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Posted on Techdirt - 17 February 2017 @ 3:44pm

Techdirt Survival Fund: I Support Journalism

from the free-speech-matters dept

Donate to the Techdirt Survival Fund »

As we mentioned last month, we are currently being sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai, represented by Charles Harder, the lawyer who helped bring down Gawker. We have written, at great length, about Ayyadurai's claims and our opinion — backed up by detailed and thorough evidence — that email existed long before Ayyadurai created any software. Once again, we believe the legal claims in the lawsuit are meritless and we intend to fight them and win. Earlier today, we filed a motion to dismiss (along with our memorandum in support) and a special motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law (along with a memorandum in support). You can see all of those below. I encourage you read through them.

Unfortunately, the fight itself is incredibly distracting and burdensome. It has taken up a significant amount of my time (and the time of others who work here) over the last month and delayed multiple projects that we were working on, and even forced us to pass on writing about many stories we would have liked to cover. Even though we are confident in winning the legal fight, it has already taken a massive toll on us and our ability to function and report. We have now set up a Techdirt Survival Fund at ISupportJournalism.com, which will allow us to continue our reporting on issues related to free speech and the growing threats to free speech online, while continuing to fight this legal battle. We've put together an all-star steering committee to help us oversee how the funds will be spent, including representatives from both the Freedom of the Press Foundation and EFF.

Many of you have already supported us in various ways -- by becoming Techdirt Insiders, supporting us on Patreon or by buying t-shirts. We are so grateful for all initial support we've received, but for us to survive, we unfortunately need to ask for more help. Please consider supporting us via this new fund and spreading the word as well.

In this era, especially, strong independent voices in journalism are necessary. Allowing lawsuits to stifle freedom of expression online, silencing voices and creating chilling effects, is a huge threat to how a responsible society functions. Please support Techdirt and support journalism.

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 February 2017 @ 10:53am

Dangerous: Judge Says It Was 'Objectively Unreasonable' For Cox To Claim DMCA Safe Harbors

from the this-is-bad dept

We've been covering the BMG v. Cox case since the beginning, and a bad decision just got made even worse -- and more dangerous. If you've been following the case, you know that it's on appeal right now (and a whole bunch of amici have weighed in), but in the meantime, the judge in the district court, Judge Liam O'Grady, has doubled down on his opportunity to chop up and mock the DMCA's safe harbors by telling Cox it must pay $8 million to BMG in legal fees because its using the DMCA safe harbors as a defense was found to be "objectively unreasonable."

That's crazy, for a variety of reasons, but we'll get there. From the very beginning, this case was a joke, and it's unfortunate that the court didn't realize that early on. The case was filed back in 2014, and we pointed out that it was really BMG (and another publisher, Round Hill Music) acting as a proxy for copyright trolling operation Rightscorp, testing out the wacky legal theory that the DMCA requires that ISPs kick repeat infringers entirely off the internet. No one has ever interpreted the DMCA in this manner. Yes, 512(i) requires a repeat infringer policy, but it had always been widely recognized that that referred to services that hosted content, not network providers (e.g., YouTube is required to have a repeat infringer policy that kicks users off YouTube if they keep posting infringing works, but your ISP shouldn't kick you off the internet for the same thing.)

If that interpretation of the law was legit, you'd think that someone would have tried it in court before -- especially with all the whining from the MPAA and RIAA about how ISPs weren't doing enough to stop piracy. So this was a real stretch as a legal theory.

But, somewhat amazingly -- even after the legal proceedings demonstrated that the lawsuit was really about copyright trolling and exposed some heinously bad behavior by copyright troll Rightscorp -- the case went against Cox and in favor of BMG (Round Hill Music was kicked out of the case early on).

O'Grady made it pretty clear in the case that he's not a big fan of this internet thing, and doesn't see why it's a big deal if someone were to get kicked off the internet. At one point in the proceedings, Public Knowledge and EFF sought to file an amicus brief. Admittedly, many district court judges aren't fans of amicus briefs (they're more usually seen at appellate courts), but O'Grady was so dismissive of this one that it was fairly incredible:

I read the brief. It adds absolutely nothing helpful at all. It is a combination of describing the horrors that one endures from losing the Internet for any length of time. Frankly, it sounded like my son complaining when I took his electronics away when he watched YouTube videos instead of doing homework. And it's completely hysterical.

So, yeah. Judge O'Grady then said that Cox wasn't protected by the DMCA at all, which made it easy for the jury to find in favor of BMG and award it $25 million from Cox. Part of the problem was that there was some sketchy behavior by Cox (including some really dumb emails by staff who don't understand the law, but look damning), but none of it should have directly impacted the legal issues, but that behavior clearly influenced O'Grady.

And, now, because of that, O'Grady has awarded legal fees, by arguing that Cox relying on the very same DMCA safe harbors that everyone else relies on and where Cox was the only major ISP that would kick off any user for infringement, was somehow "objectively unreasonable." Think about that for a second. Let's repeat it: Cox's policy was the only one at a major ISP that kicked people off the network for repeat infringement. And every network provider regularly relies on the DMCA safe harbor to protect them from liability. And yet, Judge Liam O'Grady's opinion says that it was "objectively unreasonable." Oddly, O'Grady's opinion here is again entirely focused on the bad behavior by some Cox employees, and not the overall question of whether or not the safe harbor actually works the way O'Grady (and Rightscorp and basically no one else) seems to think it works. Rather than explaining why it's "objectively unreasonable" for Cox to rely on the DMCA's safe harbors, O'Grady basically says that the reliance was unreasonable... because of the bad behavior. That's conflating two separate things. Sanction them for bad behavior if you must, but don't let that cloud the actual legal issue.

The objective reasonableness of a party's position is an important factor in deciding whether to award fees.... In a hard-fought litigation battle such as this one, discovery disputes and fierce briefing are to be expected, and they should not be held too harshly against either party. Nonetheless, there are a few instances in which Cox's advocacy crossed the line of objective reasonableness. In particular, both Cox's attempts to obscure its practice of reinstating infringing customers, and its subsequent assertions of a deeply flawed DMCA defense evince a meritless litigation position that Cox vigorously defended.

[....]

.... Although Cox's DMCA defense cannot be categorized as frivolous or in bad faith, the Court found that "[t]he record conclusively establishes that before the fall of 2012, Cox did not implement its repeat infringer policy. Instead, Cox publicly purported to comply with its policy, while privately disparaging and intentionally circumventing the requirements."... The evidence supporting this conclusion was overwhelming, and it included "smoking gun" email conversations.... The most memorable of these contained Cox's own abuse manager stating: "F . . . the dmca!!!"... Therefore, although Cox's defensive arguments may have been reasonable as an abstract legal theory, when viewed in light of the actual facts of the case, they evince an objectively unreasonable litigation position that was nonetheless vigorously defended.

It's clear that O'Grady is hung up on the bad behavior and statements by Cox employees. And, again, what they were saying was really bad. But the real question is whether or not it actually violated the DMCA. And Cox argued, quite reasonably, that it did not. The DMCA doesn't actually require what O'Grady and BMG insist it does, and no other ISP even goes as far as Cox did (bad behavior or not). So because you have some clueless Cox employees, who were spouting off internally about how much they hate the DMCA (an opinion shared by many) and because they implemented their repeat infringer policy in a way that O'Grady felt wasn't reasonable, suddenly arguing that the safe harbors still should apply (because they should!) is "objectively unreasonable"? That's dangerous.

Again, the earlier parts of the case are already on appeal, so hopefully this will all get wiped out and this order won't matter in the long run either. But if it does stand, it's yet another serious problem that's come out of this particular case.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 February 2017 @ 10:50am

Oh, Sure, Suddenly Now The House Intelligence Boss Is Concerned About Surveillance... Of Mike Flynn

from the high-court,-low-court dept

We've written a few times about Rep. Devin Nunes, who heads the House Intelligence Committee. He's been a long-time vocal supporter of NSA surveillance. He insisted that there was no need for reform after the Snowden leaks and he actively misled the public and other members of Congress to shoot down an amendment that would have stopped so-called backdoor searches of "incidentally collected" information on Americans. Nunes falsely claimed that by blocking backdoor searches of the 702 database, it would have blocked things such as tracking whether or not the Orlando nightclub shooter had overseas contacts (it would not have done that at all).

So it's fairly hilarious to see that Nunes' first reaction to the news of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's resignation was to demand answers on why Flynn's calls with Russian officials were recorded.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

Uh, dude, you approved this kind of thing (loudly and proudly), and not only that, but you actively blocked suggested amendments that would have blocked the using of this information to dig into information on US persons. Maybe it's time to rethink that one, huh? Of course, (former assistant Attorney General) David Kris (who knows this stuff probably better than anyone else) has made it clear that Flynn's calls with a Russian official wouldn't need to be "minimized" (i.e., have his identity excluded) because "a U.S. person’s name can be used when it is necessary to understand the foreign intelligence information in the report."

Of course, there's lots of irony to go around here. Timothy Edgar -- who was the director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security staff under Obama (and also did privacy/civil liberties work in the Bush administration) has noted that the leaking of the contents of his phone calls actually means that Flynn's own civil rights have been violated and even suggests he gives the ACLU a call (oh, and another layer of irony: Edgar has been warning about how Flynn and others in the Trump administration might trample on civil liberties... and yet here, he's arguing that Flynn's civil liberties have been violated.)

Along those lines, Glenn Greenwald notes that the leaking of actual content from intercepted communications is a really serious crime, but one that should be seen as totally justified here, as it was clearly a form of whistleblowing (even as he admits that the motives of the leakers likely weren't pure, but were possibly for revenge against Flynn, who many in the intelligence world disliked).

