by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 8:01pm
by Michael Ho
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- NASA recently issued a statement clarifying that a study by university researchers was NOT "solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA" because the research was going viral... and predicted the end of our civilization. However, NASA did fund the development of the "Human And Nature DYnamical" (HANDY) model which was used to reach the conclusion that civilization could collapse due to unsustainable resource exploitation and growing inequality in wealth distribution. [url]
- Global population growth could strain our ability to feed billions of people in the coming decades. We've overcome agricultural challenges before with the Green Revolution, but decreasing biodiversity and increasing genetically modified crops may pose significant problems in the future. [url]
- Our planet could cross a dangerous threshold in 2036 -- when it's predicted that global temperatures might be 2°C higher than preindustrial times. Maybe we'll be able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by then, or figure out a way to cost effectively sequester atmospheric CO2... maybe. [url]
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 4:01pm
Rap Artists Wu-Tang Clan Fight Infinite Goods By Selling One Copy Of Their Next Album... For $1 Million
from the if-you've-got-the-front-rent,-who-cares-about-the-back? dept
There's a lot of discussion at this site about new business models for artists to combat the tendency of infinite goods (digital files) to bring the market price down to as near zero as possible. Seminal rap act Wu-Tang Clan has gone in the opposite direction. Instead of operating around infinite goods, the group is opting to release its next album in an extremely finite quantity.
Somewhere on the outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco, inside a vault housed beneath the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, there sits an engraved silver-and-nickel box with the potential to spawn a shift in the way music is consumed and monetized.Rather than allow the market to decide how much the album is worth, the Wu-Tang Clan has circumvented that process by predetermining its going price (which eliminates a whole lot of the "market"). But it's not a terrible idea, provided it's able to sell this literally one-of-a-kind album. Securing $1 million up front (and without a label) for an unheard album will allow the group to recoup its costs in short order, rather than having to rely on a slower flow of income. It may work for a group that has achieved nearly legendary status over the course of its career, but it obviously isn't the sort of thing that would work for many recording artists.
The lustrous container was handcrafted over the course of three months by British-Moroccan artist Yahya, whose works have been commissioned by royal families and business leaders around the world. Soon, it will contain a different sort of art piece: the Wu-Tang Clan’s double-album The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, recorded in secret over the past few years.
Like the work of a master Impressionist, it will truly be one-of-a-kind—in lieu of a traditional major label or independent launch, the iconic hip-hop collective will make and sell just one copy of the album. And similar to a Monet or a Degas, the price tag will be a multimillion-dollar figure.
But this isn't the only revenue stream. The Clan has another offering that will put even more money in its pockets, but it's also one that could possibly undermine the million-dollar sale.
According to RZA and the album’s main producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, a Morocco-based part of Wu-Tang’s extended family, the plan is to first take Once Upon A Time In Shaolin on a “tour” through museums, galleries, festivals and the like. Just like a high-profile exhibit at a major institution, there will be a cost to attend, likely in the $30-$50 range.
Visitors will go through heavy security to ensure that recording devices aren’t smuggled in; as an extra precaution, they’ll likely have to listen to the 128-minute album’s 31 songs on headphones provided by the venue. As Cilvaringz puts it: “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept.”The group says this is an attempt at "reconsidering music as art." That's the kind of statement that punches the right buttons for creators who feel the internet has robbed them of the ability to make a living, but it's ultimately as substance-free as any other justification for charging a steep price for infinite goods. This is the sort of statement you can make when a $1 million payoff assures you of success even without album sales. This won't force a reconsideration of music by the general public. This will only put the new album into the realm of the unattainable, which makes it a luxury good, rather than an artistic statement.
But all in all, it's not a terrible plan. If the album leaks beforehand, some well-heeled fan may still pick up the tab to get the only legitimate copy of this album, along with its handcrafted storage case. If, by some miracle, the album is purchased and never leaks, someone out there will own the best-kept musical secret of all time. But chances are, the album will make its way to the internet eventually, even if leaks are prevented. People love sharing art, even if they paid $1 million for it.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 3:04pm
from the flame-war! dept
The US State Department's social media arms have been much busier over the past few months trolling terrorist sympathizers and radicalization groups online via Twitter and Facebook. "Trolling" probably isn't the most precise term for the injection of countering views into previously uninterrupted feeds, but it does sort of sum up the State Dept's end game, which is less set on converting would-be terrorists than simply preventing these accounts from running uninterrupted and unchallenged feeds.
Back in December of last year, Alberto Fernandez, who heads the State Dept.'s "Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications," put it his way.
Gauging the effort’s effectiveness will be challenging, but even interrupting Al Qaeda’s unimpeded English-language efforts would amount to a modest success, officials said.The State Dept. uses analysts familiar with the many terrorist factions currently operating around the world, including some fluent in Arabic, Urdu, Somali and Punjabi, to provide countering arguments to assertions made by Twitter accounts and Facebook pages loosely tied to terrorist organizations. The recent activities of State Dept.-sponsored Twitter accounts like Think Again Turn Away (whose avatar is the State Dept. insignia) have drawn some press, but the genesis of these efforts dates back much further than that.
“They were setting the narrative and had a free shot at the audience for radicalizing people,” Mr. Fernandez said in an interview. “Nobody was calling them” on it.
