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January 2019
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Deep Fakes: Let's Not Go Off The Deep End

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In just a few short months, "deep fakes" are striking fear in technology experts and lawmakers. Already there are legislative proposals, a law review article, national security commentaries, and dozens of opinion pieces claiming that this new deep fake technology — which uses artificial intelligence to produce realistic-looking simulated videos — will spell the end of truth in media as we know it.But will that future come to pass?Much of the fear of deep fakes stems from the assumption that this is a fundamentally new, game-changing technology that society has not faced before. But deep fakes are really nothing new; history is littered with deceptive practices — from Hannibal's fake war camp to Will Rogers' too-real impersonation of President Truman to Stalin's disappearing of enemies from photographs. And society's reaction to another recent technological tool of media deception — digital photo editing and Photoshop — teaches important lessons that provide insight into deep fakes’ likely impact on society.In 1990, Adobe released the groundbreaking Adobe Photoshop to compete in the quickly-evolving digital photograph editing market. This technology, and myriad competitors that failed to reach the eventual popularity of Photoshop, allowed the user to digitally alter real photographs uploaded into the program. While competing services needed some expertise to use, Adobe designed Photoshop to be user-friendly and accessible to anyone with a Macintosh computer.With the new capabilities came new concerns. That same year, Newsweek published an article called, “When Photographs Lie.” As Newsweek predicted, the consequences of this rise in photographic manipulation techniques could be disastrous: “Take China's leaders, who last year tried to bar photographers from exposing [the leaders’] lies about the Beijing massacre. In the future, the Chinese or others with something to hide wouldn't even worry about photographers.”These concerns were not entirely without merit. Fred Ritchin, formerly the picture editor of The New York Times Magazine who is now the Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography School, has continued to argue that trust in photography has eroded over the past few decades thanks to photo-editing technology:

There used to be a time when one could show people a photograph and the image would have the weight of evidence—the “camera never lies.” Certainly photography always lied, but as a quotation from appearances it was something viewers counted on to reveal certain truths. The photographer’s role was pivotal, but constricted: for decades the mechanics of the photographic process were generally considered a guarantee of credibility more reliable than the photographer’s own authorship. But this is no longer the case.
It is true that the “camera never lies” saying can no longer be sustained — the camera can and often does lie when the final product has been manipulated. Yet the crisis of truth that Ritchin and Newsweek predicted has not come to pass.Why? Because society caught on and adapted to the technology.Think back to June 1994, when Time magazine ran O.J. Simpson’s mugshot on the cover of its monthly issue. Time had drastically darkened the mugshot, making Simpson appear much darker than he actually was. What’s worse, Newsweek ran the unedited version of the mugshot, and the two magazines sat side-by-side on supermarket shelves. While Time defended this as an artistic choice with no intended racial implications, the obviously edited photograph triggered massive public outcry.Bad fakes were only part of the growing public awareness of photographic manipulation. For years, fashion magazines have employed deceptive techniques to alter the appearance of cover models. Magazines with more attractive models on the cover generally sell more copies than those featuring less attractive ones, so editors retouch photos to make them more appealing to the public. Unfortunately, this practice created an unrealistic image of beauty in society and, once this was discovered, health organizations began publically warning about the dangers this phenomenon caused — most notably eating disorders. And due to the ensuing public outcry, families across the country became aware of photo-editing technology and what it was capable of.Does societal adaptation mean that no one falls for photo manipulation anymore? Of course not. But instead of prompting the death of truth in photography, awareness of the new technology has encouraged people to use other indicators — such as trustworthiness of the source — to make informed decisions about whether an image presented is authentic. And as a result, news outlets and other publishers of photographs have gone on to establish policies and make decisions regarding the images they use with an eye toward fostering their audience’s trust. For example, in 2003, the Los Angeles Times quickly fired a reporter who had digitally altered Iraq War photographs because the editors realized that publishing a manipulated image would diminish their reader’s perception of the paper’s veracity.No major regulation or legislation was needed to prevent the apocalyptic vision of Photoshop’s future; society adapted on its own.Now, however, the same “death of truth” claims — mainly in the context of fake news and disinformation — ring out in response to deep fakes as new artificial-intelligence and machine-learning technology enter the market. What if someone released a deep fake of a politician appearing to take a bribe right before an election? Or of the president of the United States announcing an imminent missile strike? As Andrew Grotto, International Security Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, predicts, “This technology … will be irresistible for nation states to use in disinformation campaigns to manipulate public opinion, deceive populations and undermine confidence in our institutions.” Perhaps even more problematic, if society has no means to distinguish a fake video from a real one, any person could have plausible deniability for anything they do or say on film: It’s all fake news.But who is to say that societal response to deep fakes will not evolve similarly to the response to digitally edited photographs?Right now, deep fake technology is far from flawless. While some fakes may appear incredibly realistic, others have glaring imperfections that can alert the viewer to their forged nature. As with Photoshop and digital photograph editing before it, poorly made fakes generated through cellphone applications can educate viewers about the existence of this technology. When the public becomes aware, the harms posed by deep fakes will fail to materialize to the extent predicted.Indeed, new controversies surrounding the use of this technology are likewise increasing public awareness about what the technology can do. For example, the term “deep fake” actually comes from a Reddit user who began using this technology to generate realistic-looking fake pornographic videos of celebrities. This type of content rightfully sparked outrage as an invasion of the depicted person’s privacy rights. As public outcry began to ramp up, the platform publically banned the deep fake community and any involuntary pornography from its website. As with the public outcry that stemmed from the use of Photoshop to create an unrealistic body image, the use of deep fake technology to create inappropriate and outright appalling content will, in turn, make the public more aware of the technology, potentially stemming harms.Perhaps most importantly, many policymakers and private companies have already begun taking steps to educate the public about the existence and capabilities of deep fakes. Notable lawmakers such as Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have recently made deep fakes a major talking point. Buzzfeed released a public service announcement from “President Obama,” which was in fact a deep fake video with a voice-over from Jordan Peele, to raise awareness of the technology. And Facebook recently announced that it is investing significant resources into deep fake identification and detection. With so much focus on educating the public about the existence and uses of this technology, it will be more difficult for bad actors to successfully spread harmful deep fake videos.That is not to say deep fakes do not pose any new harms or threats. Unlike Photoshop, anyone with a smartphone can use deep fake technology, meaning that a larger number of deep fakes may be produced and shared. And unlike during the 1990s, significantly more people use the internet to share news and information today, facilitating the dissemination of content across the globe at breakneck speeds.However, we should not assume that society will fall into an abyss of deception and disinformation if we do not take steps to regulate the technology. There are many significant benefits that the technology can provide, such as aging photos of children missing for decades or creating lifelike versions of historical figures for children in class. Instead of rushing to draft legislation, lawmakers should look to the past and realize that deep fakes are not some unprecedented problem. Instead, deep fakes simply represent the newest technique in a long line of deceptive audiovisual practices that have been used throughout history. So long as we understand this fact, we can be confident that society will come up with ways of mitigating new harms or threats from deep fakes on its own.Jeffrey Westling is a Technology and Innovation policy associate at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C.

