from the you-might-enjoy... dept
On a slightly more serious note, economist Alex Tabarrok, has put together a video arguing for the end of software patents:
Either way, I figured folks might enjoy both of these videos.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 8:01pm
by Michael Ho
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 5:00pm
by Leigh Beadon
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 4:08pm
Back when we first launched the Insider Shop, we made two PDF ebooks available at any price you choose: Mike's Approaching Infinity (on new business models and the economics of abundance) and our Sky Is Rising report on the state of the entertainment industries. More recently, we launched three fiction titles by our own Tim Geigner—Digilife, Echelon and Midwasteland—also available on a pay-what-you-want basis. They were an instant hit, and we're in the process of preparing new ePub versions.
The thing we noticed right away was that a lot of people were choosing to pay, even though you can download all the books for free. Almost half of all book downloads were paid, with most people choosing the default $5 per book—even when buying four or five books at once—and several going above and beyond, with a few even paying $20 for a single title.
At this point, there's plenty of evidence that people will gladly, even eagerly, pay to support creators despite being given the option of getting something for free—and we're glad to add the success of our Insider Shop ebooks to the list. For those who want a closer look at the numbers, I put together a quick infographic:
Thanks to everyone who has downloaded our ebooks, whether you paid $0 or $20 or anything in between! If you haven't gotten your copies yet, head on over to the Insider Shop and check them out.
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 3:02pm
In an e-mail exchange with Security Ledger, the Malta-based firm said that the previously unknown ("zero day") hole affects Samsung Smart TVs running the latest version of the company's Linux-based firmware. It could give an attacker the ability to access any file available on the remote device, as well as external devices (such as USB drives) connected to the TV. And, in a Orwellian twist, the hole could be used to access cameras and microphones attached to the Smart TVs, giving remote attacker the ability to spy on those viewing a compromised set.The group that reportedly discovered the vulnerability, ReVuln, proudly stated that they would not publish any information about what they'd uncovered except to paying subscribers because screw everyone else (not an actual quote). They also have a company policy, apparently, that would prevent them from working with Samsung directly on a fix or even to disclose the hole, leading me to reach the logical conclusion that Dr. Evil is apparently running that company.
Currently, the Smart TVs offer no native security features, such as a firewall, user authentication or application whitelisting. More critically: there is no independent software update capability, meaning that, barring a firmware update from Samsung, the exploitable hole can't be patched without "voiding the device's warranty and using other exploits," ReVuln said.In other words, customers get to wait around until Samsung can figure this thing out on their own, since ReVuln won't help them out by company policy, or risk voiding their warranty on their smart TV that has a complete lack of security features. Nicely done, everyone involved.
The company posted a video of an attack on a Samsung TV LED 3D Smart TV online. It shows an attacker gaining shell access to the TV, copying the contents of its hard drive to an external device and mounting them on a local drive, providing access to photos, documents and other content. ReVuln said an attacker would also be able to lift credentials from any social networks or other online services accessed from the device.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 2:01pm
We are frankly puzzled by the approach that Voltage has taken. It seems contrary to the government’s intent with copyright reform, which was to discourage file sharing lawsuits against individuals, while still protecting copyright holders’ rights. The manner and the timing of this action also seems unusual given that the government recently created a roadmap for addressing file sharing and copyright infringement within its legislation. Its starting point is a notification system to subscribers to discourage infringement without immediate threats of lawsuits or disclosure of their personal information. That system is not yet finalized though. In light of these factors, Voltage’s actions seem odd to us.The move by Voltage has a number of people confused. One of the really good features of Canada's new copyright laws is a cap on how much someone would have to pay at $5,000. That takes away a troll's ability to demand huge sums, while also limiting its ability to wave a big stick about them being liable for $150,000 in possible statutory awards (as they do in the US). Besides, as Teksavvy notes, the Canadian government was already worried about trolling when it passed the new law.
It appears to us that a notice period is essential, especially in cases where large privacy disclosures may be involved. Without this notice, a customer could be the subject of a lawsuit and not even know about it. Surely this is in part why the government is seeking to enact such notice provisions in the policy.
