Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile


About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

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

Located in Toronto, Ontario.



Posted on Techdirt - 25 May 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: The Eyes Have It

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

Are the eyes the windows to the soul? Probably not — but that doesn't mean they aren't darn good indicators of a whole lot of things. Scientists in a variety of fields are still uncovering new secrets within these little wet orbs, often with potentially important medical or psychological implications. Here are some of the latest discoveries made by watching the watchers:

After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the api,-dmca-and-other-acronyms dept

This week, there was lots of discussion about the Oracle/Google fight over the Java API, and from there we get our first place winner for insightful. Phaedrus (whose underlying username, I notice, is an excellent Discworld reference) wondered about the details of the fallout from all this API copyright nonsense:

If Oracle wins case, can IBM sue Oracle for using SQL ?

Implications seem endless ...

IANAL or a Computer Scientist.

But I think Oracle is poisoning a lot of wells here, and it would be nice if one of them was their own.

Next, we head to the disturbing story of a police officer being jailed indefinitely for refusing to decrypt his devices when asked, where DigDug got understandably angry about this apparent violation of a very basic right:

5th Ammendment violation, plain and simple.

I don't give a flying fuck what that Judge thinks, the 5th ammendment covers this 100%.

Any judge that disagrees with that should be pulled from the bench by their short-hairs and hung from their ankles until they see reason.

Their punishment will be purely of their own making, all they have to do to be done with it is to enforce the Constitution they swore to uphold.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two comments that came in response to our roundup of all the bad ideas raised at the Copyright Office's DMCA roundtable. After one commenter noted that the entertainment industries seem hellbent on destroying the internet, John Fenderson noted that their goal is more nuanced, but no better, than that:

Their goal from day 1 has been very clear, and has never wavered. They correctly view the internet as a threat to their collective control over media distribution.

They don't want to destroy the internet as infrastructure. They want to control the use of the internet as a means of media distribution. They don't really care about how they make that happen or what the fallout would be, so long as it happens.

Meanwhile, an anonymous commenter noted that it is indeed true, in a way, that most movies "don't make much money":

Any movie that makes a profit clearly hired the wrong accountant. Just look how much gross revenue the original Star Wars trilogy has brought in and it still is not profitable.

Over on the funny side, we start out on what is undoubtedly the funniest story of the week: the congressional candidate who shared a screenshot that included some overlooked porn tabs open in his browser. David won first place for funny by identifying the real sin:

Porn's okay, I don't mind. But Yahoo? That's where I draw the line.

In second place, we've got a comment from NoahVail, which probes the limits of a particular UK superinjunction:

i thought it was odd that thE streisand effect wasn't in pLay here, especially since The gag can ONly be applied to JOurnalists in tHe uk Newspapers.

then i read who the celebs where and i understood why everyone outside the uk is freaked out about mentioning names.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with an anonymous response to Louisiana's attempt to require age verification for "adult" content online, pointing out just how pointless this would be anyway:

The only thing age verification filters accomplish is teaching children how to subtract 18 or 21 from the current year.

Finally, we've got a comment from our post announcing our new "Nerd Harder." t-shirt (which you should consider picking up if you haven't already). After one commenter requested a version without the trailing period, Pixelation had an amusingly apt response:

You can figure out how to remove it. NERD HARDER!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 May 2016 @ 1:30pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 15th - 21st

from the looking-back dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw lots of critical digital issues being debated around the world. France was playing statistical games to claim that its HADOPI three strikes law was effective (it wasn't), even as it was having to temporarily suspend some operations following a data breach; Turkey was facing protests in response to a new plan for internet censorship; Pakistan was considering banning Facebook in the country; libraries in New Zealand were considering avoiding their own three strikes law by shutting off internet access; and in the UK, the courts were expanding superinjunction laws to cover social media and considering the Hargreaves report on the state of copyright.

In the US, we were digging into the PROTECT IP act, which was really all about old media going to war with the internet. As Google pointed out, it would set a disastrous precedent for free speech (which, of course, the big media companies tried to claim meant Google thought it was above the law). The International Trade Commission was using some silly methodology to amp up the damages of "piracy" in China, the RIAA was pushing for warrantless searches of CD and DVD manufacturing plants and trying to dig through the cloud for infringement.

