by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 26th 2016 10:49am
from the good-deals-on-cool-stuff dept
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by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 26th 2016 9:40am
from the all-about-the-money dept
The article notes that another company, named Newsbank, also has a deal with the Journal-Sentinel to digitize and archive its papers, and tried to get the Milwaukee Public Library to buy access to its database. The library found the offerings way too expensive (it was almost the entire amount of the library's materials budget). Newsbank decided that part of the problem was that the stuff was also available for free via Google, so it got the Journal-Sentinel to get Google to take down the archive that it had helped create, with help from the library.
The archive had initially been made available on Google around 2008 as part of the company’s effort to digitize historical newspapers. That project ended in 2011, but not before Google had scanned more than 60 million pages covering 250 years of history’s first drafts. Those newspapers have remained publicly accessible, and serve both professional historians and home genealogists.
When the Milwaukee project began, Google used microfilms from the papers that had already been uploaded to the ProQuest research database. Because some things were missing from ProQuest, the Journal-Sentinel asked the Milwaukee Public Library to help out. The library let the company digitize decades of microfilms to bulk out the digital archives.
Then, in August, Newsbank let the other shoe drop: According to Urban Milwaukee, Gannett—which purchased the paper in April—asked the Journal-Sentinel to ask Google to remove the paper’s digital archives, which the company did. It’s harder to sell a product when it’s being given away for free, after all.So now the digital archive that the Milwaukee Public Library had helped Google and the Journal-Sentinel create, is no longer available, because another company wants the MPL to pay a significant percentage of its operating budget to access the same material.
What’s different about Milwaukee is that the city is being asked to buy back something it already had—and, in the case of the library’s digital scans, had even helped build.The library has said that it plans to have the new archive available for people soon -- but it likely won't be free any more. Perhaps because it now needs to pay to get access to the same database it had helped create. Remember when copyright law was supposed to be about furthering knowledge and learning -- and not locking it up so that one company could extract all profit from it?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 26th 2016 8:32am
Former US Patent Office Director Freaked Out That Business Methods & Software Are Less Patentable Than Before
from the chill-out,-david dept
Fewer than 5 percent of applications for business-method patents are getting approved by the patent office, according to data from law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and LexisNexis PatentAdvisor. (A typical approval rate is 25 percent to 45 percent.) When asked how many business-method patents they’ve approved in the past year or two, patent examiners often say “the answer is zero,” according to Kate Gaudry, a Kilpatrick Townsend patent lawyer. “Some of them are saying, ‘My hands are tied.’ ” The number of business-method patent applications has fallen in half since 2014, as patent owners seek different classifications or give up altogether.Courts are doing similar work:
Courts have invalidated more than 370 software patents under the new standard, according to data compiled by law firm Fenwick & West. District and appellate courts have thrown out two of three patents brought before them since Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank.Now, for those of us who were paying attention to what a mess things were before this is an undeniably good situation. Bad patent applications and bad patents are getting rejected. We don't need broad patents on software and business methods. Let people build stuff and compete in the marketplace. This is good for innovation.
But, of course, if you're former US Patent and Trademark Office boss David Kappos -- who presided over a massive increase in patenting, which the Government Accountability Office recently noted was mainly due to basically no quality standards being used -- this is a bad thing. Perhaps he takes it personally that the current patent situation really puts an exclamation point on the fact that he helped usher in hundreds of thousands of anti-innovation weapons that could be used to shake down actual innovators. So he has to lash out at this change where you can't just willy nilly patent obvious software and business method ideas:
He says the invalidation of patents is “out of control” and has “definitely gone too far,” citing a case awaiting an appellate ruling in which a patent has been invalidated for software enabling video game developers to more easily manipulate the movements of characters’ mouths to match dialogue. “Important software innovations that are highly technical are being deemed unpatentable,” Kappos says. “You can get software patents allowed in both China and Europe that aren’t allowable in the U.S. anymore.”So? That's actually a good thing for innovation. It means more people can build on and improve on that work and there can be more competition, which leads to more rapid innovation. Why is Kappos so against that? We're seeing amazing new innovations happening all the time and it's not because of patents. If Kappos got away from all the patent lawyers he spends his time with and spoke to actual engineers who are doing the innovating, he'd find they don't care about patents. They're excited about patents being rejected because it means they can focus on building cool and innovative stuff again.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 26th 2016 6:33am
from the oops dept
A message on Mozilla's security policy mailing list notes that a free certificate authority named WoSign appeared to be doing some pretty bad stuff, including handing out certificates for a base domain if someone merely had control over a subdomain. This was discovered by accident, but then tested on GitHub... and it worked.
