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Posted on Techdirt - 26 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the free-as-in-speech dept

This week, some extremely interesting questions were raised by the arrest of a man for tweeting a GIF designed to induce an epileptic seizure (and bragging about it). Though there are a lot of nuances to the legal situation Thad won most insightful comment of the week by rejecting the idea that a GIF can't be a deadly weapon simply because one has never been used to kill before:

They'd be hard-pressed to find a moon rock that's actually killed someone too, but if somebody were to beat Eichenwald over the head with a moon rock after stating that he intended to kill him, I don't think the "nobody's ever been killed with a moon rock" defense would hold up.

In second place, we've got an anonymous response expanding on the explanation of why older, well-off readers are among the biggest ebook pirates:

There is no mystery here. I mean specifically in this instance of older and wealthier people pirating digital books. Its simply a reflection of the publishing industry's failure to grasp the times. People are not stupid, if they can very obviously see that a giant chunk of your production costs just evaporated, they will decide your product should be less expensive. And that's what happened here. People in this age range lived through the digital revolution and understand what books used to cost, that book prices have only gone up, and that Amazon and Apple both have colluded with publishers to keep digital costs artificially high strictly to prevent an impact on physical sales.

Cause, ya know, people who read a lot of books tend to also read a lot of news and are often better informed than the general populace.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment on that post, including yet another reason:

I've got an older eBook reader, and finding legitimate books that work on it is quite a PITA - not only because of unsupported formats, but also because online bookstores refuse to sell to me because I'm in the "wrong" country. When it's easier for me to google " epub" and get a working link within 2-3 clicks, why should I bother jumping through hoops?

I'd like to point out Baen here - they're the only one I found where buying a book (that works everywhere) is simpler than downloading off random sites.

Next, we've got a response to the recent SCOTUS decision that lets patent trolls bide their time before suing, which CanadianByChoice notes is only going to incentivize the exact opposite of what patents are supposed to achieve:

So, really, this tells innovators to not bother .. because someone ELSE is just going to come along with a patent (probably old, unheard-of and vague) and take it all away from you.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous commenter who offered up my new favorite response to silly "what does this have to do with tech" complaints on our posts:

Why doesn't Fox news concentrate on news about foxes?

For second place, we head to the latest development in the Paul Hansmeier story, where $180,000 cash found hidden under his bed lead to bankruptcy fraud investigations, and to an eyeroll from an anonymous commenter:

At least that has a plausible explanation.

I mean, I'm finding loose change under my couch cushions all the time.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about the legal battle over a mattress review site, some of which hinges on the safety of "food-grade" materials. TechDescartes had a thought on one commenter's story about their can of "food-grade" Rubix Cube lubricant that also warns it is "HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED":

Especially when applied to a Rubik's cube.

Finally, we head to our story about the laptop travel ban, where sorrykb mused about the growing number of bans that might follow and then hit on a possible nefarious explanation:

What if this is all a trick by Big In-Flight Movie to force us to pay for their crap?

That's all for this week, folks!

9 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 25 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 19th - 25th

from the archive-lane dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, the public got a terrifying glimpse of the extent of the NSA's surveillance capabilities thanks to some excellent journalism, which put the agency on the defensive trying to downplay its powers. While this was going on, Senators Wyden and Udall were pressing the Obama administration to open up about its secret interpretation of the Patriot Act.

In the fallout of the Megaupload indictment, a restraining order on Kim Dotcom was rendered void by a procedural error, the MPAA was trying to get the site's data retained so it could sue the users (though it quickly tried to backtrack), and scammers were targeting Megaupload users by masquerading as copyright trolls sending settlement letters.

This was also the week of a major ruling in the patent world: the Supreme Court effectively rejected the concept of patenting medical diagnostics in Prometheus v. Mayo.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, even as the RIAA was trying and failing to escape paying legal fees in a doomed lawsuit against an indebted mother of five, the agency was continuing to defend its practice of suing college kids and trying to get their schools to help — which irritated one university so much that it demanded the RIAA pay up for all the time that was wasted with onerous requests. Meanwhile, NBC Universal and News Corp. were making waves with their YouTube competitor, which you might notice has not become a lasting pillar of the internet, as plenty of people suspected at the time. But this was interesting since Viacom was just revving up in its lawsuit against the real YouTube, which Lawrence Lessig argued was made possible by the Grokster decision, and which was leading to some ironic situations with the company's own star content creators.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, the world was being buried under a rising tide of spam, but at least society was beginning to accept that internet dating is normal. Not from work, of course, as offices were ramping up their efforts to block various internet activities in a misguided panic about productivity. Of course, some were over-ambitiously predicting that fully half of us would be working from home by 2007, in which case that would presumably cease to be a problem. It was a different time, when Stephen King was selling his novel in phone booths and the UK's Times Online was trying to charge web subscriptions to your phone bill (and, of course, trying to patent the technology). Most importantly, though, we saw an early victory for safe harbors when AOL was found not liable in a copyright lawsuit filed by Harlan Ellison over a Usenet posting.

Thirty-Eight Years Ago

If you care about US politics, you know it: it's the TV station you watch slightly less than you say you do and much less than you probably should, and this week was its birthday. That's right: on March 19th, 1979, C-SPAN was unveiled to the country, offering an unprecedented window into the House of Representatives. It opened with a speech by Al Gore, though at the time only 3.5-million homes were capable of receiving it. The Senate would not follow suit and allow itself to be televised for another seven years.

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

Caution: Prolonged Exposure To Copyright Can Be Hazardous To Human Culture

from the new-gear-from-techdirt dept

Caution: Copyright by Techdirt on Teespring

Caution: Copyright gear now available on Teespring »

It's that time again: we've launched another new line of gear on Teespring — Caution: Copyright T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers. I hope the design speaks for itself, though whether it will be as controversial as Copying Is Not Theft remains to be seen...

