You should know by now that YouTube's ContentID system is a horrible mess. This system, which allows purported intellectual property owners to claim other people's uploads as containing their content, and then allowing those purported owners to either take the videos down or monetize them for themselves, is so rife with abuse, trolls, and mistakes that it's a wonder anyone at any point thought this was an idea that could work. Lost in all of this bowing towards intellectual property owners has bred some creative methods for getting around ContentID abuse, but it's still a problem. A problem particularly challenging in the video game reviews space on YouTube, where entirely too many game studios think that using ContentID to flag game reviews is a practice worth repeating.
But one game reviewer, Jim Sterling, decided to test out a way to keep his videos advertising-free. The method? Include all kinds of previously flagged content in his new videos from different IP owners and set them all into a ContentID war with one another.
Earlier this week, game critic Jim Sterling uploaded an episode of his Jimquisition series, where he skewers the recently released Wii U game Star Fox Zero. The entire episode is worth a watch based on Sterling's well-reasoned arguments. But the thing that really sets it apart is a revelation near the end of the video, where Sterling explains why he makes such ample use of footage that is completely unrelated to what he actually discusses throughout the video.
"You may have noticed this week's video had footage from Metal Gear Solid V, Grand Theft Auto V, and Beyond: Two Souls in it," Sterling said. "Now, there's a reason for that. The reason is Nintendo. Because I'm talking about a Nintendo game this week, I've used Nintendo game footage, and that means Nintendo will attempt to monetize this video even though the point of the Jimquisition is to be ad-free, thanks to your lovely help on Patreon."
But by including game footage that had been previously flagged through ContentID by other studios, particularly studios known to not try to monetize game reviews, he created a ContentID race between the different studios. The result?
"I can confirm it works," Jim Sterling said over email. "It's worked several times before. WMG tried to monetize the video for the Erasure music, but couldn't because Nintendo and Take-Two had set their ContentID in this particular case to Not Monetized."
It's like beating cancer by contracting herpes and having the herpes eat the cancer... or something like that. Look, I didn't go to medical school, alright? The loophole in the ContentID system is that it's not like all kinds of people can flag a video for monetization. It appears to be a first-to-flag-wins sort of scenario. So, just include some completely unrelated footage from a studio that is known to flag reviews as "Not Monetized" and the content remains ad-free.
It's clever, to be sure, but some of us long for the day when such workarounds aren't needed just to produce a simple video game review.
Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit appeals court tossed out the lawsuit that Google had filed against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, following Hood's decision to send a subpoena that was written by the MPAA's lawyers, as part of a plan by the MPAA to pay money to get state Attorneys General to attack Google.
While some in the legacy copyright world painted the ruling in the Fifth Circuit as a "victory" for Jim Hood, and a loss for Google, anyone reading the details would recognize it was anything but that. The court made it pretty clear that Hood's subpoena was ridiculous and had no chance of surviving a judicial review... but dumped the case on a procedural issue, arguing that since Jim Hood had not yet taken any action concerning Google's unwillingness to respond to parts of the subpoena, there was nothing to dispute. Basically, the court said "wait until Hood actually tries to force you to do something... and then we'll tell him his subpoena is bogus."
By letter of April 22, 2016, Hood withdrew the subpoena that Google had challenged.
That should be a pretty clear indication that this wasn't the victory some of the MPAA/Hood supporters have been claiming. Of course, Google does think it's entirely possible that Hood will issue an updated subpoena, which is part of the reason that it's asking the court to review the ruling. In a later footnote it points out that along with the withdrawal letter, Hood did warn them that the letter requiring Google to retain documents for possible litigation "remains in effect."
As for the meat of Google's petition, the company argues that the court was wrong to dump the entire lawsuit, pointing out that there were two claims in the original filing -- one for injunctive relief (i.e., blocking Hood from doing anything with the subpoena) and one for declaratory judgment (basically saying that the company was doing nothing wrong). The company says that the ruling tossing the lawsuit just referred to the injunctive relief question, not the declaratory judgment -- and further makes the argument that there was a real risk of Hood pursuing unconstitutional measures, meaning that a lawsuit for declaratory judgment is perfectly reasonable.
