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Posted on Techdirt - 16 May 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the speak-and-spell dept

This week, both our winners on the insightful side come in response to our post about Dartmouth's insane paranoia over cheating, and the resultant surveillance scandal. In first place, it's That One Guy with a comment about the fact that the college appeared to be hiding its due process policies:

Nothing says 'We're on the right side of this issue and students can trust that they will be treated fairly if they come here' like trying to hide your own campus policies while pressuring students to 'admit' to cheating based upon evidence not provided to them to refute.

In second place, it's an anonymous commenter questioning why certain things count as "cheating" to begin with:

I never understood the point of memorizing formulas. Being able to recite the quadratic formula from memory doesn't mean I'm better at solving an equation.

The ability to use the knowledge properly is what needs to be tested, not simply checking to see if you can regurgitate the text.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another anonymous comment, responding to the notion that pharma patents are important because the drug companies "take all the risks":

No. Pharma does not take "all the risks" (what risks?), and regularly makes use of publicly-funded (or otherwise not funded by pharma) research and data, then locks up not only the end product, but also previously publicly available information and data resulting from their trials. This is all bullshit and allowing it is an unconscionable and unfair subsidy to these companies. Further, they have an avenue to extend patents unfairly by otherwise pointlessly tweaking a formula or process, which somehow keeps the original process locked up.

Seriously, for real?

Next, it's Stephen T. Stone with an important addition to our frequently-made point about how the powerful abuse content moderation tools to suppress the vulnerable:

And sometimes not on purpose. When adult-oriented content (e.g., porn) gets driven from platforms, LGBTQ people are inevitably hit first and hardest by such bans because of preëxisting biases about LGBTQ content — namely, that such content is inherently sexual/adult-oriented.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is UhHuh with a comment about the latest bad Section 230 reform bill and how its requirement for publicly available reports interacts with its other requirements:

That website better have a top-notch consumer protection policy....

In second place, it's That One Guy deploying a portion of a favorite joke in response to the simple question of exactly which "conservative" views are supposedly being censored around the web:

Oh, you know...

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from JMT about the bogey man of "left-wing fascism":

Nearly as bad as Christian Satanism but not quite as bad as vegan cannibalism...

Next, it's Baron von Robber with a reaction to the news about Trump's DOJ targeting journalists to protect his reputation:

Trump projects so hard, he could run 6 movies simultaneously at a drive-in.

That's all for this week, folks!

5 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 15 May 2021 @ 12:00pm

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

from the back-then dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, the copyright fight over the Star Trek fan film Axanar was allowed to move forward — though without the too-soon attempt to raise the silly question of copyright on the Klingon language. The UK government was pushing for ten-year jail sentences for copyright infringement, HBO was abusing the DMCA process to stop Game of Thrones spoilers, and we took a look at Minnesota's insanely broad publicity rights law. It was also the week of the opening statements in the Oracle v. Google case that would carry on for years.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, two important DMCA cases (IsoHunt and Veoh) were being heard by the 9th Circuit, while Limewire settled its own case, the US Copyright Group was allowed to move forward with a massive shakedown operation, and BMI was arguing that a single person listening to their own music via the cloud was a public performance under copyright law. Copyright maximalists were also opposing new TLDs for some reason and trying to get domain censorship capabilities included in the .net TLD. This was also the week that we first saw the PROTECT IP act and its extremely bad text that could gut parts of the DMCA and make linking a felony.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, Apple (the tech company) won its trademark battle against Apple (the record label) with help from the now-famous "moron in a hurry" defense. Movie studios were tepidly trying to embrace BitTorrent while failing to understand it, due in large part to the industry's obsession with DRM (though at the same time, the recording industry magnanimously decided it would allow people to rip their own CDs, and Sony was admitting that its DRM-laden proprietary music format was a strategic error). We took a bigger look at why the argument for the necessity of copy protection doesn't make sense, in stark contrast to the analyst who was arguing that a lack of mobile DRM will lead to billions in losses.

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Posted on Tech & COVID - 12 May 2021 @ 11:57am

Canada Still Won't Commit To Supporting A Pandemic Patent Waiver

from the inexcusable dept

Few things illustrate the broken state of our global intellectual property system better than the fact that, well over a year into this devastating pandemic and in the face of a strong IP waiver push by some of the hardest hit countries, patents are still holding back the production of life-saving vaccines. And of all the countries opposing a waiver at the WTO (or withholding support for it, which is functionally the same thing), Canada might be the most frustrating.

Canada is the biggest hoarder of vaccine pre-orders, having secured enough to vaccinate the population five times over. Despite this, it has constantly run into supply problems and lagged behind comparable countries when it comes to administering the vaccines on a per capita basis. In response to criticism of its hoarding, the government continues to focus on its plans to donate all surplus doses to the COVAX vaccine sharing program — but these promises were somewhat more convincing before Canada became the only G7 country to withdraw doses from COVAX. Despite all this, and despite pressure from experts who explain how vaccine hoarding will prolong the pandemic for everyone, the country has continually refused to voice its support for a TRIPS patent waiver at the WTO.

