Like the four who held the job before him since its, er, difficulties began five-and-a-half years ago, Steve Freiberg did not do a particularly good job running E*Trade. But he’s been compensated handsomely for facing the wrath of an angry Ken Griffin before getting a pink slip in August.
E*Trade Financial Corp. said it paid its former Chief Executive Steven Freiberg $10.7 million in 2012, including a severance payment, according to a regulatory filing early Friday.
In its proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the online brokerage said Mr. Freiberg received $3 million in stock awards, $630,769 in salary and a $7 million lump sum cash severance payment.
E*Trade also said Mr. Freiberg collected a prorated bonus of $1.6 million paid in February and outstanding equity awards, which were valued at $3.3 million under an accelerated vesting schedule.
Marsh & McLennan Cos. gave outgoing chief executive Brian Duperreault a $17 million pay package last year, a 17% increase from 2011, according to the company’s annual proxy released Friday.
Mr. Duperreault’s compensation included a $1 million salary, stock and option awards of $10 million, and a $5 million bonus. It also included the personal use of the company’s corporate jet, valued at $441,875.
Mr. Duperreault, a longtime insurance executive who ran Marsh & McLennan for five years, stepped down at the end of 2012. The proxy said his pay increase was based in part on the company’s financial performance for the year, his work in positioning the company for future growth, and the “successful transition of CEO responsibilities” to Mr. Glaser.
Good Friday compensation disclosures were less kind to the poor schmucks who still have to run their companies. Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger hasn’t gotten a raise in four years, and the IntercontinentalExchange gave CEO Jeffrey Sprecher a 15% pay cut for the year in which he bought the fucking New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. Sprecher, who has led ICE since its formation in 2000, in 2011 was the second-highest-paid exchange CEO after Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE. Under terms of NYSE’s deal with ICE, Mr. Niederauer will become president of the combined company, while Mr. Sprecher will remain chairman and CEO.
The last flu season was pretty rough, but there's a new H7N9 strain that has no vaccine (yet!) and is starting to infect and kill people (instead of sticking to birds). We're just about coming to the tenth anniversary of SARS, and we're still creating over 100 million flu vaccines every year using egg embryos -- a process that takes months, time that we might not have if a really serious flu strain spreads quickly across the globe. Here are a few projects that are making vaccines more quickly.
from the the-'plug-ears-and-chant-loudly'-business-model dept
There's a lot of talk about "cord cutting" going around. On one hand, the techier side of the spectrum feels this is the new normal and that it spells out the eventual demise of cable companies. On the other hand, cable companies are stating loudly that this isn't happening and displaying chart after chart of flat (or slightly declining) subscriber counts as evidence that things are still "pretty OK." In between, you have the public, which is blessed with more options for content consumption than ever before. Sure, many of them still have a cable line running to the house, but it's debatable how much of that piped-in content is being consumed via the cable box. After all, most cable providers are also ISPs, which brings content into the home via services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Cable and satellite companies have long fought against having to inform its current (and potential) customers that their services aren't needed to receive free, over-the-air TV. This is why many networks are battling antenna manufacturer Aero in court -- to protect the carriage fees they receive from cable companies. If the cable companies lose subscribers, they lose these fees. Cable companies aren't happy about these antenna manufacturers either, and are pushing back by limiting the reach of their advertising. Vidiot sends in this GigaOM story about Antennas Direct and its run-in with Charter Communications.
You don’t need a cable subscription to watch ABC, CBS or NBC – but don’t expect to learn about alternatives if you’re a Charter customer. Over-the-air antenna maker Antennas Direct recently wanted to buy some air time on Charter‘s cable channels to explain how TV viewers can access these channels without a pay TV subscription.
“We thought it was a fairly benign message,” Antennas Direct President Richard Schneider told me Thursday. Charter disagreed – and rejected the spot for competitive reasons.
While Antennas Direct may compete somewhat with Charter's core business, its purchasers are limited to free, over-the-air channels. Charter offers many channels (along with phone and internet services) unavailable over the air, along with premium offerings. Someone knocking a handful of channels out of the hundreds available shouldn't be a concern -- unless cord cutting is more a threat than these companies want to admit. Charter's refusal to air this aid is an implicit admission that cord cutting is more of a problem than it's willing to state in public. As Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct, points out in a blog post at the company's site: “When a multi-million dollar antenna company can strike fear into the heart of a 7 billion dollar giant, you know your message has merit.”
