posted 18 days ago on techdirt
AT&T has spent the last few months fending off critics of its planned $100 million acquisition of Time Warner. Most critics say the company's ownership of Time Warner will make it harder for streaming competitors to license the content they need to compete. Others warn that AT&T's decision to zero rate (cap exempt) its own content gives the company's new DirecTV Now streaming TV service an unfair advantage in the market. That's before you get to the fundamental fact that letting a company with the endless ethical issues AT&T enjoys get significantly larger likely only benefits AT&T. Responding to these criticisms, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spent the last few months repeatedly insisting that critics have it wrong, because the merger was allowing the company to introduce a new streaming video service that provides 100 channels of TV for just $35 per month:"I'm not surprised [by the criticism]. They're uninformed comments," Stephenson said in response to a question from Wall Street Journal editor Rebecca Blumenstein at the newspaper's WSJDLive Conference. "Anybody who characterizes this as a means to raise prices is ignoring the basic premise of what we're trying to do here, again a $35 product we bring into the market."That $35 price point was used again and again by AT&T lobbyists and executives in selling the deal before Congress, the company insisting that only this new mega-merger could possibly make this kind of offer possible. Stephenson at several points proclaimed that the lower-cost option was "a way to drive pricing down in the marketplace," -- a surefire example of AT&T's dedication to intense video competition. It's ironic then that the company is already backtracking and raising rates on its new streaming TV service. As it turns out, that $35 for 100 channel offer was only a limited-time promotion. AT&T has already jacked the price of the service up to $60 per month as of January 9, and the company is already indicating that pricing for all of its streaming TV service tiers (despite now owning Time Warner content) will be going up sometime in the near future:"After Jan. 9, new subscribers who sign up for DirecTV Now’s Go Big tier with after Jan. 9 will pay $60 per month. Existing subs will continue to pay the $35-per-month rate for now, but the company also said the fees may increase at some future date. In addition, “channels, features, and terms (are) subject to change & may be discontinued without notice,” AT&T said in a notice on the DirecTV Now website."And this comes as the outgoing FCC is clearly warning that AT&T is using usage caps to give this new content an unfair advantage over streaming alternatives. So while AT&T is busy claiming the Time Warner Merger will help it disrupt and compete with traditional cable, it's clear AT&T executives are more interested in building cable 2.0: the same old anti-competitive shenanigans and TV price hikes we all know and love, just with a shiny new layer of public relations paint. AT&T has a long history of bogus promises to get big deals approved, but it's rare to see the company already falling short on its promises before the ink is even dry.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
Back in November, we wrote about Russia's surprising move to enforce an older data localization law that requires all Internet companies to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian soil. At the time, that seemed to be just another example of Vladimir Putin's desire to keep a close eye on everything that was happening in Russia. But a comment from his Internet adviser, German Klimenko, hints that there could be another motive: to make it easier for Russia to cut itself off from the global Internet during a crisis, as The Washington Post reports: Klimenko pointed out that Western powers had cut Crimea off from Google and Microsoft services after the peninsula was annexed from Ukraine by Russia (the companies were complying with U.S. sanctions on Crimea imposed after Russia's takeover). He suggested that showed why it was necessary for the Russian Internet to work on its own. "There is a high probability of 'tectonic shifts' in our relations with the West," said Klimenko. "Therefore, our task is to adjust the Russian segment of the Internet to protect themselves from such scenarios." He added that "critical infrastructure" should be on Russian territory, "so no one could turn it off." Klimenko's comments were made before the US announced its response to claims of Russian interference in the presidential election process. His analysis of "tectonic shifts" in US-Russia relations now looks rather prescient, although US threats to hack back made it a relatively easy prediction. And even though his call for Russia to ensure its critical infrastructure cannot be "turned off" by anyone -- in particular by the US -- may be grandstanding to a certain extent, it is not infeasible. The Chinese have consciously made their own segment of the Internet quite independent, with strict controls on how data enters or leaves the country. Techdirt reported earlier that Russia was increasingly looking to China for both inspiration and technological assistance; maybe Klimenko's comments are another sign of an alignment between the two countries in the digital realm. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
Techdirt first wrote about corporate sovereignty four years ago -- although we only came up with that name about a year later. Since then, a hitherto obscure aspect of trade deals has become one of the most contentious issues in international relations. Indeed, the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) measures in both TPP and TTIP played an important part in galvanizing resistance to these so-called "trade" deals, and thus in their defeat, at least for the moment (never say "never".) Corporate sovereignty may be a tough sell in new trade deals, but it is still lurking in plenty of existing agreements. For example, a post on the Sierra Club blog points out that two countries, Colombia and Romania, are being sued using ISDS clauses because of their refusal to issue mining permits: Both mines would require huge quantities of cyanide and threaten watersheds used by millions of people for drinking water. One would damage a unique, legally protected ecosystem and the other would destroy an ancient, UNESCO-nominated settlement. Both have been opposed by scientific bodies, protested by tens of thousands of people, and restricted by domestic courts. The use of corporate sovereignty to trump health and environmental concerns is nothing new. What is noteworthy here is the following: Both ISDS claims are being funded by the same Wall Street hedge fund -- Tenor Capital Management. Tenor helps cover the companies' legal costs in exchange for a cut of any award. These speculative ISDS bets have already paid off for Tenor. The hedge fund won big in April 2016 when it secured 35 percent of a $1.4 billion ISDS ruling against Venezuela, a return of over 1,000 percent on the $36 million that Tenor had provided for the legal costs of the company that brought the case. That is, the rewards of winning a corporate sovereignty case are so great that hedge funds are starting to fund them speculatively with no direct connection to the ISDS dispute other than providing money to initiate and pursue the claim. As the Sierra Club points out: The risks of such arrangements, known as "third-party funding," are clear: When Wall Street speculates on the outcome of ISDS cases, it inflates the number of corporate suits against governments, leading to higher costs for taxpayers and higher risks for policymakers that challenge harmful investments. Doubtless, defenders of the corporate sovereignty system will claim that the hedge fund's willingness to invest money is actually a good thing, since it means that even impecunious companies can enjoy their "right" to sue a government. But the new interest of Wall Street in ISDS underlines the unfair asymmetry of the system: Because only corporations, not governments, can launch ISDS cases, governments have no equivalent funding sources, as they have no potential winnings to leverage. In Costa Rica -- which is also on the receiving end of a third-party-funded ISDS case relating to an environmentally destructive gold mine -- the Attorney General's office has an annual budget of only $17 million. In Bolivia -- one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, which faces a third-party-funded ISDS case relating to a silver mine -- the Attorney General's office has a budget of $12 million. This is a crucially-important point about corporate sovereignty: governments never win ISDS cases; at best, they just don't lose them. All the upside is with the corporates that bring the claim, and all the downside with nations that are defending their actions and regulations. The new wave of third-party funding will accentuate that skewed nature, and make corporate sovereignty even more of a scourge than it is today, regardless of whether it is ever included again in any new deal. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
When it comes to trademark issues, we tend to keep our pages filled with stories about disputes, bullying, and over-protectionism. While we try to highlight good-actors on matters of trademark, those stories are too few and far between for our tastes. With that in mind, why not start off the new year with one such example? Toppling Goliath is a brewery in Iowa with a number of regular and seasonal beers. One of those is PseudoSue, an ale with a label that features a roaring Tyrannosaurus rex. Anyone from the Chicago area is likely already thinking of our beloved Field Museum and the enormous T. rex fossil skeleton of Sue, who the museum tends to dress up like some kind of prehistoric barbie doll whenever one of our local sports teams has themselves a particularly good season. The museum has a trademark registration for Sue that covers all kinds of mechandise and initially reacted as readers of this site will have come to expect. “Initially the Field Museum was very hard line about” wanting to protect their trademark of the name Sue used with the image of a T. Rex, said Martha Engel, an intellectual property attorney who represents Toppling Goliath. But, instead, the stance of those at the museum -- ahem -- evolved into one more cooperative with the brewery. Rather than going the protectionist route, both parties talked through a more amicable solution: a full-blown partnership to benefit both sides. But, ultimately, the brewery owners and the marketing executives at the museum got together and decided to create a cross-promotion scheme rather than launch a legal fight. “It became obvious that we could work well together,” Clark Lewey, a co-owner of the brewery, said. As part of the deal, Toppling Goliath will print new labels for PseudoSue and another beer called King Sue that promote the Field Museum and Sue, the T. Rex. This example set by a brewery and a museum ought to serve as the antidote to the poison that is the most common excuse for trademark bullies: trademarks must be protected jealously or they will be lost. As this story shows, that isn't remotely true. Nor, by the way, is such protectionism the most optimal route for the trademark holder. By partnering with the brewery, the museum gets the promotion through the beer label and name. It also gets a nice PR story, along with an exclusive untapping of a beer within the Chicago market. And all without the billable hours charged by the museum's attorneys. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
It's probably time for Facebook to give up trying to be the morality police, because it isn't working. While nobody expects the social media giant to be perfect at policing its site for images and posts deemed "offensive", it's shown itself time and time again to be utterly incapable of getting this right at even the most basic level. After all, when the censors are removing iconic historical photos, tirades against prejudice, forms of pure parody, and images of a nude bronze statue in the name of some kind of corporate puritanism, it should be clear that something is amiss. Yet the armies of the absurd march on, it seems. Facebook managed to kick off the new year by demanding that an Italian art historian remove an image of a penis from her Facebook page. Not just any penis, mind you. It was a picture of a godly penis. Specifically, this godly penis. That, should you not be an Italian art historian yourself, is a picture of a statue of the god Neptune. In the statue, which adorns the public streets of Bologna, Neptune is depicted with his heavenly member hanging out, because gods have no time for clothes, of course. Yet this carved piece of art somehow triggered a Facebook notice to the photographer, Elisa Barbari. According to the Telegraph, Barbari got the following notification from Facebook. “The use of the image was not approved because it violates Facebook’s guide lines on advertising. It presents an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts. The use of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons.” Even were I to be on board with a Facebook policy banning nudity and, sigh, "plunging necklines" even in the interest of education or art -- which I most certainly am not on board with -- the claim that the image is explicitly sexual and focused on "body parts" is laughably insane. There's nothing sexual about the depiction of Neptune at all, unless we are to believe that all nudity is sexual, which simply isn't true. Also, the depiction focuses not on one body part, but on the entire statue. Nothing about this makes sense. And that's likely because Facebook is relying on some kind of algorithm to automatically generate these notices. Confusingly, the site's own community standards page makes an exception for art, despite the notice Barbari received claiming otherwise. Strangely, an exception is made for art. “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.” Except when it doesn't, that is. Look, again, nobody is expecting Facebook to be perfect at this. But the site has a responsibility, if it is going to play censor at all, to at least be good enough at it not to censor statues of art in the name of prohibiting too much skin. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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More evidence has surfaced showing the US government really doesn't care for whistleblowers. A Defense Department Inspector General's report [PDF] obtained by MuckRock contains details of Air Force supervisors turning against a civilian employee who reported time card abuse. The heavily redacted report, which MuckRock requested following on an announcement in the January newsletter of the Department of Defense Inspector General, found that the supervisor accused the whistleblower of being a mentally unstable drug abuser in addition to revoking his security clearance for the offense of reporting that colleagues were allowed to leave work hours early and lie on their time cards. After that, things apparently became personal. (Well, they were already personal, what with supervisors accusing the whistleblower of being crazy/on drugs.) The relationship between the employee and his supervisors went from bad to worse to toxic. The report says "several verbal altercations" were noted as the work relationship became "mutually hostile." The Air Force then pulled some more crap, resulting in another whistleblowing attempt by the same employee. When told not to perform an asbestos test before drilling into walls to install surveillance equipment, the employee bypassed the proper channels (which had already proven useless and retaliatory) and went straight to the Inspector General. Having been notified of this, the IG dug deeper, uncovering the Air Force's vengeful tactics. In response to the employee's report to the IG, the Air Force supervisor doubled down on his "crazy drug user" claims -- the ones he used in support of having the employee suspended and his security clearances revoked. The supervisor justified that suspension by telling IG investigators that his subordinate “had difficulty getting along with fellow employees, that employees were afraid of Complainant and locked the office door because of that fear and that he suspected Complainant was using drugs.” Citation please. [T]he Inspector General concluded that the supervisor “could not provide any evidence to support these allegations,” and that the clearance revocation was reprisal. The statement given by the retaliatory supervisor to explain away the lack of documented evidence supporting his "crazy drug user" claims is a joy to read, filled with multiple layers of truly-terrible CYA logic. When queried as to why he did not document these "bizarre" behaviors in either the December 22, 2011, or April 29, 2012, memo to support Complainant's suspension, [redacted] testified he had been "hamstrung" on documenting anything because Complainant grieved everything that was documented. [Redacted] further testified he believed his chain of command did not want documentation of these things for fear that there would be complaints filed by Complainant. [Redacted] testified he received no support from the Civilian Personnel Office or his chain of command when it came to dealing with Complainant. [Redacted] testified [redacted] told him [redacted] that he had handled the issues regarding Complainant correctly; but he was going to order a CDI [Commander-Directed Investigation] to throw Complainant a bone and so, "maybe Complainant would not file a bunch of IG complaints." That seems to have worked out well. Not every whistleblower ends up without a career or investigated by the agency they work for, but far too many face this sort of response when calling out government wrongdoing. Efforts have been made to shore up protections for whistleblowers, but it's illustrative of where these efforts fall short to note that this employee -- a civilian -- would not have been protected by federal whistleblower laws. Perhaps that's why Air Force supervisors felt so comfortable acting in retaliation. The government routinely uses civilian contractors and is under no statutory obligation to behave any better when dealing with their whistleblowing than the Air Force did here. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
Chris Silver Smith, writing for Search Engine Land, notes that Google seems to have stopped responding to defamation lawsuit court orders. A number of attorneys who specialize in online defamation/libel cases have reported to me that Google has recently suspended its longstanding, informal policy of removing URLs from US search results that are specified in duly executed court orders. This poses a major paradigm shift for many victims of online reputation attacks. Beginning around August or September of this year, a number of attorneys from across the US began receiving blanket denials after submitting requests to remove defamatory content from Google’s search results. That timing seems to coincide with Paul Alan Levy/Public Citizen's intervention in a case where an order to delist traced back to a dentist unhappy with an online review. The eventual delisting by Google came as the result of a bogus lawsuit -- filed with or without the knowledge of the dentist Mitul Patel -- against a bogus defendant. The fake "Matthew Chan" signed a document agreeing to remove his review and the court ordered Google to take it down. Another similarly-fake lawsuit followed soon after. Levy, working with Eugene Volokh, has managed to uncover the shady reputation management firm behind a stack of bogus libel lawsuits, all filed against nonexistent defendants. Smith makes no mention of those efforts in his article questioning Google's actions. He does, however, point to Pissed Consumer's uncovering of the same tactics earlier in the year: bogus lawsuits designed from the ground up to obtain court orders for the delisting of URLs. In the spring, Pissed Consumer reported that a number of suspicious lawsuits with purportedly bogus defendants were filed in California courts to obtain defamation court orders enabling URLs to get delisted by Google. In October, Pissed Consumer sued a reputation management company and attorneys that are alleged to be behind “sham lawsuits” and “stooge defendants” that were used to fool Google into removing undesirable consumer reviews. Undoubtedly, Pissed Consumer's work pushed Google to scrutinize defamation court orders more closely, but Levy's findings likely tipped the scale. Smith feels these bogus lawsuits may have been a factor, but the legal documents he's been forwarded by other attorneys don't share the same "sloppiness" and "commonalities" of those Pissed Consumer uncovered. This change in policy obviously poses problems for those who have obtained court orders for delisting. For the attorneys and their clients who are now failing to procure intervention on the part of Google after they have gone through ofttimes-lengthy and costly litigation processes, the abrupt apparent change in policy and lack of explanation are upsetting and confusing. Of course, the people to blame for this policy shift aren't employed at Google. They work for -- or run -- sketchy reputation management services that overpromise and underdeliver. A few thought they'd found a loophole in the legal system. It has worked for some, but that little fraudulent joyride is now apparently over. But Google never had to comply with these orders in the first place -- even those obtained legitimately. Section 230 of the CDA says Google isn't legally responsible for third-party postings, which would basically be everything the search engine indexes. If it has been compliant in the past, it has been going above and beyond what's legally expected of it. As legitimate lawyers are aware (or at least should be…), the proper target for a defamation lawsuit is the author of the libelous statements. Targeting service providers for third-party content is the wrong way to handle this. Smith points out that the new Google status quo sucks for victims of defamation, who have often found the search engine to be a relief valve of sorts that allowed them to see unfavorable statements delisted without having to take on more antagonistic sites like Ripoff Report head-on. But while it's true addressing online defamation can be expensive and fatiguing, Google's willingness to allow plaintiffs to cut corners hasn't done it any favors. Plaintiffs represented by Smith's colleagues aren't the only ones who are going to be hurting. If this new paradigm becomes status quo, the attorneys expert in these matters will likely halt assisting new clients, because there will be no way to reasonably predict positive outcomes, and risk of failure will be too high. Once again, some of the blame for the current situation rests on those who have "predicted positive outcomes" based on using search engines as a proxy defendant. If attorneys (and reputation management firms) hadn't gotten into the habit of sending orders to Google, rather than seeking out the online commenters behind the libelous statements, this decision wouldn't be so difficult to take. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
While many support the idea of Wikileaks, many now worry that the organization's supposed goal of total transparency often plays second fiddle to Julian Assange's ego and the group's often inconsistent behavior. But whatever you think of Assange as a human being, it's important to remember that the group wouldn't be necessary if the established media actually did its job. Groups like Wikileaks are just symptoms of a broader disease: the larger media's shift to banal infotainment, and the failure of these giant media conglomerates to hold companies and governments accountable to the truth. That said, it's becoming downright comedic to watch Assange, Wikileaks and whistleblowers become increasingly vilified or deified -- depending entirely on what's being said, who it's being said about, or what color-coded partisan jumpsuit you're wearing. For example, Assange was a hero to Democrats after exposing government misdeeds during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but was demonized incessantly in the wake of the DNC hack (to the point where the actual data revealed was thoroughly ignored). Similarly, Assange was derided by Republicans as the very worst sort of scoundrel for the better part of the last decade, a position that has, well, softened in the wake of the Clinton campaign-crippling DNC hack. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, for now, right? In fact Assange has bizarrely become a temporary folk hero to many of the same folks that wanted his head on a pike just a few months ago. Sarah Palin, for example, in 2010 got very close to advocating that Assange be hunted down and killed, likening him to an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands." That position was forged, in part, after Wikileaks leaked Palin's Yahoo e-mails back in 2008 after a hacker gained access to the Alaskan government documents Palin had been storing on a private server. This week, however, Palin took to Twitter and Facebook to lavish praise on Assange after the Wikileaks founder was interviewed on Fox News, an outlet that has also, on occasion, advocated that Assange be put to death. Apparently, that's all water under the bridge now:To Julian Assange: I apologize. Please watch Sean Hannity's interview with Julian Assange (Wikileaks).... https://t.co/UZpt4MMX2J — Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) January 4, 2017 Palin took things even further over on Facebook, where she not only apologized for her past comments on Assange, but actually encouraged people to go watch the "Snowden" movie:"Exposing the truth re: the Left having been oh-so-guilty of atrocious actions and attitudes of which they've falsely accused others. The media collusion that hid what many on the Left have been supporting is shocking. This important information that finally opened people's eyes to democrat candidates and operatives would not have been exposed were it not for Julian Assange. I apologize for condemning Assange when he published my infamous (and proven noncontroversial, relatively boring) emails years ago. ps. If you get the chance, catch the movie "Snowden." That movie and Hannity's interview tonight are quite enlightening."For the record she didn't "condemn" Assange, she suggested he be treated like al Qaeda and Taliban leaders (read: violence). And while it's nice that Palin now sees (or pretends to see) that her past anti-whistleblower positions were violently misguided, it's unlikely that this is any kind of lasting sea change. After all, the real message being sent here is that whistleblowers and leakers are the very worst sort of villains when they're saying things we don't want to hear, but they're heroes of the highest order when they leak data that damages our enemies or props up the weekly partisan narrative du jour. And while this positional flip flop on a certain front is incredibly entertaining in a David Lynch sort of way, transparency and truth don't work that way. While leaking organizations and whistleblowers themselves are certainly fallible, the truths they reveal are non-negotiable, and don't care about partisan patty cake. In other words, these same folks suddenly lavishing praise on whistleblowers now because it's tactically convenient, will be back arguing for assassination by drone strike the moment the next whistleblower reveals truths they'd prefer remain hidden.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
One of the most decorated simulation games of the past five years is looking to land gently on your computer. Kerbal Space Program, the fully-fledged, physics-based space flight simulation game is here to help you venture deep into the final frontier. Create and manage your own space program from the ground up, building and flying spacecraft, exploring distant worlds, and finding parts of the game nobody has gone before. The Steam Keys are for sale for only $13.59 in the Deals Store. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
The RIAA is not exactly known for being the most honest of organizations out there, but in an interview given by the organization's General Counsel, Steve Marks, the level of blatant dishonesty is taken to incredible new levels. I'm going to take just one paragraph and break down what a load of total bullshit it is, and hopefully it will demonstrate, yet again, why the RIAA should never be taken seriously in its claims. It's the final question in a short interview with the Hollywood Reporter, and the question is at the top: What changes do you foresee in the landscape of music law over the next five years? Issues like the “value gap” and obligations of intermediaries will continue to dominate the legal landscape. Ideally, the Byzantine legal structure today would give way to a system where creators are fairly compensated and competitors are on equal footing. Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions. While litigation can be an important tool, it often takes a long time and the results are unclear. Solutions between business and industry partners can clear a path through thorny legal issues. The combination of partnership and technology can go a long way to ensuring a healthy music ecosystem. Let's take this bit by bit. Issues like the "value gap".... The "value gap" is a completely made up concept by the RIAA and friends, arguing that internet platforms aren't paying the record labels (not the artists) enough. It's based on a series of out and out lies, including the simply false claim that artists make more from vinyl record sales than from online streaming. The "value gap" is the RIAA cherry picking misleading numbers to argue that internet platforms aren't paying them enough. Note that they don't make any effort to improve what they're doing -- they're just demanding more money from platforms... just because. And, really, that's the same issue with the rest of that sentence: ... obligations of intermediaries will continue to dominate the legal landscape. "Obligations of intermediaries." That's legal speak for "we want everyone else to act as our private police force, and they should automatically block infringing material or we should be able to sue them for billions of dollars." Never mind the fact that the industry can't even keep track of its own copyrights, and has been known to sue over authorized works or that the RIAA itself has a history of falsely claiming infringement on works that were actually authorized -- even in cases that resulted in the bogus takedown of a site that was sent promotional works to post. And yet it expects "intermediaries" (read: Google) to magically know which works are authorized and which are not -- and to face billions of dollars in possible judgments if it guesses wrong. Ideally, the Byzantine legal structure today... The reason copyright's legal structure today is so "Byzantine" is because of lobbying by the RIAA and its friends at the MPAA. Every time a new technology comes along, the RIAA flips out and demands a patchwork of add-ons to copyright law to protect its gatekeeper powers, allowing it to extract monopoly rents. Of course, the "Byzantine legal structure" Marks is whining about here is actually the very one that the RIAA itself lobbies heavily for with the DMCA's 512 notice-and-takedown provisions. The RIAA wanted a way to censor the internet via copyright law, and the DMCA was the trick. The fact that the RIAA no longer likes the deal that it fought for is just a bad joke. And, let's not even get into the "Byzantine" structure of RIAA label contracts designed to keep artists from actually getting paid... Or, wait, let's dig right into that following the next bit of insanity from Marks. ... give way to a system where creators are fairly compensated... Wait. The RIAA is asking for "creators" to be "fairly compensated"? Hahahahahahaha. Oh, that's a good one. This is the same RIAA who has worked incredibly hard to screw over artists time and time again to make sure they are not fairly compensated? The same RIAA whose member labels create contracts where artists routinely note that they made $0 in royalties, because the label contracts make it so impossible to recoup the advance that when you ask for an "accounting" of how much money an album has made, the labels just make shit up to avoid paying. These would also be the very same RIAA member labels who take the vast majority of the revenue from new platforms, leaving just a pittance for artists -- and then whine that it's the platforms not giving them a fair deal. The very same labels that make sure that artists get close to nothing of any money coming in to the label. And, yes, the very same labels who for years pretended that digital music was classified as the same as a CD sale -- with much lower royalty rates than "licensed" music, leading numerous artists to sue just to get what they were clearly owed. The very same labels that many artists have had to sue, just to get a proper accounting of what is owed. So, I'm sorry, but what a load of bullshit for the RIAA, of all organizations, to claim that it's fighting for "fair compensation" for artists. The RIAA has a decades-long history of screwing over actual artists at basically every opportunity. ... competitors are on equal footing... Another completely ridiculous claim. The "equal footing" that the RIAA is talking about here is forcing online platforms to all conform to one particular business model -- a totally unsustainable one where an insane percentage of revenue all flows back to the labels (not the artists) despite the fact that the labels fought these platforms and did absolutely nothing to help make them a success. The whole "equal footing" or "level playing field" is really just the RIAA demanding a particular business model and saying that any innovation in business models (even if they're better for actual artists) should not be allowed, unless the RIAA gives its okay. It's basically the "we don't want any innovation" stance. Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions. This is hilarious. For decades, the RIAA has been the major obstructionist party here. It was the internet industry that dragged the RIAA kicking and screaming into the 21st century while people like Marks focused on suing music fans. To now claim that he just wants to "come together to figure out solutions" is laughable. The only "solutions" the RIAA wants are ones where it does none of the work, and it gets all of the money. While litigation can be an important tool, it often takes a long time and the results are unclear. Translation: we sued a bunch of fans and that made everyone hate us. Also, we sued a bunch of platforms and lost badly because the law isn't actually what we want it to be. Solutions between business and industry partners can clear a path through thorny legal issues. The combination of partnership and technology can go a long way to ensuring a healthy music ecosystem. This is just a repeat of the opening line, basically. It's the RIAA saying that the internet industry needs to solve all of its problems, and what it means is that the recording industry doesn't want to budge an inch, doesn't want to do anything, and just wants the internet companies to give tons of money to the labels and to wave a magic wand and make piracy disappear.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 19 days ago on techdirt
So... Hollywood actor James Woods continues to make it clear that he's a complete and total asshole. As you may or may not recall, last year, Woods sued an anonymous Twitter user who went by the name Abe List, for mocking Woods on twitter. Specifically, List called Woods "clownboy" and later tweeted: "cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting." Woods sued Abe List claiming that the "cocaine addict" statement was defamatory, and (the important part) demanding the name and identity of Abe List. The fact that Woods, himself, has a long (long, long, long) history of spouting off similarly incendiary claims to people on Twitter apparently wasn't important. Here is an example of a Woods tweet that seems quite similar to the one he, himself, claimed was defamatory: Ken "Popehat" White agreed to defend Abe List, along with lawyer Lisa Bloom. And while the judge initially (and, in our opinion, correctly) found Woods' lawsuit to be nothing more than a SLAPP suit, the judge eventually changed his mind. The case was moving along... and then something bizarre happened. Abe List (whoever that is) died (unexpectedly, apparently). Woods then took to Twitter to obnoxiously gloat about "winning" the case, leaving out the fact that the case was ending due to the death of the defendant. After people pointed out to Woods how ridiculous it was that he was gloating over a "victory" when someone had died, the ever classy Woods, gloated some more, first saying he hoped that List died "screaming my name. in agony" and then later saying: "Learn this. Libel me, I'll sue you. If you die, I'll follow you to the bowels of Hell. Get it?" Woods later deleted those tweets, but as I said at the time, the whole thing is sickening. Even if Abe List was trolling Woods, happily celebrating someone's death because they once made fun of you on Twitter seems to suggest you deserve to be made fun of on Twitter. Constantly. To then add insult to death, Woods and his lawyers continued to push forward with the lawsuit, demanding to still uncover the name of Abe List. Woods' lawyers basically tried to argue that because they didn't know Abe List's identity, it was possible that Ken White was lying that List had died. They argued that they needed White to disclose Abe List's real name to prove that List was really dead: Critically, although White claims that AL is deceased, he has refused to provide any evidence whatsoever substantiating this claim. Moreover, when Woods' counsel reasonably requested that White at least provide the identity of his now-purportedly-deceased client -- a fact which would be necessary in order to confirm AL is actually deceased -- White refused. Emphasis in the original. And, of course White refused. The whole point of the lawsuit appeared to be to reveal Abe List's real identity, which he has every right to protect under the First Amendment. White was hired to protect that identity, so for Woods' lawyer to pretend that it's so horrific that White would refuse to reveal the name is ridiculous -- but apparently par for the course for Woods and his "to the bowels of hell" ethos. Even more ridiculous, Woods and his lawyers demanded White be sanctioned for refusing to give up the name. White responded by highlighting how ridiculous all this is, and how it's pretty clear that Woods is just looking to harass and intimidate his critics. In his reply, White even included screenshots of the Tweets above, showing how Woods is gloating about all of this. When defendant (Abe Doe)... died and his personal representative dismissed his appeal of this Court's denial of his anti-SLAPP motion, Plaintiff James Woods gloated and celebrated his death, expressing his hope that Mr. Doe died "screaming [Woods' name." Now, Mr. Woods seeks to compel Mr. Doe's attorney, non-party Kenneth P. White ("Mr. White"), to disclose Mr. Doe's identity, and to sanction Mr. White almost $10,000 for asserting the attorney-client privilege in response to his questions.... Mr. Woods asserts that his purpose is legitimate and that he does not seek to harass or abuse Mr. Doe's survivors. But Mr. Woods' own public statements give the lie to that assertion. Mr. Woods wants to do just what he said he wants to do: publicly harass and vilify a dead man and his family. The Motion is meritless, and is a transparent attempt to abuse the discovery process to exact twisted revenge by harassing Mr. Doe's family. First, contrary to Mr. Woods' arguments, Mr. White expressly premised his refusals to answer questions on one ground -- the attorney-client privilege. That assertion was correct. Because the entire purpose of Mr. White's representation of Mr. Doe was to protect Mr. Doe's identity, and because Mr. White only learned Mr. Doe's identity through confidential communications, Mr. Woods cannot force Mr. White to disclose it. Unfortunately (and... ridiculously), the court has now ruled that White needs to turn over List's real name (along with the details of where he died and the name of his heirs) within 10 days. The court rejected the request for sanctions against White, and also some other information that White insisted was also protected information (such as whether or not List had other Twitter accounts as well). This is unfortunate, and a travesty. In response, White provided the following statement: Sometimes in litigation the bad guys win. This was such a day. I remain very proud to have fought for Abe Doe, and proud to have opposed this vexatious case by James Woods, a petulant bully whose Twitter conduct shows he can dish it out but can’t take it. I’m pleased that the court rejected his demand to compel me to answer several other questions, and that it also rejected his frivolous demand for sanctions. Woods' lawyer, Michael Weinsten, on the other hand, made the following absolutely ridiculous statement: This is a significant step forward in our ability to recover the millions in damages caused by John Doe's cowardly Tweet. It also sends a message to others who believe they can hide behind the anonymity of online social media to falsely accuse public figures of heinous behavior without recourse to themselves. First of all, the idea that List's tweet caused "millions in damages" is so laughable as to make you wonder if Weinsten is also on drugs (note: that's a joke and rhetorical hyperbole...). First off, List's original tweet was a reply to someone else's tweet, meaning that only very, very, very few people saw it, because only those who followed both Abe and Woods would have seen it. Second, it would suggest that such a tweet actually hurt Woods' reputation. And I'd posit that it seems a hell of a lot more likely that Woods' own actions, such as gloating over List's death, did significantly more to harm his own reputation than any silly hyperbolic tweet from an anonymous Twitter user. Finally, List didn't "accuse" Woods of "heinous behavior." He did what people -- including Woods -- regularly do on Twitter, which is make fun of other people. To argue that Woods needs special protection from a Twitter troll makes you wonder what kind of special snowflake Woods thinks he is, that no one should ever be able to mock him on Twitter, while he is apparently free to mock anyone he likes. And, of course, on Tuesday evening, Woods took to Twitter once again to gloat over the fact that he, that special snowflake whose itty bitty feelings were hurt by someone mocking him on Twitter, is able to stomp on the grave of a dead man. He tweeted a bunch of headlines, declaring "victory" despite the fact his victory spits on the First Amendment, and then made this idiotic analogy: Huh? I recognize that he's trying to argue that you go after "the big dog" so that others won't pester you, or whatever, but he literally went after a no name internet troll -- for doing nearly identical things to things that Woods himself had done. He also tries to defend the "damages" claim by saying that to be a "lead" in a film you have to be insured, and claims of being a drug addict can make you uninsurable. And, sure... but what fucking insurance company uses anonymous trolls tweeting obvious jokes on Twitter to determine if lead actors are drug addicts? The answer? NONE. Woods is full of shit (again: rhetorical hyperbole, James). This case is an unfortunate travesty of justice. List was, undoubtedly, something of an internet troll himself, regularly pushing many people's buttons (in fact, when List died, White posted about how List regularly attacked White's political beliefs as well). But I don't care how annoyed a troll might make you feel, or how hurt your special feelings are, someone like Woods (who regularly mocks people he calls "snowflakes" online -- a term often used to mock those who can't take any criticism) shouldn't get to stomp all over the grave of someone just because they made him feel bad.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We've noted repeatedly how "smart" television sets have the same security issues plaguing the rest of the internet of broken things: namely there often isn't any security to speak of. The net result has been TVs that spy on you by recording in-home audio, and in some cases transmitting that data unencrypted around the internet. But we've also noted how these TVs -- like the rest of the Internet of Things -- can be compromised in a matter of moments by some rather rudimentary hacking, then incorporated into the historically unprecedented DDoS attacks we're now seeing around the world. As an added bonus, your smart TV can now be infected by ransomware, too. Software engineer Darren Cauthon found this out the hard way when he awoke on Christmas Day to find that his family's LG 50GA6400 had been infected with a version of the Cyber.Police ransomware -- aka FLocker, Dogspectus, or Frantic Locker. That particular ransomware posts an image to the screen of the television pretending to originate with the FBI, and claiming that users must pay a $500 penalty to return full functionality to the television. Cauthon quickly headed to Twitter to not only complain that his television was now demanding a payment just to function -- but that LG's online factory reset instructions for the TV in question didn't work:Family member's tv is bricked by Android malware. #lg wont disclose factory reset. Avoid these "smart tvs" like the plague. pic.twitter.com/kNz9T1kA0p — Darren Cauthon (@darrencauthon) December 25, 2016 Worse, perhaps, Cauthon stated that when he contacted LG, he was shuffled around several support departments before being told that he might have to bring the TV in to be serviced by a technician (for a $340 surcharge):"Cauthon says he tried to reset the TV to factory settings, but the reset procedure available online didn't work. When the software engineer contacted LG, the company told him to visit one of their service centers, where one of its employees could reset his TV. This angered Cauthon because factory reset procedures shouldn't be secret, but also because the service center visit implied a $340 bill. The ransomware asked Cauthon to pay $500 to unlock his TV. As one commenter on Twitter pointed out, it would be cheaper to buy a new TV. "Avoid these 'smart tvs' like the plague," Cauthon added following his discussion with LG."Ultimately LG reached out to Cauthon to help by providing the correct factory reset sequence, though the infection should have never been possible to begin with. While it's possible that the infection could have come via a dubious download from the Google app store, the design of the television should never allow an application to take complete control of the device in the first place. While these infections are rare, other LG users have complained about similar attacks, and found removal of the offending malware to be difficult -- especially given the lack of control users often have over devices they purportedly "own." Of course, security firms like Symantec have been warning about the rise of TV infections since 2015, noting that while in some instances a factory reset will solve the issue, in many instances removing the malware can be borderline impossible for a less technical user. And like so many internet of broken things devices, these TVs often fail to include basic functionality allowing users to determine what traffic the television is sending over the network, or settings allowing users to protect their security. It's just one more example of how "smart" devices are frequently dumber than the technology they're replacing.