by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 6th 2012 8:02pm
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jun 20th 2013 1:30am
from the many-ways-to-make-a-buck dept
As part of our sponsorship program with the Application Developers Alliance, we're highlighting some of the content on DevsBuild.It, their new resource website, that we think will be most interesting to Techdirt readers.
In the sidebar widget featuring DevsBuild.It content, many of the most-read links have been those dealing with business models for apps, such as the developer who explained how their first game made $28,623 (the most popular post over the past month). For those of you following these kinds of stories, we're highlighting a few new additions to DevsBuild.It that aim to help developers with the task of monetizing an app.
First, there's a comparison tool that helps sort through all the different ad networks and other monetization platforms, filtering them by various criteria to help developers put together a smart business model:
To accompany the tool, there's also a free white paper on app monetization [pdf link] which compares different app stores (including the less-mainstream ones) and breaks the core monetization models down into categories.
Finally, an early announcement: the Application Developers Alliance is hosting a series of events on app monetization, in San Francisco on August 2nd, New York on September 26th and LA on October 18th. More details are on the way.
(In related news: our readers may be interested in checking out the ADA's amicus brief in the Google/Oracle appeal, which urges the court to uphold the ruling that APIs are not copyrightable.)
This post is sponsored by the Application Developers Alliance. Find more info on patents and other issues that affect developers at DevsBuild.It
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 29th 2012 12:41pm
from the first,-do-no-harm dept
The wildly different clock speeds of Moore’s Law and Washington law, however, make for increasingly damaging collisions at the intersection of technology and public policy. Even with the best of intentions, lawmakers, regulators, and judges can’t possibly anticipate tomorrow’s innovative products and services. Nor can they guess how specialized legislation, thrashed out over the course of years and infected by lobbyists and special interests, will return to haunt us when technology inevitably changes.However, regulators often don't understand this at all. They think that the quick pace of innovation means that companies themselves should slow down -- and that it's their job to force them to do so. Downes shares this troubling story:
Faced with the unknown unknowns of dramatically new products—social networks, location-based ads, driverless cars–the best advice for governments is simply to leave them alone. Don’t just do something, stand there. At least until it’s crystal clear that the market has failed, consumers are being harmed, and that lawmakers have a remedy that won’t make things worse.
At a conference I attended over the summer, on the other hand, the Federal Trade Commission’s Julie Brill got it dangerously wrong. Given the novelty of policy problems in privacy, cybersecurity and competition in the fast-changing Internet ecosystem, Brill argued, both Washington and Silicon Valley should proceed with caution. “Regulators need humility,” she said, “but so do companies.”That's not to say that there isn't room for any regulations -- but as Downes notes, the thing that DC should be most focused on is "fixes to previous government efforts that tried but failed to fix a problem that turned out not to need a regulatory solution." Other industries seem to want handouts and investments and the like, but you don't see that much in Silicon Valley.
The dynamism of the Internet ecosystem certainly calls for more humble trade policy. But the last thing we want is for companies to slow down so Washington can catch up. In Silicon Valley, we have a special name for humble start-ups. We call them failures.
I was recently on a call with some entrepreneurs and some government officials, in which we were discussing a few laws -- and the government folks kept asking the entrepreneurs if they needed help protecting against copycats (generally foreign ones). The entrepreneurs kept ignoring the question -- and it kept getting asked. Eventually, someone on the call said: "Um. No. Look, someone's going to copy us. We know that. But we don't care because we know we can innovate faster than anyone who copies us." The government folks seemed confused, with one saying something to the effect of "that's great if you can do that, but..." But that really is the difference in mindsets. Entrepreneurs really just want to build stuff and are confident (sometimes too confident) in their own abilities to compete. We don't want government handouts -- we want government to get out of the way.
That's not to say companies should be free to do absolutely anything, but as Downes notes, we don't need the government fiddling around where there is no evidence of real harm. If there is harm, then you can understand why it can make sense to get involved -- but too often government officials seem to think they should get involved just because there's a possibility of harm, or because a competitor got beaten. But that's not good for innovation and it's not good for the public.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 26th 2012 1:17pm
One Day After DC Police Told Not To Interfere With Citizens Recording Them... Police Seize Man's Phone
from the but-of-course dept
It appears that some police officers didn't read the memo.
As noted by Ars Technica, the day after the policy was announced, a police officer seized a guy's camera for recording police activities. They did eventually give the phone back but kept the memory card and the guy is pissed off because the card supposedly has hundreds of photos of his daughter on there.
The DC police say that they're "looking into" the report. It would be nice to see them follow up on their original policy statement with a clear rebuke of the officers involved.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 25th 2012 8:12am
from the they're-not-First-Amendment-'privileges' dept
However, some good news (disguised as common sense) has arrived in the form of the Washington D.C. police force's new cell camera policy. Put together as part of a settlement with Jerome Vorus, who sued the city (with the ACLU's help) after Georgetown police told him to stop taking photos of a traffic stop, the new policy pretty much reflects how most citizens feel the system should have been working all along, which means it's a drastic departure from the way many law enforcement camera policies are worded (if they have them at all).
Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier takes care to (re)inform the officers of the public's constitutional rights and details specifics to hopefully eliminate loopholes and "workarounds." Perhaps the boldest statement is in regards to recording police activity, which minces no words upholding the public's First Amendment rights:
"A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media," Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in "an individual’s home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present."It gets even better. Not only are officers prevented from preventing the recording from happening, they are also not allowed to use vague terms like "obstruction" or the ever-popular (but not a real crime) "contempt of cop" to halt recordings.
Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording.
That applies even in cases where the citizen is recording "from a position that impedes or interferes with the safety of members or their ability to perform their duties." In that situation, she says, the officer may ask the person to move out of the way, but the officer "shall not order the person to stop photographing or recording."Another aspect that Lanier has covered is the seizure of cell phones or cameras, often done under the auspices that footage or photos might be "evidence." This gathering of "evidence" has been abused frequently as well, often resulting in the destruction of "evidence" that reflects badly on the officers involved. Other times, any sort of "evidence" pretext is tossed out completely, with officers seizing cell phones/cameras simply to remove damaging footage. D.C.'s new policy will make this sort of behavior much more difficult (although, certainly not impossible).
She also notes that "a person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being observed."
Lanier's directive addresses another scenario that is becoming increasingly common: a civilian takes a photograph or recording that a police officer believes could constitute evidence of a crime. Under Lanier's directive, an individual cop cannot take a recording device away from a citizen without his or her consent. "Consent to take possession of a recording device or medium must be given voluntarily," she writes.D.C. law enforcement members are also instructed that they may not "under any circumstances" erase or delete images and sound from seized recording devices and that these devices must be maintained and returned intact, with all data present, to the owners at the end of the investigation.
In the event that the cop believes the recording is needed for evidence but its owner isn't willing to part with it, the officer is required to call his supervisor. The device or recording media can be seized only if the supervisor is present, only if "there is probable cause to believe that the property holds contraband or evidence of a crime," and only if "the exigencies of the circumstances demand it or some other recognized exception to the warrant requirement is present."
This is all a huge step forward for the public's relationship with law enforcement. Removing the false "expectation of privacy" that has shielded many bad actors is an important change and reasserting the public's First Amendment rights as trumping law enforcement's antagonistic attitude toward observation is very definitely a win for US citizens. It's somewhat unfortunate that it took a lawsuit, the ACLU and a forward-thinking police chief to "restore" these rights, but having a new policy publicly deliver this message should temper future interactions between the public and those sworn to protect them.
The real test will come when violations are reported. The policy itself has a lot of verbal teeth but there are many badly-behaving police officers who have run afoul of the laws they were hired to uphold and escaped with little more than some stern words and paid vacation. If D.C. can take the lead, both in instituting a tough set of policies and, more importantly, enforcing these policies, one would hope that the rest of the nation's police forces would look to this as the model on which to base their own policies.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 10th 2012 10:19am
from the regulatory-capture dept
As we noted in our earlier post, Cheh had said all along that the amendment was actually an attempt to legalize Uber, after a Taxicab Commission "sting" earlier this year, which claimed that Uber was acting illegally. In response to all of this, Cheh seems upset, since she says that she worked with Uber to create the amendment, and was blindsided by the criticism:
"Several months ago, Uber contacted me and asked to work together to legalize services like Uber in the District... Since then, I have met with Uber many times, negotiated in good faith, and believed that I had reached an agreement with them last week."Others have suggested that parts of the amendment could be acceptable if they remove the minimum pricing rules. Uber, for its part, claims that it's always believed the service was legal in DC, so it never believed that the amendment was needed to "make it legal." For what it's worth Uber clearly has benefited from this fight, as it drew an awful lot of publicity to the company's presence in DC (and elsewhere). Either way, it seems difficult to see how regulating a high price benefits Uber.
And, in the end, what you're left with are questions about why taxi licensing needs to be so restrictive and so all-encompassing. Are there concerns about keeping passengers from being ripped off and keeping them safe? Sure, but there seem to be ways to deal with that which don't involve entirely regulating every aspect of the market, limiting competition and setting the actual pricing. But, in the end, as we've seen in other markets, those in regulated markets tend to figure out ways to use the regulations to their own advantage...
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 10th 2012 3:03am
from the can't-have-competition dept
Over the last few years, a few startups have tried to disrupt this market -- and they always get attacked for it, either by local cab/limo services or the local officials in charge of regulating the market. The most well known of these companies is Uber, who is looking to really disrupt the market with a service that they admit is more expensive, but which provides really amazing convenience and service in exchange. Users of Uber love the service, in my experience. A couple weeks ago, I was in Chicago to speak at a conference, and Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, spoke at the same event, with a really entertaining talk -- much of it about how every time he tries to disrupt a market, legacy players get really, really pissed off at him.
As part of that talk, he discussed the situation in Washington DC, where the local Taxicab Commission Chairman, Ron Linton, ran a "sting" to claim that Uber was violating DC laws. Since then there's been a lot of back and forth in the fight in DC, leading to a new set of regulations that are being introduced. Of course, as is typical of taxi/limo regulations, they often say one thing but mean the exact opposite. In this case, the Taxicab Commission appears to be positioning the new regulations as being designed to make Uber "legal,", but, as Uber's Kalanick notes in a blog post, it includes some really poisonous provisions that require Uber to charge at least 5 times what a taxi charges. They're not even subtle about this. As the text of the bill reads:
(c) (1) The minimum fare for sedan-class vehicles shall be five times the drop rate for taxicabs, as established by 31 DCMR § 801.3 (a).The DC Taxicab Commission claims this is to "ensure that sedan service is a premium class of service with a substantially higher cost that does not directly compete with or undercut taxicab service." But why? We don't do this in any other market. We don't tell nice restaurants that they must charge more than fast food restaurants, so as not to compete. We don't tell Apple that it must charge more for computers so that they're seen as "premium" devices. We let the market work things out. That's what enables disruptive innovation and competition to take place.
(2) The time and distance rates for sedan-class vehicles shall be greater than the time and distance rates for taxicabs, as established by as established by 31 DCMR § 801.3 (b) and (c).
What's amazing here (and, to a lesser extent, in nearly every major city in the US) is how they effectively admit that they don't want competition, they don't want innovation. They want a protected market that is artificially inflated. Why would the people of DC accept this kind of thing?
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 6th 2012 7:21am
from the bite-my-shiny-metal-ass dept
It's been a bit of time since then, but Halderman has released the academic paper they wrote about the experience, which is now getting some new attention, including the fact that, beyond playing the UMich fight song, they also installed their own slate of "fictional" candidates, including Bender from Futurama, who is presumably running on a Kill All Humans platform.
The full paper has some other interesting tidbits, as well, including the fact that they didn't just hack into the e-voting machines... but also accessed the security cameras watching the e-voting servers, which were left open to public access. I'm not kidding.
These webcams may have been intended to increase security by allowing remote surveillance of the server room, but in practice, since they were unsecured, they had the potential to leak information that would be extremely useful to attackers. Malicious intruders viewing the cameras could learn which server architectures were deployed, identify individuals with access to the facility in order to mount social engineering attacks, and learn the pattern of security patrols in the server room. We used them to gauge whether the network administrators had discovered our attacks—when they did, their body language became noticeably more agitated.Either way, the entire thing suggests just how insecure e-voting can be, and the paper suggests these are fundamental, systematic problems with any e-voting approach these days, rather than just a poor implementation.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 24th 2012 5:46pm
from the not-cool dept
The latest is the news that tonight (as we post this), a bunch of big companies who employ some of the key lobbyists supporting the extreme nature of TPP... are hosting a fancy, expensive dinner in Washington DC. The dinner is sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, Chevron, PhRMA, Microsoft, Pfizer, Amgen, Dow Chemical, among others... and the ambassadors from the TPP countries will all be in attendance (though we've heard, but don't have confirmation, that Australia just pulled out after realizing how bad this looked).
The next round of TPP negotiations take place next week in Australia, so it's nice that the corporate interests pushing an extreme version of the agreement get to wine and dine all of the key negotiators at an expensive and closed off dinner in DC, huh? Public interest groups? They just found out about the dinner today and (as you might expect) really aren't welcome.
What's amazing to me is how incredibly tone deaf the USTR and the US government is to how this appears. The USTR is negotiating a massive agreement that will change IP laws in pretty significant ways which clearly could favor some of these large companies. And just days before they're set to negotiate... they're letting some of the biggest special interests supporting an extreme vision for TPP buy them a fancy dinner? Even if you can believe that they're not actually influenced by this, do they not realize just how bad this looks?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 24th 2012 2:59pm
Hollywood's Latest 'Conciliatory' Effort Towards Silicon Valley? Forcing Lobbyists To Drop Tech Companies As Clients
from the they-may-regret-that dept
"They are doing everything they can to ensure that the tech industry and Facebook in particular doesn't have any talent to go up to the Hill," one tech lobbyist said of the content providers.This is interesting timing. And by "interesting" I mean "bad," for those lobby shops at least. Remember, Facebook, which is growing at an insane rate, just filed for a massive IPO and is going to be flush with cash. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry has actually been scaling back some of their lobbying efforts. Betting on the losing team isn't exactly a winning strategy. Of course, as the article correctly points out, this is Hollywood still thinking that the SOPA/PIPA fight was about lobbying, when it had little to do with that (not to say that lobbying wasn't done over the issue, but no amount of lobbying was going to win that fight -- it was the public activism that did it).
Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, the Glover Park Group and TeleMedia Policy Group have all terminated their lobbying contracts with Facebook, according to sources familiar with the lobbying terminations.
Either way, it's an odd choice to go after Facebook's lobbyists anyway, considering how little Facebook had to do with this fight at all. Of all the big internet companies, it actually seemed the least willing to even bother to do anything about SOPA/PIPA. Of course, Facebook has been ramping up its DC policy efforts on other fronts, so the lobbyists lose out, and this does nothing to benefit Hollywood. Kind of a weird move. Hollywood gets a few more lobbyists on its side... and it's unlikely to have a significant impact on how the public views these attempts by Hollywood to attack the internet, rather than adapt to market realities.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 20th 2012 9:25am
from the time-to-engage,-chris dept
But the bigger issue in the article is that Dodd still doesn't seem to understand what happened. Sure, he talks about how the internet made a difference, but he thinks this sprang up out of nowhere.
By Mr. Dodd’s account, no Washington player can safely assume that a well-wired, heavily financed legislative program is safe from a sudden burst of Web-driven populism.The thing is, if he'd actually been paying attention, he would have know that this has been building for a long, long time. For all the talk in the article of what a brilliant "strategist" he is, it appears his strategy was with the old way of doing things. He reacted to the internet with tremendous hubris -- pretending that the complaints weren't an issue, or were "just Google." Some of us have been watching this closely for years. This goes back quite a ways. Before SOPA, before PIPA. Before COICA. Before ProIP. There's been a growing recognition online that copyright is being used as a tool to block, censor and regulate our civil liberties, and there's been a growing sense of outrage over this. We've reported on it. We've told people at the MPAA and RIAA about it directly. And they've ignored it. Like Dodd did. His "strategy" may work in a world where his lobbyists are the only ones at the table, but it's no strategy for dealing with the public.
“This is altogether a new effect,” Mr. Dodd said, comparing the online movement to the Arab Spring. He could not remember seeing “an effort that was moving with this degree of support change this dramatically” in the last four decades, he added.
Even worse, Dodd's own actions fueled the problem. His own statements built up this attack posture from the very beginning. We had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Dodd would come in as a "reformer," intent on helping the MPAA adapt to the internet, embrace its opportunities and build better business models. But, instead, Dodd continued down the well-trodden path of blaming everyone else for his own industry's unwillingness to adapt -- and continued the MPAA's disastrous strategy of focusing on anti-piracy rather than revenue maximization (or, even worse, believing that anti-piracy is revenue maximization when nearly all of the evidence suggests succeeding at anti-piracy does almost nothing to improve the bottom line).
As a "strategist," the MPAA needed someone who understood the world that Hollywood is operating in. Dodd understood the way Washington DC used to work. That's a big disconnect. And it does not appear to be getting any better.
Equally hilarious are his calls for a meeting -- perhaps organized by the White House -- of tech companies and Hollywood:
Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise. Looming next Tuesday is a cloture vote scheduled in the Senate, which appears to promise the death of the legislation in its current form.Sure. He'd welcome it now. Where was he three months ago when a group of entrepreneurs in the tech sector offered to sit down and meet with him? Where was he just a few weeks ago, when Senator Feinstein tried to set up a meeting between the tech world and Hollywood -- which Hollywood rejected, claiming that it didn't need to meet with tech companies, because it had this bill sewn up tight?
“The perfect place to do it is a block away from here,” said Mr. Dodd, who pointed from his office on I Street toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Now he wants to meet?
But even more to the point -- and showing just how much Dodd still doesn't get it... he wants to "meet with internet companies." Not internet users. He still seems to think that this is about internet companies, and not their users. Part of the protests were about the process and the backroom dealing. There is no "backroom" for making political deals on the internet.
If he wants to meet, why not meet in an open format where anyone can contribute? Why not meet on the internet? Why not do a Reddit AMA? Why not hold a Twitter conversation? Why not set up a forum or do some Google Hangouts? Why not actually use the tools he seeks to regulate?
Obviously, sometimes it helps to meet face to face, but if that's to be done, why not stream it live online? Why not let anyone watching contribute, make comments and ask questions? This can't be another backroom deal, even with "the internet companies." This has to be open and inclusive. This is about the whole process of DC-insiderism. This is about the whole process on which the article premises itself: that Dodd could have won this battle if he'd just been able to glad hand his way around Congress. That is what the internet was rejecting here. And I don't think trying to do the same basic thing again is going to accomplish very much. Dodd isn't going to win the internet over with a handshake and a sparkling smile.
Later in the interview, he discusses "missteps" in a way that shows he's still missing the point:
He acknowledged his side had committed a misstep by allowing Hollywood to become the face of laws that were intended to protect not just movies, but also more mundane products — for instance, home smoke alarms — that are frequently counterfeited abroad, sometimes with disastrous effects.Notice that he's not talking about substance here, but merely positioning. He's talking about the marketing of the backroom deal, not the meaning of the backroom deal. Yes, the fact that Hollywood elites were driving this process was a part of the problem. But he's wrong that it was because of how they positioned it. The MPAA absolutely did try to do exactly what he said. It set up CreativeAmerica as an astroturf group, staffed by former MPAA/studio execs, and pretending to represent the "grassroots." The only problem was that the actual "blue collar" workers didn't support the bills and recognized how bogus the claims of the MPAA were. And that was evident in the fact that the group totally failed to drum up any significant support -- even with a huge war chest that is still running slick, expensive ad campaigns on TV and in Times Square in NY.
“In terms of public perception, I’m Exhibit A,” said Mr. Dodd, who spent last weekend hobnobbing with stars at the Golden Globes. “This is seen as a red carpet business.”
It was a further problem, he said, that Hollywood’s writers, directors, producers and blue-collar workers — whose unions squarely backed the new law — never personally campaigned in a way that might have helped to counter the Web assault.
Finally, Dodd still shows the kind of hubris that got him into this mess when he starts complaining about the White House, and how disappointed he is, because of how much money the industry donates. This is the same tone deafness that we saw earlier with the studio heads:
“There’s a disconnect between the business interests and the politics of Hollywood,” Mr. Dodd said, meaning that the film industry and its denizens provided money for many campaigns, including those of Mr. Obama, without pushing its issues to the fore.It's really incredible that Dodd can go from saying that this shouldn't have been seen as Hollywood fat-cats asking for handouts... and then immediately shift into talking about how much money they gave the administration, and how they expected the administration to simply give them what they wanted. That is a big part of the problem. That is what the internet is complaining about. People were upset that Hollywood can "buy" legislation that goes against the public's best interests.
While Mr. Dodd is barred from Congressional contact, he has had a free hand in lobbying the White House and federal agencies. On Saturday, however, the Obama administration dealt his efforts a blow by announcing publicly, in response to online petitions, that it had reservations about a provision in the proposed laws that called for blocking user access to offending sites.
Mr. Dodd spoke with barely concealed anger at what he called a “really gratuitous” statement delivered by what he had presumed was a sympathetic administration, which came after the blocking provisions had effectively been killed in Congress.
Furthermore, the idea that Hollywood donors did not "push the issue to the fore" is pretty laughable. Hollywood has been pushing incredibly hard to get this bill passed over the past year. We've heard time and time again about how much time and effort have gone into lobbying for this bill, and how there were ever-increasing efforts over the past few months, with some Congressional staffers saying it was an unprecedented push for a particular bill. They pushed. But they failed to recognize the reality outside the beltway.
And that's why Chris Dodd failed.
If he wants to turn things around, it's time for him to stop focusing on the DC inside ballgame. It's time for him to join the internet community and actually engage. That may be tough to do, and he's certainly burnt a lot of bridges, but there are ways to build new relationships. But it can't happen if he's still taking the attitude he takes in this article. It's still about getting what he wants, and not actually listening to the concerns of the wider internet. And until he understands that basic fact, Chris Dodd is going to continue to fail.