It is a big deal to actually leak the contents of an intercepted communication (most leaks and whistleblowing tend to be about programs, not the actual intercepted communications). Of course, this should raise other questions about why the NSA and FBI are surveilling so many people -- and will the content of those other calls be used for political vendettas rather than true whistleblowing? Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that someone like Devin Nunes is going to care about all that. In typical "high court/low court" fashion, he's only concerned that someone on his team was hurt by such surveillance, not that such surveillance regularly occurs.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 February 2017 @ 9:26am

FBI Arresting More Americans For Targeting Muslims, Than Muslims For Targeting Americans

from the lock-'em-up dept

We've been pretty damn clear that we think the Trump administration's targeting of people from a few countries by banning them from entering the US is both inhumane and misguided. We were proud to sign on to an amicus brief opposing it and happy that the 9th Circuit agreed -- though the case is far from over. As I've noted repeatedly, to me it's an issue of basic humanity and decency, but some have insisted on making arguments about how certain people are somehow out to get us and we need to protect ourselves from them. I know that, these days, it's considered silly to rely on things like facts for an argument, but it seemed worthwhile to actually explore some facts on this particular topic.

We'll start with a post at Lawfare, by Nora Ellingsen. And we should start out by noting that Techdirt and Lawfare have a pretty long history of... well... not agreeing on much. The site is generally supportive of the intelligence community and supportive of actions taken to protect "national security." We tend to be more skeptical. Ellingsen worked in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division for five years, specifically working on international terrorism investigations inside the US. Since leaving the FBI to go to law school, she's been tracking counterterrorism cases in the US, using DOJ data. And she's gone through that data to try to determine if there's any truth to the idea that people from those countries represent a big ongoing threat. And the answer is that it's just not true. In fact, the real "terrorism" threat in America appears to be... from Americans.:

The Program on Extremism at George Washington University has routinely published statistics indicating that the “vast majority” of individuals charged in the U.S. with offenses related to ISIL are U.S. citizens. When considering all terrorism offenses, that claim holds up—80 of the 97 suspects arrested in the past two years, or more than 82 percent, are American citizens.

Most of those, notably, are not naturalized citizens. Of the U.S. citizens, only six were naturalized. In other words, more than 76 percent of individuals arrested by the FBI over the past two years for terrorism-related offenses were U.S. citizens as a result of having been born in the United States.

The post goes through all of the individuals who were not born in the US and looks at what each was charged with (often just making false statements to the FBI) and how many of them (not many) actually came from the list of banned countries.

And, then, of course, the fact that the FBI these days tends to be arresting a lot more people for plotting violent attacks on Muslims, than Muslims plotting violent attacks on the US:

Since January 2015, the FBI has also arrested more anti-immigrant American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the U.S. than it has refugees, or former refugees, from any banned country. As we wrote about here, here and here, in October 2016, three white men from Kansas were charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. According to the graphic complaint, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant men planned to attack a mosque in the area. The men progressed quickly with their plot, amassing firearms and explosives. The targets were people from Somalia, who ironically, would now be covered by Trump’s order.

Similarly, the post notes that there were more US citizens arrested en route to join ISIS in Syria than those arrested trying to plan attacks here.

Since we’re already on the topic, let’s talk about Americans traveling to join ISIL. Over the past two years, the FBI has arrested 34 Americans who aspired to leave, attempted to leave or actually left the United States to join a terrorist group overseas. In other words, although two refugees came into the U.S. and were charged with material support,

Seventeen times that number of U.S. citizens tried to leave the U.S. to conduct attacks and fight overseas. More Americans have snuck into Syria to join ISIL, than ISIL members have snuck into the United States. In September 2015, a congressional report indicated that 250 Americans have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIL. By comparison, as of December 2015, only 71 individuals in the United States had been charged with ISIL-related activities—the vast majority of whom were also U.S. citizens, according to George Washington University.

Meanwhile, over at Slate, William Saletan has pointed out that if the President really wants to ban travellers from regions that import multiple people aiming to harm Americans... it ought to ban travel from North & South Carolina. He goes through story after story of extremists who left North Carolina to conduct terrorist attacks elsewhere. The list is long, but here are just a few:

It began with Eric Rudolph, a Holocaust denier who grew up in the Christian Identity movement. In 1996, Rudolph traveled from North Carolina to Atlanta, where he detonated a bomb at the Olympics, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. A year later, Rudolph bombed a lesbian bar in Atlanta, wounding five people. In 1998, he bombed a reproductive health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing a security guard and injuring a nurse. The “Army of God,” which hosts Rudolph’s writings, claimed credit for his attacks.

In 2001, Steve Anderson, another Christian Identity follower, was pulled over for a broken tail light on his way home from a white supremacist meeting in North Carolina. He pumped 20 bullets into the officer’s car and fled. Police found weapons, ammunition, and explosives in his truck and home. A year later, he was captured in the western part of the state.

In 2010, Justin Moose, an extremist from Concord, North Carolina, was arrested for plotting to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic. Moose, who claimed to represent the Army of God, also opposed the construction of a mosque near ground zero in New York. He called himself the “Christian counterpart of Osama Bin Laden.” Eventually, Moose pleaded guilty to disseminating information on how to make and use explosive devices.

Obviously, the Slate piece is tongue-in-cheek in arguing that the Carolinas are the real threat, but the larger point is completely valid. There seems to be no credible evidence for why people from the countries listed in the original executive order should be banned from the US other than outright bigotry. And, somewhat unfortunately, that same kind of ignorant bigotry (which the executive order is only helping to encourage and spread) is resulting in actual violent attacks from Americans who misguidedly think they're stopping "evil."

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2017 @ 12:09pm

Get Ready For 'Leak Investigations' In The Trump White House

from the thanks-obama dept

As we discussed over and over again during the past eight years, the Obama White House -- despite a first day pledge to be "the most transparent administration in history" -- was actually quite famous for its extreme secrecy, combined with a seriously paranoid view of anyone leaking anything unflattering to the White House. As we detailed, the Obama White House declared any unflattering leaks as "aiding the enemy." And, of course, the Obama administration went after more leakers/whistleblowers with Espionage Act claims than all other Presidents in history combined.

So, now, I guess we'll see what the Trump administration does about leaks. So far, in just the first few weeks of the Trump administration, the number of leaks out of the White House has been fairly astounding. There are leaks on just about everything, with some being just downright silly (and a few being literally unbelievable). In a larger report in Politico on how Trump is adjusting to the job of being President, there's a brief mention that he's getting increasingly frustrated by the leaks and is seeking to have them stop:

After Trump grew infuriated by disclosures of his confrontational phone calls with foreign leaders, an investigation was launched into the source of the leaks, according to one White House aide. National Security Council staffers have been instructed to cooperate with inquiries, including requests to inspect their electronic communications, said two sources familiar with the situation. It’s not clear whether the investigation is a formal proceeding, how far along it is or who is conducting it.

The administration is considering limiting the universe of aides with access to the calls or their transcripts, said one administration official, adding that the leaks — and Trump’s anger over them — had created a climate where people are “very careful who they talk to.”

And, now, in the wake of a variety of leaks that resulted in National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigning, the President is trying to shift the story to being about leaks:

This is only marginally hilarious, coming from the same President who regularly praised Wikileaks during his campaign, and who almost certainly owes his presidencey, in part, to multiple damaging leaks on his opponent during the campaign. Sean Spicer doubled down on this angle in a press briefing today — after joking about how he needs to stop lecturing reporters on what stories to cover, he proceeded to lecture them about the idea that they should be focusing on the existence of White House leaks as the real story.

Of course, Washington DC is a town that thrives, and often seems to live off of, leaks from the government. I can imagine just how frustrating it must be to experience it first hand, but it sort of comes with the territory. It's also a very, very important way in which the public is able to hold the government accountable. Leaks reveal things that keep the government's worst impulses in check, which is why it's a form of whistleblowing.

That said, this seems like yet another reason to be annoyed with the Obama administration's vast, paranoid crackdown on leakers. It has set the blueprint for a Trump administration if it chooses to go down that same path. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will pick up where Obama left off and go after leakers quite as aggressively as the last administration. But the quotes above (ironically... leaked from the White House) certainly indicate a plan to crack down on leakers, and to date, Trump has not shown that he's interested in moderation when it comes to hitting back at those who displease him. One can only hope that he doesn't decide to take the Obama blueprint and go even further in going after leakers and whistleblowers.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2017 @ 9:37am

Upset About Border Patrol Cruelty? It Didn't Start Under Trump

from the speak-up dept

In the last few weeks, there's obviously been a lot of attention on the cruel actions of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Slate has an article detailing some of the awful stories coming out after the Trump executive order on immigration and travel (here are just a few):

  • At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, CBP officers reportedly detained an elderly Sudanese woman suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and severe kidney stones. They refused to provide her attorney or her family with any information on her health, status, or whereabouts. Her attorney later learned that CBP officers had demanded that his client withdraw her request for admission into the United States or be barred from entering the country for five years. She signed the document and was promptly deported. Her family never got to see her.
  • Also at DFW, CBP agents allegedly detained a lawful permanent resident along with her 11-month-old daughter, a U.S. citizen. They refused to let attorneys speak with the mother. When the child’s father came to the CBP office, agents refused to let him see his daughter.
  • CBP officers at Los Angeles International Airport allegedly deported an Iranian student 90 minutes after a federal judge explicitly barred the deportation of anyone targeted by Trump’s order. They ignored efforts by attorneys to halt the deportation.
  • CBP officers at San Francisco International Airport allegedly detained an elderly Iranian couple with valid visitor visas for 30 hours. Nineteen of those hours came after a federal judge halted deportations under Trump’s order. One officer informed the couple’s attorney that they might soon be deported. When the attorney explained that this action would violate a federal court order, the officer responded that he was “just following orders.”
  • An elderly Iranian couple—both of whom were lawful permanent residents—say they were detained for 10 hours at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after returning from their son’s wedding in Iran. The two were denied access to food for the length of their detention. Another elderly person being detained along with the couple was shaking from hunger and nearly passed out. CBP officers refused to inform the couple’s immediate family whether the couple had been allowed to take necessary medications.
  • A complaint to DHS over the implementation of the travel ban noted 26 accounts of abuse by the CBP.

