posted 12 days ago on techdirt
A law enacted "for the children" in Louisiana has been blocked by a federal judge for being -- like almost anything enacted "for the children" -- overbroad, badly written, and generally inconsiderate of protected expression. The ACLU summed up the law this way after it was passed late last year. The law makes it a crime to publish anything on the Internet that could be deemed "harmful to minors" without verifying the age of everyone who wants to see it. If you are in Louisiana, and publish anything on the Internet, you have to either make sure that none of that content could be considered harmful to a minor of any age — a high bar, considering a lot of constitutionally protected speech might not be fit for an 8-year-old — or install an age-verification screen asking if the viewer is 18 or over before allowing access. If you don't, it's a crime. As the ACLU pointed out then, the law was so broadly written, it could be read as covering posts made to social media accounts -- platforms where users have no way of controlling who views their posts. To steer clear of potential violations, some social media users may have been better off withholding anything that could possibly be deemed unacceptable. The most likely recipients of extra law enforcement attention due to the new law were the state's many booksellers, most of whom sell books online. Smaller sellers would have been forced to implement age verification procedures for their websites and somehow determine what content was acceptable for minors and segregate it accordingly. The simplest solution would be to simply "age wall" all books and treat all purchasers as though they were buying "Fifty Shades of Grey," rather than, say, "Clifford, the Big, Red Dog." The ACLU joined two Louisiana bookstores in challenging the terrible law and, only a few months after its passage, have received an injunction blocking its enforcement. The court decision spends several paragraphs discussing the numerous flaws in the law's wording, many of which could result in a chilling effect on free speech and act as indirect (and perhaps unintentional) prior restraint. Criminal statutes, such as §14:91.14, must be defined “with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 357 (1983). The ill-defined terms in §14:91.14 do not adequately notify individuals and businesses in Louisiana of the conduct it prohibits, which creates a chilling effect on free speech. For example, despite the array of definitions in Section (B) of the statute, it does not define “for commercial gain” or “publish.” The State contends that the phrase “for commercial gain,” which is embedded in the definition of “material harmful to minors,” means the statute applies to material published on the Internet for commercial gain. (Doc. 41 at p. 9). However, under a similar criminal statute, La. Stat. Ann. §14:91.11,7 a Louisiana court held that the term “for commercial gain”—which was similarly embedded in that statute’s definition of “material harmful to minors”—refers to the “creation or production of the material involved and not to the nature of the transaction.” [...] Thus, the State’s proposed definition of the term “for commercial gain” completely ignores a Louisiana court’s explicit interpretation of that term. The court also has a problem with the State's inability to define what's encompassed by the word "publish." The State also contends that the word “publish” is synonymous with the word “upload.” The State offers no competent support for this contention. The State only provides a declaration from the Senior Systems Administrator for the Louisiana Department of Justice—who is not a member of the Louisiana Legislature or qualified as an expert—to advise as to his personal interpretation of the term. The meaning of “publish,” as used in this statute, is vague as written and could include uploading or displaying content that is harmful to minors. Absent an explicit definition in the statute, the Court and the public can only speculate as to its meaning and intended application. Because the State passed a badly and vaguely-written law, it has no one but itself to blame for its unintended consequences. To avoid the stigma of a criminal prosecution, Plaintiffs, and those similarly situated, will be inclined to either broadly apply the age verification process well beyond what is necessary or refrain from publishing any material that arguably falls within the confines of the statute. A possible consequence of the chill caused by §14:91.14 is to drive protected speech from the marketplace of ideas on the Internet. As the court sees it, the booksellers and those similarly situated have two choices when complying with this law -- neither of which are acceptable under the First Amendment: either deploy overly-broad age verification processes, which could prevent site users from accessing information, or simply stop "publishing" anything that might be deemed "harmful to minors." The State can still appeal this decision, but it would likely be a waste of time. Legislators may try to rewrite the law, which would be preferable rather than trying to keep it alive in its current form. But a better solution would simply be to strike the law from the books and accept the fact that it's almost impossible to "save" the "children" from "harmful content" without punching holes in First Amendment. There are plenty of "content filters" already in place, standing between minors and "harmful material." They're called "parents." And even if they're not perfect, they're at least as effective as this law would be, what with minors still being able to access content not hosted by Louisiana entities or lying about their age to content filtering systems. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 13 days ago on techdirt
This week, it was hard to miss the irony in David Petraeus saying that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted. We listed five reasons his statements were nonsense, and That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week with an addendum to that list: Sixth, it's bullshit because the law Snowden would be prosecuted under does not allow motive as a defense. It's entirely black or white, 'Did you reveal classified information?', and since obviously Snowden did his 'trial' would be just as pre-determined as Patraeus' was, except in the other direction. Our second place comment for insightful comes in response to the same story, this time from David (presumably not Petraeus) expanding on why comparing Petraeus to Snowden is stupid: Petraeus acted only for personal gain, passing classified information to his mistress in order to self-aggrandize. That's stabilizing the political establishment. Snowden acted in defense of the Constitution, passing classified information to the public in order to enable them to fight for their Constitutional rights. That's destabilizing the political establishment. Of course the latter is an openly hostile act against those sworn to defend the Constitution, making Snowden an enemy of the state. It would not be so if those sworn to defend the Constitution were not actively seeking to abolish it, but Snowden was perfectly aware that they were doing exactly this, so his acts clearly were hostile towards the government and its agencies. So he cannot expect mercy. Not as long as the American People cheer on the scum that has stolen its country and turned it into a mockery of democratic processes. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response from Ehud Gavron to a commenter accusing Techdirt of "glorifying discrimination against cops": I think you're so busy blaming everyone other than the criminals you've lost the perspective. First, Techdirt publishes articles discussing police criminal behavior -- like brutality -- daily. (Yesterday in fact there was a piece on Fox Network not wanting to show the end of a police chase that end with a man surrendering on the ground, and the criminal cops battered him.) Second, if police weren't committing gross acts of criminal behavior -- like falsely arresting the people cleaning out the scumbag deadbeat cop's abandoned house -- there wouldn't be reports of this, some of which you find in Techdirt. Yes, far easier to "blame the media" for reporting about criminal cops, than to take criminal cops to task, remove them from the street, or put them in prisons. If cops held cops to the same standards as they hold everyone else, there would be more cops in prison than junkies. There's no such thing as a good cop. There are bad cops... and those who look the other way or support them. E Next, we've got a good anonymous point about the Philly cops who bizarrely tried to hide their license plate reader vehicle as a Google Maps car: Without the disguise no one would have even noticed. Over on the funny side, first place goes to a response to the Butts County cop who arrested a crew sent to clean his foreclosed house, where ryuugami simply couldn't resist: It seems even Butts County has its share of assholes. ... I'll take my coat. In second place, we've got some anonymous musings about the first place insightful winner this and many other weeks, That One Guy: I actually skipped the main idea that struck me & led to my little joke (and compliment*): writing of this style doesn't seem like it expresses anger so much as it does a sense of rational frustration that has reached a tipping point. Eloquence without hyperbole strikes a rare balance that should be employed more often when addressing a wide audience. (I wouldn't know from personal experience: I lack one, and the other can only be used if you have a legal department to vet it for 'government asshat exploitability potential' first.) _____ * - a compliment to TOG in that he seems to have the 'passionate but articulate' thing pretty much down. It was also a statement made to see how well I could resist my desire to mention that TOG could occasionally just... shut the hell up! Go get treated for hypergraphia! Take 'emeritus' status on 'Insight' you greedy bastard, & give the rest of us a bleeding chance once in a while! Frig flatblastulated gorram slrmm'n !#!#?@#$@!!!! For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from CharlieBrown on statements from the Panama Papers leaker that the revolution will be digitized: .....so we should be able to use DRM to stop it, right? And finally, even though jokes taking the term "piracy" literally are hardly new, DannyB must get some recognition for throwing in a fresh and irresistible pun: Piracy is theft. Piracy causes the loss of cargo. Sometimes the loss of shipping vessels. And sometimes injury or death to crews. Often, piracy results in a Lost Sail and loss of other shipping or boating related items. The Lost Sail is the main concern of the copyright maximalists. That's all for this week, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago This week in 2011, the copyright maximalists were out in force. We saw complaints about new TLDs on the basis that they create "more space" for infringement while lobbyists sought to include special censorship capabilities in .net domains. A judge let US Copyright Group move forward with its huge shakedown operation over The Expendables, BMI tried to claim that a person listening to their own music via the cloud counts as a public performance, and the creators of some origami patterns sued a painter whose work was inspired by them. In Portugal, politicians were seeking to make Creative Commons illegal, while in Ireland there was a push for fair use laws that was somehow branded as "radical". But of course the biggest news was the son of COICA: the hugely problematic PROTECT IP act that had a few good ideas undermined by all the bad ones and had the potential to gut the DMCA safe harbors. Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Zoe Lofgren were not impressed. Ten Years Ago This week in 2006, the trademark battle between Apple Computers and the Beatles' record label came to an end with the judge siding with the former's definition of iTunes as a data transmission service, not a music store. We saw an early push to make sure taxpayer-funded research is freely available, the dawning realization that video games are a really big deal, and a very silly squabble over the .xxx TLD. The big copyright topic was DRM, with one analyst presenting unconvincing multi-billion-dollar figures for the loss due to a lack of good DRM, even while Hollywood was being held back by its DRM obsession (and its apparent inability to understand BitTorrent). We debunked the idea that copy protection is somehow "necessary" and one of the few people who seemed to understand the problem was the CEO of RealNetworks. Fifteen Years Ago This week in 2001, things were settling into a new post-bubble groove in Silicon Valley, with people realizing that overhyped areas like B2B weren't dead, they just weren't exciting and had to be approached like any other business — an attitude that was emerging throughout the world of internet startups. There was even more grappling over new TLDs, an interesting glimpse into the FBI's tactics against Russian hackers, and of course an ongoing glut of dot com documentaries. We also got some early bumps on the road to things that are much more common now: Microsoft killed off its subscription-based Office offerings with the apparent awareness that they would come back later, inflight WiFi was possible, but not coming to the US anytime soon, and we were clearly a bit too critical of Apple's plan to start opening retail stores. Also, all the way back in 2001, people were already discussing the still-far-from-complete switch to IPv6. Fifty-Five Years Ago Back in 1961, the recently-appointed head of the FCC was Newton N. Minow, and on May 9th of that year he gave a famous speech entitled Television and the Public Interest, but better known as the "vast wasteland" speech. It was a call for creating more television content in the public interest, and contained some hard-to-argue assertions: When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it. Fifty years later, he said that he never fully predicted the impact of television, but also that little had changed, noting that "too much deals with covering controversy, crimes, fires, and not enough with the country's great issues". Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
This week, we're taking a look at some crowdfunded projects for new home accoutrements both frivolous and functional. Ily Years ago, someone bought me a cordless home phone that was also capable of instant messaging. All you needed to do was install the companion software on your computer, always keep it running, and then presto! You could use MSN Messenger from anywhere in the house on a tiny, terrible keyboard! Yeah, it was pretty useless. The Ily takes the same idea and makes it functional: it's a home phone that works on a landline but also serves as a communication hub for the house, providing video and text messaging and easily communicating with phones and tablets. The core goal of the design is to be extremely easy to use and family friendly, especially for kids — it only places calls to contacts that have been pre-added to the list, and does so at a single tap of the screen, so even very young children can use it unsupervised and unaided. In addition to being a phone of its own, it can also serve as a Bluetooth extension for multiple smartphones, so all calls in a home can be made and received from one central hub. Acanvas The Acanvas is a digital art and picture frame that you hang on your wall, and there's nothing too exceptional about that. But it's worth a glance thanks to one fun, innovative feature: its motorized power cord that sneaks out to recharge the frame when nobody's looking. Yup: with the help of a special connector plugged in to the nearest outlet, the Acanvas takes care of its own charging needs as discretely as possible, hiding its power cord away most of the time then extending it to the outlet as needed. Game changer? Not really. Neat feature that's fun to watch? Definitely. Portal A home full of connected devices also needs to be a home full of robust WiFi access, and the Portal router might be on its way to becoming the new standard for just that. The key to Portal is simple: it can operate on a protected portion of the radio spectrum that was formerly reserved for radar, opening up about three times as much spectrum as typical WiFi. The main advantage to this is a way around congestion: in densely populated areas like large apartment buildings, there are a whole lot of routers competing for the same spectrum, invisibly slowing down everyone's WiFi in a way they probably aren't even aware of. Portal uses FCC-approved switching technology to move onto those other spectrum bands when the usual ones are bogged down. Of course, this is ultimately just a first step — in the long run we'll need all routers to be accessing more spectrum and smartly deciding how to share it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 14 days ago on techdirt
The FBI has entered its explanation for its declaration that it won't discuss the NIT (Network Investigative Technique) in open court or with the defense -- no matter what. Its decision to run a child porn website for two weeks while it deployed the NIT has backfired immensely, resulting in successful challenges of the warrant and the evidence obtained. For the most part, the NIT warrant used by the FBI has been declared invalid because it violates Rule 41's limitations on deployment: a warrant obtained in Virginia can't be used to search computers located in other jurisdictions. The FBI says it will only discuss the NIT with the judge in an ex parte in camera proceeding, cutting the defense entirely out of the loop. It also argues against the defendant's portrayal of the agency as inherently untrustworthy, what with its long history of hiding information from the courts, starting with its Stingray NDAs. While not directly related to the subject matter at hand, Jay Michaud's lawyer is buttressing his arguments against the agency's trustworthiness with a wealth of released documents showing the FBI routinely demanded law enforcement agencies hide Stingray-related information from defendants, judges -- even other prosecutors. Michaud's defense also submitted emails obtained with a FOIA request that showed the agency even hid information on surveillance tech from other FBI agents and federal prosecutors. The choice to cut the latter out of the chain of evidence was based on a supposed trend of prosecutors examining FBI surveillance technology/methods before retiring to work as defense lawyers. What's most hilarious about the FBI's arguments is the fact that it openly questions the legitimacy of documents it released to Brad Heath and USA Today. The actual emails (assuming they are genuine) show no improper concealment. This is an awfully strange thing to say about documents originating from its own offices and released, presumably after a review, to a FOIA requester. If the FBI is forced to assume the emails it released are genuine, it argues that they don't actually say what they appear to say -- which is that information about FBI surveillance techniques must be hidden from damn near everybody but especially those who might be called to testify in court. Nothing in the email suggests that anyone should be deceived or misled. Rather, the email merely urges the common-sense practice of not disseminating sensitive information unless there is a reason to do so. This concept is called “need to know.” It is familiar to anyone who has worked in the military or law enforcement, and it is an entirely proper way to protect sensitive information. The government says this shows the FBI does disseminate this info, but only on a "need to know" basis. But it says nothing as to why the "need to know" list doesn't include judges, defendants or prosecutors involved in these cases. And its other arguments are just as terrible, but at least they don't include the FBI raising doubts as to the legitimacy of documents it generated itself. It claims -- as it has in the past -- that the restrictive NDAs it forces law enforcement to sign before using Stingray equipment aren't restrictive and don't heavily hint (if not state outright) that agencies are to let perps walk rather than introduce Stingray-related evidence in court. [A] careful reading of this material shows no evidence that the FBI has deceived or misled courts or prosecutors. Technically true. But plenty of law enforcement agencies have. And when these omissions are challenged, they tend to excuse them by citing the FBI's NDA. So, the FBI ties up agencies with NDAs in hopes of limiting disclosures. Then it throws them under the bus when disclosures aren't made. [T]he FBI made no false or misleading statements to courts, prosecutors, or anybody else in the Andrews investigation. The pen/trap application and related statements in Andrews were made by local law enforcement and local prosecutors. Yes, but only because they felt they needed to do so, or because they may have been explicitly told to do so after asking the FBI. The FBI cites only this case because Michaud's defense only cites this case. There are countless others where it's been made apparent evidence of Stingray use has been hidden from everyone but the agency deploying the device. We don't know what the outcome will be yet, but it's apparent the FBI will not be discussing the details of its NIT in court -- even as it tries to make itself out as a paragon of transparency in this filing. It even says it would prefer to handle this in an adversarial fashion (in the "allow the defense to participate" sense of the word) but simply cannot because it would presumably allow any number of criminals to escape its NIT tentacles in the future. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The following story -- sent in by an anonymous Techdirt reader -- shows the power of opening up government data for examination by citizens... as well as the reason many government agencies may be reluctant to do so. Ben Wellington, a research analyst who has used New York City's open data to push for policy changes, runs the I Quant NY blog. Looking through the city's parking ticket data, he found some addresses were listed on an extremely high number of tickets for blocking pedestrian ramps. What I found when I dove into the data surprised me. To start, I found the top address where this ticket were given: in front of 575 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, where over $48,000 in parking fines were issued in the last 2.5 years. Now, before anyone shouts that the people blocking pedestrian ramps got exactly what they deserved, Wellington points out that sidewalk cutouts are not automatic no-parking zones. Only certain ones are. As of late 2008, in NYC you can park in front of a sidewalk pedestrian ramp, as long as it’s not connected to a crosswalk. It’s all written up in the NYC Traffic Rules, and for more detail, take a look at this article. The local legislation making these parking spots legal was proposed by Council Member Gentile, and adopted by the Department of Transportation before it ever made it for a vote. But it's the legal parking spots that seem to be receiving the most traffic enforcement attention by NYPD officers. The top four spots on the list of ticketed addresses were all legal. So were others Wellington checked. In fact, legal parking spaces appeared to be a rather lucrative cash generator for the city. I then selected 30 random spots that had received 5 or more tickets over the time period, and based on Google Maps found that all of them appeared to be legal parking spots! (Randomly selecting spots with a single ticket in the database showed some illegal spots as well, so I chose 5 as a conservative cutoff.) It all adds up to nearly 2,000 tickets and $1.7 million a year in bogus parking tickets. Wellington alerted the city and the NYPD. Unexpectedly, the NYPD responded and promised to fix the problem. [T]he majority of summonses written for this code violation were written by police officers. As a result, the department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command. Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly. As Wellington notes, this is the power of open data. If the government puts more eyes on its problems, it can start fixing them sooner. Transparency is a great thing. New York City suddenly has more legal parking spaces. Well, it's had them for six years but people parking legally were still getting ticketed. Wellington points out the NYPD should be congratulated for not only acknowledging the mistake, but responding positively. Other agencies Wellington has worked with have been far more reluctant to accept responsibility, much less act quickly to correct errors. The downside is that someone's going to take a look at budget sheets and wonder how this $1.7 annual "shortfall" is going to be offset. And when that happens, transparency and accountability are often the first items placed on the chopping block. Someone's going to want to examine the cost of the city's commitment to open data and weigh that against efforts like Wellington's, which "take money" out of the city's pockets. Hopefully, New York City won't roll back its transparency commitment and will instead view things like these as a necessary part of the accountability equation. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Eating meat has been a part of the human diet for quite some time, and there's evidence that cooking meat allowed our ancient ancestors to spend less time chewing and more time doing other productive tasks. But now, we're eating a lot more calories and hardly chewing at all -- and soon we'll have robots doing all the hard work for us. With all our new free time, maybe we can spend it making sure we're eating the right things (without necessarily eating a trendy paleo diet). Clear Labs has published a DNA analysis of hamburgers sampled from 79 brands and 22 retailers. Veggie burgers were tested that contained beef DNA (as well as other undesirable animal DNA), and meat burgers appeared to contain other meats than listed on their labels. If you really want to know how the sausage is made, you can also check out the Clear Labs report on hot dogs (but take it with a grain of salt). [url] Genetic testing of sushi and other fish in restaurants has turned up a surprisingly high number of mislabeled species. The FDA prioritizes food safety over the accurate identification of species, and it can only inspect a fairly small fraction of all the food served. [url] Maybe you don't mind a bit of pork in your all beef patties, but how about antibiotics in your favorite fast food? Sure, it's probably not going to kill anyone (directly), but there's always some outrage when people find out there's something they weren't expecting in their food. [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
There tends to be a great deal of talk these days about how the media influences public discourse. Most of these conversations tend towards the inane, with the dichotomy of our political affiliations directly deciding how we see the media's influence. One political side will complain that the media leans one way, while the other complains likewise. Everyone is working from a different set of "facts," causing the whole conversation to devolve into a sporting event, with each side rooting for its own team and proclaiming an underdog type of branding for their team against the horde of media others. The reality is much more nefarious and stark. The larger media, once at least mildly interested in paying lip-service to being the "fourth estate" and holding government and public institutions accountable to the general public is today anything but. Instead, news media today is far more interested in sensationalism without substance and a plodding prostration before government over being an information source for the public. You can see this best in the media's mindframe when reporting on police activity. A wonderfully brutal recent example of this is one local Fox outlet's reporting on a police chase that should have ended when the suspect willingly stopped his vehicle and surrendered by lying on the ground. Indeed, that appears to be how the cameraman recording the event would have preferred the reporting on the story to have ended. What you see is the suspect surrendering, exiting the vehicle, lying upon the ground as instructed, and then being pummeled for a brief moment before the camera quickly zooms out and renders the action indiscernible. Why the camera operator did so remains unanswered, but we know from other footage captured by an NBC affliate that the police spent the next half-a-minute or so beating the shit out of a man who was lying surrendered on the pavement. Were we to need to rely on the Fox footage to determine what had happened, we wouldn't have this full picture of the beating in our minds. Instead, we'd have a moment or two of the violence, which could quite possibly be excused and waived off by what would be a typical dismissal by the authorities. Indeed, in that same local Fox affiliate's own reporting on the controversey, the public is informed: "[Mass. State Police] will also review the apprehension of the suspect, to determine whether the level of force deployed during the arrest was appropriate," FOX25 has been told. And quoting the District Attorney's office: "I think anyone who looks at the video is disturbed by it, but we don't jump to conclusions," Nashua Police said. "We need to find out what happened." The Fox affiliate's linked story, castrated by its own camera operator's perhaps subconcious choice to protect the authorities from damning footage, offers no further comment on the footage, the controversy, or the beating the man took at the hands of police. The news anchors mention that the public is calling the station about the beating the man took and say they are asking police for an explanation. But that camera pulling back, small detail as it may seem, certainly feels emblematic of a very real problem. For a news organization covering a story about a police chase, there must be no greater need for camera footage than the culmination of that chase. It's the climax of the story. Yet, the moment the controversial actions by the police begin, the camera pans far back. I wouldn't mean to suggest that this reaction is one purposefully trying to keep the public uninformed, but it certainly is the reaction of someone not trained specifically to do the job of holding government and the authorities accountable. That's the shift that's happened in media these past few decades. That's the bias about which you should be concerned. If the mass media no longer serves the public, it serves no purpose at all. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this year, the FBI was catching heat for some undersupervised and overly-broad surveillance it deployed around the San Mateo courthouse in California. Hoping to catch conversations related to suspected bid-rigging during real estate auctions, the FBI scattered hidden microphones around the courthouse steps where the auctions took place. The defendants' legal representation raised hell, claiming the surreptitious recordings violated their clients' rights. After all, the Supreme Court had declared in 1967 that closing a phone booth door was not dissimilar to holding a conversation in hushed tones, bringing a limited expectation of privacy to public places. The FBI couldn't have felt all that confident about its secret recordings as it vowed not to enter any of the conversations it captured into evidence. That wasn't enough for the judge, however, who said he still needed to determine whether other evidence had been tainted by this questionable surveillance. Not only was there a question about the legality under the Fourth Amendment, but there were unanswered questions about how many completely irrelevant conversations the FBI's bugs might have picked up -- like privileged discussions between lawyers and clients, both of whom are often at courthouses simultaneously. Apparently, the FBI thought it was going to get away with this, most likely by declaring anything that happens in public to be completely stripped of privacy expectations. The surreptitious recordings in San Mateo didn't go nearly as smoothly as planned and now evidence has been produced showing the FBI targeted more than one courthouse during its bid-rigging investigation. (via Nate Cardozo) At the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, the FBI planted hidden microphones inside light fixtures on the courthouse’s exterior steps to capture the conversations of people attending the foreclosure auctions. Cameras and microphones were installed in parked Alameda County vehicles next to the courthouse. The FBI even hid a microphone in the AC Transit bus stop on Fallon Street, and dropped a bugged backpack next to a statue inside the courthouse, according to a letter sent by US Justice Department attorney Kate Patchen to Marr's attorneys on March 15. The surveillance was ongoing from March 2010 to January 2011. And: In Martinez, the FBI planted microphones in bushes, at a bus stop, on a pole, and inside parked and roving vehicles near the auction site. Three courthouses. At least a dozen microphones. Hundreds of hours of recordings. And for what? Tough to say. Multiple prosecutions of suspected bid-riggers are ongoing, but the investigative groundwork is failing to pass inspection. Once again, prosecutors are promising not to use the questionable recordings in court, but they're far less likely to drop any evidence springing from those captured conversations. In addition, defendants' lawyers in the San Mateo County case are going so far as to claim the FBI committed felonies by recording conversations, as California is a two-party consent state. They might have to settle for some suppressed evidence though, as the state law has a fairly broad "public area" exception, which would cover courthouse steps and bus stops. But that interpretation of the state's wiretap law exceptions may be subject to the government's interpretation of public spaces from its 1967 Katz decision, which would grant hushed conversations in public an expectation of privacy. The FBI -- through its actions -- is repeatedly demonstrating it cares little for the rules that govern its investigations and intelligence gathering. It only cares when it gets caught. This is its culture, something that traces back -- with only minimal interruption -- to its inception. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Unless the Supreme Court chooses to get involved, it looks like we'll never get to see the full "Torture Report." We'll just have to make do with the Executive Summary, which was released at the end of 2014. The summary is just 500 pages out of ~7,000 total. The rest of these pages remain in the hands of the Senate and the CIA, and neither is willing to part with them. FOIA enthusiast Jason Leopold's request for the full document has already been shut down. The ACLU's request was similarly denied by the DC District Court. The Appeals Court has reached its decision, and it agrees with the lower court. The denial hinges on the court's determination that the full report is nothing more than a collection of Congressional communications and documents, rather than being in the possession of the CIA where they could (theoretically) be accessed via FOIA requests. The court cites a 2009 letter from the Senate Committee to the CIA that spells this out explicitly. Any . . . notes, documents, draft and final recommendations, reports or other materials generated by Committee staff or Members, are the property of the Committee . . . . These documents remain congressional records in their entirety and disposition and control over these records, even after the completion of the Committee’s review, lies exclusively with the Committee. As such, these records are not CIA records under the Freedom of Information Act or any other law. In other words, the Senate Committee -- with a single letter -- managed to convert not only the finished Torture Report, but all of the documents it used to compile the report, into Congressional "work product," making it completely inaccessible by the general public. According to Appellants, when an agency has been given possession of a document created by Congress, the document is presumptively an agency record unless Congress has clearly expressed its intent to control the document. In Appellants’ view, Appellees cannot establish a clear assertion of congressional control with respect to the Full Report because it was disseminated to Appellees without any restrictions. We disagree. The June 2009 