Last week, the US finally said that it would support a waiver. This position has issues — there's no commitment to a specific proposal, just to negotiating a new one, so the devil is very much in the details — but the top-line promise of support for the general concept is meaningful and welcome. Some suspected that Canada might finally follow suit with, at least, a similarly open-to-interpretation promise — but apparently the government can't even go that far, and has stated that it's still "weighing support":

Following a meeting with his G7 counterparts, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said discussion on whether to lift patents, as was done in the AIDS crisis, was “very active” but said Canada is still weighing the options.

“Canada’s position is that we need to obtain more vaccines, we need to all put more money into the COVAX program, and by the way Canada is the fourth largest contributor to the COVAX program, and we need to discuss with manufactures whether they’re prepared to make licensing arrangements to allow greater production of the vaccine,” he said in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play.

This position is baffling and infuriating. Canada has already missed its chance to be a leader in the call for a truly cooperative global vaccine production strategy, and now it's missing its opportunity to at least be an early supporter among high-income countries. Meanwhile, the country's struggling rollout has convinced many citizens that its procurement has been too slow despite being the world's biggest hoarder of orders. As other countries like India face devastation, the ruling Canadian Liberal party's opposition (especially Conservative provincial premiers, who are among the most responsible for the failed rollout) are taking the opportunity to shift blame and bring dangerous isolationist dog whistles into the mainstream by claiming the country's only real problem is poor border controls. Canada is also struggling to fund development of a homegrown vaccine, and build out domestic manufacturing capacity that was sorely lacking when the pandemic hit. All of this is ample reason for Canada to support an IP waiver that would increase global supply, stem the spread of COVID around the world and especially in hard-hit places like India that traditionally have lots of people traveling to the country, and maybe even accelerate domestic vaccine production. Instead, Canada is hedging its bets and letting its struggling pandemic response become a partisan football in a political debate laced with misinformation and toxic nationalism while millions of Canadians — and billions around the world — still wait for their chance to get vaccinated.

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 May 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 282: The Facebook Oversight Board's Trump Decision

from the high-profile dept

Last week, the Oversight Board made its highest profile decision yet: upholding Facebook's suspension of Donald Trump, though with the caveat that it needs clearer policy reasons to make the suspension indefinite. Unsurprisingly, a whole lot of people have a whole lot of opinions on this, and we wanted to learn more about the decision from the source. Julie Owono is an Oversight Board member and the Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières, and she joins us on this week's episode to discuss how this decision was reached and what it means for Facebook.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 - 10 May 2021 @ 3:36pm

The Stunning Inability Of Canada's Heritage Minister To Answer Questions About His Internet Regulation Bill

from the not-very-reassuring dept

We've written about Bill C-10, the Canadian government's attempt to bring online services under the auspices of the country's broadcast regulator, the CRTC, and the way the story about the bill keeps shifting and the promises about what it supposedly won't do keep being broken.

Now, work on the the bill has been paused after lawmakers from all four parties voted to ask the Department of Justice for a fresh analysis of its legality under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They've also asked for the bill's champion, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, and others to come before the committee and discuss its implications. But Guilbeault has consistently demonstrated a total inability to give clear answers (or, sometimes, any answers at all) to questions people raise about their concerns with the bill. This has been made "crystal clear" (a term Guilbeault has wrongly applied to the muddy and vague bill itself) by some of his responses over the past couple of weeks.

First, at the end of April, Guilbeault was pressed for details in an interview on the CBC, with host David Common asking why the exclusion for social media content was removed from the bill and how the Minister can still claim it won't be impacted (you can watch the full interview here). As you can see, his answer — inasmuch as it constitutes an answer — is not very convincing:

Why won't Bill C-10 impact user content on social media? Because they're "not interested" in doing that and it's not the bill's "purpose". Oh and also the bill isn't finished. The fact that an exclusion to specifically prevent regulation of social media was removed is, apparently, irrelevant. The powers granted by the actual text of the bill are, apparently, irrelevant. The idea that regulators would use the regulatory powers given to them by the bill "has no basis in reality". Just trust him.

Not convinced? Well, a few days later in the legislature, Guilbeault was pressed by an opposition Member of Parliament on the free expression implications of the bill, and he gave even less of an answer:

Yes, you saw that — Guilbeault immediately pivoted to the completely unrelated topic of reproductive rights and lobbed accusations of hypocrisy at the questioner. Those accusations might not be entirely baseless, but they are entirely irrelevant to this subject that is of extreme importance to all Canadians, not just those on the opposite side of the political aisle from Guilbeault. The Minister also accused another MP of lying about the bill, and was reprimanded in the House of Commons and pressed to withdraw his statement. The Liberal party would very much like it if people viewed opposition to Bill C-10 as a purely partisan effort coming from disingenuous and dishonest opposition politicians, but nothing could be further from the truth.

But Guilbeault's evasiveness and foundering doesn't stop there. The latest interview (watch the whole thing here), in which he changed his previous story and stated that the bill will enable the regulation of users on platforms like YouTube, might be the worst one yet:

Guilbeault manages to contradict himself in a matter of seconds. After the understandably frustrated interviewer presses him, yet again, on his promises that the bill won't regulate social media users, he emphatically insists "individuals are exempt from this la-" and can't quite make it to the end of the word "law" before cutting himself off to say "or will be, once it's adopted". Then, in the very next sentence, he says that the bill will apply to individuals who "act like broadcasters" then vaguely asserts that such people are somehow completely distinct from "everyday citizens". As we discussed in the previous post, he then goes on to be completely unable to clarify how this line would be drawn. And then, the next day, he backtracked these comments and made more insistent promises that users will not be regulated.

Even Canadians who know very little about the subject of online regulation are noticing how desperate and vague Guilbeault gets every time he's pressed for details, and are unimpressed by his obviously evasive deflections in parliament. Now even MPs from his own party are seeking answers. If the government is going to do what it should and toss out C-10 to start over with a brand new bill, it also needs to find a more capable and trustworthy champion for it.

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 May 2021 @ 10:44am

Minister Behind Canada's Social Media Bill Now Says It Will Regulate User Generated Content

from the shifting-stories dept

Update: The Minister has now attempted to backtrack these latest comments and repeated his insistence that the bill will not apply to social media users, though the impact the regulatory powers — which he says will apply to the platforms — will have on users remains unclear.

Throughout the Canadian government's legislative push to give broadcast regulators power over online services, the story on exactly what the bill would do has continually shifted, and its author, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, has been consistently vague and evasive in the face of questioning from other lawmakers and the media. He has repeatedly insisted that Bill C-10 is designed to target large audio and video services that act like broadcasters, but will not impact individual users of sites like YouTube and Twitch — despite the fact that the clause which would have clearly prevented this was removed and a new amendment confirms that social media will be subject to at least some regulation.

The latest development is another change in the story: in a recent interview, Guilbeault stated that the new regulatory powers can apply to YouTube channels:

"What we want to do, this law should apply to people who are broadcasters, or act like broadcasters. So if you have a YouTube channel with millions of viewers, and you're deriving revenues from that, then at some point the CRTC will be asked to put a threshold. But we're talking about broadcasters here, we're not talking about everyday citizens posting stuff on their YouTube channel," Guilbeault said.

One of the main points critics of the bill have been making is that, despite Guilbeault's insistence that it won't impact individual users, he's never been able to explain why not given the powers the bill gives to the broadcast regulators at the CRTC. This latest comment just confirms it: whatever the stated intent, the bill leaves it up to the CRTC to decide if and when to extend their new regulatory powers to a user of a platform like YouTube. He frames this as not impacting "everyday citizens" but, of course, many everyday citizens on social media can get huge audiences on par with major broadcasting operations — that's kind of the whole point, and one of the reasons people are rightfully opposed to the government regulating people's speech on those platforms. And of course, as always, the bill doesn't offer any clear, solid protections against overreach — nor does Guilbeault:

Asked repeatedly what the threshold would be for CRTC scrutiny, whether a certain number of millions of followers, or a certain amount of advertising revenue, the minister said it’s something the government will ask the CRTC to determine, but that it would be entities that have a "material impact on the Canadian economy."

This vague and almost meaningless condition isn't very reassuring, especially coming from the same person who recently insisted that the bill wouldn't impact users of these platforms at all.

Opposition to the bill is rightfully growing throughout Canada and across party lines, and there's a growing amount of speculation about the legal challenges that C-10 is likely to face if passed. If the government really wants to achieve its primary stated goal of getting major audio and video services like Netflix and Spotify to support Canadian content the way traditional broadcasters are required to (a proposal that still raises significant questions that will need to be examined), they're first going to need to unveil a completely revamped bill that actually addresses people's very real concerns and places clear limitations on the CRTC's power to ensure that it won't curtail Canadians' freedom of speech, and stop trying to feed the country a vague and shifting story interspersed with desperate promises that the bill won't do what everyone can see it will.

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 May 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the words-with-friends dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is an anonymous comment responding to Trump's description of his new microblog platform as "a beacon of freedom" and "a place to speak freely and safely":

Translation: "You are free to praise and agree with Trump or you are free to shut up and go away."

In second place, it's That Anonymous Coward with some thoughts on Hollywood lobbyists fighting against IP waivers for COVID vaccines:

Does anyone still have any doubt that they value copyright more than human life?

Not a SINGLE movie can prevent or treat covid, but JUST IN CASE we should make sure people die for not being able to pony up for access to the IP.

Tell me again how the system isn't broken and I will so bitch slap you into next week.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous response to the ol' "intellectual property promotes innovation" claim:

Wow dude. Way to be completely wrong. Modern American innovation is stunted by modern American "intellectual property" laws. Innovation is discouraged by "IP" laws that penalize/ban innovation that anyone can argue is somehow related to their own works.

It is kind of like someone took a look at the history of western science and said "These people are learning from each other, and frequently come up with ideas based on the ideas that came before. Let us have less of this."

Next, it's another anonymous comment in response to the latest example of cops behaving badly:

Cops are... really not great at putting up arguments for why they shouldn't be defunded.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is n00bdragon with another response to Hollywood opposing IP waivers:

Those researchers would never have created a COVID vaccine if they didn't expect a movie to be made about it.

In second place, it's Stephen T. Stone with a comment about the description of people who "had already decided their conclusion and was looking for strawmen to throw up and tear down in order to 'bolster' their point":

Kinda reminds me of someone around here. Oh, I wish I could think of their name. But damn it all, I can’t come up with that name right now. You got any ideas?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from bobvious responding to the argument from Senator Tillis that we can't go sharing "government-supported research":

Come now Mike. Don't you realise that means that Senator Tillis is paying for this out of his OWN pocket??

Finally, we've got K'Tetch who did the legwork to make an ironic joke about our post on bogus DMCA scams based on plagiarized websites:

Oh for shame!

How dare you!
Don't you know I wrote this article first! back on April 31st 1957? How dare you try and claim it as yours!

That's all for this week, folks!

11 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 8 May 2021 @ 12:45pm

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

from the what-went-down dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, we were pleasantly surprised when an Australian government commission spoke out about the harms of bad copyright law and bad patent law, while the University of North Dakota was teaching a student all about trademark abuse. The DOJ was issuing new rules on espionage investigations in the apparent hopes of avoiding embarrassment, while at the same time deploying some very questionable legal arguments in defense of the FBI's hacking warrants, and the National Intelligence Office's top lawyer was stepping up to defend bulk surveillance and the third-party doctrine. We also took a look at how the proper channels for whistleblowers were still a joke, as was the proper channel for requesting government records.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, Righthaven's woes continued as unsealed documents in one case had other judges questioning the legitimacy of their lawsuits, while the infamous John Steele also got slammed by a judge for a fishing expedition, and Perfect 10 sued the Usenet provider Giganews. Meanwhile, the White House published its obnoxious annual Special 301 naughty list of countries with IP laws the US doesn't like, and we took a look at just how dangerous the USTR's approach to naming-and-shaming could be.

But the biggest news of the week didn't have much of a Techdirt angle — until we saw the story of the man who unknowingly live-tweeted the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, there was growing buzz about whether software-as-a-service would kill piracy, while evidence continued to show that the war on movie piracy wasn't working. Epson was engaged in the fight against off-brand ink cartridges and the Supreme Court took a sudden interest in patent cases. The content industries were playing their game of sneaking bad rules into treaties, while we looked at the constitutionality of the RIAA's per-song fines. And it's always interesting to see a quiet, simple mention of Section 230 back before it was known to everyone, in this case in a post about all the lawsuits targeting Google.

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 May 2021 @ 9:40am

If You're Going To Defend A Satirical Song From A Copyright Lawsuit, Don't Try A Bunch Of Stupid Alternative Arguments First

from the bad-idea dept

Australian mining billionaire and former politician Clive Palmer has been hit with a $1.5-million judgement over unauthorized use of the song "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister. The suit was brought by Universal Music after, as part of a 2019 political campaign, Palmer made videos using a modified version of the song with the lyrics "Australia ain’t gonna cop it, no Australia’s not gonna cop it, Aussies not gonna cop it any more". Setting aside the rather questionable scansion, it's a pretty obvious modification of the famous song, giving it at least a chance of qualifying for the fair dealing exception for parody and satire that exists under Australian copyright law. But in a ruling today the court has rejected that argument entirely:

Justice Katzmann described the argument that the UAP works were for the purpose of satire as "ambitious, to say the least".

At first blush, this seems insane when the song is so obviously an attempt at some kind of satire or parody. But the background of the case shows why the court reached this decision — because Palmer originally tried out a bunch of different (and pretty crazy) arguments. First, he denied that his lyrics were even based on the song they are so obviously based on:

Mr Palmer was accused of lying during his evidence when he appeared before the court in October.

He claimed his lyrics, which included "Australia ain't gonna cop it", had nothing to do with the metal song but were inspired by a similar line in the 1976 film Network.

Justice Katzmann said that suggestion "appeared to take everyone else in the virtual courtroom by surprise".

Mr Palmer said he couldn't provide the notepad he originally scrawled his ideas on because it had been thrown out by his staff.

The judge was understandably extremely unimpressed by this, calling it "ludicrous" and "fanciful", especially when it was known that Palmer had sought a license originally:

But the trial also heard a representative for Palmer had originally sought copyright approval from Universal before baulking at the $150,000 fee.

In a scathing judgement, Katzmann rejected Palmer’s claims, finding that it was “ludicrous” of the mining billionaire to suggest his song was “created independently” of the Twisted Sister hit.

She found him to be “a most unimpressive witness” and that his evidence was “at times incredible”. She said Palmer gave “false evidence” during the trial including “concocting a story to exculpate himself”, indicating “that the need for both punishment and deterrence is high”.

Palmer's lawyers also threw in an attempt to invalidate the copyright on the Twisted Sister song for lack of originality, on the basis that it is similar to the Christmas carol O Come, All Ye Faithful. Only after all these arguments failed did Palmer invoke a fair dealing defense for parody and satire, which certainly explains the judge's characterization of it as "ambitious".

So while Palmer has nobody to blame but himself and his lawyers for this outcome, it's unfortunate for the rest of us that all their bumbling resulted in the fair dealing argument being so wholly and rapidly rejected. Twisted Sister's Dee Snyder has been loudly celebrating the win, after having appeared at one of the hearings last year to explain how Palmer's version "misrepresented the message" of the song and was "not good for my heavy metal image". But copyright isn't about protecting a musician's image, and parody and satire exceptions exist precisely to allow people to change the message of a work, which is a strange thing to describe as "misrepresentation" — and they don't just apply to people who change the message to something that the original artist (or anyone else) likes or approves of, as much as I can understand the frustration of having someone like Palmer use your work for his own political advancement.

It's impossible to say for certain whether Palmer's song would have qualified under Australia's fair dealing exceptions — as is so often the the case, they are narrower than they should be and leave a lot up to the judge's artistic discretion — but it would have been a lot better to get a ruling with an untainted exploration of this argument which is so obviously the most relevant one, and the one that should have been the focus of the case from the start.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 4 May 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 281: Twitter, Free Speech, And Mob Behavior

from the the-consequences-of-speech dept

The past several years have done a lot to expose the failings of the "marketplace of ideas", as disinformation and harassment campaigns have shown an ability to spread and flourish despite ample amounts of counterspeech. This triumph of mob behavior, especially on Twitter, has challenged a lot of people's preconceptions about how free speech functions, and one person who has been exploring these issues is FIRE's Sarah McLaughlin, especially in two topical articles on her Substack. She joins us on this week's episode to discuss Twitter, free speech, and the challenge mob behavior presents to online discourse.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 May 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the dialoguing dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is CSMcDonald, who raised a specific issue with Marco Rubio's comparison of speech he doesn't like to pollution:

As a FL resident....

I would just like to single out this sentence as being particularly amusing given the state of the environment in Florida:
"No policymaker would allow a company to dump toxic waste into a river upstream of a thriving town he is charged with governing."

Hi Marco, are you familiar with the red tides and algae blooms caused by runoffs from the farming industry into Lake Okeechobee and then flowing down the rivers to flow into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean causing havoc to the various water based businesses in the towns that rely on them?

Or the current situation in Bradenton with a phosphate dumping pond threatening to overflow causing the evacuation of local residents a couple of weeks ago?

Which politicians have been in charge of this state and allowing these industries free and unregulated power to do whatever they want again?

In second place, it's Keroberos with some thoughts on the constant lies about Section 230:

I've come to the realization that the problem that they have with social media is that all their lies are almost immediately called out. They've never had to deal with that before. Mainstream media has usually bent over backwards to not call them out on their lies due to the risk of being cut off.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another response to Marco Rubio, this time from That One Guy offering an additional level of criticism beyond the post:

Symptom of a much wider problem

Hear that (again) corporations, republicans don't want you interfering with politics and consider your contributions no different than toxic waste so honor their wishes and stop giving them money, can't have you 'polluting' their campaigns after all.

"But he seems to think he has to play up this nonsense if he wants to win elections these days. And, thus the real issue here is not "woke" corporations. It's authoritarian attacks on free speech like Rubio's."

That's part of the issue sure, the bigger issue I'd say is that he expects that it will be a successful tactic, that authoritarianism and cracking down on free speech is a good look for the people who will be voting to keep him in office, because if that's not the case then he'd be trivial to replace come the next election he runs but if his assumption is correct then that means there are a lot of people in his state/party for whom those are positive traits, which is just a wee bit more concerning as it means that any anti-free speech and anti-free market authoritarian will have no problem being elected when running for position in that party.

Next, it's an anonymous response to Senator Bill Hagerty saying that anyone upset with moderation choices should be able to sue:

What a lovely catch22, especially as no moderation is a moderation choice, so the only way to win is not to allow comments. Why does he not just call it the shutting down the Internet bill?

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to our post that included the Newegg-pioneered history of fighting back against patent trolls:

Missed opportunity?

Newegg should have patented the strategy of attacking back on patent trolls.

In second place, it's Blake C. Stacey on our post about the theme park exception that Disney managed to get carved out in Florida's social media law, suggesting an improvement to our "Infinite Scroll Coaster" joke:

You missed the opportunity to go with "Scrollercoaster". :-)

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with Eric and one more response to Senator Hagerty:

Ughh - can't post on hagerty's website

What the hell...Bill Hagerty is not giving me the ability to post 'Bill Hagerty is a tool' on his team hagerty website! And he calls himself a free speech proponent...

Finally, it's another comment about Florida's theme park exemption, this time from justok in the form of an idea:

So, there's plans to make the TechDirt Greenhouse into a real thing?

That's all for this week, folks!

4 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 1 May 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 25th - May 1st

from the so-it-went dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, the DOJ dropped one of its big cases over iPhone encryption after the defendant suddenly remembered his passcode, while documents revealed that the FBI hid surveillance techniques from federal prosecutors in case they one day became defense lawyers. The FBI was also planning to ignore any court orders telling it to reveal its Tor browser exploit, while another court was joining the crowd saying one of the agency's hacking tools constituted illegal searches. And that wasn't all for the FBI: we also learned that the $1.3-million price tag for unlocking Syed Farook's iPhone just got them the phone unlocked, not the details of the exploit. Meanwhile, Congress was pressing James Clapper to properly admit how many Americans are spied on by the NSA, and the House voted unanimously to require a warrant for email searches — although some rule changes approved by the Supreme Court were moving in the opposite direction.