In June 2015, an applicant found a problem with WoSign's free certificate service, which allowed them to get a certificate for the base domain if they were able to prove control of a subdomain.As you can imagine, this should be a cause for quite some concern:
The reporter proved the problem in two ways. They accidentally discovered it when trying to get a certificate for med.ucf.edu and mistakenly also applied for www.ucf.edu, which was approved. They then confirmed the problem by using their control of theiraccount.github.com/theiraccount.github.io to get a cert for github.com, github.io, and www.github.io.
They reported this to WoSign, giving only the Github certificate as an example. That cert was revoked and the vulnerability was fixed. However recently, they got in touch with Google to note that the ucf.edu cert still had not been revoked almost a year later.
The lack of revocation of the ucf.edu certificate (still unrevoked at time of writing, although it may have been by time of posting) strongly suggests that WoSign either did not or could not search their issuance databases for other occurrences of the same problem. Mozilla considers such a search a basic part of the response to disclosure of a vulnerability which causes misissuance, and expects CAs to keep records detailed enough to make it possible.Mozilla also noted that WoSign never informed it of the earlier misissuance either. This is a pretty big mistake. The Mozilla post also calls out some questionable activity by WoSign in backdating certificates, but this first point is the really troubling one.
I recognize that until a better system is found, certificate authorities issuing certificates is about all we have right now for web security -- but, once again, it really seems like we need to be moving to a better solution.
Fri, Aug 26th 2016 3:27am
from the seems-reasonable dept
I'll admit I've had some fun in these pages with my friends over in the Iran over the years. In my defense, they have at times made the job quite easy for me, between trying to bolster their military reputation through video game footage, trying to suggest that the West carve out a non-free speech zone when it comes to criticizing Islam or members of its faith, and the country's policy of futility in trying to block its citizens from using the wider internet. These are actions worth criticism and scorn.
But things got a just a bit more dangerous for some in Iran this past week, as the country has announced it is cracking down on its citizens for actions against Islam and for infractions of fashion on display on several social media services. It seems some portion of the Revolutionary Guard has quite literally become the Fashion Police.
Iran has arrested or summoned about 450 social media users, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guards has reported. Users of apps such as Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp have been targeted.
"These people were carrying out immoral activities, insulted religious beliefs or had illegal activities in the field of fashion," the Gherdab website said.
Details in the report or scant, but it's likely that those that have partaken in criminal fashion activities are undoubtedly female, and the criminal activity almost certainly involves perceived infractions against modesty that are taken so seriously in Islamic theocracies. This should provide a wonderful example of the benefits of secularism over theocracy, certainly, but it should also serve as a beacon of hope for change in a country run in the most unfortunate of fashions. Although, that previous statement comes along with the caveat that even the founders of secularism can manage an insane over-correction, such as what's currently going on along the beaches of Southern France, for example.
If we've learned anything over recent years, it's that demand for internet access and the ability for expression on its mediums will only grow, not shrink. And, if citizens of countries less free than others are bucking the rules, routing around the censorship and barriers to internet access, and partaking in expression so yearned for but considered illegal, no amount of claimed providence will keep those young men and, more importantly women, from growing up and changing their society to match their values.
Facebook and Twitter are banned in the Islamic republic, though software that provides access is easily available. More than half of Iran's 80 million population is online.
That's a good thing.
Not so good is potentially the fate of those caught in the current crackdown. Still, there is a reason that Iran makes such an effort of blocking its citizens from joining the rest of the networked world, and seeing so many of them streaming around the borders of the barriers means there is hope.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Aug 25th 2016 11:20pm
from the StasiTV dept
Facial recognition software is the wave of the
future present. The FBI -- acting without a required Privacy Impact Assessment -- rolled out its system in 2014, finding that a 20% false hit rate was good enough for government (surveillance) work.