This kind of thing isn't unusual for the State Department. The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications was established in 2010 to coordinate messaging to target violent extremism on the internet, especially that of Al Qaeda and affiliates. CSCC (an interagency center that is housed at State) initially focused on non-English online forums where the State Department saw jihadists attempting to recruit and raise money (message boards, comments on Al Jazeera Talk, etc.) Late last year, CSCC made a move into English-language websites, with the small team of analysts and microbloggers expanding their fight on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and elsewhere, under the banner of the US State Department.Back in 2012, Techdirt covered another State Dept. effort called "Viral Peace," which was aiming to "troll" extremists using big social media sites as well as smaller forums, hoping to neutralize the threat by undermining it. The Wired story covered was light on details on exactly what form this "trolling" would take, as the near-zero-budget program was still in development, with even the program leaders unsure of what the best methods would be. As Mike pointed out then, trolling extremists carried the potential for horrendous backlash, with clumsy efforts just as likely to craft more enemies of America than dissuade potential recruits.
What the State Dept. is doing now leaves no doubt that this is a government-controlled operation. No effort is being made to hide the department's involvement, which makes the counterpoints almost too easily dismissed and/or attacked to be considered truly effective. (A go-to counterargument to the State Dept.'s accusations of terrorist-related killings of women and children has been to point to the US's drone program, something that has killed a number of women and children as well.)
While there's no doubt the NSA and other agencies are operating undercover accounts aimed at tracking terrorist threats and subverting radicalization, the State Department's wholly above-board intercessions are less likely to provoke backlash. Those who want to believe it's nothing but a propaganda arm are free to discount anything issued from these accounts. Those who might be swayed by seeing a differing viewpoint will be less likely to feel they been somehow tricked, as they might be if an account is later revealed to be controlled by a government employee.
This is still a very difficult area to navigate without making the situation worse, but in a very short time, the State Dept.'s counterterrorism Twitter account has become comfortable enough in its engagement with extremists to deploy the sort of snark that clearly reveals a human being runs the account -- albeit one wearing its affiliation on its sleeve.
"If you're talking about would-be extremists reading a tweet and turning away from violence as a result, it's hard to tell how much that is happening," Will McCants [former counterterrorism advisor to the State Dept.] says. "So if you measure success that way, it's hard to know. But you can demonstrate that this kind of effort has gotten into the heads of senior leadership. With al-Shabaab, for instance, leaders issued a directive saying not to interact with the State Department accounts because they spread lies about the mujahideen. Things used to be the other way, with [US officials] talking about how jihadis were so good at messaging against the US. It's nice that we're starting to have this turnaround."The State Department hasn't always had success in its social media forays, but there's not much to criticize about this so-called "trolling" effort. This effort seems to be exercising a great deal of restraint and the transparency of these accounts will hopefully prevent a few of the more noxious side effects -- like pushing even more would-be terrorists off the fence.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 2:01pm
from the brute-force-attacks-that-don't-involve-SWAT-members,-battering-rams dept
Law enforcement agencies really want to see your phone's contents. I mean, they really want to. Martin Kaste at NPR has a story on law enforcement and smartphones which contains the following quote from a Rolf Norton, a Seattle homicide detective.
"I'm thinking there's probably a wealth of information that just got tucked into your pocket," Norton says. "Something that we'd like to get our hands on."Easy for law enforcement officers to say, but today's phones have more in common with a personal computer than they do with, say, the contents of someone's pants pockets, as the state of Texas memorably argued.
The courts have offered mixed opinions as to whether a warrant is needed to view the contents of someone's phone. This lack of a "bright line" is increasingly problematic as smartphones have become a convenient, pocket-sized data center that can reveal plenty of information that wouldn't normally be accessible without a warrant.
The NPR story deals only with access granted by warrants, but it does lead off with another Detective Norton quote which points out how officers will attempt to separate the ignorant from their (possibly incriminating) evidence.
Once he's seized a phone, Norton says, he often has to return to the owner to ask for help.Refusing to hand over a password shouldn't seem to be a problem, but like the issue listed above, the courts have been unclear as to whether the Fifth Amendment's protections against self-incrimination extends to passwords. This could lead to obstruction charges or contempt of court for the phone's owner.
"Maybe you've established a rapport and you're getting along with this person," Norton says. "We'll reach out to that person and say, 'Hey, your phone's locked. We'd like to inspect it. We'll probably be getting a warrant. Would you give us your password?' "
Just getting a warrant doesn't necessarily make everything OK, either. There's a ton of non-relevant data on any given smartphone, all of which can easily be accessed once the phone is unlocked. Narrowly-written warrants that set limits on what officers can and can't look at are a partial solution, but one that few law enforcement agencies are likely to follow.
Blindly diving into the contents of someone's smartphone exposes a whole lot of information, and if officers aren't exactly sure where this incriminating data is located, they'll probe around until they can find it. Armed with just enough "belief and information" to be dangerous, they'll easily be able to make the case that all contents are "relevant" until proven otherwise. This obviously raises privacy concerns, but again, there's no specific protection in place for these contents, which some courts have argued contain no "expectation of privacy" thanks to constant "checkins" with third party providers and services.
