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Sony Uses Copyright To Force Verge To Takedown Its Copy Of Sony's Spotify Contract (Copyright)

by Mike Masnick

from the censorship-through-copyright dept on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 @ 6:24AM
Well, well. A few days ago, the Verge got a huge scoop in the form of Sony's original US contract with Spotify, leading to a ton of discussion (mostly focused around the huge "advances" that Spotify guaranteed Sony, and the related question of whether or not Sony actually passes those advances on to musicians). The debate raged on for a couple days, and late last night, Paul Resnikoff over at Digital Music News noticed something interesting: the original contract was now missing, and The Verge's own website claims it's due to a copyright threat from Sony:
On Twitter, the Verge's editor-in-chief Nilay Patel admits that a threat from Sony forced the site to take down the contract.
In fact, he claims that Sony actually sent four cease and desist letters claiming copyright infringement:
Earlier this week, Resnikoff reported that Spotify was apparently putting pressure on publications not to report on the contract, including "dangling threats" to scare them off. However, Spotify would have no copyright argument here. As the Verge report (still) notes, the contract was "written by Sony Music," meaning that if there's any copyright claim (we'll get to that shortly), it's held by Sony Music.

And we all know damn well that Sony loves to throw around bogus copyright threats. Even we have received one concerning reporting on Sony Pictures' leaked emails. Sony has threatened lots of other publications as well, and even Twitter over such leaks. And, Resnikoff notes that Sony Music threatened his site for an April Fool's joke, pretending to reveal internal emails concerning Sony's equity stake in Spotify.

So here's the question: why did Vox (the owner of the Verge) cave? For a modern media operation, it must have lawyers that know the threat is bullshit.

Yes, it is possible to get a copyright over the contract, but it's likely to be a pretty thin copyright, because the amount of "creative" work in the contract is minimal. Much of the contract is likely boilerplate. But, more importantly, the Verge has a slam dunk fair use case here. They're providing commentary on the contract. It's a matter of public interest. They're not "selling" the contract and they're certainly not harming the "market" for the contract itself, of which there is none.

We actually dealt with this issue once before -- two years ago when Apple pulled the same bullshit move to pull down a contract that Resnikoff himself had posted on Digital Music News. Somewhat ironically, the first party to report on that... was the Verge! And in their report, they quoted law professor Eric Goldman noting the ridiculousness of it:
"It's just kind of a jerk move. We all know what's happening here. Apple doesn't care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It's using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn't want made public."
Sounds about right when applied to Sony in this case. Besides, all this is really doing is drawing much more attention (yet again) to the contract, on a story that had already started to die down.

Press, University Say Study Shows Link Between Gaming And Alzheimer's; Spoiler: No It Doesn't (Overhype)

by Timothy Geigner

from the forget-it dept on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 @ 4:19AM

If I've learned any single thing covering technology news it's that you can blame absolutely anything on video games. Mass violence? Games. Failure at professional sports? Pssh, games, yo. Love life not as spicy as you might like? Those games, those games. But a study that supposedly claims a link between video games and Alzheimer's Disease? Come on.

“Call of Duty increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease”, said the Telegraph. “Video game link to psychiatric disorders suggested by study”, reported the Guardian. The Daily Mail posed the problem as a question, “Could video games increase your risk of Alzheimer’s?”, reminding us that whenever a news headline asks a question, the answer is no.

We know that when science news is hyped, most of the hype is already present in the press releases issued by universities. This case is no exception - the press release was issued by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and unsurprisingly it focuses almost entirely on the tenuous link to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tenuous is being exceptionally kind in this case. The study in question, produced in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, barely focused on any link between gaming and the disease, in fact. Instead, the team of Canadian researchers were simply studying the difference in brain-wave activity with groups of gamers and non-gamers. They noticed specifically a significant difference in the activity of one type of brain-wave with gamers, N2PC, which can have an effect on attention spans. So, how did we get from that to a link to Alzheimer's? Were there clinical tests done? Was the team of researchers even in any way focused on the most famous form of dementia?

No. Instead, the article describes the methodology for reaching the conclusion of a link thusly:
1. The type of learning shown by the gamers has been associated in previous studies with increased use of a brain region called the caudate nucleus

2. Increased use of the caudate nucleus can be associated with reduced volume of the hippocampus

3. Reduced volume of the hippocampus can be associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease

4. Therefore (take a deep breath) video gaming could increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
That's three, three associations of mere correlation at best, with not even a shred of evidence for causality. And from that we get not only press reports of a link, which I can understand because the major media groups in Western culture have proven to be more interested in sensationalism than stuff that actually exists, but university institutions pushing out press releases to feed the hounds? That's not only wrong, it's borderline character-assassination on the wider gaming industry. Sadly, even some on the research team have gotten in on the act, likely in the hopes of generating press coverage of the study.
The press release also includes a statement from the lead researcher that is a clear exaggeration. Dr Gregory West is quoted as saying “we also found that gamers rely on the caudate nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers”. Actually they didn’t find this at all, because their study didn’t measure activity in the caudate nucleus. Instead it measured a type of behaviour that previous studies have associated with activity in the caudate nucleus. There is a world of difference between these two, and readers would do well to take these latest claims with a generous helping of salt.
No, man! Salt intake is associated with water retention, which is associated with bloating, and weight-gain can be a factor in spousal infedelity, therefore salt leads to my wife cheating on me if I take these grains you prescribe!


