posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Five Years Ago Last week, we revisited the Lily Allen incident of 2009. This week, we round that memory off with the most entertaining part of its legacy: Dan Bull's musical open letter, Dear Lily. Also in 2009 this week, we saw the debut of the North Face/South Butt dust-up, watched Disney prevent a Disney appreciation club from watching Disney movies, and discovered some complications in the rights battle over Spider Man. The US prosecutor from the Lori Drew case, ridiculously, started looking to appeal the ruling, while at the same time Congress was showing reluctance to pass any anti-cyberbullying laws. Meanwhile, we talked about the importance of establishing software ownership rather than software licensing, and later in the week were pleased to see the court in a case involving Autodesk do just that by defending the right of first sale. Ten Years Ago This week in 2004 we had a pair of DMCA-related rulings. One was good: Diebold was found guilty of abusing the DMCA to take down sensitive documents showing the company was aware of security flaws in its system. The other was not so good: some developers who reverse-engineered a game server were ruled to have violated the DMCA despite no clear act of infringement on their part. Tech panic was in full-swing, with the media telling one-sided stories about internet use at work, other media worrying about iPod use at work, and cops attacking people for using cellphones. But there was plenty of tech optimism happening too. It was also this week in 2004 that we first heard Tim Berners-Lee speak out about patents and the harm they do to the web. Meanwhile, SpaceShipOne made the first of the two flights that would win it the X Prize. Fifteen Years Ago Once again, this week in 1999 was a simpler time. The concept of paid product astroturfing online was new and uncertain. Traditional retailers were still struggling to get online, and Nike had just brought its products to the web.. Amazon started letting people set up their own stores for the very first time. Online bill payment was still somewhat arcane. We were still surprisingly tepid about smartphones. Biodegradable plastic grown from crops was brand new. And, for some reason, you could trade stocks with a Sega Dreamcast. Sixty-Three Years Ago On September 28th, 1951, CBS released the first commercial color television in an interesting moment from the history of innovation. CBS had been actively pursuing color broadcasts, and was making them available in many US cities, but it had a problem: nobody had color receivers, manufacturers didn't want to build them, and advertisers didn't want to pay for color ads when nobody would see them. So the network bought a TV manufacturer and starting building the sets itself. It was an utter failure, with only 200 sets ever shipped, only half those sold, and the operation shut down in less than a month. Three years later, NBC would do a much better job of getting America hooked on color TV. BONUS: Nine-Hundred And Forty-Eight Years Ago It's not exactly a Techdirt topic, but it has to be mentioned, because if you can so much as read this article, then this event impacted you. September 28th marked the beginning of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who you ask) in 1066, just three days after Harold Godwinson defeated the viking invaders at Stamford Bridge. The war lasted just over two weeks, and the Norman victory would set the course of all English culture (and its offshoots) forever, shape the English language, and consign the Anglo-Saxon kings to history. It's almost impossible to imagine the last thousand years of Western history (and much beyond) had the invasion never happened, or ended differently. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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My mind has been taken up by a lot of design projects lately, so for this week's awesome stuff we're looking at some excellent graphic design from the world of crowdfunding. Historic Robotic Spacecraft Though the majority of what we write about here at Techdirt is earthbound technology, I know there are plenty of space enthusiasts in our audience. If you're among them, you might like the idea of decorating your walls with elegantly designed posters of famous robotic spacecraft. The ultimate plan for this project is a series of three, but so far just one has been unveiled depicting the Voyager probe. If the others are as visually well-conceived and composed, it will be a very attractive set. New York City Subway Signs New York City's subway signage is some of the most identifiable graphic design work out there. Like all good functional design, the vast majority of people who see it make no conscious notice of it, but they would also instantly recognize it anywhere in the world and immediately notice it if it changed. These handmade wooden replica NYC transit signs let you bring some of New York's iconic visual language into your home. And for those who want to dig deep into the design philosophy of the world's most famous signs, there's another Kickstarter project selling a reissue of the 1970 NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual. The Art Of Sandwiches Well, this one's just for fun. The premise is pretty random and silly, but these Art of Sandwiches posters are definitely attractive. The decision to make them available without text was a smart one, and they'd make a nice set — unfortunately, as is often the case with international Kickstarter projects, the price for people outside (in this case) Australia is a touch prohibitive. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Say what you want, but one thing has become abundantly clear since the whole Ferguson debacle began: the people running and policing that city aren't interested in your concerns. Throughout this entire process, the city and its police force have obfuscated the facts and people involved in the shooting of a civilian, they have cynically released information and videos when it suits them, and they've treated journalists covering the story with the kind of contempt they normally reserve for their own constituents. And now, utilizing a method previously beta-tested by both local and federal law enforcement agencies, they've decided the best way to respond to the ongoing outcry is to try to charge insane amounts for FOIA requests. Officials in Ferguson, Missouri, are charging nearly 10 times the cost of some of their own employees' salaries before they will agree to turn over files under public records laws about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The city has demanded high fees to produce copies of records that, under Missouri law, it could give away free if it determined the material was in the public's interest to see. Instead, in some cases, the city has demanded high fees with little explanation or cost breakdown. In one case, it billed The Associated Press $135 an hour — for nearly a day's work — merely to retrieve a handful of email accounts since the shooting. That fee compares with an entry-level, hourly salary of $13.90 in the city clerk's office, and it didn't include costs to review the emails or release them. Allow that to sink in for a moment and marinade in your brain juices: information that could be given for free if it was of public interest is instead being billed at ridiculously high rates. Does anyone seriously want to argue that more transparency out of the Ferguson government isn't in the public's interest? Of course not. This is all about intimidating journalists and trying to put roadblocks in front of likely damning information. Ferguson has a public relations problem in the truest form and their strategy appears to be to freeze out journalists trying to provide information to the public. That won't win them any friends. And don't think that this strategy is used rarely. The Washington Post was told it would need to pay $200 at minimum for its requests, including city officials' emails since Aug. 9 discussing Brown's shooting, citizen complaints against Ferguson officers and Wilson's personnel file. The website Buzzfeed requested in part emails and memos among city officials about Ferguson's traffic-citation policies and changes to local elections, but was told it would cost unspecified thousands of dollars to fulfill. Inquiries about Ferguson's public records requests were referred to the city's attorney, Stephanie Karr, who declined to respond to repeated interview requests from the AP since earlier this month. Through a spokesman late Monday, Karr said Missouri law can require fees but she didn't address why charges specific to the AP's request were nearly tenfold the lowest salary in the city clerk's office. Karr said searching emails for key words constitutes "extra computer programming" that can bring added costs. Searching emails by keyword now equals "programming?" Brilliant! Although I suppose it's not as egregious as suggesting shooting unarmed civilians equals "policing." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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All the money being poured into the NSA (under the cover of darkness) over the past several years is paying off. Taxpayers who helped fund the NSA's programs have the opportunity to pay even more money for the privilege of licensing the non-classified fruits of the agency's labor. So if you're looking to buy a tool to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone's touched your phone's SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn't available on the open market, try the world's most technologically advanced spy agency. It's called the Technology Transfer Program (TTP), under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they're swayed by an American company's business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out. There's actually no "transfer" going on here. Nearly everything in the catalog [pdf link] (with the exception of a few, decidedly unimpressive physical items near the back) is a license, and quite possibly a non-exclusive license at that. (Companies can lock other companies out, but not the government itself, and the catalog notes that licensees will have to relinquish sole control "within a reasonable period of time.") Should the NSA decide it can trust a company with its leftover inventions, it will have an opportunity to utilize stuff most companies don't really need or technology that's hardly state-of-the-art at this point. While some of this could be a potential starting point for bigger and better stuff, most of the offerings are leaving security/cryptology experts underwhelmed. [Bruce Schneier] was dismissive of the remarkability of the agency's cryptographical offerings. "It's not new, it's very old, a few decades," he said of one product, listed as a Cryptographic Efficient Elliptic Curve. "It's a way to get your door locks a little bit better. Does that change the value of your house? Kind of, not really," he said. "These are all pieces of plumbing. Plumbing has value, but this is one of the problems of patent law. Patents really overstate the value of plumbing, of technology. It's a little value, sure, but it's never gonna make or break a business." In some of the released tools, you can see the origins in bulk metadata/communications harvesting. One patented product automatically detects voices in audio recordings. Another deals with creating cryptographic key escrow accounts for "third parties" to access encrypted files. Various data visualization programs separate needles from haystacks, while multiple tools tackle the task of turning virtual reams of text into coherent summaries. While the NSA is following the spirit of the statute ordering the redistribution of government knowledge, it's probably the agency least likely to declassify anything groundbreaking. The best stuff still remains locked up. One also has to question the timing of this catalog release -- it's offered this service for years, but this is the first time the NSA has ever made the document public. Is this just another stab at rehabilitating its reputation, albeit one approached at a very oblique angle? Someone inside the NSA seems to think so. The Daily Dot relayed one NSA employee's claim to Schneier, that the TTP was a means of injecting federally-funded research back into the U.S. economy. Well, only if you take the most generous view of the NSA's scattershot collection of fine licensables. Schneier doesn't take this view. "Bullshit," he responded. “The NSA's not stimulating the economy. They just said that and it sounds good. They just made that up." No, it very definitely isn't stimulating the economy, at least not anywhere outside the Beltway. The damage the public disclosures have had on the private tech sector very much outweighs the potential income created by the NSA's mandated return of publicly-funded research and development -- a "return" that isn't a gift but a perpetual license and one that's only available to the companies the NSA chooses to work with. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Some folks want to suck out all the marrow of life, but apparently when it comes to fast food, it's much more expedient to just suck all the meat off the bones, grind it up with some other stuff, and fry it until it's a delicious golden brown. Chicken nuggets are popular with kids meals, and there are apparently various patented processes for cutting up chicken meat into innovative products. Here are just a few good nuggets on some fast food chicken items. What is a chicken nugget made of? An anecdotal analysis finds that some chicken nuggets (not McNuggets) are mostly fat (~56-58%), about 40-50% muscle meat, along with some bone fragments and breading and other bits. (And don't forget the BBQ sauce.) [url] McDonald's Canada took a film crew to document the process of making chicken nuggets. Did you ever notice that there are four distinct nugget shapes: the bell, the ball, the bow tie and the boot? If you want to see how the sausage nugget is made, check out the video. [url] KFC got on the boneless chicken wagon in 2013 to go after the 6 in 10 customers that say they prefer chicken meat without bones. Customers have to pay a little more to eat chicken without bones, so the convenience comes with a price. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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California governor Jerry Brown has just vetoed a bill that would add a warrant requirement for drone surveillance. In Brown's opinion, the demands of the bill surpassed what the Fourth Amendment actually requires. "This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances," the governor said in his veto message (PDF). "There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution." Rather than err on the side of the public's interests, Brown has come down on the side of law enforcement. Currently, only 10 states require warrants for law enforcement drone usage. California won't be joining them. Brown does have a point about public spaces and the Fourth Amendment. There's little practical difference between drone surveillance and other warrantless surveillance techniques that involve public areas. Police helicopters routinely fly over large cities. Why shouldn't drones? Just because drones can fly longer, follow closer (and more surreptitiously) and provide a more targeted view doesn't necessarily turn its surveillance into a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Just as taking pictures of a single person's license plate is not a violation of privacy, neither are the millions collected every day by automatic license plate readers. The solution here isn't necessarily warrant requirements, but it's worth a shot when there are so few options. Even though some states have managed to push through similar legislation, they're unlikely to survive legal challenges -- at least not in terms of the Fourth Amendment (mileage varies considerably with state constitutions). This is part of a push for more accountability from law enforcement, whose capabilities have advanced at a rate far surpassing its effort to keep the public informed of its activities. California law enforcement agencies, more often than not, are forced to relinquish information on newly-acquired surveillance technology. There's rarely an attempt made to consider the public's concerns before deploying. Drone purchases and deployments almost always lead policy-making by weeks or months. There needs to be more done to address privacy concerns than simply deferring to the "outside is public" argument. Government figures like California Senator Diane Feinstein and Justice Sotomayor complain about drone usage by the public, claiming they would hate to have a privately-operated drone flying "right outside their windows." But they defer to law enforcement discretion, somehow forgetting that whatever a privately-owned drone can do, a law enforcement drone can do -- including hovering outside a window. (Law enforcement officers suffer from similar rhetorical blind spots...) If private drones are going to be subject to several rules, so should law enforcement drones. There's no reason to assume law enforcement officers are better pilots or more inclined to avoid using the drones to invade someone's privacy. What a warrant requirement does is add a small layer of accountability: who is using it, where they're using it and why. This generates a paper trail that will help deter abuse. The Fourth Amendment may cover expectations of privacy and prevent unreasonable searches, but there's nothing similar demanding transparency and accountability from government agencies. At this point, drone usage by law enforcement agencies isn't an "if." It's a "when." The public's rights are being trimmed around the edges by law enforcement tech and that's what's prompting this sort of legislative pushback. The legal reasoning may be flawed but the underlying motivation isn't: police powers continue to expand while the public's rights continue to erode. There's an urge to reset this balance and it will sometimes manifest itself as unsound legal arguments. A good faith effort would be the embrace of warrants for drone usage. Anything that requires warrants also contains several exceptions to be used in emergency situations. This proposed law was no different. If time and/or public safety is a concern, the drones can be immediately deployed. Anything else can wait for a judge's signature. But this is the sort of proactive move very few will make. The city of Seattle tossed out its drones because of public concern, but it's a singular exception. That the drones ended up in a state where the governor has vetoed an attempt to force accountability into the system lies somewhere between irony and kismet. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Hotel WiFi sucks. If you do any traveling, you're aware of this. Though, from what I've seen, the higher end the hotel, the worse the WiFi is and the more insane its prices are. Cheap discount hotels often offer free WiFi, and it's generally pretty reliable. High end hotels? I've seen prices of $30 per day or higher, and it's dreadfully low bandwidth. These days, when traveling, I often pick hotels based on reviews of the WiFi quality, because nothing can be more frustrating than a crappy internet connection when it's needed. But, even worse than the WiFi in your room, if you're using the WiFi for a business meeting or event -- the hotels love to price gouge. And, it appears that's exactly what the Marriott-operated Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville did. Except, the company went one step further. Thanks to things like tethering on phones and MiFi devices that allow you to set up your own WiFi hotspot using wireless broadband, Marriott realized that some smart business folks were getting around its (absolutely insane) $1,000 per device WiFi charges, and just using MiFi's. So, Marriott then broke FCC regulations and started jamming the devices to force business folks to pay its extortionate fees. In response, the FCC has now cracked down and Marriott has agreed to pay a $600,000 fine for the practice, while also promising to continue to make sure it doesn't make use of jammers and to update the FCC on "compliance" every three months for the next three years. The FCC found out about all of this because a customer sent in a complaint -- though its unclear if the customer just figured it out by themselves, or if some employee at Opryland stupidly admitted to the hotel's practices.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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A few days ago, we wrote about the CIA redacting information regarding the price it paid for a single Amiga computer back in 1987. After such news reports came out, the CIA admitted that this was an error and shouldn't have been redacted. Of course, the only reason the documents with that information came out in the first place was because of the efforts of former CIA agent Jeffrey Scudder, who had come across a bunch of classified documents internally that he realized should no longer be classified. Based on that, he filed a FOIA request for those documents -- leading the FBI to come after him and end his CIA career (despite his actions being entirely legal). It's hard not to see all of that as evidence that the CIA has a pretty serious overclassification problem. But don't tell that to the CIA. A newly (yes) declassified report from the CIA's Inspector General reveals that they could not find a single example of overclassification by the CIA. None. Nada. The CIA has a perfect score, apparently. They do admit to finding errors in how some information was recorded, but not a single case of overclassification: If you can't see the image, the key part is: We found no instance of over-classification in the sample of [REDACTED] finished intelligence reports that we reviewed Admittedly, the number of reports reviewed is classified here, so perhaps the Inspector General just reviewed one. Or zero. But, uh, wait a second... why is the number of reports reviewed classified in the first place? The number is listed as (b)(3) exemption, which tells you basically nothing. It just incorporates things exempted by other statutes. Basically, it's saying there's some law out there that forbids us from revealing this. Of course, one could argue that this seems like a case of overclassification... in the report that insists that the Inspector General couldn't find any examples of overclassification. Still, it seems like it should raise some alarm bells when they can't find a single example. It's like cheating students, with poor test-taking history, who suddenly get all the answers correct. It should make the teacher more skeptical. Cheating students often know to at least get one or two answers wrong on purpose, and it's fairly amazing that the CIA couldn't find any examples of overclassification just to keep the red flags from being raised. But, then again, who are we kidding? This is the CIA and it's never been concerned with red flags. It throws them up left and right and no one seems to care.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Via Sarah Burstein and the Design Law Blog, we discovered that just this week the US Patent Office granted a design patent... on a toothpick: You can see D714,495 here, if you'd like, or you can look at the full patent embedded below. It's important to note that this is a design patent, rather than a utility patent. Design patents are a lot more like trademarks than what many people think of as a regular "patent." But still. It appears the unique "design" element is that this toothpick has those lines up top. But I've had toothpicks like that many times in the past. It's hardly a new design. Just doing a super quick search, I came across this page, which includes this picture: But, thanks to the geniuses at the USPTO, anyone now selling a toothpick "substantially similar" to the design in the image above can be stopped and have to pay up.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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We recently wrote about district court judge Philip Gutierrez ruling against Sirius XM on the issue of streaming pre-1972 recordings. As we noted at the time, the ruling appeared to upset what was considered more or less a settled issue. Pre-1972 sound recordings are not covered by federal copyright laws, but rather by a hodgepodge of state laws (and common law), but those have been entirely focused on reproduction/distribution and not on public performance. But this ruling changed all that. Sirius XM, of course, has already made it clear that it's appealing the ruling, and on the other side, the victors in last week's ruling, Flo & Eddie, have already moved to sue Pandora as well. While I tried to express how much this ruling upsets what had been considered pretty much solid law, law professor Tyler Ochoa does an astounding job actually detailing the history and just what a big change this ruling is, calling it a "seismic" ruling on the scale of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Here's just a snippet, though you really ought to read the whole thing, detailing historical case law that this ruling totally upends: ...in the early days of radio, sound recording copyright owners also tried to use state law to restrict unauthorized broadcasts of sound recordings (which, as explained above, were not eligible for federal copyright).  In 1937, in Waring v. WDAS Broadcasting Station, 194 A. 631 (1937), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that state common law prevented the unauthorized broadcast of phonograph records (when the legend “Not Licensed for Radio Broadcast” was printed on the records); but in 1940, in RCA Mfg. Co. v. Whiteman, 114 F.2d 86 (2d Cir. 1940), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Learned Hand, held that common-law copyright prevented only the duplication of a sound recording, and that sale of phonograph records exhausted any common-law property right to prevent the unauthorized broadcast of the recording (notwithstanding the same restrictive legend).  The Supreme Court denied certiorari, which effectively meant that broadcasters did not have to pay royalties to sound recording copyright owners to play their records on the radio.  (Broadcasters still had to pay royalties to musical work copyright owners, under federal copyright law.) ... when sound recordings were added to the federal copyright act in 1972, Congress likewise limited the exclusive rights that were provided to sound recording copyright owners. Authors of most copyrightable works receive five exclusive rights: the right to reproduce the work, to adapt or prepare derivative works based on the work, to publicly distribute copies of the work, to publicly perform the work, and to publicly display the work. But broadcasters had enough lobbying power to block any action in Congress if it required them to pay more royalties. As a result, Congress gave sound recording copyright owners only the right to reproduce and distribute copies of the sound recording, and to prepare derivative works (by electronic manipulation of the sounds recorded, not by imitation or simulation). Congress did not give sound recording copyright owners any right to publicly perform their works. (The policy argument was that radio airplay served as free advertising for the sale of phonograph records.) In other words, contrary to what you'll hear today from the record labels and copyright maximalists, this ruling was not obvious or about Sirius XM, Pandora and others ripping off artists. This was actually about them upending what had been considered completely settled law. It was only in 1995 that Congress first established that copyright had any sort of "public performance" exclusivity -- and then only for post-1972 recordings (remember, the recording industry itself has fought quite hard to exempt pre-1972 sound recordings from other aspects federal copyright law) and only on digital streaming. So, to argue that pre-1972 state and common law somehow was intended to cover such a public performance right is almost impossible to fathom. Yet that's what the court ruled. And the impact could be immense. Beyond just Sirius and Pandora, it could hit a lot of others as well. In a big way, in part by undermining the very foundations of the DMCA safe harbors. The ruling is a huge victory for sound recording copyright owners, which can use the ruling not only to negotiate higher negotiated rates for public performance of pre-February 15, 1972 sound recordings, but may also use such older recordings as leverage for negotiating higher rates for post-February 15, 1972 sound recordings. (Such negotiation tactics might be deemed to be copyright misuse, but it is unclear whether state law will recognize this federally-recognized defense.) Moreover, nothing in the decision limits the state-law violations to public performance by means of digital audio transmission, so the decision gives sound recording copyright owners the general public performance right in pre-February 15, 1972 sound recordings that they have always craved, but that was previously denied to them under federal law (and was assumed not to exist in state law under Whiteman). That means that traditional AM/FM broadcasters and television broadcasters, who are expressly exempt under federal law with respect to post-February 15, 1972 sound recordings, can expect to be sued next. Sound recording copyright owners can also use the ruling to go after internet service providers. Section 512 of the federal Copyright Act provides that internet service providers are not liable for infringements committed by their users, so long as the service provider promptly complies with the “notice-and-takedown” provisions of that section. But because Section 301(c) states that pre-February 15, 1972 sound recording copyrights are not preempted by the federal act, sound recording copyright owners have been suing internet service providers under state law, arguing that service providers are liable for reproduction and electronic distribution of pre-February 15, 1972 recordings under state law, and that the limitation of liability provided by federal law does not apply. Existing court decisions so far are split, with the New York Appellate Division holding that Section 512 does not apply to pre-February 15, 1972 sound recordings, because of the express terms of Section 301(c); while the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has held that Section 512 does apply to pre-February 15, 1972 sound recordings, notwithstanding Section 301(c). In the meantime, Ochoa notes, expect "oldies" to start disappearing from lots of different services as companies seek to limit their liability. Funny how yet another copyright ruling is likely to make music even more scarce.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For many years, we've written about questionable activities by the Olympics, usually focusing on the organizations insanely aggressive approach to intellectual property, which could be summed up as "we own and control everything." Yes, the Olympics requires countries to pass special laws that protect its trademarks and copyrights beyond what standard laws allow. Of course, this is really much more about control and money. It's simply shining a light on just how corrupt the whole Olympic setup is. For decades, the Olympics has tried to hide this basic truth, and it has always been able to get various cities and countries to actively compete to suffer through the Olympics requirements, often with promises of big money in tourism and local business as a result. But it looks like gig may be up. As Dan Wetzel notes, it appears that almost no one has any interest in hosting the 2022 Olympics. The only active attempts are Beijing (which is 120 miles from a mountain suitable for skiing) and Almaty Kazakhstan. All the other credible players have bailed out: Certainly not Oslo, Norway, not even at the bargain rate of an estimated $5.4 billion in a nation of just five million people. It once wanted desperately to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and its bid was so perfect that it was considered the favorite to win. Then the country held a vote earlier this year and 55.9 percent of Norwegians opposed. Wednesday the Norwegian government effectively pulled the bid. Norwegians are known for the ability to cross country ski really fast and being so friendly they beg visitors to come experience their picturesque nation. Since this involved the IOC however, they decided against having visitors come experience their picturesque nation to watch them cross country ski really fast. They aren't alone. Previous finalist Krakow, Poland, saw 70 percent voter opposition and pulled its application. A majority felt the same way in Germany and Switzerland, killing bids in Munich and St. Moritz respectively. In Sweden the majority party rejected funding the proposed games in Stockholm. Plenty of other countries didn't even bother thinking about it. As Wetzel points out, basically the only two countries interested are authoritarian regimes: Essentially the only places interested in hosting the 2022 games are countries where actual citizens aren't allowed a real say in things – communist China and Kazakhstan, a presidential republic that coincidentally has only had one president since it split from the old USSR in 1989. To sum it up: Essentially the entire world has told the IOC it's a corrupt joke. Don't hold back: The IOC has billions of dollars laying around and billions more coming because to most people the Olympics is just a television show and the ratings are so high that the broadcast rights will never go down. The IOC doesn't pay the athletes. It doesn't share revenue with host countries. It doesn't pay for countries to send their athletes. It doesn't lay out any construction or capital costs. It doesn't pay taxes. It basically holds caviar rich meetings in five star hotels in the Alps before calling it a day. That and conduct weak investigations into corruption charges of the bidding process, of course. "No evidence uncovered" is on a win streak. It's a heck of a racket. Except now the racket may be ending. Except for China and Kazakhstan. Wetzel's conclusion is spot on: So China or Kazakhstan it is, the last two suckers on earth willing to step up to this carnival barker. One lucky nation will win. The other will host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Olympics are from another era -- one of top down, "we control and own everything while paying none" variety. We've seen those types of businesses failing in lots of other arenas -- and now it may be happening to the Olympics as well.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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If you've paid attention to anything tangentially related to technology news over the past couple of weeks, you're probably familiar with "bendgate", the feverish reaction to the realization that Apple's newest iPhone 6 Plus includes the feature of a bending case if you accidentally sit on it or something. As an Android loyalist, these reports have been an endless source of entertainment thus far, but even that has now been trumped by Apple's reaction to the issue. Apparently the company has decided that the best response to a technology news organization's reporting on the bendy Apple phones is to threaten to freeze that publication out of future bendy phones and likely-bendy Apple events. Computer Bilde, a German site, put up a video showing the new iPhone bending and reporting on it. That's when they received a call from a local Apple guy. The German PR department of the company reacts in a disturbing way: Instead of answering the questions about why the iPhone 6 Plus is so sensitive, a manager called COMPUTER BILD and told us, that COMPUTER BILD will not get any testing devices and no invites to official events any more. How very Apple of them. It apparently is time to remind Apple that it makes products. It is not the corporate embodiment of Judge Smails threatening to keep honest reporters out of its country club. This idea that journalists who report to the public about very real issues with Apple products should no longer get access to reporting on Apple products is a strategy doomed to failure. Once the word is out that only favorable reports on Apple products are allowed, then nobody is going to trust the reports any longer. That means less sales, since people won't trust the information on the products they'll be receiving. And it won't even stop the independent reviews, any way. Computer Bilde made the point nicely in an open letter to Tim Cook. Dear Mr. Cook: Is this really how your company wants to deal with media that provide your customers with profound tests of your products? Do you really think that a withdrawal of Apple’s love and affection could have an intimidating effect on us? Luckily we do not have to rely on devices that Apple provides us with. Luckily, a lot of readers are willing to pay money for our magazine to keep us independent. So we are able to buy devices to do our tests anyway. Even devices of manufacturers that seem to fear COMPUTER BILD’s independent judgement. Even if we are quite dismayed about Apple’s reaction, we won’t give up our principles: We will continue our incorruptible tests that have the same high reputation in the german media-landscape as Apple has for its products. So far. We congratulate you to your fine new generation of iPhones, even if one of them has a minor weakness with its casing. But we are deeply disappointed about the lack of respect of your company. Nice attempt at strong-arming the press, Apple. Too bad it will accomplish nothing except to build distrust of your brand. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Techdirt has written before about so-called "fat finger" errors in the world of finance, where traders mistype and end up buying or selling huge quantities of stocks, often causing major losses to their employers. The London Evening Standard has a new fat finger story, but one with a couple of interesting twists: Share trades worth more than the size of Sweden’s economy had to be cancelled in Tokyo today after what is believed to be the biggest “fat finger” error on record. It is thought to be the most extreme example of a trader in financial markets inputting hopelessly wrong figures while working under intense pressure. The identity of the trader is not yet known. Orders for shares in 42 major Japanese companies, including household names such as Toyota, Honda, Canon and Sony, totalling 67.78 trillion yen (£381 billion [$600 billion]), were overturned, according to the Japan Securities Dealers Association. Naturally, the most striking feature of this particular fat finger is its size: $600 billion, bigger than Sweden's economy ($552 billion). The second unusual aspect is that this error cancelled sales by mistake, rather than make them. That was fortunate for the company concerned, since it probably limited the damage caused. But even more than for the cases we've written about in the past, the fact that a single trader was able to make a mistake on this extraordinary scale, and that the system did not block or even query it in any way, suggests that the trading software is appallingly designed and the management dangerously lax. The fear has to be that, without robust systems in place to stop such actions, one day a fat finger might not simply cause a company to lose a big chunk of money, but take out an entire country's economy -- or even trigger the meltdown of the world's financial system. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
A few months back, we wrote about the ridiculous story in which Duke University, ostensibly a higher-learning establishment, sued the John Wayne Estate, claiming that its "Duke Bourbon" product might somehow confuse brown-liquor drinkers into thinking that the school produced the product. This, despite the logo for Duke Bourbon including an image of John Wayne and nobody ever defaulting to thinking that a university was going to start making and marketing its own liquor. And now, with the John Wayne Estate suing for a declaratory judgment, the California court in which the claim was brought has essentially punted on the issue by using a procedural evaluation over jurisdiction. The judge applied what's known as the “effects test," which measures whether a defendant acted in a way that was wrongful and expressly aimed at affecting California and whether harm was likely to be suffered in the state. Here, Judge Carter says that Duke was aware of John Wayne Enterprises's presence in the state, but that there was no showing how Duke purposefully directed its conduct at California by filing an opposition to trademarks in Virginia. The judge added that other than one Nebraska case, "there is no basis for JWE’s contention that a defendant’s actions to protect its intellectual property rights in an administrative proceeding constitute the type of harm contemplated under the 'effects test.'" The decision may technically make sense, but damn if it wouldn't be nice for the judge to instead have spent a half an hour laughing directly in the face of Duke University's lawyers before lighting all of their paperwork on fire instead. The entire attempt to block the trademark of a bourbon by the university borders on insane. That this crap will have to go back into a different court before eventually being tossed out is too bad. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
The space race to get people to the moon and other destinations in our solar system has pretty much stalled. But a few billionaires and some really passionate hobbyists are trying to build rockets that will get people off our planet (with wildly varying success). Suborbital flights are difficult, but they're not really enough to get some serious space exploration going again. Still, we gotta start somewhere, right? Here are just a few projects that could get people into outer space on the cheap. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to build a spacecraft that can take a human passenger to an altitude of about 60 miles up. It takes two rocket scientists. Plus, a lot of crowdfunding and volunteers to get Copenhagen Suborbitals into a DIY space race on a shoestring budget. [url] Mars One may be a one-way suicide mission to Mars, but the project is still making an investment in getting its life support systems to work. Paragon Space Development Corp will design the life support systems, but Paragon's previous experience includes Biosphere 2. Uh, maybe work out the bugs in a totally enclosed system on Earth before making the jump to Mars? [url] Elon Musk is aiming to get a Mars settlement going as an insurance policy for the human race. Musk also estimates that it would take at least a million settlers to make a viable Mars colony, and even with that many people, each person's productivity would have to be incredibly high. [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
More law enforcement officials are coming forward to express their dismay at Apple's and Google's decision to encrypt cellphones by default. And the hysteria seems to be getting worse. As was recently covered, FBI director James Comey stated that no one was above the law, while failing to realize there's actually no law preventing Apple or Google from doing this. The chief of the Chicago police went even further: “Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” said John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.” Now, Washington DC's police chief, Cathy Lanier (who we've praised previously for her implementation and enforcement of a tough [on cops] citizen recording policy) is echoing Escalante's ridiculous statement. “This is a very bad idea,” said Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, in an interview. Smartphone communication is “going to be the preferred method of the pedophile and the criminal. We are going to lose a lot of investigative opportunities.” First off, law enforcement rarely ever encounters encryption. These facts are borne out by the US Courts' annual statistics on warrant requests. That they'll encounter it more often from now on has nothing to do with the scary stories they've been telling to justify their collective freakout. Those criminals didn't use it, for the most part. And if they did, it was circumvented nearly 100% of the time. Second, implying that pedophiles are suddenly going to start buying iPhones/Androids is a non-starter. Plenty of encryption options already exist and most pedophiles and criminals already own cellphones. Police have captured plenty of criminals and pedophiles without cracking encryption. See "first off" above. Third, and this is where the irony sets in, Lanier's department is a big fan of encryption. From 2011: D.C. police became one of the latest departments to adopt the practice [encrypting police radio communications] this fall. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said recently that a group of burglars who police believe were following radio communications on their smartphones pulled off more than a dozen crimes before ultimately being arrested and that drug dealers fled a laundromat after a sergeant used his radio to call in other officers — suggesting that they, too, might have been listening in. "Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people — and especially criminals — to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere," Lanier testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing this month. "When a potential criminal can evade capture and learn, 'There's an app for that,' it's time to change our practices." Journalist wondered what sort of impact this decision would have on public safety, if only certain individuals were allowed to hear as-it-happens discussions of dangerous events. All the cops could think about was the ones that got away. Now the encryption's on the other end and the police are using both the public safety argument and counting their escaped criminals before they've actually escaped justice. I guess encryption only works for the government. All others need not apply. Lanier's statement -- combined with the DCPD's encrypted transmissions -- means she only wants to encrypt the communications of the department's "pedophiles and criminals." Now, going back to James Comey complaining about Apple and Google being above the law. Nothing that exists can legally prevent them from providing this encryption to their customers… at least for now. Surfing high on a wave of hysteria, former FBI Counsel Andrew Weissman has arrived to push for exactly that: new laws. “They have created a system that is a free-for-all for criminals,” said Weissmann, a law professor at New York University. “It’s the wrong balancing act. Having court-ordered access to telephones is essential to thwart criminal acts and terrorist acts.” Weissmann said there was little the Justice Department could do to stop the emerging policies. The companies are permitted to have encryption systems. The only way to ensure law enforcement access is for Congress to pass legislation, he said. The answer to a move prompted by the exposure of government overreach is… more government overreach. Weissman's horrendous idea will find some sympathetic ears in Congress, but not nearly as many as it would have found a few years ago. Any legislation prompted by law enforcement officials' iPedophile hallucinations will be decidedly terrible and loaded with negative side effects and collateral damage. And let's not forget that, since the beginning of criminal activity, there have always been panics about new technology placing ne'er-do-wells ahead of pursuing flatfoots. Here's one from 1922, pointed out by the ACLU's Chris Soghoian: Here's a text version: The automobile is a swift and powerful vehicle of recent development, which has multiplied by quantity production and taken possession of our highways in battalions, until the slower, animal-drawn vehicles, with their easily noted individuality, are rare. Constructed as covered vehicles to standard form in immense quantities, and with a capacity for speed rivaling express trains, they furnish for successful commission of crime a disguising means of silent approach and swift escape unknown in the history of the world before their advent. The question of their police control and reasonable search on highways or other public places is a serious question. The baffling extent to which they are successfully utilised to facilitate commission of crime of all degrees, from those against morality, chastity, and decency to robbery, rape, burglary, and murder, is a matter of common knowledge. Upon that problem a condition and not a theory confronts proper administration of our criminal laws. Law enforcement techno-panic. Dating all the way back to the "silent approach" of a 1920's-era internal combustion engine. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this year, we noted a somewhat ridiculous and cynical attempt by some German newspapers to demand payment from Google for sending them traffic via Google News -- and not just a little bit, but 11% of gross worldwide revenue on any search that showed one of their snippets. There were a few issues that we noted here: first, anyone not wanting to appear in Google News can quite easily opt-out. Second, Google News in Germany doesn't show any ads. Third, those very same newspapers were using Google's own tools to appear higher in search, suggesting that they certainly believed they were getting value out of being in Google's index. While German regulators rejected this request from the news publication industry group VG Media, Google has now decided to remove all news snippets from VG Media publications. It will still display results from those publications, but only in pure link/title format. Google claims it's doing this to "remove [the] legal risks" from ongoing legal action from VG Media, but it seems equally likely that this will also decrease the traffic to those publishers' websites. As we've discussed in the past, years back under similar circumstances in Belgium, Google simply removed the complaining publications from its index, only to have those publications freak out and beg to be let back in, exposing the hypocrisy of those publishers, insisting that what Google was doing was somehow unfair. Indeed, almost immediately, VG Media shot back that this is a form of "blackmail." According to David Meyer at GigaOm: "Google is discriminating in that they do not show snippets and thumbnails for publishers that made a claim, but they still show snippets and thumbnails from other publishers," he said. "They're trying to [apply] economic pressure." So... showing the snippets without payment is unfair and infringing. And, not showing the snippets is unfair and blackmail. Someone want to explain how any of this makes any sense other than that it's just petty corporate jealousy that Google has made a lot of money and those publishers want some of it for nothing? VG Media's spokesperson seems to honestly think that there's some sort of moral requirement for Google to both pay for and show snippets. Again from Meyer: The spokesman said VG Media was still in talks with the regulator about the case, and would add a complaint about this latest move. But how does this move harm consumers? I asked him. “Because they won’t have quality content in the future” if Google doesn’t pay for the snippets it uses, he claimed. But surely Google actually helps publishers by sending traffic their way — do the publishers really believe that anyone sees a sentence-or-two-long snippet in Google News and then goes “Eh, that’s enough, I don’t need to click through”? It's difficult to see how this is anything other than "We failed to develop our own business model, so the company that did ought to just give us money."Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this week, we wrote about the easy summary judgment issued against Grooveshark, in which the actions of the company's founders completely doomed the company in the ruling. As we noted, there were some interesting legal arguments for an operation like Grooveshark, but they were all completely undermined by the founders' actions. Jon Healey, over at the LA Times has a good take on all of this noting that the silver lining in all of this is that, at the very least, nothing in this ruling screws up the DMCA safe harbors. There were legitimate concerns -- as with many such cases -- that a court would get somewhat blinded by the "but piracy!" claims and twist things around to rule in a way that would screw up the DMCA safe harbors. However, by having founders whose activity was damning in its own right, the court didn't even have to get into a discussion of the DMCA at all. It wasn't even an issue. ...from the standpoint of other tech companies, at least the pain is going to be confined to Grooveshark and its founders, not to other companies that operate online platforms. Griesa's ruling is just the latest reminder that such companies can't hope to be protected by the DMCA if their own staff infringes. This was a very serious concern. As law professor Eric Goldman has pointed out repeatedly, there's real copyright law and file sharing copyright law, and the two aren't always related. Basically, because what many companies are doing feels wrong to some judges, they'll often twist and contort the law to call what's happening illegal, even if a straightforward reading of the statute would suggest otherwise. See the Supreme Court's ruling in the Aereo case as just one example. And there was a real risk here that the same sort of thing would happen. If Grooveshark's founders and employees were uploading a ton of music themselves, there was a fairly legitimate argument that the same sort of DMCA safe harbors that protect YouTube would also protect Grooveshark. But there was certainly a difference in feel. Many people just instinctively felt that Grooveshark's activities must be bad, without understanding the full legal arguments behind them. So, in some ways, while it's going to hurt Grooveshark's founders financially (big time) in this case, the fact that they were so over the top in their activities might actually be a good thing for the law. And, it might have some carry over benefits as well. If Grooveshark had prevailed, and the DMCA safe harbors held that the company was not directly liable for infringement done by its users, it would become Exhibit A from the legacy recording industry for why the DMCA safe harbors would need to be gutted by the upcoming attempt at copyright reform. So, in some ways, it appears that the ruling this week might actually be innovators and the DMCA safe harbors dodging a bullet.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