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in May we were both surprised and delighted by a thorough and detailed report from the Australian Productivity Commission noting that copyright was broken and harming the public, and that it needed to be fixed -- with a core focus on adding fair use (which does not exist in Australia). It similarly found major problems with the patent system. It was a pretty amazing document, full of careful, detailed analysis of the problems of both the copyright and patent systems -- the kinds of things we discuss all the time around here. Of course, it was only a "preliminary" report, and that left it open that lobbyists would swoop in and destroy the report before it became finalized. But that does not appear to have happened. The final report was released right before Christmas (the document says September 23rd on it, because that's the date it was sent to the government, but it was only just released to the public -- and since they released it under a CC-BY license, we've reposted the whole thing below as well). It's a big document, clocking in at 766 pages. But the "key points" that the Productivity Commission released give you a pretty good idea of where they come down on a variety of issues -- and it's very much in line with the general thinking here at Techdirt: Australia’s intellectual property (IP) arrangements fall short in many ways and improvement is needed across the spectrum of IP rights. IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for their efforts, but in doing so they must: foster creative endeavour and investment in IP that would not otherwise occur only provide the incentive needed to induce that additional investment or endeavour resist impeding follow–on innovation, competition and access to goods and services. Australia’s patent system grants exclusivity too readily, allowing a proliferation of low-quality patents, frustrating follow–on innovators and stymieing competition. To raise patent quality, the Australian Government should increase the degree of invention required to receive a patent, abolish the failed innovation patent, reconfigure costly extensions of term for pharmaceutical patents, and better structure patent fees. Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed — innovative firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost. Introducing a system of user rights, including the (well-established) principles–based fair use exception, would go some way to redress this imbalance. Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce infringement. The Australian Government should make it easier for users to access legitimate content by: clarifying the law on geoblocking repealing parallel import restrictions on books. New analysis reveals that Australian readers still pay more than those in the UK for a significant share of books. Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition law. The current exemption under the Competition and Consumer Act is based on outdated views and should be repealed. Separately, in the "key points" section they highlight just how badly "international agreements" hinder smart copyright and patent policy -- which is quite interesting, given that Australia has been very, very active in negotiations on the IP section in the TPP, as well as in the awful ACTA negotiations from a few years ago. I'm guessing most people won't read through the whole document -- but it's really got some great things in there. Unlike so many government reports on copyright issues, this one is careful and methodical, and actually establishes a clear framework for analyzing copyright and patents -- both the benefits and faults. It also includes details of all of the evidence and data that it used. Unlike so many other government reports on copyright and patents, this one is clearly evidence-based rather than faith-based. Too many seem to work under the assumption that copyright and patents are "good" and therefore more must be "better." Thankfully, this report is incredibly detailed and thorough, and focuses on all players in the ecosystem, including the public, whom these systems are supposed to benefit. Honestly, there are great quotes and points on almost every page, and I could spend all day clipping out key quotes, but feel free to just dive in yourself and flip through the document below. It's too bad that the US government is too tied to specific legacy industries to produce a document as comprehensive and useful as this one.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Rightscorp is doing some aggressive whistling in the dark. The company that thought it could tackle piracy with threatening letters, threatening robocalls, and suing ISPs for contributory infringement has been bleeding money since its inception. By the middle of 2015, Rightscorp's letter-writing campaign to torrenters had led to nothing resembling a viable business model. According to 10-K documents filed with the SEC earlier this month, the total loss from Rightscorp operations for 2014 was $3,398,873, with revenues of just $930,729 for the year. "As of December 31, 2014, our accumulated deficit was approximately $7,093,377," states the filing, adding that the company lacks the revenue to allow it to "continue as a going concern." Rightscorp stock price, meanwhile, similarly isn't much to write home about. Not so viable for a company that on a recent earnings call declared itself "one of the only viable solutions to the multi-billion dollar problem of peer-to-peer piracy." One year later, Rightscorp itself was finally questioning its own viability. The company, which monitors and targets repeated copyright infringers with extralegal payment notices, reported an operating loss of $784,180 during the three months ended March 31, a slight improvement from the $930,000 loss a year earlier. Rightscorp only generated revenues of $68,283, a 78 percent drop from 2015 Q1’s $307,904, and its services accrued only $49,142 due to copyright holders -- a third of the $153,952 gathered during the first three months of 2015. There's another 10-K from the company due in March. Chances are there will be nothing in it to reassure whatever investors the company has left. Its stock price is lower than it's ever been… which isn't really saying much as it's spent the last couple years south of the 25-cent mark. With more bad news on the near horizon, perhaps that's why it appears to be acting as its own cheerleader ahead of its eventual mandated disclosures. Its December 26 press release contains some questionable assertions, not the least of which is that it's the "content creator's champion." In the notice of infringement, Rightscorp offers a choice between paying a small settlement fee of $30 facing a possible lawsuit for damages of around $150,000 USD under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the current law. It's a false choice. Rightscorp and the artists signed to it aren't going to sue individual infringers for $150,000 in statutory damages. (Instead, Rightscorp has intervened in questionable lawsuits against ISPs for contributory infringement.) The RIAA found out long ago that dragging people IP addresses to court generated more antagonism than revenue. There are a few copyright trolls out there milking porn/terrible films with speculative invoices filed in federal court against fistfuls of Does, but none of them have shown this reliably generates revenue, much less deters piracy. So far, Rightscorp is only chasing down music pirates. That plan of attack has worked so poorly the company can barely keep its doors open. Naturally, it's decided it isn't wasting its limited funds fast enough. (All grammatical/spelling errors in the original.) A small growing company with modest revenue, Rightscorp has by no means conquered the problem of Internet piracy. But with proven technology, a unique way monetize digital loss prevention, and an astute management team at the helm, investors should take a serious look at Rigthscorp. In 2017, the Company is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy in focused on expanding its reach in the film and television arenas. "Modest revenue." That's an understatement. Rightcorp's statement is accurate when it says it hasn't conquered internet piracy. The next sentence, however, is filled with assertions so blatantly wrong, the only way they could possibly be made with a straight face is via this exact form of communication: a self-congratulatory press release. The only thing "proven" about its "technology" is that it's able to uncover IP addresses. This is where its form of speculative invoicing originates, with letters going to ISPs, which are then asked to forward them to the subscribers at the listed IP addresses. Rightscorp doesn't know who the alleged infringers are, so there's not a lot technical wizardry going on here. And yes, Rightscorp has found a "unique way [to] monetize" its anti-piracy effort. It all depends on how you choose to define "unique." And "monetizaton." "Hardly at all" seems to be a fairly accurate summation of its "unique monetization." "Doesn't make much money at all, actually" is another tagline that could be applied to it. As for the "astute management" at the helm? I don't know. Rightscorp has already seen what isn't working and wants to do more of it for more forms of content. That's the definition of "insanity," not astuteness. I don't think Rightscorp has much left in the tank. Its decision to build its business model on something that has failed for many others was never a good idea, even if it routed its demand letters through ISPs, rather than federal courtrooms. Once you've suckered in the easily-intimidated and the poorly-informed, you're faced with the considerably more-uphill battle of talking file sharers out of $30 per alleged infringement using nothing more than boilerplate and the ethereal threat of statutory damages. It hasn't worked so far for Rightscorp. Adding movies and TV shows to the mix isn't going to fix what's fundamentally wrong with its strategy. It's only going to give Rightscorp new ways to fail. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Over the last couple of years, there's been a tremendous amount of attention placed on upstart electric car maker, Faraday Future. The company, that originally had very secretive backers (later revealed to extraordinarily wealthy Chinese investors), sprung out of nowhere a year ago and was quickly touted as an expected competitor to Tesla. What a difference a year makes. In the last few weeks, there have been a bunch of reports about how the company is flailing. It kicked off with a pretty damning Buzzfeed story about serious problems at the company, including unpaid bills and a bizarre situation involving having workers focus on designing another car for a totally different company owned by their major investor: In December 2015, employees at Faraday’s headquarters in Gardena, California, received a mandate from Jia: Design a prototype LeEco car that could be shown off publicly at a spring event in Beijing. According to several former employees, some of Faraday’s designers were pulled off of their core projects to work on the vehicle. And in April 2016, LeEco unveiled a sleek, electric sedan called LeSee. On stage, Jia, who has been outspoken about his plans to usurp Tesla, touted LeSee as a LeEco creation as the white sedan glided across the stage to park in a mock garage. The audience couldn’t see that the seemingly self-driving car was in fact being piloted from backstage via remote control. Back in California, some Faraday employees were unsettled, sources told BuzzFeed News. Though they’d designed the car for LeEco per Jia’s request, they were not given credit for doing so, and the company didn’t receive payment in exchange. And the development of the LeSee had distracted them from work on Faraday’s own vehicles. “[The LeSee project] certainly added pressure onto the design team. It crunched timelines,” a former employee with knowledge of the project told BuzzFeed News. “It certainly made getting deadlines met that much more difficult.” Faraday declined to comment on the project and the specifics of its relationship with LeEco. LeEco declined to comment on the project as well. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, LeEco said that the two companies are “strategic partners” by “bringing together global resources in several areas.” The Verge then did its own big report on problems at Faraday Future, which included the somewhat bizarre claim that Faraday Future's "intellectual property" was owned by... an entirely different company: In addition, these sources revealed to The Verge that the company’s intellectual property is not owned by FF, but by a separate entity named FF Cayman Global, a revelation which raises questions about Faraday Future’s relationship with its investors and suppliers, and could further endanger the company’s success. Later in the article it notes: According to former employees, FF is in effect not one, but two companies, with a separate entity based out of the Cayman Islands just for FF’s intellectual property. “If you’re an investor, you’re fucked,” one ex-executive said. “The company doesn’t own the IP.” And that resulted in other publications, like Business Insider putting out an entire article freaking out about the idea that "Faraday Future doesn't own its intellectual property," as if that was the worst thing in the world. It got another quote from another anonymous ex-employee saying more or less the same thing: "Some of the reasons some of us left was because we were afraid that all of the work that’s being done in the US, there is no proper corporate structure or legal entity structure," the employee told Business Insider. "The feeling we had was that the IP [intellectual property] was not protected and if and when Faraday goes under, these guys would just pick up all the IP and all these other people in the US would be out of a job." That's all interesting... but what's amazing is that in all of these discussions about how Faraday Future "doesn't own its intellectual property" absolutely no one seems to point out the fact that the company that everyone compares it to, Tesla, famously dumped all its patents into the public domain and told anyone to go ahead and use them. That seems like a relevant point to make in articles about this upstart competitor and its "intellectual property." Of course, it's possible that the articles could mean something else when it says "intellectual property" -- such as trademarks -- but it seems unlikely that the trademarks for a flailing company that is unlikely to ever get anything on the market are that valuable. The whole story, and the ignoring of Tesla's stance on patents... is just strange. It is true that sometimes failing companies hang onto their patents as a sort of last ditch effort to extract some return for their investors in a patent fire sale. But if you've reached that point, things have already gone way too far south to really matter. Tesla has shown that it can build a pretty damn successful company without relying on "intellectual property." It seems that people should stop freaking out that Faraday Future may have dumped its patents into some offshore company, and focus on the company's real problems -- like the fact that its execs are racing out the door as fast as possible.