by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 8:07pm
by Michael Ho
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Black holes may not be entirely black, as some particles can escape the extreme gravitational pull as Hawking radiation. Black holes might "evaporate" away over time (in about 10^67 years) or they might leave behind some super dark remnants. The ongoing debate about the ultimate fate of a black hole hasn't been resolved just yet. [url]
- Japanese astronomers have recently reported the discovery of three intermediate black hole (IMBH) candidates. Astronomers have previously seen "small" black holes (~10x the mass of the sun) and supermassive black holes (millions/billions of times the mass of our sun), but black holes that are in-between in size are still a bit of a puzzle. [url]
- Stephen Hawking has published a paper saying that black holes have no "event horizon" (the theoretical boundary beyond which nothing can escape the black hole) and proposes an "apparent horizon" which pulls everything in but also leaks some stuff out. Hawking hasn't formalized this assertion, and he says whoever does will have to explain a grand unified theory of everything at the same time. [url]
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 4:09pm
from the a-study-in-contradictions dept
Last week, President Barack Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address, discussing intellectual property, investment, and the protection of the environment.
Much like in his State of the Union Address in 2013, the President promoted his ambitious regional trade agenda – with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The prospects of the trade deals, though, remain doubtful.
A grand coalition of civil society organizations has been formed to try to stop efforts to fast-track such trade agreements through the United States Congress.
On top of that, a large number of Democrats in the United States Congress have expressed concerns about the secretive nature of the trade agreements, and their potential impact upon labor rights, intellectual property, health, and the environment. Moreover, a number of Republicans have also been concerned about the proposed deals.
The President's State of the Union address revealed a number of contradictions and paradoxes in the position of the White House on intellectual property and trade.
A. Intellectual Property
In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about a global innovation race with respect to intellectual property:
China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines. Neither should we. We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That's why Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it's vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that's stronger than steel. And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.There is a tension, though, between this domestic intellectual property agenda of the President, and the Intellectual Property Chapter proposed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Techdirt has well-documented the problems of over-enforcement of intellectual property rights. Just last week there was much discussion about copyright trolls – with the Perfect 10 litigation. There have also been concerns expressed by Hollywood screenwriters about aggressive copyright enforcement and the impact upon an open Internet. There have been concerns about Prince's threats of copyright infringement against bootlegs. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama did not grapple with the problem of costly, needless copyright litigation in the State of Union address.
There has been much debate about how best to address the problem of patent trolls. Techdirt has. in fact, offered a range of commentary upon a number of the proferred solutions.
The Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership revealed by WikiLeaks is liable to promote costly, needless litigation. The Chapter is focused upon boosting the intellectual property rights of transnational companies. There is little respect paid to other public purposes served by intellectual property. The copyright section of the Chapter seeks to export features of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension at the behest of Hollywood studios, such as Disney. There are prescriptive provisions on technological protection measures and electronic rights management information. The Chapter seeks to strengthen the rights of trademark holders. The Chapter also aims to provide strong protection of patents – particularly with respect to pharmaceutical drugs. Moreover, the United States has been pushing for stronger criminal sanctions with respect to the disclosure of trade secrets. The regime provides an arsenal of measures with respect to intellectual property enforcement. There is a failure in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to deal with the problem of intellectual property litigation entities – such as copyright censors; trademark bullies; and patent trolls.
If President Obama is serious about addressing the problems of over-protection of intellectual property rights, he should revise the United States proposals for the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, accordingly.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama argued that "New trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help [small businesses] create even more jobs." Arguably, though, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement are designed to boost Big Business, rather than Small Business. Indeed, there has been much concern about transnational corporations and industry associations making heavy political contributions, so that they can play a pivotal role with respect to industry advisory groups to the United States Trade Representative.
The Investment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would appear to enable transnational corporations to challenge a wide range of public regulations which affect foreign investment. Big Tobacco has threatened to use investment clauses to challenge public health measures – such as the plain packaging of tobacco products and graphic health warnings. Agricultural biotechnology companies have been keen on deploying investment clauses against any GM food labeling measures. Big Pharma have used investment clauses to challenge drug patent laws – like those in Canada.
