- DOJ And Dept. Of Education To Colleges: Start Restricting Free Speech On Campus Or Kiss Your Federal Funding Goodbye
- Retired Lt. Col.: Violent Media Has Bred A Generation Of Killers
- Why Even Good Hospitals And Doctors Are An Obstacle To Better, Cheaper Healthcare
- 'Intellectual Property' Mess Holding Up The TPP
- Criminal Nabbed By His Own Food Porn
- DailyDirt: Taking Another Look At Nuclear Energy...
- Chicago Blackhawks Fire Reporter Over Silly Old YouTube Videos
- Prenda's Paul Hansmeier Asks Appeals Court To Delay Sanctions; Appeals Court Says 'No, Try Again'
- Major Hollywood Studios All Sent Bogus DMCA Takedowns Concerning The Pirate Bay Documentary
- The War On Journalists: DOJ Claimed Fox News Reporter Was An 'Aider, Abettor, Co-Conspirator' With Leaker
- Court Finds Fantasy Stories Obscene
- Swedish Prosecutor Claims Registrar Of .se Domains An 'Accomplice' In Infringement Because Of Pirate Bay Domain
- Your Word Against Ours: How The FBI's 'No Electronic Recording' Policy Rigs The Game... And Destroys Its Credibility
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Our nations universities are (or were) usually considered to be places that fostered open discourse and encouraged the discussion of controversial topics in order to promote the growth of both the students and their critical thinking skills. This is no longer the case. Many universities have crafted guidelines and policies that inhibit free speech, usually as an overreaction to offended sensibilities or criminal activity. Much of what weve covered recently has dealt with private colleges, which have a little more leeway in crafting their speech policies. The chilling of free speech on campus is now spreading to public universities (not that some didnt have this problem already). Worse still, its a government mandated inhibition of free speech, tied directly to federal funding.
_In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as "a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country," the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding--virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private._ _The letter states that "sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" including "verbal conduct" (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an "objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation"--if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished._What the OCR (the Dept. of Educations Office for Civil Rights) has done is remove the "objective" standard and opened anything said or done to be judged as harassment from a strictly subjective viewpoint. This is coupled with some very broad definitions of the sort of behavior prohibited under these new _national_ codes. Eugene Volokhs in-depth writeup lists some of the prohibited actions.
saying "unwelcome" "sexual or dirty jokes" spreading "unwelcome" "sexual rumors" (without any limitation to false rumors)" engaging in "unwelcome" "circulating or showing e-mails of Web sites of a sexual nature" engaging in "unwelcome" "display or distributi[on of] sexually explicit drawings, pictures or written materials" making "unwelcome" sexual invitations.There is no longer any stipulation that the offending actions create a "hostile, offensive or abusive environment." And, again, the "objective and reasonable" yardstick has been removed and replaced with subjectivity. As FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) points out, this new OCR letter contradicts a "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the OCR in 2003, in which the office offered the clarification that any guidelines issued were not intended to inhibit free speech on campus.
_I want to assure you in the clearest possible terms that OCRs regulations are not intended to restrict the exercise of any expressive activities protected under the U.S. Constitution ...OCRs regulations and policies do not require or prescribe speech, conduct or harassment codes that impair the exercise of rights protected under the First Amendment._It appears the OCR is no longer interested in protecting First Amendment rights. As FIRE notes, the new OCR letter does not contain the phrases "free speech" or "First Amendment" anywhere within its 31 pages. It also contradicts the OCRs earlier guidance on harassment, where it stated that actionable (or prohibited) behavior "must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that _some_ person finds offensive." FIRE also points out that the new codes cover much more than "sexual" speech, being expanded to cover "gender-based harassment," including "harassment based on a persons nonconformity with gender stereotypes." All well and good to bring more people under this "protection," but it does mean that certain protected speech will now lose its protection, at least on campus. FIRE quotes a Third Circuit Court decision [_DeJohn v. Temple University_, 537 F.3d 301 (3d Cir. 2008)]: _[T]HE POLICYS USE OF "HOSTILE," "OFFENSIVE," AND "GENDER-MOTIVATED" IS, ON ITS FACE, SUFFICIENTLY BROAD AND SUBJECTIVE THAT THEY "COULD CONCEIVABLY BE APPLIED TO COVER ANY SPEECH" OF A "GENDER-MOTIVATED" NATURE "THE CONTENT OF WHICH OFFENDS SOMEONE." THIS COULD INCLUDE "CORE" POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS SPEECH, SUCH AS GENDER POLITICS AND SEXUAL MORALITY._ The OCRs letter does some dangerous conflation, in addition to its general disregard for students First Amendment rights. By using the criminal sexual assault that occurred at the University of Montana as a springboard for its harassment policies, the OCR aims to kill two birds with stone, but only manages to injure one with its feckless toss -- free speech. The actions condemned (and meant to be prevented) by this letter remain punishable by existing laws and policies. Adding further limits to speech is simply a welcome byproduct for establishments (universities _and_ the government) that seem to feel more and more that only _subjectively_ acceptable speech should be protected. This new, mandated First-Amendment-as-university-doormat will only serve to make students more closed-minded as they toe these aribitrary lines and make our institutions of higher learning pale parodies of their formerly progressive selves. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
I can understand why someone who watches the news on a daily basis might shake their head in dismay. I get how it must feel necessary to put the blame for tragedies like Sandy Hook somewhere, anywhere, even if the eventual target of ire is misplaced. Theres probably a certain ill-conceived synergy in pointing at violence in movies for a horrific theater shooting, even if the jury is at best out on the concept of violent media causing violent behavior. But when you hear someone so arrogantly sure that all of this wrong thinking is right and then using that arrogance to pompously try and scare the shit out of everyone, it deserves pushback. So push back in your own way on Retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, whose hobbies amount to telling anyone that will listen that violent media has bred a "generation of vicious, vicious killers."
_"This generation is going to give you massacres in the domestic environment and in the work environment," he predicted, with unrestrained outrage, after ticking off a sobering list of mass murders -- particularly those that have occurred on school grounds and university campuses -- which have plagued American society in recent years._Its a scare tactic that would be absolutely compelling were it not so absolutely wrong. Nevermind that no conclusive link between violent media and mass violence has been demonstrated, the fact of the matter is that in the long view, mass shootings are _decreasing_. As is violent crime in general. If one wanted to play the correlation game, they might happily state that violent media is _decreasing_ violent output. I personally wont go that far, but its fairly difficult to square Grossmans claims with reality.
_"There is a generation of vicious, vicious killers out there," he told his audience. "The video games are their trainers. They've been playing Grand Theft Auto every spare moment since they were six years old."_Oh, please. Who the hell could listen to Nikos voice for years without killing themselves long before they killed anyone else? And besides, if these children are killers and the games their trainers, given the statistics already noted, then the little bastards are really bad at being killers and the games are a poor training manual, since none of this seems to be coming true. But if you thought Grossman had emptied his scare-clip at you already, youre wrong.
