Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile

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About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

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

Located in Toronto, Ontario.

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

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



Posted on Techdirt - 26 April 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: Thinking Machines

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

It's a source of wonder and excitement for some, panic and concern for others, and a whole lot of cutting edge work for the people actually making it happen: artificial intelligence, the end-game for computing (and, as some would have you believe, humanity). But when you set aside the sci-fi predictions, doomsday warnings and hypothetical extremes, AI is a real thing happening all around us right now — and achieving some pretty impressive feats:

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

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 26 April 2016 @ 12:42pm

Podcast Episode 71: Should Internet Companies Sway Elections?

from the and-how? dept

Recently, some Facebook staffers raised an interesting question: should the social media giant employ its significant power to stem the rise of Donald Trump? This week, we discuss that notion and the broader question: should the internet companies that influence so many aspects of our communication and information gathering use their position to pursue political goals?

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

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the that-makes-me-angry... dept

This week, after a lab tech was caught faking drug test results, calling over 7,800 prosecutions into question, That Anonymous Coward delivered our first place winner for most insightful comment of the week, in the form of a rightfully outraged tirade:

Because to protect the image of the system outweighs the rights of the convicted.
So what if they were convicted on contrived evidence.
So what if the details were not released.
So what if anyone finally managed to get exonerated, we've limited their recourse for compensation.
So what if the system is rigged.

So few people will care because it hasn't happened to them. It has happened to a population they've been taught to fear and expect the worst of. This only happens to bad people who deserve it, not good people like me. We got the bad people locked away, so what if the lab results were fake they probably did it anyways.

Allowing the liar to retire, probably with all benefits intact & allowed to move elsewhere, shows how little the system cares about the law. They cheated the law, they violated their oaths, and when confronted with it they drag their feet and leave thousands of people screwed to protect their win rating.

"Regular" people need to wake up to the very simple truth that the system routinely does screw innocent people, and that the system does nothing to punish those who did it or compensate people who had their lives stolen. That they are paying the price for faked worked, incompetent workers, keeping innocent people in prison, and paying a pittance in oh sorry we fucked you money, and keep these cheating cogs working.

Yes Skippy it hasn't happened to you, but perhaps consider what happens when the system targets you incorrectly and magically the evidence says you did it. Imagine the rest of society discounting what you say and not giving a shit because you had to have done something wrong and need to be punished.

In second place, we've got another strong response to a terrible law enforcement situation, this time in the form of one of the worst and most violating traffic stops we've ever seen. Anomylous had a lot of support in calling it exactly what it was:

If there was no reason for the stop...

and no reason for the searches...

why aren't they pressing rape charges? Sure, they're cops, but they violated the law to essentially rape 2 people, in public.

These cops are rapists. The female officer may be an accessory if the other officers lied to her, but its still rape.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we stay with that post for one more comment, this time from DannyB in response to the question of whether the victims had a history of criminal activity:

Suppose someone did have a history of criminal activity.

Are you suggesting that they should probably choose to remain a criminal for the rest of their life because the police have a right to treat them that way for life?

Is it a worthy goal of the police to discourage anyone from ever getting their act together and becoming a law abiding citizen?

It is probably worth extending this thinking to family relations as well. If your grandfather had any criminal activity, then you might too. Or your cousin, etc.

Next, we head to a post about the latest broadband company shenanigans, where TheResidentSkeptic scored high on both the insightful and funny sides by pointing out that we may need to adjust our nomenclature:

Incorrect classification of companies

As the FCC has now classified "broadband" as 25MB+, most of these companies no longer qualify to be called broadband providers...

Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the absurd legal fight over one artist's painting of a nude Donald Trump, where we commented that nothing about the story makes sense. Our very own Tim Geigner aka Dark Helmet took first place for funny by correcting us on that:

Except for the idea that Trump has a tiny, infinitesimally sized dong, which actually makes every last bit of sense ever....

For second place, we head to the story of law enforcement's utter failure at social media outreach about encryption with the #unlockjustice hashtag. Jeremy Lyman proposed they continue with the excellent campaign:

Surely we can help Vance out and come up with an untainted hashtag for his crusade. Here's a few never-been-used tags to get the ball rolling... all for FREE!

#CriminalizePaperShredders
#NeverDeleteAnythingOrGoToJail
#PrivateConversationsMakeCopsCry
#SeriouslyThoughYouCanTrustUsThisTime

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of comments in response to the Authors Guild's ongoing whining about Google Books. First, it's a second nod to DannyB for a little acerbic sarcasm:

If people can now freely read short snippets from out of print books that will never be in print ever, ever again, then how will the authors of those books get paid?

Wait, did I call that sarcasm? No, no, this is sarcasm:

If only there was a group representing authors, a guild of sorts, that would digitize the books for the benefit and profit of the authors. Too bad nothing like that exists.

That's all for this week, folks!

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

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

from the there-is-no-news-today dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the cracks in Righthaven's facade were starting to widen. One judge explained that their demands were silly then slammed their tactics and unsealed a damning document, which revealed that Righthaven's copyright assignments from Stephens Media were a sham, only assigning the "right to sue". Meanwhile, the company was defending itself before another highly skeptical judge.

