posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, has just delivered a less-than-complimentary report on copyright to the UN's Human Rights Council. Shaheed's report actually examines where copyright meshes with arts and science -- the two areas it's supposed to support -- and finds it runs contrary to the rosy image of incentivized creation perpetuated by the MPAAs and RIAAs of the world. Shaheed said a “widely shared concern stems from the tendency for copyright protection to be strengthened with little consideration to human rights issues.” This is illustrated by trade negotiations conducted in secrecy, and with the participation of corporate entities, she said. She stressed the fact that one of the key points of her report is that intellectual property rights are not human rights. “This equation is false and misleading,” she said. The last statement fires shots over the bows of "moral rights" purveyors, as well as those who view infringement as a moral issue, rather than just a legal one. Shaheed also points out that the protections being installed around the world at the behest of incumbent industries are not necessarily reflective of creators' desires. The right to protection of authorship remains with the human author(s) whose creative vision gave expression to the work, even when the copyright interest has been sold to a corporate publisher or distributor. We should always keep in mind that copyright regimes may under-protect authors because producers/publishers/distributors and other “subsequent right-holders” typically exercise more influence over law-making than individual creators, and may have divergent and possibly opposing interests to those of the creators. In addition, the intellectual property standards pushed by the United States and others treat fair use, personal use copying, educational use and other similar aspects as exceptions rather than something inherent to the permissions granted to rights holders by these laws -- a balancing factor between the copyright holders' and the publics' interests. The main challenge, I believe, is that international copyright treaties generally treat copyright protections as mandatory, while largely treating exceptions and limitations as optional. The standard for judging whether a particular exception or limitation is permissible under international copyright law is not articulated with precision. This is why one of my recommendations is to explore the possibility of establishing a core list of minimum required exceptions and limitations incorporating those currently recognized by most States, and/or an international fair use provision. Not that any established industry reliant on these expansive protections would ever agree to such a thing. It took a whole lot of public shaming before industry heads agreed to copyright exceptions for the blind. Anything above this level of begrudging "charity" has been forced down the throats of these industries by various governments. Shaheed suggests one solution to the imbalance of power in the copyright system: a division of rights between creators and their "representative" rights holders. Creators often need corporate rights holders: to develop innovative ways of delivering cultural works to the public, provide capital to finance high-budget cultural productions, and free artists from many of the burdens of commercializing their work. The human right to protection of authorship requires that copyright policies be carefully designed to ensure that authors (and not only copyright holders) benefit materially. An appropriate balance is crucial, recognizing that creators are both supported and constrained by copyright rules. She also points out that it's not only incumbent industries standing in the way of better international copyright laws, but also "incumbent" countries. Several countries, such as Indonesia and Brazil, commented on the issue of the protection of local and indigenous communities, which is mentioned in the report, for which they said “intellectual property historically failed” to take into account the issues of indigenous peoples. Some developing countries said the current copyright system hinders the right to development by a violation of the right to education, health and progress and many other rights related to affording a basic decent life to millions in developing countries, according to UN sources. The reaction of the incumbents? The US said it disagrees with the report, in particular the recommendation related to copyright norm-setting activities at experts’ discussion in other international fora. They also disagreed on the suggestion that individual creators and corporations or businesses should merit different protections. Portugal said the current copyright framework constitutes an important tool for human development, especially for cultural and scientific advancement. France wondered why more established countries weren't considered in the report, arguing that cutting out the major players who wield an inordinate amount of power somehow resulted in an "unbalanced outcome." The UN will take this report under consideration, along with a second report due later this year from Shaheed dealing with the patent system. Unfortunately, this somewhat scathing look at the present copyright system will do little to derail secretive international trade agreements that foist intellectual property "protections" foisted on smaller, less powerful countries. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The FBI is pretty much a rogue agency at this point, at least if the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General's growing concerns about stonewalled investigations and improperly withheld documents are any indication. But there's one government agency it considers too ill-behaved to associate with: the CIA. The FBI and CIA have strained history over the Bush administration’s War on Terror torture program. According to a 2007 LA Times report, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, upon learning of the CIA’s illegal tactics, pulled his agents back from even playing a supporting role to the agency. One senior official at the bureau was quoted as saying, “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved.” Mueller himself, reportedly, wanted to save his agents from “legal jeopardy,” by prohibiting them from participating in the tactics. The CIA was nonplussed by its rebuffed advances. Its director of public affairs responded with an eloquent "bullshit" to the FBI's decision to stay uninvolved in the agency's enhanced interrogation games. That backdrop sets the stage for FBI Director James Comey's response to Dianne Feinstein, when she interrupted a federal law enforcement budget hearing to ask why the Torture Report she put six years into hadn't been touched by the agency. “The fact that it hasn’t been opened, at least that’s what’s been reported to me, is really a great disservice,” she added. “The report contains numerous examples of a learning experience: of cases, of interrogation of where the department could learn, perhaps, some new things from past mistakes.” Comey didn’t deny that the report is gathering dust in a locker somewhere at the J. Edgar Hoover building. “I don’t know enough about where the document sits at this point in time,” he told Senators. Hardly surprising, considering the FBI's parent agency -- the DOJ -- can't seem to recall whether any officials there have read it or not. When speaking to the New York Times about the decision to not bring charges against CIA officials and personnel, the DOJ said it had read the whole thing. When withholding information from a FOIA requester, it told the court the full report hadn't even been unsealed from its package, much less read. Comey at least admitted up front that no one at the FBI has looked at the full report. And at least Comey managed to make it through the executive summary -- something other CIA defenders hadn't even done before taking to the airwaves to contend the agency did nothing wrong. Comey's excuse, however, is wanting. “What we have not done is thought about whether there are lessons learned for us,” Comey admitted, noting that there’s a tendency for him to think there’s little the FBI can learn from the report since they don’t engage in those types of interrogation. Whether or not there are direct lessons is something only Comey can attest to. But there are certainly plenty of cautionary, indirect lessons to be learned. Even if it fails to translate across agencies, there's no reason for Comey or other FBI officials to be only as informed as the American public. If they have the access, they should use it, if only to confirm the agency made the right decision to steer clear of the CIA's torture programs. The agency may also use it as a learning moment and ask why -- if it had seen enough disturbing CIA behavior to scare it away -- it did nothing about the abuses it witnessed. And then it can ask itself why -- when it uncovered civil liberty abuses by the NYPD's now-defunct Demographics Unit (led by a former CIA official) extensive enough to prompt its refusal to partake in collected evidence -- it did not report this to the DOJ, which had the power to step in and stop it. The FBI takes a dim view of public accountability, judging from its constant thwarting of its internal oversight. Apparently, it feels it's in no position to demand accountability from others.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We have already written about the ridiculousness of a jury awarding over $7 million from Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke to the children of Marvin Gaye, because their song "Blurred Lines" sounds kinda (but not really) a bit like Gaye's "Got to Give it Up." The ruling is problematic on multiple levels, as many commentators are just now realizing. Copyright lawyer Fred von Lohmann pointed out that, technically, everyone who bought copies of "Blurred Lines" is now infringing as well -- and that could apply to many others too, including Weird Al who famously did a hilarious parody of "Blurred Lines" called "Word Crimes." Weird Al, somewhat famously, makes sure to get permission to do his parodies, even though he could probably just use fair use. But... if "Blurred Lines" is infringing, there's no fair use argument to be made and Weird Al doesn't have permission from the Gaye Estate. In other words: what a massive mess. But that's just getting down into the technicalities, which may not matter if the Gaye Estate doesn't push the issue -- but could certainly come up in future cases. Plenty of other folks have pointed out that no matter what you think of any of the parties involved, this ruling is bad for music, bad for musicians and bad for songwriters. And, yes, musicians are concerned: Los Angeles composer and producer Gregory Butler said Tuesday afternoon that his friends and colleagues in the industry were stunned by the verdict. "You've made it illegal to reference previous material," said Butler, also a managing director at music startup WholeWorldBand. "I'm never going to come up with something so radically different that it doesn't contain references to something else." Joe Escalante, an early member of the Vandals punk rock band and an entertainment law attorney, said he was concerned that the jury's decision had been driven by emotion rather than what's protected under copyright law. "This may put a smile on the Gaye family's face, but it's a dark day for creativity, and in the end, this will be a net loss for music fans," he said. "Good news for lawyers and the bitter everywhere." And that just hints at how it's bad for culture as well. "Culture" itself is based on the very idea of common ideas that are shared. Common ideas are the core of every cultural movement. You share a "feel" because you want to identify yourself with a particular culture. Music in a genre has similarities for a reason. People identify with it for a reason. Locking up "the feel" of music decimates that nature of culture. We lose the "shared" part of "shared culture." And you would think that those who are often at the forefront of pushing the shared culture on everyone -- the major record labels -- would recognize this. And yet, they're partly responsible for this mess. Because they're the ones who have been pushing this myth for years that every single scrap of cultural output must be "owned" and doing anything they don't like to build off of it must be "infringing." To be fair, this case is going to be appealed, and others have made perfectly reasonable arguments for how it's somewhat