In April 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat of hostile cyber activity against the United States.
But six months later, the emergency powers that he invoked to punish offenders had still not been used because no qualifying targets were identified, according to a newly released Treasury Department report.
It certainly sounded scary enough. Obama said things about "cyber threats" being a serious threat to national security and the US economy. The state of emergency, according to the President, would create a "targeted tool" for combating our cyber-enemies.
This state of emergency is just one more in a line of uninterrupted states of emergencies dating back to the mid-1970s. A perpetual state of emergency is far more useful to the government than a "targeted tool," so a declaration of (cyber) war against a bunch of noncombatants still served a purpose, if only indirectly.
It started the ball rolling on the CISPA/CISA resurgence, which eventually "passed" after being attached to the coattails of a budget bill with far more momentum and support, as few legislators were willing to stare down the barrel of a government shutdown just to prevent a badly-written cyber-bill from passing.
Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the President may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.
Declaring a state of emergency allows for the potential wreaking of havoc in taxpayers' lives. And even if these powers go unexercised (or anything), it still costs the taxpayers money.
Even though it generated no policy outputs, implementation of the executive order nevertheless incurred costs of “approximately $760,000, most of which represent wage and salary costs for federal personnel,” the Treasury report said.
The expenses of national states of emergency aren't being offset by seized funds or assets related to the targets of the executive order. The Treasury Department's report logically notes that zero targets means zero seizures. According to another report quoted by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, the long-running "state of emergency" prompted by various North Korean actions is resulting in less than ~$60,000 a year -- compared to an operational cost of at least $125,000/month (presumably the North Korean state of emergency is more expensive than the "cyberwar" one). No one really expects a "break even" government, but it's inarguable that targeting known or unknown entities via executive orders really isn't doing much to cripple their operations.
from the 'this-will-end-the-criticism-once-and-for-all!' dept
Copyright: for when you just don't feel like being criticized. (Currently available for periods up to, and including, seventy years past your death!)
Matt Hosseinzadeh, a.k.a. "Matt Hoss," a.k.a. "Bold Guy," a.k.a. "Horny Tony," runs a moderately successful YouTube channel containing his moderately well-done videos of his "characters" performing feats of pickup artistry and parkour. It's all fairly ridiculous, but considering the depths pickup artists can plumb, the HossZone videos are actually fairly tame.
According to H3H3, it all began with a demand for the removal of the video and $3,750 in legal fees racked up so far by Hoss's lawyer. From there, it got stupider. After failing to secure instant capitulation, HossZone's lawyer altered the terms of the deal. ("Pray I don't alter it stupider...") H3H3 could avoid paying any money by apologizing via their channel for misappropriating Hoss's "art," say some nice stuff about him in their apology video, and throw additional compliments HossZone's way for a period of no less than 60 days. (I am not kidding. Watch the video above.)
H3H3 refused to do so, so Hoss has now filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Ethan and Hila Klein. Hoss also hit H3H3 with a copyright strike, despite the fact that the video central to the complaint had been set to "private" shortly after his lawyer began issuing legal threats.
Unlike others who have sought to abuse copyright to censor critics, Hoss appears to have his end of it pretty much nailed down. He has a valid, registered copyright that predates the H3H3 reaction video and his complaint isn't filled with vagues assertions about ethereal property and even vaguer assertions about how it's been violated.
That being said, detailed allegations aren't always credible allegations. It appears that fair use is still misunderstood by a great deal of the population, including those representing plaintiffs in copyright infringement lawsuits. From the complaint:
On or about February 15, 2016, Defendants published a video on their YouTube channel that copied and displayed virtually all of Mr. Hoss’s original Work (the “Infringing Video”).
The Infringing Video features the Defendants purporting to discuss the Work in what they believe to be a humorous manner but in fact reproduces virtually all of the Work as nothing more than a prop in the Defendants’ “comedy routine.”
Contrary to what Hoss's lawyer implies here, there is nothing in caselaw that forbids the use of "virtually all" of a work under fair use. Judges and juries may be more sympathetic if you don't, but this does not automatically make a work infringing, rather than fair use.
