Over the past few months, I've certainly wondered quite a bit about just how bad the NSA seems to be at recognizing how the public feels concerning what it's doing. This week's revelations about tracking mobile phone locations was incredible because folks at the NSA must have known that information about this program was in Snowden's collection, and yet when they were asked about collecting location info a few months ago, they made statements that would clearly look bad, when put next to the truth:
“We don’t get any cell site or location information as to where any of these phones were located.” -- Keith Alexander
These phones. Under this program. But under this other program we collect pretty much everything. Beyond that, the various "code names" the NSA uses are somewhat revealing as well. Lots of people commented on the insanity of calling the giant database FASCIA. But, at the very least, you could argue that the NSA never expected those code names to be made public. And with the misleading statements, they were still holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, a meteor would magically flatten Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras before the info got out.
You may not be able to see the logo used on the rocket, but here's a closeup.
Yes, it's an octopus, with tentacles reaching all over the globe. And the tagline is "Nothing is Beyond Our Reach."
Sure. They're spies. This is what they do. But, somehow, you'd think that maybe, just maybe, someone with a tiny bit of sense back there at the office of the director of national intelligence would think that, "gee, a lot of people around the globe are pretty fucking angry at us for all the spying we're doing right now. maybe we shouldn't be spitting in their faces, mocking their concerns, and reminding them that we're blatantly evil people who really don't give two shits about their privacy."
Of course, that would take some actual recognition of what anyone thinks of them, and that doesn't seem to be part of the way that the US intelligence community operates.
Perhaps the NSA has finally met its match: copyright infringement. You may have seen the logo that the NSA is using for the PRISM program (shown here upside down for a reason that will become clear shortly):
As Adam's son, Damon, notes in the link above, the image is free for use via his gallery under some simple terms, including acknowledging the author. Damon jokingly suggests asking the NSA for a small donation, though he worries about any undue attention from the folks at the NSA.
Of course, in a country where copyright laws trump all, perhaps Damon could sue for infringement and seek discovery to find out all the documentation on PRISM.
Remember how Waterstones was going to sell the Kindle and take a sales commission on the hardware and any ebooks bought from that device? Apparently they decided that the subtle but positive relationship of simply making money off the Kindle wasn't good enough; now they've turned the Kindles they sell into billboards.
The Kindles sold by Waterstones got a firmware update in early November. This update wasn't rolled out to all the Kindles, and for good reason. According to a couple different users (this story has also been confirmed by Waterstones) the only change in the update was a new screensaver.
I have not yet seen it myself, but the Kindle owners are reporting that all the screensavers have been replaced by a Waterstones logo. Furthermore, there's no way to disable or replace that screensaver, so every time these Kindle owners pick up their device they will be reminded where they purchased it.
Advertising on the Kindle is nothing new. The ad-supported version is available at a discount if the buyer's willing to put up with being advertised at in exchange for a price break. But, as The Digital Reader points out, Waterstones-branded Kindles aren't discounted.
Instead, as thanks for purchasing a portable Amazon ecosystem from a brick-and-mortar, Waterstones' customers are now locked into a single screensaver that will constantly remind them who they need to contact for a full refund... which, unbelievably, Waterstones is actually offering.
Thank you for your email regarding your Kindle Paperwhite from Waterstones.
I am sorry you are disappointed by the addition of a Waterstones screensaver after the recent software update to Kindle. It is our view that this screensaver does not constitute advertising and differs substantially to the advertising-supported Kindles available to the US market. The Waterstones screensaver is a non-dynamic, static image that will change infrequently and not advertise any specific product, offer or website.
It is not possible to remove the Waterstones screensaver to replace it with the former Amazon screensaver. We apologise that this change was made without consultation, and hope it does not detract from or alter your reading experience. However, if you feel it does, please let us know and we will arrange for the return of the device and a full refund.
"There are substantial difficulties for us around working with our major competitor," Daunt said at the Independent Publishers Guild Digital Quarterly Meeting on Tuesday, according to The Bookseller. "But we think we have an agreement which protects some of the most significant bear traps that sit there, and there are some major upsides for us."
Notably, Daunt didn't say that the agreement protects Waterstones from "significant bear traps." Instead, his Freudian slippage states that the traps themselves will be unharmed, even if, as it appears, Waterstones has to trigger the traps on its own.
