posted 14 days ago on techdirt
As the evolution of video games as a major entertainment medium marches on, you would expect to see more and more studies done as to their effects. And, since the chief topic among those having this conversation seems to center around the effect of violence in games, that's where much of the focus of these studies is going to go. Now, we've already discussed one study that linked violent video games and the so-called Macbeth Effect, in which the gamer feels the need to cleanse themselves of the wrong-doing with a conversely benevolent action. That study was important because it demonstrated that the effect of violent games might have the opposite effect of the all-to-prevalent theory that virtual violence begets real-life violence. A recent study appears to boil this down even further, indicating that instead of feeling any kind of desensitizing effect, immoral actions taken in video games produce a more sensitive, compassionate person. A study led by Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo, reaffirmed previous research saying that committing immoral acts in games can cause players to feel guilt. Moreover, the study found that players would become more sensitive to the specific moral codes that they violated while playing — and according to Grizzard and his co-authors, that may eventually lead players to practice prosocial behavior (that is, voluntary behavior for the benefit of other people). The study was done at an unnamed Midwestern university, sampling nearly 200 individuals for testing purposes. The game used was Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, an older game that was previously used in a study that first tried to measure guilt in the gaming population. The methodology used by several researchers from major universities is interesting, to say the least. First, the researchers randomly assigned the participants to play a game or perform a memory recall task. They randomly assigned the gaming segment to play Cold War Crisis in two ways: Either they would play as terrorists (the "guilt condition"), or as U.N. peacekeepers in the "control condition." The researchers also split the memory recall participants into two groups: They asked the guilt condition people to write about a time in which they felt particularly guilty, while they requested the control condition folks to write about a normal day. What they found is that feelings of guilt were more profound in those gamers who played as terrorists compared with those that played as peacekeepers. The rationale at work is that terrorists are unjustified in killing the U.N. characters, but not vice versa. What that demonstrates is that players taking what they deem to be immoral actions within a virtual environment are emotionally stimulated in thinking about those actions and develop thoughts and opinions based on those actions, building generally towards empathy through guilt. Coupled with other research, this is important. Research has shown that guilt and increased moral sensitivity in real life often lead to prosocial behavior. Thus, the study's authors concluded, there's some likelihood that the same could be true for guilt resulting from immoral virtual behavior. In other words, playing violent games can make you feel guilty, which may cause you to do nice things for other people. It's important to note that still other research has shown that with increased play at relatively high rates, these feelings of guilt tend to lessen over time. That likely has more to do with the player's comfort level in accepting that their actions are all just part of a game and having already settled their feelings on those actions. In the meantime, for the vast majority of gamers who play games at what we'd consider normal intervals, violence in games may actually lead to pro-social behavior rather than the stereotype result that's blasted around our media. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Tech companies, even those that dislike the patent system (which is many of them), still feel pressured into getting lots of patents, often for defensive purposes, to avoid lawsuits. However, as we've discussed in the past, even patents that are initially obtained for defensive purposes are a nuclear weapon problem in waiting. Companies fail all the time, and their patents suddenly get sold off to the highest bidder -- and quite frequently these days, those are trolls. Some companies have tried to come up with unique and innovative ways to stop this potential trolling problem. For example, a few years ago, Twitter came up with the Innovator's Patent Agreement (IPA) which basically lets the engineers named on a patent issue a free license to whomever they want for the life of the patent. This is sort of an anti-troll talisman, because that engineer can simply go and give a free license to anyone a troll threatens. While other companies haven't jumped on the IPA bandwagon, it appears a bunch of tech companies are trying something different. Google, Newegg, Dropbox, SAP, Asana and Canon have teamed up to launch the "License on Transfer Network," which is a royalty-free patent cross-licensing program, for any patent that is transferred outside of the group. The basic deal is pretty straightforward: if any company in the group transfers a patent outside the group, for any reason, everyone else in the group automatically gets a royalty-free license to that patent. Obviously, this kind of program really only works if lots of companies join, but they've made it incredibly easy to join. And, as Asana notes in its blog post about the program, there are tremendous network effects as more companies join: The LOT Network is a powerful new idea that we hope will grow rapidly. Because of the inherent network effects, every additional company that joins the coalition will be a new nail in the patent troll coffin, diminishing the size of their potential market. As this happens, everyone will be able to direct more of their energy back to creating value. Asana and Dropbox, which also put out a blog post about this both note that this only solves one aspect of the patent trolling problem, but it's still nice to see companies coming up with innovative solutions to try to pre-empt certain types of patent trolling problems.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Segway never really lived up to its hype, but it does serve a practical purpose as a means of transportation -- and it's a bit more convenient than a bike in some ways. (I haven't been a fan of larger versions of the Segway (GM's PUMA) because some things just don't scale well. However, I'm not against tinkering with new transportation solutions to try to come up with cool new ways to get around.) If you like transportation gadgets, here are just a few cool-looking projects that offer some extreme maneuverability. The RYNO is a motorized unicycle that behaves like a Segway (with one less wheel). It has a top speed of 10 mph, but it doesn't quite look as dorky as a Segway. [url] If being able to turn on a dime is your goal, then an omnidirectional bike with two spheres for wheels might be the gadget for you. The Spherical Drive System is only a prototype, but it literally puts a new spin on the wheel. (This bike might actually look cooler if it had a third sphere...) [url] Honda has developed its own unicycle called the UNI-CUB personal mobility device. It has a cumbersome name, but it sports an omnidirectional driving wheel system (aka Honda Omni Traction Drive System) and looks fairly compact and maneuverable for indoor use. [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 15 days ago on techdirt
We've seen silly trademark suits over all kinds of things before. Common phrases come to mind, as do petty politicians going after parodies and the government feeling it necessary to trademark groups of American heroes lest the House of Mouse gobble them up. The point is we see a lot of dumb 'round these parts, but we rarely see that dumb mixed with sexy. But now, thanks to The Tilted Kilt franchise going after golf club for having some of their staff wearing completely different looking kilts, we apparently can't say that any longer. The club in question is the Kilted Caddy Club, a golf course that provides female caddies in kilts for some of their golf tournaments, because nothing helps a man concentrate on sinking that twenty-foot sloped birdie putt like a nice pair of legs. The Tilted Kilt franchise, in case you aren't aware, provides bar/restaurants in which scantily-clad women in kilts and low-cut button-down shirts serve you sub-par food while the worst music you can imagine plays around you and your fellow degenerate friends. In other words, we're dealing with two quality organizations here. Well, apparently one side of this equation got their kilts in a bunch to the point of filing a very silly trademark claim. The Tempe, Ariz.-based Tilted Kilt, which has nearly 100 locations nationwide including one at Broadway at the Beach, says in court documents that the caddy club is copying its distinctive and trademarked “uniforms,” thereby, confusing consumers into thinking the two businesses are related. The Tilted Kilt has asked a judge for a permanent injunction against the Kilted Caddy Club’s use of its name and tantalizing tartan uniforms, as well as unspecified monetary damages. Now, let's start off with the obvious problem: the two companies aren't in the same line of business. One is a golf course (that of course has a clubhouse bar and food, but meh), the other is a bar/restaurant. They aren't competing against one another. That should probably be enough to toss this thing out already. Add to that the fact that the two uniforms aren't really all that similar beyond incorporating a bastardization of a traditional Scottish kilt, and it's all the more difficult to see this going anywhere. Judge for yourself. Here are some women in their Tilted Kilt uniforms, making their parents proud: And here are some women from The Kilted Caddy Club. Now, while it is true that the golf course put out some advertisements for events with girls dressed in garb more similar to Tilted Kilt girls, they still aren't competing against one another and no moron in a hurry is going to think that the restaurant company suddenly went into the golf course business and failed to use their brand name. And besides all of that, the idea of preventing a golf course, a game with Scottish origins, from having a Scottish theme, is sort of silly on its face. Still, because this is a trademark dispute, it must devolve into a silly linguistics lesson from the club's lawyer, Dan Polley. Polley said, there should be no confusion over the names because the restaurant chain uses the word “tilted” as an adjective for the noun “kilt” while the caddy club uses “kilted” as an adjective for the noun “caddy.” “The respective marks do not have any closeness in appearance, sound or meaning,” Polley said. “Coupled with the fact that our client’s services are provided solely at its Scottish theme golf course, the chance for confusion is remote.” Or how about, rather than having everyone get their MLA handbooks out, maybe two companies not competing against each other just don't have to find themselves battling in court. That work for everyone? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We already wrote about Glenn Greenwald's big story concerning how the FBI has been spying on prominent Muslim American politicians, lawyers and civil rights activists. If you follow this stuff closely, you may have heard that Greenwald was originally supposed to publish that story last week, but held off at the last minute due to some "new information" from the government. This resulted in some silly and ill-informed conspiracy theories, but in the article Greenwald explains what actually happened: The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story, or for clarification about why the five men’s email addresses appear on the list. But in the weeks before the story was published, The Intercept learned that officials from the department were reaching out to Muslim-American leaders across the country to warn them that the piece would contain errors and misrepresentations, even though it had not yet been written. Prior to publication, current and former government officials who knew about the story in advance also told another news outlet that no FISA warrant had been obtained against Awad during the period cited. When The Intercept delayed publication to investigate further, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence refused to confirm or deny the claim, or to address why any of the men’s names appear on the FISA spreadsheet. Prior to 2008, however, FISA required only an authorization from the attorney general�”not a court warrant�”for surveillance against Americans located overseas. Awad frequently travelled to the Middle East during the timeframe of his surveillance. The fact that it was out warning people that the story was inaccurate before anything had even been written is... quite telling. Also, the fact that it only seemed to focus on the lack of a FISA warrant (and against one individual) seems like the standard form of the intelligence community choosing their words especially carefully to say one thing, while implying something else entirely. Now that the report has actually come out, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has issued a statement that is more of the same. You will note, for instance, that it does not deny spying on the five named individuals -- only that it doesn't spy on people because of their political, religious or activist views: It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights. Unlike some other nations, the United States does not monitor anyone’s communications in order to suppress criticism or to put people at a disadvantage based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Our intelligence agencies help protect America by collecting communications when they have a legitimate foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose. Again, note the specific denial they're making. They're not denying they spied on these five individuals. They're claiming that if they spied on them, it wasn't because of their religion -- though the evidence presented in the Intercept article certainly rules out many other explanations. And, remember, it was just a week ago that it was revealed that the NSA, does, in fact, consider people interested in Tor or open source privacy to be extremists. So, while it may be technically true that these individuals weren't targeted because of their religion, it does seem fairly clear that the intelligence community has fairly low standards for what it takes to convince themselves that someone may be a threat. Furthermore, the statement admits that there are cases where it spies on people without approval from the FISA Court, but doesn't say what those examples are beyond "in an emergency." That may imply the only cases are in an emergency, but that's not what the statement actually says: With limited exceptions (for example, in an emergency), our intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance. These court orders are issued by an independent federal judge only if probable cause, based on specific facts, are established that the person is an agent of a foreign power, a terrorist, a spy, or someone who takes orders from a foreign power. And, again, as the Intercept report itself notes, prior to 2008, there were different standards in place for people traveling overseas (even Americans) which could explain how some of these individuals were targeted. The ODNI statement more or less concludes by suggesting that the five people named may have been agents of foreign powers, which is quite a claim: No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs. On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation. It's a neat little out. Accused of spying on five Americans who pretty clearly do not appear to be agents of foreign powers, just hint strongly that they really are agents of foreign powers. It's back to the good old days of McCarthyism.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Jason Lee Van Dyke is a lawyer in Texas whose own website describes himself as the "meanest lawyer in Texas" (technically it says "meanest lawyers" but the "attorneys" tab on his website only lists himself.) Either way, his site promises a "a highly practical 'no bullshit' approach to the practice of law." It also notes that the Van Dyke law firm is "unafraid of using novel arguments and tactics if we think that our clients may benefit from them." Novel arguments and tactics can be a good thing... but it kinda goes the other way when you're making a clearly bogus argument, ignoring basic existing safe harbor laws, potentially dragging all sorts of totally unrelated parties into court, while seeking a broad injunction that clearly violates the First Amendment. And that, it seems, is exactly what Jason Lee Van Dyke has done in filing a lawsuit against the Tor Project and Pinkmeth.com. It should be noted, first of all, that Pinkmeth is yet another revenge porn site. We've written a bunch about revenge porn over the last few years, and hopefully most of us can agree that the folks who run these sites are horrible people, encouraging others to upload naked photos of unwitting folks, while often running a related extortion-like scam to get people to pay up to have their photos removed. We've been happy to see some of the folks who run these sites arrested -- when it appears there are legitimate charges against them -- but have been fearful about how others are trying to stretch the law to go after them. Jason Van Dyke didn't just stretch the law, he seems to have decided to jump on a bulldozer and plowed it right through the law with a legal filing so bad it makes you wonder how Van Dyke ever passed the bar. As nice as it would be to get Pinkmeth to shut down, abusing the law is no way to do it. Let's start with the most problematic aspects of the lawsuit, though, and that's lumping Tor into the lawsuit with Pinkmeth. First, it appears that a year and a half ago, Van Dyke was somehow able to get a judge to order the Pinkmeth.com domain put on hold by VeriSign. In response, the folks behind Pinkmeth set up the site as a Tor Hidden Service, like many other such hidden services (like the Silk Road). Van Dyke, who does not seem to understand how Tor functions, or to have ever come across Section 230 of the CDA, is trying to claim that the Tor project is liable as part of a "conspiracy" with Pinkmeth: Pinkmeth and TOR conspired to and had a meeting of the minds regarding the commission certain torts against Plaintiff more adequately described in paragraphs 5.1 - 5.15 above, as well as certain felony offense described in paragraph 4.8 and 4.9 above. The specific object to be accomplished by the conspiracy was the publication pornographic images of Plaintiff (and other women) on the Pinkmeth website in such a manner so as to prevent its operators and users from being held civilly and criminally accountable for this unlawful behavior. Of course, Tor is just a tool, and claiming there was any "meeting of the minds," let alone any possible liability here is ridiculous. In fact, many of the direct claims against Pinkmeth itself are likely protected under Section 230 as well, but we'll get to that. After the internet started trying to explain to Van Dyke how Tor worked, he first shrugged that he could dismiss the Tor Project later if he wants, and then issued a hilarious press release in which he tries to both backup his attack on the Tor Project and prime himself to back down against them at the same time. It has to be read to be believed. Here are some choice quotes: The TOR Project Inc., ("TOR") is a slightly different story. They were named as a conspirator in the lawsuit based upon our belief that they were hosting PinkMeth or providing it with services that have allowed its operators to continue to escape justice. First off, Tor doesn't host anything. I mean, a 5 second Google search should teach you that. I don't care if you're the meanest lawyer in Texas, you should be able to do a basic Google search. Second, "providing it with services that have allowed its operators to continue to escape justice" is a fascinating legal standard. Once again, Van Dyke would be well served to look up Section 230, or hell, just about anything concerning how basic liability works. This was not an unprecedented action by our office. Yes, actually, it was. Claims brought against hosting companies such as GoDaddy have survived dismissal in similar lawsuits. First, Tor isn't a hosting company, so you got that wrong. Second, while he's sorta kinda correct that a similar lawsuit against GoDaddy survived past the dismissal stage, he conveniently leaves out that that decision was decisively overturned once a real court looked at it and pointed out that the lower court somehow totally ignored Section 230, meaning the lawsuit against GoDaddy was dismissed, contrary to what Van Dyke implies. Just today it was reported that a TOR exit node operator in Austria was convicted of abetting the spread of child pornography. First off, that wasn't today, it was last week and we wrote about it here, with the point being that it was a ridiculous ruling that almost everyone finds problematic. Second, a tor exit node is not run by the Tor project, so the comparison is meaningless. Third, it's Austria, not the US, where any such claim would get laughed out of court just as fast as Van Dyke's lawsuit here will be. It is our position that, if TOR provided goods or services of any nature to PinkMeth, that they are liable to Ms. Conklin. A review of the TOR website further confirmed by belief that, although it may have been originally designed for legitimate uses, is now used almost solely to aid and abet criminal conduct. Yeah, I'll just leave that one there for people to laugh at. He then goes on to blame Pinkmeth for making him file against Tor, because Pinkmeth mentions that they're a Tor hidden service. Then the backtrack begins: Since the filing of our lawsuit and service of legal process on PinkMeth, evidence has emerged that TOR may not have provided any goods or services to PinkMeth. We are still working to determine what degree of control, if any, TOR has over those who use TOR hidden services and to what extent they may be able to provide us information regarding those responsible for publishing PinkMeth. Naturally, if TOR has played no role in PinkMeth's re-emergence, has not provided PinkMeth with goods or services of any kind, and is unable even to assist in identifying those responsible for publishing PinkMeth, they will be dismissed from our lawsuit. Uh, think you could have done that research before filing a lawsuit, sparky? Anyway, Van Dyke is not done with Tor yet. He's pretty sure that even if they didn't break the law here, it's a bad thing and should be outlawed: This is not so [sic] say that we endorse the types of service that TOR is providing. We believe condemn [sic] them in the strongest possible terms and strongly disagree with their assertion that there is any "right" for the publishers of online content to remain anonymous. For a guy who describes himself as "the most right wing lawyer in Texas" you'd think he'd be at least marginally familiar with the First Amendment, and things like the Supreme Court's decision in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, which pretty clearly states: Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society. At the very least, you'd think he'd be familiar with things like the Federalist Papers and the importance of anonymous speech in the history of our democracy. But, no. Apparently not. He goes on to suggest that the legislature should ban Tor. Good luck with that. Oh, and while most of the focus is on his lawsuit against the Tor Project, the other parts of his lawsuit against Pinkmeth seem fairly problematic as well. Nearly all of the claims are likely precluded by Section 230, because Van Dyke seems to pin the blame for what a user of Pinkmeth did on Pinkmeth itself. That's not how the law works, no matter how "mean" you might be. I'd be happy if there were a way to legally take Pinkmeth down, but this isn't it. Next, he makes a