Ten Years Ago

Five years earlier in 2006, we were happy to see the New York Times recognizing the amazing power of a digital library of scanned books, and also pointing out how great it can be for bringing attention to commercially neglected works. The RIAA was freaking out about the ability to record songs from satellite radio in a re-hash of the old "home taping is killing music" debacle, despite having sworn it would never be opposed to private, non-commercial recording. At least Australia was smart enough to realize that people should be allowed to rip their own CDs to their own iPods. Meanwhile, some were realizing that TV downloads could be a huge commercial opportunity for Hollywood, though they'd been trying to offer movies for years and the offerings still sucked. After all, how else could they keep making $200-million movies, right?

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, the biggest source of prediction and speculation was the future of wireless. One report noted that the real key to unlocking the wireless revolution was a killer app that everyone wanted, while MIT was focusing on the need for devices to improve, especially in terms of their displays (though small screens were probably going to do just fine for porn) and really trying to figure out exactly where the wireless web was at, and where it was going. We also saw an extremely smart, subtle prediction that has proven largely true: that consumer choices for wireless devices would start significantly influencing their choices for more traditional PC hardware and software (hello, Apple!)

Thirty-Six Years Ago

Since the latest Star Wars movie is still fresh in many people's minds, and since we even talked about its remix qualities earlier today in our Awesome Stuff post, it seems worth noting that it was on this day in 1980 that The Empire Strikes Back was released in cinemas. It's now widely considered to be the best of the original trilogy, and one of the best films in movie history.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 May 2016 @ 10:00am

Awesome Stuff: Art & Copyright

from the copy-everything dept

This week, we're taking a break from gadgets and tech products to look at something right inside Techdirt's main wheelhouse: a pair of crowdfunded projects related to copyright, art and remix culture.

Right To Copy Magazine

There are a lot of different aspects to the discussion around copyright, but the most important and fundamental is the fact that it's completely incompatible with the reality of how art and culture functions. Right to Copy is a magazine dedicated to exploring exactly that, and it looks like it's going to be packed with interesting content. The first issue includes stuff from frequent Techdirt staple Cory Doctorow, and a new interview with author Jonathan Lethem (whose excellent essay, The Ecstasy of Influence, you may recall), as well as a bunch of other content that will be of interest to Techdirt readers. All in all, it looks like a magazine very much worth reading, and certainly worth supporting — it's currently a one-man project, and it'd be great to see it grow into something bigger.

Everything Is A Remix: Star Wars Edition

Surely all our readers are familiar with the Everything Is A Remix documentary videos by Kirby Ferguson. Recently, he released a new edition of the series focused on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, along with a new Kickstarter campaign to support the ongoing project. There's some fun merchandise available: new Star Wars-inspired EIAR t-shirts and stickers, plus a new book (in either PDF or printed form) about Kirby's own remixing process. There's also a very cool reward for serious fans: an hour-long exclusive video chat with Kirby himself, where he'll be discussing his process and philosophy and taking questions. EIAR has been fighting the good fight for quite some time, and has been critical in spreading a deeper understanding of how culture functions and how copyright gets in its way — and I encourage anyone who cares about those topics to show their support.

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 May 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: More Miraculous Manmade Materials

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

There's no shortage of new man-made materials being developed, and they come in all different shapes, sizes and purposes. Sometimes it's about making something old in a new way, or giving something common an extremely uncommon property — or just producing something in previously unimaginable quantities. Here are some new developments from the world of synthetics.

After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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Posted on Techdirt - 18 May 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: Reverse Engineering The Earth

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

Geology is the ultimate riddle. All we have is a snapshot in time — the earth as it stands today — but within that snapshot are the remnant clues to untangling four and a half billion years of planetary development. Every turned stone might answer a question, or it might raise some new ones, as these latest steps towards a complete understanding of our planet's geology demonstrate.

After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 17 May 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 74: Why Is Tesla So Successful?

from the no-single-answer dept

Consumers looking for an electric car have several options to consider, but the buzz and excitement around Tesla continues to dwarf everything else. It's hardly unfounded, but the scale of the company's success is staggering, and there's no single reason for it. This week, we discuss that simple question: just why is Tesla so successful?

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 - 16 May 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: The Newest Of The Old

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

Perhaps the most striking thing about archaeological finds is just how fragile and unlikely they are. When you realize the circumstances that had to align to give us each tiny glimpse into our prehistoric past, you can't help but think about all the artifacts we'll never get to see, lost as they are to decay or destruction or inaccessibility. Each find is precious and can teach us something new (except when it turns out to be fake).

