posted 25 days ago on techdirt
Last week at CES, I had the honor of "moderating" a panel on what was next for patent reform, that kicked off with a short speech from US Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle Lee, who notes that she's the first ever director of the Patent Office to attend CES (which is crazy). Before Director Lee was appointed to the full job, back when she was just the interim director, I noted that she was the first head of the patent office I'd ever seen who seemed to have a more accurately nuanced view of patents, and recognized how in some cases they could be harmful rather than helpful. She's continued to make that clear since taking over the top job full time, and you can see that in her speech. She, unlike so many in government jobs related to copyright or patents, actually pointed out the full Constitutional clause, and how patents need to be for the promotion of progress, and not just "to help inventors get paid." But Lee is a good politician and didn't say anything all that controversial on either side of the debate. The real fireworks came afterwards on the panel discussion itself, where my "moderation" consisted of asking a single question (other than asking the panelists to introduce themselves), after which the panel turned into a somewhat heated argument over the patent system in which I never had a chance to speak until the end when I had to cut things off. The question I asked: what is the one thing that you think most needs to be fixed in the patent system? Three out of the five panelists -- Kate Doerksen, Lee Cheng and Brian Mennell -- represented victims of patent trolls. Kate and Brian both have experienced the perils of being a small startup and getting hit with patent lawsuits that have the potential to destroy their businesses. You can read Kate's story here, in which she's being sued by a large company trying to keep her startup from competing altogether. It's even reached the point where Kate agreed to something of a deal with the devil: Erich Spangenberg. As we've discussed, Spangenberg, who was one of the most aggressive patent trolls, recently shifted his business into being a sort of reverse patent troll, where he makes deals with small companies like Kate's, taking an ownership stake in the company in exchange for "helping" the company deal with patent trolls, usually by seeking post-grant review to invalidate the patents being asserted against the startups. Mennell has the classic patent troll story of running a startup and getting hit by a patent troll that undermines the ability of the company to stay in business (and also notes that the Supreme Court's Alice decision made him lose a business method patent, though he doesn't seem to see that as problematic). Lee Cheng is Newegg's General Counsel, and someone we've covered for years as an aggressive fighter against patent trolls. And yet... down at the end of the panel row was Laurie Self, a top Qualcomm lawyer. Qualcomm has been a longterm fighter against patent reform -- which isn't all that surprising, as a big part of Qualcomm's business has been licensing its patents. Many people have argued that Qualcomm, in particular, has been the driving force behind blocking patent reform. It's funded think tanks and front groups pretending to "represent inventors." If you see a big patent conference where all of the speakers are basically in favor of expanding the patent system and against reform, there's a better than even chance that the top sponsor of the event is Qualcomm. And so it was little surprise that she presented herself as arguing for "the little guy" on the panel, despite the fact that Qualcomm is a $70 billion company Meanwhile, the concerns of the three actual representatives of small companies on the panel -- who are actually dealing with patent trolling on a regular basis -- were completely dismissed by Self. When Newegg's Cheng challenged Self to come up with a single specific example of how to stop abusive patent trolling, she came up with nothing, except ideas to expand the powers of patent holders to go after companies. Every time people brought up abuse, Self more or less threw up her hands and said "how can you possibly tell what's abuse and what's not" and so, the implication was: why even try to stop abusive trolling? The other representative on the panel was Rep. Darrell Issa, who among other things is the chair of the intellectual property subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, and thus a key person in actually moving forward with patent reform. And, if you watch the panel, you can see his visible frustration with Qualcomm and Self basically being a key player in holding up any progress on that front. He also revealed that, like the other three non-Qualcomm panelists, he too was a victim of a patent troll, back before he was in Congress. It's well known that Issa ran a successful car alarm business before going into Congress and holds a number of patents himself, but less known is the fact that his company was apparently sued by someone holding a ridiculous and vague expired patent. Issa pointed out, quite clearly, that Self was being very misleading in claiming that there was no way to determine what was abusive. He explained a variety of abusive practices, and noted how those specific practices could and should be targeted. Cheng similarly highlighted just how broken things are, and the total failure of Qualcomm to point out any way to deal with the trolls, instead focusing on ways to undermine earlier patent reform efforts. Issa also mocked Self's claim about Qualcomm not suing others for patent reform "in several years" noting that the company doesn't need to, because it just threatens companies with its giant patent portfolio and "like Clint Eastwood with 100 machine guns" tells companies that it'll find something that they must violate: The reason you haven't sued anyone is you have a huge bundle of patents, and you assert them all at once. And the question is, like Clint Eastwood, with a hundred machine guns, 'you might beat one bullet, but are you going to beat them all?' That versus individual pleading of specific claims, is one of the innovative parts of this bill. We want companies to have to say, specifically, what did you infringe, give it with some specificity, 'we've got enough patents, that you're going to infringe something, and if you go down this road of not taking a license, we're going to get you.' That kind of technological omnibus is pretty good when you've got A&T and Qualcomm and Apple and Broadcomm all trading patents. But for the startup, that cannot necessarily afford to buy a portfolio even if they believe they don't fall under it, it can be devastating. The whole panel is an interesting, if frustrating discussion -- and shows a big part of why patent reform still hasn't gone anywhere. Giant patent holding companies like Qualcomm are pretending that they "represent the little guy" and are doing everything possible to muddy the waters and block real reform that targets abuse.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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In late 2014, we wrote about a class action lawsuit filed against copyright trolling operation Rightscorp, which argued two things: (1) that the company's robocalling people's mobile phones accusing them of copyright infringement violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), because you're not allowed to robocall mobile numbers, and that (2) the use of questionable DMCA 512(h) subpoenas to discover accounts associated with IP addresses was "abuse of process." Rightscorp and co-defendant Warner Bros. got that second claim tossed for violating California's anti-SLAPP law. However, the robocalling/TCPA claim remained, and after bringing in a third party to help the two sides negotiate, it appears that they've reached a settlement agreement that has been presented to the judge for approval. According to the proposed settlement, the defendants will have to cough up $450,000, and members of the class (i.e., those who received Rightscorp robocalls to their mobile phones) can claim up to $100 each from the pool of money. Perhaps more interesting is that, so long as those class members sign an "Affidavit of Non-Infringement," then Righscorp promises not to pursue them for any copyright infringement claims. Apparently, this actually applies to members of the class who don't even make a claim for any money. Defendants will contribute $450,000 to the Settlement Fund. Each Qualified Class member who timely submits a claim may receive a payment of up to $100.00 subject to the following condition. The Settlement Agreement provides that Defendants will release any and all alleged claims or counterclaims for copyright infringement against Settlement Class Members who timely execute an Affidavit of Non-Infringement. The value of the total infringement releases is estimated to fall between $94.8 million and $19 billion in total statutory damages. That last number is a bunch of hogwash. It's just using the ridiculous statutory damages numbers to put a value on the promises to drop any copyright claims, but since Rightscorp never actually sues anyone, the statutory damages are meaningless. The idea behind it, though, is to show why the amount is lower than what the TCPA prescribes for violations of robocalling rules. Either way, this at least gets a bunch of folks out of Rightscorp's crosshairs. Rightscorp also promises to prevent future such robocalling, which may somewhat limit its ability to keep up its trolling operation. It's not clear who exactly is paying the $450,000. Even though Righscorp is the real culprit, the much bigger pocketed Warner Bros. Entertainment and BMG are both defendants as well, so it wouldn't surprise me to discover that the actual money comes from them. However, maybe it will make them think twice about associating with trolling lowlifes like Rightscorp. This isn't final yet, as the court still needs to approve it -- but courts generally approve these kinds of settlements just to get the cases off the docket. So unless someone raises serious issues with it, it's likely to come to pass.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Kentucky legislator John "Bam" Carney thinks social media might be getting a bit out of hand. His response? Prior Restraint: The Legislation. (via Slashdot) A bill assigned to the House Judiciary Committee would prohibit anyone who witnesses “an event that could reasonably result in a serious physical injury” from publishing information about that event on the Internet for at least an hour if their posting could identify potential victims. Violators could be fined $20 to $100 per incident. Exceptions are made for the news media, victims of the event and emergency responders at the event. See how many problems you can find in that two-sentence summary. Would posting video of a football game to Facebook violate this law? ("An event that could reasonably result in a serious physical injury.") How about a traffic stop? (Risk for physical injury again, obviously.) For that matter, is the law only violated IF a "serious physical injury" occurs or just when it could be the potential end result? Example: an automobile accident looks horrendous but everyone involved suffers only cuts and bruises. Does this fall on the right side of Carney's proposal? And that's before you get to the costs involved in tracking down a person who posted the illicit footage to hit them up for $20-100. If nothing else, a guaranteed money-loser like this should be tossed on P&L merits alone. The "one hour" blackout also poses a problem. Who determines when the countdown starts? Those issuing the tickets? The EMS crew (if any)? The victims (if any)? An official clock located at Carney's office? On top of that, there's the always sticky question about who is or isn't "media," as well as the attendant First Amendment issue that even "Bam" recognizes is a problem (but that somehow hasn't prevented him from offering