by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 11:56pm
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, May 3rd 2012 7:59pm
the pirate bay
from the well-that-worked-out-great,-huh? dept
When the news broke that the UK's High Court ordered ISPs to censor the Pirate Bay, we (like many people) pointed out that the block would be largely ineffective. But for now, with the ISPs starting to implement their blocks (Virgin has theirs up and running) and the Pirate Bay all over the news, it's having the opposite effect. TorrentFreak reports that the Pirate Bay just had their biggest traffic day ever. And, naturally, they're using the momentum to teach UK visitors how to bypass the block.
“Thanks to the High Court and the fact that the news was on the BBC, we had 12 MILLION more visitors yesterday than we had ever had before,” a Pirate Bay insider informed TorrentFreak today.
“We should write a thank you note to the BPI,” he added.
“Another thing that’s good with the traffic surge is that we now have time to teach even more people how to circumvent Internet censorship,” the insider added.
Of course, there will still almost certainly be a drop in UK traffic once all the ISPs have blocks in place, but in the long run it probably won't do anything to stop piracy or even to stop the Pirate Bay specifically. As EFF founder John Gilmore famously said in 1993, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it"—and nearly twenty years later, not only does that still hold, it has become true of the people on the net as well.
by Michael Ho
Thu, May 3rd 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Peter Diamandis is planning to create an education X Prize. This prize is still in the planning stages, so this project hasn't settled on what kind of effort to promote -- an educational video game or some kind of crowdsourced classes... but whatever it is, it can't be solely a technological solution. [url]
- Game developers are creating some entertaining apps that also try to educate or improve the lives of gamers. Edutainment could be the way to get more students engaged in learning... as long as the games are actually fun. [url]
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation sponsored a competition to create an automated scoring algorithm for grading student-written essays. This grading software is only the first phase of a larger plan, and there will be follow-up challenges for grading shorter answers and math/logic problems. [url]
- To discover more interesting education-related content, check out what's currently floating around the StumbleUpon universe. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 4:08pm
from the no-rush dept
The good folks over at Wired, the EFF and the California First Amendment Coalition sprang into action and filed with the court to have those documents unsealed. And while the court agreed to unseal the documents back in March (and then ordered them unsealed "immediately" on April 5th), the documents finally were unsealed yesterday.
The documents are embedded below, and there's really not that much there. Basically, the government keeps asking for an extension, insisting that it's in the middle of an important "criminal investigation" and needs more time. It claims, without anything to back this up, that actually doing what the law requires (giving the domain back or filing for forfeiture) would mean alerting those who were being investigated what was up, and might cause them to make a run for it or to destroy evidence. They provide no evidence to support this, and since Dajaz1 was never informed about any of this... they had no chance to refute these ridiculous claims by the government.
The only point that's brought up to explain the delay is in an affidavit from ICE Special Agent Andrew Reynolds, the slightly befuddled recent college grad who was in charge of the original error-riddled investigation, in which he notes repeatedly that the RIAA has not gotten back to him about whether or not their rights have been violated.
A sampling of content obtained from the DAJAZ1.com website and its purported affiliate websites was submitted for rights holder evaluation and has yet to be returned to HS, SAC/LA. Additionally, a representative with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has stated that he will provide a very comprehensive statement to ICE's and CBP's outstanding questions, in coordination with corresponding rights holders, which will be forthcoming in approximately 30 days.That was Reynolds statement on September 7th, 2011. Remember, thanks to Agent Reynolds, Dajaz1.com was seized on November 24th 2010. So we're talking 10 months later, and he's claiming that the RIAA still hasn't gotten back to him over whether or not the tracks were actually infringing or with answers to ICE's questions?!? And yet, in the original filing, Reynolds stressed the importance of completely taking away and censoring this website as quickly as possible because of all the harm it was causing. Yet, the RIAA gets to wait 10 months and never actually confirm that anyone's rights were violated? Perhaps the RIAA's reticence to respond was because it started discovering that the songs in question were actually handed over by official representatives of the labels or the musicians. Of course, that's no excuse for ICE to continue to hold onto the website in question. Just because they totally screwed up and rushed in to censor, doesn't mean they get to drag their feet in admitting error.