Alert: North Korea Now Capable Of Using Photoshop To Launch Missiles From Submarines (Too Much Free Time)

by Timothy Geigner

from the shop-skillz dept on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 @ 1:16AM
Whenever our friends in Pyongyang decide to troll the planet with one of their hilariously bad propaganda pieces, it always makes me wonder just how serious the North Korean regime is about this whole war thing. I mean, using video game footage and music to threaten 'Merica? C'mon, son. And those photoshopped photo-ops of your human-chicken-dumpling leader just don't inspire much confidence in the country's technological capabilities. But it's when North Korea combines war and fun-bad photoshopping that the real fun begins.

Take the country's recent press brag, for instance, in which North Korea announces that they've managed to launch a missile from a submarine.

Experts, it appears, aren't all that impressed with the photo. That was particularly the case when the state-run Pyongyang press circulated other photos of the launch that were complete with columns of smoke from the missile, columns of smoke conspicuously absent from the initial photo that was circulated above.

As Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Schmucker Technologie, told Reuters, “Considering the track record of North Korean deceptions, it seems sensible to assume that any North Korean SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] capability is still a very long time in the future, if it will ever surface.”

What the column-less photo lacked in smoke, it made up for with weird, poorly placed ocean smudges. That reddish patch of water you see to the left of the missile? That’s supposed to be the rocket’s reflection.
And, so, sadly, the only thing this launch report from North Korea tells us is that they still haven't gotten photoshop down. Oh well. If they ever did get into an actual shooting war again, I suppose they could always just photoshop themselves into some kind of victory pose. Given how often their progress with weapons technology turns out to be non-progress at photo-bullshitting, such a war is probably a remote possibility. Several of the commenters over at Gawker offered to help them out, of course, though this one is probably my favorite.

Call in Mario Marine!

Texas Can't Get Its Innovation Act Together: Fails To Pass Bills To Let Tesla & Uber Provide Service (Politics)

by Mike Masnick

from the corruption-index dept on Thursday, May 21st, 2015 @ 9:10PM
Last year, we wrote about two key "corruption indicators" in city and state governments: they ban direct sales models to block Tesla from competing with traditional car companies and they ban Uber/Lyft style car hailing services to protect local taxi incumbents.

It appears that Texas is really trying to wave its anti-innovation flag as strongly as possible as the legislature down there failed to move forward on two key bills that would have made it possible for Tesla to do direct sales in Texas... and to stop local cities from blocking Uber & Lyft to favor taxi incumbents.
A Texas House deadline has come and gone, killing many top-priority bills for both parties — among them one that would allow Tesla-backed direct car sales and another to regulate ride-hailing companies. Midnight Thursday was the last chance for House bills to win initial, full-chamber approval. Since any proposal can be tacked onto other bills as amendments, no measure is completely dead until the legislative session ends June 1. But even with such resurrections, actually becoming state law now gets far tougher.

And, of course, this comes just after the FTC warned Michigan for its blocking of direct sales of cars like Tesla.

The failure to allow direct sales is a much bigger deal than the car hailing stuff, but both are bad. And the response from Texas politicians is really quite disgusting:
Rep. Senfronia Thompson — one of the House's most senior members currently serving her 20th term — said it was the company's own fault that the bill didn't pass.

"I can appreciate Tesla wanting to sell cars, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Tesla had sat down with the car dealers first," she said.
Really? In what world is it considered appropriate to force an innovative company that wants to go direct to consumers to first "sit down" with the gatekeepers that are trying to block them? "I can appreciate Amazon wanting to sell books to people, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Amazon had sat down with retail store builders first." "I can appreciate YouTube wanting to let anyone upload videos, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. YouTube had sat down with TV producers first."

That's not how innovation works. At all. And thus, we can cross Texas off the list of innovative states.

The law around car hailing is not quite as big of a deal, but without the new Texas law, various cities within Texas can still create their own rules that would effectively make it impossible for such services to operate there. There are states that create spaces for innovation -- and then there are those that protect incumbents. Texas appears to be making it clear that it's the latter. If I were a startup in Austin, I might consider finding somewhere else to operate.

DailyDirt: More Than A Little Collaboration Necessary (Say That Again)

by Michael Ho

from the urls-we-dig-up dept on Thursday, May 21st, 2015 @ 5:00PM
Science is getting more and more complicated as we learn more and it becomes nearly impossible for any single human being to understand, let alone perform, all of the experiments necessary to push the boundaries of knowledge out a little further. It seems that the field of particle physics is quite accustomed to publishing papers with "kiloauthors" without a problem, but the practice may be extending to other fields now as well. (Just imagine how long the copyright should last... lifetimes of the authors plus 70 years.) After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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