The 13 minute h3h3 productions video in questionuses about three minutes of HossZone’s skit, while the rest of the video features Ethan and Hila talking about the setting, script, character development, and even the costume design used by HossZone. They also talk about random things pertaining to their life, as most vlogs of theirs do.
The original video runs 5:25, so H3H3 used a little more than half of it, but that half only makes up about a third of the total reaction video runtime. Not that all this math makes much of a difference when fair use is raised as a defense, but it does serve two purposes: it illustrates there was a great deal of commentary surrounding Hoss's content and it appears to contradict the claims made by the plaintiff.
The Infringing Video was created and published without license from Mr. Hoss in direct violation of Mr. Hoss's exclusive rights as an author pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 106.
Fair use does not require the obtaining of a license from a copyright holder (no matter what Sony Music claims...) because that's exactly what "fair use" is: the use of copyrighted works in a non-infringing way.
The Infringing Video does nothing to alter the original Work with new expression, meaning, or message
The Infringing Video fails to contribute a single substantive comment, criticism, or even parody to or of the original Work.
These are opinions, not factual assertions. The court will determine how substantive Hoss's take on H3H3's video is, but even those standing far outside of the IP-wonk circle can plainly see these are purely subjective statements.
Aside from the fact, as described in greater detail above, that the Infringing Video does not constitute a transformative fair use, it is also the fact that the Defendants operate the Ethan and Hila YouTube channel, where they published the Infringing Video, as an entertainment channel via which the Defendants generate advertising revenues.
People make money from fair use all the time. This argument has been debunked so often, it should ingrained in the mind of any decent IP lawyer.
What's interesting about this lawsuit is that HossZone also accuses H3H3 of filing a "false" DMCA counter notification in response to Hosszone's takedown request.
On or about April 26, 2016, the Defendants submitted to YouTube a counter notification, pursuant to 17 USC § 512(g)(3), affirming under penalty of perjury that the Infringing Video was improperly removed because it was, among other reasons, a fair use and “noncommercial.”
And if it's Hoss's takedown that delivered a strike to H3H3's account is determined to be bogus, what then? Still going to go HAM on the "perjury" angle?
Hoss's lawyer seems to take particular issue with the possibility that the Klein's may have received ad revenue from their reaction video. In addition to claiming YouTube's third-party advertising makes any uploaded video a "commercial" product, the attorney claims that most of H3H3's popularity is due to Hoss's talent and inherent likability, rather than the commentary added to the video or the rest of H3H3's video productions.
Upon information and belief, the Defendants have unfairly derived profit from the Infringing Video in the form of their YouTube channel, which generates advertising revenue, increasing in popularity during the two-month period that the Infringing Video was displayed.
Upon information and belief, the Defendants’ YouTube channel more than doubled its number of subscribers due, at least in part, to the popularity generated by the Infringing Video.
The lawsuit also claims that Hoss is so charismatic his 3-minute appearance in a video mocking him somehow resulted in the Kleins being able to generate income from Patreon and Kickstarter.
All in all, it's a fairly ridiculous lawsuit which is made worse by its apparent motivation: to remove something Matt Hoss doesn't like from the internet. Even if this somehow works out for the parkouring pickup artist, the battle is already lost. A supporter of the Kleins set up a fundraiser for their legal defense, which amassed over $100,000 in under 24 hours. Meanwhile, what's left of Matt Hosszone's web presence is being savaged by dozens of angry commenters -- most of it far more brutal than anything the Kleins said during their criticism of his video.
from the hope-the-feds-enjoy-their-victory-over-transparency dept
Judge Robert Bryan -- having set his own house against itself by declaring the FBI could keep its NIT info secret while simultaneously declaring the defendant in the child porn case had every right to see it -- has managed to find a way out of his self-induced conundrum. And it's going to make the FBI very sad. (h/t Ars Technica)
For the reasons stated orally on the record, evidence of the N.I.T., the search warrant issued based on the N.I.T., and the fruits of that warrant should be excluded and should not be offered in evidence at trial.
Well, not quite.
