Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile

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About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

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

Located in Toronto, Ontario.

http://twitter.com/MarcusCarab
http://soundcloud.com/marcus-carab

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/leigh-beadon/18/23a/5a2



Posted on Techdirt - 24 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the what's-the-word dept

One of the biggest stories this week was the shutdown of Kickass Torrents and the arrest of its owner, all of which we pointed out had questionable basis in actual law. That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week with the theory that this doesn't matter at all:

The fact that the charges don't line up with what's actually in the law doesn't matter really, as that would be distantly secondary at best. The purpose isn't so much to enforce the law regarding copyright infringement as to show what happens to those that annoy the USG and those buying politicians.

Site destroyed, owner arrested, message sent.

Much like MU winning the legal case would be something they'd like to be able to crow about, but they've already accomplished what they set out to do, and if all it cost them was some 'creative' interpretation of the law that's a price they're more than willing to pay.

Meanwhile, after Donald Trump threatened his disloyal ghostwriter with defamation claims, eaving won second place for insightful by drawing a comparison:

Erdogan, American Edition?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with some thoughts from PaulT on China's plan to ban ad blockers:

The more interesting thing would be to see if anyone exploits the rules to distribute malware that does real harm or has other unintended consequences that causes real problems for the Chinese government. With malicious ads being increasingly common, security is one of the larger reasons people are using these things.

I mean, I wouldn't want to be the person trying to exploit the opportunity even I were that way inclined. But an extra 159+ million people being added to a pool of targets, where the entire pool is barred from defending themselves against you, must be very tempting for certain people.

Next, we head to our post about the court that has offered no remedy to someone whose vehicle was illegally searched and then subjected to civil forfeiture after drugs were found. One commenter suggested that there's no way the alternative — returning all the property — is acceptable either, but Uriel-238 questioned that premise and its assumptions:

"I don't think they should just give the drugs, or the vehicle used to transport them back.. full fucking stop."

I do. The state is way out of jurisdiction once they have conducted an illegal search, and -- how shall we say it: it imposes a substantial social cost for there to be any impetus for the police to engage in unreasonable search and seizure, since the temptation to do so is so great on its own. The police are not even trustworthy holding contraband in their evidence lockers or destroying it.

Once we allow law enforcement to gain actually profit from overreach, they're going to do so. Excessively. There are number historic examples of how this goes down.

No, the proper order in this case is for the police to return to him his belongings (including any contraband) in recognition that the state and its agents are not above law either.

The suspect should be compensated for time lost due to the police overreach and then let to go about his business

We need to stop thinking of the police as a caste with a moral high ground over the rest of us. Indeed, if anything they have clearly proven that human beings are incapable of holding that elevated level of power without corruption and indulgence. They just aren't.

The US police is supposed to operate under the principles of policing by Sir Robert Peel (at least they still teach Peelian Principles in cop school and say these are our foundational principles. The police is the people. The people are the police. It's still supposed to be that way. It's not.

Rather, our law enforcement agents are so removed from common civilians now that they regard common civilians as the enemy, they defend their own corruption openly and plainly. They prey commonly on innocent civilians as highwaymen and brigands. They act as nothing more than yet another street gang, merely one backed with state funding.

Over on the funny side, we start out with the news that the German government is suing the US government over copyright infringement by the Navy. First place for funny goes to Machin Shin, who couldn't resist the simple joy this story provides:

I saw this on another site as I wandered around the net. I still think the best part in all this is that we can now call our Navy a bunch of pirates.

Meanwhile, after Turkey blocked Wikileaks, Mason Wheeler won second place by noting the irony in the source of some of the criticism of Turkey's censorious regime:

Wait, wait... a European high court talking about censorship laws breaching the fundamental human right to information?

That's incredibly ironic. I know there's a good reason to say so, but I must have... forgotten.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start on our post about Nick Denton joining the ranks of people fighting to defend comments on blogs and news websites. TechDescartes registered his self-invalidating disapproval, the only way he could:

I disagree

You shouldn't let people comment on stories.

And finally, because every advertising algorithm is bound to cough up amusing results from time to time, Mason Wheeler spotted something fun on our post about Apple declining the invitation to be Senator McCain's punching bag:

In today's episode of Techdirt Advertising Theatre...

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: July 17th - 23rd

from the memories dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the battle over the PROTECT IP bill continued, with the MPAA utterly failing to address the concerns of experts and the creators of the internet and the Copyright Alliance vaguely trying to "set the record straight" by responding to an un-linked, un-cited post written against the bill. We pointed to a variety of examples showing why we shouldn't rush to approve PROTECT IP, but it seemed like the lawmakers were pretty confused about what it was to begin with — one senator thought it was about an internet kill-switch, and another had it all confused with net neutrality.

