posted 21 days ago on techdirt
Here on Techdirt, we often write about the bad behavior of Big Pharma, particularly in terms of how it is one of the main driving forces behind far-reaching international agreements like TPP. As a recent leak underlines, drug manufacturers hope to use TPP to extend the monopolies that allow them to charge high prices for their products. Confirmation that drug pricing has little to do with actual costs in at least one part of the world comes from a surprising source -- the heads of Big Pharma companies, as this report in the Canberra Times reveals: Multinational pharmaceutical companies are unable to assure Australians they are not being "ripped off" on the price of medicines as a result of their complex global supply chains. The Australian heads of nine of the biggest global drug suppliers were forced into the embarrassing admission on Tuesday after backing themselves into a corner by insisting they have no idea what their own sister companies in other countries pay to import the same medicines. This interesting confession was made during an Australian Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance. Apparently, Pfizer paid just AU$21 million (about US$16 million) in company tax in 2014, even though its Australian sales were AU$1.4 billion (about US$1 billion). The company claimed that was because its "cost of sales" in Australia were more than three-and-a-half times higher than those in the US. However, when pressed on those figures: Pfizer managing director David Gallagher said he didn't know what any other Pfizer subsidiary paid for drugs manufactured by the company in Ireland and declined repeated requests to explain the "arm's length" process that determined intra-company transactions, known as "transfer pricing". Understandably surprised by this, the Senate Committee chairman asked the heads of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline to confirm what they seemed to be saying: "As the CEOs of three of Australia's biggest pharmaceutical companies, you have no idea what drugs cost in other jurisdictions? You can't tell us whether we're getting ripped off?" As the Canberra Times reported: All three agreed they could not. It seems unlikely that TPP will do much to improve the situation. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 21 days ago on techdirt
No one ever praised politics as a germ-free environment, but Wisconsin may be taking it to new levels, aiming for Chicago-esque levels of dirty politics. The state appears to have several people in positions of power operating in purely partisan self-interest, leading to governmental abuses. For years now, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has ostensibly been in the process of investigating the embezzlement of $11,000 from the local Order of the Purple Heart. This investigation has taken the form of a "John Doe" investigation, which couples broad daylight raids on people's homes and businesses with draconian gag orders and a pile of sealed documents. John Doe investigations alter typical criminal procedure in two important ways: First, they remove grand juries from the investigative process, replacing the ordinary citizens of a grand jury with a supervising judge. Second, they can include strict secrecy requirements not just on the prosecution but also on the targets of the investigation. In practice, this means that, while the prosecution cannot make public comments about the investigation, it can take public actions indicating criminal suspicion (such as raiding businesses and homes in full view of the community) while preventing the targets of the raids from defending against or even discussing the prosecution’s claims. These raids have been ongoing since 2010, but you won't read much reporting on it because those being raided are forbidden to discuss anything that has occurred. It's a wholly autonomous process that can be initiated by one party, which then controls the narrative from that point forward. It's completely at odds with due process, and in this case, appears to be wholly politically-motivated. John Chisholm is a Democrat. His targets have all been Republicans/conservatives. Not that the conservative side is necessarily any better. Wisconsin Republicans are also in favor of government secrecy. Some "fixes" of the state's open records laws were added to the state's budget bill, carving out a sizable -- and easily abusable -- exception for a variety of government documents. (via Metafilter) Under the provision, all "deliberative materials" would be exempt from the open records law. That includes all materials prepared in the process of reaching a decision concerning a policy or course of action or in drafting a document or communication. The exemptions are even more extensive for members of the Legislature and their staff. They would not have to disclose communications between one another, the public or others who work for the Legislature, such as staff in the clerk's and sergeant at arms offices. The protection extends to a wide array of legislative business, including drafting bills, developing public policy, all aspects of legislative proceedings such as committee hearings, and investigations and oversight. Legislative service agencies would be required to keep all communications, records and information confidential. It's not just the legislature in line for additional open records exemptions. The amendment could expand this "coverage" to all government agencies, all the way down to school boards. This change was backed by Governor Scott Walker and leading Republicans. Walker has had his own "problems" with open records requests, which have resulted in "recent embarrassing stories." Now that the backlash has begun, even those who voted for it are now claiming it goes too far. State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who voted for the motion, said he is now concerned about its impact. "The scope of the provision appears to go beyond what I was briefed on, and further consideration of the matter is warranted and welcome," Kooyenga said. "I'll be listening to feedback." Because no one reads the stuff they vote for, much less performs any due diligence. "No comment," [Sen. Tom] Tiffany said when asked if he supported the open records changes shortly before he voted for them. Similarly, moments before he sat down for debate on the provisions, [Sen. Michael] Schraa demurred on whether he would back them. "I have to read through it more," he said before casting his yes vote. Just before voting for the measure, [Sen. Howard] Marklein said he had no idea who sought the change and didn't know if he could support it. "I don't know yet," he said. "I'll know when I vote." So, how does a shady remix of the state's open records law end up on the governor's desk if no one seems all that thrilled/knowledgeable about it? Because voting with hearts/minds is way less popular than voting along party lines. The committee voting on the budget amendments included four Democrats and 12 Republicans. All Democrats voted against it. Every Republican voted for it. Now that the backlash has begun, Governor Walker's office is claiming it will "work with legislators" to fix the amendment. Notably, the office has not indicated Walker will veto the amendment, which would be a much better "fix" than working secretively with amenable legislators to keep as much of the broad expansion intact. The government -- at all levels -- will trend toward increased opacity if not properly held in check. Legislators, given the opportunity, will introduce legislation that best benefits legislators. On the plus side, thanks to the internet's near-instant access and a variety of non-mainstream news sources, citizens are more informed than ever. This obviously presents a "problem" for government entities who prefer darkness. An amendment appended to a budget bill presented the Wisconsin government with an opportunity to lock the public out of its sausage-making, but the speedy spread of negative coverage has ensured it won't pass unnoticed... or unopposed. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
The US has hundreds of thousands of swimming pools -- roughly 309,000 public pools and 10.4 million residential pools. It's a nice way to cool down on a hot summer day, but it's also kinda gross if you think about sharing germs with all the people swimming in the pool. At least there's no danger of getting attacked by sharks in a pool, but if you're paranoid about pool safety, check out a few of these links. (And perhaps try to stick with pools that use salt water chlorination.) Nearly one in five American adults have admitted to peeing in a swimming pool. Michael Phelps and other Olympians might not think it's a big deal, but urine and chlorine react to form some nasty toxic vapors (nitrogen trichloramine and cyanogen chloride) which can cause acute and chronic health problems for avid swimmers. [url] Cryptosporidium (aka Crypto) isn't killed by chlorine -- so don't drink pool water! This unpleasant germ can live for days in chlorinated water and cause diarrhea when ingested. Avoid kiddie pools, and also, just don't go swimming if you're already ill with diarrhea. Maybe someday public swimming pools will irradiate or add ozone to treat the water, but the CDC found that 1 in 8 swimming pools had public health violations in 2008 -- so maybe just stay out of the water. [url] If you've ever experienced red, stinging eyes after swimming, it wasn't too much chlorine in the pool -- it was a combination of urine and chlorine. So if you see a lot of people emerging from a pool with red eyes, just know that the CDC says it comes from chlorine in the pool water mixing with "pee, poop, sweat, and dirt from swimmers' bodies." [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
We've recently discussed at length the subpoena and gag order issued by the Assistant US Attorney over some tasteless, but innocuous, comments made by Reason readers. Anyone who's spent any time in comment sections would have seen these comments as nothing more than the internet being the internet -- a place where hyperbole and stupidity very often outweighs thought and nuance. The comments are being treated as serious threats by the US government, seeing as they were posted below an article about a federal judge. Here are two of the more "violent" comments: AgammamonI5.31.15 @ lO:47AMltt Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot. AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:09PMltt It's judges like these that will be taken out back and shot. FTFY. croakerI6.1.15 @ 11:06AMltt Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first. Cloudbusterl6.l.15 @ 2:40PMIIt Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse. And yet, when a prominent political figure says roughly the same thing -- TWICE! (possibly) -- it's not followed up by the issuing of subpoenas or government-led investigations. Maine Gov. Paul LePage's joke about shooting a political cartoonist is falling flat. The son of Bangor Daily News cartoonist George Danby said LePage made the remark after he asked what the governor thought of his father's cartoons Wednesday during an event at Dirigo Boys State, a youth leadership program. The governor told a crowd of high school students he would like to "shoot" this cartoonist. This was said directly to the cartoonist's son during a Q&A session with the governor. (Video -- albeit silent -- of the incident located here.) The Bangor Daily News noted the audience of teens laughed and took it as a joke. And it was, albeit a horrifically tasteless one considering cartoonists have very recently been shot for expressing their views. (That the governor's joke about shooting someone, delivered at a school event, wasn't immediately greeted with a swarm of police officers and strongly-worded condemnations by school officials is yet another bit of hypocrisy…) Cartoonist George Danby -- the one the governor would like to shoot -- doesn't find the joke particularly funny. But as offended as he is, he's only asking for an apology, not an investigation. (And he still hasn't received one.) But this isn't an isolated experience. It appears Governor LePage would like to kill many, many people. A day after Gov. Paul LePage told a group of high school students that he would “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News cartoonist, a top advocate for expanding passenger rail to Lewiston-Auburn said that LePage earlier this month said state lawmakers from Lewiston should be “rounded up and executed in the public square.” That this alleged statement -- made on government property in a government building -- wasn't greeted with police officers, arrests, etc. is also hypocritical. Given the paranoiac thinking that has passed for "caution" since 2001, someone talking about shooting people while in a government building is usually considered to be something best handled with deployments of force and zealous prosecution. Then there's the fact that this joke Godwins itself by aligning Governor LePage with other political figures who had opponents rounded up and shot. That LePage ever delivered this second shooting "joke" is still debatable. One person attending this meeting in the governor's office claims to have heard it. Other attendees disagree. But either way, we have at least one confirmed instance of a political figure claiming he'd like to shoot someone he doesn't like. But there's no investigation underway and no one is calling for an indictment of LePage for issuing a "threat." Because it isn't one. It's simply hyperbolic speech uttered without intent or desire to actually follow through with such an act. It's what people do when expressing displeasure with someone or something. It happens all the time. Except when it happens in a comment section and the subject is a federal judge, it suddenly becomes a threat worthy of investigation and obfuscation by the US Attorney's Office. When it's a politician "targeting" a little person, no one cares, even with the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting as a backdrop -- a justification for cartoonist George Danby to take this "threat" very personally indeed. But Danby doesn't think LePage truly wants him dead and recognizes it for what it is. The "little people" who aren't afforded the full power of their government are much more rational than those with it at their disposal. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