Michaud hasn't had the case against him dismissed, but the government will now have to rely on evidence it didn't gain access to by using its illegal search. And there can't be much of that, considering the FBI had no idea who Michaud was or where he resided until after the malware-that-isn't-malware had stripped away Tor's protections and revealed his IP address.
The FBI really can't blame anyone but itself for this outcome. Judge Bryan may have agreed that the FBI had good reason to keep its technique secret, but there was nothing preventing the FBI from voluntarily turning over details on its hacking tool to Michaud. But it chose not to, despite his lawyer's assurance it would maintain as much of the FBI's secrecy as possible while still defending his client.
Judge Bryan found the FBI's ex parte arguments persuasive and declared the agency could keep the info out of Michaud's hands. But doing so meant the judicial playing field was no longer level, as he acknowledged in his written ruling. Fortunately, the court has decided it's not going to allow the government to have its secrecy cake and eat it, too. If it wants to deploy exploits with minimal judicial oversight, then it has to realize it can't successfully counter suppression requests with vows of silence.
It's doubtful the FBI will learn from this experience. It did the same thing in 2012 and received nothing but deference from the courts. This time around, courts and lawyers are better educated, thanks to Snowden's leaks and a few hundred FOIA warriors -- all of whom have served to expose the massive, secret expansion of the government's surveillance reach and the near-complete dearth of effective oversight.
The FBI will be pushing hard for the adoption of the proposed Rule 41 changes. If these had been in place, every illegal search it performed using its NIT and the invalid warrant it obtained would have been legal. As it stands now, however, multiple courts have examined the warrant and the hacking tool and found the FBI's actions to be in violation of current statutes. What should have been slam-dunk prosecutions against unsympathetic defendants have instead become multiple participants in an ongoing debacle.
from the defendant-screwed-everything-up-but-his-choice-of-representation dept
The legalization of marijuana in a few states has led to some interesting law enforcement problems. To date, most of the "solution" appears to be camping out on the borders and seizing drugs from travelers headed out of the state. The lack of legalization on a federal level inflates drug bust stats but doesn't do much for visitors to pot-friendly states whose purchases are completely legal, but their possession -- once crossing the border into a neighboring state -- suddenly isn't.
Deputy Jason Henkel asked if he had any drugs or large amounts of cash in the rental car, and Felsheim said no.
Henkel asked if he could search the car, and Felsheim paused but eventually agreed. In the trunk, deputies found $40,000 in a gym bag and $25,000 more in a duffle bag, according to court records.
Felsheim admitted he was going to Golden, Colorado, to buy 10 pounds of pot to sell in Mankato, where he went to college. He said the rest of the cash belonged to passenger James Atkinson, who planned to buy 7½ pounds.
Seems fairly open-and-shut, what with the pair freely admitting they were going to take legally purchased drugs and sell them in a state where marijuana is illegal. It certainly must have seemed that way to James Atkinson, who pleaded no contest and spent 6 months in jail. However, Felsheim decided to roll the dice on a trial… and won.
Felsheim opted for a bench trial, and was acquitted of both felonies. His lawyer, Tim Sullivan, did a good piece of work, and dug up a case called State v. Karsten, which dealt with conspiracies to commit crimes in other states.
Sullivan kept Felsheim from a jail sentence with this:
It is also a fundamental rule that criminal and penal laws are essentially local in character. Ordinarily, no penalty can be incurred under the law of this state except for transactions occurring within this state, and our state law has no extraterritorial effect. A conspiracy in this state to do something in another state which is lawful in that state is not a crime in this state. A conspiracy in Nebraska to gamble in Nevada is a convenient illustration of that principle.
The pot purchase would be legal, even if the resale in Minnesota wasn't. In between lies the route taken by the pair: the state of Nebraska. If someone says they're headed somewhere to purchase pot legally, Nebraska law enforcement can do nothing about it.
The prosecutor tried to salvage the case by saying it was "logical to infer" the pair planned to bring their marijuana back through Nebraska on their way to Minnesota -- that the conspiracy to commit an illegal act in Minnesota would manifest itself as illegal possession en route to that state. As Fault Line's Erinjeri points out, there's not a ton of logic in that inference.