Also this week in 2011, we saw the beginning of what we now know to be a very sad story: federal prosecutors filed felony charges against Aaron Swartz for downloading documents from JSTOR. We couldn't help but notice that, despite so much rhetoric about theft and infringement, there was no mention of copyright in the indictment. Indeed, there didn't seem to be any legal or moral basis for the charges whatsoever. But that didn't stop the Copyright Alliance from throwing their hat into the ring with a post full of terrible analogies — nor did it stop lots of people from uploading JSTOR research to file-sharing sites in protest.

Ten Years Ago

It's easy to forget that once upon a time YouTube was new — and that was the case this week in 2006, when it was still independent and so young that its very first copyright lawsuits were just beginning to materialize. Interestingly, this same week, the MPAA was getting hyped about new technology for detecting infringing video (though perhaps they should have focused more on innovations that aren't designed to fail).

We were also pleased to see a very rare beast: an honest debate about net neutrality. Not just that — there was also a great John Hodgman-helmed explainer segment on the Daily Show, and a creative reimagining of the debate that made it all about sidewalks instead of networks.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, though Napster was basically dead, it didn't seem to have helped the recording industry very much (and who could have predicted that?) Over in the UK, they decided the best way was to start young, and began teaching kids about the evils of file sharing in elementary school. Meanwhile, the high-profile arrest of a Russian programmer for breaking encryption was shaping up to be a major test to copyright law. And amidst all this, copy-protected CDs were starting to show up in record stores.

Also this week in 2001: Microsoft was discovered stopping a charity from distributing computers over licensing issues; the top-ranked legal advisor on an advice website was a fifteen-year-old kid; Fandango made the first brave foray into the now-normal practice of printing movie tickets at home; and people were still trying to figure out how (and why) to get video onto cellphones.

One-Hundred And Seventeen Years Ago

NEC isn't a big trendy consumer name — at least not outside Japan. But its a gigantic supplier of the network equipment that powers so much of our digital world — and it was on July 17th, 1899 that it was launched as the first ever Japanese joint-venture with foreign capital.

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Posted on Techdirt - 23 July 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Don't Miss Our New Takedown T-Shirt/Hoodie!

from the censorship! dept

Did you hear? Yesterday, we launched our latest t-shirt on Teespring. It's a re-vamped version of our classic DMCA tee: the Takedown T-Shirt. In addition to men's and women's t-shirts for $20 each, we've reduced the price of hoodies to $35 and added some new color options including royal blue and forest green!

This initial run is available until Monday, August 1st, after which point your only choice will be to reserve one and wait until the campaign reboots — so if you want to get your hands on one soon, don't delay and order yours now!

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 July 2016 @ 12:16pm

Techdirt's New T-Shirt Is Now Available... But Its Content Isn't

from the false-contentID dept


Limited time offer: Support Techdirt and get a Takedown t-shirt or hoodie!

YouTube's ContentID system has left many creators in a tough spot, with their videos whisked away by the questionable copyright claims of big media companies — and many a would-be viewer has been met with a disappointing takedown message instead of the content they hoped to enjoy. Now you can remind everyone of the problems with this arrangement with this update of our classic DMCA tee: the Takedown T-Shirt (also available as a hoodie).

This initial run is available until Monday, August 1st, so don't wait! In addition to a basic tee, it's also available as a women's tee and a high-quality hoodie. The t-shirts are $20 and the hoodies have a new reduced price of $35. Get yours today!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 19 July 2016 @ 1:06pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 82: Chatbots: Fad Or The Future?

from the what's-old-is-new-again dept

Chatbots have been around for a very long time in some form or another, but now they appear to be making a comeback — or at least attempting one. This week, Mike and regular co-host Dennis (who is working on a chatbot startup) are joined by special guest Veronica Belmont to discuss the potential of chatbots and just how much skepticism is warranted.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 July 2016 @ 9:44am

A Fan's Case For Putting Batman & Superman In The Public Domain

from the great-idea,-sadly-not-gonna-happen dept

Let me start by saying it's obvious that this isn't going to happen. Nevertheless, let's consider the idea: should DC put its flagship superheroes in the public domain? Alex Schmidt over at Cracked (the comedy site that has caught our attention with its understanding of these kinds of topics before) makes the compelling case that they should in a new video that's worth watching:

The crux of the argument is that these iconic characters currently appear to be in a bit of a death spiral. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman met with a mixed-at-best response from fans and critics, and while both made good money in the big picture, they also showed some worrying signs — like failing to catch up to Marvel's superhero movies (which was the whole point) and breaking records of audience drop-off between the much-hyped opening night and the following week (when word begins to get around that the movie sucks). Schmidt is not the first to attribute this to the creators' disdain for the characters: Zack Snyder has openly expressed his lack of real interest in Batman and Superman, and made it clear that he doesn't really understand their appeal. Writer David Goyer has made similar comments. And the same people are already hard at work on the follow-up Justice League films, which seem unlikely to break the pattern of mediocrity.