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posted at: 4:16pm on 30-Jan-2019
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Facebook's Privacy Problems Are Piling Up Too Quickly To Chronicle

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Another day, another Facebook privacy mess. Actually, this one is a few different privacy messes that we'll roll up into a single post because, honestly, who can keep track of them all these days? While we've noted that the media is frequently guilty of exaggerating or misunderstanding certain claims about Facebook and privacy, Facebook does continue to do a really, really awful job concerning how it handles privacy and its transparency about these things with its users. And that's a problem that comes from the executive team, who still doesn't seem to fully comprehend what a mess they have on their hands.The latest flaps both involve questionable behavior targeted at younger Facebook users. First there's a followup on a story we wrote about a few weeks ago, involving internal Facebook documents showing staffers gleefully refusing to refund money spent unwittingly by kids on games on the Facebook platform. Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, who broke that story, also had a much more detailed and much more damning followup, about how Facebook was clearly knowingly duping young children out of their parents' money.

Facebook encouraged game developers to let children spend money without their parents' permission - something the social media giant called friendly fraud - in an effort to maximize revenues, according to a document detailing the company's game strategy.Sometimes the children did not even know they were spending money, according to another internal Facebook report. Facebook employees knew this. Their own reports showed underage users did not realize their parents' credit cards were connected to their Facebook accounts and they were spending real money in the games, according to the unsealed documents.For years, the company ignored warnings from its own employees that it was bamboozling children.A team of Facebook employees even developed a method that would have reduced the problem of children being hoodwinked into spending money, but the company did not implement it, and instead told game developers that the social media giant was focused on maximizing revenues.
Yes, they not only called it "friendly fraud," but in an internal memo, they explained "why you shouldn't try to block it" (i.e., why you should let game developers scam kids out of their parents' money).
This reminds me so much of the early days of adware scammers, who pulled similar kinds of stunts -- and it's incredible to think that Facebook, which presented itself as a squeaky clean alternative to the open web where those kinds of scams piled up, was basically doing the same thing on a much larger scale. The Reveal article has much more on this, and is worth reading in full to see how the focus on revenue had the company deliberately look the other way as it scooped up cash from kids.But rather than focus on that, we already need to move on to the more recent Facebook privacy scandal, which also (partially) involves kids. Last summer, we wrote about how Apple had booted Facebook's Onavo app from its app store. Facebook had marketed it as a privacy protecting "VPN," but it was really pretty blatant spyware. Indeed, late last year when yet another Facebook privacy scandal broke, it was revealed that Facebook had been using Onavo data to determine what competitive apps were most popular -- including giving it ideas on what apps to buy or (much more damning) what apps to hinder or block from Facebook.Apparently, even having Apple boot the app didn't give Facebook the idea that maybe this spyware was going a bit too far. Instead, it now appears that Facebook "pivoted" into paying teens to install Onavo on iPhones in a way that routed around Apple's App Store blocks, by saying it was a part of "Facebook Research." And they hid this from Apple by using third party "beta testing" services:
The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook's involvement, and is referred to in some documentation as Project Atlas a fitting name for Facebook's effort to map new trends and rivals around the globe.
Facebook appears to have desperately wanted all of this data, if it was willing to go these lengths even after Apple had booted Onavo. After TechCrunch broke this story, Facebook claimed that it would stop that program on iPhones, while Apple claims it banned the app before Facebook itself could pull it.For years, people like Jaron Lanier have argued that Facebook should pay its users for all the data they get -- but I think even people who wanted payment would balk a bit at how much access people were giving in exchange for $20/month in gift cards.
By installing the software, you're giving our client permission to collect data from your phone that will help them understand how you browse the internet, and how you use the features in the apps you've installed . . . This means you're letting our client collect information such as which apps are on your phone, how and when you use them, data about your activities and content within those apps, as well as how other people interact with you or your content within those apps. You are also letting our client collect information about your internet browsing activity (including the websites you visit and data that is exchanged between your device and those websites) and your use of other online services. There are some instances when our client will collect this information even where the app uses encryption, or from within secure browser sessions.
And, of course, the setup required you to keep the app running and spying on everything if you wanted to keep getting paid.Facebook, in response to the TechCrunch story, did its standard PR tap dance, insisting that they weren't hiding anything (Apple's response suggests otherwise, as does the fact that Facebook specifically used these 3rd party services). But, once again, like with so many other Facebook privacy scandals, the reason why so many people get upset about this is because they were not open and transparent about what was going on, and that's why it's so surprising to everyone.The only "good" news is that on the same day all of this came out, it was announced that Facebook has just hired two of its biggest privacy critics to work on privacy issues at the company: EFF's Nate Cardozo and Open Technology Institute's Robyn Greene (*Disclosure: I know both Nate and Robyn, and Nate did, very helpfully, represent us on one issue while he was at EFF.) I know some may cynically see this as Facebook trying to co-opt some of its critics, but both Nate and Robyn have incredibly strong track records on privacy, including being vocally critical of Facebook and its policies. Hopefully this is a sign that the company is actually taking these issues seriously (better a decade too late than never).