President Obama maintained:
Let's do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped "Made in the USA."Lori Wallach of Public Citizen commented: "Corporate interests were fiercely lobbying for President Obama to dedicate serious time in this speech to pushing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to try to overcome broad congressional and public opposition to both, but instead he made only a passing reference that largely repeated his past statements." She observed: "With almost no House Democratic support for Fast Track, a bloc of GOP "no" votes and public opposition making congressional phones ring off the hook, high-profile treatment of the issue was considered necessary to revive any prospect that Fast Track could be passed in this Congress." Wallach stressed: "Opposition has been growing to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Implementing this NAFTA-on-steroids deal would undermine Obama's efforts to battle income inequality."
Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland wondered whether the speech marked a muted response by the president on trade deals. She said: "There has been enormous pressure from all sides in the lead-up to this speech, and the low-profile approach is seen as a signal that Obama thinks he cannot deliver." Kelsey noted: "Whatever happens between the US and Japan, there seems no prospect of Fast Track, and hence no chance of a deliverable deal before the end of the year - unless governments are going to gamble on Congressional approval of the final treaty." In her view, "It is time for them to stop wasting money and formally suspend the negotiations".
C. The Environment and Climate Change
President Obama emphasized the need to address climate change in his State of the Union address:
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.The president made the bold claim in his State of the Union address that trade agreements – such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – would "protect our environment."
The leaked Environment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership published by WikiLeaks does little to inspire such confidence. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' publisher, commented upon the draft text: "The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism." The United States Trade Representative has engaged in greenwashing with respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The investment chapter also poses a threat to the protection of the environment, biodiversity, and climate change. Techdirt writer Glyn Moody has highlighted how gas companies have used investor-state dispute mechanisms to challenge a fracking ban in Quebec under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
President Obama promoted natural gas in his State of the Union address:
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.There has been much concern that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will turn the Pacific Rim into a Gasland, because Obama will encourage fracking and promote the export of natural gas.
Joe Romm commented that President Obama had taken a "Jekyll and Hyde" approach to energy. He observed that "his continued embrace of "all of the above" energy reflects a true Jekyll and Hyde split personality."
350.org Executive Director May Boeve lamented: "President Obama says he recognizes the threat of climate change, but he sure doesn't act like it." She commented: "If he was serious, he'd reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and stop promoting fossil fuels like natural gas." Boeve observed: "Fracking isn't a solution, it's a disaster for communities and the climate." 350.org founder Bill McKibben added: "If he actually took climate change seriously, he'd understand that more oil means higher temperatures–that's just how physics works."
Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, was also disappointed by the President's address. He recognized: "The President has taken significant steps forward by committing to hold dirty power plants accountable for their toxic carbon pollution and to protect our public lands." Brune lamented, though, that Obama was contradictory, promoting renewable energy at the same time as boosting fracking for oil and gas.
Unfortunately, the sum total of the President's commitments fall short of what American families need to ensure a safe, healthy planet for our children. We can't drill or frack our way out of this problem. There is far more potential for good job creation in clean energy like solar and wind, and common sense solutions like energy efficiency. Make no mistake -- natural gas is a bridge to nowhere. If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an "all of the above" energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy. We can't effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.Brune stressed: "We must walk away from boondoggles like fracked gas." He emphasized that trade deals should not undermine action on climate change: "To fight the climate crisis, we must resist the temptation to trade away American jobs and public interest policies to foreign corporations."
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 3:06pm
from the not-going-well dept
As you may or may not recall, Duffy tried to keep the case in state court by doing a little trick whereby they added Paul Hansmeier's law firm, Alpha Law Firm, in an amended complaint (which would keep the case in state court since both the defendants and one of the plaintiffs would all be in Minnesota). Yet, as it quickly came out, the amended complaint was done through questionable means -- by apparently misrepresenting information to the court clerk, who told the court that Prenda's lawyer had misled her. So that attempt to keep it in state court totally failed, but Duffy then (on top of that) lied about the situation to the federal court.
Judge Darrah points basically all of this out and rips Duffy to shreds in the ruling. A few choice quotes:
When pressed, at the remand hearing on August 14, 2013, Duffy, counsel for Prenda, admitted he “filed substantially the same motion in the Southern District.”.... As discussed above, when asked what the Southern District of Illinois said about the motion, Duffy stated to the Court: “They denied the motion. They indicated - - the Court indicated that on the four corners of the complaint, it stated that it was a Minnesota corporation. However, the complaint also states that its principal place of business is in Minnesota.” .... However, the record reflects that the Southern District of Illinois Court said nothing of the sort. Duffy had the opportunity to address this lie in his response to the Motion for Sanctions and did not. To fabricate what a federal judge said in a ruling before another court falls well outside the bounds of proper advocacy and demonstrates a serious disregard for the judicial process.Needless to say, the court rules in favor of sanctions, noting Duffy's "unreasonable and vexatious conduct."
