSUP: Less than -- in five minutes, Mr. Boies. MR. BOIES: Well, Your Honor -- JUDGE ALSUP: If you know the language. Once you know the language, it is a five-minute proposition. And, on an additional note, if you haven't yet, you should read Sarah Jeong's absolutely delightful profile of Judge Alsup and his coding hobby. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Earlier today, the Senate Commerce Committee had its markup on SESTA -- the deeply flawed bill that claims to be about stopping sex trafficking, but which will do little on that front. Instead, it will create massive problems for lots and lots of small internet sites. The bill sailed through the markup, getting approved via a voice vote with no discussion or debate. As expected, last week's decision by the Internet Association -- the trade group representing all of the large internet companies -- ensured that the bill would sail through the markup. Supporters of the bill are now wrongly insisting that "tech" now supports the bill. However, as we've detailed, while the giant companies like Facebook and Google can handle whatever fallout there is from this bill, smaller sites and even users of those big sites will be at risk. So it was extra depressing to see Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg post her glowing, but factually inaccurate, support for SESTA. I care deeply about ending the suffering that comes from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation on the internet – and we at Facebook are committed to fighting it every way we can. That’s why we’re grateful that members of Congress have reached an agreement on the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This important piece of legislation allows platforms to fight sex trafficking while giving victims the chance to seek justice against companies that don’t. Thank you to lawmakers in both parties – particularly Senators Portman and Blumenthal – and to the dedicated anti-trafficking advocates for all their hard work. As this moves through the Senate and the House, we’re here to support it – and to make sure that the internet becomes a safer place for all vulnerable girls, children, women, and men who deserve to be protected. Lots of us care deeply about ending the suffering from sex trafficking. As we've discussed repeatedly, it's a horrible, horrible crime. But, there is nothing in SESTA that targets ending sex trafficking. Its sole focus is on punishing the tools that sex traffickers use, in the bizarre and misguided belief that criminalizing the tools will somehow stop the traffickers. There is no evidence to support this. There is plenty of evidence that traffickers will just move around to other services -- and some of those services are even less likely to be willing to work with law enforcement to track down actual traffickers. The whole approach behind SESTA is to try to bury the problem instead of deal with the actual problems of sex trafficking. We just wrote about a recent study showing how pushing this activity away from sites where it can be tracked puts the victims of sex trafficking at MORE risk. Sandberg's support, then, is doubly troubling. SESTA will cause more harm to victims of sex trafficking, while at the same time cementing Facebook's dominant position, by putting smaller companies at significant risk. The cynical among you may suggest this latter part explains Facebook's decision here, though I'd argue that's almost certainly not true. It's much more likely that with all the criticism Facebook has been receiving lately over supposed Russian interference, it had to "give up" something, and it's easy to toe the misleading line that all of the politicians are following by saying this bill is about sex trafficking and it will magically help end sex trafficking. The fact that it may harm smaller sites and Facebook's own users? That's just gravy. Yesterday I asked if the authors of SESTA, Senators Blumenthal and Portman, could explain to smaller sites like ours how to stay on the right side of the law. Now I'd like to make a similar ask of Facebook: considering its support of SESTA is what allowed it to sail through the markup this morning, will Facebook commit to funding the defense of small sites that face legal jeopardy because of SESTA? Will Facebook commit to creating a fund to pay for lawyers to help smaller sites comply with SESTA? Will Facebook commit to funding defense of bogus grandstanding attacks by state AGs using SESTA? Facebook's support of SESTA may be a political necessity for the company, but it will make things worse of victims of sex trafficking and for tons of non-Facebook companies on the internet. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Explore the skies and take the footage to prove it with the SKEYE Mini Drone. From mastering smooth landings to pulling off flips and rolls, you choose the adventure and the SKEYE Mini Drone will take you there. This perfectly-sized drone packs both a beginner and veteran pilot mode for a guaranteed good time no matter your experience. It's on sale for $59. 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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