So, the proposal goes, DC needs to do something drastic to revive the franchise, and the most drastic and positive thing they could do would be to put the characters into the public domain (where they were supposed to be as of a few years ago, were it not for the infamous Mickey Mouse copyright extension). Opening up the characters to other creators would result in a huge variety of new work involving them, and still wouldn't stop DC from working their own massive film franchise, especially by making use of all the later storylines and details about the characters that would still be under copyright.

Of course, there are a few problems with Schmidt's argument. He points to other big public domain characters like Robin Hood, Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, and cites Holmes especially as an example of a character who has been revived to massive popularity through adaptations by other creators. But that example is flawed, because Holmes only recently entered the public domain (mostly), and both the Robert Downey Jr. movies and the insanely popular BBC series actually did license Holmes from the Doyle estate. DC has even felt some of this pain itself — the video points to the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics as a prime example of new creators using public domain characters, but those comics actually did face various release issues due to the questionable copyright status of Victorian-era characters including Holmes. Robin Hood and Dracula are both excellent examples though, and they chart a course for the direction Holmes is likely to go now that the estate's control has been eroded.

Now, as I said at the outset, this obviously isn't going to happen — it flies directly in the face of the copyright orthodoxy that rules Hollywood and so much of our culture. We can instead settle in for several more years of middling cash-grab films that irritate existing fans of the characters and fail to create new ones. But it's great to see a site like Cracked — a pillar of the fandom communities that fawn over these beloved superheroes and lend a serious critical eye to every execution of them — recognize that loosening the reins would be a much, much better idea.

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the eye-of-newt dept

This week, after Verizon tried to "debunk" the simple reality that its wireless plans are terrible, one commenter broke down the numbers to show how expensive they are compared to Comcast. Michael won first place for insightful by underlining the horror of what just happened:

When someone holds up Comcast as a better deal, you know you have a problem...

Meanwhile, we asked why the UK's Intellectual Property Office was praising the National Portrait Gallery's brazen copyright heist of public domain images, and That One Guy won second place for insightful with a classic quotation:

How's that saying go again?

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of anonymous responses to the post that will also bring us our funniest comment in a few moments — Newt Gingrich's silly and dangerous claim that anyone visiting extremist websites should go to jail. First, one commenter demonstrated the uselessness of any policy that fails to consider context and consequences:

Well, I guess if you want to increase the prison population exponentially, it sounds like a good idea.

Perhaps being part of the "party of fiscal responsibility" he should outline the estimated costs of implementing such a ridiculous policy up front, including:

- how much it'll cost to feed & water all these felons
- estimated welfare costs, since their job prospects after getting out of jail would be close to or equal to zero

Seems like someone didn't learn from "3 strikes" "mandatory minimum sentences" or the "Rockefeller drug laws"

Then, another commenter surmised a truly unintended consequence of such a rule:

Surprise web redirect will be the new swatting

If something this dumb comes to pass, instead of calling SWAT teams to your house, teen brats will just redirect your web browser to a "known terrorist web page".

But that would never be abused.

Over on the funny side, first place comes as promised in response to Gingrich as well — Gwiz topped the charts with a simple and slightly surrealist joke:

Maybe he's right. I looked at an ISIS website once and it turned me into a Newt.

In second place, we've got another response to Verizon's facile defense of its wireless offerings. Vidiot tried to envision the fiction necessary to support Verizon's claims of serving its customers:

Service with a smile

"We bring together options customers tell us they want..."

Me: "I want a bigger bill every month. Can you do that for me?"

VZ: "Sure!"

Me: "I'd like my rollovers to be totally useless, too."

VZ: "Can do! After all, the customer is always right..."

For editor's choice on the funny side, our first comment comes from a different telco tantrum in Europe, where a coalition of telcos and hardware vendors are protesting net neutrality by threatening to withhold next-gen wireless. One anonymous commenter put it in simple terms:

In other news, 5 year old threatens to hold breath until he gets a cookie.