The deal was never advantageous, what with Waterstones making the most money when purchasers bought ebooks using its in-store wifi network. It's hard to believe this strategy of getting customers into the physical store in hopes that they'd spend part of the time shopping on their Kindles has paid off. Perhaps the always-on "W" is meant to remind customers where they purchased their Kindles and why not go have a look around the bookstore a bit then.
On the plus side, Waterstones customers were threatened withwarned about promised some additional bonuses for their branded Kindles during this rollout announcement:
At yesterday's IPG event, Daunt revealed a few more details about Waterstones' Amazon partnership. "Waterstones-specific Kindle screensavers, bestseller lists and a Read For Free offer are among the plans," The Bookseller reports.
That's a pretty frickin' specific screensaver, Daunt. Shame it changes so "infrequently" as to be completely undetectable.
If you look around, there are others selling Anonymous apparel, but trying to trademark the logo, and limit its use by others isn't just playing with fire, it's directly taunting a large group of people with weapons that shoot fire... and who have little hesitation in using them.
Some companies spend a lot of effort tweaking their logo and making sure their brand image stays shiny and new. But how much does it really matter? There are some truly iconic corporate logos, but it's really the businesses behind the logos that create the image of the company. Not the other way around. Or maybe a nice reliable-looking logo really does inspire a company and its employees to bleed purple or something....
Governments are pretty touchy about their logos. Last year, the FBI threw a hissy fit when it discovered that Wikipedia accurately displayed its logo on a page about (you guessed it) the FBI. Similarly, the White House got upset with a blogger who used the White House logo in a post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And, while there is a federal law against misuse of logos, that's for people using the logos to misrepresent themselves. Going after Wikipedia or journalists for using logos in a descriptive manner is silly.
However, Fluvanna County, Virginia, decided that it had nothing better to do than to pass an ordinance similarly banning the use of its logo, in an effort that appeared to have been directed at a blogger who used the logo... on stories about the county. Thankfully, a court has struck down the law as being a First Amendment violation:
This sweeping prohibition encompasses a substantial number of uses of the seal that would not suggest government endorsement, such as the display on a website of an exact copy of an official County news release that contains the image of the seal next to the text, or the publication in a newspaper of a photograph of a County official delivering a speech from a podium upon which the County seal is attached and visible.
The court does compare it to the similar federal law, but notes that at least the federal law makes it clear that it's only intended for use where there may be confusion over a potential endorsement. And, with that, here's the damn logo that the county can't sue us over.
Shakespeare wrote: What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. -- but how much does a company's name really matter? Here are a few quick links on corporate logos and some branding twists.
Last year, we wrote about the FBI threatening Wikipedia for having the FBI logo on its site. Wikipedia, thanks to its General Counsel Mike Godwin (of Godwin's Law fame), responded with a wonderful snarky reply. While the FBI backed down, it does not appear that the administration got the message that there are situations in which a website might post federal logos and not break the law. The latest involves the White House, who apparently got upset that blogger Keith Cowing (of SpaceRef.com -- a blog about science/space policy) included the White House logo in his post about a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In response, the White House actually called Cowing and demanded he take down the logo. In case you're wondering, this is the logo:
Now, this is a perfectly reasonable use of the logo. We're discussing it, and it's relevant to the news story. It was also relevant to Cowing's post. The issue that the White House has is with 18 U.S.C. sec. 701, which is designed to prevent someone from falsely passing themselves off as working for the government by misusing such a badge. Posting the badge on a website where it makes sense clearly does not qualify. No one was reading that blog post thinking he represented the White House. The White House also mentioned the "proximity to advertising," suggesting they were afraid that it would be seen as being associated with the White House. However, as the EFF notes in the link above, that's a pretty ridiculous interpretation:
Cowing's use isn't deceptive either. The seal is plainly used in conjunction with the news article and the advertisement is no closer on this blog than ads are on news websites and in most newspapers and magazines for that matter. In fact, the seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States is usedextensively all over the internet, sometimes even in promixity to advertising. Threatening phone calls from the White House only serve to chill free speech. Indeed, Cowing has replaced the image of the seal with a pixelated version and the words “OSTP Logo Pixelated Due to a Phone Call Complaint from the White House.”