Not that the lack of a warrant or permission will necessarily prevent the phone from being searched. (That "problem" can always be dealt with later in the courtroom…)
Companies such as Guidance Software and Cellebrite sell products to law enforcement that "image" smartphones. The products can pull data off in bulk for use as evidence. BrickHouse Security in New York sells products like this for iPhone and Android. CEO Todd Morris says the handset manufacturers don't support this, so it's a constant effort to keep the forensic software up to date.As Morris notes, cellphone companies aren't cooperating in providing back doors for law enforcement to access phones without warrants. So, like our very own NSA, these companies use exploits to crack phones for curious cops.
These phone-copying systems rely heavily on what hackers call "exploits," or vulnerabilities in the phones' operating systems that can be used to get around the password or encryption.All in all, Apple's phones are more secure than Android handsets. But either way, having to go through the warrant process can mean weeks to months of waiting (if the handset needs to be returned to the manufacturer) for the release of "rescued" data. (Courts have been more reluctant to force defendants to turn over passwords, seeing this as more of a clear Fifth Amendment violation.) Not surprisingly, this turnaround time is considered unacceptable, hence the arms race of private company vs. private company to gain (and maintain) control of a smartphone's contents.
Even considering the oft-abused Third Party Doctrine, it would seem that a warrantless search of a smartphone would be a Fourth Amendment violation. There's just too much information stored on the average smartphone to be compared to anything found on a person during a normal search. And, as a New York law student recently asked Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, isn't searching someone's computer roughly equivalent to their "effects," Fourth Amendment-wise? For all intents and purposes, a smartphone is a portable computer, loaded with a person's "effects" and creating a time/date/location "event" every time it pings a cell tower.
Considering how much info can be gathered from a single smartphone, It's little wonder law enforcement wants to peek at arrestees' smartphones, but the courts need to do a bit of catching up to today's cellphone realities. And there needs to be more attention paid to the fact that law enforcement agencies are partnering with private companies to crack phones, apparently without asking for a warrant first.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 1:04pm
from the really-now? dept
In fact, what's really odd is that by joining them all together, Siemens may significantly limit any damages it might get. That's because it's effectively suggesting a single act of infringement across all defendants. And while the lawsuit seeks statutory damages "for each infringement of each Copyrighted Software," some lawyers have pointed out that 17 USC 504 (the part of copyright law dealing with statutory damages) limits the statutory damage award to "all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work." In other words, the total statutory damages for each work that is listed in the action has to be $30,000 (or $150,000 if willful). Thus, by lumping them all together, even if the court allows the joinder, it would be at most $150,000 per software infringed (the lawsuit lists 3 potential products), meaning that the defendants would be "jointly and severally liable" for the total amount -- but it's not like they'd get $150,000 from each of the 100 Does.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 12:05pm
Sheriff's Dept. Charges Man With No Drugs With 'Intent To Distribute Counterfeit Controlled Substances'
from the if-you-don't-like-punishment,-don't-not-break-the-rules dept
Live a clean life and the cops should leave you alone, right? RIGHT?!? Harvey Silverglate wasn't being facetious when he wrote "Three Felonies A Day." There are all sorts of laws waiting to be broken, laws that boggle the mind in their insipidity.
As we covered recently, the FBI arrested one of its own handcrafted "terrorists" for "conspiring" to materially aid a terrorist organization. This "conspiring" apparently took the form of the suspect talking about possibly joining a terrorist group and, with undercover agents' urging, traveling to Canada to fill out some sort of terrorist job application. He was arrested at the border, having really done nothing more than talk big and wear the "rube" label really well.
More recently, Techdirt covered Judge Otis Wright's beration of the ATF for setting up stooges to pull off a fake crime -- a conspiracy to rob a "stash house." Of course, the stash house didn't exist, but this didn't stop the government from bringing criminal charges against the "criminals" and seeking sentences based on the entirely fictional contents of the fictional house. The ATF told its stooges that the house contained 20-25 kilos of coke in the house. Judge Wright asked why not just say 10, or 100 or 1,000, as long as the government's just making up numbers? No crime here because said "stash house" simply didn't exist and yet, people were arrested and put on trial.
Here's another case of no criminal activity somehow turning into a crime in the hands of zealous law enforcement officers who apparently couldn't handle not getting the drug bust they were obviously seeking. (via Reason)
Deputies said they stopped Delbert Dewayne Galbreath at NW 10th Street and Interstate 44 for a broken brake light. The deputy said Galbreath admitted he did not have a license to drive. Two deputies asked to search his car and he agreed.Read that again: a man was arrested for not possessing drugs. Note the oddly specific denial. The man said they were "Scentsy." This doesn't sound like someone just blurting out the first thing that came to mind when deputies searched his vehicle.
A deputy found a cigarette pouch that had 16 pieces of a rock-like form, which authorities generally associate as crack cocaine. The deputies said they also found a digital scale.
Authorities tested the rocks and said they did not contain cocaine. When they asked Galbreath what the rocks were, he said they were Scentsy.
Galbreath was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute imitation controlled dangerous substance (CDS), possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under a revoked license and defective equipment.
If you're not familiar with Scentsy, it's a direct marketing company that specializes in "wickless candles," which are scented wax cubes that are warmed on its proprietary warmers. (All images taken from Scentsy's catalog unless otherwise noted)
Here's how the process works.