up the bill in the first place). Of course, Carney has his reasons for crafting (a very generous depiction of the effort involved) this bill. Apparently, this isn't a stupid piece of legislation. It's actually an icebreaker. “It’s purely my intent to get a discussion going out there, asking people to be more respectful about what they put on social media,” Carney said. That's a hell of a way to have a "discussion:" tell someone to shut up and take money out of their wallet if they don't. The second half of his statement explains the copious amounts of "do something" dripping off his single-sheet proposal. “We’ve had some incidents, including one in my community, and I’d hate for anyone to learn about the loss of a loved one through social media.” Something happened to a neighbor or, more likely, a powerful constituent, who gave Carney an earful about today's social media being nothing more than 24-hour tabloid TV staffed by youthful miscreants waving around iThings. Pure speculation, but I'd be surprised if it's not in the same neighborhood as the truth. Something happened. People said something should be done. "Bam" Carney will do something. And here it is: SOMETHING. (1) Any individual who witnesses an event that could reasonably result in a serious physical injury as defined in KRS 500.080 shall not post any information identifying the potential victims on the Internet or other electronic media until at least one (1) hour has passed from the moment the event was first witnessed. (2) This section shall not apply to: (a) The injured individual; (b) Any member of the news media; or (c) Any emergency responder responding to the event. (3) Any individual who violates this section shall be fined not less than twenty dollars ($20) nor more than one hundred dollars ($100) for each offense. BE IT ENACTED THAT I'M GOING TO TEACH THE PUBLIC SOME MANNERS, DAMMIT. And, finally, one last voice offering clueless support of a bad bill -- this one belonging to another government employee: Tiger Robinson, Pulaski County Public Safety Director. “There have been times we’ve been pulling bodies out of cars and these people are standing there, snapping pictures on their phones to post on Facebook. It’s just not right.” Maybe so. But attempting to herd people towards a subjective level of decency can rarely be accomplished without trampling on a few civil liberties. Carney's trying to nudge the public towards his and Robinson's public decorum ideal, and if a little prior restraint is what's needed to achieve this goal, a little prior restraint is what the public will get. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Keep track of your busy life in one handy app. Pagico 7 allows you to turn all of your tasks, notes and projects into easy to understand flowcharts to help you visualize your workload and track your deadlines and progress. You can organize your data with tags and keywords making it easier to find related pieces of information. It's on offer for $15 in the Techdirt Deals store. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It's time to panic about Craigslist again. If it's not a key player in the human trafficking scene, it's the unwitting accomplice in over 100 murders. [A]ccording to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, an industry watchdog and analyst, Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark just three weeks ago, when a 22-year-old man from Gary, Ind., attempted to rob the middle-aged couple who’d arranged to buy his car. Frankly, I'm surprised the number isn't higher. Not because Craigslist is the best thing that happened to pimps and murders since the invention of the internet, but because it encompasses nearly every major and minor city in the United States. And, seriously: "Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark?" I realize "users of Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark" is a much clunkier sentence, but this sounds like it was written by a grandstanding sheriff, rather than a journalist. Not only is it accessible by a vast majority of the US population, but its reach goes far beyond the buying and selling of goods. It also handles personal ads, searches for roommates and dozens of other ways for two strangers to meet face-to-face. Sure, the voice behind this latest "let's worry about Craigslist" isn't a misguided government official or law enforcement officer with an anti-sex worker ax to grind. It's AIM's Peter Zollman, who's put together a completely not-for-profit SafeTrade "initiative," which helps set up safe areas for meetups and transactions, usually with the assistance of local law enforcement. But to suggest this is a Craigslist problem -- rather than a human being problem -- is off-base. Nevertheless, Zollman makes this assertion: Zollman and other critics say Craigslist has done “next to nothing” to encourage safe use or deter criminals. Among other things, the site doesn’t provide safety information unless a user explicitly seeks it out, and the company has not endorsed any third-party efforts — like Zollman’s own campaign to create “SafeTrade” spots at local police stations. Zollman wants the site to make safety warnings more prominent and to get behind some sort of "safe trading" program, whether his or someone else's. But his company's tracking of "Craigslist murders" tries to imply it is somehow worse than the old system of classified ads in newspapers -- which arguably led to an exponentially higher number of murders than Craigslist has, even given the limited, very local reach of most papers. Zollman's take on Craigslist is decidedly more measured than it was a few years ago, when he referred to it as a "cesspool of crime." Unfortunately, his willingness to play into fearful narratives that sell better than more measured takes on the issue undercuts the sincerity of his "SafeTrade" offer. And it does nothing to dissuade law enforcement and other government officials from attacking Craigslist for the acts of a very, very, very slim minority of its users. Even when Zollman takes into account the positives of Craigslist, he still undercuts his own arguments by saying things like the company's "ethos of anonymity" makes it prime territory for criminal behavior -- something that throws shade at Craigslist and anonymity, as if both of these elements were inherently suspect, rather than just being treated as so much thrown baby/bathwater by the SafeTrade founder. Common sense and personal responsibility are in short supply, which is why people are always happy to suggest it's the platforms they use that should be doing more, rather than doing anything of their own will and volition. Meeting a stranger always carries a risk. Doing so while carrying lots of cash even more so. (However, given the ubiquity of asset forfeiture programs, I'd be somewhat wary about taking large sums of cash to a police station…) I agree Craigslist should feature safety information more prominently, but then again, nothing in its warning is groundbreaking or otherwise unavailable to potential users. And Zollman's murder tracker would be a lot more honest if it were simply a list of people who've used Craigslist to facilitate their criminal acts, rather than giving the impression that Craigslist is somehow, in some very minimal way, responsible for these incidents. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Mike just recently did a post on the horrible effects of piracy on Hollywood box office results from last year, which can be summarized as "holy shit, look at all the money!" That post took a macro look at the year Hollywood had at the box office, in which revenue and individual ticket sales were both up, despite the fact that piracy exists. Still, the post warned of one potential rebuttal some might make: yeah, but Star Wars. And it's true that such a high level look at the numbers would need to account for the smash hits released and gobbled up by the public. Still, such examples seem to indicate that the public is willing to fork over dollars if demands are met, but there are micro-examples of this as well. Take, for instance, The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's latest film. You may recall that the film suffered a leak prior to its release, making it widely available on the internet for anyone who wished to engage in a little piracy. It was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, leading some to worry that its availability to would hamper its success at the box office. That's when one writer, with impeccable intelligence and an un-matched sexual charisma, wrote: Pay close attention to how Hateful Eight does at the box office, because it's almost certain to be a smash hit, even as it competes with a certain film franchise from a long time ago and far, far away. And that really is the point. Even as media reports will breathlessly detail the pirating of the film, even as we'll be told about street corners in China where copies of the film are offered, and even as the download numbers of the film will soar, the film will do well. So, how did it all work out for The Hateful Eight? It was, as predicted, a hit. As in a record-breaking hit. Specifically, the 70mm version, something requiring special equipment that is unavailable to most pirates, helped propel the success. The 70mm version of the film, which has been showing in the largest 70mm release in more than 20 years, had a strong opening-weekend debut, earning $4.6 million at 100 venues in 44 U.S. markets. After its first two weeks, its 70mm engagements have grossed $11.2 million for a $112,000 per theater average for the first 12 days. The neo-Western expanded to a total of 2,474 engagements at the beginning of its second weekend on Jan. 1, and its combined 70mm and digital showings have grossed a domestic total of $33.8 million to date. All of that for a film which was leaked early and available for pirating. So, why the success? Well, the obvious answer is the 70mm gimmick, which those pirating the film couldn't enjoy. But that doesn't really tell the whole story, because $34 million gross early in a film's release, especially when competing with Star Wars, is quite a thing. The real reason for this is the combination of Tarantino building up a loyal fanbase that wants to support his work coupled with the theater experience that is still immensely important to many viewers. Going to the theater is an event that cannot be replicated in the home for many movie-goers, no matter how good home theater technology gets. So, if this demonstrates that piracy doesn't really translate into lost ticket sales in the theater, as I believe it does, then this all returns us to the question of why Hollywood wants to spend so much monetary and emotional capital fighting a fight that might not really matter? Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As we've noted for some time, the broadband industry (and all the think tanks and politicians that work for it) have spent the last few years trying to vilify Netflix. That's primarily due to the company's support of net neutrality, but also its opposition to anti-innovative and anti-competitive broadband usage caps. These attacks usually start with the criticism that Netflix now dominates around 37% of peak downstream traffic (as if that's a bad thing), followed by some bizarre and unfounded claim that Netflix should be forced to "pay its fair share" (read: give us a cut of revenues despite us having no legitimate claim to it). While these assaults had quieted down for a while, Daniel Lyons (not the fake Steve Jobs Daniel Lyons) and the American Enterprise Institute last week came out with a bizarre missive on broadband caps, in which Lyons tries to claim that broadband usage caps are a great way to force Netflix "to become a better corporate netizen." As noted above, Lyons starts by highlighting how Netflix consumes a huge amount of peak Internet capacity:"Netflix has long reigned as one of America’s most significant Internet-traffic generators. Network equipment company Sandvine reports that the video-streaming company is by far the leader in peak period traffic, responsible for more than 33 percent of all fixed Internet traffic during peak hours — more than twice the share of the next-biggest competitor, YouTube. This means that at times when the Internet is most susceptible to congestion, Netflix alone is responsible for one out of every three packets sent through the network."For clarity it should be noted that Netflix customers are responsible for this consumption. Netflix consumers who, in the United States, already pay more for bandwidth than consumers in most developing countries. Netflix in turn not only pays for bandwidth, it now pays ISPs for direct interconnection to their networks, after ISPs were accused of intentionally degrading peering points to force its hand. Everybody is paying, and paying, and paying some more -- so it doesn't matter one iota how much bandwidth Netflix is consuming -- because consumers are demanding and (probably over)paying for it. Back in December, Netflix announced it was making some changes to the way it intelligently encodes its titles. This shift involves encoding titles differently depending on type and genre, since cartoons (with static backgrounds) technically eat less bandwidth than live action movies. The move was prompted by one thing: this month's expansion by Netflix into 130 more countries. Netflix's primary concern? Making sure that networks -- especially of the mobile variety in developing nations -- would have a more consistent and trouble-free viewing experience. It was just a smart, albeit admittedly belated shift in improving the way Netflix operates. Apparently seeing a flimsy logical opportunity for the ages, Lyons tries to claim that Netflix was forced to improve its efficiency -- solely thanks to the wonder and glory of broadband usage caps:Usage-based pricing forced Netflix to be more mindful of the size of its digital footprint. Because they face potential overage charges, consumers are becoming more aware of the amount of bandwidth their online activities consume. This leads edge providers such as Netflix to develop more efficient methods of delivery, in response to increased consumer sensitivity. The result is a more efficient operation that benefits everyone by freeing up network capacity — which is like broadband providers improving speeds, but without having to install new network lines."That's an astonishing, incredible load of bullshit. Netflix has long allowed capped users to adjust streaming quality to manage consumption, but to claim caps are to thank for these improvements is aggressively dishonest. Lyons and his friends at the AEI are funded by Comcast, the same company that's aggressively expanding utterly unnecessary usage caps on millions of consumers. Those caps have one overarching function: to raise rates on uncompetitive markets, give Comcast's own services an unfair advantage, and to protect Comcast TV revenues from Internet video. There's clearly some worry on the part of Comcast and its think tank friends that the FCC will finally get off its ass and begin pressing Comcast on its anti-competitive abuse of usage caps, but if this is the best argument the AEI can come up with, Comcast may want to reconsider its disinformation budget for 2016.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Criminal defendants face a tilted playing field all over the country. If it isn't the frequent withholding of exculpatory material by prosecutors, it's everything leading up to it -- beginning with questionable interrogation methods and continuing with the admission of dubious physical evidence. Virginia's playing field is more slanted than most. Although prosecutors in Northern Virginia mostly make their files available to defense lawyers, that’s not true across the Commonwealth, defense lawyers said. “Justice is different in one jurisdiction than the next,” said Norfolk defense lawyer Douglas Ramseur. “You could be charged in Richmond and Norfolk and get a completely different amount of information. That seems to me completely inappropriate and unseemly for our system.” He added that prosecutors who like one defense lawyer may provide more access than to a lawyer they don’t like, giving prosecutors unfair leverage. There's no consistency across jurisdictions. Even at its most accommodating, the amount of information available to defense lawyers pales in comparison to what can be uncovered in civil proceedings. Apparently, when it's only someone's freedom on the line, Virginia's judicial oversight feels "barely adequate" is more than enough. It's gotten bad enough that the state's Supreme Court empanelled a Special Committee on Criminal Discovery Rules in 2013. In early 2015, a preliminary report was issued. This was followed by a letter from the state's ACLU, which highlighted some of the suggested fixes. The proposed Rule 3A:11[b] would allow the defense to inspect "all relevant police reports," such as "reports of interviews of witnesses." The new rule would also allow the inspection of "all relevant statements of any non-expert witness," including written or signed statements, transcripts, or recordings. The inclusion of police reports and witness statements in the routine discovery process will greatly improve the adversarial process. Under the proposed rules, defense attorneys will have access to the most basic information about their clients' cases. No person should have to stand trial without knowing basic information about the government's case against him. And in a criminal justice system that "is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials," defendants must have access to this critical information before trial so that they can make an informed decision about whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial. [...] Proposed Rule 3A:11(i) would, for the first time, formally enact the rule of Brady v. Maryland into Virginia criminal procedure. More than 50 years ago, the United States Supreme Court held that, as a matter of federal constitutional law, "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution… This proposal is consistent with Brady and with adversarial principles. By requiring disclosure of exculpatory evidence upon indictment, waiver of indictment, or before entry of a plea, and by requiring the disclosure of impeachment evidence seven days before trial, the proposed rule provides stronger protection to defendants than offered by current constitutional jurisprudence... By making clear that prosecutors must make disclosures of Brady evidence before trial, the proposed rule would place appropriate emphasis on the duty of a prosecutor to seek justice, not merely to convict. The discussion continued throughout 2015. The panel's suggestions were opened for public comment and the state's defense attorneys began looking forward to more equitable evidence sharing in the future. Virginia courts, where "trial by ambush" is the norm, would perhaps start moving towards something resembling the balance envisioned by the nation's founders. Two years after the process began, the same Supreme Court that brought the committee into existence has rejected all of its suggestions. A single-paragraph announcement by the court states nothing will change. On December 2,2014 came the Special Committee on Criminal Discovery Rules and submitted its final report, which included proposed revisions to Rules 3A:l1, 3A:12, 7C:5, 8:15, and which also proposed the adoption of Rule 3A:12.1. Having considered the Committee's report and the public comments submitted in response thereto, the Court declines to adopt the Committee's recommendations. Not a single recommendation adopted. A project that lasted two years and gathered more than 300 pages of public comments is nullified by 63 words. The court's excuse for this? It would have been difficult to implement even one of the recommendations because so much of the state's judicial system is in dire need of an overhaul. Virginia Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons said in a statement to The Washington Post that the entire proposal was simply too much all at once. While commending the report, Lemons wrote that “such fundamental and sweeping changes in the system, especially in light of the strong public comments opposing them, seem unwise at this time.” [...] “It would be difficult for the court to accept some of the proposals and not all of them as a package because the court cannot be certain about the interdependent nature of these compromises.” "Difficult" maybe. But not impossible. Rather than engage in a task worth undertaking, the court has opted for stasis, because it's easier than dealing with the multitude of problems it has failed to address in the past. And it must be noted that the "opposing" comments the Chief Justice refers to in his cop-out were submitted by the beneficiaries of the broken system -- and those comments were in the minority. [T]he Supreme Court asked for public comment and received 318 pages of letters and emails. The overwhelming majority, coming from defense lawyers and some defendants, supported the rules changes. But the Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Services Council and Virginia State Police filed long, detailed objections. When in doubt, defer to the "winning" team -- the one that always receives the lion's share of judicial deference. Better an innocent man do time than a few proposals upset the delicate balance of the skewed system by screwing with their "interdependence." No matter how the Supreme Court of Virginia spins this, the refusal to move forward is weak, cowardly and will do further harm to criminal defendants. And all the while, the judicial system will continue to pretend a "fair" trial can be had within the state's courts. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As you probably heard, President Obama gave his final State of the Union Address a little while ago, and it was likely pretty much what you expected. A lot of vague pronouncements and not a whole ton of substance. I was surprised that the TPP got very little mention at all (it was basically mentioned in passing), but found it especially odd that the internet was mentioned just twice — and in ways that seemed to contradict each other. First, the President gave a brief mention of how his administration has "protected the open internet": We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day. The second mention comes a few paragraphs down, when he suddenly whines about terrorists using that very same open internet: Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies. Both points have an element of truth in them, but the whole thing seems pretty silly. If you have an open internet, then part of the point is that anyone can use it — even people you don't like. Fighting ISIS and other terrorists is certainly important, but even mentioning the fact that they use the internet is silly. Some of them drive cars too. It's not really all that relevant. Beyond that, there really wasn't much related to stuff that we're interested in around here. It talks about bringing back our innovative spirit (did it really go away?), but (unlike in past States of the Union) chooses not to mention patent reform (even though the President's suggested reforms haven't gone anywhere). It's silly to expect too much from the State of the Union Address, which gets a lot more buzz than it's worth, but as a first pass, the idea that the two mentions of the internet contradict each other more or less summed up one of the big problems with the way this administration has treated the internet. It tends to talk out of both sides of its mouth on these issues, and never really take a stand. There truly are a number of really great people working in the White House on tech policy, looking to maintain a free and open internet, but there are plenty of others who are trying to undermine it, and to give in to FUD about the "dangers" of an open internet. It's a bit disappointing that the President never really came out with a strong leadership position on this and made it clear that we're not going to undermine a free and open internet out of fear -- but instead continues to give lip service to the free and open internet, while hinting at a willingness to toss it out the window.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