unique, in part based on the fact that Robin Thicke was an incredibly unsympathetic player in all of this -- admitting to lying and being inconsistent with his statements -- a fact that the Gaye's lawyer gleefully exploited. There is also the simple fact that this is a jury ruling and has no direct precedent-setting ability. That comes from appeals court rulings (and Supreme Court rulings), so we need to wait for any real precedent from this case. Of course, there have been some similar cases in the past, and the results often show the same sort of confusion about copyright, which is troubling. And, it all seems to come back to this weird concept that people believe in this myth of "ownership" over cultural touchstones. The very things that should be shared: the "feel" of music, the "groove," the cultural sharing point that everyone builds off of. In discussing this case on Twitter, and talking about the horrible implications of the ruling, I noticed more than a few people on Twitter brush off all the concerns with a simple kind of "dude, they copied Gaye, so good ruling." Amazingly, one songwriter insisted that the ruling was correct and when I looked at his personal webpage it was all about how his music was "inspired" by other famous bands. Watch out, because now those bands could come after you. This case has strayed far from actual copyright law into a made up fantasy land of copyright law -- one where people are punishing Thicke because they don't like him or the way he acted. They're also punishing both Williams and Thicke because of this amorphous idea that they must have "ripped off" Gaye because the songs feel the same. Even the press is confusing this. You see idiotic headlines, like this one from Vulture, which claims the lawsuit was about plagiarism. Except plagiarism isn't illegal. Copyright infringement is -- and plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing. And even if this were "plagiarism" the question is plagiarism of what? Musicologists who have compared the two songs note that they're actually really, really different. The only thing that's the same is "the feel" of the songs. And "feel" is not something covered copyright. But people know that plagiarism is "wrong" so they look at what Williams and Thicke did here -- copying the "feel" -- and they insist that it must be "wrong," even if copyright is only supposed to cover the specific expression written down in the sheet music for Gaye's song. The actual notes in "Blurred Lines" don't match that sheet music at all. But rather than sticking to the letter of the law, or even bothering to understand that copyright only covers specific expression, we keep getting this message pushed on us, by the RIAA, the MPAA and others, that every bit of culture must be "owned." And you can't do anything without a license. And people have heard that refrain so many times, that it infects their psyche. As Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman note in their own writeup about the ruling, the incredible thing is just how wrong it is on copyright. Yes, there may be some elements that were copied, but those are not the elements covered by copyright: In short, what the “Blurred Lines” team copied is either not original or not relevant. So when they see a situation here, where a less-than-likable character has made a song that was inspired by another, they assume that something must be wrong with it, and even if the law doesn't actually apply, dammit, they're just going to say that it does. It's the inevitable result of constantly pushing for a society where every bit of culture is owned under lock and key and the idea of sharing, remixing, reusing is deemed subversive, rather than the way that culture happens. Whether or not this case really does have a long-term or wider-term impact may not really matter that much. But the results here are indicative of something bigger: and it's a dangerous view that undermines the very nature of culture itself.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The FBI's paranoia and bumbling ineptitude will make criminals of us all. The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev is underway and the government's witness -- FBI special agent Steven Kimball -- pinpointed a background photo's location as one place only to have the defense point out it was actually a completely different location. “You said the picture [that forms the background of the second account] was a picture of Mecca,” said Conrad, towards the end of a lengthy and tense cross-examination. “Yes, to the best of my knowledge,” answered Kimball. “Did you bother to look at a picture of Mecca?” Conrad shot back. “No.” “Would it surprise you to learn that it is a picture of Grozny?” The picture on the account is not of Mecca – the FBI had misidentified it. It is in fact a picture of the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque in Grozny. It got worse from there. Much worse. The government cherry-picked a number of posts from Tsarnaev's social media accounts in an attempt to portray him as a violence-prone radical. The problem was that no one involved in this "investigative" process actually performed anything approaching an investigation. [P]erhaps the most damning tweet of all those shown by the prosecution... read, in Cyrillic: “I shall die young.” [I]t became clear through Conrad’s questioning that Kimball had made little effort to discover the context of the tweets; he admitted at one point that he had not even clicked on some of the links they contained. One of the links was to the Russian pop song that contained the “I shall die young” lyric. Other posts shown by Kimball yesterday turned out to be jokes from the Comedy Central television show Tosh.o, or sketch comedy duo Key and Peele. At one point, Kimball misidentified a quote as having been made by the radical al -Qaida-affiliated cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. It was actually a quote from the Qu’ran. The defense discovered through cross-examination that Agent Kimball had simply been fed a list of supposedly-damning social media posts by the prosecution team. And between the prosecutors and the FBI, apparently not a single person could be bothered to perform a minimum of due diligence. Instead, their carefully composed collage, "Tsarnaev the Radicalized," disintegrated under the minimal weight of the defense's questioning. Now, think of what this means for anyone who might post song lyrics, quotes from books or anything else that might catch an investigator's eye. Turns out that even having "nothing to hide" is still plently reason to fear. Outside of the Boston bombing trial we have reason to be troubled by law enforcement’s approach to online speech. In the wake of the shooting of two NYPD officers by a lone gunman who had posted on Instagram his plan to “put wings on pigs,” a number of individuals were arrested for posting allegedly threatening anti-police sentiments online. The logic is flawed: Just because a cop killer did post anti-police messages does not mean every similar social media post should be treated as a precursor to a cop killing. Such an approach problematically criminalizes speech, which, even if ostensibly violent, should be protected. When it comes to connecting the dots after the fact, even innocuous social media postings can take on a menacing appearance when viewed by investigators looking to paint someone as threatening and dangerous. The government already does this -- turning rap lyrics into crimes in and of themselves and pursuing prosecution for verbalizing depraved and violent thoughts. In its rush to turn Tsarnaev into a more monstrous person than he already appears to be, the FBI's investigators made this part of its investigation a mere formality -- and proved itself to be the home of incredibly dangerous fools. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
In a decision that's sure to be applauded by Uber's opponents, Judge Edward Chen has denied the ride-sharing company's request to declare its drivers independent contractors. If Uber is forced to suddenly take thousands of employees on board, along with the added expenses and liabilities such a move would entail, it's going to have a much harder time maintaining -- much less expanding -- a service that many people find preferable to the taxicab strangleholds present in many cities. In denying the company's motion for summary judgment, Chen calls Uber out for the "narrow framing" of its "we're an app, not a company" assertions, but notes that Uber does grant its drivers enough leeway that the question cannot be completely resolved via a motion in his court. Chen also raises the spectre of further regulation -- something that's similarly unlikely to work out in Uber's favor. The application of the traditional test of employment – a test which evolved under an economic model very different from the new “sharing economy” – to Uber’s business model creates significant challenges. Arguably, many of the factors in that test appear outmoded in this context. Other factors, which might arguably be reflective of the current economic realities (such as the proportion of revenues generated and shared by the respective parties, their relative bargaining power, and the range of alternatives available to each), are not expressly encompassed by the Borello test. It may be that the legislature or appellate courts may eventually refine or revise that test in the context of the new economy. It is conceivable that the legislature would enact rules particular to the new so-called “sharing economy.” And then sends the case on its way to a jury trial, something he notes earlier is the only way to resolve an issue this complex. No precedent is set or will be set, at least not in Chen's court. Until then, this Court is tasked with applying the traditional multifactor test of Borello and its progeny to the facts at hand. For the reasons stated above, apart from the preliminary finding that Uber drivers are presumptive employees, the Borello test does not yield an unambiguous result. The matter cannot on this record be decided as a matter of law. Uber’s motion for summary judgment is therefore denied. This order disposes of Docket No. 211. So, a case that has been running since August of 2013 may still be months away from a resolution. Uber's inability to get the suit tossed doesn't necessarily mean it's destined to become Yet Another Cab Company. It still has options, but it also has an uphill battle against plenty of incumbents… and the politicians who prefer what they know to unfamiliar market entrants.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Fingerprint-based biometric security systems are everywhere now, but there are some well-known problems with using your fingerprints instead of a password. First off, you unconsciously leave copies of your fingerprints just about everywhere you go. Still, fingerprint sensors seem to be getting better and better. I'll stick to my 4-digit PIN for now, though, thanks, but if you like using your finger for your digital locks, check out these links. Qualcomm has an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor that captures three dimensional characteristics of a user's fingerprint by penetrating the outer layers of skin with sound. This sensor can more accurately detect fingerprint features when fingers are wet or slathered in hand lotion, but it might not be able to identify you correctly if you get a papercut or cracked, dry skin? [url] Vkansee has a high-resolution optical fingerprint sensor that claims to be able to detect the sweat pores of your fingertip. This sensor isn't available on any commercial smartphones, but presumably better biometric sensors are going to be embedded in more and more devices. Yay? [url] There are plenty of concerns about how accurate fingerprint identifications systems are -- with issues such as false positives and false rejection rates. One of the key aspects, though, is that fingerprints are not secret and not revocable. Some systems try to detect "liveness" to make sure a fingerprint is attached to a (hopefully healthy and not under duress) living person, and there are a few other approaches to guard against spoofing, but fingerprints aren't a perfect biometric. (And no perfect biometric system exists....) [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Twitter has entered the battle against revenge porn, joining dozens of lawmakers, the FTC and Reddit. Twitter's CEO admitted last month that his platform "sucks at dealing with abuse." This has resulted in a policy tweak that