Here's a shot of a couple of Scentsy cubes sitting in a warmer with a vaguely scale-like shape.
Here's some more scale-esque warmers Scentsy offers.
And here's another scale-like warmer that's included in every Scentsy starter kit.
And here's some vaguely crack-colored wax sitting in a Scentsy warmer.
And for comparison's sake, here's a DEA file photo of crack cocaine.
So, this seems like an entirely plausible explanation. The plausibility factor shoots way up when you factor in the negative test results. But rather than investigate whether Galbreath's claims were accurate after the "NOT COCAINE" determination, the deputies ran with their original plan: nail Galbreath for drug dealing. Instead of dealing drugs, Galbreath was trying to sell fake drugs, which is completely indistinguishable from actual criminal activity when you're sitting in a jail cell.
Maybe the Sheriff's Dept. is hoping to sweat out some more info from the jailed "dealer," like who his pissed off customers are or who's further up the chain supplying him with fake drugs and taking a percentage of each sale he makes. (My hunch? A regional director in Oklahoma as well as any number of intermediaries along the direct marketing food chain.)
"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time," they say. But they somehow fail to add, "Don't NOT do the crime if you can't do the time," because everyday citizens like you and me might find that statement baffling, horrifying and complete bullshit.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 11:01am
from the for-intellectual-property-read-intellectual-monopoly dept
More and more of our activities take place in the digital rather than analog realm. But what exactly is the legal status of that digital stuff as it flows around the Internet, or sits inside databases? A recent judgment in the UK provides important guidance:
Information stored electronically does not constitute property which someone can exercise possession of, judges in the UK have ruled.
The details of that case can be read in the useful post on Out-law.com quoted above. The basic facts are as follows. The publisher Datateam Business Media Limited wanted to outsource the management of its subscriber database. The company Your Response Ltd took on the job, but the publisher became dissatisfied with its services, and sought to terminate the contract. In the following dispute over the payment of fees, Your Response Ltd claimed possession of the database -- hence the court case. The analysis of one of the judges is interesting:
The Court of Appeal rejected arguments to the contrary and refused to interpret existing laws in a manner which would, it admitted, "have the beneficial effect of extending the protection of property rights in a way that would take account of recent technological developments".
The judges said that whilst it is possible to exert control over electronic information it is not possible to gain possession of it. The distinction was drawn in a case concerning a dispute between a publisher and an IT supplier.
"An electronic database consists of structured information," Lord Justice Floyd said. "Although information may give rise to intellectual property rights, such as database right and copyright, the law has been reluctant to treat information itself as property. When information is created and recorded there are sharp distinctions between the information itself, the physical medium on which the information is recorded and the rights to which the information gives rise. Whilst the physical medium and the rights are treated as property, the information itself has never been."
That's an important statement that touches on many aspects of the online world, not least digital copyright. It confirms that the property of "intellectual property" is of monopoly rights, not of the information in the creative work. And since that information cannot be possessed, it therefore cannot be stolen, despite what copyright maximalists would have us believe.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 9:55am
from the your-one-stop-shop-for-bullshit-clauses! dept
KlearGear is getting back into the pay-to-complain business. Despite being forced into hiding after news surfaced that it had (fraudulently) attempted to extract $3,500 from a negative reviewer using a bogus non-disparagement clause hidden in its "Terms of Sale and Use," the company continues to limp along, avoiding taking responsibility for its actions.
As KUTV.com notes, the impossible-to-locate representatives of KlearGear were no-shows in court. (h/t to Techdirt reader Howard Robinson)
The court clerk declared kleargear.com to be in default on March 11, 2014. Eight days later, Michelman proposed a default judgment which reads, "kleargear.com is liable to [jen and her husband] for violating the fair credit reporting act, for defamation, for intentional interference with prospective contractual relations, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress."So, for the want of $3,500 (via a BS clause hidden in the terms of sale and not even active when the suing couple purchased [but did not receive] an item from KlearGear), the company is now potentially out $70,000 (thanks to Public Citizen's efforts on the Palmers' behalf). That's if anyone can get ahold of the company's owners. So far, these principals have managed to avoid being smoked out by the internet heat.
Michelman told Get Gephardt Thursday that he expects the judge will sign the motion and order kleargear.com to pay restitution to John and Jen.
The proposed default judgment does not say how much kleargear.com will be asked to pay. Rather, Michelman has asked for a future hearing where the judge would determine the penalty. A letter sent to kleargear.com by Michelman before the lawsuit was filed said John and Jen would ask a court to award $70,000.
But there's even more to this story. The original non-disparagement clause, which was pulled down shortly after KUTV's Matt Gephardt started asking questions, has now resurfaced. The gotcha clause has been placed back in its original spot in the "Terms of Sale and Use" (albeit under a slightly different url -- "termsofuse1," rather than "termsofuse").
Also making a return is KlearGear's horrible "chargeback" policy, which similarly disappeared briefly along with the non-disparagement clause.