Oh, the poor, lowly comments section. These days, you can't turn a corner without the comment section being blamed for the death of civility, falling gold prices, and the general, entropic heat malaise of the universe. If you haven't noticed, there's a bit of a trend in the news industry afoot wherein you kill off the comment section, mindlessly shove your community over to Facebook if they want to comment, then proudly proclaim you're doing this not because you're too lazy or cheap to moderate, but because you're really just super passionate about improving online conversation. It's kind of a thing. The Verge seems to be the latest news outlet to join the trend, co-founder Nilay Patel informing readers this week that the website will be shutting down the site's comment section because the Internet has just gotten too kooky to concentrate. Like other comment section killers, The Verge rather proudly proclaims that this move is part of an effort to build better relationships:"What we've found lately is that the tone of our comments (and some of our commenters) is getting a little too aggressive and negative — a change that feels like it started with GamerGate and has steadily gotten worse ever since. It's hard for us to do our best work in that environment, and it's even harder for our staff to hang out with our audience and build the relationships that led to us having a great community in the first place."Nothing quite says "building relationships" like removing the ability for your readers to publicly speak to you. Meanwhile, if you can't do your "best work" because a few obnoxious trolls can't stop pooping in your comment section, maybe don't read the comments until you're done working? As we noted when Reuters, ReCode, Vox and everybody else killed comments in the noble pursuit of high planes of communication, by closing comments down you're sending a clear message to your community and lifeblood that their input doesn't matter. And as some (whoa, the irony) Verge commenters point out, killing comments (as is done at Verge sister site Vox.com) doesn't do much for the local flora and fauna, either: To The Verge's credit they'll still allow forum posts and indicate the comments will return eventually, but the pretense that we're building a better community by putting a collective bag over said community's head never seems to get tired. As numerous sites have illustrated, it doesn't take much work to create a more civil, less-batshit comment section. Some do it with minimal moderation. Others, like us at Techdirt, try to create better incentives for good comments and encourage a strong and vocal community, rather than seeing comments as some sort of "task" to be "dealt" with. Hopefully The Verge's comment vacation is a step toward that direction, and not toward a permanent community comment vacation.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
A few weeks ago we wrote about ICANN's new attack on whois privacy, laying out a proposal to deny private/proxy registrations to anyone involved in "commercial" activity on their websites. While it may be difficult for some to comprehend why this is a big deal, it is not a theoretical concern at all. Cathy Gellis has a great story over at Popehat reminding everyone of the time litigious lawyer Charles Carreon was able to uncover the identity of a critic, who he then threatened repeatedly. As we wrote at the time, even though the critic had used Register.com's privacy guard tool, when Carreon showed up, the company coughed up his identity, and Carreon used that to threaten the critic, making it quite clear that he was doing so just to piss off the critic. In a letter to the critic's lawyer, Paul Levy at Public Citizen, Carreon noted "there is essentially no statute of limitations on this claim" and "I have the known capacity to litigate appeals for years." Eventually, Carreon was forced to cough up money for the bogus legal threats. Gellis was co-counsel with Levy in defending Carreon's critic and her Popehat post details how that experience makes it even clearer as to just how bad ICANN's proposal is: It is a proposal that is extraordinarily glib about its consequences for any Internet speaker preferring not to be dependent on another domain host for their online speech. First, it naively pre-supposes that the identifying information of a domain name holder would only ever be used for litigation purposes, when we sadly already know that this presumption is misplaced. As this letter to ICANN points out (linked to from the independently expressive domain name “icann.wtf”), people objecting to others’ speech often use identifying information about Internet speakers to enable campaigns of harassment against them, sometimes even with the threat of life and limb (for example, by “swatting”). Secondly, it pre-supposes that even if this identifying information were to be used solely for litigation purposes that a lawsuit is a negligible thing for a speaker to find itself on the receiving end of, when of course it is not. In the case of Carreon’s critic he was fortunate to be able to secure pro bono counsel, but not everyone can, and having to pay for representation can often be ruinously expensive. Thirdly it pre-supposes that there is somehow an IP-related exemption to the First Amendment, when there most certainly is not. Speech is speech and it is all protected by the First Amendment. Attempts to carve out exemptions from its protections for speech that somehow implicates IP should not be tolerated, particularly when the consequences to discourse are just as damaging to speech chilled by IP owners as they are by anyone else seeking to suppress what people may say. If you haven't yet seen it, that icann.wtf letter to ICANN is worth reading. It's not only a rare case where anti-harassment advocates and free speech advocates can actually come together and agree on a really, really bad idea, but it lays out the arguments for why this Hollywood-backed proposal is just incredibly stupid and dangerous. If you want to contact ICANN to explain why this policy is a problem please do so today -- as it's the last day they're accepting comments on the proposal.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
Smart watches are among the hottest gadgets du jour, but do they live up to the hype? Their adoption hasn't been even remotely on par with smartphones, and reactions from those who have used them are mixed — but that doesn't mean they're useless or have zero appeal. So, does this dubious trend have a future, or are smart watches a dumb idea? Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
Here we go again with copyright taking content away from the public, rather than the other way around. You've probably heard about everything going on in Greece these days, with the big vote and the fight over Greek debt and how it will deal with it. Leading up to it, my social media stream suddenly filled up with people linking to a story at Medium with an English translation by Gavin Schalliol of an interview famed economist Thomas Piketty gave to the German publication DIE ZEIT. Whether you like/agree with Piketty or not (and I'm in the camp that thinks he's overrated), the interview itself was pretty interesting, making a key point that has gotten lost in much of the debate: that for all the pressure that Germany has been putting on Greece to repay its debts, Germany itself didn't repay its debts after World War II (or earlier wars). Lots of people have been talking about it, and tons of English-language news reports wrote up the story, with nearly all of them linking to Schalliol's translation. Just for example, here's the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Quartz, Slate, Business Insider, Fortune, Marketwatch, and Vox, all of whom link to Schalliol's translation on Medium. But, if you visit it now, you will not see the translation. Instead, you see this: If you can't read it, it says: I am currently in touch with DIE ZEIT to ensure my compliance with German copyright law. Updates will follow very soon. The original German interview with Thomas Piketty can be found here. To be fair, it's quite likely that Schalliol's translation violated the copyright in the original. While some may debate whether or not a translation should ever really be subject to copyright (nothing is actually copied), it is pretty widely set in stone that translations are derivative works, and as such are subject to copyright. However, the simple fact is that DIE ZEIT did not choose to publish an English translation, and even if it now chooses to do so, it will happen after the big vote happened, rather than before, when Schalliol initially published his translation. It's that translation that spread the interview far and wide and made it a big part of the public discussion over how Greece should deal with the German-led EU proposal, which it eventually voted down. I'm sure the copyright system supporters among you will leap to the defense of DIE ZEIT and the fact that, by law, its "rights" were violated. But, if you take a step back and look at the overall situation, it's difficult to see how the world is better off under such a result. If Schalliol had never been able to publish his translation, it's likely that Piketty's comments would have had a much smaller and more limited audience, limiting the role it played in the overall discussion. It wouldn't likely have had much of an impact on the end result, but at the very least, it helped provide a lot of context to people around the globe. And, it's difficult to argue DIE ZEIT was somehow worse off. First, most of the articles actually linked back to the original as well, likely driving some amount of traffic. But, more importantly, it's difficult to argue that Schalliol's translation was a substitute for the original, given that even considering the small population that speaks both languages, it's likely that Schalliol's translation was almost entirely read by an audience that did not see the original and could not read it even if they wanted to. If the intention of copyright is to better encourage the dissemination of ideas and knowledge, as we're often told, then shouldn't that kind of thing be encouraged, rather than discouraged? Instead, we get yet another story of copyright stepping in to stifle a public discussion of ideas.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
An Argentinian programmer who was trying to do a good thing in exposing severe vulnerabilities in the country's e-voting system was rewarded for his actions -- with a police raid on his home. According to Argentinian news outlet La Nación, Joaquín Sorianello informed MSA, the company than makes the Vot.ar e-voting system, that the SSL certificates used by the system to encrypt transmissions between the voting stations and the central election office could be easily downloaded, allowing for potential voting fraud (or just a good old-fashioned DDOS attack). Sorianello, who says he never received a phone call from MSA after reaching out to the company to report the flaw, suddenly found his home being raided by Argentinian police, who seized computers, Kindles, and numerous storage devices (from a Google translation of the source):"The truth is amazing, you notify the company that they have a failure in their voting system and the next thing they do is (raid my home) instead of looking for the real culprits..."I'm just a programmer, I'm not a hacker." Sorianello told La Nacion that he contacted the police station in Caballito to corroborate the raid: "They said yes, but they could not tell me why or how it was going to take." He also said he did not receive any call from the company (after having told them about the flaw a week) ago."Sorianello has pointed out to numerous news outlets that he's a programmer -- not a hacker, and if he had wanted to hack into the systems to cause damage, he certainly wouldn't have informed the company of the flaw first. He's also repeatedly pointed out that it was the protected @FraudeVotar Twitter account that published the core details of the e-voting internals, not him. That apparently didn't matter to the Argentinian legal system. This isn't the first problem facing MSA and its e-voting technology, which is being used in Buenos Aires elections for the first time. Two weeks ago, the source code for the company's Vot.ar technology was leaked to Git.hub. A number of researchers also discovered that a smartphone with NFC capabilities (pretty common at this point) could be used to create a specialized e-ballot, capable of tricking the system into counting a single vote numerous times. And this is all before you realize that in many instances, the technology Argentina is using just doesn't appear to work very well:"Earlier today, the Argentinian site La Política Online reported that 532 polling stations were unable to transmit their results electronically to the central electoral office, and had to be transported there physically for the 184,000 votes involved to be included in the final result. As the article points out, although this failure won't change the outcome of the election for the head of local government in Buenos Aires, it will make a difference to the allocation of seats in the legislature and community boards."So not only is MSA's e-voting system completely open to several vectors of fraud and attack, it works so damn well you need to physically move the machines back to the central office to count the tallied votes. Meanwhile, Argentinian locals are claiming that the same Judge that thought it was a good idea to authorize the police raid on Sorianello's home, has also ordered Argentinian ISPs to block many of the websites where details on the e-voting flaws and source code can be found (like justpaste.it). Surely if you stop people from discussing the obvious flaws, the problem magically goes away, right? As we've seen with countless other e-voting scandals of this type, you can't operate a secure, successful e-voting system without trust. And you certainly don't gain the public's trust by shooting as many messengers as possible and playing a futile game of Whac-a-mole censorship with those who point out your system is utterly and painfully flawed. What you do successfully accomplish is make it perfectly clear that you appear to like the fact your electoral process can now be rigged.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