We're also very happy to announce that shipping from Europe is now available for all Techdirt gear on Teespring! If you visit any of our campaigns with an IP address outside the US, you'll be given the option to choose the EU fulfillment center instead. The product selection and pricing is slightly different, but our friends across the Atlantic should find the shipping much cheaper and faster. If you don't get the option to choose your location, look for the link in the product description on Teespring, because there is sometimes a delay in getting the global campaigns properly linked. (Here's a direct link to the EU version of this new T-shirt, for convenience's sake.)

Check out the Techdirt Gear store for Caution: Copyright and more »

Techdirt Gear on Teespring

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 21 March 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 114: Alexa, Play This Podcast

from the alexa,-subscribe-and-share-too dept

Always-on, voice-operated assistants are on the rise, and most of the industry seems to have agreed that Amazon's Alexa is at the top of the pack. Podcast host Dennis Yang was and is an early adopter of these devices, so this week he's brought along Alexa, Google Now and Siri as guests for a discussion about the future of this technology.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the talk-of-the-blog dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Thad, responding to Ed Sheeran's stand against takedown bots with a good observation about the broken incentives of the DMCA:

One of the many problems with the DMCA is that it not only actively encourages hands-off, automatic takedowns, it actually encourages that the algorithms they're based on be as dumb as possible.

Because if it can be proven that a rightsholder intentionally issued a false takedown, then the rightsholder is liable. But if it's an accident, they're not.

Next, we head to our post about Trump's latest immigration order, where one commenter put forth the full lyrics to Al Wilson's "The Snake" — Trump's chosen anti-immigration (in his mind) campaign poem. But one anonymous commenter responded beautifully to the saga of the betraying serpent:

And yet we elected him president anyways.

The End

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another response to the Ed Sheeran story, this time from That Anonymous Coward who dissected the motivations of the recording industry:

They fear the loss of control they imagine will destroy them as hundreds of kids cover a song & get record deals.

Only they can choose who will be the next star, and the serfs will pay us dearly for our picks. You can not have anything we do not approve of, because we have stolen your culture for centuries and we will not stop now. The serfs will be mad at the stars, and not us so we really don't care. Someone hearing 15 seconds of something we 'own' lock stock & barrel and us not getting paid is the highest sin possible.

Someone smart should start courting acts, so that when it comes time to renew contracts they just go with the smart guy. Don't need giant buildings full of lawyers taking a cut, wasting money on making sure that only corporate approved methods of showing support will be allowed. You just need to connect with your fans & have a good time... the money will flow. (And probably more than under the old deal where the labels sucked every cent possible out of everything.)

Next, we've got a comment from That One Guy responding to Georgia's porn censorship bill:

"It is a threat to society itself!" "Here's twenty bucks." "Enjoy your threat to society itself."

So porn is such a huge problem in the state that it requires nothing less than mandatory filters to combat it's vile evil, yet for $20 said vile evil can be enjoyed freely.

I'm going to second a comment made the last time this came up, and mentioned in the article itself, and say that this isn't so much an 'anti-porn' bill as an 'easy taxes' one, where the 'keep porn from corrupting the innocent youth' is just the paper-thin justification for introducing a new stream of revenue, under the idea that no-one will be willing to publicly defend porn such that the tax will be implemented without any significant pushback.

They aren't treating porn as a threat so much as a paycheck, a source of easy money.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to the Sen. Ron Johnson's silly "bridge" analogy for the internet. One anonymous commenter joined in on the fun:

I like this game. I'll give it shot.

The internet is like a muffin with a series of pulleys attached to its gooey center. And at the end of these pulleys are antarctic monkeys eating your Cheetos. These Cheetos determine who gets what and where with the monkeys, and data makes laps around the muffin, but only two times, so it doesn't get bunched up, because there's only one muffin to do laps around. There's also a crocodile somewhere.

How'd I do?

For second place, we head to our post about a driver who received a ticket for an "obscene" decal on his car. The conversation pivoted to the idea of watching porn in the car when other drivers can see it, and one commenters assertion that they don't want their grandkids seeing "Debbie" performing various sex acts on a screen in an adjacent car. Roger Strong was sympathetic but curious:

While I fully agree with you, I can't help but wonder: How did you know her name was Debbie?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more nod to Thad, largely because nobody openly acknowledged the excellent TV reference he used in this comment, and I want to make sure he knows at least someone got it! It was a response to a commenter who accused us of changing our stance on Google Fiber since last year:

Just year and half ago, you stated "Google, which is spending billions on wireless service and fiber to the home":

And a year and a half ago, it was.

"Last year, Abe claimed to be 15 years old. This year, he claims to be 16. Which is it, Abe?"

(He'd also like you to believe he's not a baby eater.)

Finally, because it certainly doesn't deserve to get off so lightly, we've got one more response to the internet bridge analogy, this time from Mark Wing:

That's why I send all my internets before rush hour, when the tubes are empty and there are no trucks on the bridge.

That's all for this week, folks!

1 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 18 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 12th - 18th

from the old-stories dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, politicians were still reeling from recent public opposition. Don't get SOPA'd had become the new mantra in DC, while the European Commission was blaming ACTA's failure on social media and starting to worry about its upcoming copyright directive. Rep. Lamar Smith was unperturbed though, which is why people were working to fund a "Don't Mess With The Internet" billboard in his district.

