Techdirt Lite.
(Click here for full version)

One Day Left To Get Your Copy Of CIA: Collect It All On Kickstarter! (Techdirt)

by Leigh Beadon

from the time-is-running-out dept on Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 12:00PM

If you haven't yet heard about CIA: Collect It All, here's the short version: the CIA recently declassified a top secret card game that it uses to train new recruits, and we're making a version that you can play at home. The game puts players in the shoes of analysts leveraging a variety of real-world intelligence gathering techniques to solve global crises. It comes with over 150 high-quality playing cards, and is also available as a print-and-play PDF.

And you've got less than 36 hours to back the Kickstarter campaign and secure your copy!

CIA: Collect It All on Kickstarter

We currently have no plans to continue production of the game beyond this first print run, so now might be your only chance to get your hands on CIA: Collect It All. For more information on what the game's all about, check out our recent Kickstarter update all about gameplay, as well as the latest episode of the Techdirt Podcast.

We're continuing to work on playtesting the game, redesigning the cards, and filling in the redacted text from the CIA documents. We're really excited to get this game into everyone's hands, so check out our Kickstarter before the campaign ends tomorrow at midnight.


Rupert Murdoch Believes In The Free Market... Until His Company Is Struggling: Then He Wants To Regulate Competitors (Say That Again)

by Mike Masnick

from the hypocrite dept on Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 10:45AM

Oh, Rupert Murdoch. When we last checked in with him, he was literally begging Facebook to pay News Corp. money because (he claimed) News Corp was "enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook." We noted at the time that Murdoch -- a staunch public defender of free market capitalism and a loud opponent of "socialism" -- seemed to be a bit hypocritical in effectively demanding a corporate handout from other, more successful companies, when his own company had struggled for years to adapt to the internet.

He's not done yet. Apparently, if Facebook (and, one presumes, Google) don't want to just hand him money for nothing, he's now demanding that they be heavily regulated:

Robert Thomson, the CEO of Murdoch’s company, News Corp., took a step beyond criticism last week in an investor call, when he advocated the creation of an “algorithm review board,” which would essentially regulate the secret formulas platforms use to determine, among other things, what news is shown to which people.

What a fucking hypocrite. Just compare this to what Murdoch was saying just a few years ago about free markets, competition, regulation and s haring:

But while we’ve won the efficiency argument, we have yet to persuade people that the market does better because it is more moral — or that socialism fails because it is largely immoral in its denial of fundamental freedoms.

To the contrary, too many people think that the market succeeds because it is based on a vice — greed. And that socialism is better, because it is based on a virtue — sharing.

Naturally, they conclude from this one of two things: that the way to make capitalism more just and more humane is to temper it by injecting a large dollop of government-mandated sharing, or that, like President Obama, government is better.

Or how about this gem:

How often do you hear the same people who say they are for free trade then push for stronger anti-dumping laws, a backdoor form of protectionism?

How often do we hear the same politicians who say they believe in free markets go on to carve out a special tax credit for some industry they favor?

Oh, Rupert, why it happens all the time. Sometimes from people like yourself.

Crony capitalism is not capitalism. It’s cronyism.

Yes. So why are you trying to get your crony's to regulate your competitors who have done a much better job than you in the market?

The market succeeds because it gives people incentives to put their own wants and needs aside to address the wants and needs of others. To succeed, you have to produce something that other people are willing to pay for.

And if he fails to get people to pay for it, Rupert Murdoch will run to the government, demanding that more successful companies just pay him, and then will also advocate for heavily regulating those companies while pretending to be for the free market and against cronyism.

What’s fair about taking money from people who’ve earned it and giving it to people who didn’t?

Says the guy demanding money he didn't earn from internet companies...

In short, as we work for freer markets, we must also work to persuade our fellow citizens that we do so not simply because a free market is more efficient but because it is fair and just and right.