Do you ever just want to block out the world for a bit? For 49% off, the Sleep Eye Mask Headphones can help you do just that, even in spite of their silly name. The memory foam mask fastens quickly with a Velcro strap and helps to block out light and ambient noise to help you relax. The mask is wrapped in a soft covering that is machine washable. Plug the cord into an MP3 player or phone, and your favorite music will play through the flat audio discs that are covered with extra layers of foam so you can comfortably lay on them, as you drift away from the stressed of the day. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
Well, we finally received some surveillance reform with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which, even with its built-in six-month waiting period is still more surveillance reform than we've seen in the past thirty years. So, of course, the intelligence "community" is seeking to counterbalance its "losses" with gains from the private sector. Self-spying will have to replace government spying, if we're expected to run a secure nation. Social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube would be required to report videos and other content posted by suspected terrorists to federal authorities under legislation approved this past week by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The measure, contained in the 2016 intelligence authorization, which still has to be voted on by the full Senate, is an effort to help intelligence and law enforcement officials detect threats from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. But there is a silver lining, although it makes absolutely no sense. It would not require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so, said a committee aide… So… to better secure the nation, companies that already do this thing would be forced to continue doing this thing, even though they've had no problem doing so voluntarily. Those who don't wish to do this won't be forced to do it. The only change then would be the "reporting" aspect, which I imagine is also already in place for most of those voluntarily removing terrorist-related content. The Senate Intelligence Committee is wasting tax dollars on redundancy, and not the good kind of redundancy that keeps government entities from permanently destroying public records. This is the bad kind of redundancy that is "fighting terrorism" by telling companies to do the thing they already do, unless they don't, in which case, never mind. The government isn't out of stupid, though. Although officials are generally pleased to see such accounts taken down, they also worry that threats might go unnoticed. “In our discussions with parts of the executive branch, they said there have been cases where there have been posts of one sort or another taken down” that might have been useful to know about, the aide said. On one hand, the government complains that leaving the content up could result in "radicalization" of the few citizens that haven't already been swept up by the FBI's Radicalization Program. On the other, it complains that taking the content down makes it harder to keep an eye on those radicalizing potential terrorists. Its solution is to act like the Internet's Recyle Bin. Toss your terrorist posts here so we can browse them before deletion. Service providers and tech companies are calling it a violation of users' privacy and state that additional monitoring and adding another step in the takedown process will be technically difficult. National security experts, however, aren't nearly as concerned about privacy violations or technical hurdles. National security is the priority. Everything else is just extraneous noise. “In a core set of cases, when companies are made aware [of terrorist content], there is real value to security, and potentially even to the companies’ reputation,” said Michael Leiter, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, now an executive vice president with Leidos, a national security contractor. “Rules like this always implicate complex First Amendment and corporate interests. But ultimately this is a higher-tech version of ‘See something, say something.’ And in that sense, I believe that there is value.” The technical problems are skirted completely and the tiny nod towards citizens' privacy is swallowed up by "see something, say something" and "value." Intelligence at any cost -- especially if the majority of the cost is absorbed by civil liberties and the private sector. This casual dismissal of concerns is unsightly. Here's a Senate Intelligence Committee aide also lowballing the cost to people's rights and tech companies' bottom lines: The committee aide said the measure presents “a pretty low burden” to companies, who would have to report only activity that has been reported to them. “We have heard from federal law enforcement that it would be useful to have this kind of information,” he said. Basically, it's the same non-argument Michael Leiter makes: "value" and "use" to government agencies is really the only thing that matters. These other concerns aren't even worthy of a thoughtful response. It's highly discouraging to see that the same mentality prevails despite nearly two years of damaging (to the intelligence community's public reputation, not its actual capabilities) leaks. These reps of the intel world can't even be bothered to sincerely address the public's concerns. All they can think about is how "useful" this would be to them. And so, they've put together a half-assed law (in response to a Facebook-"enabled" terrorist attack) that can't even be bothered to enforce the strengths of their very minimal convictions. It's almost as though the intelligence community said, "This would be kind of nice to have. Why don't you guys see if you can get that for us?" If the community truly felt this information was "valuable" and "useful," the proposed law would demand that all companies comply, rather than limiting it to those who voluntarily police their platforms. But it doesn't. It just asks for some companies to do what they already do and for others to add them to the "reported posts" mailing list. It's nothing more than an attempt to create informal government informants with the added bonus of turning voluntary actions into mandatory requirements. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
We've already written about the hack and leak of the Hacking Team and all its emails and files. There are likely to be tons of stories coming out from that hack over the next few days and weeks as people go through everything. However, it appears that someone is at least making a pretty ridiculous and half-hearted attempt to stuff that genie back in the bottle. Security consultant Mustafa Al-Bassam noted on Twitter that he received a copyright takedown notice for his mirror of the files from a different company, Lexsi. I just got a DMCA complaint from one of Hacking Team's clients (@lexsi). pic.twitter.com/uoLTQySreI — Mustafa Al-Bassam (@musalbas) July 6, 2015 If you can't read the letter, it clearly shows Lexsi making a copyright claim since it includes the "Copyright Holder's Name" in the list at the top. But in the body of the message, it makes a random claim about "sensitive and confidential information" rather than infringing information: Hello, We have just identified that the website musalbas.com/ displays sensitive and confidential information. We would be grateful if you transmit the identify of the hosting provider in order to retrieve the sensitve documents. Please confirm the reception of our request by responding to this email. Thank you in advance for your help and feel free to contact us should you need more information. At first Al-Bassam thinks that Lexsi must be a Hacking Team client, but then notes that there's no listing of Lexsi in the documents (which include customer rolls). It's possible that the client relationship runs the other way. Lexsi claims it does "cybercrime mitigation," so it's possible that Hacking Team (or others?) hired the company to try to bury the Hacking Team documents -- though that seems like an unenviable, if Sisyphean, task. Either way, whatever Lexsi was thinking here, it seems unlikely to have the desired impact.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
National identification numbers are common enough -- many countries issue their citizens with a unique identifier. But in terms of scale, few can match Aadhaar, India's identity number system. As The Times of India explained a few years back, when the scheme was first announced: Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique number which will be issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to all residents of the country. It's a step towards putting India in the club of more than 50 countries around the world that have some form of national identity cards. These include most of continental Europe (not the UK), China, Brazil, Japan, Iran, Israel and Indonesia. The number will be stored in a centralized database and linked to the basic demographics and biometric information photograph, ten fingerprints and iris of each individual. The number will be unique and would be available for online and offline verification and, hence, will rule out the possibility of duplicate and fake identities from government as well as various private databases. The Aadhaar system is designed to make it easier for people on the sub-continent to prove their identity: One of the key challenges faced by people in India is difficulty in establishing identity. People have multiple identity documents, each serving a different purpose. The most important characteristic of Aadhaar is its universality and it is assumed that the biometric card with the number will be gradually accepted across the country as the identification number by all service providers and government agencies. The system is almost in place. According to an article in The Economic Times, as of this month, 870 million Aadhaar numbers have been issued. The hope is to achieve "universal coverage" -- 1.2 billion people -- by December. Initially, the Indian government insisted that the scheme was voluntary, although even in 2013, there were concerns that it was effectively mandatory because various state benefits required its use. In 2014, India's Supreme Court reiterated that the system should not be compulsory, and also forbade the authorities from sharing biometric data held on the associated database with the police or similar agencies without the permission of the person concerned. That raises one of the principal concerns with such centralized databases: the fact that, once created, there is a natural tendency to use them for purposes that have nothing to do with the original justification. For example, in 2013, there were suggestions that the Aadhaar card could be linked to driving licenses. In December last year, 100 million bank accounts were already associated with Aadhaar numbers. Last month, it was revealed that the Indian Railways may make the use of the Aadhaar number mandatory for booking online tickets. All of those will make tracking a person's activities much easier. As the use of the Aadhaar system spreads to more domains, and becomes indispensable for more everyday services, that single number will assume an ever-greater importance in the lives of people in India -- and therefore become increasingly useful for identity fraud. It will doubtless make things much easier for the public there; but it will also provide the authorities with the perfect way of unifying all the information that they hold about citizens. Let's hope that by the time that happens, India has in place suitably robust laws regulating both government surveillance and data protection. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 22 days ago on techdirt
