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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 17 April 2018 @ 1:31pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 163: Teaching The Law Via Podcasts

from the learning-experience dept

Law isn't simple, and truly learning about it takes more than a few short primers or even an in-depth guide or two — which makes it the perfect topic to explore via the medium of podcasts. This week, we've got a pair of guests who are doing exactly that: Ken White of Popehat fame, who recently launched the Make No Law podcast about First Amendment issues, and Elizabeth Joh, co-host of the What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law podcast. Instead of picking their brains about the law itself, we've got an episode all about their experience using podcasts to teach people about legal issues.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 April 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the say-something dept

This week, our first place comment on the insightful side is a long one from Stephen T. Stone, responding piece by piece to a comment that was packed full of errors about Section 230, the first amendment, and... everything:

You must expand on why and how wrong.

Well, if you insist…

NO LAW in the US has ANY other valid purpose than to serve the interests of We The People.

And the last time I checked, CDA 230 makes it possible for We The People to run and moderate websites and web-based services of all kinds without facing legal liability for anything posted by a third party to those sites/services.

Corporations having total and arbitrary control over the now-dominant speech outlets just simply CANNOT be a valid interpretation.

Dominant or not, corporations—and the people who ultimately control them—do have total and arbitrary control over those outlets for speech. Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk are not public utilities; being booted from Twitter for breaking their rules is no different than being kicked out of someone’s home for yelling about chemtrails. The right to free expression does not guarantee you forced usage of a privately-owned platform, regardless of who owns the platform.

"natural" persons now have a vital First Amendment Right on "platforms"

A person’s First Amendment rights do not extend to forcing a platform into hosting speech. The platform’s owners have every right to decide what speech it will and will not have associated with that platform. (Sidebar: The usage of SovCit lingo might be a clue that the poster is talking out of their ass.)

In order to be protected by Section 230, companies like Facebook should be “neutral public forums.” -- Simply right.

What Mr. SovCit fails to address here is the idea of “neutral public forum”. What does the phrase mean in this regard?

Masnick ALWAYS asserts that Corporation are to be de facto censors, and any "natural" persons can just try to find some tiny outlet on which to rant.

Well…yeah. Again: The First Amendment does not guarantee the access to or usage of a given platform. The government cannot block you from using a platform; the platform’s owners and administrators, on the other hand…

DE FACTO and DE JURE I have Right to comment here while within common law

What you have, Mr. SovCit, is a right to speak your mind. Techdirt admins are under no legal obligation to host your speech, regardless of your assertion of “common law”. If you know of any legal statute that says you can force Techdirt to host your speech, your argument would look a lot better if you could cite it. (SovCit lingo is not a legal statute.)

a business will have to make it truly private with code if don't want me to use it

Now I see the mistake: You confuse "privately-owned" with "private". A privately-owned platform can be both open to the public and capable of “censorship”/moderation that fits with the sociopolitical ideologies of that platform’s owners. A White supremacist forum owned by the Ku Klux Klan, for example, can be open to the public while still retaining its right to delete any posts that insult the concept of White supremacy, the Klan, and White people in general.

…how’s that, did I expand on the wrongness of that post well enough?

In second place, we've got an anonymous response to the suggestion that Netflix is on the same grounds as any other filmmaker at Cannes:

The rule change requiring cinematic release. After Netflix entered films last year, the French cinemas complained which led to the cinema release rule being introduced this year. So Netflix has reason to feel aggrieved at the change, which seems targeted at it.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a response to Anonymous Anonymous Coward to the perennial and incorrect idea that voting is a prerequisite to having an opinion on politics:

Whether one votes or not, whether one performs military service or not, whether one does or doesn't do something else that some pinhead thinks should be required, just being a citizen allows for all the freedoms the Constitution provides, including being able to speak their minds.

Even you snowflake.

Next, we've got a response from Jeff Green to the EU copyright proposal that would stop people from using Creative Commons on their own work:

The proposal strikes at another "fundamental right". If intellectual property is property, which is of course debatable, the law should not ban its owner from giving it away freely.

I would be more than a little upset if the EU were to tell me that I wasn't allowed to give my money away to a charity or a friend.

Over on the funny side, we head to our post about Ted Cruz's many muddled ideas about online platforms, in which we called the Fairness Doctrine "incredibly silly". That garnered a pair of rebuttals, one reasonable and the other... not. Thad's reply to the latter won first place for funny:

What a COMPLETELY ignorant thing to say. If you had been around, you would have KNOWN how effective it was. There would BE no Fox News propaganda if it were still here.

Kind of ironic to call somebody ignorant when you don't seem to realize that the Fairness Doctrine only applied to broadcast TV, not cable.

This site is about to go off my RSS feed page, now that I know what a simpleton is in charge.

Stop, don't, come back.

In second place, we've got an excellent reply from hij to our post about the deranged and exaggerated way people think about Facebook:

So, you are saying our relationship status with Facebook should be listed as "complicated?"