So, by now you've heard about the various hacked and leaked photos of various celebrities, often in varying states of undress. You knew that legal action was going to follow, but... did anyone actually expect Google would be the initial target? Lawyer to the stars Marty Singer has sent a very angry, but legally shaky letter to Google, claiming the company is facing a $100 million (or more) lawsuit in failing to remove the photos. There are some oddities here. First, Singer fails to name anyone he's actually representing, just generally referring to representing "over a dozen" of the victims. From there, Singer sort of implies copyright violations, but doesn't fully go there, perhaps because it's likely that the women in question don't hold the copyright on many of the photos. In at least one case -- involving photos of Kate Upton -- it's been widely reported that Google only removed about half of the links sent in a DMCA notice from Upton's boyfriend, baseball star Justin Verlander, leading to quite reasonable speculation that Google is properly complying with the DMCA in only taking down photos where it's clear there's a legitimate copyright claim. Singer's threat letter is all over the place, partially arguing copyright infringement, partially arguing failure to follow the DMCA safe harbors and partially arguing straight up morality concerning blocking links to the images or videos containing the images. Let's be clear: it's quite reasonable for those who were victims here to be upset and seek to do something about it, but it's bizarre to pin the blame on Google, which is merely the search engine that is helping to index what other people have done. Furthermore, while it may seem appealing to ask Google to make a pure moral judgment on whether or not it's "right" for these photos to be accessible, it has no legal obligation to do so, outside of the copyright question -- and Google has a pretty good history of showing that its copyright lawyers are very quick at taking down content that they truly deem infringing. Frankly, this threat seems like a lot more bluster than legal certainty. It wouldn't surprise me to see a lawsuit eventually result -- Singer likes being in the limelight -- but it's difficult to see on what legitimate legal basis a lawsuit would be filed. It's possible that Google may have missed a legitimate copyright-covered image from a takedown, but given its rather sophisticated handling of DMCA takedown notices, it seems unlikely that Google made many mistakes on this one. This just seems like a "Steve Dallas lawsuit" in which you go through all the options of who you can sue, and then just go after the big company because it's the one that has the money. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
There were reports a few weeks ago that the European Commission has reopened its antitrust investigation into Google. The main issue is how Google promotes certain (usually internal) results in so-called "answer boxes" in a way that may hurt other sites. We've been skeptical of the idea of European bureaucrats deciding what Google's search results should look like, but earlier this year, it appeared that a settlement had been reached in which Google would point to competitors' results in some cases. Against this backdrop, a few organizations, led by Yelp and TripAdvisor have created a somewhat fascinating site and tool called Focus On The User -- a play on Google's own core philosophy of "focus on the user and all else will follow." The site makes a very compelling argument that when Google is returning opinions (i.e., ratings) rather than factual answers, that it could do a much better job than just pointing to results from Google+. That is, if you do a search on "best restaurants in San Francisco" Google will show you results as rated by Google+ user reviews. The Focus on the User site shows that rather than just relying on Google's own data, users would benefit greatly if Google used its own search algorithm to pull in results from reviews elsewhere. In short, where you might see a box up top with seven to ten reviews (all linking to Google pages), Yelp and TripAdvisor are arguing that if you just used Google's "organic" search algorithm to find the most relevant review pages, consumers get a much better experience. And they have a fair amount of data to back that up, showing a greater number of clicks in such a box (which you can test yourself via the site). As noted above, the results are compelling. Using Google's own algorithm to rank all possible reviews seems like a pretty smart way of doing things, and likely to give better results than just using Google's (much more limited) database of reviews. But here's the thing: while I completely agree that this is how Google should offer up reviews in response to "opinion" type questions, I still am troubled by the idea that this should be dictated by government bureaucrats. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised this isn't the way Google operates, and it's a bit disappointing that the company doesn't just jump on this as a solution voluntarily, rather than dragging it out and having the bureaucrats force it upon them. So while the site is fascinating, and the case is compelling, it still has this problem of getting into a very touchy territory where we're expecting government's to design the results of search engines. It seems like Yelp, TripAdvisor and others can make the case to Google and the public directly that this is a better way to do things, rather than having the government try to order Google to use it.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
Blackout rules in sports: they're really stupid. Sure, perhaps there was some semblance of logic at one time behind the theory that if the stadium seats weren't filled, a team would pull a game off of television to encourage attendance, but the point is that in the age of massive television deals that are so much more important for a team or league's revenue compared with stadium sales, such that some teams try to fake their way into televising games, finding excuses to keep games off of the money-machine that is television is just plain silly. What you may not know is that the leagues have had a federal partner in blacking out games for quite a while in the FCC. While the NFL is really the only league left that is bothering with blackout rules, they've now lost that partner as the FCC has unanimously voted to repeal its support for sports blackouts. Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted 5-0 to repeal the sports blackout rule. Currently, the NFL will not allow broadcasters in a team’s home market to air games that have not sold out. This unfriendly practice is a matter of private contract between the league and the broadcasters, restricting what a sports fan can watch in the process. The FCC’s sports blackout rule prevented cable systems from carrying those games, as well. Although the repeal of the sports blackout rule is no guarantee that cable viewers will be able to see blacked-out games, now the NFL will have to arrange for blackouts solely through private contracting. The rule applies to any sports league, but only the NFL currently blacks-out games on local broadcast. This, believe it or not, is an important step. Not because it represents any dramatic shift in televising games in and of itself, but because it's the beginning of the lift on blackout restrictions in general. Television blackouts due to attendance are the low-hanging fruit when it comes to blackouts in general, but if this starts building momentum such that the growing masses of cable-cutters can finally get local sports games with their internet packages somewhere down the road, it's a big deal. Because, as I've argued before, the only dam holding back an overflowing river of cable-cutters is professional and college sports. Take that away and the river runs wild. This FCC vote, by the way, comes at the behest of a petition from Public Knowledge. The vote follows a petition Public Knowledge filed with its allies that argued the FCC should end this archaic rule as an unnecessary intervention in the marketplace on behalf of the NFL, one of the most powerful sports leagues in the world. The following statement can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge: “We’re pleased that our petition, the voices of sports fans and TV viewers, and the evidence has persuaded the FCC to act on the public’s behalf. Private parties should not be able to use government regulations as an excuse to limit fans’ access to their local teams." To be clear, local broadcasts can still be blacked out by the NFL, but that won't last much longer. Already there are rumblings from the NFL that indicate they realize that their product is far better consumed on television, and that fantasy football is pushing a larger consumption of multiple games throughout a day, rather than driving dedicated fans to a single stadium for the day. Good on the FCC for getting this right, even though they probably should have made this move a few decades ago.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 28 days ago on techdirt
