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by Tim Cushing
Thu, May 21st 2015 9:39am
Something the FBI has long considered to be part of its wiretapping efforts has been rejected by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Much like many people believe a 30-second-or-less clip from a movie, TV show or song entitles them to claim fair use, the FBI believes that a two-minute or less phone conversation can be listened to in its entirety even if it has nothing to do with the investigation at hand.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to adopt a rule that agents get a "two-minute presumption" on the reasonableness of wiretapping calls that are personal in nature.This doesn't necessarily "put to death" the two-minute window on personal calls FBI agents grant themselves, contrary to Drimal's lawyer's claims. The ruling is very specifically narrowed to cover only the FBI agents' actions in this case. The 16 agents listed in Drimal's lawsuit moved for dismissal, citing qualified immunity and pointing to a previous decision which allowed the FBI approximately two minutes to ascertain a call's purpose and relevance.
The circuit did so while dismissing a civil suit brought against FBI agents by a woman who claimed her privacy was violated when agents taped intimate phone calls between herself and her husband during a criminal investigation.
The circuit said the woman, Arlene Villamia Drimal, will be allowed to file a new complaint against the agents.
Drimal is the wife of convicted insider trader Craig Drimal. She sued 16 FBI agents for conversations they overheard in 2007 and 2008 while executing a wiretap secured under Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, §§2510-2522.
They cited the Second Circuit case of United States v. Bynum, 485 F.2d 490 (2d Cir. 1973), where the court held a wiretap that monitored 2,058 in a large narcotics case did not violate Title III minimization requirement.The FBI has an indeterminate amount of time to discern the intent and content of wiretapped calls, with an obligation to disconnect as soon as it's surmised the phone call has no investigatory relevance. This still remains in force, even with this rejection of its "two minute" argument. Without a doubt, this allowance has been abused to listen in on phone calls of a personal nature, but its intent is to minimize privacy violations while still allowing agents to collect evidence. What distinguishes this case from others is that the FBI agents were caught not "minimizing" wiretapped calls in violation of the court order authorizing the wiretap. This abusive behavior was called out by the presiding judge.
The Bynum court excluded calls under two minutes from its evaluation of the wiretap because "in a case of such wide-ranging criminal activity as this, it would be too brief a period for an eavesdropper even with experience to identify the caller and characterize the conversations as merely social or possibly tainted."
This case does not present the same circumstances as Bynum. Many of the violations here took place in the early stages of the wiretap when defendants were less familiar with the case and with Mrs. Drimal’s lack of involvement in it, but the agents should have realized reasonably early in the wiretap that these husband and wife conversations were not relevant to the investigation. As Judge Sullivan noted in Goffer, Mr. and Mrs. Drimal occasionally discussed “deeply personal and intimate” issues, 756 F. Supp. 2d at 594, and “in each of these calls it should have been apparent within seconds that the conversation was privileged and non‐pertinent,” id. at 595.On one hand, the ruling undercuts the FBI's assumption that all calls under two minutes in length can be listened to in their entirety, no matter their relevance to ongoing investigations. On the other hand, the ruling cannot be applied broadly to other FBI wiretapping efforts. Civil suits brought over alleged privacy violations aren't going to be any easier to pursue as the "window" for FBI eavesdropping is still wide open, what with the Bynum ruling only applying to the specific facts of that case, rather than FBI wiretapping in general.
As a result, the reasoning from Bynum that it would be too difficult to minimize calls under two minutes is not applicable here where agents could determine in seconds that the calls between husband and wife were entirely personal in nature. The two‐minute presumption we applied in Bynum thus does not automatically shield defendants against the failures to minimize calls under two minutes that the putative amended complaint is likely to allege.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 21st 2015 8:08am
In the movie — described as Transformers versus Adaptation and Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich; Hathaway will play Gloria, an ordinary woman who, after losing her job and her fiancé, decides to leave her life in New York to move back to her hometown.Right. So, you can see why Toho might be mad, but Toho also has a long and storied history of suing basically anyone they think might be doing anything even loosely connected to Godzilla. It once went after Comcast for having a godzilla-like monster in a marketing campaign and a small mobile app firm for creating a silly game called Fingerzilla.
