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The Right to Be Forgotten™ (New York State Edition) is dead. The Media Law Resource Center reports the senator behind the bill (Tony Avella) has pretty much killed it by striking the enactment clause. This means Avella is no longer sponsoring this bill, leaving it to wander the halls of state congress like a child whose father "just stepped out to get some smokes" ten years ago. It's up to some other senator to step up and attach their name (and reputation) to an incredibly stupid law. I doubt there's a line forming, not after the negative press it's received. The Assembly version lives on, however. Assemblyman David Weprin has a matching proposal, with the same broad language that would make it a civil violation (paired with government-levied penalties) for any site/service providing "inadequate," "irrelevant," or "excessive" information someone wants stricken from the face of the internet. This is Weprin's second attempt to institute a New York State-only "right to be forgotten." His previous version is identical to this year's model, which shows bad ideas are just as subject to stagnation as the merely mediocre ones. The difference this year is lots of attention has been paid to Avella's version -- which appears to be nothing but a quick copy-paste job with a new sponsor. The Senate version is an outcast. The Assembly version has merely been ignored for more than year. There's zero chance this will become law in 2017. But, if Weprin's anything to go by, there's always next year. Until its eventual reintroduction, here's Ken White's (Popehat) take on the bill, which will hopefully be passed along to New York legislators for their consideration: This bill is a constitutional and policy disaster that shows no sign that the drafters made any attempt whatsoever to conform to the requirements of the constitution. It purports to punish both speakers and search engines for publishing—or indexing—truthful information protected by the First Amendment. There's no First Amendment exception for speech deemed "irrelevant" or "inadequate" or "excessive," and the rules for punishing "inaccurate" speech are already well-established and not followed by this bill. The bill is hopelessly vague, requiring speakers to guess at what some fact-finder will decide is "irrelevant" or "no longer material to current public debate," or how a fact-finder will balance (in defiance of the First Amendment) the harm of the speech and its relevance. The exceptions are haphazard and poorly defined, and the role of the New York Secretary of State in administering the law is unclear. This would be a bonanza for anyone who wanted to harass reporters, bloggers, search engines, and web sites to take down negative information, and would incentivize such harassment and inflict massive legal costs on anyone who wanted to stand up to a vexatious litigant. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As you may recall, there was a giant fuss last year, when an Australian guy named Craig Wright not only claimed that he was "Satoshi Nakamoto" -- the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin -- but had convined key Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen that he was Nakomoto. That was a big deal because Andresen was one of the first developers on Bitcoin and regularly corresponded with Nakamoto (Andresen's own name sometimes popped up in rumors about who Nakamoto might be). Even with Andresen being convinced, plenty of others soon picked apart the claims and found the claims severely lacking in proof. Then, last summer, Andrew O'Hagan published an absolutely massive profile of Wright that only served to raise a lot more questions about Wright, his businesses, his claims to having created Bitcoin, and a variety of other things. However, as we noted at the time, buried in that massive article was a bizarre tidbit about how Wright was actively trying to patent a ton of Bitcoin related ideas. As we noted, the article stated that Wright's plan was to patent tons of Bitcoin stuff, reveal himself as Nakamoto and then sell his patents for a billion dollars. Of course, part of that plan fizzled because basically no one believes Wright was Nakamoto. But, apparently the patenting has continued. Earlier this months, Reuters released a big "investigation" showing that Wright is rushing to get as many Bitcoin-related patents as possible, and has partnered with an online gambling mogul who's a fugitive because of his business dealings (add this to the long list of sketchy connections between Wright and other businesses): Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist who made the Satoshi claim, has the backing of Calvin Ayre, a wealthy Canadian entrepreneur, according to people close to Wright and documents reviewed by Reuters. Ayre has been indicted in the United States on charges of running online gambling operations that are illegal in many U.S. states – an accusation he rejects. Wright’s expertise combined with Ayre’s support make a potentially formidable force in shaping the future of bitcoin and blockchain, the ledger technology that underlies digital currencies. Wright and his associates have lodged more than 70 patent applications in Britain and have plans to file many more, according to documents and emails reviewed by Reuters and sources with knowledge of Wright’s business. The patents range from the storage of medical documents to WiFi security, and reflect Wright's deep knowledge of how bitcoin and blockchain work. Their total compares with 63 blockchain-related patents filed globally last year and 27 so far this year by multinationals from credit card companies to chipmakers, according to Thomson Innovation. And, because it's patents we're talking about, there's a shell company here, because shell companies are quite popular in the patent trolling world. But Reuters claims that Ayre and Wright are behind this particular shell company and point to lots of close connections between the two. The report further notes that there are plans to file 150 patent applications, and maybe up to 400, and again repeats the claim from last year about the "ONE BILLLLLLLLLION DOLLARS!" sales plan: The range of patent applications lodged by Wright and colleagues is wide. Five, registered on Dec. 14, were made by EITC Holdings with the bland description “computer-implemented method and system,” public filings show. One, registered on Dec. 28, was described as “Determining a common secret for two blockchain nodes for the secure exchange of information” - apparently a way to use the blockchain to exchange encrypted data. Other applications by Wright and his associates relate to sports betting and a blockchain-based operating system for simple electronic devices. Emails from Wright to Ayre’s associate Matthews, reviewed by Reuters, set out plans to file 150 patents. A person with direct knowledge of Wright’s businesses said he and associates ultimately aim to file closer to 400. None has been approved so far and it’s not clear whether the patents would be enforceable if granted, but Wright’s associates have been quoted as saying the patents could be sold “for upwards of a billion dollars.” The Reuters article argues that this "rush to patent applications poses a threat to the original conception of bitcoin as a technology available to all." Of course, that also seems like a pretty big strike against the idea that Wright is Nakamoto. But it also seems like a misunderstanding about patents themselves. First off, just because you file for a ton of patents, it doesn't mean you're going to get them. And, thankfully, lately the USPTO has actually gotten much, much better at rejecting really bad patents. These things may be worth talking about if he's actually granted these patents -- and, even then, it may only really matter if he (or any later holder of the patents) seeks to enforce them. The really crazy thing, though, is that this once again demonstrates the sheer silliness of our patent system. Rather than actually trying to build a viable business by leveraging the useful features of Bitcoin/blockchain, you have someone trying to lock it up by putting tollbooths wherever possible. Tons of work is being done to advance Bitcoin and blockchain these days, because of all the opportunities it will create... not because of patents. And, once again, it shows the folly of believing that patents are a key incentive for innovation. That's rarely the case. Often, they're a key incentive for putting hurdles in the way of actual innovations, so that you can shake the actual innovators down for cash. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Caution: Copyright gear now available on Teespring » It's that time again: we've launched another new line of gear on Teespring — Caution: Copyright T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers. I hope the design speaks for itself, though whether it will be as controversial as Copying Is Not Theft remains to be seen... We're also very happy to announce that shipping from Europe is now available for all Techdirt gear on Teespring! If you visit any of our campaigns with an IP address outside the US, you'll be given the option to choose the EU fulfillment center instead. The product selection and pricing is slightly different, but our friends across the Atlantic should find the shipping much cheaper and faster. If you don't get the option to choose your location, look for the link in the product description on Teespring, because there is sometimes a delay in getting the global campaigns properly linked. (Here's a direct link to the EU version of this new T-shirt, for convenience's sake.) Check out the Techdirt Gear store for Caution: Copyright and more » Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Now that Edward Snowden has done all the leg work, the Intelligence Community is admitting that, yeah, maybe it should have been more upfront about the phone metadata collection. The soon-to-be-former NSA Deputy Director says it might have been better for the agency to be out ahead of the disclosures, rather than forced to play defense. Richard Ledgett, who is retiring next month, said in an interview with Reuters that disclosing the secret program would have been difficult. But, he said, doing so might have mitigated the damage done by Snowden. "That's one where I might have to say, yes," Ledgett said in his office at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. "That's one where maybe it would have been less shocking when Snowden did what he did." Ledgett's not alone in feeling this way. Since the leaking began back in June 2013, several current and former officials have made similar statements. For one thing, controlling the disclosure means controlling the narrative. The IC could have pointed to several things in defense of the bulk domestic collection program, including: a.) the lawfulness of the collection b.) the rigorous oversight c.) the strict compliance with FISA and the FISA court d.) it's "just metadata" Doing so might have headed off Snowden and other leakers. Possibly. At the very least, it would have bought the NSA some time and some narrative leeway before documents began being published showing: a.) the collection's lawfulness was dubious at best b.) the oversight was a joke c.) the FISA court routinely discovered abuse by the NSA d.) metadata exposes quite a bit of a person's life, actually. Not quite as straightforward were Ledgett's comments on the Section 702 program, which provides backdoor domestic searches for a variety of government agencies, as well as harvests millions of communications from internet backbones. During the run-up to the Section 215 reauthorization two years ago, it sometimes appeared the NSA was willing to make deep compromises on the telephone metadata program in order to spare the internet collection the same sort of Congressional scrutiny. Since 2011, oversight committee members (well, just a couple of them, actually) have been demanding an estimate of the amount of American communications incidentally-collected by the NSA with this program. Six years later, there have been promises made but none kept. At this point, Ledgett is just another IC official making promises no one seems to have any intent of keeping. Privacy advocates have repeatedly demanded that the government share an estimate of how many Americans are ensnared by programs authorized under Section 702. Intelligence officials have declined to do so. But Ledgett, in remarks earlier Tuesday at a forum sponsored by the Aspen Institute, said "yes" when asked if an estimate would be provided before year end. We'll see. Deadlines have been ignored in the past and Ledgett's on his way out the door, so these are promises he can't be held responsible for not keeping. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Late last year, a security researcher noticed what was believed to be an unusual amount of network traffic between Donald Trump's server and a Russian bank. A lot of bad reporting followed -- some it aided by the security researcher's conclusions -- which attempted to tie some spikes in spam to Trump's supposed collusion with the Russians. It was a conspiracy theory borne of a researcher's belief something was happening, even when further research by others showed it to be a whole lot of nothing. At this point, only the die hard conspiracy theorists are still holding onto this spike in traffic between a Trump server and a Russian bank as evidence of anything. Now, there's an additional wrinkle. The FBI is investigating possible connections between Trump and Russia that may have played a part in the election. Nothing has been confirmed by the FBI. As for the spike in network traffic noticed by the researcher, it can still be chalked up to the most boring of non-conspiracy theories: spammers using the same domain name server as both Trump's server and a Russian bank to spam recipients with hotel-related email. The other party that can't let go of this conspiracy theory is the Russian bank's lawyers. CyberScoop reports Alfa Bank's lawyers have issued legal threats to a security researcher behind the Trump-Russia story. In a document obtained by CyberScoop, Alfa Bank notified Indiana University computer researcher L. Jean Camp that it’s pursuing “all available options” after Camp’s research suggested the bank engaged in some form of communication with the Trump Organization. Washington-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis sent the letter on the bank’s behalf on March 17. Alfa Bank is considering, among other things, using one of our nation's most easily-abused laws to pursue legal action against Camp for "promoting an unwarranted investigation" into the bank's ties to Donald Trump. The CFAA is cited as one route the bank may take towards making Camp pay for besmirching the reputation of the Russian bank. It also demands [PDF] she retain records possibly needed in upcoming litigation, including those detailed in this memorable sentence: communications between you and the individuals you have publicly identified as a "loose group of concerned nerds" with whom you reportedly worked in concert regarding this matter Being a security researcher is dangerous enough, even when you're 100% in the right. Legal threats tend to follow news of security breaches or unpatched exploits. When you follow the wrong conclusion because you're so sure you're right, you make things worse. The CFAA is a blunt weapon with surprising flexibility, and all the data researchers normally avail themselves of without issue can be twisted into "unauthorized access" by a complainant with sufficient motivation. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Learn the core concepts of IT systems auditing through the seven courses in the ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor Training. You will discover the importance of applying IT governance principles to maintain levels of security and availability, learn to codify IT service delivery and support mechanisms to ensure that systems and users remain fully productive, and much more. The courses are designed to help you study to pass the ISACA certification exam and are on sale for $29 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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More than 100 phones taken from arrested Inauguration Day protesters have had their data exfiltrated, apparently in hopes of pinpointing perpetrators of damage and additional (but unarrested) suspects. As Buzzfeed reports, the unusual investigative step doesn't appear to have been hampered by device encryption. Prosecutors are extracting data from more than 100 locked cell phones seized during arrests in downtown Washington, DC, on President Trump’s Inauguration Day, according to court papers prosecutors filed on Wednesday. Prosecutors said they had search warrants to pull data from the phones, which were taken from individuals arrested on Inauguration Day, including some who were not indicted. All of the phones were locked, according to the government, “which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data.” But the filing appeared to indicate that they were successful in accessing information on the phones. Presumably, prosecutors are looking for communications and photos that will nail down charges against protesters who directly caused $100,000 worth of damage. (Or maybe they're just looking for paystubs?) Another clue can be found in the Motion for Protective Order [PDF] filed by the US prosecutor before turning over the data to defendants' lawyers. The police were able to arrest approximately 230 of the rioters that day; all of them were charged with violating DC. Code 22-1322 (Rioting or inciting to riot). However, many other rioters evaded arrest by forcibly charging police officers and fleeing. It looks like the government prosecutor isn't satisfied with the 214 indictments it already has. Cell phones of "unindicted arrestees" have also been searched. Unusually, the data collected isn't being separated. Instead, defense attorneys will have all the access prosecutors have: a full dump of everything and the responsibility to sort out what is or isn't relevant to their case. According to the filings on Wednesday, the government plans to produce the information it collects from the seized phones to the defendants by way of an electronic database that would be made available to defense counsel. The extracted data includes irrelevant personal information, prosecutors said, so they’re seeking an order from the court that would prohibit defense lawyers from copying or sharing information unless it’s relevant to defend their client. The cell phone searches sound sketchy, especially when law enforcement has apparently acquired 100 cell phone-sized warrants or, worse, one warrant to search them all. The cell phones searches aren't the government's only bulk operation. Prosecutors are also hoping to prosecute in bulk, dividing the 200+ indictees into four categories for faster processing. One of the defense lawyers involved is fighting this move, pointing out the Constitution takes precedence over the government's convenience. Christopher Mutimer, a defense lawyer representing one of the defendants, told BuzzFeed News by email on Wednesday that he would oppose efforts by the government to hold joint trials. “These cases should be tried individually in a manner that protects each individual defendant’s constitutional rights,” Mutimer said. “Not in groupings that make the trials most convenient for the government. Grouping individuals for trial creates a danger of wrongful convictions based on guilt by association.” Other constitutional inconveniences will have to wait as well. The presiding judge hasn't granted the data dump court order yet but has told arrestees any unconstitutional searches will have to be sorted out during their trials, not prior to prosecution. Expect statements of expertise from law enforcement officers where the word "drug dealer" has been replaced with "protester" to explain the likelihood of finding evidence of drug dealing felony rioting on more than 100 seized and searched cell phones. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So you may have noticed that Google has been caught up in a bit of a stink in the UK over the company's YouTube ads being presented near "extremist" content. The fracas began after a report by the Times pointed out that advertisements for a rotating crop of brands were appearing next to videos uploaded to YouTube by a variety of hateful extremists. It didn't take long for the UK government -- and a number of companies including McDonald's, BBC, Channel 4, and Lloyd's -- to engage in some extended pearl-clutching, proclaiming they'd be suspending their ad buys until Google resolved the issue. Of course, much like the conversation surrounding "fake news," most of the news coverage was bizarrely superficial and frequently teetering toward the naive. Most outlets were quick to malign Google for purposely letting extremist content get posted, ignoring the fact that the sheer volume of video content uploaded to YouTube on a daily basis makes hateful-idiot policing a Sisyphean task. Most of the reports also severely understate the complexity of modern internet advertising, where real-time bidding and programmatic placement means companies may not always know what brand ads show up where, or when. Regardless, Google wound up issuing a mea culpa stating they'd try to do a better job at keeping ads for the McRib sandwich far away from hateful idiocy: "We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values. So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites." As we've noted countless times, policing hate speech is a complicated subject, where the well-intentioned often stumble down the rabbit hole into hysteria and overreach. Amusingly though, AT&T and Verizon -- two U.S. brands not exactly synonymous with ethical behavior -- were quick to take advantage of the situation, issuing statements that they too were simply outraged -- and would be pulling their advertising from some Google properties post haste. This resulted in a large number of websites regurgitating said outrage with a decidedly straight face: "We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate," an AT&T spokesperson told Business Insider in a written statement. "Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms." "Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation," a Verizon spokesperson told Business Insider. "We are working with all of our digital advertising partners to understand the weak links so we can prevent this from happening in the future." Of course, if you know the history of either company, you should find this pearl-clutching a little entertaining. In just the last few years, AT&T has been busted for turning a blind eye to drug dealer directory assistance scams, ripping off programs for the hearing impaired, defrauding government programs designed to shore up low-income connectivity, and actively helping "crammers" by making scam charges on consumer bills harder to detect. Verizon, recently busted for covertly spying on internet users and defrauding cities via bogus broadband deployment promises isn't a whole lot better. That's not to say that all of the companies involved in the Google fracas are engaged in superficial posturing for competitive advantage. Nor is it to say that Google can't do more to police the global hatred brigades. But as somebody who has spent twenty years writing about these two companies specifically, the idea that either gives much of a shit about their ads showing up next to hateful ignoramuses is laughable. And it was bizarre to see an ocean of news outlets just skip over the fact that both companies are pushing hard into advertising themselves with completed or looming acquisitions of Time Warner, AOL and Yahoo. Again, policing hateful idiocy is absolutely important. But overreach historically doesn't serve anybody. And neither does pretentious face fanning by companies looking to use the resulting hysteria to competitive advantage. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It was just last week that we discussed the pleasant news that Australia's Prime Minister was backing the idea of reforming the country's safe harbor laws, which are far out of line with much of the world as the result of poor wording. The whole thing can be basically summarized thusly: in Australia, safe harbor protections only apply to commercial ISPs, as opposed to service providers like websites or institutions that offer internet access, because someone decided to use the term "carriage service providers" in the law as opposed to simply "service providers." Essentially everyone agrees this was done in error as opposed to intentionally, yet it's been decades and nobody has bothered fixing the law. Until some members of the government revived an attempt to do so and got the Prime Minister's support. Doing so would have put Australian law on equal footing with the EU and American safe harbor provisions, meaning that service providers generally couldn't be scapegoated for the actions of a third party. You know, holding the actual people culpable of a crime accountable instead of the service provider. Well, that sane approach was no match for lobbying dollars, it seems, as the Australian government is yanking the safe harbor reform section out of its copyright bill entirely. The Australian government has dropped plans to extend safe harbours from a new piece of legislation that will amend the country’s copyright laws. The Australian government had planned to bring the country’s safe harbour rules more in line with those in the US and Europe. However, the local media and entertainment industries hit out at that proposal, pointing out that the wider safe harbour had proven controversial in America and the European Union, and that moves were afoot in the latter to limit safe harbour protection for user-upload platforms. With all that in mind, lobbyists for the content owners argued, a rigorous review should be undertaken before any changes to Australian safe harbour rules are considered by lawmakers. Yet the safe harbour reform hadn’t been subject to a proper consultation like the other proposals in the Copyright Amendment Bill. Because it's simple morality: you don't blame someone who didn't commit an illegal action. On top of that, safe harbor provisions in America have only been held as controversial by lawsuit-happy lawyers and entertainment companies that see a potential profit center in service providers. After all, suing individuals is both difficult and a PR nightmare. Suing faceless websites or schools? Not so much. Now the lobbyist-puppets in the government are pitching the removal as a way to have "evidence-based hearings" on the safe harbor proposals, except it should go without saying that evidence isn't often the basis of anything that comes out of entertainment industry lobbyists to begin with. Between inflated piracy statistics, inflated impact of copyright on inflated industries, and inflated claims about dollars lost, who but someone with their hand out even looks to the entertainment industry for any kind of valid analysis on any of this? Besides: the whole safe harbor question has arisen from a miswording in the law. It seems that low of a hurdle to reform ought not need public hearings to leap over it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Is it possible to arrest an unarmed homeless person without destroying the residence he's hiding in? To the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and Clovis PD (and far too many other law enforcement agencies), the question remains rhetorical. David Jessen's farmhouse felt the full, combined force of two law enforcement agencies and all their toys last June. According to his lawsuit [PDF], a homeless man was rousted from a nearby vacant house after he was discovered sleeping in the closet. He left peacefully but was soon spotted by the construction crew breaking into Jessen's house. The construction worker, god bless him, called the police because he thought they could help. Jessen was notified shortly thereafter. He returned home to find four sheriff's office cars parked at his residence (one of them "on the lawn," because of course it was) and a deputy yelling at his house through a bullhorn. According to the deputies, the homeless man refused to come out and threatened to shoot anyone who came in. Jessen was asked if he had any guns in the house. He replied he did, but two were unloaded and had no ammo and the third was hidden so well "only he could find it." Jessen was asked to move his pickup truck and leave the area for his own safety. The deputies also asked for a house key and for the garage to be opened before he left. Jessen and his family went to a friend's house about a quarter-mile away. Several hours later, he was told he could return home. This is what Jessen returned to: As David was driving toward the home from Jensen David counted approximately fifty-five (55) or more law enforcement vehicles. David was then ordered to park along Rolinda Avenue north of his home and instructed to walk to his home. On his way to his home David was stopped by a SWAT person who told him the “operation” was concluded, A second Fresno County Deputy Sheriff, that Jessen’s are informed and believe and upon information and belief allege was a Lieutenant, handed David a card and said “we have insurance for this.” We'll pause there for a moment and consider the effect this must have on recipients. This is basically a message telling them their stuff has been damaged/destroyed. Not that the law enforcement agency cares. It might end up with higher premiums, but each officer involved still has an undamaged residence to go home to, unlike "civilians" like Jessen, whose houses happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Insurance in the hands of officers like these is a permission slip, rather than a liability buffer. Continuing on… A third Fresno County Deputy Sheriff showed David the damage and David was overwhelmed by the severity and extent of the damage to the residence. The damage to the Jessens’ residence was massive and extensive. The magnitude of the damage to the Jessen’s’ home was unreasonable and unjustified, needlessly implemented to capture a singular, surrounded, unarmed, hungry, homeless person who posed no danger to anyone, and cooperated in leaving the neighbors residence earlier. Here's the full list of what local law enforcement deployed to handle a single, resistant homeless person: a. Utilized over 50 vehicles; b. A K-9 unit, c. Two helicopters; d. Two Ambulances; e. One Fire Truck; f. A Crisis Negotiation Team arriving in a large motor home, that Plaintiffs are informed and believe included communications equipment and other support equipment; g. A Robot; h. SWAT Team; and I. Back Up SWAT Team — Clovis City Police. Now, the officers might have been concerned the homeless person had armed himself with one of Jessen's weapons, despite his assurances they were well-hidden/unloaded. Even so, they had plenty of options available that didn't include doing all the things they did instead. a. Ripped out the wrought iron door and interior door to the Jessen’s home office; b. Pulled the wall of the office off the foundation; c. Broke the window to the office; d. Teargassed the bathroom near the office; e. Shattered the sliding glass door to the home for “robot” entry; f. Ripped the wrought iron door off the laundry room; g. Teargassed the laundry room; h. Flash bombed the laundry room and the business office that resulted in breaking six (6) windows; i. Teargassed the kitchen; j. Teargassed the master bathroom; k. Teargassed the sewing room; l. Teargassed the bedroom in the northeast corner of the home; and m. Destroyed over 90 feet of exterior fencing with a SWAT vehicle. For reasons only known to the Sheriff's Department, a deputy continued to search for hidden handgun on Jessen's effed-up residence. He was only able to "recover" after receiving specific directions over the phone from Jessen to locate it. All guns were immediately returned to Jessen, making this last search -- which occurred nearly two hours after Jessen was given an insurance card and a broken home -- especially pointless. In total, the interloping homeless person cost Jessen one window, an ice cream bar, some milk, and half a tomato. According to the lawsuit's allegations, the two law enforcement agencies rang up more than $150,000 in damaged property. Jessen alleges a long list of constitutional violations but also something a bit more whoa if true: All of this military-like activity was implemented and completed without Jessen's request, approval, or consent. Jessens are informed and believe the training operation was undertaken because the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and/or Clovis Police Department had found, by accident, the perfect location to conduct a training exercise on a rural home, on a dead-end street, in rural Fresno County, where “civilians” were not present, “civilians” were not going to congregate, “civilians” were not going to observe or interfere with the military training assault on the Jessen’s home and the situation posed no risk of injury to the officers. The Fresno County Sheriff‘s Department and Clovis Police Department seized upon this fortuitous opportunity to engage in a real-life training exercise. Unless something amazing comes out of discovery during litigation, this claim is unlikely to survive. And chances are it won't survive an initial reading. Jessen is probably safer staying the Constitutional lane. But there is a hint of truth to the allegation, even if there was no provable intent to use Jessen's house as a SWAT team training ground. Law enforcement agencies spend a lot of money on tools and tactics which are rarely deployed. Recognizing a chance to take all the toys out for a spin isn't necessarily a conspiracy… it's just what happens when you have more power than restraint. That's what turns a "standoff' in which the suspect is armed with half an ice cream bar into a mostly-unusable house. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Late last year Google Fiber announced it would be pausing expansion into several new markets, axing its CEO, and shuffling a number of employees around. Reports subsequently emerged suggesting that Alphabet higher ups were growing frustrated with the high cost and slow pace of fiber deployment, and were contemplating an overall larger shift to wireless. While the company continues to insist that there's nothing to see here and that everything is continuing as normal, signs continue to emerge that the ground Google Fiber is built on may not be particularly sturdy. This week numerous Kansas City residents say they were told that the company was cancelling their installations after waiting eighteen months for service. Users there are frustrated by Google's complete lack of explanation for the rash of cancellations: "About April, May, I saw sometimes as many as four to five Fiber trucks in the neighborhood. I kept watching my email but never got anything in the mail to schedule my appointment or anything,” Muerer told 41 Action News. That was back in October 2015. Eighteen months later, Meurer still doesn’t have Google Fiber. He recently received an email saying the company had canceled his installation. "I’m left wondering what is going on,” said Meurer. Kansas City residents aren't alone. Portland was one of the cities Google Fiber was supposed to launch in, but locals there are similarly frustrated by Google's about face. Especially since the city had shuffled around city ordinances, laid the groundwork for the placement of Google Fiber "huts," and convinced state legislatures to pass a new state law providing notable tax incentives for Google Fiber. Chicago, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, and Tampa were also in various states of contact with Google Fiber about potential builds that apparently will no longer be happening. And while Google Fiber still exists, Google/Alphabet isn't helping restore confidence it the disruptive potential of the service. By and large the company continues to insist that everything is fine and there's nothing to see here despite ongoing evidence of cold feet at the executive level. Whenever press outlets inquire about last fall's decision, reporters are given a calorie-free rosy statement that tells people absolutely nothing substantive about what's going on. This statement, for example, is what I was given when I asked the company specifically why it was cancelling fiber installations in Kansas City: "Google Fiber loves Kansas City and is here to stay. We’ve been grateful to be part of your community since 2011, and for the opportunity to provide superfast Internet to residents. We recently announced our expansion into Raymore, we are continuing to build in Overland Park, and we can’t wait for even more customers in Kansas City to experience what’s possible with Google Fiber." Ars Technica received a similar non-answer from the company. Granted Google's pivot to wireless could certainly work. The company is conducting wireless trials in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz millimeter wave bands, as well as the 3.5 GHz band, the 5.8 GHz band and the 24 GHz band. It seems fairly clear that Alphabet executives really don't know what they want to do just yet, but don't want to admit that to anybody. But confidence that Google Fiber would be the answer to solving the broadband mono/duopoly log jam is quickly wavering, something unaided by Google's bizarre refusal to be clear about the direction the project is headed. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Well, we all knew this was coming, but Rep. Bob Goodlatte has been passing around a draft of a bill to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress. Specifically, it would make the head of the Copyright Office, the Copyright Register, a Presidentially appointed position, with 10-year terms, and who could only be removed by the President. This is a bad and dangerous idea. It's one that's designed to give Hollywood and the recording industry even more power and control over an already deeply captured agency. As it stands now, having the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress provides at least some basic recognition of the actual intent of copyright law, as established by the Constitution to Promote the progress of science. That is, as we've pointed out for a long, long time, the intent of copyright is to benefit the public. The mechanism is to provide temporary monopolies to creators as an incentive, before handing the works over to the public. Yet, the Copyright Office eschews that view, insisting that the role of the Copyright Office is to expand those monopoly rights, and to speak out for the interests of major copyright holders (rarely the creators themselves). Either way, by making this a Presidential appointment, the MPAA and RIAA know that it will give them significantly greater say over who leads the office. Right now they can (and do!) lobby the Librarian of Congress on who should be chosen, but the Librarian gets to choose. One hopes that the Librarian would take into account the larger view of copyright law, and who it's actually supposed to benefit -- and we're hoping that the current Librarian will do so (if given the chance). But making it a Presidential appointment will mean heavy lobbying by industry, and much less likelihood that the public interest is considered. The usual think tankers and industry folks will tell you -- incorrectly -- that the Copyright Office is only in the Library due to "an accident of history." But that's not the case. The role of both overlap dramatically -- collecting, organizing and cataloging new creative works. Almost everyone agrees that the Copyright Office needs to be modernized, and that the previous Librarian failed (miserably) to do so. But because we had a bad librarian in the past is no reason to remove the Copyright Office entirely from the Library and disconnect it completely to its constitutional moorings designed around getting more creative works to the public. Make sure to let your Congressional Representative know not to support this bill -- especially if they're members of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Goodlatte has said that he'd only propose copyright reform bills that have widespread consensus. This is not such a bill. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Here come even more revelations of surveillance abuse by UK law enforcement. To date, various law enforcement agencies have been exposed as participating in very broad readings of very broadly-written anti-terrorism laws to spy on journalists and activists. The latest abuse detailed by The Guardian concerns the surveillance of activists by UK law enforcement on behalf of a foreign government. The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists. The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers. [...] Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails. This is more of the same for any UK agencies with access to surveillance tools and easily-abusable laws. These complaints are adding to the pile sitting in front of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Not that the Commission will ever get to the bottom of this, as it's finding its oversight being thwarted by the agencies it's assigned to oversee. Last month the IPCC said it had uncovered evidence suggesting the documents had been destroyed despite a specific instruction that files should be preserved to be examined by a judge-led public inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups. The letter claimed that the shredding “has been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of”. The author added that “the main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that [police] officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups” It's unclear what the Indian police -- who used hackers to obtain account passwords -- were looking for or why they turned to Scotland Yard for assistance. Those whose accounts were accessed were far from dangerous individuals. Although the activists may be vehemently opposed to UK government policies and the actions of several major corporations, the worst of the worst of those confirmed to be surveilled did 80 hours hard time community service stemming from an incident where unwanted solar panels were forcibly installed on a deputy prime minister's house. Presumably, the valuable info snagged from hacked accounts gave police on both sides heads up on planned demonstrations, as well as any other non-protest-related conversations the activists might have had. Considering what flows into the average email account, police could have gained access to financial transactions, medical information, and conversations between activists and those with zero interest in making the world a subjectively better place. Fortunately, the documentation backing up the hacking accusations is still in the hands of repentant hackers, rather than headed for the Scotland Yard shredder. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Despite a last-ditch effort by the EFF and other consumer and privacy groups, Congress today voted to dismantle privacy protections for broadband subscribers in a 50-48 vote. The rules, passed last October by the FCC, simply required that ISPs clearly disclose what subscriber data is being collected and sold by ISPs. It also required that ISPs provide working opt out tools, and required that consumers had to opt in (the dirtiest phrase imaginable to the ad industry) to the collection of more sensitive data like financial info or browsing histories. Another part of the rules, which simply required that ISPs were transparent about hacking intrusions and data theft, had already been killed off quietly by new FCC boss Ajit Pai. The rules were seen as important in the face of greater consolidation in an already uncompetitive broadband market, where said lack of competition eliminates any organic market punishment for bad behavior on the privacy front (unlike the content or other industries). Now, with neither broadband competition -- nor meaningful regulatory oversight -- privacy advocates are justifiably worried about the repercussions to come. The rules were killed by using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to dismantle recently approved regulations with a simple majority vote. While the rules really were relatively straightforward, telecom lobbyists spent months deriding the rules as "onerous regulations" that would be "too confusing" for consumers, potentially stifling sector "innovation." Industry lobbyists also consistently pushed "studies" proclaiming that ISPs really don't collect much consumer data, in stark contrast to, you know, the truth. One of the proposals sponsors, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, went so far in a speech Wednesday night to suggest that the rules somehow "restricted constitutional rights" (of giant ISPs like Comcast, apparently): "In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday night, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who introduced the bill, said the FCC regulations were an example of a “bureaucratic power grab.” "Passing this CRA will send a powerful message that federal agencies can’t unilaterally restrict constitutional rights and expect to get away with it,” Flake said." ISP lobbyists had spent countless hours trying to convince lawmakers that FCC oversight of privacy was unnecessary, and that the FTC alone was well-equipped to handle consumer privacy complaints in the broadband sector. But in a recent interview, former FCC boss Tom Wheeler made it abundantly clear that this was largely bullshit -- and the goal is to shovel off privacy oversight to an FTC without rule making abilities, already overloaded by other enforcement obligations: "It’s a fraud. The FTC doesn’t have rule-making authority. They’ve got enforcement authority and their enforcement authority is whether or not something is unfair or deceptive. And the FTC has to worry about everything from computer chips to bleach labeling. Of course, carriers want [telecom issues] to get lost in that morass. This was the strategy all along. So it doesn’t surprise me that the Trump transition team — who were with the American Enterprise Institute and basically longtime supporters of this concept — comes in and says, “Oh, we oughta do away with this.” It makes no sense to get rid of an expert agency and to throw these issues to an agency with no rule-making power that has to compete with everything else that’s going on in the economy, and can only deal with unfair or deceptive practices." In other words, the goal is quite simply to gut oversight of one of the least competitive (and most anti-competitive) sectors in American industry. First by hamstringing the FCC's oversight of the sector, then by inevitably pushing bills that hinder the FTC's oversight as well. All told, today's vote is one of the more embarrassing examples of our broken, cash-compromised legislative process in recent memory. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Last summer, we wrote about a potentially important case going to the Supreme Court, technically about the copyright design of cheerleading uniforms. As we've discussed, copyright is supposed to apply to artistic expression, and it's been considered not to apply to functional products or industrial design -- sometimes referred to as "useful articles." Along those lines, things like fashion design, have always been considered not subject to copyright. In this case, Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, the question was raised about the design of certain stylistic elements on cheerleading uniforms, and whether one copy using similar elements on its cheerleading uniforms infringed on the copyrights of the other. A district court said no, the appeals court said yes. And now the Supreme Court has weighed in saying that the designs can be covered by copyright and creating a new test on such matters (previously, there was something of a mess of different tests that judges would apply, sometimes haphazardly). Having a single test seems better than a mishmash of competing tests, but the situation here is... potentially very dangerous to a variety of innovations. First up, here's the new test: We hold that a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature: (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work—either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression—if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated. In other words, if you can pull the design out of the "useful article" and it's still a design that's subject to copyright, then the copyright lives on. At a first glance this certainly seems to make sense. It has a fairly common sense feel to it -- and the majority argues that the plain text of the law supports this interpretation. But there are some pretty serious potential dangers here. In our article last year, we noted that the implications for this case go way, way beyond cheerleader uniforms and could touch on any variety of products that might include some decorative elements -- especially in the 3D printed world, where so many designs are freely shared and modified. And the deeper you get into this, the "simple, common sense" ruling starts to get more and more complex. For example, the majority notes that this test stands even if the "removal" of the work of art makes the original no longer useful. That is, even if the "artwork" is part of the utility of the object, it can still get the copyright. That... seems to be pushing the line quite a bit. The dissent -- by Justice Breyer with Justice Kennedy signing on -- highlights why this