Along with giving people a viable reason to ditch their cable subscriptions, these antennas offer something else the cablecos can't: uncompressed HD. Ever-expanding channel lineups have run headlong into bandwidth limits, forcing cable companies to compress their HD offerings. Not that you'd know it from cable company advertisting or their channel lineups, which list dozens of HD channels, most of which are delivered in less-than-true-HD form with compression that can run anywhere from 1-40%.
So, while there's nothing wrong with Charter's actions from a business perspective, blocking a few "competitor's" ads isn't going to save it for long. After all, more and more people are getting their advertising (and other information) from a variety of screens, rather than relying on TV broadcasts. This ad shutdown does nothing for Charter and gives Antennas Direct a huge boost in publicity. Maybe it would have been smarter to just let these ads run in their "normal" environment, commercial breaks, where the message would have become background noise for fridge runs and bathroom breaks. Instead, Charter has allowed Antennas Direct to walk away with the win and spead its message to savvy internet users, most of who are more than happy to ditch services they find incomplete, limiting or unnecessarily expensive.
We just recently had a post on the head of one of Homeland Security's "Fusion Centers" (the same Fusion Centers found by a Congressional investigation to be a near total waste of time and money, finding no terrorists, but violating the public's civil liberties) who claimed that the DHS centers did not spy on Americans, and then immediately admitted that they spied on "anti-government" Americans.
The definition of "anti-government" was mostly left as an exercise to the reader. However, in a bout of good timing, the Partnership for Civil Justice has released some new DHS documents it received via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, showing that DHS regularly spied on peaceful demonstrators and activists. Because exercising your First Amendment rights must make you one of them there "anti-government" Americans, which means the DHS is free to spy on you.
Functioning as a secret political police force against people participating in lawful, peaceful free speech activity, the heavily redacted documents show that the DHS “Threat Management Division” directed Regional Intelligence Analysts to provide a “Daily Intelligence Briefing” that includes a category of reporting on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations” along with “Domestic Terrorist Activity.” (p. 68)
The PCJF has obtained thousands of pages of documents pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act demands and made them available for public viewing. The newly obtained documents show coordination and intelligence monitoring by the DHS, the FBI, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies of “Occupy-type” protests.
The documents show the routine use of Fusion Centers for intelligence gathering on peaceful demonstrations as well as the use of DHS’ “Mega Centers” for collection of surveillance information on demonstrations.
And it's not just the big cities. The new documents show that DHS is involved in spying on peaceful protesters and activists around the country. It also shows that DHS helped local law enforcement "crack down" on the various Occupy gatherings. But the key thing is that DHS seems to have no qualms at all about spying on anyone who disagrees with the prevailing positions of today's federal government. And it's clearly not because they're trying to protect others from any threat of actual harm. They seem to be focused on spying to further the goal of preventing the administration from looking bad:
The documents show a Department of Homeland Security that appears obsessed with the question of whether any and all protests that are being surveilled receive media attention and coverage. Reporting within the DHS on media coverage of First Amendment protected activities, even in the smallest places, appears to be a routine part of DHS intelligence reports. None of the documents explain why media coverage of peaceful demonstrations is of interest to law enforcement or concerns “homeland security” in any way.
That's because it doesn't concern "homeland security" at all. It concerns the job security of those employed by Homeland Security.
Unless you've been totally under a pop-culture/music rock for the past few months, you've probably heard of Macklemore and his hit song (and video) Thrift Shop. Now at well over 200 million views, the song itself has been at the top of the charts and has sold over 4 million copies. In case you somehow have missed it, or in case you just want to watch it again, here's the video:
The song itself was released last year, and built up a lot of buzz throughout the fall, but completely exploded at the beginning of this year. While I became aware of the song a while back, I didn't realize until recently that Macklemore is actually yet another story of a totally independent artist who found success not by signing with a label and having them throw a ton of money into promoting him, but by carving his own independent path (and using YouTube to connect with fans). In many ways, his story reminds me of Alex Day's.