_His views were no more subtle when he turned his sights to the international scene. A dozen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the energetic and charismatic speaker sees life-threatening threats emanating from Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and Iran. What will the next 9/11 look like, he wondered aloud, before answering his own rhetorical question: "We're going to get nuked."_Lovely, and perhaps it will someday happen, but he forgot to mention something: if you look at the number of terrorist incidents in America throughout history, youll note that the sharp increase in their occurence is non-existent. An enterprising commenter can graph the whole list out from that link if they like, but heres a brief example. We live in the year of our lord, 2013, so lets just start in 2012 and count how many terrorist incidents happened every ten years back: * 2012 - 3 incidents, 9 killed * 2002 - 14 incidents, 15 killed (note: the beltway sniper is counted as 11 separate incidents, which is stupid. This number should be 3 incidents total.) * 1992 - 2 incidents, 1 killed * 1982 - 6 incidents, 3 killed * 1972 - 7 incidents, 6 killed * 1962 - 1 incident, 44 killed * 1952 - 0 incidents, 0 killed Now, my use of 2012 as a starting point certainly is convenient in leaving out 9/11, but its useful to note that outliers dont dominate the statistics. I should also note that this list ignores Pearl Harbor as the site of a terrorist attack, which seems incorrect in a way. The idea isnt that we cant be concerned about terrorism of any kind, be it Islamic fundementalist or the home-grown Aryan Nation variety, but if you make it your business to go around scaring people like Grossman does, you shouldnt leave out the more comforting facts simply because it is inconvenient to your narrative. The next generation is _not_ one of killers, this generation is _not_ having to deal with terrorism in a way never before required, but it may be true that the media is more like Grossman and less like myself in that they enjoy scaring you for profit. Beware the man or woman who makes simple proclamations, because theyre usually forgetting to tell you something. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
As we noted in the context of antibiotics, its well recognized that financial incentives cause the pharmaceutical industry to engage in research that tends to maximize profits rather than maximizing the health of the public. But a widely-circulated article in the Washington Post reveals another kind of bias that may stop us from adopting better ways of keeping people healthy that would also reduce healthcare costs. This flows from the fact that countries with advanced healthcare systems are no longer dealing mainly with infectious diseases like turberculosis, as they once did, but with chronic ones like heart disease, diabetes, AIDS and many cancers. The key here is how best to manage the disease, particularly among elderly patients, and for that, doctors in hospitals arent necessarily the best way: _
Medicine has been so focused on what doctors can do in the hospital that it has barely even begun to figure out what can be done in the home. But the home is where elderly patients spend most of their time. Its where they take their medicine and eat their meals, and its where they fall into funks and trip over the corner of the carpet. Its where a trained medical professional can see a bad turn before it turns into a catastrophe. Medicine, however, has been reluctant to intrude into homes._ One company, Health Quality Partners, has focused on doing precisely that: _
The program enrolls Medicare patients with at least one chronic illness and one hospitalization in the past year. It then sends a trained nurse to see them every week, or every month, whether theyre healthy or sick. It sounds simple and, in a way, it is. But simple things can be revolutionary._ The results certainly are: _
According to an independent analysis by the consulting firm Mathematica, HQP has reduced hospitalizations by 33 percent and cut Medicare costs by 22 percent._ And yet Medicare is planning to shelve this pilot program, citing various bureaucratic reasons why it cant continue. Although some supporters of the home-based system maintain that it would be possible to overcome these problems, there remains a more fundamental obstacle to rolling out the Health Quality Partners approach more widely: _
Hospitals make money when they do more to patients. They lose money when their beds are empty. Put simply, Health Quality Partners makes hospitals lose money._ So again we seem to be confronted by perverse incentives at the heart of our current healthcare. The better and cheaper way would mean scaling back key parts of the system by instituting regular home visits by nurses, thus reducing the number people sent into hospitals to be treated by physicians. That implies taking on very profitable and thus very powerful business interests, including the doctors themselves. Given that resistance, and Medicares apparent reluctance to force change by backing the Health Quality Partners system, it seems likely that we will be stuck with an inferior, more costly approach to treating chronic diseases despite knowing what looks like a much better way to do it. Some might call that pretty sick. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
As negotiators are seeking to finish up the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as soon as possible (they had originally promised a done deal by October), it appears that the controversial "intellectual property" chapter is causing the most problems, according to Sean Flynn, who is at the current negotiating round in Lima.
Officially, the Chief Negotiators have backed off the prior commitment to end the TPP negotiation by October, but are still clinging to a goal to end the negotiation by the "end of the year." But privately, none of the negotiators or stakeholders at this round would express any confidence that the intellectual property issues could be resolved by then. The issues still under contention are massive. The intellectual property chapter has grown to over 80 pages of text - including all the bracketed suggestions and alternatives. Some negotiators describe it as the longest text currently under negotiation. Many of the issues are completely blocked. There has not been any new negotiation text offered on the most controversial pharmaceutical provisions since the Melbourne round over a year ago. There is currently no mandate from many countries to negotiate (they only "consult" and "discuss") the pharmaceutical reimbursement chapter. Barbara Weisel described the pharmaceutical issues as being in a "period of reflection," and had no comment on when that period might end.Furthermore, it appears that some of the negotiators are realizing that its a bad idea to lock in certain concepts, as would be set under the TPP, especially as various court rulings are changing the way copyright laws are viewed, and while a new copyright reform process is ongoing. People seem to be recognizing that agreeing to specific norms that may quickly be undermined by national laws would be a waste of time.
_ The recent spate of proposals for policy changes for US copyright law have caused a stir. The US is being asked how it can hold on to demands for parallel importation restrictions after the Kirtsaeng ruling, 70 year copyright terms after the Copyright Office proposed shifting them back to 50 years with formalities required for extensions, and strict restrictions on anti-circumvention liability exceptions when the Obama Administration and the Library of Congress have endorsed reforms that would violate the US proposal. Barbara Weisel stated that USTR is "doing what we can to work with Congress" to make sure that the TPP will not restrict policy options. But negotiators have said that there has been no visible movement on the USTR's positions on Copyright issues, which will be negotiated this week. _And, of course, once again, the USTR appears to have no plans to be transparent in the slightest.
_ And there is no plan to release any text to the public. This is stark contrast to the last to plurilateral agreements including countries in the region. The Free Trade Area for the Americas and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement both released full texts of the negotiating document with brackets indicating text under consideration before the finalization of the texts. For ACTA, there were four publicly released texts between April 2010 and May 2011. For the TPP - none yet, despite the Chief Negotiators' pronouncement of end of year finalization plans. _Considering how much controversy there is over these items, it seems ridiculous that we still cant actually see whats being negotiated in our name -- especially when theres quite reasonable fears that it could mess with the _democratic_ process of potentially rewriting copyright law. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Weve covered the trespasses of stupid criminals here before. Bank robbers who brag about their actions on YouTube, for instance. Or thieves on the lam uploading pictures containing their whereabouts to social media sites. It seems at times that these guys and gals are just _trying_ to get caught. But thats certainly not always the case. Take the following story, which I have to believe is the internet-y-ist dumb criminal story yet. It begins with Troy Maye, who is accused of grabbing identifying info on people and then attempting to sell the identities off to bidders. The IRS was tracking Maye and his girlfriend, but they didnt have either of their real names, since they were at least smart enough to give aliases. So the IRS engaged a confidential informant, who sat down to eat with them at a restaurant in Florida.
_They came up on the IRS radar after the couple met an informant at -- no joke -- YOLO Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Maye told the informant his name was Troy and that he had stolen 700,000 identities, but the IRS could not yet crack the thief of identities identity._I have no idea what kind of food is served at YOLO Restaurant, but you kind of have to assume everything on the menu has a 50/50 shot of killing you, right? Maybe its nothing but puffer fish and uncooked chicken with a side of ebola? Regardless, the IRS still wasnt able to get names on the two, so the informant was sent to have another meal with the two criminals, this time upping the classiness of the operation by going to a Mortons Steakhouse. While there, Maye provided the informant with a thumb drive that contained a bunch of identities, which were promptly turned over to the IRS. Investigators were then able to pull Mayes name from metadata on the drive. From there, the IRS did what any federal agency would do:
_IRS Agent Louis Babino then headed to Google and located Maye's Instagram page, which contained a profile photo of Maye. When shown the profile photo, the CW confirmed that Maye (seen at right) was the man with whom he dined at Morton's._Well, sure, Agent Babino, but how can you be _really_ sure this was your guy?
_A further review of Maye's Instagram page, Babino noted, revealed "a photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese meal containing the caption 'Morton's.'" The image--uploaded on January 7 at 11:24 PM--"appears to coincide" with the CW's meeting at Morton's, added Babino._Yup, this guy food-porned his way into being arrested. The Instagram photo is reportedly being entered into evidence in the case, so one hopes the juicy steak and the creamy mac and cheese was really, _really_ worth all the trouble Maye is now in. Once again, if youre a criminal, online narcicism is probably something youd do best to avoid. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Nuclear energy has been around for decades, but its safety and the safety of its radioactive waste have always been a political nightmare. Still, some researchers have been redesigning nuclear reactors to make them safer in many ways, but these newer designs have yet to be scaled up and used commercially. Maybe someday nuclear technology will be ubiquitous, but itll likely take a long time before anyone is willing to embrace fission/fusion energy that doesnt come from the Sun. * A European research reactor called Guinevere demonstrates the safety and benefits of a hybrid reactor-accelerator design. This nuclear reactor design is an accelerator-driven system (ADS) and uses a particle accelerator so that its nuclear reactor can run without enough fissile material to generate a nuclear chain reaction (so all the nuclear reactions stop when the external particle accelerator stops). An bonus feature is that its radioactive waste material can be transmuted via the particle accelerator into elements with lower half-lives that may be more convenient to handle and store. [url] * Teenager Taylor Wilson has been building nuclear reactors for a few years already, and his current project is to build small, modular nuclear reactors capable of generating just 50-100 megawatts of electricity. Wilsons reactors would create a more decentralized network of electricity generation, but thats a lot of NIMBY to overcome.... [url] * Italian scientists have halted research on piezonuclear fission. Low Energy Nuclear Reactions have been associated with Cold Fusion, so if theres any kind of non-classical fission/fusion going on, it may take extraordinary evidence to convince anyone of it. [url] If youd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
When we typically discuss companies coming to blows with content control (aka censorship), the stories tend to be about what would otherwise be obscure wrong-doings going viral on a national or international level. Major automakers concocting horrible advertising around suicide, for instance. Or multi-state bus companies learning that bathroom-ing on their customers isnt the best practice and catching the resulting backlash. But the practice of shining the light on yourself by being overly protective of your brand doesnt only happen at the macro level, it can have a local effect as well. Thats the lesson the Chicago Blackhawks are learning right this very minute. If youre not in Chicago, you probably havent heard of Susannah Collins, who reports for Comcast Sports Net on the Blackhawks. In fact, if you know who she is at all, its probably from this line of low-brow comedy videos that she produced on YouTube. While some of those videos are likely NSFW, there is nothing more racy in them than a bit of colorful language and suggestive talk. Its about as harmless as it gets. That is, of course, unless youre the Chicago Blackhawks who, for reasons that make absolutely zero sense, decided that those videos surfacing were cause to five-hole Collins career and have her fired.