YouTube was facing a lot of criticism over its problematic copyright school (though it wasn't as bad as some "educational" offeringsthe associated quizzes, to the point that Public Knowledge was offering $1,000 to anyone who'd create a better one. The RIAA lawyer fighting the Limewire lawsuit was recommended as a federal judge while Grooveshark was defending its own legality and the MPAA was contradicting itself on the subject of protecting culture. This was also the week that we saw the birth of Kopimism.

Ten Years Ago

In the world of copyright lawsuits this week in 2006, we took a closer look at why MP3.com never appealed the ruling against it, while one federal judge was considering possible defences against RIAA filesharing lawsuits. The FCC commissioner was pushing for DRM for no real reason, one economist was trying to blame piracy for the high price of concerts, and Mike was heading to Washington to discuss copyright at the CATO Institute.

Laws against driving while using a cellphone were still proving popular, even if that required misrepresenting studies that actually said all distractions are bad. And in the world of completely unsurprising studies, we also learned that people use the internet, especially internet users and kids can find their way around web filters.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, people were grappling with predictions about emerging technologies, from the mostly-doomed (interactive TV) to the partially-successful (RFID tags are everywhere even if they never fully replaced barcodes) to the still-emerging (augmented reality) to the we-really-should-have-this-all-sorted-by-now (fiber to the home). A not-particularly-funny New York Times was calling for relationship counselling for the music industry and its customers while an always-funny Douglas Adams was delivering the keynote at the Embedded Systems Conference. Those who looked ahead with a bit more concern were noting that mass online victimization via data theft and hacking were just around the corner (and UK intelligence agencies couldn't even stop losing laptops).

Eighty-Six Years Ago

We've all seen the absurd lengths cable news networks will go to in order to keep something on screen 24 hours a day, even when they have nothing interesting to talk about. On April 18th, 1930, BBC Radio took a slightly different approach that's almost unimaginable today: they simply announced that there was no news, and played some piano music instead. Of course, there actually was news, just as there's plenty the cable networks should be turning their attention to today, but at least then they had the reasonable excuse that said news couldn't possibly have reached them in time.

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

Awesome Stuff: High-Precision Toys

from the turn-turn-turn dept

High-quality precision engineering enables the creation of remarkable tools and machines, but once in a while it gets applied to something more frivolous, with extremely appealing results. This week, we're looking at a pair of ultimately not-that-useful toys which are nevertheless very cool, thanks to unmatched detail and precision.

MOON

This one is sure to make space geeks salivate, though only the hardcore among them will actually part with £300+ to get their hands on one. What makes MOON special? Well, while the non-detail-oriented might think a volleyball makes a sufficient lunar globe, the MOON is there for those who demand more: it's a completely accurate and faithful 3D reproduction of the moon, not based on 2D photos of the surface but on actual topographical data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. You can see — and even touch — every single perfectly-rendered ridge and crater, or just watch as they are cast into shifting relief by the ring of white LEDs that orbits the globe to create stark shadows and highlights and accurately simulate lunar phases. The rotocasted polyurethane resin globe comes in a couple of different sizes but, as mentioned, none of them are cheap.

Spin

Spinning tops are one of those funny pieces of simple engineering that most people can't help but find pleasing and intriguing for no immediately obvious reason, and this one might be the top to end all tops. It's huge — 3 inches tall by 2 inches in diameter — and hefty, made from high-quality aluminum with a precisely machined 2mm tip. After hitting full speed with the help of a kevlar pull-string, it's capable of some nifty feats for a spinning top: it can spin upside-down or on your fingertip almost as confidently as the normal way on a flat surface, and its high weight and speed make it function like a gyroscope and do tricks like spinning on its side (seemingly defying gravity) while hanging from the launching string. Essentially, it's an age-old toy made impressive by being engineered like an important machine — and while it's a slightly more accessible purchase than the lunar globe above, it still carries a $65 price tag (and that's just for Kickstarter backers — the intended retail price is over $100).

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2016 @ 5:00pm

DailyDirt: You Gotta Show Some Flex

from the urls-we-dug-up dept

Sometimes, the key to kicking off a whole new world of technology is a brand new material. The discovery and/or creation of new materials with useful properties is pursued in engineering, chemistry and physics — sometimes with world-changing results, and other times producing only curiosities. Lately, it seems like a lot of the most interesting material advances have to do with flexibility in one way or another, like these four creations that might end up enabling the devices of the future:

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

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 19 April 2016 @ 12:44pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 70: Is It Futile To Draw Borders On The Internet?

from the not-so-global dept

In a world defined by borders for thousands of years, the global nature of the internet has caused all sorts of confusion and absurdity. Geographically restricted content, fuzzily defined jurisdictions, libel tourism — these are all symptoms of a border-filled world coming to terms with a borderless network. Since attempts to carve up the internet along geographical lines aren't likely to stop anytime soon, this week we ask the question: are such attempts futile, and could online borders really serve any purpose to begin with?

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

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the another-double dept

This week, we're back to something that's been happening with impressive frequency: a double win for That One Guy, who took both of the top spots on the insightful side. In first place, we've got some musings on our post about copyright's free speech problem:

A complete reversal of 'Innocent until proven guilty', no penalty for fraudulent claims(intentional or simply negligent), no need to demonstrate actual harm. Fix those three things and you fix a good chunk of what's wrong with current copyright law.

If a copyright owner wants something taken down, make it so they have to take the matter to court to demonstrate that the item/use in question is infringing, with the content remaining up until that requirement is met. They have to demonstrate infringement(including how fair use doesn't apply), the accused isn't put in the position where they have to demonstrate how it's not.

If someone sends out a handful of bogus copyright claims, then give them some minor penalties, like a monetary fine or prohibition from sending out other claims for a certain amount of time. If they send out numerous false claims, or it is demonstrated that they sent one in bad faith such that any reasonable person could see that there isn't infringement, then hit them with drastically harsher penalties, up to and including revocation of the copyright in question.

And lastly completely toss away 'statutory damages', such that if the copyright owner wants to claim that a given example of infringement has caused them harm, they have to actually provide evidence demonstrating this, not just claim it and have it treated as fact without supporting evidence. Want to claim that someone downloading a song, album, movie or whatever resulted in thousands or more in 'damages'? Have fun providing evidence to support that claim. Barring that evidence, have the penalties for infringement set at a more sane level, say three to five times the cost of the item in question. Heavy enough to hurt and provide incentive to get it legally next time, but not enough to bankrupt someone unless they've been downloading everything in sight.

(And as a happy side-effect doing so would absolutely gut copyright trolls, as they'd lose their biggest threat they use to get people to pay up. It's one thing to threaten people with fines potentially large enough to buy a car or even house with, 'Pay us or pay $60-100 in court if found guilty' just doesn't have the same punch to it)

Next, it's some thoughts on the dissent in the latest Supreme Court ruling on asset forfeiture:

Time to update the saying

"Better 99 innocent people be stripped of their ability to adequately defend themselves in court, resulting in wrongful guilty convictions, than 1 guilty person use their ill-gotten gains to defend themself in court and thereby avoid a guilty verdict."

That's pretty much what the government and the dissenting judges are arguing for, that an accusation of guilt pre-trial is more than enough justification to punish someone not just once but twice, first by seizing their funds, and second in removing their ability to defend themself by doing so. Thankfully for all sanity seems to have prevailed among the majority of SC judges this time around, I just wish it hadn't been so close a call.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we return to our story about copyright and free speech, where TKnarr had a response to those who claim copyright isn't used as egregiously as many complaints allege:

So, Northland Family Planning Clinics v. Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2012 didn't happen? Nor did 4 Navy SEALS v. Associated Press, 2005? Nor did Savage v. CAIR, 2009? All of those cases were cited in the article, and in all of them it was the side favoring copyright making the argument that you didn't need to explicitly copy to infringe and that even what we'd normally consider fair use required permission from the copyright holder.

Yes, my position's anti-copyright, or at least anti-"copyright as interpreted by the copyright holders". But if it's bullcrap, you'd best look at where it's coming from because it's not mine, I'm simply citing actual statements and actions by the pro-copyright side as to how they want copyright to be interpreted. If it's bullcrap, it's pro-copyright bullcrap because that's who spewed it. I just pointed out the reeking pile they dumped.

Next, and as a perfect example of this kind of silliness, we've got AnonCow's should-be-conversation-ending note on the Led Zeppelin copyright case that will be heard by a jury:

Similar? Yes. Inspired by? Probably. But is it a copy? No.

If you don't believe me? Look at the sheet music for the two songs.

"Sounds somewhat similar to an untrained ear" is NOT the basis for copyright.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to David for continuing the metaphor that "the cash got arrested":

And after serving time, it got a job in the government.

If that is not rehabilitation, I don't know what is.

In second place, we've got PR Guy doing his marketing job with style after our look into the many things UC Davis fought to keep off the internet:

In other news
UC Davis is has changed it's name to: UC Streisand.
Back to you Tim.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with the story of Lucasfilm bullying a lightsaber battle event into becoming a "catblade" battle, where ryuugami had a stroke of genius or, perhaps, insight:

Oh crap, only after reading your comment and thinking "they should make Disney the evil final boss of the event or something" that it dawned on me...

"help us defeat evil mice across the galaxy"

... that they already DID.

And finally, we've got Jeremy Lyman with an excellent summation of the wireless industry survey that supposedly shows people love the idea of Zero Rating:

Would you like it if we didn't raise prices on some websites?

Yes?

See! They said we should raise prices on the other websites!

That's all for this week, folks!

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

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

from the through-the-ages dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, even as the Defense Department was dragging its heels in fixing the security hole that lead to the Wikileaks disclosure, the government was torturing Chelsea Manning (then Bradley) and courting criticism from a wide array of legal scholars and even mainstream media reporters. Meanwhile ICE, for its part, was trying to claim it wasn't detaining a Wikileaks supporter by redefining detainment.

Facebook was facing attempts to take credit for its success, both from unknown randoms and the infamous Winklevoss twins who were told to give it up already but apparently weren't satisfied with $160 million.

We also had an interesting hypothetical discussion about who owns the copyright on a tattoo, followed up by a related real-world example of the issues around getting a tattoo of a copyrighted design — but little did we know that only a week later, the Mike Tyson/Hangover 2 face tattoo copyright fight would kick off.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, the film and TV world was in the midst of crashing into the digital world. DVR pioneer TiVo was experimenting with advertising while television networks were moaning about Cablevision's own DVR plans; Disney was throwing too much weight behind its ill-fated MovieBeam offering but in the bigger picture was starting (or at least trying) to lead the way, especially with ABC launching ad-supported online versions of its shows. Fox was approaching things slightly differently, focusing on its affiliates where other networks were bypassing them. And as some noted, telcos could truly revolutionize TV but faced some serious obstacles to doing so. At least it was all a much more compelling intersection of entertainment and technology than yet another attempt to add smells to films.