The DC Circuit Court has revived Prison Legal News' long-running FOIA lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons. "Long-running" tends to describe a lot of FOIA litigation, but this particular case is the ultra-marathon of FOIA lawsuits. In 2003, PLN filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request with the Federal Bureau of Prisons seeking all documents showing money the Bureau paid in connection with lawsuits and claims brought against it between January 1, 1996, and July 31, 2003. That's right. Twelve years past its original request and the Appeals Court has reversed and remanded the decision to the district court to finally get it right. At the heart of the decade-plus legal battle is the supposed "categorical redaction" of personal information, which, upon examination by the Appeals Court, appears to be anything but categorical. It could charitably be called "inconsistent," despite the government's claims that it has a right to utilize a blanket exception. But before we get to that point, we need to take a look at the past 12 years. PLN filed this request in 2003 and received no documents at all until it sued the BOP two years later. At that point, the Bureau suddenly found 11,000 documents -- about a third of which were handed over in redacted form. Of those, 102 are still being disputed. FISA-famous Judge Reggie Walton (operating in his less-surveillance-oriented district court position) granted summary judgment in favor of the Bureau of Prisons in 2013 -- eight years after the Bureau first started releasing documents to Prison Legal News. The appeal of that decision leads us to where we are today: finally seeing an endpoint to a dispute over public records that is now entering its second decade of litigation and spans three presidential elections. The Appeals Court disagrees with Walton's concession to blanket personal information exemptions, mainly because the Bureau's careless application of this exemption showed little attention had been paid to the underlying information or truly weighed against the public's interest. Both the final Vaughn index and the Moorer Declaration lump the privacy interests of all claimants and any perpetrator or witness whose information is redacted into categories based on the type of document in which the individual’s information appears. Both provide only cursory statements such as those described above to justify the redactions. It's not that the government can't use categorial redactions, the Appeals Court explains. It's that it can't apply this exemption categorically when the redactions cover such a wide variety of information. The categories, centered as they are on specific types of filed documents, include a wide range of claims covering various degrees of privacy interests. As PLN points out, the privacy interest of tort claimants will be different when they are claiming injury from a slip and fall as compared to a sexual assault. The EEOC claims also present a diverse picture and can hardly be considered a category that “‘characteristically support[s] an inference’ that the statutory requirements for exemption are satisfied.” But the government has applied this categorical exemption, either due to laziness or a desire to obfuscate. The twelve-year legal battle suggests the latter. This isn't the only "failure" of the categorical redactions. In the disputed documents, the government decided privacy interests outweighed the public interest, no matter the underlying circumstances. The court finds this "inconsistent," at best. There is another problem with the categorical approach here – it fails to distinguish between redacting the identity of the alleged victim and the identity of the alleged perpetrator. This distinction is significant with respect to the employees’ interest in keeping their information private. But the Bureau has made no effort to distinguish between the privacy interests of employees who are victims and those who are perpetrators. In fact, it has offered little support for redacting information that would identify perpetrators. Even its inconsistency is inconsistent. In addition, the Bureau has not been consistent in shielding the names of its employees accused of wrongdoing. While redacting the names of those accused of discriminating in Exhibits 1 (Doc. 110-5) and 2 (Doc. 110-6), it did not redact the name of a Bureau employee who was the alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault on an inmate in Exhibit 3 (Doc. 110-7). Joint Appendix 274, 291, 302. The Bureau never explains its inconsistency. Neither the Stroble Vaughn index nor the Moorer Declaration provides insight into why the names of some alleged perpetrators are redacted while others are revealed. This arbitrary use of a blanket exemption leads to the ridiculousness of treating a minor injury as no different than five months of improper imprisonment… or alleged sexual assault by a prison employee. In the scheme of things, one would think that an employee’s eye injury resulting from the throwing of a screw is vastly different from a sexual assault on an inmate and that the privacy interests of the victims and perpetrators in these two cases will be different. These examples are sufficient to show that the privacy interests involved in a given type of claim do not fall within a single category that “characteristically support[s] an inference that the statutory requirements for exemption are satisfied.” In the end, the case is remanded to the lower court for further examination of the balancing of personal and public interest. The decision points out that this balance must be examined in detail and cannot be simply handed over to blanket exemptions, other than that of a few distinct individuals (medical professionals who treat inmates, inmates who have filed claims against prisons, etc.). At some point -- even possibly this year -- Prison Legal News may finally receive the final documents it's been seeking for the last twelve years. I guess this shows the system still works, even if it routinely suffers from hard resets and significant downtime. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Maybe you've seen some ads featuring a former California governor fighting a younger, computer-generated version of himself lately. The Terminator franchise is almost guaranteed to be rebooted every few years, just as the real life technology that could create strong artificial intelligence is getting closer and closer. Hopefully, a $10 million donation from Elon Musk to the Future of Life Institute will help delay Judgment Day, but progress in artificial intelligence can't be bargained with, it can't feel pain or mercy, and it will stop at absolutely nothing.... Google DeepMind is reading Daily Mail and CNN articles to learn how to understand grammar and the English language better. Forcing computers to read news articles all day is probably going to end up being the reason why AI hates humanity. [url] Chatbots are getting better and better at human-like conversation -- and it can be very creepy. One Google-sponsored chatbot was asked, "What is immoral?" And it answered, "The fact that you have a child." Yup. These machines aren't going to try to extinguish the human race at all. Nope. Nope. Nope. Put your fingers in your ears and sing your favorite song now. [url] There's a system called CodePhage that can detect software bugs and attempt to fix them without human intervention. And that's how Skynet evolves to remove human error from its programming.... [url] After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Lionsgate Studios, as you may remember, was last seen absolutely losing its mind over the leak of Expendables 3, which [insert snarky comment about movie quality here]. The studio's reaction to the leak was to peel off a massive lawsuit, get a restraining order, and go takedown crazy. Between those actions and the studio's willingness to go the DMCA and/or legal route in silencing a documentary about The Pirate Bay, not to mention a video that the Copyright Office itself used as an example of Fair Use, it's clear that Lionsgate doesn't mind firing off legal shots at questionable targets. And, in case you thought this trend had somehow abated, it hasn't. The latest example is Lionsgate apparently suing TD Ameritrade for trademark violation after the latter had included in one of its advertisements the line, "Nobody puts your old 401(k) in the corner." You can see the commercial here, but essentially: a guy holds up his piggy bank in a manner similar to the dance moves from the movie. Yeah, it's an imperfect reference to a line from Dirty Dancing, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Lionsgate apparently owns the rights to that movie. The studio has also apparently filed for trademark on the line for items such as books, clothing and household items. None of those categories appears to include financial services, but that hasn't stopped Lionsgate from demanding a ton of money for the use in the now-discontinued commercial. A letter sent by Lionsgate on April 2 is said to have demanded that TD America cease the advertisement and pay Lionsgate a seven figure amount to settle its claim. (Besides trademark, the film studio is said to have "alluded" to copyright as well.). In an action filed on Friday in New York federal court seeking declaratory relief, TD America and its marketing agency Havas Worldwide say they wish "to put to rest the baseless, overreaching claims asserted by Lionsgate." The plaintiffs say there's no evidence that anyone was confused while the advertisement ran for a seven-month period. They add they have no plans to use the ad in the future. And so TD Ameritrade is seeking relief via the court to basically swat Lionsgate off its back, like some kind of seven-figure-sucking mosquito. Not all use requires permission, after all, and a trademark case involving trademarks that have been applied for areas in which the use doesn't occur doesn't seem like great legal footing from Lionsgate's standpoint. Instead it comes across as a pure moneygrab, attempting to extract cash for the use of a line from a movie released in the 80's that no reasonable person had any possible chance of being confused by. If the studio wants to actually build a case around the idea that the public is really stupid, let it try, but I expect it to back down instead. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
We've already covered some of the details coming out in the flurry of legal filings in the dispute between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (helped along by the MPAA which financed and ran Hood's investigation). However, there is one little tidbit mentioned towards the end in one of the MPAA's many filings resisting subpoenas from Google to turn over internal documents. The MPAA's lawyers at Jenner & Block not only argue that much of the material being requested is "privileged," and thus allowing the requests will lead to lawsuits over the legality of those requests, but further argues that the emails in the Sony hack are similarly privileged and should not be available for use in lawsuits: Quite apart from the policy concerns that arise if lawyers are allowed to use confidential documents first obtained by hackers, the fact that some privileged documents were published in the wake of the Sony hack will trigger subsequent litigation over privilege assertions. Privileged documents obtained by hackers and later published nevertheless remain privileged. Presumably, given Google’s apparent interest in the documents, Google will contest the privilege assertions. This seems like a pretty longshot legal argument. It's pretty typical in business settings that once documents are out there in the public, any legal restrictions on them vanish. The idea that these documents, widely discussed publicly and in the press, would magically be banned from use in a legal case that was brought on because of those revelations is a huge stretch.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
It's the oldest argument when it comes to copyright: what promotes creative works more, strict protections for creators or liberal abilities to create and adapt associated works? These arguments are often made as a matter of theory, with some creators saying copyright protections allow for investment in creating art, whereas those who might create other things based off of those creations (fan-art/films/fiction, mashup artists, samplers, etc.) would tell you about all the art we've lost due to over-reaching protections. Well, now we have a case where the question isn't one of theory, but of reality. The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards are given out for various categories to the best tabletop games every year. This year, one game was nominated in three separate categories. A game that was clearly a copyright infringer. Today, one of the few awards in tabletop roleplaying games announced its 2015 award nominees. There are some really good games that are in the running for ENnies awards, but as I went over the list a different story emerged. The judges at the ENnies awards managed to not once, not twice but three times nominate Mass Effect: The Fate RPG. It is up for Best Electronic Book, Best Free Product and Product of The Year. The game was made without the permission of Electronic Arts or Bioware, who developed the original Mass Effect games. The creator of the game, Don Mappin, is well known in tabletop circles and has published games with mainstream publishers in the past. For this game, which he released for free and which has been downloaded heavily, he simply published it himself. He also contends that he hasn't violated the rules of the contest, which apparently didn't mention requiring the games to be licensed. Instead, they only required the games to be good. The work is a labor of love and it has been downloaded extensively since its release last year. I am very public and open that it is an unlicensed product, made available free of charge and that no remuneration is to be made from its distribution. The Fate core OGL is adhered to (to the best of my ability) as well as content from Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games and their Bulldogs! product, with permission. I don't believe that I have violated any aspect of the rules for the ENnies and would hope that my work could be considered. Nor do I believe that I am "stealing" (my words) a slot for Best Product if, in the eyes of the judges, my work was, in fact, superior enough to merit inclusion over other publishers. Conspiracy theories and such aside, I am simply an industry veteran choosing to give back to the hobby I love. I hope you'll consider my work--and its merits--in that vein. Now, a work freely given away that is as transformative as this could be a test for whether a copyright claim would be valid, but let's not bother with that. In the current climate of copyright in our legal system, it would probably be found to be infringing, and it likely is infringing on trademark grounds as well. Fine, we'll stipulate that. But let's also consider the fact that the game has since been removed from the contest nominations and the whole backlash has caused Mapping to pull the game off his site for download. In light of the forthcoming announcement of disqualification, I will also be removing the files of my own accord. My thanks to the personnel of ENWorld and the ENnies for their assistance. And, just like that, poof, the tabletop game is gone. Save for anyone able to get a copy before this whole episode started, it might as well never have existed. An award-nominee of a game, just gone. A labor of love, as the fan-creator puts it, a labor that was plenty creative in its own rights, into the ether. One wonders how many games never even get to this point before dying on the vine, shriveled up by an over-protective copyright system that, at least some of the time, hinders the very creativity it purports to promote. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Good news! Kenya has developed an ingenious, foolproof plan to put an end to the menace of cybercrime as we know it: they'll soon be requiring that all Wi-Fi users register with the government before going online. Since most of us realize that hacking or tricking Wi-Fi authentication systems is impossible, and, as we all know, criminals aren't capable of stealing other peoples' Wi-Fi credentials, Kenya will be at the very forefront of landing a killing blow on internet-based crime as we know it for decades to come. It's simply amazing that someone didn't come up with this idea sooner. The new head of Kenya's Communications Authority, Francis Wangusi, last week stated in a speech that Kenya has taken over chairmanship of Association of Regulators of Information and Communications for Eastern and Southern Africa (ARICEA), a body that fights cybercrime within member nations. A new mandate of the group will require that every single Wi-Fi device in each and every member nation be registered with KENIC for the good of internet users everywhere:"He added that Kenyans will also be required to register their mobile devices with Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC) in new rules aimed at fighting cyber- crime. "We will license KENIC to register device owners using their national identity cards and telephone numbers, the identity of a device will be known when it connects to Wi-fi," said Mr Wangusi at the ARICEA annual general meeting Tuesday in Nairobi. CA is also committed to conduct a detailed study on the depth of web hackings in the country. Wangusi said cyber-attacks are on the rise with the banking sector suffering most, followed by government officials."Other reports seem to indicate the well-formed plan could just involve users having to plug in a passport or other ID number before being able to access the internet whatsoever:"We are considering the idea of ensuring the Public Wi-Fi is not accessed without a log in. The logging in of the public domain will require one’s passport number, ID Number or telephone number," he said. "The unique number of a device is identified on the internet but we can’t identify who is owning it, if you don’t use the right identification numbers. That’s why we insist on logging in the Public Wi-Fi with personal credentials. This will help us in securing the cyber space, in case of cybercrimes,” he said."Since MAC spoofing apparently doesn't exist in the alternate dimension I'm currently writing this story from, it should be relatively easy to get everybody voluntarily registered while constantly monitoring and thwarting any attempt to bypass the system. Similarly, since fighting the ambiguous menace known as "cybercrime" is never used as a pretense to expand government surveillance and brick-and-mortar oppression, Kenya will likely spearhead this bold new assault on internet skulduggery without any negative repercussions whatsoever for the public at large. Amazing!Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
As the copyright reform effort is underway in Europe, a number of legacy players are running a bit scared. The UK Publishers Association published a rather amusing attempt at "mythbusting" claims that reformers are making about copyright. Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader does a nice job showing how many of the Publishers Association's claims are complete bunk, and clearly influenced by what's in the publishers' best interests, rather than anyone else's -- but that's to be expected. They're there to represent a position -- and rather than take a long-term view, recognizing that what's best for the public long-term will be best for the publishers as well, they take the short-term, protectionist, anti-consumer view. Because that's what these silly trade groups think they should do. The document was released with a weird nonsensical statement from Richard Mollet, the head of the Publishers Association: “It is time to debunk the long-pedalled myth that copyright is an obstacle to growth in the digital economy. “When you look at the success of publishing and other creative industries in developing online products and services it is palpably untrue – copyright is the means by which the digital economy functions, allowing works to be made available to consumers and rewarding creators and the companies which invest in them. “In order to undermine copyright, people often wrongly cite it as the source of problems in the digital single market; or, they falsely claim not to be able to do things which actually they can. Also, we often hear people propose that copyright is a block to them doing things which would be unfair and damaging to authors and publishers. It is no myth that copyright has been an obstacle for many businesses. To claim otherwise is just laughable. An intellectually honest argument would admit that copyright law clearly benefits some parties and harms others. The policy questions we should be arguing are about who is helped and who is harmed and what's best overall for society and culture. But, the Publishers Association doesn't even want to give an inch and can't even admit that some innovators are clearly held back by today's copyright law. The last paragraph really gets at the crux of the full document they posted, because the summary is basically "people are upset about this thing they can't do -- but they can do it if only they pay us lots of money." That's basically the argument behind nearly all of the "myths" the document "busts." First, it claims that the idea that Europe needs a "single digital market" is bunk because you can just license everything in different regions with today's law: Copyright is delivering a digital single market. The ability of publishers to simultaneously license works across the EU – and in many cases the world – derives from the current copyright framework. Then they mock the idea that text and data mining uses are blocked under copyright law... because, again, they can just license: The market-based licence solutions can be tailored to the needs of different researchers and enable publishers to check bona fides and ensure the integrity of the content platform. How about students being unable to access resources across borders? No problem, the publishers claim, we have a license for that! The licences under which publishers provide universities with material do permit students to access course materials from anywhere in the EU (and very often the world). Okay, what about teachers looking for resources from other countries? Well, the Publishers insist, no one really wants that anyway, and if they did, well, there's a license for that: There is no effective demand for this. In both the primary and secondary school markets textbooks and other resources are produced explicitly to assist the delivery of each member state’s curriculum. As such the supply and demand for such materials is highly country-specific and cross-border requirements are minimal. Should there be such a demand (for example, if a school in France was teaching the English curriculum) then these materials can easily be sourced and a licence secured. What about libraries lending ebooks? Guess what? The publishers say you can license that as well: A variety of agreements between authors, publishers and libraries are in place across the EU which are giving rise to thriving models of e-book lending. The licences underpinning these models help ensure that authors are rewarded when their works are enjoyed, and ensures that authors are willing for their works to be borrowed in this way. Yeah, but that's not how regular libraries work at all -- and that model kinda worked pretty damn well for a long time. Libraries didn't have to pay royalties every time someone checked out a book. Changing up that model may make publishers happy, but it makes life more difficult for everyone else. In short, the Publishers insist, don't reform copyright law because as long as you give the publishers enough money, they'll let you do what you want. This isn't just tone deaf, it totally misses the point. It's an argument for permission-based learning and permission-based culture. It shows no recognition of how actual education and learning occurs. It shows no recognition of the power of being able to research and learn from a variety of sources. It shows no understanding of the ridiculous prices these publishers often like to charge for many of these "licensed" solutions -- and the simple fact that they will often hold back these licenses. And, most importantly, it shows no recognition of the fact that requiring different licenses in every region is a massive waste of resources and efficiency. But the publishers don't care because that inefficiency is where they make money. The other "myths" are just as laughable and can basically be summed up as "this is a myth because we don't like that idea." For example, they hate the idea of "exceptions" to copyright law being "harmonized" because it might mean some countries that have overly aggressive rights might lose those. Notice that the following gives not even the slightest nod of interest to the rights of the public. Fully harmonising exceptions so that the same rules are mandated across the EU will be hugely disruptive and would result in some creators being deprived of rights. There are different legal traditions across the EU with long-established precedents in place (for example, in France there is a much stronger protection of the author’s moral rights). Variations in copyright law, within the over-arching framework of the Directive, are currently permitted in order to recognise these inherent cultural and legal differences. Imposing a single order on the whole of the EU’s creators would almost inevitably cause some to have their rights eroded. Yes, that's the point. There's a tradeoff here, and people are arguing that giving the public slightly more rights to works can actually help culture overall. Yes, some artists might lose some currently granted "rights" to block people, but that doesn't mean those artists are harmed. It just changes the marketplace somewhat, and likely will help expand it by simplifying rules across a much larger territory. The list also trots out the usual talking points by those who are against fair use in other countries -- claiming that even though the US has it, it would somehow totally upend the legal systems anywhere else: The introduction of Fair Use would be highly disruptive and expensive for creators and consumers. There is no established basis in European law for the concept of “fair use”, whereas in the US it has been fine-tuned over 170 years of established legal precedents. Simply introducing the concept into EU law would presage a great number of legal cases, with associated high legal costs, as the market – and judges – came to an agreement as to what the terms allowed and precluded. Since there is no evidence that the present system is in need of radical reform, introducing Fair Use would be an unnecessary and damaging step, and one which would have limited application given that international rules on copyright, such as the Three Step Test, would still apply. Way to sell Europe short, Publishers. It is entirely possible to implement a fair use system today. Arguing that it cannot be done is clearly hogwash. In fact, all that case law in the US should actually help the EU to develop a better fair use system, since many of the questions have already been debated and answered and the EU can draft accordingly. We'll close with the final one, because it's just so insane and so ridiculous: MYTH #10 An ebook is the same as a normal book and therefore I should be able to resell it It is not the same. Physical and digital books have very different properties and so require different treatments as regards the ability to re-sell them. An ebook is easier to copy and digital copies are identical clones of the original work meaning that second-hand goods are largely indistinguishable from the original; they can be reproduced indefinitely without any loss of quality. They can also be circulated widely without control but even introducing a “forward and delete” function would not provide effective protection given the ease with which such measures can be circumvented. It is clear that the existence of a market for second hand digital copies will destroy the primary market for authors and publishers. Of course, as Nate wrote in his piece, if that were true, piracy would have already eroded the book market entirely, but it hasn't. Either way, the Publishers' position on ebooks appears to be: (1) we get paid many times for the same book and (2) we block you from reselling it. In short, they're focused on taking away value from ebooks, to make them even less valuable than regular books.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
An increasing number of companies are hiring folks to poke and prod their systems looking for vulnerabilities before the bad guys can exploit them. After all, we live in an age where even the so-called hacking experts are getting hacked. The White-Hat Hacker & Penetration Tester Course is a series of over 25 lectures designed to introduce you to the concepts of security paradigms and how to test system vulnerabilities. Over 4.5 hours, you will become familiar with Metaspoilt, Scapy, WireShark and other tools to help you learn more about recognizing network vulnerabilities and penetration testing. Get this course for 74% off in the Techdirt Deals store. Note: We earn a portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