The panel directed the district court to dismiss the entire case as unripe
because Google had not shown an “imminent threat of irreparable injury.” ...
But that standard does not apply to Google’s claims for declaratory relief regarding
threatened enforcement action. Under settled law, such claims “need cross only a
low threshold; the Supreme Court requires no more than a ‘credible threat of
prosecution,’ one that is not ‘chimerical,’ or ‘imaginary or speculative.’”
.... Google met that standard. Accordingly,
Google requests that the panel amend its decision to permit Google’s claims for
declaratory relief regarding threatened enforcement action to proceed.
Of course, it's also possible that the court may argue that even if that's true, the whole thing is moot now that Hood has withdrawn the subpoena.
Google tries to address that as well, but I'm not convinced the court will buy it.
In addition to identifying specific conduct he deemed unlawful, Hood took
concrete steps that reinforced the peril Google faces. He wrote the company’s
outside counsel requesting that Google “preserve potentially relevant information
that may be used as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.”... Hood gave a presentation to fellow attorneys
general that detailed Google’s alleged wrongdoing, explained the elements of
“Possible Causes of Action,” and offered theories to overcome Google’s
It's in this section that Google includes the footnote noting that Hood told the company that the preservation letter was still in effect, suggesting that he may still intend to go after Google.
Still, it looks like all the MPAA got for the hundreds of thousands of dollars it threw at this was making Mississippi's Attorney General look foolish, and showing just how far the MPAA will go to try to attack Google, rather than adapt to the internet.
With the EU making the first big antitrust move against Google in the EU over Android bundling practices (and more still expected over search), it seems that lots of other companies that have had trouble adapting to the internet are coming out of the woodwork to file complaints of their own (well, everyone except Microsoft, which has agreed to drop its complaints -- despite kicking off much of the EU antitrust focus on Google). Last week, we wrote about News Corp. confusingly arguing that Google News was an antitrust violation, because it both linked to its content and because it wouldn't link to its content (don't ask me, I don't understand it either).
Photography company Getty Images is accusing Google of scraping images from third party websites and encouraging piracy, adding a new wrinkle to the Mountain View, Calif.’s ongoing legal battles in Europe.
In its complaint to the European Union’s antitrust commission, Getty says Google Images, which displays full-screen slideshows of high-resolution copyrighted images, has hurt the stock agency’s licensing business as well as content creators worldwide. Google first introduced the feature in Jan. 2013. Previously, the search engine only displayed tiny thumbnails of images.
Getty has not actually released the complaint but put out a press release with a few more details and had its General Counsel Yoko Miyashita, post an open letter. The big issue, it seems, for Getty is that three years ago Google made its Images search act a little different, in that you can display full resolution images, rather than just purely thumbnails. Getty claims that this is decreasing the rate of clickthroughs to its site, where it might be able to extract some licensing fees.
Getty, of course, has a troubled history with the internet. It has a pretty long history of fairly idiotic bouts of pure copyright trolling, demanding cash as a bully, often in cases where there was no legitimate infringement at all. We were cautiously optimistic a couple of years ago, when the company finally started experimenting with offering up images for free, via a system that would let you embed many images (though there were some concerns about the setup and conditions).
Reading between the lines, it sounds like that effort has not taken off to the level Getty had hoped... and rather than recognizing that people just aren't comfortable with embedding images from Getty (or that they don't really know about the program), the company appears to be blaming Google Image search. And that's doubly weird since an actual analysis of why Getty's internet efforts haven't taken off shows that it's got nothing to do with Google's Image search and everything to do with cheap stock photo sites and Getty's inability to understand basic search engine marketing practices. Rather than take that to heart and adapt, the company joins many others in just whining about another company that is more successful.
The whole complaint is confusing. Most people searching Google Images aren't going to be licensing a photo in the first place. People who are looking to license a photo go elsewhere. So it's not like Google Images is likely to have a real impact on Getty. But that's not how Getty sees it:
Because image consumption is immediate, unlike other mediums searchable through Google, such as news or music, once an image is displayed in high-resolution, large format, there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site. These changes have allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend. This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.