A few weeks ago, Macklemore sat down with Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist podcast and it's great. Beyond some interesting discussions about sudden fame (and then doing laundry in the communal laundry room of your apartment building days after appearing on SNL), he does talk a little about being a successful musician without a label. Chris asks him about the no label part and mentions what a great story it is:
Chris: To see you and Ryan Lewis come out of Seattle just making stuff you like making, with no label, and oh you're at the top of the charts, and all these people are talking about the song... that's just a great story.
Macklemore: Yeah, I appreciate it. It is a very cool story. It's what you always hope for in terms of picking the independent path. It's cool to see that that's been a focal point. It's not just "Thrift Shop"; it's this kind of do-it-yourself attitude behind the music we've made -- that is also within the midst of this thrift shop song. That these two dudes chose to go independently, to turn down the labels. That the music industry is changing. That it's evolving. And to be at any sort of place where we're at the forefront of that, at the moment, is exciting.
Chris: It's so inspiring to so many young people who maybe -- and I think people are more and more used to the fact that they can just make stuff in their bedrooms and it can turn out to be huge. But every time it happens, it's that much more inspiring to a younger generation of people who go... 'there's no excuse any more to not go out and make stuff that you want.'
Macklemore: Absolutely. And that's what we watched people that came before us that have done it independently, whether it's Sub Pop, or whether it's... Mac Miller did it independently. And he had every major label hollering at him with huge seven figure offers and turned it down and still went number one on Billboard. There's examples of it that came before us, that had us say 'I think that it can work -- I'm not sure that it can work." But, at the end of the day, what's most important, and creative control is number one for Ryan and I. It's a no brainer.
Chris I'm sure you've been approached a million times at this point, but you still don't want the infrastructure of a label?
Macklemore: Yeah, there's no reason to do it. With the power of the internet and with the real personal relationship that you can have via social media with your fans... I mean everyone talks about MTV and the music industry, and how MTV doesn't play videos any more -- YouTube has obviously completely replaced that. It doesn't matter that MTV doesn't play videos. It matters that we have YouTube and that has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having our identity, creating a brand, showing the world who we are via YouTube. That has been our label. Labels will go in and spend a million dollar or hundreds of thousands of dollars and try to "brand" these artists and they have no idea how to do it. There's no authenticity. They're trying to follow a formula that's dead. And Ryan and I, out of anything, that we're good at making music, but we're great at branding. We're great at figuring out what our target audience is. How we're going to reach them and how we're going to do that in a way that's real and true to who we are as people. Because that's where the substance is. That's where the people actually feel the real connection.
And labels don't have that.
So you sign up for a label. There's not some magic button they're now going to push and it means that people are going to like who you are. Or that they're identify with your vision or your songs. It actually comes from sitting down, staring at a piece of paper for months or years on end, trying to figure out who you are as a person, and hoping that it comes through in the end. But a label's not going to do that for you.
Uh huh. Once again, it makes you wonder what people are thinking when they claim that YouTube is putting artists out of work.
The whole episode is worth listening to as Macklemore has a great perspective on all of this, and it's interesting to hear him discuss the oddity of his sudden increase in fame and how he's dealing with it, without letting it go to his head. But considering how often we've had similar discussions about artists who choose to go independent, I thought some would enjoy that particular snippet especially.
It's kind of sad that anyone could possibly think that it's okay for the government to have secret interpretations of the law in a free and open society. "The law" is more than just the legislation itself, but the collection of caselaw and interpretations, combined with the legislation, that make up the overall "law." If some of those interpretations are kept secret, then how can the public obey the law? The answer is that they can't -- which is why secret interpretations shouldn't be allowed. The Justice Department, however, prefers to keep some things secret, and it's asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the EFF seeking to find out how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is interpreting parts of the FISA Amendments Act, after it was revealed (late on a Friday) that the court found at least one situation in which the feds collected info in violation of the 4th Amendment.
The EFF figured the public should know the details. The DOJ on the other hand... would rather the public stay in the dark. The DOJ actually suggests that merely revealing the fact that they got slapped down by the FISC provides enough "balance."