With all the insane intellectual property court rulings we see 'round these parts, it's helpful to highlight when the courts manage to get things right. Trademark, in particular, is a source of frustration, given how often we see court rulings that err on the side of protectionism rather than liberal use of language. One Illinois court recently got things right in dismissing a suit against Coca-Cola over its Coke Zero drink, which was brought by Blue Spring Water, makers of a water product called Naturally Zero. U.S. District Judge John Lee said that the “Naturally Zero” label straightaway conveys to consumers that the product is without calories or additives, and therefore not suggestive enough to supply a trademark that is inherently distinctive for a beverage label. It's a distinction too often lost in trademark discussions: terms that are purely descriptive are not protected by trademark law. And it's easy to understand why. If I decide to buck the potato chip trend and make chips out of carrots, calling my product "Carrot Chips", that term isn't protected by trademark in the same way it would be if my product was called "Dark Helmet's Disgusto-Snack Of Gross." In addition to problems with the product name itself, there were also issues with Blue Spring Water's rather haphazard approach to its own product. It was later stated that even if the trademark was protectable, the Canadian company had abandoned the mark back in 2004 after failing to reintroduce the “Naturally Zero’ products onto the marketplace. The company had only produced about 500,000 bottles of the “Naturally Zero” water. In 2010 when Blue Spring began using the ‘Naturally Zero” label again, Coca-Cola had already introduced several “Zero” products onto the market including Coke Zero and Sprite Zero with trademarks. So nice try, silly water company. You're no match for a caffeinated powerhouse. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 29 days ago on techdirt
Paper airplanes have advanced quite a bit -- with added motors and smartphone controls or fancy new folding techniques that can be found all over the internet. Paper airplanes can become an incredibly complex hobby if you really have the motivation to take them to the next level. If you have the free time, try out some of these paper airplane projects. A paper airplane has flown 82 miles, launched from a helium balloon at a altitude of over 96,000 feet. We previously noted a paper airplane launched from 89,000 feet in 2010. [url] If you want to make a paper airplane fly "forever" indoors, you need a chair and a hair dryer and the patience to throw a paper airplane dozens of times until you get it just right. This video demonstrates the phenomenon of dynamic soaring which is used by birds and glider pilots to gain some energy under the right conditions. [url] There's a robot made from Lego that folds and "throws" a paper airplane. This is cool, but it might be cooler to see a robot arm try to beat the human throwing record of a paper airplane (226 feet, 10 inches). [url] If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 29 days ago on techdirt
A year ago, Techdirt wrote about a new unit set up by the City of London Police to tackle crimes involving intellectual monopolies. Since then, there have been a flood of posts about its increasingly disproportionate actions, including seizing domain names, shutting down websites, inserting ads on websites, and arresting someone for running an anti-censorship proxy. This makes a PCPro interview with the head of that unit, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Andy Fyfe, particularly valuable, since it helps shed a little light on the unit's mindset. It's well-worth reading the whole thing, but here's a key section: I'm very interested in having a debate in the media about how much policing of the internet people want. At the moment, there’s almost no regulation and no policing of the internet and that means members of the public -- such as you and I -- when we're trying to use it for shopping or to do internet shopping, actually don’t have anyone looking out for our interests to make sure that the people we’re dealing with at the other end of the line are legitimate or reasonable or looking after our data properly. In the end, that might mean that the internet becomes completely ungovernable, and that no one can dare operate on it at all, no one can dare do their shopping or banking on it. DCI Fyfe seems to be talking about a different Internet from the one most of us use, which is not just subject to regulations, but to multiple regulations because of the way overlapping jurisdictions are involved. Indeed, because of this, the Internet arguably has far more policing than the physical world. Moreover, in terms of "looking out for our interests," the Internet is unique in that its users are able to do that for themselves using online rating systems, reviews left on websites and general comments on social networks. Word about dodgy online operators gets out incredibly quickly, so in this respect, we are probably far safer online than in the physical world where such mechanisms are rarely available. However, it is true that there is a threat to online shopping and banking, but not the one DCI Fyfe is probably thinking about. Buying and selling goods, or transferring money online, is relatively safe thanks to strong encryption that is now routinely available for such operations. Or rather, it was relatively safe until spy agencies like the NSA and GCHQ decided to undermine the entire basis of these activities for their own purely selfish ends, and disregarding the collateral damage they would cause to general users of the Internet. Despite the harm caused by such actions, DCI Fyfe thinks a time may come when the government will want to interfere even more: That time might come, but it's how much interference the public will tolerate, because clearly a lot of people believe there should be no state interference at all on the internet, but that leads to lawlessness and anarchy. The growing crusade of DCI Fyfe's unit against online sites purely on the say-so of the copyright industry shows that he doesn't really care what "a lot of people" think about state interference. And when it comes to "anarchy and lawlessness," acting without court orders seems to fit that bill rather well. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 29 days ago on techdirt
We already discussed Eric Holder's absolute failure on issues related to the press and media, but a great article by Tim Wu in the New Yorker details how Holder's legacy is littered with him totally failing the digital world through a combination of ignorance, neglect and simply poor decision-making. Wu points to the prosecutions of both Chelsea Manning and Aaron Swartz as examples, noting Holder's awful response when asked about the Swartz prosecution: Holder himself did not run that prosecution, and cannot be blamed directly for it. But, in the aftermath of Swartz’s suicide, he was presented with an opportunity to step back and examine what had happened. He might have taken a careful look at how the Justice Department was enforcing the underlying law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which, as I and others have argued, is among the worst and most dangerous sections of United States federal law. If he had, he might have noticed that the Swartz prosecution wasn’t the first of its kind and wouldn’t be the last, and pushed for better enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors. Holder did not take that path—the kind of reflection, notably, that he would demand of the Ferguson police department. Instead, he blandly defended his prosecutors, and even testified before the Senate that prosecuting Swartz was “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.” In that moment, he lost a good deal of the tech community’s goodwill and respect. On the question of Ed Snowden and surveillance, Wu notes that Holder failed to uphold the Constitution in blocking the abuses, but rather appears to have signed off on them. Holder didn’t initiate the bulk collection of phone or e-mail records; nor did he run the N.S.A. But Holder, as the Administration’s top lawyer for half a dozen years, nonetheless bears responsibility for these gross and repeated violations of Constitutional principles. It is ultimately the Justice Department’s duty to stand up for the Constitution when other parts of government want to abandon it, and this Holder failed to do. There's more in the article as well, but the key point seems to be that Holder just seemed fundamentally unconcerned about digital rights, and that's a problem in an increasingly digital world: Mainly, in the end, Holder seems to have not truly grasped that our rights matter online as well as offline. He never appeared sensitive to the idea that having our e-mails read by the government can be as intrusive and as unpleasant as having government agents rifle through our desks. Whatever the reason, and even if his commitment to civil rights did not waver, his disregard for digital rights was blatant and painful for those who looked to and hoped for an Obama Administration that would become the much promised “tech Presidency.” The fact that the rumored "leading" choice to replace Holder is current Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the former top litigator for both the MPAA and RIAA -- who handled the lawsuits against Grokster, YouTube and Jammie Thomas, among others, doesn't exactly bode well that Holder's successor will be much of a champion of digital rights either. There are, however, some other choices on the table apparently, and it would be nice if future attorneys general actually recognized the importance of digital rights as well.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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