Shaun Wilson’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Feb 13th, 2015 @ 5:22pm

    Re: FOIA

    Alright I suppose you are right that some of the files that they found that relate to the "drug lord" don't actually relate to the DEA's role in his capture and some time must be spend eliminating the irrelevant records. However as I pointed out above, according to the DEA's foia page:

    fees can be charged to recover review costs. Review is the process of examining documents to determine whether any portion is exempt from disclosure ... review costs may be charged to commercial requesters only

    And again as I said above, the DEA determined "there is no indication that you are a commercial requester" and so those review costs cannot be charged to him.

  • Feb 10th, 2015 @ 12:41am

    (untitled comment)

    Initially looking at the story I thought that while $1.4 million did seem a large amount, with "13,051 investigative case files" involved then maybe the time spent reviewing them for redaction meant it was legitimate. I decided to look into it further, just to see.

    Firstly in the DEA's response letter there is the fee waiver section. This is not based on the volume of documents requested rather on how 6 different factors are "balanced". The DEA basically said that 5 of 6 factors were in the requester's favor and "Consequently, you request for a waiver of fees is denied." What? The "balancing" determined that even though the request would contribute to "public understanding" (factor 3) it would not do so "significantly" (factor 4) and this one factor outweighed the 5 other factors. This seems rather dubious but lets continue.

    How about the time spent "searching" for the documents? The DEA conducted a "preliminary" search which involved entering the drug lord's "name, social security number and/or date of birth" into the "Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Information System (NADDIS)" which found 13,051 files. Ok so it looks like the actual "search" part is already done (even if only in "preliminary" form) so that can't take much time, how about the review for reactions? Well according to the DEA "review costs may be charged to commercial requesters only" and they have already told the requester "there is no indication that you are a commercial requester" (factors 5&6 above).

    So this all adds up to mean that the DEA thinks it will take over 5 years of effort to type a few words into a computer system. Even considering that it took almost a whole year to type this in on a "preliminary" basis I can't believe that they were working full time typing those few words nor that it would take 5 times as long to type it "officially". The only other reasonable conclusion is that those are mostly copying fees and there are over a thousand pages in each of those files. Or, you know, the DEA is lying. Take your pick.

  • Sep 15th, 2014 @ 4:08pm

    (untitled comment)

    When the top accomplishment listed is "Smartcan is patented" that kinda reduces any trust I have in the quality of the product. I'm not sure how bad patent trolling is outside the software field but whenever I see a new company promoting its patents I generally assume it will just end up being acquired by a troll or even becoming one.

  • Aug 5th, 2014 @ 5:26am

    Re: Re:

    I'd say my thoughts are pretty similar - at first glance it seemed almost obvious that the basic ruling was correct given the major corruption in the Russian government. The only question seemed to be whether the size of the award was appropriate and who should pay it - ideally Putin personally and whomever of his cronies received the stolen company assets.
    The story seems more complicated however as it appears that the shareholders themselves acquired the company - initially from the Russian government - through corruption so it seems a bit hypocritical of them to complain about the Russian government's corruption in stealing it back.

  • Jul 8th, 2014 @ 9:57pm

    Heroes of Dragon Age

    I play an EA game on my phone called Heroes of Dragon Age which also features a "freemium" model with a purchasable "gem" currency alongside the more common "gold". You can earn a limited amount of gems in-game or purchase them: the "Best Value" (and highest cost) pack gets you 1600 Gems for $129.99, the "Most Popular" is 275 Gems for $24.99 and the cheapest is 22 Gems for $2.50. You use "Stamina" for pvp battles and "Energy" for pve which slowly renew up to a maximum of 6 each or can be renewed for 3 Gems instantly. You can also use 38 Gems to purchase a random "Rare" hero, with the only use for "Gold" being to purchase a random "Common" or "Uncommon" hero, though all ranks to have a chance of rewarding a higher ranked hero up to "Epic" or "Legendary" and sometimes the higher ranked heros can be bought for several hundred gems - usually just in time for a special event where they will be of most use.

    Now it is possible to play the game without spending real money as I do - I can even get into the top 10,000 in a pvp match (with effort), especially as a few gems are rewarded as you progress in pvp. However it seems certain that the higher ranked players are spending quite a bit of money to get there and the game is definitely designed to keep you spending money as a way to continue playing, rather than as an optional extra to support the developers if you wish to. I would be much happier if the game instead had a limited free mode with the option to pay to unlock pvp say - I would definitely have paid for it as it is fun, it's just that the freemium elements are irritating and detract from the overall enjoyment of the game.

  • Mar 31st, 2014 @ 6:10am

    (untitled comment)

    The United States wouldn't negotiate away its right to regulate in the best interest of its citizens

    The US (and really any other) government does this all the time when they want to pass laws that aren't "in the best interest of its citizens". This occurs when they want to help out political donors as with copyright law and when they want to attack minorities and maintain/increase police power over their "citizens" as with drug prohibition.

  • Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:37am

    (untitled comment)

    They have already done this with previous pokemon games for DS - "Pokemon Black and White" and "Pokemon Black 2 and White 2". They used to have an online component called the dream world but they shut this down not long before the new 3ds games came out. Without this online functionality it is still possible to "complete" the game - though significant functionality is lost. This is particularly a problem with pokemon games as they are still played long after the initial release - as reflected by their high resale value years after they are no longer available new.

  • Jan 14th, 2014 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If you just leave your computer on with a webcam pointed at your pet basket when you go on holiday, or have a baby monitor that includes video (though not a nanny cam) and that happens to catch a recording of a criminal act then you probably would be able to argue that the recording is incidental (and hope that any cops and judges you encounter aren't having bad days). However the point of a security camera is generally for security. Good luck convincing anyone that the real purpose for your security camera is to check if you remembered to turn the light off, even if you use it for that purpose far more often than for recording criminal acts.

  • Jan 14th, 2014 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    Firstly, I would think a home security camera recording would not fall under this law because the recording is incidental.

    Actually, with regards to a security camera the recording of your neighbors walking their dog is incidental but the entire purpose of a security camera is to catch criminal activity - ie you are "conspiring to produce or create" a recording of any criminal activity that happens to take place in view of the camera.

  • Nov 19th, 2013 @ 2:28pm

    (untitled comment)

    We're now showing warnings from both Google and charities at the top of our search results for more than 13,000 queries

    This actually shows one reason surveillance is inappropriate - my first impulse upon seeing something like this in a story is to try googling various "suspicious" terms to see how these warnings show up and what they consist of. Post Snowden I have been increasingly self censoring my searches in regards to news stories about illegal or even what would commonly be considered merely immoral content. I now have to assume that my past academic interests in various subjects may well have resulted in my presence on some watchlists and that I could be only a single google search away from a lifetime of "coincidental" police stops, "random" searches and other forms of harassment.

  • Oct 11th, 2013 @ 12:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Woops looks like I mixed up crack with regular cocaine, pity it US government wouldn't do that (in the opposite direction), the sentences are still 18x higher for crack vs powder cocaine - and that's an improvement from the previous 100x.

    What I was thinking of was neuroscientist, Dr Carl Hart, who referenced a 1914 New York Times editorial "Negro Cocaine Fiends Are New Southern Menace" which represented some of the racist hysteria that led to drug prohibition early on. You should look into him for more (and accurate) information about drugs and drug policy.

  • Oct 7th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re:

    Actually drug laws were generally put in place in order to oppress minorities associated with them. You had crack to lock up the "Negro's" who were getting uppity after no longer being slaves, "Marijuana" (a new name for the corner store drug Cannabis) to go after Mexican workers "stealing" whites jobs and psychedelics in general to lock up those damn unpatriotic, anti-war hippies.

    Any other professed reason for the war on drugs for the majority of proponents is a (extremely thin) smokescreen.

  • Sep 27th, 2013 @ 6:16am

    (untitled comment)

    "Weapon - the term shall include ... cutting tools .... and shall include any item that is represented to be a weapon"

    Or in other words "Weapon - the term shall include ... scissors .... and shall include any item that is represented to be scissors". It used to just be "don't run with scissors", now it appears you get a 10 day suspension or expulsion for simply holding scissors at any time (or anything that looks like scissors).

  • Sep 17th, 2013 @ 11:34pm


    Exactly, if a police officer or any other government official breaks the law they should be the one to face the consequences just like and private citizen. Similarly if they break into the wrong house serving a warrant they should be treated exactly as if anyone else illegally broke into someone's house, being liable for trespass, breaking and entering, assault with regards to anyone they detain or threaten and murder if they kill anyone.

  • Sep 16th, 2013 @ 9:41am

    Derivative works

    If ongoing works by the original creator of a character are not derivative works then neither are works created by other authors using those characters. Therefore these (non)derivative works can't be blocked by copyright - you can't have it both ways.

  • Sep 9th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    (untitled comment)

    But we don't allow it because the Constitution says you can't do that.

    The constitution was torn up long ago, they just put it through a shredder as well post September 11. Your federal government would just settle disputes between the states and help organise resistance to repel foreign invaders when and if necessary and pretty much nothing more if it actually followed the constitution. Constitutionally the US federal government should be tiny, one of the smallest governments around, but instead it is the largest and most powerful in the world.

  • Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    (untitled comment)

    It could almost be legitimate if it was an issue of parties happening in dense residential neighborhoods causing noise complaints... thing is if there's a noise complaint then the cops know where to go and don't need to be notified in advance - and if there's no noise (or similar) complaint then a 300+ person party isn't a problem.

  • Jul 3rd, 2013 @ 7:30am

    Re: Missing it.

    Well it could have something to do with the fact that caffeine is more addictive than about half the illegal drugs out there, maybe they just want to be consistent and add it to the list - just say no to "drug paraphernalia"!

  • May 16th, 2013 @ 11:59am

    Doesn't lying to congress = prison time?

    I believe people who have been convicted of lying to congress in the past have been sent to prison on occasion. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a response to a petition requesting Holder be prosecuted?

    Of course such a petition would most likely be ignored like all the other ones that said more than "We love Obama!" but it might help to get some media attention to those lies at least.

  • May 13th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    (untitled comment)

    The computer program part is the complete opposite of the seed part:

    another copy or adaptation of that computer program provide[d] that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program

    If you replace "computer program" with "seed" then it would be allowed - obviously "a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the" seed - that's simply describing the whole process of growing plants - especially with seed crops.

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