    But here's the thing: none of this is new, unfortunately. Yes, the specifics of the executive order are new, and the awful plan and rollout by the administration are new, but CBP being arbitrarily cruel to people is not at all new. We've reported on it many times in the past. Last week, On the Media put together a collection of stories that it had done in the past about egregious behavior by CBP at the border, almost all of which we covered in the past -- and all of which occurred under President Obama.

    There was the horrific treatment of On The Media Producer Sarah Abdurrahman and her family (all US citizens) detained at the US border for hours and treated horribly when trying to return to the US from a wedding in Canada. There's also the insane story of Pascal Abador, a student studying Shiites in South Lebanon (he's an atheist himself), who was detained and had his laptop seized while on a train traveling from Canada to the US. CBP found photos on his laptop of Hamas and Hezbollah and then wouldn't give him back his computer. And then there's the truly sickening stories (plural) of CBP bringing people to doctors to be horrendously strip searched for drugs, often undergoing hours-long "inspections" by medical professionals despite never turning up any actual drugs. Here's one example we wrote about, which is similar to, but not the same one discussed in the OTM recording:

    1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
    2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
    3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
    4. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
    5. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
    6. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
    7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
    8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

    None of this is to say that what Trump is doing is okay. What he's doing is expanding the CBP's power to continue to expand its often arbitrary and capricious activities without any fear of oversight or any sort of reprimand for egregious behavior. But if you're suddenly concerned with how CBP appears totally free to mistreat basically anyone at the border, at least recognize that it's been going on for quite some time and that plenty of people (including us) have been trying to call attention to it for years. And don't assume that just because you're suddenly hearing these stories in the news, that they're a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, they are not. Hopefully, greater attention on CBP cruelty will lead to fixing it, but this administration, unfortunately, seems to want to encourage and expand it.

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    Posted on Techdirt - 13 February 2017 @ 8:22am

    Oracle Files Its Opening Brief As It Tries (Again) To Overturn Google's Fair Use Win On Java APIs

    from the still-ain't-over dept

    As was widely expected, back in October, Oracle announced its appeal of Google's big fair use win, concerning its reuse of certain Java API components in Android. If you've been following this (long, long, long) case, you'll recall that Google has won twice at the district court level. The first time, Judge William Alsup correctly noted that APIs were not subject to copyright, because copyright law clearly states that copyright protection does not apply to "any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery," and an API is a process, system or method of operation. However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), who only had jurisdiction over the case because it initially involved a patent issue, seemed unable to understand that an API is different from software and overturned the lower court's sensible ruling.

    That resulted in the second case which was weird, because everyone had to tiptoe around the fact that basically everyone had assumed that APIs were not covered by copyright, in order to instead make a fair use argument, which ultimately succeeded. Oracle then tried to play some games to get that ruling overturned, but that failed miserably, when the judge pointed out that Oracle's argument was almost entirely based on a failure to read what Google had actually given them (Oracle had claimed that Google failed to disclose something important, when the reality was that Oracle's lawyers failed to read the material that Google had given them).

    Anyway, now that things are back at CAFC, we have to hope and pray that the court doesn't muck things up any worse than it already has (and, trust me, it's mucked things up badly to the point that it's impacting a bunch of other cases). On Friday, Oracle filed its 155-page opening brief. Feel free to dig in, if you must, but the arguments are (mostly) basically what we expected. Oracle argues that Google's use is not fair use (basically saying the jury got it wrong). It further argues that the case should be sent back to the district court because it was prevented from presenting key evidence that would have undermined the fair use claim. And then, somewhat incredibly, at the end, Oracle continues to try to argue that Google concealed its plans to expand Android into PCs -- the very issue that Judge Alsup smacked Oracle down for when it was revealed that Google had shared that info, and Oracle just hadn't read it. In the filing, Oracle whines that Judge Alsup "blamed the victim" for not having read what Google actually gave them, saying that it was impossible to have read everything Google gave them because there was just too much stuff and this was a "needle in the haystack." That... seems pretty weak. Amusingly, at the same time that Oracle is complaining that Google gave Oracle too much in discovery, it also complains that Google clearly withheld more info. Throw any argument at the wall and see what sticks, I guess.

    Frankly, this opening brief seems to really lean in to CAFC's notorious ignorance of how software works, and the fact that last time around it couldn't tell the difference between an API and software. It just keeps focusing on the agreed upon point that Google copied some of Java's APIs, but keeps calling it "copyrighted code." It's impossible to predict how CAFC will rule, because CAFC is frequently hilariously confused when it comes to how technology (and software in particular) actually work. But hopefully someone over there will take the time to figure it out. After all, there have been a few, somewhat shocking signs of enlightenment in the past few months at CAFC. Hopefully that continues.

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    Posted on Techdirt - 10 February 2017 @ 4:37pm

    Patent Troll Sues Netflix, Soundcloud, Vimeo And More For Allowing Offline Viewing

    from the but-the-patent-system-encourage-innovation,-right? dept

    Joe Mullin over at Ars Technica has the story of a patent troll, Blackbird Technologies, which was founded by (of course) two patent attorneys to buy up patents and shakedown companies with legal threats. Blackbird Technologies has now sued Netflix, Soundcloud, Vimeo and a variety of other companies over US Patent 7,174,362, issued in 2007 (filed for in 2000) on a "method and system for supplying products from pre-stored digital data in response to demands transmitted via computer network."

    Specifically, the lawsuits are targeting various "download to consume offline" features on various content websites. Netflix, of course, just famously launched that long-requested feature, which is useful in cases where people have slow or no internet access (e.g., taking your laptop on an airplane without internet access). If anyone thinks that this kind of feature was developed because of this patent, they're being delusional. And that's especially true because the patent itself isn't even about downloading content from the network for offline viewing. Instead, it's actually about someone ordering some content over the internet, having that content automatically burned to a CD-ROM and having that CD-R shipped off to the person. As Mullin notes, the true irony here, is that the guy who got the patent in the first place, Sungil Lee, may have been inspired by Netflix, which already had a very popular business shipping DVD's ordered online to customers:

    Context is important when looking at Lee's patent. It's extremely unlikely an inventor writing up the idea of a web-based system for creating and shipping CD-Rs, in the year 2000, was not acutely aware of Netflix—whose DVDs-in-the-mail business had begun blowing up. If there was any copying at all, it was Lee copying Netflix's idea. But in the upside-down world of patent trolls, it's Blackbird who gets to claim the mantle of defending innovation, while it accuses Netflix of being the copycat.

    And the thing is, even the idea of having content written automatically to CD-Rs was hardly new in 2000. This patent never should have been granted. I remember back in 1998, when I was working for a company that did electronic distribution of software being pitched by multiple companies that were working on similar solutions, and even seeing a demonstration of one such company at COMDEX in the fall of 1998 (if I remember correctly, to demonstrate how it worked they burned me a copy of Internet Explorer 5) which had just been released. So this patent never should have been granted in the first place. On top of that, to sue companies for doing the obvious thing of offering downloads for offline viewing is a clear abuse of the patent system.

    The lawsuits were filed in Delaware, which has become the "new East Texas" in recent years due to a series of patent troll friendly rulings. Every time we hear stories about how patent trolling is on the decline, we see stories like this, suggesting patent trolling is still a huge problem and still a huge cost on innovation, rather than a boon to innovation.

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    Posted on Techdirt - 10 February 2017 @ 10:00am

    Some New Techdirt T-Shirts (And Hoodies, And More...)

    from the i'm-spartacus dept

    I Invented Email

    New Gear From Techdirt: I Invented Email »

    Okay, it's been a long time since we ran some t-shirt campaigns around here, and we've been hard at work on some new designs that we think you'll enjoy. First up, we've got one that we've had a few people asking for: our brand new I Invented Email gear, allowing you to express your opinion on certain events. Separate from that, we've got some brand new Techdirt logo gear in two styles. Check 'em out. The email t-shirts are only available for a limited time, so get them while they're here.

    I Invented Email

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    Posted on Techdirt - 9 February 2017 @ 4:14pm

    Court Unanimously Keeps Lower Court's Injunction Against Trump's Immigration Order In Place

    from the for-now dept

    Let's start this out by being quite clear: this is still the beginning of a fairly long legal process. But, the 9th Circuit appeals court has just unanimously ruled that the lower' court's injunction barring Donald Trump's executive order on immigration should remain in place. In short: the federal government remains barred from actually carrying out the order. This does not mean, as our President has wrongly suggested, that people are free to randomly enter the country in droves. They still have to go through the already thorough vetting and visa process. It just means that the blanket ban that caused so much havoc cannot be used to bar entry into the country. We were among those who signed onto an amicus brief for the wider tech industry, asking the court to rule this way, so we're happy they did.