Also this week in 2012: Mojang and Bethesda settled their dispute over the Scrolls trademark, Megaupload was negotiating with the government to let users retrieve their files from the service, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica ended an era by discontinuing its print edition.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, Viacom followed up on its mass YouTube takedowns with a now-infamous billion-dollar lawsuit — just as some of those who had their videos taken down were suing Viacom. Meanwhile, Hollywood was trying to export DRM around the globe even as the EU Commissioner was making veiled threats about stopping DRM on music. While one Microsoft executive was admitting the company benefits from piracy, the video game industry was joining the BSA, RIAA, MPAA et al in spreading bogus piracy stats. And we were pleasantly surprised to discover at least one person in congress who understood mixtapes and mashups.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, plenty of things were on the horizon. Augmented reality was making early waves (very early, obviously), people were warning about mobile phone viruses, news broadcasters had only just really started using green-screen sets instead of fancy newsrooms, and plagiarism-detection software was just starting to get the attention of universities. While Canada was trying to pass its levy on blank storage media (which still plagues its blank CDs to this day), webcasters and record labels were actually on the same side fighting against high internet radio royalties (if you can believe it). Meanwhile, the legal saga of "sucks" sites played out another chapter in the courts.

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 March 2017 @ 12:41pm

Techdirt Gear In Action

from the live-and-up-close dept

It's been nearly a year since we started offering Techdirt t-shirts, hoodies and more on Teespring, and in that time we've seen quite a few tweets showing off some great photos (and one video!) of the gear upon arrival or out in the wild. Since we've just put most of last year's designs back in the store — and since we're gearing up to launch a new design next week — I figured it might be time to show off some of those photos and encourage those of you who already have Techdirt gear, or are getting it soon, to share new ones!

Most recently, a few folks have been tweeting photos of our I Invented Email gear, including one of our favourite parody accounts...

...and a data-loving Techdirt fan...

...and FIRE's Sarah McLaughlin:

But the best is when we get to see Techdirt gear truly in action, like when Keith Lee rocked a Takedown t-shirt for an interview on a law show:

(You can watch the episode here, though you won't see much of the t-shirt.)

And here's a video of Brett Haddock in a Nerd Harder t-shirt (the only classic design that hasn't returned yet, but stay tuned!) asking his congressman about his stance on encryption:

It's also nice to know that our gear might occasionally break the ice between strangers, such as this completely random encounter on the streets of Dublin, Ireland:

Of course, what I really want to see is an encounter between two strangers who are both wearing Copying Is Not Theft gear. But the only candidate we've spotted so far lives in North Dakota:

If you feel a little left out after all of that, then it might be time to head to the Techdirt Gear store on Teespring and treat yourself! And if you do, or you already have, tweet a photo or video and tag @Techdirt so we see it — especially if you're doing something fitting like grilling a politician, or for that matter grilling a nice steak.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 14 March 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 113: Will Regulations Ground Drone Innovation?

from the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants dept

The rise of drones in both the personal and commercial spheres has happened with stunning speed, and it has created a whole bunch of hard-to-answer regulatory questions. This week we're joined by Notifleet's Siggi Hindrichs to discuss the current state and future of drone regulation by the FAA.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the speech-on-speech dept

This week, up here in Canada we were pleased to see our government take a stand against the USTR's Special 301 hearing, although it's a shame they didn't do that before passing new draconian copyright laws. Still, it's a step in the right direction, and That One Guy racked up the most votes on the insightful side with some kudos and hope for the future:

Nice for the Canadian government to show a little spine and stand up to the USTR and the joke that is the 301 Report, and in particular bluntly pointing out that it's not based upon anything more complex than some people whining to the USTR about how mean other countries are to them in not giving them everything they do or could ask for.

Now if only every other government on the planet could issue similar 'Nah, you enjoy that party on your own, we're good' statements perhaps the joke of a 'report' could finally be killed for good.

For second place, we head to our post about the first amendment lawyer who was apparently surprised that freedom of speech applies to movie makers as much as anyone else. We also pointed out the irony of Hollywood constantly whittling away free speech with stronger copyright, leading one commenter to make the old argument that copying has nothing to do with free speech, and specifically that free speech is only completely original speech that you created. Stephen T. Stone won second place by shutting that silly notion down:

No one's "free speech" is reduced simply by not being able to use content someone else has made.

A reviewer of media being unable to quote part of a book or use clips from a movie as part of their review strikes me as a "stifling of speech".

"free speech" pretty much by definition must be your OWN, not simply copying

I cannot think of a single legal precedent that has ever said such a thing, so I would love to see you produce a reference to such a precedent.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a conversation about asset forfeiture where one commenter noted that they can't understand why anyone needs to travel with huge amounts of cash, and Thad offered up the important reminder that that doesn't matter:

But that's not really the point. Traveling with a large amount of cash (or other valuable assets) is not, in and of itself, a crime, and should not be treated, in and of itself, as evidence of a crime.

People do lots of things that I don't understand a need for. That doesn't mean the police should be allowed to confiscate their stuff.

Next, we head to the legal dispute over Purple's "white powder" and their refusal to offer more details about its composition, supposedly due to their pending patent application. One anonymous commenter pointed out that this doesn't seem to make any sense:

This is blatantly false. By seeking a patent, Purple is agreeing that all such information about the composition of the white powder will become public knowledge. Since the patent application has already been submitted, it is guaranteed that if this powder is patentable, they will be the ones to receive said patent. If it is not patentable, then the application (which will include the composition), will become public after 18 months from the date of application. Either way, there is absolutely no reason at this point to not release details on the composition of their powder.

Except, of course, if releasing that information would support the implications that the powder is dangerous.

Over on the funny side, we start out by returning to our post about movies and the first amendment, and indeed to the same assertion about free speech needing to be original. TechDescartes won first place for funny with quite an excellent response:

Under that standard, you aren't allowed to make this comment. It's been made before.