Following this duplicitous behavior before the Court, Duffy sought to withdraw the renewed motion for remand, generously explaining that the reason for the withdrawal was “due to the apparent confusion arising from [the] motion.”...
[....] Prenda, through its counsel, Paul Duffy, filed a response to the Motion for Sanctions. In it, they argue that “Defendants have made no showing that attorney Hoerner was aware that service had been accomplished at the time he attempted to file the amended complaint.” (Resp. to Motion for Sanctions at 10 (emphasis added).) Demonstrating Hoerner was aware that service had been accomplished is not necessary to determine the deception inherent in Hoerner’s affirmative (and false) representation to Kent that service had not been accomplished.
Indeed, rather than explain their conduct, they seek to attack the form and procedure by which Defendants filed their Motion for Sanctions. Prenda contends it is entitled to the safe harbor provision under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2), which provides that a motion for sanctions may not be filed “if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service . . . .” Here, however, Prenda does nothing to explain or withdraw its assertions regarding what the Southern District of Illinois purportedly said about Alpha. Moreover, in its motion to withdraw the renewed motion for remand, Prenda continues to stand on its rejected assertions, insisting that “there was not diversity jurisdiction in this Court” and that Prenda “vehemently disagrees with representations made by Defendants . . . regarding its motion, but nevertheless due to the apparent confusion arising from Plaintiff’s motion, Plaintiff seeks to withdraw it.” .... The purpose of Rule 11 is to, in part, emphasize “the duty of candor by subjecting litigants to potential sanctions for insisting upon a position after it is no longer tenable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 1993 Advisory Committee’s Notes (1993 Amendments) (emphasis added). Moreover, sanctions under Section 1927 and pursuant to the Court’s inherent authority are not subject to the safe harbor provision.
[....] Grasping at straws, Prenda next asserts Defendants failed to serve their Rule 11 motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 and that “Duffy has never consented in writing (or otherwise) to accept service of papers via electronic means.” ... This is clearly rebutted by the docket itself, which indicates that Duffy is an E-Filer of the Northern District of Illinois. “[S]ubject to the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(3), the Notice of Electronic Filing constitutes service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(D) . . . as to all E-Filers in a case assigned to ECF.” .... Therefore, whether or not Duffy realizes it, as an E-Filer, he has accepted service by electronic means.
[....] In a final act of audacity, Prenda, in response to Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions, contends that the “Court should award Prenda the fees it incurred in defending against Defendants’ patently frivolous motion.”
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 2:03pm
from the not-so-invincible dept
Once upon a time, the Dutch "anti-piracy" group BREIN seemed invincible, winning a number of copyright infringement cases. But recently, its winning streak has come to an end. Last week we reported on how BREIN's attempt to block access to The Pirate Bay had been thrown out, and now we have the following case, as reported by TorrentFreak:
A Dutch man who admitted uploading more than 5,000 e-books to The Pirate Bay has had his case dismissed on appeal. The court ruled that the man can't be prosecuted criminally as copyright infringement cases belong in a civil court. Anti-piracy group BREIN is disappointed, but still has the option to pursue the uploader in a civil action.
Even if BREIN wins that action, the appeal court's decision is a serious defeat for the organization. It means BREIN has failed in its attempt to extend the use of criminal courts to cases that do not involve a criminal organization and where the infringements are not carried out as business activities. Had BREIN been successful, that widening of scope would have had a major impact on the Dutch copyright enforcement landscape.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 1:00pm
NSA/FBI Got Access To Content Of Around 40,000 Yahoo/Google User Accounts In First Six Months Of 2013
from the it's-a-lot dept
Concerning the Google data, you can see that there's been a pretty big increase in the number of users impacted over the past few years, peaking at the end of 2012, but that drop in the beginning of 2013 may be just seasonal. Meanwhile, it's interesting to see that a much larger number of Yahoo accounts have been impacted. Of course, for all we know, there could have been one FISA order to Google and three to Yahoo and then the number of accounts impacted would be around 10,000 per order. But, without more granularity, it's impossible to tell.
What does seem clear is that there are about 40,000 accounts on Yahoo or Google to which the NSA/FBI and others in the intelligence community have access.
Update: Facebook and Microsoft have updated their info as well and it's more of the same:
Microsoft, a major surveillance partner for the US government, received fewer than 1,000 orders from the Fisa court for communications content during the same period, related to between 15,000 and 15,999 “accounts or individual identifiers”.
The company, which owns the internet video calling service Skype, also disclosed that it received fewer than 1,000 orders for metadata – which reveals communications patterns rather than individual message content – related to fewer than 1,000 accounts or identifiers.
[....] Facebook disclosed that during the first half of 2013, it turned over content data from between 5000 and 5999 accounts – a rise of about 1000 from the previous six month period – and customer metadata associated with up to 999 accounts.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 11:49am
from the americans-don't-like-it dept
After the Reuters report, C.J. Ciaramella used Muckrock to request all DEA training material and official policies concerning "parallel construction" and recently received nearly 300 pages of documents, much of it redacted, but still which reveals that this is common practice at the DEA and widely known. Much of it is in the form of PowerPoint presentations, complete with speaker notes, which say things like how careful DEA agents need to be around classified information because "it can screw up your investigation."
Our friends in the military and intelligence community never have to prove anything to the general public. They can act upon classified information without ever divulging their sources or methods to anyway [sic] outside their community. If they find Bin Laden's satellite phone and then pin point his location, they don't have to go to a court to get permission to put a missile up his nose.There are also training materials that discuss how parallel construction works, as well as the fact that in "the new post-9/11" era, a "national consensus" has been formed making it easier for the intelligence community and law enforcement to share information. It even refers to the federal courts as the intelligence community's "nemesis."
We are bound, however, by different rules.
Our investigations must be transparent. We must be able to take our information to court and prove to a jury that our bad guy did the bad things we say he did. No hiding here. However, we are also bound to protect certain pieces of information so as to protect the sources and methods.
To use it....we must properly protect it.
A lot of the documentation deals with how to deal with having classified information, and the focus seems to be on keeping that information away from anyone involved in the case. There is -- I kid you not -- a special group of prosecutors called "the Taint Review Team" -- to be called in when things get... well... tainted.
Another presentation asks "what is the problem with combining IC (Intelligence Community) collection efforts & LEA (Law Enforcement Agency) investigations in US courtrooms?" and then explains that it presents constitutional problems... and that "Americans don't like it!"
There's some more information in the documents, but it all basically points to the same basic thing: the less that law enforcement folks know, the better. If the law enforcement knows too much, call in the "Taint Review Team" to see what they can do to clean up, and see what you can use to get the judge to exclude classified evidence. All in all, it adds up to a nice little plan to allow the NSA to illegally spy on people, tell law enforcement just enough to target people, without ever revealing how they were caught via unconstitutional means.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 10:47am
from the because-they-don't-know-what-they're-talking-about dept
The biggest problem, it seems, is that UK politicians continue to fall for the completely false claims by some that if you search for various artists or movies, the top results are infringing sites. That's almost never true. What is true is that if someone specifically searches for artists and things like "free download" or other such terms, that some of the results may point to unauthorized sources, and the people doing those kinds of searches aren't the folks looking to pay in the first place. They're clearly looking for free downloads, and Google is giving them what they asked for. But, it appears multiple politicians in the UK don't understand that, and think that Google is presenting unauthorized sources based just on searches on artists' names.
“When you search for the name of your favorite band..[..]..you will be directed to illegal sites. Something must be done about that,” said Pete Wishart MP. Untrue of course, but it gets worse.That statistic isn't even close to true. It's laughably false. But, armed with such bogus information, these MPs suddenly believe they know how to better write search algorithms, and seem prepared to start editing Google's search results for the company. A new clause is being added to the bill called "online copyright infringements: technology companies." It basically proposes that the government will now have a mandate to edit search results:
“[Another MP] mentioned an astonishing statistic…[..]..to the effect — I hope I have this right; he will correct me if I am wrong — that for the top 20 singles and albums for November 2013, 77% of first page search results for singles and 64% for albums directed the consumer to an illegal site. I have to say to the Minister that that surely cannot be allowed to continue,” said MP Iain Wright.
"The Secretary of State will, within three months of this Act coming into force, report to both Houses of Parliament on proposals that will have the purpose of ensuring technology companies hinder access via the internet to copyright infringing material."Right, because that's worked so well in the past. Given how uncreative politicians are, the end result of this bill will almost certainly be increased censorship and blocking in the UK, while putting a ridiculous level of liability on internet companies for merely doing what their users ask them to do. Over the past few years, the UK keeps positioning London as a new startup hub, but with laws like this, the UK is basically making sure that it's impossible to do any real internet innovation in the UK without facing massive liability.
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 9:51am
Chaos Computer Club Files Criminal Complaint Against German Government Over Mass Spying Revealed By Snowden
from the power-to-the-people dept
As governments around the world refuse to act in the wake of revelations about global spying, more and more people are launching legal actions to force them to address the problem. Back in December we wrote about several that had been filed in the UK, and now the well-known Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in Germany is launching its own legal challenge, in conjunction with the International League for Human Rights:
After months of press releases about mass surveillance by secret services and offensive attacks on information technology systems, we now have certainty that German and other countries' secret services have violated the German criminal law. With this criminal complaint, we hope to finally initiate investigations by the Federal Prosecutor General against the German government. The CCC has learned with certainty that the leaders of the secret services and the federal government have aided and abetted the commission of these crimes.
That's a very specific claim about which German laws have been broken; less clear is what CCC means by "learned with certainty": does that simply refer to the information that Snowden's leaks have provided, or has CCC obtained something more -- quite likely given its contacts and past achievements? The complaint also has an important request:
It is the understanding of the CCC that these crimes are felonies pursuant to German federal laws, specifically 99 StGB (illegal activity as a foreign spy), §§ 201 ff. StGB (violation of privacy) and § 258 StGB (obstruction of justice).
In the criminal complaint, we ask to hear technical expert and whistleblower Edward Snowden as a witness, and that he be provided safe passage and protection against extradition to the US.
As a parting shot, CCC also wants to encourage others to file similar criminal complaints in order to lend weight to their demands:
We do not only want to call the Federal Prosecutor General's office to investigations but also ask you to get involved and also file a criminal complaint.
Looks like pressure is beginning to build on governments, and it will be interesting to see what other legal actions are filed in Germany and elsewhere.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 8:54am
Podcasting Patent Troll Files Bogus Subpoena To Intimidate Donors To EFF's 'Save Podcasting' Campaign
from the extreme-obnoxiousness dept
The good folks at EFF started a "save podcasting campaign" and raised some money, which they used to file a challenge against the patent at the Patent Office. That process is still ongoing, but it appears that Personal Audio and its lawyer have decided to go to war with the EFF and its donors, trying to intimidate them. In one of its lawsuits over the patent (completely unrelated to the challenge at the USPTO), Personal Audio sent a subpoena to EFF demanding a whole bunch of stuff, including identifying information on everyone who donated to the campaign. Here's the full list of what they're actually asking for:
- Any communications between the EFF and Defendants specifically Concerning the '504 patent, including but not limited to the construction of any claim terms and any alleged prior art relevant to any claim of the patent.
- Any communications between the EFF and any actual or potential witness specifically Concerning the '504 patent or prior art to the '504 patent.
- Any communications between the EFF and any third parties specifically Concerning the '504 patent, including but not limited to any communications with the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Julie Samuels, Mark Cuban, RPX, Article One Partners, Mark Lemley, Durie Tangri Page Lemley Roberts & Kent LLP, the Open Innovation Network, StackExchange, Google, Inc and/or their representatives, agents or counsel.
- Any non-privileged communications regarding the prior art cited in any proceedings in the Patent and Trademark Office Concerning the '504 patent.
- All fundraising activities in connection with the proceedings in the Patent and Trademark Office specifically Concerning the '504 patent, including but not limited to the Identification of the names of all Persons who donated or contributed and Identification of the amounts contributed by each Person, as well as the Identification of any promised contributions which have not been received yet as well as the Persons who promised such contributions and the amount thereof.
- All steps taken in order for the EFF to be "fully prepared" to take on Personal Audio with respect to the '504 patent.
- Identification of any Information Concerning any prior art (whether or not included in any Patent and Trademark Office proceeding) that would tend to show either: (1) the art did not disclose any element of the claims of the '504 patent or (2) the art was not demonstrably available prior to any filing date of the '504 patent.
- Any nonprivileged analysis or Communications Concerning the following: (1) the claims of the '504 patent; (2) any prior art to the '504 patent; and (3) the meaning or construction of any of the terms in the claims of the '504 patent.