There are a lot of things about ourselves we just don't know. Why do we need sleep? How does general anesthesia work? A whole bunch of involuntary reactions are still mysterious. Partial explanations exist to describe what happens when these things occur, but that's not a fully satisfactory understanding. So what about sneezing? Think you know all about it? Sneezing clears out your nose when you're sick, but what if you don't have a cold/flu? Some people sneeze after they exercise or eat a good meal or.. have sex? Sneezing can also accompany seizures and some psychiatric disorders. [url] A few doctors report seeing patients with constant sneezing fits, lasting days or weeks. Some of them have been 'cured' with psychiatric treatments, and one diagnosis is called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) which can be treated with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and prophylactic antibiotics. [url] Do you sneeze when you look at a bright light or the sun? That's a 'photic sneeze reflex' which could be genetic. Researchers have been flashing lights at photic and non-photic sneezers while looking at their brain scans.. and hopefully, they clean up the spittle in between measurements. [url] If you've been thinking about learning how to code, take a look at our Daily Deals for a collection of online courses to help you program and/or master some professional skills.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
At long last, it appears some prosecutors will no longer be putting BS gag orders on their subpoenas. Eastern District of New York judge Raymond J. Dearie has expressed his displeasure with the language found on nearly all subpoenas issued by the Brooklyn, New York US Attorney's Office. With the exception of National Security Letters, recipients of subpoenas are free to inform the targets of the documents as well as discuss them publicly. (The exception is financial institutions served in grand jury investigations related to fraud or drug trafficking.) But that doesn't stop prosecutors and investigators from adding misleading statements to their subpoenas. They can only ask recipients not to disclose anything. They can't demand it. That's called "prior restraint" -- something the government should be taking great care to avoid. But some still make it appear as though the recipient has no choice but to comply and shut up. As was covered here earlier, Reason's website received a subpoena for information on its commenters. Included with the subpoena was a request that Reason not talk about it. Reason's attorneys understood it was only a request and went ahead and informed the commenters targeted by it. Most recipients won't do this because prosecutors either utilize deliberately vague wording (making it seem more like a demand than a request) or verbally suggest any disclosure could result in criminal charges for the recipient. The latter tacic was deployed in the Reason case. When it informed the US Attorney's office that it would be making the subpoena public, AUSA Niketh Velamoor suggested the site was "coming close" to "interfering with a grand jury investigation." Judge Dearie has gone after the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn for basically doing the same thing. A subpoena related to a cocaine smuggling investigation issued to a law office contained the following words: You are hereby directed not to disclose the existence of this subpoena, as it may impede an ongoing investigation. No subtlety there. This is an order -- and an illegal one at that. The battle over that phrase resulted in the discovery of widespread abuse by the prosecutor's office. The Gigliotti case suggests that this was not the first time that prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York made such a demand. “Policy was violated multiple times here,” Judge Raymond J. Dearie wrote last week in a ruling, “and it is apparent that such violations are not isolated to this case.” The lawyers challenging the wording called it "blatantly improper." The judge called it a "violation." The office issuing the bogus wording called it something else: "inadvertent." (It agreed it was "improper," but refused to take responsibility for crafting the words it crafted.) Prosecutors said they will fix this going forward, although they were vague enough on details that Dearie had more harsh words for them. In a decision last week, Judge Dearie called the government’s response “disappointing” and “glib,” saying prosecutors did not outline the scope of the problem or how they would address it. '“Now that the government is unambiguously on notice of this problem and the need to correct it, continued violations could well warrant severe remedies,” Judge Dearie wrote. “The government proceeds at its peril.” Most likely, the prosecutors will continue to issue verbiage that strongly suggests recipients keep their mouths shut. They're apparently going to put this wording on a separate piece of paper (rather than on the subpoena itself) from now on, as if that somehow changes the implicit severity of the misleading language. While it is good to see the office called out for its bogus demands, little will change if it can regularly rely on the ignorance of subpoena recipients to maintain the secrecy it can't actually demand. The more foreboding the wording sounds, the more likely it is that these "requests" will be complied with. The most honest solution would be to remove the wording entirely, unless nondisclosure is stipulated by statute. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Historically, the FCC has steered well clear of regulating broadband prices. Hell, for most of the last fifteen years the FCC hasn't even admitted that high prices due to limited competition are a problem, instead focusing on the politically sexier idea of ensuring uniform availability. The FCC certainly collects pricing data from broadband ISPs, but, at the industry's behest, never shares that data with the public. As a result, we get things like our $300 million national broadband map, which will happily show you (largely hallucinated) speed and competitive options in your neighborhood, but won't tell you how much they cost. And while the FCC did move last year to expand its authority over broadband providers by reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has stated time and time again that the agency has no intention of regulating broadband rates, either in regards to last mile prices or peering and interconnection. But that doesn't mean the threat of broadband price regulations still can't be a useful bogeyman for opponents of net neutrality. Still fuming from FCC "power grabs" like raising the broadband definition to 25 Mbps and passing relatively basic and loophole-filled net neutrality rules, the GOP is pushing yet another parade of legislation aimed at curtailing the FCC's authority over broadband providers. And while the legislation is being framed by House members (and ex-FCC members now lobbying for broadband providers) as a way to protect small ISPs from a power mad government intent on dictating sector prices, consumer advocate groups note that as worded, the proposals are largely about ensuring the FCC won't actually be able to do its job: "The two broadband bills use incredibly broad language that endangers the ability of the FCC to protect consumers from fraudulent charges, threatens the ongoing effort to reform the Universal Service Fund to subsidize rural broadband, and potentially deprives millions of consumers of the right to know how their broadband providers make critical decisions about their broadband subscriptions," said Feld.If you'd fallen asleep during the admittedly monotonous net neutrality debates after the rules were passed, all you really need to know is that net neutrality opponents in Congress have been trying desperately to punish the FCC for daring to stand up to industry incumbents like AT&T and Comcast. This has included an embarrassing parade of so-called fact finding hearings in which FCC boss Tom Wheeler was scolded repeatedly for challenging the broadband status quo. Burying neutrality and FCC authority killing measures in budget riders has also become a popular pastime. It should be noted that the House's proposals are largely uncooked. One of the laws in question so far appears to only state this:"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service."Why this sudden focus on the menace that is "broadband rate regulation?" Because companies like Comcast continue to not only impose utterly unnecessary broadband caps and overage fees, but Comcast is now trying to run rough shod over net neutrality by exempting its own services from the usage caps. As the pressure mounts on the FCC to wake up and actually enforce the net neutrality rules the public forced it to adopt, loyal allies in Congress are doing their very best to pull the rug out from underneath the FCC. The irony of course is that the FCC, regardless of what party is in control, has shown time, and time, and time again that it doesn't give two shits about the high cost of broadband. It by and large has also indicated that it thinks usage caps and zero rating proposals are innovative and nifty. The idea that the FCC is going to aggressively start engaging in broadband rate regulations (when it can't even admit high-pricing is a problem) is another straw man put forth by a Congress whose full-time job is to protect the broadband industry duopoly from the remotest possibility of public accountability.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
It appears someone's listening to local crackpot New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance's demands that encryption be outlawed to make law enforcement easier. His "white paper" didn't have the guts to make this demand, instead couching it in language stating he would be completely unopposed to a legislative ban on encryption, but that he wasn't going to be the bad guy asking for it. A month later, as the mockery of his encryption white paper died down, Vance decided he would be the bad guy and openly stated that if Apple wasn't going to give him what he wanted, it could be forced to do so by the government. Lo and behold, New York Senator Assemblyman Matthew Titone has answered Vance's call for action. In what is likely the nation's first proposed ban on encryption, Titone's introduced bill forbids the sale of smartphones that can't be cracked by their manufacturers. (h/t Nate Cardozo) ANY SMARTPHONE THAT IS MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN, AND SOLD OR LEASED IN NEW YORK, SHALL BE CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER. THE SALE OR LEASE IN NEW YORK OF A SMARTPHONE MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN THAT IS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER SHALL SUBJECT THE SELLER OR LESSOR TO A CIVIL PENALTY OF TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR EACH SMARTPHONE SOLD OR LEASED IF IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT THE SELLER OR LESSOR OF THE SMARTPHONE KNEW AT THE TIME OF THE SALE OR LEASE THAT THE SMARTPHONE WAS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER. This isn't Titone's first attempt at this legislation, something that can be gleaned by the fact that the proposed legislation still contains wording suggesting January 1, 2016 is still somewhere off in the future. This bill made its debut last year, roughly nine months after Apple announced its plan to offer encryption by default. The proposed legislation was introduced in the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection [wft?] on June 8th, 2015. Nothing happened then, but a new legislative