forbids the posting of intimate photos without authorization and enables those on the receiving end of revenge porn/doxing/etc. to contact Twitter to have the tweets removed. Posting another person’s private and confidential information is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Some examples of private and confidential information include: credit card information social security or other national identity numbers addresses or locations that are considered and treated as private non-public, personal phone numbers non-public, personal email addresses images or videos that are considered and treated as private under applicable laws intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent Like any law/policy, there will be exceptions. Twitter's Rules go on to note that takedown requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, rather than removing Tweets automatically when reported. Keep in mind that although you may consider certain information to be private, not all postings of such information may be a violation of this policy. We may consider the context and nature of the information posted, local privacy laws, and other case-specific facts when determining if this policy has been violated. For example, if information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it may not be a violation of this policy. Kashmir Hill, writing for Fusion, gathered more specifics from a Twitter employee: I asked Twitter if there was a “Weiner exception.” How would this apply to a newsworthy intimate photo, such as the bulge-portrait then-Congressman Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted of himself which went viral and eventually led to his resignation from office? The Twitter employee said there will be a “newsworthiness exception.” So if your bulge or boobs are a front page story in the newspaper, Twitter may not take them down. The policy also requires something that other sites (like Reddit) policing for revenge porn don't: the takedown request must be made by the person whose personal photos/information are being disseminated without authorization. This will hopefully deter some potential abuse. One catch is that you have to recognize yourself in the photo and report it; Twitter doesn’t want “body police” going through tweets and reporting every pornographic image they find. If an offending tweet is removed, all native retweets will disappear too, but you’ll have to report all manual RTs and any further postings of the photo or video. Mary Anne Franks, the law prof currently engaged in crafting questionable revenge porn laws, says Twitter isn't doing enough. Franks, for one, thinks it’s problematic that bystanders can’t report the posting of explicit images of others. “Every minute private sexual material is available increases the number of people who can view it, download it, and forward it, so even if Twitter responds quickly to complaints, it may be too late to stop the material from going viral,” she said by email. What Franks views as problematic is actually a practical safeguard. If you give removal power to everyone, it becomes a plaything for abusers. Twitter will also try to determine whether the photos/info were actually posted without consent. However, at this point, the determination seems to largely rely on the takedown requester's assertions. The statement won't be legally binding or have any other repercussions other than possible suspension of the bogus requester's account. And there appears to be no process in place for the accused to challenge revenge porn accusations. On the whole, it's not a terrible way to tackle revenge porn, even if it still leaves a lot to be desired. Certainly Twitter will be accused of censorship more frequently as this policy goes into effect, but as a private company, it can police user-generated content in any manner it sees fit. It's up to those using the service to decide whether they want to coexist with the rule tweaks. Twitter notes that it's a work in progress. That, unfortunately, means the policy could possibly get much worse as Twitter "iterates" to fix "holes." As much as some people (like Franks above) would prefer Twitter to take a more proactive approach to removing revenge porn, the highly-subjective nature requires a reactive stance. Any policy change will be abused by both sides of this equation, and what's been implemented so far appears to be aimed at reducing collateral damage.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
A month ago, I gave a little preview of the news that we, the team behind Techdirt, were launching a new think tank and network of innovators called the Copia Institute. That launch is happening today, with our event in San Jose, and I wanted to just provide a short post on why we're doing this, and why it's so important. The word "copia" is Latin for abundance -- and over nearly two decades of following, researching and writing about the innovation industries, over and over again, we see that it's the story of abundance. Of an abundance of information, certainly, but also of the role that abundance plays in everything that we do. Businesses, business models and government policies that were all built for a world of scarcity run into trouble when suddenly plopped into a world of abundance. And we see it happening every day. There are the obvious ones that we talk about all the time around here: music, movies, news and software. But it goes way beyond that. A switch from a world of scarcity to one of abundance is going to impact nearly every other industry as well: manufacturing, finance, healthcare, energy and education among others. The discussions that we've had in the past about the changes that hit music, movies, news and other industries were really only the beginning. The world is changing in very profound ways, and if you view it all through the lens of scarcity, it looks very, very distorted. The arguments over new business models and copyright laws were just a warmup to what is going to impact basically every industry and every society in the next few decades. Understanding abundance matters. You cannot understand the world we are moving towards if you continue to view it solely on the basis of scarcity. And thus, we're building Copia -- to bring together people who think about these issues, and who actually want to get together and do something about them, hopefully preventing crazy messes and lawsuits that we've seen in other arenas. Some of this may certainly involve working on policy issues, but there are lots of groups that are already doing that. Our focus, as an organization in the heart of Silicon Valley, will be on what innovators do best: innovating -- but doing so with an awareness of the policy realities. And that means looking for creative solutions that don't always rely on convincing policymakers to make this decision or not make that decision. We expect to be involved and engaged in those debates, but we're really interested in coming up with other, more innovative solutions as well. For example, nearly 15 years ago, as people were realizing that copyright law was just not built right to function in an internet era where people wanted to share stuff, a group of very smart individuals came up with Creative Commons. These days, as we sit around waiting for Congress to finally tackle patent reform, we see companies doing creative things like coming up with an Innovator's Patent Agreement to avoid patents becoming tools of trolls. Tech companies came together to create a Defensive Patent License, and you even have companies like Life360 offering free legal support to any startup sued by the same troll that sued it. These are creative solutions that involve innovation. They don't solve everything, and those working on them still -- quite reasonably -- support policy changes as well. But we need more discussions about creative solutions that don't involve just sitting around and waiting for policymakers to do their thing. We need to bring together the people who understand how the world is shifting, from one where everything was scarce to one where many things are abundant -- and to look for ways to harness that abundance to create more good in the world, rather than to lock it down under rules of artificial scarcity just to make it conform to the way things used to be. That's why, at our inaugural summit, we're discussing a diverse range of things from health data & ethics to privacy to 3D printing to the blockchain to copyright, patents and freedom of expression. That is what Copia is about. It's about looking at the world through these eyes of abundance. It's not about ignoring the policy world, but working closely with it -- to better understand the impact of the decisions those in government make, and to help guide them along more reasonable paths that embrace and (even better) enable more abundance. Research into why Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley suggests that it is the free exchange of ideas and information -- brought about through a historical quirk of California state policy that outlawed non-compete agreements -- that resulted in all of this innovation. That sharing of information (an abundant resource) has created so much innovation already. Copia is about continuing that trend, bringing together people to share ideas and come up with creative and innovative solutions to a variety of challenges -- technology, business model and policy -- to see what we can do to help the world transition into greater abundance and less scarcity. As we make this journey, we expect you, our loyal community at Techdirt, to come along and be a part of the process. We'll be using the discussions on Techdirt as part of this effort, to drum up interesting and unique ideas, new research, new tools and new inspiration. It will be an adventure into the world of abundance. We'd also like to thank the sponsors that made this launch possible, starting with the MacArthur Foundation, which provided a grant that is enabling us to start this work. We're also thankful for sponsorship from four of the best, most well-respected venture capital organizations in the world today: Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Foundry Group and Spark Capital. Finally, four technology companies have sponsored Copia as well: Google, Automattic (Wordpress), Yelp and Namecheap. We should have additional sponsors to announce soon as well. We're especially excited about the mix of sponsors from different areas. What we're putting together is not a trade group, or an advocacy organization, but rather a group of people focused on innovating and bringing more good into the world through creative means. * In case you don't get the title reference, click here.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Taber, a town of 8,100 in Alberta, Canada, must be in the midst of the nation's smallest and least impressive crimewave. How else would you explain the town's new "Community Standards Bylaw," which imposes the following on its residents? With a sweeping new bylaw, the southern Alberta town of Taber has outlawed swearing in public, instituted a nightly curfew on kids and teenagers, and granted local law enforcement the power to break up any assemblies of three or more people. It's petty enough in the summary, but it gets even worse in the fine print. Here's the "swearing" part of the bylaw: No person shall yell, scream, or swear in any Public Place. Which won't hold up to Canada's free speech laws, even with the plentiful exceptions the government can enact at any time. And it will apparently be up to patrolling officers to decide when a raised voice constitutes a "yell," and always with one ear cocked towards any errant public swearing occuring at lower volumes. Then there's this part of the bylaw, which makes possibly disturbing others a crime. No persons shall, during any period of the day allow, suffer or permit any electronic equipment, musical instruments, vehicles or any other devices to be sounded or used in any area of the Town of Taber, that may, or is likely, to disturb others. There's also a clause apparently inserted by Taber's Behavior Nazis solely to anger the world's Grammar Nazis. And bad cops will have all sorts of fun with this one: No person shall be a member of the assembly of three or more persons in any Public Place where a Peace Officer has reasonable grounds to believe the assembly will disturb the peace of the neighborhood, and any such person shall disperse as requested by a Peace Officer. "Reasonable grounds." As is common to the rest of the bylaw, criminal intent is scuttled in preference of "whatever the Peace Officer believes." So, what has prompted this move towards a more controlled populace? The answer appears to be that it's just something the town's law enforcement wanted. [Police Commission Chairman Ken] Holst said the goal of the bylaw was “to give another layer of tools to our police service.” He said it came largely in response to concerns raised by citizens in a survey commissioned by the Taber Police Service. “Graffiti was the main concern and the second concern was large gatherings of youth and other people on town property, sometimes causing issues,” he said. While some of those issues could be addressed through existing provincial and federal laws, Holst said Taber wanted to empower its law enforcement when an offence is “imminent to occur,” which he described as “preventative policing.” Ah, the old "thoughtcrime," as practiced by loitering youths. Holst didn't want this community of 8,100 to suffer the existential threat posed by aimless teens, so he and his law enforcement buddies helped write the bylaw. Holst said the bylaw was drafted by town staff and the Taber Police Service and was reviewed by the police commission before being sent on to town council, where it was approved by a 6-1 vote. And, since it was written by law enforcement, there was apparently no need to ensure the bylaw didn't violate anyone's rights or would even hold up in court. Because who knows the law better than law enforcement officers? No one, that's who. Just ask any cop. Holst said no lawyers were involved in the police commission’s review and they didn’t discuss whether aspects of the bylaw would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms… “Exactly how that sits with the Charter, to be 100 per cent honest with you, that discussion did not come up with the commission,” Holst said. Because screw the public. Save that 100%, Holst. You're going to need it. Here's an actual legal expert with 45 years experience, and he's of the opinion there's a 100% chance it's in violation. “It clearly, clearly infringes the Charter,” [Michael] Dietrich said. And now that the ridiculous bylaw has drawn mockery from around the internet, Holst and other city representatives are shocked and saddened by all the criticism. “It hurts my heart,” Ken Holst said Tuesday. “I’m hurt today to read some of the extreme comments that have circulated on social media...” “We really feel this is the best for Taber and makes it a better place, as opposed to ‘the worst place on Earth,’ as the way some people are portraying this,” he said. Holst further defended his stupid bylaw by pointing to other similarly stupid Canadian towns that have enacted similarly stupid bylaws. Presumably, this belated justification will also not be run by any legal experts -- armchair or actual -- who may point out that two wrongs still don't equal a right, no matter what some informal, police-guided survey might "indicate."Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Last year, we noted how The Weather Channel was starting to have a hard time getting cable operators to pay the kinds of carriage fee increases the channel is looking for. That's of course in large part thanks to the fact that The Weather Channel increasingly focuses on fluff and nonsense (photos of the world's sexiest beaches, anyone?) instead of oh, forecasting the weather. These struggles have only been compounded by the fact that these days, all manner of apps can quickly tell you the weather while The Weather Channel is busy talking about wacky buffalo with "ginormous" tongues. When The Weather Channel demanded a steep carriage fee hike from DirecTV last year, the satellite TV company responded by laughing and offering its customers channels that actually delivered the weather for a change. After many customers stated the loss of The Weather Channel was an improvement, the channel buckled and settled for significantly less money. Apparently, the company hasn't learned its lesson quite yet. Verizon this week decided to pull The Weather Channel from its channel lineup after the channel demanded notably higher rates. In a note to subscribers, Verizon was quick to point out that, hey -- it's not like reconstituting reports from the National Weather Service is really all that difficult in the Internet age:"Verizon’s agreements to carry The Weather Channel and Weather Scan have expired, and have not been renewed. In today’s environment, customers are increasingly accessing weather information not only from their TV but from a variety of online sources and apps. Verizon is therefore pleased to launch the new AccuWeather Network, which will be available on FiOS® TV on channel 119/619 (HD) and on our free FiOS Mobile App starting March 10, 2015."Like the DirecTV feud, most customers responded to the channel being pulled with either a shoulder shrug or declarations that they find the replacement apps and channels a marked improvement. Still, like it did with the DirecTV dispute, The Weather Channel quickly cobbled together a fake news story implying that pulling the channel is a safety hazard:"Customers turned to social media and the Verizon website today, March 10, in support of The Weather Channel, which for more than 30 years, has been the most trusted resource for disseminating timely information to help prepare and protect families across the nation against weather-related emergencies."Apparently nobody at The Weather Channel has been getting the memos stating that their increasing failure to actually report the weather has made the channel a laughing stock. Cable companies are having a harder time pushing off programming rate hikes to consumers awash with alternative options (whether that's a weather app or Netflix). As such, cable companies themselves are starting to push back harder at broadcasters like The Weather Channel (or post Colbert and Stewart Viacom) that demand higher programming fees for lower-quality product. If you offer a smash hit product like "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men," you can often demand higher carriage rates. If your claim to fame instead is programs like "Prospectors" -- or creating a nation of weather neurotics by naming every flimsy storm that comes down the pike -- you're going to have a harder time as the pay TV market begins to finally evolve.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Given the hysterical reaction to the FCC's new net neutrality rules the last few weeks, it was easy to forget that nobody had actually read them yet. As noted previously, the lack of public documents wasn't some sort of elitist cabal, but a routine (if stupid) part of FCC procedure restricting the agency from publicizing new rules until they've been voted on and include all Commissioner commentary. Of course, ISPs and congressional allies breathlessly opposed to Title II hadn't read the rules either, preventing their lawyers from launching their expected legal assaults. Today the lawsuit countdown can begin in earnest on the news that the FCC has formally released the toughest net neutrality rules seen in U.S. history (which notably isn't saying much). The rules themselves can be found here (pdf), and while it's some 400 pages, much of that is supplemental material and included Commissioner dissents. You can find all the Commissioners' statements here. Ajit Pai, who has waged a one man war against Title II (and Netflix) for months, offered up a sixty-seven page dissent (pdf) in which he called the rules an "unprecedented attempt to replace...freedom with government control." While it will take telecom lawyers a few days to fully parse out the legal semantics, the rules on first glimpse do precisely what the agency said they'd do, focusing primarily on four areas of protection: making sure ISPs are transparent with network management; prohibiting outright blocking of websites, prohibiting the throttling of websites and services, and prohibiting anti-competitive "paid prioritization" (no, contrary to repeated claims, this doesn't ban things like technology for disabled people). While a dramatic improvement over the 2010 rules (they actually cover wireless networks, for example), it remains wholly unclear if the FCC is actually going to tackle the hot spot areas where the modern net neutrality fights are actually occurring. Issues like usage caps, usage cap meters, zero rated apps and interconnection -- areas where most of the current neutrality debate is focused -- remain in a sort of nebulous grey area when it comes to how far the FCC's willing to go to protect consumers. While the order contains a general conduct rule the agency says can be used "to stop new and novel threats to the Internet," the rules also make it very clear the agency's taking a "wait and see" approach to many of these issues:"While we have more than a decade’s worth of experience with last-mile practices, we lack a similar depth of background in the Internet traffic exchange context. Thus, we find that the best approach is to watch, learn, and act as required, but not intervene now, especially not with prescriptive rules. This Order—for the first time—provides authority to consider claims involving interconnection, a process that is sure to bring greater understanding to the Commission."Despite all the hand-wringing about the rules somehow killing innovation angels and startups, carriers will likely need to engage in some particularly ham-fisted abuses to truly get the attention of the FCC, who'll be working overtime to counter the narrative that they're a blundering government agency drunkenly implementing "heavy handed regulation." It's in this muddy grey area that you can expect ISP creativity to flourish when it comes to anti-competitive behavior, and despite a lot of breathy analysis today -- we're simply not going to understand the rules' impact until we have concrete examples of what the FCC considers anti-competitive behavior. In an accompanying statement (pdf), FCC boss Tom Wheeler again makes it clear the agency is forbearing from many of the heavier-handed utility-style aspects of Title II -- including mandatory universal service contributions, rate regulations, or a return to local loop unbundling (much to the chagrin of some consumer advocates). The FCC boss also tries to shoot down for the millionth time (for whatever good it will do) the idea that the rules will somehow crush sector innovation or investment:"Let me be clear, the FCC will not impose “utility style” regulation. We forbear from sections of Title II that pose a meaningful threat to network investment, and over 700 provisions of the FCC’s rules. That means no rate regulation, no filing of tariffs, and no network unbundling. During the 22 years that wireless voice has been regulated under a light-touch Title II like we propose today, there has never been concern about the ability of wireless companies to price competitively, flexibly, or quickly, or their ability to achieve a return on their investment."Upon release, the rules head to the Federal Register, and after being published in the next week or two, a 60-day countdown begins before the rules formally take effect. ISPs have thirty days to sue after publication in the Federal Register, so you can expect legal maneuvering (and ridiculous ISP rhetoric) to heat up quickly. As for which ISP will sue, AT&T and Comcast are waiting for regulatory approval of their respective mergers, and may not want to play starring roles in the next round of legal fisticuffs. That leaves Verizon, whose earlier lawsuit brought us to this point to begin with, as most likely to lead the legal charge.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
