by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 11:57pm
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 8:02pm
from the still-requires-thought dept
Creative Commons recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, with well-deserved praise for its work flooding in from around the world. There's no doubt it has played an important role in raising people's awareness of the problems with copyright, and in offering some alternative licenses that ameliorate some of its worst aspects. But there is a danger that people think that CC-licensed works are trivially easy to use, not least because they typically give users more rights than traditional copyright. In fact, there are a number of subtle issues that can crop up that make using such liberal licenses harder than it looks.
That's underlined by an interesting blog post from Bobbi Newman about a problem she encountered when using CC-licensed photos in presentations:
Like many librarians I often turn to Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr for use in my presentations and blog posts. Flickr makes it incredibly easy to search for photos with a Creative Commons license. Unfortunately it also makes it ridiculously easy for users to change the license on all their photos at any time with the click of a button. There is no way to prove the license at the time of use.
She then goes on to detail what happened, and how it was finally resolved, but here I want to focus on a couple of points raised by this episode. First, on the issue of changing licenses. Perhaps because CC licenses give creators a flexibility missing in copyright itself, there is a belief in some quarters that things can be changed after a work has been published under one of them. Although the licence attached to the work on Flickr, say, might indeed be altered "with the click of a button", the Creative Commons FAQ says the old one cannot be taken away:
CC licenses are not revocable. Once a work is published under a CC license, licensees may continue using the work according to the license terms for the duration of copyright protection.
However, proving that something was originally available under a CC license when its owner claims that it is only available under restrictive conditions is more problematic. Interestingly, there are services that try to address this problem by keeping "dated, independently verified copies of license conditions associated with creative commons images," which suggests that this is an issue faced by quite a few people.
Another aspect of the situation discussed in the blog post revolved around whether the use of an image was non-commercial or not. You might think this is "obvious", but in fact, it's proved a hugely problematic issue for Creative Commons licenses, with heated arguments about what are the key factors that make something commercial or otherwise. This lack of clarity is one reason why the use of the term "commercial scale" without further definition was so dangerous in ACTA.
Although using works released under a CC-license, with the additional flexibilities that it offers the user, is less onerous than handling those under traditional copyright, which lacks them, it is nowhere near the "use and forget" level of simplicity that many probably assume.
by Michael Ho
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Evidence of life in a subglacial lake in Antarctica has been found, and it could mean that bacteria are much more widespread than we previously thought. Researchers still need to verify this discovery and make sure they're not looking at bacterial contamination from other sources. [url]
- Frost flowers are salty ice crystals that form on calm ocean surfaces, and arctic sea meadows of these flowers may become more common with climate change near the north/south poles. About a million bacteria live in the few milliliters of frozen saltwater of a frost flower, and studying these cells could teach us more about how hardy some extremophile organisms can be. [url]
- Bacteria living below the ocean and at the ocean surface have it easy compared to bacteria that live 6 miles above sea level in the troposphere. Microorganisms could play a role in cloud formation, and there is a lot we don't know about how life survives in different parts of the atmosphere. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 3:56pm
from the not-looking-good dept
Not surprisingly, Righthaven's new lawyer, Erik Syverson, is discovering he has an uphill battle ahead of him.
Syverson tried to argue that the deal with Stevens Media, the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, involved an actual copyright transfer. "Righthaven and Stevens Media were well aware of the Silvers case and attempted to comply," said Syverson early on in his argument.If you don't recall, the key issue was that Righthaven never really had any control over the copyright in the cases. They involved content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but the agreement between Righthaven and Stevens Media (the owner of the LVRJ) made it clear that the LVRJ had full say in things and could take back the copyright at any time. In effect, the only thing really transferred to Righthaven was the "bare right to sue" and you can't do that, because such a "right" is not a separate right of copyright. You can only transfer one of the actual listed copyright rights (e.g., the right to reproduce, distribute or perform) and with that comes the ability to sue. The Silvers case referred to above is Silvers v. Sony Pictures which makes that point clear.
"It looks like form over substance," said one of the judges on the three-judge panel. "It seems like an attempt that's too cute by half to get around Silvers."
Another judge noted that Stevens could take back any of the rights at any time, meaning any "transfer" of copyright wasn't very meaningful. Righthaven couldn't really have licensed the copyrights or published the articles it had the rights to, since Stevens Media could have reclaimed those rights at any time.