Finally, after a Sony VP abused the DMCA to try to hide his Wikileaks-listed salary, Pixelation began devising countermeasures:

I'm going to take a trademark out on $320,000 and sue Yankelevits for infingement. Based on music industry numbers I should be able to recover millions.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: July 10th -16th

from the oh-the-memories dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw several examples of misuse and abuse of intellectual property. After a big riot in Vancouver, some rioters tried to use copyright to hide their identities only to have that plan completely backfire; Michael Jackson's estate tried to block a prank caller from selling a recording because it contained Jackson's voice; a company in Sturgis, South Dakota trademarked the name of the town and started suing over the sale of souvenirs; and Newport Television was abusing the DMCA to shut down criticism.

Meanwhile, the monkey selfie copyright conflict was getting underway: we received a request from the photographer's news agency to take down the photos, and so we explained in more detail why the photo was likely in the public domain, while David Slater made his own case for ownership.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, we saw the BPI start asking UK ISPs to start disconnecting people when provided with "unequivocal evidence" of copyright infringement, and the UK's indie labels joined the fight as well — but at least one ISP was not convinced by the evidence they were provided with. Meanwhile, the BPI was also pushing to get music sharing on the agenda for the G8 summit. In the US, Hollywood's own newspaper made the case that congress shouldn't just be helping Hollywood when it comes to copyright, and we also wondered how long the RIAA would be allowed to continue abusing the legal system. The entertainment industry was also trying to get its way by attaching some of its desires to a telco reform bill, and there was a major development on another critical front related to freedom of speech when the FCC's decency fines were increased tenfold.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, we saw a questionable study spelling doom and gloom for movie theatres due to piracy, while music retailers were complaining about their own doom at the hands of record labels and their legal online offerings. Metallica finally closed the book on Napster, having successfully killed the service, and we saw that some of the biggest fighters in the copyright battles were radical librarians defending their industry.

Microsoft (which was in the midst of a disastrous weeklong MSN Messenger outage) was caught bullying poor school districts for copying software, while Apple was quietly reclaiming the education market for itself. Infamous grocery startup Webvan died its long-anticipated death and the future was looking questionable for Tivo, too. And we saw two very bizarre complaints coming out of the UK: Prince Charles denounced computer games, and a Nobel Prize winning scientist decided to pin the death of British engineering on Lego, of all things.

Twenty-Four Years Ago

The open source revolution got rolling in the 1990s, and Linux was its flagship product — but before Linux (though not by much) there was 386BSD, the precursor to FreeBSD and NetBSD, version 0.1 of which was released on July 14th, 1992.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 12 July 2016 @ 12:47pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 81: Senator Wyden On The Expansion Of FBI Surveillance

from the privacy-and-liberty dept

It should surprise nobody that the FBI is seeking even broader digital surveillance powers by changing the warrant requirements and expanding the power of national security letters. If you're a regular Techdirt reader, it also won't surprise you to learn that Senator Ron Wyden is working hard to hold the line against this kind of expansion. This week, we're joined by Senator Wyden to discuss what the FBI is up to and what the public needs to know about it.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the mostly-anonymous dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is an anonymous commenter who had some thoughts on the notion of allowing a court case to disappear entirely because the plaintiff regrets it:

This is a hard case. You feel the plaintiff here is sympathetic (and I'll have to take your word on that), and in this particular instance you seem to have no appetite for dragging the plaintiff in question back into the open.

But hard cases make bad law. We cannot expect every "disappeared" case to involve a sympathetic plaintiff. Imagine if the likes of Malibu or Prenda were allowed to disappear old cases from court history. And we cannot know, presently, if cases have been completely removed from public view.

This cannot be allowed to stand. It sucks for this particular plaintiff, and I'm very sorry that the consequences of their actions may put them in more difficulty than we feel they deserve. (Karma can be a real bitch that way.) But we absolutely cannot allow courts to disappear cases from public view. It would threaten (or further destroy) our trust in an open and fair rule of law. Once you disappear one case, what stops you from doing so for other reasons?

In second place, we've got rw with a response to the latest abuses by the TSA:

Time to kill this agency. They do absolutely no good and cause immense problems. Defunding them would free up money to help those in need.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response from Norahc to the FBI's easygoing stance on Hillary Clinton's emails:

Being stupid or dishonest is a crime if you're unlucky enough to get caught up in a FBI fabricated terrorism plot, but evidently it's not if your stupidity and dishonesty actually risked national security.

I guess that means if she's elected president there will be another private email server set up.

Next, we head to the interesting pro-fair-use language in the the Supreme Court's latest Kirtsaeng ruling, where one commenter suggested that we simply support diminishing protections for artists, and OldMugwump offered his perspective:

I'll say it yet again.

Artists must get rewarded for creating things people value. I don't know anyone who disagrees.

But copyright is no longer a good way to do it.

It used to be a good way - before copying became trivially easy.

Now we need a new way.

