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May 2017
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Performance Marketing Goes Mainstream: What You Need to Know

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It used to be that the terms performance marketing and affiliate marketing were interchangeable. Affiliate programs, after all, are the original pay-for-performance model, since affiliate publishing partners are paid a commission in exchange for driving impressions and conversions on behalf of an advertiser. But while affiliate advertisers may have been the pioneers of performance marketing, [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 31-May-2017
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Food & Beverage Ads: The Big, Bold Flavor on Mobile

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With the exponential growth of food-driven content like Buzzfeed's Tasty, Tastemade and now Well Done from Time Inc., food content is everywhere on mobile devices. So it will come as no surprise that 42% of all ads run in Q1 2017 via Positive Mobile's In-Feed Mobile Video Ads were food & beverage advertisers (including restaurants). [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 31-May-2017
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Congress Fast-Tracks Bill That Would Give DHS Agencies Access To NSA Collections

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As a parting gift to the incoming president, Barack Obama approved information-sharing rules which gave sixteen federal agencies access to unminimized NSA collections. The whole list of agencies involved in the information sharing can be found at the ODNI's (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) website:

Two independent agencies—the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA);Eight Department of Defense elements—the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and intelligence elements of the four DoD services; the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.Seven elements of other departments and agencies—the Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence; the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis and U.S. Coast Guard Intelligence; the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Office of National Security Intelligence; the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research; and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
Yes, the collected communications can be masked to protect the identities of US persons, but that call is made on a case-by-case basis by the NSA and there are several government officials with the power to demand unminimized access.This just isn't enough sharing, apparently. Patrick G. Eddington of CATO reports a new bill is being quickly and quietly pushed through the House to expand this sharing to several more federal agencies.
Introduced on April 26 by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the “Improving Fusion Centers’ Access to Information Act” (HR 2169) is designed to plug any “information gaps” in state “fusion centers” by modifying the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require DHS to
identify Federal databases and datasets, including databases and datasets used, operated, or managed by Department components, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of the Treasury, that are appropriate, in accordance with Federal laws and policies, to address any gaps identified pursuant to paragraph (2), for inclusion in the information sharing environment and coordinate with the appropriate Federal agency to deploy or access such databases and datasets;
The DHS is already on the list of agencies with access to NSA collections. This bill would allow it to give underling agencies access to the same info. Some notable three-letter agencies on that list include CBP, ICE, and TSA. While the NSA's collections are supposed to serve a national security purpose, the FBI uses its access for standard criminal investigations. There's no reason to believe these agencies won't do the same.But the bill has friends everywhere in the House. The bill was passed after 40 minutes of debate, thanks to a suspension of normal voting rules. The normal concerns for national security were voiced, but nothing was said of the NSA collection's routine use in routine, domestic criminal investigations. That Congress considers expanded information sharing with domestic security agencies "non-controversial" (hence the sped-up voting process) is an indication of the majority's view of the privacy/security balancing act.Worse, if the bill becomes law, the worst, most ineffective parts of the DHS will be given access to data and communications gathered by the NSA. Fusion centers -- which are already known for being mostly useless, when not actively doing damage to Constitutional rights -- will have even more information to misuse. The bill would give bicycles to fish in all 50 states. The only thing guaranteed is the new powers will be used badly. Eddington quotes from a 2012 report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which found DHS Fusion Centers to be expensive, useless, and a harm to the public.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated that it had spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003, broad estimates that differ by over $1 billion.The investigation found that DHS intelligence officers assigned to state and local fusion centers produced intelligence of “uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”
This is where the NSA's collections will ultimately end up: in the hands of DHS branch offices that do little more than repeatedly screw up. Only now, they'll be able to do significantly more harm to Americans' civil liberties. Add to that the routine clusterfuck that is the CBP, ICE, and TSA, and you have a recipe for massive Fourth Amendment violations under the pretense of national security.

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posted at: 12:00am on 31-May-2017
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Judge Smacks NYPD For Its 'Gotcha' Tactics In Forfeiture Public Records Lawsuit

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New York's court system is finally pushing back against the NYPD's refusal to provide better accounting of its forfeiture programs. Late last year, the NYPD informed people requesting information on seizures it had no way of compiling this data for them. Its $12 million software -- meant to provide "cradle-to-grave" tracking of seized property -- apparently couldn't handle routine inquiries about seizure totals.When the NYPD did decide to talk about its forfeiture operations, it used incomplete and misleading numbers. It claimed to have forfeited only around $12,000 in 2015, something miles away from the $69 million estimate of seized cash-on-hand others had cobbled together using info the NYPD had managed to turn over. According to numbers the NYPD said its software couldn't compile, the department had generated $6 million in revenue in 2015 alone.The Bronx Defenders, a group of public defenders, has been trying for nearly four years to force the NYPD to turn over documents related to its forfeiture programs. The NYPD has a few of these, including an unofficial program that turns personal belongings into "evidence" upon arrest and forces those with dismissed charges or acquittals to jump through a number of time-consuming and expensive hoops to reclaim their belongings -- which include things like cellphones, cash, credit cards, and prescription medication.The NYPD's refusal to cooperate with the Bronx Defenders' FOIL request has led to a lawsuit. The city moved to have it dismissed, but Judge Arlene Bluth doesn't see much merit in the NYPD's arguments. Or actions.

Displeased by what she described as the New York City Police Department’s “troublesome” litigation tactics, a judge advanced a lawsuit that asks what happens to millions of unclaimed dollars seized in civil forfeitures.[...]Rejecting a motion to dismiss the case in Manhattan Supreme Court, Judge Arlene Bluth accused the NYPD and its former Commissioner Bill Bratton on Friday of playing games to avoid disclosures.
In the dismissal of the city's motion, the judge criticizes the NYPD for its constant claims its software can't provide the information the plaintiffs are seeking. The plaintiffs have pointed out they don't need aggregate data. They're willing to take raw data, copies of original documents, or whatever else might allow them to get a better handle on the forfeiture programs the NYPD doesn't want to discuss. The NYPD, however, keeps pointing at its expensive (but apparently worthless) PETS (Property and Evidence Tracking System) software and shrugging.The judge points out [PDF] that the NYPD has pushed the Bronx Defenders into a catch-22 in hopes of keeping this information from being made public.
Respondents have effectively changed their argument from stating that no responsive documents exist to insisting that producing the information would be too burdensome. This argument directly relates to a troubling assertion by petitioner that respondents refused to confer with petitioner about the way in which these records are kept. 21 NYCR 1401.2(b)(2) requires the records access officer to "assist persons seeking records to identify the records sought, if necessary, and when appropriate, indicate the manner in which the records are filed, retrieved or generated to assist persons in reasonably describing records." It is obvious that it would be necessary to assist a petitioner seeking records from a database under the complete control of the agency and a database not available for public use.Otherwise, petitioner is forced to make requests without any knowledge of the capabilities of the database. That is what has occurred here. Respondents do not directly contest this point in their reply to the cross-motion and simply assert that they have no duty to solicit additional information about the requests. While that might be true, there is a difference between soliciting more information and assisting the requestor in reasonably describing the records sought especially, where, as here, the records are kept on a specialized database.
In other words, the NYPD is claiming requesters must know all the nuances and intricacies of a database they're never allowed to access. If they don't, then the NYPD is under no obligation to assist them in any way. This is a common government tactic and not solely limited to the NYPD, although this agency has been referred to as worse than the FBI, CIA, and NSA when it comes to FOI responsiveness.Judge Bluth goes on to state the NYPD's actions have been, at best, disingenuous.
The record before this Court shows that respondents have only now, more than two years after petitioner's FOIL request, attempted to describe the ways in which these records are kept. This type of "gotcha" litigation tactic is especially troublesome in a FOIL proceeding where petitioner does not have access to the database containing the requested information. Respondents' claims about the burdensome nature of producing individual invoices clearly demonstrates the purpose of assisting a requestor--it is consistent with the spirit of FOIL to let a requestor know how records are kept so that the petitioner can conform requests to receive the information sought and try to avoid unduly burdening an agency.
The NYPD has long shown it has no interest in following the letter of FOIL law, much less its spirit. For requesters, this means the path to responsive documents often leads through home team courtrooms. It's a trip not many are willing to make and the NYPD knows it.

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posted at: 12:00am on 31-May-2017
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This Week In Techdirt History: May 21st - 27th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2012, the jury in the Oracle/Google patent trial ruled that there was no infringement, while Judge Alsup revealed his coding knowledge on the copyright side. MPAA boss Chris Dodd was saying they should stop calling infringement "theft" despite the MPAA's own website doing exactly that many times, Congress proposed giving ICE another ten million dollars to fight intellectual property infringement, and TV networks were suing DISH with the insane argument that skipping commercials is copyright infringement. Meanwhile, five years before its recent successful reusable rocket tests, SpaceX was making its first successful cargo run to the ISS, marking a significant milestone in private space travel.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2007, the proprietary video services launched by various companies were continuing to struggle and die off, with CNN dropping its paid online video service while Time Warner struggled with its own, and Budweiser got ready to kill the ill-fated Bud.TV. The RIAA was trying to close the "radio loophole" by convincing Congress to force radio stations to pay royalties for playing music (leading some to notice that the industry was similarly worried about the "jukebox loophole" nearly half a century earlier), even while it was carefully backing down on new webcasting royalty rates that would have killed smaller webcasters.Fifteen Years AgoThe webcasting battle was not new — five years earlier this week in 2007, an equally disastrous attempt to enact webcasting royalties fell through. Meanwhile, a virus that aimed to stop the trading of infringing material was spreading on the Kazaa network, Hollywood was trying to get copy protection built into all analog-to-digital converters, and you could cut the tension between Silicon Valley and Hollywood with a knife. Google launched its now-defunct Labs page, authoritarian regimes were wielding the power of the internet in frightening new ways, and the still-DVD-based Netflix went public, joining the ranks of stocks-you-really-wish-you'd-bought.One-Hundred And Seventy-One Years AgoThey've done good reporting and bad, they've struggled to adapt to the digital world, and we've often criticized them here on Techdirt — but nevertheless the Associated Press is an old and proud fixture of the journalistic world, and it was on May 22nd, 1846 that it was founded by five New York City dailies to share the cost of covering the Mexican-American War.

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posted at: 12:00am on 28-May-2017
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Kantar Media Partners with Hookit: Will Provide Social & Digital Media Measurement & Valuation

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New Partnership Provides Most Comprehensive Sponsorship Measurement Capabilities for the Sports Industry. Kantar Media, a media intelligence company, is pleased to announce a global partnership with Hookit, for sports clients worldwide. By partnering together, Kantar Media and Hookit will combine efforts to provide clients with a single source for data and valuations for both traditional [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-May-2017
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More Legislators Jump On The 'Blue Lives Matter' Bandwagon

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Not wanting to be outdone by idiots in Congress, two idiot senators from the great state of Texas* are pushing their own "Blue Lives Matter" legislation. Senators Cruz and Cornyn have (re)introduced the Backed and Blown "Back the Blue Act," which adds mandatory minimums to any act of violence against most government officials. Oh, and for extra fun, automatic death penalty considerations for anyone charged under this act.*Federal law requires the descriptor "great state of" to be appended to any state name, but especially Texas.I'll get out of the way and allow Senator Cornyn to toot his own horn:

“Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve families across Texas. Violent criminals who deliberately target those who protect and serve our communities should face swift and tough penalties and the Back the Blue Act sends that clear message. Every day, and particularly during National Police Week, we must give the men and women in blue our unparalleled support,” Sen. Cornyn said.
You hear that, you bunch of ungrateful Americans? No matter how many citizens are gunned down for holding game controllers or toddlers torched by carelessly-tossed flashbang grenades, these fine men and women are to be given "unparalleled support." They apparently "deserve" it -- a term that must be wholly divorced from the process of earning it.Cruz and Cornyn's 2016 attempt died from a lack of attention, perhaps overshadowed by the DOJ's endless stream of scathing reports on police misconduct. With a new "tough on crime" DOJ boss at the helm and the DOJ's civil rights division neutered, the political climate seems a tad more receptive to glorifying government employees as lowercase-g gods. (But gods nonetheless.)Several legislators have joined the two senators in stumping for underprotected government employees. Rep. Ted Poe (also of Texas) has plenty to say about the bill at his personal blog. He's all for it, naturally, but more importantly, he summarizes the harsh new penalties awaiting anyone who threatens, injures, kills, or conspires to do any of the above to a law enforcement officer.
Creates a new federal crime for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to the death penalty and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if death results; the offender would otherwise face a minimum sentence of 10 years.Creates a new federal crime for assaulting a federally funded law enforcement officer with escalating penalties, including mandatory minimums, based on the extent of any injury and the use of a dangerous weapon. However, no prosecution can be commenced absent certification by the Attorney General that prosecution is appropriate.Creates a new federal crime for interstate flight from justice to avoid prosecution for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for this offense.
Take a good look at the middle stipulation. This means pretty much every law enforcement officer in the nation will be covered by this law, instantly subjecting people who do nothing more than assault an officer (aka, resisting arrest, contempt of cop, etc.) to federal punishments. Almost every law enforcement agency in the nation receives some sort of federal funding. This bill would yank prosecutions out of locals' hands and, presumably, separate defendants from less-harsh local laws.The bill also allows law enforcement officers (including those whose agencies are the recipients of federal funding) to carry weapons into places citizens can't. Nothing like adding an extra right to a long list of extra punishments.This chaser would put two "Blue Lives Matter" bills in play, giving Congress multiple ways to make policing worse. Considering the Go Team Blue attitude on display at the White House, these bills have a home team advantage and a president dying to sign a few more citizens' rights and liberties away on behalf of law enforcement.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-May-2017
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Samsung's 'Airtight' Iris Scanning Technology For The S8 Defeated With A Camera, Printer, And Contact Lens

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The thing about biometric scanning as a security practice is it is one of those things that sounds great. "Lock your phone with your fingerprint or facial scan", shout the manufacturers and security companies that came up with the scans. Well, shit, thinks the average person, if nobody else has my face I'm in the clear. Even when movies and television tackle the subject, the methods for breaking the biometric security typically involve convoluted plans and insane stunts so brazen they would make Danny Ocean's jaw drop.The problem is that the hype around this tech is typically more effective than the tech itself. Fingerprint scanners are easily fooled and facial recognition software has been shown to be defeatable by, and I swear this is true, printouts of a person's face. That isn't security, it's a punchline. So, when Samsung and its security partner decide to pimp the iris-scanning security feature of the Galaxy S8 with language like "airtight" and suggestions that owners of the phone can "finally trust that their phones are protected", one would expect those claims to be backed up by strong technology.It isn't.

Hackers have broken the iris-based authentication in Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone in an easy-to-execute attack that's at odds with the manufacturer's claim that the mechanism is "one of the safest ways to keep your phone locked."The cost of the hack is less than the $725 price for an unlocked Galaxy S8 phone, hackers with the Chaos Computer Club in Germany said Tuesday. All that was required was a digital camera, a laser printer (ironically, models made by Samsung provided the best results), and a contact lens. The hack required taking a picture of the subject's face, printing it on paper, superimposing the contact lens, and holding the image in front of the locked Galaxy S8. The photo need not be a close up, although using night-shot mode or removing the infrared filter helps. The hackers provided a video demonstration of the bypass.
As they did in the previous facial recognition flaw post referenced above, some will, at this point, be diving for their keyboards to point out that this type of security isn't really designed to make a device impermeable. Rather, it's to keep easy break-ins from occurring. And, hey, that's true! Good job, you guys! The problem here isn't that Samsung's security tech failed to be 100% effective. It's that it's barely effective, yet at the same time Samsung is pitching it as the end of phone break-ins. I'm not the one making wild claims here; they are.And this tech is going to be rolled out in a big way, likely pitched to the public in the same manner.
"Iris recognition is the next big thing with mobile devices," Starbug wrote in an e-mail. "The technology, especially with the packed space and low computing power of mobile devices, is hard to make hack proof. You can't hide your iris, and it's even worse than fingerprints." At the same time, "mobile devices are holding more and more sensitive data."
Advertising this iris security as "airtight" is actively misleading the public on the security of a device becoming all the more important and one on which the public is more often storing sensitive information. For a company like Samsung to be so vociferous in its claims in light of this easy workaround ought to result in a ding to its credibility.For biometrics generally, a good pin number is probably still your best bet. The tech may improve to the point of being the most effective option some day, but we're not there yet.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-May-2017
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Tick, Tick, Tick, Tech-Time's Up! Why there must be more women execs

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Q: Why is it important to have women executives in tech? A: It's no secret that the tech industry is extremely male-dominated. And according to a recent Comparably survey, one in four women who work in the tech industry has been sexually harassed. These statistics should prove to be alarming, but in today's society, they [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-May-2017
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DOJ Officials Express An Interest In Prosecuting Leakers And Whistleblowers

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We've already discussed a memo read by some FBI officials that supposedly was a record of an Oval Office conversation between former FBI Director James Comey and Donald Trump apparently contains the president asking after the possible prosecution of journalists for publishing leaks. Hearsay squared, but still in line with Trump's antagonistic relationship with free speech.There's not much popular support for treating journalists like criminals just for doing their job, but there appears to be plenty of administrative support for the idea. Comey claimed he wouldn't go after journalists for publishing leaks -- something he said with one side of his mouth while redefining journalism to exclude Julian Assange and Wikileaks, which the DOJ is apparently considering pursuing charges against.But that's not the extent of the new administration's Bullets For Messengers™ program. As Betsy Woodruff reports for The Daily Beast, the DOJ is looking to crack down on leaks, leakers, and -- given its inability/unwillingness to subject itself to accountability -- whistleblowers.

