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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 27 June 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 128: Patent Trolls, With Cloudflare's General Counsel

from the reporting-from-the-front-lines dept

As we reported last month, CDN provider Cloudflare has decided to hit back against patent troll Blackbird Technologies with an aggressive strategy. Leading this charge is Doug Kramer, Cloudflare's General Counsel, who joins us this week to discuss the current situation with Blackbird and the broader patent landscape.

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 - 25 June 2017 @ 1:24pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the what's-the-good-word dept

This week, there was lots of talk about the lawsuit against HBO's John Oliver from Bob Murray over a report about his coal company. There was some back-and-forth about Oliver's political leanings and the like, during which one anonymous commenter won most insightful comment of the week by cutting through some of the partisan fog:

Look, I am anti-FCC & anti-regulation and completely understand that J.Oliver is clearly slanted left, but I appreciate this guy doing what he does. He shows up with a lot of facts and information and tells the story in a way other news organizations will not and usually in a very easy to understand way.

We need a literal "metric fuck ton" more of J.Oliver's running around on all sides here. I like his comedic humor and the way he tells the story about subject matter. Either he has stellar writers or he is news genius. I really don't care how he does what he does, he just needs to keep doing it!

In second place, we've got a response to the Supreme Court's statement that you cannot simply ban people from the internet. DannyB preemptively responded to those he suspected might take this entirely the wrong way:

Let me preemptively state this

This supreme court ruling does NOT mean that privately owned sites cannot ban, downvote or hide troll posts, such as this one. They can. They should. And they already do so.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another response to Bob Murray's lawsuit, this time from That One Guy pointing out how things are likely to get worse for Murray before they get better:

Yeah, Murray and his team really did not think this one through. It could have been over with, brought up in a single episode and then left behind as the show covered other topics, but by going legal they've ensured that it will be covered again, drawing even more attention both to the original episode and it's contents and now the fact that he's suing over it.

So congrats Murray and company, you just Streisand'd yourself quite nicely, and if you think you had it bad from the previous episode covering you, just wait until the next one.

Next, we head to our post about cord-cutting and the hilarious comment from Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge on needing to "move" customers "in the right direction" (read: higher prices), where TheResidentSkeptic offered an interpretation that makes more sense:

Tom may be correct...

... if by "move them in the right direction" he meant "towards the exit"

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is another response to the Supreme Court's take on internet bans. Roger Strong worried about other unexpected implications:

Now Trump's handlers will never be able to take away his Twitter account.

In second place, we've got a response to the expanded details of Bob Murray's lawsuit, which included a strange sympathy-play based on Murray's poor health. Roger Strong scored another win by expanding on one of their attempts to induce guilt:

"They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant,"

"This" being documenting his opposition to black lung regulations.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we move away to some new topics, like the big question about why the US government is giving the exclusive rights to a publicly-funded Zika vaccine to a private pharma giant. ShadowNinja did his best to contort the usual defence of patents and see if he could make it fit:

But Glyn, obviously the US government wouldn't have been motivated to develop the vaccine if they couldn't give the patent away to a foreign corporation and give them monopoly powers to charge whatever they want for the vaccine!

And finally, we've got a wonderful anonymous response to the Deputy Attorney General's request for $21-million to solve the FBI's "going dark" problem:

Must be some expensive light bulbs.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 June 2017 @ 12:25pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 18th - 24th

from the how-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

The Charles Carreon saga continued this week in 2012, with a lawsuit against Matthew Inman and the charities he was raising money for. When the full details of the suit became public, so did all sorts of nuttiness contained therein. Inman came to the table with an open letter, telling Carreon to take some time off and cool down — but he didn't listen, and promised to subpoena Twitter and Ars Technica over a parody account mocking him. Finally, at the very end of the week, he admitted the initial lawsuit was a mistake — but kept on digging anyway with new bizarre theories and attacks.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, NBC was on a copyright warpath, trying to get the FCC to force ISPs to monitor traffic for infringement, and trotting out the now famously hilarious attempt to blame movie piracy for hurting corn farmers. Viacom was still going full-force against YouTube and bulldozing over fair use in the process, even as YouTube (which played a big role in ending P2P's dominance of web traffic) was unveiling its video editing tool to encourage more user-generated content. And EMI was oh-so-shockingly discovering that people responded positively to the sale of DRM-free music.

Fifteen Years Ago

There are a variety of reactions I often have to these stories from these early days of Techdirt. Sometimes they include amusingly incorrect predictions or shockingly precise ones; sometimes it's simply intriguing to see the small beginnings of something that would later become a big deal. This week in 2002, there was one post that fell into that latter category in a particularly striking way that makes it very funny to read now in all its early innocence, and so I think it's worth reposting in full. In the days when the web was still fresh, before some of the bigger cyberwar panics, and long before today's perplexing geopolitical landscape, there was this small post entitled Can't Hack The Kremlin:

Apparently, since the new website of Russian President Vladimir Putin went online about 24 hours ago, more than 100 hackers have tried to break in. Putin is "excited" that the Kremlin's techies have been able to block all the hack attacks. Does anyone else think this is just begging for more hackers to hit the site until someone finds a way in? It seems odd to promote how proud you are that no one broke in after just one day.