In the age of Google Maps, it’s a relatively trivial exercise to plot a course from Colorado to Minnesota without going through Nebraska. Apparently Felsheim was either smart enough not to admit to that or (more likely) the police didn’t think to ask that question.
As the court noted, if this "loophole" is going to be closed, it's up to the state's legislature, not the court system. And Felsheim can no more be prosecuted under statutes yet to be created than he can for a conspiracy taking place entirely outside of Nebraska's borders and whose first step involves a completely legal purchase.
Unfortunately for Felsheim, a law the legislature did change arrived far too late to be of any assistance on the cash front. His share of the $67,000 is as good as gone, despite him being cleared by the court. Nebraska became one of the few states to require a conviction to seize assets, but that didn't go into effect until earlier this year. His open admission that the money was going to used to fund illegal drug sales is far, far more than any law enforcement agency would need to stake a claim on the cash, much less justify its seizure in the first place.
The obvious challenge with renewable energy sources like solar and wind is: what do you do when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing? Solar and wind generators don't tend to produce electricity in convenient amounts whenever we want, leading to wasted resources and further reliance on fossil fuel generators to keep up with electricity demand cycles. Storing lots of energy in an efficient way that can be readily recovered isn't easy, but there are some solutions that could work.
Fights over tech policy are going increasingly local. Most technology regulations have been federal issues. There have been a few attempts to regulate on the state level -- including Pennsylvania's ridiculous attempt to demand ISPs filter out porn in the early 2000s. But state legislators and Attorneys General eventually learned (the hard way) that federal law -- specifically CDA 230 -- prevents any laws that look to hold internet platforms liable for the actions of their users. This is why state Attorneys General hate Section 230, but they need to deal with it, because it's the law.
It's looking like various cities are now about to go through the same "education" process that the states went through in the last decade. With the rise of "local" services like Uber and Airbnb, city by city regulation is becoming a very, very big deal. And it seems that a bunch of big cities are rapidly pushing anti-Airbnb bills that almost certainly violate Section 230 and possibly other federal laws as well. In particular, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are all pushing laws to further regulate platforms for short term housing rentals (and yes, the SF effort comes just months after another shortsighted attempt to limit Airbnb failed).
The bills basically look to force people who want to use platforms like Airbnb to register, but then look to hold the platforms liable if a renter does not include the registration info in their profile. Gautam Hans does a nice job in the link above outlining why San Francisco's proposed bill -- which will be voted on shortly -- clearly would fail to survive a Section 230 challenge:
This imposition of liability clearly goes against Section 230, which states in (c)(1) that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” — meaning that, if an information content provider, typically an individual user, posts something illegal, the interactive computer service, typically a website, can’t be held liable for it. Moreover, under (e)(3), “no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.” States and localities can pass laws that are consistent with Section 230, but anything inconsistent with Section 230 — like the imposition of liability on a website operator for user-generated content — is unlawful. From a logistical perspective, this makes a great deal of sense. If states and cities could enact a variety of conflicting laws, the whole point of Section 230 would be undermined. As a global medium, the internet wouldn’t work if it were subject to piecemeal regulations by every state and city within the US.
Hans also points out that the Chicago proposal (which is ~50 pages!) is equally bad:
The other recent proposal, from Chicago, creates similar issues by holding platforms liable for user content. Like the San Francisco proposal, it uses fines as the leverage to require platforms to ensure that listings on a platform have been approved by the city. And, as with the San Francisco proposal, the architecture of the liability structure runs afoul of Section 230’s preemption clause. The problematic language in this legislation, Section 4-13-250, states “It shall be unlawful for any licensee … to list, or permit to be listed, on its platform any short term residential rental that the commissioner has determined is ineligible for listing”; the penalty for violations, in Section 4-13-410, is “a fine of not less than $1,500.00 nor more than $3,000.00 for each offense. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.” This essentially creates a strict liability regime for website operators based on third-party content: if a user uploads a non-compliant rental listing, the site operator would immediately be in violation of this provision, regardless of whether they were aware of the posting or its ineligible status. No matter what the amount the potential fine is, this imposition of liability clearly contravenes Section 230.