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Each year, at the beginning of January, we have the unfortunate job of highlighting the works that were supposed to be entering the public domain on January 1st, but didn't (in the US at least) thanks to retroactive copyright term extension. As we've noted, copyright term extension makes absolutely no sense if you understand the supposed purpose of copyright. Remember, the idea behind copyright is that it is supposed to be an important incentive to get people to create a work. And the deal is that in exchange for creating the work, the copyright holder (who may not be the creator...) is given an exclusive monopoly on certain elements of that work for a set period of time, after which it goes into the public domain. That means that any work created under an old regime had enough incentive to be created. Retroactively extending the copyright makes no sense. The work was already created. It needs no greater incentive. The only thing it serves to do is to take away works from the public domain that the public was promised in exchange for the original copyright holder's monopoly. It's a disgrace. As always, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University has the most comprehensive look at what works should have entered the public domain this week, but didn't, due to the scam of copyright term extension that is nothing less than taking away the agreed upon rights of the public. What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird John Updike, Rabbit, Run Joy Adamson, Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Politics of Upheaval: The Age of Roosevelt Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique [....] Consider the films and television shows from 1960 that would have become available this year. Fans could share clips with friends or incorporate them into homages. Local theaters could show the full features. Libraries and archivists would be free to digitize and preserve them. Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years. The Time Machine Psycho Spartacus Exodus The Apartment Inherit the Wind The Magnificent Seven Ocean’s 11 The Alamo The Andy Griffith Show (first episodes) The Flintstones (first episodes) [....] What 1960 music could you have used without fear of a lawsuit? If you wanted to find guitar tabs or sheet music and freely use some of the great music from this year, January 1, 2017 would have been a rocking day for you under earlier copyright laws. Elvis Presley’s hit song It’s Now or Never (Wally Gold, Aaron Schroeder) would be available. So would Only the lonely (know the way I feel) (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson), Save the Last Dance for Me (Mort Shuman, Jerome Pomus), and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Paul J. Vance, Lee Pockriss). Your school would be free to stage public performances of the songs from the musical Camelot (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe). Or you could set a video to Harry Belafonte’s Grizzly Bear (Harry Belafonte, Robert DeCormier, Milt Okun) from Swing Dat Hammer. Today, these musical works remain copyrighted until 2056. The analysis goes on to cover important scientific work, locked up behind a paywall and not available to the public. And it also notes that many works from 1988 would also be available for the public domain, under the old system of having a copyright for 28 years, and then being renewed for 28 years. Many, many copyright holders in the past chose not to renew after 28 years, so many works from 1988 would likely have entered the public domain. Of course, some countries are at least marginally better off. Another site, the Public Domain Review highlights a bunch of works that are now in the public domain in other countries. For countries that have a "life + 70" system, that means any creator who passed away in 1946 -- including Gertrude Stein, H. G. Wells, W. C. Fields and Alfred Stieglitz. For countries that have a "life + 50" system, it means the works of any creator who passed away in 1966 -- which includes Walt Disney, Buster Keaton, Evelyn Waugh and Lenny Bruce. But, of course, none of that applies to the US. Even though we're now under a "life + 70" system, for any work published between 1923 and 1977 (and where the 28-year renewal wasn't missed), our lovely Congress decided to ignore the "life + nonsense" and just slap a 95-year term on the work (it was originally 75 years, but, of course, the wonders of retroactive copyright term extension made it 95 years). And that's why we never see any new works entering the public domain in the US and haven't for years. For those who actually understand and recognize the importance and value of a thriving public domain, this continues to be both a farce and an insult to culture.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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There was a time when I was a fan of Malcolm Gladwell. He's an astoundingly good story teller, and a great writer. But he's also got a pretty long history of... just being wrong. Over the years, Gladwell's willingness to go for the good story over the facts has become increasingly clear. Famously, Steven Pinker ripped Gladwell's serial problems many years ago, but it hasn't really stopped Gladwell since then. If you've ever quoted "the 10,000 hour rule" or suggested that someone can become an expert in something if they just spend 10,000 hours doing it, you've been fooled by Gladwell. Even the guy whose one study Gladwell based the idea on loudly debunked the claim, and just this past year put out his own book that is basically trying to rectify the false beliefs that have spread around the globe from people believing Gladwell's incorrect spin. So, suffice it to say I was already skeptical of Gladwell's recent piece attacking Ed Snowden as not being a "real" whistleblower. But the piece is much, much worse than even I expected. The short, Gladwellian-style summary of it might be: real whistleblowers have to look the part, and they need to be part of an Ivy League elite, with clear, noble reasons behind what they did. Here's how Gladwell describes Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and to whom Gladwell has given his stamp of approval as a "Real Whistleblower™" Ellsberg was handsome and charismatic. He had served in the Marine Corps as a company commander in Korea. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard, where he wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on game theory and collaborated with Thomas Schelling, who went on to win a Nobel Prize. He took a senior post in McNamara’s Defense Department, represented the State Department in Vietnam, and had two stints as a senior intelligence analyst at the rand Corporation. Ellsberg knew about the Pentagon Papers because he was a member of the select team that wrote them, working on the section dealing with the very early nineteen-sixties. Before he approached the Times, he went to the Senate, where he tried to get someone to release the documents formally and hold public hearings. He walked the halls and dropped in on people he knew. “I had Senator Mathias in mind, and Senator Mike Gravel,” who, he notes, had “written me a letter congratulating me on my New York Review of Books article,” about the bombings in Laos. (It seems safe to say that the subject, verb, and object here—“Senator,” “written,” “New York Review of Books article”—may never again appear together in a sentence.) See? To Gladwell, Ellsberg "fits the part." But that's not how whistleblowing often works. And here's how Gladwell describes Snowden, who apparently doesn't look the part: But Snowden did not study under a Nobel Prize winner, or give career advice to the likes of Henry Kissinger. He was a community-college dropout, a member of the murky hacking counterculture. He enlisted in the Army Reserves, and washed out after twenty weeks. He worked at the C.I.A. for a few years and left under a cloud. He learned about the innermost secrets of American intelligence-gathering and policy not because he was personally involved with that intelligence-gathering or policymaking but because he was a technician who helped service the computer systems that managed these things. The élites, Snowden once said, “know everything about us and we know nothing about them—because they are secret, they are privileged, and they are a separate class.” Had Snowden been a whistle-blower in 1967, at the launch of the Pentagon Papers, he would have blown the whistle on Daniel Ellsberg. The whistle-blower as insider has become the whistle-blower as outsider. That is a curious fact, and, as we come to terms with the consequences of Snowden’s actions, it may be an underappreciated one. Gladwell's gentlemanly view of whistleblowing as an elite pasttime is historical fiction. It's not how whistleblowing usually works, and completely ignores how the government has regularly gone after and punished whistleblowers time after time. Gladwell, somewhat ridiculously, creates a fictional composite he calls "Daniel Snowberg" and suggests if the following had happened, that would have made Snowden an acceptible whistleblower: Imagine a young man called Daniel Snowberg. He has a doctorate in international relations, and once spent a summer interning at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the think tank specializing in digital freedom. He gets a job as an analyst at the National Security Agency, and while there he runs across a copy of the infamous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (fisc) authorization, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This is the order that led Verizon to hand over its telephone records to the N.S.A. The order troubles him. The Patriot Act allows the N.S.A. to obtain phone records and the like if it provides “a statement of facts showing that . . . the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” But this isn’t a search specific to an investigation. It appears to be a fishing expedition. He surreptitiously copies the authorization: it’s not that long. He sends it to his old colleagues at the Frontier Foundation. They share his alarm: the legal opinion in the fisc order looks unconstitutional to them. They set up a meeting with Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wyden, too, is troubled. He encourages them to leak it to the Washington Post. And they do. That is the leaker as insider. Edward Snowden took a different path. He used a Web crawler (a search engine preprogrammed with key words) to roam through the N.S.A. files, “touching” as many as 1.7 million of them. Among those files was the fisc order. But Snowden also accessed, and ultimately passed on to journalists, thousands of files concerning activities that had nothing to do with domestic surveillance. But that final paragraph also bullshit and a misleading myth pushed by the intelligence community, and has since been debunked. Even James Clapper admitted two and a half years ago that Snowden didn't take 1.7 million documents, and that it was a much more curated list of files that he felt actually showed serious problems. And, while Gladwell keeps trying to suggest that Snowden "flooded" documents, rather than "leaking" them. That's ridiculous. As the EFF has written in response to Gladwell's piece, Gladwell seems to be troubling rewriting history to suit his narrative, rather than actually stating facts, noting that contrary to Gladwell's claim, both Ellsberg and Snowden did essentially the same thing -- taking a large number of documents but not all that they had access to -- to the press, and allowing them to sort through what was newsworthy. Also, the EFF notes that the "Daniel Snowberg" hypothetical is ridiculous, because that description matches exactly what happened with Mark Klein, the former AT&T tech who blew the whistle on the NSA's upstream tapping of AT&T backbone cables. And it didn't work the way Gladwell thinks it would work: Mr. Klein was in tech support at AT&T. Like Snowden, he didn’t go to Harvard, pal around with Kissinger, or serve in the intelligence services. But he had real documents and direct testimony demonstrating that, at the behest of the NSA, AT&T was (and still is) making illegal copies of Internet traffic through key network junctures. This includes the juncture in a building on Folsom Street in San Francisco. After copying, searching is conducted through the full content of much of that information, especially messages going to and from abroad but including millions of Americans' communications. We now know that the government calls this program “UPSTREAM,” and calls its searching through the actual content of messages “about” searching, but we didn’t know these names in 2006. This was a big, new program with profound legal and constitutional implications. It deserved (and still deserves) serious public and judicial consideration. So what happened? Mr. Klein went to the press before coming to EFF, but a Los Angeles Times story about his discoveries was famously spiked by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte who intimidated now New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet out of running it. Finally, the New York Times did publish a story but the government just kept issuing carefully worded denials. During this time Mr. Klein also came to EFF and we tried to do what Ellsberg did. We approached several U.S. senators about the information, including Mr. Klein’s own Senator Dianne Feinstein. We were, to put it kindly, strung along. We never even got a meeting with a senator. EFF also filed a lawsuit against AT&T based on Mr. Klein’s information, but we had to keep the actual evidence under seal for a long time, making it easy for the government to largely ignore us and, when pushed, dismiss Mark’s claims as unfounded since he was just a lowly technician. We tried another part of the “Ellsberg” strategy. We took Mark to Washington to try to increase the chance of Congressional assistance as well as to try to bring more public attention to what his evidence revealed. We even managed to have a press briefing on Capitol Hill and a few meetings with staffers. But we couldn’t get a hearing on Mark’s whistleblower information, couldn’t keep the press on it, and couldn’t penetrate the assumptions and elitist narrative about whistleblowers. But, honestly, beyond the ridiculous hypothetical, the pure insanity of claiming that Snowden can't be a whistleblower because he isn't elite enough, and the factually incorrect statements (which were shown to be factually incorrect years ago), the best evidence that Malcolm Gladwell is (once again) full of shit comes from none other than Daniel Ellsberg himself who explained how Snowden made the right call in doing what he did, and happily comparing Snowden to himself: Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind. There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”). I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado. He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.) Snowden is every bit the "whistleblower" that Ellsberg was -- and perhaps moreso, seeing as he did what he did knowing (unlike Ellsberg) that he needed to leave his home country to do so, and that he might never return. Gladwell tells a good story, but it should be left on the fiction pages.