Under intense pressure from the White House, the Justice Department is prepared to aggressively prosecute government officials who leak classified information. Justice Department officials told The Daily Beast that targeting leakers will be a priority during Jeff Sessions’ time as attorney general—a posture that will hearten national security hawks, while concerning advocates of whistleblower protections.“As the Attorney General has said, the Department of Justice takes unlawful leaks very seriously and those that engage in such activity should be held accountable,” an official told The Daily Beast.
Officials may not directly state they're going after whistleblowers, but the FBI and DOJ have never shied away from direct retaliation against those bringing complaints up through the proper channels. The Obama DOJ was particularly unfriendly to whistleblowers, which means many in the DOJ are already well-trained in the art of hunting down leakers.This new DOJ also makes it clear it will only tolerate leaking it approves of.
“The fact that the president shared classified information with a foreign government official, in and of itself, is classified,” a former senior intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “So whoever was trying to burn him for thinking he’s doing something wrong actually is the only one that committed a crime here.”
The president possibly exposing an undercover ISIS source to Russian officials? Not a big deal. Someone talking to the press about it? Round up a grand jury! New DOJ boss Jeff Sessions is tough on crime -- all of it. He's just as unhappy as Trump that US press outlets continue to be fed inside info directly contradicting White House statements, stances, and tweets, often within minutes of the president or his press secretary opening their mouths.
“I expect we’ll get to the bottom of this,” Sessions replied. “This is not right. We’ve never seen this kind of leaking. It’s almost as if people think they have a right to violate the law, and this has got to end, and probably it will take some convictions to put an end to it.”
If there are internal memos related to the DOJ's full court press on leaking, expect it to be leaked. As tough as the DOJ may want to be on leakers and whistleblowers, a president who's failed to earn the respect and trust of so many of the people he supposedly leads only encourages the sort of behavior we're witnessing. No doubt the president and the DOJ would like to get some heads on pikes ASAP to staunch the bleeding, but there's no way this can be done without doing tremendous harm to legitimate whistleblowers and the very important individuals who could only be heard by operating outside a deliberately broken system.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-May-2017
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World Of Tanks Developer Gets Negative Review Video Taken Down Under Threat Of Copyright Claim, Backlash Ensues

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We've heard many stories at this point about video game producers attempting to use copyright and the DMCA as a censorship tool against criticism. As it happens, the frequency of these stories has tapered off somewhat as best as I can tell, even as the indie gaming scene has resulted in an explosion of small gaming studios. The reason for that delta is probably that the gaming community as a whole has become both far more educated and vocal about any attempts to use copyright as a censorship tool. Rightly or wrongly, honesty and transparency in gaming reviews and commentary has become something of a thing the past few years and one of the possibly unintentional results of that campaign has been for attempts at stifling criticism about games to be top of the average gamer's mind.Which brings us to Wargaming, the studio behind World of Tanks. If you have not heard about the drama from last week yet, it began with a YouTuber called SirFoch, who issued a scathing and expletive-laden review of a specific tank customers could purchase withing the game.

In the video, which was re-posted on another YouTube channel, SirFoch said things like, “Fuck Wargaming, fuck their terrible way of making these premium tanks lately, and fuck this premium tank in particular.” Specifically, he criticized the tank’s lack of weak points behind the machine gun ports by showing viewers its collision model which he argued made the Chrysler K overpowered.
Crude language aside, he was making an otherwise evidenced-based point, whether you agree with him or not. The problem is that SirFoch has signed up to be a "community contributor" with Wargaming, which is essentially one of the more common fan-influencer platforms becoming more fashionable in gaming circles. SirFoch was not paid for his reviews or commentary, but he was given early access to content. In return, Wargaming requires an amorphous "level of decorum" when discussing the game publicly. It was apparently this lack of decorum on SirFoch's part that gave Wargaming license to threaten him with copyright infringement.
In the wake of the video attacking Wargaming for its perceived use of pay-to-win mechanics, a community manager at the company who goes by Zoltan “Ph3lan” Sipos contacted SirFoch over Discord. Ph3lan explained, according to screenshots of the conversation provided by SirFoch, that the YouTuber would be dropped from the program giving him early access to content and would need to take down his video or else Wargaming would be forced to have YouTube remove it for copyright infringement.
SirFoch took down the video in question, but then immediately went public with how Wargaming had threatened him because of course he did. The studio, meanwhile, tried to combat the ensuing backlash in its own forums by complaining about the tone and language choices the YouTuber had used, indicating those factors warranted the copyright threat. Gamers watching this discussion rightly realized that this was essentially copping to censorship by copyright of criticism. The backlash grew in size. Over the next several days, Wargaming reps began suggesting to media outlets that SirFoch's video had been laced with not only vulgarity, but homophobic hate speech as well. The video did not in fact include any such language. The backlash grew even louder.Grew loud enough too that the studio has now backed down and issued a public apology.
We have further reviewed the incident of last Friday involving SirFoch and his “Chrysler K GF rant” video, and know we could have handled the situation a lot better. We strongly support our players’, including our Community Contributors’, right to speak critically about us and our games. We acted too quickly and over the line when we threatened to have YouTube remove SirFoch’s video through a copyright infringement complaint and we are apologizing for that.We’re committed to doing a better job on this front. We’re going to improve the way we communicate with our Community and our Community Contributors, and as part of that effort we will work with them on more detailed, specific guidelines to help ensure incidents like this don’t happen again.Our official position is that Wargaming will not take copyright action against opinions based on our publicly released content.Over the weekend we released a statement to some media outlets regarding the content of SirFoch’s video that inferred that SirFoch’s videos contained hate speech and homophobia. While we would obviously not want such content to be associated with any of our games – this video clearly did not. We apologize for this statement, and we don't stand behind those claims.
It's a good apology but, frankly, a bit tough to swallow given how far the studio went to try to first bully and then defame one of its own contributors entirely because it didn't like the criticism that contributor issued. Wargaming is likely hoping that this incident hasn't tanked its reputation beyond repair, and it's probable that it hasn't. If not, that official position to not be a copyright bully over censorship had better be sincere, because reputations rarely are offered a third chance if there were to be another such incident.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-May-2017
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Transforming Your Business Through Smart B2B Networking

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Federico Cella, founder and CEO of Lynkos (pictured left), a B2B social networking platform, shares his insights on the power of well-designed networking to transform businesses. For information on Lynkos visit https://www.lynkos.com/en. Q: What is the main aspect of social media that businesses neglect when it comes to networking? A: There are several aspects that [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-May-2017
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Titan Note Continues Trying To Sell Its Questionable Device: Its Own Actions Keep Raising More Questions

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A few weeks back, I wrote about IndieGogo shutting down a crowdfunding project for a small notetaking/speaker device called Titan Note. As I pointed out at the time, there were a lot of alarm bells about the product, but I had still backed it just to see if it might actually work. IndieGogo shutting it down actually had me relieved because the more I thought about it, the less sure I was the project was legit. Making things even more bizarre -- and leading to my post about it -- was the news that the guy behind Titan Note had sent a bogus DMCA takedown notice to the Verge over its skeptical take on the product. The DMCA notice targeted the use of Titan Note's promotional images -- which are clearly fair use for news publications.A few days after that all went down, I went to see if the guy behind Titan Note had anything to say about it. There was a post on Facebook claiming that it was all IndieGogo's fault and promising it would be on another "more trusted" platform soon:

As you have noticed, your orders on Indiegogo have been refunded. We got into a dispute with Indiegogo and we decided to use another platform instead. Indiegogo doesn't have your best interest in mind and we decided to find a better solution for both you and ourselves.
This seemed... sketchy for a variety of reasons. What kind of "dispute" could they have gotten into? A number of people asked in the comments, and the Titan Note guy (it's unclear if it's more than just one guy), just started pasting the same boilerplate response over and over again, insisting that there was a "dispute" over "payment and fees."
The dispute was regarding the payment and the fees. Moreover, Indiegogo has a history of not taking responsibility for the users on its platform. Many are dissatisfied with the Indiegogo platform. It was a wrong move from our side to take orders on the Indiegogo platform in the first place and we truly apologize about that. We promise that we will make it up to you when we relaunch Titan Note on a more trusted platform next week. Please let us know if you have any other questions.
More people began to question this, and then he started insisting he couldn't talk any more about it, because he was going to sue IndieGogo.
We are in the process of pursuing legal action against Indiegogo for their misconduct. Because of this, neither we or them can go into more specific details. We appreciate your understanding and we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.
Somewhere around this time, I decided to ask some questions on the Facebook page as well, noting that the boilerplate claims didn't make much sense. There's no reason to expect a dispute about "fees" since IndieGogo is pretty damn clear on the fee breakdown. I pointed out that there's simply no reason that he can't explain more of what the problem was, even if a lawsuit was in process -- and furthermore, suggested that it might make sense to delay a new crowdfunding campaign until after such a lawsuit was filed, so that backers could better understand the details. Separately, I asked about why they sent the DMCA notice.A few hours later, I noticed that my question about the DMCA was deleted. I saw someone else asked a similar question -- and that was deleted. After a few more people asked, he finally posted another boilerplate answer, responding to a bunch of users:
About the DMCA: We sent the DMCA notice to the verge because they used our copyrighted images without our permission. No reputable publication would do that. They stole our property and we had to take action.
I responded to that, noting that this explanation made no sense at all. First of all, the images were promotional images, released for the press. Second, the Verge's use was clearly fair use. And, finally, I pointed out that this explanation was clearly not true, and the reason for the DMCA notice was obviously the skeptical nature of the Verge's article because none of the other news articles that were hyping up the Titan Note -- and which the company proudly linked to -- appeared to have DMCA notices over their use of the very same images.And that's when I got blocked from commenting on the Titan Note Facebook page and all my remaining comments were deleted (he had already deleted my DMCA questions earlier).So that confirmed just how sketchy this whole project was to me. The DMCA notice was bad. The nonsensical explanations were worse. And deleting some fairly straightforward questions about all of that (and then blocking me from commenting any more)? That's not a trustworthy project.At almost the exact same time that I got blocked, Titan Note "relaunched" on a supposedly more trustworthy platform, an Australian site called Pozible. The project quickly got to nearly $100,000 in backing. I emailed Pozible to ask if they did any checking on projects, and pointed out that IndieGogo had taken the same project down. Almost immediately I got an email response from someone at Pozible, telling me that their own system had "flagged" the project and they were suspending the project until the creator provided more information.I similarly reached out to IndieGogo to find out if the "fee dispute" claim was legit. Not so, the company told me. While they would not go into the full reasons for the project being suspended, they did say that "a lengthy investigation" by the trust and safety team determined that the company was violating IndieGogo's terms and services, and made it clear "this was not a dispute about fees, but a violation on their end." IndieGogo's terms involve lots of things, but one line that stands out:
Campaign Owners are not permitted to create a Campaign to raise funds for illegal activities, to cause harm to people or property, or to scam others. If the Campaign is claiming to do the impossible or it's just plain phony, don't post it.
Not surprisingly, after Pozible shut down the campaign after just a few hours, a bunch of people went back to Facebook to ask questions and note that this was now two crowdfunding platforms that had shut down the campaign entirely, and demanding answers. A few joked that "boilerplate" answers would be coming soon. It actually took a few days, but eventually...
To clarify, Neither of those platforms have seen our product. The outcome is not a reflection of Titan Note's quality and again, they have not seen our product. We have had competitors that have posted slanderous information to the platforms and we are in the process of bringing legal action against one of those platforms for their misconduct. We will not let a bump in the road stop our passion.
So... yeah. That doesn't actually answer the question. Nearly all crowdfunding projects don't involve the platforms seeing the projects, but it's very rare for projects to be canceled. It certainly suggests something else is up with this project and that's why they were canceled. Besides, the original story was that IndieGogo canceled over a "fee dispute." If that's the case, why would it matter that it hadn't seen the product?And, of course, a few days after that -- earlier this week -- Titan Note launched its own website entirely (previously, one of the concerns was that the company didn't appear to have a website). And that website is allowing pre-orders. We won't link to it directly (no reason to give it free advertising), but astoundingly, the company is using the canceled IndieGogo project on its new website as proof of how cool it is:
Yes, the IndieGogo campaign had over 12,000 backers and had initially raised over $1.1 million dollars. But that was canceled and all the money was refunded. It seems very, very, very questionable to then go on and put up a website that suggests the project successfully raised that much money when that's not how things actually ended.Distressingly, the project is also using the various positive press it got upon launching on the website, leaving out the Verge (obviously).
Not surprisingly, I am not the only person concerned about all of this. There are still some users in the Titan Note comments concerned about this (I have no idea how many others had their comments deleted, as mine were). There's also a Facebook group on crowdfunding scams that has taken a special interest in Titan Note with a few different discussions on it -- including concern about the current offering directly off the website.Throughout all of this, I still would like the product to be legit, because it certainly would be an interesting product! However, with all of the red flags raised, and the questionable way that Titan Note has responded to these kinds of questions, it seems entirely reasonable to believe that the product is, at the very least, greatly exaggerated, and might possibly not exist at all. I did send Titan Note an email listing out a series of questions and letting them know I would be writing about this. So far, there has been no response. If one should come in, I will update this post.

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Senate Should Either Fix Or Get Off The Pot On Copyright Office Bill

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The U.S. Senate is about to consider mostly pointless legislation that would make the nation's register of copyrights—the individual who heads the U.S. Copyright Office, officially a part of the Library of Congress—a presidential appointment that would be subject to Senate confirmation.While the measure has earned praise from some in the content industry, including the Motion Picture Association of America, unless senators can find better ways to modernize our copyright system, they really should just go back to the drawing board.The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 already cleared the U.S. House in April by a 378-48 margin. Under the bill and its identical Senate companion, the power to select the register would be taken away from Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden. Instead, the president would select an appointment from among three names put forward by a panel that includes the librarian, the speaker of the House and the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate. And the register would now be subject to a 10-year term with the option of multiple reappointments, like the Librarian of Congress.The legislation is ostensibly the product of the House Judiciary Committee's multiyear series of roundtables and comments on modernizing the U.S. Copyright Office. In addition to changes to the process of selecting the register, the committee had recommended creating a stakeholder advisory board, a chief economist, a chief technology officer, making information technology upgrades at the office, creating a searchable digital database of ownership information to lower transaction costs in licensing and royalty payments, and creating a small claims court for relatively minor copyright disputes.Alas, while it’s billed as a “first step,” the current legislation gives up most of those more substantive reforms and instead amounts largely to a partisan battle over who will have the power to select the next register: Hayden, who was appointed by Barack Obama, or President Donald Trump.Opponents argue the bill will make the register and the Copyright Office more politicized and vulnerable to capture by special interests, while ceding more power to the executive. They argue that vetting the register through the nomination process could delay modernization efforts. Hayden needs the position to be filled expeditiously to implement her modernization program, and Trump already faces a sizable confirmation backlog.Meanwhile, proponents argue a more independent register, less tethered to the will of the Library of Congress, will make USCO more accountable. They say it will make the office run more efficiently and allow it to modernize. They also believe it will address important constitutional questions, such as the separation of powers and oversight by the president.At the heart of these constitutional questions is the fact the Library of Congress has both significant legislative and executive functions. Housed within the legislative branch, it also sets royalty rates and rules on exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Critics have derided the Copyright Office for being slippery about whether it is serving a legislative or executive role, depending on who’s asking. The contention is that this unusual arrangement renders USCO a “constitutional chameleon.”Of course, it is not uncommon for entities in one branch to perform the functions of another. The president has a role in the legislative process through his veto power. The International Trade Commission performs judicial functions, but is an independent agency housed within the executive branch. The federal government's separation of powers is not absolute. But there does come a point where those lines become so blurred as to call the original classification into question. In that respect, Congress should consider taking certain functions—such as the Copyright Royalty Board or the Triennial Section 1201 Proceeding—out of the Copyright Office.Some would propose moving the entire Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and rendering it a standalone agency, which would elevate the register’s position to one of an officer of the United States. Under that highly controversial scenario, the Constitution's Appointments Clause definitely would require the job be filled by the president. But for now, since the librarian still has ultimate authority over the substantive regulatory powers surrounding copyright, changing who appoints the register won’t change anything outside of a short-term political calculation of who the next register is.The bottom line is that the current bill simply doesn’t do that much, good or bad. Making the position a presidential appointment is unlikely to speed up IT modernization efforts, at a time when the office has faced numerous setbacks and problems getting that IT infrastructure in place. The original policy proposal drafted by the House Judiciary Committee was a more comprehensive and substantial approach to modernization and many of its provisions were supported broadly. First step or not, this is a feeble try.As the Senate considers the bill in the coming weeks, they should either amend the legislation so that it will do something to modernize copyright, or just jettison it entirely. As currently written, the bill serves no purpose, and Congress shouldn’t waste its time on it.Sasha Moss is Technology Policy Manager for the R Street Institute

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Accurate Multiple-Vendor Programmatic Reporting: Fantasy or Reality?

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The biggest challenge to true programmatic reporting has been normalizing data from multiple vendors, because there is tremendous disparity from vendor to vendor in what they support and what dimensions they provide. In trying to get all the data aggregated in one place, you're not even talking the same language sometimes. Beyond the initial column [...]

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Trademark Has Come To This: Tinder Opposes Dating App With Only One Lonely Dude On Its Dating Roster

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By now, Tinder is probably in the common lexicon. The dating app has been fairly successful, boasting something like 50 million people using it and managing to make something like 12 million matches per day. It's a household name, in other words, which is what makes it a bit strange to see the company bother to oppose a fairly silly trademark application by one guy who designed a dating app to get dating matches for exactly one person: himself.