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posted at: 4:16pm on 30-Jan-2019
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California Supreme Court Rejects Sheriffs' Union's Attempt To Block New Open Records Law

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There have been some pretty garbage responses to California's amendment of its open records laws, which rolls back the extreme level of opacity shielding police misconduct records. The City of Inglewood gave its police force a zero-accountability parting gift by granting it permission to destroy hundreds of officer-involved shooting files just prior to the new law taking effect.

Over in San Bernardino County, law enforcement -- or at least their union reps -- responded to the new law by petitioning the state Supreme Court for an injunction. The Sheriff's Employees' Benefit Association wanted the law blocked until it could be determined whether or not the law was retroactive. The union claimed making pre-2019 records available to the public would "violate [its] members' rights."

This ran contrary to the assessment of the actual Sheriff and the county's legal counsel, both of whom felt the law applied to old misconduct files.

“In anticipation of SB 1421 taking effect, the Sheriffs Department has been diligently reviewing the changes to the law and carefully considering how to implement these changes,” Blakemore wrote. “Based on this review, and on the advice of counsel, the Department intends to apply these changes retroactively.”

The union can't be thrilled about the new layer of accountability it will be facing going forward. But it seemed particularly aggrieved the new records law would affect old records it assumed would never be turned over to the public. The law doesn't state it only applies to records going forward, so it's reasonable to assume what was once considered non-public is now publicly-accessible.

The union has already heard back from the state's highest court and it's not getting the answer it wanted.

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a sheriff union’s request to block a new state law that provides public access to past police-misconduct and use-of-force records.

The San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies’ union sought an emergency intervention from the California Supreme Court to block the new law before the New Year.

This won't stop the legal challenges to the law -- not as long as it's not crystal clear whether retroactivity applies. But this at least allows the law to move forward, ensuring that any records generated past the point of enactment are truly public records. Anything prior to January 2019 is going to be hit-and-miss, as it appears state law enforcement agencies don't have a unified take on the law. This will probably be resolved sooner than later, as requests for these previously-secret records are already flowing in.

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posted at: 12:20am on 09-Jan-2019
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Counterpoint: Maybe Athletes Should Rush To The Trademark Office... If They Play For Teams Like The Dallas Mavericks

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Over the past several years, we've covered the increasingly trendy practice of professional athletes rushing to the trademark office to register their nicknames and/or catchphrases. From Anthony Davis' unibrow, to Bryce Harper's flippant remarks, to Ryan Lochte channeling his inner bro-ness, up to and including Jeremy Lin's claim on his portmanteau nickname, we've raised our eyebrows at this sort of theory of ownership and protectionism that often times looks to make exclusive money over the coined phrases created by others. This sort of locking up of language was never really the point of trademark law, as we've pointed out, and we've suggested that athletes engaging in this sort of thing probably isn't the best thing for the public, the supposed beneficiary of trademark law.But perhaps we should introduce a caveat in our stance: if you play for the Dallas Mavericks, maybe you should rush to the trademark office. It seems that Luka Doncic, the rookie star of Mark Cuban's team, has had the trademark rug pulled out from underneath him by his employer.

One person in particular, Mike Pocopio, a development coach on the Mavs' staff, referred to Doncic as 'El Matador' and it stuck.Now, 'El Matador' and 'The Matador' have both been trademarked by the Mavs' after they registered the names with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.According to Josh Gerben, the Mavs want the exclusive rights to the name so, should Doncic leave the Mavs one day, he would no longer be able to call himself 'El Matador'.
That seems... pretty shitty? We have a rookie athlete doing a great job for his team, building a reputation for himself that results in a nickname, and then his team goes out to lock that nickname up... for what? So that if Doncic goes elsewhere, the team can reapply that nickname to a new player? Come on. What sure seems more likely is that the Mavericks know that Doncic is a thing in basketball circles and want to be able to trade off of their newest star player's persona to the exclusion of him. Not a great look, honestly.So, if athletes now want to claim that they are trademarking all of the things because they're afraid team ownership will undercut them in doing so, that seems valid now. Thanks to the Mavs.