session is upon us and Titone re-submitted his bill to the same committee last week. There has been no fanfare accompanying this twice-submitted legislation, most likely due to it potentially toxic side effects. Even Titone's own Senate page -- where press releases seem to accompany all of his other sponsored bills -- has nothing to say about this one. Still, the bill has attracted two co-sponsors: Walter Mosley and Patricia Fahy. Interestingly, or perhaps more accurately, infuriatingly, the bill would hold retailers responsible for manufacturers' actions. Apple Stores would apparently be unable to sell any smartphones and every service provider would have to eliminate any phones with default encryption from their lineups. The wording isn't a ban on encryption, per se. But it does make the sale of encrypted phones illegal -- pretty much accomplishing the same thing without having to require backdoors or forbid manufacturers from offering default encryption in the other 49 states. That latter part is the loophole New York can't close, even if this stupid piece of legislation passes. New York's sky-high tobacco taxes have turned New York City into a massive secondary market for cigarette cartons that fell off a truck/were purchased across state lines. This would basically do the same thing for smartphones, creating a market for phones purchased in other states but deployed in New York. The bill doesn't even attempt to address this loophole, laying pretty much all of the culpability at the feet of local resellers. Purchasers aren't forbidden from deploying their own encryption and secondhand phones containing built-in encryption can be bought and sold without fear of repercussion. In all likelihood, Titone's bill will die another death on the cold hard assembly floor. The bill is bad in multiple ways, but not in any of the ways immediately appealing to undecided politicians. The spiel accompanying the bill attempts to press all of the right buttons ("There is no reason criminals should also benefit, and they will, as people will be defrauded or threatened, and terrorists will use these encrypted devices to plot their next attack over FaceTime..."), but informing the nation's largest phone manufacturers that their products can't be sold in New York isn't exactly the sort of message many legislators are willing to send Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
It appears someone's listening to local crackpot New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance's demands that encryption be outlawed to make law enforcement easier. His "white paper" didn't have the guts to make this demand, instead couching it in language stating he would be completely unopposed to a legislative ban on encryption, but that he wasn't going to be the bad guy asking for it. A month later, as the mockery of his encryption white paper died down, Vance decided he would be the bad guy and openly stated that if Apple wasn't going to give him what he wanted, it could be forced to do so by the government. Lo and behold, New York Senator Matthew Titone has answered Vance's call for action. In what is likely the nation's first proposed ban on encryption, Titone's introduced bill forbids the sale of smartphones that can't be cracked by their manufacturers. (h/t Nate Cardozo) ANY SMARTPHONE THAT IS MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN, AND SOLD OR LEASED IN NEW YORK, SHALL BE CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER. THE SALE OR LEASE IN NEW YORK OF A SMARTPHONE MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN THAT IS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER SHALL SUBJECT THE SELLER OR LESSOR TO A CIVIL PENALTY OF TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR EACH SMARTPHONE SOLD OR LEASED IF IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT THE SELLER OR LESSOR OF THE SMARTPHONE KNEW AT THE TIME OF THE SALE OR LEASE THAT THE SMARTPHONE WAS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER. This isn't Titone's first attempt at this legislation, something that can be gleaned by the fact that the proposed legislation still contains wording suggesting January 1, 2016 is still somewhere off in the future. This bill made its debut last year, roughly nine months after Apple announced its plan to offer encryption by default. The proposed legislation was introduced in the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection [wft?] on June 8th, 2015. Nothing happened then, but a new legislative session is upon us and Titone re-submitted his bill to the same committee last week. There has been no fanfare accompanying this twice-submitted legislation, most likely due to it potentially toxic side effects. Even Titone's own Senate page -- where press releases seem to accompany all of his other sponsored bills -- has nothing to say about this one. Still, the bill has attracted two co-sponsors: Walter Mosley and Patricia Fahy. Interestingly, or perhaps more accurately, infuriatingly, the bill would hold retailers responsible for manufacturers' actions. Apple Stores would apparently be unable to sell any smartphones and every service provider would have to eliminate any phones with default encryption from their lineups. The wording isn't a ban on encryption, per se. But it does make the sale of encrypted phones illegal -- pretty much accomplishing the same thing without having to require backdoors or forbid manufacturers from offering default encryption in the other 49 states. That latter part is the loophole New York can't close, even if this stupid piece of legislation passes. New York's sky-high tobacco taxes have turned New York City into a massive secondary market for cigarette cartons that fell off a truck/were purchased across state lines. This would basically do the same thing for smartphones, creating a market for phones purchased in other states but deployed in New York. The bill doesn't even attempt to address this loophole, laying pretty much all of the culpability at the feet of local resellers. Purchasers aren't forbidden from deploying their own encryption and secondhand phones containing built-in encryption can be bought and sold without fear of repercussion. In all likelihood, Titone's bill will die another death on the cold hard Senate floor. The bill is bad in multiple ways, but not in any of the ways immediately appealing to undecided politicians. The spiel accompanying the bill attempts to press all of the right buttons ("There is no reason criminals should also benefit, and they will, as people will be defrauded or threatened, and terrorists will use these encrypted devices to plot their next attack over FaceTime..."), but informing the nation's largest phone manufacturers that their products can't be sold in New York isn't exactly the sort of message many legislators are willing to send Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
After a few weeks off for the holidays, we're back! And as anyone on the internet can't ignore, CES 2016 has just wrapped up. Our own Mike Masnick was there, and today he's joined by journalist and long-time CES veteran Rob Pegoraro for a post-mortem of the event and this year's crop of new products. 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

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
If you're looking to learn about IT security principles or want to brush up on your skills, the $59 IT Security and Management Bundle is a useful place to start. The four courses cover the subjects you need to know to take the ITIL, CISA, CompTIA, and CISSP certification exams, by focusing on the underlying principles and how to put them into everyday use. You have 2 years of access to the bundle so you can learn at your own pace about cryptography, system and infrastructure life cycle management, risk mitigation strategies and much more. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
The big story of last week was T-Mobile CEO John Legere's meltdown over people calling out the bullshit claims about BingeOn "optimizing" mobile video when the truth is that it was simply throttling all video traffic (partners and non partners alike). Things got even worse when Legere decided to attack EFF and suggest that it was being paid to discredit BingeOn. The simple fact remains, however, that T-Mobile is throttling video streams (and downloads). Legere briefly went quiet about all of this, but on Monday came out again with yet another statement in the form of an "Open Letter to Consumers about Binge On" which is at least a little more honest, but is still mostly misleading bullshit -- the very thing T-Mobile has built its recent reputation on avoiding. We invented Binge On to provide customers with an easy and effective way to stretch their data bucket. Knowing that the number one (and climbing) use of data out there is video, it was obviously the natural place to focus. Binge On is like an economy button built into a new car to save gas, and it’s a benefit that customers got the minute we launched, to use it as much as they want to. Period. Again that sounds good but is totally misleading. First of all, it's T-Mobile that sets the data buckets in the first place. So relieving consumers of the burden that T-Mobile itself placed on consumers is not a consumer-friendly move. It's punching someone and then claiming you're being nice by offering them a hand to get them off the ground. If you start the anti-consumer practice, it's not pro-consumer to roll back a tiny part of it. Binge On is a FREE benefit given to all T-Mobile customers. It is and always has been a feature that helps you stretch your data bucket by optimizing ALL of your video for your mobile devices. If this were truly a "benefit" then why does it also apply to unlimited accounts (like mine)? Unlimited account holders don't need or want this "benefit" (and it's not really much of a benefit as we'll get to). We use our proprietary techniques to attempt to detect all video, determine its source, identify whether it should be FREE and finally adjust all streams for a smaller/handheld device.  (Most video streams come in at incredibly high resolution rates that are barely detectable by the human eye on small device screens and this is where the data in plans is wasted).  The result is that the data in your bucket is stretched by delivering streamed video in DVD quality - 480p or better (whether you have a 2GB, 6GB or 10GB plan etc.) so your data lasts longer.  