Of course, this is interesting, because you'll note that Getty isn't filing a copyright case here, it's filing an antitrust case. If this were really about "piracy" why not file a copyright case? It's because Getty knows damn well it would lose any such copyright case. And it would lose badly. So it's filing this antitrust case as a sort of backdoor copyright case, hoping that in the EU's current hatred towards Google, regulators won't pay attention to the nuances.
Getty Images’ General Counsel, Yoko Miyashita says: “Getty Images represents over 200,000 photojournalists, content creators and artists around the world who rely on us to protect their ability to be compensated for their work. Google’s behavior is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the word – present and future. By standing in the way of a fair marketplace for images, Google is threatening innovation, and jeopardizing artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works. Artists need to earn a living in order to sustain creativity and licensing is paramount to this; however, this cannot happen if Google is siphoning traffic and creating an environment where it can claim the profits from individuals’ creations as its own.”
I've read this four times now and none of it makes sense. Again, people searching Google Images aren't looking to license images. Getty is breezily mixing up very different markets because of just how weak its overall argument is here. Also, the whole "artists need to earn a living" bit is similarly misleading. It's a favorite line that comes up over and over again but is bullshit. Most artists don't earn a living doing artwork. That's just a fact. That's true with copyright and without. It's not the copyright that pays people. It's having a good business model that people find worth supporting. That's it.
And, really, if Getty were really in this to help photographers get paid, then why is it so easy to find photographers online bitching about the ridiculously low royalties that Getty Images pays? This isn't about helping photographers get paid. This is about Getty Images and the fact that it hasn't figured out how to make a compelling product on the internet.
And, going back to the way in which Google displays images, it does so because it knows that it's providing a better consumer experience. When people are looking for images online, they want to see the images, and thus Google is delivering what people want. Getty may not like that, because it hoped that Google would fail to deliver what people want, thereby forcing them over to the also terrible Getty Images experience, but it's difficult to see how that's an antitrust issue. If Getty wants to compete, why doesn't it compete? Build a better image search engine and layer its business model on top of it.
But, no, instead, it whines to the EU about "antitrust" and pretends that it's helping photographers, all while making sure they get only a tiny percentage of any money that Getty actually makes from selling their photos.
It's a source of wonder and excitement for some, panic and concern for others, and a whole lot of cutting edge work for the people actually making it happen: artificial intelligence, the end-game for computing (and, as some would have you believe, humanity). But when you set aside the sci-fi predictions, doomsday warnings and hypothetical extremes, AI is a real thing happening all around us right now — and achieving some pretty impressive feats:
Back in 2011, Microsoft officially filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU. At the time, we noted how silly this was, given that the company itself had spent years battling EU antitrust regulations. It almost felt like a "well, if we had to go through that hellish process, let's put it on Google too..." kind of thing. Within less than a year, Google filed its own antitrust complaint back against Microsoft. As we noted at the time, both claims seemed kind of ridiculous and overblown -- and it bothered us greatly that these companies were resorting to stupid political games, rather than just competing in the market.
It had always been obvious and well-known that both groups were Microsoft front groups, and now it's official... and over. According to Re/code:
“Microsoft has agreed to withdraw its regulatory complaints against Google, reflecting our changing legal priorities,” a Microsoft representative said in a statement to Re/code. “We will continue to focus on competing vigorously for business and for customers.”
Google, meanwhile, offered up a similar statement, affirming that it too will withdraw any regulatory complaints it has made. “Our companies compete vigorously, but we want to do so on the merits of our products, not in legal proceedings.”
Of course they could have, and should have, done that five years ago, rather than going through this wasteful process for all involved. The Re/code report suggests a big reason for the shift is the new leadership atop both Google and Microsoft, leading to less animosity and a willingness to work together in some areas and compete directly in the market. It was disappointing that the two ever bothered to focus on trying to dump bureaucratic nightmares on each other in the first place, so it's good that that part is over. However, the antitrust investigations and potential outcomes won't stop just because the companies have stopped supporting them. Once those launched, they'll keep on going.
News Corp is concerned Google reinforces its dominance in general search by “scraping” or copying content from publishers to display the results of news articles, according to the person. News Corp alleges that if the publisher doesn’t want the content to be copied, Google doesn’t show the articles in the results at all, the person said.