And the rest is, as they say, history. And also current events.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 20 June 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 127: Copyright, Music & 'Theft'

from the a-legacy-of-copying dept

This week's episode is all about copyright and culture, with a pair of the best guests you could ask for on the subject. Almost ten years ago, law professors Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins released a comic book about copyright called Bound By Law, and now they are back with a sequel: Theft: A History of Music. This week, James and Jennifer join us to discuss the new comic and the history of copyright and music (with lots of fair use music snippets to demonstrate the legacy of 'theft')!

You should also be sure to check out the comic itself! You can download a digital copy for free of course, but for those who want to get their hands on the beautiful paperback edition, we've got a limited time offer for Techdirt fans: you can get it for only $8.99 at Createspace (that's 40% off!) when you use the discount code 2FESBPRQ within the next two weeks. It's also available on Amazon with a free Kindle edition included when you buy.

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 - 18 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the you-said-it dept

This week, after a Wisconson senator attacked net neutrality by bemoaning the supposed lack of "fast lanes" online, JoeCool won first place for insightful by summing up why that's nonsense:

The internet is ONE BIG "FAST LANE". What the ISPs want is to create a bunch of "slow lanes" to shove people into unless they pay a premium to get what they originally had.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got the first of several winning comments this week that came in response to Theresa May's attempts to kill encryption. An anonymous commenter was struck with a reminiscence:

Panopticon

I remember spending New Years Eve 1999 watching a documentary about the rise of the CCTV surveillance state in London and being disgusted by the trend even then. The dreams of Jeremy Bentham are alive and well in England (and here in the US, as well).

This is not now, nor has it ever been, about catching terrorists. It's about total control of the populace, the dream of every tyrant. They just can't seem to figure out that even if they had the tech to see, hear, and read everything, they don't have the manpower to do so and make sense of the intel, but I have no doubt they'll keep trying.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we look at Australia's Attorney General's similar campaign against encryption, in which he suggested the public would be fine with it because their use of Facebook shows they don't care about privacy. Roger Strong suggested he put his money where his mouth is:

Lead by example, George. Enact a policy that all government communications and storage encryption - including that by intelligence agencies - have back doors. With only the good guys given the passwords, of course.

Then continue the top-down approach. Mandate back doors for banks and their online banking systems. Then other large corporations.

Once the public sees how that works, they'll respond accordingly.

Hope This Helps!

Next, we've got a response to the latest bogus takedown of a YouTube video by a record label, where PlagueSD suggested a bit of turnabout as fair play:

The Dandy Warhols should apply some "RIAA math" and turn around and give a "Bill" to Universal Music for any views that they would have had if the site was never taken down.

Over on the funny side, both our top comments come in response to Theresa May's anti-encryption efforts. The first place winner is That Anonymous Coward, responding to a commenter who (for some insane reason) sees no problem with destroying encryption, but feared a conspiracy to silence their opinion on the matter:

Oh honey, get down off the cross... someone needs the wood.

In second place, we've got Gorshkov focusing on the other key part of the story — the fact that May's own party is actively using WhatsApp:

Hmmmmm ........

does this mean that the Tories are terrorists, and should be locked up?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out looking at yet another anti-encryption crusader — James Clapper, whose latest "nerd harder" demands gave TechDescartes a marketing idea:

The Clapper

Just invent a device that allows you to turn encryption on by clapping your hands. Turning it off would be as easy as clapping again. Clap on! Clap off!

Finally, we've got a response from Rapnel to the idea of using geofencing to prevent ISIS from using small drones:

We should regulate the air and apply penalties to any producers of air when air is found to be responsible for materially supporting or providing a platform for anything using air in a way we don't like. And we should geofence it too. And monitor it. And suck it up with a big air-vume. And we could distribute that air fairly to airtists so that they can produce more, air. .. but that's too leftist, isn't it? Or is it.. I'm torn.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 11th - 17th

from the a-saga-begins dept

Five Years Ago

It was this week in 2012 that The Oatmeal wrote a level-headed criticism of FunnyJunk and received, in return, a somewhat scattershot threat of a defamation lawsuit. As a result, a whole lot of internet attention and ire was turned on one man, whose name we'd become very familiar with: Charles Carreon, who dug in his heels and tried to shut down The Oatmeal's fundraiser. Then he lashed out and accused Matt Inman of "instigating security attacks", and then swore he'd find some legal avenue by which to go after Inman. The saga, as you know, will continue in future weeks...