And TechDescartes is a double winner this week, also taking second place for funny by responding to someone who commented about not having read our post about people who comment without reading posts:

I agree. China should not be selling Netflix flags to protesters in Europe who want two-factor authentication for their cloud-connected toothpaste dispensers, especially without FCC approval of the trademark.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we head to the long-awaited story of copyright troll Perfect 10's demise as its assets go into receivership. One anonymous commenter elegantly summed up this ignoble conclusion:

And so it ends with the hilarious result of a court literally confiscating a porn stash.

An amusing observation in itself, but made even more hilarious by Roger Strong's addition of a truly inspired punchline:

And that's how justice went blind.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 7 March 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 112: When A Typo Breaks The Internet

from the AW(OO)S dept

From its humble origins as an online bookseller that many people worried might not survive, Amazon has grown into a critical piece of the web's backbone via its Amazon Web Services platform. Last week's S3 outage made this painfully clear, and understandably raised lots of concerns — especially after it was revealed that the whole thing was caused by a typo. So this week we're discussing whether something needs to be done, and what that might be.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the talk-of-the-blog dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side comes in response to Sean Spicer's about face on the Confide app, which prompted one anonymous commenter to point out a second layer of hypocrisy:

Oh the irony and hypocrisy when the team that screamed "her emails!" so much didn't learn to use official channels from the Clinton issue, but just learned to work harder at hiding their electronic use policy violations.

For second place, we head to our response to T Bone Burnett's video submission to the Copyright Office, were That One Guy had some additional thoughts:

Ignoring for a moment the fact that more is being created than ever before, including music, which rather nicely undercuts the whole 'scorched earth of creativity' thing he seems to have going, reading this I can't help but wonder about his stance towards the 'creative wonderland' that was the major labels before the internet came along and yanked the rug out from under them by offering creators a way to have their music heard and purchased without going through them.

Because I don't know about anyone else, but 'handful of mega corporations ... living fat off the artistic, cultural, and economic value everyone else creates online' sounds like a dead ringer for the labels who demanded that if anyone wanted to be heard they went through them, paying and paying dearly for the privilege and leaving anyone they didn't grace with their benevolence in the dust.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we'll start out with one more response to that video, this time from hij:

This guy cut his teeth in a traveling revue playing on the road. He moved from playing small events to big time concerts. All of the issues he brought up have nothing to do with the internet. You can replace "internet" with any other venue. The problems he brings up are exactly the same whether or not it is a bunch of local bands playing down on the corner bar, big name productions at a nearby city's stadium, or some nebulous internet people.

Then he explicitly says the problem is not technology it is the business models. If that is the case change the business model. The world does not owe him a chance to play in his studio. The world wants to see him on stage playing. It is not up to the government to provide a way for him to create a monopoly and force people to listen and pay for his music the way he wants it. It is a two way street, and he needs to listen to his fans. Both the fans and the artists need to adapt. Rigidly clinging to a way for him to control his fans will only result in him watching them walk away regardless of the technology.

As for his disdain for the mega corporations getting fat off the backs of the poor artists, he is right that it is a problem. Trying to go back to a time where it was his buddies in the recording industry who were taking advantage of the artists is just a quest to go backwards to a time that is not so different than the present dystopia he insists we are living in. (We are not.)

As for bemoaning the idea that the internet is turning into a corporate playground designed to take people's money away.... Sorry, but that happened 20 years ago. That train left the station a long long time ago. When T-bone Rip Van Winkle wakes up and realizes that it is 2017 he is going to be surprised.

Next, we've got some thoughts from Roger Strong on the idea that Trump's behavior is no different from previous presidents:

This is how you normalize corruption and incompetence. Declare that "everyone else does it."

Sure, you could declare Obama to be the same as the previous administration. There'd be some truth there, as he kept most of the same policies and didn't prosecute those who turned the country into a torture state. On the other hand he do anything on the scale of the lies and deception used to drag the country into a decade+ long war.

But declaring Trump to be in the same league? Take Obama's worst lie and put it into a Trump speech. It would go entirely unnoticed, overshadowed by far worse Trump claims.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to an anonymous commenter who made the most obvious and appropriate joke when we had some HTML issues in a post about "fake news":

fake formatting.

For second place, we head to our post about the leak of a State Dept. memo on the subject of stopping leaks, where one commenter objected by pitching a bunch of strange hypothetical alternative scenarios. Thad offered a delightfully deconstructivist response:

You make a good point. If this thing was a different thing, would it be the same thing?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got one more nod to Thad since he was on a roll shutting down silly criticisms this week and because it gives me a chance to shamelessly remind you about the Techdirt Gear store on Teespring. After one commenter objected that our Takedown tee doesn't include explicit recognition that some takedowns are valid, he hit back:

Other facts which are omitted from the T-shirts:

Murder is illegal.
Puppies are adorable.
Water is composed of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen.
Neo Nadi won five gold medals for fencing in the 1920 Olympics.
Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Val Kilmer's first film credit is the 1984 film Top Secret!
You're an idiot.

This is an exhaustive list. There are no other facts besides the ones I have just listed.

Finally, we head to our post about IBM's terrible patent on out-of-office email responders, where TechDescartes neatly wrapped everything up in a bow:

Is it just me?

Or does it seem like Patent Examiners have set their out-of-office replies to "Patent Granted"?

That's all for this week, folks!

21 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 4 March 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 26th - March 4th

from the reminiscence dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, we saw a somewhat parallel pair of bogus takedowns followed by apologies. First, there was the infamous Rumblefish incident in which a YouTube copyright claim was issued over birds singing in the background of a video, leading the CEO to explain the series of errors that lead to the mistake while missing most of the core point. The other incident targeted us here at Techdirt: one of our key posts about SOPA/PIPA was stripped from Google after a bogus DMCA takedown notice, garnering multiple apologies.

