Techdirt Lite.
(Click here for full version)

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt (Techdirt)

by Leigh Beadon

from the the-word-on-the-blog dept on Sunday, March 18th, 2018 @ 12:00PM

This week, following our coverage of the disturbing actions of a cop that led to a high-speed crash killing an infant, one commenter for some reason felt it was time to turn the blame around on the mother, suggesting the death must have been caused by her negligence. A reply from Alexander won first place for insightful:

As an Automotive Engineer who has engineered seats in cars I can tell you for certain that none of them in ordinary vehicles are designed to deal with a 94mph collision. Cars disintegrate at that speed.

Those videos you see for car safety, the super slow motion ones, they occur at ~20mph. Yes, that is how much the seats move at 20mph. At 94mph they disintegrate.

Fastening the straps correctly or not would likely not have changed the outcome at those speeds. The officer is clearly grossly negligent and the mother did not contribute in any significant way to the death of her infant. I say that with confidence of someone who's signature is still on the approvals for seats still carrying children in cars today.

That cop should have his drivers license cancelled for reckless driving for a decade. If he loses his job, then stiff shit. Then talk about trying him for negligent homicide.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got Dingledore the Previously Impervious using Microsoft's anger about a computer recycler offering Windows recovery disks to highlight the hypocrisy of "copying is theft":

Microsoft - Eats cake, yet still has cake.

Microsoft have spent years explaining that they sell licences, not DVDs of software.

Now, they're apparently selling the DVDs again. If it's a lost sale, where can we buy them?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous commenter who offered a framing that resolves the apparent hypocrisy of the government's tech demands and failings:

This is actually self-consistent. The government believes that secure encryption with a Law Enforcement Agency Key ("LEAK") is possible if the technology companies would just "nerd harder," even as the government offers neither reference implementation nor convincing proof that this can be done. Likewise, the government now seemingly believes that the companies could identify, in real time, trolls that the government's own intelligence/surveillance agencies failed to spot. In both cases, the government:

  • Expects the private sector to solve the problem, and is actively demonizing anyone who fails to drop everything to work on the problem
  • Provides no useful assistance in solving the problem
  • Provides no reasonable explanation for why, with its vast resources and supposed subject matter expertise, the government cannot offer useful assistance solving the problem

Next, we've got a simple response from PaulT to a commenter who, when we criticized Trump, told us it's "hard to take anything serious from someone throwing a tantrum":

Which is why Trump is making a laughing stock of your country. He does little else.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to an even more absurd criticism from one of our less coherent detractors, who questioned the sincerity of Mike's opposition to torture and demanded a resume of proof:

Masnick is obviously not against torture.

After all, he allows visitors to this site to be exposed to your drivel every day.

In second place, we've got crade with another response to Microsoft's aggressive actions:

Re: Bring back the commercials!

PC: We are having trouble with our people getting around our planned obsolescence.

Mac: Amateur.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a response from That One Guy who complained that our coverage of the recklessly driving cop was irrelevant to Techdirt:

The magic code strikes again.

Truly, the greatest sign that TD is not filled to the rafters with pure evil is that they have chosen to only apply the code that forces people to read articles they didn't want to on one site, rather than weaponizing it and taking over the world.

Finally, following our positivity regarding California's push for its own net neutrality rules, one critic accused us yet again of being inconsistent in our stance on government intervention, leading an anonymous commenter to get understandably snarky about this sort of blunt idiocy:

Man, it's almost like some regulation is good and some regulation is bad.

This is shocking!

That's all for this week, folks!


This Week In Techdirt History: March 11th - 17th (Techdirt)