That said, as Joe Mullin reports in the link above, the appeals court justices seemed somewhat less bought into the idea, raised in the Hoehn case, that the use of the LVRJ material was fair use. That's unfortunate. It was a good ruling that found that even when you repost a full article it can be fair use. The argument was mainly that when Wayne Hoehn posted it, it was not for the same purpose or in any way competitive with Righthaven (who merely wanted it to sue). But the court wasn't as receptive to that argument:
Hopefully the panel reconsiders before issuing its ruling. The way Hoehn used it was not the same way that Righthaven or the LVRJ were using it -- and it's that aspect that was transformative. Still, it won't surprise me if that argument fails, but it will be unfortunate. Either way, if Righthaven actually "wins" on that point, it won't much matter for the company, considering its likely to lose on whether or not it even had standing to sue in the first place. However, for those of us concerned about fair use, and how widely it can be applied, this second issue may be a lot more important. Having a strong fair use ruling on the books concerning the reposting of full content (in a particular context) would be a good thing to have, though it sounds unlikely.
First of all, Hoehn's use wasn't "transformative," noted one judge on the panel. "How is the nature and character of the article changed at all, by posting it to a website?" he asked. "Have you ever seen a newspaper that didn't have space for letters to the editor, or a space for comments?"
Just the fact that he meant to inspire debate doesn't justify copying the full work, said another judge. "What if I copied Justice Sotomayor's book into a blog post and invited people to comment on it?" he asked.
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 2:40pm
from the authors-unite dept
Sadly, my hopeful optimism has proven once more to be a fool's stance. Despite ongoing conversations between Hogarth and the company, it appears no arrangement could be constructed and the only options are a court case or the disappearance of a piece of culture. Considering the potential costs of a trial and the villianous myopia of Games Workshop's legal department, the likely outcome would appear to be the latter, save some rescuing group swooping in at the last minute. Don't underestimate the company's bravado in this instance, since the precedent it sets is a dangerous one.
In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entrée into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term “space marine” in all formats. If they choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that’s been a part of its canon since its inception. Space marines were around long before Games Workshop. But if GW has their way, in the future, no one will be able to use the term “space marine” without it referring to the space marines of the Warhammer 40K universe.Feel free to point out that the trademark only covers certain markets if you like, but the claim by the company so far overreaches what trademark was intended to be that such an argument fails to find many footholds. Hogarth may be one author and this claim may be over one book, but for a cultural term like "space marine" (snicker if you like, but that's what it is now) formerly shared, but now locked up in corporate perdition, the impact is all of ours. For a company to lock it up as though it birthed the term is disgusting.
Hogarth, for her part, isn't some IP abolitionist either, lest you get the wrong idea.
I used to own a registered trademark. I understand the legal obligations of trademark holders to protect their IP. A Games Workshop trademark of the term “Adeptus Astartes” is completely understandable. But they’ve chosen instead to co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success. Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading. I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith’s space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else’s, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else.It's difficult to imagine anyone but Phobos' fictional imps disagreeing with her. Still, while several lawyers she's spoken with have agreed to take on the case, the costs are predictably prohibitive. In her blog post, Hogarth seems bewildered that these are the only choices she faces: spend more money than her writing earns income in a legal battle, or relinquish her novel to the ether.