[S]hould Klear Gear receive a chargeback (a sale reversal that occurs when a customer contacts his or her credit card-issuing bank or credit card company to request a refund for any part of a purchase that they or someone else made on their credit card) or other reversed charge from a third party (e.g., PayPal), credit card company or bank on your behalf before Klear Gear has been given a chance to resolve the issue as provided in this section, Klear Gear has the right to collect on the shipped products or rendered services and any fees associated with those disputes.Not only is this a lousy way to treat customers, it's an absolutely abhorrent way to "provide" customer service. Not only will KlearGear hit you with an immediate $50 charge, it will forward this charge to a collection agency within 30 days and tack $500 on top of it. As if the pocketbook hit weren't excessive enough, the company will also spitefully drag your name through the mud via Badcustomer.com should you have the gall to dispute a charge. The use of Badcustomer.com points to more disreputable actions on Kleargear's part. The whole clause has been reinstated, apparently blissfully (or evilly) unaware that the website was shuttered by the FTC in 2011, after being found guilty of participating in a "cyberbullying billing scam" that "siphoned $275 million" from credit card users' accounts over a period of 4 years. I guess if you're a bullying company, you partner with other, equally-bullying "colleagues."
Klear Gear charges a $50.00 Dispute Fee per above-described Dispute should KlearGear.com not be given an opportunity to resolve any dispute as provided in this section, and the offending customer's personal information (with the exception of sensitive payment method details) will be provided to BadCustomer.com to limit the customer's ability to purchase from other retailers and service providers. The Dispute Fee is not refundable, even if Klear Gear wins your dispute or if you later cancel your dispute. By making a purchase through KlearGear.com you expressly authorize KlearGear.com to charge to the credit card you have provided to purchase the goods or services in dispute.
If Klear Gear is unable to charge the Chargeback against this credit card, Klear Gear shall have the right to otherwise collect the Dispute Fee from you. If Klear Gear is unable to collect the aforementioned Dispute Fee within 30 days of first attempting to charge you under this agreement, Klear Gear will forward your account to our external collections agency and assess an additional $500.00 Collection Fee. The original Dispute Fee and Collection Fee are subject to 2% monthly interest until the balance is paid in full including associated collection fees, legal fees, and costs of court as assessed separately by our collection firm. As a customer of KlearGear.com, you hereby expressly agree to these Terms.
There's a bit of history to this policy as well. For the first few years of business, neither of these godawful clauses existed. KlearGear ran like a normal, reputable business. The $50 fee/chargeback policy didn't show up until May 2007. In July 2007, the policy remained the same, but the wording now referred to a company called "Havaco Direct" which had the "right" to hit customers with a $50 chargeback fee. By October, "Havaco Direct" had vanished from the policy's wording.
It wasn't until December of 2009 that KlearGear threatened to notify Badcustomer.com about customers who dared to exercise a chargeback. It wasn't until June 2010 that it added the $500 "collection fee." Syncing this timeline up with KlearGear's BBB troubles is enlightening.
By May of 2010, KlearGear was sporting a gaudy "F" at the Better Business Bureau, the same entity that has given a terrorist organization an "A" simply because it followed all the rules. This suggests that KlearGear's customer service has been abysmal for quite some time. (The BBB site notes that 95 of 123 complaints over the previous three years had gone unanswered by the company.) As the chargebacks and complaints mounted, the company apparently decided to address the issue by making it financially unwise to dispute charges and, after being outed in 2012 by the BBB for fraudulently awarding itself an "A" on its website, it added the non-disparagement clause (in June of 2012) as further disincentive for unhappy customers to make their complaints public. KlearGear was stripped of its BBB accreditation in November of 2012.
Now, with its failing to show up in court and having reverted to its customer-punishing ways, KlearGear appears to be more than happy to take money from unwitting chumps and have every incentive not to take care of these blissfully ignorant customers. Why fulfill an order when you can collect anywhere from $50 to $3,500 for treating them poorly?
With its nonexistent staff, numerous address changes and unwillingness to confront any of these issues, its bizarre, abusive "terms of sale" seem to indicate the owners (whoever they are) are willing to run this business into the ground and walk away from the wreckage. Trying to apply logic to its business practices leads one to speculate that it's actually not an ignorant man's ThinkGeek, but rather an elaborate front for something shadier, like money laundering.
KlearGear very likely isn't a front, but rather, a business run by combative people with lousy business acumen and even lousier customer service skills. It's one thing to take someone's money while burdening them with bogus (and supposedly binding) clickwrap Terms of Sale. It's quite another to actually fulfill your end of the bargain and provide them with their purchased items.
Until someone actually outs those responsible for this debacle d/b/a KlearGear, about all anyone can do is spread the word about its abhorrent policies and hope that no one they know is putting their money into clearly undeserving pockets.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 8:52am
Mike Rogers Lies About Bulk Data Collection, Insists It's Necessary, Even As He Introduces Bill He Says Will Kill It
from the say-what-now? dept
But the thing that seemed most ridiculous was that, at the same time Rogers gave his press conference in which he claimed he was ending the bulk data collection by the NSA, he was publishing an op-ed in USA Today claiming the program was "necessary" and "vital" and that was why he was calling for it to end. He kicks it off with an already widely debunked bullshit story about how Section 215 could have stopped 9/11:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Khalid al-Mihdhar stepped on to American Airlines Flight 77, the flight he would later crash into the Pentagon. Al-Mihdhar might have been in prison, instead of on that flight, if the government knew he had called an al-Qaeda safehouse in Yemen from inside the U.S. seven times before the attacks. The failure to spot phone calls by al-Mihdhar and others led the Intelligence community to begin collecting large volumes of call data records, specifically the number dialed and the date and duration of the call, to determine whether suspected terrorists had contacts inside the United States.This is simply not true. The NSA was already intercepting calls to that very safehouse starting at least two years earlier. The CIA had been following al-Mihdhar for years earlier. The FBI was aware of him as well. The problem was that the CIA failed to alert anyone that Mihdhar had a US visa and came to the US. So the problem was never that they didn't have the information. It was that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA simply didn't cooperate and share the necessary information. This has nothing to do with the Section 215 bulk data collection.