But when news reports surface that a giant lizard is destroying the city of Tokyo, Gloria gradually comes to realize that she is strangely connected to these far-off events via the power of her mind. In order to prevent further destruction, Gloria needs to determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.
Godzilla is one of the most iconic fictional characters in the history of motion pictures. Toho Co., Ltd., the copyright owner of the Godzilla character and franchise of films, brings this lawsuit because defendants are brazenly producing, advertising, and selling an unauthorized Godzilla film of their own. There is nothing subtle about defendants’ conduct. They are expressly informing the entertainment community that they are making a Godzilla film and are using the Godzilla trademark and images of Toho’s protected character to generate interest in and to obtain financing for their project. That anyone would engage in such blatant infringement of another’s intellectual property is wrong enough. That defendants, who are known for zealously protecting their own copyrights, would do so is outrageous in the extremeAt the very least, Toho has a point that Voltage pictures is clearly making use of Godzilla in its description and promotion for the movie. From the lawsuit, here is the promotional email that Voltage itself sent out, which includes an image of Godzilla (Toho claims it's taken directly from a publicity photo of last year's Godzilla movie) and mentions Godzilla.
The Director’s Notes also make clear that Defendants have not only taken the Godzilla Character as their own, but that they also intend to use the Godzilla Character in precisely the same way that Toho used the character in its initial film – attacking Tokyo. As stated therein, “[W]e need scenes with the monsters crushing Tokyo. .Not only that, but Toho notes that, last year, the director in question, Nacho Vigalondo, stated that he's absolutely planning to make a "cheap" Godzilla film:
The script I finished and want to get financing for is a twist on the kaiju eiga genre, the Godzilla genre. It’s going to be the cheapest Godzilla movie ever, I promise. It’s going to be a serious Godzilla movie but I’ve got an idea that’s going to make it so cheap that you will feel betrayed. You’re going to be so frustrated by it, it’s not even possible.When I first saw the headlines about this, I thought it might be another case of Toho stretching its claims of infringement, as it has done in the past -- and was prepared to argue that, even in all its copyright trolling insanity, that Voltage Pictures should have the right to make its own type of monster movie. In fact, we've defended Voltage against ridiculous legal attacks in the past.
The way I wrote the movie – and I don’t want to explain too much – I found a way that is honest and logical to make Godzilla in a costume, destroying cities, models all the time. I wrote the movie in a way that the story has a twist so it makes sense to do Godzilla this way and I’m going to try to be the guy inside the costume because I love filmmaking to the core and I’m a film lover, one of dreams is not to direct a Godzilla movie but to be inside the costume and destroy the cities. I want to be the guy in the costume.
by Karl Bode
Thu, May 21st 2015 6:04am
"Until now, a variety of voluntarily negotiated, individualized arrangements have been used to exchange traffic between networks. But, under the Order, these arrangements are now part of the “telecommunications service” that broadband Internet access providers offer their retail customers, and thus broadband providers—but not their interconnecting counter-parties—are subject to the requirements of Title II. Yet again, however, the FCC did not explain what that means or how broadband providers must act."While the FCC's rules on interconnection are a bit vague, the agency has made it clear they'll be looking at complaints on a "case by case basis" to ensure deals are "just and reasonable." Since this is new territory, the FCC thought this would be wiser than penning draconian rules that either overreach or contain too many loopholes. This ambiguity obviously has ISPs erring on the side of caution when it comes to bad behavior, which is likely precisely what the FCC intended. Still, companies with a generation of history at being bullies complain this ambiguity lets others...bully them:
"Providers are thus left to negotiate contracts subject to sweeping statutory mandates without knowing what decisions could lead to enforcement action. Already, providers face demands for significant changes to interconnection agreements. The parties making those demands are threatening to file enforcement actions if their demands are not met. This distortion in what had been a well-functioning private negotiation process is irreparable harm."And by "well functioning private negotiation process," the ISPs clearly mean one in which they were able to hold their massive customer bases hostage in order to strong arm companies like Netflix into paying direct interconnection fees. One in which regulators were seen but not heard, while giant monopolies and duopolies abused the lack of last mile competition. Yes, the FCC's actions have been so brutish and aggressive, they've resulted in a cease fire across the interconnection front to the benefit of video customers and internet users everywhere. Will the nightmare ever end?
by Tim Cushing
Thu, May 21st 2015 4:02am
The ACLU is suing the CIA over its withholding of CIA Torture Report-related documents, including the so-called Panetta Review. The CIA, so far, has managed to withhold the requested documents in their entirety, citing multiple FOIA exemptions. The ACLU isn't taking no for an answer and has challenged the CIA's refusal to turn over any of the documents the ACLU has requested. But this effort has now been shut down by the DC District Court.