Which conjures another interesting question. Where are all of the author's groups that are supposedly built to protect their flock from this sort of thing? What good are groups like the Science Fiction Writers of America, The Writer's Guild, and their like if they refuse to get involved in cases like these? These groups are supposed to be about a great deal more than handing out their proprietary awards. They're supposed to be advocating for culture as well. Why they haven't in this case is a mystery to me.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 1:30pm
from the oops dept
On [Hollywood's] case, a copyright owner's claim would not even be limited to the infringer's profits: in principle, the entire proceeds of sale would be held on trust for the copyright owner. That might both be unfair and stultify enterprise. The proceeds of an infringement might be out of all proportion to the profits generated (e.g. because of the cost of raw materials used in the infringing product). It might not seem just for even a deliberate wrongdoer to have to pay the copyright owner the amount of his gross receipts, and an infringer need not have known that he was breaching copyright. Further, were Mr Spearman's [lawyer for the studios] submissions correct, a person might be deterred from pursuing an activity if he perceived there to be even a small risk that the activity would involve a breach of copyright or other intellectual property rights. As was submitted by Miss Lambert, that could have a chilling effect on innovation and creativity.Basically, the judge is recognizing that the entertainment industry is completely overvaluing the content, and arguing that any and all money made is 100% due to the content, and not due to any other factors. And that's ridiculous. The judge used some analogies:
Suppose, say, that a market trader sells infringing DVDs, among other goods, from a stall he has set up on someone else's land without consent. The owner of the land could not, as I see it, make any proprietary claim to the proceeds of the trading or even the profit from it. There is no evident reason why the owner of the copyright in the DVDs should be in a better position in this respect.The Motion Picture Association responded to this loss by saying that this is just "one particular point" in the case, and that it is planning to appeal. And, either way, they point out, what really matters is that Hollywood shut down Newzbin2. Yes, Hollywood killed another service that had figured out how to distribute content better than Hollywood. And, in the end, isn't that all that really matters? So long as Hollywood can keep killing services who do things better than Hollywood, the rest is just gravy.
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 12:31pm
from the so-is-that-infringement? dept
Awww, we think about you when we're dreaming, too, you guys!
Now, since I can't translate Korean, I can only assume the text amounts to some kind of assertion that Michael Jackson was taken long before his time by a massive American military plot and that a nuke up our rectums will be issued as retribution. Really, who can tell? But I'll tell you what I can translate, and that's video game footage. I say this because it turns out that North Korea, in the tradition of the Chinese Air Force, apparently decided to simply yank a bunch of nuke footage from Modern Warfare 3 to use in this wonderfully disturbing bit of propaganda. This side by side will show you the rip.
Essentially, that terribly frightening part where New York is ablaze is all from MW3, with an additional explosion or two added along side a grainy filter and 'Ol Glory. For most normal people in The States, their reaction to this is probably, "So what?" But I know Techdirt readers aren't all in the States, nor are they normal, so I'm sure amongst your first thoughts was, "Hey! That's copyright infringement!" Well, the Forbes post got our juices flowing with this:
UPDATE: Activision actually DID have it killed, which is sort of hilarious.America! So mark today as the day that copyright saved us all... And you people say we never have anything good to say about... Oh, wait... it turns out that the original video was actually taken down by the user who uploaded it (i.e., whatever North Korea's version of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is), so it wasn't so much a victory for America! as it was a failure of America!'s media fact-checking efforts.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 11:36am
DMCA As Censorship: Site Reposts Articles About Disgraced Researcher, Claims Copyright, Has Originals Removed
from the incredible dept
Yesterday, however, they pointed to something odd happening. They were alerted, via their hosting company Automattic (who runs WordPress.com), that it had received a DMCA takedown notice concerning ten posts they had done about researcher Anil Potti. They found that odd, considering that the content they write is original. WordPress has removed all ten posts. When RW asked for the details of the DMCA notice, they received the following (with the URLs to be taken down removed to keep it readable):
As the folks at RW note, while their content was, in fact, also showing on NewsBulet.in, almost everything else is suspect. The content was clearly originally from RW, and reposted to NewsBulet.in. As they note:
First Name: Narendra
Last Name: Chatwal
Company Name: News Bullet
Address Line 1: Plot No 15 & 16, Express Trade Tower
Address Line 2: Archana Complex
State/Region/Province: Utter Pradesh
Zip/Postal Code: 201302
Telephone Number: 8953171759
Copyright holder you represent (if other than yourself):
Please describe the copyrighted work so that it may be easily identified: Hello WordPress Team,
Myself Narendra Chatwal Senior editor in NewsBulet.In, a famous news firm in India. All the news we publish are individually researched by our reporters from all over India and then we publish them on our site and our news channel. Recently we found that some one had copied our material from the category Medical Reviews and published them on their site. So we request you to help us in protecting our content and copy right.