Also this week in 2012, the Aereo lawsuit finally began, and two pieces of memorable viral content were introduced: The Oatmeal's comic about the difficulty of legally obtaining Game Of Thrones and the fantastic Polish essay We, The Web Kids about the anti-ACTA generation (if you haven't read it in a while, read it again).

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, Mike was at the Tech Policy Summit, where Howard Berman was blaming the pharmaceutical industry for holding back patent reform and the patent panel couldn't come up with any real solutions for the system. Overall, the event seemed to suffer from a lack of tech in the tech/policy balance. Meanwhile, following the Oscars, the Motion Picture Academy made the inexplicable decision to pull all videos of the ceremony off the web with the bizarre reasoning of wanting to whet the appetite for the next year's awards.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, the W3C was engaged in a critical fight over how to handle patented technologies in web standards, mirroring today's fight over EME in the nature of the problem (but not, so far, in the nature of the solution). CNN was musing about the future of charging for news online while the New York Times was deeming blogs a fad. Jack Valenti was arguing with Lawrence Lessig over copy protection schemes, a Senator was bashing Intel over the same thing, and the music industry was predictably blaming its problems on downloaders.

Perhaps most notably, it was this week in 2002 that the EFF and various law schools launched ChillingEffects, the irreplaceable resource now known as Lumen.

Two-Hundred And Twenty-Six Years Ago

Long ago in the history of communication technology, there was a revolution that often goes under-discussed: the semaphore line. Though some designs exist from as early as the 17th century, it was on March 2nd, 1791 that one of the first practical experiments happened: at the height of the French Revolution, the Chappe brothers used a system based on colored panels, clocks and telescopes to transmit a message nearly 10 miles from Brulon to Parce.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 1 March 2017 @ 1:22pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 111: The Miracle Of Booking Flights

from the chair-in-the-sky dept

The finding and booking of flights is a massive and elaborate global mechanism that contains both fascinating technology and useful secrets. This week, we're joined by Adam Fletcher, co-founder of Gyroscope Software and an architect of Google's airline reservation system, to talk about all the technology behind commercial air travel today.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 March 2017 @ 9:26am

The Internet Is Silencing Artists, According To An Artist On The Internet

from the criticizing-safe-harbors-from-within dept

We recently submitted our comments to the Copyright Office's ongoing study on DMCA safe harbors, but perhaps we should have been a bit more creative. At least that seems to be the plan of the Content Creators Coalition, which has made its submission in the form of a video starring producer T Bone Burnett doing his best Werner-Herzog-without-the-accent impression. It's... quite something. (Amusingly it's also hosted on Vimeo, a site which — like all sites hosting user content — relies heavily on DMCA safe harbors for its existence, and indeed prevailed in a major legal battle over that very thing last year.)

Probably the word most prominent in my mind after watching that is dramatic, with optional prefixes such as melo- and over-. It starts out like this:

In its early days, the Internet was hailed a panacea. A global community — unshackled from corporate, military, or government control ready to equalize and connect the world. One of its early false prophets named it a "Culture of the Mind" that "all may enter without privilege or prejudice". But that's not what we got.

Remember, this isn't a trailer for season three of Mr. Robot — it's a submission to the Copyright Office. There's a bit of a problem with that quote, too, but we'll get to that in a moment. T Bone drones on:

Instead of opening up minds, it has closed them down — becoming a restrictive, abusive place where women, people of color, and anyone marked different are shunned, attacked, and shouted down. 2016 laid bare how cyberspace hasn’t rationalized dialog. It's become a megaphone for propaganda and fake news where it’s easier to demagogue and divide than ever. Dreams of a stronger democracy have given way to foreign hackers and corporate manipulation — a shriveled politics indistinguishable from reality TV.

While some of those problems are certainly real, they are a lot more complicated and far from the primary characteristic of the internet as a whole — but more importantly, what does this have to do with musicians and the DMCA, exactly? (By the way, demagogue is not a verb.)

And for artists and creators, instead of amplifying our voices to lead the fight for change, it undermines and silences us. The Internet — with all its promise and beauty — threatens to destroy what it was supposed to save. We can’t let that happen.

This proceeding is focused on the legal safe harbors in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – the law that was supposed to balance the Internet’s openness with creators’ ability to earn a living wage from their work. Those safe harbors have failed.

Wow, smooth transition. If I'm reading that correctly, he's saying that artists could have cured or at least mitigated all of society's woes if only they weren't being "silenced" by the internet. The idea that the internet is silencing anyone, much less artists, is frankly just silly — unless of course you're talking about the people who are directly and unambiguously censored by abuse of the DMCA. The safe harbors have failed, by having a very low bar to get content removed and failing to have any meaningful way of preventing or punishing abuse. And yet even despite this, the internet offers the biggest, most powerful and most accessible platform for artists in history.

(Also at this point, let's revisit that quote from an internet "false prophet". The line is actually a "civilization of the mind" and it comes from EFF founder John Perry Barlow's famous Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996. You'd think T Bone could have gotten the quote right, but you also have to wonder if he knows that Barlow is an artist himself who used to write lyrics for the Grateful Dead.)

The problems are familiar — they are well described in the record of these proceedings from the broken Sisyphus climb of "notice and takedown" to the gunpoint negotiations and pittance wages forced upon creators by the Google monopoly. The Big Tech ITOPIANS can track us across dozens of networks, devices, and profiles to bombard us with micro targeted ads, but they can’t even identify unauthorized copies of our work and keep them off their own servers and systems. Or they won’t.