    The court is pretty clear, and it's somewhat surprising that the ruling was unanimous. While it's always difficult to tell how judges are going to rule based solely on oral arguments, it certainly felt like two judges were leaning towards the states' argument and one towards the federal government's. But when it was time to write an opinion, all three came down on the side of the states. Not only that, but they did it per curiam, meaning that the entire panel "wrote" the opinion (rather than singling out the specific judge who wrote it). This can be seen as the three judges showing a united front, and also a pre-emption towards the likelihood of our thin skinned President picking directly on one of the three as somehow being responsible (as he did in earlier tweets about the case). Either way, the judges stood together, noting that the federal government's argument was weak:

    To rule on the Government’s motion, we must consider several factors, including whether the Government has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal, the degree of hardship caused by a stay or its denial, and the public interest in granting or denying a stay. We assess those factors in light of the limited evidence put forward by both parties at this very preliminary stage and are mindful that our analysis of the hardships and public interest in this case involves particularly sensitive and weighty concerns on both sides. Nevertheless, we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.

    Again, this is far from over. There will still be a fight at the lower court over a permanent injunction, and then numerous appeals (not to mention the other cases around the country).

    As for the opinion, it's good to see that the court went as far as it did. It really could have just punted the issue on a number of grounds, including that the appeals court has no grounds to overturn a temporary restraining order. But, instead, it went further and suggested that the federal government's position here is weak. There were a few different issues in the case, and the court wasn't very impressed by any of the federal government's arguments. One was that the states (Washington and Minnesota) didn't have standing to challenge the executive order. Not so, says the court, pointing to a number of cases where state universities had standing to sue on actions related to the rights of their students:

    Most relevant for our purposes, schools have been permitted to assert the rights of their students.... As in those cases, the interests of the States’ universities here are aligned with their students. The students’ educational success is “inextricably bound up” in the universities’ capacity to teach them.... And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the States may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the Executive Order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members.

    We therefore conclude that the States have alleged harms to their proprietary interests traceable to the Executive Order. The necessary connection can be drawn in at most two logical steps: (1) the Executive Order prevents nationals of seven countries from entering Washington and Minnesota; (2) as a result, some of these people will not enter state universities, some will not join those universities as faculty, some will be prevented from performing research, and some will not be permitted to return if they leave. And we have no difficulty concluding that the States’ injuries would be redressed if they could obtain the relief they ask for: a declaration that the Executive Order violates the Constitution and an injunction barring its enforcement. The Government does not argue otherwise.

    On that procedural question of whether or not the court can even review a temporary restraining order (TRO), the court says it's fine:

    We are satisfied that in the extraordinary circumstances of this case, the district court’s order possesses the qualities of an appealable preliminary injunction. The parties vigorously contested the legal basis for the TRO in written briefs and oral arguments before the district court. The district court’s order has no expiration date, and no hearing has been scheduled. Although the district court has recently scheduled briefing on the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction, it is apparent from the district court’s scheduling order that the TRO will remain in effect for longer than fourteen days. In light of the unusual circumstances of this case, in which the Government has argued that emergency relief is necessary to support its efforts to prevent terrorism, we believe that this period is long enough that the TRO should be considered to have the qualities of a reviewable preliminary injunction.

    On the question of whether or not courts even have the authority to review this executive order, the court says of course it does and it's patently silly for the federal government to suggest otherwise.

    The Government contends that the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.” The Government does not merely argue that courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations of the political branches—an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence. See, e.g., Cardenas v. United States, 826 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that “the power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control” (quoting Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977))); see also Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 33-34 (2010) (explaining that courts should defer to the political branches with respect to national security and foreign relations). Instead, the Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.

    There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.

    The court further notes that the federal government's desire to run around screaming "NATIONAL SECURITY" as if that means the courts are powerless to do anything is also completely bogus.

    Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict.

    On to the key question of whether or not the court should lift the TRO and allow the executive order to be in effect again. The court here basically rips up the federal government and notes that it has no real argument.

    The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Government from depriving individuals of their “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The Government may not deprive a person of one of these protected interests without providing “notice and an opportunity to respond,” or, in other words, the opportunity to present reasons not to proceed with the deprivation and have them considered....

    The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause.

    And while I've seen a bunch of people (mainly on Twitter) telling me that there's no due process issue because non-US citizens have no Constitutional rights, the court reminds them that they're wrong:

    The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982). The Government has provided no affirmative argument showing that the States’ procedural due process claims fail as to these categories of aliens. For example, the Government has failed to establish that lawful permanent residents have no due process rights when seeking to re-enter the United States. See id. (“[T]he returning resident alien is entitled as a matter of due process to a hearing on the charges underlying any attempt to exclude him.” (quoting Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449, 460 (1963))). Nor has the Government established that the Executive Order provides lawful permanent residents with constitutionally sufficient process to challenge their denial of re-entry. See id. at 35 (“[T]he courts must evaluate the particular circumstances and determine what procedures would satisfy the minimum requirements of due process on the re-entry of a permanent resident alien.”).

    Separately, the court notes that the federal government's own claims are not trustworthy -- specifically the rapidly-changing claims about whether or not greencard holders are covered by the exec order:

    At this point, however, we cannot rely upon the Government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents. The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely.

    Nor has the Government established that the White House counsel’s interpretation of the Executive Order is binding on all executive branch officials responsible for enforcing the Executive Order. TheWhite House counsel is not the President, and he is not known to be in the chain of command for any of the Executive Departments. Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings.

    The court also rejects the argument from the DOJ that a more limited TRO could be used instead, such as one just focusing on previously admitted aliens. No go:

    First, we decline to limit the scope of the TRO to lawful permanent residents and the additional category more recently suggested by the Government, in its reply memorandum, “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future.” That limitation on its face omits aliens who are in the United States unlawfully, and those individuals have due process rights as well. Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 693. That would also omit claims by citizens who have an interest in specific non-citizens’ ability to travel to the United States.... There might be persons covered by the TRO who do not have viable due process claims, but the Government’s proposed revision leaves out at least some who do.

    The court also refuses to restrict the TRO so that it doesn't apply nationwide, basically saying the government failed to explain why it should:

    Second, we decline to limit the geographic scope of the TRO. The Fifth Circuit has held that such a fragmented immigration policy would run afoul of the constitutional and statutory requirement for uniform immigration law and policy.... At this stage of the litigation, we do not need to and do not reach such a legal conclusion for ourselves, but we cannot say that the Government has established that a contrary view is likely to prevail. Moreover, even if limiting the geographic scope of the injunction would be desirable, the Government has not proposed a workable alternative formof the TRO that accounts for the nation’s multiple ports of entry and interconnected transit system and that would protect the proprietary interests of the States at issue here while nevertheless applying only within the States’ borders.

    The court then notes that the federal government failed to convince the court that it has any "likelihood of success" in prevailing in support of the executive order, though it's open to changing its mind at a later date, when more fully briefed (i.e., when things come back on appeal down the road).

    Finally, there's the question of the "balance of hardships and the public interest" and again the court notes that the DOJ failed to show any evidence of real harm in blocking the executive order, because the DOJ has no actual evidence to support the reasons for the order in the first place. And, again, just screaming "NATIONAL SECURITY" is no excuse:

    The Government has not shown that a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Although we agree that “the Government’s interest in combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order,” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 28 (2010), the Government has done little more than reiterate that fact. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years.

    The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree, as explained above.

    In a footnote on that, the court calls bullshit on the idea that there's some super secret info that only the President can see that shows why this ban is necessary, noting that the federal government regularly shares confidential information with judges under seal or in camera to avoid it being seen by others.

    Meanwhile, the court notes that the plaintiff states have shown pretty strong evidence of harm:

    By contrast, the States have offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple “other parties interested in the proceeding.” ... When the Executive Order was in effect, the States contend that the travel prohibitions harmed the States’ university employees and students, separated families, and stranded the States’ residents abroad. These are substantial injuries and even irreparable harms.

    And, finally the court notes that the public interest simply does not warrant a stay.

    Again, this is just the beginning of a long process, but as an early victory it's a big one. The court could have punted and did not. And in the meantime, our somewhat confused President is angry and doesn't seem to realize he's already in court over this (and losing, badly):

    Of course, if that were true, it would help to have the federal government actually lay out some evidence to support that. What the 9th circuit pretty clearly said here is "we've seen none whatsoever."

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    Posted on Techdirt - 8 February 2017 @ 2:40pm

    The Biggest Advocates For An Imperial Executive Branch Are Suddenly Freaking Out Over Trump

    from the oh,-now-you-get-it dept

    For many, many years, we've pointed out why there are problems with an executive branch that is too powerful. As we noted, laws should be designed as if the people you trust the least are in power. Of course, in an era of partisan red team/blue team politics, very few people seem to care or listen. Or, worse, their positions on executive power seem to shift based on whether "their guy" is in power or "the other guy" is in power. But in a situation that would be amusing if it weren't quite so terrifying, some of the biggest advocates for expanded executive power are suddenly freaking out about the very thing they helped bring about now that there's a President Trump.

    Ryan Lizza, over at the New Yorker, has a post detailing the ways in which Trump could seize more power following a terrorist attack. And there are lots of ways. That, by itself, may be interesting, but what strikes me as even more interesting is that the people who he quotes are some of the very people who helped create this kind of world where the President has almost unlimited power in certain areas.

    First up, he quotes Jack Goldsmith. Goldsmith worked for George W. Bush, and while he's positioned himself as having pushed back against executive branch expansion, while he was there he did sign the Office of Legal Counsel memo that enabled the NSA to basically spy on all Americans' internet usage. That memo included the following:

    We conclude that in the circumstances of the current armed conflict with al Qaeda, the restrictions set out in FISA, as applied to targeted efforts to intercept the communications of the enemy in order to prevent further armed attacks on the United States, would be an unconstitutional infringement on the constitutionally assigned powers of the President. The President has inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States. Congress does not have the power to restrict the President’s exercise of that authority.

    And, more recently, Goldsmith has argued that we "need" a more invasive NSA which is crazy.