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posted at: 12:20am on 09-Jan-2019
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China Starts Using Facial Recognition-Enabled 'Smart' Locks In Its Public Housing

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Surveillance using facial recognition is sweeping the world. That's partly for the usual reason that the underlying digital technology continues to become cheaper, more powerful and thus more cost-effective. But it's also because facial recognition can happen unobtrusively, at a distance, without people being aware of its deployment. In any case, many users of modern smartphones have been conditioned to accept it unthinkingly, because it's a quick and easy way to unlock their device. This normalization of facial recognition is potentially bad news for privacy and freedom, as this story in the South China Morning Post indicates:

Beijing is speeding up the adoption of facial recognition-enabled smart locks in its public housing programmes as part of efforts to clamp down on tenancy abuse, such as illegal subletting.The face-scanning system is expected to cover all of Beijing's public housing projects, involving a total of 120,000 tenants, by the end of June 2019
Although a desire to stop tenancy abuses sounds reasonable enough, it's important to put the move in a broader context. As Techdirt reported back in 2017, China is creating a system storing the facial images of every Chinese citizen, with the ability to identify any one of them in three seconds. Although the latest use of facial recognition with "smart" locks is being run by the Beijing authorities, such systems don't exist in isolation. Everything is being cross-referenced and linked together to ensure a complete picture is built up of every citizen's activities -- resulting in what is called the "citizen score" or "social credit" of an individual. China said last year that it would start banning people with "bad" citizen scores from using planes and trains for up to a year. Once the "smart" locks are in place, it would be straightforward to make them part of the social credit system and its punishments -- for example by imposing a curfew on those living at an address, or only allowing certain "approved" visitors.Even without using "smart" locks in this more extreme way, the facial recognition system could record everyone who came visiting, and how long they stayed, and transmit that data to a central monitoring station. The scope for abuse by the authorities is wide. If nothing else, it's a further reminder that if you are not living in China, where you may not have a choice, installing "smart" Internet of things devices voluntarily may not be that smart.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:20am on 08-Jan-2019
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Pooey Puitton Proactively Sues The Shit Out Of Louis Vuitton

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All one needs to do to get a sense of how Louis Vuitton, famed maker of bags, views trademark law is do a short review of past stories it's been involved in on this site. What you will come away with is the clear sense of the company as laughably litigious, insanely aggressive in bullying others, and as being entirely devoid of having anything resembling a sense of humor or respect for parody.And that last bit appears to be resulting in yet another dispute, this time between Louis Vuitton and MGA Entertainment Inc., which makes the Pooey Puitton toy handbag. And, yes, that toy handbag is literally shaped like a piece of poop. Apparently, Louis Vuitton has been making comments to some of MGA's commercial clients that the toy handbag infringes its trademarks, leading to MGA filing suit against LV asking for a declaratory judgement that its parody bag is not in fact infringing.

In a complaint filed on Friday in Los Angeles federal court, MGA Entertainment Inc said no reasonable consumer would mistake Pooey Puitton, which retails for $59.99, for costlier Louis Vuitton handbags.“The use of the Pooey name and Pooey product in association with a product line of ‘magical unicorn poop’ is intended to criticize or comment upon the rich and famous, the Louis Vuitton name, the LV marks, and on their conspicuous consumption."
All of which puts the Pooey Puitton bag squarely in the category of protected parody. Beyond that, any claim that the public is going to look at the bag as anything other than a joke played on upon LV, rather than having association with the company, is pretty laughable.
But my interest is centered around LV's apparent thinking that anyone is going to mistake a literal piece-of-shit handbag, and think that it was made by Louis Vuitton. That doesn't seem to me to be the kind of claim a luxury handbag maker would want to make, yet here we sit. Or, more likely, the Louis Vuitton folks simply can't help themselves from failing to appreciate the joke and instead have to go the bullying route.

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posted at: 12:20am on 08-Jan-2019
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This Week In Game Jam History...

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Gaming Like It's 1923: The Newly Public Domain Game JamOn New Year's Day, we launched a special celebration of this milestone year in which new works are finally exiting copyright and entering the US public domain: a public domain game jam.From now until the end of the month, we're accepting submissions of all sorts of games (video games, board games, tabletop RPGs, LARPs, and just about anything else you can dream up...) based on works from 1923 that have finally become free for all to use without fear of copyright issues. There's a bunch of high-profile material to consider, and of course a whole world of lesser-known works that we hope people will dig into for inspiration.At the end of the month, our growing panel of expert judges (including Cory Doctorow, Whitney "Strix" Beltran, Dan Bull, Rebecca Tushnet, Nicky Case, Mark Lemley, Daphne Keller, Jason Scott, Jason Morningstar, J Li, Eric Goldman, Carolyn Homer, Albert Kong) will select winners in six different categories, to receive prizes including Techdirt copyright swag and copies of our recently-Kickstarted card game, CIA: Collect It All:

  • Best Analog Games
  • Best Digital Game
  • Best adaptation of a 1923 work
  • Best remixing of multiple sources (at least one has to be from 1923)
  • Best Deep Cut (use of a work not listed on any of the round up articles)
  • Best Visuals
Even though we are less than a week into 2019, we've already had three submissions which you can go try out right now! But we're expecting a lot more competition — so whether you're an experienced game designer, an amateur looking to try their hand, or just someone who is really inspired by a work that has finally entered the public domain, head over and join the jam on Itch... then get to work!