Following in the footsteps of Facebook, governments slanting towards the authoritarian side (that's you, Russia!) have deployed facial recognition software to help ensure its citizens are stripped of their anonymity.
Other governments not so seemingly bent on obedience to the state have done the same. UK law enforcement has quietly built a huge facial recognition database and Brazil experimented with police equipment that would turn officers into Robocops -- providing real-time facial recognition to cops via some sort of Google Glass-ish headgear. If what we know about facial recognition software's accuracy rates holds true, the goggles will, indeed, do nothing.
Germany has maintained an arm's-length relationship with its troublesome past. The Stasi and Gestapo's lingering specters still haunt current legislators, occasionally prompting them to curb domestic surveillance efforts. Concerns for the privacy of its citizens has also sometimes resulted in the government making angry noises at tech companies it feels are overstepping their boundaries.
Four years ago, it demanded Facebook destroy data on German citizens in its facial recognition database. Judging from the current push by German officials, it could just be thata the government didn't want any competition.
Speaking to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, [Interior Minister] Thomas de Maiziere said internet software was able to determine whether people shown in photographs were celebrities or politicians.
"I would like to use this kind of facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations. Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system," he told the paper.
This move towards a more Stasi-esque surveillance system is, of course, prompted by recent terrorist attacks in Germany. Nothing propels bad legislation and lowers the price on domestic surveillance real estate more efficiently than tragedies -- especially those "claimed" after-the-fact by members of the Islamic State.
For those more concerned with lonely baggage, the government is all over that, too.
He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes.
The lesson here is never forget where you set down your duffel bag -- unless you like watching it being detonated by security teams from a safe distance.
As for the dystopian future awaiting Germans as their government does all it can to help the terrorists win, the Interior Minister offers this shrug of a statement:
"We will have to get used to increased security measures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or personal entry cards. This is tedious, uncomfortable and costs time but I don't think it's a limitation of personal freedom," he said.
Longer lines and more "papers, please" -- just the sort of thing that will push memories of Nazi Germany and the Berlin Wall into the background.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 25th 2016 4:05pm
from the govern-yourself-accordingly dept
Plaintiffs have demonstrated their willingness to deceive not just this Court, but other courts where they have appeared. Plaintiffs’ representations about their operations, relationships, and financial interests have varied from feigned ignorance to misstatements to outright lies. But this deception was calculated so that the Court would grant Plaintiffs’ early-discovery requests, thereby allowing Plaintiffs to identify defendants and exact settlement proceeds from them. With these granted requests, Plaintiffs borrow the authority of the Court to pressure settlement.Since this was their first really major loss in court, Team Prenda still brashly insisted they would prevail on appeal, and that Judge Wright's ruling would not last. At the time Prenda mastermind John Steele even insisted that this was the only time that they had lost:
But very few people can argue that these [sanctions] are allowed, legally. The overwhelming majority of courts have found in our favor in hearings. The only cases that stand out are Judge Wright.Of course, since then, court after court after court after court after court has ruled against Steele (there are more, I just got tired of finding them all). And, of course, Steele is facing discipline from the Illinois Attorney Discipline Board and, quite possibly, criminal trials (where the investigation likely began following Judge Wright's ruling, which passed along the info to law enforcement).
In the midst of all of this, Steele's big appeal of Wright's ruling, that he was so sure about, fell flat on its face back in June. For all of Steele's talk about how Wright was totally off base and there was no basis for sanctions, the 9th Circuit didn't buy it at all.
The district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the Prenda Principals to post additional bond to cover Doe’s attorney’s fees on appeal. The district court had ample reason to do so. The Prenda Principals have engaged in abusive litigation, fraud on courts across the country, and willful violation of court orders. They have lied to other courts about their ability to pay sanctions.... They also failed to pay their own attorney’s fees in this case. Considering the Prenda Principals’ tactics throughout this case, it was not an abuse of discretion to increase the bond amount to cover the projected cost of attorney’s fees on appeal.Given all that, the case went back down to Judge Wright and, finally, it appears that this case is really over. Earlier this week, Judge Wright basically closed out the case after Steele and Hansmeier* agreed to settle rather than try to fight on, with the insurance company that had originally secured the bond they needed to get to cover the possible sanctions, SureTec, agreeing to pay out the money. (*Well, not really Hansmeier -- since he filed bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee handled it for him instead).