The decision starts by noting that if the SSCI report (Torture Report) had remained solely in the hands of the Senate, it would have been unobtainable via FOIA requests. The ACLU had argued that its transfer to the CIA has released it from this clearly delineated restriction. ("For purposes of FOIA, the definition of an “agency” specifically excludes Congress, legislative agencies, and other entities within the legislative branch.")
The court finds otherwise:
The Court’s inquiry, therefore, is a streamlined one: do there exist “sufficient indicia of congressional intent to control,” id., the Full SSCI Report? [...] Although this case is no slam dunk for the Government, the Court answers that question in the affirmative.The decision quotes from a SSCI letter from 2009 referring to the still in-the-works Torture Report.
In its June 2009 letter to the CIA, SSCI expressly stated its intent that the documents it generated during its investigation “remain congressional records in their entirety and disposition,” such that “control over these records, even after the completion of the Committee’s review,” would “lie exclusively with the Committee.” June 2, 2009, SSCI Letter, ¶ 6. Making its wishes even more explicit, it continued, “As such, these records are not CIA records under the Freedom of Information Act, or any other law.”The ACLU pointed out that this letter from 2009 was both outdated and irrelevant to the issue at hand, as it only pertained to the use of documents shared with the Senate by the CIA, rather than the resulting report. The court disagrees, stating that the language in the 2009 letter is broad enough to cover the finished product, rather than just the documents contributing to it. But it also points out the CIA's arguments in defense of its secrecy are also inconsistent.
One final point bears mention. Defendants’ own characterizations of the scope of the letter vary somewhat in their submissions. Compare, e.g., Higgins Decl., ¶ 12 (“One key principle necessary to this inter-branch accommodation . . . was that the materials created by SSCI personnel on [the] segregated shared drive would not become ‘agency records’ even if those documents were stored on a CIA computer system or at a CIA facility.”) (emphasis added), with Def. Reply at 5 (explaining that the language of the June 2009 letter “covers the Full Report” as a “final . . . report or other material generated by Committee staff or members,” even though it did not reside on the network drive).The ACLU also argued that Dianne Feinstein's letter from 2010 is a better indicator of whether or not the report and its supporting documents are FOIA-able.
As its pièce de résistance, the ACLU seizes on the December 10, 2014, transmittal letter from Senator Feinstein, claiming it represents “direct evidence of the SSCI’s intentions for the Final Full Report.” Id. That letter, to recap, states:The court rebuts this argument as well. Rejecting the ACLU's "refinement" of the entirety of SSCI-related communication between the Senate and the CIA to a single letter, the court declares that Feinstein's instructions must be considered in context.
"[T]he full report should be made available within the CIA and other components of the Executive Branch for use as broadly as appropriate to help make sure that this experience is never repeated. To help achieve this result, I hope you will encourage use of the full report in the future development of CIA training programs, as well as future guidelines and procedures for all Executive Branch employees, as you see fit." December 10, 2014, Feinstein Letter.
“By encouraging the use and dissemination of the Final Full Report among the executive branch, and by leaving to the executive branch the decision as to how ‘broadly’ the report should be used within the agencies,” claims Plaintiff, “SSCI relinquished its control over the document.”
The Court, therefore, need not confine its consideration to the moment of transmission. On the contrary, SSCI’s 2009 letter sets the appropriate backdrop against which Senator Feinstein’s 2014 letter can be properly understood.The court also adds that Feinstein's statement accompanying the public release of the report summary further declares the documents off-limits -- at least until further notice.