Letter manifests a clear intent by the Senate Committee to maintain continuous control over its work product, which includes the Full Report. Therefore, the Full Report always has been a congressional document subject to the control of the Senate Committee. The court finds that the only entity with the power to release the full Torture Report is the Senate Committee controlling the "work product." Considering there were attempts to bury the much smaller Executive Summary, it's safe to say the current committee, along with any successive committees, aren't going to be interested in releasing the full report, not as long as there is a compelling interest (read: the CIA, administration, etc.) in keeping it a secret. Based on Feinstein's 2009 letter, and a communication accompanying its release to the Executive Branch in 2012 solely for the purpose of eliciting comments, the court declares the Torture Report to be completely exempt from the FOIA. When Senator Feinstein transmitted the draft of the Full Report to the Executive Branch on December 14, 2012, her transmittal letter made it clear that the Committee would determine if and when to publicly disseminate the Full Report. Nothing changed as the final edits and corrections were made to the Full Report. The limited transmittal of the Full Report to Appellees in 2014 certainly did not vitiate the command of the June 2009 Letter or otherwise authorize public dissemination. [...] On the record before us, the Senate Committee’s intent to retain control of the Full Report is clear. The Full Report therefore remains a congressional document that is not subject to disclosure under FOIA. This decision, while logical in its determination of the Committee's intent, exposes a glaring hole in the FOIA -- one which allows agencies to drive truckloads of documents through into the darkness beyond. "Work product" can be almost anything, even completed reports. All it takes to move something out of the public's reach is a government employee declaring that the documents they don't want to release are somehow still in a nascent, "deliberative" state. Feinstein's 2009 letter makes it clear she wanted the full report to stay out of the public's hands, so she declared the documents unfinished and "removed" them from the CIA's control. The courts don't always buy the government's "work product" arguments, but there's the rub: it takes a lawsuit to reach this point, something that's not always an option for FOIA requesters. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If you've ever had the pleasure of simply asking one medical outfit to transfer your records to another company or organization, you've probably become aware of the sorry state of medical IT. Billions are spent on medical hardware and software, yet this is a sector for which the fax machine remains the pinnacle of innovation and a cornerstone of daily business life. Meanwhile, getting systems to actually communicate with each other appears to be a bridge too far. And this hodge podge of discordant and often incompatible systems can very often have very real and troubling implications for patients. For example, one patient recently undergoing a heart transfer had the procedure interrupted for five full minutes after a PC connected to an essential piece of monitoring equipment began a scheduled anti-virus scan:"According to one such report filed by Merge Healthcare in February, Merge Hemo suffered a mysterious crash right in the middle of a heart procedure when the screen went black and doctors had to reboot their computer. Fortunately, the patient was sedated, and the doctors had five minutes at their disposal to wait for the computer to finish rebooting, start the Merge Hemo application again, and complete their procedure without any health risks for the patient."Fortunate, since "death by shitty hospital IT support" doesn't sound like a particularly fun way to go. The filing with the FDA by the company in question (Merge) notes that the blame was the fault of the hospital's IT support, who ignored software instructions that state the folders being used by Merge's software should always be whitelisted from any anti-virus platforms:"Merge investigated the issue and later reported to the FDA that the problem occurred because of the antivirus software running on the doctors' computer. The antivirus was configured to scan for viruses every hour, and the scan started right in the middle of the procedure. Merge says the antivirus froze access to crucial data acquired during the heart catheterization. Unable to access real-time data, the app crashed spectacularly." ere's the thing: aging systems and shoddy medical IT support are the least of the medical industry's problems. The biggest problem continues to be that medical technology security remains little more than an afterthought, leaving underfunded IT support frequently outgunned. That has resulted in a major wave of ransomware attacks that in some instances have actually forced hospitals to revert to using paper only while they get sorted out (underfunded school systems have been having a dramatic uptick in similar attacks). And as Internet of Things companies push hospitals to embrace even more sophisticated technologies, you can expect things to get worse. After all, this is a sector that can't even secure doorbells, refrigerators, thermostats or even tea kettles. What could possible go wrong as these technologies are introduced into an already marginally-competent medical IT sector?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've talked in the past about how claims of dangerous silence from certain law enforcement and intelligence groups within the American government are so much the crying of "wolf!" As some will decry the use of security tools like encryption, or other privacy tools, the fact is that the so-called "internet of things" industry has created what is essentially an invited-in army of confidential informants. Domestic surveillance, once a time-consuming, laborious, and difficult task for those doing the spying has since become laughably easy by relative standards. One can imagine J. Edgar Hoover having to change his trousers if he learned exactly to what degree Americans today have accepted hackable or easily-compromised cameras and microphones into our homes, so excited would he be. In this era, then, it would seem the public buying these IoT products would have an interest in learning if their government is using those products against them in this way. In large part, it seems that the government ain't telling. Take the Amazon Echo, for instance, a device with a microphone that is voice-activated to play your favorite music, tell you the weather, read you the latest news, *cough*-let the government spy on you-*cough*, tells you the traffic, and reads you your audiobook-- wait, what was that government spying thing? Is that for real? Gizmodo recently tried to find out via an FOIA request. The government's response was a shrug of the shoulders and the wink of an eye. Back in March, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the FBI asking if the agency had ever wiretapped an Amazon Echo. This week I got a response: “We can neither confirm nor deny...” In many ways the Echo is a law enforcement dream. Imagine if you could go back in time and tell police that one day people would willingly put microphones in their own homes that, with a little hacking, could be heard from anywhere in the world 24/7. First, you’d need to explain what hacking was, but then they’d be like, “Nah bruh, yer pullin’ my leg.” The full FOIA response is embedded below. As Gizmodo notes, there is neither a confirmation or denial that records of surveillance by Echo exist, and the letter even goes on to insist that this response shouldn't be taken to mean that there are in fact such records. But, particularly in a post-Snowden world in which we live, what else can you expect the public to think? With all that's gone on, both the innocent and nefarious alike would be crazy not to simply operate on the assumption that the alphabet agencies were hacking all the internet of things it could before this FOIA response. The government's non-answer in this case will serve as confirmation for some and a return to this SOP for most others. And screaming in the vaccum of certainty here is the overriding sense that any oversight of these surveillance practices that might exist is sorely lacking in teeth. It's difficult not to picture Americans shuffling within their own homes, casting worried looks at the devices around them, wondering for all the world when each might be weaponized as a telescreen. If the internet of things is going to become a new great industry, this is certainly going to be one of the hurdles it must overcome. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Snap up the $59 Complete 2016 Learn to Code Bundle and dive into over 100 hours of training and tutorials. The 8 courses included in the bundle cover Python, AngularJS, HTML5, PHP, Ruby and much more. You will learn web development by completing projects, building your own apps and setting up your own social network. 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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FBI Director James Comey says we're "going dark" as more platforms move towards encryption. Nobody's buying it. Not Congress. Not NSA officials. Definitely not those who have actually researched the subject. He also says people with cameras are causing spikes in crime rates by making police officers so self-conscious they can't do their job. Comey blamed citizens with cameras for escalating crime rates last October. He was immediately contradicted by Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Having learned nothing from the experience, Comey has dusted off his 2015 talking points for redeployment in 2016. FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday he believes a "viral video effect" causes weak police work and could be "at the heart" of a spike in violent crime in some American cities. “There’s a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime—the getting out of your car at 2 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” he told reporters at FBI headquarters. This is a guy with access to some of the best intelligence and advice your tax dollars can buy. And yet he'd rather tuck his thumbs into his suspenders, lean towards reporters and aw-shucks at them with his "I may just be a simple director of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the United States, but…" pitches. He sounds like a small town local running for sheriff, rather than a top government official with his finger on the pulse of criminal activity and law enforcement technology. Comey spoke to reporters after being briefed on crime statistics from 40 major cities, most of which saw an increase in murders, he said. "I was very worried about it last fall and I am in many ways more worried," Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters. "The numbers are not only going up, they're continuing to go up faster than they were going up last year. And I worry very much it's a problem that most of America can drive around. ... I don't know what the answer is, but, holy cow, do we have a problem." That's classic Comey: You've got problems? I don't have answers. Encryption got you down? I'm sure the "smart people" in tech can deliver unicorns on command. No, I'm sorry. I don't have any technical details but, you know, those guys at Apple and Google are so damn smart. They'll think of something. Crime rates spiking in major cities? "Holy cow, do we have a problem?" Any ideas, Mr. Top of the Law Enforcement Food Chain? "I don't know what the answer is." OK. Well… um… keep on earning that paycheck... I guess. Not for nothing has James Comey earned a petition calling for his removal. Comey claims criminals are somehow exploiting a "tech gap" the FBI can't seem to close, despite its hundreds of millions of dollars. I don't know how many criminals are staying one step ahead of the FBI in a tech arms race anyone can participate in. (The fact that the FBI can buy/obtain/hoard exploits and malware, along with other high-tech tools the general public can't purchase, somehow always gets lost in law enforcement's portrayal of this so-called "race.") But it can certainly be said criminals are one step ahead of the FBI's top man, who often seems genuinely baffled by the issues confronting his agency. It may be that Comey is playing dumb because he believes it's the best way to advance his agency's agenda. But he's been doing this for more than a year and there's been no forward movement. If anything, the FBI is less likely to receive Congressional assistance than it was before Comey began running his mouth on these two subjects. Not only has he lost the support of Congress, but he's not winning any powerful friends within the law enforcement community. “He ought to stick to what he knows,” James O. Pasco Jr., executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told the New York Times. “He’s basically saying that police officers are afraid to do their jobs with absolutely no proof.” Unfortunately, this -- and "going dark" -- appears to be all Comey knows. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Here's the sort of fun stuff law enforcement gets up to when it thinks no one's paying attention. It all started with Matt Blaze tweeting out a photo of a rather suspicious-looking Google Maps vehicle. WTF? Pennsylvania State Police license plate reader SUV camouflaged as Google Street View vehicle. pic.twitter.com/0z4yo2rVoR — matt blaze (@mattblaze) May 11, 2016 As anyone can clearly see, a crappy decal was slapped on the window of a huge SUV, presumably in an attempt to disguise the true purpose of the cameras mounted up front, which are high-powered automatic license plate readers. Blaze also spotted a Pennsylvania State Police parking placard on the dash. The Pennsylvania State Police quickly denied the vehicle belonged to it. But it did, at least, (sort of) confirm the cameras were license plate readers. Matt, this is not a PSP vehicle. If this is LPR technology, other agencies and companies might make use of it. Philadelphia resident/investigative reporter Dustin Slaughter tracked down the vehicle and shot photos of the parking placard, along with the other side of the vehicle, confirming the bogus Google Maps window stickers were on both sides of the vehicle. The city's fleet manager denied the vehicle belonged to the State Police. However, he did not clarify which agency the faux Google vehicle belonged to. “All city vehicles such as police, fire, streets etc.…are registered to the city. Quasi [public] agencies like PPA, Housing Authority, PGW and School District are registered to their respective agencies,” fleet manager Christopher Cocci wrote in an email to Motherboard after reviewing photos of the vehicle. Google also denied any involvement. “We can confirm that this is not a Google Maps car, and that we are currently looking into the matter,” Google spokesperson Susan Cadrecha wrote. Google tends to use vehicles with lower profiles, better gas mileage, and very distinctive branding/camera setups. A few hours later, another Philadelphia law enforcement agency stepped forward to take credit for the deceptive vehicle. The Philadelphia Police Department admitted today that a mysterious unmarked license plate surveillance truck disguised as a Google Maps vehicle, which Motherboard first reported on this morning, is its own. In an emailed statement, a department spokesperson confirmed: “We have been informed that this unmarked vehicle belongs to the police department; however, the placing of any particular decal on the vehicle was not approved through any chain of command. With that being said, once this was brought to our attention, it was ordered that the decals be removed immediately.” The spokesperson also claimed that an inquiry is forthcoming. Well, we have a WHO. What we don't have is a WHY. Of what possible use was this crappy, little fakeout? Anyone stupid enough to believe a hulking SUV with a city parking permit was a Google Maps vehicle is also too stupid to know what the cameras mounted on it are actually used for. For everyone else above that level, the easiest conclusion to draw is that the Philly police are stupid enough to think this would work. If so, they've shorted the wrong set of collective IQ. A more benign explanation is also possible, though. It could have just been a poorly thought out attempt at a joke. Who sports more cameras and hoovers up more photos than Google's mapping vehicles? This may have just been a few cops poking fun at themselves, co-opting Big Data's look for their Big Brother plate scanning: the Google Maps of law enforcement, making sure no obscure side road goes "unmapped." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've noted time and time again how broadband usage caps on fixed-line networks are arbitrary, unnecessary, and harm innovation. They're also a useful weapon against streaming video competitors, and the natural evolution of TV competition. Caps can be used to either punish users who try and cut the cord with higher prices, but they also allow ISPs to exempt their own streaming services from said caps (something currently being done by both Verizon and Comcast), thereby giving these services a distinct and unfair advantage in the market. But broadband ISPs are now coming up with a new way of attacking cord cutters: forcing them to subscribe to television if they want to avoid usage caps. Back in January, AT&T announced that the company would be happy to remove usage caps on its wireless network, but only if you subscribe to DirecTV or U-verse TV service. Then last month, AT&T carried this idea over to its fixed-line broadband network, announcing that it would be imposing new usage caps on its broadband users starting May 23. While AT&T says it will generously allow users to pay $30 more per month to avoid usage caps entirely, it also announced that users who subscribe to its TV services will be able to avoid usage caps entirely. This month, an Oregon company by the name of Bend Broadband followed suit, informing its users that it would be happy to remove its usage caps (ranging from 150 GB to 500 GB), but only if users subscribe to television service. Bend offers up a misleading explanation for why caps are necessary in the first place in a company FAQ:"The continued migration of Netflix usage from mailed DVD to Internet streaming/download, as well as other data intensive uses of the Internet, are impacting all providers of high-speed Internet service. While we certainly acknowledge and appreciate that content rich services like Netflix make our high-speed offering more valuable to the end user, the volume of data associated with this content drives significant incremental investment in the network and the need to purchase more bandwidth in order to maintain the user experience and this must be funded."Right, but that's bullshit. U.S. residents already pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world; money that any earnings report will clearly illustrate is more than enough to offset what at this point is only modest network upgrades. As one cable CEO recently noted, most of the heavy investment is over, and the name of the game now is milking these uncompetitive markets for all they're worth until either broadband competition magically sprouts from the ether, or regulators wake up from a deep slumber and shut down the price gouging party. Usage caps on fixed-line networks are nothing more than rate hikes on uncompetitive markets, and anybody claiming otherwise either has been swindled by a good salesman, or is selling you something themselves. There's absolutely nothing good about this trend. ISPs are using a lack of competition in the broadband space to impose usage caps. They're then using caps to force subscribers to sign up for TV services they may or may not actually want. It's a mammoth, misleading and anti-competitive abuse of two markets simultaneously, all sold to consumers under the lie that ISPs need even more revenue to keep funding unprecedented investment and innovation. In reality, the entire push may just be one of the largest cons ever perpetrated on consumers in the modern communications era.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As Techdirt readers well know, Big Pharma really hates compulsory licensing of its patented drugs, where a country steps in and allows an expensive drug to be made more cheaply in order to provide wider access for its people. Such massive pressure is applied to nations contemplating this move, that even global giants like India quail. A new story is unfolding that reveals just how far companies are prepared to go in order to prevent it from happening. It concerns Colombia's possible use of a compulsory license for the drug imatinib, sold under the name Glivec, and used to treat leukemia. Despite the fact that the company holding patents on the drug, Novartis, is Swiss, the US has started to lean heavily on Colombia in order to persuade it not to go ahead with the move. KEI has obtained a copy of a letter from Andrés Floréz at the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, DC, to the Minister of Health in Colombia, reporting on a meeting between embassy officials and Everett Eissenstat. He's the Chief International Trade Counsel for the US Senate Committee on Finance, under Senator Orrin Hatch. Apparently, Eissenstat conveyed quite forcefully his views on the negative consequences for Colombia if it decided to issue a compulsory license on the cancer drug Glivec: Eissenstat mentioned that although Novartis is not an American company, the US pharmaceutical industry was very worried about the possibility that the case would become a precedent that could be applied to any patent in any industry which, according to him, could lead to the reputation of our country's respect for intellectual property rights being viewed as impaired and Colombia becoming one among those countries that would have special treatment... Einssenstat also mentioned that, if the Ministry of Health does not correct this situation, the US pharmaceutical industry and related interest groups could become very vocal and interfere with other interests that Colombia could have in the US. Nice little country you have there -- be a shame if something happened to it. Stat News mentioned a couple of forms that "special treatment" might take: A free-trade treaty between the two countries went into effect four years ago, which obligates Colombia to comply with various international trade laws. Florez also cautioned that issuing a compulsory license for the Novartis drug may "weaken support" for bringing Colombia into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact between 12 countries in the Asia and Pacific regions that must still be approved by Congress. But the most extraordinary threat is the following, reported here by KEI: Senator Hatch was so opposed to the idea of a compulsory license on the patent for a $40+ Billion cancer drug made by a Swiss company that he was willing to find an extremely sensitive area for the Colombian people and use it as leverage. The [Paz Colombia] peace process in question is the hopeful conclusion to decades of fighting in the country with guerrilla rebels that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. The US is willing to jeopardize the entire "Paz Colombia" peace plan, all because Big Pharma is outraged a developing country might dare to use its international right to issue a compulsory license. As KEI Director James Love commented: The use of these back channel methods of conveying threats and pressure is common, and the leak of these two letters provides insight into why governments that have the right to issue compulsory licenses rarely do. The fact that after meeting with Eissenstat, the Colombian Embassy connects the patent dispute to the funding of the Colombian peace process illustrates how the United States can link health and national security together in ways that a harmful to both. It can surely only be a matter of time before Colombia obediently toes the line, and recognizes that Big Pharma's patents and profits are much more important than the health and lives of its people. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Lieutenant Timothy Filbeck of the Butts County Sheriff's Department found himself in a not-at-all unusual situation: his home was being foreclosed upon. Like many others who have undergone this process, Filbeck was served with a variety of notices explaining the steps of the process and warning him of the consequences of not complying. Filbeck moved out of the doomed home and into a family member's. This would apparently be the last rational thing he would do in response to the foreclosure. The insurance company for the bank inspected the home four times before coming to the conclusion it had been abandoned by Filbeck. The utilties had been turned off and "cobwebs extended from wall to wall in every room." When the company began preparing the house for auction, things started to get interesting. Employees spent a day cleaning the house out and removing any abandoned property inside it. At some point, Filbeck apparently decided to drop by his old house and noticed the things he had left behind were missing. He could have contacted any of the companies involved in the foreclosure proceedings. He could have done nothing after realizing that leaving a foreclosed house abandoned tends to result in the removal of property also considered abandoned. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals notes that Lieutenant Filbeck chose "none of the above." Instead, Filbeck boarded up the windows, nailed the doors shut, and placed four signs reading “KEEP OUT” on the Property. Filbeck also prepared and filed a police report using fellow deputy Kenneth Mundy’s name and submitted a claim to Liberty Mutual Insurance for the missing property. Handwritten signs and boards on the windows aren't going to keep legally-entitled persons from accessing the property, especially when the doors are still intact. Preparing a police report in someone else's name, however… that's a problem. Especially when the person whose name you've used finds out about it. When Mundy later discovered the police report, he demanded that his name be removed from it and insisted that he had not prepared it, authorized it, or known anything about it at the time that it was submitted. When MD Maintenance (the company preparing the house for auction) returned to the property, it called the property management company to report the boards and signs. The property manager told MDM's employees to report it to the police. This, of course, led to MDM employees calling the same Sheriff's Department where Filbeck was employed. A deputy visited the property and confirmed no one was, in fact, still living there. He discussed his visit with Filbeck, which apparently motivated him to escalate his efforts. A few weeks later, on the morning of February 22, 2011, Plaintiffs went to the Property. The “KEEP OUT” signs were still there. Because the doors remained nailed shut, Graham and Webster entered the Property through a bathroom window. The two employees resumed the task of removing stuff Filbeck had left behind from the property. Filbeck decided to use his position as a law enforcement officer to intimidate them into leaving the property. While Plaintiffs were working, Filbeck learned they were there and caused Lieutenant Matthew Vaughan to go to the Property and confront them. When Vaughan arrived, Plaintiffs told him that they were cleaning out a “foreclosure home.” David Carter gave Vaughan and other deputies who joined Vaughan on the scene, documentation showing that the Property had been foreclosed upon and that Plaintiffs were legally authorized to work there. Possibly concerned that the other officers might reach the conclusion that there was no law enforcement purpose for being at Filbeck's former home, Filbeck himself arrived on the scene and "assumed control" of the "investigation." Upon Filbeck’s arrival, Vaughn handed him a piece of documentation. David also attempted to show Filbeck an authorization letter on his phone, but Filbeck refused to review it and retorted that the authorization letter “and the rest of this paperwork don’t [sic] mean a damn thing.” Filbeck then went on to say all the documentation was worth even less than a "damn" on the scale of profanities. Filbeck insisted that he owned the house, that MDM had no right to be there, and that the foreclosure was “illegal.” He also rejected Plaintiffs’ documentation and the MDM Notices posted at the Property, characterizing them as not worth “shit.” With that being said, Filbeck flexed his legal muscles. Finally, despite Tina’s continuing attempts to reason with Filbeck, Filbeck rejoined, “Your boys are going to jail and are staying there until I get my stuff back.”   He also threatened to arrest Tina. Filbeck then called up courthouse reps to see if there were any eviction notices pending against him. There were not, because the property had been deemed abandoned and Filbeck was obviously no longer living at the home. But those facts didn't stop Filbeck from carrying through on his threat. After both agencies told Filbeck that no eviction notices had been filed, Filbeck ordered the arrests of Carter, Graham, and Webster for burglary. The officers handcuffed and took Plaintiffs to the Butts County Detention Center. There, they remained incarcerated for roughly 24 hours before they were released without any charges filed. Filbeck then decided he wasn't done violating their rights. When the officers carted Plaintiffs off to jail, the Butts County Sheriff’s Office confiscated two cameras, silverware, and $20.00 in cash. Filbeck later admitted that he had accessed MDM’s impounded vehicle, retrieved a camera, and downloaded pictures onto his computer without a warrant or authorization while the men were stuck in jail. The cameras, silverware, and $20.00 in cash were never returned, despite demands for return of the property. Filbeck was sued, along with the Sheriff's Department. All defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. The other defendants walk away from this debacle. Filbeck, however, will have to stand on his own. Both claims of immunity raised by Filbeck have been eliminated by the court's examination of the event. And the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court gives Filbeck a full blast of its disdain in its opening paragraph. Defendant-Appellant Timothy Filbeck was a lieutenant with the Butts County Sheriff’s Office. When his house was foreclosed upon, he, like anyone else who has been through foreclosure, had certain options available to him. But arresting the new owner’s agents, Plaintiffs-Appellees David Carter, Clayton Graham, Jr., and Mitchell Webster (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), who were lawfully performing their jobs, was not one of them. And neither was ordering Plaintiffs handcuffed and thrown in jail overnight. We think that should go without saying. Yet Filbeck did these things, anyway. Now Filbeck tries to convince us that he is immune from suit. We are not persuaded. Being a law-enforcement officer is not a license to break the law. And it is certainly not a shield behind which Filbeck may abuse his power with impunity. The thing is, Filbeck certainly saw his position as both: a permission slip for abusing citizens and a shield to hide behind when they complained. The court couldn't prevent the abuse, but at least it took Filbeck's unearned shield away from him. That being said, this lawsuit seems to be doing nothing to hold back Filbeck's run for Sheriff of Benton County, AR, where he promises to "bring ethics and integrity back to the Sheriff's Office." (I assume he's having some shipped in...) Not only that, but there's no mention of this debacle in former Butts County Sheriff Gene Pope's letter of recommendation. So, while the court may have stripped away the shield of immunity, his supervisor seems all too willing to ensure Filbeck -- who's been proven to abuse power -- gets even more of it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The hyperloop idea that Elon Musk announced to the public is making some baby steps towards becoming a reality. Okay, so no one is talking about how any kind of new train system still needs to get land use rights and political approval, but the technology is inching its way towards becoming more than just an idea on paper. Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies) has tested an open air demo of its prototype train that could someday travel hundreds of miles per hour in an evacuated tube. It's not a very impressive demo since high speed trains already exist, but it's a first step towards much more advanced train systems. [url] The 'hyperloop' concept was popularized by Elon Musk, but similar transport ideas have been tried (and failed) before. The Swissmetro vactrain project fell apart in 2009, and there are no plans to restart it. [url] Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (not to be confused with Hyperloop One) is working with passive magnetic levitation technology to get its version of a hyperloop working. This levitation technology seems to be related to Inductrack tech that inspired the Hendo hoverboards. [url] The US Air Force set a maglev speed record at 633mph using superconducting magnets and liquid helium to cool it all down. Faster test sleds propelled by rockets didn't use magnetic levitation, but this is still cool, right? [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
The FBI has been building a massive biometric database for the last eight years. The Next Generation Identification System (NGIS) starts with millions of photos of criminals (and non-criminals) and builds from there. Palm prints, fingerprints, iris scans, tattoos and biographies are all part of the mix. Despite having promised to deliver a Privacy Impact Assessment of the database back in 2012, the FBI's system went live towards the end of 2014 without one. That's a big problem, considering the database's blend of guilty/innocent Americans, along with its troublesome error rate. The FBI obviously hopes the false positive rate will continue to decline as tech capabilities improve, but any qualms about bogus hits have been placed on the back burner while the agency dumps every piece of data it can find into the database. The FBI has shown little motivation to address Americans' privacy concerns by providing an updated Impact Assessment (the one it does have dates back to the program's inception in 2008), but has wasted no time in alerting legislators about its own privacy concerns. On Thursday, the Justice Department agency plans to propose the database be exempt from several provisions of the Privacy Act -- legislation that requires federal agencies to share information about the records they collect with the individual subject of those records, allowing them to verify and correct them if needed. The DOJ's comments reflect the FBI's desire to keep its newest tracking toy as secret as possible. It asks for a number of exceptions and justifies those with the same excuses it uses to withhold information from both courts and FOIA requesters. First, there's the always-popular "but the bad guys will win" excuse. [M]aking available to a record subject the accounting of disclosures from records concerning him/her would specifically reveal investigative interest by the FBI or agencies that are recipients of the disclosures. Revealing this information could compromise ongoing, authorized law enforcement and national security efforts and may permit the record subject with the opportunity to evade or impede the investigation. [...] Providing access could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another’s personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses. This is the FBI's request for a legislator-approved, pre-emptive blanket Glomar, which will allow the FBI to continue to amass biometric records while drastically decreasing any citizen's attempt to see how much data the agency has amassed on them. Beyond that, the FBI wants to be allowed to keep or destroy records as it sees fit. Again, this will help limit successful database inclusion challenges from concerned citizens. But the DOJ portrays complying with Privacy Act provisions as completely unfeasible. [Exempt] from subsection (e)(5) because in the collection of information for authorized law enforcement purposes it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely and complete. With time, seemingly irrelevant or untimely information may acquire new significance when new details are brought to light. Additionally, the information may aid in establishing patterns of activity and providing criminal leads. Most records in this system are acquired from state and local law enforcement agencies and it would be impossible for the FBI to vouch for the compliance of these agencies with this provision. In sum, the FBI wants to amass a database of biometric information -- one that dumps non-criminals and criminals into the same pool of "possible suspects" -- that includes records from other agencies the FBI doesn't feel confident enough to vouch for, but has no problems using to perform investigations, deny positions to federal job applicants, etc. It would also like to ensure no one included in the database ever has access to the massive amount of information the agency has collected -- some of it unvetted -- that has the power to alter their futures drastically. And it wants this all without living up to its own responsibilities -- like delivering its required Privacy Impact Assessment. Instead, it's arguing that the American public should be at the mercy of a database controlled by a secretive agency, one that appears to care far more for quantity than quality. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