Either way, this is pretty crazy. Basically the documents show that the feds seized first, and then sat around waiting for the RIAA to actually provide evidence.... evidence that appears to have never showed up. As the EFF's Cindy Cohn told Wired:
“Here you have ICE making a seizure, based on the say-so of the record company guys, and getting secret extensions as they wait for their masters, the record companies, for evidence to prosecute,” Cohn said in a telephone interivew. “This is the RIAA controlling a government investigation and holding it up for a year.”Even more troubling, however, is that the repeated requests for extension do not (at all) address the key First Amendment issues about the fact that a news publication was completely shut down based on these accusations. The law is pretty clear that the burden for shutting down a publication is pretty damn high, and nothing in the filings comes anywhere close to meeting that burden. Even worse, the judge in the case, Margaret M. Morrow, just rubber stamps the request allowing them to move forward at will. She does not appear to ask any questions. She does not appear to even be curious about the fact that an entire website was shut down and censored without meeting the clear burden under the law. It's just "request granted," basically.
Not only that, but with the last two extensions, she granted them late. That is, they were both granted after the deadline, by which the government legally had to give back the domain. The first extension needed to be in place by May 15th, and indeed, was granted on May 13th. But after that, perhaps, someone realized that without anyone on the other side even having to know about this, they could take their time. The first extension only went until July 15th. But the second extension wasn't granted until July 18th. Legally that seems to mean that the government illegally held the domain for those three days when it had no right to do so. Similarly, the second extension expired on September 13th. But the judge didn't sign the next extension until September 19th. Again, it would appear that the government was then holding onto property it had no legal right to for about a week after the earlier extension expired.
Either way, for all the promises of a big criminal investigation that was going to turn into a big criminal lawsuit just as soon as the RIAA got back to Special Agent Reynolds, it appears the whole thing fizzled into absolutely nothing, leading the government to quietly hand the domain back to Dajaz1 in December... almost exactly a month after the final extension expired on November 11th. There isn't much enlightening in the unsealed documents other than a pretty clear reminder that the feds seized and censored a website on questionable legal reasoning and then refused to give that website the ability to have its day in court to protest that First Amendment violation.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 2:40pm
from the thanks dept
Now, it appears that this is just a test, but just the fact that Google is thinking about it seems like a bad idea. Wheaton makes the point pretty clearly: even though he's a regular Google Plus user, he knows that this will decrease overall engagement:
Oh, go fuck yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”At this point, it's well known that Google is betting heavily on Google+, but it may be overplaying its hand. A key reason why people like Google is that it didn't seem heavy-handed on such things in the past, and focused on having as open and permissive a solution as it could. Yet, in this case, it appears to be doing the opposite just to drive more (unwanted) usage toward Google Plus. Of course, the reality is that people who don't want to sign up for it won't sign up for it... and that will just lead to less engagement. And that's probably exactly the opposite of what Google really wants.
Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you dickheads.
The worst part of this? For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.
If you feel the need to force your users into using your own social network, perhaps you're doing it wrong.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, May 3rd 2012 1:34pm
from the well-done dept
Amidst all the recent talk of just how successful Kickstarter has been as a platform for creators raising money, some people have suggested that the company may run into problems down the road because it seems ripe for fraud. Of course, most things are ripe for fraud in one way or another, so Kickstarter isn't exactly special in that regard—and when fraud does happen, people will fight it just like they do anywhere else.
At least, that was certainly the case with a recent video game project on Kickstarter that turned out to be fake. As BetaBeat reports, the crowdsourcing scam was exposed by a crowdsourced investigation:
... a campaign for an action video game, MYTHIC: The Story Of Gods and Men, has just been busted by forum users at Reddit, SomethingAwful and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The creators claimed to be an independent studio, “Little Monster Productions,” of 12 industry veterans in Hollywood. “Our team has done a significant amount of work on the World of Warcraft series as well as Diablo 2 and the original Starcraft,” says the project page.