bizarre mention of how there isn't a fair use defense here, despite never actually making a copyright claim in the lawsuit: Pinkmeth cannot claim "fair use" of any of the images they have misappropriated on its website because the illegal publication of child pornography and adult pornography (in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2257) can never be lawful. In the specific case of the Plaintiff, she owns all the copyrights to the images stolen by Defendant. She has never given Defendant, or any other person, permission to access or distribute her photographs. Give that, you'd think there would actually be a copyright claim somewhere in the filing. But there isn't. And I won't even bother getting into the question of why he's jumping back and forth between copyright law and child porn and a law about keeping records in porn production. Fair use has nothing to do with any of that. And, while it may be true that the Plaintiff holds the copyright on it, given Van Dyke's other problems understanding the law, it seems like there should be a bit more evidence to support that. Then, the lawsuit goes even further, demanding "an all-encompassing order" which would impact a huge number of non-parties to the lawsuit, demanding a massive amount of prior restraint, all because of photos of one person. In particular, he demands that: (a) All top level domain name providers and companies, including Verisign Inc. and ICAAN, cause "pinkmeth.com" and other websites containing the "pinkmeth" verbage to be obliterated or otherwise rendered permanently inaccessible; (b) All domain name registrars and hosting companies, including TOR, be enjoined and restricted from providing, or continuing to provide, any Internet-related services to the Pinkmeth; (c) All search engines companies (e.g. Google and Yahoo) be enjoined from (i) including any pornographic photographs of Plaintiff in their search engine results; and (ii) including Pinkmeth in their search engine results; (d) All social media websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) be enjoined from permitting Defendant to utilize their services. He further requests that, without any hearing, the court issue a temporary restraining order granting all of the above. I recognize that he doesn't understand Tor, doesn't understand the internet, doesn't seem to know about Section 230 and is a bit weak in his understanding of the First Amendment, but really, does he not understand the nature of prior restraint? The idea that this entity should be wiped off the face of the internet entirely, prior to any sort of hearing flies in the face of basically all First Amendment law. You can be the meanest lawyer in Texas, but it might help to have some clue about the law and the technology you're suing. Unfortunately, Jason Lee Van Dyke seems to fail at most of that.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 15 days ago on techdirt
We've pointed out before how bizarre it is that President Obama seems to gleefully admit that he's almost totally in the dark about what the intelligence community is doing. Last year, he admitted that he keeps finding out what the NSA is doing from the press reports on the Snowden documents and then he goes to ask what the NSA has been up to. It appears this "keep him in the dark" status is reaching new and ridiculous heights. As you probably heard, over the weekend the Germans arrested an employee of the German BND, who had apparently been spying for the Americans (via the CIA), and who had been tasked with keeping tabs on the German investigation into the Snowden leaks. This morning, there are reports about a second spy as well. Reports suggest that the first guy was a bit of a bumbling buffoon who was caught because he sent via email classified documents to the Russians, offering to spy for them as well (leading to an investigation that turned up his existing spying activities for the CIA), but it's still a diplomatic black eye for the US. However, the craziest bit about this is that no one bothered to inform the President that the cover of a CIA plant had been blown in Germany -- even though President Obama was scheduled to talk to Angela Merkel a day after the arrest. While that call went off without a hitch, and the spy wasn't brought up, the fact that President Obama was apparently unaware of the situation, once again, raises serious questions about the rogue nature of the intelligence community. No one expects the President to know specifically about CIA plants, but once one is blown -- especially concerning a big ally where previous revelations already made a bit of a diplomatic mess -- you'd think that someone inside the intelligence community would think to brief the President.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Julian Sanchez alerts us to a crazy story in the Washington Post (which, it should be noted, appears to be sourced from one side of the case, so recognize the potential bias), accusing prosecutors in a "sexting" child porn case of going so far as to get a search warrant to take a photograph of the defendant's "erect penis" in order to compare it to the one in a video he sent his girlfriend. A Manassas City teenager accused of “sexting” a video to his girlfriend is now facing a search warrant in which Manassas City police and Prince William County prosecutors want to take a photo of his erect penis, possibly forcing the teen to become erect by taking him to a hospital and giving him an injection, the teen’s lawyers said Like many other similar cases, this involves two teenagers sexting each other. We can all admit that this is a rather stupid thing to do, but it would be crazy not to recognize that this happens quite frequently with teens these days. It's already a pretty big stretch to try to twist those cases into "child porn" cases, but various prosecutors have been doing exactly that for years now. In this case, the 15-year-old girlfriend sent her 17-year-old boyfriend a photo of herself, and he sent back the video. The mother of the girl complained, and prosecutors went after the boy for "two felony charges, for possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography." If that already seems fairly questionable, prosecutors apparently decided to take things to the next level when the boy refused to plead guilty: The male teen was served with petitions from juvenile court in early February, and not arrested, but when the case went to trial in juvenile court in June, Foster said prosecutors forgot to certify that the teen was a juvenile. The case was dismissed, but police immediately obtained new charges and also a search warrant for his home. Police also arrested the teen and took him to juvenile jail, where Foster said they took photos of the teen’s genitals against his will. The case was set for trial on July 1, where Foster said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson told her that her client must either plead guilty or police would obtain another search warrant “for pictures of his erect penis,” for comparison to the evidence from the teen’s cell phone. Foster asked how that would be accomplished and was told that “we just take him down to the hospital, give him a shot and then take the pictures that we need.” The teen declined to plead guilty. Foster said the prosecutor then requested a continuance so police could get a search warrant, which was granted by substitute Juvenile Court Judge Jan Roltsch-Anoll. So, if you're keeping score at home, what we have is (1) two teens (stupidly, but not that surprisingly) sending each other revealing photos/videos of each other in a consenting manner that could be seen as "child porn" solely based on their age and (2) law enforcement forcing the boy to create more such "child porn" in an effort to pressure him into pleading guilty to two felony child porn charges. How does that make any sense at all? Can anyone actually claim that the "forced" photo by police and the followup search warrant, with the plan to "inject" him in a hospital to photograph his erect penis, is somehow less problematic than the original sexting video?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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One of the most idiotic aspects of the internet these days is geoblocking -- the practice of certain websites only being available in certain countries. Nothing seems to get internet users angrier than going to any particular piece of content online, knowing it exists on an easily accessible server... and being told "screw you, because of the patch of dirt you happen to physically be sitting on at this moment, you can't see this content." The standard way around these things has been to use proxies or various VPN services that allow you to route your traffic through other countries. However, an ISP in New Zealand (a country frequently beset by "not available in your territory"-type messages) has decided to add a geoblocking-workaround service as a standard feature for all its users. The ISP, Slingshot, has a pretty straightforward explanation for its new "Global Mode" offering: Ever tried to go to a website, only to be told you can't see it because you live in New Zealand? We think that's bizarre, and it's why we have introduced Global Mode. Global Mode is a brilliant service that lets you visit a range sites that are normally blocked to people from New Zealand. And it's free for Slingshot broadband customers. We think it's pretty awesome - and lets you surf and view the sites that you want to see. And, of course, this means that folks in New Zealand using Slingshot can get easy access to things like Netflix and Hulu, which were previously geoblocked. It will be interesting to see how the various content providers respond to this move. So far, the only stated response is that some believe that better licensing in those countries will win the day, but that seems unlikely. Here's a prediction: if this becomes more common (and other ISPs are apparently paying close attention), expect to see this issue pop up in various trade agreement talks like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. Content providers will probably seek to insert some ridiculous clause equating getting around geoblocking to getting around DRM, and make it defacto infringement.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in March, we told you about how the famed makers of the Keurig single-cup coffee brewing "pod" contraption was about to launch a new version with DRM. A competitor, Treehouse Foods, was taking Keurig makers Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to court over this attempt to block them out of the market. To say that post got a lot of attention would be a bit of an understatement. Green Mountain tried to hit back by claiming that the new DRM was about adding "interactive-enabled benefits" and safety to the single-cup coffee space. Because, you know, it was so unsafe before. And, besides, who doesn't want more "interactive-enabled benefits" with their first cup of java in the morning? Keurig has now started demonstrating the new system, and it's exactly what everyone feared: a DRM system to make coffee pods more expensive and to keep out competitors' refills. When the Keurig employee tried to use an old-model pod, one without a new ink marker on the foil top, the brewer wouldn’t run. "Oops!" read a message on the touchscreen display, explaining that the machine only works with specially designed pods and directing the user to a Keurig website and helpline. The employee wouldn’t elaborate on how it worked, except to say that the ink is proprietary and inspired by counterfeiting technology used by the US Mint. Ian Tinkler, Keurig’s vice president of brewer engineering, went into a bit more detail, explaining that an infrared light shines on the ink marking and registers the wavelength of the light reflected back. What about those promised interactive-enabled benefits? As far as I can tell, they appear to be the following: With its new machine, Keurig is combining its two main product lines, the single-cup brewer and the carafe-brewing Vue.... The anti-counterfeiting system doubles as a way to distinguish between carafe-size pods and regular ones. If the sensor detects the green dot that marks carafe cups, it brews a large pot. If it detects the ring of black symbols on the standard pod, it brews a smaller cup. If it doesn’t detect a Keurig-approved marking at all, it tells you "oops!" Yes, the "interactive-enabled benefits" will apparently maybe kinda save you from having to push a button or flip a switch between "cup" and "carafe." Of course, it could do that same thing without a bogus code designed to block out competitor refills and just compete on the quality of its coffee. But, who wants to do that? Of course, that story at the Verge also reveals why Keurig/Green Mountain Roasters is really doing all of this: In September 2012 key patents on its K-Cups expired *Ding* *Ding* *Ding*. We have a winner. None of this has anything to do with safety or benefits. It has to do with doing anything possible to avoid competing in the marketplace. There are lots of ways to play in a market and compete. One is to try to add more value than your competitors. Another is to try to block your competitors by taking away value. I never understand companies that seek to do the latter, but that's what Keurig has decided to do.