Since last summer, a great deal has been written about the program's scope, capabilities and legality —much of it wrong. The fact is that the program is legal. It was authorized by Congress and found constitutional many times over. No review of the program revealed an intentional misuse of its authority.This is not actually accurate. It is not a "fact" that the program is legal. At least one court has said that it is not legal as has the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), who found the program to be clearly both illegal and unconstitutional. As for the claims that it was "authorized" by Congress and found "constitutional" many times over, neither is particularly accurate. Mike Rogers himself hid the details of the program from Congressional reps who voted on it, and the FISA court never actually explored the constitutionality of the bulk phone records collection until after the Snowden revelations, at which point it had to cover its ass for all the approvals of the program it had given based on a totally different authority.
We recognize that the Intelligence community must have the confidence of the American people to do its life-saving work. Over the past nine months, we have studied ways to reform the program while maintaining its effectiveness.WHAT EFFECTIVENESS? Everyone who has explored the program has admitted that they were somewhat shocked to learn that there is no evidence anywhere that the program has done anything useful, ever. To argue that we need to "maintain its effectiveness" is a joke.
Most of the rest of the piece is trying to explain why his new bill is a good idea, even after he opened it with a series of outright lies. Then, apparently because he can't resist, he closes on a misrepresentation as well:
Without NSA counterterrorism tools, Najibullah Zazi might have set off bombs during rush hour in the New York City subway in September 2009.Except the Zazi case is another one that's been debunked as well. But that doesn't stop Rogers from doubling down on his argument:
Some people may say that's "not enough" when compared to the amount of information the NSA obtains, but we would be shocked if anyone on September 12, 2001, wouldn't have done everything possible to find hijackers like al-Mihdhar and prevent just one terrorist attack.Yeah, that's a great closer. The argument that anything goes because of September 11th should, frankly, disqualify Rep. Rogers from holding office. Doing "everything possible" would mean abandoning the Constitution that Rogers is supposed to be upholding. We're a nation built on the principle that we don't abridge basic freedoms to "do everything possible" to stop one crime. Yet, Rogers still doesn't seem to recognize this.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 7:40am
Innocence Of Muslims Actress Files Contempt Charges Against Google For Not Making Movie Completely Disappear Worldwide
from the well,-if-you've-already-fucked-up-copyright-law-in-one-way... dept
In the midst of this, Garcia has filed a motion for contempt against YouTube and Google arguing that the company has failed to abide by the takedown order. However, as the details show, Garcia and Armenta are applying some rather questionable interpretations of copyright law yet again -- though they're interpretations helped along by a bunch of additional problems with Kozinski's order (problems that were mostly ignored given the immensity of the ridiculousness of the key parts of the original order). It seems that their main complaint is that Google only blocked the videos for people in the US. That is, if you visit a foreign version of YouTube, you can still see the clips. That may be true, but it's hard to see how that's contempt. US copyright law only applies in the US. The US court can't realistically order Google to remove the video in other countries, since US courts don't have jurisdiction there. Imagine the flip side: if a court in, say, China, ruled that Google had to block a certain video -- and then found Google in contempt for not blocking viewers in the US from accessing that content. Most people would flip out.
But Garcia and her lawyer seem to think that a single copyright ruling in the US is grounds for worldwide censorship. That's fairly incredible. Though, once again, Judge Kozinski is largely to blame here, as his order certainly could be read to suggest (clearly incorrectly) that he has the power to censor the content globally.
Google has failed to comply. As of this morning, at 7:55 a.m EST, a version of Innocence of Muslims that includes Ms. Garcia's performance is still available on Google's Worldwide Platform and also viewable in Egypt, the nation in which the fatwa was issued for Ms. Garcia's execution. All a viewer needs to do to view a copy of the video that contains the infringing material from any computer in the world and within in YouTube's global platforms--and therefore is governed by the takedown order--is to change his or her settings to any country platform, such as "Egypt."That's not the only problem with the motion. It also seems to completely ignore existing rulings (such as in the Viacom case) that state that in issuing takedowns, you need to point to the specific instance of infringement, rather than just "make all of this disappear." That's quite reasonable, because content itself is not infringing absent context. There may be perfectly valid versions of the content that are fair use -- especially given the news interest in this particular ruling. But Garcia is insisting that Google has to proactively police all copies and block them -- again, thanks in part to Kozinski's overly broad language in his order that implies a duty to police this issue, despite the law not saying that at all.