We've noted a few times how interstate inmate calling service (ICS) companies have a disturbingly cozy relationship with government, striking (technically buying) monopoly deals that let them charge inmate families $14 per minute. Worse, some ICS companies like Securus Technologies have been under fire for helping the government spy on privileged inmate attorney communications, information that was only revealed after Securus was hacked late last year. Given the apathy for prison inmates and their families ("Iff'n ya don't like high prices, don't go to prison son!") reform on this front has been glacial at best. As such, ripping off inmate families and delivering sub-par services continues unabated. As many prisons eliminate personal visits, these ICS firms have expanded revenues by pretending to offer next-generation teleconferencing services. But while slightly more economical ($10 for 20 minutes), apparently companies like Securus with no competitors, a captive audience, and no repercussions for sloppy technology haven't quite figured out how to make this whole video chat thing work yet. As a result, inmates who use the services say their experiences are repeatedly abysmal:"Johnson logged into the Securus Technologies website — a Skype-like communication system used by the Travis County jail — on her PC laptop. But the video player didn't have the latest version of Java. When Johnson installed it, the system insisted she had not. So Johnson tried another laptop — a MacBook this time. Java was working this time, Flash was not. Thinking the browser might be the problem, Johnson tried launching the video player in Chrome, then switched to Safari before giving up and using the Securus Android app on her phone. Finally, Coleman's face appeared on screen — barely. For the entire call, a glitch in the system caused Coleman's image to look like a tangle of window blinds. Johnson wanted to talk to Coleman about her case, but through most of the call, she simply repeated, "Hello — can you hear me now?" Johnson was charged $10 for the video visit, even after cutting it a few minutes short of the 20-minute maximum."In short, Securus is the Comcast of the industrial incarceration sector, and as a result customer support and service is about what you'd expect. 600 prisons in 46 states now have video visitation, and more prisons are doing away with in site visitations monthly, creating yet more revenue opportunities for ICS outfits. Reformers have been arguing that cutting off in-person visitation increases on-site violence by frustrated inmates, and hindering an inmate's ability to maintain outside connections (kind of hard when your wife and child look like pixelated Godzilla) increases the risk of repeat incarceration:"County officials across the country claim video visitation is good for security. When Renaud got ahold of prison records, they showed that incidences of inmate-on-inmate violence, disciplinary infractions and possession of contraband all rose after Travis County did away with in-person visitation. Because visitation is so new, these statistics are the earliest indication that the pro-security pitch for video visitation is all snake oil. The past decade in research shows consistently (pdf) that maintaining the relationships the incarcerated will inevitably return to for support once they're released is a powerful agent in keeping them from repeat offenses. One study of over 16,000 incarcerated people found that any visitation at all, even just once, reduced the risk of recidivism by 13% for felony reconvictions."The problem is that the dysfunction of prison telecom goes bone deep, and reform efforts remain superficial at best. After decades of inaction, the FCC recently tried to impose new price caps of twenty-two cents per minute on ICS companies, but those rules are on hold thanks to a lawsuit from prison telecom operators like Securus that claim prisons face riots if companies can't keep charging consistent rates. But the core problem remains that such companies get to pay "concession fees" or "site commissions" (read: kickbacks) to prisons for monopoly control over prison inmate communications services. Prisons are paid $460 million annually in such concession fees, and Los Angeles makes $15 million annually off of such fees alone. Obviously that kind of cash quickly kills any attempt at real reform, so not unlike the outside world, prison telecom services remain an ouroboros of profitable dysfunction; a government-sanctioned monopoly with very real human costs, one nobody in the supply chain wants to even examine, much less actually fix.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
We're back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt. We've been doing a bit of a theme these last few weeks talking about books related to copyright law and copyright reform, having done books on the moral panics used to push bad copyright reform, as well as suggestions on how to do copyright reform right. Last week, we had a good look at the issues of how copyright law and the 1st Amendment don't mix, which included ideas on how to fix that. This week, the recommendation is for Copyfight: The Global Politics of Digital Copyright Reform -- a more academic take on exactly what the subtitle notes, by Blayne Haggart (who, it should be noted, has written guest posts for us on the "fact-free world of copyright policymaking," and the possibilities for an end of maximalist copyright law. Copyfight, which came out two years ago, is an in-depth look at how copyright reform has happened in the past, focusing on the now infamous 1996 WIPO Treaty, which was the basis for the DMCA. As we've explained in the past, copyright interests tried to pass the DMCA in the US earlier, but failed to gain Congressional support. So the lobbyists and the politicians packed up for Geneva, and used the backroom negotiations process of trade agreements to create a treaty that required the DMCA, then headed back to the US in 1998 and got the DMCA passed on the basis of "we needed to do it to 'comply with our international obligations'." It was a sleazy process, but to this day, some of those who did it are happy to admit that's how they got what they wanted. Copyfight's main focus, though, is in looking at how WIPO was then implemented in three different countries -- the US, Canada and Mexico, and what the different implementations mean from a policy perspective. It also tries to put some of this historical analysis into the context of the modern digital copyright fights, talking about how online activism may be shaping the debate as well. It's a good overall read and highly recommended (though not the ebook version, which for reasons that make no sense, costs about 3 times the paper version).Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
An indirectly-involved party in the FBI's Playpen case has waded into the fray and is demanding answers. Mozilla wants to know about the security flaw the FBI exploited so it can fix it. (h/t Brad Heath, Nate Cardozo) Mozilla now seeks to intervene in relation to the Government’s pending Motion to request modification of the Order, or in the alternative, to participate in the development of this issue as amicus curiae in favor of neither party, for the purpose of requesting that the Court modify its Order to require the government to disclose the vulnerability to Mozilla prior to disclosing it to the Defendant. Absent great care, the security of millions of individuals using Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser could be put at risk by a premature disclosure of this vulnerability. This risk could impact other products as well. Firefox is released under an open source license. This means that as Firefox source code is continuously developed, it is publicly available for developers to view, modify, share, and reuse to make other products, like the Tor Browser. The Tor Browser comprises a version of Firefox with some minor modifications to add additional privacy features, plus the Tor proxy software that makes the browser’s Internet connection more anonymous. With the Tor browser being built on the Firefox framework, any exploit of Tor could affect vanilla Firefox users. Not only that, but the FBI is apparently sitting on another Firefox vulnerability it used in a previous investigation to unmask Tor users. (This refers to the FBI's 2012 child porn sting, which also used a NIT to obtain information about visitors to a seized website.) The filing notes the FBI has been less than helpful when approached for info about this Firefox/Tor-exploiting NIT. Mozilla has contacted the Government about this matter but the Government recently refused to provide any information regarding the vulnerability used, including whether it affects Mozilla’s products. Accordingly, Mozilla requests that the Court modify its order to take into account how such disclosure may affect Mozilla and the safety of the several hundred million users who rely on Firefox. Mozilla wants to see this information two weeks before it's disclosed to the defendant so it can patch the hole. While it's not unopposed to the information being turned over to the defendant, this headstart would allow it to fix the vulnerability before it becomes public knowledge and turned into a weapon to be wielded against millions of Firefox users. There's a Fifth Amendment implication here as well: the due process right of third parties to act on behalf of properties or interests affected by criminal investigations or court decisions. To consider the weight of Mozilla’s interests, this Court must determine whether the Exploit to be disclosed takes advantage of an unfixed Firefox vulnerability. If it does, Mozilla will suffer harm if the Court orders the government to disclose the vulnerability to the Defendant under the existing protective order. Likewise, Mozilla continues to suffer harm by the Government’s refusal to confirm at this point whether Firefox is the target of the vulnerability. [...] Due process compels this Court to hear Mozilla’s arguments and consider its interests before rendering a decision. The proposed protective order doesn't do enough to prevent discovery of the vulnerability, according to Mozilla. The protective order does not contain restrictions on disclosing knowledge learned through examining NIT Protected Material. This alone marks a serious deficiency in the Protective Order as the damaging information about the vulnerability is likely something that someone can easily remember. Rather, the Protective Order’s disclosure restrictions are limited to the further distribution of the copies of information the defense receives from the government. Without more restrictive provisions, the protective order relies too heavily on the Defendant’s representations he and his defense team will not share copies, but not on any explicit agreement that they will not share or use information learned or that they will put security safeguards in place Not that the NIT's specifics