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with another reply to Netflix leaving Cannes, this time from Anonymous Anonymous Coward:

It sure seems like Cannes is working at its own exercise of the right to be forgotten.

And finally, we have an anonymous comment responding to the headline of our post about Trump signing SESTA/FOSTA into law:

Despite Repeated Evidence That It's Unnecessary And Damaging, Trump remains president.

Fixed that headline for you, Mike.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 April 2018 @ 12:00pm

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

from the the-way-it-was dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, Ken White returned to fill us in on the massive fallout from Prenda's hearing (as predicted), while the folks involved scrambled to get out of trouble — often by throwing each other under the bus. Paul Hansmeier played innocent, as did John Steele in his filing, both of them trying to turn the blame onto Brett Gibbs, who hit back with his own defence. And while Prenda and Paul Duffy fought hard to block any new evidence from being brought into the case, Judge Wright was having none of that and accepted new evidence from Morgan Pietz.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, we found out that e-voting problems were in some cases even worse than people thought, but while Congress was failing to do anything about it, some states were hard at work on fixing things. Meanwhile, we got a pair of examples of people using litigation instead of, you know, actually competing: ConnectU's settlement with Facebook, and Mattel/Hasbro's ongoing attempts to get rid of Scrabulous. And we had a big, long post looking at the deluge of amicus briefs in the Supreme Court's critical Bilski case on software and business model patents.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, there was lots of talk about spam, including the legal landmine for employers created by porn spam, and the overall fact that the battle against spam was not going well. One spammer tried to sue an anti-spammer for signing him up for a bunch of spam via his publicly posted business address, but the court very quickly smacked that down. And then the Senate introduced an anti-spam bill, though there was no reason to believe it would accomplish much.

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 April 2018 @ 3:29pm

Ted Cruz Gets Section 230 All Wrong, While Zuck Claims He's Not Familiar With It

from the nobody-looks-great dept

There's plenty to say about Mark Zuckerberg's first congressional hearing this week (like Senator Thune's thinly-veiled threat of more SESTA-like laws, or Senator Cantwell's strange, unfocused tangent about Palantir and WhatsApp) but one exchange stands out as so utterly ridiculous that it bears special note.

Senator Cruz used his time in an attempt to shift the focus onto Republican fears that Facebook is a liberal propaganda machine, and specifically tried to box Zuckerberg into declaring whether Facebook was "a first amendment speaker expressing your views", or a "neutral public forum" — and then explicitly claimed that being the latter is a prerequisite of CDA Section 230 protections.

This is blatantly untrue, as that language appears nowhere in the law, and Section 230 is (as we've reiterated many times during the SESTA debate) designed to encourage moderation. But Zuckerberg's reply was, well, absurd:

"I'm not that familiar with the specific legal language of the law that you speak to, so I would need to follow up with you on that."

That's the CEO of Facebook — a service that not only relies on Section 230 to a staggering degree, but just played a major role in developing and supporting a law that drastically alters it — professing ignorance on the letter of the law, as though it were some obscure statute that only his legal department would be fully familiar with.


Now, to be fair, Cruz was trying to box him in with a loaded and ultimately meaningless question — and when you're being grilled by a panel of Senators, you've got to be pretty choosy about if and when you're actually going to say "you are incorrect, that's not true" in response to one of their questions. But... could anyone in that room possibly believe him? Or any of the rest of us? SESTA — which, again, Facebook played a major role in — had already been mentioned several times during the hearing, even alongside expressions of appreciation that Facebook helped refine and ultimately supported the bill. Even if we somehow contorted our brains to believe he is genuinely unfamiliar with the language (again: uh-huh...) that would just paint an equally terrible picture in which Zuck has been only vaguely aware of his company's policy positions all year.

So, that was weird. Senate hearings like this are, of course, mostly theatrical — but that clunky bit of dialogue certainly eviscerated any remaining suspension of disbelief.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 10 April 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 162: Can The Blockchain Save Publishers?

from the we'll-see dept

After the recent launch of po.et, which aims to use the blockchain to create a new business model for digital media companies, Mike was... unconvinced. This led to a Twitter discussion with CEO Jarrod Dicker, which in turn led to a longer in-person conversation about the ideas behind the service and where it might go — and you can listen to the whole thing on this week's podcast episode.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 8 April 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the chitter-chatter dept

This week, our top comment on the insightful side came in response to the disturbing Supreme Court ruling on police shootings. Uriel-238 had a sad and simple thought:

Once again, history rhymes.

[We indict the King of Great Britain] For protecting [English soldiers], by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States

-- Thomas Jefferson, among the indictments in the Declaration of Independence.

In second place, it's Ehud Gavron who appears to have some first-hand knowledge of the DOJ's Backpage seizure:

Today's "Raid" in Tucson's premiere colocation facility

Five FBI and one IRS (Treasury) agents showed up, armed with a search&seizure warrant and some sidearms. We were impressed they can wear 5.11 tactical pants in the hot Arizona heat.