Ten years Ago

This week in 2011, everyone was trying to get a look at the supposedly-finished ACTA text, but negotiators were remaining secretive about it — although Homeland Security was complaining to the USTR that it was a threat to national security, one of its former officials was calling the text "a sweetheart deal for IP owners", and a CRS report (also withheld by the USTR) confirmed that the language was quite questionable. And it was confirmed that, as some suspected, the US was the lone holdout country refusing to release the full text. Meanwhile, Righthaven was smacked down by another judge (while continuing to make crazy demands in other cases), but we noted that even though copyright trolls were failing left and right in court, their shakedowns were still working.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, some questions were raised about whether music labels were honest to the DOJ regarding collusion on song download prices, while we also got a closer look at how inconvenient movie studio's new download offerings were, and the RIAA managed to once again sue a family that didn't own a computer. Schools were claiming "bandwidth scarcity" as the latest excuse to ban MySpace, while a prescient judge realized that internet use at work is normal and can't be the grounds for firing someone.

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2021 @ 12:11pm

Canadian Government Wants To Regulate Social Media Like Broadcast

from the not-gonna-work dept

It's Canada's turn in the carousel of attempts at terrible internet regulation around the world. The ruling Liberal party, which professor and internet law researcher Michael Geist has called the most anti-internet government in Canadian history for its wide variety of planned new internet laws, has been working for months on a bill to amend the Broadcasting Act and greatly broaden its scope, giving the CRTC (Canada's counterpart to the FCC) authority over all kinds of online video and audio.

Canada has a long history of requiring broadcasters to support and air Canadian content, setting percentages of airtime that must be dedicated to it. While this is controversial and of questionable efficacy, it is at least coherent with regards to television and radio broadcasting over public airwaves — but Bill C-10 would bring streaming services and many other websites under the same regulatory regime, which also includes even more concerning powers to regulate political speech. Supposedly, this is targeting services like Netflix and Spotify — which already raises some serious questions as to how such regulation would work — while the bill's champion, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, has repeatedly insisted that it will not cover social media and user generated content. The clause excluding such content was already worryingly narrow, and now the government has removed it anyway. And yet Guilbeault continues to insist user generated content has nothing to worry about, even though there are multiple reasons this is clearly untrue — not least of which is a new "exception that proves the rule" amendment setting the contours of UGC regulation, to be considered soon:

The amendment is a clear acknowledgement that user generated content are programs subject to CRTC’s regulation making power. Liberal MPs may claim the bill doesn’t do this, but their colleagues are busy submitting amendments to address the reality.

But it is not just that the government knew that its changes would result in regulating user generated content. The forthcoming secret amendment only covers one of many regulations that the CRTC may impose. The specific regulation – Section 10(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act – gives the CRTC the power to establish regulations “respecting standards of programs and the allocation of broadcasting time for the purpose of giving effect to the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1).” While the government plans to remove that regulation from the scope of user generated content regulations, consider all the other regulations it intends to keep and impose on millions of Canadians. Regulations that are not found in the amendment and therefore applicable to user generated content include regulations:

(a) respecting the proportion of time that shall be devoted to the broadcasting of Canadian programs;

(b) prescribing what constitutes a Canadian program for the purposes of this Act;
(e) respecting the proportion of time that may be devoted to the broadcasting of programs, including advertisements or announcements, of a partisan political character and the assignment of that time on an equitable basis to political parties and candidates;


Each of these speak to potential new regulation on the free speech of Canadians. Most notable may be political speech, which gives the CRTC the power to order equal time for partisan political speech. While this was designed for broadcast networks, the legislation would now cover all programs, including user generated content.

Correction: The way the bill is worded, online services are apparently not covered by the "political balance" regulatory powers.

It's a stunning, virtually unprecedented attack on the free speech of Canadians. Among the bill's biggest problems is the fact that many of these powers are extremely vague and administered at the discretion of the unpredictable CRTC — which is also part of what allows the politicians behind it to equivocate and deny when pressed on what exactly it will do. It has been called "one of the most radical expansions of state regulation in Canadian history" by those journalists who have noticed just how far-reaching it might be:

While the government claims it would not empower the CRTC to regulate smaller services such as Britbox, social media sites such as YouTube, or online news content, the bill contains no specific provisions that would prohibit it – and includes provisions that seem to allow it. For example, while the bill exempts “programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking” by its users and “online undertakings whose broadcasting consists only of such programs,” it leaves the way open for the CRTC to regulate services that show both user-generated and curated content. Like YouTube.

Likewise, lots of streaming services offer news content alongside movies and other fare. And lots of text-based news organizations, such as The Globe and Mail, also stream audio and video. So a specific exemption for audiovisual news content would not be greatly reassuring, even if the bill contained one – which it doesn’t.

Luckily, the bill is getting much more attention following the latest changes. Unluckily, it's at risk of becoming mired in the broader partisan fights of Canada's parliament — even though this is a case of something that everyone, from every party (not least the Liberals pushing it) should oppose. I don't have to explain why applying such regulations, especially about political "balance", to social media would be a disaster for free speech, especially now with the pandemic keeping people trapped at home and spawning multiple political crises across the country. It's not at all clear how the CRTC would use these powers, but there's little reason to believe they'd use them wisely (as if such a thing is even possible), and the uncertainty alone could cause user generated content platforms to clamp down on what Canadians can share.

Plus, it's especially concerning the way the government has repeatedly misled the public about what the bill will do, often contradicting itself and leaving the text full of loopholes that means it might apply to all kinds of unexpected things like app stores. Canadians from every part of the political spectrum must recognize Bill C-10 as the astonishing attack on free expression that it is, and force the government to reject it — or else the internet in Canada is going to get a whole lot smaller and less open.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 27 April 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 280: Beyond Blocking: Thinking Creatively About Content Moderation

from the alternative-approaches dept

The way a lot of people talk about content moderation is disappointingly uncreative — most of all in the way they boil every decision down to the binary decision of "leave it up or take it down". But this framework is extremely limiting and doesn't reflect the way content moderation professionals work, and one person working to paint a better picture is Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman. He joins us on this week episode to discuss the many different ways to approach difficult content moderation questions.

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the the-hum-of-conversation dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is That One Guy with a response to Josh Hawley's politically-motivated call to break up companies:

'Only companies I agree with deserve rights!'

I am shocked that insurrectionist Hawley is an enemy of the first amendment as well, why it's getting to the point that I'm starting to suspect that he thinks the law's entire purpose is to serve him rather than the public in general, much like his Dear Leader did and does.

Much like the MLB stunt even those that are in favor of 'reigning in' companies like Google and Facebook should be seriously angry at this stunt, because by saying the silent part out loud('I'm going after them because I don't like how they're using their actual rights!') he just made it much harder to take any real action against those companies as you can be damn sure that they will be raising the question of motives and unconstitutional retribution against any attempt to go after them after this.

The funny thing about that quote of his is if you take out the bullhorns(because they're certainly not dogwhistles) and swap out 'Big Tech' for 'telecom' then he might actually have had a point, as they are coddled by politicians and do use their power to squash competitors to keep their position, but funnily enough the politicians screaming about how much power the likes of Facebook and Google have tend to utter nary a peep when it comes to Comcast and AT&T.

In second place, it's Nathan F with a response to Derek Chauvin's conviction:

This incident is why cops try so very hard to keep the public from filming incidents, why riot police go after journalists, and don't turn their body cameras on. They don't want to be held accountable for their actions.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from PaulT responding to a defense of the Chicago cop who killed 13-year-old Adam Toldeo:

"When the police talk about "split second decisions" sometimes they're right"

The problem isn't the "split second decision" as such, it's the regularity in which the inability to de-escalate situations makes them necessary. Also, the fact that cops in the US are trained to bark conflicting orders so that no matter what action the target makes they can be deemed as disobeying orders and can thus be executed.

Bear in mind also that there was someone else who had to make a split second decision - the kid who was murdered. One party was a supposedly highly trained peace keeping force, the other was a scared 13 year old. Yet, it seems the latter was the one who reacted in the correct way, but died for it.

"Did the kid have the gun or was it planted later behind the fence as justification? Not obvious from the video."

I've seen footage that shows that the kid did indeed have a gun previously. But, that's not the point. He was ordered to drop his weapon and raise his arms, then he was shot anyway after he did exactly what was asked of him.

Next, it's another comment from That One Guy , this time about Apple's claims that the word "buy" isn't confusing to customers who are only getting a license:

'People would never think that words mean what they mean.'

If you buy a physical CD then you can give it to someone else, you can sell it, and the store most certainly is not allowed to come to your house after the fact and take it back, so if a company wants to use the 'Buy' label then they should be forced to treat the transaction as a purchase, and conversely if they want to treat it as a license then they should be required to use that label.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous comment responding to ongoing nonsense complaints about our spam filter:

"I keep spamming comments and getting blocked for spam, it's a conspiracy!"

In second place, it's a comment from Flakbait on our post about Morrissey complaining about The Simpsons, in response to another commenter who simply asked "Who?":

No, Daltry and Townsend aren't the ones with the issue.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from Thad deploying (possibly for the second time?) a joke about the European Commission's promises about upload filters and free speech:

I did the "I want everything in one bag but I don't want the bag to be heavy" reference last time, right?

And finally, we've got a simple little joke from Pixelation to somebody (helpfully!) catching a typo in one of our posts:

That's very pedanti of you.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

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

from the as-i-recall dept

Five Years Ago

EU regulators were busy this week in 2016, trying to force YouTube to be more like Spotify and going after Google for antitrust regarding Android, which prompted Microsoft to drop all its own antitrust complaints about Google and vice versa, while both companies claimed the timing was just a coincidence. The FISA court was still uncovering surveillance abuses by the feds while the EFF was suing the DOJ for refusing to release FISA court documents, and another court said that national security letters were constitutional under the USA Freedom Act. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court said it wouldn't hear the Authors Guild's appeal over the Google Books ruling, prompting the Guild to whine.