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For a little while now, Glenn Greenwald has been promising the next big scoop from the Snowden files, and it came out last night, with detailed reporting on how the FBI was directly spying on a bunch of prominent American politicians, lawyers and civil rights activists... who happened to be Muslim. Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush; Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases; Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University; Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights; Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country. This certainly harkens back to the days of spying on Martin Luther King and other human rights activists -- the kind of thing that was supposed to have stopped decades ago. In fact, the driving reason for setting up the FISA Court was to prevent this kind of thing. As Greenwald's report notes, these individuals were on a list of folks who the DOJ had convinced the FISA Court that there was "probable cause" were engaged in terrorism. The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”�”short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens. The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the list appear to belong to foreigners whom the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. But a three-month investigation by The Intercept�”including interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal law enforcement officials involved in the FISA process�”reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens. Reading through the report, it becomes quite clear that the main reason these individuals on the list are solely because they're Muslim. Of every lawyer who has helped represent defendants in terrorism-related cases, the only one on this list just happens to be Muslim. As the article reminds us, a few years back, Spencer Ackerman did some great reporting, revealing how the FBI was being trained to believe all Muslims were "violent" and "radical" and the impact of that ridiculous training appears to be clear in what this latest report finds. Perhaps the most chilling example of this anti-Muslim attitude is found in a training document revealed in this new report, showing intelligence community members how to "identify" targets for the FISA court. The "placeholder" name says it all: Later in the report, the government tries to deny that there was a FISA Court order concerning at least one of the individuals listed above, even though they were in the spreadsheet. But that level of confusion only suggests that the process is even more of a mess. Whether or not this complied with the law is a distraction. The law shouldn't allow this kind of thing. A former Justice Department official involved in FISA policy in the Obama Administration says the process contains too many internal checks and balances to serve as a rubber stamp on surveillance of Americans. But the former official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about FISA matters, acknowledges that there are significant problems with the process. Having no one present in court to contest the secret allegations can be an invitation to overreach. “There are serious weaknesses,” the former official says. “The lack of transparency and adversarial process�”that’s a problem.” Indeed, the government’s ability to monitor such high-profile Muslim-Americans�”with or without warrants�”suggests that the most alarming and invasive aspects of the NSA’s surveillance occur not because the agency breaks the law, but because it is able to exploit the law’s permissive contours. “The scandal is what Congress has made legal,” says Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director. “The claim that the intelligence agencies are complying with the laws is just a distraction from more urgent questions relating to the breadth of the laws themselves.” Much of the rest of the story involves a detailed look at the men listed above, all of which are worth reading, demonstrating just how ridiculous it was to be spying on their communications. The video of Faisal Gill is really worth watching: Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Superheroes: they're awesome. While they are often conflicted, they stand for truth and justice, protecting the fictional masses from unseen evils without so much as a paycheck. You know, like Edward Snowden, but with masks and bikini briefs and whatnot. Children, in particular, love superheroes, because they're still young enough to not yet have had their view of humanity deflated through the experience of living. Still, even for those reading the most tragic of stories, there is an important lesson to be learned: superheroes are awesome, but the people who own them aren't. You can't meet Jeffrey Baldwin of Ottawa, because at five years old he was the victim of his own grandparents, who starved him to death. But if you could meet Jeffrey, he'd probably tell you all about Superman. See, Jeffrey loved the Man of Steel so much that members of his community that had never even met him were moved to provide for a memorial statue in his name, with the Kryptonian "S" on the boy's chest. Todd Boyce, who had been taken with Jeffrey's death and the testimony in his trial, tried to do the right thing and contacted DC Comics to get their blessing. The request to the comic books publisher had been made by Todd Boyce, an Ottawa father who did not know the Baldwin family. Boyce was so moved by the testimony at the coroner’s inquest into Jeffrey’s death last year that he started an online fundraising campaign for the monument. You already know what comes next, don't you? DC Comics wrote a polite but still utterly infuriating reply that essentially said, "Nope!" This reply cited a "variety of legal reasons" that likely boils down to copyright and trademark rights. And, from DC's standpoint, I'm sure they also considered the sudden flood of requests they'd get from people who would also like to have Superman's logo on their headstones, family crests, and all the rest. But, seriously, we really couldn't have figured out a way to get a little Superman on Jeffrey's memorial statue? Superman was created over eighty years ago, but we're still at a place where we can't let a child have his hero moment, even in death? For Boyce, it was a huge blow, as he felt the Superman aspect was a crucial part of the bronze monument, which will include a bench. The coroner’s inquest heard from Jeffrey’s father that his son loved to dress up as Superman. “I’m sort of empathetic to (DC’s) point of view on this, but I feel very strongly that the image of Jeffrey is so powerful,” said Boyce. “It’s the image of a vulnerable boy dressed up as the most invulnerable character in the universe. So I just feel like there’s something lost if we change it.” Boyce said he understood DC’s stance, in that he felt they didn’t want the Superman character associated with child abuse. That's very understanding of Boyce, but what!?!? If DC's legal reasons for this refusal have anything to do with not wanting the logo to be associated with child abuse, then we have some lawyers on our hands that are serious candidates for lobotomies. This is a child victim we're talking about, the kind of person the fictional Superman would damn well have stood up for. It's too bad Superman's real-life owners don't share those same convictions. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've written about the Senate's dangerous CIPA bill -- which is Congress' latest (bad) attempt to help increase the NSA-led surveillance state by giving companies blanket immunity if they share private information with the government... all in the name of overhyped "cybersecurity." We, of course, have been through this fight before, with the CISPA bill, which passed in the House a few times, but couldn't get any traction in the Senate. This time around, the (really bad) Senate version passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee by a 12-3 vote (held in secret, of course). Not surprisingly, two of the three who voted against it are Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. By now you should know: if Ron Wyden and Mark Udall are against something related to surveillance, you should be against it too (and the opposite is true as well). The "good" news is that despite the overwhelming support by the NSA's biggest cheerleaders on the rest of the Senate Intelligence Committee, it seems unlikely that the bill will have enough support in the overall Senate. And it will hopefully remain that way. This bill is a dangerous one, that is solely designed to give the NSA and some companies additional legal "cover" for aiding the NSA's surveillance efforts. Thanks to Snowden's revelations, companies are, in general, a lot less willing to do that these days anyway, but giving those companies blanket liability to do so is a bad, bad idea. And while there's still little to no evidence that the "cybersecurity threat" is anywhere close to as big as what the FUDmongers insist it is, even if that is true, no one has yet explained what laws actually get in the way of having companies share critical cybersecurity information as needed. And, if such laws really do exist, any solution should to just be narrowly focused on fixing those laws, rather than granting broad immunity for sharing just about any info.