With uncanny timeliness, the State Department's Office of the Inspector General has released a report on the State Department's email retention -- or lack thereof. Not covered in the report is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email retention -- or lack thereof. High-ranking State Department officials use a different email system (when not using personal accounts) that isn't covered in this report. Unfortunately, the lower-level officials and rank-and-file are abysmal at retaining emails subject to open records requests. In fact, they're so far under abysmal as to not even register on the Excellent-to-How-do-these-people-still-have-jobs? scale. First, we have this: A 2009 upgrade in the Department of State’s system facilitated the preservation of emails as official records. Then we have this: In 2011, employees created 61,156 record emails out of more than a billion emails sent. Then… we have this: Employees created 41,749 record emails in 2013. Assuming around a billion emails for both the years quoted, State Department employees have managed to retain only .01% of emails created as FOIA-able "official records." Some of this is due to the lack of training or guidance on their responsibilities as public officials. But most of it is likely due to this, which is also related to the ongoing lack of training or guidance. Some employees do not create record emails because they do not want to make the email available in searches or fear that this availability would inhibit debate about pending decisions. "Inhibit debate." What a bunch of cowards. So scared of the American public that they shirk their responsibilities to the people who put roofs over their heads, gas in their cars and pension checks in their mailboxes. It's no surprise they haven't received the necessary training and guidance. Everyone from the Secretary of State on down suffers from the same fear of accountability. If they're not retaining records at the top level, those middle-managing aren't going to feel too compelled to make sure every employee takes care to retain emails as official records. "Lead by example," as the saying goes, and the example is… Hillary Clinton, etc. The OIG discovered that, while every State Dept. office was pretty terrible about following retention rules, some were much worse than others. The OIG team’s review of the Department’s records on record email use by missions and bureaus shows great variations (see Appendices C and D). For example, Embassy Singapore created 1,047 record emails in 2013; Embassy Islamabad created 121; and Embassy Beijing, only 47. Consulate General Lagos created 4,922 record emails, the most of any post in 2013. The Department’s bureaus also vary widely in their use of record email. The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs created 736 record emails in 2013; the Bureau of International Organizations, 311; the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, 26; and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, only 22. IRM created 1,630 record emails, more than any other bureau in 2013. Some bureaus increased usage when the OIG informed them that email retention could also work to their advantage. Not all paper trails are damning. Some are exculpatory. Certainly there are more of the former than the latter, hence the State Department's general reluctance to keep any more than .01% of its emails in any given year. The OIG also noted that there is no centralized oversight of this system. Unsurprising, considering no one seems to want the job. Even when given a system that makes retention easy, the State Dept's staff -- from top to bottom -- has gone out of its way to avoid doing that very thing. The OIG suggests further training, but that's not going to make much of a dent in the ingrained culture of secrecy common to many government agencies. It also suggests a handful of other bureaucratic fixes, many of which will likely be listed as "in the works" or "unstarted" when the next OIG report rolls around. As for the report itself, it's quite possible this would never had been made public if not for recent events. It's marked "Sensitive but Unclassified" and carries this since-stricken warning in the opening pages. IMPORTANT NOTICE: This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies of organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General. Public availability of the document will be determined by the Inspector General under the U.S. Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil, or administrative penalties. In other words, the secretive agency's internal report about its transparency-thwarting was supposed to remain a secret. The OIG blows the lid off the agency's willing failure to retain email records, and the State Department -- with the OIG's tacit approval -- elects to keep constituents from learning how its government is actively working to keep them separated from records they have every right to demand.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Another participant in the Magistrate's Revolt appears out of the unlikeliest of districts: Alaska. The court order, first pointed out by ACLU's chief tech sorcerer, Chris Soghoian, features Judge Kevin McCoy telling the government to take its overly-broad search warrants and hit the road. Well, mostly. The order is without prejudice, which means the government still has options available, but from what's stated by the judge, it won't be the latest option the government deployed. The case details are a bit thin. With the exception of this court order, the rest of the documents are under seal. It deals with an investigation of Craigslist ads allegedly soliciting sexual contact with minors. The ad was reported to authorities by a Craigslist user. Law enforcement officials detained the person who placed the ad, who then admitted to being in possession of child porn, as well as being interested in sexual relations with children. With the perp nailed down, law enforcement went after those who answered the ad. A subpoena turned up six Gmail addresses, as well as the dates and frequency of contact with the email address linked to the offending ad. Four of the six email addresses obtained received either a single response or no response from the Craigslist poster, suggesting a lack of ongoing negotiations for the sexual services of a minor. The other two, however, received multiple responses, suggesting negotiations had moved ahead. Law enforcement then sought to obtain the content of the messages to the Yahoo email address of the detained suspect. That's where it ran into trouble. Rather than narrow its demands to the two accounts with the most activity, it requested content from all ad respondents. It did, however, specify a date range specifically surrounding the posting of the ad. This was approved by a magistrate judge and served to Google. Google turned the warrant down, citing technical difficulties.. We have received your Search Warrant and after evaluating the items to be seized, we have determined that Google is not capable of identifying the specific records responsive to your request as currently described in the warrant. Because our production must adhere to the stated limits of the warrant, and we are unable to do so in this case, we require amended or re-issued process. That's when things started to go a bit sideways. Rather than seek an order compelling Google to comply with the original warrant, the government presented the Court with a second application. The agent explained that “Google was unable to comply with the warrant as written because the time frame was too narrow,” “Google is unable or unwilling to parse individual accounts for” the specific emails, and “Google typically provide[s] broad ranges of information and place[s] the burden on the law enforcement officer searching the information to stay within the parameters of the warrant.” Perhaps Google was bluffing or it was simply tired of "providing broad ranges of information" to every government agency that came knocking. Whatever the case, the government's next move suggests it was stunned by Google's (apparently out-of-character) refusal… or its somewhat unbelievable claim that "records" from that time period simply could not be located. The government already had a judge clear the previous warrant application and give it the Fourth Amendment thumbs-up. It would have been incredibly simple to approach the same judge for a court order compelling the release of the records. What it did instead was strip the Fourth Amendment-friendly language from the previous application and present it to a different magistrate judge. [T]he government’s second warrant requests authorization to seize the six third-party Gmail accounts in their entirety. Once the contents of the accounts are in its possession, the government appears to promise not to look at any emails outside the applicable date ranges. However, the warrant would not limit its ability to search the entirety of the Gmail accounts as the proposed warrant plainly authorizes the inspection of all email content in the accounts without regard to how remote in time or unrelated that content is to the current investigation. So, to "fix" a Fourth Amendment-compliant warrant -- one that sought specific emails from a very narrow time frame -- the government went the other way, basically saying, "The hell with it. Give us EVERYTHING." Judge McCoy seems somewhat astounded by the government's Plan B: a 90% breathtaking audacity/10% vindictiveness warrant app that came nowhere near even the most minimal of Fourth Amendment standards. Based on these probable-cause conclusions, a narrow intrusion into the email accounts is warranted. But the present application goes well beyond the narrow intrusion justified by the probable cause showing. It seeks judicial authorization to seize and then search the entire content of the six third-party Gmail accounts with no justification other than that Google has unilaterally elected not to comply. In less subtle terms, the government behaved like a child when it was told, "No." Judge McCoy's order tells the government to grow up. [T]he Court reiterates that the government has two alternative avenues through which to seize and search the sought-after emails. First, the government remains free to seek an order compelling Google to comply with the earlier warrant provided it limits the request to email content for the narrowly defined periods relevant to the investigation of the six third-party Gmail accounts. Alternatively, the government can renew the instant application provided it proffers to seal, without any review absent further court order, material supplied by Google that is outside the time period for which probable cause has been established. Do it right or don't do it at all. At the very least, don't swing from one end of the Fourth Amendment spectrum to the next just because the warrant recipient doesn't immediately comply. Turning a narrow warrant into a general warrant is no way to run a law enforcement agency. And stomping all over the rights of others just because you're pissed off at being refused is no way to treat the people who pay your salaries.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Back in January, we wrote about a legal challenge to the Netherlands' data retention law by a group of civil rights organizations. This was because the Dutch government had decided to ignore the important ruling by Europe's highest court, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), that blanket data retention was "invalid." Now, a court in The Hague has ruled the government was wrong to do so: Dutch providers are no longer required to retain internet and phone traffic data. The telecommunications data retention law, that was fought in court by various privacy groups and small ISPs, is invalid. That was ruled (.pdf, in Dutch) by the court of The Hague on Wednesday. The data retention law violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, specifically regarding the right to protection of private life and protection of personal data. As that report from Nu.nl, translated by Matthijs R. Koot on his blog, makes clear, the court's judgment affects all kinds of telecoms -- both Internet and phone traffic data -- and all communication providers. This is the judge's reasoning: The judge finds that the collected data are too easily accessible for crimes that are not serious. The plaintiffs stated that, technically, theft of a bicycle could lead to access to data, although the government stated this does not happen. "Fact of the matter is that the possibility exists and that no safeguards exist to limit access to the data to what is strictly necessary to fight (only) serious crime", according to the judge. The court also finds it to be incorrect that no prior court approval is needed to access the data. The judge's ruling is only "provisonally enforeable", and the Dutch government may appeal against it. But even if it does, it has a larger problem with its policy in this area. Although it claims a new data retention bill will be compatible with the CJEU ruling, the Netherlands' Data Protection Authority has already said that it is still too intrusive for a number of reasons. Clearly, the European debate over what is a reasonable and proportionate level of data retention -- if any -- has a long way to go yet, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