Ah, Sisyphus — he who evaded his timely death and was sentenced to eternal fruitless toil. Not a bad metaphor for media gatekeepers and the DMCA, actually. Perhaps T Bone can imagine Sisyphus happy. Or maybe instead of wasting all this time pushing boulders up hills, the industry could have embraced digital distribution from the start and helped new platforms emerge instead of hindering them. As for detecting infringing works, ad tracking is just as flawed as any other "if they can do that, why not this" comparison on that front: the issue is not the technological ability to sort content, but the fuzzy definitions of what's legal and what isn't — especially since, despite T Bone's conflation of the two, "unauthorized" does not automatically mean "infringing". Besides, a mistargeted ad just gets ignored; a mistargeted copyright filter shuts down free expression.

(And by the way, I didn't capitalize "ITOPIANS" like that — that's how it was transcribed in the Coalition's press release. Apparently someone thought it was really, really clever and wanted to make sure you didn't miss it.)

The problem here isn’t technology – creators welcome the digital revolution and its power to connect, amplify, and inspire. A modern recording studio looks more like a cockpit than a honky tonk, and that’s just fine. The problem is business models — designed to scrape away value rather than fuel new creation, focused on taking rather than making. To restore technology’s place as the rightful partner of tomorrow’s creators, we need change.

Oh I see: he wants artists to enjoy all of the huge advantages created by digital technology, both in terms of distributing and creating their music, but not have to adapt to any of the new challenges created by the same technology. Sure, that sounds fair. He's right that the biggest challenge is business models, but to that I say: physician heal thyself.

The safe harbors must be restored — so only responsible actors earn their protection, not those who actively profit from the abuse and exploitation of creators' work.

People don't have to "earn" critical free speech protections by proving they aren't abusing them. That's exactly the opposite of how it works. But I'm impressed by the creativity and gall it took to describe dismantling safe harbors as restoring them.

The false prophets of the internet may have imagined an egalitarian open source creative wonderland – but what we got was a digital playground for a handful of mega corporations and web moguls living fat off the artistic, cultural, and economic value everyone else creates online. And if our democracy becomes stunted and diverse Americans are shut out, I guess these new Galtian Lords would say, "That’s business."

But artists and creators will never bow to that. We will never accept an Internet that turns its back on the vitality, optimism, and hope from which it was born. We will never allow our democracy to become a mere series of pseudo-events designed to manipulate people into spending money.

This, and the line that follows it, is the last quote I'm going to pick on, because it's where T Bone's bizarre attempt to treat art and democracy as more than related but practically synonyms finally coalesces. Because in the next line he commits to this blunt conflation whole-hog and coins a new term (emphasis mine):

Everyone with a stake in the Internet’s success and the health of our creative democracy must work together to make this right.

Well, coined it in this strange context anyway — though in fact "creative democracy" is originally the title of a 1939 essay that ended with a passionate assertion that "the task of democracy is forever that of creation of a freer and more humane experience in which all share and to which all contribute". Now you can twist words and concepts all day to pretend that the internet somehow stifles artists, but be honest: is there anything in the world that has pushed us closer to that democratic goal than the internet, and the communication and content platforms that rely so heavily on safe harbors to exist?

Maybe T Bone and the Content Creators Coalition think differently, but in that case they should at least take this little dramatic exercise off of Vimeo.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 February 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the commenter-mecca dept

This week, we were pleased to see a cop lose his a immunity in a case over arresting someone on a baseless warrant, but Anonymous Anonymous Coward won most insightful comment of the week by wondering why that's all that happened:

What about the judge who signed the warrant that was so lacking in probable cause? Does the Fourth Circuit have any authority to remove their qualified immunity? Of course not. How about a slap on the wrist? This article, and another I read about the same case do not mention any. Should not rubber stamping by deaf and blind judges get some action?

For second place, we head to our post about the ongoing absurd demands from European news publishers that want Google to pay them for linking to them. One commenter brought up the fact that they can always use robots.txt to block Google, and PaulT cut to the heart of the matter and their real intentions:

That always gets mentioned, but the fact is this - they don't want to stop Google et al from accessing their content. They simply want to force everyone to pay them, even if those links are increasing traffic anyway. They don't want to find new ways to monetise traffic, they just want to be paid for existing. Just look at their reaction when Google pulled out of certain countries - their reaction was to claim extortion because Google didn't want to pay the extra tax.

So, while robots.txt is indeed an easy solution to stopping Google from indexing their content, that's not what they want. They simply want to be paid for doing nothing.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post about Apple's amusing claim that Nebraska would become a "mecca for hackers" if it protects the right to repair. TheOtherDude quite reasonably wondered which part of that would actually be a bad thing:

I would think Nebraska becoming a Mecca for nearly anything would be good news. If it becomes a mecca for highly skilled technical resources, well sit back and wait for the innovation and in coming economic boom. Seems to me this is more of an argument for the bill then against it.

Meanwhile, Mashable was making its own problematic argument against right to repair laws by pushing the concern that people might hurt themselves if they don't know what they are doing. That One Guy highlighted the flaws there by playing a substitution game with their on words:

I think it’s a fair concern that Right-to-Drive laws could lead to an explosion of car and truck dealerships. Consumers will wander on foot on on a bike, and drive out with a multi-ton machine of wheeled-death, thinking they can control it. And they will fail, miserably.

Plus, what if a consumer's injured during a failed attempt to drive somewhere? They slam a finger in a door, or drive incorrectly, so the vehicle runs into something (and maybe even explodes). It’s the consumer’s fault, obviously, but they could also try to sue Ford or Chrysler.

Tl:dr version: Just because you and your friend don't think you can be trusted to do your own repairs doesn't mean the poor public needs to be protected from being able to do so. They're big boys and girls, they can deal with the results from a botched repair job if they're willing to take that risk.