_In a letter to the Vice President/General Manager of Comcast Sports Net Chicago, team chairman Rocky Wirtz demanded that reporter Susannah Collins be removed immediately, citing his awareness of comedy videos made years earlier that he found "incredibly offensive to a number of audiences, going well beyond professional athletes."_
_He only learned of them after her innocent, unfortunate slip of the tongue last week brought them back to the fore, but it didn't matter to Wirtz. Although they had been a fully disclosed non-issue upon her hiring, they became instant, retroactive reason for a swift dismissal._The locals in Chicago were immediately upset over the firing. Certainly part of the reason for the animosity is the silliness of firing a reporter over sketch comedy videos she did on YouTube _years ago_. But, in true bad PR fashion, the real anger comes over the teams almost epic level of hypocrisy. You see, Wirtz cited the videos offensiveness as the reason for asking CSN (which is owned by several local Chicago teams, including the Blackhawks) to fire Collins. This, from the same team that has young women in tiny outfits shoveling up ice shavings between periods during games. This from a team that plays a sport in which fans will cheer on two grown men committing assault upon one another and then have the nerve to call it "part of the game." But the real fun comes with the magnifying glass now being placed squarely on the teams official "ambassador," Bobby Hull. The article linked above is one of several that makes the point nicely.
_Hull's second wife, Joanne, whom he wed in 1960 and divorced in 1980, told an ESPN documentary in 2002 that she "took a real beating" at his hands. She described an incident during which Hull "threw me in the room, and just proceeded to knock the heck out of me. He took my shoe - with a steel heel - and proceeded to hit me in the head. I was covered with blood. And I can remember him holding me over the balcony, and I thought this is the end, I'm going." She filed to end the marriage in 1970 after several more incidents, but they reconciled until Hull threatened her with a loaded shotgun in 1978. Their daughter, Michelle, also described his pattern of behavior to "Sports Century," and she now works as an attorney specializing in domestic violence._Should you think this was a one-time minor indiscretion of old-fashioned domestic abuse, Hulls second wife complained of similar treatment, Hull was later convicted for trying to punch a police officer, oh, and there was that one time he was all warm and fuzzy about freaking _Hitler_. But, hey, I guess if there arent any YouTube videos, it never happened, amirite? That is, until your unreasonableness turns the magnifying glass back on you and now you have an entire city calling for the head of your so-called "ambassador." Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Well, well. Some Prenda supporters (shockingly, they exist) in our comments have been arguing that Judge Otis Wrights order against Team Prenda is the sign of a rogue judge who will get overturned. Of course, similar actions underway in other district courts suggest otherwise. On top of that, it would appear that the 9th Circuit appeals court doesnt seem too concerned about Judge Wrights order on a first pass either. Late last week, Paul Hansmeier, one of the key Prenda players, asked the appeals court to delay the requirement to pay sanctions so that he could get a proper appeal together. Of course, perhaps rather than putting together 30 pages protesting about the sanctions, Hansmeier should have been putting together a real appeal (or, as it turns out, reading how to file a stay pending appeal). The filing is certainly amusing. He whines about the lack of due process and the possible "reputational injury" this might cause. Morgan Pietz, the lawyer who has been opposing Prenda in this matter (and, obviously, who would receive the bulk of the attorneys fees ordered), filed a very short and to the point brief saying he was actually fine with a stay on the payment, pending appeal, of course, but he wanted Hansmeier to first post a bond to show that the payment could be made. He also noted that he would have been happy to make this concession to Hansmeier if Hansmeier had just contacted him to let him know he was filing the brief requesting the stay. Thats actually kind of a key point. Judges generally want the various lawyers to talk to each other about whats happening before surprise briefs are filed like this -- and so pointing out that Hansmeier filed a 30 page brief asking for the stay without even letting Pietz know about it probably wont be looked at too kindly by the court. As Pietz points out, there is very real concern about whether or not Prenda will ever actually pay up if they dont put up a bond.
_ The need for a substantial bond to secure payment of costs and fees from Prenda is not an idle request. Prenda Law, Inc. and its associated lawyers are an organization that is rapidly falling apart. They have dismissed the vast majority of their pending court cases across the country--cases which are their sole source of revenue. Meanwhile, as the days go by, they are increasingly being hit with new motions and orders to show cause for sanctions in various courts where they have tried, with mixed success, to escape from the consequences of their actions. Further, the lawyers and the entities involved here are likely the subject of potential criminal investigations, including an IRS investigation, flowing from the court's formal referrals in the sanctions order below. In short, there may not be any solvent persons around to collect from for much longer. Further, as will be detailed in briefing on the merits, the lawyers' interests in these cases (as well as their assets, one presumes) are hidden behind a web of Nevis LLC's and mysterious offshore trusts. These are all complicated factual issues, with which the district court is already familiar, which is why the district court should set the amount and terms of the bond _Pietz also points out that the "reputational harm" argument is silly, because everyone already knows about it. Either way, the Appeals Court wasted little time in saying "no," mainly because Paul Hansmeier, who presents himself as an accomplished lawyer, appears not to know the first thing about filing a stay pending appeal.
_ Appellants emergency motion for a stay of the district court's May 6, 2013 sanctions order is denied without prejudice to renewal, if necessary, upon the filing and disposition of such request in the district court. See Fed. R. App. P. 8(a)(1). _The rule in question says that if youre going to ask for such a stay, you have to first ask _in the district court_, rather than going straight to the appeals court. I would imagine that if Hansmeier had talked to Pietz, Pietz might have made that point as well. The deadline to pay up is tomorrow, though now it seems like Hansmeier may need to go ask Judge Wright for a stay in the matter if he wants to avoid having to pay up. Of course, thats not the only trouble Hansmeier is facing from the 9th Circuit, who now appears rather aware of Hansmeiers reputation. You may recall that Hansmeier has also been involved in the sketchy practice of protesting class action settlements in the hopes of getting paid off to go away (in one letter he directly asked for $30,000 to go away). The appeal of one of those class action settlement battles is happening in this very same 9th Circuit, and Hansmeier had applied to be admitted in the 9th Circuit, where he cannot currently practice. As pointed out by Popehat, the court has taken notice of Judge Wrights order and told Hansmeier that he needs to clear up that before it will admit him. As Ken White noted:
In other words: no, Paul, you cant have admission to the Ninth Circuit until this is cleared up, and we wont let you represent a client before us in the interim. Actions have consequences.Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
We see so many bogus DMCA takedowns, and we hear the big copyright holders insisting that its just an accident each and every time -- and not to worry about the collateral damage and censorship it leads to. So it seems interesting that TorrentFreak has uncovered a series of bogus DMCA takedown notices to Google from four different giant Hollywood players -- Viacom, Paramount (owned by Viacom), Fox and Lionsgate -- that each ask it to remove links to Simon Kloses excellent documentary about The Pirate Bay TPB AFK. As TorrentFreak notes, Fox, via DtecNet (another total failure for the "six strikes" company), asked Google to remove a link to the movie on Mechodownload. Viacom asked for links to be removed to the movie on Mrworldpremiere and Rapidmovies. Lionsgate asked for to remove a link to the movie _from The Pirate Bay_ of all places. Needless to say, all of these were authorized copies that the movie studios were seeking to have hidden. Beyond the obvious concern about censoring a movie that shows, perhaps, a more sympathetic side of the TPB crew and their legal situation, these kinds of take downs serve another, more nefarious purpose: making sure there is less value for authorized works on these various sites. You hear it all the time from these companies that these sites are "all bad" and must be taken down. Having authorized content really looks bad, so its nice for them that they can remove it by filing bogus DMCA claims with no real recourse. No wonder the MPAA is so vehement that it shouldnt need to consider fair use before sending bogus takedowns. Yes, Im sure these were all just more "accidents" but the impact is very real. For struggling filmmakers like Klose, having authorized copies of his film removed from Google has a serious impact. Copyright maximalists never seem concerned in the slightest about the collateral damage on the people who have actually learned to use these platforms well. They prefer to protect those who fight against new systems of distribution, while harming those who have succeeded in using them. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Following the DOJs brazen collection of info on AP reporter phone calls, we noted that it was not the first time the DOJ had been overly aggressive in going after reporters. Now, the Washington Post has another horrifying story, talking about the DOJs investigation into a leak from the State Department to Fox News concerning classified info on North Korea. That investigation resulted in charges against Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department security adviser, but the investigation included heavy surveillance of James Rosen, the Fox News reporter. They obtained his phone records, security-badge data and _email exchanges_. In order to get all this, they claimed that Rosen wasnt just a reporter, but "an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the crime itself. For doing basic reporting. By now it should be abundantly clear that this has little to do with protecting national security, and everything to do with a war on investigative reporting about the federal government. Almost everything seems to be designed to threaten reporters, and to put the fear of the federal government into any whistle blower who might have information to pass on to a reporter. As people have pointed out, what Rosen did in this case is what any national security reporter does ALL THE TIME. Others have pointed out that this shatters the basic concept that those who report on the news are protected by the First Amendment in doing so.