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, media companies continued to pile on to YouTube with money-grab lawsuits. Sports leagues were actively fighting to claim ownership of facts about games, with the NCAA ejecting a reporter for live-blogging and Major League Baseball taking its legal fight over fantasy leagues to the appeals court. The MPAA and RIAA teamed up to create yet another lobbying group hot on the heels of the new Copyright Alliance, AT&T decided to start filtering infringing content for Hollywood, and a worrying court ruling ordered TorrentSpy to collect and hand over additional data on its users.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, in an act that practically defined "too little, too late", Sony and Universal announced plans to cut prices on digital music downloads. The BSA was beating its usual drum about the dangers of software piracy, the government was floundering when it came to internal use of technology, and the geeks in Silicon Valley were continuing to get more political. It was also this week that the late, great David Bowie shared some of his refreshingly forward-looking thoughts on copyright in the digital age, saying "I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing." Almost everything he said about the nature of the coming change was correct, but he underestimated the power, tenacity and deep pockets of those who continue to fight tooth and nail against it.

Ninety-Seven Years Ago

Most cliches exist for a reason — though tired, they are apt. It's easy to forget they had to come from somewhere, and fun to find out where that was. And so this week we celebrate the birth of a common political cliche: the "smoke-filled room" where big decisions are made by powerful people. It was on June 11th, 1920 that Raymond Clapper of the United Press first used the term to describe the nomination process for Warren G. Harding at the Republican National Convention, presumably not knowing it would enter the lexicon as a go-to shorthand.

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 June 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 126: Talking Freedom Of Information With A 'FOIA Terrorist'

from the freedom-of-podcasting dept

We've made FOIA requests several times over the years, with varying results — but there are others out there who have dedicated their careers to understanding and using the FOIA process. One such person is Jason Leopold, a Buzzfeed reporter and FOIA litigator who was dubbed a "FOIA terrorist" by the government. He joins us this week on the podcast to discuss the ins and outs of Freedom Of Information.

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 - 11 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the talk-amongst-yourselves dept

This week, we wrote about the ongoing plague of skewed priorities among law enforcement agencies when it comes to bodycam footage. That One Guy latched on to a particular detail and racked up the votes for most insightful comment of the week:

"I don't get it, why don't the people we beat and shoot respect us?"

Officer Mader was fired. The other cop was praised. According to the department, Mader "put two other officers in danger" by not immediately killing the suicidal man.

Not immediately killing someone who might be a danger is 'putting [people] in danger'. In pretty much any other profession that sort of mindset would get you arrested as a threat to those around you and subjected to extensive psychological counseling, yet for police it's just another day on the job, a job that apparently is not intended to have any risk whatsoever if methods up to and including murdering someone is considered acceptable to eliminate the potential for risk.

The cherry on top of that disgusting cake of course is that the scum who shot the man called the one who was willing to risk being shot by talking to the man a 'coward' afterwards. Because apparently in his warped mind it takes courage to gun someone down and cowardice to not pull the trigger. Stories like this make the 'The bad cops are a minority' narrative even more of a joke than it already was. Two entire departments were involved in these two cases, either directly or indirectly, with the only ones punished being the ones I would consider 'good cops'.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got a comment from Vidiot in response to Sen. Tom Cotton's attempt to permanently renew section 702:

"... a bill that would ensure this discussion is never raised again."

And virtually every day, we get to watch the effects of legislation and rulemaking that is carved in stone, never to be revisited to accommodate new environments, shifting contexts or even radical changes in underlying technologies.

How's that been working out?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response from Ninja to Theresa May's attempt to blame the internet for the London Bridge attack:

"We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed - yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,"

Really? Does the Internet allow for pro-democracy, good things to spread as well? How much of the traffic is devoted to promoting perceived bad things versus good things? And how much of that traffic you consider bad just because you don't like it?

"We need to work with allies democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning."

What would be classified as terrorism to you? Some people fed up by repeatedly pointing government abuse that start breaking things to be heard? People planning massive protests against some governmental action or policy? Journalists helping people leak government secrets that are evidence of sever abuse?

We could be complacent on the old lady for not knowing the internet but we all know this isn't about solving the problem. Terrorism is an awesome scapegoat to justify inserting authoritarian measures. The UK is using it like crazy to implement Orwell/V officially.

Next, we've got a response to a specific mention we made of the Berne Convention as something often invoked by people who don't understand copyright law but assume it forbids things they don't like, to which Christenson had an notable rejoinder:

What about those of us that *know* the Berne convention forbids stuff we don't like...like short copyright terms??

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is TechDescartes with a response to Drake's victory in a music sampling lawsuit:

The Irony is Delicious

The Drake song uses a large chunk of the Jimmy Smith Rap unchanged... but does make a few small edits, including changing Smith from saying "Jazz is the only real music that's gonna last..." to just saying "Only real music's gonna last..." Apparently the Jimmy Smith estate wasn't too happy with the changed meaning.

While it remains to be seen whether Drake's music lasts, there is a certain irony in the "Jimmy Smith Rap" having continuing value only because of Drake using it in a non-jazz song.

In second place, we've got a quip from wshuff in response to Europe's potential dark copyright future:

And once implemented, the Internet ground to a halt, people returned to the card catalog to find information, and finally, Big Library got what they'd be wanting all along.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a fresh entry in the running "countdown" joke about how long it takes to crack DRM. Roger Strong was inspired by the latest super-fast crack and played with the format a bit:

Gamer: Zero.