by Leigh Beadon

from the on-and-on dept on Saturday, March 17th, 2018 @ 12:00PM

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, the Prenda situation positively exploded. As we awaited Monday's hearing, we learned more about Allan Mooney and saw Verizon get involved. Then, of course, the Prenda team itself didn't show up in court, meaning they escaped (at great cost) an absolutely crazy hearing with a very unhappy judge (written up for us by Ken White of Popehat fame). The judge ordered a second hearing and made it clear Prenda was expected to actually show up, while transcripts of John Steele's intimidating phone calls to Alan Cooper hit the docket, and Paul Duffy was scrambling to do some too-little-too-late damage control.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, following the death of HD-DVD, the next question was whether Blu-Ray would actually catch on in a big way. We now know it did, though early price hikes didn't help. But it certainly had nothing to fear from an ill-advised late entrant into the format wars. Meanwhile, having expressed displeasure with the agency's approach, EMI decided it wouldn't quit the IFPI, but would stop paying so much for its lawsuits against fans, while the IFPI was turning its sites on ISPs instead (and unsurprisingly triggering the Streisand effect when trying to block websites).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, we watched the steady emergence of video game development courses at colleges, had an early discussion about Americans using the internet to find alternative news sources, and perhaps didn't realize just quite how revolutionary Amazon's focus on web services would be. There were still five big record labels but they were looking to merge (while betting a tad too heavily on enhanced CDs), McDonald's became the second huge chain to start offering free wi-fi, and we looked at the debunking of a hoax story about a cyberwar virus targeting Iraq (though that idea wouldn't seem so crazy seven years later when we all learned about Stuxnet in Iran). Also, Techdirt got chosen by Forbes as one of the five best tech blogs.


If You Ratify The CETA Trade Deal, You'll Break The Law, Legal Expert Tells EU Member States (Legal Issues)

by Glyn Moody

from the corporate-sovereignty-is-the-problem,-as-usual dept on Friday, March 16th, 2018 @ 7:39PM

We recently wrote about an important judgment from the EU's top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The ruling said that that corporate sovereignty provisions included in trade deals between the EU's member states were illegal. Significantly, the logic behind that decision suggests that any form of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) -- the official name for the corporate sovereignty framework -- even in trade deals involving countries outside the EU, would be forbidden too. Christina Eckes, professor of European law at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance, believes that the implications of the CJEU ruling are even broader.

Eckes says that in the wake of the judgment, serious doubts hang over the investment chapter in the Canada-EU trade deal, CETA, which has still not been ratified by all EU member states yet -- a process that is necessary before it comes into force definitively. In fact, Belgium has explicitly asked the CJEU to rule on the legality of the Investor Court System (ICS) in CETA, which is the modified version of corporate sovereignty that supposedly addresses its flaws. As a result, a ruling on whether CETA's investment chapter is legal is definitely on its way, and could have major implications for CETA and its ratification. However, Ecke points out that there is something called "EU loyalty", which:

requires that Member States amongst others 'facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union's objectives.' In external relations, they are obliged not to undermine the EU’s external actions and ensure unity in international representation. ... Furthermore, EU loyalty covers not just the present state of EU law but also ‘the foreseeable future development of EU law’ and should hence be interpreted as requiring certain actions or omissions in the present in order to avoid a potential future conflict between international legal obligations and EU law.

What this means in practice, Eckes suggests, is that the EU's member states should not go ahead and ratify CETA without knowing the outcome of the CJEU deliberation on the legality of the ICS. If they were to complete ratification, and the investment chapter were then found inadmissible by the court, this would undermine the authority of the CJEU, since its ruling would be null and void. As a consequence, she says:

In the light of the foreseeable risk that CJEU declares the CETA investment chapter to be capable of undermining the autonomy of the EU legal order, Member States are required by the principle of EU loyalty to halt ratification in order to demonstrate a uniform position as one Party, together with the EU and the other Member States, on the international plane in general and vis-à-vis Canada in particular.

It's an interesting argument, which the European Commission will doubtless do its best to ignore in the hope that it can just steamroller CETA through the ratification process before the CJEU issues its ruling. However, if, as seems likely, CETA's investment chapter is indeed ruled illegal by the top court, this will present a rather thorny problem for the EU. Given the other challenges it faces thanks to rising populism in many EU countries, the Commission could probably do without this kind of constitutional crisis that would undermine further people's support for the European project. That might be a good reason for putting those ratifications on hold for a while.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+


Leaked Documents Expose NYPD's Long-Running Lack Of Officer Discipline (Failures)

by Tim Cushing

from the having-had-it-stuck-to-him,-The-Man-retreats-uneasily dept on Friday, March 16th, 2018 @ 3:50PM

Buzzfeed has obtained files the NYPD never wanted the public to see. This isn't the result of a protracted public records battle, but rather the work of an anonymous whistleblower. Presumably, those further up the chain of command are already familiar with the department's disinterest in holding officers accountable, so there's no whistleblowing outlet there. Also, presumably, the Civilian Complaint Review Board's hands are tied and it cannot hand out disciplinary reports for officers never formally disciplined. So, leak it is. And what a leak it is.

