by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 28th 2013 11:56am
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Feb 5th 2013 7:37am
from the if-going-to-jail-doesn't-deter-you,-maybe-some-ANGRY-TYPING-will dept
On 25 January, Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications along with various motion picture and music associations announced their latest copyright protection measure, dubbed “Operation Decoy File.”This isn't altogether unusual. Record labels have uploaded faux files to these networks for years -- one of the most famous examples being Madonna's sweary upload that asked would-be infringers just what the fuck they thought they were doing. Others have operated in a grayer area, purposefully uploading files solely to track and eventually sue downloaders.
The plan involves inserting files onto Japan's popular P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing networks such as Winny and Share which appear to contain popular copyrighted material. However, once downloaded, the file is revealed to be a message appealing the user to reconsider their wicked ways.
But this is rather novel: instead of the file they were expecting, the person receives the sort of warning most people wish they could skip past on their purchased DVDs.
A Warning from the Organization to Raise Awareness of CopyrightThe Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has also crafted this charming representation of how the warning system will work, painting itself a very rosy picture of faceless file sharers stopping dead in their tracks rather than viewing the unwelcome warning as some sort of dare. (Translation courtesy of Rocket News. Original Japanese version here. [PDF])
Files with the same name as this contain content which is in violation of copyright when distributed over P2P networks such as Winny or Share.
Knowingly downloading and of course uploading files that are protected by copyright law without the consent of the owner over the Internet is illegal copyright infringement. Please stop immediately.
Also, from 1 October 2012, downloading content which is known to be available for sale is punishable by a maximum 2-year prison sentence and/or 2,000,000 yen[US$21,000] fine.
Our copyright organization is working to eliminate copyright infringement by file sharing software. In addition to consulting the police to obtain the disclosure of user's identities, we want to focus on user education.
Japanese P2Pers have been discussing this new tactic and attempting to track down warning files in order to suss out any noticeable differences between it and the file it's supposed to be. (Yes, I know. One will be a warning and the other will be an actual piece of entertainment. But noticeable in terms of search results...)
The Ministry's statement indicates that this new warning system is only a test, albeit one that will stick around if there's any noticeable downturn in file sharing. Rocket News reports that some members of free-for-all discussion forum (and inspiration for 4chan) 2 Channel [2ch] are taking this to mean that the government may be considering uploading virus-tainted files to the various networks. As tempting as that may seem to some of the more vindictive members of the copyright industry, it's highly doubtful the Japanese government would be willing to brick computers to deter file sharing, draconian IP laws or no.
from the as-everyone-should dept
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement began as a cosy treaty between just three nations: Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. But once the US joined in 2010, this small-scale partnership suddenly became something much more significant. As USTR Ron Kirk put it in a press release at the time:
The development of our negotiating positions will be a collaborative effort with elected leaders and stakeholders here at home, in order to shape an eventual Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that is a new kind of trade agreement for the 21st century, bringing home the jobs and economic opportunity we want all our trade deals to deliver.
That "new kind of trade agreement" began to take shape as other major Pacific rim countries signed up: first Australia, Peru, and Vietnam, then Malaysia. More recently, Canada and Mexico have joined, albeit as junior partners with diminished negotiating powers. Another important player in the region that has expressed an interest in participating is Japan. But it seems that domestic politics may well scupper that plan:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing challenges in handling the issue of Japan's participation in the talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.
Here's where the problem lies:
While Abe hopes to express willingness to take part in the talks during a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama set for late this month, he is still wavering on the issue due to strong opposition from within his own Liberal Democratic Party [LDP].
A strong backlash, however, is expected from some LDP members who are concerned the party will lose votes from agriculture-related sectors if Abe announces Japan's bid to join the talks.
That's not really surprising; after all, in the same press release quoted above Kirk states quite bluntly:
USTR will now intensify consultations with Congress and with American stakeholders to develop objectives for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations, in order to enter already-scheduled talks in March with a robust U.S. view that seeks the highest economic benefit for America's workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers, and that reflects our shared values on labor, the environment, and other key issues
But if US farmers and ranchers gain "the highest economic benefit", it's quite likely that those in the agricultural sector in the other TPP countries will lose out -- precisely what Japan's LDP members fear. Of course, the standard line is that free trade agreements are great because everyone gains, but the reality is not so rosy. Indeed, even the US has been suffering overall in the case of the recent FTA with South Korea, which is being held up as a model for future treaties:
In the first eight months of the U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea, implemented in March 2012, U.S. goods exports to Korea fell by nine percent (a decrease of more than $2.5 billion) in comparison to 2011 levels for the same months. Ironically, some of the biggest downfalls in U.S. exports occurred in the automotive and meat industries -- the two sectors that the Obama administration had promised would experience export growth under the deal. The decline in U.S. exports under the FTA brought a 21 percent increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Korea, in comparison to the same period in 2011. Using the same ratio employed by the Obama administration, this trade deficit expansion implies the net loss of over 16,000 U.S. jobs under just the first several months of the Korea FTA.
Given the fact that the US economy has already been damaged by this recent FTA, the fears in Japan that its agricultural industry will be hit, the many concerns about TPP's investor-state dispute mechanism, plus its negative impact on online freedom and access to medicines, the question has to be: why bother with an overly-complicated, secretive treaty whose risks are many and real, while the gains seem few and uncertain?
Thu, Dec 20th 2012 11:04am
from the here's-your-award dept
That said, for the truly deficient aficionado, you just can't beat the Japanese police, who recently announced charges against the founder of 2Channel (the super popular Japanese forum site), named Hiroyuki Nishimura, because some users of the site have been found to discuss illicit narcotics. And it all appears to have stemmed from one nonsense news report on one single little 2Channel post.
Since last year 2channel, Japan’s largest internet forum, has been subject to pressure from Tokyo police. According to a January 2012 post by Avery (2channel Fights Police Pressure, So-Called “Viral Marketers”), the whole police investigation began after Fuji TV aired a sensational news report about drug dealers making posts on the site. The news report was aired only a few days after 2channel users helped organize street protests condemning Fuji TV’s alleged anti-Japanese bias.So, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way, because then we can really have fun. 2Channel is Japan's largest internet forum. It's huge. Policing every post on it would be similar to owners of a private beach checking each individual grain of sand on their property. If such forums are going to exist, forum operators need to be protected from these kinds of charges in order to survive. On top of that, just as with Craigslist, dedicated law enforcement officers should be able to make at least some use of the forums themselves for their own activities, but not if they attack the site's owners.
"Their evidence for the drug trade was a single post from 2010 that used code words to refer to MDMA, marijuana, and cocaine….investigators are calling 2ch a “hotbed of crime” because moderators did not delete the single post from 2010. (Over 1,800,000 posts are made on 2channel every day.)"
Great, the normal stuff out of the way. Now let me explain why these charges are really stupid.
Nishimura will be charged with abetting drug dealing. However, some twitter users have pointed out that the statute of limitations for the drug law in question is 3 years, and Nishimura sold 2channel more than 3 years ago.Oops. So charges are being brought against the guy who simply founded the site that someone else may have once used to talk about something illegal, even though he sold the site 3 years ago and the statute of limitations has expired. I'm certain Unites States LEOs will soon be bringing charges against the long-rotting corpse of E.L. Cord, founder of American Airlines, since terrorists used a plane of his to attack the World Trade Center. I mean, they really have no choice at this point, assuming they want to make a late entry into this year's "Most Incorrect Law Enforcement Action Of The Year" award.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 12th 2012 7:20am
from the what-a-non-surprise dept
Except, the reality is that consumers are spending less on music than they were before the bill became law. The article actually posits that the government has made some people so fearful of being arrested that they won't do any downloading from legitimate sources any more -- just in case it's tainted. So even if they can cut out piracy (doubtful) there's little evidence to suggest much increase in commerce as a result.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Oct 17th 2012 5:39am
from the now-featuring-our-famous-'whatever'-pricing! dept
A bug in our online system resulted in a small group of US-based customers being offered international pricing instead of their in-country pricing. In the large majority of cases, there was no price difference, but for some books where publishers set two different prices, the international one was displayed. This issue has now been resolved. We will be working directly with those customers affected over the next month to examine their accounts and provide them with a refund should it be owed. We will be contacting affected customers directly, but in the meantime if anyone has any questions related to their account, we ask that they please call our Support Line at 1-855-732-3662.Canadian ereader manufacturer Kobo hasn't really endeared itself to its customers in recent months. A few months ago, it botched the debut of its Kobo Touch ereader in Japan, falling well short of the promised 30,000 launch titles. In addition, its desktop software tended to turn new ereaders into shiny bricks. As the complaints mounted, Kobo's parent company, Rakuten, decided the best course of action was to hide all online reviews.
A new set of issues has arisen, this time centered around Kobo's ebook store. eBook prices at Kobo seem to be strangely liquid, responding to stimuli only known to Kobo itself. The Digital Reader dragged these pricing inconsistencies out into the open earlier this month. While holding off absolute judgement until more data was in, Nate Hoffelder took time to point out the mutating prices, which bizarrely increased for many logged in customers.
While some retailers like Amazon like to selectively discount prices in order to get you in the door, other sites like Kobo prefer to jack up the prices charged to their regular customers.
Earlier today Mike Cane hooked me up with a friend of his on Twitter. @RevBobMIB was browsing the Kobo eBookstore this morning when he noticed something odd. The pricing seemed strangely inconsistent, and after checking the price of the ebook mentioned above he discovered a fascinating secret about Kobo.
As you can see in this screenshot and this screenshot, Kobo offers some of their customers a lower price than the price offered to other customers. Here is a composite, and please note that I have seen these prices as well:
Hoffelder pointed out that prices may vary in different markets and some price fluctuation is normal, depending on geographic location. But Kobo's inexplicable price shifts aren't related to market or geographic variances.
Kobo is changing the prices shown to a single customer, browsing from a single computer, getting online from a single IP address.This post generated plenty of response, including some commenters raising the theory that this was possibly a database bug and not Kobo attempting to draw in new customers with low prices while making up the difference by gouging returning customers.
After exchanging some emails with a Kobo programmer, Hoffelder was able to draw out the real story.
A lot has happened in the couple weeks since I reported that story. After exchanging a few emails with a Kobo programmer it became clear that this was not a simple bug, nor was it a consistent one. While I still don’t know how the bug works I do know that the simple and obvious solutions don’t fix it.So, not a "feature," but a bug. This clears Kobo of any ill will towards its most loyal customers, at least in terms of pricing. But, it hardly clears Kobo of any wrongdoing in terms of customer service. Digging into this a bit more, Hoffelder found evidence that this bug had been adjusting prices for at least a month:
And oh yeah, the bug is still happening today.
My earliest confirmed report comes from MobileRead, and it is dated 10 September:
Is anyone else getting different prices on the checkout page? For instance, I want to get “Catching Fire” and it’s listed at $5.99. I click on the “buy now” button and the price jumps to $11.97. I contact Kobo’s customer service and they said that I should be logged in as to get the correct pricing. I log in and the same thing happens. I contacted them again, and they told me that the correct price is $11.97. But it’s still listed at $5.99?? Any ideas??
So Kobo has had this bug on their website for at least a month. As bad as that sounds the actual situation is very likely worse.Some input from readers suggested the problem has been around for much longer than that. "Unverified reports" date the bug back as far as December 2011, and that Kobo customer service has known about the issue for at least 6 months.
Another report pulled from MobileRead (from February 2012) mentions something that sounds quite a bit like the price bug, but one that the purchaser didn't notice until it was too late.
Oh I had a similar issue. The price of the ebook I bought was much more lower on the website than what I was charged for on my credit card, that took a few weeks to resolve as well. They gave me a credit for the difference, but I did phone them about 4-5 times and emailed them at least once a week.And then there's this, dating all the way back to December 2011.
When I go to the Kobo store I will see a book for $7.99 but when I log in the price updates to $8.99. Is this because the default price is in $US but when I log in using my Canadian they update to $CDN? I’m just wondering.This doesn't bode well for Kobo's already-shaky customer service track record. A bug that alters prices not only during log in/log out but also during the actual checkout process isn't the sort of thing that should go unfixed for a month, much less (possibly) the greater part of the year. (Speaking of the checkout process, there's no verification screen during the purchase process. Once your purchase information is entered and the customer clicks "Buy Now," there's no turning back, and no way to verify the price is correct before it's charged to their card.) But Kobo seems very uninterested in providing even adequate customer service.
Based on my own experiences, the 2 readers who claim they contacted Kobo customer service are very likely telling the truth. I have seen in the past at least one occasion where Kobo customer service got a complaint from a customer, responded, but appeared to not have forwarded the complaint to the relevant party inside the company who could have fixed the error.
Speaking of Kobo’s questionable customer service, there was a period of at least 3 months last year where Kobo gave out this blog as the warranty repair site for the Slick ereaders. I kid you not.If you want customers, especially loyal ones who will increase your market through word-of-mouth, the worst thing you can do is subject them to ineffective customer service and a roulette wheel masquerading as a pricelist. There are still plenty of happy Kobo customers, but I wouldn't expect that number to grow anytime soon. And with this parade of misdeeds and miscues swiftly becoming the public face of Kobo, I fully expect that first group's numbers to start shrinking.
I know a number of people will step forward to defend Kobo, but I’m not sure how. A month-long bug which over-charges some readers is indefensible. Customer service dept failing to forward a bug report is indefensible.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 14th 2012 11:04am
from the might-be-tough dept
With an apparent stalemate between the US administration and legislators about ratification procedures and the European Union out after the Parliament voted against the agreement, it looks as if there is still an uphill battle to get to reach that number.As we've discussed, Australia's Parliament has already recommended rejecting ACTA, and it appears that ratification has stalled out there as well. Ermert suggests that really the only way that ACTA might reach the necessary levels of ratification will be if other countries follow Japan's method of approval -- by which they effectively sneak it through.
Besides the EU and Japan, seven governments have signed ACTA (Australia, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States). Switzerland has not signed nor ratified.
“Not much is happening on the Canadian front,” wrote Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and long-time ACTA observer. “Canada signed ACTA, but has not ratified. Ratification would likely require some legislative amendments,” Geist said, and until those changes are introduced the country would not be positioned to ratify. There may be, according to Geist, linkage between ACTA and CETA (the Canada-EU Trade Agreement) under negotiation.
Britton Broun, media advisor of the Economic Group in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of New Zealand, responded to Intellectual Property Watch by saying: “While New Zealand has signed ACTA, the government has not yet taken a decision on its ratification.”
Along those lines, her report confirms what we'd heard about how the ruling party in Japan effectively got ratification without actually bothering to allow the opposition to take part:
But on 31 August, a committee of the House of Representatives, and on 6 September, the full House of Representatives pushed ACTA through, each time counting only the votes of the ruling party.While ACTA hasn't received that much attention in Japan, allowing the government to get away with such shenanigans, it seems likely that any attempt to do something similar elsewhere would be met with more widespread resistance. In other words, it seems unlikely that enough countries will actually get around to ratifying ACTA -- though we should never underestimate the tricks that lobbyists and diplomats will pull to try to shove this ugly pig over the finish line.
“To ratify an international treaty without the attendance of all opposition parties means a collapse of democracy in Japan,” warned Suzawa.
by Michael Ho
Thu, Sep 13th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Robots are good at tasks that are dull, dirty or dangerous -- so they can be useful for all kinds of farming. Robots are helping dairy farmers to milk cows, and robots can plant and harvest fields -- but human farmers won't be completely replaced just yet. [url]
- Flying, lightweight agricultural robots could help monitor crops and spray herbicides more intelligently. Zapping bugs from a remote-controlled quadcopter sounds like it could be a better game than Farmville. [url]
- Japan's Ministry of Agriculture is experimenting with a robot farm project in a 600 acre that was devastated by a tsunami. Over 59,000 acres farmland were damaged by the earthquake, flooding and nuclear fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but robots could help clean up and revive agriculture in northeast Japan. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 6th 2012 3:27am
from the but-of-course dept
About a month ago, the upper house of the Japanese legislature passed ACTA, as the first step in ratifying it. Some had thought that ACTA might stall out as a minor issue while other political turmoil went on, but it appears that Japan's ruling party has decided to push forward with the ratification. Last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee within the legislature tried to push through ACTA without allowing any discussion from opposing politicians -- which caused a ruckus, leading to a slight delay. However, after a few days, the committee passed it anyway. The ruling party then sought to do something similar, rushing it through a full vote, which appears to have just happened, resulting in ACTA's approval with effectively no real debate. In fact, it was mostly a non-story in Japan. It wasn't covered by the press and most politicians were basically silent about it.
This is fairly incredible, given the widespread protests we saw towards ACTA in Europe and a rapidly growing protest movement in Japan. Still, the protestors admit that ACTA just hasn't caught on as an issue in Japan like it has elsewhere. That's unfortunate for a variety of reasons, but they're hoping to change that with a protest on September 9th.
Of course, there's a question of how useful is it to ratify ACTA when many of the other negotiating parties (mainly the EU countries) don't seem likely to follow through and ratify the document in its current form. One report I heard out of Japan suggested that the ruling party there recognizes that ratifying ACTA is mostly symbolic at this point, but that it needed to be done to "save face" for the negotiators. Of course, if they really wanted to "save face," perhaps they shouldn't have negotiated for absolutely awful limits on how copyright can be reformed, while pushing for greater enforcement without necessary safety valves against abuse. Either way, the whole thing definitely has all of the appearances of ACTA being rammed through by political interests who don't want any debate on such a topic.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jul 26th 2012 4:28pm
Manufacturer Of Buggy 'Kobo Touch' E-Reader Manages Customer Complaints By... Hiding All Online Reviews
from the there's-no-hole-on-earth-big-enough-to-bury-The-Internet dept
Exercise 1: The product you've just introduced is a buggy mess, short on content and backed with terrible customer service. What do you do?
a.) Bite the bullet and start handing out refundsIf you answered "d," then congratulations! You've lost the battle and the war!
b.) Start patching like hell and fire your current Customer Service team
c.) Drain all bank accounts and reorganize under the name Net Sortie, LLC.
d.) Whistle nonchalantly while sweeping bad reviews under the rug
No matter how many companies line up to play the "I'd Like to Lose at the Internet" game and walk away empty shells of their former selves, there's always another player ready to step up and take a swing at wishing its problems into the Google Cache cornfield.
This week's contender is Rakuten and its Kobo Touch Reader. Billed as sort of a preemptive strike against the expected arrival of Amazon's Kindle in Japan, the Kobo began shipping last week. That's the last of the good news.
Rakuten launched the Kobo Touch in Japan with the expectation that they would dominate their home market. They are native to the country, and Rakuten does have a sizable retail presence there. Given their technical and CS resources, you’d think they would have been able to pull this off.So, what went wrong? Well, many, many things. First off, while the firmware was solid, the desktop software was a disaster. If installation failed on the PC, a rather common situation according to the reviews, it pretty much made the Kobo Reader useless. Secondly, Rakuten's promotional work pointed towards 30,000 titles being available at launch. Instead, there were 18,894 titles and, as is pointed out in the comments, many of those were public domain. Last, but not least, purchasers now holding a shiny brick were treated badly by Rakuten's customer service.
Unfortunately, it now looks like Rakuten has paved the way for Amazon to dominate yet another ebook market.This launch is rapidly turning into a debacle and it’s going to damage Rakuten’s reputation. And according to some of the tweets I’ve seen (in Japanese) it already is.
Rakuten was understandably perturbed by this failed launch and decided the best course of action would be to pretend it just wasn't happening.
It’s been just under a week since the Kobo Touch started shipping in Japan, and things are going so well that Rakuten has removed from their website all the reviews of the Kobo Touch.For a tech company, you'd think Rakuten would be a bit more familiar with how this "The Internet" works. You can't just pull the electronic wool over everyone's eyes and hope to sneak away undetected. The Internet never forgets. And even if it could, there's always a helpful person or two willing to remind it where all that stuff is stashed.
No, seriously, all of the reviews are down – both good and bad. I suppose there were too many people writing things like “I’m going to buy a Kindle” and that upset someone at Rakuten.
Luckily one of Rakuten’s potential customers tipped me to the story, including giving me a link to a blog that had collected responses and a screenshot of the review page before Raskuten removed it. That’s why I can show you things like this:
If you can’t see the image above, it says that the Kobo Touch has a 3 star rating largely due to the vast number of 1 star reviews.And more help arrives:
Update: My source found a Google Cache page of reviews. Thanks, Bibo!This response is so wrong and yet so common. Donna Barstow, law schools, the freakin' medical community. Pretty much anyone who's ever heard the term Streisand Effect whispered in their general direction has attempted to delete damning content, either of their own or created by others, only to find it resurrected in Google's Cache or the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. It's definitely a knee-jerk response, but it seems to have a steep learning curve attached to it. Kobo screwed up and then doubled down by hiding the reviews. What does that say about the company and its future relationship with its customers?
Folks, they took the reviews down from the website so new customers wouldn’t be warned about the many problems. I want you to look past the fact they did it and think about how customers will feel once they discover the deception. That is what will make this a major debacle and not merely an embarrassment for Rakuten.Rakuten, by botching its launch, hurt itself a little. By covering it up, it did a ton of self-inflicted damage. You can't just flip "trust" on and off like a light switch. It's earned. And if it wanted to take on Amazon, it couldn't afford a mistake of this magnitude.
A bad launch could be recovered from. This is closer to being a systematic effort to lie to their customers. Okay, eventually people will forgive Rakuten, but in the short run this debacle could drive readers to Amazon.