Putting aside the 38+ services for which we provide FREE data for video through Binge On, as discussed below – this “stretching” of your data bucket is estimated to allow you to watch UP TO 3X MORE VIDEO from your data plan than before. This is a huge step forward. Again, it's worth remembering that when T-Mobile launched this supposedly consumer-friendly offering, they completely hid the fact that it applied to all video, implying strongly that it only applied to partners. In fact, the company's CTO argued that it was not even possible to identify many YouTube videos -- a claim that turned out to be one of the many lies T-Mobile has spread over this mess. Second, T-Mobile keeps claiming that most users can't tell the difference between 480p videos and higher quality HD videos, but that's bullshit. In many cases the difference in quality is quite obvious. And, again, if this was all about having your data "last longer" there would be no reason at all to turn it on for unlimited account holders. Also note that T-Mobile is being a bit misleading here, as its original marketing on BingeOn noted that the free video streaming did not apply to accounts that had less than 3GB on their caps: Next up, Legere continues to pretend that this is clearly a beneficial service that his customers wanted, despite many, many users saying that they wanted no such thing: As with virtually all of our Un-carrier benefits, we immediately gave it to everyone! First we reached out to all of our customers via email and SMS message, and told them all about the new functionality that was coming their way. Then we turned it on, for everyone! So if you are a T-Mobile customer – you already have Binge On! Again, this makes absolutely no sense for unlimited accounts, and the fact that it's not opt-in is just silly: We strive to default all of our customer benefits to “ON.” We don’t like to make customers dig around to find great new benefits -- that is something a traditional carrier would do when they really hope you, the consumer, won’t take any action. Can you imagine the disappointment, if people saw our TV commercials about Binge On, then went to watch 10 hours of video expecting it to be free, and only THEN learned that they needed to go into their settings to activate this new benefit? That’s how the Carriers would do it, but not T-Mobile. Everyone has it from day 1, period. So instead of making customers dig around to find this (which is not a "great new benefit"), they make customers dig around to find how to turn it off because they don't want it. That's exactly how the big carriers do things. And, once again, there's simply no reason why it should ever be turned on for unlimited data users. But here’s the thing, and this is one of the reasons that Binge On is a VERY “pro” net neutrality capability -- you can turn it on and off in your MyTMobile account – whenever you want. Turn it on and off at will. Customers are in control. Not T-Mobile. Not content providers. Customers. At all times. This is what T-Mobile is banking on as the reason why it's not violating the bright line rule against throttling in the FCC's net neutrality rules -- because there's a small "out" in the rules, saying that the no throttling rule doesn't apply to choices made by the end user to throttle traffic. Of course, that's assuming a situation where the end user proactively decides to slow down certain types of traffic, not where it's forced upon them, and there's a convoluted process to opt-out of it. Either way none of this addresses the actual concerns raised by many T-Mobile subscribers: T-Mobile lied. It said that it was "optimizing" the video when the truth is that it was just slowing down the video. It doesn't change the fact that T-Mobile was far from transparent in explaining that this throttling (not optimizing) applied to all video, even with non-partner video. Finally, T-Mobile lied in insisting that this "optimization" would make videos load faster, when the reality is that for many video services it neither saves any data (the full file is downloaded, just slower), nor does it speed things up. Instead, it makes it buffer when there's plenty of available bandwidth. That's what people are complaining about and T-Mobile ignores all of it, continuing to insist that BingeOn is nothing but a consumer friendly offering. In the end, Legere gives a weak apology to the EFF that again fails to recognize why so many people took issue with his characterization of the EFF ("who the fuck are you? and who pays you?") and pretends that it's just about a difference of opinion: I will however apologize for offending EFF and its supporters. Just because we don’t completely agree on all aspects of Binge On doesn’t mean I don’t see how they fight for consumers. We both agree that it is important to protect consumers' rights and to give consumers value. We have that in common, so more power to them. As I mentioned last week, we look forward to sitting down and talking with the EFF and that is a step we will definitely take. Unfortunately, my color commentary from last week is now drowning out the real value of Binge On – so hopefully this letter will help make that clear again. The problem wasn't "offending" EFF, it was that EFF did a good job exposing what T-Mobile is actually doing, and rather than responding to them, you freaked out, attacked them and their credibility and acted like they were some nobody shills. That's not offensive, it's stupid and raises serious questions about T-Mobile's intentions. Again, what is the "value" of BingeOn, other than throttling video down? Legere still keeps insisting things that aren't really true at all. It's too bad, because Legere had built up T-Mobile to be customer friendly and his reaction to this whole situation has done serious damage to that reputation.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
The FCC's recent broadband progress report (pdf) highlighted the telecom industry's continued failure with not only getting any broadband to rural areas, but with getting next-generation speeds to existing broadband customers. The FCC has noted that 34 million Americans still lack access to fixed broadband at the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps for downloads, 3 Mbps for uploads. The agency also notes that two-thirds of homes lack access to more than one provider capable of delivering these speeds. If you recall, the FCC bumped its definition of broadband to 25 Mbps from a measly 4 Mbps about a year ago. Outraged that the FCC would mysteriously have standards and release data highlighting the industry's failure to meet them, AT&T's top lobbyist Jim Cicconi penned a characteristically snotty blog post insisting the FCC's use of hard data was a mad power grab:"It’s bad enough the FCC keeps moving the goal posts on their definition of broadband, apparently so they can continue to justify intervening in obviously competitive markets. But now they are even ignoring their own definition in order to pad their list of accomplishments. "We’ve seen this movie before. In order to apply its net neutrality rules to as many services as possible, the FCC considers very low speeds to be broadband then cites a much higher speed level in order to claim broadband is not being reasonably and timely deployed under Section 706. “It’s beginning to look like the FCC will define broadband whichever way maximizes its power under whichever section of the law they want to apply. This cannot be what Congress intended.” Sure, that's because what "Congress intended" is to soak up AT&T's campaign contributions and do absolutely nothing about the nation's broadband connectivity gaps (I'd agree the national broadband plan was a failure, primarily because it was a politically-safe show pony big ISPs like AT&T generally approved of at the time). US Telecom, the telco lobbying group with AT&T as its biggest donor, also issued a missive in which it pretended to be shocked at the idea that U.S. broadband continues to have problems: "It would seem that the FCC’s report should carry the headline ‘our policies have failed’ since it concludes that six years after adoption of the national broadband plan, the commission’s actions haven’t produced even so much as a ‘reasonable’ level of broadband deployment. But, of course, with more than $75 billion a year being invested by broadband providers, network capacity burgeoning, and speeds increasing exponentially – as the commission's latest fact-based broadband measurement report shows – no one actually believes that deployment in the United States is unreasonable." Well, one, wasn't net neutrality supposed to have destroyed all broadband network investment? Two, I'm not sure you get to lobby tirelessly to ensure government dysfunction, then say "we told you so" when the government is dysfunctional (even though that is sort of a national pastime). The core issue is this: AT&T's mad because in dozens upon dozens of markets, the company's aging infrastructure isn't capable of meeting the 25 Mbps threshold, meaning that AT&T isn't technically even capable of delivering broadband. It's often not even capable of meeting the lower 10 Mbps definition the FCC now uses to determine subsidy recipients. It's not clear what we're to call AT&T's sub-6 Mbps, heavily capped (150 GB) DSL service, but it can no longer be called broadband. Despite billions in subsidies given to AT&T over the years, many of these markets were never upgraded. Most of these are customers AT&T no longer wants, so it's going state by state gutting regulations and consumer protections, in the hopes it can disconnect them and shove them toward more expensive, even-more-heavily capped wireless service. AT&T calls its plan to hang up on these customers the "IP transition," and while AT&T insists it will result in revolutionary new connectivity options for all Americans, all it's really going to do is give the cable industry a monopoly over fixed-line broadband for much of the next decade. While it's understandable that for-profit companies aren't keen on throwing money at low ROI areas of rural America, here's the important thing: AT&T has spent fifteen years lobbying for protectionist state laws in more than twenty states preventing towns and cities from voting to improve their own telecom infrastructure. In some instances, AT&T's laws even prohibit towns and cities from striking public/private partnerships with outside companies. So yeah, AT&T's quite literally buying and writing state laws ensuring that broadband coverage gaps continue, then whining when data highlights the end result. AT&T might want to consider itself lucky. The FCC's studies primarily use data provided by ISPs that the agency takes at face value (read: it's rarely verified by third parties). This coverage data is usually artificially padded to make coverage look more impressive than it actually is, which is why ISPs so frequently claim they service the house you just bought when they don't. The FCC also collects pricing data from ISPs but refuses to share it as part of these reports. Were the FCC to seriously audit ISP claims and release data showing the lack of price competition, the numbers would look even worse, giving AT&T significantly more to whine about.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
Software patents are contentious, and nowhere more so than in Europe. Patenting there is governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC). Article 52 of the EPC reads as follows: (1) European patents shall be granted for any inventions, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application. (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1: (a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods; (b) aesthetic creations; (c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers; (d) presentations of information. Although the exclusion of software seems crystal clear there, the same Article adds the following regrettable rider: (3) The provisions of paragraph 2 shall exclude patentability of the subject-matter or activities referred to in that provision only to the extent to which a European patent application or European patent relates to such subject-matter or activities as such. What exactly those two words "as such" mean in this context has been argued over for years. In practical terms, it has led to thousands of software patents being issued thanks to clever framing by lawyers that takes advantage of the "as such" loophole. According to this post on a blog that is called unashamedly "European Software Patents," it seems that German judges have now gone even further, and granted a patent for a graphical user interface. That's surprising, because the same EPC Article 52 explicitly excludes "presentations of information" from patentability. So how did the lawyers get around that? By using the "as such" loophole again. As the blog post explains: the Federal Court of Justice (FCJ) held that the [EPC's] exclusion is overcome when the presentation of information serves the solution of a technical problem with technical means Just in case that legalese isn't crystal-clear, here are details of the case considered by the German court. The patent dealt with the display of visual information captured by a swallowable capsule equipped with a camera. Apparently, these cameras produce information too rapidly to be useful for ready examination by the human eye. That problem was solved by showing only a subset of transmitted frames in one window, and different subsets in other windows. The idea is that an expert can scan several of these windows at once, since the images in each are changing relatively slowly. Germany's Federal Patent Court held this to be a pretty obvious idea (which it is), but the country's Federal Court of Justice reversed that finding, and decided that the idea of breaking up a stream of images into subsets was terribly clever, and definitely eligible for patent protection. It also made a more general statement about the patentability of graphical user interfaces: Instructions relating to the (visual) presentation of information which do not primarily focus on the conveyance of particular content or its conveyance in a particular layout but on the presentation of image content in a manner that takes into account the physical characteristics of human perception and reception of information and are directed towards making possible, improving or making practical the human perception of the displayed information serve the solution of a technical problem with technical means. It's one of those how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin distinctions beloved by patent lawyers, but which actually makes no sense. After all, it could be argued that any intelligible, well-designed presentation of information "takes into account the physical characteristics of human perception and reception of information," and therefore is eligible for a patent. The latest decision by the German courts will doubtless lead to the granting of further, similarly-trivial patents, and to companies increasingly nervous about the use of even the simplest graphical user interface in their products for Germany. So how is that encouraging innovation or benefiting the public? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 26 days ago on techdirt