are necessarily secure if the court refuses to order disclosure to Michaud or Mozilla. The declaration entered by defendant Jay Michaud's expert witness points out that the previous use of the NIT in the 2012 case resulted in the FBI turning over information about the exploit to the defendant. So, there's precedent for disclosure, which is what Michaud's lawyer is demanding. But there's also evidence the FBI is hardly the best repository for exploits and vulnerabilities. The Cottom case, which also involved an FBI NIT, provides a helpful comparison. In Cottom, the government agreed to cooperate with the defense's discovery requests. However, the FBI later reported to the Nebraska court that it had lost part of the NIT source code. Given the potential harms and security issues the government has raised in connection with the disclosure information, the FBI's loss of NIT code in Cottom is still hard to understand. But there at least the government did not dispute the defense's need to analyze all of the available components and code to prepare pre-trial motions, a Daubert challenge, and potential trial defenses. Hard to understand, indeed. How does someone lose "part" of an exploit's code, especially considering the FBI's obvious interest in deploying it in other investigations? Might just be stupidity, but considering its evidentiary implications and the FBI's extreme reluctance to expose "means and methods," it also smells a bit of maliciousness. While Mozilla's attempted intervention may force the FBI to turn over information on its NIT, it's unlikely to be much of a direct benefit to Michaud. His lawyer is opposed to Mozilla's request for exploit info and its offer to appear as an amicus in support of Michaud's motion to compel. His filing notes that while Mozilla is not opposed to the FBI also turning over this information to Michaud, he and his client have no interest in returning the favor should the court side with Michaud, rather than Mozilla. Mr. Michaud has no stake in Mozilla’s dispute with the Government. Further, the defense has no intention of disclosing any NIT discovery to Mozilla, a third party, or the public in general under any circumstances. To the extent that Mozilla is concerned that the existing NIT protective order does not provide “adequate safeguards” (dkt. 195 at 12), the defense has stated that it is amenable to any and all additional security measures and modifications to the existing NIT protective order that the Court deems appropriate. Not an unreasonable response, as Michaud's lawyer's ultimate duty is to serve his client, not millions of Firefox/Tor users. As for the government, it's likely incredibly irritated that its super-secret tool is gaining it no traction in supposedly open-and-shut child porn prosecutions. Not only are courts finding the warrants used to perform this extrajurisdictional searches invalid from word one, but defendants are pushing back hard against the FBI's "investigative methods" secrecy and dismissive attitude towards the Fourth Amendment. I'm sure it had no idea it would be 198 documents deep into a single child porn case at this point -- much less being nowhere closer than day one to securing a conviction. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Another day, another story of copyright being used for censorship, rather than as an incentive to create. Here's the headline: Gene Kelly's widow is suing to stop an academic book exploring various interviews that were done over the decades with the famed actor/dancer. And here's the lawsuit, in which Kelly's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, who was married to Gene Kelly for the last seven years of his life, claims that she holds the copyright on every interview that Kelly ever did. From the lawsuit: The spoken and written words by Gene Kelly during all of his interviews ("Interviews") are original works of authorship and are copyrightable subject matter under the laws of the United States. Prior to and during Gene Kelly's marriage to Plaintiff, which lasted until his death in 1996, Plaintiff was designated as Mr. Kelly's official biographer and archivist of his materials, including letters, interviews, manuscripts, holograph notes, photographs, memorabilia, and related items. Plaintiff is the sole, official authority entrusted by Gene Kelly to promote and protect his legacy. In these capacities, Plaintiff documented his life and work, and collected, organized and catalogued his materials. including the Interviews, so that these materials could be used to write books, create online platforms, and produce films, educational talks and shows, so as to provide an accurate record of Gene Kelly's life and work. In accordance with Gene Kelly's Will and the Eugene C. Kelly Family Trust, Plaintiff was bequeathed and succeeded to the rights to Gene Kelly's intellectual property, including the copyrights in and to the Interviews. Now, the legal issues here are at least somewhat nuanced. The question of who actually holds the copyright in an interview is actually a hotly debated topic in some copyright circles, and the answer is not as clear or as simple as you might think (or as it probably ought to be). Remember, of course, that the law is pretty explicit that copyright is given to whoever fixes the interview into a tangible medium. So, in most cases, it would seem that whoever is recording/transcribing/publishing the interview likely holds the copyright in it. That's what a district court in Southern Illinois found in the Taggart v. WMAQ case back in 2000. There, a court found that the interviewer held the copyright, rather than a prison inmate who had been interviewed by the local TV station and didn't like how it came out. The inmate argued that his responses were a "performance" that allowed him to get copyright protections, but the court rightly rejected this: Plaintiff's reading of copyright law to protect his interview comments with WMAQ as a work of authorship conflicts with the “most fundamental axiom of copyright law [that no] author may copyright his ideas or the facts he narrates.” But not all cases have turned out that way. There's a case from 1980 that suggests there might be a copyright interest in the interview that could be held by the interviewee, but the case did not turn on that issue and the court went no further. There's another case that suggests each individual in an interview retains a copyright interest in their portion of the interview (so just the questions or just the answers). And then some argue that the entire interview is a "joint work" of authorship, where both parties hold the copyright jointly. Frankly, I think that copyright law is pretty clear that the Taggart ruling is technically correct, that the ownership goes to whoever does the fixing. But, with weird rulings lately about "performances" who knows how courts will rule. Frankly, it's a little amazing that the issue hasn't been more widely litigated. But here's a chance to do so, though I suspect it may get tossed pretty quickly, because the lawsuit, at least, doesn't even bother to specify what specific works are being infringed, or even hint at whether or not Kelly registered his copyrights in those interviews (a necessary step to bring a lawsuit). Given those two limitations, the lawsuit, as is, likely doesn't have much of a chance. The book in question is written by an academic, Kelli Marshall, who appears to be a huge fan of Gene Kelly and is working to put together a scholarly book exploring a bunch of his interviews. Kelly's widow finds this quite upsetting: On or about March 29, 2016, Plaintiff was contacted by defendant Marshall via a Facebook message inquiring whether permission is needed to include several ofthe Interviews in a printed book Marshall is planning to cause to be issued by and through University Press. On or about March 29, 2016, Plaintiff responded to Marshall via Facebook message, stating, "Yes, Gene's words are his intellectual property . . . as are his letters, holograph notes, magazine pieces, etc. . . . You must obtain permission to use them." On or about March 29, 2016, Marshall responded to Plaintiff via Facebook message, informing Plaintiff that Marshall is in the process of editing a book of Gene Kelly interviews for co-defendant, University Press, as part of the University Press' "Conversations with Filmmakers" series (the "Book"). Marshall stated that she intends to use various Gene Kelly interviews, including several interviews Gene Kelly had conducted with the British Broadcasting Company ("BBC"). Marshall sought Plaintiff's permission for use of those Interviews. As you can probably figure out, Kelly's widow refused to grant permission, and then followed it up with a cease and desist letter. University Press then sent her a letter saying that it was going ahead with the book, saying that it had obtained permission "from unidentified third parties," which likely means the publications where the interviews were initially published. And you can figure out what happened next: On April 18, 2016, Plaintiff's counsel responded to University Press by email (copying Marshall), stating that Plaintiff owns the copyrights to all of the Interviews, not just interviews with the BBC, and that Defendants have no permission to use any of the Interviews for the Book or for any other purpose. In that same email, Plaintiff's counsel advised University Press that the threatened publication is highly damaging to Plaintiff's rights and, unless Defendants cease and desist, Plaintiff would seek damages, including statutory damages, for willful infringement of the copyrights in the Interviews. Yeah, this seems like a nonstarter. First off, Kelly's widow is clearly overclaiming here. Just because Gene Kelly said stuff in interviews, it does not mean that he has any copyright interest in them, let alone automatically getting copyright on all his words, where no one can ever make use of them. That's just not how copyright law actually works. And, from the emails, it certainly sounds like the publisher got permission from whoever has a much stronger claim to the copyright in most of the interviews it wanted to publish. And, of course, even if none of that is true, it seems like there's a fairly strong fair use case here, considering that it's an academic publication, and done as a compilation to look more closely at Kelly's interviews over the years (I wouldn't say that the fair use claim is a slam dunk, but there's a strong argument that can be made for fair use). But, of course, that requires Kelly to actually have a copyright interest (and to have registered it) in the first place. But, really, let's take a step back here and look at the bigger picture. There is no legitimate copyright reason to grant Kelly a copyright in interviews that he did. He was not incentivized to do these interviews because of the copyright. He did them for whatever reason -- probably related to getting publicity in most cases. As such, it's ridiculous that we're even discussing a copyright interest at all here. There's no need for one for the interviewee. So, in the end, this seems like yet another case of copyright as censorship. Patricia Ward Kelly does not want anyone else publishing a book that has extensive quotes from her husband (it should be noted that she's apparently working on her own book...), and thus the easy tool to use is copyright to censor this book that she doesn't control. Again, I can't see how this lawsuit survives very long, but it's another in a long list to add to examples of (1) copyright as censorship and (2) estates of deceased creators overclaiming copyright.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Save some money and do easy repairs on your small electronics at home with the $35 iFixit 64 Bit Driver Kit. The kit comes with a 150mm flexible extension part to reach those tight spaces more easily and a SIM Card Eject Tool to help you safely remove them. The 64 4mm screwdriver bits include phillips, flatheads, pentalobes, tripoints, spanners, and more. There is a 1/4" to 4mm driver adapter as well. You'll be able to fix your game consoles, phones, tablets and much more with this handy set. 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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