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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“Advocates from every corner of the political compass have produced a mountain of disinformation about the ‘militarization’ of American law enforcement.” - Doug Deaton, Lieutenant, Plano (TX) Police, writing for PoliceOne 32 bomb suits 704 units of night vision equipment 712 rifles 42 forced entry tools, like battering rams 830 units of surveillance and reconnaissance equipment 13,409 personal protective equipment (PPE) or uniforms 120 utility vehicles 64 armored vehicles 4 GPS devices 17 helicopters 21,211 other types of military equipment - Equipment obtained by Arizona law enforcement agencies via Dept. of Defense 1033 grants Zambia, Slovakia, Somalia, Ghana, Hungary, Estonia, Mozambique - Some of the countries (out of a total of 17) whose militaries have fewer helicopters than Arizona law enforcement agencies (according to statistics gathered by the CIA and posted at GlobalFirePower.com) The ACLU's extensive report on police militarization shows a nation at war with itself. The War on Terror -- a 13-year windmill joust that has generated an excess of military equipment -- has merged with the War on Drugs, an exercise in futility seven years removed from the half-century mark. Actual military combat, utilizing enlisted soldiers, has given birth to the same equipment now routinely being deployed to fight the crime formerly policed by normal police officers. Cell tower spoofers, surveillance drones, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected personnel carriers (MRAPs) -- all of these were developed for use by the military. And all of these have now found homes in local law enforcement armories. The requisition forms are littered with terrorism-related terms, but the reality of the situation is much more banal. Low-level drug dealers are being dealt with like enemy combatants. Law enforcement agencies claim with straight faces that they're falling behind in the arms and technology race, all the while acquiring the best weaponry and technology tax dollars can buy. These are then handed over to SWAT teams, special police forces developed to take on truly dangerous situations like riots, active shooters, hostage situations and barricaded suspects. They are outfitted in military gear and sent out to perform the everyday task of serving search warrants. These teams prefer to do this mundane task with a maximum amount of chaos and violence. Warrants are delivered with no-knock raids, ostensibly to give the police department the upper hand on the presumed-to-be-dangerous occupants. In reality, this is the sort of thing that happens far too frequently. [B]efore 3:00am on a night in May of 2014, a team of SWAT officers armed with assault rifles burst into the room where the family was sleeping. Some of the kids’ toys were in the front yard, but the Habersham County and Cornelia police officers claimed they had no way of knowing children might be present. One of the officers threw a flashbang grenade into the room. It landed in Baby Bou Bou’s crib. It took several hours before Alecia and Bounkahm, the baby’s parents, were able to see their son. The 19-month-old had been taken to an intensive burn unit and placed into a medically induced coma. When the flashbang grenade exploded, it blew a hole in 19-month-old Bou Bou’s face and chest. The chest wound was so deep it exposed his ribs. The blast covered Bou Bou’s body in third degree burns. Three weeks later, it's still unclear whether the child will survive. The SWAT predicated its warrant on a $50 drug purchase from someone who didn't even live at that residence. No drugs or guns were found. No arrests were made. Note that the police defended their actions by claiming they had "no way of knowing" if children might be present. But that lack of crucial knowledge had zero effect on its tactics. Officers didn't throw a flashbang grenade into the house because they were sure there were no children present. Officers threw a flashbang grenade into the house because that's what SWAT teams do when they serve no-knock warrants. The question of children was never raised, at least not until their actions had placed a child in a medical coma and now needed to be defended. A safer assumption would be that nearly every house being raided has a child in it. Most houses do. This is how law enforcement's new toys get used: to take down lowball drug dealers. A large majority of warrants served are drug-related. The ACLU has the stats. The problem is more troubling than mere mission creep. The new armor and weapons are begging to be used. These acquisitions, often obtained over the protests of the populace under the agency's "protection" (or just as often, without their knowledge), need to be justified. The terrorism threat cited in requisition forms just isn't going to present itself. And so, law enforcement agencies deploy these against the next best thing: the neighborhood drug dealer boogeyman. The whole report is, by turns, fascinating, brutal and deeply concerning. Some claim the militarization of the police is a misconception, an illusion generated by a handful of vocal journalists. But the ACLU has the numbers that say otherwise. Law enforcement knows this is the truth. The government's misguided generosity has allowed local law enforcement to stockpile weapons and armor, but hasn't given it any limitations or guidance. And the stated reason -- terrorism -- simply isn't common enough to justify a one-sided arms "race," no matter how far the definition of "terrorist" is stretched. So, the weapons and armor are used to carry out search warrants, bringing unnecessary amounts of chaos and violence to something police used to handle with an authoritative knock and possibly a scuffle or two if things went south. Now, it's de rigueur. The tools can't be allowed to gather dust and the War on Drugs can't risk any more casualties -- at least not on the part of the enforcers.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Electronic Arts, fresh from being upset in the most recent "Worst Company" contest, isn't taking the defeat lying down. In fact, they're in full rebuilding mode, acquiring as much news about pissing people off as possible. Recently, for instance, you may have heard that the next Sims game will be published without the much-loved toddler children sims or the ability to create swimming pools in players' homes. The response from EA essentially states that they don't think that stuff is important, despite the public outcry. With an eerily similar recent history in the form of the SimCity debacle still fresh in everyone's mind, people aren't too happy. But the real trump card the company has rolled out recently is the Dungeon Keeper mobile game which pissed off roughly everyone. And I don't just mean the critics, who essentially look upon this reboot of a beloved franchise as blasphemy, but even consumer rights groups are getting involved due to the cynical attempt in the game to extract microtransactions out of players through in-app purchases while claiming to be a free game. The UK's Advertising Standards Authority disallowed EA advertising Dungeon Keeper as a free game and describes the ad this way: A direct e-mail for the mobile app game Dungeon Keeper stated "GET DUNGEON KEEPER ON MOBILE FOR FREE! ... DIG. DEVISE. DOMINATE. Build the most badass dungeon ever! Raise an army of diabolical minions and lay twisted traps to destroy any opponents foolish enough to set foot in your lair. MASTER THE HAND OF EVIL Cast powerful spells, pillage and plunder other players’ dungeons, and slap your imps around to make them work harder. A world of wicked fun is right at your fingertips. What are you waiting for, Keeper? Get it for FREE!" A footnote stated "WIRELESS FEES MAY APPLY". The ad also featured a screenshot of the game which appeared to show a well-developed dungeon, and was accompanied by artwork depicting characters from the game. The problem? Well, by most objective estimations, you can barely play the game without shelling out for in-app purchases. See, the game uses two kinds of currency in order to construct dungeons, which is the gameplay within the app. There's stone and gold, which replenish and accrue over time, and there are gems which are paid for with real-life money or some very limited in-game actions. EA argued that everything that appeared in their ad, including depictions of a created dungeon, could be achieved without spending any real-world money and just playing the game. And they're technically right, but they forgot to mention that the amount of time we're talking about to do so makes the game unplayable. Also, they forgot to mention how, in a departure from games like Candy Crush, the time players are made to wait gets longer as they progress in the game. We noted that, although some of these actions could be done simultaneously, there was a limit to how many actions could happen at the same time and that the length of the countdown timers increased according to how far the player had progressed in aspects of the game. We therefore regarded it as extremely likely that players would reach a position where they would be unable to take any further meaningful or progressive action in the game until a timer had finished or been skipped, and that these periods would become longer and more significant, and the cost of skipping increasingly higher, as the player progressed. Although some of the features in the ad did not require waiting for a timer, we noted that these were either incidental or brief (such as ‘slapping’ the imp characters) or were dependent on other actions that were gated by a timer. We acknowledged that the Gem currency, through which the timers could be skipped, could be obtained for free through normal gameplay and that the game could therefore be played without spending currency to bypass the countdown. However, we understood that the rate at which they could be accrued was slow in comparison to the amount needed to play the game at a reasonable rate, where the delays did not significantly impact on the ability to continue playing. In other words, the ad said the game was free and didn't mention in-app purchases, but the game is essentially unplayable without such purchases. In addition, progress in the game is specifically met with a mechanic designed solely to extract in-app purchases in the form of an increasingly long countdown timer. It's a scummy way to make a game, to advertise a game, and to treat customers, particularly within a game that is universally considered to be garbage. The end result is the ASA nixed the ads that depicted the game as free and ordered them to make future ads clear about in-app purchases and the limitations on free gameplay. If EA wants to keep on making this money-extracting drivel, they certainly can, but they can't pretend they aren't. Consumer protection done right, in other words. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Big shopping malls were really popular in the US, but it's getting harder and harder to compete with online shopping and free shipping. The result is a lot of depressing, empty malls just about everywhere. Obviously, some shopping centers are thriving and doing well. But unfortunately, it's not too hard to find an old mall that used to be a great place to hang out -- and now there's not much reason to go there anymore. Here are just a few notable shopping malls from around the world. Randall Park Mall in Ohio was once the world's largest shopping when it opened in 1976, but it lost that title pretty quickly. There's not much to look at now (it closed in 2009), and it's being turned into an industrial park. [url] An abandoned mall in Bangkok flooded, and it's become a breeding ground for catfish. The New World shopping mall looks like an impressive aquarium now. [url] China has some of the largest empty shopping malls in the world. The New South China Mall in Dongguan was about 99% vacant for the first few years after its opening in 2005. (It's not actually abandoned, and it's reportedly gained more stores recently.) [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