The whole legal fight between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has been pretty nasty from the very beginning, but it's been getting even nastier as it drags on. Even in many high stakes lawsuits involving large companies and the government, the filings tend to remain somewhat bland and low key. But this particular fight seems personal to many of the parties involved (going beyond just Google and Jim Hood to the MPAA and the studios it represents). If you don't recall, for a few years now, Hood has been bizarrely blaming Google for the fact that people do bad stuff online, rather than understanding that a search engine isn't responsible for the content that it finds. The reasons for Hood's ignorance became a lot more clear after the Sony Hack, when internal emails revealed that Hood was acting as a puppet for the MPAA whose hand was shoved so far up Hood's behind that it was a bit unseemly. The MPAA's lawyers ran the entirety of Hood's "investigation." Those lawyers actually wrote the subpoena that Hood sent Google (Hood merely added the opening and his signature). The studios paid for the investigation, and the program itself was explicitly designed not to protect anyone online but to bring down Google (dubbed "Goliath" in the documents). The MPAA hired Hood's best friend, mentor and predecessor to lobby Hood on this... and (coincidentally, I'm sure), Hood hired the very same guy, Mike Moore, to help with the investigation -- which should raise serious conflict of interest questions. As these details were revealed, Hood launched into a bizarre anti-Google rant that was both ill-informed and often flat out incorrect. He insisted perfectly legal things (a news site about dark markets) were completely illegal, he blamed Google for not doing things it actually had done, and he couldn't seem to figure out the first thing about how the internet -- or the First Amendment -- actually work. With this new info in hand, Google went to court to argue that Hood's demands were illegal, and a clear attempt of abusing the power of his office to attack a business. The courts have overwhelmingly sided with Google up to this point -- putting his demands (written by the MPAA) on hold and saying that it was clear Hood unconstitutionally acted in bad faith in violation of the First Amendment. The judge also ordered Hood to cough up his communications with the MPAA -- something Hood was refusing to do the last time we checked in on this case about two months ago. Since then, there has been a flurry of activity in multiple courts as Google, Hood and the MPAA fight it out in increasingly emotional terms. As Hood tried to resist, Google opened up another front in this and sent subpoenas to the Hollywood studios directly for those same communications and more. The studios have resisted strongly, claiming that their own documents are unrelated and they're not a party to the lawsuit. Google, however, has pointed out that since the MPAA was running the government's investigation almost entirely, it seems reasonable to argue that that information should be disclosed: Each Subpoenaed Party asserts "work product protection," but none can identify any litigation they contemplated at the time the requested documents were created. They claim there is a "First Amendment privilege" shielding their activities from discovery, but they cannot explain how it applies here where they are engaged in lobbying government officials, where that lobbying is a matter of public record, and where their conduct is in no way likely to meet with government reprisal. And they assert "common and joint interest privileges" but cannot articulate any valid "interest" that creates or preserves a privilege. While some responsive documents might theoretically be subject to the attorney-client privilege, the Subpoenaed Parties have not collected or reviewed such documents, let alone provided a privilege log for them. The studios then hit back angrily at these requests arguing that Google is going way overboard in asking for basically all of its anti-Google documents, even those it never actually sent to Hood (after finally agreeing that they would produce its communications with Hood): The MPAA and Jenner have already agreed to produce all responsive documents they exchanged with Attorney General Hood prior to Google’s lawsuit; after all, only documents that Attorney General Hood actually saw could conceivably influence him. That should suffice if Google wants to probe the Attorney General’s motives. Google filed the present motion because it insists on more. Google demands documents that the Attorney General never saw, and that instead include the internal deliberations of the MPAA, its communications with its members, and the legal advice of Jenner, as well as communications with others similarly aggrieved by Google’s conduct, on the misguided theory that such documents somehow are probative of Attorney General Hood’s intent. Moreover, Google’s demands impose very substantial burdens on the subpoenaed parties, not only because they require a wide-ranging search for documents, but more importantly because many of the documents are protected by the attorney-client and First Amendment associational privileges. Not only would the MPAA and Jenner be required to devote countless hours to the creation of privilege logs, but further time-consuming and expensive litigation with Google over the privilege assertions would be a near certainty. Then, last week, Google hit back in a flurry of additional filings concerning the MPAA and Hood. Many repeat the same basic points, but it's clear that the battle is getting angrier and angrier on all sides. You can sense the exasperation on the part of Google's lawyers as they explain, again, that the studios are clearly trying to hide the details of their plan to use Hood to attack their company in violation of the Constitution: The Honorable Judge Henry T. Wingate has ruled that Google is likely to succeed against AG Hood under Constitutional and federal law. It is undisputed that the parties before the Court on this motion — Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. (“Fox”), NBCUniversal Media, Inc. (“NBC”), and Viacom, Inc. (“Viacom”) (collectively “the Subpoenaed Parties” or “the Studios”) — played key roles in AG Hood’s unlawful conduct. The record already shows that as part of a secret plan called “Project Goliath,” they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying state attorneys general to pressure Google to alter its search results and other products in service of their agenda on federal copyright issues. In connection with Project Goliath, lobbyists for the Subpoenaed Parties formulated AG Hood’s demands to Google and ghost wrote AG Hood’s talking points, letters and even the CID that prompted Google’s lawsuit and Judge Wingate’s injunction. Despite this extensive involvement in the events giving rise to the underlying litigation, the Subpoenaed Parties claim here that: (a) documents regarding Project Goliath, beyond their direct communications with AG Hood, are irrelevant; (b) they should not, in any event, be burdened to produce what they have; and (c) that such materials might be privileged — but it is “premature” to assess that issue. None of these arguments has merit. And then, after the MPAA revealed some of the requested documents, Google went back to court to highlight that what's been emailed only serves to more strongly support the claims of a questionable relationship between Hood and the studios, which should support their arguments for more information. It starts out with Google outright mocking the MPAA's argument that it's unfair to force them to hand over documents to a court in Mississippi, since they're NY-based companies not operating in Mississippi. Google points out that the MPAA and the studios seemed to have no problem at all going to Mississippi to hang out with Hood, so it seems odd for them to suddenly act as if Mississippi is out of the way. The MPAA and Jenner claim that Google somehow “dragged [them] into its dispute with [the] Attorney General.” ... The DCA portrays itself as a mere amicus of the Mississippi court, and reassures this Court that it “does not do business in Mississippi.” ... Their rhetoric does not match reality. The Subpoenaed Parties sought out Mississippi when they co-opted the state’s Attorney General for their anti-Google campaign. Documents withheld by the MPAA until last week reveal a stunning level of involvement in Mississippi’s affairs. The MPAA and Jenner repeatedly travelled to the state to meet with the attorney general; they hosted campaign fundraisers and made contributions for Attorney General Hood (“AG Hood”); and they controlled the pen used to draft AG Hood’s illicit demands and threats to Google. The DCA (funded by the MPAA) likewise visited with AG Hood in Mississippi, established a presence on the ground, and regularly communicated with him — retaining Mississippi’s former attorney-general, Mike Moore, to lobby AG Hood as part of “Project Goliath.” It was Google that was “dragged” into this dispute by the Subpoenaed Parties, and not the other way around. And then there's more: The Subpoenaed Parties have made clear that they have no problem acting in Mississippi when it suits their ends. After their years of direct involvement there, litigating objections to a single subpoena in the state could not be an undue burden. The filing notes that while the MPAA revealed its communications with Hood to Google, it did so only if Google promised to keep them confidential. Google notes that there is no legal reason to do so, but for now it agrees to do so. However, it does reveal the nature of what's in some of them. And what it shows is the MPAA and Attorney General Hood working hand in hand, with the MPAA basically calling the shots. The Subpoenaed Parties and their representatives made repeated visits to AG Hood’s office in Mississippi to guide his anti-Google work. Even when they weren’t physically at AG Hood’s office, they may as well have been, getting together with him in Denver and Santa Monica and holding a fundraising dinner for him in New Orleans. But those interactions only scratch the surface, as the documents reveal remarkably cozy and constant communications between the Subpoenaed Parties and AG Hood... (MPAA’s Brian Cohen greeting one of AG Hood’s staffers with “Hello my favorite” and offering to send her pictures of his vacation in New Zealand); .... (discussing a meeting with AG Hood’s staff the MPAA’s Cohen gushed “OMG we spent 3 hours.”). This pattern of sustained, intimate contact is hardly the mark of a party that merely “communicated with Attorney General Hood” “previously” as the MPAA characterizes itself. Despite protesting that Google has “inappropriately grouped” it with the MPAA and Jenner ..., the DCA is no different. It retained Mike Moore, Mississippi’s former attorney general, as a lobbyist to influence AG Hood regarding his Google investigation, even while Moore was serving as a deputized agent of AG Hood in connection with that same investigation. Alongside the MPAA lobbyists, Moore too was in constant contact with AG Hood regarding Google. And he co-hosted the campaign dinner for him that the MPAA put on. ... Similarly, the DCA’s Executive Director, Tom Galvin, was personally involved in discussions with AG Hood, also traveling to Mississippi to meet with him.... Although the DCA claims it “does not do business in Mississippi” ..., its “business” is lobbying and manufacturing press at the behest of the MPAA which heavily funds it. It was extremely active in that regard in Mississippi. The Subpoenaed Parties did not act alone in animating AG Hood with respect to Google, they coordinated their efforts with the major Hollywood studios who make up the MPAA, including Fox, NBCU and Viacom (collectively the “NY Parties”). That coordination continues to this day — the NY Parties are using the same law firm, Jenner, to resist subpoenas from Google, and in the Southern District of New York, they have made relevance, burden and privilege arguments that are virtually identical to those that the Subpoenaed Parties have advanced here. There's a lot more in the documents being filed (some of which we'll cover in other posts), but suffice it to say this fight is getting even nastier as it continues, and it sounds like the contacts between the MPAA and Jim Hood (the same emails that wanted a ridiculous amount of money to reveal following our public records request) show that the relationship was even tighter than was revealed from the leaked Sony emails.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
Between the FBI and the NSA, arguments against encryption that locks bad guys out (and, consequently, the government) have filled the air over the past several months. "Going dark" is the repeated concern, as if encryption would leave the nation's intelligence and investigative agencies without any options to pursue terrorists/child pornographers. It's all FUD and it's all dangerous, because carving small holes in encryption CARVES HOLES IN ENCRYPTION. Never mind the intended uses of golden keys/backdoors. A hole is a hole. The Department of Defense seems to recognize this fact, making it one of the only government entities involved in fighting worldwide terrorism to openly do so. Bruce Schneier asked Admiral James Winnefeld Jr. (vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) a question about encryption during a recent cybersecurity summit (video here -- relevant part at 32:52) and received something almost entirely removed from the current party line. Bruce Schneier: I'd like to hear you talk about this need to get beyond signatures and the more robust cyber defense and ask the industry to provide these technologies to make the infrastructure more secure. My question is, the only definition of "us" that makes sense is the world, is everybody. Any technologies that we've developed and built will be used by everyone -- nation-state and non-nation-state. So anything we do to increase our resilience, infrastructure, and security will naturally make Admiral Rogers's both intelligence and attack jobs much harder. Are you okay with that? Admiral James A. Winnefeld: Yes. I think Mike's okay with that, also. That's a really, really good question. We call that IGL. Anyone know what IGL stands for? Intel gain-loss. And there's this constant tension between the operational community and the intelligence community when a military action could cause the loss of a critical intelligence node. We live this every day. In fact, in ancient times, when we were collecting actual signals in the air, we would be on the operational side, "I want to take down that emitter so it'll make it safer for my airplanes to penetrate the airspace," and they're saying, "No, you've got to keep that emitter up, because I'm getting all kinds of intelligence from it." So this is a familiar problem. But I think we all win if our networks are more secure. And I think I would rather live on the side of secure networks and a harder problem for Mike on the intelligence side than very vulnerable networks and an easy problem for Mike. And part