Bullshit, said the Internet. Turns out the art was cribbed, the text for backer rewards was copied and pasted from another Kickstarter project, and even the office photos were from another game studio, Burton Design Group.
When people brought their accusations to the Kickstarter comments, the developers made a few weak attempts at deflection then quietly shut down having raised just under $5,000 (far short of their goal, so that money won't actually be released). With Kickstarter gaining more attention every day, we're sure to see more attempts at scams—and maybe even some successes—but with a savvy community that polices itself like this, the scammers face an uphill battle.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 12:13pm
from the nicely-said dept
I think the only reason why people wouldn't embrace technology is because of greed. And because of the old way of doing business, which is also greed. And then you have people running the business -- no disrespect -- that's 80 years plus. They don't even know how to operate an iPad, and they're making decisions on the younger generation's future.He's then asked a bit about "piracy" and actually getting people to buy, and he notes that if you make good music, people will support you. He says the problem is that people have gotten away from making good music. But when there is good music, people want to support "great music." He notes that people have no problem paying for those "timeless pieces," because they know they're supporting the artists. It's just that when musicians today are "bluffing," the public knows it, and isn't so interested in supporting it.
And my association with forward thinking technology is very deep. And it came up a little bit with Megaupload -- which still, today, is a big misunderstanding of technology. And the day that you mix the old business with the new technology, we'll have a better place. It's actually going to be a time when artists can come out and do 10 million records their first week. Because the technology is going to be so locked in tight globally. You have billions of people, all over the world. Why can't artists that everybody likes do 10 million a week? It's just that the communication and the technology and the old way of doing business is off. But once that catches up, which is going to happen in the next three years, it's going to be amazing.
And the cool thing is that technology equals freedom for the artist. And that's the best thing that could ever happen for artists that work hard and that really want to get their career off the ground.
It's a good interview, and it's good to see more people -- especially in the hip hop world -- speaking out about this, rather than merely accepting the lines from the 80 year old execs at the music labels.
Update: Apparently, Swizz is feeling talkative these days. He also did a nice longer interview on a radio show where he talks a bit more about all of this, again saying that the Megaupload situation was a misunderstanding -- and talked about how he had figured out a way for musicians to make "wow money" but it won't happen now because of the "miscommunication" that has the US government making it look like they were breaking the law.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 10:55am
Misguided Senators Propose Plan To Make It Harder For Law Enforcement To Track Down Human Trafficking Online
from the you're-doing-it-wrong dept
Here's the thing: we already know how this game plays out. You can browbeat these companies into shutting off this part of their forums against their own will, and many of them will cave. And you'll celebrate victory, but as you do that, everyone will be rapidly exploring alternatives, which most will move to pretty quickly. In other words, such a crackdown won't do a damn thing to stop people from actually being exploited. Even worse, in pressuring that content to scatter, it becomes much more difficult for law enforcement to track down and arrest the real criminals who are abusing the system. But nothing in getting Backpage to turn off this section actually helps to stop such trafficking/prostitution. It just makes life that much more difficult for law enforcement, since they now need to do a lot more work to track down the people abusing these laws. I fail to see how that's a positive result, as the government has insisted.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 9:38am
from the well,-sort-of dept
The truth is that neither the content nor the technology industries could survive without strong protections for intellectual property.Of course, that's all hogwash. Well, in a very twisted way, he's right. Hollywood did come about because of strong patent protection, but not the way Dodd seems to be suggesting. Instead, the reason that filmmakers moved out to Hollywood was because it was about as far away as they could get from Thomas Edison, who held the patents on basic filmmaking technology, and demanded exorbitant licensing fees. So the main reason that Hollywood is in Hollywood is because they were seeking a place to hide from patents.
Many of you are familiar with how the name Hollywood became synonymous with the birth of the American film industry. It was in Jacob Stern’s horse barn, at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, the story goes, that Cecil B. DeMille screened the first full length feature film 100 years ago.