    Yet, now, suddenly he's worried that Trump wants these orders to be struck down so he can blame the courts in the event of any terrorist attack, and then use that to claim more powers:

    If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack. After a bad terrorist attack at home, politicians are always under intense pressure to loosen legal constraints. (This was even true for near-misses, such as the failed Underwear bomber, which caused the Obama administration to loosen constraints on its counterterrorism policies in many ways.) Courts feel these pressures, and those pressures will be significantly heightened, and any countervailing tendency to guard against executive overreaction diminished, if courts are widely seen to be responsible for an actual terrorist attack. More broadly, the usual security panic after a bad attack will be enhanced quite a lot—in courts and in Congress—if before the attack legal and judicial constraints are seen to block safety. If Trump assumes that there will be a bad terrorist attack on his watch, blaming judges now will deflect blame and enhance his power more than usual after the next attack.

    Yeah, that's why we don't say silly things in OLC memos like "The President has inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States. Congress does not have the power to restrict the President’s exercise of that authority."

    Next up in Lizza's piece is John Yoo. Yoo, somewhat famously, seemed to have never met an executive power he couldn't justify... until Trump came to power. Yoo, wrote the Bush adminstration's legal justifications for the CIA's torture program after 9/11. He's also argued that the NSA should be given a pass on the 4th Amendment because it takes too long to get a warrant. To him warrantless surveillance is no big deal.

    And yet, now suddenly John Yoo is worried about "executive power run amok"?

    As an official in the Justice Department, I followed in Hamilton’s footsteps, advising that President George W. Bush could take vigorous, perhaps extreme, measures to protect the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks, including invading Afghanistan, opening the Guantánamo detention center and conducting military trials and enhanced interrogation of terrorist leaders. Likewise, I supported President Barack Obama when he drew on this source of constitutional power for drone attacks and foreign electronic surveillance.

    But even I have grave concerns about Mr. Trump’s uses of presidential power.

    During the campaign, Mr. Trump gave little sign that he understood the constitutional roles of the three branches, as when he promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would investigate Hillary Clinton. (Judge Neil M. Gorsuch will not see this as part of his job description.) In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump did not acknowledge that his highest responsibility, as demanded by his oath of office, is to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Instead, he declared his duty to represent the wishes of the people and end “American carnage,” seemingly without any constitutional restraint.

    Yoo goes on to point out a bunch of problems with some of Trump's actions (while admitting that others he finds perfectly fine).

    While I guess it's kinda nice that Goldsmith and Yoo are finally recognizing that an all-powerful executive branch is problematic, they don't seem to recognize their own role in shaping that view of a uniquely powerful executive branch. It's time to own it, guys.

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    Posted on Techdirt - 8 February 2017 @ 11:39am

    Barrett Brown's Donors Sue DOJ/FBI For Monitoring Their Donations

    from the what-kind-of-world-do-you-want-to-live-in? dept

    We've written numerous stories about Barrett Brown, the reporter who was sentenced to 63 months in jail after being pressured into signing a plea deal. If you don't recall, Brown's "crime" was trying to get a bunch of people together to crowdsource an investigation into the famous Stratfor email hack. The feds went after him for posting a link (yes, posting a link) to a group to investigate, and because some of the Stratfor info included credit card data, the feds argued that Brown was trafficking in stolen credit cards. Really. And while the feds eventually dismissed the specific charges related to the links, the judge justified the long sentence against him because he copy/pasted that link.

    The whole thing was a travesty. Brown is thankfully out of jail now, but earlier this week, Kevin Gallagher, who helped organize a legal defense fund for Brown, sued the Justice Department over claims that the DOJ illegally tracked and monitored everyone who donated to support Brown. Gallagher is looking to make this a class action lawsuit. You can read the full complaint here. From the filing:

    The government agents responsible for the arrest and prosecution of the journalist violated the First Amendment by seeking the identities of the donors to the crowd-funding campaign, as well as the amounts of each donation. This violation began when Assistant United States Attorney Candina Heath sent a subpoena (the “WePay Subpoena”) to WePay, Inc. (“WePay”), the host of the crowd-funded legal defense fund, directing WePay to send “any and all information” pertaining to the legal defense fund to Special Agent Robert Smith of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). The subpoena claimed that the information it requested would be used at the trial of the jailed journalist. However, the identities of, and the amounts donated by, the journalist’s supporters are completely irrelevant to the charges levied against the journalist. On information and belief, the WePay Subpoena was part of a larger scheme by Ms. Heath and Mr. Smith to unlawfully surveil the donors in violation of the First Amendment. As the Ninth Circuit has recognized, “[t]he right of those expressing political, religious, social, or economic views to maintain their anonymity is historic, fundamental, and all too often necessary. The advocacy of unpopular causes may lead to reprisals – not only by government but by society in general. While many who express their views may be willing to accept these consequences, others not so brave or so free to do so will be discouraged from engaging in public advocacy.”

    The lawsuit further argues that the subpoena violated the Stored Communications Act (part of ECPA), because it sought the content of electronic communications without a warrant. That's because, in using WePay, donors were able to also include messages of support for Barrett Brown -- and the feds requested that info without a warrant (and the content was less than 180 days old, which still does require a warrant). That's... a problem.

    The details of the lawsuit also question whether or not the administrative subpoena that was used to request the info was issued under false pretenses (i.e., it was claimed that the info was necessary for the prosecution of Brown, but instead of being sent to the prosecution team, it was sent instead to the FBI):

    The WePay Subpoena indicated that the information it requested would be used in the trial of Barrett Brown. Oddly enough, however, instead of asking WePay to send its response directly to Ms. Heath, the prosecutor, or to lodge its response with the court, the WePay Subpoena compelled WePay to produce information directly to Agent Smith of the FBI. This renders the WePay Subpoena improper under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c). It also demonstrates that Defendants’ claimed purpose of using the information produced in response to the WePay Subpoena at Barrett Brown’s trial was purely pretextual. The true goal of the WePay Subpoena, rather, was to facilitate the unlawful surveillance of the anonymous donors to the crowd-funding campaign.

    I have no idea if this case has any chance at all. My suspicion is that the courts will figure out a way to dump it pretty quickly, but at the very least, it should call attention to the question of why the FBI felt that it needed all of the info on everyone donating to Barrett Brown, a journalist they railroaded into jail.

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    Posted on Techdirt - 8 February 2017 @ 9:24am

    Australian Guy Demands Techdirt Story Be Blocked In Australia Over Comments

    from the really-now? dept

    I will admit that Australia's defamation law is fairly baffling, in that it seems to repeatedly allow individuals who have had mean stuff said about them to demand all sorts of content be completely blocked from existence -- based solely on the claims of the aggrieved, and prior to any court ruling. It's a "right to be forgotten" gone mad. The latest such example of this... involves us. We recently discovered that an Australian guy by the name of Michael Roberts is demanding that an entire Techdirt page be removed from Google's index. Having not recalled ever writing about anyone named Michael Roberts, I went to look at the article and discovered... it doesn't mention anyone named Michael Roberts and doesn't seem to involve him at all.

    Instead, it's an article from about a year and a half ago about a preemptive lawsuit filed by Ripoff Report against a prosecutor in Iowa who has been aggressively pursuing Ripoff Report for quite some time. As we noted in the article, the judge in the case found no one to like and spends plenty of time pointing out the problems of everyone who is a party to the lawsuit. As the judge noted, the prosecutor pursing Ripoff Report, Ben Smith, appeared to focus on investigating Ripoff Report for "retaliatory reasons." Meanwhile, Ripoff Report was clearly no angel as well, potentially trying to stretch Section 230 of the CDA to cover content written by someone hired by the company (CDA 230 is clearly limited to user generated content, and not to works directed by the company).

    That story was kind of interesting, but it apparently just revealed the tip of the ice berg of the dispute between Smith and Ripoff Report. It apparently goes much deeper involving all sorts of conspiracy theories, which we won't even begin to discuss here, other than to note that it appears that many of the people involved in the ongoing dispute all happened to show up in our comments and... go wild posting anything and everything. Some of the back and forth conspiracy theories do involve the guy who sent this notice, Michael Roberts. And, because of that, he wants our entire post (and a whole bunch of other things) entirely blocked from Google. I'm not going to go into the different claims and conspiracy theories in the comments because, frankly, it would take basically a week -- and probably some bulletin boards with photos, printouts and red strings connecting totally unrelated incidents.

    But I do find it worrisome that even if Roberts is correct that various negative "imputations" can be made from some of the nuttier comments in the thread, that it means our original story -- which, again, doesn't even mention him -- should be blocked from Google. Honestly, if you read through the comments, and can even keep the various players and claims straight (good luck with that!), it's hard to believe that Roberts is the one who comes out of the whole thing looking bad. But, of course, in filing this takedown notice, he's only causing more people who wouldn't be paying attention at all to go look at the comments and see what this is all about.

    Also, it does seem worth noting that beyond our specific articles, and some specific YouTube videos, the takedown request demands entire blogs and social media accounts be blocked, rather than specific statements/posts/articles that could be defamatory. That seems like a clear demand for prior restraint and broad based blocking of individuals, rather than of actually defamatory speech.

    There's a popular saying that the best response to speech you dislike is more speech, and this seems like one of those cases. Rather than freaking out and demanding an entire article (not about him) be taken down, why not leave things in context where people can judge the unreliability of the claims on their own merit (or lack thereof).