Personally I like automated patronage - electronic "tip jars" that ensure micropayments go straight to artists (not middlemen) each time a work is enjoyed.

But I'm sure there are other ways as well. We have to stop defending the dead horse of copyright, and start moving on to something that will actually help artists.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is again an anonymous commenter, this time responding to Mike Huckabee's settlement with the band Survivor by serving up a good ol' song parody:

It's the eye of the liar
It's the shrill of the right
Sinking down when the issue ends up viral
And the last known survivor
Sues his prey in this fight
And he's watching us all with the eye of his lawyers

For second place, we head to our post about the arrest of a man who posted a picture of himself burning the American flag on the 4th of July, where Tim Geigner reminisced about the day George Washington punched King George in the face, and one commenter noted that they'd love to have a picture of the event. Then, an anonymous commenter expanded further on the mythology:

I think Abe Lincoln might have captured it on his iPhone, but the video is a little shaky because the bald eagle he was flying on wouldn't hold still. It was probably spooked by the double gatling guns that Jesus was using to hold off the redcoat reinforcements.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with yet another anonymous commenter, this time catching an error in one of our headlines:

Comcast Continues To Claim It's 'Not Feasible' To Offer Its Programming To Third-Party Cable Boxes

You misspelled "Tyrannically Profitable". That is 23 characters in two words not 8 characters in one word.

And finally, we've got Baron von Robber with a slick quantum computing joke:

Quantum computers will be terrible for tech support.

"Have you turn it off and on again at the same time without looking at it?"

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: July 3rd - 9th

from the tubes-and-monkeys dept

Five Years Ago

The fight over PROTECT IP was heating up this week in 2011, with law professors joining the ranks of those opposed to the bill while Hollywood ramped up its smear campaign against Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Jerry Moran removed himself as a co-sponsor of the bill. Of course, this wasn't the only bad bill being considered — there was also the anti-streaming bill, which caught the attention of video game streamers and was met with a mass of YouTube video protests. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry was busy moving ahead of the law by signing the major US ISPs onto a "five strikes" plan for copyright infringement. Those who received strikes would have to pay to contest them, and it looked like the industry had backdoored in the disconnection powers it so desired.

But the most memorable thing to happen this week in 2011 was, of course, the unveiling of the famous (and fascinating/contentious from a copyright perspective) monkey selfie.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, the RIAA was busy suing sites around the globe, with the latest target being Allofmp3.com in the UK. We were skeptical of this approach, but the Associated Press certainly seemed to have bought the scare stories about global piracy in full. The RIAA was also failing on the home front, with university students seeing right through its terrible "free" music service. Hollywood was busy taking down the free promotion it got from its fans, and after a German magazine noted that you can technically pirate a movie by simply screencapping every frame, we wondered how long it would take for the MPAA to try to ban the Print Screen button.

There was a big, memorable moment this week in 2006 too: Senator Ted Stevens offered his infamous "series of tubes" explanation for the nature of the internet.

Fifteen Years Ago

Last week, we noted that Amazon introduced a free shipping program for the first time. This week in 2001, Barnes & Noble followed suit, and managed to do so without raising any prices on Monday. But then, on Friday... Amazon ended its free shipping program, calling it an experiment. Such was the dance of the early online retailers.

We saw the early rumblings of a legal response to the problems of cyber-bullying, and early takes on how to deal with (or possibly flat-out ban) the use of cellphones while driving. We even saw the earliest of baby steps down the long road to Uber with Ireland experimenting with the ability to get cabs by texting. And in a move that may not have seemed revolutionary at the time, but was actually a first step towards opening up lots of enlightening data, Google unveiled its "Zeitgeist" product for exploring the most popular searches and trends.

Twenty-Six Years Ago

Techdirt has been around for a long time, but the folks at the EFF still have a few years on us: it was on July 6th, 1990 that the EFF was founded by John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor after both faced inquiries by law enforcement agents who were clueless about technology. Happy birthday, EFF!

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 July 2016 @ 9:00am

Back By Popular Demand: Nerd Harder T-Shirts

from the get-yours-today dept


Limited time offer: Support Techdirt and get a Nerd Harder t-shirt!

Did you miss your chance to get one of Techdirt's Nerd Harder t-shirts? Well, you're in luck — since the campaign on Teespring ended, rebooted, and ended again, enough people have reserved a shirt to cause it to reboot once more! So now you've got another chance to get your hands on one:

This latest batch is only available until the end of the weekend, so hurry up and claim one unless you want to wait for another reboot!