Last summer, in an effort to strike the right balance between government
transparency and the protection of critical intelligence activities, the government
declassified four statements concerning its activities pursuant to Section 702 of the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) Amendments Act of 2008. Not content
with that disclosure, Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF” or “Plaintiff”) submitted a
Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request seeking additional information related to
two of the declassified statements, specifically, that on at least one occasion the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”) “held that some collection carried out pursuant
to the Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government was unreasonable
under the Fourth Amendment” and that “on at least one occasion the FISA Court has
reached th[e ] conclusion” that “the government’s implementation of Section 702 of
FISA has sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law.”
And thus, we should be satisfied with that and want no more. Also, you don't want to know what kind of hell would break loose if the DOJ had to reveal how the law was actually interpreted. I mean, we'd all die or something very close to it, judging by the DOJ's language.
The government has determined that
disclosure of the information withheld from Plaintiff could result in exceptionally grave
and serious damage to the national security. Plaintiff obviously cannot contend
otherwise. The Court accordingly should defer to the government’s determination in this
case, uphold the Department’s withholdings, and grant this motion.
Basically, we've determined that you're all better off not knowing this information, and you should trust us because it's not like we have any incentives to lie (though, of course, we do). Also: boo!
Yet, as the amicus brief points out, the OLC’s opinions aren’t some intermediary step toward establishing the final legal interpretations for the executive branch. In general, they are the final legal interpretations for the executive branch. The FBI could choose to exercise the authority that the OLC said it had — or not — but Congress, the judiciary and the public at large all deserve to know what the executive branch thinks it can do, once it issues a conclusive opinion.
In other words, it's not right that the government can determine its own secret interpretations of the law, and it's time for the courts to put a stop to this.
We recently wrote about how Aaron Swartz's legal team was arguing with MIT and the DOJ about publicly releasing some of the documents in the case against him. MIT and the DOJ want to keep the names of key people at MIT and JSTOR secret, while Swartz's family says the info should be public. In response, among other things, the US Attorneys' Office has said that, since Swartz's death, they've been bullied and hacked. From the filing:
In my capacity as First Assistant United States Attorney, I have been shown various harassing and potentially threatening email messages directed at United States Attorney Ortiz and the United States Attorney’s Office following Mr. Swartz’s suicide.
Attached at Tab E are copies of the following articles:
a. Swartz case protest at Boston US Attorney’s Home, The Boston Globe, March 12, 2013; and
b. Swartz protesters go to prosecutor’s home, The Boston Globe, March 17, 2013.
In my capacity as First Assistant, I have been shown various harassing and threatening messages directed at AUSA Heymann. One such email I have seen states, among other things:
ROFLMAO just saw you were totally dox’d over the weekend by Anonymous. How does it feel to become an enemy of the state? FYI, you might want to move out of the country and change your name . . .
That same email copies personal information of AUSA Heymann, including his home address and personal telephone number, among other things. AUSA Heymann has also reported to me that his personal information (including his home address, personal telephone number, and the names of family member and friends) were posted online, and that his Facebook page was hacked.
Attached at Tab F is a redacted copy of a postcard that AUSA Heymann has informed me he received at his home.
Attached at Tab G is a copy of a postcard that Professor Philip Heymann has informed me he received.
This is the first postcard they're talking about:
The picture in the center is of Philip Heymann, father of Steven Heymann. Steve Heymann led the prosecution of Swartz. His father, Philip is a former deputy attorney general and a professor at Harvard.
Once again, as we've stated numerous times in the past, these kinds of activities, while they may feel like a way to make a statement against those who have done wrong, are incredibly counterproductive and stupid. Rather than making any sort of realistic or helpful point, they just give more ammo to the DOJ to block a full, fair and thorough exploration into what went wrong. Making them into victims is a really pointless move that helps the DOJ continue to cover up the details of what happened by giving them cover.
I recognize that there's tremendous anger towards the US Attorneys' office over this case, and much of that anger is likely justified. But channeling that anger into childish threats doesn't help anyone, least of all Swartz's memory and family. Yes, the prosecution of Swartz was unfair, and I would support a legitimate investigation into what happened and ways to keep the DOJ from such overzealous prosecution in the future (though, I agree with others that this sort of thing is endemic to the DOJ, and wasn't unique to Swartz's situation). But these actions turn the DOJ into victims and give them an excuse to hide behind. These kinds of attacks may make some kids feel better, but they don't help at all.