Shed Simove called the app Shinder and said he built it to find himself a partner. However, when he tried to trademark it, a Notice of Threatened Opposition was filed to the Intellectual Property Office by dating giant Tinder."I think it's a case of a big corporate giant looking at an entrepreneur who sees the world differently and being punitive," he said. "It's unlikely that the female population will stop using Tinder and start using Shinder."
To be clear, the attempt to trademark "Shinder" itself is silly. The app was created by Shed Simove for the sole purpose of getting himself a date. He's the only dude on the roster. While the app attempts to recruit women to use it, he's the only option for them. It would be kind of funny, if it weren't so creepy. The attempt to trademark Shinder, according to Simove, was done because he's thought about white-labeling the app for any individual to use. And yes, this is every bit as dumb and probably not trademarkable as it sounds.
"If it was 'white label ' - that would mean if I chose to I could take the raw guts of the code and allow people to have their own versions. Jane could have Jinder, and so on."
Jinder? Please. The whole point of trademark law is to keep customers from being confused between products and services. There is a roughly zero chance that anyone is going to mistake Tinder, megalith in the dating app world as it is, for Shinder, an app used by almost nobody created by one guy to get himself a date. Why Tinder is even bothering with this is beyond me.Although, because every funny story needs an even funnier punchline, Tinder was not the only one concerned.
He also received a letter from lawyers representing the elevator firm Schindler. Schindler asked him to commit to refraining from entering the elevator or escalator market.
If trademark law has gotten to this point, is it time we contemplate whether it's serving its purpose any longer?

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-May-2017
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If Net Neutrality Dies, Comcast Can Just Block A Protest Site Instead Of Sending A Bogus Cease-And-Desist

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It appears that a vendor working for Comcast sent a totally bullshit cease-and-desist letter regarding a pro-net neutrality site: Comcastroturf.com, created by our friends over at Fight for the Future. The Comcastroturf website was set up as a tool to see if someone filed bogus FCC comments in your name. As you probably recall, there is a bot that has been flooding the FCC comment site with bogus anti-net neutrality comments, filed in alphabetical order. Reporters contacted some of the individuals whose names appear on these comments, and they had no idea what it was about. People are still trying to track down who is actually responsible for the bogus comments, but Fight for the Future set up this neat site to let you check if your name was used by whoever is behind it.And, of course, the name "Comcastroturf" is pretty damn clever, given the topic. Kudos to Fight for the Future for coming up with that one. It is, of course, totally legal to use the domain name of a company that you're protesting in your own domain. There are numerous cases on this issue, normally discussed as the so-called "Sucks Sites." There's clearly no legal issue with Comcastroturf, and any reasonably informed human being would know that. Unfortunately, it would appear that Comcast hired a company that employs some non-reasonably informed humans.The cease-and-desist letter was sent by a company called "Looking Glass Cyber Solutions" (no, really), which used to be called "Cyveillance" (only marginally less bad). We've written about Cyveillance twice before -- and both times they were about totally bogus takedown requests from Cyveillance that caused serious problems. The most recent was the time that Cyveillance, working for Qualcomm, filed a bogus DMCA notice that took down Qualcomm's own Github repository. Nice move. The earlier story, however was in 2013, and involved Cyveillance -- again representing Comcast -- sending a threatening takedown demand to some more of our friends over at TorrentFreak, claiming (ridiculously) that public court filings were Comcast's copyright-covered material, and threatening serious legal consequences if it wasn't taken down. Eventually, Comcast stepped in and admitted the cease-and-desist was "sent in error." You'd think that maybe this would have caused Comcast to think twice about using Cyveillance for such things. But, nope.The rebranded Looking Glass Cyber Solutions has told Fight for the Future that "Comcastroturf" violates Comcast's "valuable intellectual property rights" and that failure to take down the site may lead to further legal action around cybersquatting and trademark violations.Of course, there's no way that Comcast would actually move forward with any legal action here. In fact, I'm pretty sure it already regrets the fact that the numbskulls at this vendor they hired to police their brand online just caused (yet another) massive headache for their brand online. Maybe, this time, Comcast will finally let Cyveillance/Looking Glass Cyber go, and find partners who don't fuck up so badly. Meanwhile, the fact that Looking Glass Cyber can't even figure out that Comcastroturf is a perfectly legal protest site makes the company's website -- which is chock full of idiotic buzzwords about "threat mitigation" and "threat intelligence" -- look that much more ridiculous. The only "threat" here is Looking Glass/Cyveillance and their silly cluelessness sending out censorious threats based on what appears to be little actual research.Of course, without true net neutrality, if Comcast really wanted to silence Comcastroturf, it would just block everyone from accessing the site...

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-May-2017
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ShareableMetrics launches version 2.0 of its social sharing analytics platform.

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ShareableMetrics 2.0 Platform Gives PR Pros Social Engagement Metrics & Insights at Their Fingertips. ShareableMetrics has launched version 2.0 of its social sharing analytics platform, making it easier than ever for public relations professionals to improve marketing and sales efforts based on how consumers engage with their content. Our new features are the result of [...]

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-May-2017
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Law Enforcement 'Training And Expertise' On Parade!

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This is just a periodic reminder that these are the sort of people whose "experience" and "expertise" are routinely granted massive amounts of deference by judges (and stenographers pretending to be journalists). Warrant affidavits providing more detail about the requesting officer's law enforcement career than the target of the search are often rubberstamped into actionable pieces of paper. (But not always!) And yet, these experienced experts look far more mortal when their actions are given something more than a cursory examination.Exhibit A: the Odessa PD's crack team of trained experts who participated in a daring no-knock raid of an empty motel room.

The search warrant was executed on Jan. 29 at the America's Best Value Inn, 3023 E. Highway 80.Police officials say the officers involved in executing the warrant "used an unauthorized cooperating individual," and the cooperating individual did not have the required file.The Professional Standards Unit Investigation also found that the officers involved failed to correctly identify and confirm the location of the criminal activity.During the search, officers entered room #225 which was vacant, according to previous reports.Officers then reportedly made a "split-second" decision and breached the next room (#226) at the hotel where suspects were located.When reviewing the warrant, officers realized that on the warrant room #225 had been listed, police say.The suspects in the room were held "pending the production of a second search warrant," police say in a release.
Post-facto warrants are seldom as legally-sound as warrants obtained before a search. Sometimes affidavit errors are excused but this case involved a confidential informant of uncertain trustworthiness and a lack of proper documentation. The officers are being lightly disciplined for their Keystone SWAT effort, but the department has cleared itself of any wrongdoing after investigating itself.
In the investigation, police determined that the breach of room #226 was "not illegal because the conduct of the officers prior to their entry into room #226 was lawful, there was no violation or threatened violation of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore the exigent circumstance rule applied and allowed for the entry and securing of room #226," the release reads.
I imagine any evidence will be challenged in court, despite the PD's claim no Fourth Amendment violations took place during the department's botched raid. We'll see how much claims of officer training and experience will hold up under judicial examination. (Sadly, they'll probably hold up much better than they should. While typos are an inevitability, the use of a CI with no pedigree or paperwork puts the warrant on severely shaky legal footing.)Exhibit B: the cop who justified the frisk of someone with statements that immediately undermined the asserted justifications. Here's the court explaining to the officer why the frisk wasn't reasonable:
Officer Kim’s testimony about seeing the handle of a gun protruding from Smith’s pocket is not credible. At the evidentiary hearing, Officer Kim testified that she could see the black handle of a gun protruding from Smith’s pocket. However, in her arrest report, written shortly after the incident, Officer Kim wrote “[t]he handgun was concealed inside his pocket in such a manner as not to be discernible by ordinary observation.” (ECF No. 18-1 at 3) This statement directly contradicts her testimony. It is unlikely that Officer Kim, approaching a poorly lit landing in the wee hours of the morning, would have been able to discern a black gun handle allegedly sticking out of Smith’s pocket.[...]Indeed, Officer Kim acknowledged in her police report she only became aware of the handgun after she began the pat down.
The question that must be asked (but can't be answered) is: how many times has this sort of thing happened? Only a very small percentage of frisks receive courtroom challenges. And stop-and-frisk programs have been heavily criticized for their routine abuse of civil liberties. There's no expertise on display here: only the inability to work backwards from an illegal search, even when given a chance to "correct the record" post-search by aligning the paperwork with a less-unconstitutional narrative.And, finally, Exhibit C: Police chief vows to make the same horrendous mistake if that's what it takes to somehow make a dent in sex trafficking.
"Everybody's like, 'Don't move, don't move or we'll shoot you,'" Noel Navarete told local 4 News. His brother Isaias, 18, said he was in the bathroom when police kicked down the door.According to family matriarch Maria Navarete, police told her to "shut up, you have no rights" when she asked what was happening. She claims police never showed her or anyone in the household a warrant.Police apologized, explaining that a mysterious heroin-addicted woman in a local hospital said she and several underage girls had been held against their will and forced into prostitution; the woman (visually) identified the Navarete's place as where it went down. That night, police began observing the house, soon witnessing two girls get dropped off by an SUV and go inside. Apparently, that was enough to warrant a furtive, middle-of-the-night raid on the place.
The kicker here is the apology came packaged with the police chief's assertion he would handle things EXACTLY THE SAME WAY in the future. Somehow, this department will stamp out the scourge of sex trafficking using proven law enforcement tools like "mysterious heroin addicts" and several minutes of results-oriented investigation.These are just a few of the experienced experts serving the public -- men and women whose testimony is often considered unimpeachable and nigh unto God in terms of trustworthiness. Men and women whose errors ruin lives and whose shortcuts use the Constitution as a doormat.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-May-2017
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Financial Times Editorial: Time To 'Ditch' Corporate Sovereignty In Trade Deals

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The European Union's top court has just handed down an important ruling about an otherwise minor trade deal between the EU and Singapore. The two sides initialled the text of the agreement in September 2013, and since then it has been waiting for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to hand down its judgment. The issue is who gets to sign off on the deal: is it just the European Union, or do all 28 Member States of the EU need to agree too? There's clearly a big difference there, because in the latter case, there are 28 opportunities for the deal to be blocked, whereas in the former situation, the EU can simply wave it through on its own.The CJEU ruling (pdf) is fairly straightforward: the EU can sign and conclude trade deals covering most areas, but not for a few that must involve the EU Member States. Of most significance is the following:

The regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States also falls within a competence shared between the EU and the Member States. Such a regime, which removes disputes from the jurisdiction of the courts of the Member States, cannot be established without the Member States' consent.
That is, the thorny area of corporate sovereignty, also known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), is one of the few that requires the approval of all Member States. There's an interesting corollary to that ruling: if the EU wants to agree trade deals as quickly as possible, without the risk of Member States vetoing them -- as Wallonia did with CETA -- it should not include a corporate sovereignty chapter.If it seems hopelessly naïve to think that might ever happen, here's an editorial in a ruthlessly hard-headed newspaper, the Financial Times (FT), recommending that it should (paywall):
[The CJEU's ruling] would be an excellent opportunity for the EU to go further, and reverse one of its bigger recent errors in trade policy. It should ditch the whole idea of having rules on investment, or at least rules allowing companies to sue a government directly, in FTAs. Such "investor-state" provisions have attracted intense opposition, not just from the Walloons but also from anti-corporate campaigners.Removing these rules would ease the way for future deals. As they do not seem to encourage foreign direct investment, they are more trouble than they are worth. Freed from this unnecessary encumbrance, the EU would find it easier to sustain with its quiet run of closing bilateral tradepacts.
When Techdirt first started writing about corporate sovereignty, four years ago, it was an obscure area of trade policy that few knew about. The insiders who were familiar with the mechanism assumed it was a fixed and indispensable part of free trade deals. Now we have one of the most influential business newspapers calling it an "error" that should be "ditched," since ISDS chapters are "more trouble than they are worth." We've come a long way.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-May-2017
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This Week In Techdirt History: May 14th - 20th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2012, a Microsoft-funded effort to disrupt BitTorrent was drawing scrutiny, EMI was gloating over the demise of MP3Tunes, and the MPAA was cheering on legal rulings against the Pirate Bay. Of course, one of those rulings was called into question when a Dutch judge's connections to anti-piracy groups drew accusations of corruption, and one of TPB's founders was taking the legal fight over a Swedish ruling to the EU courts. Meanwhile, protestors against the TPP were getting creative, Chile was threatening to drop out of the negotiations all together, Rep. Darrell Issa posted an old leaked version of the agreement for discussion, and the USTR was still attempting to claim that listening to people counts as "transparency".Ten Years AgoThis week in 2007, while the MPAA was making some curious changes to its opaque and esoteric ratings system, the RIAA was getting journalists to parrot its propaganda about its copyright shakedowns, and Microsoft was spreading unoriginal FUD about Linux infringing on its patents (prompting Sun to remind it that real companies don't litigate, they innovate). Cinemas were lashing out at the idea of getting rid of movie release windows, CBS was learning why trying to build its own online video destination was a bad idea, and the latest update to AACS was cracked before it even hit the market. We also witnessed the birth of The Copyright Alliance at the hands of the RIAA, MPAA, Disney, Viacom and more.Fifteen Years AgoSometimes — such as this week in 2002 — cracking CD protection was as easy as using a black marker or some electrical tape. Then again, other times the CD might lock up your iMac and force you to take it in for repairs. While the copyright world was discussing big, sweeping ideas like blanked licensing fees paid to ISPs and compulsory licenses for music downloads, the recently-announced Creative Commons was launching in earnest.Also, you know that oft-mentioned fact about how everyone from Europe is descended from Charlemagne as a matter of mathematical inevitability? It was this week in 2002 that those numbers were first crunched.One-Hundred And Fifteen Years AgoMost of you are probably at least vaguely familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, an shockingly advanced astronomical calculator/analog computer from Ancient Greece. It was on May 17th, 1902 that the mechanism was discovered by an archaeologist examining the remnants of a ship, itself discovered on the sea floor two years earlier by sponge divers.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-May-2017
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China To Require Drone Owners To Register, Just As Similar US Requirements Are Struck Down

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The South China Morning Post has a story about a new requirement for drone owners in China to register with the country's civilian aviation regulator starting next month. So is this yet another example of the Chinese authorities clamping down on a potentially subversive new technology by ensuring that drone use can be tracked? Well, that might be one reason, but it's probably also to do with this:

The move is the latest by Chinese authorities to tackle the drone safety threat after the illegal use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) made headlines at least a dozen times since the beginning of 2017.The latest case was in April when more than 240 flights were disrupted by drones flying near Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in southwest China, leaving 10,000 travellers delayed.
And if you still think this is another manifestation of China's authoritarianism, just using safety as a pretext, you might like to bear in mind that the US authorities have required drone owners to register their machines for over a year. However, those regulations have just been struck down by a federal court in Washington, D.C., and it's not clear what the FAA will now do. Perhaps more interesting than arguing about China's real motives here, is information in the South China Morning Post story about who is using this technology in China:
Once the preserve of the military, they are now used in a wide range of industries, from aerial surveillance of crops to search operations and delivery of medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions. For Chinese consumers, drones have become the favoured gadget for taking aerial videos and photos.
There are also estimates of future growth:
The overall UAV market in China is expected to reach 75 billion yuan (US$10.9 billion) by 2025, of which consumer drones will contribute 30 billion yuan while agricultural and forestry drones, as well as security drones, are likely to account for 20 billion yuan and 15 billion yuan respectively, iiMedia Research said in a report last year.
It's worth noting that the company generally regarded as world's top drone maker, DJI, is also Chinese. Given the activity and importance of the sector, what's surprising is not that China has brought in registration requirements for drone owners, but that it has taken so long.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-May-2017
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Senate Given The Go-Ahead To Use Encrypted Messaging App Signal

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Certain senators have repeatedly pushed for encryption bans or encryption backdoors, sacrificing personal security for national security in a move that will definitively result in less of both. Former FBI Director James Comey's incessant beating of his "Going Dark" drum didn't help. Several legislators always managed to get sucked in by his narrative of thousands of unsearched phones presumably being tied to thousands of unsolved crimes and free-roaming criminals.It will be interesting if the anti-encryption narratives advanced by Sens. Feinstein and Burr (in particular -- although others equally sympathetic) continue now that senators can officially begin using an encrypted messaging system for their own communications.

Without any fanfare, the Senate Sergeant at Arms recently told Senate staffers that Signal, widely considered by security researchers and experts to be the most secure encrypted messaging app, has been approved for use.The news was revealed in a letter Tuesday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a staunch privacy and encryption advocate, who recognized the effort to allow the encrypted messaging app as one of many "important defensive cybersecurity" measures introduced in the chamber.ZDNet has learned the policy change went into effect in March.
If this isn't the end of CryptoWar 2.0, then it's at least a significant ceasefire. Senators are going to find it very hard to argue against encrypted communications when they're allowed to use encrypted messaging apps. It's not that legislators are above hypocrisy. It's just that they usually allow a certain amount of time to pass before they commence openly-hypocritical activity.This doesn't mean the rest of the government is allowed to use encrypted chat apps for official communications. Federal agencies fall under a different set of rules -- ones that provide for more comprehensive retention of communications under FOIA law. Congressional communications, however, generally can't be FOIA'ed. It usually takes a backdoor search at federal agencies to cut these loose. So, members of Congress using an encrypted chat app with self-destructing messages may seem like the perfect way to avoid transparency, but it's the law itself that provides most of the opacity.If encryption's good for the Senate, it's good for the public. There's no other way to spin this. Even Trump's pro-law enforcement enthusiasm is unlikely to be enough to sell Congress on encryption backdoors. With this power in the palm of their hands, they're more apt to see the benefits of leaving encryption un-fucked with.

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Google and AppsFlyer Formalize Official Collaboration

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With the launch of Google’s App Attribution program, AppsFlyer makes it faster and easier for mobile marketers to set up, measure and optimize their app campaign performance with the search giant. AppsFlyer, a mobile attribution and marketing analytics company whose mission is to make the marketing industry more measureable, announced its formal collaboration with Google [...]

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GDM Group Ensures Brand Safety with Take1 for Video Advertisers

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GDM Group couples manual vetting with fraud protection. Global Digital Marketing Group (GDM Group), a digital performance marketing company that lets brands and agencies engage global audiences, today launched Take1 — a video advertising solution for engaging worldwide audiences in a brand-safe environment. Leveraging GDM Group's international database and technical capabilities, Take1 is a data-driven [...]

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Second-party vs Third-party Data: Which Should You Add to Your Data Mix?

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You’ve heard of first-, second- and third-party data – and big data too. But what’s the difference? And, most importantly, which is the type of data you need? First-party data is the most used source of information, reported by 81 percent of organizations, followed by second-party data (77 percent), and third-party data (61 percent). Although [...]

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New EU Lawsuit Claims Google Failed To Forget 'Sensitive' Information, Such As Their 'Political Affiliation'

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For years, we've pointed out that the "Right to be Forgotten" (RTBF) in Europe is a dangerous tool that has been and will continue to be abused as a tool to censor freedom of expression, while hiding behind a claim that it is to protect "privacy." While the concept has been around for a while, it really took off online with a EU Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling from three years ago, saying that Google's search results index counted as a data repository on someone, and thus, an individual could force Google to "delink" certain results from searches on their names. But, the court left some leeway to Google to decide whether or not the requests were valid. Basically, if the information is no longer relevant for the public to know about the person, then Google should delink it. Now, obviously, that's a horribly subjective standard, and Google has had to staff up on people to determine whether or not any requested delinking qualifies.Part of the problem with all of this is that it seems to produce tremendous liability. Fail to get a delinking request "right" and Google is right back in court, which is exactly where we are today. Google has rejected just under 60% of requests to delink info in Europe, and four individuals in France were so upset by this, that they complained that their rights were being violated. The French data protection regulator, CNIL, actually agreed with Google that the information shouldn't be "forgotten." However, the four have appealed their case, and it's been kicked back to the European Court of Justice. The four individuals are claiming that the information is "sensitive data" and are suggesting that just being "sensitive data" alone is enough to require forgetting -- no matter what the "public interest" may be in that info.As Google has noted in a blog post, there are serious questions here about whether or not people can hide information from their past that may be relevant:

The CJEU now has to decide whether "sensitive personal data"such as the political allegiance of an individual, or a past criminal conviction reported in the pressshould always outweigh the public interest.The tricky thing with this kind of information is that it is often important for people to know and it is frequently reported in newspapers and elsewhere. Requiring automatic delisting from search engines, without any public interest balancing test, risks creating a dangerous loophole. Such a loophole would enable anyone to demand removal of links that should remain up in the public interest, simply by claiming they contain some element of sensitive personal data.
While that is an important point -- equally important is the question of how this can be massively damaging for basically any other company, that doesn't have Google's legal team and resources to fight. The fact that anyone disagreeing with your decision on a RTBF request can put a company at risk for failing to delete something, and take them to court repeatedly, means that most companies are going to default to deleting.At least with things like the DMCA notice-and-takedown provision -- which is already massively and widely abused to censor content -- there are fairly clear and strict rules about how a takedown notice works, and what it requires. With the RTBF, it's not at all clear, and risks significant and repeated litigation. As it stands, the system is a recipe for widespread censorship of often important information.

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NY Senate Passes Bill That Would Add Cops And Firemen To List Of Protected Classes Under State's Hate Crime Law

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Because good ideas are rare but bad ideas eternal, the New York State Senate has just given its blessing to a stupid bill aimed at protecting people armed with guns, power, the weight of the law, and numerous immunity options. The "justification" for New York's addition of cops and first responders to the state's hate crime law is this:

There has been an increase in mortality rates of law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers and emergency medical services personnel, within the past decade. In a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in 2014, statistics showed that approximately "126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty" which exhibited an increase in comparison to 2012 and 2013. The increase in the death toll has been in part, due to offenses intentionally aimed to harm first responders.
This is followed by a bunch of anecdotes about officers and first responders being on the receiving end of supposedly "targeted" violence. It adds nothing to the "justification" but a few presentation-worthy stories to sway emotions of fellow legislators. It doesn't make the preceding statement any more correct. It's actually misleading and wrong in equal parts.First off, an increase in "mortality rates" is not the same thing as an increase in violence directed at law enforcement officers. The stats legislators are attempting to point to include all deaths in the line of duty, whether they were at the hands of civilians or not. So, this stat is already sort of misleading, albeit only because of the way this bill's sponsors have phrased it.Second, the stats the justification quotes are wrong. There were 136 deaths in 2014, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That's more than what's stated here. Worrying? Not even close. It's 20 more than 2013, but one less than 2012's total. In other words, the stats show no sort of increase that might justify giving police officers more protection. If these legislators weren't trying to cherry pick, they might have included 2011's total of 178, which is fifty more deaths than the supposedly-shocking number quoted in the bill's justification.Just so everyone's aware who's pushing to make an abusable law even more easily-abused, here's the bipartisan group of sponsors.
Fred Akshar [R] - Longtime law enforcement officer, having served as undersheriff for Broome County before turning to politics.Patrick M. Gallivan [R] - former Erie County Sheriff (1998-2005), preceded by 15 years with the New York State Police, and followed by a stint on the state parole board. One of several state legislators found to have faked leadership positions in the Senate to get a little unearned extra pay added onto their paychecks.Tony Avella [D] - Last seen at Techdirt killing off his horrendous "Right to Be Forgotten" bill… but not in an honorable way. Rather than remove it from consideration, he simply revoked his sponsorship, leaving the orphaned bill to wander the Senate halls unattended.Martin J. Golden [R] - A retired NYPD officer who has been instrumental in adding even more New Yorkers to the state's sex offender registry, as well as expanding the state's DNA databank to include people convicted of nothing more than a misdemeanor.John J. Bonacic [R] - Former assistant district attorney and one of those guys who thinks something must be done about "anti-law enforcement rhetoric." Apparently, this bill is part of the solution -- a bill that could conceivably be twisted to turn "resisting arrest" into a felony-level hate crime. (Because what is "resisting arrest" if not "targeting" of law enforcement for abuse/violence/etc.?)
Here's the pertinent wording of the bill, which adds cops, firefighters, and EMTs to a long list of groups who have historically been victims of discrimination.
section 1, states that a person has committed a hate crime, when he or she commits a specified offense and either intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed to, or in part because of a belief or perception regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, sexual orientation of a person, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.
Guess who doesn't fit into that list: the shorter list of occupations that have long been revered, respected, and given considerable amount of leeway to perform their duties. Unlike those who have been singled out for abuse because of their age, disability, ancestry, race, color, national origin, or sexual orientation, the new protected class is entirely composed of voluntary "traits."Adding to the ridiculousness is the bill's name -- a self-righteous, heart-tugging melange of authority-worshipping words: Community Heroes Protection Act.Very few bills of this sort have become law. Many have attempted to give more protection to well-protected powerful classes, but very few have garnered enough support to make it past the introduction stage. This one has moved forward, which is a problem because bills like this that have passed have immediately been abused by law enforcement.

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Are Times Finally Changing for Traditional TV Ad Measurement?

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Marshall Wong, SVP of Market Development for Television at Tapad shares his insights into the changing world of TV advertising. What do Cheers and Breaking Bad have in common? Despite both being popular (but very different) Emmy award-winning TV programs from very different decades, marketers largely used the same approach to engage consumers on both [...]

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Kantar Millward Brown Partners With Cuebiq

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Partnership To Provide Marketers With Critical Intelligence On Offline Roi. Kantar Millward Brown, a global research agency helping businesses grow strong brands, announced a partnership with Cuebiq, a provider of accurate and precise location data in the U.S., to help marketers measure the offline ROI of their advertising. The partnership integrates geolocation and campaign effectiveness [...]

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Appeals Court Pretty Sure DOJ Use-Of-Force Guidelines Don't Violate Police Officers' 2nd And 4th Amendment Rights

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A few years ago, some Seattle police officers came up with a novel plan to battle DOJ-imposed limits on their use-of-force. Since their union wisely decided to steer clear of this ridiculous legal battle, the officers chose to crowdfund their way into the federal court system.Armed with a little over $3,000 and some particularly dubious arguments, the protesting cops filed a lawsuit claiming their Second and Fourth Amendment rights were being violated by the DOJ's use-of-force restrictions. It did not go well.

The officers' arguments were unsupported by the Constitution or case law, Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said in an opinion issued Monday.[...]Plaintiffs can point to no case establishing that the Second Amendment codified a free-standing right to self-defense, as opposed to case law interpreting the textual Second Amendment rights to “keep and bear arms” in light of their purposes…[...]Nor did she agree with the officers' insistence that the policy violated a "right of self-defense as embedded in the Fourth Amendment," which protects against unreasonable search and seizures. Pechman said the argument grossly misconstrued Fourth Amendment law.
The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice by the court. One would think $3,000 only buys a single trip through the federal court system, but apparently appellate-level lawyering is cheaper. The officers immediately appealed the dismissal, and are now finding the Appeals Court isn't any more impressed with the officers' claimed rights violations.
The Ninth Circuit seemed skeptical of Seattle police officers’ claims that a new use-of-force policy mandated by the Department of Justice violates their Second Amendment rights.U.S. Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith told the officers’ attorney he didn’t “have much of an argument” at a three-judge panel appellate hearing on Monday.
The officers continue to claim de-escalation policies violate their Second Amendment rights by somehow robbing them of the ability to defend themselves. Not quite "Obama's coming for my guns," but close. How armed officers are being stripped of the right to bear arms -- including using them in defense (but perhaps less frequently) -- is something their lawyer hasn't been able to explain to any court's satisfaction.The Fourth Amendment argument is even worse. Even in the plaintiffs' own words, it's spectacularly bad: a "metaphorical seizure" of their "right" to use whatever force they feel is necessary.As the opposing counsel points out in a stunning display of logic, the place to protest new police policies isn't this courthouse. It's the one that approved the DOJ consent decree.
If the officers had real concerns about the use-of-force policy, they should have brought them before the federal judge overseeing the police reforms rather than asking an appellate panel to “create a new fundamental constitutional right,” [city attorney Gregory] Narver said.
The 126 Seattle law enforcement officers involved in this lawsuit have achieved the nigh impossible: making a police union look like the saner party in the wake of a DOJ investigation.

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US Court Upholds Enforceability Of GNU GPL As Both A License And A Contract

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Free software dominates modern computing, from smartphones to supercomputers -- only the desktop remains a stronghold of proprietary code. Most of that free software has the Linux kernel at its heart, and a key element in the success of Linux -- and of thousands of other coding projects -- is the GNU General Public License. Although the first version of the GNU GPL was released by Richard Stallman back in 1989, and version 3 was issued in 2007, there have been surprisingly few court cases examining it and other open source licenses, and whether they are legally watertight.A key case is Jacobsen v. Katzer from 2008. As a detailed Groklaw post at the time explained, the US appeals court held that open source license conditions are enforceable as a copyright condition. Now we have another important judgment, Artifex v. Hancom, that clarifies further the legal basis of open source licenses. It concerns the well-known Ghostscript interpreter for the PostScript language, written originally by L. Peter Deutsch, and sold by the company he founded, Artifex Software. Artifex was a pioneer in adopting a dual-licensing approach for Ghostscript. That is, you could either use the software under the GNU GPL, or you could avoid copyleft's redistribution requirements by taking out a conventional proprietary license.Hancom is a South Korean company that produces Hangul, word-processing software that is primarily used in South Korea as an alternative to Microsoft Word. Artifex says that Hancom incorporated Ghostscript into its Hangul software, but neither sought a proprietary license, nor complied with the terms of the GPL by releasing the source code for the application that incorporated Ghostscript. As a result, Artifex took legal action, alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract. Hancom asked the court to dismiss Artifex's complaint on several grounds, but they were all denied. The most significant ruling is on Hancom's claim that the GNU GPL was not a contract. In her order, embedded below, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley wrote:

The GNU GPL, which is attached to the complaint, provides that the Ghostscript user agrees to its terms if the user does not obtain a commercial license. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant used Ghostscript, did not obtain a commercial license, and represented publicly that its use of Ghostscript was licensed under the GNU GPL. These allegations sufficiently plead the existence of a contract.
That's an important new ruling. The judge also affirmed a result of the Jacobsen v. Katzer case, that even though code released under the GPL is available free of charge, damages could still be awarded because:
there is harm which flows from a party's failure to comply with open source licensing.
A useful analysis of the judge's order on the Lexology blog explains the pros and cons of bringing cases under copyright and contract law:
Generally, copyright claims may afford plaintiffs more damages and stronger remedies than contract claims. However, contract claims may help a plaintiff pursue a violator's worldwide conduct in a way that jurisdictional limits on copyright claims might not allow. Breach of contract claims may also be able to address reputational harm and other indirect non-economic benefits that a plaintiff might derive from enforcing open source license conditions. A breach of contract claim might also, in certain instances, allow for specific performance of open source obligations.
However, the fact that Artifex may now proceed, drawing on both copyright and contract law, raises the important question of how those interact. Mike wrote about this back in 2010, and pointed to a longer discussion of the legal questions involved. The decision by the District Court for the Northern District of California to allow Artifex to move forward with its case is certainly an important confirmation of the legal solidity of open source licensing. But it also brings with it important questions about the role of contracts in the world of free software.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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The New IAB Dynamic Content Ad Standard: How It Improves What You Deliver

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Throughout its 20-year history, the IAB has been working with brands, agencies, publishers, and ad tech vendors to continue to innovate ad standards. Together, they have introduced new ad formats and standards that have allowed marketers and their agencies to continue to work to engage consumers. The industry, however, has been evolving so fast that [...]

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Makers Of Payday 2 Donating DLC Profits To Help 2 YouTubers Fight Copyright Lawsuit

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The landscape of YouTubers who do reviews or takes on video games, including Let's Plays, and their interactions with the game makers themselves is one that lacks any sort of norm or uniformity. Some game developers understand the value these YouTubers bring to their businesses, while some tend to go on the attack with copyright claims. Some developers appreciate an open and honest ecosystem of reviews, including snarky reviews, while others attempt to suppress any sort of negativity.But, as far as I'm aware of, Overkill Software, makers of Payday 2, is the first studio to donate proceeds from its DLC content to defend YouTubers from copyright lawsuits.

Ethan [Klein] and Hila [Klein], who run the YouTube channel H3H3Productions, make sketch comedy and “reaction” videos in which they comment on internet and YouTube culture. Last year, the husband-wife team filmed a video mocking YouTuber Matt Hosseinzadeh, or “Bold Guy,” for his video about picking up girls using parkour. In response, Hosseinzadeh filed a complaint with the Southern District of New York District Court alleging copyright infringement. In the complaint, Hosseinzadeh accuses the Kleins of “purporting to discuss the Work in what they believe to be a humorous manner but in fact reproduces virtually all of the Work as nothing more than a prop.”
Now, we've discussed this lawsuit previously. It's a suit clearly designed to shut up two critics who engaged in what seems to be pretty straightforward Fair Use of Hosseinzadeh's content. Following along with the court proceedings, the last entry seems to indicate the court feels this whole thing, which has already gone on too long, will end with a summary judgement. I can't be certain the court feels that this is going to end up going in the Kleins' favor, but that would be my educated guess based on our previous analysis of the suit.Regardless, Overkill Software has swooped in to try and help the Kleins by baking them into Payday 2 via DLC and using any money made by it to fund the Kleins' legal efforts.
On April Fools, Overkill Software introduced Ethan Klein into first-person shooter Payday 2. Yesterday, Overkill, who are fans of the Kleins, announced they’ll be making the joke a permanent, and charitable, reality. This Fall, the faces behind H3H3Productions will be playable characters in Payday 2, and Overkill studios will donate all of the DLC’s revenue to the Kleins as they continue to fight their legal battle that, they say, could financially ruin them even if they win.While the Kleins were initially represented pro bono, a year later, after switching firms, the price of fighting the lawsuit has reportedly snowballed, with the first month allegedly costing over $50,000. And they will continue to fight it, the Kleins say, to protect fair use and prevent a bad precedent. (YouTube personality Philip DeFranco helped raise $170,000 for them in a GoFundMe, arguing that the lawsuit is “an attempt to step on freedom of speech via a broken copyright system and most people’s confusion over Fair Use.”)
This is, to some degree, connecting with fans. Fans, at least, of the Kleins. It's also refreshing to see a game studio take the stance that they are fans of YouTubers that do some videos based on video games and are actively looking to support them against a bogus copyright lawsuit. Can you imagine, say, Nintendo doing something like this? Given its hardline stance on intellectual property, it's a difficult thing to conjure in one's mind.Overkill, by the way, is taking 0% from the sales of the Klein DLC. It's a great look for the company.

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Paul Levy Hoping To Wake Up Maryland Courts To The Numerous Fraudulent Libel Lawsuits Filed There

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Something's rotten in Maryland. Not conspiracy-level rotten, but rotten nonetheless. As we've discussed recently, Paul Alan Levy (along with Eugene Volokh) have done a ton of legwork to flush out the perpetrator of several bogus libel lawsuits filed in Baltimore courts, designed for the purpose of "reputation management" (i.e., convincing Google to stop linking to posts someone doesn't like). The man behind many of these appears to be Richart Ruddie, who runs a reputation management company called Profile Defenders.As we discussed earlier this week, one of the judges in Baltimore handling one of those cases has refused to fix things and overturn his rubber-stamped order. But there are other, similar cases in front of other judges there as well, and they seem equally unwilling to make proactive efforts to deter this sort of abuse. Because of this, Levy has worked with Myvesta (a company indirectly affected by a bogus libel lawsuit, thanks to bogus delisting orders targeting one of its websites) to file an amicus brief detailing Ruddie's fraudulent reputation management efforts.

We had several reasons for filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion to vacate. First, it seemed to us that the motion to vacate understated the extent of the fraud that had been perpetrated on the court — it did not frankly admit that Bryan Levin was an invented name created for the purpose of justifying the consent order, and it did not admit that the consent order sought the plaintiffs’ objective — suppression of critical articles — by the device of suing over allegedly defamatory comments. The motion did not admit that in additional to victimizing the court by the fraud, the person who arranged for the case to be filed was actually victimizing a speaker whose rights are protected by the First Amendment, and the motion did not call the consent order by its proper name — a prior restraint of protected speech.
But the problem goes much deeper than the case Myvesta's involved in. Ruddie had a lot of extremely sketchy irons in the court's fire. Levy wants to ensure this case isn't seen as a one-and-done.
A second reason for submitting the amicus brief was to ensure that the judge not hear this motion to vacate judgment in isolation – we know of a raft of other cases like Smith v. Levin that were filed in the Maryland courts and, in particular, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Some of these other cases also sought relief suppressing other articles on the Get Out of Debt Guy blog, in the apparent interest of other debt relief companies that the blog had criticized. Our brief identifies several other such cases, and Professor Volokh’s research has identified several more.
The filing [PDF] reveals many more details about Ruddie's scamtastic lawsuits, as well as lawyer Bennett Wills' apparent participation in the fraudulent filings. (Wills, who works for Ruddie client Rescue One, has claimed he never knowingly engaged in fraudulent behavior.)
[I]t has come to Myvesta’s attention that Bennett Wills has filed two additional “fake lawsuits” in Maryland circuit courts that are comparable to this case. Visionstar, Inc. v. Perez, No. 24C15005743 (Cir. Ct. Balt. City); Cohen v. Wilkerson, No. 06C15070022 (Cir. Ct. Carroll Cy). (Copies of these two complaints are attached). The papers use very similar language, and an investigation conducted by a private detective retained by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh to assist in his investigation of the phenomenon of fake litigation established that, as in this case, neither of the two individuals who were named as defendants and whose signatures appear on the consent orders live at the addresses shown for them. See attached Declaration of Giles Miller. Moreover, both cases show obvious signs of being fake: the signatures of defendants “Mark Wilkerson” and “Daniel Perez” appear to have been written by the same hand; and the very carefully handwritten signature of “Mark Wilkerson” spells his name as “Wilerkson.”And in the Visionstar case, the allegation in paragraph 13 about the IP address from which the supposedly defamatory reviews were posted to the Ripoff Report website is a highly implausible. Generally speaking, a subpoena can be issued in connection with a case seeking to identify the poster of an anonymous comment, but that is something that happens after the complaint is filed, not something that can be listed in the complaint. Undersigned counsel has contacted inside counsel for Xcentric Ventures, the company that operates Ripoff Report, and ascertained that his client has never received any subpoena to identify the anonymous author of the reports cited in the Visionstar complaint; that attorney also represented that he checked the IP addresses for the reports cited in the complaint, and that none of them was associated with the address 12.4.33.71 as the complaint alleges.
Levy points out Ruddie's preferred legal venue is likely due to the fact that his business (what's left of it) is located in that area. It would be very unlikely for so many defendants to be located in the Baltimore area, given the worldwide nature of the internet, but somehow these plaintiffs keep finding anonymous commenters right in Ruddie's backyard. (And with record speed, too. In Ruddie's faux lawsuits, commenters are usually unmasked within a few days of a lawsuit's filing, all without subpoenas or court orders demanding the identifying info behind IP addresses and pseudonyms.)Ruddie's probably not filing any more bogus lawsuits -- at least not while he's under investigation by the US Attorney's office. But there are likely more fraudulently-obtained court orders out there still needing to be vacated. And, as long as the court appears inattentive, there's an open invitation for similarly-minded reputation managers to see if they can sneak a few bogus injunction requests past Baltimore judges.

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Euclid Analytics & AgilOne Bridge Retail's Online-Offline Divide; Exponential Taps Offline Location Data via Partnership with Cuebiq; Grapeshot & Vice Media Delivering Innovations in Brand Safety

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New Euclid, AgilOne integration empowers retailers, like JOANN Fabric & Craft Stores, to build meaningful relationships across mediums, personalize shopping experiences and influence path to purchase. Euclid Analytics, a retail analytics and omni-channel engagement company, announced a new integration with AgilOne, an enterprise customer data platform, to bring an enhanced, single view across the customer [...]

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Thailand Demands More Proxy Censorship From Facebook

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More foreign censorship is coming to American social media companies. Back in January, Facebook hinted it would be at least partially receptive to the government of Thailand's desire to be free from criticism. Fortunately, the Thailand government has been slightly more rational than, say, Austria's by not demanding offending content be removed everywhere. So far, it seems amenable to Facebook just preventing Thailand's citizens from seeing anything deemed insulting to their rulers (dead or alive).The problem right now (at least in the minds of Thailand government officials) is that Facebook isn't making with the targeted censorship quickly enough.

The social media giant has been given until next Tuesday to remove more than 130 items from pages viewable in Thailand.Facebook says it does consider requests from governments to block material, and will comply if it breaks local laws.
The "or else" part of the government's threat seems to be nonexistent at this point, although it probably involves cutting off citizens' access to Facebook entirely. The Thai government insists Facebook has been mostly cooperative, but is dragging its feet on the 100+ posts it has declared illegal under the country's "don't badmouth your authoritarian leaders" law.It's disappointing to see Facebook agree, even partially, to act as a proxy censor for Thailand's government. While it's generally a good idea for social media companies to be somewhat responsive to local rules and regulations, there's very little to be gained by being an errand boy for a regime where insulting kings results in secret trials and 15-year jail sentences.It must be noted that Facebook isn't the only US tech company working with the Thailand government to ensure its top officials remain unoffended. Google has also participated in proxy censorship. Last year, it reported it had complied with 85% of requests made under Thailand's lese majeste laws, although it did not explain whether this was location-based blocking or complete removal of the literally-offending posts.Any form of tolerance for this only encourages further abuse. The country's cybersecurity laws are already being abused by the government, which has declared that merely communicating with foreign critics online violates the Computer Crime Act. Censors' requests for inches quickly stretch into miles. If either of these companies tries to reel in some of the censorious slack they've given Thailand's government, it will most likely be greeted with a complete blockade or ban of their services and sites. If that's going to be the inevitable result, why bother humoring these requests at all?

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-May-2017
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Nier Automata Modder Includes Piracy Checks In Mod, Causing An Uproar, But Should It?

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Nier: Automata is a multiplatform game that I know almost nothing about at all, other than it was released relatively recently and that the PC version of the game was shipped out with some rather frustrating bugs. Apparently the game on PCs doesn't actually ship with true 1080p resolution and has some severe frame rate issues. But, because this is a PC game we're talking about, a fan going by the handle Kaldaien went ahead and released a patch that seems to fix these issues. There is just one problem.Kaldaien's patch checks to make sure the game it's patching hasn't been pirated. And that caused something of an uproar on the Steam forums.

On neoGAF, Kaldaien explains that “Nothing malicious happens if you fail this check, you’re just presented with an infinite license screen that you can click Accept on but since you don’t respect licenses the license doesn’t respect your click.” In short, you can’t use the official mod if you pirate the game.On the Steam forums, this news caused quite the commotion. The thread that originally shared the mod burst into arguments and insults, and Kaldaien himself even got temporarily banned from posting, allegedly because he called someone a “pirate moron.” The thread has since been removed from Steam, but reactions to the piracy check can be found all around the web. Some people actually feel entitled to use the mod no matter how they obtained the game.
The negative reactions got fairly vitriolic. One the one hand, yeah, it's the internet, what else would you expect? But frankly much of this looks very misguided, based in large part on a misunderstanding of why Kaldaien included the piracy check. With most of the angry responses suggesting that Kaldaien was taking some kind of moral stance or, as one comment suggested, simply wanted "to be a prick", it was actually done to keep the modder from suffering more headaches.
“My anti-piracy measures actually have nothing to do with my personal views on individual piracy,” Kaldaien wrote on neoGAF. “I don’t condone the practice, I don’t generally think highly of people who do it, but this is not done to punish them. It is to protect me against asset injection of copyrighted material.” On Steam, Kaldaien said, “I will not be thrown under the bus when some user uses my software to inject DLC they didn’t purchase.” It’s also worth noting that locking pirates out means Kaldaien doesn’t have to waste time trying to troubleshoot problems with people that don’t even have the game legally.
So, there's that. But how pissed are any of us, even those of us that think copyright protectionism and DRM are misguided, supposed to be? Whatever the motivation, this amounts to a fan making a mod for a game and trying to police the legitimacy of purchases on the publisher's behalf. This is, in some ways, the sort of thing a publisher should want. Nier: Automata, by the way, shipped with Denuvo DRM... which was cracked shortly afterwards. While there are workarounds for the FAR mod's piracy check, if it's causing this kind of an uproar then it must be having some effect. What if this shows that a motivated fan-driven modding scene can actually help protect the investment of game publishers on their behalf? That would be a good thing, I think.It could help on many levels, in fact, including in that it could demonstrate even further the value a modding community can have to a game publisher. If stories like this drive publishers to be more modder-friendly, and therefore drive the modders to be more publisher friendly, the end result might be an overall better ecosystem for the end customer. There are some gamers out there that will pirate no matter what, but that doesn't mean they should expect the true fans modding those games to be on their side of the piracy argument.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-May-2017
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This Week In Techdirt History: May 7th - 13th

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Five Years AgoIt was the previous week in 2012 that we learned the sad news of the death of the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (better known as MCA), and it was this week that the EFF called for an end to the war on sampling as a tribute to his legacy. Little did we know that, the very next day, Tuf America would sue the Beastie Boys over an unauthorized sample, which is some stunningly insensitive timing. And that wasn't the only copyright fuckup related to MCA's death — the co-creator of The Chappelle Show uploaded a previously unaired video of the Beastie Boys preforming for the show, only to have it taken down by a Viacom copyright claim.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2007, NBC was getting in on the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit with an amicus brief against the latter, while the government of Thailand was blocking the site entirely and considering its own lawsuit. Newspaper publishers, struggling to adapt to the web, were alternately scraping together data to portray their digital efforts as successful and blaming the internet for all their industry's woes. And "psychic" (read: mediocre magician) Uri Geller was abusing the DMCA and filing lawsuits in an attempt to censor a popular debunking of his little tricks by James Randi.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2002, we took a look at the absolute mess that was MusicNet, the attempt by major labels to offer a competitive digital music platform. The world was still for some reason debating whether video games are free speech, and a judge ruled that the DMCA was constitutional via an odd distinction regarding speech and software. Before mobile phones replaced the landline all but entirely, there was an earlier fear about them replacing people's second phone lines. And long, long before the west would see anything similar, Japan was adding wi-fi to 4000 McDonald's locations.One-Hundred And Seventy-One Years AgoAmerica's oldest weekly newspaper that is still in publication is the Cambridge Chronical, and it was on May 7th, 1846 that the first issue was published, just a few days after Cambridge was incorporated as a city. Of course, like most old community newspapers, its recent history of sales and mergers has left it somewhat disconnected from its roots.

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RTB House: Improving Neural Networks' Performance

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Poland's Tech Talents Found a Method for Improving Neural Networks' Performance. RTB House, a global company that provides retargeting technology, has devised an innovative approach to building neural network architecture: It improves the way machines predict conversion value. This results in advertising campaigns bringing in ROIs. The novel concept will be presented during the upcoming [...]

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Leaked NSA Hacking Tool On Global Ransomware Rampage

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Welp. What was that we were saying about the problems of the NSA creating hacking tools that leak, rather than helping patch security flaws? Oh, right. That it would make everyone less safe.And here we are. With a global ransomware rampage, referred to as "WannaCry" putting tons of people at risk, thanks to leaked NSA malware:

Leaked alleged NSA hacking tools appear to be behind a massive cyberattack disrupting hospitals and companies across Europe, Asia and the U.S., with Russia among the hardest-hit countries.The unique malware causing the attacks which been spotted in tens of thousands of incidents in 99 countries, according to the cyber firm Avast have forced some hospitals to stop admitting new patients with serious medical conditions and driven other companies to shut down their networks, leaving valuable files unavailable.
Specifically, it appears that the ransomware is using an NSA tool called ETERNALBLUE, which was leaked in April by Shadow Brokers. This was among those that were quietly patched by Microsoft back in March, but not everyone installs security patches in a timely manner. Indeed, as some are reporting, some of the victims -- including the National Health Service Hospitals in the UK -- are running ancient Windows XP, an operating system that is not even remotely secure, and is no longer supported.Thus, there's some debate online about whether the "problem" here is organizations who don't upgrade/patch or the NSA. Of course, these things are not mutually exclusive: you can reasonably blame both. Failing to update and patch your computers is a bad idea these days -- especially for large organizations with IT staff who should know better.At the same time, the fact that this hack is built off of a leaked NSA hacking tool highlights a couple of key points:
  1. The NSA's dual-hatted offensive & defensive structure is damaging: The NSA plays both offense and defense on computer security. That is, it is supposed to hack into other systems, but also help protect our systems. But it's quite clear that the offensive capabilities are valued much more than the defensive ones -- and that's a problem. Once again, it appears that people in the intelligence community are not doing a clear cost-benefit analysis of the tools that they use. They like their toys, but they rarely seem to take into consideration what happens should those toys get out.
  2. Once again, this reinforces why we should not allow backdoors to encryption or any other such vulnerability. Over and over again, the proponents of backdooring encryption have insisted that it can be built in a "safe" way, where only government will get the backdoor access to encryption. The fact that some of the NSA's most powerful hacking tools have not only been leaked but are now wreaking havoc around the world, should put a complete end to the "going dark" debate. But it won't. It's not safe, but many in the law enforcement community, in particular, are in denial about this.
These problems are not new. Hell, we've been talking about both of them for the better part of a decade already. But this rapid spread of WannaCry is putting an exclamation point on those arguments. Unfortunately, the cynical side of my brain says this warning will still be ignored.

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Now Canceled Crowdfunding Project Sent DMCA Notice Following Skeptical Review

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A few months back, I saw some news about a crowdfunding project on IndieGogo, called Titan Note. It was a little a cylindrical device that acted as a microphone, and the guys behind the project insisted that it could transcribe notes with fairly incredible levels of accuracy. The device got some press coverage -- including a quite reasonably skeptical piece at The Verge, entitled "No way this transcription gizmo is as good as it claims to be." There was a lot more skepticism around the project in the comments to the project as well. On top of that, the project's marketing pitch seemed... wrong. That is, it positioned the device as a thing that you could use to "stop taking notes" in classes and meetings in order to pay better attention and learn more. But... that's just wrong. Because the process of taking notes yourself actually helps you commit things to memory. That is, taking notes helps you pay better attention, and thus if you actually used the device the way it was advertised, you might get less out of lectures and meetings.All that said, here's a confession: I still backed it. I was already skeptical -- in part because of the mis-targeted marketing and because the video looked too good to be true, given the state of transcription products in the market, and I had read that Verge article. But, there was an early bird deal that made it pretty cheap, and I figured that even if it was just a so-so product, it could have some use, such as making it easier to transcribe videos and podcasts for posts here on Techdirt. Given the low price of the early bird, I figured maybe it was worth the risk that the product sucked... or didn't exist at all.Eventually, the product raised over $1.1 million -- as it announced in a press release. But, late last night I got an email from IndieGogo saying that the project had been shut down and all funds refunded. IndieGogo told the Verge that the project had violated its terms of service -- which could mean lots of things. If anything, I'm more relieved than anything else. I had kind of regretted backing it in the first place, given the skepticism I had over the product.But, that alone wouldn't make this much of a Techdirt story. Instead, what made this a Techdirt story is this, from the Verge:

When we covered the Titan Note in March, we suggested the company was perhaps exaggerating the capabilities of its product. After all, we said, if Apple or Amazon can't produce transcription software as accurate and speedy as this, what chance does a company with no commercial history have? We later received a DMCA takedown notice for using of Titan Note's product imagery to illustrate our story.
What a bunch of jerks. Sure, you can say that DMCA'ing the "images" rather than the actual story is marginally more defensible... but even that's not true. Those were marketing materials that the company released for the clear purpose of having the press promote the device. The only purpose behind a takedown notice was in anger over a skeptical report on the product. At the very least, that shows that Titan Note itself doesn't have much confidence in its own product. If I'd known it was a company that abused the DMCA to try to hit back at criticism I never would have backed it in the first place. Such companies are not trustworthy at all.

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Man AND Machine: The Role of Demand Facilitation in Programmatic Selling

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Programmatic, and more broadly, the automation of online advertising, has long raised concerns about the displacement of jobs. With ad space increasingly sold via automated platforms, instead of by picking up the phone, the replacement of man with machines was seen as inevitable. But this concern ignored a simple fact: Platforms that automate the sale [...]

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Bethesda's Pete Hines Shrugs His Shoulders About Trademark Dispute With No Matter Studios

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If any single aspect of common trademark disputes has become the thing that annoys me the most about them, it's how often the canard from trademark bullies that they have to be bullies by order of trademark law is trotted out for public consumption. You can almost set your watch to it: trademark bully does trademark bullying, public backlash ensues, trademark bully falsely explains that if it doesn't bully it loses its trademark rights, the public usually backs off. While it would be unreasonable to expect the general public to be up on the nuances of trademark law to the degree of someone who is paid to write about it, it's not unreasonable to smack down attempts by those who know better but who actively attempt to misinform that same general public.Which brings us to Bethesda. We recently discussed an indie studio called No Matter Studios, which had launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for its game Prey for the Gods, being bullied into changing that name to Praey for the Gods by Bethesda. Bethesda recently released a AAA title called simply Prey and is enforcing its laughably broad trademark rights, acquired by Bethesda from 3D Realms, on that name. Faced with a trademark dispute by a much larger company, No Matter Studios caved and made the requested changes which, as we pointed out in the original post, are so absurdly inconsequential as to beg the quesiton of how much real customer confusion was Bethesda actually concerned about in the first place. Right on time, the public backlash began, with much of it directed at Pete Hines, who is in charge of PR and marketing for Bethesda games. And, right on time again, Hines trotted out the shrugging excuse blaming the law rather than his company's actions.

Many contacted Bethesda' Pete Hines on Twitter and voiced their concerns over the development, in response to which he said that ZeniMax had contacted No Matter Studios in 2015 to warn them of potential implications but ZeniMax's letter was ignored. He said that neither companies are responsible for how trademark laws work and that there have been countless times when ZeniMax's own studios had to change game titles to accommodate the same laws that No Matter Studios is now having to comply with."We reached out in Nov 2015. We tried talking to them. Well before their Kickstarter. And they could have used a name that didn't infringe on our mark like we have 1,000 times when we came up with something another company marked. I'm not a trademark lawyer. Or any kind of lawyer. They disagree. Doesn't matter what I think about any of this."
Hines was even more specific on Twitter in response to those who raised concern over this dispute.

