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Posted on Techdirt - 18 September 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: September 12th - 18th

from the way-back-when dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, Netflix was urging the FCC to crack down on broadband usage caps, Hollywood was struggling to keep its movie screeners secure (despite insisting that anti-piracy tech should be easy), and Paramount issued a DMCA takedown over an Ubuntu Linux torrent. Scientists were realizing that the recent ruling in Europe on infringement-by-linking was making science much more difficult, while the EU was barreling ahead with its absolutely ridiculous copyright proposal, and another bad EU ruling said that WiFi providers can be forced to require passwords if copyright holders demand it. The ACLU was launching a campaign to have President Obama pardon Ed Snowden, while the House Intelligence Committee was insisting that he doesn't qualify as a whistleblower. We also took a closer look at how corporate sovereignty provisions in trade deals are dangerous, while over 200 economics and law professors were urging Congress to reject such provisions. Also, this was the week that Prenda's Paul Hansmeier lost his law license.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, a new proposal in the UK would allow police to seize domain names without a court order, the US government was continuing to indict people for file sharing, the Authors Guild filed lawsuits against five universities for providing access to orphaned works, and Hotfile was fighting back against Warner Bros. with a countersuit for copyright misuse. Europe's recent retroactive copyright extension was leading to much well-deserved anger (considering it was costing the public a billion euros), while Canada was planning to reintroduce its terrible copyright plan. We also took a look at one of the starkest examples of the insanity of Hollywood accounting: the fact that the actor who played Darth Vader was still not getting paid because supposedly Return of the Jedi was still not profitable.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, record labels were being evasive about their own use of file sharing tech, Universal Music was publicly threatening to sue YouTube and MySpace, the USPTO was getting in on the game of brainwashing school kids about infringement, and we reiterated the arguments about why fashion copyright isn't necessary. Nearly a year after the original scandal, Sony's rootkit was still causing problems, while the company was trying to avoid having to pay out another settlement in Canada. The world's largest DVD manufacturer was bragging about yet another DRM scheme, and we noted how — after all the "significant blows" to piracy that had supposedly been happening — piracy still wasn't going down. Also this week, we saw a very early attempt by a Chinese car company at showing off a fully driverless vehicle.

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 September 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the word-on-the-street dept

This week, That One Guy dominated the leaderboards with three out of four spots — the top two comments for insightful, and the first place winner for funny. In both places on the insightful side, it's his comments on our post about GoDaddy banning the Texas abortion snitch site, starting with this response to the perennial observation that advocates of the "unborn" don't seem to care much about the born:

A quote I ran across in a youtube comment section of all places sums it up nicely I'd say.

“The unborn are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; chy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn…

You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

— Dr. Dave Barnhart, Christian Minister

In second place, it's a comment about the fact that Epik also banned the site:

Bloody hell, you know you've really gone above and beyond in being horrible when the hosting service of Gab and Parler says they want nothing to do with you.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Stephen T. Stone responding to someone who painted an bizarre caricature of people who rightly oppose the Texas law:

"you're okay with demonizing any attempt to present alternatives to abortion?"

Anti-choice/pro–forced birthing lawmakers (who are largely conservative) seem content with demonetizing or banning comprehensive sex education and affordable birth control/contraception, both of which are proven to reduce abortion rates. What other alternatives do you believe will reduce abortion rates without legally forcing women to give up their bodily autonomy?

"any information about it that isn't flattering to the practice?"

How about we talk about information that isn’t flattering to the anti-choice crowd⁠—like the fact that the so-called fetal heartbeat on which laws/bills like the Texas bullshit isn’t actually a heartbeat at all? How about you address the fact that, at the six-week cutoff period outlined in the Texas law, many women don’t even know they’re pregnant? Perhaps we can discuss Republican lawmakers have done everything possible to destroy the social safety net and depress wages such that a woman who isn’t wealthy could have serious problems making ends meet and thus raising a healthy child that she may not have wanted in the first place but was legally forced to carry to term. Maybe you’d like to explore the fact that the Texas law makes no exceptions for rape/incest, which literally means a rapist in Texas has a viable reproduction strategy for as long as he isn’t caught.

Let’s have those discussions first. Then we can get to any questions you might have.

Next, it's a comment from anonymous on our post about the trial of Backpage's founders:

A lot of information that has come out since the push for SESTA/FOSTA has made it clear that they were using "sex trafficking" interchangeably for "prostitution."

Also, it was clearly a vehicle for many politician's careers, particularly Kamala Harris in 2016 and the democrats in 2018 who were courting progressives at the time. Although, the democrats still havent figured out that the progessives fully support legalized sex work. Just one more example of how the democratic party is actually far right of center.

Who can forget Kamala Harris's speech as Attorney General of California laying out all of the charges against Backpage? Pretty much everything she said in that speech, save for the list of charges, turned out to be nothing but a pack of lies.

Sorry to mention the politics of all of this but I feel it is an important part of how all of this played out.

Over on the funny side, That One Guy's first place win is for a response to a certain commenter complaining about efforts to fight disinformation:

What a surprise, someone who constantly makes claims and then runs away when asked to support them isn't a fan of a system where that sort of behavior is penalized.

In second place, it's an anonymous comment on our post about Australia's intermediary liability rules, and specifically our description of how "the country down under has always taken an upside down view":

You had to do this.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from That Anonymous Coward about GoDaddy's Texas takedown:

Won't anyone think of about those poor people who wrote bots to pretend they were in texas & submit hundreds of bogus leads to the website?

Finally, it's Flakbait with a response to the news that the FTC is looking into broken McDonalds ice cream machines:

About time!

I am just so glad, so relieved to see the Feds moving on to an important topic and away from the trivial distraction of topics like the price of insulin and EpiPens. It makes me much less frustrated by the amount I pay in taxes.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 September 2021 @ 1:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: September 5th - 11th

from the past-to-present dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, AT&ampT was tapdancing around its DirecTV merger obligations and tiptoeing past a sleepy FCC's net neutrality rules — perhaps because the FCC was busy weakening its cable box reform plans in response to industry lobbying, although this didn't stop Comcast from still finding things to whine about, nor the MPAA from freaking out about the new plan. Warner Bros. managed to issue DMCA takedowns for its own website, Take Two won its publicity rights lawsuits against Lindsay Lohan and Karen Gravano, and Google screwed over a bunch of media websites. We took a closer look at why the Copyright Office acts as Hollywood's lobbying arm, while a terrible ruling in the EU said that mere links can be direct infringement.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, the MPAA was so thrilled with the Zediva ruling that it was offering to help the court spread it around, and was also busy pushing bogus piracy numbers that suggested pirates would buy 200 more DVDs per year if they couldn't download stuff. France was placing copyright above human rights, Sweden was dismantling its online civil rights at the behest of US content industries, a Russian bureaucrat was calling for Google and Youtube to be shut down for facilitating infringement, a Canadian politician turned out to have secretly asked the US to ramp up diplomatic pressure for more draconian copyright laws, and Europe was adopting a copyright strategy that would see Europeans send as much money as possible to US companies — while also seizing the public domain by retroactively extending copyright. EMI was getting desperate with legal theories about pre-1972 songs, the RIAA was sending DMCA takedowns over free music being distributed directly from the Universal Music website, and Puerto 80 was continuing its fight over the DOJ's domain seizures.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, a patent dispute had the bizarre effect of forcing SanDisk to only show photos of a new MP3 player at a trade show, though the company managed to get the injunction overturned when it was too late. Clear Channel was fighting for relaxed rules so it could buy up even more radio stations, newspapers were still really struggling to understand the internet, and magazines were fumbling around trying to cash in on the online video craze. EMI was freaking out and demanding IP addresses over a popular new Beatles/Beach Boys mashup, while a settlement with Bertlesmann over its Napster investment was poised to make things complicated for investors. And we also had another of our early posts talking about Section 230 back when it was a relatively obscure law to most people, rather than a well-known political football (not that broad understanding of how it works has actually improved much since then).

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 7 September 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 297: The Future Of Libraries

from the public-good dept

The notion that if libraries didn't exist already, the publishing industry wouldn't allow them to exist at all is both a grim joke and a depressing truth, as continually evidenced by the opposition of publishers to seemingly unobjectionable technologies like controlled digital lending, which aim to allow libraries to carry their mission forward into the digital age. This week, we're joined by Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of the Library Futures Institute, to discuss the institute's new paper on the subject and the legality of and opposition to controlled digital lending, and what it tells us about the future of libraries.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 September 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the so-they-say dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is an anonymous entry in a long-running debate — I won't provide all the context (you can check it out for yourself) because frankly the source of the debate is getting a bit tiresome and well-placed smackdowns like this shouldn't even be necessary anymore, but apparently they are:

Yet neither has to do with this bill. While you're here, answer this: why is your right to speech more important than my right not to associate with your speech?

In second place, it's James Burkhardt in another branch of said debate, responding to the assertion that social media platforms could escape liability by just not moderating at all, and this would somehow be a good thing:

This is the end conclusion reached by the logic behind the ruling in Prodigy v Oakmont, the case whose ruling was so bad congress wrote a law to overturn it. Congratulations getting to that conclusion, 20 years later. Of course, to claim the logical decision would be to stop moderating assumes that a lack of moderation would have no effect on the business.

Evidence from Youtube's various Adpocalypses and Techdirt's own issues with advertisers speaks to the contrary. They wont want ads next to child porn. Pro-Terrorist content. A post with rampant racial slurs.

This ignores that just hosting, no matter how ignorant, pro-terrorist content, child porn, or instructions on how to get an abortion, is a legal liability until a court rules. Possession of Child Porn is a crime regardless of ignorance. You are still providing material support to terrorists. And its not clear that in the case of the abortion bill that courts would require red flag knowledge (as copyright law does), rather than just the knowledge that the tool is being used, somewhere, to violate the law (as regularly argued by copyright holders).

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from That One Guy about the Texas legislature saying what schools can't teach, and what social media must host:

Now tell us what you REALLY think texas republicans...

'Teaching that racism exists is terrible, divisive and makes the racists feel bad so that's right out! Now about those 'the jews had it coming, sometimes terrorists have a point and vaccines are the mark of the beast and cause autism' posts that social media must host...'

Always nice when politicians slip up and tell everyone what they really think even if it's all sorts of disturbing(if not in any way surprising at this point) that 'pro-holocaust, pro-terrorism and anti-vaxx-in-the-middle-of-a-gorram-pandemic' are apparently top priorities of things to not just protect but enshrine as untouchable positions for texas republicans.

Next, it's Bruce E responding to a commenter who criticized our post about tech industry bias by asserting that they want (and believe they have personally achieved) a bias-free meritocracy:

If you believe you are free from bias you might be just fooling yourself. Even honourable people who think sexism, racism, anti-transism, etc. are wrong subject to bias.

The point is to constantly be on the lookout for your own bias first, then help others with theirs.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Thad with another comment on that post, this time responding to someone who went on a bizarre rant in a failed attempt at an analogy, while also saying they find the subject embarrassing:

I mean, if I'd just responded to an article about sexism by rambling about football jerseys for eight paragraphs, I'd be embarrassed too.

In second place, it's David responding to our description of some comments from Marjorie Taylor Greene as "utterly nonsensical, zero calorie, idiot theater":

Well, that's how we know that Greene has not been misquoted.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from Samuel Abram responding to the observation that adult content bans so often have exceptions for Playboy:

It must be the articles.

Finally, it's one more comment from That One Guy, this time in response to the question of what exactly the difference is between the GOP and the Mafia:

One of them is a criminal organization that is willing to protect their interests using any means available, are big fans of suits and grandiose statements and sees the legal system as a tool to be corrupted and used at their leisure.

The other is the mafia.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 September 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: August 29th - September 4th

from the as-it-happened dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, a leaked copyright proposal in the EU was a complete mess with lots of terrible ideas — though that didn't stop Hollywood from finding something in it to freak out about — while a report from the UK government pretty much accused Facebook, Twitter, and Google of being unrepentant supporters of terrorism. On the flipside, we were surprised that the EU adopted net neutrality guidelines that didn't suck. James Comey was calling for an "adult conversation" about encryption but still refusing to listen to experts, while the DHS's new Election Cybersecurity Committee also lacked any cybersecurity experts, and we noted the Clinton Campaign's hypocrisy on encryption. And, of course, the monkey selfie debacle continued, this time with PETA losing its "next friend" status.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw more of how ridiculous the lawsuits were from US Copyright Group and the Hurt Locker producers, the DOJ was battling Puerto 80 in court over its domain seizures (leading the latter to appeal on First Amendment grounds), and we took another look at the total lack of evidence for the supposed necessity of a fashion copyright. A DMCA takedown "prank" led to all of Justin Bieber's videos being removed from YouTube, and so all of a sudden record label executives were concerned about DMCA abuse (while Twitter was having its own problems with highly questionable DMCA claims leading to account suspensions). Meanwhile, an appeals court ruled that arresting a man for filming the cops violated the First and Fourth Amendments, but at the same time a man who filmed the cops in Illinois was facing 75 years in jail at the hands of an Assistant AG who insisted there is no right to record the police.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, cablecos and telcos seemed to be suddenly realizing that their service sucks, not that they would be fixing that anytime soon, while we took a closer look at the telco shills polluting the net neutrality debate. A weird internal copyright battle at the UK Cabinet Office led to one part of the office pulling another part's videos off YouTube, while the New York Times was blocking an article for UK readers for fear of liability under the country's problematic laws. In the midst of the world learning about its highly questionable conditions, Foxconn was threatening reporters with life-destroying consequences, but then tried to back down. Meanwhile, the MPAA was using its rating powers to obstruct a documentary about its rating powers, and the RIAA (which at the same time was still fighting for the right to scour people's hard drives) was following the MPAA's lead and creating an "educational campaign" to brainwash people about the evils of piracy.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 31 August 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 296: Internet Policy & The Canadian Election

from the to-the-north dept

Canada is barreling towards a federal election, and if recent legislative proposals are any indication, the outcome will have huge implications for the future of the internet in the country. Between the recent Bill C-10 and the proposed online harms legislation (among other things), it's clear that plenty of Canadian politicians want to make drastic and draconian changes to how the internet is regulated. This week, I join Mike on the podcast along with Matt Hatfield, the Campaigns Director of OpenMedia (something like Canada's version of the EFF), to discuss the Canadian election and what it means for a variety of important internet policy issues.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 29 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the as-they-say dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is That One Guy with a comment about Universal Music Group sending a takedown over footage of the moon:

Amazing how many of these cases could and would be stopped cold if there was any sort of penalty for making bogus copyright claims...

In second place, it's That One Guy again, this time responding to the takedowns sent by the fake "U.S. Copyright Office" and specifically to a commenter who said they think the vast majority of takedown notices are legitimate:

And you would not just be wrong in thinking so but very wrong, as the article from the first link noted the overwhelming number of DMCA claims Google receives are for sites that were not listed in Google search and therefore would not have appeared in it and are therefore bogus, to the tune of less than 1% of DMCA claims filed being valid.

Here's the relevant quote from that previous article:

A significant portion of the recent increases in DMCA submission volumes for Google Search stem from notices that appear to be duplicative, unnecessary, or mistaken. As we explained at the San Francisco Roundtable, a substantial number of takedown requests submitted to Google are for URLs that have never been in our search index, and therefore could never have appeared in our search results. For example, in January 2017, the most prolific submitter submitted notices that Google honored for 16,457,433 URLs. But on further inspection, 16,450,129 (99.97%) of those URLs were not in our search index in the first place. Nor is this problem limited to one submitter: in total, 99.95% of all URLs processed from our Trusted Copyright Removal Program in January 2017 were not in our index.

And another one explaining one of the reasons the number is so bloody high:

Nor is the large number of takedown requests to Google a good proxy even for the volume of infringing material available on the Internet. Many of these submissions appear to be generated by merely scrambling the words in a search query and appending that to a URL, so that each query makes a different URL that nonetheless leads to the same page of results.

Unless Google is a complete exception as far as the ratio of bogus to legitimate claims go or things have vastly improved since that article was written(and given there is still effectively no penalty for bogus DMCA claims I doubt it) I'd say it's a very safe assumption that very nearly all DMCA claims are bogus with the legitimate ones in the very, very tiny minority.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment on that post, this time from an anonymous commenter responding to the claim that automated, speculative takedown notices are totally legitimate:

The DMCA requires that the person sending a Section 512 takedown notice has a good faith belief that the material listed in the notice is infringing. How can a non-existent "speculative" URL possibly be infringing, and how could anyone have a good faith belief that something that doesn't exist infringes anything?

Anyone who sends such a notice is blatantly and willfully abusing the process.

Next, it's another anonymous commenter with a point about the DOJ's selective prosecution designed to maximize the punishment of Black Lives Matter protestors:

And the reason for those protests is...... persecution by the authorities.

Over on the funny side, both our winners also come in response to the moon takedown debacle. In first place, it's an anonymous commenter responding to the obvious point that UMG does not hold a copyright on the moon:

Well, who does, then? Someone's gotta own it, right? Otherwise, what incentive would there be to gravitationally capture celestial bodies?

In second place, it's Bloof with one of many riffs on the subject that appeared in the comments:

When the moon hits your eye and you post it online, that's infringement!
Since we've claimed it you see, you can't use it for free, that's infringement!

And since that subject was indeed so riffable, we've got two more for the editor's choice. First, it's David with a suggestion:

Going full circle

We need Pink Floyd to take down the Federal Reserve because of violating their copyright on "Money".

Though UMG will then strike back because it's on "The Dark Side of the Moon".

The lunatics are in my hall.

And finally, it's Rico R. with a movie quote:

Incorrect Star Wars quote

"That’s no moon. It’s copyright infringement!"

— Star Wars: The Copyright Empire Strikes Back

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: August 22nd - 28th

from the and-so-it-came-to-pass dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, we watched as telcos tapdanced around net neutrality requirements, and also took a look yet again at the clear evidence that net neutrality didn't hurt broadband investment. The think tank that originally proposed SOPA claimed to have "proof" that it would have been great, Obama was pushing to ratify the TPP, and India made it a criminal act to merely visit a site that was "blocked" for copyright infringement. On the podcast, we had an interview with Kim Dotcom's lawyer, while it also came out that the FBI had let its seized Megaupload domains lapse and they were now enhanced darkweb child porn sites in its efforts to combat them). This was also the week that we launched our Copying Is Not Theft t-shirt (which was much later taken down by Teespring with no explanation, so you can now get it on Threadless.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, the chorus of mainstream press talking about how the patent system is broken was getting louder, with even the Wall Street Journal getting in on the action. The RIAA filed a predictable appeal over the judge's decision to decrease the jury award in the Jammie Thomas trial, the ruling in the MP3Tunes lawsuit thankfully protected DMCA safe harbors, and we looked at an important but often overlooked aspect of the fair use ruling over South Park's What What (In The Butt)? parody. Meanwhile, the fight was on over PROTECT IP, with Don Henley supporting it due to his irrational hatred of YouTube and the Washington Post promoting it with an editorial full of questionable claims, while Paul Vixie issued a thorough explanation of how it would break the internet. And we also had one of our first posts about what, at the time, was a "side show" in the Oracle/Google patent fight: API copyrights.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, we took a look at how takedown notices were challenging the internet's usual ability to route around censorship, and discussed the failures of the RIAA's automated lawsuit threat strategy (as well as looking at a way to stupidly lose such a lawsuit, and another way to get one dismissed). Heads were rolling inside AOL over its search data leak, while researchers were conflicted about making use of the potentially very useful data. This was also the week that Amazon rolled out something that would become a central component of so many modern internet services, by offering processing power at utility rates for people to use in building products.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 August 2021 @ 11:40am

Support Public Code, While Helping Support Techdirt

from the synergy dept

Recently, following our announcement that we have removed all Google ads and tracking code from Techdirt, a reader reached out to us with a novel (and greatly appreciated!) proposal for supporting the change and our ongoing reporting while also helping out a good cause: buying an ad — not for their own benefit, but for that of a public interest campaign that aligns perfectly with our own values. That's why you see a new banner in the sidebar on the site, encouraging our readers to sign an open letter put together by FSFE calling on the EU to pass a law requiring all publicly financed software to be made available under a free and open source license.

This reader purchased the ad with their own money, as a way of helping out both Techdirt and the FSFE campaign — and we think this is such an amazing and generous idea that we wanted to call extra attention to it with a post. We've written about this same issue of open sourcing publicly funded software in the past, when the White House began embracing the idea and then unveiled an official open source software policy — but the fact is it should be the norm for all governments that use taxpayer money to develop software. If the public funds something, it should be available to the public by default.

And, of course, we also want to call attention to this campaign as a way that you can support Techdirt. As we said in our post about removing Google trackers from the site, these kinds of reader-friendly changes also take away some of our revenue streams, and increase our reliance on you, our readers, to support us directly when and if you can. We're extremely grateful to all the readers who stepped up and gave us a tip through our Friend of Techdirt option in the Insider Shop, or engaged with one of the many other ways to support us — and now this one generous reader has showed yet another option, and one that allows you to support Techdirt and the public interest at the same time.

So we encourage everyone to sign the open letter to help demonstrate that this kind of campaign works. Moreover, if there's a campaign or an organization out there that you think aligns well with Techdirt's values and readership and that you'd like to support while helping us out in this way, please get in touch and let us know. We don't currently have fixed rates for direct ad purchases like this, and instead prefer to come up with custom solutions that fit your budget and needs — so don't hesitate to reach out and let us know what you have in mind.

Thanks again to all our readers, and today especially to this one reader who came to us with this excellent idea!

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 24 August 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 295: What Oracle/Google Means For Copyright And Interoperability

from the implications dept

We've written a lot about the Oracle/Google case over API copyrights as it wound its way through the courts, but the Supreme Court ruling has such widespread implications that there is still plenty to unpack. This week, we're joined by two top experts on intellectual property — Berkeley Law's Pamela Samuelson and Stanford Law's Mark Lemley, who recently co-wrote a paper on the subject — to discuss in detail what impact this landmark case has on copyright and interoperability.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the the-discourse dept

This week, both our winners on the insightful side come in response to our post about OnlyFans and its announcement that it would no longer host sexually explicit content. In first place, it's James Burkhardt with some thoughts:

A huge angle I think worth exploring

OF is seeking to limit sexually explicit content to gain INVESTORS.

Why is this meaningful? OF's amazing income, which is the attraction for investors, is built on this content. Just like Tumblr's value plummeted from Verizon's acquisition to Verizon's sale of OF, from 1 billion to 20 million. Nearly Two full orders of magnitude. The major loss seems to be from Tumblr's user exodus in the wake of a no-sexual-content policy that also killed off large Trans and Neurodivergent communities supporting each other, including my discussing unique challenges romantic and sexual relationships faced in these communities. A huge reason some communities left is the lack of clarity for what was allowed (text was supposed to be okay, then it wasn't).

Its the curated audience problem. OF has a giant audience looking for sexually explicit material. When it cuts off that audience, like a minecraft or fortnite youtuber shifting to a new game, that audience, and the income, goes away.

Any investor looking to invest in OF at a valuation based on the last 2 years growth is a fool, and the attempt to cash out the owner at the expense of those who built the platform's value deserves to tank the entire endevor.

In second place, it's Samuel Abram both quoting and seeking input from another commenter:

Considering what Stephen T. Stone said…

The difference between "Moderation" and "Censorship" is that:
-"Moderation" is "You can't do that here." Whereas,
-"Censorship" is "You can't do that anywhere."

Considering that it's likely FOSTA and SESTA is creating such a chilling effect, I think what OnlyFans is doing is more along the lines of "Censorship". What says Stephen T. Stone?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with James Burkhardt's other comment about the OnlyFans news, this time responding to a commenter drawing a parallel to the shutdown of gambling sites and alleging that the real issue is performers not paying taxes:

You are wrong. Betting websites were shut down in 2011 for violating state level gambling as well as money laundering and wire fraud by manipulating transaction data on payouts to appear as something other than income from gambling. While not stated in the case, they likely did not report gambling winnings to the IRS, as required by law.

A corp like OF, looking for investors, is absolutely reporting its income to the IRS and would, like patreon, report 1099-NEC income earned on its platform to the government. I know, for a fact, Only fans requires tax info to pay out more than $600 in a calender year to comply with reporting requirements. You don't report that thousands of content creators are earning over 50K to investors if you aren't reporting that income.

It was a huge MRA talking point that cam girls weren't paying taxes a few years back. This was not based in anything solid. The basis was that at the same time those workers were getting hit by the IRS. But the idea these were people trying to hide income is, generally bunk. It wasn't a widespread issue and those hit were hit because because the sites (chaturbate, MFC) were reporting income to the IRS and the actual issue was many of these young girls were unaware of the special tax situtaion an independent contractor is in (i.e. you need to pay taxes quarterly, not just at the end of the year). The people "not paying taxes" were, and reporting requirements caught those doing it wrong. Which is why it didn't make headline news about MFC not reporting income and being indicted.

The content is legal. It isn't about "not paying taxes". Its about Onlyfans trying to cash out its founder, and finding no one other than a porn mogel wants to invest in a site known for porn thanks to our entire history of law enforcement and anything sex related online.

Next, it's Stephen T. Stone responding piece-by-piece to another comment on our post about how you can't regulate Facebook as if it were the entire internet:

"Facebook isn't the entire internet, but it has a near monopoly in its sector."

Twitter, the Fediverse, Discord, and a multitude of other social media/communication services say otherwise. Popularity alone does not make a monopoly.

"Rather than trying to create a set of rules that applies to everything, it is probably more useful to target the near monopoly itself."

And that would still require regulations that don’t drag down the entire Internet with Facebook.

"Perhaps by breaking up the company, or declaring it a common carrier would be a better approach."

Breaking up, maybe, but Facebook is not a common carrier. Trying to declare it one only because you hate it is a new low for you.

"Getting censored proves that your opinion is the strongest."

I’m glad to know you support pro-queer and anti-racist ideologies, but your support for pro-terrorism and pro-pedophilia ideologies is…unfortunate.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to our post about the GOP's obsession with social media, which we referred to as rallying around something small:

But enough about their dear leader's hands...

In second place, it's another anonymous comment, this time replying to one commenter's repeated assertion that "getting censored proves that your opinion is the strongest":

OK so if I say "Koby is a moron" and people flag me so the comment gets hidden, that means I have the strongest opinion, right?

(The comment was, indeeed, flagged and hidden.)

For editor's choice on the funny side, our first place winner is David with a response to the question of why Trump's friends haven't presented their evidence of election fraud in the Dominion lawsuit:

They are protecting their sources.

From being laughed out of court.

Finally, it's Stephen T. Stone with another thought about the Dominion lawsuit:

Damn. I’m on the side of a corporate behemoth in this fight, and all I needed to get there was watching a bunch of right-wing grifters lie about election integrity. How dare those assholes make me side with Dominion.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 August 2021 @ 12:40pm

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

from the stuff-that-happened dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, a wave of newspapers that had tried out paywall models were discovering they didn't work as well as hoped, and those that had come to rely almost solely on Facebook for traffic were realizing that might have been a mistake. Snowden documents revealed that the NSA and New Zealand had been spying on pro-democracy activists, the DNC set up a Cybersecurity Board that was devoid of cybersecurity experts, and Donald Trump was promising to keep terrorists off the internet. Peter Thiel was taking a weird victory lap regarding Gawker, and we were disappointed to see LinkedIn abusing the CFAA and DMCA to sue scraping bots. Also, an episode of our podcast featured an early discussion of what would become a major theme for us over the past few years: the difference between platforms and protocols.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, some cops were trying to fight citizen recordings with wiretapping charges, and other cops were making excuses about why they can detain harmless photographers. Google spent a cool $12.5-billion to buy Motorola Mobility for all its patents, and we took a look at just what it was getting out of the deal and how it represented the loss to innovation caused by patents. We had a few other posts on the patent system too, looking at how they can be detrimental to the long-term success of startups, debunking the myth that they want or need them, and asking why monopolies for the first to invent something are really so important.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, Apple seemed to be on the warpath against any product with "pod" in the name, Jack Thompson was demanding early access to video games so he could get mad about them, and a mistake at Techdirt caused the deletion of a morning's worth of comments. The RIAA oh-so-graciously gave a family 60 days to grieve before continuing its case against a dead man, but then backed down in the face of widespread coverage and backlash, while the recording industry was taking petty revenge on a musician who supported free music and the movie industry was using push polls to defend the theater industry. We also took a look at how the more Hollywood attacks file sharing, the further underground it goes.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 17 August 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 294: When Your Art Projects Keep Getting Cease & Desist Letters

from the art-v-companies dept

We're continually amazed that so many companies still think they can get away with abusing the law to take down parodies, satire, and criticism without invoking the Streisand Effect and making things worse on themselves. One person who has a lot of experience being on the receiving end of these foolish threats is artist and culture hacker Danielle Baskin, whose recent Brand-Aid project is just the latest in a series of works that drew the ire of Johnson & Johnson. This week, Baskin joins us on the podcast to discuss what it's like when your art is constantly hit with demands to cease and desist.

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

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the we-need-to-talk dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Rekrul with a comment (which also racked up a lot of funny votes) on our post about the end of ownership and how big companies are trying to turn everyone into renters:

"Dear company, here is my payment. I hereby grant you a limited license to use said payment as you see fit for as long you provide the given product/service to me. I reserve the right to terminate your use of said payment at any time for any reason. In the event of such termination, you will immediately return said payment to me in full."

In second place, it's That One Guy with a comment on our post about the NYPD getting sued for illegal use of sealed arrest records:

'Only we're allowed to do that!'

Adding to the gross hypocrisy the NYPD objected, strongly and in court(to no avail thankfully) that releasing disciplinary records of police was a terrible thing that should be blocked because it might give people the 'wrong' impression of the goons they employ, so not only are they perfectly willing to violate the law when it benefits them they are downright eager to flip their own argument right around when someone tries to employ a little 'transparency' on them.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with one more comment from That One Guy, this time about the "apology" from the New Hampshire PD for "inappropriately" listing qualified immunity as a job perk in a recruitment ad:

'We deeply apologize for our temporary honesty.'

Yeah, that's not much better honestly as all he really seems to be saying is that it shouldn't have been openly mentioned as a perk, not that QI is at all problematic itself(which it absolutely is). You do not openly advertise QI as a job perk unless that idea is widely accepted at the department in question, which doesn't exactly speak well for that department and the 'community support' it claims to enjoy.

Next, it's James Burkhardt with a good (despite some typos) comment about the latest example of an anti-piracy group seeking a takedown of

Listing as containing an infring should be expressly be a Prima facie admission that no good faith inquiry was made. Not evidence, its an admission of guilt that they did so little inquiry they didn't even exclude their own "legally obtained material" used as refrence.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous letter to a certain politician:

Dear Representative Taylor Greene,

Recently, a colleague of mine sent a letter to Governor Spencer Cox asking that worthy to change his name based upon public pressure. This was quite the eye opener for me! Such a concept had never even occurred to me before. But now that I am aware of it, I have my own request to make.

Much like Utah, we the citizens of Georgia, and of the United States in general, do not want sick jokes running rampant in our civil institutions. Your initials have been popularized as "MTG", which besmirches the reputation of a fine game that enjoys a - heretofore good - reputation worldwide.

Therefore, I hereby request you change your initials so they do not cause further confusion between the game's fantasies of plane-traversing wizards battling each other with cosmic forces and those you have been espousing. Frankly, ma'am, your fantasies are of a much inferior and less believable quality.

Respectfully yours,


In second place, it's K'Tetch with a comment about the Louisiana and Alabama Attorneys General's hotline for reporting social media censorship:

Ok, so who's with me on filing complaints about Parler?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a one-two punch on our post about the takedown, starting with a comment from Bobvious:

Hey, that's my home. Leave it alone. If Google delists it, I'll never be able to sell it. That of course, and my noisy neighbours down the street at

...and continuing with a reply from MightyMetricBatman:

Is the name of your neighbor Robert Router by any chance?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

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

from the reminiscence dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, we looked at the recent emergence of the new "value gap" rhetoric" in music industry complaints about tech, while Kickass Torrents was trying to get the Justice Department to drop charges against it, and Ed Sheeran was facing lawsuits for songs that were merely inspired by older songs. The EFF was asking the FTC to enforce "truth in labeling" rules around DRM, a judge upheld his own problematic ruling concerning Cox's repeat infringer policy and the DMCA, and we were anticipating a deluge of copyright fights over viral news videos. One judge thankfully laughed off the notion that Twitter was liable for ISIS attacks, while another court said the FBI had to be much more frequent about reviewing NSL gag orders. And the Monkey Selfie case got even more silly with an amacus brief from a primatologist.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, some patent troll lawyers were smacked down and made to pay sanctions, while the website Fark got another patent troll to settle for nothing. We looked at a historical example of how even the death penalty doesn't stop infringement, just as New York was expanding anti-piracy laws for no reason and a court in India ruled that service providers are liable for copyright infringement by users — all while file sharing continued to grow, not shrink. A very worrying ruling by the Sixth Circuit said that sending too many emails can violate the CFAA, Apple advertised how frightened it was of the Samsung Galaxy tablet by getting a Europe-wide blockade of the device, and the San Mateo County District Attorney finally realized that Gizmodo didn't break the law by writing about the iPhone 4 prototype it found.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, AOL made a huge and astonishing unforced error by exposing the search queries of 500,000 users for research purposes, leading the CEO to eventually start calling individual customers to apologize — and the incident seemed to spark some recognition in government that data retention isn't a good thing. The Senate released a patent reform plan with some good aspects and a whole lot of bad ones, while a very interesting patent battle broke out over Amazon's infamous one-click patent. Major League Baseball failed in its attempt to claim ownership of stats, but decided to double down with a slightly different approach. And the RIAA was fighting against efforts to have its representatives deposed in a lawsuit by demanding sweeping gag orders on the depositions.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 11 August 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 293: Understanding California's Digital Vaccine Records

from the paperless dept

The pandemic has brought us face to face with important questions about (among many things) the roles of technology and government in our lives, and especially the intersection of the two. One interesting example that is worth exploration is California's new digital vaccine record system, and who better to discuss it with than the person who spearheaded the project: California's Chief Technology Innovation Officer Rick Klau, who joins us this week to discuss tech, government, and what happens when the two manage to work well together.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 8 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the think-and-laugh dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Blake C. Stacey with a comment highlighting the extreme breadth of the internet services the Canadian government wants to regulate with a heavy hand:

"Through this framework, "Online Communications Services" (the government lists Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter as examples)"

But it sure as hell isn't limited to those examples. Quoting item 1(A).2:

"The Act should define the term Online Communication Service (OCS) as a service that is accessible to persons in Canada, the primary purpose of which is to enable users of the service to communicate with other users of the service, over the internet.

That's every forum, bulletin board, fediverse instance and comment section. Once again, lawmakers act as though Facebook is the Internet ... and propose a regulatory regime under which it will be.

In second place, it's That One Guy with a comment about the situation Daniel Hale was in when he made his plea:

'Our murders aren't the crime, you exposing them is.'

"His plea followed the judge's declaration that the court would not allow Hale to offer any public interest defense for his actions -- something that's almost always the case in espionage prosecutions."

At that point you might as well drop the farce entirely and declare that the only outcome that will be considered acceptable or valid will be a guilty one because the outcome had already been decided before the trial even started and they're just going through the motions to twist the knife even more.

Why is often more important than what, being the difference between self-defense and murder as an example, so completely barring context like that is blatantly rigging the trial and ensuring that only the desired outcome will be reached.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous comment also about Daniel Hale, bringing in the full context of his words of "apology" for doing the right thing:

Maybe I should have included the full quote:

“I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said. “I couldn’t keep living in a world in which people pretend that things weren’t happening that were. Please, your honor, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.”

Here is just one source:


Next, it's TKnarr with a response to Biden's comments about the next war being started by a cyberattack:

I actually think Biden's right, the trigger that sets things in motion for the next major war will be some sort of cyber-attack. Not because the US or any other power intends to start a shooting war over it, but just because that event started a chain of misunderstandings and judgemental errors that will result in the shooting starting. Remember that the last time we were on the verge of a nuclear war (1995, Boris Yeltsin had actually retrieved the launch codes and was prepared to issue launch orders) it was because of the launch of a Norwegian research rocket. And Russia had even been told about the launch beforehand, the information simply hadn't been passed up the chain of command. My guess is it'll be the same thing: a cyber-attack (or more than one) gets everyone finger-pointing and causes disruptions that could be taken advantage of, then something else happens on one side that gets misinterpreted by the other side, someone in the chain decides that if they wait long enough for solid confirmation it'll be too late to act, or a couple of opposing pilots get a little too rambunctious and an accidental missile release triggers itchy trigger fingers on both sides, or an innocent vehicle gets misidentified as a threat and shot which triggers retaliation...

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Bobvious with a comment for all the people who try to abuse the law to hide negative reviews:

Negative reviews

There are those who think that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and that they can engage companies to fix their reputations through it.

Well, for far too many it stands for Streisand Effect Outcomes.

In second place, it's an anonymous comment about Apple's announcement that it will be compromising its device security... for the children:

Apple, Google, Facebook and their ilk are clearly not the ones at fault here. It is time we face the fact who our true enemies are: The Children. Techdirt, since time immemorial, have hinted at their ungodly powers to sway the will of the most powerful corporations and governments. We need to stop them.

Personally, I have never seen one of these little fuckers so I have no idea how we can defeat them but we have to try.

Because if we don't, then... The Children have already won.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from Chris Brand in response to the latest argument against Section 230:

Thanks, Philip

"Section 230 privileges tech communication over print and in-person communication by excusing tech companies from liability in the courts. In contrast, paper and in-person communication is still fully subject to liability. The result has been to accelerate and accentuate tech dominance over other modes of speech"

I always wondered why why online communication was so predominant these days - whether it was the speed, or reach, those "network affects", or something else. Now I know - it was section 230.

Finally, it's LACanuck with a response to a commenter insisting, perhaps while forgetting the context of GETTR fighting against jihadist propaganda, that "getting censored proves your opinion is the strongest" (and equal mention also goes to an anonymous commenter who made the exact same point):

I'm confused. You're suggesting that Islamic Jihadist propaganda is the strongest because GETTR is censoring it?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 August 2021 @ 12:00pm

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

from the back-then dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, it was revealed that the FBI's hacking tool compromised dozens of computers in Australia, while new FOIA documents showed that the FISA court once refused the FBI's request to scoop up communications along with metadata, one FBI official was comparing encryption guru Moxie Marlinspike to the KKK, and the Manhattan DA was claiming he didn't want encryption backdoors even though he certainly did. Meanwhile, we were wondering why the Copyright Office was helping to protect the cable industry's monopoly on cable boxes, and why it was so intent on changing the part of copyright that protects libraries and archives. The RIAA's latest attacks on YouTube were drawing criticism even from usual defenders of the association, and the DOJ made a smart decision about music licensing that caused music publishers to freak out.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2011, we highlighted the latest evidence that copy protection does not increase sales, and discussed the question of whether ISPs should cut off the entertainment industry over its constant attempts to convince them to engage in censorship — just as a new paper was arguing that ISPs should be made liable for cybercrime efforts, and the Justice Minister in Switzerland decided that ISPs should have to retain data despite no legal basis for forcing them to do so. A court found that Megaupload could be guilty of direct infringement in the Perfect 10 case, but the biggest and most important Perfect 10 ruling from the 9th Circuit said that proving copyright infringement doesn't automatically mean irreparable harm was done. We also saw a major episode in the interminable (and fascinating) Mattel lawsuit over Bratz dolls.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006, we marveled (and wondered) at the absurd glut of video sharing services appearing (a bunch of them specifically from Time Warner) while YouTube took the world by storm, and also noted the interesting (but likely unimportant) fact that MSN was technically considered the leader over YouTube. There was an early discussion about the influence of Google AdSense policies on journalism, Norway was talking about banning iTunes, and — in a somewhat historic move — AOL finally became a free portal with free email addresses. Also, as expected, Limewire got sued, beginning the first big fight over the inducement standard recently set down in the Supreme Court's Grokster decision.

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

Techdirt Podcast Episode 292: The Problem Of 'Jawboning'

from the the-formalities-of-informal-coercion dept

Most people are pretty clear on the fact that the First Amendment prevents the government from making rules about speech — but what about when government officials make informal demands or threaten retaliation related to speech? Such actions have been ruled to violate the First Amendment, but this practice — dubbed "jawboning" by this week's guest — raises messy legal edge-cases and grey areas. We're joined by University of Chicago Law Professor Genevieve Lakier, who recently authored an article for Lawfare on the subject, to discuss the legal history and status of jawboning and the problem of informal government coercion.

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

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