We just posted about Prince's NPG Records issuing DMCA takedowns on a set of Vine videos. While noting that Prince regularly seeks to shut down internet support of his work far beyond what the law allows, we also pointed out that, given the 6 second limit on Vine videos, it seemed almost certain that the videos in question would be protected as fair use and/or de minimis use. After posting that story, we heard from Zack Teibloom who, it turns out, is the person who shot and posted the Vine videos in the first place. They were taken at Prince's SXSW concert. He noted that he treated the takedowns as "cease and desist" letters and chose to take them all down. Before he did so, we were able to snag one of the videos, which we've now posted to YouTube solely for the discussion over whether or not the original takedown was an abuse of the DMCA.
We believe, strongly, that NPG's takedown notice is faulty, and it's quite possible that it violated 512(f) of the DMCA in that it appears NPG knowingly misrepresented that the works were infringing. In the DMCA notice, NPG claims:
These are unauthorized recordings and are unauthorized synchronizations
As such, I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted work
described above is not authorized by the copyright owner (or by a third
party who is legally entitled to do so on behalf of the copyright owner)
and is not otherwise permitted by law. I hereby confirm that I believe the
tracks identified in this email infringe my copyright.
However, it is incorrect that the use was not permitted by law. Under both fair use and de minimis use, such a use is clearly permitted by law. Furthermore, as a court found in the Lenz v. Universal Music Group case, the filer of a DMCA takedown needs to take fair use into account before issuing the takedown. Separately, as a bootleg video, this might not even be subject to the DMCA at all.
As per Vine's own limitation, the clip is a mere six seconds long, showing five disjointed clips of a song. If we were to do a four factors test for Teibloom's original use, it seems clear that it is fair use.
The purpose and character of the use:
The showing of brief six second, disjointed clips was clearly just to highlight that Teibloom had attended the SXSW show, and was linked from his review just to highlight the sense of what the show was like. It's clearly not a full use of the song or anything attempting to be a replacement for the song or the concert itself. It was a brief "view" of one attendee's perspective, which is clearly transformative from the original work. As such, it clearly "added value" to the original, since it was showing something different and unique from the original, while providing some perspective on the experience of attending such a show.
The nature of the copyrighted work
This was a recording of a brief bit of a live event, not of the sound recording or anything like that. Again, the point was to capture the live atmosphere and experience. This prong of the fair use test is supposed to be to protect the dissemination of information, and that seems clear from the use.
Also, even the brief bit of music that you hear is a pretty generic soul / funk music riff, rather than something highly unique and identifiable with Prince himself. I'm not even sure that the song being played is a Prince song. It sounds so generic and short it's difficult to identify. As a test, I tried to use Shazam on it, and despite claiming to be able to identify a song with as little as one second of music, it said it could not find a match. If you'd asked me I would have thought it was a just a generic James Brown-style riff rather than anything specific to Prince. Given that, while the performance is potentially covered by a copyright, it's not clear that the song is covered by Prince's copyright.
Hell, just the fact that it's unclear what the song is highlights why this is almost certainly fair use or de mininmis use. One of the characteristics of de mininimis use is if you can distinguish the work. When even the expert automated ears at Shazam can't do that...
The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken
Six disjointed seconds. 'Nuff said.
The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market
There is clearly no negative use whatsoever. It is not as if someone will not buy or license a Prince song because this clip was "good enough" as a substitute. There is no rational way to support such a claim.
That said, it is possible that Prince's takedown actions might cause people to no longer want to support his works, but that's his own actions, not this particular video.
That's for Teibloom. As for us reposting the video and discussing it here, our use is even more transformative, as it is now about the discussion on whether or not the video itself is fair use. Without showing the video it is difficult to have a reasonable or competent discussion on whether or not it was fair use.
Either way, we believe that Prince and NPG Records are abusing the DMCA, potentially in violation of 512(f), and using the DMCA to take down perfectly legitimate videos that are allowed under US copyright law.
Now, Warner Archive Instant isn't necessarily meant to be a Netflix killer. (Or even to take out the severely wounded Hulu.) It's way too niche for that. But it's unclear exactly what perceived gap in the market Warner is hoping to fill (other than a gap of its own creation). Here's a few of the underwhelming details.