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posted at: 12:20am on 06-Jan-2019
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Copyright, Culture, Sharing, Remix... And A Congresswoman Dancing As A College Student

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So... this post is going to discuss something involving freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For a variety of reasons -- some good, some bad, some truly awful -- Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as people call her) seems to elicit quite a strong reaction from people, both pro and con. This post is not about her, or her views, or whatever you happen to think about any of it. If you want to argue about her in the comments, feel free, just know that you'll be off-topic and will look silly. Rather, this post is about copyright -- a topic that we talk about frequently, and one on which AOC, in her new job, may at some point be asked to weigh in on as a legislator.The latest "controversy" (if you can even call it that) began as one of the various attempts by some of her critics to dig into her past to try to prove... something(?!?), in this case by unearthing a video of her in college dancing. I remain unclear of what awful thing her critics thought this proved, but apparently it was something about how people can't possibly have been poor if they once had fun dancing. At least that was the suggestion I saw passed around, and it's about as nonsensical as copyright term extension, but alas...There's actually a much more interesting copyright story underneath all of this, much of the history of which we've covered in detail on Techdirt in the past, but which Parker Higgins did a great job recounting on Twitter on Thursday afternoon:

Wired later turned much of Parker's thread into an article as well. The short version is that almost exactly 10 years ago, Sarah Newhouse put together a video taking scenes from various 1980s "brat pack" movies (mainly, and most prominently, Breakfast Club, but a few others as well) and put clips of the actors dancing to a (then) new song by the band Phoenix, called Lisztomania:
Notably, that is not the original video. Despite the band being super happy with that video (and everything that later came from it), somewhere along the way, Newhouse got dinged for it and other videos and had her entire YouTube account taken down over copyright infringements. Gotta love that DMCA requirement for a "repeat infringer" policy.Soon after that video, a guy named Ian Parker, inspired by Newhouse's video, recreated it with his friends on a rooftop in Brooklyn:
That version is still online. It then inspired a ton of other people and social groups to build on that work and create their own, starting with a group in San Francisco. Except... that version is no longer online due to a claim by IFPI that the use of the song is infringing (remember, the band itself was thrilled about the attention this gave them...). But, of course, another version has popped up:
And there are lots and lots of others... including one from Boston University, which has a (just slightly) younger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez having fun with some friends and recreating a localized BU version of the same video. That one's been online since 2010, just months after this whole craze started:
It is not entirely clear why the sudden spreading of clips from this video were seen as "new" since that original video has been up for nearly a decade, and it's also not at all clear why the "new" video changed the music, though if it was an attempt to hide where it originated from, that failed. I saw the initial tweet that was promoting the video, and it was obvious from the clips that this was one of the many Lisztomania videos, and it would be obvious to anyone who watched a bunch of them back then.Earlier in 2010, Julian Sanchez had done a fun explainer video on the Evolution of Remix Culture, which we talked about a few times over the years:
Sanchez makes a few points in that video, but the key one is that the complaints that traditional copyright folks have about remix culture totally misses the point. These videos and the sharing of our unique versions of such memes is not about "freely" using someone else's stuff, but about social interactions with our own friends and communities, and putting our own stamp on things. Sanchez doesn't make this point, but it's actually a very similar situation to the way culture used to happen: storytellers would take the ideas of others and build on them and make their own versions and spread them.Of course, Sanchez's own video was taken down (multiple times) with various bogus copyright claims. While one might argue that the fair use claims on the original videos were less strong (I'd disagree, but there are better arguments there), the idea that Julian's video was not fair use was... crazy. He was clearly commenting on the use of this music and videos for remix purposes, and it would meet all four criteria for fair use easily. Eventually, after Sanchez complained publicly about the takedowns, the demands were removed and the video lives on.Soon after Sanchez's presentation, Larry Lessig himself used this example of remix culture -- highlighting Sanchez's video... and a whole bunch of these videos.
However, a few years later, as we covered here at Techdirt, the label with control of the copyright, Liberation Music, issued a takedown on one of Lessig's lectures about this. This was, exceedingly bizarre. Remember: Lessig was using the video clips from Julian's video, which is an explainer about the social situation and copyright policy questions raised by all of the other videos... and Liberation claimed it was infringing. Even worse, when Lessig counternoticed, Liberation told him if he didn't remove the counternotice, it would sue him. Lessig and EFF then sued Liberation seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and (importantly) seeking fees for violating 512(f) of the DMCA -- which is the almost entirely toothless clause for pushing back against bogus DMCA takedowns. This was one case where it might actually have teeth. Realizing it was sunk, the following year Liberation ended up settling the case and paying an "undisclosed sum," while promising to adopt new fair use-respecting policies.And that was, more or less, the end of that meme, until it suddenly came rushing back due to some people's infatuation with a particular Congresswoman. But there are a lot of really important copyright points embedded in this story -- starting with all of the lessons both Sanchez and Lessig highlighted in each of their videos (seriously, watch them both). But it's even more punctuated by the fact that so many of the videos that I discuss above were at one time or another taken down by copyright claims -- many of which seem entirely bogus -- and where the band has made it clear it was thrilled with these videos (as it should have been, as it gave that song a huge boost in attention). Indeed, Phoenix issued a statement (miraculously still available on Tumblr) stating: "We support fair use of our music" and also (apologies for the all caps screaming, but that's how they wrote it):
NOT ONLY DO WE WELCOME THE ILLUSTRATIVE USE OF OUR MUSIC FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES, BUT, MORE BROADLY, WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE GETTING INSPIRED AND MAKING THEIR OWN VERSIONS OF OUR SONGS AND VIDEOS AND POSTING THE RESULT ONLINE.ONE OF THE GREAT BEAUTIES OF THE DIGITAL ERA IS TO LIBERATE SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY - IT MIGHT BE A CHAOTIC SPACE OF FREE ASSOCIATION SOMETIMES BUT THE CONTEMPORARY EXPERIENCE OF DIGITAL RE-MEDIATION IS ENORMOUSLY LIBERATING.WE DON'T FEEL THE LEAST ALIENATED BY THIS; APPROPRIATION AND RECONTEXTUALIZATION IS A LONG-STANDING BEHAVIOR THAT HAS JUST BEEN MADE EASIER AND MORE VISIBLE BY THE UBIQUITY OF INTERNET.IN A FEW WORDS:WE ABSOLUTELY SUPPORT FAIR USE OF OUR MUSIC,AND WE CAN ONLY ENCOURAGE A NEW COPYRIGHT POLICY THAT PROTECTS FAIR USE AS MUCH AS EVERY CREATORS' LEGITIMATE INTERESTS.
So, we have a copyright policy that pissed off the actual artists -- and only served to stifle or silence many people who were building off of it in truly creative ways that enabled a community endeavor. As Julian noted in his talk (and Lessig specifically called out), a big part of the question here is "what level of control copyright has over our social realities" and how copyright policy that is too locked down serves to limit our ability to express and share our social realities.In his big thread, almost as an aside, Parker made a key point in this discussion that is worth repeating (over and over and over again):
Indeed, this is the entire point that the Article 13 debate in the EU is about. The supporters of Article 13 are demanding -- literally -- that the entire internet "be licensed." But think about how the above story plays out in such a world. In short, it doesn't. And while that might mean one less way for some internet morons to self-own themselves in trying to make fun of a new Congresswoman, I'm not exactly sure that's what we should be optimizing for.Indeed, this whole story is a lesson in the power of culture and communities to actually rise above the ridiculousness of today's copyright laws (mostly) to actually showcase their communities and personalities, and that's something we should be championing. And one hopes that when copyright policy is up for discussion in Congress, that AOC gets that, now having some firsthand experience with it.Oh, and I should note that the nature of remix and copyright and culture has continued to expand. Following from this whole mess with AOC, someone has set up a Twitter account called AOC Dances To Every Song, and it delivers exactly what it claims to. Here are just a few examples:
There are a lot more... though it would not surprise me at all to find that account is eventually shut down for... claims of copyright infringement. Because this is the insane world we live in.For what it's worth, AOC herself has now evolved this even further by dancing in a new video, and making fun of the "controversy."
I wonder if copyright maximalists will demand that she also "license" that clip as well?