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    Posted on Techdirt - 7 February 2017 @ 5:03pm

    Congress Tries Once Again To Require Warrants To Search Emails

    from the will-it-actually-happen? dept

    The efforts to reform ECPA -- the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act -- have been going on for basically two decades at this point. The law, which was passed in 1986, has a whole bunch of problems, with the biggest one (as we've discussed dozens of times) being that it considers any email that's been on a server for more than 180 days "abandoned," and thus freely searchable by law enforcement without a warrant. That's because there was no concept of cloud computing back in 1986. People who got email "retrieved" those emails off of a server and downloaded them to local storage. Many in Congress have been trying to fix this for so, so, so many years. And it always gets blocked. The IRS and the SEC have both been fairly proactive in trying to block ECPA reform bills that will require a warrant (funny: I thought it was the 4th Amendment that made such a warrant necessary, but, silly me, no one cares about the 4th Amendment any more).

    Last year, a plan to fix ECPA, called the Email Privacy Act, with an astounding 315 co-sponsors, passed the House unanimously. As we noted at the time, this is fairly incredible. In these contentious times -- especially on issues related to surveillance and law enforcement -- to have a unanimous vote on a law that says "get a warrant" if you want access to emails, is quite incredible. But, of course, even with that much support on that side of Congress, the Senate has a way of killing ECPA reform each and every year. Last year, a few Senators -- including Jeff Sessions, who is likely to be our next Attorney General -- tried to bury it with ridiculous amendments that would expand surveillance.

    On Monday, the reintroduced Email Privacy Act easily passed the House via a voice vote, showing that our Congressional Members still recognize how important this is. Of course, now it gets to go back to the Senate, and we saw how well that worked last year. And then we have to believe that President Trump will sign the bill. Stranger things have happened, of course, but it still seems like a longshot that real ECPA reform will become law this year. It's great that Rep. Kevin Yoder, along with Reps. Jared Polis, Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Ted Poe, Suzan DelBene, Will Hurd, Jerry Nadler, Doug Collins and Judy Chu keep pushing this bill. I disagree with many of the folks on that list on a number of other issues we cover, but the fact that they're willing to support basic 4th Amendment concepts for email is worthy of recognition. Now, hopefully, the Senate won't try to muck it up again.

    49 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 7 February 2017 @ 3:03pm

    Court Tells Melania Trump She Can't Sue The Daily Mail In Maryland, So She Refiles In New York

    from the because-of-course-not dept

    Disclaimer: As you probably already know, the lawyer in this story, Charles Harder, is the lawyer in the ongoing lawsuit against us.

    Back in September of last year, we wrote about how our now First Lady Melania Trump, represented by Charles Harder, had sued the Daily Mail and some blogger in Maryland. As we noted at the time, the choice of Maryland for the venue was odd -- since the Daily Mail is a UK publication and Trump (at the time) lived in NY. We speculated that the blogger -- Webster Griffin Tarpley, who was not widely known -- may have been included solely to try to get the case into a Maryland court. As we noted at the time, Maryland's anti-SLAPP law is notoriously weak. In a profile on Harder last year, the Hollywood Reporter noted that he's well aware of the differences in state laws:

    In his offices, Harder keeps charts mapping the differences in libel and privacy laws throughout the country. He also has become a pro on where to strategically file cases.

    A couple weeks ago, the court let the case against Tarpley go forward, but late last week dismissed the case against the Daily Mail, saying that the venue was improper. As the ruling rightly notes:

    In this case the Article was researched, written for and published in a United Kingdom newspaper and published on a general news website that did not focus on Maryland. The Article was uploaded by MailOne staff in London and MailOne staff in New York posted the Article to the U.S. homepage of MailOnline. No reporter or editor traveled to Maryland in the course of reporting, editing, or publishing the Article.... There are no advertising or business acts conducted by MMI that were purposefully directed to Maryland. Further there is nothing about the parties that connects the case against MMI to Maryland -- MMI does not have an office in Maryland, Plaintiff does not live in Maryland, and the witnesses are not located in Maryland. It would be unreasonable as a matter of constitutional due process for this Court to exert jurisdiction over MMI or MailOnline in the State of Maryland.

    Much of the rest of the ruling goes through the arguments brought forth for why Maryland was the proper venue -- including things like having targeted advertising for visitors in Maryland, and having other stories that were local to Maryland -- and disposes of them one by one. None of it stuck.

    Of course, on Monday, Harder filed a brand new lawsuit on behalf of Melania Trump against the Daily Mail... in NY state court. The complaint here is much more fleshed out than the original complaint in the Maryland case. The press has mainly pounced on one specific claim in the new lawsuit, about how the original article by the Daily Mail could have harmed Trump's ability to cash in on a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity. From the lawsuit:

    As a result of Defendant's publication of defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff's brand has lost significant value, and major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her have been lost and/or substantially impacted. The economic damage to Plaintiff's brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online's defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars. Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered mutli-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

    That's definitely a lot more fleshed out and specific than what was in the original complaint in Maryland (which was filed before the election):

    Plaintiff is involved in many business ventures involving the licensing of her name and likeness, and relying upon her valuable reputation, and the defamatory publication foreseeably caused substantial damage to her business, career, reputation and her actual and prosepctive economic relationships. As a result of the conduct of Daily Mail, Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.

    Of course, what changed between the first complaint and the second complaint was Melania's husband becoming President of the United States. Thus, the clear implication -- that many in the media are making -- is that the "once in a lifetime" opportunity is to somehow cash in on the Presidency. Of course, I do wonder how much damage to her brand could really be attributed to those articles, which have since been deleted, seeing as her reputation -- and the fact that she will now be "one of the most photographed women in the world" -- certainly seems to have massively boosted her reputation and massively increased her areas of opportunity if she does choose to cash in (i.e., it seems that she might have had a stronger case if she had not become First Lady). Separately, in an era where people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have become massive licensing juggernauts, I'm curious how much damage the Daily Mail reports could actually do to potential brand/licensing deals.

    Either way, Harder and Trump will continue pushing forward in their lawsuit against the Daily Mail, just in New York, rather than Maryland. And, yes, if you were wondering, New York has an unfortunately weak anti-SLAPP law.

    Read More | 29 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 7 February 2017 @ 10:59am

    Who The Hell Is Actually In Charge Of The US Patent And Trademark Office?

    from the perhaps-no-one dept

    I recognize that many (especially regular Techdirt readers) will assume from the title above that the question is a rhetorical one in response to the latest craziness around a stupid trademark or awful patent. But, no, we mean that literally. You see, right before the Trump inauguration, it was widely reported that Michelle Lee would stay on as the Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office. That was undeniably good news. For all the complaints we have about the USPTO, Lee has done a fairly amazing job running that office, and seems to be one of the first Patent Office directors who actually understands how patents can do serious harm to innovation. Keeping her on would be a really good sign. After seeing the stories claiming that she was staying, we'd mostly moved on. However, Politico reporter Nancy Scola sent me down something of a rabbit hole after tweeting that it's basically impossible to know who's in charge of the Patent Office right now.

    The USPTO's site still says it's Lee:

    That seems like that should be that. However, there are conspiracy theories afoot -- mainly being discussed by Gene Quinn over at IP Watchdog. Gene and I disagree about basically everything as it relates to patents, and he's got a history of insulting me, so I have every reason to basically ignore him. But, on this, he may have a point. And the questions about whether or not Lee is actually in charge are also being asked by a much more respectable patent website, Patently-O.

    The issue started when Quinn noticed that, despite the claims that Lee was staying on, the Commerce Department (which the USPTO is a part of) leadership page says the role is "vacant." Here's the latest screenshot I took:

    As for the PTO's own website, Quinn rightly points out that its leadership page still lists out a number of other individuals who have announced resignations and are no longer there, but whose profiles are still on the website. The Commerce Department seems to be refusing to comment to anyone who asks (I've sent in my own question) and it's quite unclear if Michelle Lee really is the director.

    If you look through the fairly long list of articles by Quinn on the subject, it's quite clear that he (as someone who is not a fan of Lee) is hoping that she's been pushed out, and is trying to drum up controversy over the possibility that she might remain. But the lack of any clarity from anyone... is bizarre. Quinn's most recent post on the subject notes that while no one seems willing to say who's running things, Lee "continues to be seen" in the building. That would certainly support the theory that she's staying. But... she's also cancelled a bunch of speaking engagements, and no one at the USPTO or Commerce Dept. seems willing to say anything. Also, in an earlier report, Quinn noted that he'd been told, unofficially, that Drew Hirshfeld is "Acting Director," implying Lee had left. But the whole thing seems to be... unclear:

    Who is running the United States Patent and Trademark Office? That straightforward question shouldn’t be imponderable, but it seems that the Trump Administration has chosen to sequester the Director as if he or she has gone into the witness protection program. Indeed, we seem no closer to an answer to who is running the USPTO today than we were 18 days ago. Although sources tell me that Michelle Lee continues to be seen on the 10th floor of the Madison Building, which is where the Director’s Office is located.

    As we begin the third week of the Trump Administration I cannot tell you with any definitive certainty who is Director, or if there is an Acting Director, or if the Commissioner for Patents is merely carrying out the responsibilities of Director without being named Acting Director, which has been the case at least once in the past.

    Yes, the Trump transition has been a bit of a mess, but this seems particularly bizarre. There's a decent chance that the problem is just that something is afoot and it just hasn't been discussed publicly yet, so the Commerce Dept. and PTO are staying silent. But, as Quinn notes, there are actual, real implications of not having anyone as PTO director:

    Indeed, there are many things that the law leaves to the discretion of the Director of the USPTO. While some of those decisions have been delegated out to subordinate officials within the Office, some do still remain only with the Director. For example, if you are a patent owner who believes you are being harassed by repeated post grant challenges the Director alone has the authority to provide a protective remedy. Without knowing who is Director how can patent owners appropriately seek to obtain the assistance of the Director?