Secret files obtained by BuzzFeed News reveal that from 2011 to 2015 at least 319 New York Police Department employees who committed offenses serious enough to merit firing were allowed to keep their jobs.

Many of the officers lied, cheated, stole, or assaulted New York City residents. At least fifty employees lied on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation. Thirty-eight were found guilty by a police tribunal of excessive force, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Fifty-seven were guilty of driving under the influence. Seventy-one were guilty of ticket-fixing. One officer, Jarrett Dill, threatened to kill someone. Another, Roberson Tunis, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a fellow officer. Some were guilty of lesser offenses, like mouthing off to a supervisor.

At least two dozen of these employees worked in schools. Andrew Bailey was found guilty of touching a female student on the thigh and kissing her on the cheek while she was sitting in his car. In a school parking lot, while he was supposed to be on duty, Lester Robinson kissed a woman, removed his shirt, and began to remove his pants. And Juan Garcia, while off duty, illegally sold prescription medication to an undercover officer.

In every instance, the police commissioner, who has final authority in disciplinary decisions, assigned these officers to “dismissal probation,” a penalty with few practical consequences. The officer continues to do their job at their usual salary. They may get less overtime and won’t be promoted during that period, which usually lasts a year. When the year is over, so is the probation.

There's an NYPD Snowden out there somewhere, exposing the dirty non-secret that is the continued lack of accountability within the largest police force in the nation. New York's Finest, the NYPD calls itself, ignoring the fact that it does almost nothing to ensure it's only staffed with the finest human beings.

Sure, 319 out of 40,000 officers is only a small percentage, but there's nothing in Buzzfeed's blockbuster article that indicates what it's seen is all that's available. What it has seen is only a small part of a larger whole. These are the probation files, which don't include officers dismissed. Add that to the mix and the total rises to over 1,400 officers caught breaking laws and policies -- many of which were allowed to resign while charges were still pending, keeping their records clean and their pension plans intact.

This exposé of kid glove treatment for repeat offenders contains this PR-friendly statement from the deputy commissioner of the office charged with handling internal disciplinary issues. Kevin Richardson, speaking on behalf of the job he's failing to do, made assertions clearly contradicted by the documents in Buzzfeed's possession.

“The department is not interested in terminating officers that don't need to be terminated. We're interested in keeping employees and making our employees obey the rules and do the right thing,” he told BuzzFeed News. “But where there are failings that we realize this person should be separated from the department, this police commissioner and the prior police commissioner have shown a willingness to do that.”

From what's being reported here, "separating" someone from the department is a last resort. And when it is done, it's often done in a way that allows bad officers to move on to other police departments or sit at home collecting a pension for a job well poorly done. Richardson is in denial, but at least he's a bit more reasonable than the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest police union representing NYPD officers, had a different message: “We’re not going to talk to you about anything negative as far as any of our officers.”

Well, if you won't, others will. Burying your head in the filthy sand doesn't make the problem go away. And it certainly doesn't put an entity willing to stand up for any officer, no matter how egregious their misconduct, in a better light.

Case in point: Officer Raymond Marrero. Marrero is still employed by the NYPD despite being named in four serious complaints in his first six years and racking up $900,000 of lawsuit settlements. This colorful story is just one of Marrero's many abusive escapades.

[I]n early 2009, a former police department volunteer named Louis Deluca confronted a man who, Deluca found out, had groped his brother’s 17-year-old girlfriend. The man took off with his friends, just as Marrero was pulling up. “I was telling him, 'There's some guys that groped a family member of mine,’” Deluca said. “‘They're right around the corner.’”

Marrero and his partner told Deluca to shut up, Deluca said. Incredulous, Deluca called Marrero a cunt. The officers pushed him to the ground and arrested him, according to a lawsuit Deluca later filed.

Back at the precinct, as Deluca was being taken out of the car, Marrero struck him with his police baton, opening up a gash on the top of his head. Another officer said there was so much blood, they had to clean it up with a mop. It took 12 staples at the hospital to close the wound.

In a deposition, Deluca said Marrero told him “You can’t disrespect us in the street like that.” Deluca received a $398,000 settlement, of which Marrero was ordered to pay $4,000.