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Atlanta Prosecutor Sues DOJ For Blocking Investigation Of Incident Where Cops Shot A Man 59 Times

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A case that involves some shocking numbers has resulted in a lawsuit against the DOJ. An investigation into a raid that ended with law enforcement officers putting 59 bullets into the body of an Atlanta resident has dead-ended and it appears to be because the DOJ doesn't want to talk about it.

Jamarion Robinson, a 26-year-old student and football player at Clark Atlanta University, was shot and killed by a team of local and federal officers who broke down the door to his girlfriend’s apartment on Aug. 5, 2016, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Atlanta federal court by the office of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.   

The DA says he has repeatedly attempted to work with the DOJ to obtain the personnel files and training materials of the officers responsible for Robinson’s death, all to no avail.

“It has now been 875 days since the officers killed Mr. Robinson, and the DOJ has yet to provide any of the documents or evidence requested and has failed to provide any investigative reports relating to Mr. Robinson’s death,” the complaint states.

The opening of the DA's lawsuit [PDF] doesn't explain what Atlanta prosecutors did for the first 275 days, but it does point out the DOJ has been blocking this investigation for nearly two years at this point.

Having been stymied for more than 600 days from receiving any documents from the Department of Justice related to the shooting of Jamarion Robinson, Plaintiff Office of the Fulton County District Attorney (“Plaintiff” or “the District Attorney”) brings this action against Defendant United States Department of Justice (“Defendant” or “the DOJ”) to compel compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (“FOIA”).

This FOIA lawsuit is only part of the federal government's problems. The family of Jamarion Robinson has also sued the officers involved in the shooting, which includes the US Marshals Service. This lawsuit appears to be on hold at the moment as everyone suing over the shooting attempts to obtain documents related to Robinson's killing.

The numbers mentioned above -- 59 bullet holes, 600 days of DOJ stonewalling -- are just part of the picture. There's also the number of officers involved and the number of bullets expended to take the life of someone law enforcement apparently had little reason to suspect might respond violently.

On August 5, 2016, 14 law enforcement officers from eight separate local municipal police departments, along with at least one United States Marshal, traveled to the Parkside Camp Creek Luxury Apartments in Atlanta, Georgia to execute a State of Georgia arrest warrant for Jamarion Robinson (hereinafter “Mr. Robinson”). The state arrest warrant alleged that Mr. Robinson committed an aggravated assault in violation of Georgia Code Annotated 16-5-21, a state crime. Mr. Robinson was not charged with any federal crime, and there was not a federal arrest warrant pending for Mr. Robinson.

The DA's lawsuit notes Robinson's only legal problem up to this point was a traffic violation. It also points out Robinson suffered from schizophrenia, which might explain his uncharacteristic decision to allegedly point a gun at police officers (and three tenants of a nearby apartment) days before he was gunned down in his apartment. Supposedly, Robinson fired a shot (or three shots… depending on which statement you read) at the officers attempting to serve a warrant which apparently justified this response.

[T]he officers knocked down the door to the apartment and immediately commenced firing approximately 51 shots from outside into the apartment without any known provocation and with reckless disregard for the safety of anyone else in the apartment and surrounding apartment units.

The officers then entered the apartment and fired approximately 41 additional shots from weapons, including a 9mm submachine gun, a .40mm submachine gun, and a .40 Glock pistol.

After officers fired more than 90 bullets into Robinson's apartment, some claimed Robinson fired at them first. But statements made by other officers and the results of the ensuing search punch holes in this narrative.

At the conclusion of the shooting, a firearm was located, which the officers claimed that Mr. Robinson fired at them three times. However, when the firearm was recovered, it was damaged and inoperable. Moreover, in an investigative report completed by Officer Steve Schreckengost, he did not state that the officers entered the premises because Mr. Robinson was shooting. Rather, Officer Schreckengost claims they entered to protect others inside the apartment from Mr. Robinson, although it was clear from their surveillance no one else was in the apartment.