They were professional, courteous, and allowed us to contact the point-of-contact for Backpage's hosting provider. (We merely provide the colocation datacenter space, not the servers or content).

They took all the servers offline, extracted from racks, photographed them, and took them away.

I offered to get them stock shots of other servers, since servers from the outside don't really tell you *anything* about content on the inside or who posted it.

Also in the warrant they intend to seize the "criminal intent of the mind" but it wasn't clear of whose. I asked about how they intended to do that... and got a smile.

And now there are reports they also raided the backpage founders' homes ... I have to wonder why today...


For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous commenter who was understandably confused about the ridiculous patent being wielded by a troll against Spotify:

I didn't realize Spotify was selling a music playing computer.

The very first of the claims are definitely not how music services function. Soundcloud, et. al. have no real need of a sound card. The patent covers a PC-ish device to be a music player.

The current providers have zero need of a sound card. 1998 this might have seemed like innovation to the unaware but post Alice it's a freakin joke.

Next, we've got a response from drewdad to our post about copyright lawyers freaking out that photos taken by AIs could be in the public domain:

It is a problem... for lawyers

The problem is that copyright lawyers need copyrights to litigate.

Of course they want everything under a copyright.

Over on the funny side, our first place comment is from Stephen T. Stone about the Iowa town that tried to shut down a resident's critical website complaining about the stench from a meat processing plant:

"Now Sibley's known for something other than blood plant stench. It's known for employing officious, censorial busybodies who seem to believe the only permissible speech is speech they like."

There's a difference?

In second place, we've got an anonymous commenter responding to our description of PACER's morass of fees:

Do a search? That'll cost you 10 cents. View a docket in a long case? With no warning, that could add $3 to your bill

Not even Comcast is as good at hiding fees as PACER is.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with an anonymous comment about a lawyer's bogus copyright claim over the use of his headshot, and the question of who actually took the photo — which these days is not always so simple:

It was a monkey, so it should be immediately clear to everyone that no copyright...oh. Wait.

And finally, we've got a non sequiter (as far as I can tell) comment from That Anonymous Coward spurred by a typo in our headline ("scorebard"), and which surely either came from or is destined to become a Dungeons & Dragons meme:

Strength is being able to crush a tomato.

Dexterity is being able to dodge a tomato.

Constitution is being able to eat a bad tomato.

Intelligence is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.

Charisma is being able to sell a tomato-based fruit salad.

A tomato based fruit salad is salsa!

Hey guys, I found the bard.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 April 2018 @ 12:15pm

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

from the then-and-now dept

Five Years Ago

We saw a mix of court rulings this week in 2013, with Aereo winning a victory before its eventual defeat, ReDigi losing in its attempt to resell MP3s, and a judge granting a copyright troll the maximum statutory damages in a default case.

Meanwhile, the Prenda saga came to another apex with the second hearing before Judge Otis Wright. Prior to the day, Ken White from Popehat took a look at what the judge might do, and then he provided a tremendous writeup on the 12-minute hearing in which Team Prenda pleaded the fifth (a transcript of which would later be released). Then Ken closed things out by declaring Prenda a dead law-firm walking based on what he saw.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, the BBC was fighting back against ISP traffic shaping, and UK ISPs were fighting back against BPI demands that they do it — all while it looked like traffic filters didn't actually work anyway. Meanwhile, there was some confusion over whether a court had ruled that "making available" is or is not distribution for the purposes of copyright infringement, though another court was much clearer in declaring that it's not. And, in a historic moment for the history of music, the echoes of which still shape our world today, major record labels teamed up with MySpace. (/s)

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, though there was less war-related hacktivism going on than some people expected, it was increasingly clear that the Iraq War was profoundly impacting people's internet and news-reading habits — and could even be called "the killer app for broadband" with the way it appeared to be spurring adoption. (Even AOL wa shifting its focus!) Meanwhile, the government took one of its perennial swings at encryption by trying to criminalize it, while the ACLU was slightly expanding its mandate to get involved in the surveillance fight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 3 April 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 161: How One Court Just Screwed Up Software Development

from the bad-news dept

We've already written about the insanity of the appeals court overturning Google's fair use victory against Oracle — but there's plenty to dig into regarding just how bad the ruling is. This week, we're joined by law professor Pamela Samuelson, the co-director of the Center for Law & Technology at Berkeley, to discuss what the court just did to the world of software development.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 April 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the anon-in-the-lead dept

This week, both our winning comments on the insightful side came from anonymous commenters on our post about the CAFC's insane ruling overturning Google's fair use victory against Oracle. In first place, we have some thoughts on whether this goes any further:

I think Google actually might have a good shot at the Supreme court, mainly on procedural grounds. The CAFC explictly ruled that a Jury should determine fair use. A superior court normally shouldn't disregard the Jury finding, and they have noted no bad jury instructions or other reasons to disregard the Jury findings. That seems, from an outsider, to be a major misstep, the kind of which the Supreme Court has loved to smack around the CAFC for.