You may recall past stories here covering Texas A&M and their aggressive protection of their trademarked phrase, "The 12th Man." That phrase refers to the crowd within football games cheering and/or booing loudly enough to have an effect on what happens on the field of play. Even in situations where the target of A&M's ire isn't actually competing against the school for anything commercial, the cease and desist letters are still sent. We've also discussed how organizations could protect their trademarks by offering $1 licensing rights to the phrase, thereby maintaining their mark while engendering some good will. Well, boy, you'd think that such a scheme might be best used when a double-amputee cancer-survivor starts a website in Buffalo, NY called 12themanthunder.com, dedicated to keeping the Bills in Buffalo. But, nope, A&M still went legal on him. Charles Sonntag co-founded 12thManThunder.com, a website for people who wanted to keep the Bills in Buffalo. The Aggies are threatening to sue Sonntag for infringing on the "12th Man." Legally, it's an open question as to whether Sonntag's website actually infringes on A&M's mark. There's almost no likelihood of confusion between 12thManThunder in Buffalo and the College Station fan base. The Buffalo Bills — the actual NFL football team — ALSO have a deal with A&M to use the phrase. So it's not like A&M objects in principle to other people in far off places using the 12th Man. It's that they object to people using it without paying them a pound of flesh. However, Charles Sonntag just happens to be a double amputee, cancer survivor who suffers from Albright's disease. He can't afford attorneys who can litigate this case — and he does have some kind of defense that his use does not infringe on A&M's mark — and he can't afford to pay A&M whatever it wants in "leave me alone" money. Damn, I forgot about the Albright's disease, which presents as a skin and bone deformity in the legs, arms and skull. But, hey, I guess with old Chuck missing an arm and a leg, we shouldn't fully credit any sympathetic status for the Albright's, right Texas A&M? I mean, he's already chock full of PR-nightmare-fluid with the whole cancer and amputee thing. Yet, not only did the Aggies go after him, they pressed the issue when they felt he wasn't complying fast enough. Texas A&M spokesman Shane Hinckley said the website's owners have been too slow to respond. A&M wants all the 12thManThunder posters taken down (some are posted at area bars), and they want the Facebook group named changed. Did I mention that Sonntag is a double amputee? HE HAS ONE ARM AND ONE LEG! Could we give him a minute to deal with all of this? Forget the damned minute and work out a micro-cost licensing agreement with him. Hell, can we get a more clear-cut case of trademark bullying than this? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Over the years we've written a few times about lawyers trying to sue Westlaw, LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters for aggregating public court legal filings, and then reselling them. As we've noted in the past, rulings by the court (or filings by the government) are in the public domain, but filings by lawyers representing other parties likely have some level of copyright protection over them. However, there is an exceptionally strong fair use claim to being able to make use of such public filings. Earlier lawsuits, such as ones we wrote about in 2009 and 2010 appeared to fizzle out, but the one we wrote about in 2012 actually went to a federal court in New York. A little over a year ago, we wrote about how the case was easily dismissed on summary judgment, with a promise to issue a full ruling at a later date. It took nearly a year and a half, but Judge Jed Rakoff has finally gotten around to explaining fair use to the lawyers in question, Edward White and Kenneth Elan. The judge goes through the standard four-factor fair use analysis, finding three of the four factors favor fair use, while the one remaining one (the amount of the work used) is neutral, because the defendants copied the amount necessary for their transformative use. And, yes, the court is clear that aggregating these works (in whole) and reselling them is transformative: The Court finds that West and Lexis's use of the briefs was transformative for two reasons. First, while White created the briefs solely for the purpose of providing legal services to his clients and securing specific legal outcomes in the Beer litigation, the defendants used the brief toward the end of creating an interactive legal research tool.... Second, West and Lexis's processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents "add[] something new, with a further purpose or different character" than the original briefs.... While, to be sure, the transformation was done for a commercial purpose, "the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.".... Thus, on net, the first factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use. The "nature of the work" is easily a fair use win, given that the documents are publicly filed court filings. And then on the fourth factor, concerning the impact on the commercial market, the court rightly notes that it's unlikely that these collections act as any sort of substitute for the original legal work. In this instance, West's and Lexis's usage of the briefs is in no way economically a substitute for the use of the briefs in their original market: the provision of legal advice for an attorney's clients. White himself admits that he lost no clients as a result of West's and Lexis's usage.... Furthermore, no secondary market exists in which White could license or sell the briefs to other attorneys, as no one has offered to license any of White's motions, nor has White sought to license or sell them. The court makes one other important point on this factor. Often, we hear people claim that even if there has been no attempt at licensing, the use might preclude a future licensing market. But here, the judge rejects that idea as well: Although White argues that Lexis and West impede a market for licensing briefs, the Court finds that no potential market exists because the transactions costs in licensing attorney works would be prohibitively high. This is just a district court ruling, so it doesn't bind anyone else, and it's unclear if the lawyers will appeal. But it's always nice to see a nice win for fair use.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It seems like a bunch of folks collectively rolled their eyes at the news that superstar singer Taylor Swift (or the people she hires to do these kinds of things) had penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the "future of music." Of course, there are few artists out there that inspire rolling eyes like Swift does these days -- and there are some nutty claims in her opinion piece (and the writing is... stilted, at best). The main problem with the article is highlighted nicely by Nilay Patel over at Vox, who points out that she doesn't understand basic economics. And that's clear from this bit: In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently. In recent years, you've probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal. My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it. Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is. I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art. This is, as Patel notes (and I've been discussing for over a decade), a very, very naive view of economics. Based on this, the more you spend putting into the album, the higher you should price it, and the world should reward you for that. That, of course, is not even close to how the world works. You don't get rewarded based on effort. You get rewarded by providing a product that people want at a price they're willing to pay. Sometimes, perhaps, pouring more "heart an soul" into the product may help, but plenty of artists put their heart and soul into lots of works and get basically nothing for it. Sometimes it's because that heart and soul isn't enough and the product sucks. Sometimes it's because no one hears the music. Swift is lucky that she has the core of the traditional recording industry and all its marketing muscle behind her. I would imagine that the singer sitting at home in his or her garage pouring their heart and soul into a new recording and hoping to have it heard might find that they'd actually do much better giving the work away for free to get some attention for it. That said, most of the rest of Swift's piece is actually a pretty good look into where the music world is these days, in which the focus needs to be on connecting with fans and giving them a unique experience that isn't easily copied. On connecting with fans, she notes: There are always going to be those artists who break through on an emotional level and end up in people's lives forever. The way I see it, fans view music the way they view their relationships. Some music is just for fun, a passing fling (the ones they dance to at clubs and parties for a month while the song is a huge radio hit, that they will soon forget they ever danced to). Some songs and albums represent seasons of our lives, like relationships that we hold dear in our memories but had their time and place in the past. However, some artists will be like finding "the one." We will cherish every album they put out until they retire and we will play their music for our children and grandchildren. As an artist, this is the dream bond we hope to establish with our fans. I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon. This is like Kevin Kelly's concept of "true fans." Of course, it's weird that Swift would mock the idea of giving away works for free -- when it's possible that giving away such works might actually help artists build those bonds, enabling those true fans to look for ways to support them later. From there, Swift discusses how giving unique experiences are key to the future of music: I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say "shock"; I said "surprise." I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each other, so why can't this love affair exist between an artist and their fans? In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me. My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe. I hope the next generation's artists will continue to think of inventive ways of keeping their audiences on their toes, as challenging as that might be. Exactly. There, she's recognizing the value of a unique experience that can't be copied or "pirated," and which people have to pay to experience. And, once again, it seems odd that she'd knock the concept of free music, when that very same free music can help drive a lot more fans to want to go to these unique and special shows in which she "surprises" her fans. The op-ed comes off a little silly in places, but the overall view of where the future of music is actually is pretty much spot on. Connecting with fans and giving them a unique and valuable experience. It's almost like something some of us have been saying for many years now. Yeah, the part about free music is a bit off, but the overall vision seems very much in line with reality.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
There's good intentions behind it, but the implications are worrying. For years now, dogs have been trained to sniff out drugs by law enforcement agencies. (Well, in most cases, trained by third-party specialists before being turned over to law enforcement agencies.) The problem is that these dogs now ride around in cruisers and give the police "probable cause" to perform vehicle searches and, believe it or not, hours of rectal/vaginal searches, simply by "alerting" to an odor. Dogs aren't infallible, but law enforcement would prefer us to believe they are. They are animals which are rewarded for performing certain actions. Drug-sniffing dogs have been known to react more to handler cues than actual odors. When this happens, police officers are in essence generating their own justification for a full-blown search. As Jacob Sullum at Reason memorably put it: "Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog." So, if the targeted criminals are indisputably awful people, why does this news seem like another bad idea? (via slashdot) The recent arrival of golden Labrador Thoreau makes Rhode Island the second state in the nation to have a police dog trained to sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and other technological gadgets that could contain child pornography. Thoreau received 22 weeks of training in how to detect devices in exchange for food at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy. The plus side is that, at least to this point, the dogs are only being used to assist with search warrants, rather than riding along with patrolmen and nosing around vehicles of drivers deemed too nervous to be guilty of nothing more than a traffic infraction. But like drug dogs, the urge to generate positives is indulged. Houston demonstrated the dog's skills last month. Houston walked the dog through a room in which he had hidden devices. A second pass went more slowly, with Houston coaxing the dog. "Show me. Show me." Thoreau furiously sniffed shelves, desks, cabinets. The dog located a hard drive inside a Ziploc bag in the upper shelf of a desk. A flash drive and thumb drive were also found, with the dog zeroing in on their location down to the exact drawer. In exchange, Thoreau got food. "This is how he eats every day," says Houston, who cares for the dog around the clock. The stakes get higher when the dogs are deployed in the hunt for child pornography/pornographers. Training a dog to alert on devices makes any device it detects instantly suspect. And when it fails to find anything, the presumption will be adjusted to fit the lack of evidence. Rather than this being a sign of innocence, it will be an excuse to tear everything apart or collect additional warrants to search other locations. Because if the police have decided you're a suspect -- especially a possible child molester -- the searching won't stop until something is uncovered. Starting this chain of events by asking an animal inclined to please its handlers just makes the chain of unfortunate events unfold faster. Beyond the question of whether police dogs should expand their range from drugs to electronics, there's the hysteria being irresponsibly delivered by law enforcement officials (and reprinted willingly and credulously by the local press -- because who would question someone who's arresting child molesters?) I sincerely hope the Rhode Island police are working with a more specific dataset than this: Most child pornography offenders are white men with an average age of 41, U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics show. The majority graduated from high school and hold jobs. No shit. Most men have graduated high school and are now employed. Quite frequently they reach the age of 41, often exceeding it by 30+ years before dying. Dumping an assertion like this into the public domain will only increase the number of people who view any man a certain distance away from children as suspicious. This doesn't help the public better discern who might be a concern while simultaneously expanding the pool of possible suspects to include all white males. "These folks are out there trolling the Internet, trolling the streets, taking photos at the beach," [former DHS agent Eric] Caron says. Now, the suspect pool expands to include males who go anywhere near the internet, beach or public streets. Anyone with a camera spotted in these areas is doubly suspect. The DHS has always been suspicious of photographers, and this statement turns any male with a camera (or cell phone) into one of two things: a terrorist or a child molester. Spreading hysteria isn't going to make the job any easier. It's just going to increase the number of dead end "leads" police officers will be forced to run down. Adding dogs to the mix may make search warrants more productive, but it does carry with it the added baggage of pretending animals are impartial witnesses, rather than entities whose motivations roughly align with law enforcement's. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
The Los Angeles Police Department has obtained tons of data over the past several years and that amount of data increases exponentially every year. In addition to its criminal databases, it also collects thousands of license plate time-and-location data points every day and has deployed other forms of surveillance (like Stingray devices), gathering even more data surreptitiously. Of course, the LAPD feels it can be trusted with all of this data. It claims to have controls in place to prevent unauthorized access to information related to non-criminal Los Angeles citizens. Working with Palantir, the LAPD has instant access to a vast amount of gathered data -- a database so impressive it spent a bit of time bragging about it to a CNN reporter. (via Lowering the Bar) The CNN video shows LAPD Sergeant Jason O'Brien using Palantir to search for data on a burglary suspect."After searching over a hundred million datapoints, Palantir displayed an impressive web of information," said CNN reporter Rachel Crane. Palantir's interface resembles a web search engine with datasets labeled People, Vehicles, Locations, Crime, Arrests, FIs (Field Interview Reports), Citations, Bulletins, Tips, and Everything (view screenshot). The video also shows Sergeant O'Brien accessing the LAPD's automatic license plate reader database to map the past locations of the burglary suspect, which go back as far as March 2011. With all this information comes strict controls, or so the LAPD would like you to believe. Captain Romero told CNN that the LAPD "cannot just go searching for you or anyone else without a reason because we have a lot of data for people who have done nothing." And yet, during this same CNN taping, the LAPD shows just how careless it is about protecting data. Written on a whiteboard for anyone to see is the login and password to its CAMS (Computer Analysis Mapping System) training system. While this may be training access only and wholly separated from the actual system and its hundreds of millions of datapoints, it's still not a good idea to leave logins and passwords publicly displayed. Sure, whoever wrote it probably thought no one but cops undergoing training would ever see it (along with the filepath to the CAMS data), but the person or persons OKing the interview should have made a sweep of anything the camera might see. It's simply lousy operational security and it's the sort of thing you never want to see an entity with access to "hundreds of millions of datapoints" do. Even if additional steps are needed to complete an internet based attack, information on the whiteboard certainly peals [sic] back one layer of security blocking the way to private data. Above all else, the LAPD keeping a password—any password—on an office whiteboard in plain sight is deeply troubling. Haphazardly allowing CNN to film the password for a national news broadcast is more troubling still... [T]he whiteboard depicted in the CNN video casts doubt upon the LAPD's ability to keep its data private. Freedom du Jour points out that the LAPD's negligent attitude towards security has been encountered before. Documents acquired by the EFF and ACLU showed that officers were given the following name and password to log into their ALPR terminals. Name: LAPD Password: [blank] Two years later, the LAPD decided the system might need a password. Name: LAPD Password: LAPD These are the people who claim they can ensure hundreds of millions of datapoints won't be accessed without authorization, thanks to policies and strong statements given to credulous CNN reporters. But this shows that the LAPD's security measures border on nonexistent and its interest in protecting the data of Los Angeles citizens is minimal. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
"Laws are for other people." - Too many legislators to count It's common knowledge that insider trading is illegal. In fact, we have an entire government agency in place to regulate trading and to investigate insider trading allegations. Executives have been sentenced to months (sometimes even years) in plush, well-appointed hellholes for participating in insider trading. Members of Congress, however, were exempt from insider trading rules until 2012. An 2011 expose by 60 Minutes let millions of Americans know that members of Congress had plenty of access to market-changing information and were acting on it. In a rare (ha!) show of self-preservation, a united House full of Congresspersons facing reelection battles passed the STOCK Act, which basically made Congress and its staffers play by the same trading rules as every other American. In 2013, with Congressional members safely re-elected, the House decided to roll back its previous legislative effort in order to get back into the insider trading business. It tore out the stipulation demanding disclosure of trading activity -- the one thing citizens could use to verify adherence to the "no insider trading" rule -- stating that these disclosures were a "security risk." This sailed through with unanimous consent late on a Thursday afternoon (the end of the Congressional work week) and was signed by the President the following Monday. Now, Congress is again claiming it doesn't need to submit to laws that govern US citizens and, again, it's doing this to avoid any transparency or accountability being applied to its trading activities. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and a top staff member say the panel and its employees are "absolutely immune" from having to comply with subpoenas from a federal regulator in an insider-trading probe. The committee yesterday responded to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe's order to explain why it hadn't complied with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's requests for documents, phone records and testimony of aide Brian Sutter for more than a year. The SEC is investigating a suspicious spike in health insurer trading volumes and prices ahead of a report that announced government payments to insurers would be increased, rather than decreased. This investigation claims that a Green Taureg LLC lobbyist sent the information to a Height Securities LLC analyst ahead of the official government announcement and that House Ways and Means staff director Brian Sutter may have been the originating source. The Committee's legal rep has responded by claiming Congress is above the law or, if not above, very definitely adjacent to it, but certainly not within in and subject to federal subpoenas. Kerry W. Kircher, the top lawyer for the House, said the SEC's request should be dismissed because the information it seeks concerns legislative activities protected by the Constitution, which can't be reviewed by federal judges. Kircher also stated that his client does not and will not (EVER) have time for the SEC's "apply the insider trading rules to everyone" bullshit. Sutter's connection to the investigation is "tangential" Kircher said, and would also interfere with his work because his schedule is "heavily, and nearly permanently, booked." So, if anyone thought an SEC insider trading probe would bring more accountability to the House, those thoughts may now be dismissed to make room for more cynicism. There's a slim possibility the SEC may extract damning evidence, but it will have to fight its way through a House full of people with no conceivable reason to be compliant. Insider trading was a great Congressional job perk and its uncontested run helped pad the wallets of future lobbyists, board members and consultants. No one really wants to completely end it, but they'd certainly like people to stop talking about it.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Stewart Baker, once again defending the poor, downtrodden NSA from the latest leak, has given us reason to add another post to the long list of "Stuff Stewart Would Like Google To Forget." Baker addresses the latest leak -- the one published by the Washington Post that shows the NSA is harvesting communications from non-targets at a 9-to-1 ratio to actual targets. According to Baker, this is all no big deal because any fishing expedition targeted NSA collection is going to necessarily collect tons of irrelevant information. The story* is built around the implied claim that 90% of NSA intercept data is about innocent people. I think the statistic is a phony. Especially in an article that later holds up US law enforcement practice as a superior model. *I've add a link to the actual story Baker's complaining about because he clearly can't be arsed. Apparently, this is how certain bloggers subtweet. In his explanation of how Sturgeon's Law relates to the NSA's national security aims, Baker gives the example of an unnamed law enforcement agency poking into his email account during an investigation. Suppose I become the target of a government investigation. The government gets a warrant [ed. note: lol] and seizes a year’s worth of my email. Looking at my email patterns, that’s about 3500 messages. About twenty percent – say 750 –are one-off messages that I can handle with a short reply (or by ignoring the message). Either way, I’ll never hear from that person again. And maybe a quarter are from about 50 people I hear from at least once a week. The remainder are a mix — people I trade emails with for a while and then stop, or infrequent correspondents that can show up any time. Conservatively, let’s say that about 200 people are responsible for the portion of my annual correspondence that falls into that category. In sum, the total number of correspondents in my stored email is 750+200+50 = 1000. So the criminal investigators who seized and stored my messages from