Warner Archive Instant [is] a service that streams vintage films and shows from the vast Warner Bros. catalog. It's an offshoot of the existing Warner Archive DVD and Blu-ray site, but the digital selection is unfortunately rather limited — there are only 123 distinct titles available as of now. While most of these aren't typically found through other outlets, it's still a pretty small selection, particularly for the $9.99 monthly fee associated with the service. Warner says that it'll be constantly adding and rotating new content in and out, but for now it's not the most robust offering around.
This certainly sounds like a studio-directed effort. More expensive with less selection! That's what people are looking for in a streaming service! Warner, despite dipping a toe into the Stream, seems to be relying on artificial scarcity to drive subscriptions. Many of the movies and shows it offers on Archive Instant aren't available through other streaming services or retailers. So, if you're absolutely dying to watch selected episodes from seasons 2 & 3 (but not the entire seasons, mind you) of 77 Sunset Strip (or late-80s insta-classic Disorderlies) and have nothing better to do with a ten-spot, Warner Archive is tailored precisely for you.
Of course, this being a studio effort, there are a whole lot of caveats to the severely limited, expensive, streaming service -- many that you won't find hampering cheaper services with more titles.
For instance, if you want true HD, you have a single option: Roku box to TV. That's it. Hi-def streaming for PC and Mac is not supported "at this time." Also not supported: smart TVs, networked Blu-Ray players, Wii/Xbox/PS3 or mobile devices. Here's more good news: the service can only be utilized on one device at a time.
This service is far too limited and far too expensive to appeal to about 99% of everybody. Perhaps several months down the road when Warner adds more (and it will need to add a lot) content, it might be tempting. But even with additional content, it will still be nothing more than yet another streaming service competing for market share in an overcrowded field.
Warner is making a couple of mistakes here (at least). The first is arbitrarily locking up certain content solely to "create" a market for the shackled products. The second mistake is assuming people are clamoring for a fragmented streaming market. Most people are satisfied with one or two services and very occasionally use others to fill in the gap. What they're not interested in is creating yet another account, setting up yet another device and adding yet another line item to the debit side of their bank accounts in order to access limited niche content. (And even the "niche" part can be argued. The titles available are hit-and-miss -- a collection of true classics mixed with below average films, accompanied by a bizarre selection of TV shows, some of which are represented as "best of" sets, rather than the entire season[s]. Archive Instant seems to have been set up by a faulty database query, rather than curated with the classic movie fan in mind.)
At the end of the day, though, Warner will still be able to say it tried. When the MPAA presents its anti-piracy legislation suggestions, it will point to this (and Ultraviolet) as evidence of the studios' willingness to meet pirates potential customers halfway. What it fails to understand is that meeting customers halfway rarely results in a sale. And when nobody's buying the crap the studios are shoveling, to them, it just looks like pirates all the way down.
This story is incredible. Saint Louis University is threatening a faculty member with copyright infringement claims for his decision to take a survey of his colleagues. It appears that the faculty and the administration have been battling with each other recently, leading to a "no confidence" vote by students and faculty of the University provost. In response, the Board of Trustees sent around a "climate survey" to faculty, staff and students -- but some had complained that the questions were not useful and only asked one question about the leadership of that provost, Lawrence Biondi. In response, some of the faculty designed their own "supplemental survey" for other faculty members that included more questions, specifically about Biondi's relationship with the faculty itself.
The Saint Louis University chapter of the American Association of University Professors responded to the board's surveys by attempting to devise its own "AAUP Supplemental Survey" for faculty members that would include specific questions about Father Biondi. Where the university's survey for faculty members asked how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement "The university appreciates the contributions of the faculty," the AAUP survey would, for example, ask how much respondents agreed with the statement "The president appears to respect and value the faculty."
However, the University is having none of this and has threatened the AAUP's President with claims of copyright infringement.
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on March 27 mentioned the AAUP chapter's plan for a survey. The next day the chapter's president, Steven G. Harris, a professor of mathematics and computer science, received a letter from William R. Kauffman, the university's vice president and general counsel, telling him that the university's new surveys are copyrighted and any use of them would violate federal law.