At this point there are many unanswered questions. How does Voltage intend to proceed? How will the courts rule if customers should retain legal counsel? Under what conditions might the court order the disclosure of customer information? If Voltage is successful, how many more notices will Canadian ISPs receive? Is there a limit to what the court will allow?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 1:04pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 12:05pm
Printed photos, which once came in “wallet size,” have been replaced by an endless roll of snapshots on my phone. Business cards, one of the more archaic forms of communication from the last few decades, now exist as digital rap sheets that can be shared with a click or a bump.It's not entirely obsolete, but Nick makes a compelling case that it's heading in that direction. To be fair, many of the new wallets seen on Kickstarter are, in effect, responses to this trend. The most popular styles appear to be "simplified" or "minimal" wallets that shrink down what you have to carry, so that you can just take the few essential cards with you. But, it's possible that many people will be able to get by entirely without a wallet in the not-too-distant future.
As for cash, I rarely touch the stuff anymore. Most of the time I pay for things — lunch, gas, clothes — with a single debit card. Increasingly, there are also opportunities to skip plastic cards. At Starbucks, I often pay with my smartphone using the official Starbucks app. Other cafes and small restaurants allow people to pay with Square. You simply say your name at a register and voilá, transaction complete.
But wait, what did I do with all of the other cardlike things, like my gym membership I.D., discount cards, insurance cards and coupons? I simply took digital pictures of them, which I keep in a photos folder on my smartphone that is easily accessible. Many stores have apps for their customer cards, and insurance companies have apps that substitute for paper identification.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 11:02am
I, Brett L. Gibbs, Esq., hereby confirm per Eastern District of California Local Rule 131(f) that counsel for Plaintiff has signed original notarized version of the above Verified PetitionSo, Pietz just wants to see that original signature from Cooper for somewhat obvious reasons, given the concerns listed above. And yet, Gibbs not only refuses, but when Pietz asked him directly on the phone about it, Gibbs himself admits that his answer was "I am sure there are hundreds of Alan Coopers in this world." In Gibbs' own email, he displays the way in which he has treated these conversations:
As I told you over the phone, when you asked "Is there another Alan Cooper?", I said "I am sure there are hundreds of Alan Coopers in this world." If your question had been framed more pointedly, and not so vague, maybe I could have provided you with a specific answer.That's the kind of statement made by someone who thinks they're brilliant -- but isn't. All it serves to do is make lots of people aware of this. Parsing words when the clear intent of the question is obvious doesn't make you look intelligent. It just makes you look like you're avoiding the question because you don't want to answer. Similarly, Gibbs' insistence that he didn't hang up on Pietz seems equally dubious by his own explanation:
Mr. Morgan, I did not hang up on you. I take offense to your purposefully twisted version of things. At the end of our conversation, I said that "it was nice speaking with, I had other things to do and good bye" [paraphrasing]. That is not "hanging up" on someone, that is called ending a phone conversation (with respect, I might add).Again... all of this dancing and parsing could be solved quite simply: by Gibbs or Steele or anyone actually showing that the Alan Cooper who is supposedly in charge of these holding companies isn't the Alan Cooper managing a Steele property in Minnesota. If that were the case, you'd think it would be quite simple for this to be proven. The fact that they're avoiding it only suggests that the most obvious possibility is the true story. As these stories advance, you get the feeling that this situation is going to end up being even more ridiculous than Righthaven by the time it's all over.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 10:00am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 9:03am
Building out the infrastructure will be expensive. In his September 17 report Still Bullish on Cable, although not blind to the risks, Goldman Sachs Telco analyst Jason Armstrong noted that if Google devoted 25% of its $4.5bn annual capex to this project, it could equip 830K homes per year, or 0.7% of US households. As such, even a 50mn household build out, which would represent less than half of all US homes, could cost as much as $70bn. We note that Jason Armstrong estimates Verizon has spent roughly $15bn to date building out its FiOS fiber network covering an area of approximately 17mn homes.Of course, even if we accept this number to be true -- even though that seems unlikely to be the case -- it seems to miss the point. Google has been pretty clear all along that the goal of the Google Fiber project was not to turn Google into a national broadband competitor, but to drive others to really up their game by showing what's possible: super cheap, super fast broadband with friendly customer service.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 8:04am
As Nintendo's Wii U FAQ makes clear, "a Nintendo Network Account can only be used on the console where it was created." Thus, any games tied to that unique online ID will only work on the first system they're purchased and downloaded to. This is in essence the same setup that Nintendo used to protect downloaded Virtual Console and WiiWare games on the first Wii, a setup that not only utterly failed to stop piracy on the system but also caused headaches for many early Wii owners with faulty systems.Orland's first hand experience wasn't pleasant. He had over $400 of downloaded games he was hoping to move to his WiiU. During the multistep process -- which requires both systems be on and online -- his Wii crashed. Big bold letters everywhere during the process warned against turning off either system during transfer. The data being moved isn't the important part. What's absolutely essential during this move is that the licenses transfer intact. Orland couldn't simply re-download his games since the licenses were tied to his original Wii. Nintendo's tech support informed him that there was no other way to transfer license and account data to the WiiU short of sending the Wii off for repairs at his expense and hoping it returned in working order with all data (especially those licenses) intact. The final cost? $85 for the repair and a couple of weeks with $400 worth of games in limbo.