_ The Reyes affidavit all but eliminates the traditional distinction in classified leak investigations between sources, who are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and reporters, who are protected by the First Amendment as long as they do not commit a crime. (There is no allegation that Mr. Rosen bribed, threatened or coerced anyone to gain the disclosure of restricted information.) _And, not surprisingly, this tactic of going to war with reporters appears to be working.
Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security for the New York Times -- one of several leading investigative reporters I reached out to today -- says he is experiencing a greater reluctance on the part of sources to talk to him. "Theres no question that this has a chilling effect," Mazzetti said. "People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now. Everyone is worried about communication and how to communicate, and [asking if there] is there any method of communication that is not being monitored. Its got people on both sides -- the reporter and source side -- pretty concerned."The end result, of course, is less ability to keep government abuses -- of which there appear to be many -- in check. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Obscenity law and the First Amendment tend to run into each other from time to time and the whole "I know it when I see it" concept makes things a bit arbitrary in the best of situations. Still, its pretty standard for people to assume questions of obscenity revolve around imagery -- still or video -- rather than written works. Text and stories often explore taboo subjects, but still are seen to have legitimate literary value. Stories like Vladimir Nabokovs _Lolita_ involve somewhat horrifying concepts, but generally are still considered legitimate works of literature. In an age of easy creation for user-generated content, fan fiction and the like, it is not uncommon for things like slash fiction or related fan fiction to involve incredibly graphic scenes. Whether or not you see the appeal (and, personally, I dont get it at all), its difficult to step aside and say that a particular form of storytelling should be judged as obscene and illegal. When its purely fiction, and no one is being harmed or forced to participate and/or experience the work against their will, it is difficult to see what sort of harm has been caused. That is, perhaps, why it is "very rare" for there to be obscenity prosecutions for purely text-based works of fiction. Rare, but not unknown. Just recently a federal district court in Georgia ruled that a series of stories written or edited by Frank McCoy were obscene, and thus he violated 18 USC 1462 in "transporting" obscene works. McCoy challenged whether or not the stories themselves could be considered obscene. As you might imagine, the subject matter is not mainstream. It is definitely on the extreme. Just reading the descriptions from the court case, which I will not repeat here, made me cringe and feel extremely uncomfortable. Were talking about extremely taboo subjects that are somewhat horrifying even just to read. But, again, one could argue the same sorts of things about Lolita, or any number of other works. Should they, too, be deemed obscene? It seems like a dangerous slippery slope, especially when were talking about purely written material. In this case, McCoy even had a distinguished English professor testify on his behalf that the works had "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."
In his defense, Defendant relies upon the testimony of an expert witness, Professor Gary Richardson, in order to show the Court that his work has serious literary, political, and artistic value.*fn8 (Docs. 165-4 at 67-90, 165-5.) Professor Richardson is a Professor and Chairman of the Department of English at Mercer University. Professor Richardson previously received a Fulbright Scholarship and is a decorated academic in the field of English and literature. Professor Richardson concluded, in his expert opinion, that Defendants body of work had literary, political, and artistic value. (Doc. 165-5 at 34-36.) Professor Richardson describes Defendants stories as love stories, "basic romance plots," and "science fiction." (Doc. 165-4 at 80-81.) While Professor Richardson acknowledges that the predominant themes in Defendants work involve "social mores" and "may be considered taboo," he testified that these are incidental to Defendants greater efforts to "undertake an artistic rendering." (Id. at 84.) These themes, including graphic and explicit incestuous sexual abuse, rape, torture, and murder of prepubescent children and young girls, are according to Professor Richardson, a form of "reader entrapment" which reflects his intent to generate political interest. (Id. at 85.) During his testimony, Professor Richardson also described Defendants use of complex literary techniques within his body of work that develop the characters and further the plot line;*fn9 including, interpolated tale (the use of competing narratives) and complex resonances. (Id. at 87.) Professor Richardson, as an expert in literature, urges the Court to consider a deeper level and "close reading" of Defendants work and examine the pornographic "visual gaze" and "central consciousness" are complex "variations on narrative point of view." (Id. at 88.) According to Professor Richardson, Defendants work "reflects serious thought and serious artistry." (Doc. 165-5 at 4.) Among his reasons in support of his conclusion that Defendants body of work contains literary value are, for example, Defendants use of inversion of a biological reality in the story entitled "Rapesuzy." There, Professor Richardson points toward Defendants use of science fiction-including the use of nanobots-as he explores the complex and timeless themes of the nature of love, the difference and relationship between love and sexuality, and how society is disposed to interact sexually with the rest of the world. (Id. at 6-7.) For these reasons, Professor Richardson concluded that "under a narrow definition" Defendants work does have serious literary value and further that "from the standards of people who study literature, [Defendants] stories would manifest serious literary value."*fn10 (Id. at 19, 22.)But the judge disagreed, saying that "the Court can find no independent value within the work when considered as a whole" and thus judged the work obscene, finding McCoy guilty. In a separate ruling on the same day, the judge also rejected McCoys attempt to have the case thrown out by arguing that the burden was on the government to prove that the works had no "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." In other words, there was a question of whether or not the First Amendment requires the assumption that the work has other value, and then its the governments job to prove otherwise. But the court rejects that and says that the burden is on McCoy to prove that the work has such value -- though, as noted in the other decision, it then rejected the opinion of an expert who testified to that effect. Here, the judge said that the work deserves no assumption of protection:
_ Stated in other words, Defendants short stories are not entitled to a heightened evidentiary standard, as a matter of federal constitutional law, because he believes them to be intrinsically literary, capable of joining the ranks of great classical erotic literature such as Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer,and Lolita.*fn5 See Bench Opinion at 9-12 (Discussion of why the Court concludes that Defendants short stories, when taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value). Accordingly, though the Eleventh Circuit was not convinced that the musical composition Nasty could speak for itself, this Court has far less trouble declaring that Defendants sexually explicit narratives, with their only tangentially related plots, can speak for themselves. _The subject matter of McCoys stories is certainly extremely far from the mainstream, and (as noted) could make many people (including myself) somewhat squeamish. But, it still seems troubling that a court is determining that a written work is flat out illegal, when its creation harmed no one, and the work itself has not been forced upon anyone who did not want it. In fact, within the courts ruling, it notes that McCoy put warnings on the work such that those who might be similarly troubled by the contents would know not to read it:
_ This story contains very graphic violence against a very young child. If such things bother you (and they do me) I advise against reading this. The story is based upon a line that ran through my head one night, and I couldnt get it out [...basic description of the very taboo subjects included in the story... ] FINAL WARNING !!!! If you think the previous description is based; the actual story is much worse! I strongly advise you to skip this one. _The court, however, uses this "warning" as extra evidence that McCoy knew the work was obscene, and thus uses it against him. That seems kind of silly. After all, wouldnt the concern over obscenity be the impact the work might have on an unsuspecting or unexpecting reader? Yet here, such a reader would be clearly warned off. I find this troubling on a variety of First Amendment grounds, especially as the standards used in the case could apply to all sorts of works both professionally published (books exploring the taboo are not exactly uncommon) and to a ton of things written by unsuspecting individuals on the internet. While you and I might not find such works to have value, it still seems quite worrying when a court can decide what kind of stories are legal or illegal. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
The concepts of secondary liability seem to go right out the window (along with basic rationality) when it comes to certain people freaking out about copyright infringement. The latest is that Swedish prosecutors are apparently threatening the _registrar_ that manages the .se domain with some form of charges because the Pirate Bay (briefly) ran on an .se domain.