Furthermore, the DMCA's 512(j) itself says that injunctions granted under it can only apply to "a particular online site," rather than some sort of global ban across every site in every locale. Kozinski, once again, seems to have gone beyond what the law allows in his weird quixotic quest to twist copyright law into something it is not.
For Google, it is a pedestrian, technical exercise to take down those URLs, to hire an intern to just search for "Innocence of Muslims," and their suggestion that Ms. Garcia should comb through YouTube again, and provide Google with the information again, belies Google's claim that it is in compliance.While Kozinski seems to ignore this, the DMCA has never had a forward-looking duty to monitor and block all instances of a particular piece of content. It appears that Garcia and her lawyer are trying to simply make up new law here. As we noted just recently, there are some efforts underway to change the DMCA from a "notice and takedown" provision to "notice and staydown" but that's simply not the law today, no matter what Kozinski thinks it is.
The motion goes even further, insisting that the only way to comply with a takedown notice is to completely remove the file from the server, rather than just disable it from being viewable:
Additionally, as of the writing of this brief, Google has not "taken down" anything. Instead, it has merely disabled the various uploads displaying Innocence of Muslims in forms that contain infringing content, leaving the content up and viewable via thumbnails.Of course, the actual law says that upon notification a company only needs to "remove, or disable access to, the material." Once again, it seems that this is another problem with Kozinski's overly broad order, which declared that Google had to "takedown" the content, rather than just disable it, even as the law has said disabling it should be sufficient.
Furthermore, the motion seems to suggest that Google has a further duty (not even discussed in Kozinski's order) to somehow block Google's search engine from ever pointing to the video anywhere else in the world.
Google has failed to remove full copies of the video from its platforms, has failed to prevent new uploads of the video to YouTube, and continues to publish on its Google search index platforms links to numerous sites and platforms where the video can either be directly viewed or where it can be easily downloaded and saved to viewers' computers.So now they want to censor Google search results to other sites as well? Yikes.
Garcia also complains about the "snide" error message placed on copies of the video that were disabled.
Indeed, Google has not even made a pro forma attempt to comply with the order, choosing instead to temporarily disable only a few copies of the video that contain infringing content and putting in their place a snide message to the public that states:Of course, all of Google's responses so far do not seem like "contempt" or "thumbing its nose," but rather following through with the exactly what the law says is proper. Disabling access to the known videos in the US. This is the same way that Google responds to legal takedowns in other countries as well -- disabling it for those countries only. And, yes, Kozinski's order could be read to demand further actions, including fulling taking down all such videos, even those outside the US, but those are just additional problems with Kozinski's order, which go way beyond what the law says. Everyone has reasonably focused on the ridiculousness of the original claim of giving Garcia a copyright interest in the film, and to a lesser extent the First Amendment-defying gag order he placed on Google. But, the details of this contempt motion highlight that Kozinski got a lot of the little things completely wrong as well, such as ordering Google to go way beyond what copyright law requires."This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by an actress over her 5-second appearance in the video. A U.S. court has ordered Google to remove the video. We strongly disagree with this copyright ruling and will fight it."As is clear from Google's near-total disregard of the order and its ridiculing of the Court's authority, Google is thumbing its nose at the Court and making a mockery of our judicial system in an apparent attempt to encourage the public to blame and harass Ms. Garcia and to continue to use infringing content to generate YouTube revenues from traffic directed through the 852 URLs that have illegally posted the content.
This is a bad case on so many levels, but it could be even more ridiculous if these kinds of precedents by Kozinski's blatant misreading of the law are allowed to stand. The dangerous precedents go beyond just allowing an actor in a film to claim a copyright on the film, but further allowing bogus "worldwide" injunctions and a requirement to completely "take down" content, rather than just disable access to it (which creates a whole host of other problems). Once again, it seems abundantly clear that Kozinski simply went off the reservation with his ruling, ignoring what the law actually says to satisfy his own desire to censor this video.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 5:38am
from the shocked-to-the-bones dept
The UK government continues to claim that its spying activities are lawful, without specifying exactly why. However, it's pretty clear that the main law it is depending on is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). As Techdirt reported in January, there are serious doubts about whether GCHQ's surveillance activities are indeed covered by RIPA, but that's not the only problem here: the following story from The Guardian shows how RIPA is being abused -- not to find terrorists trying to bring down the state, but to winkle out whistleblowers selflessly trying to help it:
MPs have criticised Britain's leading tax official after HM Revenue & Customs [HMRC -- the UK tax authority] used powers meant to catch terrorists to hunt down an employee who exposed a secret multimillion-pound "sweetheart" deal with Goldman Sachs.
In 2011, Mba had written in confidence to various government bodies, saying that the then head of UK tax, Dave Hartnett, had "let off" Goldman Sachs from paying at least £10m in interest. But instead of being grateful for this information, the tax authorities seemed more interested in hounding him:
Lin Homer, the chief executive of HMRC, had told the public accounts committee that phone records had been obtained using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to unearth information about Osita Mba, an in-house lawyer.
When HMRC discovered Mba's intervention, his belongings, emails, internet search records and phone calls and the phone records of his then wife, Claudia, were examined by investigators.
HMRC's abuse of RIPA extended to investigating Mba's communications with a Guardian journalist:
At the committee meeting, Hodge also asked whether it was appropriate to pass Mba's wife's address, mobile number and office number to HMRC staff to investigate.