They wanted to "protect" others from Robinson, but no one involved was interested in Robinson's safety. The team of officers was aware of Robinson's mental health issues and had spoken to his family prior to the raid. But not a single member of the 14-person, multi-office "task force" did anything that might have resulted in a peaceful arrest, like ask for advice, assistance, or third-party search consent from Robinson's family or his current roommate.

Six hundred days of DOJ stonewalling roughly aligns with the agency's reshuffled priorities following Trump's presidential win. The incoming AG (Jeff Sessions) yanked funding from the DOJ's civil rights department and said the agency would no longer be investigating the actions of local law enforcement. If there are any documents to be obtained from the DOJ, they're likely in the process of being massaged into exonerative shape before being released.



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Another State Lawmaker Thinks Teachers Should Be Banned From Discussing 'Controversial' Issues

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Having gotten it into his head that teachers are "indoctrinating" the mushy minds of school students, an Arizona lawmaker has introduced a bill almost certainly headed for a Constitutional challenge.

State Rep. Mark Finchem wants to ban public and charter school teachers from spreading “controversial” political, racial and religious messages in their classrooms.

The Oro Valley Republican introduced House Bill 2002 in the Legislature last week. If it passes, teachers could face consequences as severe as losing their jobs for engaging in any “political, ideological or religious” advocacy or discussion with their students.

The bill [PDF] introduces, among other things, a requirement for teachers to attend three hours of annual "ethics training" and adopt a strict "ethics code" that prevents them from talking about a long list of things Rep. Finchem finds "controversial." The list begins with blocking teachers from advocating for political parties, candidates, and legislation, which already makes part of the bill redundant.

State law already bars public and charter school employees from using school resources, including personnel, to influence the outcome of an election.

But that's only part of the list of forbidden subjects. The bill also forbids teachers from:

Discussing any litigation making its way through the nation's courts.

Introducing "controversial issues" not related to the course being taught

Endorsing any activity that "hampers or impedes lawful access of military recruiters to the campus"

Endorsing or engaging in any activity that "hampers or impedes the actions" of law enforcement

"Singling out" one racial group as "being responsible" for the suffering of another race

It also introduces some weird form of "Fairness Doctrine" by demanding teachers provide resources supporting both sides of any controversial subject that somehow makes it way past Rep. Finchem's speech barrier. These multiple incursions on the First Amendment are followed by dubious "findings" Finchem wants to have codified as legislative facts.

A. The legislature finds and declares that:

1. The purpose of public education in Arizona is to produce knowledgeable and competent adults who are able to participate as informed citizens in the democratic process of selecting representation in our constitutional republic.

2. Education in a democracy is best served by teaching students how to think, not telling them what to think. Our country is divided over many issues affecting its citizens. It has been established through surveys that a majority of K-12 teachers discuss controversial issues in their classrooms.

3. It has been established that some teacher training institutions, teacher licensing agencies, state education departments and professional teacher organizations have condoned and even encouraged this behavior under the guise of "teaching for social justice" and other sectarian doctrines. Time spent on political or ideological indoctrination takes time away from instruction in the academic subjects taught by public educational institutions, including the foundational subjects of mathematics, science, English, history and civics, and prevents students from receiving the best possible public education as funded by the taxpayers of this state.

4. Parents and taxpayers have a right to expect that taxpayer resources will be spent on education, not political or ideological indoctrination.

Perhaps Mark Finchem will allow these many surveys supporting his indoctrination theory to be read into the state record along with the rest of his bullshit bill. Finchem claims a "stunning number" of calls from concerned parents has prompted this action, rather than the organized #RedForEd educator walkout that accompanied educators' demands for increased funding.

There's no chance this bill survives a Constitutional challenge if it somehow becomes law. Restrictions on speech -- even that of government employees -- demands a narrow crafting. Targeting speech with legislation requires a sniper's mentality. Finchem is carrying a shotgun loaded with birdshot and hoping it's enough to prevent speech he doesn't like from being spoken in the state's classrooms.

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Everybody Loses After Metal Band And Photographer Get Pissy Over Photographer's Copyright Threat

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In many, if not most, of the copyright disputes we cover here, the stance we take is not typically a purely legal one. Often times, we make mention that one party or another is legally allowed to take the actions it has, but we note that those protectionist actions aren't the most optimal course to have taken. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in a dispute that arose between metal band Arch Enemy and a photographer it had allowed to take concert photos for them.The backstory here goes like this. Arch Enemy has worked with J. Salmeron, a photographer and attorney, to take photos of the band's concerts. Salmeron then posted those photos to his Instagram account, after which they were reposted both by the band's fans and members of the band themselves. All of that was done without issue. One of the band's merchandise partners, however, used one of the photos of the lead singer to promote the band's merchandise on social media accounts. Finding out about this, Salmeron contacted the company and asked for a 100 euro "licensing fee" in the form of a payment to his choice of charity.