Well, when it comes to the tech sector, replace “Jacob Stern’s horse barn” with “Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room” at Harvard, and you have almost the same story with the birth of Facebook.
In these and countless other examples throughout our history, the ability to give birth to an idea and convert it into economic success, whether it is the content of a film or the technology of the internet, depends on copyright and patent protection
It's a bit ridiculous for Dodd to try to rewrite this well-known history, and pretend that Hollywood developed because of strong IP protections when the exact opposite is what happened. I realize that Chris Dodd spent most of his adult life as a politician, so perhaps it's a bit naive to expect him to actually tell the truth, but at some point someone who works for him (I'm sure there's someone on staff who has accessed the internet once or twice) might want to explain to him that people can fact check him these days with relative ease online. Perhaps the next version of SOPA can be used to block people mocking Chris Dodd's inane statements as well...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 8:34am
the pirate bay
from the due-process-is-such-a-simple-concept dept
This isn't much of an expansion, Newzbin2 was ordered blocked last year, but it is a major step. The big problem here is the lack of any sort of trial. While there was a ruling back in February, declaring that the operators and users of The Pirate Bay were probably infringing copyright, the ISPs didn't try to make a case (for fear of massive costs orders), and the Pirate Bay was given no opportunity to argue anything. As for today's order, looking through the Court listings, there wasn't even a hearing, so it was probably all done through written applications.This is a pretty key point that has received very little attention compared to the general order to block the site. I'm curious if folks in the UK can explain how this is defensible? While I recognize that free speech rights aren't as well respected in the UK, ordering ISPs to block a website without even allowing for any adversarial hearing seems like a pretty huge violation of basic concepts of due process.
This highlights how judicial oversight alone isn't enough (in a common law system) to ensure justice is done. Without an adversary to challenge the claimants (record companies), none of the possible defences, or issues (such as proportionality, anti-competitive practices, or negative consequences on people like Dan Bull) can be raised.
Whether the end result is right or not, it's not justice when a few companies can have a website blocked, with no one from the website or elsewhere in a position to challenge or question it.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 7:31am
from the slowly,-but-surely dept
But their real goal, and the root of their success, is more meta: using the Internet to create a new structure of politics that can solve the problem of how to energize citizens — not only for the excitement of a campaign but also the often dreary realities of actual governance.And he gives an example of how The Pirate Party is experimenting with technology to get the public much more engaged. They're not fighting back against the system just by talking -- but they're actually trying to hack the system from within:
Using a software package they call Liquid Feedback, the Pirates are able to create a continuous, real-time political forum in which every member has equal input on party decisions, 24 hours a day. It’s more than just a gimmicky Web forum, though: complex algorithms track member input and generate instantaneous collective decisions.And the real point in all of this: there's no reason that others can't learn from what The Pirate Parties are doing, and make use of them to make all politics much more engaging and inclusive:
Of course, on some level Liquid Feedback is a gimmick, an effort to get young people interested and involved in the humdrum of German politics, outside the campaign season and even off line. Whatever it is, it works: late last month some 1,300 members trekked to the small northern city of Neumunster to elect a new executive board.
There’s no reason the party’s lessons couldn’t be applied elsewhere, including the United States. One of the biggest problems for President Obama has been to maintain the vigorous online following that Candidate Obama generated in 2008. But while the Obama campaign at least gave the impression that he was influenced by input from his supporters, they have been shut out of the White House.Indeed, the Obama administration did at least try to do some of that with various online tools, but it rarely seemed to take them very seriously, reverting to politics as usual, rather than actually doing much with what information the public sent in. It was a step in the right direction, but hardly a full step. If The Pirate Party's one big success is convincing other major political parties to be more responsive to the public, rather than special interests, I'd argue that it would be a massive success.