In second place, we've got a deeper dive into the problems of the case:

This whole argument is being framed over language that is misleading to the extreme. "Declarative code" and "Implementing code" are not industry terms; the terms every CS101 student learns are "code declarations" and "code definitions". This is important, because the phrase "declarative code" implies that code declares, when in reality, code is declared. This is perhaps the biggest source (and evidence of) confusion in CAFC's opinions (and that of the Solicitor General in his brief to the Supreme Court in the previous appeal).

Code declarations and implementations are like dictionary entries. Dictionary entries contain two parts: Syntax information (spelling, pronunciation, part of speech, etc) and the definition.

Syntax information allows writers to correctly use a word, as well as allows readers to determine if a word is used correctly. For example, if I tell you that the word feldercrump is a noun, then you can write the following sentences, and see that the sentence "I saw a feldercrump" uses it correctly, whereas "I feldercrump on Sunday" does not.

However, without the Definition, no one can extract any meaning from the sentence. You can't know what idea backs the word feldercrump. Even still, different dictionaries might contain similar but different definitions for the word, even though the syntax information stays the same. The former is equivalent to code declarations: they do not instruct computers, but rather, allow compilers, interpreters, and programmers to know how code is to be used, as well as determine whether code is used correctly, but there is no code to run or execute. Implementations, however, are the definition of a function, and consist of actual computer instructions. Any function used to implement a particular interface can be used to give meaning to a use of the interface.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from PaulT on our post about the rise of streaming exclusivity, in response to a commenter noting that it makes piracy the "path of least resistance":

That's all it ever is, and all it ever was. The resistance might come in the form of pricing, inconvenience, regional or format windows, language or some other factor. But, piracy usually there as the easy option. It has existed well before the internet, and it will continue to exist.

The biggest problem facing these companies is that in order to fight the problems causing this resistance, they erect more barriers (as you correctly note, DRM is one f the more recent ones). If they could just learn to make the legal routes easier than piracy they will find more success. I mean, literally the selling point for most people I know regarding services like Spotify and Netflix is because they were easier than piracy, and they're happy to pay for that. Stop trying to make them more difficult again.

Next, we've a simple anonymous response to the RIAA's boasting about all the money being made from streaming subscriptions:

In other words, that thing the RIAA fought tooth and nail to prevent from becoming a thing?

Over on the funny side, we've got a pair of anonymous winners again. In first place, it's a response to Kim Dotcom's human rights tribunal victory over the New Zealand government:

Well, the only reason New Zealand authorities withheld information from Kim Dotcom was because there was no where to transfer all of the files to.

In all fairness though after collecting years and years worth of legal documents it would have been a mega upload.

In second place, it's another response to the problem of exclusive streaming services:

Entertainers Assemble!

With so many walled-off streaming services popping up, there needs to be some kind of initiative to provide customers with access to the difference channels of content. Perhaps said services can come together to provide some universal subscription to all of the difference services under an easy to digest acronym, like for example: Content Aggregate Broadcasting Limitless Entertainment Television or CABLE TV for short.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with the story of a school selling out its students first amendment rights by censoring a news article with images of some controversial art. Jeremy Lyman honed in on a different detail, after one teacher apparently apologized "on behalf of 99.9% of the teachers":

Probably wasn't a math teacher.

They've got at least 1,000 teachers at this school? What are the class sizes like?

Finally, we've got a deservedly flippant anonymous response to the accusation that we are ignoring all the arguments in favor of SESTA:

All arguments in support of SESTA, in their entirety:

  • fibble dibble bop
  • cluck cluck
  • shrimp paste

That's all for this week, folks!

31 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 31 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: March 25th - 31st

from the so-it-went dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, congress released its proposal for reforming the CFAA — and it managed to make the law even worse. Even the one change we at first thought might be good turned out not to be. The whole thing had experts wondering what the hell congress was thinking, and led Eric Goldman to make the case for ditching the CFAA altogether. Meanwhile, we continued to look at the dangers of CISPA, while Hollywood was still working on pushing SOPA abroad.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, a Columbia professor was jumping on the bandwagon of aggressively using patents and exploiting the ITC loophole, while Seagate was casually promising to try to stop SSD technology with a barrage of patent lawsuits. In Canada, Bell decided to start throttling traffic without telling resellers, and enjoying the monopoly position that let it respond to complaints with, pretty much, "deal with it". Meanwhile, TorrentSpy announced it was shutting down out of sheer exhaustion, Warner Music joined the crowd calling for an ISP tax, the IFPI kept putting pressure on ISPs around the world, and Rep. Berman trotted out the old line that anyone opposing new copyright laws just wants stuff for free.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, all eyes were on the war in Iraq, and we were looking at the impact on and from technology in many regards. Journalists were flexing new technological muscles in covering the conflict, and the military was flexing similar muscles to recruit new soldiers. The internet was changing how people get their war news, and sucking up a whole lot of time from people at home and in the office — and this empowered hackers and hosting companies to become censors. And in a stunningly politically motivated move, a congressman introduced a bill trying to pre-emptively ensure that any new cellular infrastructure built in Iraq after the war would be CDMA. (The war had so far existed for exactly one week.)

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 27 March 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 160: Overreacting To Facebook's Mistakes Won't Solve Anything

from the but-they-aren't-blameless-either dept

Facebook. Cambridge Analytica. Need I say more? There's plenty to discuss. Among them is the question of similarities between what happened and the Obama campaign — which is why we're lucky to be joined this week by Catherine Bracy, who led the Obama campaign's San Francisco tech office, and worked on its Facebook app, for a discussion about what really went down with Cambridge Analytica, and all the misinformation that's out there.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the your-words dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is an anonymous commenter responding to the claim that the Blurred Lines ruling isn't a problem because lots of songs are not similar:

I'm not sure you understand.

Similar songs are what's called a genre, because they all share basic similarities in structure, composition, and 'feel' or 'groove'. You can instantly identify a rock and roll song from a jazz song because they have different similarities. Rock and roll was born out of a few different artists all riffing off each other and other styles to create something new. If making similar songs was illegal back then, rock and roll would have died in the 50s.

If it's now illegal to create a new song that feels or sounds similar to another song, you've just made music genre's illegal and automatically outlawed somewhere around 75% of all music on the market today because it all builds off songs, styles, and artists that came before them.

As an example, consider the I–V–vi–IV chord progression. It's extremely common in a lot of songs but would likely now be illegal because it gives songs built off of it a similar feel. In fact several comedians have built routines off of this and other chord groupings.

Another famous example that comes to mind is Pachelbel's Canon. Do you have any idea of the sheer amount of songs and music that are based off of or riff off of that work? It's used in many works from artists as varied as Trans-Siberian Orchestra to Vitamin C.

TD isn't spreading FUD, it's actually pretty on point.

In second place, we've got another anonymous commenter with a thought on our post about Craigslist becoming the first victim of SESTA:

Slight correction

Mike, Craigslist was the 2nd victim. Common Sense was the first one.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got another comment about SESTA, this time from PaulT responding to the claim that fixing the law's problems would harm Hollywood:

Even if it actually did significantly harm Hollywood, would you rather have the major studios harmed or the victims of sex trafficking? Hell, there's a fair argument that the activities of some of the studios is leading to some of the trafficking in the first place! I'd bet that the fallout from Weinstein's activities have revealed some involvement in some way, at the very least.

For an issue that's so regularly been based on emotional rather than factual arguments, it does seem like a strange tactic to try getting people to root for the major corporations here. I'd love to think it's because they've finally realised that they're being called out on how much it would harm actual victims if passed, but I'm not confident that's actually getting said outside of sites like this.

And finally, we've got a response from Daydream to the story that dominates things on the funny side, about the YouTuber who faces hate speech charges in Scotland for training his girlfriend's dog to act like a nazi:

It seems to me that these prosecutors sending people to jail for teaching a dog politically incorrect tricks, are the real ones causing fear and stirring up hatred.

It was Gary who took first place on the funny side with his response to that same story:

Wrong Target

Why hasn't the dog been charged?

Next, we drop slightly out of our usual order to slip in our first editor's choice for funny, since ShadowNinja had a good response:

Because he was just following orders.

In second place on the funny side, it's ryuugami with another take on the prankster's situation:

On the plus side

There's no better way to annoy a girlfriend than having to spend a year in prison for doing something stupid.

Last but not least, we move away from that post for one more editor's choice, which actually racked up precisely equal votes for both insightful and funny. It's That One Guy with a bit of a script-flip on the idea of video games causing violence:

'I reject your studies and substitute my self-rightousness'

Nah, I've saved several kingdoms, planets, even a galaxy or two, that's plenty to 'sooth the last pangs of conscience' over killing digital people.

(Understanding the difference between fantasy and reality might help too, but I'm sure it's of negligible importance in comparison.)

After all, if ending a digital 'life' is supposed to be something to feel guilty over, then saving one should more than make up for it, especially given the difference in scope.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

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

from the looking-back dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, EA/Maxis was dealing with the fallout from its disastrous SimCity launch, which was ruined by always-online DRM (which, it turns out, was also disastrously hackable), by offering up tonedeaf responses while giving away earlier versions of the game as a weak apology. They were drawing ire from other developers, and then things got worse as a security hole was discovered in EA's Origin platform itself. Meanwhile, we were digging in to copyright boss Maria Pallante's call for comprehensive, forward-thinking copyright reform, which included some good ideas like not seeing personal downloading as piracy, but was still largely focused on bad ideas.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, the makers of e-voting machines were doing everything they could to avoid scrutiny, so while machines in Ohio were declared a crime scene, Sequoia was trying to keep Ed Felten away from reviewing its machines and succeeded in scaring officials into backing down — all while a new study showed a massive error rate in e-voting.

This was also the week that the world lost Arthur C. Clarke.