We believe that Personal Audio’s subpoena to EFF is improper for a number of reasons that are laid out in detail in our motion. Above all, we are outraged that Personal Audio is seeking to invade the privacy and associational rights of hundreds of our donors. EFF takes the privacy of its members and supporters extremely seriously—and so does the Constitution. As we explain in our motion, the First Amendment protects our donors’ right to privacy, and Personal Audio’s supposed need for the information does not trump those rights.Beyond that, this seems like a clear attempt by Personal Audio to intimidate both EFF and its donors -- though if they were even remotely aware of the EFF and its backers, they should have known how badly that plan would backfire. Hopefully the court will rightfully quash the subpoena and, perhaps, make it clear to Personal Audio's lawyer, Jeremy Pitcock, that this is totally improper.
Personal Audio’s tactic is also improper for several other reasons. For example, it is appears to be primarily intended to avoid the well-defined limits of the PTO discovery process. The petition we filed follows a new, streamlined and therefore relatively inexpensive process. Rather than respond to that petition following the rules of that process, Personal Audio is trying to use entirely separate litigation as an excuse to raise the stakes on EFF – something Congress never intended. If Personal Audio succeeds, we fear it will send a message that this new process can be made invasive, cumbersome and expensive after all, which will in turn discourage others from using it to challenge low quality patents. That would be a shame for all of us.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 7:40am
Night Of First Ed Snowden Story, Streets In Front Of Guardian's NY Office & Home Of Its US Editor Suddenly Dug Up
from the hmm... dept
Events were moving at speed. MacAskill had tapped out a four-word text from Hong Kong: "The Guinness is good." This code phrase meant he was now convinced Snowden was genuine. Gibson decided to give the NSA a four-hour window to comment, so the agency had an opportunity to disavow the story. By British standards, the deadline was fair: long enough to make a few calls, agree a line. But for Washington, where journalist-administration relations sometimes resemble a country club, this was nothing short of outrageous. In London, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, headed for the airport for the next available New York flight."Gibson" is Janine Gibson, the Guardian US's editor. But the really scary part of the story is what came next, which, as far as I know, hadn't been reported anywhere else until now:
The White House sent in its top guns for a conference call with the Guardian. The team included FBI deputy director Sean M Joyce, a Boston native with an action-man resume – investigator against Colombian narcotics, counter-terrorism officer, legal attache in Prague. Also patched in was Chris Inglis, the NSA's deputy director. He was a man who interacted with journalists so rarely, he was considered by many to be a mythical entity. Then there was Robert S Litt, the general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Litt was clever, likable, voluble, dramatic, lawyerly and prone to rhetorical flourishes. On the Guardian side were Gibson and Millar, sitting in Gibson's small office, with its cheap sofa and unimpressive view of Broadway.
By fielding heavyweights, the White House had perhaps reckoned it could flatter, and if necessary bully, the Guardian into delaying publication. Gibson explained that the editor-in-chief – in the air halfway across the Atlantic – was unavailable. She said: "I'm the final decision-maker." After 20 minutes, the White House was frustrated. The conversation was going in circles. Finally, one of the team could take no more. Losing his temper, he shouted, "You don't need to publish this! No serious news organisation would publish this!" Gibson replied, "With the greatest respect, we will take the decisions about what we publish."
That evening, diggers arrived and tore up the sidewalk immediately in front of the Guardian's US office, a mysterious activity for a Wednesday night. With smooth efficiency, they replaced it. More diggers arrived outside Gibson's home in Brooklyn. Soon, every member of the Snowden team was able to recount similar unusual moments: "taxi drivers" who didn't know the way or the fare; "window cleaners" who lingered next to the editor's office. "Very quickly, we had to get better at spycraft," Gibson says.Some of those may be coincidences. When you think the world is out to get you, plenty of ordinary activity may look extra suspicious. Of course, on the flip side, as the saying goes: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. The story of having diggers tearing up the sidewalk that night, both in front of the Guardian's office and in front of Gibson's home, are the ones that seem extra suspicious and extra troubling. Remember, this came right about the same time that the DOJ was getting shellacked for targeting journalists, and was in the middle of promising that it wasn't going to do that any more. But, what are promises when you have an angry surveillance state coming down on you, knowing that a bunch of their most stupid programs were about to be exposed?