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 July 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 80: Can Direct Democracy Work?

from the good-vote-bad-vote dept

Technology has made "direct democracy" — letting citizens vote on specific, granular issues instead of just electing representatives — more viable than ever, but does that mean it's a good idea? This week, we discuss the ins and outs of direct democracy, including a special addendum on the surprising results of the Brexit referendum.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the bad-ideas dept

It's been a while since we've had a double winner, but this week Rekrul took first place for both insightful and funny, in response to the warning from US intelligence agencies that Americans travelling abroad should use burner phones and trust nobody. His response was to note a key omission in this warning:

The video is incomplete! Where's the part where he returns to the US and gets his electronic devices searched and confiscated by the TSA while he's given a thorough groping?

In second place on the insightful side, we've got a response to Google's use of copyright tools to remove extremist content, where we wondered what anyone thinks this will actually accomplish. Almost Anonymous had an answer for us:

The answer is, "something". I know it is not a good answer, but it is the correct one.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with one more response to the warnings for Americans abroad, this time from OldMugwump who had some hands-on experience:

It's not new, it's just how USG people think

In the 90s I used to go to UN-related meetings in Geneva a lot.

There was always a guy from the State Dept. there to watch over the "US delegation" (most of whom represented private firms).

Every Friday he'd tell us to let State know everywhere we went outside our hotel over the weekend - not for infosec reasons, but because it's a "foreign country" and we could get into all kinds of trouble. We could get arrested and have no rights, not like at home in the US.

This was in Switzerland, the child-proofed chocolate-coated rubber room of Western Europe. Far safer than any place in the US - the main danger was overdosing on cheese.

But I think they really meant it.

There's something about the mentality of people who go to work for the US government - they really, truly, think all them furriners in nasty, terrible places like Switzerland, the UK, Austrialia, Japan (Japan!) are lawless hellholes without Good Old Fashioned Merican Democracy where people will be skinned alive for blinking at the wrong time.

It's a kind of paranoia and fear of the strange.

But it's real, and sincere.

Next, we've got a simple anonymous response to the spike in DUI arrests in Austin since the city banned Uber and similar apps:

do you have any idea how much a city can make off a dui? austin has needs and safety isn't one of them.

Over on the funny side, we've already had our first place comment above, so we move on to second place, with a comment from W4RM4N in response to Microsoft's polite and gentle announcement that it would be screwing over all its Xbox Fitness customers:

I guess that gives a new meaning to "consoled."

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a response to the Copyright Office's push to require regular renewal of websites' DMCA safe harbor registration. Machin Shin had a solution borrowed from the pro-copyright playbook:

I just had a great idea! They want these registrations to be for a limited time right?

So they should just make them last "life of the creator plus 70 years."

Finally, we've got a response to the worrying news that the EU wants to extend copyright protection to content created by robots and computers. DannyB was shocked to learn that this is a new idea:

Based upon what I see coming out of hollywood, I would assume that we already give copyright to robots?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 July 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: June 26th - July 1st

from the echoes dept

Five Years Ago

Hactivism was a big topic this week in 2011, especially after infamous group LulzSec announced that it would be disbanding. Australian telco giant Telstra was reconsidering its censorship plan due to hactivist fears, while the RIAA was unsurprisingly using hactivism as another reason to promote the PROTECT IP bill. Governments were struggling to address the issue, though some people were smart enough to point out that the best approach would be to examine their own policies. And, hot of the heels of the major Sony hack, the company was claiming it was targeted due to the fact that it enforces its intellectual property. As for the other high-profile Sony hacker, George Hotz, well — he was busy getting hired by Facebook.

Last week we talked about turntable.fm, the exciting new music service that we knew wasn't long for this world, and indeed this week it was blocked to all non-US users in the first step towards its demise. This was also the week that Prince made his bizarre statements about how digital music supposedly has a different effect on the brain. And, in ruling that was predictable but highly important, the Supreme Court struck down California's anti-violent-videogame law for violating the First Amendment.

Ten Years Ago

Before Sony was the victim of hackers, it was the hacker — or at least the hacker's friend — thanks to its horrible rootkit, and it was this week in 2006 that the authors of a virus leveraging that rootkit were arrested. At the same time, Microsoft was rolling out "Windows Genuine Advantage" and some were wondering if it would become the next such fiasco. And before the question of violent video games made it to the Supreme Court, the New York DA's office was pulling out all the stops in a desperate effort to find something to bring down Grand Theft Auto.

The net neutrality fight was raging too, but with a severe dearth of actual honest discussion. Cory Doctorow was suggesting a P2P-driven shaming system for bad broadband providers, while Senators were strutting their hypocrisy by opposing net neutrality regulation and supporting broadcast flag regulation in the same bill.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, before the days of WGA, Microsoft was trying out more mundane copy protection schemes and pissing off serious users of Microsoft Office. Rumors were beginning to spread about a Google IPO, though it wouldn't materialize for another three years. Amazon unveiled free shipping, but coupled with some quiet price hikes that mitigated the impact. And advertisers were scrambling to figure out how to make money off the instant messaging craze.