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

Gamer: Two.

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

Gamer: Dammit, they've broken temporal causality.

Reporter: How do they get two million triggers while denying performance issues?

And, finally, we've got a comment from NumberLord on the latest strange instalment in the monkey selfie case:

This is easily the worst of the Planet of the Apes sequels.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 4th - 10th

from the recollections dept

Five Years Ago

Early this week in 2012, as the world continued to get its head around the recently-leaked details of the Stuxnet worm, we wondered why the usually-leak-averse White House didn't seem to be hassling anyone over these huge revelations, leading us to ask whether Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning would face the same charges if he had shared info with the New York Times instead of Wikileaks. Of course, by the end of the week, the winds seemed to be turning a little bit, with reports of an FBI investigation and calls for a hearing from Sen. Feinstein.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, Google was struggling to make publishers realize that its book search could be their friend by helping them make co-branded versions of the search for their own websites. Publishers, meanwhile, were pulling absurd stunts like stealing Google laptops at trade shows in order to air their misguided displeasure. Up here in Canada, following extensive and bizarre shaming from the industry over an apparent movie camcording problem, politicians introduced a new anti-camdording bill. And as the world awaited the approaching and much-hyped release of the iPhone, a number of other devices started getting labelled (both correctly and incorrectly) as competitors.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, the Church of Scientology was locked in a battle with Google over search results, the BSA teamed up with Egypt to issue a Fatwa on piracy, and Microsoft told Hollywood to get over itself and put content online. The buzz around newfangled "blogs" reached a fever pitch (and this is, I think, the first week where we started solely referring to them as blogs and never mentioning "weblogs") so of course one big question was: can you make money with them? Another big question was whether or not they count as "journalism", and apparently Berkeley's opinion was yes.

Sixty-Eight Years Ago

Comparisons to George Orwell's Ninteen Eighty-Four are not exactly uncommon in today's political and social climate, and while I personally remember finding its senior counterpart Brave New World to be the more resonant and insightful dystopia (it's been a while since I've read either), it seems worth noting that it was on June 8th, 1949 that Orwell's masterpiece was first published.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 6 June 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 125: Re-Decentralizing The Web

from the listen-up dept

One of the fundamental strengths of the internet has always been its decentralization, but over time we've seen a bunch of different forces start to distort this setup. This week, we're joined by Jamie King, director of Steal This Film and host of the Steal This Show podcast to discuss the ongoing efforts to restore the decentralization of the web.

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 - 4 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the comments-on-comments dept

This week, our winning comment on the insightful side comes in response to our recognition of this month's stupidest patent: Ford's patent on a windshield. After one commenter said it looked strikingly similar to one from a car he used to own, Whoever won first place by taking that up a notch:

Looks suspiciously similar to the shape of the windshield of every car built in the last 30 years

FTFY.

Furthermore, arguably, the shape is functional, not ornamental: it is shaped to fit in the hole at the front of the passenger compartment.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got a comment from That Anonymous Coward in response to the Supreme Court shutting down Lexmark's third and final IP avenue for blocking third-party ink cartridges:

It would be impressive if the printer makers just got together and made standard ink carts. Stop selling printers at a loss, give up the dreams of money raining in on ink, and actually push the tech forward.

They can gain public support by pointing out that a unified cartridge market is better for the planet. They can be recycled easier, no trying to remember special code numbers in a sea of code numbers. I need a black cart, I need a magenta cart, etc.

The reason carts get refilled, remanufactured, & knocked off is there is a HUGE gap in what it actually costs to produce them vs retail prices.

Offer us better printers at a reasonable price (seriously, I know MULTIPLE people who just bought a new printer everytime the ink ran out because it was cheaper) & a unified ink platform. You'll kill off a majority of the 3rd parties in the market, because its a good price everywhere and not $50 for something that might print 20 pages before crapping out.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out by heading back to last week's comment post, where one commenter suggested that the rise of "blue lives matter" laws are caused by "society breaking down", leading Roger Strong to set the record straight on that:

Violent crime and robbery rates in the US have been dropping for decades. The same goes for police fatalities.

Even the great 1950s were a myth for most people. Society was just better at sweeping the problems under the rug.

Nice try though.

"Let others praise ancient times; I for one am glad I was born in these." - Ovid (43BC - AD18)

Next, we've got a comment from DannyB with a small correction to our headline about cord-cutting rates being worse than you think:

I have to disagree

The rate of cord cutting is not worse than you think.

It is better than you think.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment is some straightforward reductio ad absurdum from Jordan Chandler in response to a former FCC commissioner using the Manchester bombing as a prop to claim net neutrality aids terrorism:

Why does the government let unfettered access to food, water, and oxygen by terrorists? Who are these people providing them with electricity? Also those women that give birth to them, who's allowing that to happen? Also, Arabic, why is that a thing? Why do we allow terrorists to learn any language besides American? All these terrorists are alive too, why do we allow them to grow up?