As I am going to apparently be forced to keep repeating, this is the sort of thing that sounds good but simply isn't true. There is no blanket requirement that every use of a trademark by another party must be policed in every instance, forever and ever, amen. The requirement is for appropriate policing, with the likelihood of customer confusion governing what is and is not appropriate. Hines has gone back on Twitter and sent out reporting from media that buys into the forced bullying canard. Much of that reporting repeats the myth whole cloth, but its belied by some very simple facts.The chief fact to consider is that the changes requested by Bethesda and agreed to by No Matter Studios are so inconsequential. They mostly amount to a single character being added to the latter's game title, an "a." The game's logo, meanwhile, remains untouched and reads as Prey for the Gods. There is nothing in trademark law that requires action resulting in so little consequence. More importantly, were this to be a valid trademark concern on the part of Bethesda, the necessary results of any dispute would have to be more substantial. Remember that customer confusion drives all of this. If there is no potential for confusion in the marketplace, there is no need for the policing of the trademark. Given how the likely lack of confusion in this example is the result of one game's title consisting of a single word while the other's title uses that word as part of a longer and unique title, it's difficult to imagine a future in which Prey for the Gods keeping its name results in Bethesda being stripped of its trademark rights to Prey.So, please, don't buy the excuse. Hines himself notes on Twitter that he is not a lawyer. And I will say that he generally seems to be actively trying to engage these concerns, rather than ignore them. Given those two factors, I almost wonder if Hines himself is misinformed on the subject.

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Lawsuit Claiming Fyre Festival Sent Cease & Desist Letters To Online Critics Doesn't Show Any Actual Evidence

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If, somehow, you've avoided all the news about the Fyre Festival from the past few weeks... well... you've been missing out. There's a ton of coverage basically everywhere, but what was promoted as an upscale music festival on a private island in the Bahamas, complete with private flights, luxury lodging, and fine dining... turned out to be... nothing. Despite having lots of rich and famous folks (especially Instagram stars) promoting the festival for months, it eventually appears that promoting and hyping was about all that was done for the festival, rather than actually organizing stuff. The festival was "canceled" but not before a bunch of people made their way to a not-so-private island in the Bahamas (Great Exumas) and discovered... that there was effectively nothing there. There was no music festival. The "lodging" was emergency relief structures. The "fine dining" was slices of bread and cheese with some lettuce. It's been quite a story.As you can imagine there have been lawsuits filed. Oh so many lawsuits. The sixth of these lawsuits, filed by Kenneth and Emily Reel, is getting a bunch of attention, in part because it includes the festival's PR agency, 42West, rather than just the "startup" behind the festival, Fyre Media (it was supposed to offer some sort of app), its founder Billy McFarland, and the musician Ja Rule, who was supposedly also a creator of the festival. But, even more interesting for those of us here at Techdirt is that he latest filing also claims that Fyre Festival has been threatening social media posters with cease-and-desist letters for posting negative things about the festival. That's what puts this squarely into Techdirt/Streisand Effect territory.You can read the full filing here or below. Admittedly, the filing is... kinda weak. There seem to be many claims that are little more than cut-and-pasted from media reports (without citation or credit). For example, the social media cease-and-desist threats are not shown with much detail (and don't appear to be included as an exhibit). Here's what the lawsuit says:

As for those individuals who elected to speak negatively about the Defendants on social media, they are now being threatened with legal action via cease and desist letters. Specifically, if the social media comments were not taken down, the Defendants claim they could incite violence, rioting, or civil unrest, with the caveat that if someone innocent does get hurt as a result Fyre Festival will hold you accountable and responsible.
It is a little unclear from the filing if the lawyers have actually even seen this cease and desist letter. It would appear to be almost word for word identical to a TMZ post from a week ago, which doesn't present any actual evidence of the cease and desist letter -- and doesn't name the lawyers or even the recipient of the letter. The lawsuit doesn't cite the TMZ article, but also doesn't present any additional evidence of actual letters being sent (normally, you'd think it would be included as an exhibit if they had such a letter). Still, if such letters were actually sent, I imagine it won't be long until they're public.It's also odd, because this bit about the cease-and-desist letters comes in the same section as the discussion concerning the "application" that Fyre Festival has set up for people to ask for their money back. If you haven't heard, rather than just refunding the money, the Festival has asked people to "apply" for a possible "refund" providing little to no info on whether or not they're likely to get it. The lawsuit points out, reasonably, that while the festival promised refunds, asking people to apply and then providing no details or process is not quite the same thing as actually giving the refunds. And, most amusingly, the "application" has been mocked for encouraging people to accept passes to next year's Fyre Festival (which they insist will be a real thing) in lieu of a refund. Really:
If, somehow, you can't see that image, it shows one of the questions from the application (question 13 -- which raises a separate issue of just how many questions should you have to answer to get a freaking refund for a festival that didn't happen?!?) saying:
Would you prefer to exchange your 2017 ticket(s) for additional 2018 VIP passes, as opposed to receiving a refund (Ex: If you purchased 3 passes for 2017 you would receive 6 total 2018 VIP passes).As you likely know, we've been through the ringer on social media and this has been a challenging week for us as we were unable to realize our dream on the first try. We are now one of the world's most famous festivals, for all the wrong reasons. We want to reverse that sentiment by producing something amazing. We are fully committed to this event next year, and to producing it in the most professional way, with experienced professionals. We have received support and commitments from several musicians to perform at next year's event. We would be so thankful to have your support as well.
And then, the kicker: it provides two "options" for the recipient to choose from:
  • Yes, let it ride. I'd love to support you all in creating something amazing!
  • No, I'm not down for the adventure
  • I have so many questions just about this question. Like, how they'll be producing an event when they're buried under at least 6 lawsuits and possibly more. Or how they can promise it will be professionally run by like, real professionals, when it appears that none of that happened this time around. Or how they can promise that "several musicians" have "committed" to performing when all the musicians who similarly "committed" to perform at this year's event... didn't. The main guy behind all of this, McFarland, has claimed publicly that "currently 81% of guests who have filled out the refund application have said they would like to attend Fyre Festival 2018", which I think people should view with the level of credibility of the guy who promised a music festival on a private island with luxury lodging and fine dining, and left a bunch of wealthy people on a non-private island in relief tents with bread and cheese and no electricity.Either way, it's a little unclear if Fyre Festival is actually sending cease-and-desist letters, or if it's maybe a part of this crazy long refund application that suggests that Fyre Festival "will hold you accountable and responsible" for negative postings. But... whatever it is... threatening people for saying bad things about your non-existent and massively overhyped festival seems... unwise.And, reading through the various lawsuits and news reporting over this, it certainly seems that the number of "unwise" moves by the organizers of this event began long ago and kept piling up at a fairly astounding rate. The lawsuit includes a bunch of claims that appear to have originated in a NY Mag article by Chloe Gordon, who wrote that she was hired by Fyre Festival to help out, and that it was clear things would be a disaster months ago. Oddly (again), the lawsuit doesn't note that many of the claims in the lawsuit came from that article, but they do... including this astounding claim about a meeting six weeks before the event was supposed to take place:
    Meanwhile the event planners were holed up indoors putting together a game plan and a budget. With so little having been prepared ahead of time, the official verdict was that it would take $50 million to pull off. Planners also warned that it would be not be up to the standard they had advertised. The best idea, they said, would be to roll everyone's tickets over to 2018 and start planning for the next year immediately. They had a meeting with the Fyre execs to deliver the news. A guy from the marketing team said, Let's just do it and be legends, man.
    Yeah, so sending out threatening cease-and-desist letters as mentioned in the lawsuit is certainly within the realm of possibility.

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    Trusted Media Brands' Digital Video Study Unveiled at 2017 NewFronts

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    Study Reveals Social Platforms as the Preferred Digital Video Advertising Partner by Over 300 Industry Decision-Makers. At NewFronts, Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (TMBI) unveiled results from its newest study, Social Cracks the Digital Video Code, exploring the future of digital video. The study found that 68 percent of participants (a 12 percent increase from TMBI's [...]

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    Bethesda Trademark Bullying Results In Indie Game Adding A Whole Letter To Its Name, But Not Its Logo

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    One of the most infuriating aspects of typical trademark disputes is how often the dire nature of the supposed infringement is ratcheted up in the threat rhetoric, while the eventual settlement reached seems laughably inconsequential. Bethesda, which has built a reputation for itself in terms of trademark bullying over its video game franchises, has been an example of this sort of thing in the past. When it decided that it owned the term "scrolls" generally after trademarking its Elder Scrolls franchise, it launched a dispute with developer Mojang over its game which was titled Scrolls. Much was made about the potential for customer confusion, except the eventual settlement allowed Mojang to keep the name for its game. One wonders why such a settlement would be agreed to by Bethesda were its original assertions remotely accurate.But where Mojang's settlement was at least cut and dry, such is not the case with indie studio No Matter Studios. No Matter held a successful Kickstarter campaign for its game Prey for the Gods, but ran into trouble when it tried to trademark the name for its title.

    In a post mostly about updates made to the game following its successful Kickstarter, No Matter Studios also announce that the project will now be known as Praey for the Gods after Bethesda "chose to oppose our [trademark].""We could've fought this and we did think about it for quite a while", the statement says. "Something like a trademark opposition can be long and depending on how far someone wants to fight it can be very expensive. We didn't want to spend our precious Kickstarter funds, nor did we want to have to ask for additional funds to fight this in court."
    Instead of fighting, No Matter reached an agreement with Bethesda, and that agreement carries with it a hilariously meager name change for No Matter's game. Instead of calling it Prey for the Gods, it will instead be titled Praey for the Gods. A single lower-case "a", it seems, is all it took to satisfy Bethesda's hunger for trademark protection. I would submit to you, dear readers, that any potential customer confusion is unlikely to be alleviated by that single character.Particularly when No Matter is allowed to keep the original name in its logo for the game.
    "While we disagree with their opposition we were able to come to an agreement", No Matter say. That agreement means that they can continue to use a logo that says Prey For The Gods, with a stylised "e" that's actually the silhouette of a woman praying, but must use Praey for the Gods every time the game's name is written.
    And that might actually be confusing, but not in any way that points gamers to Bethesda. For the name of the game and its logo to be different is going to strike everyone as odd, all while the actual name change rings as wholly inconsequential.I'm not sure what kind of billable hours get generated for this sort of thing, but I give Bethesda's lawyers an A for effort when it comes to justifying the timecard.

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    This Makes No Sense: US To Ban Laptops On All Flights From Europe

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    Earlier this year we wrote about the nonsensical move by the Department of Homeland Security to ban laptops and tablets in the cabin on flights from a bunch of cities in the Middle East. The rumored reason was discoveries that terrorists had learned how to make bombs out of laptops. As we noted, this made almost no sense at all when you challenged any of the assumptions. But, never let logic and reason get in the way of a bit of inane security theater. Because now Homeland Security is about to announce that it's now banning laptops in the cabins on all flights from Europe (it's unclear if this will also apply on flights from the US to Europe, but it seems likely that European airports will reciprocate).While this does answer one of the questions raised by the original ban ("why won't potential terrorists just fly out of other countries?") it still raises a host of other questions. Again: why won't this apply to flights from other countries? Or domestic flights? Or all flights? But, really, that just raises an even larger issue, which is that if you want to protect 100% of all flights 100% of the time from ever having a problem in which people might die, the answer is ground all flights and never let anyone fly anywhere ever. Problem solved. Of course, the cost of such a solution would be horrendous -- which is why we don't do it. But that's the key issue: all of these things involve tradeoffs. All too frequently, it appears that government officials -- especially those on the national security side of things -- don't care at all about the tradeoffs. They just care about blocking any possible attack no matter how unlikely or how remote the chance of such an attack might be, and without any consideration of the costs and inconveniences to everyone else. And, yes, it's reasonable to point out that a single attack would be very, very costly as well. And there's clearly a reason to protect heavily against attacks. But there's still a balance.And there must be a better solution. If laptops are a risk factor, it's difficult to see how putting them in the cargo hold -- where there's no one to stop a fire -- is a better solution. Hell, most current airline rules require passengers to store all lithium ion batteries in carry-on luggage for exactly that reason. Putting them all in the hold would seem to increase the risk of accidental explosions and fires that might cause just as much, if not more, damage. And, of course, forcing people to give up their laptops has a secondary (but very serious) problem: for anyone traveling with sensitive information (lawyers, doctors, reporters, business execs, public officials, etc.) giving up your laptop is a massive security risk.In other words, the "cost" of this solution is ridiculously high for a very large number of people, for whom flying to or from Europe has just become a massive inconvenience and tremendously problematic to justify given the personal risk. And for what? Vague and unclear threats about "possible" exploding laptops? I'm sure that no one wants to be on a flight with a laptop that will explode (whether on purpose or not), but there has to be a better way to tackle the problem than doing a blanket ban on laptops in the cabin. And, yes, perhaps this sounds like saying nerd harder back to Homeland Security, but this is a case where there clearly are more reasonable tradeoffs that can and should be explored, well short of inconveniencing everyone and creating a very different (but very serious) kind of security threat by forcing people to give up their laptops.

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    Trump Fires FBI Director Comey

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    So... not quite sure what to make of this yet, but according to the NY Times, just a little while ago, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey (of course, just after our podcast came out talking about how Comey seemed to be hopeful the Trump administration would approve his encryption backdoor plans).

    While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau, Mr. Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mr. Comey.It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission, Mr. Trump wrote.
    The full letter is... even more crazy:
    If you can't read that, it says:
    Dear Director Comey:I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.Donald J. Trump
    I'm not sure why it even bothers to mention that Trump himself is not a target of an investigation (or that Comey told him that three times). It's already known that the wider administration is subject to an investigation, and even if you don't believe that such an investigation will turn up anything, it's still happening. At the very least, this should call into question whether or not there can effectively be any investigation into the administration that won't involve meddling by the administration. That alone should be a big concern.I don't think we've ever said anything particularly supportive of Comey, who we've disagreed with on a large range of issues, but it's difficult to see how this is going to be a good thing. It's already been admitted that the FBI was investigating potential ties between Russia and the administration. Whether or not that investigation had anything at all to do with the firing, there's no way to spin this that looks good.Yes, the President has the power to fire the head of the FBI... but when that FBI was conducting an independent investigation of the President, any such firing is clearly going to be seen as politically motivated. And, yes, it's important to note that this is NOT entirely unprecedented. President Clinton fired FBI director William Sessions soon after taking office as well, though there wasn't the stench of an FBI investigation into the President going around at the time. If anything, the comparison that seems slightly more apt that people are making is to Archibald Cox, the independent special prosecutor that Richard Nixon fired, leading to the resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General (contrast that to today's news, where it was those two roles who recommended this firing...).Comey was not a particularly good FBI director, and we've covered numerous problems with his leadership. But that doesn't mean that whoever replaces him won't be even worse.

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    Mobile Ad Fraud: A Revealing TUNE Report

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    John Koetsier, Mobile Economist at TUNE, has written very revealing report: Mobile Ad Fraud–What 24 Billion Clicks on 700 Ad Networks Reveal. “There is still a tremendous amount of fraud in the mobile advertising ecosystem in spite of massive ongoing efforts by multiple companies to eliminate it,” says Koetsier (pictured left). “The problem is pervasive [...]

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    Half Of NBA Teams Jump Into The NBA's New eSports NBA2K League, FIFA League To Start Soon

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    With eSports exploding into a legitimate spectator event, both for in-person viewership and televised events, it was only a matter of time before professional sports leagues got in on the act. As it has been on so many things, the NBA became the first American league to announce it was creating its own eSports league, partnering with Take-Two Interactive and its NBA2K series to power its sponsored competition. When commissioner Adam Silver announced all of this in February, however, he was speaking for the league, but not the individual teams that make up that league. Asked at the time what he expected the participation level to be from individual teams, he said he expected about half to jump into this.It turns out that projection was pretty much spot on, as 17 NBA teams ave officially agreed to participate in the league, lending their jerseys and branding to the games. Also released were some details about how the league will operate and how the games will be conducted.

    The league will draft teams of five players to compete in a five-month season, which will mirror the NBA with a regular season, bracketed playoffs, and a final championship match to wrap it all up. Players will create their own avatars for competition, so no one will be using avatars of the recognizable basketball stars that appear in NBA 2K, like LeBron James or Kyrie Irving.
    The Chicago Bulls are not among the teams participating, because the universe hates me and takes every opportunity to make me unhappy. That aside, the NBA's monopoly on a pro-league-backed eSports league will be short lived. In Europe, a FIFA eSports league is already in the works, with several European clubs buying in.
    Netherlands’ Eredivisie, the country's highest soccer league, will launch its own esports league, the organization announced earlier today. All 18 clubs, among them the “Big Three” (Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord) will participate in the league. The “E-Divisie” launched in association with EA SPORTS and Endemol Shine Netherlands, a TV production company.
    You should expect the other major pro sports leagues to follow suit very, very quickly. As eSports begins to stretch its legs and expand its reach, these leagues are going to want to get in on what the NBA and soccer clubs are doing. And with major broadcast partners like ESPN bringing the product to the market, hopefully with all the polish and production one would expect of them, it's likely eSports growing popularity is about to explode.

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    Origami Logic Pushes Marketing Performance Into the Post-Dashboard Era

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    Marketing Performance Measurement Platform Accelerates Time-to-Insight with New AI-Enabled Capabilities. Origami Logic announced the Spring 2017 release of its marketing performance measurement platform. Innovative new capabilities, including the introduction of a mobile app, Origami Stories, Automated Insights Engine and Origami Workbench, change how marketing insights are generated and consumed by analysts and brand teams. The [...]