doesn't make much sense. If the copyright can only be applied to a piece of artwork that is "separable" from the overall object, it needs to actually exist independently and that shouldn't destroy the object itself: A separable design feature must be “capable of existing independently” of the useful article as a separate artistic work that is not itself the useful article. If the claimed feature could be extracted without replicating the useful article of which it is a part, and the result would be a copyrightable artistic work standing alone, then there is a separable design. But if extracting the claimed features would necessarily bring along the underlying useful article, the design is not separable from the useful article. In many or most cases, to decide whether a design or artistic feature of a useful article is conceptually separate from the article itself, it is enough to imagine the feature on its own and ask, “Have I created a picture of a (useful part of a) useful article?” If so, the design is not separable from the useful article. If not, it is. Breyer harkens back to one of our favorites, Lord Thomas Macauley, who warned of the dangers of expanding copyright into areas where it doesn't belong: Years ago Lord Macaulay drew attention to the problem when he described copyright in books as a “tax on readers for the purpose of giving a bounty to writers.” ... He called attention to the main benefit of copyright protection, which is to provide an incentive to produce copyrightable works and thereby “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” ... But Macaulay also made clear that copyright protection imposes costs. Those costs include the higher prices that can accompany the grant of a copyright monopoly. They also can include (for those wishing to display, sell, or perform a design, film, work of art, or piece of music, for example) the costs of discovering whether there are previous copyrights, of contacting copyright holders, and of securing permission to copy.... Sometimes, as Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, costs can outweigh “the benefit even of limited monopolies.” ... And that is particularly true in light of the fact that Congress has extended the “limited Times” of protection..., from the “14 years” of Jefferson’s day to potentially more than a century today.... The Constitution grants Congress primary responsibility for assessing comparative costs and benefits and drawing copyright’s statutory lines. Courts must respect those lines and not grant copyright protection where Congress has decided not to do so. And it is clear that Congress has not extended broad copyright protection to the fashion design industry. Breyer also makes the analogy of Van Gogh painting old shoes -- in which Van Gogh could certainly copyright the painting itself -- but couldn't also copyright the shoe design in the painting and use that to bar others from selling such shoes. And this dissent notes that this case seems to flip that reasoning upside down: Consider designs 074, 078, and 0815. They certainly look like cheerleader uniforms. That is to say, they looklike pictures of cheerleader uniforms, just like Van Gogh’s old shoes look like shoes. I do not see how one could see them otherwise. For visual reference, here are those designs: As he notes, it's fairly clear here that the submission to the copyright office is the design of the overall uniform. It's not separate from the uniform. They didn't just submit a design of these lines and shapes. It's a uniform: Were I to accept the majority’s invitation to “imaginatively remov[e]” the chevrons and stripes as they are arranged on the neckline, waistline, sleeves, and skirt of each uniform, and apply them on a “painter’s canvas,” ... that painting would be of a cheerleader’s dress. The esthetic elements on which Varsity seeks protection exists only as part of the uniform design—there is nothing to separate out but for dress-shaped lines that replicate the cut and style of the uniforms. Hence, each design is not physically separate, nor is it conceptually separate, from the useful article it depicts, namely, a cheerleader’s dress. They cannot be copyrighted. Unforutnately, that's not what the majority decided. And to show how this might impact much more than just cheerleader uniforms, let's go over to 3D printing company Shapeways, and its analysis of this ruling. Since we’ve been using it as an example for a while, let’s go back to Studiogijs’ Birdsnest Egg Cup to explain why this is important. The test as established by the Court can be thought of as a copyright-first test. Looking at the cup, it asks a viewer to pull out all of the parts of the cup that could be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art. Viewed some ways, that’s basically the entire cup. The bird and the branches could all exist as an independent artistic work, even though removing them would leave you with no way to hold your egg. And that’s ok. The test does not care that there might be very little left of the functional parts of the object after you remove those artistic elements. It only cares that the artistic elements can be perceived. Each of those artistic elements are protected by copyright. An alternative test — one not adopted by the court— could have taken a useful-first approach. Instead of starting with the artistic elements, it could have pulled out the parts of the object that are required for the object to achieve its functional goals. Again, that’s basically the entire cup. The branches, however artistically rendered, also serve the functional purpose of holding the egg. The test could then look at what was left — in this case, that’s basically the bird — and protect those with copyright. This approach would keep functional elements outside of copyright protection and greatly reduce the cup’s connection with copyright. As you can see, the place where you start this test can have a huge impact on the outcome. Start by removing the artistic elements without concern for the underlying utility and you end up with a lot of stuff protected by copyright. Start by removing the useful parts without concern for the artistic elements and you end up with less stuff protected by copyright. In talking to a few different copyright lawyers about this ruling, there are a variety of levels of concern. Some are still hopeful that the clear test is a good thing, and that the damage done by expanding copyright to cover more of the useful elements of objects won't be that big of a deal. Others, however, are much more worried, as we've all seen how copyright creep and the use of copyright to block, limit and destroy both speech and innovation can happen quite rapidly. I hope that's not the case here, but I fear that we'll now see more efforts to abuse this new test to overclaim copyright on objects, and that will lead to greatly limiting innovation in a variety of areas. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Ztylus Stinger Car Charger Emergency Tool solves two issues for your car. It is a charger with two USB slots for your devices and it is an emergency escape tool for if you're ever trapped in your car. It has a seat belt cutter and a spring-loaded punch for breaking car windows. Now, you'll always know where your emergency tool is in case of a car wreck. This handy little tool is on sale for $19.95 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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There has been an effort underway these past few years to make tax season less stressful, less complicated, and less expensive for a large swath of Americans. These efforts have produced plans to make tax season "return free" for many, with pre-populated tax forms prepared by the government that can either be signed if accurate, or ignored if not with a separate filing then being produced by the person in question. That is, since the IRS already should have most of the details on how much you earned from the companies that paid you, it can send you a pre-filled out tax return document, rather than forcing everyone to redo the same work with the same documents hoping that you don't make some mistake that will make the IRS man mad. Again, for those who want to go a different way, they can. But for those who find the IRS's pre-filled documents to be okay, it will make tax filing significantly less of an issue. If you live outside the US, this may sound strange to you, because much of the rest of the world alread does it this way. In a recent episode of Planet Money, the analogy is made that the way we do taxes in the US would be like if credit card companies sent you a "bill" that was a blank sheet of paper, expecting you to fill out all your charges over the past month, and if you got anything wrong, you'd be punished. On taxes, most of the rest of the world the taxes are more like your credit card bill. In the US, it's more like a blank sheet of paper. And, as in years past, some are finally trying to fix things in the US. This plan has unfortunately run into the extreme distrust of all things government currently weaving its way through America and the gobs and gobs of money from Intuit and H&R Block that is making corporate use of that fear. The lobbying efforts of the tax prep industry has been a multi-year campaign (we've been writing about it since at least 2010) in which money is given to politicians essentially to have them work directly against the interest of their constituents on the subject of paying taxes into the government. It's absolutely bonkers (and partially helped along by anti-tax groups saying that anything that makes paying taxes easier should be stopped because taxes are bad). But since bonkers is quickly becoming SOP in our government, these lobbying efforts have only ramped up recently, with an increase in dollars spent likely correcting for how simple technology is making tax preparation for most Americans. Intuit spent more than $2 million lobbying last year, much of it spent on legislation that would permanently bar the government from offering taxpayers prefilled returns. H&R Block spent $3 million, also directing some of their efforts towards the bill. Among the 60 co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill: then congressman and now Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The bill, called the Free File Act of 2016, looks on the surface to be consumer-friendly. It makes permanent a public-private partnership in which 13 private tax preparation companies — called the “Free File Alliance” —have offered free online tax filings to lower- and middle-income families. The Free File Alliance include both Intuit and H&R Block. But the legislation would also permanently bar the IRS from offering its own free alternative. There's something especially cynical about a law that is dressed up as a benefit to consumers by creating corporate partnerships making free tax filings available to the constituency, but which likewise prohibit the government from making the collection of its own tax dues more efficient at the same time. This is essentially a jobs program for the tax prep industry, one which that industry has taken to lying to the public through sock puppets in lieu of showing any kind of gratitude. That the industry now has cabinet-level representatives in its bullpen likely means things aren't going to get better for millions of American any time soon. The reason the industry wants its free filing options codified into law in this way is so that it can upsell the public into paid tax services that it would otherwise not buy and likely doesn't actually need. In an emailed statement the Free File Alliance’s executive director, Tim Hugo, said that the alliance does not automatically push paid products to those that use the Free File program but the taxpayer does “have the option of ‘opting in’ to receive additional information and offers from the tax preparation company they have selected.” He said that the lack of awareness of the program is “unfortunate,” and placed blame on the IRS. While the tax agency previously had a large budget to advertise the Free File program, “today that budget is $0, making it difficult to reach the general public,” he said. While it is indeed a crying shame that the IRS budget to pimp private businesses to the public has been reduced in this manner, it's arguable more of a shame that lobbying money has kept tax season more complicated and costly than necessary. That the industry is spending money to keep a voluntary option for the public beyond reach in favor of upselling that same public is all the more so. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Once upon a time, Netflix was among the fiercest supporters of net neutrality, and a consistent critic of arbitrary and unnecessary broadband usage caps. So much so that the company effectively became public enemy number one at many of the nation's broadband providers, resulting in a steady stream of bizarre policy and lobbying attacks on the company. Netflix, we were told by a rotating crop of ISP-tied mouthpieces (even by current FCC boss Ajit Pai), was a dirty freeloader, and a nasty company responsible for most of the internet's ills. But as Netflix has grown larger and more powerful, the company's positions on usage caps and net neutrality has, well, softened. Back in January, a company letter to shareholders downplayed the looming death of net neutrality, suggesting that Netflix was so popular -- any attack on it would be seppuku: "Weakening of US net neutrality laws, should that occur, is unlikely to materially affect our domestic margins or service quality because we are now popular enough with consumers to keep our relationships with ISPs stable." Of course, what Netflix actually meant was that it's now powerful and wealthy enough to go toe to toe with giant ISPs on interconnection and other disputes. The problem: while Netflix may now be strong enough to survive a world without net neutrality, that's not necessarily going to be true for the next Netflix. Smaller companies will absolutely be hampered by the rising spread of usage caps and zero rating, which as we've long noted are increasingly being used as anti-competitive weapons against them. And the current government has made it very clear that's perfectly ok. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings reiterated the company's confidence on this subject in a meeting with reporters last week at the company's headquarters, where he insisted the company was "not too worried" about the government's plans to gut net neutrality: "Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’s “not too worried” about what will happen if new FCC chairman Ajit Pai eliminates the Title II regulations that have guaranteed a neutral internet experience for US consumers in recent years. Speaking to a group of journalists at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California, earlier today, Hastings said he believes “the culture around net neutrality is very strong. The expectations of consumers are very strong. So even if the formal framework gets weakened,” he continued, “we don’t see a big risk actualizing, because consumers know they’re entitled to getting all of the web services." Hastings believes that Netflix is just so damn popular, consumer outrage will magically keep ISPs on their best behavior even if Pai, Trump and the GOP kill all telecom consumer protections. But as we saw during recent interconnection feuds, ISPs have become clever at dodging blame for the congestion they intentionally caused in order to kill settlement-free peering and extract additional funds from transit and content companies (detailed in the New York AG's recent lawsuit against Charter). You'd be hard pressed to think that 10% of the population actually understood what was happening during these feuds. That said, consumers, startups and people that care about a healthy, open internet should worry. The new FCC has already killed an inquiry into zero rating, which means incumbent ISPs are now free to use caps to hamper competing streaming services. And with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter now effectively dictating government internet policy, you can be sure broadband competition issues will be placed on a far back burner -- resulting in a steady expansion of usage caps and overage fees. And Congress is cooking up one or more bills that will not only kill net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, but gut regulatory oversight of one of the least competitive industries in America. But gosh, now that Netflix is large and successful (with 94 million subscribers worldwide), this is all just something that's apparently going to work itself out. We've tracked a similar trajectory at Google, where net neutrality principles slowly but surely disappeared as the company jumped into the wireless industry. With net neutrality's two biggest and wealthiest proponents no longer worried about net neutrality now that they've got theirs, the idea of an internet free of incumbent ISP control needs all the help it can damn well get. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Santa Maria (CA) Police Department -- like the FBI -- is in the fake news business. Last February, it issued a bogus press release via online service Nixle, falsely stating it had apprehended two suspects. This was picked up by local news sources and redistributed. It wasn't until until December that the ruse was uncovered. The Sun -- which hadn't released a story on the bogus press release -- discovered this fact in a pile of court documents. (h/t Dave Maass) Police allege in the court documents that members of the local MS-13 gang planned to kill the two men, referred to in court documents as John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2. Police had gleaned this information from telephone surveillance on several suspects in the case, according to the documents. The police acted by putting out the false press release, expecting local news media to report the fake story and the MS-13 gang members to stop pursuing the John Does. The police chief confirmed the PD had issued the fake press release knowingly. He also remained unapologetic, stating that misleading journalists served a greater good: keeping two gang targets alive. He has yet to remove the bogus press release from Nixle, even though it violates the service's terms, which forbid knowingly publishing "fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading communications." [S]anta Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin wasn’t aware what the terms of service were or that they existed when initially asked by the Sun. At first, Martin said he’d more than likely take the press release down, but then he changed his mind. “I don’t have any plans to take it down,” Martin said, adding that he has yet to be notified by Nixle. “If it violates their policy then it’s Nixle’s policy to contact us.” The department has also refused to apologize to the news services it misled, most of which rightly feel this diminishes the public's trust in its public servants. According to Chief Martin, it was a "moral and ethical" decision to lie to the public. He also says this is the first time in his 40 years as a cop he's seen this sort of thing done. Of course, it's now much more difficult to take this assertion at face value, especially when Martin's refusing to remove fake news from a site after it's already served its purpose. This may be the first time the Santa Maria PD has deceived the press, but it's certainly not the first time it's deployed fake "facts" as a means to an end. The Sun reported earlier the PD had -- on multiple occasions -- presented fake sworn affidavits and statements to criminal suspects in hopes of provoking confessions or securing plea bargains. Police reports obtained by the Sun verified [Jesus] Quevedo’s claims, showing SMPD Gang Task Force officers had indeed presented Quevedo with a search warrant issued by Judge Beebe on April 15, with a false document included. “I had previously prepared a ruse affidavit,” [Detective David] Cohen wrote in his report in Quevedo’s case. “The ruse affidavit contained details of two crimes for which Quevedo was being investigated. Many of the details were true, and many were fabricated.” The ruse highlights several actual unsolved robberies, including a home invasion in Santa Ynez, where an eyewitness describes a man matching Quevedo’s characteristics fleeing the scene. A mugshot of a smiling Quevedo is circled with a “100%” marked over his name, indicating the victim of the invasion also had positively identified Quevedo as the robber. Other fabrications include an anonymous neighbor seeing a car matching Quevedo’s parked outside the scene of one of the robberies, as well as statements from confidential citizens alleging Quevedo’s strong ties to the Mexican Mafia. Other convicts have contacted The Sun claiming to have been subjected to the same ruse. Those claims are probably as trustworthy as the police chief's, but evidence appears to show this ruse has not only been used more than once, but that the District Attorney's office feels it's a perfectly legal strategy. Asked to comment, the Santa Maria Police Department referred all questions regarding Quevedo’s case—and the ruse tactic in general—to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Foley and Deputy District Attorney Bramsen. Bramsen did not return phone calls from the Sun, though Foley confirmed Cohen had met with Bramsen before employing the ruse. “Our office was consulted by the police department on this particular ruse,” Foley said. “The police did in fact say, ‘Would this be a legal ruse?’ and [Bramsen] researched it and felt, based on her legal research, it was a legal ruse.” The DA's office clarified it had simply said the fake affidavit plan was legally in the clear, but it had never told the PD to follow through with it… as if there were really any distance between those two stances. The office maintains this is all part of its "ethical" prosecution of lawbreakers. It also said, ridiculously, that attempting to trick people into confessions or plea agreements with fake witness statements and fake evidence isn't actually an attempt to trick people into confessions or plea agreements. In a written opposition to the motion, the DA argued there was nothing improper about the use of the ruse affidavit in Quevedo’s case, because prosecutors and police never intended the document to be used in court, either to obtain a search warrant or to coerce a false confession. Ah. The PD was only interested in coercing a true confession. I guess that makes it ok. Or not. The judge presiding over Quevado's case didn't find it quite as legally-acceptable as the DA did. While the judge stopped short of issuing any sanctions against Cohen, Parker, or the DA’s office, she ruled all evidence obtained through the use of the ruse affidavit would be inadmissible in Quevedo’s case. “The police can do a lot of things,” she said. “But when they use a false affidavit, intending for it to be believed as true, with the judiciary’s signature, that conduct cannot be tolerated.” If the PD feels the ends justify the deceptive means, how exactly does it justify making its own evidence inadmissible? If the "end" is to get criminals off the street, how does undercutting the prosecution achieve that end? The public isn't just being deceived by fake press releases. It's being deceived about the effectiveness of its law enforcement agencies, who are willing to damage their own cases in their hurry to file charges and commence prosecutions. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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People tend to have a hard time discussing the two mathematical concepts of zero and infinity. It's not hard to understand why this is, of course, with reality being a material thing and both the lack of and the infinite amount of something being somewhat foreign. And this manifests itself in all sorts of disciplines, from cosmology to spirituality to physics. And, of course, economics, particularly in the digital age where many of the axioms surrounding physicality no longer apply to digitized goods. Zero and infinity play heavy roles here, both in the discussion of free content (zero) and the concept of digital and freely copyable goods as a resource (infinity). The economic nature of these concepts have long vexed established industries, even as some of us have pointed out how efficient and useful infinite digital goods can be if properly applied. Industry rebuttals to the economics of all of this have mostly amounted to facile derision in the form of slandering younger generations who either "just want free stuff" or "want stuff they cannot afford." Neither makes much sense, with both claims easily disproven given statistics demonstrating how much more is spent by "pirates" than those who don't pirate content. The truth is that, while the average citizen likely can't speak eloquently about the economic laws at work for digital goods, they certainly can understand them intuitively. And this can be shown with piracy statistics for eBooks, which a recent study shows that eBook pirates tend to be both older and relatively affluent. A new study, commissioned by anti-piracy company Digimarc and conducted by Nielsen, aims to shine light on eBook piracy. It was presented yesterday at The London Book Fair and aims to better understand how eBook piracy affects revenue and how publishers can prevent it. In previous studies, it has been younger downloaders that have grabbed much of the attention, and this one is no different. Digimarc reveals that 41% of all adult pirates are aged between 18 and 29 but perhaps surprisingly, 47% fall into the 30 to 44-year-old bracket. At this point, things tail off very quickly, as the remaining ~13% are aged 45 or up. There are also some surprises when it comes to pirates’ income. Cost is often cited as a factor when justifying downloading for free, and this study has similar findings. In this case, however, richer persons are generally more likely they are to download. With nearly half of eBook pirates falling into their thirties or forties, and the study later showing that two-thirds of eBook pirates have household incomes of at least $30k per year, and almost a third having incomes in six figures, this simply isn't a situation that can be explained away by pointing at young poor people. So, why do older, more affluent people pirate eBooks? I would argue it's instinctual. Most of these people may not even be able to explain the term "marginal cost", but by instinct they feel that something that costs nothing to reproduce ought not to require payment. Their brains do this calculation behind the scenes, not thinking about the sunk costs of initial production, nor the sweat-equity spent by the content creator. Marginal cost is the term used by economists to explain pricing laws that emerged organically through human instinct. This isn't to say that unauthorized downloading is somehow acceptable when eBook publishers wish against it. But it certainly does suggest that any eBook publisher, or publisher of other digital content, has a very high hill which it must roll its old business model wagon up to make it work. Human intuition is one hell of a thing to overcome. So much so, in fact, that it's likely the better strategy is to figure out how to make that intuition and infinite digital goods a boon rather than the enemy. Now, it's worth noting that the price of eBooks was still a factor for those responding in the study, but not nearly the factor that convenience played. Given the majority of pirates’ ability to pay, it comes as no surprise that convenience is the number one driver for people obtaining content from torrent sites. Cost still takes the number two position but a not inconsiderable four out of ten still believe that online retailers are lacking when it comes to content availability. In other words, a huge amount of eBook piracy could likely be done away with immediately, if the content cost closer to what the buyer instinctually believes it ought to be and the content was at least as readily available for purchase as it is through pirated means. That really can't be that hard for eBook publishers to understand. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Perhaps the thinnest skinned politician on the planet -- Recip "Gollum" Erdogan -- is at it again. His legacy of injunctions, legal threats, and even copyright abuse continues. The latest to draw Erdogan's wrath is Switzerland, which, to be fair, has drawn his wrath in the past. The repeat "offender" was targeted by Erdogan in 2016 for an art exhibit he didn't care for. This wouldn't have happened if Switzerland didn't have a law on the books forbidding insulting foreign leaders. Erdogan has the uncanny ability to sniff out foreign laws that might help him remain un-insulted, but so far has only managed to Streisand himself into infamy. This time around, it's a Swiss tabloid earning the Turkish president's disdain/threats of prosecution. The Zurich-based tabloid Blick made Turkish television on Monday night when the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan held up an edition of the Swiss paper with the front-page headline ‘Vote no to Erdogan’s dictatorship’. The article in German and Turkish called for Turks in Switzerland to vote no in the April 16th referendum which, if successful, would give more powers to Erdogan. Seems like a logical stance. Erdogan has abused every power he's been given. There's really no reason for other countries to give him more powers to abuse, even indirectly. The Turkish government went full Godwin in response, comparing this editorial's call for a "no" vote to Nazism. Obviously, the Turkish government saw no irony in immediately demanding the Switzerland government do something about the tabloid's "insults." It has sent four requests for "legal aid," presumably in hopes of getting the tabloid's writers/publishers locked up for saying bad things about the Turkish president. The Swiss government has responded, telling Turkey to stick to bullying its own citizens. On Thursday a spokesman from the Swiss justice office, Folco Galli, told broadcaster SRF that four requests lodged by Turkey in mid January had been rejected, citing free speech. Switzerland would only be obliged to cooperate if the act concerned was considered a crime in both Turkey and Switzerland, he said. Speaking to the SRF Galli said: “If similar criticisms had been expressed in Switzerland against a federal councillor in the course of a political debate, they would of course have been tolerated as an expression of free speech.” Which is precisely why the pending referendum should be shot down. The tabloid has perfectly demonstrated why such a law should not be instituted in Switzerland. If it had already been law, Switzerland's government might have been more inclined to assist Erdogan in pushing the editorial's writer. The statement by the Swiss official is a healthy affirmation of Swiss citizens' protections, but is likely unintelligible to those it's directed at. "Tolerance" and "free speech" are concepts the Turkish president is completely unfamiliar with. As is pointed out in the article, the Turkish government is currently pursuing 2,000 domestic prosecutions over "insulting" social media posts and cartoons. Apparently Erdogan feels his persecution success at home should translate easily abroad. Fortunately for citizens in other countries, it doesn't. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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In a ruling this week that will cheer up patent trolls, the Supreme Court said patent owners can lie in wait for years before suing. This will allow trolls to sit around while others independently develop and build technology. The troll can then jump out from under the bridge and demand payment for work it had nothing to do with. The 7-1 decision arrives in a case called SCA Hygiene v. First Quality Baby Products. This case involves a patent on adult diapers but has a much broader reach. The court considered whether the legal doctrine of "laches" applies in patent cases. Laches is a principle that penalizes a rightsholder who "sleeps on their rights" by waiting a long time to file a lawsuit after learning of a possible infringement. It protects those that would be harmed by the assertion of rights after a lengthy delay. For example, laches would work against a patent owner that saw an infringing product emerge yet waited a decade to sue, after significant investment of time and resources had been put into the product. The ruling in SCA follows a similar decision in Petrella v. MGM holding that laches is not available as a defense in copyright cases. The Supreme Court has generally rejected "patent exceptionalism" and has often reversed the Federal Circuit for creating special rules for patent law. So this week's decision was not especially surprising. In our view, however, there were compelling historical and policy arguments for retaining a laches defense in patent law. Together with Public Knowledge, EFF filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court explaining the many ways that companies accused of patent infringement can be harmed if the patent owner sleeps on its rights. For example, evidence relevant to invalidity can disappear. This is especially true for software and Internet-related patents. In his dissent, Justice Breyer cited our brief and explained: [T]he passage of time may well harm patent defendants who wish to show a patent invalid by raising defenses of anticipation, obviousness, or insufficiency. These kinds of defenses can depend upon contemporaneous evidence that may be lost over time, and they arise far more frequently in patent cases than any of their counterparts do in copyright cases. The seven justices in the majority suggested that patent defendants might be able to assert "equitable estoppel" instead of laches. But that would likely require showing that the patent owner somehow encouraged the defendant to infringe. In most cases, especially patent troll cases, the defendant has never even heard of the patent or the patent owner before receiving a demand. This means estoppel is unlikely to be much help. Ultimately, today's ruling is a victory for trolls who would wait in the shadows for years before using an obscure patent to tax those who do the hard work of bringing products and services to market. Republished from the EFF's Deeplinks Blog Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For decades now the FCC has been an expert at imposing utterly meaningless merger conditions. Usually these conditions are proposed by the companies' themselves, knowing full well these "demands" are utterly hollow -- and FCC punishment for ignoring them will be virtually non-existent. The end result has been a rotating tap dance of merger conditions that sound good upon superficial press inspection, but wind up being little more than hot air. It's a symbiotic relationship where as the telecom sector consolidates (often at the cost of less competition) the FCC gets to pretend it's not selling consumer welfare down river. But last year something weird happened. When Charter proposed its $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, former FCC boss Tom Wheeler brought in net neutrality advocate Marvin Ammori to help hammer out conditions that wound up actually being meaningful. Under the deal, Charter was banned from imposing usage caps, engaging in interconnection shenanigans with content providers like Netflix, or violating net neutrality (even if the rules themselves were killed) for a period of seven years. Charter was also required to expand broadband to 2 million additional locations. Not too surprisingly, broadband providers and the new incumbent-cozy FCC are getting right to work trying to eliminate those conditions entirely. New FCC boss Ajit Pai is circulating an order that would kill requirements that Charter overbuild into competing ISP territories, something demanded recently in a letter to the FCC by the American Cable Association. As is kind of telecom sector status quo, smaller cable companies say they'll take their investment ball and go home if the threat of additional, regulator-mandated competition isn't eliminated: "To respond to growing consumer demand for increased bandwidth, all of us have been planning to upgrade the electronics on our networks and to deploy more fiber closer to customer locations over the next five years (the lifespan of the overbuild condition). Many of us have been planning to extend our networks to serve communities adjacent to our current service territories. But we have been forced to reconsider, scale back, or halt these investments in the wake of the Commission’s order." Of course that's not how competition works, and companies believing they get to choose when you upgrade their networks speaks to the level of competition these companies already see. Elsewhere, broadband industry-funded think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are also pushing Pai to kill off the usage cap ban, trotting out the long-standing industry claim that usage caps are all about fairness: "...the Order requires New Charter to refrain from imposing “data caps” or setting "usage-based prices" for its residential broadband Internet access services for seven years after the transaction closes. Given that “the record makes clear that online video places enormous demands upon the networks of Charter and Time Warner Cable and increases their capital costs,” Commissioner Pai asked a simple question in his dissent: “Who should bear those costs?" Because the Order concludes that “all customers must do so equally,” New Charter’s natural response to this condition “will be to increase prices on all consumers in order to amortize the cost of serving a bandwidth-hungry few." Granted if you've been paying attention to the usage cap debate, you realize this is a stale canard. Industry executives have acknowledged that caps have nothing to do with network management, and aren't an effective way to police network congestion anyway. As any earnings report highlights, caps aren't a financial necessity either, since flat-rate broadband has been incredibly profitable for the industry for years. What usage caps are is a price hike imposed on uncompetitive markets. Granted they also help ISPs protect their TV revenues from the rise of internet video by penalizing competing streaming services, while letting the incumbent's own services sail through without penalty (aka zero rating). Anybody believing that imposing caps and overage fees on all users is really about making sure a few people "pay their fair share" should steer clear of swampland and bridge salesmen. Granted Charter's latest merger has still proven harmful for consumers, who say the company has frozen broadband upgrades and raised rates dramatically in the wake of the megamerger. If consumer welfare were truly a U.S. telecom regulatory criteria the deal likely would have never been approved at all, but the cap condition specifically at least kept things from being arguably worse in the face of limited competition. If the FCC's looking to give a middle finger to the millions of customers impacted by this deal, killing the conditions -- and requiring these users pay even more money for the same service -- is a fantastic way to do so. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that passwords can be compelled with All Writs Orders. Handing down a decision in the case of Francis Rawls, a former Philadelphia police officer facing child porn charges, the court finds the order lawful, but doesn't go quite as far as to determine whether compelling password production implicates the Fifth Amendment. The Third Circuit doesn't touch the Fifth Amendment implications because Rawls failed to preserve them. Even if we could assess the Fifth Amendment decision of the Magistrate Judge, our review would be limited to plain error. See United States v. Schwartz, 446 F.2d 571, 576 (3d Cir. 1971) (applying plain error review to unpreserved claim of violation of privilege against self-incrimination). Doe’s arguments fail under this deferential standard of review. Orin Kerr highlights a footnote from the order [PDF], which shows even if the court had addressed the Fifth Amendment implications, it likely would have sided with government based on its interpretation of the government's "foregone conclusion" argument. It is important to note that we are not concluding that the Government’s knowledge of the content of the devices is necessarily the correct focus of the “foregone conclusion” inquiry in the context of a compelled decryption order. Instead, a very sound argument can be made that the foregone conclusion doctrine properly focuses on whether the Government already knows the testimony that is implicit in the act of production. In this case, the fact known to the government that is implicit in the act of providing the password for the devices is “I, John Doe, know the password for these devices.” Based upon the testimony presented at the contempt proceeding, that fact is a foregone conclusion. However, because our review is limited to plain error, and no plain error was committed by the District Court in finding that the Government established that the contents of the encrypted hard drives are known to it, we need not decide here that the inquiry can be limited to the question of whether Doe’s knowledge of the password itself is sufficient to support application of the foregone conclusion doctrine. This interpretation limits what the government has to assert to avail itself of this argument -- one that's sure to become more common as default encryption comes to more devices and communications services. As applied here, the government only has to show the defendant knows the password. It doesn't have to make assertions about what it believes will be found once the device/account is unlocked. (That being said, the DHS performed a forensic scan of the one device it could access -- the MacBook Pro -- and found data and photos suggesting the locked external drives contained more child pornography.) The court also addresses the All Writs Act being used to compel password production in service to a search warrant that still can't be fully executed. Doe asserts that New York Telephone should not apply because the All Writs Act order in that case compelled a third party to assist in the execution of that warrant, and not the target of the government investigation. The Supreme Court explained, however, that the Act extends to anyone “in a position to frustrate the implementation of a court order or the proper administration of justice” as long as there are “appropriate circumstances” for doing so. Id. at 174. Here, as in New York Telephone: (1) Doe is not “far removed from the underlying controversy;” (2) “compliance with [the Decryption Order] require[s] minimal effort;” and (3) “without [Doe’s] assistance there is no conceivable way in which the [search warrant] authorized by the District Court could [be] successfully accomplished.” Id. at 174-175. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge did not plainly err in issuing the Decryption Order. This shows just how malleable the New York Telephone decision is. This 1977 Supreme Court decision paved the way for widespread pen register use. Since that point, it has been used by the DOJ to argue for the lawfulness of encryption-defeating All Writs Orders (as in the San Bernardino iPhone case), as well as by criminal defendants arguing these same orders are unlawful. In Apple's case, the government argued the company was not "far removed" from the controversy, despite it being only the manufacturer of the phone. Apple's distance as a manufacturer provided its own argument against the DOJ's application of this Supreme Court decision. In this case, the key words are "third party": Rawls is arguing this isn't nearly the same thing as forcing a phone company to comply with pen register orders. This is a "first party" situation where compliance may mean producing evidence against yourself for use in a criminal trial. The government likes the New York Telephone decision for its Fourth Amendment leeway. The defendant here is arguing this isn't even a Fourth Amendment issue. As the court points out, it can't really assess the Fifth Amendment argument -- not when it hasn't been preserved for appeal. But even so, the court says law enforcement already has enough evidence to proceed with prosecution. If so, the only reason the government's pressing the issue -- which has resulted in Rawls being jailed indefinitely for contempt of court -- is that it wants a precedential ruling clearly establishing the lawfulness of compelling the production of passwords. The court doesn't quite reach that point, but the ruling here seems to suggest it will be easier (in this circuit at least) to throw people in jail for refusing to hand over passwords, since all the government is really being forced to establish is that it knows the defendant can unlock the targeted devices/accounts. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Back in 2012, a federal court ruled US websites were "places of public accommodation." The ruling (overturned on appeal) came in a lawsuit brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf. It seems like an obvious conclusion -- more people get their information, news, and entertainment from the web than other sources. But the ruling had plenty of adverse consequences, especially for smaller, less profitable purveyors of online content. Professor Eric Goldman -- who analyzes a ton of internet-related lawsuits -- had this to say at the time: If websites must comply with the ADA, all hell will break loose. Could YouTube be obligated to close-caption videos on the site? (This case seems to leave that door open.) Could every website using Flash have to redesign their sites for browsers that read the screen? I'm not creative enough to think of all the implications, but I can assure you that ADA plaintiffs' lawyers will have a long checklist of items worth suing over. Big companies may be able to afford the compliance and litigation costs, but the entry costs for new market participants could easily reach prohibitive levels. The payoff of this lawsuit -- along with the federal government's requirements for making websites "accessible" -- is finally here. A California university is placing 20,000 audio and video lectures behind a registration wall, making them less accessible to everybody, rather than risk being sued for not making them "accessible" to those with disabilities. The University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts in response to a U.S. Justice Department order that it make the educational content accessible to people with disabilities. Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university’s webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20,000 audio and video files from those platforms -- a process that will take three to five months -- and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them. This move has more to do with the DOJ's ADA* accessibility stance, although that stance roughly aligns with the court's 2012 findings. The DOJ is named specifically in the university's statements as being the impetus for it locking up its past content. Future releases will be issued with an eye on compliance, but past lectures are gone for good unless you happen to have the right credentials to view them. *[This acutally stems from the FCC, not the ADA. Nate Hoffelder has more details in the comments. UPDATE: never mind.] Then there's this part of the university's statement, which hints it may not all be related to accessibility-compliance. Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from ‘pirates’ who have reused content for personal profit without consent. I'm not sure how much of a problem Berkeley has had with content piracy. This statement could mean it's rampant or could simply mean it's something the university's lawyers have mentioned in passing as a concern. Either way, the move is related to control. What the public can't see, it can't complain about. And that keeps the DOJ at bay, even if it does little for the general public. However, the piracy part of the statement might become relevant in the near future. It also shows the university's spokesperson isn't aware most of the lectures can't be "pirated." LBRY.io has already mirrored the 20,000 files due for removal, and it notes its move is compliant with the terms governing the sharing and distribution of the recorded lectures. The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution. The price for this content has been set to free and all LBRY metadata attributes it to UC Berkeley. The university may have a point about "personal profit," but simply hosting lectures at a site that sells stuff or makes money from ads isn't the same thing as "reusing content for personal profit." And the license the university uses doesn't require permission beforehand. In the end, what we have is another regulation failure, where best laid plans become self-sabotaging debacles. Attempting to make the web universally-usable is an impossibility. No one's going out of their way to cut the deaf or blind out of the international conversation, but demanding all US sites be compliant with the DOJ's requirements is like demanding all books be made available in Braille and audio format. It's something only a few publishers can afford to do. Even fewer can afford to engage in a legal battle with the federal government over a lack of compliance, which means increased enforcement efforts will only result in less available content. That does nothing to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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