In second place, we've got sorrykb with a quip on our post about our response to Titan Note's DMCA threat, featuring a letter by Ken White:

uh oh you printed the whole letter. Now Ken's going to sue you for copyright infringement.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of comic proposals in response to major issues. First, it's one more nod to DannyB for his solution to the TSA laptop ban:

At present, TSA can take away your drink, and then you are allowed to purchase a new drink once inside the secure area.

How about allow TSA to take away your laptop, and then you are allowed to purchase a new laptop once inside the secure area.

Problem solved. Everyone happy.

Next up: this should also apply to expensive jewelry. It could be a bomb.

And finally, we've got Rekrul with an idea for fighting Congress's latest surveillance bill:

How to kill this bill in one easy step:

A democrat stands up and says "Thank you gentlemen. This will make the FBI's investigation of Trump's Russia connections much easier."

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 June 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 28th - June 3rd

from the happy-birthday-to-you,-copyright-(I-can-sing-that-now,-right?) dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, Google's recently-unveiled tool for looking at DMCA takedown requests was revealing just how unbelievably stupid and bogus those requests so frequently are — but the RIAA was doing its best to blame its own failure to use the tools properly on Google, of course. Meanwhile, the government hit some speedbumps in its pursuit of Kim Dotcom when the New Zealand judge refused to rubber-stamp the extradition order, and the filings with the district court in the US revealed massive flaws in the government's case. Also, it was this week in 2012 that the New York Times revealed the extensive and fascinating details of the Stuxnet worm, confirming that it was a US-led project in conjunction with Israel.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, the world was still trying to get its head around YouTube and the explosion of user-generated content. For some that meant pointing out how some of it sucks as if that means anything. For others (like governments around the world) that sometimes meant banning YouTube all together, or just trying to cleverly restrict user-generated content via "free trade" agreements. In Venezuela, however, YouTube became the new refuge for a traditional TV station that was shut down by the government.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, in the much earlier days of the DMCA, the EFF released a report detailing all the negative fallout of the anti-circumvention provisions for free speech, fair use, and innovation. Governments were struggling to figure out how national laws work on a borderless web, and Silicon Valley was realizing the necessity of dipping its toe into the Washington lobbying game. Meanwhile, Blockbuster was scrambling to go head-to-head with Netflix (and I think we all know how that worked out), online banking seemed to be finally taking off in the US (though that may have just been anecdotal), and the music industry was still not listening to the many people telling it what a big mistake it was making by shutting down Napster.

Two-Hundred And Twenty-Seven Years Ago

We recently noted the 1710 passage of the Statute of Anne, the original prototype copyright law — and this week we mark the formal beginning of the copyright saga in the US. It was on May 31st, 1790 that George Washington signed the Copyright Act into law. At the time, the Act was only half a page long, and applied only to books, maps, and charts — though musical compositions were routinely registered as books.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 30 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 124: The Future Of Internet Copyright, With TechFreedom

from the copywrong dept

This week we've got a special crossover episode with our friends at TechFreedom. Mike joined their Tech Policy Podcast recently to discuss notice and takedown systems and the future of internet copyright, and we're cross-posting the conversation as an episode of the Techdirt Podcast too.

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 - 28 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the that's-what-they-said dept

This week, both winning comments on the insightful side came in response to our post about more legislators jumping on the "blue lives matter" bandwagon. Since the top comment was actually further down the same thread as the runner up, this week we'll present the winners in reverse order, starting with the second place winner from Anonymous Anonymous Coward who swooped in with the first comment on the post:

Another good take on this subject...

...From Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice: Only The Pure Shall Prevail

They are paid to take risks, that's the job description. Why more protections? It is simply a political ploy to 'enhance' ones 'anti crime' credentials leading up to the next election. This has nothing to do with the criminals (who might in fact not be criminals) and everything to do with politics.

That comment garnered one nonsensical, trollish response to which Rusty Eulberg offered a retort that won first place for insightful:

garbage collectors have more risk, with much less pay and respect:
https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-dangerous-jobs/

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to our post about Disney hitting a record $7-billion in box office returns last year (despite the MPAA crowing about piracy). Jeffrey Nonken examined anti-piracy efforts through a more traditional retail lens:

Used to be that retail stores had clerks that would fetch your items for you, ring up the total and send you on your way.

That changed. http://mentalfloss.com/article/85551/market-disrupted-how-piggly-wiggly-revolutionized-grocery-shopp ing Now this revolutionary new idea is pretty much universal: you fetch your own items, bring them to the clerk, who then rings you up and send you on your way.

Are there problems with this model? Yep. It makes it easier for customers to shoplift; there's a certain amount of loss as a result. But retail stores have discovered that the benefits of the new model FAR outweigh the drawbacks, and they were making more profit at a lower cost while making the customers happier.

How many gas stations offer full service these days?

And it's not stopped there. Now -- due in part to ubiquitous, inter-connected electronic forms of payment -- stores are starting to have you check YOURSELF out, with one clerk supervising a handful of registers. I don't know if shrinkage increases as a result, but obviously it's worth it to them. (AND the extra cost of the new equipment, conversion of several checkout lanes, plus extra training for the clerks.) Gas stations have been doing this for a while; I never need to go inside or talk to a clerk unless the receipt printer is broken, or I need a snack. Swipe card, fill tank, drive off.

Obviously steps are taken to keep shrinkage to a minimum, but it's otherwise treated as an inevitable cost of doing business. The most I ever see is a few particularly high-risk items being made a special case of.

Hollywood has gone the opposite direction: instead of treating a minor amount of shrinkage as inevitable, but worth the cost due to economies of scale, they're pouring tremendous amounts of effort into reducing shrinkage at comparatively high costs. One of which is making their customers unhappy. Same with game companies, who toss tons of money at DRM that only inconveniences the people who actually buy their games.

It's probably a form of Loss Aversion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion They're so afraid of losing a little that they don't see how much it's costing to prevent the loss. And they're losing anyway, which is why they keep doubling down.

"Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim." - George Santayana

Learn from Piggly Wiggly, guys. It's not too late.

Of course, there's one critical point missing there, which orbitalinsertion provided in a reply reminding us that copying is not theft:

It isn't much shrinkage either, when there is no actual loss. Not even distribution costs. Just someone potentially not making more money. Mostly it is just people who would never see something otherwise, so we are not even talking lost sales except for a small fraction of infringement. Which isn't as all pervasive as they claim anyway. It would be like Piggly Wiggly claiming their shelves are constantly empty from theft while making 10,000% profits somehow.

Over on the funny side, we remain on that post for our first place winner — an anonymous comment suggesting Disney's record might not invalidate piracy fears after all:

You do have to realize that without piracy, Disney would've made $7.1 billion in the global box office.

In second place, we've got a comment from Hugo S Cunningham in response to the critical Supreme Court ruling that shut down patent jurisdiction shopping and its associated havens:

Marshall TX can file for Federal Disaster relief...

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more comment on that post, this time from K'Tetch on the next steps forward:

I guess I should sue now, because the SCOTUS has violated my patent for 'reducing jurisdiction shopping for patent infringement suits" - I'll see them in East Texas.

And finally, we've got a sarcastic response from Chris ODonnell to the Boston Globe's bizarre decision to block readers who are using their browser's privacy mode:

Lucky for The Globe 100% of their news is proprietary and can't be found on any other site.

That's all for this week, folks! We're off tomorrow for Memorial Day then back to our regular schedule on Tuesday.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 21st - 27th

from the how-many-roads dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, the jury in the Oracle/Google patent trial ruled that there was no infringement, while Judge Alsup revealed his coding knowledge on the copyright side. MPAA boss Chris Dodd was saying they should stop calling infringement "theft" despite the MPAA's own website doing exactly that many times, Congress proposed giving ICE another ten million dollars to fight intellectual property infringement, and TV networks were suing DISH with the insane argument that skipping commercials is copyright infringement. Meanwhile, five years before its recent successful reusable rocket tests, SpaceX was making its first successful cargo run to the ISS, marking a significant milestone in private space travel.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, the proprietary video services launched by various companies were continuing to struggle and die off, with CNN dropping its paid online video service while Time Warner struggled with its own, and Budweiser got ready to kill the ill-fated Bud.TV. The RIAA was trying to close the "radio loophole" by convincing Congress to force radio stations to pay royalties for playing music (leading some to notice that the industry was similarly worried about the "jukebox loophole" nearly half a century earlier), even while it was carefully backing down on new webcasting royalty rates that would have killed smaller webcasters.

Fifteen Years Ago

The webcasting battle was not new — five years earlier this week in 2007, an equally disastrous attempt to enact webcasting royalties fell through. Meanwhile, a virus that aimed to stop the trading of infringing material was spreading on the Kazaa network, Hollywood was trying to get copy protection built into all analog-to-digital converters, and you could cut the tension between Silicon Valley and Hollywood with a knife. Google launched its now-defunct Labs page, authoritarian regimes were wielding the power of the internet in frightening new ways, and the still-DVD-based Netflix went public, joining the ranks of stocks-you-really-wish-you'd-bought.

One-Hundred And Seventy-One Years Ago

They've done good reporting and bad, they've struggled to adapt to the digital world, and we've often criticized them here on Techdirt — but nevertheless the Associated Press is an old and proud fixture of the journalistic world, and it was on May 22nd, 1846 that it was founded by five New York City dailies to share the cost of covering the Mexican-American War.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 23 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 123: No, The MP3 Isn't Dead

from the seriously,-damnit dept

When the "death of the MP3" started being reported, we were among the very few blogs that said umm, no — but the deluge of eulogies for the still-thriving format has been overwhelming and quite surprising. This week I join the podcast to discuss why the MP3 isn't dead, and how so much of the tech press got it so wrong.

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 - 21 May 2017 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the comment-one-comment-all dept

This week, we covered the disturbing story of a cop whose huge number of impaired driving arrests turned out to stem from his arbitrary decisions about who was impaired as though it was some sort of magical ability. Roger Strong took a firm line on responding to this, and enough people agreed to make it the first place winner for insightful:

Officer T.T. Carroll is a known serial liar.

The Cobb County police department supports and encourages serial liars.

Cobb County police department arrest records are not credible.

These points should be raised in ANY trial where Cobb County police testimony is presented, or any background check using police records.

In second place, we've got a response from JoeCool to the Conan O'Brien joke stealing lawsuit, making the case that some jokes essentially write themselves:

Topical jokes shouldn't be eligible for copyright

Seriously, I heard that same joke about the MVP truck from a dozen people before it made it online or TV. It was the most obvious joke in the world, and therefore not all that funny. Given how much humans value humor and how many people at least TRY to be funny, I expect that EVERY topical joke is reinvented thousands of times independently. As such, they don't deserve any sort of protection.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head to our post about Microsoft's angry response to the NSA following the WannaCry ransomware debacle, which made use of a leaked NSA exploit. First, mcinsand did a good job of summing up the most important lesson for the government to learn here:

Senators Feinstein and Burr Need to Pay Attention

For the slow class, there is an important lesson here. An unintentional weakness created havoc this week, and the NSA's knowledge hurt national and global security by not working with Microsoft to fix the problem. If an accidental flaw can cause trouble, then a designed-in backdoor has at least the same potential for damaging our security. We will only make our nation less secure by hiding vulnerabilities or, especially, if we actually deliberately create them; we will make our nation more secure, however, if we work to secure our software.

However, PaulT also made a good point that sparked a conversation about Microsoft that is worth checking out in full:

I appreciate MS here, but they have to accept a lot of responsibility for the situation. It's not just about their historically shoddy record of security (although that's undoubtedly improved), it's about how they've run their ecosystem for so long.

Many people have had major issues installing Windows updates in the past, so they make sure they're turned off. Lots of people killed Windows 7/8 updates because they wanted to avoid being forced to install Windows 10 without their permission.

MS has been really bad at separating actual critical updates from other types of changes, so there's no middle ground in a lot of areas - especially businesses where their updates have been known to kill mission critical production systems if not properly vetted. So, they don't rush to install new patches unless they're made aware of an urgent reason to do so.

Part of the reason why some places were still running XP has to do with compatibility issues for certain software and drivers. I can understand why Microsoft wants to get away from supporting such things. But, if they have introduced problems in getting legacy products to run on a new OS, then they're the reason people didn't upgrade to an OS that was protected against this attack.

All kudos due to Microsoft for coming out and saying what they have here, and taking a stance against the NSA (although a large part of that is probably self-preservation rather than altruism). But, they have to recognise that their own actions, not just recently but over most peoples' experience with their products, has led to everyone being less secure. Saying they released a patch a couple of months ago is no good when the reason why the patches weren't applied on so many machines is because of their own historical behaviour.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Roger Strong who had a hilarious response to the BBC's bizarre new commenting policy that says they might report abusive comments to your boss:

If you're abusive AND insightful, they let you host Top Gear.

For second place, we head to our post about the Japanese music collection society that wants music schools to pay up for the performance rights to songs they teach to students. My_Name_Here provided a case study in Poe's Law with a comment that racked up a lot of funny votes despite nobody being quite sure if it was actually a joke:

I know this will be hidden, but

If composers aren't paid when students are being taught to play songs they've already written, why would they write more songs that will simply be performed for free? Masnick doesn't like thinking about these unfortunate truths, because they don't mesh with his piratey worldview.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more comment on that post. This time it's Roger Strong again with a great survival tip:

If I were ever lost alone in the woods, I'd just sing a happy tune.

Because then I could get directions from the collection society representative demanding payment for the public performance.

(And yes, it's a public performance if animals hear it.)

Finally, we've got a different kind of survival tip from Jigsy — a creative response to immigrations officers requesting account passwords:

"Why yes, officer. My password is the last 21 digits of Pi."

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: May 14th - 20th

from the the-more-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, a Microsoft-funded effort to disrupt BitTorrent was drawing scrutiny, EMI was gloating over the demise of MP3Tunes, and the MPAA was cheering on legal rulings against the Pirate Bay. Of course, one of those rulings was called into question when a Dutch judge's connections to anti-piracy groups drew accusations of corruption, and one of TPB's founders was taking the legal fight over a Swedish ruling to the EU courts. Meanwhile, protestors against the TPP were getting creative, Chile was threatening to drop out of the negotiations all together, Rep. Darrell Issa posted an old leaked version of the agreement for discussion, and the USTR was still attempting to claim that listening to people counts as "transparency".

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, while the MPAA was making some curious changes to its opaque and esoteric ratings system, the RIAA was getting journalists to parrot its propaganda about its copyright shakedowns, and Microsoft was spreading unoriginal FUD about Linux infringing on its patents (prompting Sun to remind it that real companies don't litigate, they innovate). Cinemas were lashing out at the idea of getting rid of movie release windows, CBS was learning why trying to build its own online video destination was a bad idea, and the latest update to AACS was cracked before it even hit the market. We also witnessed the birth of The Copyright Alliance at the hands of the RIAA, MPAA, Disney, Viacom and more.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sometimes — such as this week in 2002 — cracking CD protection was as easy as using a black marker or some electrical tape. Then again, other times the CD might lock up your iMac and force you to take it in for repairs. While the copyright world was discussing big, sweeping ideas like blanked licensing fees paid to ISPs and compulsory licenses for music downloads, the recently-announced Creative Commons was launching in earnest.