Hans doesn't cover the LA law, but it's just as problematic (potentially more problematic!). Like the SF and Chicago bills, the focus is on requiring registration, and then puts liability on the platforms:
Hosting Platform Requirements.
(1) Actively prevent, remove and cancel any illegal listings and bookings of short term
rentals including where a listing has been offered: without a Home-Sharing
registration number; by a Host who has more than one listing in the City of Los
Angeles; or, for a rental unit that exceeds 90 days in a calendar year.
Yes, sure, cities are concerned about how Airbnb can impact the way cities are run -- though over and over again we've seen evidence that Airbnb can be super helpful to cities in terms of increasing tourism and opening up new ways for people to earn money. But, if cities want to target questionable practices, they should do so by targeting the actual questionable practices, not by trying to skip around Section 230 and pretending it doesn't exist. I'm sure, as with the state AGs, we may hear city officials whine about how terrible Section 230 is and how it gets in the way of them "protecting citizens" or whatever they're going to claim, but those claims are silly. Section 230 is about properly targeting liability. When you point the liability in the wrong direction -- at platforms -- you reduce innovation and chill useful services. As Hans notes:
Enforcing the laws of a city or state is an important goal, especially when those laws are designed for compliance, safety, and non-discrimination. Yet it is equally important to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for innovation and exchange, which requires ensuring that intermediaries are not held legally responsible for content they did not author. In enacting Section 230, Congress ensured that this value would be the law of the land, and it is important that cities and states abide by superseding federal law.
One would hope that the cities in question would recognize the legal problems with their own bills before they decide to move forward on any of them. Otherwise, they're just going to end up wasting a ton of taxpayer money when someone takes these to court, and the cities inevitably lose, just as the states did a few years ago.
This is somewhat surprising, but good: after a few days of deliberation, the jury in the redo of the Oracle v. Google case concerning Google's use of Java's APIs in Android has resulted in a jury verdict finding that Google's use was allowed as fair use. There's not much to unpack here beyond what we've already written about the case. The jury form was a simple question of whether or not the use was covered by fair use, with a "Yes" check box meaning "finding for Google" and a "No" check box finding for Oracle The jury checked yes.
So, a few quick thoughts:
All things considered this is a good ruling in that it doesn't lead to a crazy situation that undermines the reimplementation of APIs and other structures in different software, so *phew*.
This still sucks because fair use was the wrong vehicle. The APIs never should have been considered copyright-eligible in the first place, just as the judge in the original trial explained in his very detailed opinion. It's only because an excessively confused federal circuit appeals court mucked things up, that the case had to go back down and be redone over fair use.
The trial itself was a weird one, because they weren't really allowed to talk about the first trial and how a very large number of people in the tech industry didn't think that APIs were covered by copyright at all. So that resulted in some weird conversations to explain why no one really thought this was infringing. They couldn't say no one thought APIs were covered by copyright, so they had to talk about "open" and "free" in ways that were slightly misleading.
If anything, this may be the most important fair use case to turn on factor 2, "the nature of the copyrighted work." That's a factor that rarely is a very big deal, but without being able to (re)challenge the copyrightability, the focus was mostly on the nature of APIs and how the tech industry viewed them as free to be reused.
Of course, no matter what the verdict was there would be an appeal, and that's absolutely true. Oracle will appeal. But it does make it more difficult to appeal. Oracle will have to challenge specific aspects of things, and will likely focus on the jury instructions, which it will argue unfairly biased the jury or something along those lines.
The Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is still a disaster, and while I hope they don't, there's still a decent chance they'll end up siding with Oracle on appeal. Remember, CAFC is a court that normally focuses on patent laws and has a long and disgraceful history of loving to expand intellectual property and believing, incorrectly, that any kind of use is "theft."
But, in the meantime, this at least lifts something of a cloud over the industry, and we can hope that (1) CAFC will get it right and if they don't (2) that the Supreme Court will fix it, rather than ignore it, next time around.
Overall, a good result of a bad process and a confused judicial system. For now.
Normally at this time of the week, we post our "Techdirt Reading List" suggestion for a book worth reading, but this week we're suggesting something that's a little shorter to read: Our Nerd Harder T-shirt.
