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This Week In Techdirt History: August 21st - 27th (Techdirt)

by Leigh Beadon

from the earth-tremors dept on Saturday, August 27th, 2016 @ 12:00PM

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the mainstream press was waking up en masse to the fact that the patent system was terribly broken, with even the Wall Street Journal joining the fray. The patent system was, of course, getting in the way of health care, and attempts to convince Silicon Valley that software patents are great were unsurprisingly unsuccessful. Amidst all this the most notable patent battle going on was, of course, the one between Oracle and Google — and this was the week that we got our first whiff of the side-fight over API copyrights that would end up becoming so important.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, we had several early discussions about things that would grow to become major subjects of concern. There was the fact that content takedown laws were sneaking censorship into the traditionally censorship-proof internet; there was the RIAA following in DirecTV's footsteps and starting to automate the process of sending out mass copyright shakedown letters; and perhaps most perniciously, there was the quiet fallout of a Supreme Court ruling that told courts not to rush to issue injunctions over patent infringement: companies began exploiting the now-well-known "ITC Loophole" to route around the courts and ban a competitor's imports. Meanwhile, we all waited to see who would buy YouTube, and the platform's recent MySpace-esque branded offerings led us to incorrectly speculate that News Corp. might be the answer.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, Windows XP was beginning its takeover of the PC scene. Bluetooth was all the trendy rage, but some were declaring it dead on arrival while others defended it — not that the world's wireless visionaries really had any idea what to expect (except, perhaps, more wi-fi security breaches). Oh, and remember when computers only came with one little branded sticker on the outside, proudly declaring the Intel processor and nothing else? That all started to change this week when IBM adopted the same strategy and opened the floodgates.

One-Hundred And Twenty-Eight Years Ago

Adding machines have a history that dates back to the 17th century, but they didn't really become useful and popular until the late 1800s. One of the two main trailblazers was the machine patented by William Seward Burroughs on August 25th, 1888. His company would go on to become what we know today as Unisys — and his grandson would become an author who helped define the beat generation.

1 Comment

Techdirt Gear: Copying Is Not Theft (Copyright)

by Leigh Beadon

from the t-shirts-and-more dept on Saturday, August 27th, 2016 @ 9:00AM

Limited Time Offer:
Support Techdirt & get a Copying Is Not Theft t-shirt, hoodie or mug!

Yesterday, we launched our latest Techdirt gear design: Copying Is Not Theft, available on a variety of products. Men's and women's t-shirts are $20, hoodies are only $35, stickers are $4, and this time we've added v-necks and long-sleeve tees for $22 and mugs for $14. Help spread the word that whatever people think about copying and piracy, you won't swallow a false equivalency like "copying is theft".

Still not sold? Well, perhaps these computer-generated composites of photogenic people wearing the shirt can convince you:

Something cool must be going on over to the left.

Seriously, whatever's happening to the left must be just spellbinding.

WHAT IS GOING ON OVER THERE?

Also, after being challenged on Twitter, we decided it only makes sense to offer up the design for free as a vector SVG and a high-res PNG, just in case you want to steal copy it.

The Copying Is Not Theft gear is only available until Monday, September 5th so hurry up and order yours today!

6 Comments

If You're Learning About It From Slate, Running Your Own Email Server Is A Horrendously Bad Idea (Email)

by Mike Masnick

from the don't-do-this dept on Friday, August 26th, 2016 @ 7:39PM
So, Slate has a weird article by Nat Meysenburg suggesting that everyday people should run their own email servers. He admits up front that he doesn't think Hillary Clinton should have run her own email server, but for lots of other people he declares it to be "a good idea."
For years, I’ve been trying to convince people that there is value in having an email server in your closet. But few seemed to really get it, so I often found myself wishing for a high-profile example to illustrate why it is a good idea. That wish has, in a way, come true: The casual news consumer has had the pleasure of hearing about a “private email server” quite a lot over the past year.
Except, beyond that, he's basically wrong. Yes, if you're really technologically savvy and want to do it, you can absolutely run your own email server. Though, honestly, it's probably going to be kind of a pain, because you'll need to constantly be patching it and protecting it, and even then it will probably be significantly less secure than if you use an online provider. Meysenberg is right on only one point, barely, and it's that if you run your own email server, and the government wants to get access to it, at least you'll know about it:
When your emails reside on a cloud provider’s server, the owners of that server are ultimately who decide when to let the government, or any other party, access those emails. In the case of your work’s server, those choices are made by your employer. In the case of Gmail (or any other cloud provider), this choice is typically made by the company’s legal team, based on its evaluation of the government’s demands. Most of the big companies, including Google, do have a policy of notifying users about demands before they hand over the requested data, which would give you an opportunity to assert your rights in court. However, there are many cases in which the government’s demand will be accompanied by a gag order forbidding the company from providing that notice.
And, thus, he notes:
Having a private server in your home side steps these uncertainties. At home you as a private individual have the ability determine who has access to your email inbox—just like you have a right to determine who has access to that box of old love letters from high school. By owning the server, all requests for data have to go through you (and/or your lawyers), and any confiscation of the physical hard drives on which your emails are stored requires a search warrant for your home. And unlike with email stored in the cloud, it will always be obvious if and when the police seize your email server.
But, of course, none of that stops the government from getting your server if they want it... it's just that in this one case you'll know about it.