of that -- it's not only the right thing do, but part of that goes to the fact that we are more vulnerable than any other country in the world, on our dependence on cyber. I'm also very confident that Mike has some very clever people working for him. He might actually still be able to get some work done. But it's an excellent question. It really is. Fittingly, the Department of Defense recognizes the importance of defense. Adding backdoors to encryption weakens defenses, including those used by government agencies and operatives. You can't simply introduce circumvention and pray that nobody other than approved parties make use of it. The FBI/NSA's obsession with government-ordered peepholes makes everything worse for everyone, not just their intended targets. But these agencies are wholly unconcerned about collateral damage. It's clearly evident from their bulk surveillance programs and use of intercepts that gather everything before searching the data haul for incriminating material or useful intel. Encryption is at odds with haystacking, which these agencies continue to prize highly (and defend heatedly) despite clear evidence that intelligence gathering like this is inefficient at best, and wholly useless at worst. Schneier goes on to point out that Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the NSA, continues to push a narrative at odds with the DoD official's answer. Two weeks after this conference, Rogers gave a keynote address at CyCon, repeating his unfounded belief that encryption can be "safely" bypassed without compromising it. Rogers said a framework to allow law enforcement agencies to gain access to communications is in place within the phone system in the United States and other areas, so "why can't we create a similar kind of framework within the internet and the digital age?" He added: "I certainly have great respect for those that would argue that the most important thing is to ensure the privacy of our citizens and we shouldn't allow any means for the government to access information. I would argue that's not in the nation's best long term interest, that we've got to create some structure that should enable us to do that mindful that it has to be done in a legal way and mindful that it shouldn't be something arbitrary." So, the Dept. of Defense says one thing, Mike Rogers (who was in the audience at the first conference) nods in agreement, and then goes on to contradict the stance of those helming the department directly above it in the government's organizational chart. Rogers' nod to privacy is every bit as meaningless as his faux nod in agreement to Winnefeld's statement. There's very little being done by the NSA to "ensure" the "privacy" of American citizens. One only has to look at its purposeful weakening of NIST standards to see evidence of that. The FBI and NSA are more than willing to respect citizens' rights, but only if doing so doesn't make their intelligence gathering any more difficult. Privacy is always subservient to these agencies' ends, no matter how many statements they offer up that begin with lip service to privacy before adding, "but…" Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
New Zealand is the latest country to "do something" about online trolling. A rather comprehensive anti-cyberbullying act passed its third reading in the Parliament by a significant margin (116-5) and is awaiting royal assent. The "Harmful Digital Communications Act" criminalizes plenty of speech, mainly through the use of broad wording. Principle 1 A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual. Principle 2 A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing. Principle 3 A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual. Principle 4 A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene. Principle 5 A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual. Principle 6 A digital communication should not make a false allegation. Principle 7 A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence. Principle 8 A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual. Principle 9 A digital communication should not incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide. Principle 10 A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Violating these principles could result in a two-year prison sentence. Encouraging someone to take their own life could result in an addition year in prison, even if no suicide attempt is made. A quick glance at the principles reveals several flaws. First off, journalists are going to have a hard time avoiding disclosing "sensitive facts about an individual." While the courts are obliged to weigh the public interest during enforcement of this act, it sets a very low bar for those who wish to file complaints. And while deliberating this aspect, courts may issue interim orders to take down "offending" material until the matter is resolved. That's just one aspect that chills speech. Lowering the bar for "harm" to "serious emotional distress" is another. The wording hints at objectivity with "reasonable person" but also asks the "reasonable person" to act as an empathetic proxy for the person filing the complaint. Principle 10 fortunately limits itself to targeted individuals, rather than criminalizing the denigration of entire groups. Ignorance shouldn't be criminalized. There's far too much of it in the world, but putting people in jail for being racist, sexist or bashing their least-favorite religion does nothing to change the minds of those involved and will needlessly harm the lives of people who are far more stupid than dangerous. On top of this, the new law would add additional responsibilities for social media platforms and site owners. They are invited to apply for New Zealand-specific "safe harbours," but these only provide them temporary immunity from prosecution. Once the court order arrives, platform/site owners are obliged to remove the offending post(s). Failure to do so puts the site owners in line for $50,000 fines and/or prison terms. So, it's not really a "safe harbor." All it does is prevent the person filing the complaint from going after the platform/site first, rather than the person actually posting the offending content. The arguments for the passage of the bill were the expected ones. Legislator Jacqui Dean admitted there were concerns about the new law -- especially considering there were plenty of laws on the books already to deal with a majority of the offenses (defamation, harassment, etc.), but still felt more was needed because children. There have been many thoughtful contributions on this Harmful Digital Communications Bill. I do acknowledge that it is a legislative response that some view as impinging on freedom of speech and perhaps might be too heavy-handed. What I would say is that the protection of our young people in particular—their protection from cyber-bullying—is so very important that I think this bill is a very good step, and I commend it to the House. This argument -- from Deputy Leader Tracey Martin -- is particularly horrifying, especially considering her earlier statement that the internet's mutating "threats" are the reason new legislation is needed. Martin thinks there's should be a clear delineation between those who receive the "public interest" exemption and those who don't, despite her previous acknowledgment that the entire situation remains in a constant state of flux. Ms Ardern addressed the question of whether—there was conversation at the select committee—bloggers were really “media”. I would make this statement: media can certainly be bloggers; bloggers cannot, and should not, ever be considered as media. The media has actually taken training. They have criteria. They have boundaries that they work inside of, and they can be held accountable inside of them. Anybody who wants to set up a blog and just vent their opinion should not be considered media. So with regard to that, I would hope—and I know it was pushed by certain members of the blogging society at the select committee—that the line maintained by media, true media, is maintained. Some of the worst arguments appeared outside of the legislation. This editorial, written by Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, hits all the speech tropes in three sentences. It's worth remembering that no right or freedom is absolute. Just as you can't scream fire in a crowded theatre, nor should you be allowed to threaten someone online, incite people to kill themselves on social media, or share revenge porn with the world, and claim that as your democratic right. Our rights can, and should be, subject to reasonable limits where demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The only mitigating factor in Adam's "free speech is more about what's not allowed" argument is that her view comes from the viewpoint of a New Zealander, rather than someone deliberately misreading the First Amendment. One of the few to vote against the bill (and against his own party) was Gareth Hughes, who made several good points during his address, starting with the bill's creation of two sets of laws that treat online and offline very differently. In my time here I have seen some very badly drafted tech legislation. We have seen the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act and the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act, or the “Skynet Act”, where badly conceived law came together with under-informed legislators, all with the best of interests, to pass terrible laws. So, for the first time in my parliamentary career, today I am casting a separate vote from my party, because I believe this law, this bill, is the wrong solution to the right question, which is “What do we do about cyber-bullying?”. Ultimately, this bill is overly broad, it risks limiting our freedom of expression and the important role of the media in our democracy, and it introduces a precedent that one thing can be legal offline but illegal online… I believe there are better ways to go about reducing cyber-bullying, such as the approved agency and funding education, without making a new criminal offence just for the digital world. [...] As Tim Watkin has pointed out, this law applies not just to bloggers but to journalists as well. He points to the ludicrous situation that a public interest story of, say, the corrupt MP, as we have given the example of before, who is subject to harm by the story, would be perfectly legal if it were published in a newspaper but punishable if posted on that media organisation’s website or transmitted electronically. David Seymour (Leader - ACT) noted the bill's "do something" origin and its overall awfulness. This bill is a case study in bad lawmaking. All of the elements of bad lawmaking exist in this bill. Not since we microchipped dogs in the hope that it would prevent a particularly egregious dog event has there has been such a bad law before this House. First, you had the high-profile and really quite disgraceful event. Then you had the discovery that in actual fact the laws in place had not been properly used by the agency in place to prevent the harms that occurred there. Then you had the knee-jerk reaction from the politicians, who said: “We must do something. This bill is indeed something; therefore, we will pass this bill, and it must be the right thing to do.” [...] What exactly does this bill do? Well, the first thing that it does is introduce a set of communications principles that might be appropriate if we were about to embark on a school camp, but which are not appropriate for the governance of 4.5 million people, many of whom are adults—and the children among them are the responsibility of adults. It says that you cannot offend somebody. So, for instance, would Flight of the Conchords’ song Albi the Racist Dragon be offensive if it was communicated online? Well, we are told, in defence of the “badly burnt Albanian boy” from last week, that of course this law would never be used in such a silly and un-sensible way. That is the problem with the law: it gives no protection. We are supposed to rely on the beneficence of the enforcers. That is bad lawmaking. Seymour also pointed out the "government knows best" condescension being displayed towards opponents of the broadly-worded bill. The pace of development on the internet is so rapid that, in actual fact, the incentive for the hosts of content is to give good experiences. If it is true that harm is being done, then the one person who has both the incentive and the means to rapidly mitigate that harm is the host, whether that be Facebook, or Ask.fm, or Twitter, or whoever else hosts the website. For the same reason that harmful digital communication becomes exponentially greater, those people have the tools to mitigate it. But you do not hear that from the Government or from the supporters of this bill. There is a moralising tone from them: if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear; that these vague principles will not be enforced for silly reasons, you understand; that as long as you are sensible and you are doing nothing wrong, it will not be used against you. This mentality is fully on display in the Minister of Justice's op-ed: Some commentators claim the bill's measures erode freedom of expression and prevent genuine media reporting. These fears are unfounded and I'm confident the bill has struck the right balance between preventing real harm and preserving valuable free speech. Critics have hysterically claimed it will muzzle journalists from pursuing stories and restrict cartoonists from publishing satire. This is simply untrue. In defense of her claims, the Minister points at the bill's intentions. The bill aims to stop and prevent the circulation of online abuse, not curtail people's freedoms of expression or suppress the media. As if broadly-written laws have never resulted in unintended consequences and mission creep. According to Adams, the government is a good steward of citizens' rights and never acts out of malice, self-interest or pure stupidity. The government can be trusted to fight for citizens rather than allow the powerful to abuse a bad law for their own ends. Really. Trust us. This time we mean it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...