Tying downloaded games to a single system means there's no way for a user to access those games at a friend's house short of lugging the entire system along (yes, the Wii is a lot smaller and lighter than other contemporary systems, but still...). It also means a game downloaded to the Wii U in the living room won't be playable on a second system in the kids' room, even if the same password-protected Nintendo Network ID was used on both systems.
It also means that if your system breaks down, you can't just go buy a new one (or borrow one from a friend) and immediately recover your content using your account. Instead, you have to go through Nintendo's official repair process, waiting up to two weeks for the system to be returned just to maintain the system-locked license data—a caveat I learned about first hand recently. And in the extreme case your Wii U is stolen, it seems there's no way to recover your purchased games (Nintendo has refused numerous requests for comment on its DRM scheme). Sure, you can back up purchases to a USB hard drive, but thanks to this licensing scheme, those backups are no more portable than the actual bits stored on the Wii U's internal storage.
If you have tons of content — game save data, Mii characters, and downloaded software — on your old Wii, you’ll want to transfer them over to Wii U. The process is about as convoluted as can possibly be. You’ll actually need to alternate between your Wii and your Wii U, which means either hooking them both up to the TV or swapping cables. First you have to get an SD card. Then you have to put it in your Wii U to “prepare” it for transfer. (You’ll need an internet connection to do this so Nintendo can transfer the digital rights to the software.)Fun stuff, that. Plus, it requires an internet connection just to move your own files from one purchased system to another. Kohler points out that it takes about a half hour to pull them off the Wii and another half hour to load them onto the WiiU. But it's not just the time it takes. It's the ridiculous hoops the user is forced to jump through just to satisfy Nintendo's demands for a clean, closed, DRM-laden system.
[B]esides being time-consuming, there’s also a big missing feature. If you had games already stored on an SD card and not on the Wii’s system memory, you have to move them back to the Wii or else you can’t transfer them. But if you have games stored on the SD card in the first place, that’s probably because you ran out of memory on your Wii (not hard, since it only has 512 megabytes in there). So you are screwed. The transfer process will move over all of the digital licenses, but to get those games onto your Wii U, you’ll have to individually download every single one again from the digital store, which will take forever.This is what you're in for when you deal with a company clearly more interested in pirates than customers. As pointed out earlier by Orland, all the ridiculous DRM crammed into every spare corner of the Wii did very little to stop piracy. Apparently, Nintendo's decided that the original Wii just didn't have enough DRM and has taken it to the extreme with its latest console. The worst aspect of its convoluted "license transfer" system is that the more you've purchased, the longer it takes. Nintendo's concern that someone, somewhere might make off with a free game has turned it into a company that punishes its biggest customers the hardest.
I signed up for Nintendo Network, Nintendo’s first (!) ever attempt to create an account-based online service for its players. I clicked through the Terms of Service, skimming them. As you do. OK, I’m not going to post anything offensive, no problem. I enter my details into my profile and throw Game|Life’s URL and my Twitter handle in there so people know it’s me. Big mistake. Minutes after I posted my profile, I got a message saying that I had posted prohibited content and that Nintendo had blocked my profile pending a change. The hell? Turns out that you are strictly prohibited from posting anything on Miiverse that might allow someone to personally identify you. It didn’t specifically call out Twitter URLs, but I guess those must also be banned. Nintendo clearly doesn’t want any stories in the press about harassment (or worse) stemming from people meeting on Miiverse. So it is doing everything it can to make sure its members do not know who each other actually is.In essence, the Miiverse is a great place to meet complete strangers but a terrible place to hang out with friends. How on earth an entire Miiverse full of strangers is supposed to prevent harassment or any other internet-related abuse is beyond me. It would seem that kids would be safer hanging out with people they know, rather than a bunch of avatars who could be anybody.
European Wii U owners are reporting being unable to buy or watch trailers for mature-rated games in Nintendo's Wii U eShop. Eurogamer reports that they are unable to access the pages for ZombiU or Assassin's Creed 3 during daytime hours, even with no parental controls set. Instead, they're greeted with the message "You cannot view this content. The times during which this content can be viewed have been restricted."Customer service offered this response:
Dear customer, we would like to let you know that Nintendo has always aimed to offer gameplay experiences suited to all age groups, observing carefully all the relevant regulations regarding content access that are present in the various European countries. We have thus decided to restrict the access to content which is unsuitable to minors (PEGI) to the 11 P.M. - 3 A.M. time window.Well, Nintendo's outlook is definitely brimming with optimism. Either it feels a very small minority of WiiU owners are above the age of 18, or it thinks 4 hours a day is plenty for selling mature content. Nintendo's not going anywhere anytime soon, but the focus of its business seems to have shifted to attempting to prevent bad things with much less emphasis being placed on providing good things. Fear may be a powerful motivator, but it rarely produces good work.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 7:04am
Is there any constitutional limit to the statutory damages that can be imposed for downloading music online?The argument, as when it has been brought up earlier, is that such huge fines represent a 5th Amendment due process problem, as the awards simply are so far out of line with any reason. The filing runs through a brief history of the recording industry's fight against file sharing (amusingly quoting from the movie The Social Network to make the point that the recording industry has seen better days).
Statutory damages imposed in this way are unpredictable, unconstrained, and equally as punitive as punitive damages; the jury’s role in imposing them is even more divorced from finding facts, from deciding what happened, than it is in imposing punitive damages. The order-of-magnitude difference between the verdicts in this case, $222,000 in the first trial, $1,920,000 in the second trial, and $1,500,000 in the third trial, demonstrates this. The verdicts are unpredictable and, in a deeper sense, arbitrary; they are not tied to any fact or rationale that justifies them, that explains why the law imposes this particular penalty on this particular defendant.And it's that arbitrary nature that becomes a Constitutional problem under the 5th Amendment:
Thomas–Rasset contends that the award of statutory damages against her violates the Due Process Clause because it is tied not to the actual injury that she caused or other features of her conduct, but to the injury caused by file sharing in general. Like punitive damages, statutory damages are imposed not only to compensate the plaintiff, but also to deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. While this general approach, punishing one offender to deter others, is constitutional within limits, even gross limits of fair retribution for an individual’s conduct, due process limits the extent of the punishment. This Court recognized as much in reviewing awards of statutory damages as early as a century ago.And, of course, they claim that this case clearly shows that statutory damages are completely disproportionate:
In Williams, decided in 1919, a railroad challenged statutory damages of “not less than fifty dollars nor more than three hundred dollars” imposed for overcharging two passengers by 66 cents in violation of Arkansas’s regulation of railroad rates. 251 U.S. at 63–64. The railroad argued that such statutory damages “contravene due process of law” because “the penalty is arbitrary and unreasonable, and not proportionate to the actual damages sustained.” ... This Court held that the Due Process Clause “places a limitation upon the power of the states to describe penalties for violations of their laws” and that due process is denied “where the penalty prescribed is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable.”
Under Williams and the other early cases, the award of statutory damages in this case is unconstitutional because it is “grossly excessive” and “wholly disproportioned to the offense.”.... $222,000 for 24 songs that would have cost $24 on iTunes is absurd. Nor can $222,000 be justified by the kinds of other features of the offense identified in Williams.There's a lot more in the full filing, but it also takes on things, like the claims that the record labels should be able to get more from Thomas-Rasset, because they have to cover for other files sharers. That doesn't fly:
a defendant may be punished for his own similar acts only, Campbell, 538 U.S. at 422–23 (“A defendant’s dissimilar acts, independent from the acts upon which liability was premised, may not serve as the basis for punitive damages. A defendant should be punished for the conduct that harmed the plaintiff, not for being an unsavory individual or business.”), and only for the injury that he inflicted on the particular plaintiff in the case, not for any injuries that he inflicted on nonparties, Phillip Morris USA v. Williams, 549 U.S. 346, 353 (2007) (“the Constitution’s Due Process Clause forbids a State to use a punitive damages award to punish a defendant for injury that it inflicts upon nonparties or those whom they directly represent, i.e., injury that it inflicts upon those who are, essentially, strangers to the litigation”). These cases preserve the civil nature of a case notwithstanding the imposition of a punishment: the case remains between two parties, and the civil punishment must be justified with reference to the acts between those parties, not acts in the world in general.There are a number of legal arguments... and one appeal to emotion, which comes off as a bit weak, though you never know how well some of those might play out:
But lawyers should care about these cases for an entirely different reason: This is not just. It is unfair, it is not due process, for an industry to sue 12,500 people and threaten to sue 5,000 more, wielding a statute for which they lobbied, under which they can threaten hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in statutory damages, where the only way to resist is through modern, complex, expensive federal process, so that the only reasonable choice is to pay the settlement and be done. That’s extortion, not law. We cannot govern that way.I am skeptical that this will result in a ruling in favor of Thomas-Rasset (even if the Supreme Court grants cert -- which I'd say is possible, but unlikely). However, perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. This is an absolute long shot, especially given a Supreme Court that, while skeptical of patent expansion, has shown a bizarre willingness to let Congress continue to stretch and change and expand copyright law at every turn.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 5:07am
Of course, by adding commentary, Gawker is clearly trying to show that it's quoting was fair use. Given the short nature of the original quotes, they probably could make a decent fair use claim on the original post as well, even without the additional commentary (and, of course, if sued, they could still get dinged for the original quotes sans commentary). But, still... the end result of all of this is that Gawker just gets that much more attention, and Lena Dunham's "nauseating and cloying precociousness" gets a further hearing. I fail to see how that benefits Dunham at all. Going legalistic just because you don't like how someone covers your work -- even if you have a legitimate copyright claim -- is often not a particularly intelligent business decision.
I've been in therapy since I was seven.
Update: Lena Dunham's personal litigation counsel Charles Harder has contacted Gawker to relay a demand from his client, Lena Dunham, that we remove the above quote from our web site. In order to clarify our intent in quoting the above matter from Dunham's proposal, we have decided to append the following commentary: The quoted sentence is revelatory of Dunham's character in that it provides evidence that she has been examining her own thoughts and desires analytically from an absurdly young age. It is also indicative of a nauseating and cloying precociousness that permeates the entire proposal.
When I was about nine I developed a terrible fear of being anorexic.
Update: Lena Dunham's personal litigation counsel Charles Harder has contacted Gawker to relay a demand from his client, Lena Dunham, that we remove the above quote from our web site. In order to clarify our intent in quoting the above matter from Dunham's proposal, we have decided to append the following commentary: The quoted sentence is indicative of Dunham's self-dramatizing narcissism inasmuch as it presents what is obviously a desire for an attention-grabbing condition as a fear of developing said condition. It is also indicative of a nauseating and cloying precociousness that permeates the entire proposal.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 3:06am
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Dec 12th 2012 12:04am
A little while back we wrote about Nathan Myhrvold's sniffy comment that if you're not doing anything to help people suffering from malaria, you have no right to criticize his patent troll operation, Intellectual Ventures. As we also noted, this argument is rather undermined by the fact that his research involves such deeply impractical solutions as "photonic fences" and using magnets to make mosquitoes explode.
If lives are to be saved here and now, and not in some patent-encumbered fantasy world tomorrow, what we need is a rather different approach that works with resources that are available and cheap today. Perhaps a crowdsourced solution like this:
Background: There are 600,000 new malaria cases daily worldwide. The gold standard for estimating the parasite burden and the corresponding severity of the disease consists in manually counting the number of parasites in blood smears through a microscope, a process that can take more than 20 minutes of an expert microscopist's time.
Digitized blood sample images were placed on a Web site, and then people were invited to count the parasites in each. A special algorithm was used to combine the analyses from several visitors to produce a better collective detection rate. It seems to work:
Objective: This research tests the feasibility of a crowdsourced approach to malaria image analysis. In particular, we investigated whether anonymous volunteers with no prior experience would be able to count malaria parasites in digitized images of thick blood smears by playing a Web-based game.
Results: Over 1 month, anonymous players from 95 countries played more than 12,000 games and generated a database of more than 270,000 clicks on the test images. Results revealed that combining 22 games from nonexpert players achieved a parasite counting accuracy higher than 99%. This performance could be obtained also by combining 13 games from players trained for 1 minute.
That's pretty impressive. And unlike bonkers ideas such as "photonic fences", this crowdsourced approach requires little beyond bandwidth for distributing images and enough people participating. Putting the two together potentially allows huge numbers of blood samples to be checked for the presence of malaria infection with high accuracy once the system has been refined to include additional factors like parasite species and growth stages. That makes this approach scalable -- crucially important when there are over half a million new cases of malaria each year. The same can hardly said about using magnets to make mosquitoes explode.
Explore some core concepts: