by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 1st 2013 2:29pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 11th 2013 5:44am
from the count-the-ways dept
But, in a moment of pure stupidity, some very short-sighted suits at CBS made a really silly decision. As you may or may not have heard, CES -- the massive consumer electronics show -- has been going on all this week in Las Vegas. I just got back from there myself. At the show, Dish announced another merging of some of its products, adding its Slingbox (who they bought years back) to the same basic setup. Slingbox, of course, is for "place shifting" what the DVR is for "time shifting." You hook it up to your TV and it lets you access what's playing on your TV via the internet (so, via your computer, phone or tablet). It's hardly surprising that this is where Dish was heading.
And... the early reviews and buzz were definitely strong. For example, CNET wrote a glowing review in which executive editor David Carnoy suggested it may be the best DVR out there these days. The CNET crew liked the thing so much that they nominated it for their "Best of CES" award.
Editors' note: The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration for the Best of CES 2013 awards due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.This is monumentally stupid, for a variety of reasons. Let's see how many we can come up with.
- Hello Streisand Effect. There were approximately one gazillion articles this week about products coming out of CES, and the place was wall to wall with journalists -- probably half of whom were coming up with their own "best of" lists. Most people were completely saturated with CES stories and would barely glance at such a story. Except... now, tons of people are suddenly finding out about this awesome Dish DVR, the Hopper with Slingbox. In fact, they're hearing that the damn thing is so good that CBS is trying to block any news of it from getting out. Talking about increasing the awareness... I have no clue whatsoever what product CNET -- or any other publication -- awarded "best of CES" to. But I sure as hell am well aware of Dish's new DVR.
- Goodbye to the wall that separates the suits from the journalists at CBS/CNET. CBS execs have just confirmed that they don't want their journalists and reviewers to cover things based on the merits, but rather on what it means for their corporate masters.
- Hello slippery slope. Is it really that hard to see where this heads next? Is CNET still allowed to report on the lawsuit if CBS loses? If they can't talk about the products, what about the legal issues themselves?
- Goodbye journalists with credibility. Frankly, CNET has always had some of the strongest tech reporters in the business. For many years I've considered it one of the top tech news sites out there. I have tremendous respect for many of the reporters there. But, now I have to wonder how much the suits are interfering with their ability to report things accurately.
- Goodbye to principled journalists who want to work for CBS. If I'm a journalist at CNET right now, I'd be seriously considering quitting in protest. This move seriously harms the brand and reputation of the site, and this is the kind of thing that journalists should stand up against. Having the suits interfere with what they can write about is generally seen as a massive offense to journalists. I would bet this leads to some of the best, most principled CNET reporters jumping ship to elsewhere.
- Good luck to CNET hiring new journalists. Who wants to jump into that toxic situation?
Of course, they were probably thinking that Dish would likely use the reviews from CNET as evidence in the lawsuit, which very well may be true (and could still happen since the review did go out). But it's not hard to get around that, since the legal impact of a single review is near zilch. In the end, they didn't stifle the review, they made it more well known. They didn't do anything that helps them in their lawsuit. And they're left with an undoubtedly pissed off set of journalists who may now question how free they are to actually report the news.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 19th 2012 11:50am
from the let's-count-the-ways dept
Obama’s chances, deconstructedHigh praise. But, according to a lawyer from the NYT's... infringement:
What an awesome utility. I spent all evening on the day of US election glued to this thing, answering my own what-if questions, watching different branches disappear as different states were projected. I love how the graphic takes a problem that’s way too crazy for mental math—the combinatorics of electoral outcomes in swing states—and makes it tractable, not by simplifying it, but by providing a way to explore the complexity. —Ritchie King
While we are delighted that Mr. King found the graphic so admirable, I must point out that The Times owns the copyright in the graphic and the current posting infringes The Times’s rights under U.S. Copyright law. Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately remove the graphic from qz.com and cease and desist from any further use of any New York Times content in any manner whatsoever.In response, Quartz is sticking to their guns. They did add the phrase "from the NY Times" after the link to the blurb, but they're arguing that it's clearly fair use. The NYTimes position here is really, really stupid, for many reasons. Here are just a few:
- The NYT's original graphic was interactive. That's what made it so special. It was useful for those trying to figure out the probabilities and what needed to happen for either major party presidential candidate to win on election night.
- In no way, shape or form, does this use take away from, compete with or diminish the NYT's successful graphic. It was a single screenshot of the original interactive graphic, not the full interactive thing.
- That graphic, as amazing as it was, was really only "useful" leading up to the election as people were trying to understand the route to the Presidency. It might also be useful after the fact as a historical look at the situation, but, again, it can only be used in that way on the NYT's site. The screenshot isn't useful in that manner at all.
- Quartz's use could only serve to drive more attention and traffic to the NYT's by highlighting what an awesome job they did with the graphic (which they did). In fact, other publications had no trouble recognizing the valuable publicity. Bloomberg publicly thanked Quartz for including one of its graphics.
- The use was almost certainly fair use from almost any angle you look at it. It didn't harm the market for the NYT's original graphic. It didn't use the whole graphic. It was used for the sake of news reporting.
- As noted at the beginning, the NYT itself relies heavily on fair use at times, and arguing against it can only come back to bite the company at some point in the future.
- But, most of all, this makes the lawyers at the NYT's look petty and vindictive for no good reason.
Oh, and in case they decide to go in the other direction, our use of the same image above is doubly a case of fair use, because the NYT's actions have now made that blurb and screenshot a specific news item itself, and it would be impossible to discuss the copyright/fair use/stupidity issue without including the graphic to explain what was going on.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 6th 2012 5:36am
from the just-forget-it dept
And, of course, there's an even bigger problem. The whole idea isn't just silly and complex, but it's totally impossible. And it's not just me saying that. As Stewart Baker points out, the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has put out a report making the basic impossibility of a "right to be forgotten" quite clear:
Consider Alice viewing Bob’s personal information on a computer screen, while she is allowed to do so (i.e., before Bob has invoked his right to be forgotten). Alice can take a picture of the screen using a camera, take notes or memorize the information. It is technically impossible to prevent Alice from doing so, or even to recognize that she has obtained a copy of Bob’s personal data.They seem to make that clear just by the image they chose to put on the cover of the report:
- For any reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten, a purely technical and comprehensive solution to enforce the right in the open Internet is generally impossible.
- A possible pragmatic approach to assist with the enforcement of the right to be forgotten is to require search engine operators and sharing services within the EU to filter references to forgotten information stored inside and outside the EU region.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 13th 2012 1:32pm
university of washington
from the because-who-would-ever-want-to-watch-the-game-when-you-have-140-character-update dept
This "can't give away too much" attitude has gone past just broadcasts of the game directly to the way that sports teams and leagues seek to control reporters and what and how they report. While they can't legally tell them what they can and can't do, they do have control over who they provide press passes to -- and then threaten to pull those passes if they disobey "the rules." These rules often seem focused on the same kind of "restrictions" in hopes of getting people to show up live, even if that's impossible.
Thankfully, these rules rarely seem to be enforced, but the University of Washington recently instituted a "Live Coverage Policy" for credentialed reporters that says they can only provide a maximum of 20 "in-game updates." A reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune, who was live tweeting a recent game, was reprimanded for going over his allotted 20 tweets and daring to go all the way up to 53. Not surprisingly, the reporter, Todd Dybas, then Tweeted about the reprimand:
Also, tonight I was reprimanded by the University of Washington for tweeting too much during a live event.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) November 12, 2012
Thu, Sep 20th 2012 12:16am
from the we-need-more-than-corporate-pr dept
1. The program encourages high achieving individuals to skip college in exchange for $100,000 over two years of fellowship grant, plus access to Thiel's network. While many projects discussed in the article were interesting, there was virtually no information about the sustainability of any of these projects or whether or not the fellows had achieved any academic success - such as publications - or business success.
2. The article entirely omitted any examination of the fact that Thiel himself has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a law degree from the same -- this was relegated to a parenthetical. Surely some examination into this seeming contradiction is merited.
3. Similarly, the article totally failed to examine the fact that, at best, this program can really only be successful in a narrow slice of fields -- computer software being the largest. For applied sciences generally, however, and especially engineering and medicine, you simply cannot be an autodidact and a viable career candidate - I'm not allowing someone without an MD to replace my hip, and I'm certainly not allowing someone without engineering qualifications to design my hospital. Too many professional organizations, professional licenses and research areas require formal schooling for this model to be scalable in our most key STEM disciplines. And yes, clearly some fellows are studying applied engineering, such as solar cells, or going into biotech, but there was no critical examination in this article, whatsoever, of whether it is feasible to be an autodidact in these fields, which typically require years of graduate level tutelage, even for students well into the genius range. For instance, there was a story about a fellow who was studying gerontology and having great difficulty raising funds - is this, perhaps, because a serious VC is not willing to give funding to someone in this field who does not have an MD or equivalent bio degree? I know when raising money for tech startups, VCs frown upon so-called "non-technical" founders - I'd be very surprised if this was not also the case in biotech and electrical engineering.
4. A huge part of Thiel's argument, from what I gathered, is that the network he introduces his fellows to is a large part of the importance of the program. This article seems to be ignoring the fact that, for the vast majority of us, including Thiel himself, these networks are actually formed at institutions of higher learning.
5. The biggest indicator, I think, of the laziness of this article is that the lede is about a student who left Princeton to become a Thiel Fellow, and the "cost" of Princeton was not even the primary factor in this decision. I should certainly say so. Choosing a Princeton student is an exceptionally poor example, as Princeton is renowned for having possibly the best financial aid department of elite American schools, excepting the military academies. Princeton was the first school to completely eliminate student loans as of 2001, and they give extremely generous aid packages. So, from the very get-go, the author's credibility was sincerely lessened in my eyes. Additionally, the statement that this article is being written "[a]t a time when the value of a college degree is being called into question..." is highly cynical and glib. What is being questioned is whether colleges are teaching the right things and whether the current college model is appropriate for all students, or if more alternative forms of higher learning need to be explored. What absolutely no one questions is that college degree holders outperform college dropouts, high school graduates, and especially high school dropouts across a wide spectrum of important metrics, including not only lifetime income, but health and divorce rates. This American Life has an interesting and tangentially related piece on the lasting impact of education on young people this week. Fundamentally, the debate is not whether higher education is unnecessary, it is about how higher education can more fundamentally meet the needs of different types of learners and address growth fields in the economy.
So, New York Times, I'd love to see you take a second shot at this. I'm deeply interested in alternative education methods, however, this article was entirely uncritical. It was a fluff piece that, somehow, made the A1 Sunday Headline online -- which baffles me.
Instead of merely talking about how fantastic the fellows are (I'm sure they are), how exciting the program is (I'm sure it is), or what a fascinating iconoclast Mr. Thiel is (this goes without saying), let's see some critical examination of this program. It has been going on long enough that we should be able to see some verifiable data, comparing fellows' progress to the peers they left behind in school, or, if nothing else, some success stories about gainful employment, fundraising, papers publishing, products brought to market, etc. Instead, this seems like a retweet of corporate PR.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 25th 2012 3:11am
from the unintended-consequences dept
Last week, the British policeman Simon Harwood was acquitted of killing a man during the 2009 G20 protests in London -- a controversial verdict given the video footage of the incident. In order not to prejudice their views, the jury was not informed that Harwood had been investigated a number of times previously for alleged violence and misconduct.
As a result of that requirement to withhold information about the earlier allegations, Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail, was found by a British judge to be in breach of the strict liability rule of the UK's Contempt of Court Act because of two stories about Harwood that it continued to hold in its archive, as this Press Gazette post explains:
Both articles were published in 2010, and had been available on the Mail Online archive since then, but only if a would-be reader actually searched for them, either on the website itself, or via a search engine.
The judge nonetheless held that the Mail Online was in contempt of court because of his interpretation of a key section in the relevant legislation:
Mr Justice Fulford held that the phrase "at the time of the publication" actually "encompasses the entire period during which the material is available on the website from the moment of its first appearance through to when it was withdrawn".
The only way to avoid this problem would be for online news archives to remove articles from their holdings in advance of future court cases. But it's hard to see how this can possibly work when applied to every case across the UK. Either the search for relevant materials will be quick and superficial, and therefore run the risk of missing articles; or it will be so slow and laborious as to render it impractical. Some owners of news archives may decide it's not worth it, and simply withdraw access altogether; that would be a highly regrettable consequence of this ruling, and a real loss for everyone.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 23rd 2012 1:22pm
from the but-we-need-to-support-newspapers dept
Today's example involves the supposedly venerable Wall Street Journal, who posted a column by former publisher L. Gordon Crovitz, trying to claim that the internet was really invented by private companies, without much government support. Except, of course, that's false. Ridiculously false. Thankfully, we had blogs to step in and debunk many of the factual errors made by Crovitz. Quickly into the breach stepped Steve Wildstrom at Tecpinions, who pointed out that Crovitz's version of history was way off and then Tim Lee at Ars Technica, who went even deeper in showing how Crovitz mangled the history.
