Techdirt Lite.
(Click here for full version)

Awesome Stuff: Not Much Time Left To Get A Takedown T-Shirt! (Techdirt)

by Leigh Beadon

from the tick-tock dept on Saturday, July 30th, 2016 @ 9:00AM

Last week, we launched our latest t-shirt (and hoodie!) on Teespring: the Takedown tee. Now the campaign is nearly at an end, so if you want one you've only got until Monday, August 1st at 8:00pm PT. Otherwise you'll have to wait for the campaign to restart, which could happen soon or it could take ages — so don't delay!

Men's and women's t-shirts are $20, hoodies are only $35, and everything's available in a variety of colors. Hurry up and get yours today!

Comment

After Cracking Down On Tens Of Thousands Of Enemies, Erdogan Says He's Dropping His 2000 Lawsuits Over Insults (Too Much Free Time)

by Mike Masnick

from the say-what-now? dept on Friday, July 29th, 2016 @ 7:39PM
For the last few months we've poked fun at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has ridiculously thin skin. As we noted, he had filed upwards of 100 lawsuits per month against people for "insulting" him -- and this included things as ridiculous as posting a meme on social media that compared Erdogan to Gollum.

Of course, more recently (as you've heard) there was a coup attempt in Turkey, which failed, and Erdogan has spent the last few weeks basically using the coup as an excuse to crush all his enemies.

In the first 48 hours, around 7,000 people were detained, arrested, or dismissed from their jobs. That number has been rising constantly, reaching around 66,000 people from all layers of society, but consisting mostly of government employees.

Add to that the family members of those arrested and dismissed and you will reach a number of 250,000-300,000 potential new opponents, most of whom were not involved with the "other" side or had no direct links with it. The memory of the killings, the hatred, and violence, the split in the army and government agencies about who was on which side -- all of this is truly traumatic for the Turkish nation.

And now, having done that -- including having shut down much of the media in the country and arrested a ton of journalists, Erdogan is apparently in a good mood. He has announced that in a "show of good will" he's going to drop those thousands of cases against people for insulting him.

Uh... thanks?

Of course, he notes that this is a "one-off" meaning he can start bringing more cases pretty soon. Besides it hardly seems like a gesture of goodwill when it follow destroying the lives of 100s of thousands of people to further entrench your own political power and interests. Of course, he also has a message to anyone with an opinion on all of this:
"Some people give us advice. They say they are worried. Mind your own business! Look at your own deeds."
Yeah. Perhaps Erdogan should look at his own deeds as well.
18 Comments

Stupid Patent of the Month: Solocron Education Trolls With Password Patent (Patents)

by Daniel Nazer, EFF

from the patenting-passwords dept on Friday, July 29th, 2016 @ 5:35PM

Another month, another terrible patent being asserted in the Eastern District of Texas. Solocron Education LLC, a company whose entire "education" business is filing lawsuits, owns U.S. Patent No. 6,263,439, titled "Verification system for non-traditional learning operations." What kind of "verification system" does Solocron claim to have invented? Passwords.

The patent describes a mundane process for providing education materials through video cassettes, DVDs, or online. Students are sent course materials, take tests, and, if they pass the tests, are allowed to continue on to the next part of the course. At various times, students confirm their identity by entering their biographical details and passwords.

Solocron did not invent distance education, encryption, or passwords. The patent doesn't describe any new technology, it just applies existing technology in a routine way to education materials. That should not be enough to get a patent. Unfortunately, the Patent Office does not do enough to prevent obvious patents from issuing, which is how we get patents on white-background photography or on filming a Yoga class.

The extraordinary breadth of Solocron's patent is clearest in its first claim. The claim, with added comments, is below:

1. A process which comprises the steps of:

encoding at least one personal identifier onto a user interface media [i.e. set up an interface requiring a particular user ID];

displaying a prompt on said user interface media for the at least one personal identifier which requires a match of the at least one personal identifier encoded on the user interface media [i.e. ask the user to enter their user ID];

encoding at least one password onto a data storage media [i.e. encrypt or otherwise password-lock a file];

encoding the at least one password from the data storage media onto the user interface media [i.e. set up the user interface so it can check if the password is correct]; and

displaying a prompt on the user interface media for entering the at least one password which requires a match of the at least one password from the data storage media with the at least one password encoded on the user interface media [i.e. require users to enter their passwords into the interface].

Although the claim runs 119 words, it just describes an ordinary system for accessing content via inputting a user ID and password. These kinds of systems for user identification predate the patent by many, many years. The claim is not even limited to education materials but, by its terms, applies to any kind of "data storage media." The Patent Office should not allow itself to be hoodwinked by overly verbose language that, when read closely, describes an obvious process.

Solocron is asserting its stupid patent aggressively. It has sued dozens of companies, including many new suits filed this year. As with so many patents we have featured in this series, it is suing in the Eastern District of Texas, taking advantage of the court's patent-owner-friendly rules. We need fundamental patent reform, including venue reform, to stop patents like this from being granted and from being abused in the courts.

Reposted from the EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month series.