Thanks & Regards,
Location (URL) of the unauthorized material on a WordPress.com site (NOT simply the primary URL of the site – example.wordpress.com; you must provide the full and exact permalink of the post, page, or image where the content appears, one per line) :
[list of 10 URLs]
If the infringement described above is represented by a third-party link to a downloadable file (e.g. http://rapidshare.com/files/…), please provide the URL of the file (one per line):
I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.: Yes
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.: Yes
Signed on this date of (today’s date, MM/DD/YYYY): 02/02/2013
Signature (your digital signature is legally binding): Narendra Chatwal
In other words, NewsBulet.In is violating our copyright; we are not violating theirs. That’s driven home by the fact that the site did not exist until October 2012, according to a WhoIs search. All but one of the Retraction Watch posts they cite appeared before they even existed.While all of the links to the NewsBulet.in site in the original DMCA takedown now lead you to a 403 Forbidden error message, it's pretty clear that the site copied all of RW's content and then filed a DMCA takedown to get the originals down.
John Timmer, over at Ars Technica, dug into the story and provides significant background information that suggests what is likely to have happened. Timmer's story notes that RW had published a bunch of stories (22 in all) about Potti, and much of it is about his downfall and disgrace:
One of the cases they followed was Anil Potti, a cancer researcher who, at the time, worked at Duke University. Potti first fell under scrutiny for embellishing his resume, but the investigation quickly expanded as broader questions were raised about his research. As the investigation continued, a number of Potti's papers ended up being retracted as accusations of falsified data were raised. Eventually, three clinical trials that were started based on Potti's data were stopped entirely. Although federal investigations of Potti's conduct are still in progress, he eventually resigned from Duke.However, Timmer also points out that Potti has since been hired at the University of North Dakota and (perhaps more importantly) has hired an "online reputation management" firm to try to clean up his name. That company has been trying to get "positive" stories to show up higher in searches for Potti's name:
No longer do the majority of top search results for the former Duke cancer researcher detail allegations that he falsified his resume and produced faulty research that has been retracted from renowned medical journals and led to the termination of three clinical trials. Instead, more than a dozen websites and social media accounts created in the months following Dr. Potti’s November resignation contain solely positive information about his research and medical experience.Of course, a current Google search on Potti's name shows that the Retraction Watch stories are actually very prominent these days, even beating out that anilpotti.com site that the reputation management firm helped create. Here's a screenshot:
“During his time at Duke, he had a special interest in taking care of patients with lung cancer and contributed to the development of several programs in cancer,” reads a section of AnilPotti.com, which does not discuss the terminated trials that a top Duke official has since said should never have been conducted.
Of course, what's not clear is who actually posted the content to NewsBulet.in and what the plan is. But, it certainly suggests some very questionable behavior from someone who wanted the stories about Anil Potti on RetractionWatch to disappear. RW's Oransky is hoping that it's all just some big mistake, rather than an intentional plan to sabotage RW. As he told Timmer: "We can only hope that this isn't an attempt to keep us from reporting on retractions and scientific fraud." Somehow, I get the feeling this story isn't over yet...
In the meantime, however, RetractionWatch has filed a counternotice, and one hopes that as this story gets attention, Automattic will speed up their review process and restore the original stories in a shorter timeframe than the required 10 business days. As of the writing of this post, the originals are still down, which is unfortunate.
Either way, this is exactly the kind of thing that concerns us about making it easy to take down content with copyright claims. It is bound to be used as a censorship tool, because it becomes too easy for many to abuse the process to take down content they just don't like. Considering the ability to hit back at false takedowns is extremely limited, we're just going to see more and more examples like this.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 10:29am
from the and-they-go-viral dept
Thanks for taking my call. As discussed, there are some unflattering photos on your current feed that we are respectfully asking you to change. I am certain you will be able to find some better photos.Now, to their credit, the publicist did not demand that the photos be changed, nor make any kind of legal threat. While that may seem obvious since there would be no legal basis for Beyonce to make such a threat, we've certainly seen others make similar legal threats in the past. So it was a respectful "request." And, you can certainly make the argument that Buzzfeed's response was anything but respectful. But, come on. This is Buzzfeed we're talking about. Pageviews uber alles. So of course they're going to get more attention for it.