Among the many, many errors in Crovitz's piece were the claims that Tim Berners-Lee (no relation to Tim Lee above) "invented hyperlinks." He did no such thing. He invented the web, which came long after hypertext and hyperlinks were well known and well-established. He also tries to downplay Arpanet, and worst of all pretends that because Vint Cerf (with Bob Kahn) invented TCP/IP, that it shows it was done without the government's help. He, of course, leaves out that both were employed... by the government. It also plays up the importance of ethernet, invented at Xerox PARC. This was a big deal (and I even have a photo of the first ethernet connection that I recently took on a tour of PARC), but that was for local networks and not "the internet."
To be fair, this is the opinion pages, not the reporting pages, but the WSJ is supposed to have a pretty high bar for getting facts right, isn't it? And I would assume that applies to the opinion pages as well. Of course, what's interesting is that Crovitz has a history of this kind of thing. A couple years ago, we wrote about another piece by him which misattributed a quote of mine to someone else's and then took three days or so to post a correction. This Crovitz piece has added one correction at the time of my writing this, but only for (another) misattributed quote (Crovitz apparently didn't realize that he was quoting a blog post by Tyler Cowen quoting someone else and attributed it to Cowen). Everything else is still in there.
Of course, even more ironic in all of this is that Crovitz helped found Journalism Online -- one of the leading companies pushing newspapers to set up paywalls, arguing that newspapers need people to pay, or all good reporting will go away. Everyone makes mistakes. It's not limited to either newspapers or blogs. I don't mean to pick on Crovitz or the WSJ in particular here (even though the mistakes in his piece were both plentiful and easily cross checked). It's just that the idea that newspapers have some sort of "lock" on factual, objective reporting -- whereas newfangled "blogs" are chock full of misinformation -- is an inaccurate position. Yes, there's plenty of misinformation spread on various sites, but the same thing shows up in "traditional" media too. The point is that the wider ecosystem seems to be pretty damn good at highlighting those mistakes (even if the WSJ is then very slow to correct them).
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 15th 2012 3:41pm
central european media enterprises
TV Network Uses Questionable Copyright Claim To Take Down Report Criticizing Its Reporting On Copyright
from the full-circle dept
You can see why this might draw some criticism. Another journalist, Ivan Stamenov, did a rebuttal video, which he posted on YouTube, entitled "BTV and torrents: Shock Dose of Ignorance." BTV's response was to issue a takedown, claiming copyright. He does admit that there is a piece of the video that shows the BTV logo, but he insists that's about the only thing that might be infringing (and that would actually be trademark, not copyright). Either way, it seems pretty clear that this takedown has little to do with the copyrights (though it may have plenty to do with the fight over the concept of copyright), and was very much focused on trying to silence a critic.
The show went on to press the one-download-one-lost-sale mantra, suggested that a “3 strikes” regime should be considered to deal with infringement, and criticized local ISPs for providing high-speed connections used for pirating.
BTV also claimed to have contacted the operators of Zamunda so that their side of the story could be heard, but a source close to the site told TorrentFreak that after initially making contact and getting Zamunda’s attention (just 3 days before the show was aired), the show failed to respond to further contact from the site.
The end result, critics say, was an ‘investigative’ report biased towards rightsholders at a time when bTV is not only promoting its just-launched Voyo PPV service, but simultaneously running an anti-torrent site campaign of its own.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 11th 2011 1:40pm
from the ouch dept
To my great surprise American Express doesn’t allow anybody to contact them. Instead, you’re sent through their ten-year-old copyright noticed website’s first line support jungle to be attacked with questions ensuring that you’re a paying customer. If you’re not then you might as well not bother, unless you feel like speaking technical advanced 0day vulnerabilities with incompetent support personnel either through Twitter direct messages or phone. They will leave you no option of contacting them in a manner that circumvents any theoretical possibility they may have of boosting sales numbers.
The only acceptable contact methods that I found on their site were telephone, fax or physical mail to some typoed country called Swerige. I figured none of them were suitable for 0day reports and decided to turn to Twitter and ask for an e-mail address or some other modern protocol.