That News Corp hates Google is well known. The company's CEO, Robert Thomson, has a history of barely comprehensible anti-Google rants, based on a confused (i.e. wrong) understanding of how the internet works. Thomson keeps claiming that Google is "stealing" News Corp content by linking people to it and sending the company traffic.
And, again, that seems to be the basis of the complaint here as well. It's difficult to parse what the complaint even means. News Corp "is concerned Google reinforces its dominance in general search by “scraping” or copying content from publishers to display the results of news articles...." Huh? Google indexes the web. That's what it does. That's how search engines work. Is News Corp trying to argue that indexing the internet is illegal? Really? And the fact that it's built a specialized news service -- how is that a problem?
And then the complaint seems to flip over into a complaint that Google doesn't do enough: "News Corp alleges that if the publisher doesn’t want the content to be copied, Google doesn’t show the articles in the results at all." Um, okay. If you don't want Google to index your content, then how can it show the articles in the results? It doesn't have the information to do so.
So what is News Corp's complaint here? First it's that Google indexes their content... and then they complain that if Google doesn't index their content, they won't show up in search results. This makes no sense at all.
Of course, that's because we know what the real complaint here is: News Corp wants Google to give it money. Whatever you might think of the EU's antitrust case against Google in other areas, this argument seems particularly ridiculous and just seems like Thomson and Rupert Murdoch's sour grapes over the fact that Google is a successful company.
This was widely expected, but the EU Commission, led by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, has officially announced that it's going after Google over some of its practices concerning Android. This comes just a day after Canadian antitrust officials went in the other direction, finding no evidence that Google's activities stifle competition. The EU has a few specific concerns about Android:
The Commission's preliminary view is that Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices appear to close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems. In addition, they also seem to harm consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.
I definitely worry about monopolistic practices by incumbent players crowding out startups and innovation, so I was keen to dig in on the details here, but they seem oddly... lacking. I've noted in the past that the EU tends to view antitrust through a fairly different lens than the US does, and perhaps that's the issue here. This is a broad generalization, but for the most part, the US focuses on whether or not practices harm consumers. The EU tends to focus on whether or not a company is really big. I think the US standard makes a lot more sense.
Let's dig in to the specific complaints raised by the EU, saying each of these practices violated antitrust laws:
requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
Many people have compared this to the case against Microsoft from the early 2000s, in which it got dinged for making Internet Explorer the default. Of course, a quick retort on that is: where is Internet Explorer in the browser market today? It's basically a non-entity, and it wasn't because of any antitrust penalties (which were basically wrist slaps). And, either way it appears that the issue here with Google is that it requires all of its core services to be bundled together: so if you want to offer the Google Play Store, then you have to also offer the other pieces of the Google app suite so that they work well together. But, of course, this also doesn't stop phone makers or service providers from adding their own apps as well. I now have a bloat-free Android phone running Cyanogenmod, but back when I had a Samsung S4 on Sprint, it came with a ton of bloatware from both Samsung and Sprint (and, frankly, all of it was useless and annoying).
Perhaps there's an issue with making Google search the default, but is anyone actually harmed by having Google's search as the (easily changed) default on an Android phone? It certainly seems like Apple's iOS ecosystem is a lot more restrictive. At least with Google you can route around Google's app store and sideload apps easily or use alternative app stores. I frequently use Amazon's app store, for example.
preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
This is the one prong (out of three) that at least seems worth investigating more. I can understand Google's position -- that if you're offering Google's suite of apps, you need to offer Google's version of Android to make sure everything works together well -- but this seems like an unnecessary condition for Google to include in those agreements. The simple fact is that most manufacturers are likely to want to go with a stock Android anyway, and just pile on their own customizations and bloatware. In most cases, there isn't going to be that much desire for manufacturers to use an Android fork. But, if they do... so what? I don't really understand why Google prevents manufacturers from choosing to offer different flavors of Android, but I'm also not sure that this is an antitrust issue.
giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.