The end result? Suddenly lots and lots of sites are talking about it and (of course) highlighting the unflattering photos.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 9:33am
Harper's Magazine Publisher Shakes Verbal Fist At Google; Romanticizes Own Profession; Quotes Teletubbies
from the this-is-the-most-'angried-up'-his-blood-has-ever-been dept
Now, he's back and he's narrowed his focus to one company: Google. After spending a moment cheering on French ISP Free for its short-lived ad-blocking internet service (to better choke off arch-nemesis Google's ad revenue), MacArthur gets down to brass tacks: namely, how awesome his mag is and how much he fails to understand what Google actually is... or does.
As publisher of a magazine that specializes in substantive, complex, and occasionally lengthy journalism and literature, and that also lives off advertising, I’ve long objected to Google’s systematic campaign to steal everything that isn’t welded to the floor by copyright — while playing nice with its idiotic slogan “Don’t be evil.”"Long objected" apparently means whipping up a once-a-year rant aimed vaguely at "The Internet" and filled with self-serving blasts of journalistic piety and rheumy-eyed nostalgia. Google (and its "smaller rivals") provide "logistical support" to pirates and "repackage" the output of hard-working, life-risking journalists, according to MacArthur, having apparently mistaken search engine results for a web scraper's "blog." These people Google "steals" from are gods among men -- from the "humblest newspaper reporter" to the "most erudite essayist." Oddly, he fails to mention the "most intrepid voicemail hacker" or the "most thorough plagiarist" or the "most accurate gun permit cartographer."
Even if he had included a few lowlights, somehow they would have been Google's fault. Because Google makes the world worse.
This for-profit theft is committed in the pious guise of universal access to “free information,” as if Google were just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library. Acceptance of such a fairy tale lets parasitic search engines assert that they are “web neutral,” just disinterested parties whose glorious mission is to educate and uplift.This might be your problem, Jack. You're expecting Google to "educate and uplift" and it's more interested in indexing the web in order to give you relevant search results. Google's search engine is a tool and you're expecting it to be the teacher from "Dead Poet's Society." Relevance is more important to people who are looking for something than some utopian ideal that "educates and uplifts."
Yes. It's all very annoying and unhinged and bordering on trolling, but MacArthur really outdoes himself with this paragraph, one that indicates his biggest frustration with Google might be that he seems to have no idea how to use it effectively.
This is nonsense, of course. Google’s bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known, but equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently. Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google “magazines that publish essays” or “magazines that publish short stories” — it isn’t easy.I'd really, really, really like to see MacArthur produce a little evidence to back up his claim that Google gives priority to "free content" sites over those with paywalls. Just a hint, paywallers: if you lock it up, it's no longer searchable. There's your problem. If Google can't crawl it, it won't appear. Just something to consider. And I really love the tossed off "thinking coherently." Because people giving away their work for free are idiots, apparently.
And, yeah, just try to find any major magazine using those ridiculous search terms. (Here's a beautiful rebuttal.)
If I was looking to submit an essay somewhere, I might use something like those terms, only phrased much less stupidly. There are several ways to find Harper's, but getting it to the front page involves typing in the magazine's name. And if I already know that, what do I need with a search engine?
You know how I get all my news? I Google for "world wide web sites about what happened in real life in the recent past"— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) January 18, 2013
One other way many people discover quality long-form writing is through aggregators like Longreads, The Essayist or The Browser. From that point, they move on to the magazines themselves. These filters, curated by humans, do what search engines and meandering anti-Google rants can't: connect quality journalism and essays with readers. Quality aggregation (and effective search engines) save these readers the most precious of commodities -- time.
From this point, MacArthur's post devolves into infantile name-calling using infantile terms while trying to make the point that the internet (being Google) is turning us into babies who just want free stuff while making billionaires out of Google's executives. Here's a mercifully brief sample:
It’s no coincidence that Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Yelp sound like toddler gibberish from the Teletubbies. Whenever I hear these silly corporate names invoked with sanctimonious awe, I imagine Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky-Winky singing their hit single “Teletubbies say ‘Eh-oh’ ” as they shake the change out of some two-year-old’s pocket.If unchecked, where will this all lead, according to The Last Honest Essayist?
This unending assault of babble potentially could lead to revolutionary conditions in which the new writer-teacher proletariat rises up to overthrow the Internet oligarchy and the politicians and government agencies who protect it.I think MacArthur greatly overestimates the size of this theoretical revolutionary force. And be sure to note that he's conveniently pulled teachers into the ranks in order to boost his already-monumental self image. Journalists, writers, teachers: the last hope for humanity in the face of Big Search.
It's not so much that MacArthur clearly doesn't understand what he's attacking. This happens several times a day all across the internet. It's that his masturbatorial (like an "editorial," only more self-serving) rant projects an egomaniacal picture of the Publisher/Writer/Journalist as the Savior of Culture. This picture (usually a self portrait) has been painted many times before with a variety of ever-broadening brushes. Creation = good. Aggregation = bad. Google = evil. The arguments never get any better or smarter and do little else but expose the authors as short-sighted pessimists ineptly guarding swiftly vanishing turf.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 8:26am
from the welcome-to-new-jersey,-here's-your-complimentary-beating dept
The virtue of having a video of police encounters has been proven over and over, whether because it belies the allegations of a crime or proves them. But then, sometimes the guy with his finger on the dashcam's "on" button may not want evidence of what is about to happen. Via NJ.com:Ultimately, the charges against Bass were dropped because the officers failed to show up in court. That, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily indicate any sort of irresponsibility or maliciousness on behalf of the troopers involved. But one of State Trooper Dellagicoma's actions during the incident certainly does.
Allen Bass, 50, sued Trooper Gerald Dellagicoma and others in 2009, claiming they punched and kicked him multiple times, causing him to urinate on himself, after he complied with their commands to get off his bicycle at Ellis Avenue and Clinton Avenue in Irvington a year earlier.
[Bass] was riding his bike July 10, 2008, in Irvington when Dellagicoma and other troopers who were on patrol in the area got out of their patrol cars and ordered him to stop. Bass claimed he laid on the ground chest-down and spread his arms and legs.
Troopers allegedly then punched and kicked him before arresting him. Bass was charged with drug possession, resisting arrest by flight and resisting arrest by force, court documents show.
Court documents show Dellagicoma, who joined the force in 2001, failed to activate his patrol car camera and was suspended without pay for 30 days, but only served 15 days of that suspension.And this wasn't an isolated incident.
Records show Dellagicoma was reprimanded several times prior to the incident for the same infraction.In fact, Dellagicoma is named in another federal civil suit for basically the same actions:
In another federal civil lawsuit, Salah Williams of Newark, an African-American, claims he was a victim of racial profiling, excessive force and malicious prosecution when Dellagicoma allegedly assaulted, maced, arrested and charged him for no reason while walking near his store in the city... Similar to the Bass case, Dellagicoma also failed to activate his patrol car camera and appear in court, resulting in the dismissal of the charges against Williams.This is a big problem. As Greenfield points out, New Jersey State Troopers are required to record every interaction with the public.
What makes this special is that in New Jersey, there is a requirement that arose from the racial profiling scandal that rocked the Turnpike, that all encounters with State Troopers be videotaped. The state was kind enough to put cameras in cruisers. Never again would a trooper be falsely accused of profiling a driver just because he was black. (This is known as the "black plus" theory of profiling.)The bigger problem is the handling of those who choose to grant themselves exceptions to this requirement. The offense is treated as a minor infraction, punishable by a written reprimand or a short suspension -- neither of which are severe enough to make troopers like Dellagicoma reconsider hitting the OFF switch when it suits them.
The only way an incentive system works is to make the cost of noncompliance greater than the cost of compliance. Apparently, a written reprimand and a few days suspension doesn't cut it. And when it happens repeatedly, it is clearly failing to serve as a deterrent. That's not good enough.Citizens aren't going to be on hand to record all of these interactions, although each passing day provides more and more documentation captured by the public, many of whom put themselves in harm's way to secure this footage. And it's a sign that the system is pretty screwed up if "recording the police" often equates to "putting yourself in harm's way."
The efficacy of video depends on its actually being used, in every instance and including the entire encounter. Anything less reduces it to a game, where the police make the rules, and the rules will not be good for the other side.
This single incident cost New Jersey taxpayers $50,000 and did more damage to the already-questionable reputation of NJ state troopers. All it cost Dellagicoma was a single paycheck, leaving him free to "fail to activate" his camera again and again as the situation suits him.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 7:28am
from the well,-that's-a-relief dept
As many know, copyright had its origins in censorship and control. But over the last few hundred years, that fact has been obscured by the rise of the powerful publishing industry and the great works it has helped bring to the public. More recently, though, laws and treaties like SOPA and ACTA have represented a return to the roots of copyright, posing very real threats to what can be said online. That's not because their intent was necessarily to crimp freedom of expression, but as a knock-on effect of turning risk-averse ISPs into the copyright industry's private police force.