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    Thunder Announces Technology Partnership with Kepler Group to Advance Programmatic Creative

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    Thunder, a Creative Management Platform (CMP), announced a technology partnership with Kepler Group that will connect Thunder and Kepler’s platforms, enabling marketers to execute highly personalized creative campaigns at unprecedented speed and scale across channels, while also providing a new level of data insight currently unavailable from ad servers. Thanks to the partnership, marketers will [...]

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    House Subcommittee Passes Police-Protecting 'Thin Blue Line' Bill

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    There's no shortage of existing laws protecting law enforcement officers. So, of course, there's no shortage of new legislation being introduced to further protect a well-protected subset of government employees. Using a nonexistent "War on Cops" as impetus, legislators all over the nation are submitting bills designed to make harming a cop more of a crime than harming anyone else.This isn't just happening at the state level. Last year, Colorado representative Ken Buck introduced a federal "Blue Lives Matter" law, which would have turned attacks on cops into "hate crimes." The bill is a ridiculous extension of protection to officers who aren't in any more danger than they were a decade ago, histrionic statements by various federal officials notwithstanding.Buck's bill has gone nowhere in the last year. It's been sitting in a House subcommittee since April of last year. But one bill's failure doesn't predict the future performance of similar legislation. As Reason's C.J. Ciaramella reports, a similar bill -- Florida rep Vern Buchanan's "Thin Blue Line Act" -- has cleared the House Judiciary Committee.

    The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Thursday, the Thin Blue Line Act, by a 19-12 vote that would make the killing of a state or local law enforcement officer during the commission of a federal crime an aggravating factor for juries to consider when weighing a death penalty sentence.
    All well and good, I suppose, although the bill is pretty much a carbon copy of Florida rep David Jolly's 2015 proposal, right down to the bill's name. Like Rep. Buck's bill, Jolly's made it as far as a committee referral before stalling out. Buchanan's bill, however, now has a greatly increased chance of being pushed towards the President's desk.But to what end, asks Ciaramella? The law apparently does nothing more than signal supporters' cop-supporting virtue.
    The legislation would be largely symbolic. Federal death penalty cases are exceedingly rare, and executions at the federal level are even rarer. The last federal execution took place in 2001, when Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing. Most homicide cases are prosecuted by states.
    Congressman Bob Goodlatte seems to feel the bill will be most useful when deployed in terrorism cases, but otherwise admits practical applications will be few and far between. The bill has support from police unions but, more importantly, it certainly has the support of the DOJ and the President. This bill caters to Trump's "law and order" push and does a fair amount of sucking up to Attorney General Sessions himself.
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced similar legislation in 2015, when he was a U.S. senator, saying "the alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped..."
    The "alarming spike in violence" Sessions was apparently referring to was the increase of police killed in the line of duty by one over 2014's total of 122… which itself was below the average for the preceding ten years (~150 per year).The bill's being tossed into a pretty receptive Congress. It won't really need the support of powerful police unions, though -- not when the head of the DOJ has previously expressed his legislative desire to give cops even more protection.

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    China's New Online Encyclopedia Aims To Surpass Wikipedia, And To 'Guide And Lead' The Public

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    China has a long history of producing encyclopedias that goes back thousands of years. One of the most famous works is the fifteenth-century Yongle encyclopedia, which had over 15,000 volumes, and is still the largest paper-based general encyclopedia ever created. More recently, the main publication in this field was the Encyclopedia of China, whose first edition had 74 volumes. Later, CD-ROM and online versions were added. The third edition has just been announced, and although it is not quite on the scale of the Yongle encyclopedia, it is ambitious in its scope:

    The third edition of the Chinese Encyclopaedia is currently China's largest publication project, with more than 20,000 authors from universities and research institutes contributing to articles in more than 100 disciplines.Designed to be the nation's first digital book of "everything", it will feature more than 300,000 entries, each about 1,000 words long, making it twice as large as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and about the same size as the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia.
    As the article in the South China Morning Post notes, access to Wikipedia is patchy in China. Most of the uncontroversial articles can be read, but searches for sensitive keywords such as "Dalai Lama" and even "Xi Jinping," have a habit of timing out. The new project is clearly designed to steer people towards safer opinions:
    "The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture," Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project and the chairman of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, told senior scientists at a meeting at the headquarters of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing on April 12, according to a report on the academy's website the next day....Yang told the meeting China was under international pressure and felt an urgent need to produce its own encyclopaedia to "guide and lead the public and society".
    Speaking of Wikipedia, Yang went on:
    "The readers regarded it to be authoritative, accurate, and it branded itself as a 'free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit', which is quite bewitching," he wrote. "But we have the biggest, most high-quality author team in the world ... our goal is not to catch up, but overtake."
    China certainly has the resources to complete this huge project by 2018, its planned launch date. And once those 300,000 entries are available to "guide and lead the public," it's hard not to think that accessing the rival Wikipedia will be made so hard that most people will give up trying, and stick with the new Chinese Encyclopedia. At that point, the Chinese authorities will indeed have created a "Great Wall of culture" to complement that Great Firewall of China, both designed to keep out all those inconvenient ideas.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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    This Week In Techdirt History: April 30th - May 6th

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    Five Years AgoThis week in 2012 the USTR, as it does every year, released its ridiculous Special 301 list of naughty countries, right around the same time that Chris Dodd was rewriting Hollywood history to thank IP laws for all of it. The UK was doing its part to stay off the list, apparently, with the High Court ordering The Pirate Bay to be blocked (and, of course, driving record traffic to the site). Techdirt friend Dan Bull — an artist whose single had just hit the charts with the help of piracy — shared his thoughts on the block with a guest post.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2007 started the same way: with a silly Special 301 "watch list". The Pirate Bay was just beginning its growth as a political movement, and the author of a major UK copyright report was admitting that the evidence supports shortening copyright terms. The folks behind AACS, the new copyright protection scheme for DVDs, were learning all about the Streisand Effect in their attempt to suppress information about the technology — and also giving the Digg community a chance to demonstrate its control over the site. Meanwhile, the Google/Viacom lawsuit was moving slowly forward, and the UK's Premier League was getting in on the action.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2002, record labels were still excitedly announcing lacklustre digital music services, online radio stations were protesting onerous fees, and the new Eminem album was gearing up to be the largest copy-protected release to date. Deep linking reared its head again as a legal issue, online scams were going strong (and working as decent retirement plans for some, it seemed) and the crazy new idea of phones with WiFi was just on the horizon.Eight-Hundred And Two Years AgoToday we look back on the Magna Carta as a pivotal moment in the history of law (or just as an archetypal piece of general knowledge trivia), but at the time it was a stopgap solution in the midst of a political dispute between King John of England and some rebellious Barons. An important milestone in that dispute came on May 3rd, 1215 when the rebels officially declared against the King and issued their legal demands.

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    Chatmeter's AI Tech & Research; Zeta Global Raises $140 Million; and much more

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    New AI Technology and Research from Chatmeter Confirms Brands Build Consumer Trust with Reviews. Chatmeter launches Pulse, providing insights from online customer reviews to improve operations and customer experiences at their locations, resulting in greater loyalty and trust Chatmeter,https://www.chatmeter.com/blog a local search marketing and review management company, revealed new research proving the trustworthiness of online [...]

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    Navigating the Flash to HTML5 Technology Transition

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    As we have heard numerous times in the past, Flash is on the way out the door, to be replaced by HTML5. There are some of you who will hear that and say “that already happened” and others who will say “I’ve heard that before, but I’ve yet to see it.” You are both right. [...]

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    How Moral Panics Can Turn Into Therapeutic Tools: The Dungeons And Dragons Edition

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    It seems there must be something in our human DNA, something that hasn't been filtered out over the generations, that causes the masses to engage in moral panics. When you peruse our previous posts about moral panics new and old, it highlights how laughably absurd they tend to be. Specifically, if past is prologue, you get a fair understanding of how our current moral panics will be viewed in the future, as we laugh now at the consternation caused by such demons as telephones, comic books, chess, and pencils. And that laughter causes no pause about the current moral panics surrounding social media, certain forms of music, and video games.Sandwiched in between antiquity and modernity is Dungeons & Dragons, the popular tabletop role playing game that experienced its own moral panic decades ago, but which has since risen dramatically in popularity. This game, once thought by parents to create potential Satan worshipers out of their little darling children, has already been pushed as a fantastic starting point for would-be creative writers. More recently, however, therapists have begun using the game as a therapeutic tool in sessions with patients. Adam Davis runs one of these groups using D&D in therapy, called the Wheelhouse Workshop, and details one story in which he uses the game as a therapy tool.

    Davis, who runs Wheelhouse Workshop out of an office in a large, brick arts building in Seattle, is used to seeing sides of kids that don't usually come out in school. He, along with co-founder Adam Johns, designs D&D games that are less like hack-and-slash dungeon-crawls and more like therapy with dragons. In D&D's Forgotten Realms world, the kids' psyches run amok. Earlier this month, over the phone, Davis told me about Frank (not his real name), a tall, lanky teenager who barely spoke above a whisper. In school, he tended to sit with his feet in front of his face, so no one could really see him. He hated to take up space. After his parents and teachers noticed that his body language seemed a little stand-offish to peers, they enrolled him in Wheelhouse Workshop."The character he chose was a dwarf barbarian," Davis recalled. "He was really loud and bumbling and unapologetic. It was a really obvious opportunity for this kid to play with qualities other than his." Adam had Frank sit like his character, spreading his legs apart and slamming his elbows onto the table. In dwarf-barbarian mode, Frank could experiment with new modes of relating to others.
    In the link, there are other examples of other groups using D&D in therapy sessions, and it becomes instantly obvious why it's such a valuable tool. Letting kids play the game to work out real life issues, or work on modes of interaction and socialization, is what every tabletop RPG session is to some extent. But for those whose interactions aren't merely escape from reality, but a way to work on their real life interactions, the lessons learned in the game can be profound. Therapists have always used role-playing in therapy sessions, of course, but allowing for an in-game narrative filled with social interaction and potential consequences adds a new layer. When the therapists explaining why they use the game as a tool in this way talk about the benefits, it will likely sound familiar to what the proponents of more recent moral panic targets have to say on the subject.
    Because D&D is inherently cooperative and escapist, it urges players to re-imagine the ways they interact with peers. And because each player has their own specialty, like communicating with dragons, they'll have their moment to feel valuable in a group setting.At worst, kids who are socially isolated can enjoy hacking up some goblins after a crappy school day. "For someone who never leaves their house except for school, to have a peer say, 'I need your help picking a lock' makes a huge difference," Johns told me.
    That sure sounds like someone describing interactive multiplayer video games to me, among other things. The point to understand here is that thirty or forty years ago this game was absolutely vilified. Unfairly so, by a public too willing to buy into fears about something they didn't understand and a media environment happy to whip that fear into a fervor. No part of that equation has changed saved for the target of the moral panic du jour. Hell, we've already heard of things like video games and other technology being used in therapy sessions, yet what percentage of parents polled today would have negative things to say about those games?If moral panics are in our DNA, or perhaps merely in our social fabric, we need more people to have a greater understanding of how often these panics melt away and the benefits of the thing feared are then realized. Maybe then we can at least muffle these types of moral panics.

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    US Entertainment Firm Milks Croatian Concert Promoter With Trademark Rights It May Never Have Owned

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    We see all kinds of dumb and frustrating examples of trademark bullying here at Techdirt. From questionable claims of infringement entirely, to the over-policing of broad or generic terms that never should have been granted trademark protection to begin with, to vice-like licensing terms that appear to be designed more to put licensees out of business rather than building any kind of long-term business model out of trademark rights. That said, at least in most of these stories the offending party has the trademark its bullying with. That may not be the case when it comes to Worldwide Entertainment Group Inc., which is being sued by a Coatian festival promoter after being milked over a trademark the promoter says Worldwide doesn't actually have.

    In a federal complaint filed in Miami, plaintiff Adria MM Productions Ltd. says it has been the exclusive promoter of “Ultra Europe” and other “Ultra”-branded events since July 2013. It claims the inaugural electronic music festival attracted 100,000 fans, and that the audience has grown with each successive event. The defendant Worldwide Entertainment Group Inc., also identified as “Ultra” in the complaint, is the organizer and promoter of the Ultra Music Festival that takes place every year in Miami.The complaint says Ultra entered into various licensing agreements to grow its brand around the world, and sought out AMM ” because AMM is one of the largest promotion companies in Croatia and holds exclusive licenses and rights to venues in Croatia and was a successful promoter of musical events in Croatia.” AMM says that Ultra made it believe that it owned the mark “Ultra Europe,” and the five-year licensing agreement required it to pay the defendant licensing and promotional fees for the use of its proprietary marks in Europe.
    From there, the complaint details just how Worldwide put the squeeze on AMM through its evolving licensing terms, which only evolved in the direction of higher fees and more control for Worldwide. And the restrictions were fairly intense, including giving Worldwide the right to approve vendors at AMM festivals, providing for exhorbitant arrangements for Worldwide staff, and adding on fee after fee. All of this was, mind you, while AMM was entirely responsible for putting these concert events on. All Worldwide was doing was licensing the term "ultra" for these festivals. Because of all of this, AMM was losing money on its events.When the original five-year licensing agreement expired, Worldwide demanded even more from AMM in a new five-year agreement. AMM attempted to negotiate, but Worldwide instead pulled the plug and cut AMM off from email and social media channels for the European events, prohibited AMM from promoting the 2017 festival in Croatia, and even sent a notice of default to AMM saying that it had breached the two companies' original agreement.Then, this.
    AMM says that at that time it discovered that Ultra didn’t have any rights over proprietary marks in Europe, specifically in Croatia.
    Damn. Specifically, the complaint states that Worldwide "held no trademark rights in Europe and, specifically, Croatia at the time it entered into the agreement with AMM." If that ends up being proven, it's difficult to see how Worlwide isn't in an absolute bucket of trouble. It's one thing to bully and squeeze a licensee over a valid trademark, but to do all of this and not even own the rights that are the basis for the licensing agreement to begin with? That's all kinds of evil.

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    The Programmatic Explosion-What's The Story Behind the Boom

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    eMarketer has released their latest estimates delving into the percentage increase and overall spending (nearly $33 billion) that advertisers will allocate for programmatic ads during 2017. George Levin, co-founder and CEO of GetIntent looks at the programmatic ecosystem and why programmatic, especially video, is growing at such an astonishing rate. Q: What is the difference [...]

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    Sad Raiders Fans Fail To Keep Team In Oakland By Squatting On Trademark

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    It was way back in the early part of 2016 that the rumors came out that the Oakland Raiders football team would be moving to a new home city. Fans were understandably upset and voiced their displeasure in a variety of ways, but the dumbest of those ways certainly must have been Lane Blue's attempt to trademark the team name in conjunction with all of the different potential landing cities the team was rumored to be moving to, including the "Las Vegas Raiders." Lane wasn't the only sad Raiders fan to attempt this, it seems, as we now see reporting on his and other trademark applications being denied for obvious reasons.

    Lane Blue, an air-freight company owner from Fresno, Calif., said that he applied for the trademark in an effort to stop the Raiders from relocating to Las Vegas."If I own the trademark that’s worth possibly millions of dollars, maybe I can talk them into staying," Blue said, per KCBS.Blue's application was denied, as is likely with everyone else who applied for the trademark.
    The reason for the denial is that trademarks must be used in commerce in order to be valid. Trolling your favorite NFL team in order to prevent it from moving cities is not, as best as I can tell, a form of commerce. Instead, it's a form of being a mere annoyance to both that team and the Trademark Office. These squatting attempts, motivated either by fandom or attempts at a quick cash-grab, almost never work.
    "These people think they’re going to cash in, and 99.9 percent of the time, they’re wrong," sports-trademark attorney Patrick Jennings said, per KCBS. "For a trademark lawyer, it doesn’t take much effort to knock those (applications) out separate from the patent and trademark office."The only effect these applications are likely to have on the Raiders is a delay on them receiving the trademark. That could still be damaging, though, as knock-off "Las Vegas Raiders" gear is already flooding the marketplace.
    And that's supremely unfair for the Raiders ownership to have to spend the time and capital slapping these applications down. Meanwhile, of course, the Trademark Office is collecting the application fees from members of the public who somehow think a trademark application will bend an NFL team to its knees. Sorry, Raiders fans and get-rich-quick people, it isn't going to work.

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    Atlus Loosens Streaming Restrictions For Persona 5, Still Has In-Game Checkpoints For Streaming Rules

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    Recently, we discussed an odd post by the American division of Atlus, the company behind the recently released game Persona 5. The post basically outlined restrictions on streaming the game in the popular "let's play" format. Those restrictions were pretty clearly geared towards keeping spoilers for the game's stories off of the internet, with indications that discussing or streaming game content that occur after an in-game date was verbotten. The post was also couched in threats for DMCA notices, which is odd because spoilers aren't what copyright law was designed to combat. The public backlash was fairly uniform, with Atlus coming out not looking particularly good as a result.It took a while, but Atlus has finally responded. While it positions this response as a loosening of the restrictions on streaming, it still keeps all of the worst aspects of the original restrictions in place.

    On Tuesday Atlus announced that they will allow players to stream or post videos from up until the in-game date of November 19, just before the story's final act. The post wrote it was in response to "numerous reactive news articles," opinion videos and "many emails" asking them to loosen the restrictions."We also want to apologize to those of you who saw the previous guidelines as threatening," Atlus wrote. "It was never our intention to threaten people with copyright strikes, but we clearly chose the wrong tone for how to communicate this."
    That last bit is more than laughable. Here is the original text that from the first set of restrictions that caused concern among streamers that they would be hit with copyright strikes.
    This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it. Sharing is currently blocked through the native PS4 UI. However, if you do plan on streaming, video guidelines above apply except length. If you decide to stream past 7/7 (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NOT DOING THIS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED), you do so at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension.
    That seems pretty clearly to be a threat of copyright or DMCA notices if the rules aren't followed. As for the loosening of the restrictions on streaming, Altus essentially just pushed back the in-game checkpoint in the rules. Instead of prohibitions on streaming content beginning at the in-game date of 7/7, it now begins at 10/19. And if that following sentence doesn't read as purely absurd to you, then you need some help getting your mind calibrated.There is value in having fans stream games in let's play videos. This has been demonstrated repeatedly. Either Atlus buys into that or it doesn't. Straddling the line in the name of saving fans from spoilers, even after it has moved that line, isn't good enough. Restrict streaming. Or don't. Pick a lane, in other words, rather than trying to build guidelines based on in-game dates. That simply makes no sense.