6 Comments

Clinton Friend, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Now Pretends Hillary Never Supported TPP (Politics)

by Mike Masnick

from the that's-just-wrong dept on Friday, July 29th, 2016 @ 4:02PM
The whole silliness around Hillary Clinton at the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement just keeps getting sillier. She should admit what pretty much everyone already recognizes: she supports the deal. She could then explain why she supports it and perhaps the public could have an honest and open conversation about the nature of these agreements. As we've noted more than once, we tend to support free trade here at Techdirt, but the TPP agreement is barely about free trade. It's mostly about investment and creating other regulatory/protectionist barriers. But Clinton's constant flip flopping on the issue is silly. Back in 2012, she declared the TPP to be "the gold standard" in trade agreements. It was only last fall, after she started facing primary pressure from Bernie Sanders, who was against the agreement, that she flip flopped and said:
“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said, later adding, “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
It got so ridiculous that Clinton deleted the section of her memoir where she talks about her support of the TPP. That's just literally trying to rewrite history.

Meanwhile, pretty much everyone has assumed that after the election, she'd flip flop right back into supporting the TPP. Back in February, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, made it clear that he fully expected she'd flip back and this week a US Chamber of Commerce employee who spoke at the Democratic Convention (officially as a member of "Republican Women for Hillary" has also said she expects Hillary to flip back and support the agreement.

But, of course the bigger headlines came when the Clinton's close family friend and advisor, current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, admitted that he fully expected she'd support the TPP after the election. As we noted, this resulted in a bunch of other Clinton supporters to scream loudly about how this was crazy and Hillary was never going to support TPP. Apparently the message got back to McAuliffe, who when approached at a bar late at night by a Gawker reporter now claims not only that Hillary will never support the agreement, but that she never did in the past either.
She’s wrong. I support it. She doesn’t. She never supported it. I create jobs in Virginia, I always supported it. We’re best friends. She has never supported it.
Except, of course, she has supported it, quite clearly in the past. And almost certainly still is. I understand the political calculations here. Historically, Democrats (especially the progressive wing) have generally been against free trade. So these agreements (even when they're actually good!) are usually a tough sell to Democratic voters. But this is a weird year. Because while these agreements have almost universally been supported by Republicans, this year Donald Trump suddenly hates them -- not for all the legitimate reasons to hate them, but mainly because he doesn't understand how international trade works.

But wouldn't it be nice if Clinton could just come out and say what she really thought about the TPP and have an open conversation about it, rather than playing this "wink wink nod nod" game where basically everyone knows her true position, but she won't say it?
10 Comments

NYPD Dodges Another Legislative Attempt To Inject Accountability And Transparency Into Its Daily Work (Legal Issues)

by Tim Cushing

from the the-teflon-army dept on Friday, July 29th, 2016 @ 2:30PM

Law enforcement officers are pretty used to being able to stop nearly anyone and demand to know who they are and what they're doing. Sure, there are plenty of laws that say they can't actually do that, but the public is generally underinformed about their rights, and this works in cops' favor. As a recent Appeals Court decision pointed out, citizens are "free to refuse to cooperate with police before a seizure."

Obviously, this perfectly legal act of noncompliance just won't do, and it certainly won't be cops pointing out to citizens the rights they have available to them. New York City legislators thought they could force this transparency on the NYPD.

The bills, known as the Right to Know Act, require officers to identify and explain themselves when they stop people, and to make sure people know when they can refuse to be searched. These are timely, sensible ideas, echoing recommendations made by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing. Though the Right to Know Act has been bottled up in the Council for two years, it has broad support among Council members and community organizations, and sponsors say it would pass easily if it ever came to a vote.

It may have "broad support," but it didn't have support where it counts. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his displeasure with the idea of his officers having to respect the rights of citizens.

Mr. Bratton has denounced the Right to Know Act as an “unprecedented” intrusion into his domain.

As Scott Greenfield points out, Bratton could have dialed back his righteous indignation and applied these changes on his own.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from telling his cops to do this anyway. But he didn’t. He won’t. It’s not as if he serves at the pleasure of New York’s most progressive mayor ever. But the big issue for Bratton isn’t that the ideas incorporated in the law are so dangerous and counterproductive, but cops just don’t like being told what they have to do.

"Broad support." "Would pass easily." None of this matters. The person in charge of routing pending legislation made this decision for the rest of the legislators who support the bill in its unaltered form.

But there has been no vote. The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, essentially derailed it this month. She told members that she had quietly struck a compromise with the Police Department to adopt some, but not all, of the act’s reforms administratively. Under the deal, officers who want to search people but have no legal basis to stop them must ask permission and wait to hear “yes” or “no.” They have to explain that a person can refuse to be searched, and give a business card to people who are searched or stopped at a checkpoint or to anyone who asks.

Waiting for the NYPD to "adopt" reforms is like waiting to adopt a child. Days become weeks become months become years. Three years after Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to alter its unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program, officers still weren't fully informed of the new guidelines. The NYPD's "quiet adoption" of the agreement is more in line with dumping it into a foster home run by negligent caretakers.

The government has long depended on the ignorance of the citizens to maintain control. The killing of this legislation -- and Bratton's agreement to make it watered-down internal policy rather than actual law -- is more of the same. The less the public knows about what the police can or cannot demand from them, the more often this ignorance will be exploited by people with power.

15 Comments

Older Stories >>