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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There was a time when I was a fan of Malcolm Gladwell. He's an astoundingly good story teller, and a great writer. But he's also got a pretty long history of... just being wrong. Over the years, Gladwell's willingness to go for the good story over the facts has become increasingly clear. Famously, Steven Pinker ripped Gladwell's serial problems many years ago, but it hasn't really stopped Gladwell since then. If you've ever quoted "the 10,000 hour rule" or suggested that someone can become an expert in something if they just spend 10,000 hours doing it, you've been fooled by Gladwell. Even the guy whose one study Gladwell based the idea on loudly debunked the claim, and just this past year put out his own book that is basically trying to rectify the false beliefs that have spread around the globe from people believing Gladwell's incorrect spin. So, suffice it to say I was already skeptical of Gladwell's recent piece attacking Ed Snowden as not being a "real" whistleblower. But the piece is much, much worse than even I expected. The short, Gladwellian-style summary of it might be: real whistleblowers have to look the part, and they need to be part of an Ivy League elite, with clear, noble reasons behind what they did. Here's how Gladwell describes Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and to whom Gladwell has given his stamp of approval as a "Real Whistleblower™" Ellsberg was handsome and charismatic. He had served in the Marine Corps as a company commander in Korea. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard, where he wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on game theory and collaborated with Thomas Schelling, who went on to win a Nobel Prize. He took a senior post in McNamara’s Defense Department, represented the State Department in Vietnam, and had two stints as a senior intelligence analyst at the rand Corporation. Ellsberg knew about the Pentagon Papers because he was a member of the select team that wrote them, working on the section dealing with the very early nineteen-sixties. Before he approached the Times, he went to the Senate, where he tried to get someone to release the documents formally and hold public hearings. He walked the halls and dropped in on people he knew. “I had Senator Mathias in mind, and Senator Mike Gravel,” who, he notes, had “written me a letter congratulating me on my New York Review of Books article,” about the bombings in Laos. (It seems safe to say that the subject, verb, and object here—“Senator,” “written,” “New York Review of Books article”—may never again appear together in a sentence.) See? To Gladwell, Ellsberg "fits the part." But that's not how whistleblowing often works. And here's how Gladwell describes Snowden, who apparently doesn't look the part: But Snowden did not study under a Nobel Prize winner, or give career advice to the likes of Henry Kissinger. He was a community-college dropout, a member of the murky hacking counterculture. He enlisted in the Army Reserves, and washed out after twenty weeks. He worked at the C.I.A. for a few years and left under a cloud. He learned about the innermost secrets of American intelligence-gathering and policy not because he was personally involved with that intelligence-gathering or policymaking but because he was a technician who helped service the computer systems that managed these things. The élites, Snowden once said, “know everything about us and we know nothing about them—because they are secret, they are privileged, and they are a separate class.” Had Snowden been a whistle-blower in 1967, at the launch of the Pentagon Papers, he would have blown the whistle on Daniel Ellsberg. The whistle-blower as insider has become the whistle-blower as outsider. That is a curious fact, and, as we come to terms with the consequences of Snowden’s actions, it may be an underappreciated one. Gladwell's gentlemanly view of whistleblowing as an elite pasttime is historical fiction. It's not how whistleblowing usually works, and completely ignores how the government has regularly gone after and punished whistleblowers time after time. Gladwell, somewhat ridiculously, creates a fictional composite he calls "Daniel Snowberg" and suggests if the following had happened, that would have made Snowden an acceptible whistleblower: Imagine a young man called Daniel Snowberg. He has a doctorate in international relations, and once spent a summer interning at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the think tank specializing in digital freedom. He gets a job as an analyst at the National Security Agency, and while there he runs across a copy of the infamous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (fisc) authorization, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This is the order that led Verizon to hand over its telephone records to the N.S.A. The order troubles him. The Patriot Act allows the N.S.A. to obtain phone records and the like if it provides “a statement of facts showing that . . . the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” But this isn’t a search specific to an investigation. It appears to be a fishing expedition. He surreptitiously copies the authorization: it’s not that long. He sends it to his old colleagues at the Frontier Foundation. They share his alarm: the legal opinion in the fisc order looks unconstitutional to them. They set up a meeting with Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wyden, too, is troubled. He encourages them to leak it to the Washington Post. And they do. That is the leaker as insider. Edward Snowden took a different path. He used a Web crawler (a search engine preprogrammed with key words) to roam through the N.S.A. files, “touching” as many as 1.7 million of them. Among those files was the fisc order. But Snowden also accessed, and ultimately passed on to journalists, thousands of files concerning activities that had nothing to do with domestic surveillance. But that final paragraph also bullshit and a misleading myth pushed by the intelligence community, and has since been debunked. Even James Clapper admitted two and a half years ago that Snowden didn't take 1.7 million documents, and that it was a much more curated list of files that he felt actually showed serious problems. And, while Gladwell keeps trying to suggest that Snowden "flooded" documents, rather than "leaking" them. That's ridiculous. As the EFF has written in response to Gladwell's piece, Gladwell seems to be troubling rewriting history to suit his narrative, rather than actually stating facts, noting that contrary to Gladwell's claim, both Ellsberg and Snowden did essentially the same thing -- taking a large number of documents but not all that they had access to -- to the press, and allowing them to sort through what was newsworthy. Also, the EFF notes that the "Daniel Snowberg" hypothetical is ridiculous, because that description matches exactly what happened with Mark Klein, the former AT&T tech who blew the whistle on the NSA's upstream tapping of AT&T backbone cables. And it didn't work the way Gladwell thinks it would work: Mr. Klein was in tech support at AT&T. Like Snowden, he didn’t go to Harvard, pal around with Kissinger, or serve in the intelligence services. But he had real documents and direct testimony demonstrating that, at the behest of the NSA, AT&T was (and still is) making illegal copies of Internet traffic through key network junctures. This includes the juncture in a building on Folsom Street in San Francisco. After copying, searching is conducted through the full content of much of that information, especially messages going to and from abroad but including millions of Americans' communications. We now know that the government calls this program “UPSTREAM,” and calls its searching through the actual content of messages “about” searching, but we didn’t know these names in 2006. This was a big, new program with profound legal and constitutional implications. It deserved (and still deserves) serious public and judicial consideration. So what happened? Mr. Klein went to the press before coming to EFF, but a Los Angeles Times story about his discoveries was famously spiked by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte who intimidated now New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet out of running it. Finally, the New York Times did publish a story but the government just kept issuing carefully worded denials. During this time Mr. Klein also came to EFF and we tried to do what Ellsberg did. We approached several U.S. senators about the information, including Mr. Klein’s own Senator Dianne Feinstein. We were, to put it kindly, strung along. We never even got a meeting with a senator. EFF also filed a lawsuit against AT&T based on Mr. Klein’s information, but we had to keep the actual evidence under seal for a long time, making it easy for the government to largely ignore us and, when pushed, dismiss Mark’s claims as unfounded since he was just a lowly technician. We tried another part of the “Ellsberg” strategy. We took Mark to Washington to try to increase the chance of Congressional assistance as well as to try to bring more public attention to what his evidence revealed. We even managed to have a press briefing on Capitol Hill and a few meetings with staffers. But we couldn’t get a hearing on Mark’s whistleblower information, couldn’t keep the press on it, and couldn’t penetrate the assumptions and elitist narrative about whistleblowers. But, honestly, beyond the ridiculous hypothetical, the pure insanity of claiming that Snowden can't be a whistleblower because he isn't elite enough, and the factually incorrect statements (which were shown to be factually incorrect years ago), the best evidence that Malcolm Gladwell is (once again) full of shit comes from none other than Daniel Ellsberg himself who explained how Snowden made the right call in doing what he did, and happily comparing Snowden to himself: Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind. There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”). I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado. He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.) Snowden is every bit the "whistleblower" that Ellsberg was -- and perhaps moreso, seeing as he did what he did knowing (unlike Ellsberg) that he needed to leave his home country to do so, and that he might never return. Gladwell tells a good story, but it should be left on the fiction pages.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 20 days ago on techdirt
When a mainstream press that isn't always good at what it does meets technology it doesn't understand, the end result is often frustrating, if not comedic. Hacking is certainly no exception, given it's a realm where perpetrators are difficult to identify, hard proof is often impossible to come by, and hackers worth their salt either leave false footprints -- or no footprints at all. Throw in a press that's incapable of identifying and avoiding its own nationalism, and often all-too-gullible to intelligence industry influence, and you've got a fairly solid recipe for dysfunction when it comes to hacking-related news coverage. Some of the resulting coverage has been highly entertaining -- such as CNN using a screen shot from the popular game Fallout 4 in a story about hacking and hoping nobody would notice. Other examples have been decidedly more troubling, such as the Washington Post's epic face plant over the holiday break. Last Saturday the Post ran a story claiming that Russia was responsible for the hacking of Burlington Electric, a Vermont utility. According to the original Washington Post story, government sources claimed that code "associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe" was detected at the utility. The story was stuffed to the gills with all manner of pearl-clutching and outrage among politicians convinced Putin was actively trying to bring down the grid:“Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety,” Shumlin said in a statement. “This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."Unsurprisingly, the story quickly gained traction in the media, with numerous reports pouring gasoline on the idea that Russia has escalated its cyber offensives to include targeting sensitive American infrastructure. Many broadly speculated that other utilities had been compromised and that we were at the brink of war. And while it's true that the power grid is vulnerable to hackers (increasingly so courtesy of the internet-of-not-so-smart things), it turns out that Putin had nothing to do with the particular "attack" on the Vermont utility. In fact, in a follow up story and corrections made to the original report, the Post ultimately had to acknowledge that the malware in question was only found on one laptop, had nothing to do with the Russian government, and was never actually in contact with the grid itself:"An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account Friday and triggered an alert indicating that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address associated by authorities with the Russian hacking operation that infiltrated the Democratic Party. Officials told the company that traffic with this particular address is found elsewhere in the country and is not unique to Burlington Electric, suggesting the company wasn’t being targeted by the Russians. Indeed, officials say it is possible that the traffic is benign, since this particular IP address is not always connected to malicious activity."That's obviously a pretty far cry from the hysteria bouncing around the news wires as the new year arrived. Thanks, again, to news outlets that are all too eager to take the breathless claims of a few anonymous officials as gospel without doing the heavy lifting required to first ensure the information is useful, or accurate. As it turns out, the Post hadn't even bothered to contact Burlington Electric, which was forced to issue its own statement to the Burlington Free Press clarifying what happened, and making it clear the laptop was never in contact with any electrical system. All told, Burlington Electric had simply received a notification from Homeland Security sent to all utilities warning them to keep an eye out for particular malware. The company only found the malware and laptop in question after doing a scan off all of the company's systems. And as it turns out, the "Russian malware" in question could have simply been made by a Russian and purchased by anybody. Needless to say, the Washington Post then spent the lion's share of the next few days editing the story, changing the headline repeatedly, and walking back the story's claims. But most of the stories regurgitating the Post's original claims were never updated or corrected. Reporting on hacking isn't easy. Disinformation is everywhere, and many outlets continue to illustrate they're easily manipulated, thanks to a nationalism bias they're somehow still unaware of. But the Washington Post simply failed to do even the basics, inflaming notable tensions between two giant countries because it couldn't bother to pick up the phone. Yes, Russia hacks us (and uses propaganda against us and other countries) constantly. The United States does the same. Proof of either is often impossible to come by, but that still doesn't mean it's not required before jumping to conclusions. As tensions rise facts matter more than ever, and sloppy reporting only fuels those quite intentionally looking to take these often-dangerous and idiotic cyber-offensive policies to an entirely new level.