posted 23 days ago on techdirt
New Zealand is the latest country to "do something" about online trolling. A rather comprehensive anti-cyberbullying act passed its third reading in the Parliament by a significant margin (116-5) and is awaiting royal assent. The "Harmful Digital Communications Act" criminalizes plenty of speech, mainly through the use of broad wording. Principle 1 A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual. Principle 2 A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing. Principle 3 A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual. Principle 4 A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene. Principle 5 A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual. Principle 6 A digital communication should not make a false allegation. Principle 7 A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence. Principle 8 A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual. Principle 9 A digital communication should not incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide. Principle 10 A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Violating these principles could result in a two-year prison sentence. Encouraging someone to take their own life could result in an additional year in prison, even if no suicide attempt is made. A quick glance at the principles reveals several flaws. First off, journalists are going to have a hard time avoiding disclosing "sensitive facts about an individual." While the courts are obliged to weigh the public interest during enforcement of this act, it sets a very low bar for those who wish to file complaints. And while deliberating this aspect, courts may issue interim orders to take down "offending" material until the matter is resolved. That's just one aspect that chills speech. Lowering the bar for "harm" to "serious emotional distress" is another. The wording hints at objectivity with "reasonable person" but also asks the "reasonable person" to act as an empathetic proxy for the person filing the complaint. Principle 10 fortunately limits itself to targeted individuals, rather than criminalizing the denigration of entire groups. Ignorance shouldn't be criminalized. There's far too much of it in the world, but putting people in jail for being racist, sexist or bashing their least-favorite religion does nothing to change the minds of those involved and will needlessly harm the lives of people who are far more stupid than dangerous. On top of this, the new law would add additional responsibilities for social media platforms and site owners. They are invited to apply for New Zealand-specific "safe harbors," but these only provide them temporary immunity from prosecution. Once the court order arrives, platform/site owners are obliged to remove the offending post(s). Failure to do so puts the site owners in line for $50,000 fines and/or prison terms. So, it's not really a "safe harbor." All it does is prevent the person filing the complaint from going after the platform/site first, rather than the person actually posting the offending content. The arguments for the passage of the bill were the expected ones. Legislator Jacqui Dean admitted there were concerns about the new law -- especially considering there were plenty of laws on the books already to deal with a majority of the offenses (defamation, harassment, etc.), but still felt more was needed because children. There have been many thoughtful contributions on this Harmful Digital Communications Bill. I do acknowledge that it is a legislative response that some view as impinging on freedom of speech and perhaps might be too heavy-handed. What I would say is that the protection of our young people in particular—their protection from cyber-bullying—is so very important that I think this bill is a very good step, and I commend it to the House. This argument -- from Deputy Leader Tracey Martin -- is particularly horrifying, especially considering her earlier statement that the internet's mutating "threats" are the reason new legislation is needed. Martin thinks there should be a clear delineation between those who receive the "public interest" exemption and those who don't, despite her previous acknowledgment that the entire situation remains in a constant state of flux. Ms Ardern addressed the question of whether—there was conversation at the select committee—bloggers were really “media”. I would make this statement: media can certainly be bloggers; bloggers cannot, and should not, ever be considered as media. The media has actually taken training. They have criteria. They have boundaries that they work inside of, and they can be held accountable inside of them. Anybody who wants to set up a blog and just vent their opinion should not be considered media. So with regard to that, I would hope—and I know it was pushed by certain members of the blogging society at the select committee—that the line maintained by media, true media, is maintained. Some of the worst arguments appeared outside of the legislation. This editorial, written by Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, hits all the speech tropes in three sentences. It's worth remembering that no right or freedom is absolute. Just as you can't scream fire in a crowded theatre, nor should you be allowed to threaten someone online, incite people to kill themselves on social media, or share revenge porn with the world, and claim that as your democratic right. Our rights can, and should be, subject to reasonable limits where demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The only mitigating factor in Adam's "free speech is more about what's not allowed" argument is that her view comes from the viewpoint of a New Zealander, rather than someone deliberately misreading the First Amendment. One of the few to vote against the bill (and against his own party) was Gareth Hughes, who made several good points during his address, starting with the bill's creation of two sets of laws that treat online and offline very differently. In my time here I have seen some very badly drafted tech legislation. We have seen the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act and the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act, or the “Skynet Act”, where badly conceived law came together with under-informed legislators, all with the best of interests, to pass terrible laws. So, for the first time in my parliamentary career, today I am casting a separate vote from my party, because I believe this law, this bill, is the wrong solution to the right question, which is “What do we do about cyber-bullying?”. Ultimately, this bill is overly broad, it risks limiting our freedom of expression and the important role of the media in our democracy, and it introduces a precedent that one thing can be legal offline but illegal online… I believe there are better ways to go about reducing cyber-bullying, such as the approved agency and funding education, without making a new criminal offence just for the digital world. [...] As Tim Watkin has pointed out, this law applies not just to bloggers but to journalists as well. He points to the ludicrous situation that a public interest story of, say, the corrupt MP, as we have given the example of before, who is subject to harm by the story, would be perfectly legal if it were published in a newspaper but punishable if posted on that media organisation’s website or transmitted electronically. David Seymour (Leader - ACT) noted the bill's "do something" origin and its overall awfulness. This bill is a case study in bad lawmaking. All of the elements of bad lawmaking exist in this bill. Not since we microchipped dogs in the hope that it would prevent a particularly egregious dog event has there has been such a bad law before this House. First, you had the high-profile and really quite disgraceful event. Then you had the discovery that in actual fact the laws in place had not been properly used by the agency in place to prevent the harms that occurred there. Then you had the knee-jerk reaction from the politicians, who said: “We must do something. This bill is indeed something; therefore, we will pass this bill, and it must be the right thing to do.” [...] What exactly does this bill do? Well, the first thing that it does is introduce a set of communications principles that might be appropriate if we were about to embark on a school camp, but which are not appropriate for the governance of 4.5 million people, many of whom are adults—and the children among them are the responsibility of adults. It says that you cannot offend somebody. So, for instance, would Flight of the Conchords’ song Albi the Racist Dragon be offensive if it was communicated online? Well, we are told, in defence of the “badly burnt Albanian boy” from last week, that of course this law would never be used in such a silly and un-sensible way. That is the problem with the law: it gives no protection. We are supposed to rely on the beneficence of the enforcers. That is bad lawmaking. Seymour also pointed out the "government knows best" condescension being displayed toward opponents of the broadly-worded bill. The pace of development on the internet is so rapid that, in actual fact, the incentive for the hosts of content is to give good experiences. If it is true that harm is being done, then the one person who has both the incentive and the means to rapidly mitigate that harm is the host, whether that be Facebook, or Ask.fm, or Twitter, or whoever else hosts the website. For the same reason that harmful digital communication becomes exponentially greater, those people have the tools to mitigate it. But you do not hear that from the Government or from the supporters of this bill. There is a moralising tone from them: if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear; that these vague principles will not be enforced for silly reasons, you understand; that as long as you are sensible and you are doing nothing wrong, it will not be used against you. This mentality is fully on display in the Minister of Justice's op-ed: Some commentators claim the bill's measures erode freedom of expression and prevent genuine media reporting. These fears are unfounded and I'm confident the bill has struck the right balance between preventing real harm and preserving valuable free speech. Critics have hysterically claimed it will muzzle journalists from pursuing stories and restrict cartoonists from publishing satire. This is simply untrue. In defense of her claims, the Minister points at the bill's intentions. The bill aims to stop and prevent the circulation of online abuse, not curtail people's freedoms of expression or suppress the media. As if broadly-written laws have never resulted in unintended consequences and mission creep. According to Adams, the government is a good steward of citizens' rights and never acts out of malice, self-interest or pure stupidity. The government can be trusted to fight for citizens rather than allow the powerful to abuse a bad law for their own ends. Really. Trust us. This time we mean it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

Read More...