Walmart. Just saying the company's name is usually enough to evoke unbidden brain-sounds of terrifying organ music and images of pitchfork-wielding devil-imps. But, hey, it's a large business that's been around for quite a while, so I guess it's doing alright. It seems to me that somebody might want to call a meeting with the Walmart legal brain trust, because the company's campaign against a silly and simple parody website isn't achieving much of anything at all, and is in fact Streisanding the parody site into national views. This story starts back in 2012, when ICANN saw fit to hold a firesale on domain extensions. Buying them up was all the rage for reasons unfathomable to this author. Still, that was the impetus for how we arrived at Walmart going after a site with a .horse extension. That explains why, for the mere price of $29, you can now purchase a .horse domain name, if you want to do such a thing. "With .HORSE, there are no hurdles between equine enthusiasts on the Internet," says United Domains. "Giddy up and register .HORSE today!" It doesn't seem like too many people have been receptive to this pun-based sales pitch, but a 34-year-old named Jeph Jacques saw the opportunity for what he calls an "art project." "I thought, 'Alright I'm gonna buy this and do something stupid with it and see what happens," he told me. And readers, he did just that. This grand art project? Buying up the domain www.walmart.horse, slapping a picture of the front of a Walmart store with a, you guessed it, horse superimposed over the top, and declaring the whole thing a monumental artistic success. Seriously, this is the only thing at the website if you go there. Monet it might not be, but the image is suddenly competing with the likes of famous artists for attention and views thanks to Walmart freaking the hell out about it. In its infamous wisdom, Walmart and its crackerjack legal team have demanded that the whole shebang be taken down, claiming infringement of trademark. The C&D letter Walmart helpfully sent along suggested that Jacques' website would confuse customers into thinking that Walmart, who is not in either the business of horses nor in the business of having a sense of humor, might have some affiliation to walmart.horse. Interestingly, the letter targets the domain name, rather than the image on the site itself. I'm not personally aware of any infringement claim on domain name being refuted by the actual extension used, but this would seem to be a ripe candidate for that argument, given that Walmart is not in the horse business. But this really shouldn't even get that far, given the whole purpose of the site itself and the artistic nature of the creator. Jacques argues that his site is "an obvious parody and therefore falls under fair use." He also told Walmart in his response that he'd be happy to put a disclaimer on his site to let visitors know he is not actually affiliated with the Waltons. And although he doesn't want to bow to the company just yet, he says he's already proved his original hypothesis: that corporations spend an absurd amount of time policing their trademarks. Point proven, I suppose. Meanwhile, a tiny joke site has been Streisanded into the national conversation because Walmart just couldn't resist. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
There was a time when it was possible to keep track of popular internet memes, but there's a countless number (maybe some neural net behind youtube has a tally while it's not trying to recognize cat videos) being created all the time now. Some marketing folks are trying to mimic viral videos and engineer their own, and it'll probably get harder and harder to spot the fake memes. ICYMI, here are a few links on viral videos of varying seriousness. The most popular viral video for millions of Chinese citizens is a 104 minute documentary on air pollution. The film ("Under the Dome") has gotten hundreds of millions of views, and although it has been removed from some popular Chinese video site, the message is still spreading. [url] A few internet-famous memes have brought financial windfalls, but some folks are not at all happy about their internet popularity. The "Star Wars Kid" was one of the first viral videos that featured an unwilling participant. It won't be the last one, but is there really any good way to put the toothpaste back into the tube? [url] Superfuse videos compile a bunch of content all together into a strange nearly-unwatchable cut of visual art. We've seen heard this sort of thing done with music, so it's not too surprising to see this technique with video mashups, too. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Canada's new copyright notice system is swiftly become a playground for copyright trolls. As Michael Geist reports, Canadian legislators could have baked in a few limitations to curb abuse, but chose instead to ensure the Rightscorps of the world could twist the legislation to their advantage. Despite more than a year of work on potential regulations – including possible costs to rights holders for sending notifications – Industry Minister James Moore abandoned the process, implementing the system with no costs, no limitations on notice content, no restrictions on settlement demands, and no sanctions for the inclusion of false or misleading information. The government’s backgrounder says that the law “sets clear rules on the content of these notices”, however, it does not restrict the ability for rights holders to include information that goes beyond the statutory minimum. Righstcorp is called out for a reason. It was the first to seize this opportunity to shake down Canadian internet users with pre-settlement offers. To make its requests appear more "reasonable," Rightscorp lied in its letters to alleged infringers. The notice falsely warns that the recipient could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement when the reality is that Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. The notice also warns that the user’s Internet service could be suspended, yet there is no such provision under Canadian law. Beyond that, Rightscorp has no intention of litigating these cases -- which would be the only way for it to secure statutory damages. Even in the US, where the sky-high $150,000 applies, Rightscorp has yet to actually sue anyone for copyright infringement. It instead hopes to nickel-and-dime its way to the top of the troll heap with $20/per infringement "settlements." Now another copyright troll is invading the same territory. CEG TEK (Copyright Enforcement Group… um… TEK) has started sending out reams of useless and misleading paper threatening alleged infringers in Canada, citing the new law in order to appear really, really serious about possibly doing something expensive to those on the receiving end. At least this letter acknowledges the $5,000 cap on infringement awards, but it only uses that higher number to make its demands in the low-hundreds per infringement more palatable. The rest of it is standard demand letter histrionics. In Canada, the unauthorized copying, performance, and/or distribution of Rights Owner’s Work is illegal and is subject to civil sanctions (with statutory damages of up to $5,000 or non-statutory damages that could be higher) and/or criminal sanctions, and is a violation of the Canada Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42). The recent amendments to the Copyright Act, which came into force on November 2012, have confirmed Rights Owner’s right to have its copyright protected in Canada. [...] If you have questions about your legal rights, you should consult with your own legal counsel (i.e., barrister, solicitor, lawyer, and/or attorney). CEG HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED BY RIGHTS OWNER TO OFFER A SETTLEMENT SOLUTION TO RESOLVE THIS MATTER AND PREVENT LEGAL ACTION. You have until Saturday, March 28, 2015 to access the settlement offer and settle online. Of course, the letter makes it appear as though CEG can actually offer a complete release from legal culpability for only $xxx, and the artful use of ALL CAPS around "SETTLEMENT SOLUTION" and "LEGAL ACTION" could give some recipient the sense that something dangerous lurks behind this mass-mailed "threat." But CEG, like Rightscorp, can't make much money with "LEGAL ACTION." Nope, it's all about "SETTLEMENT SOLUTIONS." Serve to thousands. Collect from tens. Call it a day. There's no lawsuit coming. A search for CEG in the Justia database returns a single lawsuit -- and in that one, CEG was the defendant. Perhaps that's why the letter stays suitably vague about the consequences of ignoring these missives. At this point. CEG TEK's business model only allows for repeated sending of demand letters and, if needed, more use of the Caps Lock key. Still, the shakedowns will have an effect, mostly on the wholly ignorant or easily intimidated -- which makes copyright trolling indistinguishable from any number of scams. The victims are those who don't know any better. And Canada's decision to enact a copyright notice system filled with holes only encourages entities like CEG and Rightscorp to expand their "markets." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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There has been an increasing push by the legacy entertainment industry to get "full site blocking," in which companies can declare sites they don't like as "rogue" and order ISPs to block all access to them. This was the whole point of SOPA. And while that law failed in the US, the entertainment industry is still interested in figuring out other paths to making it happen. Courts in many other countries have been much more receptive to this form of censorship -- and have regularly ordered ISPs to block sites. This is true in Sweden as well, but it appears that one ISP, Bredbandsbolaget, is going to fight back for as long as it can, according to Torrentfreak: “It is an important principle that Internet providers of Internet infrastructure shall not be held responsible for the content that is transported over the Internet. In the same way that the Post should not meddle in what people write in the letter or where people send letters,” Commercial Director Mats Lundquist says. “We stick to our starting point that our customers have the right to freely communicate and share information over the internet.” Of course, this means that they'll be going to court later this year. Torrentfreak notes that the MPAA is pulling the strings behind this, of course: Internal movie industry documents obtained by TorrentFreak reveal that IFPI and the Swedish film producers have signed a binding agreement which compels them to conduct and finance the case. However, the MPAA is exerting its influence while providing its own evidence and know-how behind the scenes. Also of interest is that IFPI took a decision to sue Bredbandsbolaget and not Teliasonera (described by the MPAA as “the largest and also very actively ‘copy-left’ Swedish ISP”). The reason for that was that IFPI’s counsel represents Teliasonera in other matters which would have raised a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, we're still left wondering how any of this encourages people to actually spend more money to support content creators.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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This blog post is reprinted from Public Knowledge, and is quite timely. On Thursday of this week, we'll be discussing this very topic at our Copia Inaugural Summit, with Natalia Krasnodebska from Shapeways. We'll also be distributing copies of this new report at the event. If you haven't signed up to attend or to join Copia, please check it out. Among a host of other (arguably more important) wonders, widespread access to 3D printing raises all sorts of interesting intellectual property law questions. Some of these questions are the obvious result of combining physical objects, digital files, and the distributive power of the internet. Others, however, are less obvious. 3D printing has the potential to take many of the things we assume about intellectual property law and turn it on its head. The past fifteen years or so have given us all a collective informal education in intellectual property law. We have been taught to assume that everything we see on our computer screen is protected by intellectual property law (usually copyright), and that copying those things without permission can often result in copyright infringement (and potentially lawsuits). By and large, this has been a reasonable rule of thumb. The things that we most often associate with our computer screens – those are the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot – happen to also be the types of things that are protectable by copyrights. As copyright automatically protects things that are categorically eligible for protection, it is safe to begin from the assumption that the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot made in the last century that you find online are actively protected by copyright. This easy assumption becomes less reasonable in the context of 3D printing. Many of the objects coming out of a 3D printer are simply not eligible for copyright protection. As “functional” objects, they are beyond copyright’s scope. They may be protectable by patent, but because patent protection is not automatic, many of these objects will simply not be protected by intellectual property at all. The idea that something is entirely unprotected by copyright or patent would have felt perfectly natural 30 years ago, but can feel deeply disorienting today. Furthermore, unlike those music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot, we often have to treat a physical object and the digital file that represents that object differently in the context of 3D printing and intellectual property. Although we do not often draw the distinction between a song and an .mp3 file, there are many situations where we are called on to conceive of an object and its digital file as fundamentally different intellectual property entities. The importance of this difference manifests itself when people start to talk about licensing 3D printed things. Taking a page from the more traditional digital world, the conversation often starts with the relative strengths and weaknesses of various licenses. However, beginning there skips a fundamental and easy-to-overlook step: before considering which license to use, you need to know what you are actually licensing. It was easy to skip this step with traditional digital media because the answer to “what can you license?” was almost always “everything.” But in the context of 3D printing, the answer is just as likely to be “nothing” or at least “only some parts.” Understanding what is and is not available to license is a new skill for our collective intellectual property education, and it is a critical one in the world of 3D printing. In order to start this process, today we at Public Knowledge are releasing a new whitepaper called Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff. Instead of focusing on the differences between licenses, this paper walks you through how to figure out what is even available to license in the first place. Because until you understand that, everything else is just a detail.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The US legal system took a step towards criminalizing thought when a New York court convicted a former NYPD officer of conspiring to kidnap, rape, kill and eat 100 women. The evidence against Gilberto Valle included chat logs and internet searches. The details uncovered were nightmarish. But at the end of it all, it only amounted to Valle giving his very vivid imagination a long leash. On appeal, the court overturned the conspiracy charges, stating that Valle's "conspiracy" was little more than thoughtcrime, something the legal system isn't* in the business of punishing. (And yet, "conspiracy" remains a valid criminal charge -- one used extensively by the FBI to bag its handcrafted "terrorists." Go figure.) *About a million caveats apply. But the court left one charge on the table: a CFAA violation. During the course of Valle's fantasizing, he used police databases to look up information on one of his "victims." This, of course, is an egregious abuse of his position and access, but it is not -- as the EFF argues -- a CFAA violation. Despite acquitting Valle on the conspiracy charge, the court upheld the CFAA conviction, believing that the restrictions placed on Valle concerning the database—which permitted him to access any part of the database as long as it was for a valid law enforcement purpose—was an access restriction, not a use restriction, simply because of the way the restriction was phrased. The distinction between "access" and "use" restrictions is critical because serious prison time is at stake. Congress clearly intended the CFAA to criminalize the act of breaking into computer systems a person is not allowed to be in otherwise, but violating a use restriction—a (usually written) policy that governs the purposes for which someone can use their access—is clearly not that. The EFF has filed an amicus brief in Valle's case (now before the Second Circuit Court), arguing for this charge to be overturned as well. In it, the EFF points out that Valle's unauthorized access didn't involve him actually breaking into the NYPD's computers -- a key element of CFAA charges. Instead, he already had access. He just didn't have permission to do what he did. So, while Valle's abuse of his access was certainly immoral, possibly illegal under a New York state law, and a clear violation of NYPD policy, it was not the sort of circumvention Congress had in mind when it crafted the bill. There should definitely be consequences for this activity (including Valle being subject to civil rights lawsuits from the violated party[ies]), but there definitely should not be a finding that violating an internal use policy is a federal crime. As it stands now, the decision reached by the lower court poses a serious threat to nearly anyone with access to computers/networks provided by their employers. Most critically, the court set a dangerous precedent. As we’ve repeatedly warned, this theory of CFAA liability gives employers and website owners the power to make behavior illegal through simply adopting use restrictions in their corporate policies or terms of use, which in turn criminalizes a broad range of innocuous everyday behaviors—like checking personal email or the score of a baseball game. It's the worst cases -- ones with less-than-sympathetic defendants -- that result in the worst precedents. Valle's extended, detailed cannibalistic fantasies are hard to defend, even knowing that he never followed through with the lurid plans he dreamed up. Free speech is toughest to defend when it's composed of brutal and depraved fantasies that include any number of hideous criminal acts. But the lower court saw it for what it was: thoughts, not deeds. Now, there's one detail left, but it's hardly a minor one. The remaining charge -- if left standing -- seriously lowers the bar for criminal charges under the CFAA, a law that is already severely flawed. And so, the EFF joins the battle on behalf of a former NYPD officer who abused his position to further his violent fantasies in hopes of protecting far-more-centered members of the general public from abuse at the hands of a broken law.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If you wanted more bad reviews than you could shake a legally-unenforceable clause at, you'd do this: [Windermere Cay's] Social Media Addendum, published here, is a triple-whammy. First, it explicitly bans all "negative commentary and reviews on Yelp! [sic], Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog." It also says any "breach" of the Social Media Addendum will result in a $10,000 fine, to be paid within ten business days. Finally, it assigns the renters' copyrights to the owner—not just the copyright on the negative review, but "any and all written or photographic works regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property, or the apartments." Snap a few shots of friends who come over for a dinner party? The photos are owned by your landlord. The Florida apartment complex claims the stupid clause is needed to prevent "unjust and defamatory reviews." It makes this claim -- not in a statement given to Ars Technica (which was tipped off by a resident) -- but in the introductory paragraph of the Addendum. From there it gets worse. Doing any of the following triggers a $10,000 fine, with $5,000 added on for each additional "infraction." This means that Applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews on Yelp!, Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog. Applicant agrees that Owner shall make the determination of whether such commentary is harmful in Owner's sole discretion, and Applicant agrees to abide by Owner' determination as to whether such commentary is harmful. Then come the copyright demands. Additionally, each Applicant hereby assigns and transfers to Owner any and all rights, including all rights of copyright as set forth in the United States Copyright Act, in any and all written or photographic works regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property, or the apartments. This means that if an Applicant creates an online posting on a website regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property, or the apartments, the Owner will have the right to notify the website to take down any such online posting pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Of course, when confronted by Ars about the Addendum, the property managers claimed this was all someone else's fault. Asked about the Social Media Addendum by Ars, Windermere Cay's property manager sent this response via e-mail: "This addendum was put in place by a previous general partner for the community following a series of false reviews. The current general partner and property management do not support the continued use of this addendum and have voided it for all residents." I would imagine the support was removed and addendum voided shortly after Ars publicized it, and not a moment before. According to Ars, the resident who contacted the site was asked to sign this suddenly-unsupported addendum only "days before." But Windermere's management now very likely regrets ever including it in the first place. Like so many others before it, Windermere is learning that attempting to preemptively shut down criticism with bogus clauses and high fees almost always results in more criticism. Its Yelp! page is swiftly filling up with negative reviews and -- like every other emotionally-charged incident on the internet, has already achieved Godwin. Obviously, there are better ways to handle allegedly defamatory reviews. A $10,000 fine and a preemptive usurpment of tenants' copyright isn't one of them. [And neither is this bizarre Craigslist ad from another, unrelated rental property -- which makes vague claims about "defamation" while shouting "LAWSUIT LAWSUIT LAWSUIT" across the ether.] As multiple entities have learned over the years, you can't stop criticism on the internet. You can only hope to contain it. Legal threats and punitive fines tend to blow the walls right off the containment scheme. What should be handled with exceptional customer service and the rare lawsuit (for truly defamatory statements) is instead turned over to hamfisted legalese and intimidating dollar amounts -- both of which make things worse for the entities they're ostensibly in place to protect.