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 5:39am
St. Louis Police Officers Caught Running Possibly Politically-Motivated Background Checks On Police Board Members
from the access-denied dept
The problem with access to other people's personal data is that the potential for misuse is ever present. This is inherent in any system, whether it's the NSA's or a local politician's -- simply because humans are humans. The solution is accountability, not layers of bureaucratic control. That's what appears to be the focus in this story of alleged background check abuse by St. Louis County police officers, which is a good start.
Two St. Louis county police officers who were assigned to the detail of County Executive Charles Dooley have had their access to a criminal database suspended while an investigation over whether they were running unauthorized background checks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The officers are specifically accused of running such a check on a former candidate for the police board, a body that’s theoretically supposed to supervise officers.Internal affairs is now investigating the two officers in order to determine why it was accessed and if there was any additional abuse. County police chief Tom Fitch found himself questioning the motivations and actions of these two officers after they were inadvertently "outed" by a member of Dooley's office.
Questions first arose in October when Dooley’s chief of staff, Garry Earls, announced to the county council that a criminal background check into former police board candidate David Spence had come back clean, County Chief Tim Fitch said.Officers running background checks on their own supervisors isn't a good idea, especially when it gives the unauthorized access the appearance of being politically motivated -- and possibly ordered by a county official. (This has been denied, of course.) Simply running a check for any other reason than "criminal justice" is itself illegal. And now Fitch is trying to figure out who else these officers have "checked out" in violation of policy.
Fitch said he had questioned how the county administration would know that information because he didn’t believe it was his officers’ place to run the checks.
At this point, the two officers must ask a supervisor to run names for them and have no access to the REGIS database. Until further details emerge, this at least prevents misuse by the two accused of unauthorized access. Whether there's evidence of more abuse remains to be seen. On the downside, Chief Fitch is being rather cagey with details on how much abuse has been uncovered.
Fitch would not say how many names the officers ran during their time assigned to Dooley’s detail, citing the ongoing internal investigation.Understandably, some details need to be withheld during an ongoing investigation, but Fitch is a bit off when he says the total number isn't important. Checks that complied with department policy obviously don't matter, so it's only the total number that fall outside compliance that anyone's worried about. That number matters just as much as the "why." The "who" behind it matters as well, although the accused officers still had the option to say "no" if they were indeed asked to break the rules.
“The number (of names) isn’t important,” he said. “What’s important is why it was done and who asked them to do it.”
While it's refreshing to see a police chief unwilling to downplay his officers' misconduct, the intensity must be maintained not only through this investigation, but going forward to ensure incidents like these become rarer and rarer. And if it turns out that the database was frequently misused, the consequences need to be as severe as the abuse.
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 3:42am
from the i-seeeeeeee-you dept
I'll give the Russian government this: they don't really pretend to be something they aren't. Unlike the US government's NSA spying program, which was only revealed through the leaks of now Russian house guest Edward Snowden, the Russian government wants you to know that they don't give a fly's poop about your civil liberties or anyone's concept of freedom of the press.
So says Russia, which has publically and completely above-board-ly announced that journalists covering the Olympic Games in Sochi will have their electronic communications monitored thoroughly by the Russian government.
A series of articles last fall revealed the amazing extent of the centralized surveillance, which exceeds the capabilities of the Chinese monitoring system at the Beijing games, and is given much wider latitude to eavesdrop than even our own NSA programs. The very communications infrastructure in Sochi was built to give government security systems full access, and not a single text message, email, or phone call will go un-monitored.The whole "it's for your own good" line is a sham, of course. What the Russian government is actually worried about is any reporting on their own security flaws in the upcoming Games, along with the prospect of foreign journalists getting in contact with any activists, protesters, or opposition figures. But, hey, we're nitpicking here. The real story is that the Russian government gets the same spy-boners as the United States and the Chinese, but at least they tell you all about it. Like a peeping tom that sends you an Outlook calendar invite for when they'll be activating the toilet cams, or something.
Russia's response has been a big shrug. Voice of Russia, an official government organ, published an article telling visitors not to be afraid—it's for your own security. Then, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree authorizing the government to collect all phone and internet data at the Olympics. The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that reporters are twice specifically highlighted as targets in the decree.
This publicity is probably itself part of the program of staving off any real work journalists might want to do. But that's the beauty of it: they get to appear to be transparent while still retaining that good old fashion Orwellian feeling. So...progress?