Mr. Kauffman's letter said that anything derived from the university's surveys would likewise be regarded as a violation of the university's rights. "Any infringement," the letter said, "will be addressed by the university and could result in legal action" in which the university could seek injunctive relief, damages, and the recovery of any legal fees.
This is incredible on so many levels, none of which makes Saint Louis University look good. First, this is a clear case of using copyright to censor, rather than for any legitimate purpose of copyright (it's like the University needed the incentives of copyright to develop this survey). Second, the "supplemental survey" is clearly asking different questions, not the same questions. Third, it's difficult to see how basic survey questions would have enough creative element to qualify for copyright protection in the first place, and even in the rare cases where they did, it would be likely that the protection would be quite thin, and hardly likely to be infringed upon by a separate and different set of questions.
But, most importantly, if the University board was looking to suggest that the faculty was happy with the administration, it would appear that threatening a bogus copyright infringement lawsuit demonstrates the exact opposite message. Truly incredible.
Unfortunately, the chilling effects of the threat may be working in silencing the survey attempt:
"The issue," he said, "is not whether the university will prevail in such a suit but whether I would be forced to run up enormous legal bills to defend against such a suit."
Of course, given that the likely point of the supplemental survey was to highlight problems between the administration and the faculty, the threat of the lawsuit seems to have accomplished that goal already.
The Chronicle of Higher Education also notes that Saint Louis University has sued another professor over questionable copyright claims before, and even though that professor won, he still racked up $10,000 in legal bills. And yet, the maximalists tell us, there are no examples of copyright being used to stifle free speech...
Three years back, Mike wrote a piece about how Intuit, maker of TurboTax software, was actively lobbying against a system that would allow for a simple, quick way of filing income taxes (a way that might possibly mean fewer people need to buy TurboTax). Basically, the government could give you pre-filled out forms with all the info it received from your employer and you could just review it, click okay, and be done with your taxes. Intuit's explanation for fighting this ranged from lying by saying taxpayers already had access to that functionality (they don't) and misleading when they said it was a conflict of interest for the government to be the tax preparer and collector (the government wouldn't be doing any actual preparation). Now, as we approach the income tax deadline in the United States, Intuit has changed its tune. That doesn't mean they've stopped lobbying against this system, which has been backed by presidents from Reagan to Obama. Rather, their excuses have simply changed to be at once even more misleading and simultaneously more honest.
Let's take the first excuse, for instance.
Intuit argues it might cost some taxpayers more money.
Well, thank science that we have disinterested parties like Intuit looking out for our tax-paying well-being. The system would cost more money? Obviously the government is trying to force more taxes out of hard-working 'Mericans! That would be the conclusion you could reach if the proposed return-free filing program wasn't entirely optional. Instead, Intuit comes off as merely wishing to keep choices away from Americans. As for their second reason:
Such changes would hurt its business.
Boom, honesty. Requesting tax-paying options not be given to American citizens because it would hurt a company's bottom line is an interesting argument to make. By interesting, of course, I mean laughably silly. What's not silly is that for the past five years, the $11.5 million Intuit has paid in lobbying efforts has resulted in the selling out of the American taxpayer. Reports suggest that enabling a return-free system would save taxpayers up to $2 billion (with a "b") and over two hundred million hours in preparation time.
But, hey, that apparently won't stop the company and a couple of key allies from fanning the flames of anti-government conservatives to make sure it rakes in billions (also with a "b"). Intuit has decried the simple filing solution to be "big government", despite the conservative argument generally looking to make the tax system more simple. Backing them, unbelievably, is tax activist Grover Norquist.
Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?
from the die-rachel-from-cardholder-services,-die dept
We mentioned last fall that the FTC had declared "Rachel from Cardholder Services" as enemy number one -- referencing the all too common spammy robocaller scams that many of us have received on our phones. It has now awarded two $25,000 prizes out of 744 entries in ways to help block such robocalls.
According to the FTC, Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss will each receive $25,000 for their proposals, which both use software to intercept and filter out illegal prerecorded calls using technology to "blacklist" robocaller phone numbers and "whitelist" numbers associated with acceptable incoming calls. Both proposals also would filter out unapproved robocallers using a CAPTCHA-style test to prevent illegal calls from ringing through to a user.
Of course, now the followup questions: will these solutions actually be put in place and work? And how long will it take for robocallers to route around these solutions?