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Before there was Edward Snowden, there was of course the notably less celebrated Mark Klein. As most of you probably recall, Klein, a 22-year AT&T employee, became a whistleblower after he highlighted (pdf) how AT&T was effectively using fiber splits to give the NSA duplicate access to every shred of data that touched AT&T's network. Of course, once it was discovered that AT&T was breaking the law, the government decided to just change the law, ignore Klein's testimony, and give all phone companies retroactive immunity. It really wasn't until Snowden that the majority of the tech press took Klein's warnings seriously. AT&T's been loyally "patriotic" ever since, often giving the government advice on how to skirt the law or at times even acting as intelligence analysts. Business repercussions for AT&T have been minimal at best; in fact, you'll recall that Qwest (now CenturyLink) claimed repeatedly that government cooperation was rewarded with lucrative contracts, while refusal to participate in government programs was punished. In fact, the only snag AT&T's seen in the years since was to have its European expansion plans thwarted, purportedly by regulators uncomfortable with the carrier's cozy NSA ties (AT&T instead simply expanded into Mexico). Fast forward a few years and The Hill is now claiming that AT&T's relationship with the NSA could harm the company's $48 billion attempt to acquire DirecTV. This claim is apparently based on the fact that a coalition of AT&T business partners, called the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition, is warning the FCC in a letter (pdf) that AT&T's enthusiastic voluntary cooperation with the NSA shows the company's total disregard for consumer privacy. "(Despite immunity) the Commission is still obliged to execute and enforce the provisions of § 229 of the Act, see 47 U.S.C. § 151, and it is still empowered to conduct an investigation to insure that AT&T complies with the requirements of CALEA. See id. § 229(c). And the Commission is obliged to determine whether AT&T is qualified to obtain DIRECTV’s licenses in light of its egregious violations of CALEA. This is particularly true given AT&T’s continued and ongoing pattern of misconduct. Accordingly, the Commission should investigate AT&T’s complicity in the PSP to determine whether AT&T engaged in unlawful conduct that abridged the privacy interests of telecommunications consumers on a vast scale and, if so, whether AT&T is qualified to obtain DIRECTV’s licenses." Of course, that's simply not happening. While the NSA cooperation can be used as a broader example of AT&T's character (like the repeatedly nonsensical claims the company makes when it wants a merger approved, or how AT&T tries to charge its broadband customers extra for no deep packet inspection), it's incredibly unlikely that the same government that granted AT&T's immunity will turn around and sign off on using AT&T's behavior to squash a merger. If the merger is blocked, it will be due to more practical considerations -- like the fact that DirecTV is a direct competitor to AT&T and eliminating them would lessen competition in the pay TV space. When it comes to AT&T's relationship with the NSA, it's pretty clear by now that these particular chickens may never come home to roost.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We just had a story based on the Intercept breaking the fact that the CIA holds an annual hackathon (the CIA calls it a "Jamboree") to come up with new ways to hack secure systems, inviting in various contractors and government agencies. Much of the work is focused on hacking Apple's security, inserting backdoors and generally degrading security and encryption for everyone. The CIA refused to comment on the Intercept's original story, but the reporters got former FTC official Steven Bellovin to sum it up as: “Spies gonna spy,” says Steven Bellovin, a former chief technologist for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and current professor at Columbia University. “I’m never surprised by what intelligence agencies do to get information. They’re going to go where the info is, and as it moves, they’ll adjust their tactics. Their attitude is basically amoral: whatever works is OK.” Now, "unnamed" anonymous CIA officials seem to be picking up where that shrugging comment left off. Talking to CNBC reporters, the CIA folks give similarly "meh" kinds of responses: "That's what we do," the official said. "CIA collects information overseas, and this is focused on our adversaries, whether they be terrorists or other adversaries." Except, of course, they don't just spy overseas. The CIA has done domestic spying as well, and the descriptions of the projects don't just impact people overseas. And then there's this one: "There's a whole world of devices out there, and that's what we're going to do," the official said. "It is what it is." It is what it is. That's someone who clearly doesn't care one bit about the negative consequences of attacking security and inserting backdoors that can harm everyone, just so long as they can also spy on people they don't like. You know, like the US Senate.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If you live in a broadband and TV market with anything even closely resembling competition, you've probably learned that the only way to get the best rates is to pit ISP retention departments against one another. Often only by seriously threatening to cancel can users force ISPs to bring out their best promotional offers, something you'll have to repeat every few years if you don't want to get socked with higher rates. The ideal consumer then, from the broadband and cable industry's perspective, is one that grumbles a little bit but can't be bothered to do a little extra legwork to secure better rates (read: the vast majority of users). Of course pitting ISPs against one another assumes you even have the choice of more than one decent broadband provider, something that's certainly not a given. Even in markets we tend to think of as competitive, we're increasingly seeing non-price competition (what I affectionately refer to as "wink wink, nod nod" competition), wherein duopolies quietly work together to slowly edge prices upward -- because there's simply no repercussion for doing so. The New York City tri-state area, where Cablevision and Verizon FiOS engage in a customer tug-of-war, is a perfect example of this kind of not-really-competition. While Verizon and Cablevision did compete intensely for a short while in New York, the two sides have in recent years declared what can only be called a competitive cease fire. Both have dramatically scaled back or stopped promotions entirely and raised rates whenever possible. In fact, a study last year noted that while all cable rates are increasing much higher than the rate of inflation, Cablevision customers see some of the highest rates in the nation. Cablevision executives meanwhile have made their disdain for the smart consumer abundantly clear over the last few years, calling smart shoppers a "dead end" that the company has no interest in pursuing. Speaking at a recent investor conference, Cablevision vice chairman Gregg Seibert took this rhetoric one step further, declaring that customers that follow the best promo offer are a "low quality" subscriber that the company is happy to get rid of:"We found out that we were pushing subscribers back and forth on a highly promoted basis," said Cablevision vice chairman Gregg Seibert, speaking Monday at the Deutsche Bank 2015 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla. "I don't want to roll a truck to you every two years if you keep going back and forth to another provider … So we're getting rid of that lower quality, lower profitability base of subscriber."Except "pushing subscribers back and forth" is what competition is. Fighting to offer a better value than the other guy is how competition works. That Cablevision and FiOS can just choose when they'd like to seriously compete illustrates perfectly how even in U.S. markets we consider to be more competitive, what we're usually witnessing is just coordinated competition theater. When consumers only have one or two real options for service, and both of those options quietly agree on an unwritten competitive cease fire, there's simply no longer any reason to even try. It's then a lovely layer of hubris to publicly express disdain for customers looking for something better.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Hillary Clinton and her team apparently felt that it was finally time to have the Candidate* address the whole email thing, which she did with a press conference, in which she tried to brush the whole thing off as nothing. Here's the key bit from her prepared remarks: Now, I would be pleased to talk more about this important matter, but I know there have been questions about my email, so I want to address that directly, and then I will take a few questions from you. There are four things I want the public to know. First, when I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two. Looking back, it would've been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn't seem like an issue. Second, the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department. Third, after I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work- related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totalled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them. We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work- related emails and deliver them to the State Department. At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails -- emails about planning Chelsea's wedding or my mother's funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes. No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy. Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see. I am very proud of the work that I and my colleagues and our public servants at the department did during my four years as secretary of state, and I look forward to people being able to see that for themselves. Again, looking back, it would've been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts. I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn't worked out that way. Later, in the Q&A session she added a few "details." On the question of which emails she kept private (which she says she deleted), she claimed it was just stuff that don't need to be shared, such as emails between herself and Bill Clinton: And the process produced over 30,000 you know, work emails, and I think that we have more than met the requests from the State Department. The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private and I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided. As for the security of the emails, she insists they were fine because they were guarded by the Secret Service: Well, the system we used was set up for President Clinton's office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches. So, I think that the -- the use of that server, which started with my husband, certainly proved to be effective and secure. Now the proper follow up to that is how the hell do you know there were no security breaches. Having Secret Service agents guard the physical machine is one thing. Making sure there were no online breaches is another thing entirely. Trevor Timm, over at the Guardian, notes that Clintons statements only raise a lot more questions. For example, she claims that the private emails were things like emails with Bill. But, as Timm points out, just hours earlier, Bill Clinton's spokesperson said that the President still doesn't use email. The former president, who does regularly use Twitter , has sent a grand total of two emails during his entire life, both as president, says Matt McKenna, his spokesman. After leaving office, Mr. Clinton established his own domain that staff use–@presidentclinton.com. But Mr. Clinton still doesn’t use email himself, Mr. McKenna said. So, was Hillary lying when she said other emails were just her and Bill chatting -- or was Bill's own spokesperson wrong? Timm also digs in on that "no security breaches" claim, and finds that Clinton's people did a followup with a caveat: "there is no evidence there was ever a breach." Which could mean there was one, and they just never knew about it. Furthermore, the better question (and one a reporter in the press corp. should have asked) is not about the Secret Service guys guarding the box, but who set up the computer security for the email server. But no one did. Here's Timm: Also: what type of security professionals were looking after the server? Clinton said the secret service guarded it, but we have no idea the expertise of the person actually running it. Experts have already pointed to basic holes in the email server’s security based on public data, and as any systems administrator will tell you, running your own email server is never simple. Another point raised by Timm: Clinton seems to be willfully misstating the rules when she claims she didn't violate them: Clinton also said at the press conference she “fully complied with every rule I was governed by”. Well, actually: a 2005 State Department directive said “It is the Department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized [Automated Information System], which has the proper level of security control to provide nonrepudiation, authentication and encryption, to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.” Sources told Politico the rules were “clear-cut”. An ambassador was harshly criticized in 2012 for breaking this rule in the same manner Clinton did and subsequently fired in part for using a private email account at work. And Clinton herself signed a State Department cable in 2011 saying that all ambassadors should avoid personal email for professional business. In the end, this response tried to answer questions, but only served to raise a bunch of new ones. * Still not officially runningPermalink | Comments | Email This Story

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