Doe, Steele, and Hansmeier filed a stipulation and proposed order with the Ninth Circuit seeking to settle all issues that were the subject of the appeal, the relevant terms of which are as follows: (1) Doe shall be paid a total amount of $132,393.75, which consists of the original $81,319.72 sanction, $278.73 in interest, and $50,795.30 in costs and fees incurred on appeal; (2) Doe will move this Court for summary adjudication of SureTec’s obligation on the bonds in the amount of $132,393.75, which Steele and Hansmeier agree not to oppose; and (3) Doe, Steele, and Hansmeier agree not to file any further motions, appeals, or petitions for writ of certiorari on the issues adjudicated on appeal.Judge Wright accepts the agreement and the case is basically, finally, over.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 25th 2016 2:31pm
from the well-that's-interesting dept
Partnering with transit agencies like MARTA is a core part of our vision to build a sustainable transportation network. By helping fill the first and last miles between a passenger’s home and a MARTA station, we’re making it easier than ever to ride transit. We believe that when transit is within reach of everyone, our cities are more liveable, connected, and prosperous.Of course, it's not entirely clear what's really involved in the "partnership" beyond marketing. Yes, Lyft is offering discount vouchers, but only for 10 rides. And you could already use Lyft or Uber to do this without the partnership.
Where this potentially gets more interesting is the decision of Dublin, California, to look to Lyft and Uber as a substitute for public transportation by subsidizing rides via those companies instead of taking a bus.
In a first for California, a public transit agency next month plans to begin subsidizing fares of people who take private Uber and Lyft cars to local destinations rather than riding the bus.The local transit authority is even suggesting that this might change the way they set up routes and serve certain communities. In fact, they've already killed off one (little used) bus route, suggesting that this new partnership can help replace that route more efficiently.
Passengers ordering Uber or Lyft car trips within two test areas of Dublin will be eligible to get door-to-destination service at a big discount under a partnership between the ride-hailing companies and the Wheels public bus system in Dublin, Alameda and Pleasanton.
I can see why this might annoy some people -- and certainly those who don't trust big private companies like Uber and Lyft are going to complain. Similarly the bus driver's union rep is apparently pissed off. But this is still a really interesting experiment. If it allows municipalities to truly offer better, more efficient transportation and it's cheaper overall, then is it really a problem that some companies might also make some profits from it? It will be interesting to see how this experiment in Dublin works out and if other cities follow suit. And it seems like a much better idea than what's happening in Massachusetts, where the government has instituted a special tax on Lyft and Uber... and giving that money to the taxi companies who didn't innovate.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 25th 2016 1:04pm
from the the-economics-of-information dept
Okay, this is one of my absolute favorite books for understanding economics -- and especially the economics of information. Have you ever read a book where you keep finding yourself excited because you've discovered that other people had independently worked out a bunch of the ideas that had been sifting through your brain? That's what Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery by David Warsh was for me. It almost made me giddy, because I had just been working through my own mental model for the economics of abundance, and then I discovered that some pretty well known economists had been sorting the same things out themselves. It was exciting.
The book is really well written too. Most of the first half is a fun look at historical economists (going beyond just the economics of information and growth, but using that as a sort of central theme). And then the rest focuses on the work of the economist Paul Romer, who basically brought things around in a very useful way when it comes to the economics of information. Actually, one of the things that bothered/stunned me a little was that this work had been done so recently. As I had been sorting through it, I kept thinking back to applying work from much earlier economists, without realizing that it was still considered such a challenging issue. A key point in the book is understanding how information is the key to economic growth, and in particular, the fact that information itself is abundant, rather than scarce. It's that abundance, and the ability to spread it, that creates new ideas, better efficiency, more growth and a better overall world. Before all that, many economists had actually been confused as to why some economies grew, and others didn't -- and they were equally confused about the role of technology in enabling economic growth. This book lays out a lot of points around this in a really useful manner. I reread it every few years and recommend it highly.