me, their investigative target, and 1000 people who aren’t targets. So, in this example 99.9% of everything was irrelevant, but the agency doesn't know that until it's looked through all of it. Fair enough. But what does law enforcement do with the irrelevant information? (Don't answer that.) In a perfect world, the government/law enforcement agency disposes of the irrelevant data. That's what the laws governing search warrants and the minimization provisions governing the NSA's collections direct these agencies to do. But what does the NSA actually do with this 90% irrelevant information? Back to Gellman's article: Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless. [...] The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another. Even the "searching my email" analogy doesn't hold up. The NSA searches a ton of proverbial email inboxes -- without a warrant -- simultaneously. If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply “lurked,” reading passively what other people wrote. “1 target, 38 others on there,” one analyst wrote. She collected data on them all. In other cases, the NSA designated as its target the Internet protocol, or IP, address of a computer server used by hundreds of people. And, unlike the targeted search Baker alludes to, nothing is regarded as irrelevant because the agency can't even determine what might or might not be worth keeping. In a targeted, warranted search, law enforcement generally has an idea of what it's looking for. With the NSA, it's "collect it all" because something might prove to be relevant later and besides, look at our shiny new storage space! The NSA's deliberate collection of non-targeted communications is more analogous to law enforcement grabbing Baker's friends' and family's email as well --- even though they're not listed on the warrant -- simply because these all intersect with his account at some point -- and then holding onto it for x number of years simply because one analyst says it might be relevant to the investigation at some undetermined point. The government can actually get in trouble for doing exactly the thing Baker claims is no big deal (and built on "phony statistics"). Just last month, the Second Circuit Court ruled that the feds held onto data unrelated to their stated investigation for too long, violating the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. When the NSA does this to American citizens not currently targeted by counterterrorism investigations, it's doing the same thing. Only in the NSA's case, it does this on a massive scale, unimpeded by the limitations of specific warrants. One order nets the NSA nearly 90,000 targets and, apparently, the communications of nearly 800,000 others, if the ratio holds. Baker's analogy doesn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny, and he willfully ignores the NSA's long-term storage of irrelevant communications to make his point. He claims Barton Gellman's being dishonest, but who's really applying the most spin here?Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
One of the many important lessons from Edward Snowden's leaks is that centralized services are particularly vulnerable to surveillance, because they offer a single point of weakness. The solution is obvious, in theory at least: move to decentralized systems where subversion of one node poses little or no threat to the others. Of course, putting this into practice is not so straightforward. That's especially true for search engines: creating distributed systems that are nonetheless capable of scaling so that they can index most of the Web is hard. Despite that challenge, distributed search engines do already exist, albeit in a fairly rudimentary state. Perhaps the best-known is YaCy: YaCy is a free search engine that anyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet or to help search the public internet. When contributing to the world-wide peer network, the scale of YaCy is limited only by the number of users in the world and can index billions of web pages. It is fully decentralized, all users of the search engine network are equal, the network does not store user search requests and it is not possible for anyone to censor the content of the shared index. We want to achieve freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world's users. ... The resulting decentralized web search currently has about 1.4 billion documents in its index (and growing -- download and install YaCy to help out!) and more than 600 peer operators contribute each month. About 130,000 search queries are performed with this network each day. Another is Faroo, which has an interesting FAQ that includes this section explaining why even privacy-conscious non-distributed search engines are problematic: Some search engines promise privacy, and while they look like real search engines, they are just proxies. Their results don't come from their own index, but from the big incumbents (Google, Bing, Yahoo) instead (the query is forwarded to the incumbent, and the results from incumbent are relayed back to the user). Not collecting logfiles (of your ip address and query) and using HTTPS encryption at the proxy search engine doesn't help if the search is forwarded to the incumbent. As revealed by Edward Snowden the NSA has access to the US based incumbents via PRISM. If the search is routed over a proxy (aka "search engine") the IP address logged at the incumbent is that from the proxy and not from the user. So the incumbent doesn't have the users IP address, and the search engine proxy promises not to log/reveal the user IP, while HTTPS prevents eavesdropping on the way from the user to the search engine proxy. Sounds good? By observing the traffic between user and search engine proxy (IP and time and size are not protected by HTTPS) via PRISM, Tempora (GCHQ taps world's communications) et al. and combining that with the traffic between search engine proxy and the incumbent (query, time, size are accessible by PRISM), all those seemingly private and protected information can be revealed. This is a common method know as Traffic analysis. The NSA system XKeyscore allows to recover search engine keywords and other communication just by observing connection data (meta data) and combining them with the backend data sourced from the the incumbents. The system is also used by the German intelligence services BND and BfS. Neither the encryption with HTTPS, nor the use of proxies, nor restricting the observation to meta data is protecting your search queries or other communication content. Unfortunately, unlike YaCy, Faroo is not open source, which means that its code can't be audited -- an essential pre-requisite in the post-Snowden world. Another distributed search engine that is fully open source is Scholar Ninja, a new project from Jure Triglav: I’ve started building a distributed search engine for scholarly literature, which is completely contained within a browser extension: install it from the Chrome Web Store. It uses WebRTC and magic, and is currently, like, right now, used by 42 people. It’s you who can be number 43. This project is 20 days old and early alpha software; it may not work at all. As that indicates, Scholar Ninja is domain-specific at the moment, although presumably once the technology is more mature it could be adapted for other uses. It's also very new -- barely a month old at the time of writing -- and very small-scale, which shows that distributed search has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream. Given the serious vulnerabilities of traditional search engines, that's a pity. Let's hope more people wake up to the need for a completely new approach, and start to help create it. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Because I was once just a lowly Techdirt reader before Mike had the brilliant idea of giving my brand of insanity a share of his platform, I know what most of you think it's like to write for the site. But, despite what you surely think, it isn't all high-priced call-girls and expensive narcotics broken up by occasionally typing up a four hundred word rant about copyright. There's actual research involved, gathering story ideas, discussing them with the other writers, and then putting thoughts to virtual paper. Occasionally, the actions of others make our jobs a little bit tougher than they should be. For instance, I recently informed you all about Dov Siedman, a guy who essentially does the corporate speaking circuit, who also is battling Chobani, a maker of Greek yogurt, over the word "how", which Siedman insists is his and his alone. I linked to a New York Daily News post for that article and pulled several block quotes from it to round out the post. What you may not realize is that I had originaly found the story on a site called Food Navigator USA, a site dedicated to news about the food and beverage industry. It was actually, in my opinion, a superior article and I had wanted to use it for the post. The problem arose when I attempted to copy/paste a small section for the first block quote of the article and received this popup. THIS CONTENT IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED However, if you would like to share the information in this article, you may use the headline, summary and link below: How Matters: Chobani ‘disappointed’ by ‘baseless’ trademark infringement lawsuit from Dov Seidman By Elaine Watson+, 05-Jun-2014 A lawsuit filed by bestselling author and corporate ethics consultant Dov Seidman accusing Chobani of infringing his trademarks with its 'How Matters' campaign is "baseless and without merit", says the Greek yogurt maker. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Manufacturers/Dov-Seidman-sues-Chobani-for-trademark-infringement-over-How-Matters Are you, the educated Techdirt reader, done vomiting yet? Good, because now we can all have a discussion about how both misleading and self-destructive this kind fo notification is. Let's deal with the headline of the popup first: THIS CONTENT IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED. When produced for attempting to simply copy and paste a tiny section of an article, with zero attempt made to discern what the intention of the copying is, the message being sent is that such an attempt to copy the text is a violation of copyright on the article. This, of course, is absolute nonsense. It ignores entirely the concept of Fair Use and I damn well could have pulled the quotes I wanted, posted the article I'd originally intended to write, and gone on the rest of my life feeling secure knowing that there is nothing the assuredly esteemed plethora of lawyers on the Food Navigator USA dole could do about it. I'm protected. Now, the insistence that only the entire article could be shared with the headline intact is an obvious attempt to get more people to the site in order to generate more readership, ad revenue, etc. Which completely backfired because I'll be damned if I'm going to include a site that uses this kind of heavy-handed, nuance-less mind-boning in one of my posts, unless it's to discuss how completely stupid and backward it is. The funny part of all this is that, after being confronted with this popup, I found roughly a trillion other sites that had this same story and which didn't bash me over the head for pulling block quotes. We at Techdirt, of course, always link back to the original posts when we discuss a story, and our block quotes don't encompass the entire articles. The idea is that the sources we pull from get traffic via our links and, wouldn't you know it, that happens even though we aren't simply reposting all of their content with their headline and bylines intact. Am I saying this is a problem that is insurmountable? No, of course not, since I found another post from which to pull quotes. Am I saying this is a heavy hardship on me, the Techdirt writer? No, for the same reason stated previously. But in the end, it creates a little extra work for us writers and generates nothing positive for the site with the silly popups. So how about not doing that crap any longer? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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