If Mr. Obama had followed the Pirate method, he would not only have sent updates via Facebook and Twitter, but he would have involved larger numbers of supporters in an extensive dialogue and given them an actual say in determining such priorities as which issues to pursue in his first months in office and how much to reach out to conservatives.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, May 3rd 2012 6:08am
from the negativity dept
One of the points we're always trying to make about piracy is that it has less to do with people just wanting everything for free and more to do with people rushing to embrace the possibilities of new technology. The industry has been slow to offer products that take advantage of these possibilities, and when they do they usually cripple them and charge too much for them, because they refuse to acknowledge the impact of better distribution systems on the market. Instead of recognizing that technological capabilities dictate how they should distribute their content, they think they get to dictate how far people should utilize technology. So piracy moves in to fill the gap, offering people the sort of comprehensive, on-demand service which they know is possible but which can't be bought at any price.
An anonymous reader points us to a perfect example of the technophobic attitude that has become so ingrained in Hollywood. It starts with a story in Bloomberg Businessweek about Google's pilot project in Kansas City, where they are laying fiber to bring super-high-speed internet to the community. With 922 Mbps download speeds already available in nearly a thousand homes, the topic of piracy was inevitably raised:
[Google spokeswoman Jenna] Wandres stresses that Google Fiber isn’t meant to empower pirates: “We hope higher speeds will actually make it easier to deliver and download more authorized content,” she says. Nonetheless, Howard Gantman, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, notes that piracy is always a concern of the entertainment industry. Google Fiber “could be a great opportunity for consumers whose access to creative content is often hampered by slow speeds,” he says. But in South Korea, “the home entertainment marketplace was decimated by digital piracy” enabled by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet.
For one thing, the statement about South Korea is incredibly flimsy. The Korean music industry thrives on high-speed internet—it grew into an economic powerhouse while the country had some of the highest and earliest broadband penetration rates (and digital piracy rates) in the world. Smart Korean entrepreneurs have figured out how to succeed in the new market. Moreover, claiming that "home entertainment" as a whole was damaged by broadband is just hubris from an industry that thinks only its own products count as "entertainment".
It seems like every Hollywood statement about new technology follows the same format. "This new thing is great, but... piracy!" The problem is that they refuse to act on the first part until someone gives them a bulletproof solution to the second part—and since such a solution does not and never will exist, they ruin every attempt at a new service with ineffective restrictions and DRM schemes. Ars Technica picked up the story and spoke further to the MPAA spokesman, getting yet another "great, but..." response:
"We want to reinforce that higher speeds could be a great opportunity for consumers, and that's the bottom line," Howard Gantman, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, told Ars on Friday. "There are problems that can, in terms of [an] increase of digital piracy, come with that, but we are hopeful that efforts can be made... to address digital piracy."
Someone should tell Gantman that it's not "the bottom line" if you go on to add caveats and addendums. It's also interesting that he thinks blazing fast internet only "could be" good for consumers—maybe because he knows Hollywood "could" (but won't) offer them a service that fully leverages the technology. Really what's amazing about this is that the MPAA thinks anyone cares about its opinion of fiber broadband, as if the public is going to stop and think, "Gee, I guess I'll just have to wait for faster internet access while Hollywood develops better piracy controls".
The fact that the MPAA can't get through a single statement about something as clearly positive as faster internet without bringing up reservations about piracy doesn't bode well for Hollywood's future. The studios should be getting ahead of the new technology, and making sure that everyone who gets hooked up to a new fiber network is immediately greeted with a well-made, well-priced movie service that gives them a chance to test out their speedy new connection. Instead they're probably going to watch the technology develop with caution, wait for pirates to beat them to the punch, then arrive in the market with an inferior product and complaints about how they "can't compete".
by Glyn Moody
Thu, May 3rd 2012 4:05am
from the no-extra-money-required dept
It would be something of an understatement to say that the world of public libraries is undergoing rapid change at the moment. On the one hand, the rise of open access means that people are increasingly able to find information online that was formerly held in serried ranks of volumes stored on library stacks. On the other, publishers' reluctance to allow ebooks to be lent out puts a key traditional function of libraries under threat. So what exactly should public libraries being doing in the digital age? Eric F. Van de Velde has written a a fascinating exploration of that question, along with a few suggestions.