Fifteen Years Ago

Five years before that in 2001, NBC was shuttering an earlier effort at moving online: the NBCi entertainment web portal, which failed for a host of reasons. TiVo was still fresh and competing with Microsoft's Ultimate TV, and both were being plugged by Joe Montana — and it was already clear to many that DVRs would change television forever. As for movies, their forays online were all about promotional websites, some of which were starting to get at least a little bit interesting. And there was even another story from another example of that perennial project to give us the smell-o-vision nobody asked for, with DigiScents throwing in the towel.

But the biggest technology frontier was still wireless, which appeared to be suffering from hype fatigue amongst the public. One company was pitching its fancy new video messaging as the killer wireless app, but it would be a long time before SnapChat came along and made that assertion sound less stupid. Other ideas of the time fell at various places on the "doomed" spectrum, from another post-VRML attempt at the 3D web to a far-ahead-of-its-time web-enabled smart air conditioner.

Three-Hundred And Six Years Ago

You all know it: The Statute Of Anne, grandpappy of all copyright law. It was on April 10th, 1710 that it came into effect, and that day also served as the publication cutoff point for different durations of copyright protection.

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Posted on Innovation - 16 April 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Print Different

from the makerspace dept

This week, we're looking at three crowdfunded tools for 3D printing and laser cutting/engraving, all three of which have blown past their Kickstarter goals many times over.

OLO

When I first heard this was a "smartphone 3D printer" I assumed it was yet another device needlessly tied to mobile apps and locked out from desktop control — but the OLO is something entirely different and much more interesting. It's a 3D printer that is actually powered by your smartphone: it uses photosensitive resin that responds to the light from a phone's screen, so you place your phone at the base of the compact printing enclosure, where it not only guides the print job but actually physically completes it itself. I had no idea this was possible, but it's a potential game-changer when it comes to the ubiquity and accessibility of basic 3D printing — especially when you consider the hard-to-believe price tag of only $100.

TRINUS

When it comes to more traditional 3D printing, there are countless consumer options these days, each with its own significant limitations. While I'm sure the same will be true of the TRINUS, it also looks like it could be a meaningful step forward in quality and capability for 3D printers relative to price. It clocks in at only $300, and stands out at that price point for a number of reasons: it's all metal and heavy duty, it can confidently handle higher print speeds, it can double as a laser engraver, and it's not a complex kit but a nearly-fully-assembled unit. This last fact stems from it's pleasingly modular design: of its mere 11 parts, the most important are the four tracks that move the print-head along the axes — and these four parts are identical one-piece units that slot together in any order to form the backbone of the device.

Mr Beam II

3D printing and laser cutting/engraving go hand-in-hand, and indeed many devices like the TRINUS can do both. But the Mr Beam is dedicated to the latter, and does it well. The original Mr Beam was a crowdfunded kit that was capable but complicated; the Mr Beam II is a fully assembled unit that's ready to use out of the box. It's versatile and very easy to use, with the most notable feature being its internal camera that helps with setup: after placing the object to be cut or engraved in the enclosure, the camera delivers a clear picture to the control software and enables you do position your designs by simply dragging and dropping and adjusting directly on top of the image. It is a fairly high-end piece of equipment though, so it doesn't hit the surprisingly low prices of the previous two entries here, clocking in at over $1,500 (or more to include an air filter unit).

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 12 April 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 69: Free Culture And Aaron Swartz (Part Two)

from the the-conversation-continues dept

Last week we were joined by Justin Peters, author of the new book The Idealist all about Aaron Swartz, free culture and digital activism. The first half of the discussion focused on that broader context, and this week we continue with a closer look at Aaron himself.

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

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the that'll-be-thirty-dollars-please dept

This week, we reported on a German court declaring adblockers legal for the fifth time, and sparked a discussion about online advertising that contained our two most insightful comments of the week. It makes us happy to see first place go to That Anonymous Coward for his take on Techdirt's approach to advertising:

The big difference is TD doesn't value ad revenue over the users. Rather than waste time making demands, you politely asked while at the same time offering an easy opt out system. TD got whitelisted by a bunch of people who ad-block everywhere, because it wasn't a battle.

TD is aware of how shitty and invasive some ad offerings are, and magically the ads served up aren't giant take over blaring music crap. Its almost like you took a look at the web, saw all the crap users hate, and went out of your way to avoid doing that.

I wonder how many of these newspaper moguls have browsed their own offerings on a stock web browser. I'd love to see video of their faces when they see what they are putting their customers through to get a few cents.

Sometimes it is better to ask nicely and do your best to offer ads that aren't invasive.

The second place comment came from an anonymous commenter with an explanation of his attitudes towards ads in general:

Ad industries never cared what I wanted. They never asked permission to use my bandwidth, they just took it.

Now I don't care what the ad industry wants. I'm taking my preferences without consideration to what they wish.