Margaret Hodge, the chair of the [Parliamentary] committee, said that HMRC's use of the powers, ostensibly to track down whether Mba had been talking to the Guardian's then investigations editor, David Leigh, had "shocked her to her bones".
Hodge went on to ask for assurances that HMRC would never again use RIPA powers on a whistleblower:
[Tax chief] Homer declined to offer Hodge the desired reassurance, responding: "You know that we cannot offer carte blanche assurances for evermore that we won't use these -- I have other duties of care to parliament and other individuals."
That refusal underlines why the UK's RIPA needs serious revision -- both to stop this kind of abuse, and to bring some much-needed scrutiny to the legal basis for GCHQ's massive surveillance activities.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 3:37am
corrections corporation of america
Judge Tells Private Prison Corporation It's A Government Agency As Far As Public Information Requests Are Concerned
from the another-obvious-conclusion-that-took-a-lawsuit-to-reach dept
Prison Legal News has been battling with the largest private prison corporation in the US, Corrections Corporation of America, over the control of records requested through a Texas Public Information Act request. The organization took CCA to court last May in hopes of kicking loose records pertaining to a now-closed prison.
Fortunately, almost a year later, a Texas judge has ordered the corporation to release the pertinent records.
A state judge ruled Wednesday that the nation's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is a "governmental body" for purposes of the Texas Public Information Act, "and subject to [the] Act's obligations to disclose public information."The corporation had argued that it was exempt from public information requests because it was not a government agency. As Prison Legal News noted in its May 2013 filing for summary judgement, this distinction was meaningless on several levels. It pointed to the Fifth Circuit Court's "Kneeland test," a list of three specifications that, if met, would redefine a private corporation as a public entity due to the extent of its interaction and reliance on government bodies.
An entity that receives public funds is treated as a governmental body under the PIA:As the filing noted, CCA met all three requirements. The corporation receives public funds to run its prisons, receiving a certain amount of money per prisoner housed. It is also instructed to maintain critical systems, etc. at all times, despite a fluctuating inmate count, for which it also receives public funding.
1. unless the private entity’s relationship with the government imposes a specific and definite obligation to provide a measurable amount of service in exchange for a certain amount of money as would be expected in a typical arms-length contract for services between a vendor and purchaser;
2. if the private entity’s relationship with the government indicates a common purpose or objective or creates an agency-type relationship between the two; or
3. if the private entity’s relationship with the government requires the private entity to provide services traditionally provided by governmental bodies.
Quite obviously, Texas and CCA are also reliant on each other ("agency-type relationship") in other ways. The state prosecutes criminals and needs somewhere to house them, which CCA provides. This also satisfies the third stipulation, that being that CCA provides a service normally provided by the government.
In a one-page ruling, the judge granted summary judgement, ordering the company to hand over records to Prison Legal News. This is one small victory against the increasingly privately-owned prison system in the US. By turning over imprisonment to private corporations, the US government has both perverted incentives (by making imprisonment a profitable enterprise) and allowed public records to be hidden away behind FOI exemptions meant to shield private companies' trade secrets from their competitors.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Mar 26th 2014 12:22am
from the ISDS-is-*so*-twentieth-century dept
South Korea plans to hold talks with the United States to rework the investor-state dispute (ISD) clause in their two-year-old free trade pact that has long been cited by critics as being unfair, a government source said Sunday.That's possible because of the following prescient move by South Korea at the time of the trade agreement's signing:
To receive parliamentary approval, Seoul forwarded a proposal to lawmakers that promised a "reevaluation" of the ISD clause down the line.One country that has already "re-evaluated" ISDS, and found it wanting, is South Africa, as Techdirt explained at the end of last year. But the Lexology site reports that it could soon be joined by another major economy:
According to the Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has informed the Netherlands that it has decided to terminate the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the two nations from 1 July 2015. The Embassy also states that "the Indonesian Government has mentioned it intends to terminate all of its 67 bilateral investment treaties".Once more, it seems that painful experiences of corporate sovereignty played their part in the decision:
it would not be surprising if the Churchill Mining Plc v Indonesia cases (ICSID Cases ARB/12/14 and 12/40) have prompted more sweeping action by the Indonesian Government. Churchill and Planet Mining Pty began arbitration against the Indonesian government in May 2012 at ICSID in Washington. On 24 February 2014 the ICSID Tribunal rejected Indonesia's jurisdictional challenges leaving Churchill free to proceed with a claim for damages of not less than US$1.05bn, excluding interest. This decision has caused outrage in Indonesia.That outrage is understandable, since it will be the Indonesian public that will have to foot the billion-dollar bill if the ISDS tribunal rules against Indonesia. In a way, the almost unfettered power of corporate sovereignty has become its own worst enemy. The possibility of making claims for billions of dollars has naturally caught the attention of both the public and politicians in the nations affected, prompting many to re-consider the wisdom of agreeing to this kind of one-sided bargain.
If Indonesia does indeed start terminating its 67 bilateral investment treaties, we can expect other countries to take note and consider following suit. One knock-on effect will be that US insistence on putting corporate sovereignty provisions in TPP will begin to look distinctly out of place in a world where prudent nations are starting to move away from them.