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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You can brush up your skills or start to learn new ones with the $39 Complete Computer Science Bundle. The eight courses cover coding, databases, Raspberry Pi, design and much more. You will also dive into 4 in-depth case studies of Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, gaining insight into each company's business model, finances, and successes and failures. With over 78 hours of instruction, you're sure to learn new skills in no time. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Update: So... literally a minute before this post was about to go live came the news that House Republicans have magically dropped this plan, after it received a ton of negative press overnight, and had tons of inbound phone calls and, yes, even our President Elect sort of (but not really) came out against the plan. While the Bloomberg article above credits Trump for this, if you read what he actually said, he does call the Office of Congressional Ethics "unfair," he just says this isn't a priority now (perhaps meaning the following plan will come back in the future). Since this is still a possibility, here's the original post. Well, we're into a new year, and the promised "swamp draining" in Washington DC continues to move in the other direction. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (whose name you may remember from the fact that he's leading the charge on copyright reform (but who has a history of being terrible on copyright), or perhaps from the fact that he's also bad on surveillance) has made the surprise move of completely gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics, and basically taking away its independence from Congress. The OCE was created in 2008 in response to the Jack Abramoff scandal, and some other Congressional corruption scandals, that resulted in three members of Congress going to jail. The OCE was an independent office that was set up to investigate Congressional ethics and corruption violations. Not surprisingly, not everyone in Congress was thrilled about having an independent office investigating them, so Goodlatte seems to have made sure that won't be a problem -- and he did so without any warning, without any debate and even against the wishes of the leadership of his own party: The move to effectively kill the Office of Congressional Ethics was not made public until late Monday, when Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change. There was no advance notice or debate on the measure. The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries. It also came on the eve of a historic shift in power in Washington, where Republicans control both houses of Congress and where a wealthy businessman with myriad potential conflicts of interest is preparing to move into the White House. Continue reading the main story Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, spoke out during the meeting to oppose the measure, aides said on Monday night. Goodlatte, has put out a somewhat ridiculous statement defending the move, claiming (incorrectly) that this strengthens OCE's mission. Of course, then he also notes that it "improves upon the due process rights" of members of Congress. But experts note that all it's really doing is letting Congress take control over the previously independent organization, and giving Congress the power to kill investigations. I guess that's one way to "improve due process rights." But, really, was there really a problem with the "due process rights" of members of Congress being investigated for corruption and ethics violations? In fact, Buzzfeed does a nice job showing all of the ways in which this does the exact opposite of what Goodlatte claims concerning "strengthening" OCE's mission: Here are 6 things House Republicans want ethics investigators to stop doing https://t.co/4WnKOf5mIZ pic.twitter.com/xYSbR1kz7i — BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 3, 2017 If you can't read that, here's what it says: The OCE should no longer be independent. Insteads, it will be under the House's Committee on Ethics, which is run by members of Congress. The office will no longer be able to accept anonymous tips from whistleblowers. The ethics office must stop any investigation if the House ethics committee tells them to. The ethics office cannot investigate any tips of misconduct that took place before Jan. 3, 2011 The office can no longer talk about its findings -- even hire a spokesperson. OCE cannot investigate any criminal cases or turn allegations of corruption over to law enforcement. That, uh, does not sound at all like "strengthening" OCE's mission. It sounds like the exact opposite. In other news, Rep. Goodlatte's statement over this is a blatant lie. Politico has some details of how some members who had been investigated by the OCE supported gutting it, claiming that they felt unfairly targeted -- even though all of the examples given resulted in OCE deciding there were no ethics violations. It's entirely possible that OCE may have been annoying for Congress to deal with, but no one seems to have presented any evidence that it ever came to conclusions that were incorrect or unfair -- just that their investigations were annoying. And... so what? Congress should be under a microscope when it comes to ethics and corruption. The whole idea that Congress itself can just unilaterally undermine its own oversight is pretty ridiculous -- especially at a time when so few trust Congress, and so many believe it to be so corrupt. Meanwhile, in totally unrelated news, Rep. Goodlatte famously dined with the MPAA right after a hearing on copyright reform, and MPAA boss Chris dodd has told every MPAA studio that they need to donate at least $40k each to Rep. Goodlatte. Again, I'm sure that's a total coincidence and completely unrelated to the story above.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So, we just wrote about Obama administration's tepid response to claims that Russians "interfered" with the Presidential election. In that post, we noted our concerns about the fact that we seem to be escalating a situation based on claims where we're not allowed to see any of the actual evidence. I've seen a bunch of people arguing that anyone who won't automatically accept that Russia interfered in the election should be dubbed either Putin supporters or, at the very least, "useful idiots" but we should be very, very careful about where this leads. I certainly think that there's a tremendous possibility that Russian forces did intend to interfere with our election, but I'd certainly like to see some actual evidence -- and the "evidence" provided so far shows no such thing. And this should scare you. Not because it means that anyone is lying, but because it's setting the stage for very dangerous things. If we're setting the precedent that the US government can escalate situations based on purely secret knowledge, what's to stop them from doing so over and over again? Put another way: for those who dislike Trump, but are happy about the White House calling out and sanctioning Russia, how will you feel when President Trump makes similar claims about some other country (perhaps one blocking a new Trump hotel?), and proceeds to issue US government sanctions on that country -- but without releasing any actual evidence of wrongdoing beyond "government agencies say they did bad things." Won't that be concerning too? Matt Taibbi, over at Rolling Stone, has an excellent article comparing this to when we started the war in Iraq -- noting the similarities, in that the government (and the press) kept insisting that because certain government agencies said something ("Iraq has WMDs"), it must be true: This dramatic story puts the news media in a jackpot. Absent independent verification, reporters will have to rely upon the secret assessments of intelligence agencies to cover the story at all. Many reporters I know are quietly freaking out about having to go through that again. We all remember the WMD fiasco. And, as he later notes: The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up. If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now. And this is a big part of the problem. Because none of the evidence is public, beyond just statements of attribution, we're left with no way to know what are actually reasonable responses. There's a big spectrum of possibilities that might be described as "Russian interference" from merely helping some independent hackers release information (as some have charged) to using actual intelligence agencies to run a serious hacking operation (as others have charged), all the way up to actively tampering in voting systems (which some in the public now claim, but which no official has suggested actually happened). The problem isn't so much a question of whether or not the Russians did something. Maybe they did. It certainly wouldn't surprise me at all if they did. At the very least, Russian officials seem to be laughing at everything going on now. The real issue is the danger of having the force and power of the US government responding to "actions" by stating things as true, without providing any evidence to back it up. In that space, a lot of mischief can and will occur. Looking back at the invasion of Iraq based on faulty reports is just one example. We should be learning from that lesson, not repeating it.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 20 days ago on techdirt
Last month, we noted how Donald Trump proudly implied he was single-handedly responsible for Japan's Softbank bringing 50,000 jobs and $50 billion in investment to the United States. The problem, of course, is that it's not clear those numbers are entirely real, and there's absolutely no evidence suggesting they had anything to do with Donald Trump. The jobs were first unveiled back in October as part of a somewhat ambiguous $100 billion global investment investment fund between Softbank and Saudi Arabia aimed at boosting technology spending worldwide. Some of that money could end up in the United States in the form of investment and jobs, but it has never been entirely clear how much. It's even less clear given that Softbank's Sprint here in the states has been trimming thousands of jobs over the last few years as it struggles with soaring debt. Still, all it took was a Manhattan meeting with Softbank Chair Masayoshi Son -- and a few Tweets by the President-elect -- to have the newswires filled with stories about how Donald Trump was somehow already performing miracles before even taking office:Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs.... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016 Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016 It was, of course, quietly pointed out by many that Softbank's pledge didn't have anything to do with Trump and had, in fact, been announced more than a month before Trump was even elected. But over the holiday, Sprint intentionally reignited the story again, announcing via press release that the company would be hiring as many as 5,000 new employees at Sprint over the next four years. Again, this was all thanks to the investment plans Softbank had already announced, but Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure was quick to feed Trump's ego by vaguely tying his administration to the (potential) new jobs:"We are excited to work with President-Elect Trump and his Administration to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S.,” said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans."That allowed Trump to launch a new media event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, again implying the jobs he had absolutely nothing to do with creating were somehow thanks to his incredible business accumen (even as the same reports now try to inform people this just isn't true):"I was just called by the head people at Sprint, and they are going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States," Mr. Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. "They have taken them from other countries. They are bringing them back to the United States." ...Although Mr. Trump claimed credit for SoftBank’s $50 billion investment in the United States, those plans predated the election, and Mr. Son has owned a controlling stake in Sprint, among other companies, for several years.So what's actually happening here? And why would Sprint be encouraging the press to falsely give Trump credit for something he had nothing to do with? Because Masayoshi Son wants regulatory approval for the company's planned acquisition of T-Mobile, which was rejected by U.S. regulators in 2014 because it would have reduced sector competition (and, ironically, jobs). Son has been pushing for another chance ever since, and apparently sees feeding Trump's ego as a smart path to success. Of course, as the New York Times noted today, Softbank and Sprint aren't the only companies pursuing this particular strategy. Sure, it's possible that Trump is encouraging the false claims and undeserved press just for PR benefit and has no intention of giving Son what he wants. But there's no real signs that's true. There's every indication that Trump intends to appoint revolving door regulators and telecom sector allies to the FCC. These folks have made it clear they intend to gut the agency and strip back numerous consumer protections, including net neutrality. They've also made it clear they don't think things like telecom monopolies are real, and they're unlikely to appoint any FCC Commissioner eager to use his regulatory authority to thwart job-killing mega-mergers like Sprint T-Mobile. Most analysts believe the telecom sector will soon be getting everything it wants, and then some. The end result of these policies is going to be something decidedly less pleasant than is being sold, suggesting that everybody may want to keep their receipts.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 21 days ago on techdirt
Over and over again, we've talked about the ridiculousness of the moral panic around so-called "fake news" -- a broad and somewhat meaningless term now used to describe just about anything from actual made-up stories, to news articles that have a small factual error, to those with a "spin" that someone disagrees with. And, as we warned, the panic of "fake news" is leading to widespread calls for censorship. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how German officials were supporting a plan to criminalize "fake news" and now Italy wants to join in on the fun. In an interview with the country's antitrust chief, Giovanni Pitruzzella, he argued that it's really time to crack down on the internet, with government wielding the censorship power over whatever it calls "fake news." “Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Pitruzzella said. “We have reached a fork in the road: we have to choose whether to leave the internet like it is, the wild west, or whether it needs rules that appreciate the way communication has changed. I think we need to set those rules and this is the role of the public sector.” Pitruzzella argued tackling fake news should not be left up to social media companies, but instead be tackled by the state through independent authorities with the power to remove fake news and impose fines, coordinated by Brussels, similar to the way the EU regulates competition. Any time you hear of a plan for the government to be able to remove news stories or impose fines for reporting, you should get very, very worried. That is a recipe for censorship. Yes, blatantly made-up stories are a problem -- but not one that should be dealt with by expanding the tools of censorship in a way that will be abused. We need to teach better media literacy and get more people to understand how to read critically and to do research. Putting tools to censor and fine journalists in the hands of government will inevitably lead to that power being abused. Someone will report on something that makes a politician look bad, and suddenly it will be declared "fake news." We're seeing that happen already -- even without the threat of fines and censorship. This focus on "fake news" is becoming increasingly dangerous and many of the people screaming loudest about it -- including lots of journalists -- don't seem to realize where it will end. You can worry about truly made-up stories all you want, but if you think the solution to it is to increase the powers to censor and stifle and chill expression, you're not going to be happy with how it boomerangs back on legitimate expression.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 21 days ago on techdirt