Ten Years Ago

Righthaven was having a bad time this week in 2011, with a judge slamming their legal tactics and unsealing the document that revealed "sham" copyright assignments to the company — while, in another state, Righthaven was continuing its self-destruction by directing their petulant tone at the judge. It wasn't over, either, as yet another court told Righthaven its demand for domain names was silly. And another similar company, Digiprotect, was also getting dinged by a judge. On the other hand, one of the RIAA's lawyers in the Limewire case was recommended as a federal judge.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, people were beginning to notice how much free product placement Apple was getting in movies and television shows, high-price domain names were back and we wondered where the skepticism was, and AT&T was pretending to love competition. We looked at the story of how NTP kept prior art on its wireless email patent quiet, and we were irritated at the fact that the Patent Office needed to be told to look online for prior art on patent applications. More and more states were pursuing driving-while-yakking regulations without paying attention to the broader data about distracted driving in general. And the Supreme Court declined to hear Jerry Falwell's typosquatting case.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 20 April 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 279: How Rights Went Wrong

from the book-club dept

After a few cross-post episodes, we're back with a brand new conversation, and it's all about a big subject that intersects with the majority of what we cover here at Techdirt: rights. In his book How Rights Went Wrong, Columbia Law professor and Constitutional scholar Jamal Greene proposes a new way of thinking about rights and how they interact, and he joins this week's episode to discuss this paradigm-shifting idea that challenges many preconceptions about the subject.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, 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 April 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the crossed-words dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Stephen T. Stone commenting on the unconstitutional nature of the way Senate republicans have approached a bill stripping MLB's antitrust exemption:

Republican lawmakers: “Fuck cancel culture! Grow some thicker skin, assholes! Stop being so offended by everything!”

Also Republican lawmakers: “We’re cancelling these fuckers because they hurt conservative feelings. Don’t they know that’s illegal?”

In second place, it's an anonymous response to Mastercard's new rules for streaming sites:

Cool. Now do elected officials who knowingly spew rhetoric that leads to an insurrection.

Still seeing that Mastercard logo on www dot tedcruz dot org slash contribute

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous reply to the commenter complaining about our spam filters:

So funny enough: I've never had a problem posting to TD. I've also never seen someone claim they were getting caught in the spam filters without also seeing them try to fill the comment section with spam. Very strange. I wonder what the correlation could be.

Next, it's yet another anonymous comment, this time responding to the aforementioned first place winner:

If there is one thing they're consistent about its hypocrisy.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Toom1275 with a comment about the fact that Sidney Powell may face sanctions from the Michigan AG:

So it seems "It wasn't defamatory, it was perjury!" wasn't the genius legal claim she thought it would be.

In second place, it's LACanuck responding to the list of banned swear words on Mike Lindell's "free speech" social media platform:

Four words?

I would have thought the four banned words would be 'We lost the election"

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with one more anonymous response to the commenter complaining about spam filters:

I've never seen someone try so hard to increase engagement and activity on a site he hates so much he cheered someone else's efforts to destroy it.

And finally, we've got another comment from Stephen T. Stone, this time in response to the baffling complaint that one of our posts was "opinionated":

That tends to happen on opinion blogs, yes.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 April 2021 @ 1:00pm

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

from the ah-the-memories dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, the encryption wars continued. Senators Burr and Feinstein were planning a one-sided briefing with law enforcement, and soon officially released their terrible anti-encryption bill (though it seemed to be missing some stuff). The US Attorney bizarrely suggested a ban on importing open source encryption tech, while on the other hand the Inspector General was noting existing abuse of cell phone forensic equipment by law enforcement. Apple was still fighting the DOJ, and it became increasingly clear that the access they got to Syed Farook's iPhone didn't accomplish much if anything.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, it was copyright nonsense all over the place. The EU was getting ready to vote on an unnecessary copyright extension while some European lawmakers were talking about browser-based site blocking; GoDaddy's CEO was attempting to use copyright to silence critics; a judge who had allowed mass infringement lawsuits backpedaled after people noted her RIAA lobbying past; police were going after mixtape-making DJs, with RIAA reps in tow; and Joe Biden said there's no reason to treat intellectual property any differently from physical property. This was also the week that Sony settled its jailbreaking lawsuit against Geohot, though his supporters were not thrilled.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, we looked at Disney's MovieBeam as a prime example of entertainment companies not understanding how to use new tech properly, even if there were some hints that the company might be starting to figure it out. MLB.com was still trying to grow into the music space by running band websites, and everyone was trying to get in on the game of programmatic ad auctions, and/or the booming MySpace economy. We also saw an early freak-out over the Internet Archive's activities.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 13 April 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 278: Two Curious Cases

from the section-230-and-the-fourth-amendment dept

It's one more podcast cross-post this week! A recent episode of the Institute for Justice's Short Circuit podcast dug into two very interesting legal cases: one that explores one of the more rarely-invoked pieces of Section 230, and another that tests the limits of the Fourth Amendment. Mike joined IJ attorney Josh Windham and host Anthony Sanders to discuss the cases themselves and what they mean for the law, and you can listen to the whole conversation here on this week's episode.

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

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