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    New AI Technology & Research from Chatmeter; Jeremiah Rosen, CRO for Media Storm; Zeta Global Raises $140 Million; Shankar Venkataraman, Sr.VP Eng., Anna Luo VP CIM at Jivox

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    New AI Technology and Research from Chatmeter Confirms Brands Build Consumer Trust with Reviews. Chatmeter launches Pulse, providing insights from online customer reviews to improve operations and customer experiences at their locations, resulting in greater loyalty and trust Chatmeter,https://www.chatmeter.com/blog a local search marketing and review management company, revealed new research proving the trustworthiness of online [...]

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    Mounting Privacy Problems In Europe For Facebook's Acquisition Of WhatsApp

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    When it comes to online privacy, the European data protection authorities tend to be quite interventionist as they try to police the movement of personal data within and out of the EU. The concerns over the Safe Harbor and Privacy Shield frameworks are one manifestation of this. Another is the increasing EU scrutiny of Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp.A couple of years after Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the latter announced that it was updating its terms and privacy policy so as to allow user data to be transferred to its parent company. Johannes Caspar, the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Hamburg, where Facebook has its German headquarters, was unhappy with that move. He saw it as harmful to users' privacy, not least because there was no way to opt out of the data sharing. In September last year, he ordered Facebook to stop collecting data from WhatsApp, and to delete anything it had already brought across. Facebook appealed against the decision, and the Administrative Court of Hamburg has now handed down its ruling, which is to deny the US giant's request for Caspar's order to be revoked (pdf):

    Facebook has appealed to the administrative court against the order in the preliminary proceedings. The goal was to repeal the immediate enforcement. The court rejected this request today and clarified the fact that it does not see any legal basis for the planned data exchange. Facebook can not invoke interests of its own business because the complete data exchange is neither necessary for the purpose of network security or business analysis nor for advertising optimization. Furthermore, the court clarifies that there is no effective consent from WhatsApp users for a data exchange with Facebook. As a result, the administrative court is making a clear consideration in the context of the preliminary legal proceedings: the interests of the approximately 35 million German WhatsApp users predominates the economic interest of Facebook in a suspension of immediate enforceability.
    That's not the only problem Facebook faces in Europe. A little while after WhatsApp announced that it would be consolidating its user data with Facebook, the European Commission sent what is called a "Statement of Objections" to Facebook, alleging that:
    the company provided incorrect or misleading information during the Commission's 2014 investigation under the EU Merger Regulation of Facebook's planned acquisition of WhatsApp.
    The problem is that:
    When reviewing Facebook's planned acquisition of WhatsApp, the Commission looked, among other elements, at the possibility of Facebook matching its users' accounts with WhatsApp users' accounts. In its notification of the transaction in August 2014 and in a reply to a request of information, Facebook indicated to the Commission that it would be unable to establish reliable automated matching between the two companies' user accounts.
    Once WhatsApp and Facebook started carrying out precisely that kind of automated data matching last year, the Commission naturally wondered whether Facebook had been totally frank in its answers. The company had until January 31 to explain itself, and the Commission is now deciding whether it feels it was given misleading information. If it does, the consequences may be quite costly. Under EU law, Facebook could be fined 1% of its global turnover -- which would amount to around $179 million based on 2015 revenues. On its own, that probably wouldn't be too much of a problem for the deep-pocketed company. But combined with the ruling in Germany, and the possibility that data protection authorities in other countries will follow suit -- the law is the same throughout the EU, after all -- these European concerns about privacy are turning into a major a headache for Facebook.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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    At Senate Hearing, Comey Hints At Expanded NSL Powers And Encryption Backdoors

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    James Comey testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today where he faced an oddly-unified bipartisan group of senators irritated with the FBI (but for different reasons). Most senators took a large amount of the their time during the first round of questions to not actually ask questions, but to express their displeasure with the Clinton email investigation and the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation.The opening statements varied depending on the party of the senator addressing James Comey. Comey had very few answers about various Trump-related investigations (which are still ongoing), but made the most of his opening statement by dodging the questions and making a sales pitch for the renewal of Section 702 -- the statute permitting the NSA's internet data/communications collection the FBI makes frequent use of.According to Comey, the 702 collection is essential to national security. Possibly true. But not so essential that concerns about Fourth Amendment violations should be swept aside. This was only one of the sales pitches Comey managed to squeeze in during questioning.He also touched on a couple of other issues worth noting. Both involve legislation. After pitching a clean Section 702 renewal, Comey spent some time talking around the subject of backdoor 702 searches, noting that "all courts" have found the FBI's secondhand domestic surveillance lawful… without specifying the only court to really reach this conclusion is the FISA Court. And this court also found the NSA had abused its collection repeatedly. This court also approved zero 702 applications in 2016 and the NSA itself has shut down part of its upstream collection because it kept grabbing too many communications from US persons.This shutdown will affect the FBI's backdoor searches. Comey, of course, didn't refer to them as backdoor searches, but did make it clear the FBI would be ever so pleased if Section 702 was renewed with a minimum of legislator interference.The FBI's own collection efforts were a concern to Comey as well. Comey continued his misrepresentation of the statutes governing what the FBI can collect with National Security Letters. According to the FBI director, the only thing standing between what the FBI can legally get with NSLs (subscriber info and billing records) and what it wants (a very long list of things, including web history and geolocation data) is a "typo." Not sure which part of the statute contains the typo, but Comey claimed to be able to channel the intent of legislators who passed it back in 1986.Not that the lack of statutory authority has prevented the FBI from demanding more than it's supposed to get. An NSL published by Yahoo contained a much longer list of requested data than is permissible under the law. Comey expressed his desire to have Congress take another look at the statute and see if it doesn't agree with Comey's assessment.The other legislative issue near and dear to Comey's heart was addressed a bit more obliquely, but managed to make it clear the current administration would be far more sympathetic to Comey's other backdoor plan. Both Sen. Orin Hatch and Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke favorably about encryption backdoors. Comey noted the Obama Administration wasn't interested in passing bills containing encryption bans or backdoors, but the new team in the White House has possibly expressed an interest in doing just that.

    The Obama administration was not in a position where they were seeking legislation. I don't know yet how President Trump intends to approach this. I know he spoke about it during the campaign, I know he cares about it, but it's premature for me to say.
    There were a lot of things that Comey wouldn't say. Many things he wouldn't confirm or deny in an open hearing. But he let us know he's still pushing encryption legislation, even if he's opted for more of a soft sell in recent months.Generally speaking, the hearing ended up being more about how the FBI plans to continue expanding its power and decreasing civil liberties. Comey wants a clean 702 reauth, even with the NSA shutting down part of the collection because it can't comply with the law otherwise. He wants legislators to hand him greater NSL powers, even though the FBI's history of NSL abuse is well-documented. And he still wants the government to solve his "going dark" problem, even though the problem has been greatly exaggerated and no amount of harder nerding is going to generate a safe, government-only backdoor in encryption.

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    Personal Security Takes A Hit With Public Release Of NSA's Hacking Toolkit

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    Former members of Team Espionage recently expressed their concern that the Shadow Brokers' dump of NSA Windows exploits had done serious damage to the security of the nation. The unwanted exposure of NSA power tools supposedly harmed intelligence gathering efforts, even though the tools targeted outdated operating systems and network software.However, there are still plenty of computers and networks online using outmoded software. This makes the released exploits a threat (especially those targeting XP users, as that version will never be patched). But not much of a threat to national security, despite the comments of anonymous former Intelligence Community members. It makes them a threat to personal security, as Chris Bing at CyberScoop points out:

    One of these hacking tools, a backdoor implant codenamed DOUBLEPULSAR — which is used to run malicious code on an already compromised box — has already been installed on 30,000 to 50,000 hosts, according to Phobos Group founder Dan Tentler. Other researchers have also engineered different detection scripts to quickly scan the internet for infected computers.John Matherly, the CEO of internet scanning-tool maker Shodan.io, said that upwards of 100,000 computers could be affected.
    Rather surprisingly, data gathered by security researchers shows a majority of the infected computers are in the United States. This shows Microsoft's steady updating push still faces a sizable resistance right here at home. What it also shows is how fast exploits can be repurposed and redeployed once they're made public. The scans for DOUBLEPULSAR have turned up thousands of hits worldwide.DOUBLEPULSAR is simply a backdoor, but an extremely handy one. Once installed, it makes targeted computers extremely receptive to further malware payloads.
    “The presence of DOUBLEPULSAR doesn’t mean they’re infected by the NSA, it means there is a loading dock ready and waiting for whatever malware anyone wants to give it,” Tentler said. “The chances are none that all theses hosts [were hacked by] the NSA.
    So, there's that small bit of comfort. It's not the NSA nosing around the innards of your Windows box, but a bunch of script kiddies playing with new toys… adding them to the normal rolls of malware purveyors seeking to zombify your device and/or make off with whatever information is needed to open fraudulent credit card accounts or whatever.The NSA certainly could have informed Microsoft of these exploits before it ended support for certain platforms, thus ensuring late- (or never-) adopters were slightly more protected from malware merchants and state agencies. But that's the Vulnerabilities Equity Process for you: no forewarning until a third party threatens to turn your computing weapons over to the general public.

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    New Tools Allow Voice Patterns To Be Cloned To Produce Realistic But Fake Sounds Of Anyone Saying Anything

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    Fake images, often produced using sophisticated software like Photoshop or the GIMP, were around long before so-called "fake news" became an issue. They are part and parcel of the Internet's fast-moving creative culture, and a trap for anyone that passes on striking images without checking their provenance or plausibility. Until now, this kind of artful manipulation has been limited to the visual sphere. But a new generation of tools will soon allow entire voice patterns to be cloned from relatively small samples with increasing fidelity such that it can be hard to spot they are fake. For example, in November last year, the Verge wrote about Adobe's Project VoCo:

    "When recording voiceovers, dialog, and narration, people would often like to change or insert a word or a few words due to either a mistake they made or simply because they would like to change part of the narrative," reads an official Adobe statement. "We have developed a technology called Project VoCo in which you can simply type in the word or words that you would like to change or insert into the voiceover. The algorithm does the rest and makes it sound like the original speaker said those words."
    Since then, things have moved on apace. Last week, the Economist wrote about the French company CandyVoice:
    Utter 160 or so French or English phrases into a phone app developed by CandyVoice, a new Parisian company, and the app's software will reassemble tiny slices of those sounds to enunciate, in a plausible simulacrum of your own dulcet tones, whatever typed words it is subsequently fed. In effect, the app has cloned your voice.
    The Montreal company Lyrebird has a page full of fascinating demos of its own voice cloning technology, which requires even less in the way of samples:
    Lyrebird will offer an API to copy the voice of anyone. It will need as little as one minute of audio recording of a speaker to compute a unique key defining her/his voice. This key will then allow to generate anything from its corresponding voice. The API will be robust enough to learn from noisy recordings. The following sample illustrates this feature, the samples are not cherry-picked.Please note that those are artificial voices and they do not convey the opinions of Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
    As Techdirt readers will have spotted, this technical development raises big ethical questions, articulated here by Lyrebird:
    Voice recordings are currently considered as strong pieces of evidence in our societies and in particular in jurisdictions of many countries. Our technology questions the validity of such evidence as it allows to easily manipulate audio recordings. This could potentially have dangerous consequences such as misleading diplomats, fraud and more generally any other problem caused by stealing the identity of someone else.
    The Economist quantifies the problem. According to its article, voice-biometrics software similar to the kind deployed by many banks to block unauthorized access to accounts was fooled 80% of the time in tests using the new technology. Humans didn't do much better, only spotting that a voice had been cloned 50% of the time. And remember, these figures are for today's technologies. As algorithms improve, and Moore's Law kicks in, it's not unreasonable to think that it will become almost impossible to tell by ear whether the voice you hear is the real thing, or a version generated using the latest cloning technology.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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    Chris Dodd 'Stepping Down' From MPAA

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    It appears that Chris Dodd's reign atop the MPAA is coming to an end. As you may recall, he took the job in 2011 to become the head of the MPAA -- directly contrasting a statement he'd made just months earlier that he'd never become a lobbyist. Dodd's first move was to preside over the MPAA's first legislative Titanic. After years of easily passing every copyright law it wanted, Dodd helped turn a slam dunk, easy-to-pass SOPA/PIPA into a huge disaster that has consistently scared Congress away from making any substantial copyright law changes. And, yes, it was Dodd's failed leadership that was a big part of the problem.Other "highlights" from the Chris Dodd era include near complete silence after the Sony hack, a leaked plan on how the MPAA would help pay for lawyers to do the legwork for elected officials to attack Google, and even leading the movie studios to begin to question why they send many millions of dollars to the MPAA each year for very little return.With that as backdrop, it's been announced that Dodd is stepping down from the MPAA and will be replaced by Charles Rivkin, who has worked in both government and in the entertainment industry. Dodd's contract ran through 2018, and news reports say he'll "transition" out of his role between now and September of this year. Hopefully Rivkin will be more forward-looking, and will recognize that (1) the public and (2) the internet are not enemies of the movie industry. That would go a long way towards improving the MPAA's approach to things, but we'll see.

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    Data Deadlock Report from BlueVenn

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    Nearly two-thirds (64%) of UK and US marketers believe it's their role to collect customer data, but not actually to have responsibility for analyzing it on a daily basis. A new report from the international marketing automation brand BlueVenn, Data Deadlock, reveals a clash between the need for data analysis to be performed on increasingly [...]

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    Stupid Patents Of The Month: Taxi Dispatch Tech

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    With all the attention ride-sharing has been getting lately, some might think Uber and Lyft were highly inventive apps. But according to at least one company, the apps are just highly infringing. Who's right? Probably neither.Hailo Technologies, LLC ("Hailo") has recently sued both Uber and Lyft, alleging they infringed Hailo's taxi dispatch patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,973,619 ("the '619 patent"). The patent claims a method for a "computer system" that: (1) displays a list of transportation options; (2) asks the customer for a number of passengers; (3) shows destinations graphically; (4) displays the approximate fare; (5) calls a selected taxi company up for a ride; and (6) gives an estimated arrival time.  A few months ago, Hailo also sued a few other companies for infringing a different patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,756,913 ("the '913 patent"), which claims a method for keeping track of available taxis on the road. More specifically, it claims a method where a computer (1) determines if a taxi is free (i.e. currently has no rider); and if free (2) sends the current location of the taxi to the taxi dispatch server.

    Figure 3B from the '619 Patent
    Both of Hailo's patents date to the late 1990s. That is, the patents claim these inventions didn't exist (or weren't obvious) at that time. Except a brief Internet search shows that similar taxi dispatch technology not only existed, but was widely used. Two reports from the Department of Transportation from 1991 and 1992 describe the state of "computer dispatch" technology at that time, and show many of the claimed features of the '619 and '913 patents. Another report, from 1995, has even more detail about various taxi dispatch technologies. For example, on page 115 the report details a product called "MT GU," an automated call box that allows customers to order "one or several taxis," specify "the taxi desired" (including getting a larger van), and provides the waiting time. The MT GU system seems to describe many, if not all, of the features in the system claimed in the '619 patent, and predates it by several years.So there's good reason to think that the inventions claimed in the two patents were not actually novel or non-obvious when the patent applications were filed. But will any of that matter? Patents, once issued, are presumed valid. In order for a patent to be declared invalid in court, a challenger must show "clear and convincing evidence" of invalidity. When the argument for invalidity is based on prior art, this can be an expensive and time consuming process, often costing in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Thus even if these patents are in fact invalid and never should have issued, due to the cost of litigation courts often never decide the issue.An alternative to court exists in the form of inter partes review at the Patent Office. This allows the Patent Office to take a second look at claims in a patent, and declare them unpatentable under a more lenient "preponderance of the evidence" standard. But this procedure, although cheaper than court, is still relatively expensive. One study estimated costs through appeal at $350,000.Given the costs of litigation in court or at the Patent Office, a patent owner can sue on a "presumed valid" patent and use the threat of fees and costs to get an undeserved settlement. When a company does nothing else (meaning, it doesn't have a real business other than litigation) we call those companies "patent trolls."Hailo strikes us as pretty trollish. As noted, the patents in questions seem weak at best, and Hailo doesn't seem to be seriously using the "inventions" in any event.  In its complaint against Uber, Hailo states that it is an app maker. But its website, www.bring.bikes, was registered only 10 days before it sued Uber and Lyft. Confusingly enough, there is another company named "Hailo" that actually does make a taxi hailing app.  Even more confusing: "Hailo" the patent owner says it does business under the name "Bring," but does not appear to be associated with another company called Bring that's actually involved in transportation.This "Hailo" by contrast, seems focused on litigation. A recently filed document attaches the agreement assigning the '913 patent from its original owner to Hailo. The contract is replete with references to patent enforcement and litigation. And in an earlier complaint, Hailo listed its business address as that of a law firm, and one of its members, 2S Ventures, has been associated with at least one entity that has filed over 20 lawsuits (login req.), a typical litigation pattern for a patent troll.  Whether or not Hailo is a practicing company, these are weak patents that deserve serious challenge. Sadly, that's unlikely to happen - which is why stupid patents like these should never issue.Republished from EFF's Stupid Patents of the Month series.

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    3 Ways to Achieve Premium ROI From Programmatic Display

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    ROI: These three simple letters often turn into four-letter words in marketing departments and agencies. ROI is either invisible or just, well, not good. Programmatic advertising is often associated with the latter. To many marketers, it's nothing more than a quick, easy way to advertise low-value inventory. Consequently, premium brands opt to avoid the medium [...]

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