This one probably confuses me the most. This is just a business deal for installing software on phones. For years, Google paid Mozilla to be its default search in Firefox, and then Yahoo outbid it to become the default. That's how business works. Google isn't leveraging its market position here -- it's just doing a deal. The EU claims that its issue is "not with financial incentives in general but with the conditions associated with Google's financial incentives, in particular with the condition that the financial incentive is not paid if any other search provider than Google Search is pre-installed on smart mobile devices." But... isn't that the nature of the deal? If you're doing a business deal to be the exclusive search provider, then, shouldn't you be the exclusive search provider?
It will obviously be worth watching how all of this plays out. The EU has made it clear for a while that it has it in for Google, so if I had to predict, this process won't go well for Google.
Frankly, if I were Google, I probably would have dropped a lot of the exclusivity requirements. I know they're in a race to see who will get access to the most data, but let the apps and services compete and see who wins out. Google's app ecosystem does well because it tends to be pretty good. Google could have avoided at least some of this fight by just trusting its own services to win out, rather than pushing for certain defaults and exclusivities. Some others have made this point as well:
I'm pretty sure Google can survive and come out the winner. The best of its products -- that ones that have the most users -- are excellent. People won't stop using Google Maps just because it isn't preinstalled on their phones. It's among the top 10 most downloaded applications in Apple's App Store because iPhone users often prefer it to Apple's own map software. Chrome is in the top 100 most downloaded apps even though it's impossible to change the default browser in iOS from Apple's Safari without "jailbreaking" the device to untether it from Apple support.
Google's search engine, too, wouldn't be dominant if it didn't index more pages than competitors and produce better results. YouTube is a must-have app, while Google's cloud office services are free, unlike, say, Microsoft's, and they work just as well.
These are great, competitive products. They don't really need the extra push from restrictive deals between Google and phone manufacturers. Google's brand name is strong with those who buy Android phones, and, given a choice, they are likely to prefer Google products rather than spend time researching alternatives. The company may need to spend a bit more on advertising its products in a free-choice situation, but that won't break the bank because the apps are already hugely popular.
But what Google should do, and what the EU should force it to do, are different questions. I'd much prefer that Google take a more open approach to these things, but I'm not convinced that we want bureaucrats deciding for the company exactly what Google's approach on the mobile phone should be.
When you testify before Congress, it helps to actually have some knowledge of what you're talking about. On Tuesday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee held the latest congressional hearing on the whole silly encryption fight, entitled Deciphering the Debate Over Encryption: Industry and Law Enforcement Perspectives. And, indeed, they did have witnesses presenting "industry" and "law enforcement" views, but for unclear reasons decided to separate them. First up were three "law enforcement" panelists, who were free to say whatever the hell they wanted with no one pointing out that they were spewing pure bullshit. You can watch the whole thing below (while it says it's 4 hours, it doesn't actually start until about 45 minutes in):
Lots of craziness was stated -- starting with the idea pushed by both chief of intelligence for the NYPD, Thomas Galati and the commander of the office of intelligence for the Indiana State Police, Charles Cohen -- that the way to deal with non-US or open source encryption was just to ban it from app stores. This is a real suggestion that was just made before Congress by two (?!?) separate law enforcement officials. Rep. Morgan Griffith rightly pointed out that so many encryption products couldn't possibly be regulated by US law, and asked the panelists what to do about it. You can watch the exchange here:
You see Cohen ridiculously claim that since Apple and Google are gatekeepers to apps, that the government could just ban foreign encryption apps from being in the app stores:
Right now Google and Apple act as the gatekeepers for most of those encrypted apps, meaning if the app is not available on the App Store for an iOS device, if the app is not available on Google Play for an Android device, a customer of the United States cannot install it. So while some of the encrypted apps, like Telegram, are based outside the United States, US companies act as gatekeepers as to whether those apps are accessible here in the United States to be used.
This is just wrong. It's ignorant and clueless and for a law enforcement official -- let alone one who is apparently the "commander of the office of intelligence" -- to not know that this is wrong is just astounding. Yes, on Apple phones it's more difficult to get apps onto a phone, but it's not impossible. On Android, however, it's easy. There are tons of alternative app stores, and part of the promise of the Android ecosystem is that you're not locked into Google's own app store. And, really, is Cohen literally saying that Apple and Google should be told they cannot allow Telegram -- one of the most popular apps in the world -- in their app stores? Really?