Also, you know that oft-mentioned fact about how everyone from Europe is descended from Charlemagne as a matter of mathematical inevitability? It was this week in 2002 that those numbers were first crunched.

One-Hundred And Fifteen Years Ago

Most of you are probably at least vaguely familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, an shockingly advanced astronomical calculator/analog computer from Ancient Greece. It was on May 17th, 1902 that the mechanism was discovered by an archaeologist examining the remnants of a ship, itself discovered on the sea floor two years earlier by sponge divers.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 16 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 122: Truth And Fiction With Cory Doctorow

from the don't-walkaway-from-this-one dept

Most Techdirt readers are already familiar with Cory Doctorow, whether via his EFF work, the BoingBoing blog, his novels, or all of the above. This week, he joins us on the podcast for an in-depth discussion about his new book Walkaway and much, much more.

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 - 15 May 2017 @ 11:45am

The MP3 Is About As 'Dead' As Pepe The Frog

from the reports-have-been-greatly-idiotic dept

Last week, there were two widely reported "deaths" on the internet: Pepe The Frog and the MP3 audio codec. Most people seemed to understand what was meant by the former headline -- that you cannot in fact kill a meme, no matter how distasteful its use, and the death of Pepe in an official cartoon strip was a symbolic disavowal of the character by its creator. But on the MP3 issue people seem a bit more confused.

Here's what happened: in late April (not sure why there was such a big delay in the explosion of blog posts) Fraunhofer IIS, the research company that holds the patents on MP3 encoders and decoders, announced that it had terminated the licensing program for those patents, for the stated reason that the format has been surpassed by alternatives like AAC (which is also patented and licensed by Fraunhofer). For some reason, a whole lot of media outlets have accepted this at face value and reported that the format is now officially on its way out. "The MP3 is Dead" headlines abound, with only a small few bothering to add qualifiers like "according to its creators" or the classic rejoinder "long live the MP3":

Most of the articles buried some attempt to call the move "symbolic" or clarify that the files would still exist towards the end of their coverage, after much eulogizing, but almost none took the time to understand anything about the patent situation, or expose Fraunhofer's huge lie of omission in its announcement.

Because here's what really happened: the last of the patents related to the MP3 format expired (or will very soon -- more on that later), so Fraunhofer has nothing left to license. The termination of the licensing program was not a choice, nor was it suddenly motivated by the ascendence of another format that has itself been around for 20 years. Most importantly, despite what many people have reported, this does not mean the death of the MP3. Of course, Fraunhofer's statement didn't contradict any of these things, it just omitted them all and left people with the implication that this move ensured the decline and eventual death of the format -- when in fact it likely means the exact opposite.

Prior to this, developers wishing to include MP3 functionality in their software needed a license to do so. If you use Linux, or open source audio tools like the excellent Audacity, you already know this: open-source software doesn't ship with MP3 encoding and decoding capabilities built in, but requires you to separately download and install the codec so as not to pollute the FOSS package with proprietary, patented code. That's no longer the case, and indeed Red Hat has already announced that Fedora will now ship with MP3 capabilities built in (hat tip there to one of the few blogs that is reporting this story properly). Expect Audacity and countless other FOSS apps to follow suit soon. As for non-open-source software, it's one less patent number on the long lists of licenses that live on loading splash screens and About dialogues, and a little bit of saved cost. All around, it's the removal of a barrier to building apps and tools that work with this ubiquitous audio format.

Does that sound like death to you?

So does Fraunhofer's announcement actually mean anything? Well, a little bit: as noted, it actually hasn't been 100% clear when all the patents would expire, due to the size and complexity of the patent thicket in the overall MPEG ecosystem. It was generally agreed that all patents covering MP3s would expire this year, and many had pegged the date as the end of April, but this was much harder to confirm. Fraunhofer's announcement does not offer any specific information to make this determination easier (since it doesn't admit that this has anything to do with patent expiry at all), but developers like Red Hat are taking it as a sign that the patents are officially expired and the format is free to use.

While it's frustrating that Fraunhofer issued such a misleading statement, it's even more frustrating that so much of the media uncritically parroted it. Some also decided to throw in some scattershot links to various questionable studies claiming MP3 compression has negative effects like stripping out the "emotion" from music (that particular study was conducted on just 20 college students, and used MP3s encoded at a bit-rate well below the modern norm for music distribution) to bolster the idea that MP3 compression must be replaced by the still-patented AAC codec. I'm sure Fraunhofer was grateful.

So, no: the MP3 is not dead. Its creators have not killed it. Like Pepe the Frog, it's alive and well and probably isn't going anywhere for a long time -- except in this case we can actually be happy about that fact.

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