Marrero pled guilty to several internal charges during this six-year period, including deploying excessive force and lying to department investigators. Despite this, Commissioner Ray Kelly felt Marrero still added value to the force. He was placed on probation and lost 45 vacation days, but was never terminated or asked to resign. An outside commission on police corruption reviewed these files and suggested Marrero be fired, as he "lacked the temperament necessary to be a police officer." This suggestion was ignored.

There's nothing about local laws or NYPD policies that encourage any sort of positive change. The NYPD says local laws allow it to withhold disciplinary records from the public. Disciplinary trials for officers are open to the public… so to speak. They're held without prior announcement of schedules or locations. They're presided over by a police official appointed by the NYPD Commissioner, rather than a neutral adjudicator. And if a top cop decides an accused cop should be terminated, the Commissioner can overturn the ruling. (And even if the Commissioner allowed the discipline to stay in place, there's a good chance the PBA would get the ruling overturned.)

A closed disciplinary does no favors for the public. Unsurprisingly, it does no favors for police officers, either. Bad cops become worse cops as no one's willing to engage in serious deterrence and the system itself is often used to retaliate against good cops who blow the whistle on bad behavior or sue the department for discriminatory practices. Ultimately, no one's accountable to anyone, despite everyone involved being a public servant.

This leak will likely provoke some changes within the department, but with zero oversight, the positive changes likely won't last. My money's on an internal investigation into the leak being the largest expenditure of time and effort as a result of this exposé.


'Serious Sam' Developer Teams Up With Denuvo Cracker To Pump Up Sales For Failed Game (News)

by Timothy Geigner

from the pirates-are-our-friends dept on Friday, March 16th, 2018 @ 1:42PM

In all of our conversations about video game piracy and the DRM that studios and publishers use to try to stave it off, the common refrain from those within in the industry and others is that these cracking groups are nearly nihilism personified. Nothing is sacred to these people, goes the mantra, and they care nothing for the gaming industry at all. If the gaming industry is destroyed, it will be because of these pirate-y pirates simply not giving a damn.

This notion is belied by the story of Crackshell, makers of indie spinoff of the Serious Sam franchise called Serious Sam's Bogus Detour, and Voksi, an individual that runs a game-cracking ring. Voksi has been featured in our pages before as one of the few people out there who has been able to consistently defeat the Denuvo DRM, helping propel the software's precipitous fall from grace. If a game developer and a game-cracker seem to be natural enemies, it will come as a surprise to you that they have recently teamed up to try to resurrect Bogus Detour from the bin of failure.

The whole story is useful for debunking the notion that these pirate sites and those that run them are pure venom for the game industry, but it's particularly useful to hear how this relationship came to be.

In discussion with TF over the weekend, Voksi told us that he’s a huge fan of the Serious Sam franchise so when he found out about the latest title – Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour (SSBD) – he wanted to play it – badly. That led to a remarkable series of events.

“One month before the game’s official release I got into the closed beta, thanks to a friend of mine, who invited me in. I introduced myself to the developers [Crackshell]. I told them what I do for a living, but also assured them that I didn’t have any malicious intents towards the game. They were very cool about it, even surprisingly cool,” Voksi informs TF.

When the game hit the market, Voksi didn't target it. Despite this hands-off approach from a capable game-cracker, sales for the title were very poor. Reviews on Steam were great, critics generally liked it, and yet as of the end of 2017 the game wasn't even profitable. Bucking the stereotype, Voksi reached out to Crackshell and offered to help.

“Last week I contacted the main dev of SSBD over Steam and proposed what I can do to help boost the game. He immediately agreed,” Voksi says.

“The plan was to release a build of the game that was playable from start to finish, playable in co-op with up to 4 players, not to miss anything important gameplay wise and add a little message in the bottom corner, which is visible at all times, telling you: “We are small indie studio. If you liked the game, please consider buying it. Thank you and enjoy the game!”

Voksi, who is doing all of this for free, then went on to tie in giveaways for the pirate version of the game on his own forum for his cracking group. This work, done pro bono, is all the result of Voksi liking the game, liking the developer, and desperately wanting both to succeed. If ever there were a rebuttal to the notion of pirate groups as nihilistic and selfish, this is certainly it.

This whole experiment will also serve as a wonderful test of how useful engaging the supposed enemies of gaming by studios would be. Keep in mind that this game was already a failure in terms of being profitable, despite being a good game by all accounts. If engaging with pirate groups and sites can suddenly make it profitable? Well, that would seem to turn even more claims about piracy on their head.


Older Stories >>