Fifteen Years Ago

It was this week in 2003 that the US invaded Iraq. Though the war didn't dominate our writing on Techdirt, we did take a look at the businesses rapidly moving to explore whether this would help or hurt them, and the discussion around how this was the first true war of the internet era and the implications of that for journalists. And it didn't take long for "war" to oust "sex" and "Britney Spears" as the top internet search.

Also this week: the RIAA moved into the suing-companies phase of its anti-file sharing crusade; a Texas congressman wanted to throw college students in jail for file-sharing, though surveys of students showed they had a much more modern understanding of the issues at stake; and MIT's tech review continued sounding the warning bells about America becoming a surveillance nation.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 20 March 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 159: What Does It Mean For Social Media To Be Held Accountable?

from the the-ongoing-discussion dept

This isn't the first time we've discussed this on the podcast, and it probably won't be the last — disinformation online is a big and complicated topic, and there are a whole lot of angles to approach it from. This week, we're joined by Renee DiResta, who has been researching disinformation ever since the anti-vaxxer movement caught her attention, to discuss what exactly it means to say social media platforms should be held accountable.

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Posted on Techdirt - 18 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the the-word-on-the-blog dept

This week, following our coverage of the disturbing actions of a cop that led to a high-speed crash killing an infant, one commenter for some reason felt it was time to turn the blame around on the mother, suggesting the death must have been caused by her negligence. A reply from Alexander won first place for insightful:

As an Automotive Engineer who has engineered seats in cars I can tell you for certain that none of them in ordinary vehicles are designed to deal with a 94mph collision. Cars disintegrate at that speed.

Those videos you see for car safety, the super slow motion ones, they occur at ~20mph. Yes, that is how much the seats move at 20mph. At 94mph they disintegrate.

Fastening the straps correctly or not would likely not have changed the outcome at those speeds. The officer is clearly grossly negligent and the mother did not contribute in any significant way to the death of her infant. I say that with confidence of someone who's signature is still on the approvals for seats still carrying children in cars today.

That cop should have his drivers license cancelled for reckless driving for a decade. If he loses his job, then stiff shit. Then talk about trying him for negligent homicide.

In second place on the insightful side, we've got Dingledore the Previously Impervious using Microsoft's anger about a computer recycler offering Windows recovery disks to highlight the hypocrisy of "copying is theft":

Microsoft - Eats cake, yet still has cake.

Microsoft have spent years explaining that they sell licences, not DVDs of software.

Now, they're apparently selling the DVDs again. If it's a lost sale, where can we buy them?

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous commenter who offered a framing that resolves the apparent hypocrisy of the government's tech demands and failings:

This is actually self-consistent. The government believes that secure encryption with a Law Enforcement Agency Key ("LEAK") is possible if the technology companies would just "nerd harder," even as the government offers neither reference implementation nor convincing proof that this can be done. Likewise, the government now seemingly believes that the companies could identify, in real time, trolls that the government's own intelligence/surveillance agencies failed to spot. In both cases, the government:

  • Expects the private sector to solve the problem, and is actively demonizing anyone who fails to drop everything to work on the problem
  • Provides no useful assistance in solving the problem
  • Provides no reasonable explanation for why, with its vast resources and supposed subject matter expertise, the government cannot offer useful assistance solving the problem

Next, we've got a simple response from PaulT to a commenter who, when we criticized Trump, told us it's "hard to take anything serious from someone throwing a tantrum":

Which is why Trump is making a laughing stock of your country. He does little else.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to an even more absurd criticism from one of our less coherent detractors, who questioned the sincerity of Mike's opposition to torture and demanded a resume of proof:

Masnick is obviously not against torture.

After all, he allows visitors to this site to be exposed to your drivel every day.

In second place, we've got crade with another response to Microsoft's aggressive actions:

Re: Bring back the commercials!

PC: We are having trouble with our people getting around our planned obsolescence.

Mac: Amateur.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with a response from That One Guy who complained that our coverage of the recklessly driving cop was irrelevant to Techdirt:

The magic code strikes again.

Truly, the greatest sign that TD is not filled to the rafters with pure evil is that they have chosen to only apply the code that forces people to read articles they didn't want to on one site, rather than weaponizing it and taking over the world.

Finally, following our positivity regarding California's push for its own net neutrality rules, one critic accused us yet again of being inconsistent in our stance on government intervention, leading an anonymous commenter to get understandably snarky about this sort of blunt idiocy:

Man, it's almost like some regulation is good and some regulation is bad.

This is shocking!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

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

from the on-and-on dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2013, the Prenda situation positively exploded. As we awaited Monday's hearing, we learned more about Allan Mooney and saw Verizon get involved. Then, of course, the Prenda team itself didn't show up in court, meaning they escaped (at great cost) an absolutely crazy hearing with a very unhappy judge (written up for us by Ken White of Popehat fame). The judge ordered a second hearing and made it clear Prenda was expected to actually show up, while transcripts of John Steele's intimidating phone calls to Alan Cooper hit the docket, and Paul Duffy was scrambling to do some too-little-too-late damage control.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, following the death of HD-DVD, the next question was whether Blu-Ray would actually catch on in a big way. We now know it did, though early price hikes didn't help. But it certainly had nothing to fear from an ill-advised late entrant into the format wars. Meanwhile, having expressed displeasure with the agency's approach, EMI decided it wouldn't quit the IFPI, but would stop paying so much for its lawsuits against fans, while the IFPI was turning its sites on ISPs instead (and unsurprisingly triggering the Streisand effect when trying to block websites).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, we watched the steady emergence of video game development courses at colleges, had an early discussion about Americans using the internet to find alternative news sources, and perhaps didn't realize just quite how revolutionary Amazon's focus on web services would be. There were still five big record labels but they were looking to merge (while betting a tad too heavily on enhanced CDs), McDonald's became the second huge chain to start offering free wi-fi, and we looked at the debunking of a hoax story about a cyberwar virus targeting Iraq (though that idea wouldn't seem so crazy seven years later when we all learned about Stuxnet in Iran). Also, Techdirt got chosen by Forbes as one of the five best tech blogs.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 13 March 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 158: How MoviePass Makes Money

from the plus,-privacy... dept

The apparent success of MoviePass raises a whole bunch of interesting business model questions — and privacy concerns about the data-harvesting portion of that business model add another layer of complexity. So this week, we're going back to a good old-fashioned formula for the podcast, and dedicating an episode to examining the company in detail and trying to figure out where it might be headed.

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

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the say-some-more dept

This week, both our winning comments on the insightful side take a similar approach, responding piece-by-piece to the FBI director's insistence that it's possible to create compromised-but-secure encryption. The first place winner is That One Guy:

Wrong from start to finish

We have a whole bunch of folks at FBI Headquarters devoted to explaining this challenge and working with stakeholders to find a way forward.

Great, then have them come up with what you insist is absolutely possible, 'secure' broken encryption, and let everyone else stress test it before you force it on the public. In fact, if you're so sure that it can be done, start with your own agency, mandating that you use whatever 'encryption' system you want everyone else to be required to use, for no less than one year. Every system must use it, no exceptions, as anything else would be an admission that you don't believe that what you're pushing is truly secure.

But we need and want the private sector’s help.

No, you 'need and want' their subservience, their unquestioning obedience. That is distinctly different than wanting their help.

We need them to respond to lawfully issued court orders, in a way that is consistent with both the rule of law and strong cybersecurity.

Those are mutually exclusive options, taking one will necessarily require sacrificing the other. Strong cybersecurity means that good and bad people can make use of security that prevents both those with a badge and those without from accessing, easily or at all, certain data.

We need to have both, and can have both.

No, you want both, but you cannot have both. At 'best' you can have one, but it will require that the other be given up.

I recognize this entails varying degrees of innovation by the industry to ensure lawful access is available.

In that it would require 'varying degrees of innovation' for the automotive industry to create cars that can ignore gravity with a flick of a switch, sure. Or in the sense that it would require 'varying degrees of innovation' for mathematicians to come up with a way for 2+2 to equal 5.

But I just don’t buy the claim that it’s impossible.

Translation: "I want your 'help', but I refuse to believe you when you tell me something isn't possible, as advice clearly isn't a form of help I welcome."

We have the brightest minds doing and creating fantastic things.

'... Minds which we/I will completely ignore when they tell us/me that something isn't possible, and/or make a statement that contradicts one of my stated positions.'

This reminds me of a perfect example someone else brought up to highlight the absurdity of this argument by noting that just because we can land a person on the moon, does not mean we can land a person on the sun(well, not and get them back...). Just because we have smart people creating other stuff, does not mean they can do the impossible in this case.

Again, I’m open to all kinds of ideas.


You're only open to ideas that match your preconceived notions and that support what you want. Anything else is to be rejected out of hand.

But I reject this notion that there could be such a place that no matter what kind of lawful authority you have, it’s utterly beyond reach to protect innocent citizens.

In which case his mind would be absolutely shattered were someone to tell him about another form of communication, talking in private, that no amount of 'lawful authority' that wasn't completely tyrannical and invasive could access.

I also can’t accept that anyone out there reasonably thinks the state of play as it exists now – much less the direction it’s going – is acceptable.

Only because you refuse to look or even acknowledge their existence. There are plenty of people who have looked at the existence of encryption, realized that it does allow bad people to do bad things at times, and yet still come to the conclusion that the gains vastly outweigh the costs.

(Gotta love the attempt at poisoning the well there by framing anyone who disagrees with him as not being 'reasonable'.)

Broken encryption/'Responsible' encryption/Unicorn gates were a stupid and dangerous idea when they first came up, and they remain a stupid and dangerous idea now. That the gorram FBI Director is pushing for an idea that he knows will cause vast amounts of damage(the only alternative to this is that he is impossibly stupid) is a disgrace to the position, and should be grounds for removal of office, or at the very least everyone firmly and strongly telling him to shut the hell up when it comes to topics that he is clearly unfit to comment on.

The country is not well served by an FBI director trying to make things easier for criminals and terrorists to harm the public, and he, or anyone else, really shouldn't need to be told this.

And the second place winner is PaulT:

"What we’re asking for is the ability to access the device once we’ve obtained a warrant from an independent judge, who has said we have probable cause."

a.k.a. a back door. It doesn't matter what kind of lock you install, who guards the keys for it and who you get permission to use them from. It's still a door, and even a locked door is more vulnerable than simply not making a hole in the wall to install it in the first place.

What he and his kind are missing is simple - no matter how strong the door, no matter how restricted the access, no matter where it is installed - it still has keys, those keys can be used by the "bad guys" and once they have the keys it makes everyone less safe.

"Being unable to access nearly 78-hundred devices is a major public safety issue."

The actual evidence for this is lacking. Perhaps instead of trying to mislead people about what they're asking for, they'd be better served by explaining what it is that not being able to easily access these phones is preventing them from doing. Bearing in mind that authorities have never had instant access to the kind of data they're trying to get here, but they still managed to do their jobs anyway in the past. If they want new powers, they need to both explain why they need them and why the public need for them is greater than the public need for effective encryption.

"I also can’t accept that anyone out there reasonably thinks the state of play as it exists now – much less the direction it’s going – is acceptable."

He's right here. The problem is that he's part of the group that wants to push things further in the unacceptable direction.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Michael about Rhode Island's attempt to mandate porn filters:

I am a parent. I worry about what my children will find on the internet. I worry about what my children will find in my back yard.

I have not asked anyone to provide me with internet filters or back yard filters. I AM THE FILTER.

Parenting is hard work. If you think the government should be filtering out porn on the internet to make your job easier as a parent, I would suggest you should not become a parent.

Next, we've got an anonymous comment responding to one racist jerk's attempt to sue Twitter for violating his civil rights:

So which of these options makes Racist a protected class? "sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation."

Is he claiming it is a mental disability or a religion?

Over on the funny side, both winners are again on the same post, but this time from two different anonymous commenters responding to the group of five senators who feel search engines should censor drug information. The first place winner wondered how that would play out:

*Guy in trench coat and sunglasses* Hey kid, want to try some cocaine?

*Teenager, pulling out his phone to Google it* Well, nothing bad shows up in the search results. Sure, why not!

The second place winner, meanwhile, was having none of it:

*Five People Standing Around a Computer Monitor Agree: Five Senators Are Idiots

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of responses to Trump's ridiculous violent video game summit. First, it's an anonymous commenter replying to the idea that, despite the evidence showing no link between games and violence, it still must be true because it "intuitively seems" that way:

I've been trying to tell my bank that it just intuitively seems that I should have far more money in my account than my statement shows. I don't know why they won't just take my word for it.

Next, after one commenter wondered just how Trump is choosing which games to get upset about, Thad noted at least one pattern emerging:

He does seem particularly incensed about games where you kill nazis.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 March 2018 @ 12:00pm

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

from the the-more-things-change dept

Five Years Ago

The saga of Prenda Law really jumped into high gear this week in 2013, first with Prenda, John Steel and Paul Duffy all filing astonishing defamation lawsuits against critics. Then, as Brett Gibbs was finally forced to answer a few questions, the judge ordered everyone to show up in court the following Monday. We speculated about what would happen, while John Steele dropped his defamation lawsuit, leaving only the other two to continue. A massive 300-page filing teased at new details, Brett Gibbs objected to pretty much everything, then Paul Duffy doubled down in truly insane fashion by demanding the IP addresses of every visitor to certain blogs in the past two years. And, unsurprisingly, the team tried desperately to get out of having to show up in court on Monday.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2008, the House made the tiny positive move of removing higher copyright fines from the Pro IP bill (without interfering with all the other awful, awful stuff of course), while we asked why we continue to use the term "intellectual property" at all. HBO was still ever-so-gently dipping its toe into online distribution, while Trent Reznor was diving in head-first and swimming strongly. Meanwhile, as audio DRM continued to die at the hands of most major online retailers, a lot of journalists got really confused and thought it meant the death of copyright (if only!)

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2003, there were rumours about that Apple would launch an online music store — and they'd come true just under two months later. Australia was admitting the failure of its recommended online content filters while China was apparently slowing down access across the country with its surveillance efforts. And in case you forgot just how different the web was in 2003: an investigation discovered the bizarre fact that the RIAA's website was hosted by one man out of his house, reports of which led them to move it to a server run by a small accounting firm. Go figure.

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 March 2018 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 157: The Worst Of Both Worlds - SESTA & FOSTA Together

from the sum-of-its-parts dept

It wasn't very long ago that we last discussed SESTA on the podcast, but now that the House has voted to approve its version of the bill with SESTA tacked on, it's unfortunately time to dig into the issues again. So this week we're joined by returning guest Emma Llansó from the Center for Democracy and Technology and, for the first time, law professor Eric Goldman to talk about why the combination of SESTA and FOSTA has resulted in the worst of both worlds.

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

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