And for what tradeoff? Well, there are some pretty big ones. If you're not particularly skilled and experienced with online security issues, your personal email server is almost certainly significantly less secure than the big companies that have strong security teams and are constantly making it stronger and on the lookout for attacks. If you're that good, you're not learning about the issue of hosting your own email server for the first time in... Slate.

The article insists that it's a myth that running your own server is a security nightmare, but I've yet to see an online security expert who agrees with that even remotely. Even the comments to the Slate piece are filled with IT folks screaming about what a bad idea this is.

In the end, this seems to be an issue of tradeoffs and skills. If you're quite skilled with online security and you think the government might want secret access to your email, then maybe in some limited cases, it might make more sense for you to run your own server -- though, even then you're exposing yourself to being hacked by the government too, because, you know, they do that kind of thing also in some cases. Otherwise, you're almost certainly opening yourself up to a home IT nightmare and a lot more trouble than it's worth for significantly less security.

In short, even if you're not Hillary Clinton, running your own email server is a bad idea. And if you're just now getting the idea from Slate... then it's a really bad idea.
32 Comments

Remember When Cracking Groups Said Denuvo Would End Game Piracy? Yeah, Didn't Happen ((Mis)Uses of Technology)

by Timothy Geigner

from the back-to-the-arms-race dept on Friday, August 26th, 2016 @ 5:59PM

As you may recall, earlier this year a well-known hacking group that specializes in cracking PC games made the bold prediction that cracking games would no longer be a thing in another year or two. Contrasting with what seems like the neverending trend concerning DRM in software, 3DM stated that the software industry had apparently found its unicorn in a DRM called Denuvo, which was increasingly elongating the time between a game hitting the market and the crack for it becoming available. A practice that usually took days or weeks was suddenly being measured in months, pushing to a year. 3DM made the case that this amount of time and effort to crack a Denuvo-protected game made the practice too costly and, more importantly, that the DRM software was being updated and getting so good that it might essentially become uncrackable.

This prediction, of course, flew in the face of the history of DRM and the speed with which it has always been defeated, leading me to be more than a bit skeptical of the prediction. Skepticism well-founded, it appears, now that Denuvo appears to have been neutered in the days since.

Early this month, a ‘Scene’ group called CONSPIR4CY properly cracked an iteration of Denuvo that had been protecting Rise of the Tomb Raider (ROTTR). The news had many pirates extremely excited. While undoubtedly a momentous occasion, ROTTR had been released in January, meaning that in theory CONSPIR4CY might have worked on the crack for six or seven months, a lifetime for most pirates. Furthermore, half a year’s head start is huge for the title’s developers in terms of sales, so without doubt Denuvo had done its job.

Yesterday, however, there was a new development which might represent a more worrying chink in Denuvo’s defenses. With a lack of fanfare usually associated with some of the Scene’s more mature groups, CONSPIR4CY (a reported collaboration between the CPY and CODEX groups) released a fully cracked version of puzzle-platformer ‘Inside‘.

Inside, by the way, was released on July 7th, meaning that even if work on the crack had begun on that very day, a Denuvo-protected game had been unlocked in a matter of weeks. It's a return to normal, in other words. Or it will be, if CONSPIR4CY can duplicate this with another recently released game protected by Denuvo software.

So all eyes now turn to the brand new release of Deus Ex Mankind Divided. If that game is quickly cracked by CONSPIR4CY, Denuvo could be coming out in a cold sweat. In the meantime, others are also attempting to dismantle their empire.

At which point the handsome amount of cash these game developers will have paid for Denuvo might as well have been doused in gasoline and lit on fire. This brings us back to my original reaction to 3DM's original prediction that DRM would eventually stamp out piracy: that ain't how arms races work. I was actually hoping that the game industry had found its DRM unicorn, because then we could start getting some solid impact numbers as to how its use might increase sales in the absence of piracy. Unfortunately, Denuvo instead was just another rung on the arms race ladder.

And that brings game publishers back to the question that they have faced for the past twenty or so years: is it worth sinking money into what is at best temporarily-effective DRM, or is that money and effort better spent figuring out how to connect with their fans and giving them reasons, and business models around which, to buy their products?

16 Comments

Administration Creates A Hack For A Entrepreneur's Immigration Visa (Legal Issues)

by Mike Masnick

from the innovation-for-innovation dept on Friday, August 26th, 2016 @ 4:29PM
For many, many years we've talked about why the US should have an entrepreneur's visa to let in smart entrepreneurs who are able to build companies and create jobs in the US, rather than kicking out the very people who are helping to build out the US economy. However, because immigration is such a touchy issue, attempts to do so via Congress have gone nowhere. And while we've had some concerns about the actual implementation (in particular the focus on requiring the entrepreneurs to raise a fair amount of venture capital), the general concept is a good one.

Late on Friday, it appears that the White House effectively worked out a way to create a startup entrepreneur's visa on its own, without going through Congress. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a plan to expand the "parole" powers it already has to international entrepreneurs, allowing them to stay in the country while building a company:
The proposed rule would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs of startup entities whose stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation.
Homeland Security would review each request on a case-by-case basis, but would require the following rules: This does seem better than some of the earlier proposals, which included requirements after receiving the visa to have to raise upwards of $1 million from investors. We were worried that this would basically force entrepreneurs to take money from VCs when they might not otherwise need to. This parole system still has raising money as a criteria, but the amount is significantly lower and DHS also has the flexibility to still grant the parole without the investment if there is "other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup entity's substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation."

It does still feel a bit arbitrary, but overall this is definitely a good step for entrepreneurship in the US.

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