They've made their bed and are unhappy with it. I don't see them trying to do serious changes so they are not getting it yet.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with another anonymous comment, this time noting one particular aspect of a Swedish court's copyright ruling against Wikipedia:

Love this part, apparently WikiPedia provides no value

"A database of this kind can be deemed to have a commercial value that is not inconsiderable,” the supreme court said in a statement. The court rules that the copyright-holders have the right to absorb this value."

This part is great. So a database, website, search mechanism, etc. provide no additional value. All of the value belongs to the copyright holder. This is the same mindset that movie studios and music labels have, that the content is 100% of the value and the platform that brings this content to the consumer provides no value. Frankly I think the net should be scrubbed of all of this stuff and let it no longer be spoken of. When nobody comes to see the artwork, listen to the music or watch the movie, the creators will be clamoring for some way to get notices.

Next, we've got Blaine responding to our thoughts on the Burr/Feinstein encryption bill and its bizarre opening about respecting the rule of law, which we thought wasn't the point at all:

Oh, but it is

"This is not about disrespecting the rule of law..."

If this law or any like it pass, I will have a tremendous amount of disrespect for the rule of law.

(I am already maxed out on my disrespect for these specific lawmakers.)

Over on the funny side, our first place winner comes in response to a story about hackers having a massive impact on the elections in certain countries, which led anonymous Dutch coward to wonder about some homegrown election problems:

OMG! Trump doesn't exist. He is just some sort of Bolivian malware!

In second place, after we highlighted a study suggesting the "kids these days" are in fact getting in much less trouble than kids in the 90s, William Fresh stood up and attested to that fact:

Very true. My buddies and I caused a lot of trouble in our block. A low point was when we picked a fight with some skinny kid who just wanted to play basketball out by the playground. It really wasn't much, but his mother was so frightened, that she moved him out to live with some relatives out west.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we've got a pair of comments responding to how broadband providers have been dealing with privacy. First, it's DannyB with some pushback on our criticism of Comcast for opposing privacy regulations:

Comcast is in good company here. And with good reason.

Imposing regulations upon Comcast to protect consumer privacy would be like regulating big chemical plants to prevent water pollution. Or the silly idea of regulating plants to prevent air polution! This would impose unwarranted burdensome requirements upon business that would diminish profits from huge to merely large.

Comcast shouldn't be regulated any more than other poor struggling ISPs. Imagine if Verizon had to actually build out the landline infrastructure they promised? Or if AT&T had to let customers use all the bandwidth they actually paid for? This could destroy the global economy!

Shouldn't TechDirt be a 'pro business' site?

This message brought to you by Big Lobbyist from Big Mega Corp which personally approved this message.

Finally, we've got Ninja with some brainstorming inspired by AT&T's $30 privacy fee:

Since they are being obnoxious, specially because they can, why not introduce more fees?

- $30 to use premium customer service (read: any customer service at all)
- $30 for not throttling the connection during peak times (along with the $30 to remove the caps of course)
- $30 not to throttle you during non-peak times (because hey, why not?)
- $30 not to receive incessant marketing calls and mail about their awesome $30 tiers
- $30 for the privilege of not incurring in hidden fees (transparency fee)
- $30 to avoid rogue technicians from cutting your cable randomly

Go on. At this point why not test the limits on how toothless the regulatory efforts are?

That's all for this week, folks!

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

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

from the phone-the-past dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw a variety of attempts to define whole new forms of copyright infringement (and to fight back against them). The UK advertising agency was going after a CD jukebox maker for advertising that it is capable of making copies; a Greek site linking to legal videos from rightsholders was sued for infringement; it wasn't clear if Amazon would end up buying music licenses it shouldn't need; the MPAA unsurprisingly sued a streaming site that used connected DVD players; and an Italian court said Yahoo was liable for people finding infringing movies via its search.

But the big copyright battlefield was the COICA bill, which was drawing opposition from across the political spectrum (and that was being ignored by Senator Patrick Leahy). The House held preliminary hearings on piracy, but it devolved into a parade of strawmen and a "why can't Google just fix this?" party.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, Microsoft was making some bold claims about software piracy and defending the supposed need for proprietary security measures, while the software industry as a whole was trying to mislead China on the economics of piracy. The RIAA, which misses no opportunity to be a bully, was telling an MIT student he should drop out of school to pay a hefty infringement fine, while Streamcast was going to court to try to clear up some legal questions about filesharing — and we wondered if a country like Antigua could take on the US using free music.

This was also the week that Apple broke down one of the biggest divides in computing by deciding to support Windows on Apple computers.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001 it was the waning days of Napster, and some were comparing the P2P revolution with the early days of radio, though others were trying to paint a picture that P2P was dead. MLB was making its foray into payed audio streams of games and hitting some technical hiccups, while some people were realizing that charging for the streams was silly. An early trailblazer in something many schools have since done, MIT made all its course materials available online, while another trail was also being blazed in the world of online pizza ordering. And we all looked to the future of then-fresh Verizon, still referred to as Baby Bell by many.

Forty-Three Years Ago

It would take a long time after this notable date for mobile phones to become the ubiquitous devices they are today, but it was on April 3rd, 1973 that Motorola researcher Martin Cooper made the first phone call with a handheld mobile phone. The device in question weighed 1.1kg and offered 30 minutes of talk time on a ten-hour charge.

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

Awesome Stuff: Play, Listen, Record

from the audiovisual dept

This week, we're taking a look at some new crowdfunded gadgets for music lovers and creators.

Atmo Sfera

It's a piece of audio gear, but its real appeal is purely visual. The Atmo Sfera is a new "platterless" turntable from a team of Italian designers, and boy is it nice to look at. In use, the vinyl record floats and spins on the central pivot while the sleek carbon fibre arm glides across it, and suddenly other turntables seem clunky by comparison. Of course, this design innovation isn't solely about style: going platter-free is an alternative approach to reducing unwanted vibrations in a turntable, basically taking the opposite route from the more common method of using a hefty, dense, high-quality platter. The Atmo Sfera is also a totally self-contained, ready-to-play device that doesn't require additional pre-amps and other audio gear, which can't be said for all quality turntables.

VIE SHAIR

Though earbuds reign supreme for casual listeners in their day-to-day life, not everyone is willing to make that sacrifice when on- and over-ear headphones deliver such staggeringly superior sound. But those big head-cans come with downsides: they are extremely isolating, and even the most comfortable pair starts to hurt after a while. The VIE SHAIR aims to solve this with a unique "frame" design that lifts the headphones off your ears while still directing the sound where it needs to go, for the double benefit of being able to hear what's around you and not ending up drenched in ear sweat. Now, if only they could figure out how to make them roll up into a tiny ball like earbuds...

Loopa

Looping is a tremendously fun digital music technique, and one that a lot of creative people have done some amazing stuff with. Usually the gear takes one of a few forms: a single pedal in the standard design of stage pedals everywhere, a multi-pedal monster, or a tabletop looping "station". None of these things do the job alone: they need to be hooked up to instruments, microphones, etc. The Loopa puts one of the most entertaining looping workflows into a single package: it's a self-contained looper microphone with on-board controls, so the entire process can be held in one hand. It's got some solid specs, too: 24-bit digital audio, up to 12-minute loops, and unlimited layers with multiple levels of realtime undo and redo. Wait until you see what beatboxers can do with something like this.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 April 2016 @ 2:02pm

FBI Plays It Coy Regarding Their iPhone Exploit

from the what-color-is-your-hat? dept

Every since the FBI announced that it had found its own way into Syed Farook's iPhone, people have been wondering exactly how it managed to do so, and how many people the exploit puts at risk. Unsurprisingly, the agency declined to share any details with Apple and tried to downplay the possibility that they'd be breaking into phones left and right — despite pretty quickly entertaining the idea of doing exactly that. Now, following a discussion with Director James Comey last night, we have some more... well... I don't think you can exactly call them "details", but:

"We're having discussions within the government about, okay, so should we tell Apple what the flaw is that was found?" Comey said. "That’s an interesting conversation because you tell Apple and they’re going to fix it and then we’re back where we started from."

Comey said that it is possible that authorities will tell Apple, but "we just haven’t decided yet."

That's an interesting way of putting it. It seems Comey has forgotten "where we started from", because not that long ago he was still insisting that this had nothing do with setting a precedent or getting into other phones in the future and was all about pursuing every lead in this one case. Well, that lead has now been pursued and the phone in question cracked, so Comey's "back where we started" comment only makes sense if (shocker) this really was about a lot more than one phone.

Comey went on to downplay the applicability of whatever exploit they are using:

While Comey did not disclose the outside group’s method in his remarks Wednesday, he said it would only be useful on a select type of devices — specifically, the iPhone 5C, an older model released more than two years ago.

"The world has moved on to [iPhone] 6’s," Comey said. "This doesn’t work in 6S, this doesn’t work in a 5S. So we have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones. … I can never be completely confident, but I’m pretty confident about that."

Of course, the 5C still accounts for around 5% of iPhones, which may be a "narrow slice", but that's likely of little comfort to the many people using them who now know their device contains a potential security exploit which the FBI is refusing to protect them from. Because that's the point: if the 5C is hackable, that means a bunch of people are at risk and not just from law enforcement overreach. The right thing to do when you've discovered such a vulnerability is report it so it can be fixed — that's pretty much the dividing line between white hat and black hat hacking. By keeping mum on the details, the FBI is leaving a known security vulnerability in the wild. Oh, but Comey's not worried about that:

Comey did not seem concerned that the method for accessing Farook’s iPhone would be revealed by the outside group that helped them.

"The FBI is very good at keeping secrets, and the people we bought this from, I know a fair amount about them, and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting them," he said.

He only identified this group as "someone outside the government" and said "their motivations align with ours."

Firstly, this presupposes that the exploit will never be found by anyone else (and hasn't been already). Secondly, isn't his allusion to the FBI's mysterious assistants a bit unnerving? Yes, there are security researchers who focus on selling what they find to governments and law enforcement agencies when they need to hack something, instead of revealing the vulnerabilities they discover and helping to close them — which many would already see as a problem. But I guess we are supposed to be comforted that the FBI knows a "fair amount" about these non-governmental hackers, and that their "motivations" align (and don't include doing everything possible to help the public secure their devices and keep their data safe). To protect and serve indeed.

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Posted on Techdirt - 7 April 2016 @ 9:29am

Back Door Legislation Won't Have The White House's Support (Nor Its Opposition, Most Likely)

from the punting dept

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr have been talking about legislation that forces tech companies to help law enforcement break into encrypted devices for quite a while now. Nearly a month ago, they suggested it was almost ready to be formally introduced, but indicated that the White House's response would determine when exactly that happened.

Now, Reuters is reporting that sources in the administration told them backdooring encryption will not have the President's support, adding another question mark to when we'll actually see this bill (though there's a chance it will show up this week).

Although the White House has reviewed the text and offered feedback, it is expected to provide minimal public input, if any, the sources said.

Its stance is partly a reflection of a political calculus that any encryption bill would be controversial and is unlikely to go far in a gridlocked Congress during an election year, sources said.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the pending legislation, but referred to White House press secretary Josh Earnest's statements on encryption legislation. Last month, Earnest said the administration is "skeptical" of lawmakers' ability to resolve the encryption debate given their difficulty in tackling "simple things."

This isn't entirely surprising, as the administration has suggested it won't support such legislation since as far back as September when a leaked document outlined their options for responding to the debate. That document, too, seemed primarily concerned with "political calculus" and what the reaction would be in the public and congress to different versions of "not supporting" the bill, ranging from standing up for the actual truth to punting on the whole issue. In October, they decided to stay silent, though the President has since trotted out the same problematic arguments about compromise and absolutism that we've heard from many politicians.

Now, with the issue refusing to die and Burr and Feinstein's bill perpetually on the horizon, it looks like the White House is going to stick to its silence with "minimal public input" and see what happens. Given the current political climate, and the fact that any such bill almost certainly doesn't stand a chance of passing, this isn't exactly shocking — but it's still disappointing. As we noted last year, when your options include "take a clear stance on the right side of the issue", you shouldn't really need to consider alternatives. The President's open disapproval may not be necessary to prevent the bill from moving forward, but it would go a long way to convincing technology companies and the privacy-aware public that the administration genuinely understands the issue and will fight for what's right.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 5 April 2016 @ 12:45pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 68: Free Culture And Aaron Swartz (Part One)

from the looking-back-(and-forwards) dept

Anyone even remotely interested in free culture, the internet and copyright surely knows the name Aaron Swartz — but only some truly understand what made him tick, and why he was considered so special and important in that world. This week and next, we're joined by Justin Peters, author of The Idealist, a new book that takes a close look at Aaron himself as well as the internet culture that gave rise to his attitudes and activism, which is the focus of this first half of the discussion.

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

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

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the chitter-chatter dept

This week, we looked at an example of something all-too-rare: a rational response to terrorism, and a way to save more lives. Brent Ashley won first place for insightful with his thoughts on why that's not going to appeal to the powers that be:

This presumes that the goal of the current security developments is actually to reduce the effects of terrorism as stated. If it turned out that the real goal was to increase power and perpetuate revenue, we might find that there is little appetite among those in control for a rational approach to saving more lives. Perhaps the current strategy is serving their goals already.

Meanwhile, we also saw Netflix attacked for throttling its own traffic, and faced some claims that this is no different from ISPs throttling Netflix. That's plainly wrong, and John Fenderson took second place for insightful by simply pointing that out:

But it's not the same thing at all. Netflix is throttling its own traffic, not other people's. It's an enormous difference.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got two responses to the RIAA's anger (expressed through lawyer Steve Metalitz) over people making use of the DMCA that it basically wrote (with his "instrumental" help). First, we've got an anonymous commenter expanding on just what it means that Metalitz represented the copyright industries' interests:

Ahh, so he has no interest in representing the public interest but has only represented private industry interests. Yet he was instrumental in the passage of laws that affect the public. So our laws are then not representative of the public but are representative of those that are instrumental in representing private interests.

Also if copy protection laws are really about the artists (though they should only be about the public) then why is the penalty structure one sided against artists that have their works falsely taken down? Why don't artists and service providers that receive false takedown notices receive the same protections as copy protection holders that get their works infringed upon with equivalent penalties against those filing those bogus takedown requests? Is it because these laws are not intended to serve the artists?

Next, we've got That One Guy with some more thoughts on the RIAA's complaints:

Whining about how having to consider fair use before sending a DMCA claim is too difficult is basically whining that they aren't allowed to target anything and everything without having to bother about such trifles as 'collateral damage' or 'innocence' first.

By that same logic people shouldn't have to worry about whether or not a use of something might be infringing before posting it because doing so would just be 'too difficult', and they can always just take it down later if it reaches that point. 'Accidents happen' after all, if they want to use that excuse to cover for bogus DMCA claims regarding other people's content because checking first is just too difficult, then they don't get to complain when someone else uses it with regards to their content because checking whether or not the use might be infringing would take effort on the part of the poster.

On a semi-related note, it would almost be worth it to have them get what they are demanding here, if doing so resulted in sites having the guts to apply it fairly. If context doesn't matter, and once claimed always down, then taking down an un-authorized post of a song or movie clip would result in the authorized version being taken down and blocked from being posted as well. After all without context the files are the same, the songs/clips are the same, so both need to be barred from being posted. Perhaps having entire services completely blocked from their use might drive the point into their thick skulls how stupid their demand really is.

Over on the funny side, we start out on the story of Comcast demanding over $60,000 for a broadband hookup it never actually delivered. Jo won first place for funny with a salesman's flare:

Attention unhappy Comcast customers! I will fail to provide internet service for half the price that Comcast charges to fail to provide it. Yes, that's right, you too can not have internet in Mountain View, but now it will only cost you $30,450!!

Next, we head to the news of TP-Link's blocking of open source firmware for its routers, where AnonCow won second place with an excellent headline revision:

"TP-Link Announces New Plan To Dramatically Reduce Router Sales"

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start with the big news that the FBI apparently successfully unlocked the infamous iPhone, where one anonymous commenter was concerned that they'd forgotten about a significant risk:

In other news: Dormant Cyber Pathogen Released

Finally, we head to the news that the MPAA actually... stood up for free speech. This was obviously a little tough to process for many, and Pixelation suspected traditional trickery on either our part or theirs:

April Fools!

That's all for this week, folks!

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

This Week In Techdirt History: March 27th - April 2nd

from the copying-the-past dept

Five Years Ago

After all the DMCA talk this week, it's interesting to see all the related battles that were happening back in 2011. We saw a court reject the idea that the DMCA requires service providers to proactively block infringement; we debunked the idea that the public domain is a bad thing and showed examples of how just letting people use your content is often a better choice than struggling with licensing. In general it was clear that greater IP enforcement simply doesn't work and copyright doesn't even make sense in cognitive science terms — but that didn't stop broadcasters from trying to block time-shifting options or ISPs from trying to throttle infringement but hurting World Of Warcraft players instead, or Boston College from telling students that a wireless router is a sign of copyright infringement. In the world of revolving doors, former Senator and fresh new lobbyist Chris Dodd was practicing his MPAA talking points, while a judge who was okay with lumping together a bunch of unrelated filesharing lawsuits turned out to be a former RIAA lobbyist, and the EU hired a former IFPI lobbyist to take the lead on copyright regulations.

Ten Years Ago

The saga continues as we move back to 2006, when Germany was seeking hefty jail sentences for file-sharers, TorrentSpy was trying to stop the MPAA from re-interpreting the Supreme Court in its favor, and experts were already pointing out that copy protection doesn't work and it was clear that nobody liked it (like the new DRM from Accenture that was too confusing for anyone to understand). This was underlined by the Korean music industry successfully selling DRM-free music at a higher price-point. An ISP that had formerly claimed filesharing was a huge burden admitted it wasn't, while YouTube was instituting its (now much more flexible) ten-minute time limit on videos as a scattershot way of reducing piracy and trying to avoid comparisons to Napster by courting official distribution deals.

And, given what's happening in America right now, it's fun to look back at our coverage of a silly Donald Trump business idea and remember how inconceivable today's circus once seemed.

Fifteen Years Ago

In 2001, copy-protected CDs were just getting ready to enter the US (and the problems were already becoming apparent). Despite all the doom and gloom, digital entertainment providers were doing just fine, though the same couldn't yet be said about mobile content: people just didn't seem to care despite all the hype, and the revenue had yet to materialize. Some were pointing out that internet companies still need to be innovative, though perhaps examples like MLB charging money for its online baseball audio broadcasts wasn't the best approach.

This was also the week that Google slightly surprised everyone by naming Eric Schmidt as chairman.

Eighty-Six Years Ago

Considering how awful the MPAA is these days, it's easy to forget that the group's current role was originally intended to be a solution to a different problem: the incredibly restrictive and censorious Motion Picture Production Code that clamped down on the free expression of American filmmakers. It was on March 31st, 1930 that the industry's MPAA-prototype first adopted the code (though it wouldn't be enforced strongly for four more years).

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Posted on Innovation - 2 April 2016 @ 9:00am

Awesome Stuff: Putting Nature In The Public Domain

from the doing-it-right dept

This week, we've got one standout project that seems worth highlighting here at Techdirt because of its commitment to things we all care about: cutting-edge media technology, the planet we all live on, and the public domain. Catalog.Earth is a project to use the first to capture the second and dedicate it to the third.

The project emerges from the simple fact that bunch of landscapes on earth are disappearing forever (and the fact that plenty already have). While many are fighting to stop or at least slow down that loss, the folks behind Catalog.Earth are filling in another gap: making sure that, no matter the outcome, the memory of these places won't be completely lost. To that end, they want to use the best technology for 3D video and audio to capture immersive footage and sound from far-flung, highly threatened landscapes. And, most importantly, they want to put all that material in the public domain — the only real way to ensure it lasts forever and benefits everyone.

First on the list for this debut of the project is the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. They are working with specialists from the realm of geography and 3D video production to mount an expedition that will produce multiple 360-degree 4K video/audio recordings of the quickly-retreating glacier at different times of year. The footage will be released under a CC0 public domain license, ensuring nobody can ever try to claim ownership and clamp it down.

And that's just the first step, to show the potential of the project. They'll also be working on a set of guidelines and tools to help other people begin contributing to the catalog, with the goal of capturing endangered landscapes from around the world. Ultimately, the plan is to build an open-source platform to enable the creation and curation of this catalog, making it easy for anyone to contribute and everyone to enjoy. Sure, there's a tiny cynical voice inside me that wonders if we're just paying for someone's Alaskan excursion — but in truth it seems like a fair and sincere exchange. These days, when so many photographers and videographers are protective and exclusive about the rare and difficult material they capture, nothing demonstrates a genuine concern for what you're doing more than dedicating the content you produce to the public domain.

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