Galati then agreed with him and piled on with more ignorance:
I agree with what the Captain said. Certain apps are not available on all devices. So if the companies that are outside the United States can't comply with same rules and regulations of the ones that are in the United States, then they shouldn't be available on the app stores. For example, you can't get every app on a Blackberry that you can on an Android or a Google.
Leaving aside the fact he said "Android or a Google" (and just assuming he meant iPhone for one of those)... what?!? The reason you can't get every app on a BlackBerry that's on other devices has nothing to do with any of this at all. It's because the market for BlackBerry devices is tiny, so developers don't develop for the BlackBerry ecosystem (and, of course, some BlackBerries now use Android anyway, so...). That comment by Galati makes no sense at all. Using the fact that fewer developers develop for BlackBerry says nothing about blocking foreign encryption apps from Android or iOS ecosystems. It makes no sense.
Why are these people testifying before Congress when they don't appear to know what they're talking about?
Later in the hearing, when questioned by Rep. Paul Tonko about how other countries (especially authoritarian regimes) might view a US law demanding backdoors as an opportunity to demand the same levels of access, Cohen speculated ridiculously, wildly and falsely that he'd heard that Apple gave China its source code:
Here's what Cohen says:
In preparing for the testimony, I saw several news stories that said that Apple provided the source code for iOS to China, as an example. I don't know whether those stories are true or not.
Yeah, because they're not. He then goes on to say that Apple has never said under oath whether or not that's true -- except, just a little while later, on the second panel, Apple's General Counsel Bruce Sewell made it quite clear that they have never given China its source code. Either way, Cohen follows it up by saying that Apple won't give US law enforcement its source code, as if to imply that Apple is somehow more willing to help the Chinese government hack into phones than the US government. Again, this is just blatant false propaganda. And yet here is someone testifying before Congress and claiming that it might be true.
Thankfully, at the end of the hearing, Rep. Anna Eshoo -- who isn't even a member of the subcommittee holding the hearing (though she is a top member of the larger committee) joined in and quizzed Cohen about his bizarre claims:
She notes that it's a huge allegation to make without any factual evidence, and asks if he has anything to go on beyond just general "news reports." Not surprisingly, he does not.
Elsewhere in the hearing, Cohen also insists that a dual key solution would work. He says this with 100% confidence -- that if Apple and law enforcement had a shared key it would be "just like a safety deposit box." Of course, this is also just wrong. As has been shown for decades, when you set up a two key solution, you're introducing vulnerabilities into the system that almost certainly let in others as well.
And then, after that, Rep. Jerry McNerney raises the point -- highlighted by many others in the past -- that rather than "going dark," law enforcement is in the golden age of surveillance and investigation thanks to more and new information, including that provided by mobile phones (such as location data, metadata on contacts and more). Cohen, somewhat astoundingly, claims he can't think of any new information that's now available thanks to mobile phones:
Sir, I'm having problems thinking of an example of information that's available now that was not before. From my perspective, thinking through investigations that we previously had information for, when you combine the encryption issue along with shorter and shorter retention periods, in a service provider, meaning they're keeping their records, for both data and metadata, for a shorter period of time, available to legal process. I'm having difficulty finding an example of an avenue that was not available before.
Huh?!? He can't think of things like location info from mobile phones? He can't think of things like metadata and data around unencrypted texts? He can't think of things like unencrypted and available information from apps? Then why is he on this panel? And the issue of data retention? Was he just told before the hearing to make a point to push for mandatory data retention and decided to throw in a nod to it here?
At least Galati, who went after him, was willing to admit that tech has provided a lot more information than in the past -- but then claimed that encryption was "eliminating those gains."
Cohen is really the clown at the show here. He also claims that Apple somehow decided to throw away its key and that it was "solving a problem that doesn't exist" in adding encryption:
There he's being asked by Rep. Yvette Clarke if he sees any technical solutions to the encryption issue, and he says:
The solution that we had in place previously, in which Apple did hold a key. And as Chief Galati mentioned, that was never compromised. So they could comply with a proper service of legal process. Essentially, what happened is that Apple solved a problem that does not exist.
