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Posted on Techdirt - 23 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the back-and-forth dept

This week, three of our four winning comments came in response to our thorough look at why the Charging Bull sculptor's supporters are off-base. Taking first place on the insightful side was jupiterkansas making the important point that while the artist has every right to disapprove of the Fearless Girl statue, there are much better ways to handle it than making legal threats:

He could have also spoken to the press, made a film about it, launched a protest, or done any number of other perfectly valid ways to draw attention to the problem without making a legal issue out of it.

A real artist might have come up with something else to add to the situation to comment on it even further.

In second place, we've got an anonymous commenter who expanded on my tweet about how things aren't automatically disqualified as art because they are also ads:

If the Fearless Girl "isn't art" because a corporation paid for it and attached an ad, then there is very little art anywhere in the world. The artistic accomplishments of the Renaissance, for example, happened because the catholic church and the business leaders of the day had excess income, and decided to use that income to pay artists to create works of art that the church and businessmen could then show off to prove how awesome they were. So no art was actually created.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post about the federal agent who lost immunity after bullying and interrogating an elderly woman and forcing her to stand around in urine-soaked clothes for two hours. The loss of immunity is good, but one anonymous commenter quite fairly wondered about the other officers on the scene:

So Conley gets his immunity stripped.

What about all the other "good apples" that stood around and did nothing? No punishment for them?

Please, cop apologists - tell me more about how it's just a few bad apples.

Next, we head to our post about the government's new angle on potentially going after Julian Assange, where we mentioned the fact that the Ecuadorian Embassy doesn't necessarily respect US law. ThaumaTechnician noted that there's plenty of that to go around:

Yeah, well then again, neither is the US Administration, Congress, the US Senate, the CIA, the NSA, the US Military, ...

Add to that: "nor are they respectful of international law, UN sanctions, ethical considerations, basic human decency..."

Over on the funny side, we start out by returning to the Charging Bull post where Richard Wordsworthy won first place with an analogy highlighting the asburdity of moral rights:

I'm introducing a new craft rum to the market, but I retain all control of what cola's you can put with it. How dare you destroy my authenticity with a brand I don't deem worthy!

For second place on the funny side, I have to admit I think I missed a reference or something in the joke, because I don't get it. In our post about the ongoing legal issues around a sorority's secret handshake, one commenter suggested it would be good for "luggage" (?) and an anonymous commenter took the idea to heart:

an aside to my assistant: Remind me to change the handshake on my luggage

(I'm sure I will feel stupid once someone explains that to me, so, have at it!)

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of good ol' fashioned puns. First up, we return to the Chargin Bull post one last time, where one commenter wondered why the Fearless Girl was opposing bull markets, and Gary offered this groaner:

Because they are unbearable?

Finally, after we reported on the potential antitrust issues that could arise if the rumours about Chrome adding a built-in adblocker are true, one anonymous commenter set themselves up for a rimshot:

Google's taking a big risk with this move. You might even call it an alpha bet.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 16th - 22nd

from the as-I-recall dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, following widespread protests, ACTA was on the verge of death — but that hadn't stopped G8 countries from already preparing to replace it. Similarly, following the SOPA defeat, the usual copyright maximalist suspects were regrouping to come up with new tactics for fighting the public (and surely the revolving door between the MPAA and the federal government would help out on that front). Meanwhile, the lawmakers behind the new awful bill — CISPA — were downplaying the protests against it, even though the White House was also (meekly) opposed to the bill.

Also this week in 2012: Twitter unveiled its revolutionary patent agreement, and the Oracle/Google fight began heating up over the originally-secondary API copyright issues that would come to dominate the case.

Ten Years Ago

Maybe all those lawmakers should have read our post five years earlier in 2007, all about how politicians need to understand the internet before trying to regulate it. Of course, at the time, you had high new webcasting royalty rates from the RIAA, Sony's DRM on DVDs causing all sorts of problems, the Authors Guild calling writers who give away content 'scabs', and telco-funded think tanks insisting anyone who supports net neutrality is just a pirate. Some corporate competitions were getting nasty too, with Microsoft lobbing antitrust accusations over Google's purchase of DoubleClick and Ticketmaster suing StubHub over exclusivity.