But no doubt the biggest tech news this week in 2001 was the fact that a federal appeals court reversed the antitrust decision that said Microsoft must be broken up. Of course, absolutely everyone had something to say about this fact, and we've still got a few more years left to fact-check Steward Alsop's prediction that Microsoft will fail in 2020 or 2021.

Forty-Two Years Ago

Today, barcodes are ubiquitous. They were conceived in the late 1940s, patented in the early 50s, and shopped around for some time after that before the critical development of the Universal Product Code that dominates the retail world. It was on June 26th, 1974 that the first UPC barcode was scanned at a retail checkout, ringing up the price of a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum in Troy, Ohio.

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 July 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Last Chance To Get A Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants T-Shirt!

from the limited-time dept


This Weekend Only: Support Techdirt and get a Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants t-shirt or hoodie!

This week, we launched a new Techdirt t-shirt on Teespring. If you were a music listener in the '80s, or a general follower of recording industry nonsense anytime since, you probably know all about the false mantra that "Home Taping Is Killing Music". Turns out that's about as true as saying "Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants" — so why not wear the latter on a t-shirt (or hoodie)?

This is a limited time offer that ends at midnight on Monday, July 4th! So don't miss your chance — order yours today!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 28 June 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 79: What's Next For Net Neutrality?

from the it-ain't-over dept

Net neutrality has a long and complicated history, and despite some recent victories, that story is far from over. This week, Mike is joined by resident broadband expert Karl Bode to discuss what's next for net neutrality, and what we need to do to fight for it.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 June 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the rights-and-the-lack-thereof dept

This week, we were horrified by the story of Ashely Cervantes, an 18-year-old who customs agents subjected to vaginal and rectal probes by a local doctor in a search of nonexistent drugs. TexasAndroid won most insightful comment of the week by pointing out the staggering addition of insult to injury in the case:

On top of everything else, the hospital had the gall to bill her for their "services". Calling them slime buckets is an insult to slime.

Speaking of bogus searches by law enforcement, we actually saw something positive on that front too this week, when a court refused to uphold evidence seized during a bogus traffic stop. Daydream took second place for insightful by lamenting the fact that this was news at all:

Everyone, take a moment to consider why something that should be normal, a court rejecting illegally acquired evidence, is notable enough to feature on Techdirt's front page.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with the unfolding saga of CBS/Paramount and the Star Trek fan film Axanar. After one commenter suggested that calling it a "fan film" is "offensive to the people who own the rights", and Mason Wheeler responded with an indignant rebuttal highlighting the critical difference between compensation and permission:

Then screw them. The idea that you can "own the rights" to culture itself is offensive on a far more fundamental level.

If Paramount said "we own Star Trek and so if you want to make a fan film, you have to pay us 5% and display a prominent notice that this is a fan work and not actually affiliated with Paramount," that would be one thing. But saying "no, you can't build on this, so shut the whole thing down" is crossing a line that no one should ever have the right to cross.

Meanwhile, after a surprising win for Led Zeppelin in the jury trial over alleged copying in the iconic Stairway to Heaven, one commenter (quite fairly) pointed out that the band does have a history of failing to credit their sources of inspiration (and more than inspiration), and that in this particular case they seem to have "tweaked the notes enough to get away with it". While there's a solid argument that Led Zeppelin hasn't always been the most upstanding moral citizen as far as giving credit where it's due, jupiterkansas rightly rejected that particular condemnation:

"tweaking the notes enough to get away with it" is basically how all music is made.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Oblate with a fitting reaction to the fight over Axanar:

Didn't Paramount watch their own film?

To paraphrase:

The fair use rights of the many fans outweigh the needs of the few qur petaQ at Paramount.

For second place, we head to yet another grapple over rights, this time between Dweezil Zappa and the other heirs to the Zappa estate over his right to name his tour "Zappa Plays Zappa". The tour has now been renamed "50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants — The Cease and Desist Tour" which is just great, leading Mike to request a tour t-shirt from anyone who might be able to pick one up. Crade wondered if this was just a clever reason-to-buy ploy by Dweezil:

stupid? or genius!

The whole thing was a setup to sell Mike a shirt.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start by taking a break from copyright and trademark fights to look at our old friend: ridiculous design patents. This time it was General Mills staking a claim to tortilla bowls, of all things, which led Mark Wing to rejoice about this great age we live in:

It's an exciting time to be a lover of Mexican food with all this innovation in the tortilla sector.