The T-shirt has proved more popular than expected, and it's only available for a few more days, so we thought we'd remind folks that it's available before it disappears and you regret it. Because, trust me, you'll regret not getting this T-shirt. We also added an option for women's cut T-shirts, which we didn't have when we launched.
In case you missed our original post, this T-shirt is a response to the increasing number of claims we've seen lately from non-tech people assuming that technology can do anything if those smart people out in Silicon Valley just put their minds to it. We've seen the FBI claim that if we just worked harder at it, we could build backdoored encryption that doesn't undermine encryption. And then we saw the copyright industry claim that if Silicon Valley can build a self-driving car, clearly it can build a system to block infringing material without destroying fair use. Computer security expert Matt Blaze rebutted this idea beautifully once by saying it's the equivalent of "we put a man on the moon, why can't we put a man on the sun?" demonstrating the fact that non-tech people don't seem to even remotely understand the relative differences between the things they're suggesting.
Julian Sanchez coined the term "nerd harder" as a short hand for this, and we thought that while it makes for terrible policy, it's a catchy T-shirt slogan. And a nice way to support Techdirt while getting a cool T-shirt at the same time.
It's only available until this Sunday, so don't miss out.
Pursuant to RCW Ch. 42.56 (Public Records Act), I hereby request the following records:
Plans for, schedules of, policies dictating the performance of, requests for proposals to, contracts for, discussion of, and results of all security audits performed of "smart meter" devices (remotely-addressable electrical meters sometimes referred to as "advanced metering infrastructure"), along with metadata. These devices are designed to replace traditional electric meters. They contain sensors that monitor activities inside subscribers' premises and automatically communicate information collected by those sensors to machines in remote locations.
The replacement of regular meters with potentially-invasive "smart meters" is due to begin in 2017, despite concerns about health and privacy. As the EFF points out, the power company's ability to record pinpoint data on customers' power use may seem innocuous, but it's not nearly as benign if that information is shared, either purposefully or inadvertently.
It’s not just utilities who will have access to your data. It’s potentially a series of third party corporations including (but not limited to) the utility’s contractors and government agencies. Law enforcement agencies in particular are very keen to be able to see this information. There have already been a lot of cases where utility records have been provided to police who use them to bust marijuana growing operations, and this is simply using the raw energy use data.
Insurance companies and employers might also be interested in your personal energy usage information. Smart meters crack open this door into your private life, making available a huge amount of very personal data.
And that's not even factoring in the unauthorized uses that smart meters may inadvertently lead to if not secured properly.
Multiple documents were provided to Mocek by Seattle City Light, including documents related to the company awarded the smart meter contract: Landis+Gyr. Landis+Gyr isn't happy the city of Seattle has made these documents public, so it's logically responded by suingMuckRock. Yes, it's also suing the city and the utility, but for some reason has decided MuckRock (and Phil Mocek) should be included in the litigation, despite them only being the recipients of documents Landis+Gyr wants to keep out of the public's hands.
It's seeking to have future planned responses from the city involving its "trade secrets" blocked. (Seattle plans to release another batch of documents to Mocek on May 26.) But it's also making requests pertaining to MuckRock that are both chilling and completely ridiculous. Not only does Landis+Gyr want the documents taken down, but it also wants info on every MuckRock reader who may have viewed them.
[A]fter receiving certain unredacted documents through inadvertent, accidental, or improper release by the City in circumstances demonstrating that Defendants knew or should have known the documents contain sensitive network security information and trade secret information, Mocek nonetheless allowed the information to be posted publicly and in unredacted form on the internet site of Defendant MuckRock.com. Plaintiff Landis+Gyr notified Mocek, MuckRock.com, and Defendant Michael Morisy of the apparent error and requested that Landis+Gyr’s sensitive and proprietary information be removed from the MuckRock.com website and that MuckRock.com provide reasonable assistance to allow Landis+Gyr to identify entities that may have obtained access to is sensitive information.
Michael Morisy refused Landis+Gyr's first request. Now, it's upped the ante by petitioning the court to force MuckRock to assist it in the ultimate fool's errand: the removal of information from the internet.