After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 May 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the hypocrisy-and-more dept

This week, it was hard to miss the irony in David Petraeus saying that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted. We listed five reasons his statements were nonsense, and That One Guy won most insightful comment of the week with an addendum to that list:

Sixth, it's bullshit because the law Snowden would be prosecuted under does not allow motive as a defense. It's entirely black or white, 'Did you reveal classified information?', and since obviously Snowden did his 'trial' would be just as pre-determined as Patraeus' was, except in the other direction.

Our second place comment for insightful comes in response to the same story, this time from David (presumably not Petraeus) expanding on why comparing Petraeus to Snowden is stupid:

Petraeus acted only for personal gain, passing classified information to his mistress in order to self-aggrandize. That's stabilizing the political establishment.

Snowden acted in defense of the Constitution, passing classified information to the public in order to enable them to fight for their Constitutional rights. That's destabilizing the political establishment.

Of course the latter is an openly hostile act against those sworn to defend the Constitution, making Snowden an enemy of the state.

It would not be so if those sworn to defend the Constitution were not actively seeking to abolish it, but Snowden was perfectly aware that they were doing exactly this, so his acts clearly were hostile towards the government and its agencies.

So he cannot expect mercy. Not as long as the American People cheer on the scum that has stolen its country and turned it into a mockery of democratic processes.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response from Ehud Gavron to a commenter accusing Techdirt of "glorifying discrimination against cops":

I think you're so busy blaming everyone other than the criminals you've lost the perspective.

First, Techdirt publishes articles discussing police criminal behavior -- like brutality -- daily. (Yesterday in fact there was a piece on Fox Network not wanting to show the end of a police chase that end with a man surrendering on the ground, and the criminal cops battered him.)

Second, if police weren't committing gross acts of criminal behavior -- like falsely arresting the people cleaning out the scumbag deadbeat cop's abandoned house -- there wouldn't be reports of this, some of which you find in Techdirt.

Yes, far easier to "blame the media" for reporting about criminal cops, than to take criminal cops to task, remove them from the street, or put them in prisons.

If cops held cops to the same standards as they hold everyone else, there would be more cops in prison than junkies.

There's no such thing as a good cop. There are bad cops... and those who look the other way or support them.


Next, we've got a good anonymous point about the Philly cops who bizarrely tried to hide their license plate reader vehicle as a Google Maps car:

Without the disguise no one would have even noticed.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to a response to the Butts County cop who arrested a crew sent to clean his foreclosed house, where ryuugami simply couldn't resist:

It seems even Butts County has its share of assholes.


I'll take my coat.

In second place, we've got some anonymous musings about the first place insightful winner this and many other weeks, That One Guy:

I actually skipped the main idea that struck me & led to my little joke (and compliment*): writing of this style doesn't seem like it expresses anger so much as it does a sense of rational frustration that has reached a tipping point. Eloquence without hyperbole strikes a rare balance that should be employed more often when addressing a wide audience. (I wouldn't know from personal experience: I lack one, and the other can only be used if you have a legal department to vet it for 'government asshat exploitability potential' first.)

* - a compliment to TOG in that he seems to have the 'passionate but articulate' thing pretty much down. It was also a statement made to see how well I could resist my desire to mention that TOG could occasionally just... shut the hell up! Go get treated for hypergraphia! Take 'emeritus' status on 'Insight' you greedy bastard, & give the rest of us a bleeding chance once in a while! Frig flatblastulated gorram slrmm'n !#!#?@#$@!!!!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from CharlieBrown on statements from the Panama Papers leaker that the revolution will be digitized:

.....so we should be able to use DRM to stop it, right?

And finally, even though jokes taking the term "piracy" literally are hardly new, DannyB must get some recognition for throwing in a fresh and irresistible pun:

Piracy is theft.

Piracy causes the loss of cargo. Sometimes the loss of shipping vessels. And sometimes injury or death to crews.

Often, piracy results in a Lost Sail and loss of other shipping or boating related items.

The Lost Sail is the main concern of the copyright maximalists.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 May 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 8th - 14th

from the wasteland?-perhaps dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the copyright maximalists were out in force. We saw complaints about new TLDs on the basis that they create "more space" for infringement while lobbyists sought to include special censorship capabilities in .net domains. A judge let US Copyright Group move forward with its huge shakedown operation over The Expendables, BMI tried to claim that a person listening to their own music via the cloud counts as a public performance, and the creators of some origami patterns sued a painter whose work was inspired by them. In Portugal, politicians were seeking to make Creative Commons illegal, while in Ireland there was a push for fair use laws that was somehow branded as "radical". But of course the biggest news was the son of COICA: the hugely problematic PROTECT IP act that had a few good ideas undermined by all the bad ones and had the potential to gut the DMCA safe harbors. Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Zoe Lofgren were not impressed.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, the trademark battle between Apple Computers and the Beatles' record label came to an end with the judge siding with the former's definition of iTunes as a data transmission service, not a music store. We saw an early push to make sure taxpayer-funded research is freely available, the dawning realization that video games are a really big deal, and a very silly squabble over the .xxx TLD. The big copyright topic was DRM, with one analyst presenting unconvincing multi-billion-dollar figures for the loss due to a lack of good DRM, even while Hollywood was being held back by its DRM obsession (and its apparent inability to understand BitTorrent). We debunked the idea that copy protection is somehow "necessary" and one of the few people who seemed to understand the problem was the CEO of RealNetworks.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, things were settling into a new post-bubble groove in Silicon Valley, with people realizing that overhyped areas like B2B weren't dead, they just weren't exciting and had to be approached like any other business — an attitude that was emerging throughout the world of internet startups. There was even more grappling over new TLDs, an interesting glimpse into the FBI's tactics against Russian hackers, and of course an ongoing glut of dot com documentaries. We also got some early bumps on the road to things that are much more common now: Microsoft killed off its subscription-based Office offerings with the apparent awareness that they would come back later, inflight WiFi was possible, but not coming to the US anytime soon, and we were clearly a bit too critical of Apple's plan to start opening retail stores. Also, all the way back in 2001, people were already discussing the still-far-from-complete switch to IPv6.

Fifty-Five Years Ago

Back in 1961, the recently-appointed head of the FCC was Newton N. Minow, and on May 9th of that year he gave a famous speech entitled Television and the Public Interest, but better known as the "vast wasteland" speech. It was a call for creating more television content in the public interest, and contained some hard-to-argue assertions:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

Fifty years later, he said that he never fully predicted the impact of television, but also that little had changed, noting that "too much deals with covering controversy, crimes, fires, and not enough with the country's great issues".

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 May 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Around The House

from the no-place-like dept

This week, we're taking a look at some crowdfunded projects for new home accoutrements both frivolous and functional.


Years ago, someone bought me a cordless home phone that was also capable of instant messaging. All you needed to do was install the companion software on your computer, always keep it running, and then presto! You could use MSN Messenger from anywhere in the house on a tiny, terrible keyboard! Yeah, it was pretty useless. The Ily takes the same idea and makes it functional: it's a home phone that works on a landline but also serves as a communication hub for the house, providing video and text messaging and easily communicating with phones and tablets. The core goal of the design is to be extremely easy to use and family friendly, especially for kids — it only places calls to contacts that have been pre-added to the list, and does so at a single tap of the screen, so even very young children can use it unsupervised and unaided. In addition to being a phone of its own, it can also serve as a Bluetooth extension for multiple smartphones, so all calls in a home can be made and received from one central hub.


The Acanvas is a digital art and picture frame that you hang on your wall, and there's nothing too exceptional about that. But it's worth a glance thanks to one fun, innovative feature: its motorized power cord that sneaks out to recharge the frame when nobody's looking. Yup: with the help of a special connector plugged in to the nearest outlet, the Acanvas takes care of its own charging needs as discretely as possible, hiding its power cord away most of the time then extending it to the outlet as needed. Game changer? Not really. Neat feature that's fun to watch? Definitely.


A home full of connected devices also needs to be a home full of robust WiFi access, and the Portal router might be on its way to becoming the new standard for just that. The key to Portal is simple: it can operate on a protected portion of the radio spectrum that was formerly reserved for radar, opening up about three times as much spectrum as typical WiFi. The main advantage to this is a way around congestion: in densely populated areas like large apartment buildings, there are a whole lot of routers competing for the same spectrum, invisibly slowing down everyone's WiFi in a way they probably aren't even aware of. Portal uses FCC-approved switching technology to move onto those other spectrum bands when the usual ones are bogged down. Of course, this is ultimately just a first step — in the long run we'll need all routers to be accessing more spectrum and smartly deciding how to share it.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 May 2016 @ 12:51pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 73: Is There Enough Demand For The On Demand Economy?

from the getting-the-gig dept

The "gig economy" of on-demand peer-to-peer services like Uber has been gaining traction, but not every company is faring so well. In some areas, the rush of entrants has outstripped demand and left on-demand providers struggling to stay afloat. This week we discuss what happens when there's not enough demand for an on-demand platform, and what it might mean for the sector as a whole.

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 - 8 May 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the insight-etc. dept

This week, we told the story of the FBI's harassment of a Tor developer, to an understandably outraged response. That One Guy won first place on the insightful side by digging in to just how threatening and foreboding the agency's actions were:

Taking notes out of 'Creepy Stalkers 101' I see

One of the most disturbing aspects to this is the continued insistence on a physical meetup, as though it simply wasn't possible to have the discussion over the phone or online in some way.

Given the repeated insistence on a physical meeting, refusal to state what they wanted her for, and the not so veiled insinuation that they'd really rather not have her lawyer present, yeah, I'd say she had plenty of reason to be worried.

We also saw a partly disappointing ruling this week when a judge told Twitter that revealing statistics on NSLs and FISA Court orders was not protected speech. An anonymous commenter won second place for insightful (and hit third place for funny) by suggesting another legal tactic:

The third party doctrine should apply here, by giving the company the letters and warrants, the government has no expectations of privacy.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more nod to That One Guy for pointing out a delightful detail of an Australian government commission's shockingly excellent report on intellectual property:

Using a right to show why it's important

Got to love how the section of the report dealing with fair use starts with a snippet from another report to list it's claims so that they can then be addressed, something that would not be legal were it not for fair use.

Next, in response to a case in which the DOJ's "good faith" defence for warrantless Stingray usage fell flat, an anonymous commenter wondered just how much strain the notion of good faith could really take:

"Good faith exemption" How did that argument go?

"We did everything we could to keep the use of this device secret from the courts and the defense attorneys, by using NDA's and having the US Marshals to come in take any record of their use before a court could force us to turn them over.... because we thought it was legal?"

Over on the funny side, for first place we return to the story about the FBI's pursuit of a Tor developer, where it was hard to ignore the coincidence that the developer in question bears the surname "Isis". One anonymous commenter figured this would just make for interesting clickbait:

I can see the headlines:
"TOR software developed by Isis, with financing from the US government!"

In second place, we've got a comment from TheResidentSkeptic also in response to Australia's copyright report, and the potential fallout:

News from the FAA

Every private jet in Hollywood has filed a flight plan to Australia on an "emergency flight" basis. All airlines are requesting extra flights due to sudden demand from law firms and lobbyist organizations.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got two comments that scored high in both funny and insightful votes. While our second place winner predicted the reaction to Australia's report from the private copyright industries, Vidiot anticipated a rapid assist from the USTR:

Coming up...

... a top slot in "Mid-2016 Special 301 Report - Rise of the Aussie Outlaws"!

Come on, RIAA... what did you expect from a nation colonized by pirates?

Finally, we return to Twitter's first amendment struggles with revealing supposedly classified statistics, where icarusthecow wondered why the government was so concerned in the first place:

Hmm, funny they should be so secretive... after all, It's just metadata right?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 May 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: May 1st - 7th

from the five-ten-fifteen dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the copyright nonsense was happening at home and abroad. The White House published its infamously terrible Special 301 Report to complain about countries with more enlightened views on copyright. Meanwhile, leaked cables revealed that New Zealand was also on the growing list of countries where the US tried to directly write new copyright laws. In Brazil, which had always been more progressive on the copyright front, citizens were asking the government not to throw out all that hard work.

Things continued to go bad for Righthaven as unsealed documents brought scrutiny to many of its cases, so it hired a "star" copyright lawyer to try to right the ship. A judge slammed John Steele's latest fishing attempt, too.

Ten Years Ago

The same week in 2006, the big content industries were doing the same thing with international copyright: trying to get more favorable laws by playing geopolitical leapfrog. One lawyer filed a motion asserting that the RIAA's $750-per-song infringement fines were unconstitutional, though really the RIAA just should have noticed that fans will pay for music if given a good reason (and that in the movie world, the war on piracy was not working).

There was a push in congress for a new law forcing ISPs to retain data on users, and it was receiving surprisingly little pushback. In response to what opposition existed, the law's backers acted mystified that anyone could possibly have any issues with the plan. Didn't congress have anything better to do, like putting online poker players in jail for some reason?

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, we were in the midst of some of the early fears about Chinese cyber-attacks — but these fears were amusingly misdirected at run-of-the-mill website defacements most likely performed by average script-kiddies (or perhaps hackers for hire). Documentarians were clambering over each other to cover Silicon Valley, and random unsubstantiated claims like "the internet as addictive as gambling" were all the rage. But the biggest source of buzz in the tech world was the fast-approaching release of the X-Box.

Napster was in some unsuccessful talks with Microsoft, while some were pointing out that file-sharing has history on its side. Aimster was going on the offensive, suing the RIAA in what appeared to be a publicity stunt.

Thirty-Eight Years Ago

"Spam" existed in various forms (and without that name) prior to the digital era, but May 3rd marks a notable milestone: the first mass unsolicited digital communication, in 1978. It was an advertisement for a new computer, sent in bulk to 393 recipients on ARPANET (who were, for the most part, none too thrilled).

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 May 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Smooth Surfaces

from the maker-tools dept

This week, we've got two new crowdfunded tools for 3D creation — though only one is for 3D printing.


The PolySmooth is a 3D printer with one straightforward goal: to smooth and refine 3D printed objects, closing the quality gap with mass-produced plastic parts. At its core, it's a standard extrusion-based 3D printer, but it includes two key innovations: a new base material specifically designed to be easily and fully polished, and a spray system that coats the objects in alcohol mist to do the polishing. The end result is extremely smooth, high-gloss surfaces that are the opposite of what you picture when you think of 3D printing. The new material is PVB-based, and designed to be basically identical to the more typical PLA polymer in all but this one critical way, so it's compatible with other extrusion printers. The material alone has advantages, but it's the polishing mister that works the real magic.


3D printing may be the flagship of the maker fleet, but it's not the only technique available. The FormBox offers the ability to create vacuum-formed objects — not as useful for brand new creations, but extremely useful for making molds and copies of existing objects. It works with a wide variety of sheet thermo-plastics, and of course when making molds they then work with all sorts of materials, from resin and silicon to ice and chocolate. But the key to the whole thing is how it manages to put vacuum-forming capabilities in a desktop-sized package to begin with: by using a regular home vacuum cleaner. It hooks up to just about any vacuum using a universal connector in order to work its magic, leaving the unit itself at a reasonable cost well under $500.

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 May 2016 @ 1:30pm

Encryption, Privacy & Free Speech: An April Recap

from the looking-back dept

Post sponsored by

Golden Frog

As part of our funding campaign for our coverage of encryption, we reached out to some companies that care about these issues to ask them to show their support. Today, we're taking a look back at a series of four posts sponsored by Golden Frog, a company dedicated to online privacy, security and freedom.

California's Anti-Encryption Bill: At the beginning of April, we called attention to a bill in California that had gone from bad to worse. Originally a ban on smartphone encryption, it was tinkered with until it became a requirement for encryption backdoors, which could have forced manufacturers to create special California versions of their products with weakened security. Though obviously not as high-profile or as far-reaching as the Burr/Feinstein encryption bill in Senate, it was ultimately the same thing: a wrongheaded attack on device security framed as a necessity for law enforcement, despite that being a very unconvincing notion.

Thankfully, California lawmakers seem to have come to their senses on this one. The bill died without a vote a week later, after the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection realized what a terrible idea it was.

From the Golden Frog Blog: We Agree With Apple — We Can’t Set The Precedent Of An iPhone "Backdoor"

A Scary Thought Experiment About The NSA: A few weeks ago, Glyn Moody called our attention to a fantastic (if somewhat disturbing) presentation from 2014, breaking down some ways the NSA could infiltrate our digital networks at the most basic and undetectable level. This notion remains hypothetical but all-too-conceivable, especially when there have been plenty of examples of companies cooperating with the government and the intelligence community without being tricked into doing so.

From the Golden Frog Blog: AT&T, Shame on You for Helping the NSA Spy on Us

The USTR Comes (Partly) To Its Senses: The USTR's history with internet policy and digital innovation has always been, to put it mildly, discouraging. So we were surprised to see a change of tune in this year's National Trade Estimate report, which called out internet censorship in China and Pakistan as serious barriers to innovation and free expression, and even pointed out the myriad dangers of the EU's Digital Single Market strategy and the problems with a "Google tax". This is still far from a total about-face for the USTR, with the very same report managing to contradict itself when it came to intellectual property issues — but it's a very welcome step in the right direction.

From the Golden Frog Blog: EU Reforms Data Protection and Privacy Rules in Huge Overhaul

Snowden's Positive Impact On Encryption Adoption: National Intelligence Director James Clapper thought he was decrying Edward Snowden when he pointed out that his actions massively accelerated the adoption of encryption technology, shaving years off the NSA's estimated timeline — but those of us who value data security and internet freedom had a different takeaway, and considered it yet another example of the good Snowden's revelations have done. The whole thing really highlighted the mismatched priorities and values between the intelligence community and the American public (as if that needed any more highlighting).

From the Golden Frog Blog: Encryption Fundamentals: What Everyone Should Know

We'd like to thank Golden Frog for supporting our coverage of these critical issues relating to security, privacy and encryption. As you've likely noticed, their blog is full of great content that also explores these topics. In addition to the links we've featured so far, here are some more posts that may be of interest to Techdirt readers:

Privacy & Security on the Golden Frog Blog:

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 3 May 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 72: The Tough Choices Platforms Make

from the balancing-act dept

Back in March, Mike moderated a panel at RightsCon on the subject of intermediary liability and the delicate balancing act that platform providers have to play on that front, with lawyers from Meetup, Change.org, and Medium. This week, in lieu of a regular podcast episode we've got a recording of that discussion, which delves deeply into some of the difficult choices companies like this have to make.

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 - 1 May 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the talk-of-the-blog dept

After it was revealed just how secretive the FBI is about its hacking tools and surveillance techniques, dfed stepped up to win most insightful comment of the week by latching on to one particular piece of language:

"Protect our trade craft" is a statement a surveillance outfit, not a law enforcement agency, makes. That's the terrifying disclosure: The FBI just admitted they aren't interested in law enforcement, they are interested in espionage.

In second place, we've got a response to the comment from Getty (who have filed an antitrust complaint against Google in the EU) that "by standing in the way of a fair marketplace for images, Google is threatening innovation, and jeopardizing artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works." Mason Wheeler read that and saw another big word-choice red flag:

Here's a good rule of thumb: anytime the largest player in a market complains about someone else interfering with a fair (or free) market, it's generally safe to assume a priori that the complainer is either a sleazy monopolist or trying to become one.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another comment on that same post, this time from an anonymous commenter who pointed out the simple thing that makes complaints like this seem so ridiculous:

Or they could block Google from hotlinking their images by simply editing their .htaccess file?

Next, we've got a comment from Dave Cortright expanding on the Burr-Feinstein obsession with being "above the law":

Might as well apply this template to other areas too

Doctors are not above the law. When a witness dies, valuable information is irretrievably lost. So we propose a bill that requires doctors to comply with court orders to bring these witnesses back from the dead so they can be questioned. We aren't mandating how this is accomplished, only that they comply with our demands.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to AnonCow for his creative reinterpretation of the transcript of senators questioning James Clapper:

Senator: "How many Americans have data collected on them?

Clapper: "I can't answer that question."

Senator: "Why not?"

Clapper: "The last U.S. census was in 2010."

Senator: "The 2010 census reported a population of 308.7 million Americans."

Clapper: "Ok, go with that...."

In second place, we've got Jeffrey Nonken responding to Windows 10's on-air fail during a weather broadcast:

The weather forecast

Sunny, mild, and scattered chances of Microsoft being douche bags.

GWX Control Panel FTW.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from NotACableShill who dropped by to double down on the alarmist rhetoric around set top boxes:

Not to sound alarmist here but in addition to turning everyone to piracy, utterly destroying privacy, complete theft of the future, and forcing ethnic segregation the likes of which history has never seen, allowing 3rd party cable set top boxes will also corrupt our youth, murder puppies, resurrect Hitler and pull asteroids from the skies causing untold damage and destruction to the world that rivals the dinosaur extinction (be sure to get your tickets to Ice Age: Collision Course in theaters July 2016).

If you don't want to live in a puppyless, post-apocalyptic world run by Zombie Hitler, you must side with the Cable Companies to which I am absolutely not affiliated with in any way.

And last but not least, after the latest revelation of DMCA abuse being used by shifty reputation management companies, an anonymous commenter vented some frustration over continued insistences that DMCA abuse isn't a big deal:

There's no proof that the DMCA is being widely abused except the article a week highlighting widespread abuse and the fact that an entire industry has sprouted up to take advantage of it in the absence of any punishments. But other than all the widespread abuse of the DMCA, there's no proof that there's widespread abuse of the DMCA.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: April 24th - 30th

from the same-as-it-ever-was dept

Five Years Ago

The ACTA saga continued this week in 2011, as things began to become quite the mess. Homeland Security complained to the USTR that ACTA was a threat to national security, while the latter was withholding a Congressional Research Service report that confirmed the agreement's highly questionable language. As was widely suspected, it was also confirmed that the US was the lone holdout refusing to release the text of ACTA, though a former DHS official was calling it a "sweetheart deal" for IP owners.

Righthaven was slammed by yet another judge, even as it refused to cut its losses in a court that had previously shut down its requests. Yet despite this kind of thing getting more common, in the big picture it appeared that the shakedown schemes of most copyright trolls were working.

This was also the week that Sony suffered a massive hack to the Playstation network, losing lots of personal info and bracing itself for serious consequences.

Ten Years Ago

A lot of this week's news in 2006 came out of the big conference on copyright at the Cato Institute, and the fact that Rep. Lamar Smith had introduced new legislation to expand the DMCA (and, because why not, some attempts to expand trademark law too). The sentencing guidelines were wacky, giving a bigger penalty to piracy than to things like assaulting a police officer or possessing child porn. We also so an attempt to require DRM on streaming music, and fun IP abuses like trying to force all Elvis impersonators to buy licenses, or the RIAA suing yet another family with no computer.

Also, while Facebook was around in 2006, it's easy to forget that it was still only open to students — and this was the week it started pushing beyond that boundary.

Fifteen Years Ago

We saw a sad but telling story in 2001: the creators of the DRM encryption system SDMI held a contest to hack it, with the problematic clause that entrants couldn't publish their research — leading some to go ahead with it on their own terms, freaking out the folks at SDMI. This week, they threatened a professor who had succeeded and suggested he should destroy every copy of his paper; while I doubt he went so far, the threats were enough to stop him from presenting the research to anyone. The whole thing made the SDMI folks (and their RIAA friends) look really bad, but they don't seem to have learned much of a lesson from it.

Techdirt also launched two new features this week in 2001. The first was something called QuickLinks, and it was mostly a disaster and removed the next day. The other was our adoption of a little something called RSS. That one fared a bit better.

Two-Hundred And Sixteen Years Ago

Today, it's a significant part of the government, with bizarre and highly important powers to define aspects of copyright law. But back when it was created by John Adams on April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress was only that: a library. It was given $5000 "for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress ... and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them" — which at the time translated to 740 books and three maps ordered from London.

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Posted on Techdirt - 30 April 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Make More Music

from the different-ways-to-play dept

It's music-making time again! This week, we've got another set of crowdfunded devices that unlock new and unexpected ways to play with sound and create new tunes.


The Dualo is all about making it easy to create music, but that hasn't stopped it from being an interesting device by several professional standards. Its core functions are the two banks of buttons that are set up to group harmonious notes nearby (so pressing any local set of buttons is likely to produce a pleasing combination) and which can be switched between 52 different synthesized instruments, and a 7-track on-the-fly looper that lets you layer these sounds on top of each other as you play. What's notable and rare among these kinds of instruments is that the Dualo is a self-contained, standalone device — it doesn't require an associated app or a computer, though it can also double as a MIDI input device in larger digital music workflows.


AirJamz is really more of a toy than anything else, but it sure does look like a fun toy. It's a wrist-mounted motion sensor that interfaces wirelessly with a mobile app to produce sound from that age-old pastime of playing air guitar. Your miming strums are converted into actual guitar sounds, though it's a little unclear just how much control over those sounds the system really provides. Nevertheless, it looks like fun — and, again, is MIDI compatible, opening up all sorts of possibilities. With the ability to run four sensor units in tandem, AirJamz might find the most adoption as a party game.

XTH Sense

The XTH Sense is the most ambitious and different of this week's projects: a bio-sensor based music creation device. Like the AirJamz, it straps to your wrist and detects movement — but it doesn't stop there. The unit includes a bioacoustic microphone that listens for pulse, blood flow and muscle movement, and a thermometer to track body temperature, and performs some algorithmic wizardry to combine all these variables into a shifting signal that controls other devices. Music creation is one of its flagship applications, but not the only one: it also has potential as a virtual reality device, a gaming controller and more, not to mention it could be used simply as a bio-sensor for those who want to access that data. Like our other devices this week, the XTH Sense has full MIDI compatibility, and even comes with pre-made plugins for a bunch of popular music production software packages — plus, it's compatible with the Arduino IDE, and comes with a flexible API for building custom apps.

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