Here's the central problem:
The value propositions of paper-based and digital lending are fundamentally different. A paper-based library builds permanent infrastructure: collections, buildings, and catalogs are assets that continue to pay dividends far into the future. In contrast, resources spent on digital lending are pure overhead. This includes staff time spent on negotiating licenses, development and maintenance of authentication systems, OpenURL, proxy, and web servers, and the software development to give a unified interface to disparate systems of content distributors.
Libraries need a different vision for their digital future, one that focuses on building digital infrastructure. We must preserve traditional library values, not traditional library institutions, processes, and services.
So how might that work in practice?
By gradually converting acquisition budgets into grant budgets, libraries could become open-access patrons. They could organize grant competitions for the production of open-access works. By sponsoring works and creators that further the goals of its community, each library contributes to a permanent open-access digital library for everyone. Publishers would have a role in the development of grant proposals that cover all stages of the production and marketing of the work. In addition to producing the open-access works, publishers could develop commercial added-value services. Finally, innovative markets like the one developed by Gluejar allow libraries (and others) to acquire the digital rights of commercial works and set them free.
That's an exciting vision, because it turns libraries into active participants in the creation and propagation of knowledge that is universally available through open access, instead of simply lending out the productions of others, without any real ability to apply the huge store of knowledge librarians have acquired about what their users want. It's particularly encouraging that this is not just a plea for more funds -- unlikely to be heeded in the current economic climate -- but a simple if revolutionary call for a better use of those that are already available.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 3rd 2012 1:00am
from the say-what-now?!? dept
Another blog (which I'd never heard of until now) called "GetOffMyInternets.net" published a post, now deleted, though it wasn't too difficult to find the Google cache or popular press which quoted the key parts. As far as I can tell, the "dispute" is that Armstrong claimed that she was taking a break from blogging for a bit. Good for her. But "GOMI" wrote that the "break" was "fake" because she was really in LA filming a show for YouTube. Forgive me again for not quite understanding what's wrong with any of this. I'm not sure why it would be a problem whether or not she was in LA filming whatever she wanted. However, what does seem clear is that Armstrong was not happy about this, declaring publicly that it was defamation, and asking publicly for a lawyer. She appears to have found a lawyer who then sent a legal nastygram to GOMI and its hosting company, claiming that the original post was "defamatory."
Separately, the letter appears to suggest that Armstrong/her lawyer would drop the defamation issue if only GOMI reveals its source for the original story:
Once again, I have no clue if the original allegation is true or not. And I remain at a complete loss as to how it matters to anyone. If she was in LA, good for her. If she wasn't... um... good for her. Who really cares?
But what I do care about is legal bullying, and I have to raise questions about a legal nastygram sent over something as simple as a claim about where someone was at a particular time. While Armstrong and her lawyer seem to think that it's defamation, beyond the trouble understanding what the problem is here, the bar for defamation for a public figure, which Armstrong undoubtedly is, is quite high, and requires malicious intent. It's difficult to see how the original post would come anywhere within the same time zone as that bar.
That said, in looking over some of Armstrong's history, it appears she, too, was once against legal bullying:
I have no faith in our legal system, one that guarantees victory only for the party who can afford to pay for it, one that would allow a large company to bully a private citizen because it knows that she has no money with which to defend herself.Perhaps she got the wrong lesson out of that experience.
That said, in typical Streisand Effect fashion, this whole kerfuffle seems to only have called much more attention to the original issue, and brought a spotlight on what (again) appears to be a totally insignificant point. If she's just ignored the post in the first place, and let the matter pass, it seems likely it would have been forgotten long ago. So why waste time and money on lawyers to send a nastygram when, at best, all it's going to do is call much more attention to the original post? What actual "harm" was caused by anything here? Is going to LA to film a web video some sort of massive euphemism for something horrible I don't know about?