We have talked quite a bit about Major League Baseball for a technology site, in no small part due to many of the forward-thinking things the league has done regarding operating its business in the digital age. In the realm of sports streaming, I've typically referred to MLB.TV and the league's Advanced Media products as the gold standard and I think I'm on pretty solid ground in saying so. Beyond that, the league seems poised to embrace expanded streaming options and the dropping of some of its more intrusive blackout rules, positioning the league well in the midst of the cord-cutting epidemic winding its way through the cable television industry. Which is why it just feels so damn strange to see the league preparing to go to court along with DirectTV and Comcast to argue that it needs many of the practices from which it is actively moving away in order to not only provide more customer choice, but indeed to keep smaller-market teams in business entirely. The background on this is that in 2014 a court decided that baseball's antitrust exemption could only be applied to core aspects of the business of baseball. Those core aspects traditionally, going back over a hundred years, referred to how MLB interacted with competing leagues and how player contracts would be handled given that players crossed state lines as part of their jobs. In more recent times, MLB attempted to use the antitrust exemption to allow for how it handles broadcast rights and blackouts, specifically arguing that allowing its member teams to negotiate their own national broadcast contracts would allow teams to get a free-ride on the league's popularity, and the court's opinion rejected those arguments in 2014. After that, the court agreed to certify a class action on behalf of fans looking to force Major League Baseball into allowing more inter-competition among its own member teams, which the fans argue would allow for national broadcasts (or national streaming) of any team anywhere in the nation. MLB is now defending that action in pre-trial documents, apparently with the argument that giving teams more ways to get their product to their fans would result in small-market teams folding up completely, because the Yankees. Defendants’ position, which will be substantiated at trial, is that the territorial rules enhance the overall quality of MLB live telecasts, which in turn enhances the ability of these telecasts to compete with other programming. (See Defs. Trial Mem. at 12-13.) The evidence will also show that eliminating the territorial rules would reduce the ability of certain small-market teams to invest in players and other resources, hampering their ability to compete on the field—and could, over time, prevent certain clubs from remaining viable. This is similar to comments made by league commissioner Rob Manfred during deposition, where he specifically cited the New York nine as an example of why allowing more broadcast options would eventually limit broadcast options by eliminating teams and markets entirely. "[A] lot of New Yorkers go down to Florida, and we think that [if the Yankees] go down [it] would kind of destroy that market for Tampa," he said. "[T]here are certain iconic, generally large market clubs that I believe have national appeal that would put them in a position to present a threat to the viability of certain of our smaller market clubs." It's an argument that essentially claims that MLB must limit the number of broadcast options customers have to choose from because not limiting them will eventually lead to even less options when teams fold. This argument rests on MLB's revenue sharing practice, where teams negotiate their local broadcast rights and leave the national rights entirely up to the league, which then doles out national broadcast (and streaming) revenue democratically through the league, meaning the popularity of the Yankees and other large market clubs is resulting in income for small market teams (like the Tampa Bay Rays). Here's the thing: everyone knows this argument's time was twenty years ago. Fans know it, because they use the internet and streaming services and they embody the desire of customers to watch more teams in more ways without blackout restrictions. MLB knows this as well, as you simply can't make sense of all the work the league has done to expand its streaming options without that knowledge. What they are trying to save in all of this is a bit of the right to still handle national streaming rights the way they handle national broadcast rights. It's about retaining control. But the league itself is what allowed for the expansion of the league into small market areas. For them now to rest the argument for their antitrust exemption on the un-viability of those markets, resulting in harming consumer choice, doesn't make any sense. It's essentially asking for a kind of bailout for some teams via the exemption. Put another way, MLB's argument amounts to: some of our teams don't have enough fans to sustain themselves, so we need an antitrust exemption to keep them afloat, just because. How is that in the public's interest, even if MLB's assessment is correct? And here's the other thing: they're probably wrong. Major League Baseball is enjoying an immense level of popularity at the moment, finally recovering from the player lockout all those years ago. How does it benefit a small market team for the government to bless MLB's ownership of that team's ability to reach more fans, new fans, and other markets via its own negotiation of national streaming rights? Artificially limiting the reach of teams in an era where the ability to do national streaming is less costly doesn't enhance that team's viability; it limits it. We'll have to see how this plays out, but the good news is that MLB knows all of this already. I'm actually a bit surprised it is even bothering with any of this. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
The universe is just incredibly vast and full of stuff we're only scratching the surface of detecting. Every so often, though, there are some folks who think we've learned it all -- or that there's not much more left to figure out. But there's always more. The pace of technology might not advance fast enough for us to be able to continue to discover new things at the rate we've been doing so, but the "peak science" event probably hasn't happened yet (or may not happen at all). The Higgs boson was detected in 2012, but there might be a heavier elementary particle that could disrupt the Standard Model in physics. The evidence is far from conclusive, but more data is on the way, and physicists should be able to determine if this new blip is some weird instrument fluke or a real particle in the near future. [url] Pessimistic physicists could argue that experimental particle physics is over -- the Standard Model is verifiable, and if we can't find more particles, it could be very difficult to come up with more explanations for things that we can never actually measure. Isn't it convenient that physicists are recently finding more particles? [url] Physicists had a pretty good year in 2015. The field of physics got an upgrade to the Large Hadron Collider, more telescopes looking for gravity waves and dark matter, and recognition for over 1,300 physicists working on the understanding of neutrinos. Also, plans for a new International Linear Collider could lead to a next-generation particle accelerator -- for smashing electrons and positrons -- built in Japan. [url] If you've been thinking about learning how to code, take a look at our Daily Deals for a collection of online courses to help you program and/or master some professional skills.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
Spend any reasonable amount of time looking through all the posts we've done here on DRM -- digital rights management -- and one theme becomes abundantly clear: the whole thing is an exercise in futility. Far from a blanket solution to video game piracy, DRM instead can be best explained as an arms race between game publishers and the hacking groups that best them at speeds nothing short of remarkable. All, mind you, while mostly annoying legitimate customers of the games the DRM is meant to protect from the pirates that crack them. But one hacking group out of China is predicting that this trend will cease and that cracking games is about to become a thing of the past. 3DM is a group out of China that is fairly well-known for cracking games that have DRM. The group has recently been suggesting that one form of DRM, called Denuvo, is already much more difficult to break than other iterations of DRM, and even predicts that within two years nobody will be able to crack games any longer. Just Cause 3 is the current hot potato and despite having released an endless supply of cracks for other titles (and having had success against Denuvo in the past), the cracks (excuse the pun) are beginning to show at 3DM. In a posting on her blog, 3DM forum founder ‘Bird Sister’ (also known as Phoenix) has revealed the frustrations being experienced with Just Cause 3. “Recently, many people have asked about cracks for ‘Just Cause 3′, so here is a centralized answer to this question. The last stage is too difficult and Jun [cracking guy] nearly gave up, but last Wednesday I encouraged him to continue,” Bird Sister explains. "I still believe that this game can be compromised. But according to current trends in the development of encryption technology, in two years time I’m afraid there will be no free games to play in the world,” she adds. A grave prediction for those wishing to pirate games to be sure, but how realistic of a prediction is it? Again, it's a claim that is up against a trend that has only moved in one direction. As they say, extraordinary claims must be accompanied by extraordinary evidence and I'm not seeing it here. One game presenting more of a challenge than others thus far doesn't seem like enough to be convincing. We've seen in the past new forms of DRM touted as the end of piracy, and even work for a short while, only to be bested and beaten to the point of their being useless. Should we believe this time it will be different, all because one hacking group claims it to be so? But, hey, let's say game publishers get their unicorn and Denuvo is the perfect DRM. Let's say it's never beaten, or that it at least changes the game such that piracy is significantly more difficult, cracking takes far longer such that it becomes less attractive, and all the rest. Pretend it happens. Then what? Well, then the real fun begins, because we're all going to then get a very good look at exactly how important DRM is for the gaming industry and exactly how much piracy hinders the bottom line for game companies. Because if the DRM unicorn exists and the anti-piracy folks are to be believed, well, then all those lost sales will be transformed into paid revenue and the gaming industry had damned well better completely explode in terms of income. Were that not to happen, then DRM would be revealed to be the false god my side of the argument has always claimed it was: fighting a fight not worth fighting. Because the majority of those who would pirate games likely never were potential customers. Because every download isn't a lost sale. And because there are much better methods for a game company to ingratiate itself to gamers, giving them reasons to buy, that DRM doesn't even touch. Given that the gaming industry is one that has embraced so many new ways of doing business, a DRM unicorn would almost certainly be a step backwards. I actually hope this DRM unicorn exists so we can finally get some impact numbers to work with. I doubt we get the chance, however. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