Meanwhile, Mike's series on the economics of scarcity drew some poorly-argued ire from sources ranging from CNN's James Ledbetter to Dilbert creator Scott Adams (the latter of which turned into a longer back-and-forth).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, lots of people were grappling with new questions and trends raised by technology. Parents were deciding whether or not to use internet filters for their kids while workplaces were getting into the idea of monitoring employees' instant messaging; texting was becoming a favorite tool of schoolyard bullies and, unsurprisingly, sexting was already on the rise (though still unnamed). Meanwhile, a new study was showing that the death of Napster did little to change the popularity of digital music, even as the recording industry continued to blame file sharing for all its woes (rather than, say, idiotic DRM "compromises" like a CD that lets you send temporary copies that "expire" to friends).

But every now and then in doing this rundown, I find one of those posts that sounded so innocent at the time and now evokes an instantaneous "oh if only you knew..." reaction — such as this brief post noting Nathan Myhrvold's "interesting idea" to start up an "invention factory." Can anyone recall how that turned out?

Forty Years Ago

Though the technology had already been in development and testing for some time, it was today on April 22nd that fiber-optic cable was first used to carry telephone traffic, reaching 6 Mbit/s speeds all the way back in 1977.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 18 April 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 118: The Evolution Of The Office

from the the-way-we-work dept

We've talked before about how the very nature of work is changing thanks to technology, with telecommuting being an obvious trend — but despite some early predictions about the death of the physical office, the reality is offices have been evolving and changing thanks to technology and innovation too. This week, we discuss co-working spaces and other trends in the evolution of offices.

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 - 16 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the through-the-grapevine dept

This week, the silver lining on a horrible story of police battering an arrestee was that the deputy, at least, lost his immunity. One anonymous commenter won most insightful comment of the week by giving a nod to the victim's courage and resilience:

the real story here is not the creep. it's paul stephens. that man must have the soul of nelson mandela to have withstood that abuse and kept his wits about him.

all due respect.

For second place, we head the story of Idaho's governor vetoing a forfeiture reform bill that was overwhelmingly supported by the legislature. That One Guy had plenty of thoughts on the governor's statement:

There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers. Its sponsors contend that the measure is aimed at preventing improper forfeiture of assets in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a problem is imminent.

In which case the bill wouldn't have hampered police in Idaho in the slightest. It's like a bill specifically prohibiting police from using refurbished WW2 bombers for surveillance, that's only going to be a problem for them if they plan on doing so.

Of course as seems to be the case the governor doesn't consider stealing someone's stuff without a conviction a 'problem' or 'abuse' so long as it's the police doing the stealing, so that's likely what he means when he says that there's no evidence of a 'problem'.

The fact that this bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate is outweighed by compelling opposition from law enforcement and the absence of any benefit to law-abiding citizens from its enactment.

So 'Not having your stuff stolen from you without a conviction of guilt' apparently isn't a 'benefit to law-abiding citizens' to him. Good to know where his priorities lie.

Given the overwhelming support the bill had(58-10) I would hope that they can override his veto and shove it into place regardless.

"You don't get to steal anything that catches your eye just because you happen to have a badge" isn't something that should even be need to be said, that it needs to be explicitly spelled out in the law is beyond absurd, and hopefully they can override this tool of a governor in order to at least start to address the problem.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from That One Guy, this time in response to the ongoing fight over Kim Dotcom's extradition and assets:

The second two issues are connected: and it's basically the question of whether the courts were right in saying that the federal government could take Dotcom's stuff and that Dotcom could not protest, because he was "a fugitive." Of course, he's not a "fugitive." He's just fighting extradition to a place he's never been. He isn't running away and is going through the full legal process he's entitled to in New Zealand. That's not someone hiding from the US, it's someone who is following the basic rules of due process, which the US wishes to deny him.

If the court refuses to take up the case, or worse takes it up and rules against him on that matter they might as well strike fighting against extradition as a legal right from the law entirely.

If you can be punished for exercising a legal right, to say it's a legal right becomes little more than empty words, and at that point why waste time and effort keeping up with the obvious fiction about it being a right, just honestly state 'The second the extradition order is handed out you are considered guilty, and any objections you may make will merely be taken as further evidence of your guilt.'

Either fighting extradition is a right under the law, in which case it's absurd to punish someone for making use of it, or it's not a right, in which case stop with the farce and remove it from the law entirely.

Next, we've Dan with a simple resolution to the Fearless Girl/Charging Bull dispute:

They can offer to remove the bull and let the artist take possession. He'll back down.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner comes from Roger Strong in response to Denuvo's likely-to-be-short-lived upper hand in the ongoing DRM battle:

Reporter: "How long do you think it'll take to crack this DRM?"

Gamer: "Ten,"

Reporter: "Ten what? Ten months? Ten weeks?"

Gamer: "Nine..."

For second place, we head all the way back to last week's comments post, where Spaceman Spiff had more to say on the subject of armed police drones:

So, if you shoot down a cop drone, does that make you a copter killer?

For editor's choice on the funny side, let's throw in another comment on that subject, again from Roger Strong in response to confusion about the many different kinds of drones:

Abnormal pairings are an important part of any cop movie.

One's a no-nonsense by-the-book fixed-wing drone pilot in Mumbai. The other is a maverick quad-copter pilot in Kiev who doesn't play by the rules! Together they protect the streets of New York from protesters and others who would threaten the good corporate citizens of America! (Exciting music mixed with explosions...)

Finally, it's practically obligatory to include at least one (anonymous) variation on the joke everyone's been making about this week's statue dust-up:

While it's the statue in front of the bull might have lead to this copyright case, it's what can be found on the other side that nicely sums up copyright law in this country.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 9th - 15th

from the memory-lane dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, Congress (apparently having learned nothing from SOPA) was pushing forward with CISPA, the new cybersecurity bill. In its original form it was really, really bad — then a new draft was released that was slightly better but still full of problems. Nevertheless, the House Intelligence Committee launched a new Twitter account to misleadingly plug the bill, and it was even supported by companies like Facebook along with a promise not to abuse it — though we challenged them to go a step further and withdraw support until it was fixed to prevent anyone from abusing it.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, the lacklustre response to the Windows Vista launch was sending ripple effects through the computer hardware industry, though it appeared to be a bad time for consumer electronics in general. Though while some were chattering about Microsoft's demise, cooler heads pointed out that might be going a bit too far.

Also this week in 2007: Perfect 10 reared its head with a shotgun spray of lawsuits, a court pointed out the should-have-been-obvious fact that the First Amendment applies on MySpace as much as it does anywhere else, and Techdirt was nominated for a Webby award.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, plenty of folks were busy hacking the iPod to do new things and helping chart the future of mobile devices — right at the same time that thumb keyboards were becoming all the rage in the wake of the popularity of the Blackberry. Google was still in its pre-IPO days and trying to pin down a business model, and this was long before it came into conflict with the Authors Guild which, at the time, was moaning about Amazon for showing used book prices next to new book listings. But we took a look at the other side of that equation and saw how empowering a used book selling platform can be.

One-Hundred And Twenty-Three Years Ago

We've all heard of the early "nickelodeon" movie houses where five cents in a machine let you enjoy a brief kinetoscope of a butler falling over or whatever. It was on April 14, 1894 that this started with the first paid exhibition of motion pictures at Andrew M. Holland's phonograph store in New York City.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 11 April 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 117: Why This ISP Supports Net Neutrality, Privacy Rules And More

from the good-ideas dept

Since Congress threw out new privacy rules for ISPs that were supposed to come into effect soon, there's been a renewed uproar on all sides of the debate about internet regulation. While the big ISPs generally want to be able to do as they please, there are smaller service providers out there that fully understand and embrace the need for privacy, net neutrality and more. One such ISP is Sonic, and this week we're joined by CEO Dane Jasper to discuss why these rules are a good thing.

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 - 9 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the irregular-edition dept

This week, the influential voice of Unesco joined the chorus of people objecting to the addition of DRM to the HTML5 standard. Both of our winning comments on the insightful side are anonymous, came in response to an accusation of hypocrisy, in which a commenter compared the EME DRM scheme to HTTPS encryption for websites. The first-place winning response covered the key differences in purpose and function:

Anonymous Coward: 0

Just like other websites, streaming media should use transport-level encryption. This prevents access to the data stream between points A and B.

DRM is not encryption really: it is gatekeeping by obfuscation. This is due to the fact that the data being sent has to be decrypted locally. The goal of EME is to move this decryption of content as close to the hardware as possible, to prevent the person viewing the decrypted content from... viewing the decrypted content.

As such, DRM rarely functions as desired. One person sits something outside the EME, grabs the decrypted stream, and then shares this stream with others, circumventing the encryption. Others who have a legitimate access to the encrypted stream find that they can't consume it as they see fit, can't likewise encrypt their own streams without assigning copyright to someone else, and have access to information that is being intentionally sent to them arbitrarily restricted, not necessarily always in a legal manner, or a manner supported by fair use.

The second-place winning response also touched on the differences in implementation:

Encryption protects the data, but does not limit what the user can do with the data. DRM limits what the user can do with the data to viewing or listening it only via defines programs and codecs.

Also there are signidficant implementation differences. Encryption is based on key exchange, and the user can use open source software for implementation. The proposed DRM mechanism is a way of downloading and execution proprietary closed source code which demands low level access to the likes pf the video and audio system, to try and bypass any use of the operating system to capture the decoded data. This also introduces a new route for malware to be install;ed on te system.

So let's put that argument to bed, shall we? For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to our story about the FBI arresting the creator of a remote access tool, where one commenter noted that plenty of large companies produce similar tools and go unhassled, specifically wondering when they'd go after Dameware. Roger Strong wasn't holding his breath:

Remote Desktop products from Symantec's PCAnywhere and TeamViewer have long been used for similar crimes. The company that acquired Dameware is worth at least $4.5 billion.

To answer your question, "never." They have the resources to defend themselves. This guy doesn't.

Next, we head to our deep dive into the reasons that the Copyright Office should remain under the Library of Congress, where one commenter declared this a bad idea on the basis that the latter is a "failed institution" — an idea with which James Paul Burkhardt took exception:

I question your premise. The Library of congress is not a "failed" instiution. And, in fact, the current Librarian of Congress is a good way to fix the private industry revolving door. By hiring an actual Librarian with proven history modernizing Libraries, the stage has been set for a more functional Library of Congress. And, very quickly, the librarian, understanding the needs of the copyright office, found the industry insider unsuitable to the task.

Retaining the copyright office as an arm of the Library of congress makes sense. The 'fix' is to put actual librarians in charge of the library, like we put actual judges on the supreme court. This would allow the Librarian of congress to choose heads of the copyright office that maximize the synergies of the two departments, and improve the whole process.

Over on the funny side, we've got a very context-dependent winner in first place, so we're going to twist the format a bit. Instead of two funny editor's choices, we've got a bonus insightful editor's choice followed by one for funny, and they're both coming before the first place winner... so they can set up the context of the thread. It starts on our post about the discovery that facial recognition on the new Galaxy S8 can be easily fooled with a photo. One commenter turned to the other fact that such recognition can work with an unconscious person as reason not to trust its security, leading OldMugwump to offer the universal advice that it depends what the threat is:

As with all things security, it depends on how much security you need, the consequences of failure, and who your opponent is.

There are lots of things for which minimal security is fine - when a breach involves minor consequences you can easily live with.

For other things you need more security. If your phone can transfer away your life savings, for example.

And if your opponent is the NSA you need stronger security than if it's the nosy guy in the next cube at work.

Nobody should expect a single level of security to be right for everyone, or for everything.

Stronger security has costs that you don't want to pay for trivial gains.

That's when things took a turn for the comedic, with an anonymous reply taking the hypothetical scenarios further:

Unless the nosy guy in the next cubicle works for the NSA. But then, if he works for the NSA, he's probably working *in* the NSA's buildings, which means that you're working in the NSA's buildings, which means that *you* also work for the NSA, which means that you must have the strongest possible encryption against your own access.

Ok, that's done it. My head's exploded.

Finally, that brings us to our first place winner for funniest comment of the week, with Eldakka offering a response to the head explosion

That level of security is a bit excessive don't you think?

And that just leaves us with our second place winner on the funny side: Roger Strong with some dystopian musings on the future of armed police drones:

Relax. With ever-increasing battery energy density, soon the drones can be launched from a central location rather than by hand from a nearby squad car. No local human assistance required.

That means they can be controlled by outsourced labor in another country. Heck, people sitting in California have been tele-killing people via drones in Afghanistan and Yemen for years!

Outsourced drone pilots will be far cheaper than police officers, there'll be no police union, and they're easy to replace with another anonymous hire if they screw up. It makes deflecting the blame in a wrongful death a lot easier too.

They might even locate the drone "call centers" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to provide jobs as part of the rebuilding process. Abundant cheap labor; folks who have already been taught the concepts and potential of drone operations.

The outsourced drone cops won't be normal citizens *or* government employees. Equality problem solved.

Hope This Helps!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 8 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 2nd - 8th

from the post-fools dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, a worrying report from the White House suggested they were still seeking a legislative solution to piracy even in the wake of SOPA's failure. Meanwhile, in an interview, the MPAA's Chris Dodd suggested backroom negotiations were already underway on that front, though the association quickly tried to backtrack those comments. But our attention was already shifting from SOPA to another even more problematic set of proposed laws: the cybersecurity bill CISPA.

Viacom gained some ground in its lawsuit against YouTube when the appeals court sent the case back to the district court, though this wasn't the big win that some people portrayed it as. And given recent revelations about the Copyright Office, it's notable that five years ago this week that we were talking about its struggles to modernize and pointing out Maria Pallante's questionable grasp of the purpose of copyright.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, EMI — one of the few labels that occasionally showed signs of "getting it" — announced (with the help of Steve Jobs) that it would offer DRM free music through the iTunes store. Weirdly, other comments from Jobs showed that despite his anti-music-DRM stance, he was pro-DRM when it came to video (for some highly illogical reasons). Meanwhile, some record store owners were fed up and ready to point fingers at the RIAA for destroying the recording industry, the world of online guitar tablature was starting to go legit, and a judge declared DVD jukeboxes to be legal to the chagrin of DVD DRM groups. Also this week in 2007, Google and Microsoft were fighting to acquire DoubleClick while the internet advertising giant was trying to make itself even more valuable.

Fifteen Years Ago

Today the world frets over fake news and clickbait and propaganda and what to do about it, but this week in 2002 it was grappling with the basic early questions like how much can automated news curation and gathering replace human editors, and what happens with internet journalism in the middle of a major crisis. Courts were starting to recognize that computers were important enough to life that you can't just stop people from using them, XM satellite radio was growing much faster than we expected, and employees at various companies were struggling to get their older bosses to understand why they need wireless technology. Canada got plenty of attention this week too. It beat the US to launching a good intercarrier SMS system, and made headlines with two April Fools pranks: one in which some radio hosts managed to keep Bill Gates on the phone by masquerading as the Canadian Prime Minister, and another in which a too-convincing joke about the Finance Minister quitting his job caused the Canadian dollar to take a hit.

Meanwhile, never one to shy away from colorful hyperbole, Jack Valenti called media consumers "devilish" and accused them of "terrorizing" the industry.

Sixty-One Years Ago

Between subscription-based specialty cable, streaming services like Netflix, and the rise of YouTube and internet video in general, the past few years have seen the a long-standing convention begin to get dethroned: standardized half-hour and hour runtimes for TV shows. This framework is going to stick around for a long time and still play a role on network television, but cable and streaming shows are starting to get much more flexible with their runtimes (Netflix's The OA made headlines with episodes that vary wildly in length, from 30 minutes to as much as 71 minutes in the same season). But in the early 1950s and before, even the half-hour standard timeslot didn't exist yet — serial shows were instead standardized at 15 minutes. It was on April 2nd, 1956 that soap operas As The World Turns and The Edge Of Night debuted in the US as the first serial shows with half-hour episodes. People didn't like the format at first, but it would soon come to be the norm for a half-century of television.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 4 April 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 116: The Truth About VPNs

from the not-so-simple dept

For a long time now, "use a VPN" has been the default online privacy advice -- but is it really so effective? Following the recent VPN boom that came on the tails of Congress scrapping new ISP privacy rules, a few security experts have stepped forward to explain how VPNs aren't all they're cracked up to be, and choosing and using one isn't as easy as many articles and social media posts suggest. Among them are this week's guests, Kevin Riggle (who provided a quick and dirty primer with the key suggestion that most people are safer not using a VPN) and Kenn White (who assembled a list of VPNs he deems "terrible" and not without good reason, recommending a roll-your-own solution instead). They join us to dig deeper into the reality of VPNs and hopefully help some people make better choices.

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 - 2 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the you-said-it dept

This week, after James Comey unveiled his idea for an international encryption backdoor partnership (still impossible to do safely), DannyB racked up the votes to win most insightful comment of the week by reflecting the style of Comey's demands of technologists:

Mr. Comey, why can't you catch terrorists without breaking everyone's encryption?

Don't tell me it's impossible.

I reject the 'it's impossible' response. I think you just haven't actually tried it.

Meanwhile, a debate broke out this week about whether a boycott was a proper (or even feasible) response to problems with internet service providers, with some suggesting that if people don't like the privacy rules they should go without internet rather than expect to "have your cake and eat it too". Roger Strong won second place for insightful with a good summation of why this line of thinking is flawed:

In most boycotts you still have cake. You simply refuse to buy it from one baker, even if it costs a bit more elsewhere.

That baker does not have a government-granted monopoly on an essential service or basic infrastructure.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one further reply on that topic in which an anonymous commenter spotted another problem with ISP boycotts:

Who are you boycotting?

Boycotting your ISP also mean boycotting the sites that you rely on or desire. Such a boycott is likely to strengthen the corporate hold on the Internet, as they can withstand the storm better than all the small players that are also hurt by the lack of visitors.

Next, we head back to last week's comments post, where the conversation about good ebook publishers continued with some recommendations from an anonymous reader:

I agree with my fellow anonymous coward about Baen. They were the publisher that got me back into reading after a five-year gap, and I haven't looked back. I've bought every single monthly bundle they've ever put out. They've always been free of DRM infestation and respect their readers.

Baen, Bookstrand, Weightless Books, Wildside, Manning, O'Reilly, and other publishers who don't charge eye-gouging prices and don't permit DRM infestation are on my "WILL buy/WON'T pirate" list. Other publishers are evaluated on a case by case basis.

I'm also wondering when the publishers will wake up to the fact that DRM actually encourages piracy.

Over on the funny side, first place is another win for Roger Strong who was unsurprised about the latest "reputation management" fail:

Has there ever been a reputation management firm that wasn't in dire need of a reputation management firm?

Of course, we also slipped a reference to a certain dictator into that post, and Mason Wheeler won second place for funny by calling foul:

Wow. Usually we get into the comments before someone Godwins it...

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about the worrying findings from a review of the DEA's "oversight" of cash seizure and forfeiture, where TechDescartes noticed some appropriate ambiguity:

So when you Google "define oversight," you get two definitions:

  1. an unintentional failure to notice or do something. "he said his failure to pay for the tickets was an oversight" synonyms: mistake, error, omission, lapse, slip, blunder
  2. the action of overseeing something. "effective oversight of the financial reporting process"

Which one are they using in the title of this report? I can't tell.

Finally, we head to the news that farmers are using pirated firmware to get around John Deere's onerous restrictions on repair, where one anonymous commenter wondered if it'd make it into a certain meticulously detailed PC game:

I can't wait for this to be in the DLC for Farming Simulator 2018.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 April 2017 @ 12:00pm

Time Is Running Out! Get Your Necessary Hashtags Gear This Weekend

from the limited-edition dept

Necessary Hashtags by Techdirt on Teespring

Only Available Until Monday Night: Necessary Hashtags Gear
European Shipping | US Shipping

We don't do annoying April Fools posts here at Techdirt, so when I tell you that time is running out to get your Necessary Hashtags gear, you know I'm deadly serious. The gear is only available until 8pm PT on Monday night (that's 3am Tuesday in GMT). So if you want to show the UK Home Secretary that you might be the expert she's looking for, don't delay!

And remember, all our gear now has European shipping options available. When you look at any of our products with an IP address from outside the US, you should be given the option to choose your fulfillment center — or you can go directly to the European shipping or US shipping page for this latest design.

Check out the Techdirt Gear store for Necessary Hashtags and more »

Techdirt Gear on Teespring

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 March 2017 @ 11:51am

Real Talk About Fake News

from the a-rare-thing dept

At this point, the category of "fake news" has become all but meaningless — a trajectory many of us saw coming the moment we first heard the words or saw the hashtag. That doesn't mean the underlying problems aren't real; many people who talk about "fake news" are trying to express real concern about genuinely troubling trends, but the nebulous label isn't doing them any favors, and is in fact diverting attention from the heart of the issue. With thousands of words a day being expended on the subject with little to no visible progress on understanding it, and companies like Facebook unveiling fact-checking features that may prove to be interesting experiments but are unlikely to make much difference in the long run, it's rare and refreshing to see someone actually get things right. That's why if you're interested in the "fake news" phenomenon, you should read Danah Boyd's new post about the real problems that we can't expect internet platforms to magically address:

I don’t want to let companies off the hook, because they do have a responsibility in this ecosystem. But they’re not going to produce the silver bullet that they’re being asked to produce. And I think that most critics of these companies are really naive if they think that this is an easy problem for them to fix.

Too many people seem to think that you can build a robust program to cleanly define who and what is problematic, implement it, and then presto — problem solved. Yet anyone who has combatted hate and intolerance knows that Band-Aid solutions don’t work. They may make things invisible for a while, but hate will continue to breed unless you address the issues at the source. We need everyone — including companies — to be focused on grappling with the underlying dynamics that are mirrored and magnified by technology.

There’s been a lot of smart writing, both by scholars and journalists, about the intersection of intolerance and fear, inequality, instability, et cetera. The short version of it all is that we have a cultural problem, one that is shaped by disconnects in values, relationships, and social fabric. Our media, our tools, and our politics are being leveraged to help breed polarization by countless actors who can leverage these systems for personal, economic, and ideological gain. Sometimes, it’s for the lulz. Sometimes, the goals are much more disturbing.

That's just one small portion of a piece that is well worth reading in full. Boyd brings some highly relevant experience to the discussion: in the early days of Blogger, she worked for the platform doing all sorts of content moderation work and handling customer complaints, addressing things like online harassment and content policies when those issues were just emerging in a blogging world that was still taking shape. She knows firsthand that it's essentially impossible to draft and enforce a consistent content policy that can't be abused and isn't itself abusive, and it's worrying but not surprising to hear her say that even the experts working on these issues inside social media companies can't stay consistent when describing the problem they want to fix.

Of course, Boyd doesn't claim to have her own silver-bullet solution either, but her proposed approach — designing platforms and mechanisms to encourage the bridging of ideological gaps and world views — is certainly a much smarter and more useful way of thinking about the problem, calling for creative innovation to encourage better speech over the never-ending battle to suppress "bad" speech, even if it's still not immediately clear how it can be put into practice. In any case, we need much more discussion like this in place of people crying "fake news" and assuming everyone else is on board with their own personal, arbitrary definition of those words.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 28 March 2017 @ 1:15pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 115: The End Of Ownership

from the imaginary-property dept

The basic impetus behind DRM is obvious: a frantic, misguided desire to make digital products behave like physical ones. But the truth is DRM goes far, far beyond that, restricting all sorts of activities that are intrinsic to the idea of "owning" something. Two people who have thought a lot about this are law professors Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, authors of the new book The End Of Ownership. This week, Aaron and Jason join the podcast to discuss the book and the worrying status of DRM today.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 March 2017 @ 11:59pm

Limited Edition Gear For Our Friends In The UK: Necessary Hashtags

from the unnecessary-t-shirts dept

Necessary Hashtags by Techdirt on Teespring

Available For One Week Only: Necessary Hashtags Gear From Techdirt
UK/EU Shipping | US Shipping

Ever since UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd offered up her confused ideas about internet censorship, the somewhat meta hashtag #necessaryhashtags has been busily buzzing away with quips at her expense. For those of you who are in on the joke, and especially our UK readers for whom I'm sure it hits closest to home, we've launched a new limited edition line of t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers available only until Monday, April 3rd.

Also, consider this UK-focused offering a celebration of the fact that all our gear now has European shipping options available that should make things much less expensive for overseas buyers. When you check out any of our products with an IP address from outside the US, you should be given the option to choose your fulfillment center — but sometimes with new shirts there is a delay before this automated setup is in place, so you can also look for the link in the product description on Teespring. For now, here are the separate links for UK/EU shipping and US shipping for this latest design.

Check out the Techdirt Gear store for Necessary Hashtags and more »

Techdirt Gear on Teespring

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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!

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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!

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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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