Immediate relief is needed to require Plaintiffs’ protected information to be immediately taken down from the MuckRocks website, to require MuckRock.com to provide assistance to Plaintiffs to identify and retrieve protected information that may have been downloaded from the MuckRocks website…
If that wasn't enough, the multinational corporation would like the government to engage in a little prior restraint on its behalf.
[...] enjoin Mocek and MuckRock.com from posting Plaintiffs’ protected and sensitive information in the future.
Landis+Gyr seems to be most concerned about the pending release of documents containing pricing info and details about its "smart grid" technology. But, it's also demanding the removal of the two documents already released, both of which are fairly innocuous (and can be viewed below!) As MuckRock's Michael Morisy points out, it should be under no obligation to remove the documents as it's received no notice from the city of Seattle that the documents it has in its possession weren't supposed to be released.
Morisy and MuckRock don't plan to back down.
We believe that these legal threats are a chilling attack on free speech and we will not be complying with their demands.
We also believe people have a broad right to understand the security implications of technology purchased by their governments, particularly if, as is the case with the smart electrical meter systems provided by Landis+Gyr, that technology monitors the activities of people in their homes.
At this point, the injunction doesn't appear to have been granted, which means MuckRock can still (for the time being) host the docs it has already obtained as well as anything else Landis+Gyr-related Seattle sends to Mocek while its request is being reviewed.
If you've been following the Prenda Law saga around here for any length of time, you're aware that it's been going on for years, with sketchy copyright trolling practices that appeared to include Team Prenda uploading their own content to torrent sites, tracking who downloaded them, and then filing questionable lawsuits. That scheme fell apart after a series of judges, led by Judge Otis Wright, called out Team Prenda for committing fraud on the courts, and referred the issue to the feds, while also hitting them with a fine. That was three years ago. Other courts piled on more fines and attorneys' fees -- and more referrals to the feds. After the second such referral, Ken "Popehat" White noted that these things take time, but that something would probably happen eventually:
The wheels turn slowly, friends, but make no mistake, the wheels turn. The wheels are grinding down Team Prenda, and doing so faster and faster every month. With two different federal judges referring the matter to state bars and the U.S. Attorney's office, the probability of bar investigations and federal grand jury investigations approaches certainty.
Of course, it's been three years since then and a few things have happened. One of the three main members of Team Prenda (though, probably the least involved of the three) passed away. But the other two are both facing bar complaints over ethical violations. Paul Hansmeier also famously tried to declare bankruptcy, but appears to have lied to the court in the process. Fight Copyright Trolls just recently had an update on that case, and suffice it to say, it's hilarious. Hansmeier has not just lost his lawyer after she told the court that she could no longer represent him and be a servant of the court (i.e., heavily hinting that Hansmeier was likely asking her to lie to the court), but he's also lashed out at the trustee handling his bankruptcy for... buying a new car.
And, of course, both Hansmeier and Steele have moved on to a revamped version of the same old trolling trick, but this time using the Americans with Disabilities Act as the fulcrum, rather than copyright law.
But, it appears that all that may be small potatoes. Because, as White told us three years ago, the wheels of justice do keep turning, and he now has strong indications that not only is the FBI actively investigating Steele and Hansmeier for fraud, but that they may be just about ready to move on to the next steps:
Based on my 21 years in the federal criminal justice system, I believe the letter reflects an active, determined investigation in its later stages. The letter represents an abandonment of operational security and confidentiality; it suggests the FBI no longer sees a need for stealth. That, in turn, suggests that the FBI believes it's already developed the evidence it needs to prove the substance of its case (that Team Prenda committed wire and/or mail fraud) and is just identifying as many victims as possible for potential witnesses and to establish the amount of damages. Bear in mind that under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the more money wrongdoers made, the more time they're facing.
Now, to be fair, over the years we've noted many times that the DOJ often misrepresents things in criminal filings, so it will be interesting to see what charges are actually filed, assuming that the case really is ready to move. But as White also noted, "Team Prenda needs federal criminal defense attorneys, and needs them right now."