Finally, we head to the disturbing reasoning from a judge who said the FBI can freely hack people's computers since people get hacked by regular ol' hackers all the time. This seemed odd to say the least, but David explained it using a perennial piece of reasoning:

You don't want the criminals to have the drop on the FBI, do you?

If crimes are outlawed, only criminals will be able to commit crimes.

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: June 19th - 25th

from the history-of-histories dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, amid lots of IP chaos, we offered up a two-part history of the many "killers" of the music industry, first in the analog era and now in the digital one. Undeterred, Universal Music was in the midst of going to war with popular hip-hop blogs and websites for posting tracks (most if not all of which the artists wanted posted). If you doubt that last bit, consider that one of the targets was 50 Cent's own official website. There was also a lot of buzz about the awesome new social music service turntable.fm, and we wondered how long it would take for the RIAA to kill it (it's gone now, by the way).

While a new filing in the Rojadirecta case elaborated on how ICE's domain seizures violate the first amendment even as Senatory Patrick Leahy was celebrating them, rightsholders in the UK were seeking their own web censorship powers. Hollywood was busy too, with the MPAA lobbying to get law enforcement to behave as its own private police force and trying to convince ISPs to become copyright cops, too.

Ten Years Ago

Five years earlier in 2006, there was a very similar history lesson for the people thinking about entertainment industry legislation: Gary Shapiro of the CEA took out a full page advertisement in the Capitol Hill newspaper highlighting, once again, all the past freakouts about new technology destroying music and movies. This was important considering big legal questions like deep linking of MP3s, and mean lawsuits like Paramount suing an amateur filmmaker for making his own 12 minute version of an Oliver Stone movie. Not to mention the creepy prevalence of the MPAA hiring people to stalk and/or hack potential legal targets, and the agency's generally high levels of bullshit.

Fifteen Years Ago

It was a different time in 2001, when we could be surprised by the fact that teenagers were adopting the internet en masse or that Amazon wasn't dead yet. Doctors were still fairly resistant to using technology like email and the first IBM PC was a mere 20 years old. The hot new TLDs on the block were .biz and .info, and buyers were competing over popular picks like show.biz and sex.info, while Network Solutions was busy trying to sabotage the whole .biz enterprise. "Cyber Rage" was a new notion that would evolve into today's doxxing, swatting and other nastiness, and one group was so miffed by digital smut that it sought to send Yahoo execs to jail as pornographers.

Eight-Two Years Ago

The FCC is a big and complex regulatory body that has a massive impact on all modern communication innovation in America — and it was on June 19th, 1934 that it came into existence after the passage of the Communications Act of 1934.

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 June 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Cycle Better

from the pedal-power dept

This week, for the cyclists out there, we've got a pair of new crowdfunded devices that aim to enhance your experience on your bike — then after that, we've got a shameless plug for the new Techdirt t-shirt.

Blubel

Blubel is a navigation system that has been simplified and redesigned specifically for cyclists, wrapped up inside a bicycle bell that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Instead of a full map-based system, Blubel boils navigation down to a straightforward directional indicator: as you ride, the ring of LEDs on the bell shift to alert you to turns and point you in the right direction. But it's also an actual bell, and what's more, every time you ring it the whole system gets smarter. Since most navigation systems are tailored for drivers first and foremost, bell rings from all Blubel users are recorded as waypoints in a shared map algorithm and used to calculate smarter cycling routes throughout the area, resulting in a community-driven navigation database. The associated app lets you plan routes and set destinations, and it also records data and gives you access to lots of metrics about your ride, much like a fitness app.

CLASSON

While Blubel wraps navigation tools in a bell, CLASSON wraps indication and safety tools (and some navigation assistance) in a helmet. The CLASSON helmet contains cameras which can record your ride like a dashcam or a GoPro, but that's not their primary function: they are hooked into a smart system that offers a variety of features. First, it monitors your blindspots, and activates subtle visual indicators on the helmet's visor to let you know when a car is approaching to your side — a huge boon for cyclists in busy urban environments. Next, they monitor your arm movements to translate physical turn signals into blinking turn indicator lights on the helmet, and it can detect deceleration to activate a brake light — a huge boon for night-time cyclists. Plus, similar to the Blubel, it can guide you to destinations chosen on the associated app using a simple directional indicator system also built into the visor.


P.S. Check out the latest t-shirt from Techdirt!

Yesterday, we launched a new t-shirt on Teespring, available only for a limited time!

This spin on the infamous 80s anti-piracy campaign is only available until July 4th, so get yours today (it's also available as a women's tee and a hoodie).

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