We're formally now bearing witness to the "synergistic" fruit of AT&T's $69 billion recent acquisition of DirecTV. When the deal was first proposed, even Wall Street wondered why AT&T would spend that kind of money on a satellite TV provider on the eve of the cord cutting revolution. But AT&T has a very clear plan of attack, and as we recently noted, its first move post merger was to raise the rates of DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse TV customers in perfect unison. Now AT&T has added a new wrinkle to its post-merger plans, bringing back unlimited wireless broadband data -- but only if you sign up for the company's television services. According to a new company announcement, customers who sign up for both AT&T wireless service and AT&T U-Verse TV or DirecTV service can nab unlimited data for $100 per month, plus $40 per month for each additional device:"The new AT&T Unlimited Plan includes unlimited data and unlimited talk and text. Customers can get the AT&T Unlimited Plan on a smartphone for $100 per month. Additional smartphones are $40 per month each, and a fourth smartphone can be added at no additional cost. The new AT&T Unlimited Plan is the first of many integrated video and mobility offers the company plans to announce in 2016."Note your mileage may vary as to whether this is actually a good deal. For instance this plan requires users pay $40 a month to add a tablet to the plan, which is only $10 a month if you remain on AT&T's metered data plans. Obviously many users won't be able to take advantage of the offer if they're not within AT&T's U-Verse fiber-to-the-node TV service footprint, or can't get a clear shot at DirecTV's satellites. AT&T's move is just the latest in a long saga involving unlimited data. AT&T announced it was eliminating unlimited data plans in 2010. And while it grandfathered existing unlimited data users at the time, it has waged a quiet war on those users ever since. The company worked tirelessly to drive these users to metered plans, going so far as to block some video services from working unless users switched to metered plans. The company was also caught throttling these unlimited connections after just 5 GB of usage, resulting in an FCC fine and an FTC lawsuit that AT&T continues to fight to this day. After its run in with regulators, AT&T's been slightly more transparent about the fact its unlimited data plans aren't truly unlimited. In the fine print of this week's offer, AT&T is quick to note that again, by "unlimited" AT&T really means limited:"After 22GB of data usage on a line in a bill cycle, for the remainder of the bill cycle AT&T may slow data speeds on that line during periods of network congestion."Obviously AT&T wants users to believe this is a wonderful example of how AT&T intends to deliver cross-brand value, and to some degree the move is a response to T-Mobile's competitive pressure. However, when you realize that usage caps are largely arbitrary and not tied to any real-world technical or economic justifications, AT&T's basically just using artificial barriers to drive consumers to its own branded products. With AT&T's ongoing flirtations with testing net neutrality via zero rating, one can only imagine some of the dubious cross-brand "synergies" AT&T has planned for 2016.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
We had just discussed a couple of websites, Forbes amongst them, joining the ranks of sites that were attempting to hold their content hostage over people's use of adblockers. The general point of that post was that the reason people use adblockers generally is that sites like Forbes serve up annoying, irritating, horrible ads, such that the question of whether the site's content is worth the hassle of enduring those ads becomes a legitimate one. The moment that question becomes relevant, it should be obvious that the problem is the ad inventory and not the adblocking software. But of course that isn't the only reason that people use adblockers. The other chief impetus for them is security. Here to show us why that is so is...well...Forbes again. One security researcher discusses his attempt to read a Forbes article, complete with the request to disable his adblocking software, and the resulting malware he encountered as a result. Ironically, the Forbes article in question was its notable "30 Under 30" list, and the researcher wanted to check out the inclusion of a rather well-known security researcher. On arrival, like a growing number of websites, Forbes asked readers to turn off ad blockers in order to view the article. After doing so, visitors were immediately served with pop-under malware, primed to infect their computers, and likely silently steal passwords, personal data and banking information. Or, as is popular worldwide with these malware "exploit kits," lock up their hard drives in exchange for Bitcoin ransom. One researcher commented on Twitter that the situation was "ironic" -- and while it's certainly another variant of hackenfreude, ironic isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe what happened. Vindicating might be a better word, I think. Vindication for those who insist that adblockers are not only beneficial, but may well be necessary. Necessary because, as we stated before, too much online advertising is garbage, whether that means the ads just suck, or are downright security threats. Ad networks have been a known vector for this type of malware, which can attempt to infect machines with fake antivirus software or compromise personal information from the infected machines. It's important to understand that this is neither new nor is it some small thing. Less than a month ago, a bogus banner ad was found serving malvertising to visitors of video site DailyMotion. After discovering it, security company Malwarebytes contacted the online ad platform the bad ad was coming through, Atomx. The company blamed a "rogue" advertiser on the WWPromoter network. It was estimated the adware broadcast through DailyMotion put 128 million people at risk. To be specific, it was from the notorious malware family called "Angler Exploit Kit." Remember this name, because I'm pretty sure we're going to be getting to know it a whole lot better in 2016. Last August, Angler struck MSN.com with -- you guessed it -- another drive-by malvertising campaign. It was the same campaign that had infected Yahoo visitors back in July (an estimated 6.9 billion visits per month, it's considered the biggest malvertising attack so far). October saw Angler targeting Daily Mail visitors through poisoned ads as well (monthly ad impressions 64.4 million). Only last month, Angler's malicious ads hit visitors to Reader's Digest (210K readers; ad impressions 1.7M). That attack sat unattended after being in the press, and was fixed only after a week of public outcry. Insisting that users turn off their adblockers in this ecosystem is akin to refusing to allow people to tour the wing of a hospital dedicated to combatting highly infectious disease if they want to wear a bio-hazard suit. It makes no sense. "We can't confirm that our ads are safe, but we insist you not block them." Who actually wants to suggest that this stance makes sense? What should the websites do? The ad networks clearly don't have a handle on this at all, giving us one more reason to use ad blockers. They're practically the most popular malware delivery systems on Earth, and they're making the websites they do business with into the same poisonous monster. I don't even want to think about what it all means for the security practices of the ad companies handling our tracking data or the sites we visit hosting these pathogens. What should websites do? Well, how about they start treating their ad inventory with at least a percentage of the care with which they treat their content? After all, advertising is content, as it is consumed by the reader/viewer, so why not at least bother to make sure it's palatable? Or maybe start putting in place stricter controls to weed out the malvertising and adware? That too could be helpful. Guess what's not anywhere on the list of things websites should do, though. If you answered "Insist that customers open themselves up to these security threats by demanding they turn off adblockers," then you win. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 27 days ago on techdirt
We seem to end up posting stories like this every year, but it just keeps on happening. Hollywood whines and whines and whines about how piracy is killing the movie business... and then announces yet another record year at the box office. Recent numbers show that the movie industry just broke the magic $11 billion barrier, generating more revenue than ever before at the North American box office. The revenue for 2015 totals $11.3 billion, which is roughly a 9% change compared to last year. The worldwide grosses also reached an all-time record according to research from Rentrak, which estimates the global grosses at a staggering $38 billion based on data from 25,000 theaters across the globe. Of course, sometimes people argue back that this is only because tickets are more expensive and that fewer people are actually buying tickets to go to the theater. About that... Another sign that business is going well, at least for some, is the increase in the number of tickets that were sold. In 2015 theaters increased their ticket sales by more than 5% in North America. I imagine that some will respond that this was really only because of the desire to see the new Star Wars flick, but isn't that simply proof that if you deliver what the public wants, they'll pay to go to the theater? The other response, then, is that the real problem is that the home video market has declined. Sure, but that's the same home video market that Hollywood tried desperately to kill, so I'm not sure that's a legitimate argument if you're defending Hollywood. But, even if we accept the question of the home video market, I'll just point out that, last I checked, Netflix had a valuation over $45 billion. So, at least Wall Street doesn't seem to be too up in arms about the state of the "home video" market. Of course, every time we post this kind of thing, we're left asking if Hollywood will finally recognize that, maybe, just maybe, piracy isn't the issue they should be focused on. And it never happens. However, let's be optimistic this year and hope that maybe Hollywood will finally come around to realize that the thing it's been saying will kill it hasn't done anything of the sort.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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