And so there's a growing tension between copyright law that seeks to limit unauthorized use of works on the one hand, and freedom of expression that aims to allow the maximum scope for creativity on the other. The question then becomes: which should have precedence when they clash? The European Court of Human Rights was asked just this question, and came up with the following important ruling:
For the first time in a judgment on the merits, the European Court of Human Rights has clarified that a conviction based on copyright law for illegally reproducing or publicly communicating copyright protected material can be regarded as an interference with the right of freedom of expression and information under Article 10 of the European Convention [on Human Rights]. Such interference must be in accordance with the three conditions enshrined in the second paragraph of Article 10 of the Convention. This means that a conviction or any other judicial decision based on copyright law, restricting a person's or an organisation's freedom of expression, must be pertinently motivated as being necessary in a democratic society, apart from being prescribed by law and pursuing a legitimate aim.
However, it's worth noting that the same blog post points out:
Due to the important wide margin of appreciation available to the national authorities in this particular case, the impact of Article 10 however is very modest and minimal.
That's because there are many other factors that will need to be taken in to account for particular cases, as the rest of the blog post goes on to explore at some length. For example, one issue is whether the copyright infringement in question was for commercial or non-commercial purposes: the latter would be likely to benefit from the current ruling, while the former probably would not. Nonetheless, an important principle has been enunciated by a senior European court -- one that both reflects the evolving views on this subject, and that is also likely to help shape future decisions in this contested area.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 5:31am
Arizona Politician Parodied By Fake Twitter Accounts Pushes Bill To Make Online Impersonation A Felony
from the be-careful-who-you-parody dept
Of course, as the CMLP article notes, you have to wonder if Ugenti proposed this bill for personal reasons -- seeing as there are some parody twitter accounts for her, specifically @RubbingUGently and @RepMUgenti. It seems that Rep. Ugenti got some attention for snapping at a bunch of students, who would be charged $2,000 more (regardless of their financial aid setup) to attend university in the state, "welcome to life," and for making a hacky masturbation joke during committee hearings. If you want, the quip is at 2:14:30, and involves another committee member asking how long the hearings are going to run, and saying that he has "a hot date" that he wants to get to, leading her to say: "No you don't. Stop it. Your right hand doesn't count." All clearly overheard on microphone.
Would those parody accounts be subject to this new law? CMLP suggests they would likely be protected under the First Amendment, but of course, it could involve a long and convoluted trial to prove that point. Just the threat of jail time could create serious chilling effects on parody speech. As for Rep. Ugenti being concerned about fake Twitter and Facebook profiles, perhaps she should take her own advice: "welcome to life."
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 3:33am
from the and-what-are-they-teaching-our-kids dept
Amazingly, they've succeeded in some places, including 12 elementary and middle schools up in Canada, which are now being called out by a group called "Bad Science Watch" for making decisions based on absolutely and totally bogus science. You can read the full report here, in which they call out "anti-WiFi activists" who are "spreading misinformation." It seems they ought to call out schools as well. You would think that places of learning would investigate the actual science.
These claims are not substantiated by the scientific literature and have little acceptance from medical professionals and the scientific community. This activism therefore amounts to nothing more than fear-mongering by misguided special interest groups who are attempting to have these networks removed.
Nevertheless, the media has been all too willing to fan the flames of controversy and has contributed to a growing false uncertainty over the safety of WiFi. As a result many school boards, libraries, and town councils across Canada have been called on by concerned citizens to limit or remove WiFi networks.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Feb 6th 2013 12:11am
from the saving-lives dept
It would be something of understatement to say that the spiralling cost of healthcare has become a highly-charged political issue in the US (and elsewhere). But wherever people stand on the funding of medicine, there is an implicit assumption that it works, and is worth even the exorbitant prices that pharmaceutical companies may charge. Sadly, that's often not true.