Yes, Rupert Murdoch believes this right up until his own companies have trouble adapting and competing. Then he goes running to government to regulate those companies who are actually succeeding.

There may be reasonable arguments for certain kinds of regulations. But Murdoch's only reason for calling for regulations of internet companies -- after whining about socialism and talking up free markets -- is pretty blatantly an attempt to whine for a handout for his own businesses that have failed to adapt to changing times.


Daily Deal: CompTIA IT Certification Bundle (Deals)

by Daily Deal

from the good-deals-on-cool-stuff dept on Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 10:40AM

The CompTIA IT Certification Bundle will help you master subject matter in areas like networking, preventative maintenance, and more. The three courses center around preparing you for the CompTIA A+ certification exam. You'll learn about basic networking principles, security concepts pertaining to communications, infrastructure, cryptography, and more. There's been a price drop from $49 to $39 for a limited time.

Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.


How The Recording Industry Hid Its Latest Attempt To Expand Copyright (And Why You Should Call Your Senator To Stop It) (Copyright)

by Mike Masnick

from the bad-ideas dept on Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 9:33AM

Last month, we wrote about the problems of the CLASSICS Act that the House was voting on. There's a lot of background (much of it included in that post), that is not worth repeating, but the very short version is that sound recordings from before 1972 are treated somewhat differently under copyright law than songs recorded since February of 1972. Specifically, pre-1972 sound recordings are not covered by federal copyright law, but by a weird batch of state laws. Due to a bunch of shenanigans, many of those works will not be put into the public domain until 2067, even if by any other measure they should be in the public domain. The RIAA has always liked this aspect of pre-1972 songs. However, there are other aspects of pre-1972 songs that the RIAA does not like, and that's mainly that the lack of federal copyright coverage means that those works (mostly) don't get any performance rights, since most state laws didn't have such a concept. That's money the RIAA feels is being left on the table.

One way to handle this would be to just federalize the copyright on pre-1972 works and put all works on an equal footing. Easy, right? But that's not what the CLASSICS Act does. Instead, it just modernizes the parts of copyright for those works that help extract more money from people (such as adding in performance rights) while refusing to bring with it the parts of copyright law that protect the public -- including the timeline for things moving into the public domain.

Larry Lessig has a piece over at Wired where he explains how this is really just the latest attempt at copyright extension. Earlier this year, we had noted (happily!) that it appeared that the usual crew of copyright maximalists had appeared to give in, saying they had no intention to push for any sort of copyright term extension this year, meaning that for the first time in decades in the US, some works may actually enter the public domain on January 1st next year. And while the CLASSICS Act isn't a straight-up copyright term extension, it is a form of copyright expansion on old works, done for no other purpose than to give the copyright holders more ways to extract money, without any corresponding public benefit. As Lessig notes, this is explicitly a welfare system for musicians:

That this statute has nothing to do with the constitutional purpose of “promot[ing] Progress” is clear from its very title. The “Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act” (or CLASSICS) is as blatant a gift without any public return as is conceivable. And it's not just a gift through cash; it's a gift through a monopoly regulation of speech. Archives with recordings of music from the 1930s or 1940s would now have to clear permission before streaming their musical content even if the underlying work was in the public domain.

Yet there is no registry of these owners anywhere. And while massive digital suppliers, such as Apple Music and Spotify, could probably afford to carry the burden, no public or non-profit website could even begin to bear the cost of assuring they were not committing a crime. The act doesn’t harmonize American law with international law. Indeed, it creates more disharmony. No other jurisdiction creates a similar right anywhere. The act is simply a gift, paid for by further weakening the ability of archivists to keep our culture accessible. That’s why more than 40 professors of intellectual property of all political stripes signed a letter this week asking Congress to reject the CLASSICS Act.

Now that the bill is in the Senate, EFF is asking people to contact their Senators telling them to vote no on this bill.

Now, I should note that I've seen some recording industry lobbyists mocking Lessig's piece, claiming that how could he be against supporting musicians. This, of course, is the whole setup of this bill. It's designed -- like so many copyright expansions in the past -- to make it hard for people to question, because, really, who doesn't want to support the content creators we like? But that ignores the other side of this equation. Copyright is designed to benefit the public. The whole setup is to give an exclusivity to content creators for a limited time in order to give them the incentive to create.

For EVERY SINGLE WORK that would be impacted by this bill, that incentive worked. It worked decades and decades ago. Those recordings were all created prior to 1972. So why do they now need more incentive for the works that were already created? And why, if we're giving them more incentive, does the public not get anything back in return? That's the hidden part that the lobbyists and think tank shills for the recording industry are hoping you'll ignore. The "expansion" here is at the expense of the public. And it's a big expense. For no benefit at all. The copyright system was an incentive system for creation, in the recognition that it would then help the public get access to content. But the CLASSICS Act flips that over. It takes away from the public and provides no new incentives to anyone.

Instead, it's just a welfare bill for musicians. And, hey, Congress can set up a welfare system for musicians if it wants to, but it should be described as such and debated as such. Instead, this is being positioned very differently, because of course that's how the RIAA plays things.


Nearly Everyone In The U.S. And Canada Just Had Their Private Cell Phone Location Data Exposed (Privacy)

by Karl Bode

from the Whoops-a-daisy dept on Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 6:34AM

A company by the name of LocationSmart isn't having a particularly good month.

The company recently received all the wrong kind of attention when it was caught up in a privacy scandal involving the nation's wireless carriers and our biggest prison phone monopoly. Like countless other companies and governments, LocationSmart buys your wireless location data from cell carriers. It then sells access to that data via a portal that can provide real-time access to a user's location via a tailored graphical interface using just the target's phone number.

Theoretically, this functionality is sold under the pretense that the tool can be used to track things like drug offenders who have skipped out of rehab. And ideally, all the companies involved were supposed to ensure that data lookup requests were accompanied by something vaguely resembling official documentation. But a recent deep dive by the New York Times noted how the system was open to routine abuse by law enforcement, after a Missouri Sherrif used the system to routinely spy on Judges and fellow law enforcement officers without much legitimate justification (or pesky warrants):

"The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show.

Between 2014 and 2017, the sheriff, Cory Hutcheson, used the service at least 11 times, prosecutors said. His alleged targets included a judge and members of the State Highway Patrol. Mr. Hutcheson, who was dismissed last year in an unrelated matter, has pleaded not guilty in the surveillance cases."

It was yet another example of the way nonexistent to lax consumer privacy laws in the States (especially for wireless carriers) routinely come back to bite us.

But then things got worse.

Driven by curiousity in the wake of the Times report, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University by the name of Robert Xiao discovered that the "try before you buy" system used by LocationSmart to advertise the cell location tracking system contained a bug, A bug so bad that it exposed the data of roughly 200 million wireless subscribers across the United States and Canada (read: nearly everybody). As we see all too often, the researcher highlighted how the security standards in place to safeguard this data were virtually nonexistent:

"Due to a very elementary bug in the website, you can just skip that consent part and go straight to the location," said Robert Xiao, a PhD student at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in a phone call. "The implication of this is that LocationSmart never required consent in the first place," he said. "There seems to be no security oversight here."

The researcher notes that one of the APIs in the portal was not properly validating the consent response, making it "trivially easy" to skip the portion where the API sends a text message to the end user attempting to obtain consent (Brian Krebs, who first reported the vulnerability, has also confirmed the problem). Given the New York Times story had been making headlines since its May 10 publication, it's obviously possible that others discovered the vulnerability. LocationSmart has since pulled their location data tracking portal offline.

Meanwhile, none of the four major wireless carriers have been willing to confirm any business relationship with LocationSmart, but all claim to be investigating the problem after the week of bad press. That this actually results in substantive changes to the nation's cavalier treatment of private user data is a wager few would be likely to make.


Older Stories >>