    Another thing that will soon become problematic is with respect to lawsuits involving the USPTO. Who should be the named party? Generally, the Director or Acting Director of the agency is named as the party on behalf of the agency. While it seems a small point, properly identifying the party is no minor matter in federal court. Are patent applicants supposed to style their appeals to the Federal Circuit as Applicant v. John or Jane Doe, Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?

    In his most recent post, Quinn further wonders if those of us who tend to think certain patents shouldn't have been issued could even use this as a way to claim patents issued recently are invalid:

    Sources tell me that the USPTO was prepared last week to issue patents with the signature of Drew Hirshfeld, who is the Commissioner of Patents and seems to be currently in the position of Acting Director. At the last minute, however, a decision was made to reverted back to Michelle Lee’s signature. This creates several significant problems.

    First, if Lee is not currently the Director patents that are being issued with her signature are being issued in violation of §153. If we know anything about patent litigators it is that they raise every challenge possible, and it is only a matter of time before the provenance of patents issued during these first weeks and months of the Trump Administration are challenged as being invalid.

    These are not unsolvable issues, once things are clarified, but it still... very, very strange. I doubt that challenging the validity of the patents would have much of a chance, but it is interesting. And while I desperately hope that Lee remains, and Quinn desperately hopes that she is forced out, I think (for once!) Quinn and I agree: whatever is happening, and whoever is in charge, should be disclosed publicly.

    41 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 6 February 2017 @ 3:23am

    Basically The Entire Tech Industry Signs Onto A Legal Brief Opposing Trump's Exec Order

    from the we-need-to-stand-up dept

    I've been quite clear how I feel about Donald Trump's awful executive order that places a blanket ban on people entering the US (even if they had valid visas) from 7 countries, including a permanent block on Syrian refugees. Tons of people have been protesting this decision, and multiple courts have ruled against it. There has been some discussion over whether or not the tech industry was really going to stand up against this move, and some of the early statements about the executive order were a bit weak. However, late Sunday night, basically the entire technology industry (plus some companies from other industries as well) signed onto an amicus brief calling the order illegal and unconstitutional (technically, it's a motion asking for permission to file the amicus brief, with that brief attached).

    The brief was filed in the Ninth Circuit appeals court, which is one of the first appeals courts considering the executive order, after a federal judge in Seattle issued a nationwide temporary restraining order on enforcing the exec order. On Sunday, the appeals court refused to reverse the lower court, keeping the TRO in place. However, it also gave both parties (the lawsuit itself was filed by the state of Washington) a very quick turnaround time to file written arguments to be considered.

    Given that incredibly short time frame, the fact that 97 companies -- including some of the world's largest -- but also some tiny ones, like the Copia Institute (the think tank arm of Techdirt), were able to come together and not only get a detailed amicus brief together, but also get sign on from all of those companies (on Super Bowl Sunday, no less), is impressive. Having been through the process in which amicus briefs with multiple signers has been done before, normally there's lots of hemming and hawing from different companies and nitpicking over certain choices. It takes a lot of effort. Update: Another 30 companies have signed on as well.

    But this issue was so important and so core and fundamental to our basic values, that basically the entire industry came together and signed onto this. You name the company, and it's probably signed on. There are the big guys: Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple (despite a false Washington Post article that claimed none of them had signed on). There are lots of other huge names as well, including Twitter, Snap, Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Dropbox, Cloudflare, Box, eBay, GitHub, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Medium, Mozilla, Patreon, Paypal, Pinterest, Reddit, Salesforce, Spotfy, Stripe, Wikimedia, Yelp, Y Combinator and many, many more. Update: Among the notable companies in the "late" sign on, were SpaceX, Tesla, Slack, Pandora, Adobe, HP, Evernote, Udacity and more...

    I highly recommend reading the full amicus brief -- which makes an economic argument, a moral argument and a legal argument all wrapped up in one.

    Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries, and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies. Immigrants are among our leading entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, and philanthropists. The experience and energy of people who come to our country to seek a better life for themselves and their children—to pursue the “American Dream”—are woven throughout the social, political, and economic fabric of the Nation.

    For decades, stable U.S. immigration policy has embodied the principles that we are a people descended from immigrants, that we welcome new immigrants, and that we provide a home for refugees seeking protection. At the same time, America has long recognized the importance of protecting ourselves against those who would do us harm. But it has done so while maintaining our fundamental commitment to welcoming immigrants—through increased background checks and other controls on people seeking to enter our country.

    [....]

    The Order effects a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies. It hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations— and hire new employees—outside the United States.

    The Order violates the immigration laws and the Constitution. In 1965, Congress prohibited discrimination on the basis of national origin precisely so that the Nation could not shut its doors to immigrants based on where they come from. Moreover, any discretion under the immigration laws must be exercised reasonably, and subject to meaningful constraints.

    There's much more in the full brief, and hopefully the court allows it and recognizes how momentous this is. I've never seen anything that so many tech companies have gotten behind (including things like SOPA), and this happened so fast that it is literally unprecedented. A whole bunch of people put in a tremendous effort to actually get this done (including more than a few having to miss the Super Bowl to get this done...). Andy Pincus from Mayer Brown deserves a specific shoutout for being the main lawyer putting the brief together.

    We shall see what happens from here, but having basically the entire tech industry rise up in a single voice to say that this order is not right is nice to see. In this day and age, it's easy not to speak out and to just sit on the sidelines. But this is important, and when it mattered all of these companies spoke out.

    Read More | 234 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 3 February 2017 @ 4:01pm

    Good News: Nevada's Strong Anti-SLAPP Law Is Constitutional

    from the good-to-see dept

    For many, many years we've talked about the importance of strong anti-SLAPP laws. In case you're new to the subject, SLAPP stands for a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. In short, SLAPP suits are lawsuits where it is fairly obvious that the intent of the lawsuits is to stifle free speech, rather than for a legitimate purpose under the law. The intention of anti-SLAPP laws are to allow for such lawsuits to be tossed out of court quickly -- and, frequently, to force those who bring those suits to pay legal fees. While actually getting a federal anti-SLAPP law is really important, for now, we're left with a patchwork of state laws. While many (though not all) states have anti-SLAPP laws, they vary widely in terms of what they cover and just how strong or effective they are.

    As we've pointed out in the past, a few years ago, Nevada passed a really great anti-SLAPP law, though it's been under attack the past few years. Thankfully, Marc Randazza informs us that Nevada's anti-SLAPP law has been found to be Constitutional, meaning that it will survive largely intact (a few changes had been made a few years ago to bolster the law's likelihood of surviving).

    Perhaps even more important was that the ruling basically recognized that Nevada's anti-SLAPP statute was similar to California's (much older and much more broadly litigated anti-SLAPP) law, and that Nevada courts can use California case law for its own anti-SLAPP cases. That's also a good thing:

    A secondary issue in the case, and an important one, is that the Nevada Supreme Court recognized that Nevada and California Anti-SLAPP jurisprudence are essentially one body of law. This is not entirely new law. In John v. Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., 125 Nev. 746 (2009), the Nevada Supreme Court held similarly, but this was discussing the prior version of the law....

    [....]

    The good news is that the Court reaffirmed the John v. Douglas County pronouncement that Nevada courts should rely on the rich body of California case-law in interpreting the Nevada statute. Given the scant case-law we have in Nevada, this is a godsend. California has interpreted "matter of public concern" as extremely broad. Meanwhile, I have seen Nevada trial court judges looking at the standard as much more narrow.

    This is a good decision that brings more predictability to Anti-SLAPP litigation under the Nevada statute, and ultimately will function to keep Nevada's free speech protections aligned with its free-speech-protective neighbor.

    Another good win for an anti-SLAPP law. Now, if only more states (and the federal government) will adopt them and really protect free speech from legal bullying.

    4 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 3 February 2017 @ 1:55pm

    Recent Law School Grad Sues Twitter Because Someone Made A Parody Twitter Account

    from the it's-a-feelony! dept

    Another day, another wacky legal complaint. This one, first spotted by Eric Goldman was filed by a recent law school grad, Tiffany Dehen. She's fairly upset that someone set up a parody Twitter account pretending to be her that portrayed her in an unflattering light. So she has sued. For $100 million. And she's not just suing the "John Doe" behind the account... but also Twitter. Oh, and also the University of San Diego, because she's pretty sure that someone there is responsible for this account (she just graduated from USD's law school). Oh, and according to the exhibits that Dehen put in her own lawsuit, the account is labeled as a parody account.

    The lawsuit... well... it doesn't reflect well on the University of San Diego law school and its ability to prepare lawyers. I don't know if the law school didn't teach Ms. Dehen about California's anti-SLAPP law, but she's likely about to get a quick post-graduate lesson about it. I won't even get into the reasons why this is unlikely to be defamation (parody, people, parody...), but the fact that Twitter and USD are included... is pretty nutty. Twitter will get out of the case pretty damn easily under Section 230 (does the University of San Diego law school not teach Section 230?!?). And, of course, there's this, which kind of speaks for itself:

    If you can't read that, it says:

    Additionally, it should be noted that Tiffany Dehen's real twitter account consists of posts supporting the elected President of the United States, not Adolf Hitler, the socialist communist dictator from Germany. The fact that John Doe used Tiffany Dehen's real name and linked the fictitious Twitter account to Tiffany Dehen's real name and linked the fictitious Twitter account to Tiffany Dehen's real account by retweeting Tiffany Dehen's posts shows that John Doe acted with actual malice and negligence.

    Huh? I'm still stumbling over "socialist communist" that I'm already having difficulty figuring out how parodying someone is proof of "actual malice and negligence."

    As for Twitter's involvement, here's what Dehen thinks makes Twitter liable:

    Plaintiff requests to enjoin Twitter, Inc, jointly and severally, the social media website which allowed this disparaging speech to stay broadcast to the world, costing plaintiff potentially millions of dollars in future earnings. Twitter was put on notice on January 30, 2017, and as of Feb 1, 2017, the false twitter account was still posted, even after Tiffany Dehen put Twitter on notice. The process Twitter adheres to is absolutely ridiculous and should be looked at as well and Plaintiff claims the process Twitter has in place to review defamation is unconstitutional.

    Hooo boy. Where to start? Let's just skip over the awful run on sentences and note, again, as we did above, that Section 230 makes Twitter categorically immune from this lawsuit. I'm still at a loss as to how any lawyer today could file a lawsuit and not be aware of the basics of Section 230. Even without Section 230, Twitter would easily get out of this lawsuit. Notice that she cites no actual laws on the books or caselaw to back up this claim? She gives the company a grand total of two days of notice? And then I didn't know that "absolutely ridiculous" processes (which she doesn't actually seem to understand or describe) are illegal. I'd like to know the statute that says "absolutely ridiculous" policies for dealing with parody accounts are illegal, because, man, that would be useful. Oh, and "unconstitutional." Wha....? This is just... so, so awful. The University of San Diego law school should be ashamed.

    Oh, right, about USD Law. Why is it a defendant? Beats me.

    Plaintiff requests to enjon University of San Diego because of the fact that as seen in Exhibits 34 and 35, it appears as though there is a high probability John Doe is an University of San Diego student or alumni since the photo used to make the swastika headband, as shown in Exhibits 3, 4, and 5, is Plaintiff's profile photograph on LinkedIn. University of San Diego should be liable as well due to a prior matter that was not resolved appropriately by University of San Diego which led to USD acting recklessly, or at the very least negligently, to allow this matter to arise.

    So... it sorta feels like perhaps Ms. Dehen thinks that "enjoin" means "make a party to the case" rather than the actual meaning, which is to have the court stop the party from doing something. Is it truly possible that someone can graduate from law school without knowing what enjoin means? Also, as for the rest of that paragraph, what is even going on? I keep reading it, and trying to understand why the fact that a LinkdedIn photo was used somehow makes it obvious that it was a USD student. Because she doesn't explain it at all, if you actually bother to go to the exhibits, it appears she's implying, without saying, that because LinkedIn tells her that some people from USD Law School visited her profile (among other people from other places) that's her proof. That's... not quite how it works.

    And... even if it is a USD student, so what? That doesn't make USD liable.

    And then the unexplained "prior matter"? Who graduates from law school and thinks that's how you put something into a complaint?

    Oh, and then there's this:

    Further, on the way to Federal Court in Downtown Sand Diego to file this complaint, Plaintiff was involved in a collision on the I-5 Freeway headed South, which resulted in neck and back pain for which Plaintiff is now seeking medical attention. Please see Exhibit 39.

    So... um... it sucks that you were in a car accident. That's no fun. But what the hell does that have to do with the lawsuit? Why is that in here? And if she was on her way to file it when the accident happened, does that mean after the accident (in pain and all) she stopped to add this totally irrelelvant paragraph to the "complaint"?

    Again, I'm not even going to go into why this account almost certainly isn't defamation, but among her evidence that this meets the "statutory malicious defamation claim" (?!?!) is this:

    John Doe's fault in publishing the statement amounted to substantially more than just negligence. John Doe's meticulous planning of potentially creating a fake Facebook account in which he sought to befriend Plaintiff on social media (Please see Exhibit 38) and gain access to additional information, coupled with the time involved in setting up a false Twitter account, as well as downloading, altering, and reposting plaintiff's images, shows more than just the defendant's fault in publishing the statement. John Doe's deliberate actions amounted to much more than just mere negligence, but more so proves malice, an element of criminal crimes.

    That's... quite a paragraph. But I just want to point out that this is (1) a civil lawsuit and (2) she says that this is an element of "criminal crimes." Criminal. Crimes.

    Finally, I'm no lawyer, but I read and write a lot about court cases, and I can't recall ever seeing a legal complaint written in this manner. It doesn't seem to match with any typical legal complaint format that I've ever seen. It doesn't name any laws. And, I hate to give her any ideas, but normally when people make these kinds of questionable legal attacks on parody claims, they at least try to throw in an ill-advised publicity rights claim. Perhaps that wasn't taught at USD? Anyway, the 3-page "brief" (as she calls it) is then followed with another 20 pages of "exhibits" which are mostly screenshots that she seems to think proves a point, but as noted above, require anyone looking at them to make giant leaps and inferences to even figure out what her complaint is actually alleging.

    And yet, she argues that John Doe, Twitter and USD should pay her $100 million because this parody account is "damaging to plaintiff's name, especially in this crucial juncture of her life where she is applying to California bar admittance and looking for a legal job in San Diego."

    I think free speech lawyer Ari Cohn sums this one up nicely:

    Read More | 86 Comments | Leave a Comment..

    Posted on Techdirt - 3 February 2017 @ 12:02pm

    The Real Controversy Over The Non-Existent 'Bowling Green Massacre' Is That It Was The FBI's Own Plot

    from the fake-news dept

    We've already made our views clear on the horrible nature of the Trump administration's ban on travelers who were born in seven predominantly Muslim countries. The administration has been trying to defend the program, but its talking points are (once again) falling apart. For example, the idea that this only "inconvenienced" a tiny percentage of people and was only temporary — government lawyers have now revealed that over 100,000 visas were permanently revoked. Permanently.

    But the story that's gotten a lot more attention is how Trump aide Kellyanne Conway went on TV last night and tried to back up another talking point: that this is no different than what President Obama did with Iraqi visas. That's not true, but we'll get to that. Even if it were true, Conway seemed to literally make up a terrorist attack that didn't happen, calling it the "Bowling Green Massacre."

    Of course, there was no such massacre. This has resulted in lots and lots of social media mocking about the "massacre" that didn't exist. Some of the mocking is actually quite funny. And, of course, you might want to go donate to the Bowling Green Massacre Fund to support the victims.

    Conway, of course, has said that she merely misspoke and had meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists" and then further pointed to a 2013 article about the two arrested Iraqis, claiming that it was a sign that "dozens" of terrorists could live in the US as refugees.

    Even ignoring the ridiculous massacre claim, and accepting the idea that she just meant to say "terrorists", absolutely everything about this story fails to make her point unless you actively distort it. Let's dig in:

    • The two Iraqis were "terrorists" set to carry out a bombing plot. Nope. It turns out that the two guys arrested were involved yet another of the FBI's "own plots." If you're new to this, for years we've covered how the FBI (rather than actually taking on criminal activity) has been inventing its own fake terrorist plots, and then using undercover agents and informants to bully dupes into "joining" the non-existent, FBI-created, FBI-financed, FBI-supplied "plots." We've written about examples of this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again (so don't go in the comments and ask why this story is on Techdirt...)

      And the "Bowling Green Terrorists" story is the same exact thing all over again:

      From that fall through the following spring, the FBI informant invited Alwan to participate in 10 operations to send weapons or money to Iraq.

    • There was no bombing plot against Americans. The FBI's "own plot" here didn't even involve attacks on America. It was just about sending (non-existent) money and weapons to Iraq:

      ...throughout their interactions with undercover FBI agents in 2010 and 2011, Alwan and Hammadi never discussed plans to attack anyone or cause destruction on U.S. soil. And while they were found guilty of attempting to provide material support to al Queda militants back in Iraq, the men never indicated that they were personally in contact with any militants, attempted to procure weapons for such individuals, or attempted to provide any of their own money to such individuals. Rather, they showed up when and where the FBI informant told them to and helped physically load decoy supplies into whatever they were allegedly being shipped from.

    • There was never any support for the claim that they were part of a larger cell of terrorist refugees: Again, this was a tiny "plot" manufactured by the FBI to send weapons and money to Iraq, not to attack the US. And while Conway has been blowing up Twitter by claiming this ABC story proves that other refugee "terrorists" were here, that article is from 2013, and not a single other person has been arrested, no other terrorist plots associated with refugees (real or fake) have been found or (more importantly) taken place.

      Hell, even former DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller pointed out that the ABC story "is garbage":

    • Conway claimed that the media didn't report on the Bowling Green situation... but her proof that it happened is pointing to an article from ABC. Enough said on that.

    • What Obama did in response to that was different: This has been a key talking point for those supporting the ban. They claim that no one complained about Obama "ban" for six months on people from Iraq in response to the Bowling Green "terrorists." Except that's simply false. As has been carefully reported in a ton of places, what President Obama did in 2011 was entirely different. There was no ban. There was no stoppage. A single type of visa just had more stringent vetting put in place that briefly slowed the throughput of applications. If you want the most thorough explanation I've seen for just how different the two situations are, read the analysis at Foreign Policy Magazine.

    • Even if President Obama had done the same thing, people should still be upset: Because banning all people from a certain country or set of countries without a specific reason or threat, and (in the process) wreaking havoc on the lives of tons of people, including permanent residents and American citizens, deserves to be condemned as simply cruel.

    In summary, Kellyanne Conway is using a non-existent "Bowling Green Massacre" to defend an inhumane policy, based on falsely arguing that two refugees, who were ensnared in a plot created by the FBI to send fake money and fake weapons back to Iraq (and not to attack America), were the tip of the iceberg of a bunch of refugee terrorists (who didn't actually exist) planning to attack America (which never happened) and because of that fake plot, fake massacre and fake terrorists, President Obama similarly banned people from Iraq -- which was something he didn't do. Is that about the sum of it?

    65 Comments | Leave a Comment..

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