Another yearly tradition around here is that, soon after the new year, we post some details about some of the stats we've got on visitors/commenters and such. It's pretty fun, and this will be the 7th year that we're doing it. For reference, here are the posts from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. For what it's worth, for comment stats, we're using our own internal logs, but for traffic we're using Google Analytics, which isn't perfect -- and which many people block via tracking blockers, so the stats may not be entirely accurate -- but since we're focused on comparative info, it's likely that the results are pretty good, since those who block trackers should effect across the various posts somewhat proportionally. In 2016, we went back up to having visitors from 239 "countries" (as defined by Google Analytics... which I know bugs some people who insist there aren't that many countries in the world) after a drop to 235 in 2015. Of course, at the bottom of the list, we're talking pretty random places, so that's kind of meaningless. At the top of the list, though, as always, is traffic from the US, which represented 65.66% of all our traffic. It's almost always right around 66%, but has been dropping marginally the last couple of years (66.95% in 2014, 66.82% in 2015). In 2016, the UK passed Canada for 2nd place on traffic, but it was pretty close (6.45% of traffic, vs. 6.34%). Canada and the UK are always neck and neck in terms of traffic, with Canada nudging out the UK in 2013 and 2015, but the UK beating Canada in 2014 and again this year. Evens and odds. Australia and Germany, once again, retain their spots as the 4th and 5th biggest visitors -- both of whom have kept those spots for years. The next five countries are also the same: India, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand. The only difference in 2016 was that France edged out the Netherlands, who had been just slightly ahead of France the previous few years. After India, the top Asian countries were the Philippines and Singapore, also flip flopping (last year it was Singapore on top of the Philippines, but the year before it was the Philippines ahead of Singapore) -- but the difference in traffic between the two is basically a rounding error. Japan and Israel (if you consider Israel part of Asia...) round up the top 5. If you don't count Israel as being in Asia, then swap in Malaysia. The top five European countries were already mentioned in the global top 10, but if you want to know the next 5 European countries, you've got: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Russia and Finland. This is a bit different than last year. Russia wasn't in the list last year, but we had a few stories this year about Russian internet trolls that resulted in a bunch of comments yelling at us about how we were full of shit... so... hmmm... The entrance of Russia into the list bumped Norway out of the top 10, which is too bad. I like Norway. Across both North & South America, of course, we get most of our traffic from the US and Canada, but Mexico, Brazil and Argentina make up the next 3, with Mexico passing Brazil after a few years of being behind. In Africa, as always, South Africa sent the most traffic. Before last year, the only real traffic we got from Africa was from South Africa, but last year there was a bunch from Kenya -- we thought mainly because a Kenyan copyright lawyer had flipped out about a post we did on Kenyan copyright law and written an angry blog post claiming we were defaming Kenya. But, traffic from Kenya continued to be notable, coming in second after South Africa (about half as much traffic), and Nigeria was right behind Kenya. After that, there was much less traffic, but still some from Egypt and Sudan. For basically every year, we joked about we would get one single visit each year from Christmas Island, but last year, it went away. We wondered what we'd done to offend whoever it was... but this year they were back again, with one single visit. There were six "countries" this year that sent a single visit: besides Christmas Island, there was also Curacao, St. Barthelemy, Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau and Tuvalu. For the second year in a row, we got zero visits from North Korea, after getting two visits in 2013 and an astounding four visits from North Korea in 2014. As is always the case, the country with the longest average visitors is... Gibraltar. But, as with every year, that's because there aren't that many visitors from Gibraltar, and one of them is one of our most prolific readers and commenters, PaulT, who takes credit for helping Gibraltar lead the charts in terms of average time of visit. If we look at countries that actually send significant traffic, last year New Zealand and Canada led the way for average time on the site. This year, India stepped up, followed by Canada and New Zealand (the US is next, followed by Australia). India also leads the way of major countries in terms of pages per visit, with New Zealand next. We always point out that our city charts are a bit meaningless, given the hugely different populations in different cities, but the top five this year are the same as the past few years: New York, London, LA, Chicago and SF. SF and Chicago flipped positions. Washington DC retains spot number 6 for the second year in a row (after not being in the top 10 for a while), followed by Toronto, Seattle, Houston and Sydney (the same names as last year). Once again, Chrome was the browser of choice for people visiting the site, this time breaking through the 50% mark with 51% of all visits being via Chrome. Safari was 22% and Firefox was 17%. Firefox was down a bit, while Safari was up quite a bit. There was still some Internet Explorer traffic (5%) and Microsoft's new browser, Edge (2%) and even a tiny bit of Opera traffic as well (1%) and a bunch of other random browsers bring up the rear. Remember when Microsoft was a monopolist in the browser market and no one would ever catch up? Fun times. For the second year in a row, Android edged out iOS visits, but it was still pretty damn close. Visitors using Windows visited more than 4x those using Macs (which surprises me a bit...) and we still have a small percentage (~3%) of visitors using Linux. Somewhat astoundingly, the majority of those Windows visits came from people still on Windows 7. I'm guessing that these are people visiting from offices where they haven't gone through a (very, very necessary) upgrade yet. Windows 10 was the second most, but it was much lower than Win7 visits. In terms of ISPs, Comcast laeads the way, followed by Time Warner Cable. This should be no surprise at all, as those two dominate the market these days. Verizon has a strong third place showing, followed by Charter. AT&T is pretty far down the list, once again. As for mobile devices, the iPhone easily leads the pack, with 31% of all mobile visits, followed by the iPad with another 12%. All the rest are tiny, tiny slivers of a huge variety of Android devices, none alone getting more than 1.5%. The most popular Android devices for viewing Techdirt are basically any Google Nexus model and any Samsung Galaxy S model (S5, S6 and S7). As for where our traffic is coming from, this chart looks pretty similar to last years: We really pride ourselves on the fact that so many people come directly to the site, as it shows the kind of loyal community we've built up. Of course, the one difference from last year is that the percentage from social has dropped -- and that's, no doubt, because we basically haven't "played the game" on social networks to try to use them to drive traffic. This is something we've been talking a lot about internally. We certainly don't want to go all clickbaity, like so many other sites, or those who completely game the system. But we know that social media drives traffic to lots of news sites these days, and we're not nearly as effective there as we should be. It's something we hope to work on in 2017. In terms of other sites driving traffic, Reddit continues to lead the way, followed by Facebook and Twitter. Hacker News is next, though much lower than the rest. In terms of search traffic, most of the inbound searches are searches on some form of "Techdirt" or "tech dirt" which isn't too surprising. In terms of other searches that drive some traffic, "Walter O'Brien" continues to lead the way for the second year in a row, as people do a search on the guy who seems to have fibbed his way to creating a TV show about his almost certainly fictitious life. We also seem to get a bunch of traffic to this story any time someone tries to figure out the lyrics to the song "Louie Louie." Now, onto the lists: Top Ten Stories, by unique pageviews, on Techdirt for 2016: No, A Judge Did Not Just Order Apple To Break Encryption On San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone, But To Create A New Backdoor 71% Want The Dark Net Shut Down, Showing Most Have No Idea What The Dark Net Is 56% Would Drop ESPN In A Heartbeat If It Meant Saving $8 A Month On Cable President Obama Claims He Cannot Pardon Snowden; He's Wrong Once Again, Piracy Is Destroying The Movie Industry... To Ever More Records At The Box Office How The US Government Legally Stole Millions From Kim Dotcom AT&T Mocks Google Fiber's Struggles, Ignores It Caused Many Of Them Congrats, FBI, You've Now Convinced Silicon Valley To Encrypt And Dump Log Files As Its CEO Continues To Claim It Doesn't Throttle, T-Mobile Spokesperson Confirms Company Throttles Forbes Site, After Begging You To Turn Off Adblocker, Serves Up A Steaming Pile Of Malware 'Ads' It should be oted that the Kim Dotcom story is actually from 2015, but still got a ton of traffic this year, in part because Dotcom has kept a link to it as his pinned tweet, and any time there's some news about his still ongoing cases, people tend to go to that story. If I try to squint and find a pattern in those stories, I'd say people seem to like when we call out bullshit claims from legacy companies or government. Not a surprise, but still interesting. 2016's Top Ten Stories, by comment volume: No, A Judge Did Not Just Order Apple To Break Encryption On San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone, But To Create A New Backdoor: 343 Comments Holy Crap: Wells Fargo Has To Fire 5,300 Employees For Scam Billing: 283 Comments FBI Boss Blows Past Policies, Guidelines, His Own Staff To Bring Back Clinton Email Investigation: 235 Comments NBC Delayed Story About Trump's Access Hollywood Recording Over Fear That He Might Sue: 220 Comments Our 'Copying Is Not Theft' T-Shirt Seems To REALLY Upset Some People: 210 Comments What The Election Means For Stuff Techdirt Cares About?: 202 Comments Homeland Security Wants To Subpoena Us Over A Clearly Hyperbolic Techdirt Comment: 197 Comments Hillary Clinton Looks At Her Campaign's Many Missteps, Decides To Blame James Comey For Her Loss: 185 Comments Somehow Everyone Comes Out Looking Terrible In The Effort For Election Recounts: 177 Comments President Obama Is Wrong On Encryption; Claims The Realist View Is 'Absolutist': 175 Comments Once again, as we point out every single year, there is almost no overlap between the stories with the most traffic... and those with the most comments. Just because a story gets a lot of traffic, doesn't mean it gets a lot of comments, and just because a story gets a lot of comments, doesn't mean it gets a ton of traffic. Though, it is a first this year that the top story is the same in both lists (and that's the only story that is in both lists). Most of the most commented stories here are political stories, and the long comment threads tend to be a small group of people throwing political feces back and forth at one another. I'm so glad the election year is over. And, now... onto the commenter lists, where a king has been deposed. 2016 Top Commenters, by comment volume: That One Guy: 2306 comments Ninja: 1577 comments nasch: 1299 comments John Fenderson: 1275 comments PaulT: 1271 comments Uriel-238: 1081 comments DannyB: 1024 comments Whatever: 882 comments Padpaw: 845 comments That Anonymous Coward: 825 comments The deposed king would be John Fenderson, who led the list of most prolific commenters for four years running until this year. John -- who has always been a wonderful contributor here at Techdirt -- stopped commenting back in August. I hope everything's okay, John. That lets That One Guy finally jump into the top slot, after coming in second for a few years. PaulT maintains his position as making the top 10 list every year we've kept track, and nasch continues his streak of making it every single year... except one. The newcomer to the list this year is Padpaw. Nicely done. Also, That Anonymous Coward returns (barely) to the top 10 after missing it in 2015. Top 10 Most Insightful Commenters, based on how many times they got the lightbulb icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the lightbulb That One Guy: 355 comments (15%) PaulT: 115 comments (9%) That Anonymous Coward: 110 comments (13%) Mason Wheeler: 87 comments (16%) Ninja: 84 comments (5%) John Fenderson: 67 comments (5%) DannyB: 66 comments (6%) Uriel-238: 64 comments (6%) Roger Strong: 52 comments (8%) Mike Masnick: 29 comments (6%) I think that's the first time I made this list, actually. Neat. Last year, That One Guy also led this list with 356 insightful comments. He's apparently slipping with just 355 this year. Slacker. Top 10 Funniest Commenters, based on how many times they got the LOL icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the LOL icon TechDescartes: 46 comments (26%) That One Guy: 38 comments (2%) Roger Strong: 30 comments (5%) DannyB: 29 comments (3%) Mason Wheeler: 24 comments (4%) Ninja: 22 comments (1%) That Anonymous Coward: 17 comments (2%) TheResidentSkeptic: 11 comments (11%) AricTheRed: 9 comments (17%) Vidiot: 9 comments (7%) Once again, we see that it's a lot harder to get enough people to think you're funny than insightful. Except for that TechDescartes guy. Last year, we noted that he showed up at the end of the year, but still was able to jump onto the top funniest list with a bunch of funny comments, and with a full year under his belt, that let him jump to the top of the list, and with an astounding 26% hit rate. AricTheRed and TheResidentSkeptic buck the trend with decently high funny percentages as well. Nicely done everyone. And, with that, we've closed the door on 2016... and on to 2017. We'll be back tomorrow with regular posting.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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