Finally, we agree with the EFF in noting: "surely the White House has better things to do than to threaten bloggers engaged in legitimate free speech."
Another day, another ridiculous lawsuit in a society that teaches people you can "own" anything. This time it's a woman, Tanit Buday, who claims that the NY Yankees owe her money because of the team's famous tophat logo, which she says was designed by her uncle in 1936, for which he was never paid:
Um. Yeah. So, I would imagine that the Yankees will pretty quickly point the court to the principle of laches, which is regularly used to dump trademark infringement lawsuits where there was an "unreasonable delay pursuing a claim." 75 years seems like an unreasonable delay in my book.
As for why it took so long, the woman is not particularly clear. She says that part of it was due to "trust in [the] Yankees owners." Um. Okay. While she claims that her uncle didn't realize the team had used his design until 11 years after he designed it... she also notes that he helped the team revise the logo in 1952... so it doesn't sound like he was all that upset about not getting paid the first time around.
We've written a couple times about the absolutely ridiculous lawsuit that publishing giant Reed Elsevier filed against the punk band The Vandals. At issue was the fact that, years ago, the band put out an album, in which its logo was designed to parody the logo of Daily Variety, the Hollywood trade rag published by Reed Elsevier.
Way back when the album was first coming out, Variety had sent a cease and desist letter, and rather than fighting it (with a very strong fair use/parody claim) The Vandals caved and agreed not to use the image. However, the image can still be found online -- but not on sites controlled by the band. So Reed Elsevier and Variety are suing the band for somehow not magically stopping these other sites from using the image.
I had thought that once the ridiculousness of this became public, Reed Elsevier would quickly back down, but instead it dug in. Even more ridiculous is that it sued in Delaware, knowing that this would make life more difficult for the band, which is based in LA. Making things even more interesting is that the band's bassist, Joe Escalante, is also a former entertainment industry lawyer, though not a litigator. But, not one to back down from a fight, he decided to represent the band, went about learning the basics of litigation, and even got himself admitted to practice in Delaware.
Escalante emailed us to let us know that all of this has paid off so far, as the band has won the first round of the legal fight, and got the suit tossed out in Delaware and sent to California where it should have been filed in the first place. The short and sweet court order makes it clear that the judge finds it distasteful that Reed appears to have purposely filed the lawsuit across the country from the band to make life difficult for the band. You can see the full order below, but the key point is in the footnote, where the court notes that it certainly could have jurisdiction on the case, but given the circumstances, it feels that it is not appropriate, clearly suggesting that it recognizes the use of the court in Delaware was mainly to inconvenience the band:
The court recognizes that it could, if it were so inclined, choose to exercise jurisdiction over this matter and permit this case to proceed here in Delaware, given that a settlement agreement between the parties contains a clause that names Delaware as the forum for litigating disputes arising from the agreement. That settlement does not bind this court, however, and given the facts and circumstances surrounding this case, the court has decided in its discretion to decline to exercise jurisdiction. First, all relevant conduct and activities appear to have taken place in California, where the defendants reside and operate. Similarly, it appears that the Central District of California would be a far more convenient forum for trial, since the court's reading of the complaint and other documents in the record is that the vast majority of documents and witnesses pertaining to this case are in California. Furthermore, the consent judgment that underlies the plaintiffs' complaint was entered by the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and states that that court retains jurisdiction for the purposes of enforcing the consent judgment and related permanent injunction. It would be far better for that court to determine whether the conduct in question falls within the scope of the consent judgment and permanent injunction. Finally, given the defendants' apparently limited financial resources and the significant costs associated with litigating in Delaware, the court finds that the defendants would be unfairly prejudiced if they were forced to litigate in this district.
In response to this ruling the band has been mocking Variety and its lawyers relentlessly. The link above goes to a pretty incendiary blog post which, frankly, might also open the band up to defamation charges, but that would really only be digging Reed Elsevier deeper into a truly pointless legal battle. Separately, the band has used our favorite movie creation tool, Xtranormal to create this rather hilarious (and probably NSFW) video of a "fictitious meeting" between Variety's outside lawyer on this case and Variety's editor. It made me laugh: