Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile


About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

Leigh Beadon, formerly Marcus Carab, now a full-time member of the Techdirt team.

Located in Toronto, Ontario.



Posted on Techdirt - 27 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the wild-words dept

This week, when a State Senator made some chilling statements about banning first amendment activity in the name of protecting companies, there was plenty of backlash. Our most insightful comment of the week was a response from Roger Strong pointing out that bigger fish have made similar overtures:

I don't want to name names here, but a certain President-elect has called for everyone to boycott Apple until it gives in to the FBI over encryption. He's also called for boycotts of Starbucks, Macy’s, Univision, Mexico, Oreos, Fox News, and Glenfiddich scotch over things like supporting the wrong tennis player and changing a cup design.

All I'm saying is that given the stock market roller coaster ride after the election, perhaps Senator Ericksen is a visionary for calling him an "economic terrorist."

Meanwhile, in our conversation about the Burlington Police and the possible impostor abusing the DMCA on their behalf, one well-meaning commenter made the perplexing statement that they had been "waiting for" someone to abuse the DMCA in this fashion — and Norahc won second place for insightful by setting them straight on that front:

That actually started about 3 seconds after the law was signed and before the ink was dry.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to the ongoing debacle of e-voting machines and potential election hacking. This highly politicized nightmare is full of hyperbole on all sides, but we've got two level-headed comments that strip away the rhetoric and lay out the facts. First, it's TechnoMage, making the point that it's definitely possible for this kind of tampering to happen:

I hate to sound like a 'truther' conspiracy theorist... but I have my masters in CS focusing on Hybrid & Embedded systems...

And I can pretty much guarantee that if someone with enough money and motivation wanted to... they could steal an election on the state level. Several states (PA is one of them IIRC, I know TN is one too but it matters less for this election since it isn't a 'swing state' ) to this day have e-voting machines that have -0- paper trail, and so once you vote... you have no idea what bits are being flipped inside the machine...

XKCD got this right years and years ago... if your voting machine needs to run anti-virus... that is like your kindergarten teacher telling you he always wears a condom while teaching... "sure... its 'additional safety'... but he should NEVER EVER NEED IT"... https://xkcd.com/463/

2004 Ohio had voting 'irregularities' existed where the DEEPEST BLUE areas voted for the most liberal judge in living memory... and Bush on the same ballots... Hell, 2 voting officials went to jail in Cleveland for 'mishandling of voting material' or w/e the 'exact' charge was https://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/25/294599/-

But in ohio that year... none or almost none of the voting machines had paper trails.. (I know because I was the head elections official for my local precinct on election day)


Everyone (except those who are: 1) paid to think otherwise, 2) job requires them to not think so) 'knows' this is a possibility/threat to Democracy... but when one political party gains an advantage from anything that suppresses voter turnout, and screams all the time about "Voter Fraud" ... Any talk bringing up Voting machines and "Election Fraud"(completely different than voter fraud, and much more dangerous) becomes politically tainted...

Next, there's Thad further underlining the fact that even if it's unlikely to have happened this time, it needs to be addressed, and the politics need to be set aside:

I remember there were Trump supporters here a few weeks ago saying that the election was going to be rigged by hacking voting machines.

I ask those commenters: do you hold the same opinion now that you did then? Is your opinion of these allegations the same as it would be if the shoe were on the other foot, and the election had been called for Clinton but e-voting experts were raising red flags about the outcome?

Same question goes for Clinton supporters, of course.

Speaking for myself: my opinion is the same as it was a few weeks ago. Voting machines are certainly vulnerable. Attacking voting machines is not a reliable vector for influencing an election, and in cases where I've seen voting irregularities occur, they've likelier been caused by malfunctioning equipment than deliberate sabotage. And an election can't be influenced in this way unless it's already close.

I will have to see evidence before I believe that voting machines were compromised (or failed in some other way, eg due to malfunction or human error). It is possible; it is unproven. No matter your political persuasion, you shouldn't believe something just because it feels right to you; you should wait for evidence.

I'm with Mike here: I'm unconvinced that the election results were tampered with, but our voting machines are terrible either way, and need to be replaced. I'm increasingly of the opinion that good old-fashioned pen and paper is the only way to go.

Over on the funny side, in first place we have another response to State Senator Ericksen — this time from Anonmylous wondering who such an anti-protest law would hit the hardest:

This will be great news for a whole slew of businesses and peoples throughout the US! Its awesome to see Republicans finally opening up and protecting those they traditionally have tried to oppress! It'll be wonderful to see police able to arrest people protesting outside of abortion clinics at last! I can't wait to see those sad members of Westborough finally arrested for protesting at films and other public venues that support homosexuals and godless heathens like Kevin Smith! Oh and finally, FINALLY, no more protesters outside of Planned Parenthood locations.

Maybe this whole Trump presidency really is signalling the turning of a new leaf for the Republican party!

In second place, we've got a response to the woman who is suing Google over a mean blog post about her, with Chris ODonnell trying to find the right words:

If only there was a phrase to describe the folly of hiring an incompetent lawyer to draw attention to words on the Internet that you want removed.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on one of our few posts about the crazy ongoing Theranos scandal, where Coyne Tibbets served up some satire so dry and on-point that not everyone was even sure it was satire:

Theranos is a shining example of the free market dream: enormously profitable. Too bad it's being ruined by regulation and a bunch of libel-mongers.

And finally, we head back once more to the comments from the State Senator, where an anonymous commenter pitched a new slogan for him:

Make America Shut Its Cakehole Again!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: November 20th - 26th

from the short-week dept

Five Years Ago

The SOPA battle rolled on this week in 2011. We took a look at how other parts of the world viewed the bill, as more people began to realize that it was about regulating the internet, not copyright. We gave kudos to the Senators who were standing up against PROTECT-IP, its partner bill and especially to Ron Wyden for promising to read out the names of all the people who opposed it. Even the BSA was changing its tune on SOPA — apparently prompted by the concerns of Microsoft. Meanwhile, the numbers were in: the previous week's anti-SOPA protest was huge (but wouldn't be the biggest).

Ten Years Ago

Record labels were at war with parody songs this week in 2006, with Universal Music threatening Bank of America over a viral video with a U2 parody and EMI targeting some sports fans who wrote parody lyrics to various famous songs — because apparently they think making unreasonable legal demands is a business model. On the flipside, CBS seemed to be realizing that TV show piracy increases viewership and that you can and must compete with free online video. Microsoft was in the middle of its failed attempt to offer the Zune as an iPod competitor, while iPods were embracing video but users mostly weren't — though not because Stephen Spielberg was crotchety about it.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, SMS in America took a big leap forward when AT&T finally launched inter-carrier messaging. Nokia, meanwhile, was making early forays into camera phones and MMS on its first phone with a color screen. An early encryption battle was underway, mirroring today's, with Bruce Schneier explaining why backdoors are a bad idea. We took a look at the entertainment industry's ongoing attempts to kill fair use, Amazon was making its transition from store to platform for stores, and the Sega Dreamcast was in its death throes and selling for only fifty bucks.

Twenty-One Years Ago

These days, 3D-animated movies are a dime a dozen and vary wildly in quality. But the first feature-length fully-3D-animated film is almost universally beloved, and it was on November 22nd, 1995 that Toy Story saw general release.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 22 November 2016 @ 1:00pm

The Techdirt Podcast: Greatest Hits!

from the listen-up dept

We're taking Thanksgiving week off from the podcast, which means our 100th episode is coming next Tuesday — and it includes a special guest and an important announcement, so you won't want to miss it! But in the mean time, we thought it might be fun to revisit some of our post popular episodes from the past year.

Please listen, subscribe, and share with your friends — and if you enjoy the podcast, please leave a rating and/or a review! You can 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.

First up in our greatest hits tour, we head all the way back to last December for one of our most popular episodes, in which we posed and discussed a simple-but-not-so-simple question: how much surveillance is acceptable? Though many people have a knee-jerk response of "none", even staunch surveillance critics like us recognize that the issue is a little bit more nuanced than that.

After a few weeks off for the holidays, we came back with another extra-popular episode looking at the tech world's biggest industry show: The CES Post-Mortem. If you want to relive those innocent halcyon days of last January and its fresh crop of new gadgets, give it a listen.

Jump ahead to March, and we've got a hit episode with guest Marvin Ammori, a lawyer and civil liberties advocate, and good friend of the Techdirt community. The discussion was focused on net neutrality and, more specifically, the games like "zero rating" that providers play to get around it.

Next, in April, lots of listeners tuned in for an important and excellent two-part discussion with Justin Peters, author of a book all about the life of Aaron Swartz and his fight for internet freedom. The first part of the discussion focused on the free culture movement and the values that Aaron dedicated his life to:

Then, in part two, the discussion turned to focus on Aaron himself and what he meant to the people that knew him (and plenty that didn't):

Finally, in August, we featured a long discussion full of the sort of insights and details that we are proud to offer but that you won't find too often when other media outlets discuss the story: an interview with Ira Rothkin, the lawyer defending Kim Dotcom and Artem Vaulin. Whatever you may think of Dotcom, the discussion sheds critical light on the many injustices that have been perpetrated in the government's obsessive quest to bring him down at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And that about wraps it up. There are lots of other great episodes to revisit if you need more — otherwise, we hope this tides you over until our special 100th episode announcement next week!

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 November 2016 @ 2:47pm

Facebook Finds More Broken Metrics, Metrics Industry Rejoices

from the i-bet-they'll-count-the-dollars-accurately dept

Back in September, Facebook issued a mea culpa when it realized it had been accidentally inflating a key video metric for over a year. Now, the company has turned up several more audience metrics that were being miscalculated:

The company publicly disclosed on Wednesday that a comprehensive internal metrics audit found that discrepancies, or “bugs,” led to the undercounting or overcounting of four measurements, including the weekly and monthly reach of marketers’ posts, the number of full video views and time spent with publishers’ Instant Articles.

None of the metrics in question impact Facebook’s billing, said Mark Rabkin, vice president of Facebook’s core ads team.

Facebook is always quick to add that last part, of course — and it's technically true, though the indirect impact of performance metrics on how much publishers are willing to spend on Facebook ads is somewhat harder to be sure about. But what's more interesting is Facebook's plan to fix and improve the metrics going forward:

For starters, Facebook will provide viewability data from third-party metrics companies like Moat and Integral Ad Science for display ad campaigns. Previously, this data was limited to video campaigns.

... In addition, Facebook said it is working with Nielsen to count Facebook video views, including both on-demand views and live viewing, as part of Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings metric.

... Lastly, Facebook said it plans to form a Measurement Council made up of marketers and ad agency executives, and will also roll out a blog to more regularly communicate updates about measurement.

Well, one thing is clear: fixing Facebook metrics is going to be a huge boon... for the metrics and marketing industries. Big new contracts for metrics companies! Executive jobs on Facebook's new council! A new strut to prop up the ersatz monster of Nielsen ratings! Millions of dollars will be spent fixing and refining these metrics — which Facebook emphasizes are only four of over 220 it collects. Wow, 220! But online advertising still almost universally sucks, so you'd almost think the quantity of metrics isn't helping, and might even be optimizing in the wrong direction...

So what exactly are the benefits for publishers and users going to be? Is advertising going to improve in quality? All the pressure on Facebook over this has come from marketing agencies, advertising networks and other tracking and metrics companies. And they're the ones who are still complaining, since Facebook still doesn't plan to allow ad buyers to add third-party tracking tags as some, like GroupM (the world's largest advertising media company), have called for. But given how ultimately useless such metrics generally turn out to be, here's my question: do these companies actually know or even care if any of these things improve the efficiency or efficacy of advertising's ultimate goal — connecting consumers with products they want and generating a positive return on investment for advertisers — or does that not really matter, since they can profit just by showing clients fancier charts with more numbers and boasting about more elaborate tracking mechanisms in a whirlwind of marketing-speak about their new, revolutionary approach to serving everyone the same damn ad for a Thai dating website?

I know what I think. But hey, just because a castle is built on sand doesn't mean Facebook can't pay for a few new towers, right?

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the unconstitutional-bullshit dept

This week, we all balked at one of the most flagrant (or at least explicit) examples of police abuse we've seen in a while, where a cop literally declared his lack of time for "constitutional bullshit". Our top two comments on the insightful side are both anonymous and both come in response to that story. First, one commenter found the faint, tiny, and kind of shocking silver lining for the victim:

The only surprising thing about this...

...is that the cops didn't shoot his dog.

Next, another commenter expressed a slice of the rage this and similar stories cause:

"I don’t have time to play this constitutional bullshit."

Can we just tattoo this phrase right on the faces of officers that say or do this shit? And when they scream for their "constitutional" rights regarding cruel or unusual punishment, how about we just tell them, you already said you didn't have time to play this constitutional bullshit!

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post about Twitter's banning of alt-right accounts, where the conversation quickly turned to the fact that both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of trying to suppress the other's ideas. One commenter suggested only liberals get people fired, but Vaultnode was quick with a counter-example:

And "the Right" got a Nintendo PR representative fired for the content of her (distasteful) thesis in college.

Both "sides" are guilty of having outrage mobs that got people fired. Identity politics is pure idiocy and hurts everyone, regardless of political policy learnings.

Next, we head to our post about a prosecutor who got off with a disturbingly light punishment for altering a police transcript and deceiving the court. Varsil, a lawyer, arrived to explain how shocking that is:

Now, I'm not American, but I am a lawyer, and this seems absolutely insane to me.

A one year suspension? I can't see how behaviour like that calls for anything less than disbarment. He attempted to perpetrate a fraud on the court process. It baffles the mind to think that after a year they're going to let this guy slide back in.

As much as people claim lawyers are all lying unethical weasels, the opposite really has to be true. The system functions on the basis of lawyers not deceiving each other or the court. There are certainly times when you can (and may be required to) not say anything, but there is never an excuse for lying to opposing parties or the courts.

If I pulled something like this the bar association in my area would have me suspended the instant they caught wind of it, and I can't imagine any other outcome other than disbarment. The fact that this guy is a prosecutor shouldn't spare him, either--it makes it all the more egregious that he is subverting the fairness of the trial process.

At this point how can the public be convinced that the other matters he may have touched aren't equally tainted in some fashion or another? Surely a full and complete review of every file he's been on now becomes necessary.


Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes in response to our story about the Dr. Seuss estate's lawsuit against a parody book. Baron von Robber tried to one-up our Seussian lingo:

I do not like copyright maximalists and spam.

In second place, we've got a response from Nathan F to Mike Pence's legal attempts to keep his emails secret:

VP Elect Mike Pence is a special snowflake so of course he can refuse to turn over the emails (that would show wrongdoing on their part). Why in the world are you bothering these powerful people when they are busy trying to run the country (into the ground)?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a response to the infuriating ruling that essentially dragged public domain Wizard Of Oz materials back into copyright, where I.T. Guy had an idea for a new t-shirt targeting the judge, to replace the "infringing" ones:

I am going to start making tee shirts with Raymond Gruender's picture on it in a tin man hat with the caption: "If I only had a brain."

Finally, we've got an anonymous comment exploring customer confusion issues on our post about the trademark spat between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Snoop Dogg's new medical marijuana company:

I'm so confused .. I went to see a hockey game and now I have 2 bags of cheetos and some oreos

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: A SOPA Retrospective

from the memba? dept

Over the past couple of weeks in our look at 2011, SOPA began to rear its head. This week things really hit full steam, and so for this history post we're going to focus just on what went down in the SOPA fight five years ago.

All eyes were on the upcoming House Judiciary Committee hearings, which were stacked 5 to 1 in favor of censoring the internet. Leading up to them, we pointed out how attempts at censorship in the UK demonstrated how SOPA would fail, that Silicon Valley hadn't realized it was in DC's crosshairs, and why all filmmakers should speak out against the bill. Soon, the chorus of voices opposed to SOPA (and its partner PROTECT-IP) began to grow at an astounding pace: Facebook, Twitter, eBay and other big internet companies spoke up, and were joined by over 100 lawyers and law professors and then hackers, the ACLU, consumer rights groups, and human rights groups; venture capitalists explained how it would break the internet, a study showed how it would chill innovation and investment, and the EFF warned about its regulation of VPNs, proxies and other privacy tools; Ron Paul joined the ranks of congressional opposition while SOPA supporter Joe Biden accidentally explained why the bills were un-American; a study showed that the majority of Americans opposed SOPA, and even Canadians were speaking up, fearing collateral damage. And we featured voices ranging from filmmakers and technologists to health care activists explaining the damage SOPA would do.

How did the other side respond? First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams twisted himself in verbal knots explaining how SOPA would censor protected speech but somehow not violate the First Amendment; the House Judiciary Committee denied that its hearings were stacked in any way; Viacom made the absurd and hilarious threat that failing to pass SOPA might mean Spongebob Squarepants dies; and the bill's congressional sponsors weakly tried to say it was going to protect the troops. Then the hearings got underway and were largely a SOPA love-fest, though a lot of Representatives expressed serious concerns.

Meanwhile, we still had more questions: how would we even guage SOPA's success? Do you really want to give China and other oppressive regimes a blueprint for internet censorship? Following the hearings, even more people spoke up: the EU Parliament warned the US against censorship efforts, Nancy Pelosi called for a better solution, multiple Senators came out against PROTECT-IP, security experts warned against DNS filtering, and the Washington Post's Dominic Basulto wrote an incredulous column about the message SOPA sends to the world. It even started to become a congressional election issue, with challengers calling out the SOPA support of incumbent representatives.

And amazingly, as we all now know, the protests had not yet even come close to their peak.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 15 November 2016 @ 1:03pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 99: Debating The Facebook Filter Bubble, With Mathew Ingram

from the bubble-bursting dept

Though the notion of the Facebook "filter bubble" has been around for a while, it's picked up a huge amount of steam following the election of Donald Trump — perhaps just a little too much steam. While Techdirt has long been of the opinion that pointing fingers at Facebook is misguided, there are plenty of people who disagree. This week, we're joined by one such person — long-time media commentator and senior editor at Fortune Mathew Ingram — for a lively debate about just how much of a problem the filter bubble really is, and how you'd go about solving it.

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 - 14 November 2016 @ 9:47am

Toto, I Don't Think We're In The Public Domain Anymore

from the copyright-backdoors dept

Long-time readers may remember our coverage of a slow-moving copyright case over public domain images from The Wizard of Oz and other movies. In brief: back in 2006, Warner Bros. sued vintage/nostalgia merchandise company AVELA, which had obtained restored images from old promotional posters for the films and was selling them for T-shirts and other products. Nobody disputed that these specific images were in the public domain, because the promo materials had not been registered for copyright even though the films were -- but Warner claimed that the images nevertheless infringed on the copyright in the characters established by the film. The court originally sided with Warner in full, but on appeal found that the exact two-dimensional reproductions of the images on T-shirts and the like were not infringing, but instances where they were combined with text and other images or used to create three-dimensional models were, and awarded some pretty huge damages. To complicate matters, there's also a trademark claim wrapped up in all this. There was another appeal, and now a court has upheld the ruling and the damages, giving movie studios another weapon in their war on the public domain (here's a PDF of the full ruling).

Now, there are a lot of layers here, and I'm going to focus on The Wizard Of Oz, since it provides the most interesting example. The 1900 book is in the public domain. The 1939 movie is still under copyright held by Warner. The associated 1939 promo materials were not registered (a requirement at the time) and are in the public domain. And many characters and other elements of the movie are also covered by trademark, also owned by Warner. Absolutely none of these facts are in dispute -- but put them all together and you have a giant mess that illustrates the flimsiness of the idea/expression dichotomy, and how something can supposedly remain in the public domain while being gutted of all its usefulness to the public.

Let's consider the line the court drew between different kinds of use, because it's one of those things that makes a certain amount of legal and logical sense but produces an utterly absurd result. Basically, the court said that Warner can't stop someone from making unmodified reproductions of material that is undisputedly in the public domain -- that is clearly non-infringing -- but since that material includes images of characters from a work that is not in the public domain, modifying it (by combining it with other images or turning it into 3D objects) violates those other copyrights and becomes infringement. The existence and limits of character copyright are highly complex and questionable to begin with (Warner does not in fact own the characters, because those are from the book, but only the original elements of the film's expression of those characters) but if you believe in them to any extent this makes some sense: a single image of a character entering the public domain does not invalidate all copyrights associated with that character. But... consider what this means: if you are remixing copyrighted material, making your own creative changes to it weighs in your favor in a determination of infringement; if you're making use of public domain material, creative changes might magically turn it into infringement. That's not how the public domain is supposed to work.

This latest ruling is mostly upholding the last one, so let's go see what the court said in 2011:

The film actors' portrayals of the characters at issue here appear to rely upon elements of expression far beyond the dialogue and descriptions in the books. AVELA has identified no instance in which the distinctive mannerisms, facial expressions, voice, or speech patterns of a film character are anticipated in the corresponding book by a literary description that evokes, to any significant extent, what the actor portrayed. ... At the very least, the scope of the film copyrights covers all visual depictions of the film characters at issue, except for any aspects of the characters that were injected into the public domain by the publicity materials.

Damn those publicity materials, "injecting" content into the public domain! Now, I have a few questions about this. How does an image on a T-shirt infringe on a film character's mannerisms, voice or speech patterns? Of that list of distinguishing characteristics, only facial expressions apply -- individual specific facial expressions captured in images that are in the public domain. And could we perhaps get some slightly narrower wording than "at the very least the scope of the film copyrights covers all visual depictions of the film characters"? Because goddamn.

Let's say you were inspired (as many have been) by the character of the Tin Woodsman, and wanted to create something to celebrate him. What can you do? Well, you can start with L. Frank Baum's original description:

Just before them, was a very big tree that had been partly chopped through, and standing right beside it, with an uplifted axe in his hands, was some sort of a man, yet made entirely of hollow tin. He was slightly rusted, but he was a tin-smith's masterpiece nevertheless. His tin head and arms and legs were all jointed upon his tin torso, but he stood perfectly motionless, as if he could not stir at all. This was one of the most astonishing things that Dorothy had ever come across in all her young life.

That's definitely in the public domain. So far so good. But perhaps your fondest memories are visual — his pointy nose and his steam-pipe hat! Well, fair enough, because that's all there in the original illustrations from 1900:

Okay, you're still in the clear! This piece of our shared culture is over a century old, and it belongs to us all to enjoy and repurpose as we see fit -- as it should. But hey, in your research, you've come across something interesting: original movie posters from 1939 that were never registered for copyright! Obviously the creators didn't see a great deal of long-term commercial value in their promotional materials, and were happy to let them live in the public domain. You are especially fond of one of the images -- another illustration of the Tin Man, based on his portrayal in the movie, which was itself based on the earlier illustrations:

Perfect! Not only is that image in the public domain due to lack of registration, its most identifiable elements are virtually identical to the original illustrations, so you doubt it would even qualify for much copyright protection in the first place. You put it on a T-shirt. Everything's still fine, and you still haven't infringed a single copyright. But... something's missing. A final touch. Perhaps a short line of text, his most famous quote -- a six-word sampling, hardly enough to infringe on anything by any reasonable standard. Voila! Your final product is complete:

STOP! THIEF! You've gone too far this time, chump. Yes, somehow that final step turned this from a perfectly legitimate use of public domain material into a grievous infringement on the rights of Warner Bros. You are no longer simply using a public domain image, you are using the mannerisms (maybe?) and voice (uh...) of a copyrighted character to create a new work. Basically, it feels like the court badly wanted to just give Warner the farm and block all uses of the images, but had to begrudgingly admit that it couldn't stop the most direct and obvious cases of reproducing something in the public domain -- so it settled for stopping everything else so long as there was the tiniest, flimsiest reason to argue it infringed on the film.

To make things weirder, a trademark claim was involved too. In some ways, this claim was much stronger: Warner owns a variety of trademarks on material and images from the film, and the court reasonably found a likelihood of confusion for consumers who might think the products are official Wizard Of Oz merchandise. But the law already includes an important caveat, via the Dastar ruling, to prevent this sort of perpetual-copyright-via-trademark -- and the court knocked that down with some granular interpretation:

Images of the film actors in character and signature phrases from the films are not communications, concepts, or ideas that the consumer goods embody as Dastar defines these terms. Products marketed under AVELA’s licenses employ iconic film characters’ pictures to associate the products with Warner’s films, not to copy the film itself. Accordingly, these are trademark claims, not disguised copyright claims, and Dastar does not bar them

Dastar basically says that the right to reproduce public domain material without attribution trumps any claims that doing so is a false designation of origin ("reverse passing off") in violation of trademark law, by clarifying the narrow definition of "origin" -- stating that it does not mean the origin of the ideas and concepts in a work, but the actual commercial origin of a specific product. Somehow, Warner convinced the court that these T-shirts were not copying the content of the film but were in fact associating themselves with the official creators of the film and confusing consumers as to the origin of the product, and thus the trademark claim is still valid.

How can both these things be true? If the public domain images of the characters are not communications, concepts or ideas as defined in Dastar, and were not used to "copy the film itself," then how can their use be subject to a claim based on the character copyrights from the film? And if they are somehow infringing on copyright, how are they not protected from a trademark claim by Dastar? Yes, you can tease out a legal interpretation that technically resolves this paradox -- but you can't make it sound any less stupid.

We all know that Warner Bros., Disney, and pretty much every other company that has made a fortune by mining the public domain for material will stop at nothing to make sure future generations can't do the same. The courts need to stop letting them get away with it, but that's unlikely when we've got judges talking about things being "injected" into the public domain -- as though entering the public domain was some rare, undesirable aberration, not the default state and ultimate fate of all content.

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the he'll-make-you-laugh-he'll-make-you-think dept

This week, after a congressman and former Trump advisor raised the spectre of pulling FCC licenses over media bias and noted that only 32% of people trust the media and only 37% think it was balanced in its handling of the election, That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week by drawing a comparison to another important public opinion figure:

The same group that he's getting his 32% number from also puts public approval of congress at a whopping 18%, suggesting that even if the public was on board with censoring unpopular news groups they likely wouldn't want or trust congress to be the ones deciding who gets silenced.

Maybe he's just annoyed that more people trust the news than trust him, and are more than twice as likely to say that the media is doing a good job as say that congress is?

Meanwhile, when the actual creators of email expressed their displeasure at Shiva Ayyadurai getting money for his bogus claim, one commenter drew an odd comparison to claims that Al Gore created the internet, and Ehud Gavron won second place for insightful by underlining the huge difference:

The Al Gore thing is the exact opposite of this topic.

He never said he invented the Internet. "Conservative" pundits looking to make fun of him made that up. What he said is he was on the committee that approved DARPA funding that led to research on interconnected networks and eventually the Internet.

So HERE we have a guy who DID NOT invent email saying he did.

In the Gore case we have a guy who DIDN'T invent something NOT saying he invented it, but the Republican Party talking points, ever a bastion of twisting anything just so we can get back to 1972 says he says he did.


For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous response to defenders of mass surveillance freaking out about who now holds the keys:

I have been saying for a long time now that all parties should fear surveilance. Eventually a party will have the power to shut down opposition with these powers and data on everyone. Now people are starting to understand. I guess they thought "their guy" would be the one in power when it happened. Doesn't say much for that person that they thought "their guy" abusing power would be ok.

Next, we've got a response from David to the common claim that Trump is a positive for at least representing "real change", summing up exactly how many of us feel about that sentiment:

Well, I agree with needing real change. Problem just is that a real change for the worse is not helping.

Over on the funny side, for first place we return to the post about Shiva Ayyadurai, where Roger Strong mused about the earliest applications of his tool:

Once he got his email program running, his first emails were legal threats to the writers of RFCs 524, 561, 680 and 724 and 733.

In second place, we've got some satire from Mr Big Content on the notion that an ex-member of the band Boston could be blocked by trademark from saying that's what he is:

If Facts Cannot Be Owned, Where Would The Incentive Come From To Create More Of Them?

We all know teh World is running out of resources. Thats a fact, and facts are resources, too. Therefore, were running out of facts as well! And thats another fact.

So you see, their are only so many facts. We need a robust, thriving fact-creation industry!! Our new President Trump will only be able to do so much by himself. Thats why we must have stronger laws to encourage teh ownership of more facts. And thats why rigged kangaroo-court cases like these must be REJECTED BY ALL LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS!!!

For editor's choice, we start out with some edits from Jeremy Lyman to the government's cyberwar-with-Russia "strategy":

Here, let me cyber- that for you.

These cyber-leaks are directly cyber-responsible for cyber-loss of cyber-American cyber-lives and cyber-endangers cyber-field operatives' cyber-safety and that of their cyber-families at cyber-home. We need to cyber-find and cyber-jail these cyber-leakers as cyber-quickly as cyber-possible since that cyber-will cyber-obviously cyber-undo cyber-any cyber-harm cyber-that cyber-has cyber-occurred.

And finally, after a spat between ESPN and Nielsen over subscriber numbers continued with ESPN looking to be in pretty rough shape, TechDescartes wondered how it could possibly come as a surprise:

You would think that the ESP Network would have seen this one coming.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: November 6th - 12th

from the look-back dept

Five Years Ago

One topic naturally dominates this week's look at 2011, and will for several weeks to come: SOPA. The industry's plan was becoming clear: pretend the bill doesn't say what it says and offer up nonsensical interpretations. Pay no attention to the studies showing it will harm investment and innovation, the fact that it will not solve infringement, the loud voice of Rep. Darrel Issa opposing the voice, the huge censorship concerns summarized in Time magazine, or the opposition of the American Library Association. The House of Representatives certainly seemed to have no problem ignoring all these concerns either. No effort was made to resolve the convoluted language in the bill, and we pointed out that it also massively expands the copyright industries' diplomatic corp. Soon, the internet began planning the first of many protests.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, Australia was facing its own copyright reform, but began to smarten up as Google explained how it would kill the internet and the government actually looked into (and debunked) the industry's absurd claims of losses. Meanwhile, much like today, people in the US were discussing what the recent election would mean for various policy issues — in this case, the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006. It actually offered some encouragement, but lots of questions, for areas like copyright policy and telecom policy and net neutrality.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, the world was still reeling from September 11th while also preparing for the holiday seasons. These things intersected in the occasional prediction that fear of going to malls would drive shoppers online — but evidence didn't back this up, and besides, there were a lot of other factors in what the e-holidays would bring. As for physical retailers selling high-tech equipment, they were facing their own crisis. Meanwhile, Microsoft was under the anti-competitive microscope and negotiating with the DOJ, while the Hewlett-Packard/Compaq merger met with disapproval from both the Hewlett family and the Packard family.

One-Hundred Years Ago

This week we can note an interesting centennial in the history of technology and politics. On November 7th, 1916, an experimental New York radio station broadcast the U.S. election results in audio for the very first time (they had previously only been broadcast in morse code). Amusingly, this first ever broadcast also called the election wrong, declaring Charles Evan Hughes the winner before signing off at 11 PM, only to find out the next day Woodrow Wilson had actually won.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 8 November 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 98: Is There A Better Way To Pick A President?

from the election-fever dept

Well, today's the day. By tomorrow there will be a new President of the United States, and a large segment of the population claiming that they were robbed by the system. But immediate anger aside, that system is hardly above criticism: the Electoral College has had all sorts of unanticipated and often undesirable effects on democracy, and a wide variety of alternatives have been proposed. This week we discuss the question: is there a better way to pick the president?

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the reign-of-the-anonymous dept

This week, we faced a disastrous plan from the Copyright Office to strip thousands of sites of their DMCA safe harbor protections if they don't re-register with a new system. We suggested that the correct way would be to engage in a proactive campaign rather than holding people's feet over the fire, and Cowardly Anonymous won most insightful comment of the week by going one step further:

No. The correct way is to give DCMA safe harbour to *all*. Blanketed. No registration required.

In the second place spot, we've got I. T. Guy with another simple response to the whole mess:

Dumbest thing I have ever heard of.

Don't forget to go register for your First Amendment rights now.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous comment on the subject of police abuse, making the interesting observation that the "bad apples" metaphor gets thrown around in very different ways depending on the subject:

To quote a couple recent argument used by some US politicians to reject the acceptance of ANY Syrian refugees into the US.

- If you have a 5 pound bag of peanuts and 10 peanuts in the bag are deadly poisonous, would you feed them to your kids? -


- If a bowl of skittles had 3 poisonous ones in it would you eat from it? -

When it comes to accepting refugees this is an argument that should entice people to reject them all but somehow the same argument keeps being made a bout the police whit totally different expectations. That we should totally accept all of them no questions asked even though there is overwhelming evidence that we have more than a few bad apples causing actual deaths rather than the metaphorical ones implied by the politicians arguments for rejecting refugees...

Next, we head to our surprising post about Shiva Ayyadurai (surprising in that he's still trying) — which will be the source of both our winners on the funny side — where another anonymous commenter laid things out in detail:

Here's a link to the v6 manual page for mail:


(Incidentally, note that the "see also" portion of this man page references "write" -- an instant messaging program. Yeah. In 1975.)

Here's a link to a well-researched page about Ayyadurai's bogus, lying, totally false claims:


Here's an entire web site about the history of email:


Here's Tom Van Vleck's well-researched history of email:


I just took the time to search some archives to see if fraudster Ayyadurai actually showed up anywhere. I can find no trace of his alleged source code in any of the standard repositories of the time, e.g., Usenet's net.sources or successor newsgroups such as comp.sources.misc. I find no trace of him in any of the RFCs, the standards documents which trace the history and evolution of email. I find no messages from him in any of the mailing lists discussing mail, SMTP (the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), mail servers, mail clients, mail system operations, or anything else. To contrast and compare: there are THOUSANDS of message from many of the key contributors and hundreds of thousands more from people who had a problem or solved a problem, found a bug or published a fix, encountered a configuration issue or published a how-to. Ayyadurai simply doesn't exist at all - which isn't surprising, because his piffling and unimportant project existed in isolation and contributed precisely zero to the development of email.

Ayyadurai is particularly annoying because of his bogus claims of racism: those of us who were actually there know that the ARPAnet and CSnet and Usenet and BITnet were built by ridiculously diverse groups of people: just look at the names on the documents and the software. Ayyadurai's claims are annoying and absolutely false: they're a cheap stunt designed to make him appear the victim, and they're insulting to everyone who actually has been disadvantaged because of their race or ethnicity.

And he's annoying because of his willingness to take credit from those who did the heavy lifting -- Ray Tomlinson being one of them. All of those people have eschewed credit, preferring to see their work as building on that of others and minimizing their own contributions. Ayyadurai has seized on this to claim everything for his own, when in fact he contributed nothing of value or interest.

I kinda hope he sues TechDirt, because the discovery process will be fascinating. He will face dozens, if not hundreds, of subject-matter experts -- people like me who have been running real mail servers (not his bogus, worthless tripe) for decades. People who wrote the code. People who wrote the standards. People who have archives of all of this going back 20, 30, 40 years. People who are willing to invest a lot of time stacking supporting evidence to the ceiling and giving expert first-hand testimony.

Ayyadurai is a liar. He is a fraud. He is a charlatan. He is an unimportant nobody who has contributed nothing and deserves to be remembered as a posing, self-aggrandizing asshole -- nothing more.

But of course, at this point, such lengthy explanations feel almost pointless — they clearly have no effect on Ayyadurai himself, anyway. So we head to our first place comment on the funny side, where another anonymous commenter reiterated the simple fact:

You forgot to mention that Shiva Ayyadurai did not invent email.

In second place on the funny side, we have yet another anonymous commenter suggesting a way to honor Ayyadurai:

We need a "Shiva Ayyadurai Didn't Invent Email Day" where we all spam the dude with stories, posts, et al of how he didn't invent email.

We will call this day... Everyday.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a comment from sorrykb presenting a new wrinkle to the Copyright Office conspiracy theory:

Admit it, Masnick, you and Google both are paid shills for Big Library.

Finally, after the Thai government demanded that a chat app reveal any users who insult the king, one more anonymous commenter interpreted that in the silliest way possible:

I don't really see why Thailand needs to know if someone insults Elvis.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 November 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: October 30th - November 5th

from the sopa-rears-its-head dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011 we witnessed the true birth of a monster. The PROTECT-IP act morphed into the E-PARASITE act and, realizing how ridiculous that name is, lawmakers began calling it... SOPA. Soon everything went crazy: supporters ranged from Go Daddy (and we all know how that ended) to, uh, firefighters (?) and of course the US Chamber of Commerce and Hollywood astroturf groups like Creative America. Warner Bros. pleaded for support on the basis of poverty despite just having announced record profits, Joe Biden threw his hat into the "pro" ring, and Viacom insisted it wouldn't require changes to the DMCA even as its co-author admitted that was the plan.

But the backlash was quick to form too. We published an open letter to Senator Chris Dodd signed by top VCs and innovators, a White House petition started gaining steam, and the Future Of Music Coalition said it couldn't support the bill in good conscience. Larry Downes published an excellent and thorough analysis of the bill's problems, and even the mainstream press started to catch on.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, anonymous rumors were painting an intriguing picture of the deals between YouTube and record labels. The owners of UTube.com, desperate for a way to cash in after a slew of mistaken traffic, tried suing Google for clogging their site by buying YouTube. We took a look at how the DMCA could be abused to shut down critics or really just about anyone, and knew it would be on the rise as online video became big business, with early first steps like Google striking a special ad deal on viral "Mentos and Diet Coke" videos and Hollywood's creative class looking to secure its share of this new market.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, people were still amusingly trying to figure out if the iPod would be successful. The market for absurd luxury devices was forming with a $60,000 bejeweled mobile phone. The holes in post-9/11 security theater were already beginning to show. And Google Search unveiled a feature it's hard to imagine life without now: searching by file type.

Sixty-Nine Years Ago

Before the World Trade Organization, there was its prototype: the International Trade Organization, which reigned for almost fifty years from the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade on October 30th, 1947.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 1 November 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 97: Can Tech Be Trusted Without Antitrust?

from the sometimes? dept

Monopolies are one of the areas that even the most staunchly anti-regulation folks often agree there is a role for government intervention. In the world of tech, multiple big antitrust fights have broken out and continue to rage in both America and the EU — but how effective is this kind of regulation and how often should it really happen? This week, we discuss whether or not there is a role for antitrust in the world of technological 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 - 30 October 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the parallels dept

This week we have some parallelism between the insightful and funny sides, with both first place comments coming from one post and both second place comments coming from another. What's more, both first place winners came from the same commenter! First, we head to our look at the various insane claims about the massive DDoS attack, where one commenter insinuated that Hillary Clinton might have had something to do with it — and Michael won first place for insightful by highlighting just how unlikely that seems:

If Clinton had a way to cause a DDoS attack of this magnitude, she probably would have been able to secure an email server.

Next, we head to our post about Hillary Clinton's campaign needing to own up to the fact that the Wikileaks emails are real, where Thad summed up the campaign's seeming inability to deal with such revelations:

The Clinton campaign, as it so often does, is making things worse for itself by being stupid. It's trying to cover up legitimate information, and the coverup always comes across worse than the original actions.

Straight up.

Passing the question along to Clinton in advance is unseemly, but it's hard to see it as a major scandal. (And I say that as someone who's furious that the DNC put its finger on the scale for Clinton over Sanders.) Lying about it, on the other hand, just adds to Clinton's reputation for dishonesty.

After the second debate, when Clinton explained her "public position and private position" comment, a coworker of mine opined that she shouldn't have acknowledged that she'd really said it, that it would have been better to maintain plausible deniability. I told him that no, in this instance she made the right call, because if she really *did* say it, and then denied it, that doesn't help her, it makes things worse.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to our post about the demotion (which became a resignation) of Copyright Office head Maria Pallante, which of course made pro-copyright lawyers crow about how the creators supposedly hate the change. Two different creators in our comments responded to this — first, Tim R summed up his sentiments:

Vexation without representation

"'The people in the creative community are furious about the fact that this was done,' says a lawyer who works for organizations that support strong copyright laws..."

I am a content creator, a musician, a digital artist and a writer. I am also more reasonably versed in copyright than the average bear. I am internet savvy as well, and have a host of tools at my disposal to flex my reasonably ordinary artistic muscles. I don't possess massive distribution channels, cross-licensing capabilities, or hordes of capital to keep me "lawyered up".

But I am also not in the minority, and this anonymous legal honk does not speak for me.

Next, Kalean offered an interpretation of the quote:

“The people in the creative community are furious about the fact that this was done,” says a lawyer who works for organizations that support strong copyright laws, “but especially about the way it was done.”

They're right. We're furious that she was demoted instead of fired. We're especially furious that it wasn't accompanied by a press release explaining the purpose of copyright.

Over on the funny side, for first place we head back to our post about the DDoS attacks, where Michael took our question about which explanation was stupidest as a challenge:

Online voting is not secure sir, please provide a better way for us to vote. Russia could be influencing this vote with their botnets right now. If only you had not spoken out about SOPA or allowed The Chinese to gain control over IANA and DNS, we could have had the NSA set up secure voting for this.

For second place, we head again to our post about the Clinton campaign's ongoing denial, where Ninja took a moment to sum up all the complaints about Mike's stances on issues:

So what have we learned so far from our trolls?

Mike is a anti-copyright Google, Facebook, Microsoft, pro-Trump, pro-Hillary shill, Democrat Republican, baby-eating-Communist left right capitalist shill.

Nothing to do with the article but worth pointing out. Have I forgotten something?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about Facebook's racial targeting and its use by the Trump campaign, where a political debate broke out and soon quotes by "Trump officials" were being thrown around. One commenter rejected these quotes for what one commenter noticed was an extremely ironic reason:

"never take anything said without a name attached to it seriously" - Anonymous Coward

Finally, we head to our post about the Senate's little snafu in which it summoned the wrong Time Warner to talk about the AT&T merger. Roger Strong supplied an amusing thought that needs no further commentary:

One day, after America is attacked, they'll approve the invasion of the wrong country.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 October 2016 @ 1:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: October 23rd - 29th

from the 'memba? dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw several examples of companies attacking consumers and/or making their products worse/harder to access. Universal Music started going after the Bad Lip Reading parodies on YouTube, Sony Ericsson shut down an Xperia fan blog that aggressively promotes their products, Hollywood's "kinder, gentler" DRM Ultraviolet was being widely hated upon, and Warner Bros. decided it wanted to embargo DVD sales to libraries for a month.

We also featured our own little historical epic on the site this week: Tim Cushing walked through the many, many technologies that have "killed" the film industry in a trilogy of posts: part one, part two and part three.

Ten Years Ago

The ripples of the YouTube acquisition were continuing to spread this week in 2006. Despite lots of concern about legal issues, it became clear that YouTube's compliance with DMCA takedown procedures were keeping it in the clear (this was long before the rollout of ContentID) and the service was perfectly legal. Meanwhile, Google was building a portfolio of legal wins against smaller claimants as ammunition for when bigger companies came calling. And despite all this supposedly hurting music sales, Weird Al was openly crediting YouTube and the internet with the success of his new album, while folks in Hollywood were realizing that online stars might just represent the next big talent pool.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, we saw prototypical versions of fights that would become commonplace in the digital world. Tech companies were opposing an onerous regulatory bill in congress, Microsoft was getting ready to sue a hacker for breaking DRM, and Homestead was ordered by a court to turn over identifying info about its users. Meanwhile, some big products were hitting the market: Windows XP was getting a lukewarm reception (not to mention pushback against its new activation procedure), and as we mentioned last week, Apple officially unveiled the iPod — though folks weren't sure if it was revolutionary enough (a funny notion in retrospect).

Twenty-Four Years Ago

Computer-aided dispatch systems are now the norm for emergency services, and have vastly improved their efficiency — but getting here wasn't an easy road, as one historical example this week demonstrates. The London Ambulance Service in the UK commissioned a computer dispatch system way back in the 1970s, but it sat unused for thirteen years because nobody wanted to switch. The system was replaced but the replacement failed tests. It was replaced again on October 26th, 1992 and the results were a complete disaster that caused huge ambulance delays. The debacle now serves as a popular item of study in the subject of poor engineering management.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 25 October 2016 @ 1:08pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 96: Death Knell For Software Patents

from the the-bell-tolls dept

Software patents have been dubious since their inception — not just in principle, but legally too. Past rulings have called their validity into serious question, and now an opinion from a prominent pro-patent judge has called for people to admit that they simply shouldn't exist. This week, we discuss what this opinion means for the (hopefully short) future of software patents.

New: Subscribe to the Techdirt Podcast on Google Play.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, 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 - 24 October 2016 @ 1:06pm

The Easiest Thing You Can Do Today To Raise Money For The EFF

from the internet-privacy-week dept

Post sponsored by


We've teamed up with Namecheap and the EFF to promote Internet Privacy Week and continue the fight to protect your privacy online. Show your support by signing and sharing the new Internet Privacy Bill of Rights.

Today's the last day of Internet Privacy Week, but the ongoing fight for online privacy is far from over. That's why we're promoting the new Internet Privacy Bill Of Rights to companies that provide online services. We need you to help us spread the word by signing the bill, and by doing so you'll be raising money for the EFF! For every 500 signatures, Namecheap and its partners will donate $5,000 to the EFF for its important and continuing role in defending online privacy.

The idea behind the Bill Of Rights is to get online service providers to agree to respect five key user rights in terms of how their services collect and handle personal data:

  1. Right of transparency: Users have a right to know what is actually being done with their data in clear, understandable terms — not buried in legalese written in tiny print.
  2. Right of control: Companies should give users the ability to control their data and how it is used, including asking specific permission at the time of use, rather than just at the point of signup.
  3. Right of recourse: Individuals should be able to protest certain uses of data, and companies should set up a process with a dedicated person to handle these concerns.
  4. Right of export: When reasonable, users should be able to export their data in a useable format.
  5. Right of due process: Whenever possible, companies should alert end users to government requests for their data, or civil subpoenas for identifying information allowing them to use legal processes to protect such data.

We believe this sort of collaborative approach is the best first step to protecting internet privacy and avoid the dangers of poorly-crafted, over-burdensome regulations and a data free-for-all. So please help us out and sign the Online Privacy Bill Of Rights today! (We know there has been some confusion around the particular method of gathering signatures, which is using a "giveaway" platform. Please note you can sign the petition using either Facebook or a name and email, and the platform's privacy policy is prominently posted at the bottom of the page.)

Remember: for every 500 signatures, the EFF will receive $5,000!

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Posted on Techdirt - 23 October 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the snappy-rejoinders dept

A strange article in Vox lamenting the construction of currently-underutilized gigabit networks prompted our first place winner for insightful this week, with WDS making short work of the issue:

I've been in the network business for more years than I care to admit, and I'm searching my brain to try to remember exactly how many times I've heard a user say, "My connection is too fast".

Search complete. Zero is the answer.

A far more horrifying story was the facial recognition screw-up that led to a Denver man being arrested and severely beaten, cleared of charges, then arrested again. Padpaw won second place by putting things simply:

I wanted to say I am concerned with how the police decided to try to beat the man almost to death when he peacefully came out of his home.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with another response to that post, this time from Derek Kerton discussing the inevitability of things like this with an armed police force:

Yes, and arm the police like the military, and they immediately try to think of situations in which they can use their new toys.

"Flash bang grenades "

For real? The guy walks out of his house into a multi-officer ambush, and they use Flash bang grenades??

We really need to dis-arm the police back to 1970 standards, if not UK standards. And we need to have checks and balances for the deployment of SWAT teams.

Domestic law enforcement is not a war, guys. If you think it is, maybe this line of work isn't for you. And if you WANT a war, we have some of those on the go, and you may be able to volunteer.

Next, we head back to our first post about gigabit connections, where Jason expanded on why such pessimistic thinking is wrong:

Although it's been quoted so much as to probably be a cliché by now, it really does sound like the old "640k ought to be enough for everybody" situation. Just because there isn't a need right now for more/better/faster doesn't mean there won't ever be. It'd be like someone in the early 1900s asking why build all these roads if there are so few people with cars... building a bit bigger than you need gives you room to grow, and (more importantly) room to allow the emergence of technology and uses (the famous "killer app") that no one could even consider right now.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment comes on our post about the father who went to the police about his stepdaughter's sexting, only to end up prosecuted for child porn. One commenter suggested this was to be expected, and an anonymous response included a cutting and amusing takedown:

As soon as he downloaded the content he became a contributor of child porn?

I'm not so sure about that. Case in point: just because you left a comment here doesn't mean you contributed to the conversation.

Now, we're going to mix things up a bit, because the second place comment for funny is a rejoinder to another funny comment that didn't quite crack the winning spot, all in response to Comcast's hilarious claim that its misleading fees are a way of being transparent. So we'll make that one an editor's choice, and present it first to keep the joke in order. Got it? HegemonicDistortion gets the editor's choice for crafting a sample Comcast bill:

$6.50 -- Broadcast TV Fee
-$6.50 -- Credit: bogus Broadcast TV Fee
$9.95 -- Bill Transparency Fee

In response, an anonymous commenter won second place on the funny side by adding one more line item:

$1.95 Fee itemization fee

And last but not least, we've got one more unrelated editor's choice for funny — sophisticatedjanedoe with thoughts on the copyright lawsuit against Donald Trump over a photo of a bowl of Skittles:

How badly copyright law is fucked up? I'm rooting for Trump in this dispute.

That's how.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 October 2016 @ 12:00pm

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

from the blast-from-the-past dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, an interesting copyright question was raised when Warner Bros. bought the movie rights to a story written in a Reddit comment thread, and subsequently stopped the author from continuing to use Reddit, even as it wasn't clear that under Reddit's TOS he would be able to offer Warner Bros. an exclusive deal in the first place. Meanwhile, in a real blast from the past, Bill Gates was called to testify in an antitrust trial about... Windows 95. And Microsoft's views on sure seemed to waver a lot depending on who was in the antitrust hot seat. In congress, Senator Wyden was continuing to fight the PROTECT IP bill while the broader internet clued in on the notion that another bill focused on anti-streaming could make Justin Bieber a felon.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, everyone was still trying to parse the implications of Google's acquisition of YouTube, except for politicians who were rushing to blame YouTube for all sorts of things. Universal Music launched a lawsuit against streaming sites but left YouTube out of the list of targets — which became very unsurprising when we learned that Google's new deals with record labels included giving them equity in YouTube. Meanwhile, the Authors Guild lawsuit over Google Books was proceeding just about as slowly as a lawsuit possibly can, the MPAA was doing its best to brainwash the Boy Scouts with an anti-piracy badge, and a tour through the EULA for Windows Vista revealed a hilariously broad term stating that "you may not work around any technical limitations in the software".

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, the first inklings of the mass-ditching of landlines in favor of cellphones were spotted. There were also inklings about the death of broadband that didn't pan out quite as accurately. Speaking of technology takeovers, professional photographers were starting to make the switch to digital cameras and (most) retail software stores were struggling to compete with downloads. But in retrospect, perhaps the biggest tech news was a simple and vague rumor portending that Apple was going to launch some sort of non-Mac music device the following week (and fifteen years ago tomorrow, the world would meet the iPod).

One-Hundred And Forty-Seven Years Ago

Hoaxes are a dime a dozen in the internet era, and frankly they are just too easy. But I love a good hoax story from the golden age, and this week we've got one that certainly qualifies: on October 16th, 1869 workers uncovered the Cardiff Giant, a huge "petrified man" forged by an atheist New York tobbaconist in order to win an argument with some Methodists. Scientists quickly realized it was a fake, but theologians who believed giants once walked the earth defended its authenticity. It's still on display in the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, and a replica made by P. T. Barnum can be seen in Michigan.

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