So teed up, her letter does not evince congressional intent to surrender substantial control over the Full SSCI Report. While it does bestow a certain amount of discretion upon the agencies to determine how broadly to circulate the Report, such discretion is not boundless. Most significantly, the dissemination authorized by the letter is limited to the Executive Branch alone. It plainly does not purport to authorize the agencies to dispose of the Report as they wish – e.g., to the public at large.
SSCI’s deliberate decision not to publicly release the Full Report, combined with its assertion that it would consider that course of action in the future, serve to further undermine Plaintiff’s theory that Congress intended to relinquish control over the document only days later.It finds similarly for the "Panetta Report" documents, citing its rejection of Jason Leopold's FOIA request. The CIA continues to assert that these documents are "deliberative" in nature and out of the reach of FOIA requests, despite the fact that what's being deliberated has already been made public (in the summary report) and handed over to the executive and legislative branches (via the full report). The court upheld the CIA's exemption (b)5 declaration, stating that it doesn't matter whether or not portions of the sought documents are in the public domain, but rather that the documents are part of an agency's "deliberative process." (This is why exemption (b)5 is the most-abused FOIA exemption.)
by Glyn Moody
Thu, May 21st 2015 1:00am
The battle raging over the fast track bill is essentially one about control: who gets the final say over so-called trade agreements like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. If the US President is not given trade promotion authority, it is possible that Congress will demand changes to the negotiated text; with fast track, it will be a simple up or down vote. That's also the situation in other countries participating in the negotiations: once the text is agreed upon, they can essentially accept it or reject it. However, a group of senior politicians in five of the TPP nations point out that after those votes, the US can still demand further concessions from its partners thanks to a process known as certification:
Senior parliamentarians from five countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have signed an open letter urging their political leaders to protect their nations’ sovereignty from the United States' process of certification.
Here's how that works:
The US withholds the final steps that are necessary to bring a trade and investment treaty into force until the other party has changed its relevant domestic laws and regulations to meet US expectations of its obligations under the agreement. In the past, US 'expectations' have gone beyond what is in the actual text, and even included matters that were rejected in negotiations.
In other words, even though other nations might think that after their agreement and ratification of the text, everything is fixed, the US reserves the right to come back and demand changes to domestic laws and regulations so as to ensure that the implementation is as it wishes. That's no mere theoretical option: it has been used against both Peru and Australia recently. In the latter case, the US was unhappy with the legislation enacting the Australia-US free trade agreement (AUSFTA), and demanded that Australia bring in a supplementary law that actually went beyond the terms of AUSFTA. Even then, the US reserved its right to take legal action if it felt that Australia had still not gone far enough.
US officials can define another country's obligations; become directly involved in drafting that country's relevant law and regulations; demand to review and approve proposed laws before they are presented to the other country's legislature; and delay certification until the US is satisfied the new laws meet its requirements.
The publication of the open letter (pdf) to the political leaders of the TPP nations is a timely reminder that however much sovereignty they might be willing to give up during the negotiations for the sake of supposed gains, the US may want even more concessions -- without, of course, granting other countries the same prerogative.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 20th 2015 9:01pm
by Michael Ho
Wed, May 20th 2015 5:00pm
by Tim Cushing
Wed, May 20th 2015 3:44pm
The EFF is asking the Oregon Supreme Court to take a look at a disturbing opinion issued by the state's appeals court -- one that could see employees face fines and prison time simply for violating company policies.
The case prompting the filing of an amicus brief on behalf of the defendant does contain an element of criminality, but the court's decision should have been limited to the end result of the defendant's actions, rather than the actions taken to reach that point.
Caryn Nascimento worked as a cashier at the deli counter of a convenience store. As part of her job, she was authorized to access a lottery terminal in the store to sell and validate lottery tickets for paying customers. Store policy prohibited employees from purchasing lottery tickets for themselves or validating their own lottery tickets while on duty. After a store manager noticed a discrepancy in the receipts from the lottery terminal, it was discovered that Nascimento had printed lottery tickets for herself without paying for them. She was ultimately convicted not only of first-degree theft, but also of computer crime on the ground that she accessed the lottery terminal “without authorization.”At first glance, it almost seems like a reasonable application of the law simply because the end result was theft. But it's the specifics that make it troublesome. "Without authorization" is far too broad a term to be used in this context. With this reading of Oregon's law, the appeals court has basically criminalized a wide variety of corporate computer-related policy violations. Actions that would normally be met (in a corporate setting) with warnings and reprimands could now be viewed as criminal acts.
