Thu, Jan 31st 2013 8:09pm
Wed, Dec 4th 2013 8:50am
Closes: 24 Dec 2013, 11:59PM PT
We've all seen the digital panic that ensues when a massive service like Gmail or Facebook goes down for even a small portion of users. Smaller versions of the same thing take place every day with services that are less widely adopted but just as important to the people who rely on them. It doesn't even take an outage to cause problems — frequent slowdowns and interruptions can quickly cause a massive productivity traffic jam. With the degree to which we live our lives and do our work online, service problems are much more than a minor inconvenience, and at the wrong moment can be a disaster.
So we want to know: how does this impact the way you use the web? Are you prepared for interruptions in the online apps and services you use most? Have you ever abandoned an app for spotty performance, or adopted one specifically for its reliability? We're looking for everything in the way of insights, anecdotes and ideas about performance issues online.
You can share your responses on the Insight Community. Remember, if you have a Techdirt account, then you're already a member and can head on over to the case page to submit your insights.
One best response chosen by New Relic and the Techdirt editorial team will receive a free one-year Watercooler subscription on Techdirt (regular price $50). The subscription includes access to the Crystal Ball and the Insider Chat, plus five monthly First Word/Last Word credits, and can be applied to your own Techdirt account or gifted to someone else.
The case will be open for four weeks, with the best response announced shortly afterwards. We look forward to your insights!
by Michael Ho
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Toilet paper on a roll was first introduced in the 1890s, and it took several decades before consumers were really comfortable asking for the product by name. Not surprisingly, the US uses more toilet paper than any other country, and the growing use of "TP" is evidence of the rising influence of western marketing.... [url]
- Star Toilet Paper is a startup that puts advertisements on toilet paper. The investor pitch goes something like: "It's like Groupon, but on toilet paper... and everyone has to use the bathroom, so if we can just get 0.0001% conversion..." [url]
- A new toilet paper called "Moka" is partially made from recycled paper products, so it's not the gleaming white most people are accustomed to. Beige toilet paper is more environmentally friendly, but will any bathrooms (other than public restrooms) actually use brown toilet paper? [url]
- Recycled toilet paper relies on the quality of the products it's made from, so if there's less office paper waste -- recycled toilet paper is either going to get more expensive or feel even less like "normal" TP. Seventh Generation says there may be a limit to how soft recycled toilet paper can get, but there may be paper additives that might help (but additives might also reduce the environmentally-friendly aspects). [url]
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 3:57pm
from the ideas-and-execution dept
We're just about to start experimenting with a variety of new advertising setups here at Techdirt, which means we've been doing a lot of brainstorming about opportunities for creative, interesting campaigns in keeping with our philosophy that good advertising is good content. One thing we've been noticing over and over is that the most innovative online marketing pushes don't just come from the usual suspects (tech companies and online services) but also from unexpected places—like a century-old soup company.
This is your opportunity to revolutionize dinners everywhere: Develop a breakout idea based on the Campbell's Kitchen API that helps people decide: what’s for dinner tonight?
After seeing all the ideas, we’ll choose up to thirty semi-finalists and give them our API for three weeks to bring their ideas to life.
Up to ten finalists will then be invited to present their projects at Google’s HQ in NYC to compete for the championship and launch their ideas into the world.
It's a fantastic concept, and the API looks genuinely useful. Not only is the contest itself a great marketing opportunity, it's setting Campbell's up for ongoing exposure through the apps that are developed.
But, having said how cool this is from a marketing perspective, it's time for the disclaimer—and it's a big one. The moment you get past the initial idea and into the details, things really start to fall apart from an innovation perspective. Firstly, as you probably noticed, the API is not being opened up to the public—only to the contest semi-finalists. That severely limits the amount of innovation that will happen, and the amount of exposure the company will get as a result—it also limits the number of developers that will even want to participate. Unfortunately, Campbell's reason for this is clear: they intend to take total ownership of anything that comes out of this campaign.
In fact, they are so concerned about this that the fine print states the cash prizes ($25,000 plus a development contract for the winner, $10,000 to runners up) are not prizes at all—they are a fee for your work:
*Paid by Cambell for ownership of all ideas, concepts, code and intellectual property.
Setting aside the fact that you cannot own an "idea", this just stinks. On the one hand, it's not uncommon for creative contests to take ownership of submissions (though that's hardly universal), but it is the complete antithesis of what appears to be the spirit of this campaign: hacking and innovation. This is actually a big problem with corporate-run hackathons and coding contests, which frequently demand total ownership at the end. No smart developer with a truly great app idea would give it away for $25,000 for the copyright plus another $25,000 to build it—a popular app with a long tail can be worth way, way more than that.
There's nothing wrong with Campbell's trying to get an official app or two out of this—but when you look closely, the people who are submitting these ideas don't seem to be getting much in return. They want everyone to submit their best ideas for free, then they want 30 people to actually build those ideas—then Campbell's will plunk down $10k to take total ownership of any that "could be developed by Campbell in the future" (thus stopping all those runners-up from moving forward with their apps independently, and presumably cutting off their API access) and toss $50k to one developer to make their app market-ready. The winner gets an okay deal, while the runners-up pretty much get screwed.
So, for the next time Campbell's or another company tries a genuinely cool and innovative idea like this, I suggest a few tweaks to make the execution less distasteful. Firstly, open the API up to everyone, and leave it open; have sensible limitations like any public API, but let people build what they want. Secondly, give away modest but genuine prizes with no strings, while offering a bounty for ideas that you want to own without making that rights transfer a requirement of the contest. Thirdly, promote the submitted apps in a public gallery, and encourage all developers to move forward with building, deploying and marketing their apps—you'll get a hell of a lot more exposure, and you might even find your API becoming the de facto standard for such development.
In the mean time, to anyone eyeing the contest while an idea ferments in their brain, I suggest letting the Friday deadline for submissions lapse, and looking into some of the free and open recipe APIs to power your app.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 2:59pm
Odd: Mega Removing Any File It Can Find That Is Publicly Indexed -- Even Completely Legitimate Uploads
from the strange-move dept
It's possible that someone is sending takedowns on all content it can find, or it's possible that Mega itself is taking down all such content -- and then flat out lying about receiving a takedown notice. Unfortunately, it also does not appear that Mega has any sort of appeals process, or the ability (as per the DMCA) to file a counternotice. While Mega is not a US company, and not subject to the DMCA, it seems only reasonable that it at least have a counternotice process.
To test how quickly a file is removed by Mega we decided to post some previously uploaded legal content to Mega-search.me ourselves. Our uploads included a few Dan Bull songs, a clip from the Pirate Bay documentary TPB-AFK, a video explaining fair use and Kim Dotcom’s single Mr. President.
Quite shockingly, the files were pulled down by Mega in a matter of minutes, claiming they had received copyright infringement notices for each of them.
We are in receipt of a takedown notice affecting the following public link
in your account:
Please be reminded that MEGA respects the copyrights of others and requires that users of the MEGA cloud service comply with the laws of copyright. You are strictly prohibited from using the MEGA cloud service to infringe copyrights. You may not upload, download, store, share, display, stream, distribute, e-mail, link to, transmit or otherwise make available any files, data, or content that infringes any copyright or other proprietary rights of any person or entity.
Furthermore, please be reminded that, pursuant to our Terms of Service, accounts found to be repeat infringers are subject to termination.
Yes, given the legal mess that Kim Dotcom and his partners are in over their previous company, Megaupload, you can certainly understand why they might default to an extreme position of "take down everything that is publicly searched," but that still seems ridiculous. There is plenty of content out there that is legally shareable, and if Mega does not want to allow public sharing at all, even of legal content, it should make that explicit. Alternatively, if someone is issuing bogus takedowns, Mega should have a process for dealing with that. Finally, it seems that Mega is in desperate need of an appeals process or counternotification system.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 1:55pm
from the ouch dept
You see, CNET's "Best in Show" award wasn't just for CNET itself, but for the official CES show. Part of CNET's deal with CEA was that its picks for "Best of CES" were the official awards for CES. Until now. CEA boss Gary Shapiro first slammed CBS in an editorial, and then CEA followed that up by officially ending CNET's position as the official picker of the "Best in Show" for CES. In trying to save face, someone from CBS told The Verge (in the link above) that it "had already determined it would not attempt to partner with CES for the awards again." Yeah, sure.
Oh yeah. CES also has now officially named the Dish Hopper with Sling as "Best of Show" saying it's now the "co-winner" with the Razer Edge gaming tablet that CNET chose after CBS suits stepped in and decimated their editorial independence.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 12:53pm
from the government-overreach dept
Of course, this is all for show. Waiting until just a couple days before the Super Bowl is pretty ridiculous, since if people were going to buy merch, they already did so. This is just ICE, once again, generating headlines for the corporations it seems to think it represents. As is his usual MO, ICE boss John Morton talked up just how "successful" this operation was, based on his own metrics, claiming "This just takes good old-fashioned police work, people getting out on the streets."
Funny, then, that he completely leaves out the parts where they seized legitimate merchandise and hassled the seller. It appears that, sometimes, ICE just isn't very good at "good old-fashioned police work." And that's especially true when it seems to be taking orders from big companies, rather than the public it is supposed to be protecting.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 11:59am
from the bad-bad-ideas dept
You can understand why he'd be upset about such private actions becoming public, but once they're public, then what? Most people would recognize that the best thing to do is to recognize that the information is public, and move on in life, allowing people to gradually stop caring. But not Max Mosley. He seems to have dedicated his life to forcing everyone to take overt actions to make sure that rich and famous people, such as himself, can never be embarrassed again. First, he argued that newspapers should be required to alert famous people before they are written about, allowing the famous people to then use the court to block any stories they dislike. Thankfully, the European Court of Human Rights rejected this request.
That did not stop Mosley, however, who first used the recent "Leveson Inquiry" (a response to the later story of News of the World hacking into phone lines) to push for new rules requiring search engines to delete the photos from ever being found online. And thus began phase two of Mosley's response to the article: he went on a campaign against search engines, believing that if he could somehow force search engines to ignore the photos from that original story, the world might forget about it. Even though, in the Leveson hearing, Mosley admits that he was warned that by taking this issue to trial in the first place, it would renew interest in the issue, including putting such private information into official public court documents:
I mean, when I had my first meeting with counsel, they explained to me very carefully that.... By taking the matter to court, the entire private information which I was complaining about would be rehearsed again in public, with all the press there, with the benefit of absolute privilege for anything that was said, and that at the end of all of that, no judge could remove the private information from the public mind. Indeed, by going to court, I was augmenting the degree to which the public were aware of it.And, yet, Mosley still believes that it's possible to erase such things from the public mind, and the way to do that, obviously, is to filter Google. Thus he began both a legal and publicity campaign arguing that Google must magically filter out the content in question. He's asked by Leveson about how many sites his lawyers have "been able to shut down" and he responds by blaming Google:
It's in the hundreds. My lawyers would probably produce an exact figure. One of the difficulties is that Google have these automatic search machines so if somebody puts something up somewhere, if you Google my name, it will appear. We've been saying to Google, you shouldn't do this, this material is illegal, these pictures have been ruled illegal in the English High Court. They say we're not obliged to police the web and we don't want to police the web, so we have brought proceedings against them in France and Germany where the jurisprudence is favourable. We're also considering bringing proceedings against them in California.And thus began his legal campaign for mandatory search engine filters to block out content that he doesn't like. Yes, one country, the UK, has ruled that the use of those photos in a newspaper story represented a violation of his privacy, but the photos themselves are out there, and in other parts of the world, we have a belief in the freedom of the press. And in discussing the legality of showing the images, it seems that there is a strong journalistic reason to include at least some examples of the images. For example, Gawker reported on the case and quite reasonably included some of the images, including the following:
But the fundamental point is that Google could stop this material appearing, but they don't, or they won't as a matter of principle. My position is that if the search engines -- if somebody were to stop the search engines producing the material, the actual sites don't really matter because without a search engine, nobody will find it, it would be just a few friends of the person who posts it. The really dangerous thing are the search engines.
Furthermore, asking search engines (or anyone, really) to create specific filters to pre-block such content raises all sorts of concerns and consequences. Not only would it do little to hide the actual imagery or make people forget the story in the first place, but it sets a horrifying precedent, allowing people to seek to censor legitimate free expression all for the sake of trying to avoid embarrassment.
For example, if the French or German courts decide to force Google to censor access to the images above, then Google wouldn't just be forced to block and censor the images directly, but various stories that include the images too, such as the Gawker stories above. And those stories aren't about the initial "sex party," but rather the legal issues that were raised after the fact. Trying to silence discussion of the legal issues, such as in this article, starts to go deep into very concerning territory when we're talking about the freedom of the press. You can argue that the original article broke some UK rules, but many of the followup articles are important discussions on a topic of public interest, which news organizations need to be free to pursue.
And where do you stop with such filters? If he actually did get filters required on search engines, as with other injunctions on speech, you can imagine discussion and links quickly moving to social networks. So then what? Mosley goes back to court seeking mandatory filters on social networks like Facebook and Twitter? Anyone who links to or posts the images he does't like gets blocked? Add to this other famous rich people demanding similar filtering of stories, images and videos that they, too, find embarrassing, and you're talking about a complete logistical nightmare of censorship.
In addition, such filters present potential monitoring and data privacy issues, as they require extensive monitoring, rather than mere indexing of information. In fact, the European Court of Justice has already ruled that forcing social networks or search engines to set up automatic filters to catch "illegal" content is actually a violation of existing EU law, requiring way too much of companies' "freedom to conduct business", as well as leading to the blocking of perfectly legal communications. In one case, involving a court that had ordered a filter for Netlog, the EU Court of Justice said the unintended consequences were too great:
Accordingly, such an injunction would result in a serious infringement of Netlog’s freedom to conduct its business since it would require Netlog to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense.Given that, you would have hoped that the courts in France and Germany would have already rejected these lawsuits, and told Mosley that his comments to the Leveson Inquiry committee remain true: the more he continues to bring this up in court, the more attention he, himself, is calling to the story. Perhaps the best thing to do is to let it go, rather than trying to impose a massive, wasteful, unworkable filtering system that would do little to stop people from knowing the story or seeing the pictures, but would have dangerous unintended consequences that impact free expression and privacy.
Moreover, the effects of that injunction would not be limited to Netlog, as the filtering system may also infringe the fundamental rights of its service users - namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information - which are rights safeguarded by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. First, the injunction would involve the identification, systematic analysis and processing of information connected with the profiles created on the social network, that information being protected personal data because, in principle, it allows those users to be identified. Second, that injunction could potentially undermine freedom of information, since that system might not distinguish adequately between unlawful content and lawful content, with the result that its introduction could lead to the blocking of lawful communications.
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 10:58am
from the deep-betrayal dept
Copyright is sometimes described as a bargain between two parties: creators and their public. In return for receiving a government-backed monopoly on making copies, creators promise to place their works in the public domain at the end of the copyright term. The problem with that narrative is that time and again, the public is cheated out of what it is due.
For example, copyright terms can be extended retrospectively, which means that material will be locked up for longer than originally promised in the "deal". Or there can be a privatization of public domain materials, using contracts, as reported here by Communia:
Last week the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) concluded two new agreements with private companies to digitize over 70.000 old books, 200.000 sound recordings and other documents belonging (either partially or as a whole) to the public domain. While these public private partnerships enable the digitization of these works they also contain 10-year exclusive agreements allowing the private companies carrying out the digitization to commercialize the digitized documents. During this period only a limited number of these works may be offered online by the BnF.
Communia points out:
The value of the public domain lies in the free dissemination of knowledge and the ability for everyone to access and create new works based on previous works. Yet, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization, the exclusivity of these agreements will force public bodies, such as research institutions or university libraries, to purchase digital content that belongs to the common cultural heritage.
These kind of initiatives are typically justified on the grounds that there's no other way to digitize books and recordings. But that's clearly not true: money could be taken from other projects to pay for such work. It's really a question of priorities. These "public-private" partnerships come about because institutions like the Bibliothèque nationale de France have given up fighting for the public domain, despite being its guardians, and have acquiesced in its privatization.
As such, these partnerships constitute a commodification of the public domain by contractual means.
It's a sad sign of the extent to which once-great libraries and galleries have been assimilated by the copyright industry and its culture of owning rather than sharing that they can't see why their complicity in this kind of enclosure of the knowledge commons is a deep betrayal of their origins and primary mission.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 9:55am
georgia state university
from the pure-insanity dept
The publisher-plaintiffs are suing over the way instructors (and possibly others on campus) share course readings like academic articles and excerpts from academic books. They are objecting both to readings posted on course websites (i.e., uploaded by instructors and accessible only to students registered for a course) and readings shared via "e-reserves" (i.e., shared online through university libraries, usually also with access restricted to students registered for the course). The publishers claim that sharing copies of readings with students is not usually a fair use, that faculty can't really be trusted to make their own calls about what is or is not fair use, and that permissions fees should be paid for most of these uses.Thankfully, last year, we wrote about how the district court issued an astounding 350-page ruling that basically said that most of these electronic reserves were clearly fair use. We had some issues with the way the judge went about the analysis -- often coming up with random and arbitrary standards for the amount of a work that could be used while remaining fair use, but, on the whole, it was good to see the judge support fair use relatively strongly (and, in some cases, to not even get to a fair use analysis by saying that the use was allowed as "de minimis" copying).
Of course, no matter what happened, the other side was going to appeal. We're getting closer to the appeals court hearing the case, but something interesting popped up last week. In a somewhat surprising move, the Justice Department jumped in and asked the court for some more time for the filing of amicus briefs from concerned third parties, because it was considering weighing in on the case. The Justice Department? Why should it be interested in a dispute concerning whether or not public university libraries are engaged in fair use by making works available to students?
In digging into this, we've heard from a few sources that it's actually the US Copyright Office that has asked the DOJ to weigh in on the side of the publishers and against the interests of public univerisities and students. Yes, the same Copyright Office that just promoted a former RIAA VP to second in command. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.
Let's be clear: it is flat out ridiculous that the Obama Administration may be supporting the publishers here. Two out of the three publishers are foreign publishing giants, and it would be supporting them against a public university library tasked with helping to educate students. The entire purpose of copyright law is supposed to be to promote the progress of learning. The copyright clause in the Constitution used "science" but back in that era "learning" and "science" were effectively synonymous. The very first Copyright Act in the US was actually titled "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning." Current copyright law is explicit that fair use covers this sort of situation:
the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.And yet... these publishers, along with the US Copyright Office and (perhaps) the DOJ, would like to ignore all of this, and reject fair use in such public learning centers? It is ridiculous. Oh, and did we mention that the lawsuit by these publishers is really being funded by the Copyright Clearance Center (who, shockingly, would be in charge of collecting fees for such uses...) and the American Publishers' Association? If the Obama Administration wanted to appear any more in the pocket of "Big Copyright" and against the public interest when it comes to learning and education, I'm not sure of any better position to take.
This is just a year after the SOPA fight, and it appears that the Copyright Office, led by Maria Pallante, who was a massive supporter of SOPA, has not learned the lesson of that debacle. It would be a travesty if the Justice Department listened to such an out of touch position and argued that the court should reject fair use in such scenarios.
It would be a complete embarrassment for an Obama administration that has argued that improving our education system is a key policy issue to turn its back on education by having its Justice Department argue against a public university library and students, and in favor of a blatantly self-interested copyright collection agency, funding some foreign publishers, trying to shake down students for extra money to learn. Just the fact that the US Copyright Office is supporting this and asking the Justice Department to make this move is a sign of how screwed up the Copyright Office is today. And it remains unclear why this is even an issue that concerns the Justice Department at all. Since when is access of students at a public university to educational materials an issue that should be of any interest to the Justice Department?
For what it's worth, we've heard that the people in the Justice Department who are considering its position are talking to various government agencies and officials over the next few days to determine what its final position should be. We would hope that the Justice Department, and the wider Obama administration (including the Copyright Office), take into account what happened last year when SOPA was put forth and the government sought to use copyright law to limit the public's rights. It would seem unwise to then take a position that might stir up significant interest, specifically when it involves something as ridiculous as supporting foreign publishers over public university students seeking reasonable fair use access to educational materials, as is clearly supported by the Copyright Act.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 8:50am
from the who-needs-research-when-you've-got-baseless-conjecture dept
Just last week, Connecticut senator Chris Murphy gave a speech in support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's new gun control bill in which he dropped this somewhat mystifying statement:
"I think there’s a question as to whether he would have driven in his mother’s car in the first place if he didn’t have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day."
Beyond the confusing wording is a statement that Murphy inelegantly tries to frame as a "question:" Video games gave Lanza "the courage" to kill small children. The clumsy wording is Murphy's attempt to tie in the legislation he's supporting with his preconceived notion of the power violent video games supposedly have. Note the painful stretch that occurs in this phrase: "if he didn't have access to a weapon that he saw in a video game that gave him a false sense of courage." These stated-as-fact thats are heavily reliant on a leading if, turning the whole sentence into a triumph of suggestive conjecture.
Taking it apart further, you get this phrase: "if he didn't have access to a weapon he saw in a video game." That's the truly amazing section of the sentence. Murphy wants to ban "assault rifles" because they appear in video games? I seriously doubt that. He wants to ban them because he thinks the ban will prevent further violence. He very badly needs a second scapegoat because he knows his first scapegoat (assault rifles) might prove immune to his efforts. So, we get this tortured bit of logic that most certainly makes sense to Murphy, but falls apart under the slightest bit of examination.
Should the next step be to ban any weapons that appear in video games? Or should we put the cart before the horse (or perhaps behind the horse again?) and ban violent video games to prevent future would-be killers from somehow drawing the courage to pick up a matching, real-life weapon? Which should go first: the "access" or the video game? I think Murphy wants both, but since this is Feinstein's party, he has to settle for grafting on his gaming views with all the grace of an inept surgeon reattaching someone's severed limb... to someone else's chest.
Then there's Sen. Lamar Alexander. Rather than answer a direct question about gun control, he sidesteps it with an attack on video games:
Chuck Todd: "Can you envision a way of supporting the universal background checks bill?"Alexander is correct about the what's protected by what amendment, but it's clear that he'd rather go after the First. It's nothing more than Alexander swapping out the topic he'd rather bury with one he'd rather push. Not a surprising move, but it's another politician who's already made up his mind on the link between crime and video games and who is going to advance this viewpoint whenever given the opportunity.
Lamar Alexander: "Chuck, I'm going to wait and see on all these bills. You know, I think video games is a bigger problems than guns because video game affect people, but the First Amendment limits what we can do about video games. The Second Amendment of the Constitution limits what we can do about guns."
Politicians have long distrusted electronic entertainment, dating back to the 1940's, when New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia ordered the destruction of several hundred pinball games, claiming they were "tainted with criminality" and "robbing" schoolkids of lunch money. As video games have grown in popularity and ubiquity, the moral panics and political scapegoating have kept pace, blaming this form of entertainment for everything from delinquency to lower grades to childhood obesity to murder.
While Obama's call for a study of the link between "violent media" and "gun violence" was very definitely a product of the current political climate, it was far more reasoned than the arguments being advanced by these politicians. Their minds are already made up and any information uncovered by the CDC study that fails to agree with their preconceptions will be disputed, distorted and ultimately ignored in order to tackle an opponent they think they can handle. These two don't appear to be confident they can push stricter gun control laws without suffering political damage, so they've brought along their own personal punching bag. Murphy's is a Plan B, should Feinstein's bill fail to make it through. Alexander's is a dodge, a soft underbelly to attack, far away from the more politically dangerous territory of gun control, but close enough to seem relevant.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 7:49am
from the regulation-2.0 dept
Uber points out that the proposed changes will basically make its business model illegal in multiple ways -- saying that you can't price based on distance, effectively keeping Uber cars outside of downtown areas that taxis populate, and forbidding Uber's key relationship set up with drivers (independent partners). As Uber points out, these rules don't serve any legitimate regulatory purpose other than to prop up the taxi business model and hurt the disruptive upstart:
These rules are not designed to promote safety, nor improve quality of service. They are intended to stop innovation, protect incumbents, hurt independent drivers, and shut down Uber in Denver.Of course, we've seen this before. In a bunch of places where Uber operates, the service faces regulatory crackdown by local regulators who seem to do a lot more to protect incumbent taxi services than they do to figure out what benefits the users the most. This gets back to that concept of corruption laundering that I've mentioned a few times. The regulations can be presented as having good intentions: they want to protect riders from getting scammed by unscrupulous drivers, and they want to make sure the market is safe and efficient. But, as with so many regulatory schemes, what can be positioned as having the best of intentions also serves a secondary purpose: to allow incumbents the ability to thrive, while blocking out competition and the impact of disruptive innovation. That seems to be the case here yet again.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 5:46am
from the revolving-door dept
Last night the news came out that the US Copyright Office had now named Karyn Temple Claggett as the Associate Register of Copyright and Director of Policy & International Affairs. While Temple Claggett has actually been at the Copyright Office for a little while as Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs, not too long ago she was a hotshot litigator for... the RIAA. In fact, an old bio of hers, from when she was at the RIAA (as VP, Litigation and Legal Affairs), notes that she was instrumental in their ever-present legal campaign against pretty much any innovative technology that comes along:
While at the RIAA, Ms. Temple-Claggett has worked on some of the most high-profile copyright cases brought by copyright owners in recent years, including the Supreme Court Grokster litigation, as well as litigation against LimeWire, XM Satellite Radio and Usenet.comI'm sure she's a fine person and a good litigator, but it's difficult to think that she'll be anything but a pure maximalist in favor of expanding copyrights and copyright enforcement, and against any innovation that challenges the status quo. It's hard not to be cynical when you see this kind of revolving door. And, of course, it's always entirely one-sided. Could you imagine the Copyright Office naming a top EFF litigator as second in command? Exactly the point. How is it possible to take the Copyright Office seriously as an advocate for what's best for the public, when the connections there are to industries who lean heavily on keeping out innovation and promoting an old business model through aggressive litigation and regulation?
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 3:40am
from the bad-ideas dept
The Ministry of Culture has published the text of the draft law "On amendments to some legislative acts of the Russian Federation in order to stop the violations of intellectual property rights in the information and telecommunications networks, including the" Internet "," designed to combat Internet piracy - the amendments proposed to the Federal Law "On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information" and the Code of Administrative Offences.As can be seen, the key element is a 24-hour takedown requirement. There's a range of fines for non-compliance, increasing rapidly according to the size of the business involved. What's not clear is how "violations" are to be established or how access is to be blocked if sites are outside Russia. The rapid take-down requirement would imply this is the usual "guilty until proven innocent" approach. That's also suggested by the following comments from leading Russian Internet companies, who are plainly unhappy with the proposal:
According to the text of amendments, site owners and hosting providers will have to remove content that violates the copyright, or block access to it within a day after treatment the original.
Representatives of Internet companies (Yandex and Mail.Ru) responded with disapproval of the draft law in the comments to "Kommersant". The head of the legal service of Anton Malginova Mail.ru Group, the project was prepared without the involvement of industry experts, and existing legislation fully protects the rights holders.This indicates that the draft law was drawn up without any input from people who actually understand the Internet. Given that extraordinary fact, it seems unlikely that groups representing the public were asked, either. We'll have to wait for more details to emerge to see how exactly things will work in practice, but it certainly looks like Russia is adopting the worst ideas from the West in its headlong rush to "respectability".
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 31st 2013 12:04am
from the easy,-it-isn't dept
Licenses lie at the heart of open source -- and many other kinds of "open" too. That's because they are used to define the rights of users, and to ensure those rights are passed on -- that the intellectual commons is not enclosed. Their central importance explains in part the flamewars that erupt periodically over which license is "best" -- many people have very strong feelings on the subject.
Those heated discussions are one reason why it's rare for an open source project to change its license -- usually it's just easier to stick with what you've got rather than provoke another argument over which new license should be adopted. But there's another major impediment to changing the licensing: the need to get absolutely everyone who has contributed code to agree formally.
That's not a problem when the code has been assigned by contributors to a single entity, often a software foundation, as happens with components of Richard Stallman's GNU (GNU's Not Unix) project. But the individual copyrights of perhaps the best-known open source code, that of the Linux kernel, have not been assigned in this way. That makes the prospect of contacting the thousands of people who have contributed code, and getting them to agree to a license change, not just hard, but probably impossible, not least because some of them may be dead. For this reason (and because Linus Torvalds doesn't want to change it anyway), Linux is likely to remain licensed under the GNU GPLv2 for the foreseeable future.
Another project where the copyright on code contributions has not been assigned to some central body is the popular multimedia player VLC. Since this is a major project with many hundreds of contributors, you might think it would be similarly impossible to get all of them to agree to a license change. And yet, against the odds, VLC has done just that, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jean-Baptiste Kempf. A fascinating post explains how he achieved this:
The initial license change for libVLC [VLC's main engine] was completed a few months later in December 2011. This involved about 150 developers and 80,000 lines of code. If a developer did not respond to the re-licensing request, that developer's code was rewritten.
But sorting out libVLC was easy compared to the rest of the code:
Then came the task of contacting the authors of the various plug-ins and modules, focusing on the playback modules first. This was a bit more challenging, involving some 300 developers and 300,000 lines of code. Kempf was kind enough to describe his methods for doing so in a few blog posts. He began with details of how to correctly compile the list of names and email addresses and the measures he took to appropriately narrow that list down to remove dupes, people who had already responded in the first relicensing phase, and so forth. His response rate for the initial emails was only 25%, with 25% bouncing and 50% not responding. This had to be frustrating but not entirely surprising. To deal with the remaining 75%, Kempf employed a variety of methods that could be described as stalking or resolutely resourceful, depending on your perspective; social media, the telephone directory, whois lookups, friends or co-workers, and showing up where they work were all fair game.
Impressive stuff, not least because Kempf did manage to get every single person to sign off in the end. Still, as the post quoted above goes on to note, you might think this is an extremely strong argument for using a contributor's assignment that licenses or assigns copyright to some central organization. But VideoLAN, the non-profit group that produces VLC, is located in France, which recognizes the creator's "moral rights", introducing a further complication:
Moral rights include the right of attribution, integrity, disclosure and withdrawal, and are based on the rationale that there exists a personal and inalienable bond between authors and their work. As such, moral rights cannot be assigned or waived.
That means even in the presence of an assignment, authors would still need to give their permission for a license change that would be valid in any country that recognizes moral rights.
The VLC experience confirms that changing a license is not something to be undertaken lightly. But it also shows that with perseverance it can be done -- once the flamewars have subsided, of course.