"The legal system has not been able to shut down the service after the previous guilty verdict against TPB," IIS Chief of Communications Maria Ekelund told TorrentFreak. "Therefore the prosecutor has opened a new case against both the domain holders and .SE. The prosecutor is accusing .SE of assisting TPB who are assisting others to commit copyright infringement." [....] "In the eyes of the prosecutor, .SE's catalogue function has become some form of accomplice to criminal activity, a perspective that is unique in Europe as far as I know," says IIS CEO Danny Aerts.That seems fairly ridiculous when you begin to think about the implications of it. This is so far removed from any actual infringement, its incredible. This is the scorched earth approach to dealing with copyright infringement, with no care at all for any possible collateral damage in holding totally unrelated parties, who happened to be used by a service provider who, in turn, happened to be used by some people to possibly infringe, as liable for that infringement. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Considering the FBIs unseemly interest in recording phone calls and inserting itself into all sorts of electronic conversations (all without asking permission first), its incredibly strange that it refuses to use one of the most basic electronic devices available: a voice recorder. In fact, as Harvey Silvergates op-ed for the Boston Globe points out, its forbidden to use any sort of recording device when interviewing suspects.
_FBI agents always interview in pairs. One agent asks the questions, while the other writes up what is called a "form 302 report" based on his notes. The 302 report, which the interviewee does not normally see, becomes the official record of the exchange; any interviewee who contests its accuracy risks prosecution for lying to a federal official, a felony. And here is the key problem that throws the accuracy of all such statements and reports into doubt: FBI agents almost never electronically record their interrogations; to do so would be against written policy._Without a recording to compare the transcript to, we are expected to trust the FBIs version of the interrogation. If we cant trust it, we are left to draw one of the following conclusions. 1. The transcript is completely false. 2. The transcript is heavily editorialized. 3. The transcript interprets certain statements, but is otherwise accurate. 4. The transcript is completely accurate. Of all of these choices, number 4 seem least likely. In fact, one wonders why the FBI bothers interviewing anyone when it could simply put two agents in a room and allow them to bang out a confession on behalf of the accused. If a suspect claims the transcription is erroneous, its his word against theirs. His words, of course, disappeared into the ether as soon as they were spoken. The FBIs version lives on, printed on paper. We dont need to ask "why" this is a problem. There are rhetorical questions and then there are stupid questions, the sort helpful teachers and guidance counselors continue to pretend dont exist. A better question is, "Why hasnt this been changed?" Silvergate notes this policy is an _updated_ version of a 1990s policy, crafted in 2006, long long long long after recording devices were ubiquitous. The excuse that this policy was "logistically necessary" because of technological limitations was ridiculous in 1990, much less 16 years later. This is a problem. More specifically, this is Robel Phillipos problem.
_Phillipos is a 19-year-old Cambridge resident, former UMass Dartmouth student, and friend of alleged Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He faces charges of making materially false statements during a series of interviews with FBI agents. If convicted, he could get up to eight years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine._How do we know he did this? Because the FBI says he did. It has the "paperwork" to "prove" it. As was pointed out above, simply questioning the transcript opens the questioner up for charges of "making false statements." Phillipos could be completely innocent but that means nothing when the accusers are writing the narrative. Scott Greenfield shows just how easily an innocent answer could turn into damning "evidence" in the hands of an FBI interrogation team.
_Q: We found files on your computer showing that you went to a website with instructions on how to make a bomb, so we know you did it. When did you first go to the bomb website?_ _A: I surf the web constantly and go through, like, a million pages. I have no idea what pages I searched or when. How could I possibly know?_ _Notated in 302: D cannot recall when he first went to bomb website. Went "constantly."_Slick, isnt it? And when someone points out a misquote, the accusation is turned on them just as easily. "Are you lying now or were you lying earlier?" This is nasty business but it gets even nastier. Beyond the hilarious claim that tech simply hasnt advanced enough since 1990 to allow reliable voice recording, theres a much darker rationale guiding this ridiculous (and dangerous) policy.
_The more honest -- and more terrifying -- justification for non-recording given in the memo reads as follows: ". . . perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit." Translated from bureaucratese: When viewed in the light of day, recorded witness statements could appear to a reasonable jury of laypersons to have been coercively or misleadingly obtained._Sometimes the "reasonable jury" would be right -- the statement _has_ been "coercively or misleadingly obtained." Other times, it may not be as clear-cut. But in a day and age where recording interviews and interrogations is the expectation, the FBI continues to play by its own (convenient) rules. And if the person being interrogated doesnt like it, he can expect additional charges to brought. This puts the alleged criminal in the unenviable position of having "anything he says" twisted, rewritten and heavily paraphrased before being used against him. Silvergate cautions to withhold judgement on Phillipos until all the facts are in. But as long as the FBI continues to use this "recording" technique, dont grant its statements any credibility. They have none. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
As you may recall, weve recently written about the MPAAs protests against a treaty for the blind, as well as a similar protest from the Intellectual Property Owners Association (on that front, we heard that many members of that group never saw that letter before it was sent out, and were not happy about it). Now theres another group sending a letter, and its equally as ridiculous. Business Europe, which appears to have a lot of non-European companies as members (interesting, that), has written a ridiculous letter with little basis in fact, arguing that this treaty for the blind would be "casting aside" the "international copyright infrastructure." Of course, it does no such thing. All it does is provide extremely limited situations in which copyright restrictions would be limited for the sake of making it easier for vision-impaired people to access works. They also claim that it relies on "hasty conclusions" which is flat out laughable, since the treaty has been under discussion for almost three decades, but has been regularly blocked by organizations like those mentioned above. Business Europes real complaint seems to be that it just doesnt like the people who like this treaty.
_ ... it is strongly supported by the same group of NGOs and advanced emerging economy countries that pursue a general IPR-weakening agenda at WIPO and other international forums. _Got that? Those who argue that providing more rights to the public support this very minor place where more rights would be provided to the vision-impaired public, and we cant have that. No, no. They also, rather bizarrely, claim that some countries who are likely to sign on to this treaty "do not provide any copyright protection whatsoever." Jamie Love at KEI asks exactly which countries theyre talking about. The statement from Business Europe is nothing but fear mongering. If a country doesnt provide any copyright protection at all, then why would it even care about a treaty whose focus is providing exceptions to copyright? The level of freakout from these giant companies over helping the blind is really quite incredible. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Youve heard the rumblings before. Free doesnt work. Or perhaps it was that free doesnt work for big time franchises. More specifically for video games, you may have heard that when a game goes from paid to free its a sign that its a dead game. The mantra persists, despite examples like The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons showing the exact opposite can be true, where going free results in a significant uptick in revenue. There is still this fear in the hearts of game producers and, as we all know, fear leads to doubt, doubt leads to anger, and anger leads to the dark side of gaming. Yet redemption can be had, if there is still good inside a game. The latest example of this is Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO that was once fee-based but is now free and has realized massive revenue returns as a result. EA Labels Emperor Frank Gibeau took time away from misunderstanding what DRM is to remark on the success of the new model.
_"Since it was induced in November, we've added more than 1.7 million new players on the free model to the service," said Electronic Arts president of labels Frank Gibeau. "And the number of subscriptions has stabilized at just under half a million."_
_"The really interesting thing that's happening inside the service right now is monthly average revenue for the game has more than doubled since we introduced the free-to-play option. And as we look forward, we're going to continually invest in new content for the service and for players every six weeks or so."_Oh, look, you give your customers what they want at the prices they want it, build up a massive fan-base, and a years-old game still ends up putting money in EAs pockets. Its a shame they havent tried a similar strategy with other EA games like SimCity, instead choosing to lock the game up tighter than Han Solo trapped in carbonite with an always-online requirement nobody wants. Still, its nice to see that EA isnt above experimenting with better gaming business models, even if they did so in this case with an older game in which they had very little to lose. Heres hoping the company translates this success into a wider philosophy. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
A recurrent theme here on Techdirt is the lack of transparency when international agreements and treaties are being drawn up. Thats increasingly recognized not just as problematic, but simply unacceptable in an age when the Internet makes it easy to provide both access to draft documents and a way for the public to offer comments on them. Despite this growing pressure, nothing much has happened on either side of the Atlantic as far as providing greater openness for major negotiations is concerned. Perhaps frustrated by this lack of movement, the transparency organization Corporate Europe Observatory decided to take legal action against the European Commission back in February over the secret trade talks between the EU and India. As the detailed history of this case (pdf) explains, the European Commission was apparently quite happy to pass on copies of certain documents to industry associations, but when Corporate Europe Observatory asked for the same, they only received censored versions. The lawsuit accuses the European Commission of discriminating in favor of corporate lobby groups and of violating the EUs transparency rules. As the Corporate Europe Observatory asks: _
how can documents that the Commission has already shared with the business community at large suddenly become confidential and a threat to the EUs international relations when a public interest group asks for their disclosure? This is the core question raised by the lawsuit._ And it points out: _
What is at stake in the lawsuit is whether the Commission can continue its habit of granting big business privileged access to its trade policy-making process by sharing information that is withheld from the public. This practice not only hampers well-informed and meaningful public participation in EU trade policy-making, it also leads to a trade policy that, while catering for big business needs, is harmful to people and the environment in the EU and the world._ The European court will be handing down its verdict on 7 June. If the judges side with transparency, it could have a major impact on how the imminent TAFTA/TTIP negotiations between the EU and US are conducted. If they dont, then the battle for the publics right to know what is being agreed in its name will doubtlessly continue. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
As we learned (though were hardly surprised by) this week, the MPAA doesnt take kindly to the suggestion that it should have to consider fair use when sending DMCA notices. The irony of this was not lost on anyone, and indeed both of our most insightful comments of the week came from that post, both of them making the same point. First up, Tim Ks opening salvo:
_Difficult for MPAA to differentiate between infringing and non-infringing material, but everyone else should still easily be able to know immediately whats infringing._And not far behind, reinforcements from Jesse:
_Interesting. If its ISPs magically waving away infringement, its really easy to figure out infringement from non-infringement. If they have to do it, its too hard._Its certainly a point that bears repetition. But theres another important point to be made on that same story, in response to the MPAAs claims that they _need_ to send millions of DMCA notices. So our first editors choice goes to Rikuo for covering that base:
_No they dont. Theres a myriad of other tactics they can use. There is no requirement that they absolutely, positively have to send DMCA notices._For our second editors choice, we head to our post about Eric Holder, who is also making bold statements about intellectual property. This time, its the idea that piracy funds terrorism, which made a different ERIC (I assume) wonder what exactly hes saying:
So if I understand this correctly: 1) Infringement is all over the place, thus making it difficult to monetize content, which leads to the need for these laws 2) Terrorist are able to fund themselves via monetizing this infringing 3) Which leads to the final logic that terrorist are able to monetize content that is available everywhere better than the producers of the content???On the funny side, weve got a pair of winners from two different posts about major players in the Prenda saga. First up, when we asked whether Paul Duffys wife admitted that he was engaged in interstate extortion, Arsik Vek anticipated Duffys response:
_Duffys next comment: "Im not sure who that woman is. She may or may not be my wife, but I have no direct knowledge of any relationship."_That would be true to form. Up next, in response to Mark Lutzs ongoing evasion in the face of scrutiny, an anonymous commenter was inspired to put Prendas tenacity to good use:
_You know, Ive always wanted to dig to China. I think Ill hire these guys._For editors choice on the funny side, we start out with our post about the new and disappointing live streaming service from Disneys ABC. An anonymous commenter summed up the likely customer response to this lacklustre offering:
"Where can I sign back up for my monthly $50-80 cable bill so I have access to these wonderful services" -No one. Ever.And finally, since weve been oh so serious and scathing today, well finish things off with something a bit sillier. In response to our post about people not turning off their devices when they fly, one anonymous commenter dissented, but for pragmatic reasons:
_I generally do. I just dont have the coordination to flap my arms and mess with my smartphone at the same time._This is the way the post ends: not with a bang but a groan. See you tomorrow, folks! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Hi Techdirt! Im known to this and other tech blog communities as sophisticatedjanedoe (or SJD). I run an anti-shakedown, anti-copyright-troll opinion blog Fight Copyright Trolls, which, Im sure, most of you know: Techdirt often links to my posts, especially recently, since we all have been watching an illustrious show of SS Prenda sinking slowly but steadily. Some might expect that my favorite posts would be all about Prenda, but no -- I have wider interests than fighting ethically handicapped lawyers. Still Im quite happy that copyright trolling disease that has penetrated the legal system is finally gaining attention from the general public. Techdirt, together with ArsTechnica and TorrentFreak (and, recently, Popehat), have been pivotal in this respect. The only Prenda-related post I want to specifically recommend is about the ISPs appeal over former RIAA lobbyist judge allowing Prenda to get info on over 1,000 John Does. This post features an _amicus curiae_ brief filed by four respected advocate organizations: EFF, ACLU, Public Citizen and Public Knowledge. To date, this is one of the most comprehensive and beautiful briefs on the topic, a must read to anyone who follows the copyright trolling phenomenon. For some reason, the story I remember the most is the one about the North Carolina politicians and car dealers trying to outlaw the direct sales of Tesla cars in their state. It makes me sad and angry when special interest groups, mostly incumbents, attempt to derail progress: not that it is unnatural or unexpected, but the BS smuggled as public concern is always unbearable to hear. It is not much better when certain groups try to widen revenue streams quietly. The story about the Florida Department of Transportation doing it at the expense of public safety -- by decreasing yellow traffic light intervals (to increase the number of red-light tickets) -- is, unfortunately, also not unexpected. Good news is that the most innovative area -- the Internet -- is largely immune to the tricks that authorities can forcefully impose on citizens. It is mind-boggling that certain power structures cant grasp the futility of trying to put the cat back in the bag when it comes to the digital world. This week we watched how the government tried to suppress the dissemination of the first fully 3D-printed gun blueprint using some "export regulations." "Export-import of digital goods" concept is irreversibly dead in the Internet age. Meanwhile the incumbent entertainment gatekeepers continue their delusional fight against the Internet -- pretending to fight piracy, while study after study (this time commissioned by the UK government) finds that top downloaders are top spenders. The following stories remind us one more time that the collateral damage in this war -- the civil liberties -- is truly an international concern. In the USA, the MPAA thinks that considering fair use before filing a DMCA takedowns is a crazy idea. In the UK, the countrys recording industry, dwelling on the success of the last year censorship, plans a new wave of blockades -- over two dozen new victims (including a relatively good player Grooveshark) -- all without trial and conviction. And the Germanys GEMA does not want to yield its status of the worst collection society in the world. Fortunately, the new generation does not sit idle. I was moved by the news of Peter Sunde, of The Pirate Bay & Flattr, planning a run for the EU parliament. To finish on a lighter note, read about a pathetic and sloppy usage of Photoshop by the Church of Scientology: youll have a good chuckle. See you next week in the comments! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
For this weeks awesome stuff, weve got three different projects that just caught my eye for being different and interesting in a design sense. * I dont know about you, but Ive had a few too many experiencing having to try to inflate an air mattress of some kind or another, and realizing what a freaking total pain it is using regular valves (not to mention the inevitable annoying emptying process as well). So I have to say that the Windcatcher project definitely piqued my curiosity. I dont understand the mechanism behind it, but it certainly looks like an air mattress that you can fill with 4 or 5 breaths -- and all without having to put your mouth on anything. It looks kind of like magic, so check out the video.
These guys still have a bit of a way to go on the funding front, having raised only about a quarter of the $50,000 theyre seeking, but the product definitely has that neat design factor going for it.
* Theres been something of a hipster revival in pinhole cameras lately, it seems, but the ONDU Pinhole cameras are definitely the nicest design Ive ever seen. A nice wooden box with no exposed screws. A backplate thats held on by magnets. It just _looks_ cool. Also, bonus points for the cool music in the video (apparently this is the musician. This project has already surged past its goals, so its definitely going to get funded, and with another 25 days to go, itll likely end up much, much higher.
* Finally, there are times when someone designs something and you wonder why no one else has done it before -- or even why such things arent _common_. That was the feeling I got after seeing the Nuplug, which is basically an extension cord/surge protector/outlet that attaches to furniture. So, rather than having your outlets on the wall and behind furniture, you can connect them in a more convenient way. Given how much stuff folks are charging all the time these days, I could definitely see how this could be handy for many people. The one thing holding me back on this one, frankly, is that its a bit on the ugly side -- in that it really stands out. Seems like something a little more subtle would be cooler. Maybe future iterations. This one also has a pretty ambitious $75,000 goal, and theyre only a little past halfway there with 18 days to go.
Thats all for this week...
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Its sad to note how collective humanity has done an ostrich on the warnings about the machines. Still the NFL exists, robbing us of our best and brightest, who will no longer be available for the coming war with SkyNET. Conferences on what to do about the surely coming robot horde have produced little in the way of a path forward and have gone relatively unreported in any case. Due to this, we know very little about what form the non-existent threat of terminator-like metal monsters will take. Will they simply wage war against us? Will they syphon our body heat for energy? Will they farm our skin and dance around in it to _Goodbye Horses_, like some kind of graphite Buffalo Bill? Not according to Rice University professor Moshe Vardi, who claims that they have a far more terrifying plan in store: displacing the human workforce.
Pictured: A Rice University professor in the near future
Image source: CC BY 2.0
According to Vardi, sometime around the year 2045, you wont have a job any longer because the robots will have taken it away from you.
_In recent writings, Vardi traces the evolution of the idea that artificial intelligence may one day surpass human intelligence, from Turing to Kurzweil, and considers the recent rate of progress. Although early predictions proved too aggressive, in the space of 15 years we've gone from Deep Blue beating Kasparov at chess to self-driving cars and Watson beating Jeopardy champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Extrapolating into the future, Vardi thinks it's reasonable to believe intelligent machines may one day replace human workers almost entirely and in the process put millions out of work permanently._Well, looking back through the history of technological progress, you can certainly see his point. And once youve seen that point, you can laugh at it. And once youve laughed at it, you can call his local police station and request that they remove any science fiction movies from his home by force, because hes clearly seen too many of them. The problem with thinking that artificial intelligence is going to replace us in the workforce is two-fold. First, it cheaply ignores the impact every other form of technological progress has had thus far. Robots are used on assembly lines, yet theres no drastic net loss of jobs. When the automobile was invented, it isnt as though the buggy whip makers simply died off in unemployed starvation. There are other jobs to be had, most often created as a direct result of the advance in technology. Assembly line workers become machinists. Buggy whip makers go to work for the auto companies. There can be pain in the market in the short term as it is disrupted, but on a long enough timeline everything seems to even back out. The second problem is the failure to recognize that people value some products and services provided by our fellow meat-sacks. Can auto-attendant systems handle phone duties? Sure, but there are tons of companies that specifically advertise the concept of customers being able to talk to a "real" person. Can machines make rugs? Yup, yet theres a huge market in hand-woven rugs out there. And the service industries rely heavily on personality. A machine might be able to serve me my beer at my local watering hole, but will it listen to me complain about my job if Im having a crappy day? Will it be able to offer me an opinion on which wine is the best on the menu? And, as the article notes, what if any workforce disruption that _does_ occur is desirable?
_Perhaps in the future, while some of us work hard to build and program super-intelligent machines, others will work hard to entertain, theorize, philosophize, and make uniquely human creative works, maybe even pair with machines to accomplish these things. These may seem like niche careers for the few and talented. But at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, jobs of the mind in general were niche careers._I call dibs on being the new Socrates. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
_Crossposted from Questioncopyright.org_Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Photo by Ravi Swami, London UK_QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley's interview with at Baixa Cultura, conducted by email with journalist and photographer André Solnik. The English below is the original; Baixa Cultura translated Nina's answers._ 1. WHEN YOUR INTEREST ON FREE CULTURE HAS BEGUN? For a long time I thought copyright terms were too long and the law could use reform, but I didn't really understand Free Culture until October 2008, after months on the film festival circuit with my then-illegal feature Sita Sings the Blues. Free Culture was too audacious a concept for me to think about clearly until then. One morning I finally got it -- freeing my work would be better for the work -- and I spent the next half-year preparing for a Free, legal release of SSTB. That finally happened in March 2009, when I finally cleared all the necessary (and bullshit) licenses at a cost of about $70,000 to myself. 2. TELL ME IN SHORT WHY ARTISTS SHOULD FREE THEIR WORK. IS IT A GOOD CHOICE FOR BOTH RENOWNED AND NEW ARTISTS? From my article How To Free Your Work: Why should you Free your work? To make it as easy as possible for people to share your work -- as easy as possible for your work to reach eyeballs and ears and minds -- to reach an audience. And to make it as easy as possible for audience support -- including money -- to reach you…. Copy restrictionsplace a barrier between you, the artist, and most forms of support. By removing the barriers of copyright, you make it possible to receive money and other kinds of support from your audience, both directly and through distributors, thereby increasing your chances of success. 3. CREATIVE COMMONS HAS RECENTLY RELEASED THE FINAL DRAFT OF THE VERSION 4.0 OF ITS LICENSES. WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE? DO YOU THINK CC SHOULD KEEP ON SUPPORTING THE NONFREE LICENSES? Yes, CC should stop supporting the non-free licenses. What kind of "commons" is that? 4. ALTHOUGH THEY ARE PROBABLY THE MOST KNOWN ALTERNATIVES TO MORE RESTRICTIVE ONES, THEY STILL REMAIN UNPOPULAR COMPARED TO THE "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED". WHY IS THAT? DO YOU RECKON PEOPLE GET CONFUSED BY THE MANY POSSIBILITIES GIVEN BY THE CC LICENSES? Most people who use CC licenses don't understand what the different licenses mean; they just call all of them "Creative Commons" as if that means anything. CC's modular system was a good idea, I see it as an experiment that was worth doing. But the results are in: it didn't work. What we have now are a mess of incompatible licenses, most of which fail to contribute to any real "commons," and an increase of confusion and misinformation. You can't really blame Creative Commons though -- the problem is copyright law. Nothing can fix it at this point. Even CC-0, a valorous attempt to opt out of copyright, doesn't work in practice, as my experience with the Film Board of Canada showed -- even after placing SSTB under CC-0, their lawyers refused to accept it was really Public Domain, and made me sign a release anyway, just to allow one of their filmmakers to refer to it. I will be saddled forever with permissions paperwork even with CC-0. I'll probably keep using CC-0, of course, but I have no expectation it will work as it's supposed to. 5. THE BY-NC-SA LICENSE, ALTHOUGH NONFREE, IT'S PRETTY POPULAR. WHY DO YOU THINK SO? WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES ABOUT LICENSING A WORK USING IT? People are high-minded when they choose the -NC restriction, but it accomplishes exactly the opposite of their ideals. They want to "protect" their works from abusive exploitation from big corporate players. They don't realize those big corporate players LOVE the -NC clause, because it's a commercial monopoly. Big corporate players are all set up to deal with commercial monopolies: they have licensing departments and lawyers. It's the big corporate players who can afford to license your -NC works. It's your peers, small players with no legal departments and limited resources, who can't. The -NC clause screws over your fellow artists and small players, while favoring big corporations. The way to avoid abusive exploitation is to use CC-BY-SA, a Share-Alike license without the -NC restriction. This allows your peers to use the work without fear, as long as they keep it Free-as-in-Freedom. Big corporate monopoly players, however, are unwilling to release anything Freely: if they want to use your work, they'll have to negotiate a waiver of the -SA clause. For this they will pay money. It works like a regular licensing deal: for $X you waive the -SA restriction and allow them to re-use the work without contributing to the community. I have had many corporate licensors offer me such contracts, although I didn't sign any because I was such a Free license booster. The only reason BY-NC-SA is popular is because people really haven't thought it through. 6. MONEY SEEMS TO BE ONE OF THE MAIN WORRIES ARTISTS HAVE WHEN THEY HEAR SOMEONE SAYING "FREE YOUR WORK". IS THIS "FEAR" JUSTIFIED? HAVE YOU RECOVERED ALL THE MONEY SPENT IN THE MAKING OF SITA SINGS THE BLUES? No, this fear is not justified. But your question sure is biased: "Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?" As if with copyright I would have! I have made more money with Freeing my work than I ever did with copyright restrictions. Period. Where do people get this idea that putting a (c) on something will magically generate money? It doesn't. If it did, I would fully support copyright, and be rich. Copyright is a "right to exclude," not a right to make money. You are free to make money without copyright, and you stand a better chance to as well. 7. YOU HAVE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED THAT SSTB IS NOW IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. ALTHOUGH NOW YOU ARE FINALLY FREE OF BUROCRACY ENVOLVING COPYRIGHT STUFF AND THIS ACTION COULD HELP YOUR MOVIE TO HAVE MORE VISIBILITY, ON THE OTHER SIDE IT COULD FAVOUR RESTRICTED MODIFICATIONS OF YOUR WORK (E.G.: A BOOK INSPIRED BY SSTB RELEASED UNDER "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED"). HOW DO YOU WEIGH THESE TWO SIDES? Eh, honestly I just don't care any more. Let's just put it out there and see what happens. If something terrible happens because I shared freely, I'll learn from that. But I think it's stupid to worry about what other people do, and try to control it, especially with broken laws. Even Free Share-Alike licenses require copyright law to be enforced, and copyright law is hopelessly broken. I don't want to validate or support it in any way. Licenses are not going to fix our problems. What is fixing our problems is increasing numbers of people simply ignoring copyright altogether. Instead of trying to get people to pay more attention to the law, as CC does, I'd rather encourage them to ignore the law in favor of focusing on the art. Licenses are the wrong solution. Art is the solution. Make art not law. 8. ARE YOU KEEN ON THE FREE SOFTWARE MOVEMENT AS WELL? ANY OF YOUR WORKS WAS MADE USING FREE SOFTWARES? I'm attending the 2013 Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid this year, to discuss building a good Free vector animation tool I can actually use. More in this article, It's 2013. Do You Know Where My Free Vector Animation Software Is?
Plenty of people rightly mocked the news a few years ago that the Associated Press was working on a plan to "DRM the news." The idea was to put some sort of licensing mechanism together to get news aggregators to pay to promote their news. This seemed incredibly dumb for a whole host of reasons. It added no value. Its only purpose was to limit the value for everyone in the system by putting a tollbooth where none needed to exist. When it finally launched last year to great fanfare in the newspaper world, under the name "NewsRight," we pointed out that, once again, it made no sense. Basically, the whole focus appeared to be on getting bloggers and aggregators to pay for a license they legally did not need. Since the launch... we heard absolutely nothing about NewsRight. There was a launch, with its newspaper backers claiming it was some huge moment for newspapers, and then nothing. Well, until now, when we find out that NewsRight quietly shut down. Apparently, among its many problems, many of the big name news organization _that owned NewsRight_ wouldnt even include their own works as part of the "license" because they feared cannibalizing revenue from other sources. So, take legacy companies that are backwards looking, combine it with a licensing scheme based on no legal right, a lack of any actual added value and (finally) mix in players who are scared of cannibalizing some cash cow... and it adds up to an easy failure. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Is it still junk food if you make it yourself? If you feel guilty about buying junk food and have lots of time on your hands, here are a few links that might inspire you to try recreating some popular snacks at home. * Heres a recipe for homemade Cheez-It crackers, which supposedly taste better than the store-bought version. By the time youre done making these, youll wish that you had just gone to the store and bought a box of Cheez-Its. [url] * McDonalds Canada has revealed exactly how they make their fries, "from the farm to the fryer." If youve ever wondered whether their fries are made from real potatoes, the answer is yes. Their fries are cut from whole potatoes harvested from farms in New Brunswick, Alberta, and Manitoba. [url] * Read about one junk food enthusiasts attempts to recreate Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes, Oreos, and Fritos. While some of the homemade versions were somewhat "healthier" calorie-wise, the general concensus was that theres just nothing like the real thing. [url] If youd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
Hopefully you recall the story of Suburban Express and its owner, admitted domain squatter Dennis Toeppen, but let me catch you up and let you know whats been going on since that post ran. Suburban Express is a bus company that caters to Midwest students traveling to and from Chicago. And by "caters" I apparently mean they make them sign contracts designed to extract unreasonable fines from their wallets and threaten lawsuits against them if they have anything less than glowing things to say about their experience online. While this has gone on for some time, a new spotlight was shown when one rider, Jeremy Leval, related on Reddit a tale of one of the companys drivers berating a customer for speaking less-than-perfect English. That customer happened to be an exchange student. Toeppen went nuclear on Reddit, threatened litigation via their corporate counsel, and also threatened the Reddit moderator. Once the story began to spread, the company was introduced to Ken "Popehat" White, at which point the tone of all their communications took an almost cartoonish turn towards congeniality. Suburban Express promised to drop their 100-plus lawsuits against customers, which theyve done, and doesnt appear to have filed against the Reddit moderator. They were a bit too late, as the internet backlash led to someone defacing their website, but at least they learned a lesson in how to treat their customers, right? Well, perhaps not entirely. See, Toeppen has chosen to show off his aptitude for pettiness online, and has actually decided to use the Suburban Express website to continue to publically go after Leval, with whom this all began.
_Toeppen relaunched his online attacks against Leval, posting a page to Suburban Express website that recounted the March 31 incident from Toeppens point of view and calling Leval "nothing but a bullying, self-important brat." The page reiterated Toeppens claim that Leval was trying to smear Suburban Express to help his own since-aborted plans for a student ride-sharing site, saying, "A blogger suggested that Leval may have been motivated to harass Suburban Express as a means of furthering his business interests."_ _Toeppens post didnt end there. He also recounted a conversation that Leval and his girlfriend allegedly had with a driver from another transportation service. "On May 12, 2013, Jeremy Leval and his girlfriend interacted with an EAC driver at Armory around 2:50pm. Jeremy approached the driver and asked if he had heard of Suburban Express. Jeremy went on to boast that he is the guy who is causing Suburban Express lots of trouble. This makes [me] question Jeremy Levals motivations. Is he a selfless individual fighting for the rights of the oppressed, or is he a self-promoting, troublemaking, attention-seeker?"_Theres a couple of problems with this kind of response. First, note that none of this has anything to do with refuting the companys generally anti-customer behavior. Yes, Toeppen pushes back slightly on Levals story, indicating that some kind of apology was made to the exchange student, by someone, somewhere, and at some time. Gee, wonderful. Nothing about suing their customers, however. Nothing about $100 fines for simply giving the driver the wrong ticket, calling such mistakes "ticket fraud." Second, what difference does it make if Leval is proud of publically slapping around a company doing these kinds of things? Hell, Id be proud of myself, too. Theres no prohibition on enjoying doing good works. And the fact that Leval might (might!) be thinking of starting his own competing company is a complete non-issue relating to the facts. Again, what happened is what happened, regardless of Levals future business endeavors. And, finally, did Toeppen learn _nothing _from round one of this mess? Going after a former customer right on the company website is exactly the kind of behavior that got them into this mess to begin with. Business takes thick skin, even for those that arent engaging in questionable behavior. I dont know what kind of profit Toeppen sees in using his company website in this manner, but I fear hes in for yet another lesson. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
The Obama administration has supposedly been "considering" the latest version of the DOJs plan to require backdoor wiretapping abilities in _any_ form of digital communication. If you dont recall, the FBI asks for this basically every year. The latest version would lead to fines for any company that doesnt build in a backdoor wiretapping ability. Weve been pointing out for quite some time that putting in such backdoors only makes us all less safe, because those with malicious intent will find and use those backdoors. A new report has been released, put together by some of the best known technologists and security experts out there, saying that the plan, as being considered would effectively undermine any cybersecurity regime. At a time when the administration and Congress keep insisting that we NEED better cybersecurity, to undermine it all with wiretapping backdoors would be ridiculous. And lets not even begin discussing how this would play out if it passed and number one CISPA backer Mike Rogers then became head of the FBI. Among the reports authors are names you might recognize, like Ed Felten, Peter Neumann, Bruce Schneier and Phil Zimmerman. You can read the full report (pdf) to see all the details. As Ed Felten told the NY Times:
_ "It's a single point in the system through which all of the content can be collected if they can manage to activate it," said Edward W. Felten, a computer science professor at Princeton and one of the authors of the report... "That's a security vulnerability waiting to happen, as if we needed more," he said. _Once again, all of this suggests that the efforts around "cybersecurity" have always been more of a cover story to try to make it easier for law enforcement to access data, rather than any legitimate effort at improving security. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story