Nascimento appealed the computer crime conviction. She argued that because she had permission to access the lottery terminal as part of her work duties, she did not access the terminal without authorization—as required under the Oregon's computer crime statute. Unfortunately, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Nascimento’s conviction, finding she had only “limited authorization” to access the lottery terminal for purposes of printing and validating lottery tickets for paying customers, and acted without authorization when she printed them for herself.
[T]he Court of Appeals’ decision transforms millions of unsuspecting individuals into criminals on the basis of innocuous, everyday behavior—such as checking personal email or playing solitaire on a work computer. Such restrictions, frequently included in employers’ computer policies, are no different than the restriction imposed on Nascimento. They're ultimately all computer use, not access, restrictions. Upholding Nascimento’s conviction on the basis of a violation of a computer use restriction expands Oregon’s computer crime statute to criminalize violations of any computer use restriction.The broad reading of Oregon's criminal statute also poses potential problems outside of the work environment.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, May 20th 2015 2:50pm
Paul Hansmeier, having learned all he needs to know about practicing law from his years in the trolling trenches as part of Prenda Law, is now shaking down businesses using ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits. This new (but not really) approach is slightly more palatable to the general public than attempting to fish a few bucks from randy torrenters via infringement lawsuits, but not by much. Those on the receiving end of these shakedown efforts don't see much difference between Hansmeier's new approach and the actions that netted him and Prenda Law sanctions from multiple courts.
Hansmeier still seems enthralled with the possibility of easy money, even if his experience with Prenda Law didn't exactly pan out the way its principals hoped. Most are still in the process of extracting themselves from the flaming wreckage of Prenda, but they're limping away, rather than strutting. Some may even face jail time for contempt.
Hansmeier and his non-profit (Disability Support Alliance) -- which exists nowhere but the Minnesota business registry and as a nominal plaintiff in his 50+ ADA lawsuits -- are running into roadblocks on Easy Buck Ave. One of the businesses he recently sued addressed his allegations by filing a $50,000 counterclaim for abuse of process and civil conspiracy.
Now, there's more trouble on the way.
Cal Brink was tired of the lawsuits that just kept coming. Since the first suit claiming lack of disability access was filed more than a year ago, businesses in this southwest Minnesota town of nearly 14,000 people have been worried that they, too, would be hit.Since the putative goal is to improve access for the disabled, you'd think something called the "Disability Support Alliance" would be behind it. But the DSA isn't about improving access. It's about making money. Eric Wong, a member of the four-person-strong DSA says companies just need to pay it first and worry about complying with the law later.
Nine lawsuits have been filed here so far by the Disability Support Alliance, a nonprofit group formed last summer, including one against the only bowling alley in town. The owner said he will soon close rather than pay the DSA’s $5,500 settlement offer or make the $20,000 of changes needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Nobody fights them, because it’s going to cost you more to fight,” said Brink, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Now Marshall is fighting back. Working in concert with the Minnesota State Council on Disability, Brink developed an access audit for local businesses, allowing them to develop a plan to fix ADA issues and potentially to ward off litigation.
The plan has won the attention of the state Department of Human Rights, which hopes it could be used in other communities hit by serial litigation.
His group “is currently in the process of producing a voluntary mass settlement agreement for those businesses in Marshall that are ready to confess to their crime, fully comply … and pay the damages/restitution that they are liable for under the law,” Wong said in an e-mail.Roughly translated: the trolling will continue until it's run off the rails by the public or the courts. The lawsuits have already caught the eye of Hennepin County's chief judge, which noted that the flurry of filings "raised the specter of serial litigation" and has ordered all DSA/Hansmeier's lawsuits filed in this county be handled by one judge. This will probably prompt Hansmeier to take his "business" elsewhere, rather than deal with extra scrutiny from a judge who won't have to connect the dots between multiple filings in multiple venues. With any luck, Hansmeier's efforts elsewhere will be greeted with the same local resistance and judicial distrust.
“The lawsuits will stop when there is no more access crime to prosecute,” he said. Many businesses “fail to understand that … we are now a zero tolerance state.”
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