The reason is that drug approval is frequently based on partial or even misleading evidence from the crucially-important clinical trials that are conducted to check that a new treatment is safe and efficacious. Similarly, prescribing doctors often only have access to incomplete information when they are choosing drugs for a patient. Not knowing all the facts about medicines not only leads to a huge waste of money, since ineffectual or inappropriate drugs are sometimes prescribed, but can have life-threatening side effects. Here, for example, is a recent case involving the pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and its diabetes drug Avandia:
The licence for Avandia was revoked in Europe, in September 2010, because of evidence that it could cause heart failure and heart attacks. The drug can still be prescribed in the US, but not to patients at risk of heart problems.
Here's why that critical data isn't always to hand:
A scientist with the Food and Drug Administration estimated that Avandia could have been responsible for 100,000 heart attacks in the US.
The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, has admitted concealing data about the damaging side-effects of the drug, and there is evidence of the drug's harmful effects.
companies and researchers can withhold the results of clinical trials even when asked for them. The best available evidence shows that about half of all clinical trials have never been published, and trials with negative results about a treatment are much more likely to be brushed under the carpet.
That comes from a site called AllTrials (disclosure: I am on the advisory board of the Open Knowledge Foundation, which is one of the supporters of AllTrials). It has a very simple, but very ambitious aim:
This is a serious problem for evidence based medicine because we need all the evidence about a treatment to understand its risks and benefits. If you tossed a coin 50 times, but only shared the outcome when it came up heads and you didn’t tell people how many times you had tossed it, you could make it look as if your coin always came up heads. This is very similar to the absurd situation that we permit in medicine, a situation that distorts the evidence and exposes patients to unnecessary risk that the wrong treatment may be prescribed.
The AllTrials initiative is campaigning for the publication of the results (that is, full clinical study reports) from all clinical trials -- past, present and future -- on all treatments currently being used.
If doctors have the full facts about all the drugs they can prescribe, they are in a better position to choose wisely. That will almost certainly save both money and lives. Despite that undeniable fact, pharmaceutical companies continue to withhold data from clinical trials, defying a US law that requires them to provide it:
Since 2008 in the US the FDA has required results of all trials to be posted within a year of completion of the trial. However an audit published in 2012 has shown that 80% of trials failed to comply with this law. Despite this fact, no fines have ever been issued for non-compliance.
Of course, it's not hard to see why drug companies don't want all that data out there: it would mean that independent analyses could be conducted, with the danger that they might come to very different conclusions about the efficacy and safety profile of the medicine in question.
Against that background of the pharma industry's dogged refusal to cooperate in the opening up of clinical data, this announcement, from the same GSK discussed above, was unexpected:
GSK today further demonstrated its commitment to clinical trial transparency by announcing its support for the AllTrials campaign. The campaign is calling for registration of clinical trials and the disclosure of clinical trial results and clinical study reports (CSRs) to help drive further scientific understanding.
GSK is committing to make CSRs publicly available through its clinical trials register. CSRs are formal study reports that provide more details on the design, methods and results of clinical trials and form the basis of submissions to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulatory agencies. From now, GSK will publish CSRs for all of its medicines once they have been approved or discontinued from development and the results have been published. This is to allow for the data to be first reviewed by regulators and the scientific community. Patient data in the CSRs and their appendices will be removed to ensure patient confidentiality is maintained.
If GSK follows through on those promises, and really does provide all that data in a timely fashion, this is potentially huge. As Ben Goldacre, author of the book "Bad Pharma" about the betrayal of doctors and their patients by drug companies through the withholding of vital information, and a prime mover of the AllTrials campaign, explains:
In addition, while there are practical challenges, the company also intends to publish CSRs for clinical outcomes trials for all approved medicines dating back to the formation of GSK. This will require retrieval and examination of each historic CSR to remove confidential patient information. Given the significant volume of studies involved, the company will put in place a dedicated team to conduct this work which it expects to complete over a number of years. Posting will take place in a step-wise manner, with priority given to CSRs for its most commonly prescribed medicines.
The eccentric position is now not supporting alltrials.net. There is no serious defense for withholding information about clinical trials from doctors and patients. It is simply unethical, and it harms patients.
GSK's move is a breakthrough for the campaign because it negates arguments that it's simply not possible to provide detailed clinical trial information as a matter of course. This means that the pressure will be on the other pharmaceutical companies to follow suit -- or to give the impression they have something to hide about their products.