Again, this is astoundingly ignorant. The problem before was that there was no key. It wasn't that Apple had the key, it's that the data was readily available to anyone who had access to the phone. That put everyone's information at risk. It's why there was so much concern about stolen phones and why stolen phones were so valuable. For a law enforcement official to not realize that and not think it was a real problem is... astounding. And, again, raises the question of why this guy is testifying before Congress.
It also raises the question of why Congress put him on a panel with no experts around to correct his many, many errors. At the very least, towards the beginning of the second panel, Apple GC Sewell explained how Cohen was just flat out wrong on these points:
If you can't see that, after his prepared remarks, Sewell directly addresses Cohen's claims:
That's where I was going to conclude my comments. But I think I owe it to this committee to add one additional thought. And I want to be very clear on this: We have not provided source code to the Chinese government. We did not have a key 19 months ago that we threw away. We have not announced that we are going to apply passcode encryption to the next generation iCloud. I just want to be very clear on that because we heard three allegations. Those allegations have no merit.
A few minutes later, he's asked directly about this and whether or not the Chinese had asked for the source code, and Sewell says that, yes, the Chinese have asked, and Apple has refused to give it to them:
Seems like they could have killed 3 hours of ignorant arguments presented to Congress, if they had just not allowed such ignorance to be spewed earlier on.
Yesterday we wrote about the fairly unsurprising, but still good, news that the Supreme Court had rejected an attempted appeal by the Authors Guild of the really excellent fair use decision by the 2nd Circuit appeals court over whether or not Google scanning books to build a giant, searchable index was fair use.
“Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit’s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.
Did you get that? The Authors Guild is so completely out of touch that it actually thinks that "public benefit arguments" have no place in copyright disputes, despite the very fact that the Constitutional underpinnings of copyright law is to maximize the public's benefit. And, of course, this all ignores the fact that the vast, vast majority of authors greatly benefit from such a searchable index in that it drives more sales of books.
But, on with the hyperbole:
“Today authors suffered a colossal loss,” said Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson. “We filed the class action lawsuit against Google in September 2005 because, as we stated then, ‘Google’s taking was a plain and brazen violation of copyright law.’ We believed then and we believe now that authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes.”
What you believe, and what the law says, are different. And that was the case back in 2005 when you filed the suit just like many of us said at the time.
“The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture,” continued Rasenberger. “Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow’s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidized will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America’s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.”
This is ridiculous on so many levels. First, most authors cannot make a living today because most books don't sell. That's not the fault of Google Books. In fact, as noted time and time again, Google Books acts as a discovery mechanism for many books and increases sales (I've bought dozens of books thanks to finding them via Google Book Search). Second, the gloom and doom predictions of legacy industries over new technologies is time-worn and has never been even remotely correct.
What Rasenberger leaves out of her ignorant whine is the fact that in the time that Google Books has existed, the number of authors has increased massively. No, they're not all making a living, but the purpose of copyright law is to incentivize the creation of new works for the public, and the public is getting an astounding amount of new works -- a totally unprecedented amount of new works actually -- and it's got nothing to do with anything the Authors Guild has done.
And, of course, the Authors Guild still won't give up, promising to fight this issue in other courts, hoping to get a circuit split that the Supreme Court will review:
Following the Supreme Court’s order, the Guild vowed to remain vigilant to ensure that the Second Circuit’s ruling is not taken as carte blanche for unfettered digitization of books. “The Second Circuit decision took pains to highlight that fair use was found based on the strict display restrictions and security measures currently employed by Google,” said Authors Guild general counsel Jan Constantine. “We’ll continue to monitor Google and its library partners to ensure these standards are met, as we will take appropriate action to ensure that fair use isn’t abused.”
To ensure that fair use isn't abused? Lovely people at the Authors Guild who outright declare themselves against public benefit, and then worry about the "expansion" and "abuse" of fair use. Does no one at the Authors Guild recognize that their authors are protected by fair use as well and many of them rely on it all the time? Who would ever join such a backwards looking and thinking organization?