Over on the funny side, we start out on the story about German regulators warning parents to destroy an internet-connected doll because it might be used for surveillance. Roger Strong won first place by engaging in some speculative future fiction:

Up next:

  • DHS demands your My Friend Cayla doll's MAC address at the border.

  • The FBI demands access to the doll's cloud servers because terrorists.

  • Music collecting societies realize that the audio captured by the dolls might include music, and start demanding royalties.

  • Google uses IFTTT to connect the doll to the self-driving car they place it in, to make it appear that the doll is driving. Highway patrol officers declare the doll's behavior "suspicious", and the car is taken via civil asset forfeiture.

For second place, we head back to Apple's "hacker mecca" comments, and specifically that the right to repair bill would "make it very easy for hackers to relocate to Nebraska". One anonymous commenter fleshed out the accusation:

And I also hear the Nebraska Right to Repair bill is earmarking money for a hacker gated community, hacker bike sharing program and hacker farmers market in order to further spur their hacker economic recovery plan.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one last response to Apple's comments, this time from TheResidentSkeptic in the form of a nice little story:

Sorry Folks, but they are correct to worry.

In my mis-spent youth, I used to hop on my bicycle and ride down to Allied to pick up a Sams Photofact on the family TV; then pop the back off, plug in the cheater cord, and start looking for blue tubes (orange good, blue bad). Power down, pop 'em out, back on the bike and over to radio shack. Pop 'em in the tube tester, buy the ones I needed, get the replacement caps, back home and voila, family TV repaired.

My slide into the horrors of hacker life had begun. Next I was rebuilding car engines, transmissions, building electronic circuits - and finally into programming. True hacking at its worst.

Hell, I still do my own auto work, thus depriving the dealer of excessive profits from $99 oil changes, $199 brake jobs... This hacker lifestyle has just ruined me.

And yes, I work on my John Deere myself.

Damn 64 year old hacker. I'm Never gonna learn.

Finally, we head to our post about the Arizona legislature's bill allowing the seizure of assets from protestors. One commenter, Thad, released a particular kind of virus into the comments... I missed it myself and thus avoided infection, until reviewing the leaderboards for this week's comments where it turned out another commenter was spreading it. And now I'm making it an epidemic. Don't have any idea what the hell I'm talking about? Well, Sorrykb gets the final editor's choice:

Thad wrote:


Goddammit Thad. [Closes techdirt, revealing 87 open TV Tropes tabs]

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 February 2017 @ 12:00pm

What Should We Add Next To The Techdirt Gear Store?

from the feedback dept

Techdirt Gear on Teespring

Get I Invented Email, Copymouse and more in the Techdirt Gear store »

Right now, there are four different designs in available in the Techdirt Gear store on Teespring: our new Copymouse gear, our limited-time I Invented Email gear, and two different styles of Techdirt logo gear. But, under Teespring's new ongoing-order system, over time we're going to start bringing back some of our designs from last year as permanent fixtures in the store — in some cases with tweaked or updated designs.

So, which Techdirt tees would our readers like to see first? There's our popular Takedown gear, the controversial Copying Is Not Theft, and some less-popular but beloved-by-some options like Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants and Math Is Not A Crime. Of course, there's also the first t-shirt we offered and still the most popular: Nerd Harder.

We have some brand new designs in the works too and will be rolling those out in the near future, but first we want to get one or two of these classics back into rotation. In addition to letting us know which ones you're most interested in, feel free to include your thoughts on whether the design needs an update or you'd like to see different products/colors available!

Thanks for your feedback, and thanks for supporting Techdirt.

Two logo tee styles (plus hoodies, mugs & more) in the Techdirt Gear store »

Techdirt Gear on Teespring

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 February 2017 @ 11:23am

Celebrate Fair Use Week With A New T-Shirt From Techdirt

from the forever-less-a-day dept

Copymouse, by Techdirt

Get your Copymouse t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and more »

It's Fair Use Week — time to celebrate the all-important safety valve on copyright law and oppose those who want to see it clogged up or removed entirely! Of course, for us that's pretty much every week, but this still seemed like a good time to launch our newest t-shirt design: Copymouse (also available as a v-neck, hoodie, women's tee, mug or sticker). As most of our readers know, Mickey Mouse has a real talent for evading the public domain (even if he has to drag the rest of our culture down with him) and this t-shirt lets you remind everyone of that fact — and the fact that we likely haven't seen the last of that fight.

Also, while all our gear artwork is available on request, for Fair Use Week we figured it was a good idea to make a vector SVG version of the artwork available from the get-go.

(P.S. don't forget to check out the Techdirt store on Teespring for our logo gear (in two styles) and our still-available I Invented Email gear.)

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 21 February 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 110: Luck In Silicon Valley, With Robert Frank

from the chance-encounters dept

Innovation isn't easy, but success in Silicon Valley involves a bigger dose of luck than a lot of entrepreneurs seem prepared to admit. Chance gets left out of the economic equation all too often, and this week we're joined by Mike's own Econ 101 professor from Cornell, Robert Frank, to discuss the role of luck in the world of entrepreneurs and innovation.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 February 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the call-and-response dept

Last week, when we launched our Techdirt Survival Fund, we received a lot of support and encouragement — but of course we also recognize that there are plenty of good reasons some readers might not want or be able to donate. So it was largely unnecessary for one commenter to come by and explain that we "aren't important enough", but at least it yielded a response from Vaultnode that won most insightful comment of the week:

Aren't you an egotistical one? Mike has had lawmakers and Congressional staffers on his podcasts saying that TechDirt's writings was substantively responsible for changing some legislation on tech issues.

That's pretty damn important in my eyes.

Moving on... In second place on the insightful side we head to our post about Trump's ongoing Chicago crime proclamations, where one commenter busted out the "Chiraq" label, only for Roger Strong to counter with some blunt fact-checking:

ABC7 I-Team Investigation: Despite 'Chiraq' label, data show Chicago not even close to Iraq

In that same nine year period when 4,265 citizens were killed in Chicago, there were almost 30 times as many citizens killed in Iraq. Last year, there were 459 murders in Chicago. In Iraq, there were more than 17,000. Last weekend in Chicago, there were seven murders. In Iraq, there were 103. And Iraq's murders have been doubling year to year, unlike Chicago's murder rate that has been cut in half since 1991.

Speaking of Roger Strong and fact checking, for editor's choice on the insightful side he gets one more nod for his characterization of the Trump administration's media strategy:

It's like a distributed denial-of-service attack on fact checkers.

Next, we've got an excellent anonymous response to the frankly idiotic refrain of "Techdirt loves regulation and hates capitalism":

It is important to not conflate "Capitalism" with the corrupt, globalist-rigged, anti-competitive, anti-free-market, labor-crushing, democracy-hating, politically-coopted, crony manipulations of whatever in the hell name you'd come up with to describe what the US/Western markets have metastasize into. Where big money is in play, Capitalism does not typically exist (only mega corporations doing whatever they consider necessary to ensure the continued existence of their established interests).

There are few better examples of what Capitalism is NOT, than the US broadband industry. It's an industry that better serves as a cautionary tale as to what devastation befalls a country that allows industry to "self-regulate" too much and then fails to enforces meaningful consequences to those organizations whose belligerent pursuit of profit delivers ever increasing degrees of harm to the public good.

"Government Regulation" per se, should never be the crux of the discussion. The meaningful discussion concerns itself with 'good/effective-in-promoting-healthy-markets' versus 'bad/effective-in-promoting-rigged-markets' regulation.

Our contemporary problem with "regulation" in the US/Western markets is that big business and their wealthy benefactors have corrupted/gamed the regulatory process and the end result is that a boat load of very bad (i.e., nonsensical - unless it happened to be your lobbyist who wrote it up and bribed the politicians to pass it) regulation exists.

Over on the funny side, for first place we head to our post about how the Trump administration is going to handle leaks, in which we dedicated the first portion to once again harshly criticizing Obama's handling of the same. Thad sarcastically underlined that fact for some of our detractors:

But what I want to know is why Techdirt never talks about all the secrecy in the Obama Administration.

Next, we head to our latest post about the Oracle/Google debacle, where we accidentally failed to close a parenthesis in the post to the understandable ire of one punctuation-sensitive commenter. But an anonymous commenter won second place for funny by making up an excuse for us:

TechDirt cannot use closed parentheses because "matching parentheses" notation appears in the Java API, which has been copyrighted by Oracle.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a response from Gwiz to one of the perennial "what does this have to do with tech" comments we receive:

I really wish people would quit asking this, like it's some sort of "gotcha" moment. Techdirt writes about a lot of things, most of them related to tech, but not always. If it's a problem for you, find something else to read.

Seriously, do you people post comments at PopeHat.com and ask them what their articles have to do with the Catholic leader's headgear too?

Finally, because it is also one of my own pet peeves and conversational red flags, we've got one more nod to Thad for a response to someone who used a particular term in his comment:

Clearly you are a serious person with serious ideas.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 February 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: February 12th - 18th

from the and-recent-history dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, mass anti-ACTA protests broke out across Europe as opposition to the bill continued to swell. Bulgaria joined the list of EU members halting ratification of the treaty and even the European Parliament's president spoke out against it. The EU official who resigned in protest of ACTA explained further what was wrong with it, the head of Mozilla called it a bad way to develop policy, Public Knowledge made a strong call for greater transparency in such agreements, and our own Glyn Moody offered a thorough debunking of the European Commission's list of supposed "myths" about ACTA as well as the idea that there's any meaningful transparency at all. Despite all this, the IFPI and other lobbyists stood by the agreement, even having the gall to claim that the public protests were silencing the democratic process.

Ten Years Ago

Things were pretty grim on the copyright front this week in 2007. The RIAA was making its first forays into voluntary enforcement deals with ISPs that would forward settlement letters, which would eventually morph into the now-dead six strikes program. The US entertainment industry was trying to get Canada condemned as a pirate haven while its Canadian counterpart was itself pushing for an iPod tax. Microsoft was introducing yet another DRM scheme even as one survey showed that even two-thirds of music industry executives thought ditching DRM would be a good idea. Hollywood was beginning a new crusade against Google, not over YouTube but over ads on P2P websites, and a jury sided with sample troll Bridgeport in yet another abuse of the George Clinton copyrights they own. There was, at least, one victory: an EFF-backed lawsuit forced a prolific DMCA abuser to rescind his baseless takedown notices.

Fifteen Years Ago

There was one event this week in 2002 so much more significant than the others that it deserves the sole focus this week. Today, CC licenses are an integral part of the world of digital content, but (because copyright is a disaster) such open and flexible licenses were not always so easy to employ no matter how much a creator might want to. But it was this week fifteen years ago that we first learned that Lawrence Lessig and a team of other people were working on a new project called Creative Commons to provide an alternative to copyright.

Two Days Ago

What, two days ago? Yes: this week, I'm using this space to remind everyone about the Techdirt Survival Fund that we launched on Friday along with our filings in the lawsuit we face. We're very grateful to everyone who has donated so far, and hope you continue to give generously and spread the word so we can continue our fight for free speech.

Techdirt is off tomorrow for President's Day. We'll be posting the weekly comment winners at noon, and back to our regular schedule on Tuesday!

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