At this point, the issue could have been resolved without any fuss, but things quickly got out of hand. Thunderball Clothing wasn’t planning to pay and reached out to the band, accusing the photographer of making threats. The band and the singer sided with the clothing company and sponsor, arguing that a payment is not required. Apparently, the band’s management is under the impression that the band, fans, and sponsors can use the work of photographers free of charge. In return, they get exposure.“I would like to ask why you are sending discontent emails to people sharing the photo of Alissa? Alissa’s sponsors and fan clubs are authorized to share photos of her. Thunderball Clothing is a sponsor of Alissa and Arch Enemy,” they replied. “Generally speaking, photographers appreciate having their work shown as much as possible and we are thankful for the great photos concert photographers provide,” the band’s management added.
Now, much of that is true. Photographers do get exposure through channels like this. Exposure for their work generally and, in the music space, exposure to other musical acts to use their services. On the other hand, it really isn't up to the band whether or not to authorize their partners' use of these photographs which are, unless otherwise stated in a contract somewhere, covered by copyright for the photographer. It also is the case that Salmeron's request wasn't exactly unreasonable in terms of the amount or the recipient. This, in other words, is pretty tame stuff in the world of copyright infringement. So... both sides of this equation have valid stances. And, one would imagine, something should have been easily worked out given that.Unfortunately, it seems every side decided to go full nuclear.
After some messages back and forth, the photo was eventually removed, but the band also made it very clear that Salmeron is no longer welcome at any future gigs.“By the way, we are sure you don’t mind that you are not welcome anymore to take pictures of Arch Enemy performances in the future, at festivals or solo performances,” the reply read. “I have copied in the label reps and booking agent who will inform promoters – no band wants to have photographers on site who later send such threatening correspondence to monetize on their images.”
And then the responses from many of the band's fans, many of whom do photography work, was to hurl snark at the band and suggest that its stance on copyright for the photographer be applied to the band's work as well. A whole bunch of people tweeted at the band, suggesting that instead of buying their latest album, they would just download it and that the band should consider that free exposure for themselves. Now, that analogy doesn't really hold, of course, but the point is clear.And so basically everyone loses here. The band has pissed fans. The photographer isn't on the Arch Enemy beat any longer. The merch company had to take the photo down. And, again, all this over 100 euro? Come on.

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Gov't Used An Ambiguously-Worded Tweet As The Basis For The Raid Of NSA Contractor's House

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The prosecution of former NSA contractor Hal Martin continues. Martin somehow managed to exfiltrate sensitive documents and code for nearly 20 years without the NSA noticing. It finally started paying attention after its hacking tools and exploits made their way into the hands of the public via the "Shadow Brokers." These tools then made their way into the computers of the public, wreaking worldwide havoc and giving the leaky agency -- whose literal middle name is "Security" -- another PR black eye.

Hal Martin was suspected of handing over tools to the Shadow Brokers but the charges against him are solely related to the mishandling of classified info, indicating the feds no longer believe Martin was involved. But this original suspicion was apparently enough to justify the FBI raid of Martin's residence, according to the federal judge handling his case. The probable cause appears to have been generated by a tweet from Martin's Twitter account, at least according to what can be gleaned from the redacted order [PDF] handed down by Judge Richard Bennett. Josh Gerstein of Politico has the details.

Passages in the decision from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett were deleted from a version made public by the court, but the remaining details suggest that investigators believed Martin was offering sensitive information to someone online shortly before a nebulous internet-based entity, the Shadow Brokers, released NSA hacking tools in August 2016 through the attention-grabbing technique of an online auction.

“In these messages, @HAL_999999999 asked for a meeting with the [redacted] and stated ‘shelf life, three weeks,’” Bennett wrote, describing the government’s assertions in court filings still under seal. “The Defendant’s Twitter messages … were sent just hours before what was purported to be stolen government property was advertised and posted on multiple online- content-sharing sites, including Twitter.”

These details have been made public as the result of Martin's attempt to suppress the evidence gathered against him. The court notes the tweet could have had a more innocuous meaning, but given the circumstances and the timing, it was not unreasonable for the FBI to believe Martin may have been involved in the leaking of classified NSA exploits.

That's not the only rejection handed to Martin. The court also denies his request to have cell-site location info obtained without a warrant suppressed, noting that the government obtained this data before the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Carpenter.

However, a key bit of evidence is no longer the government's to use: Martin's own statements. The court says the government illegally obtained these statements by not properly Mirandizing Martin prior to questioning him. There is no doubt Martin was in custody at the time he was questioned without a Miranda warning. The government denies Martin was ever taken into custody, but the court points out a person who doesn't feel they're free to go is being held against their will, which is all it takes to define "custody."

In this case, the facts demonstrate ~at a reasonable person in the Defendant's position would have perceived a police dominated atmosphere before and during the interrogation. The Defendant was initially approached by nine SWAT agents dressed in protective gear, some of whom had their guns drawn at the Defendant... Multiple other officers were also on the scene, including eight FBI agents and three State Trooper vehicles - a fact that "goes a long way towards making the suspect's home a police dominated atmosphere." The Defendant was immediately placed face down on the ground and handcuffed, "demonstrating that the officers sought out [the Defendant] and had physical dominion over him."

Although the Defendant's handcuffs were removed prior to the interrogation, "the experience of being singled out and handcuffed would color a reasonable person's perception of the situation and create a reasonable fear that the handcuffs could be reapplied at any time."

Further, after his initial detention, the Defendant was interrogated by three agents for approximately four hours.ll During the interrogation, the agents confronted the Defendant with incriminating evidence discovered on his property, which may certainly cause a reasonable person to feel compelled to cooperate with the police. Moreover, the Defendant's freedom of movement was significantly restricted during the interrogation. Indeed, he was only permitted to leave the interrogation space once -- i.e., when he went to his home office to help Hajeski access his computer equipment -- at which time he was accompanied by agents. In addition, the Defendant was isolated from his partner until the end of the interrogation -- a tactic that the Supreme Court has recognized as one of the distinguishing features of a custodial interrogation.

[...]

Taken together, these facts demonstrate that a reasonable person in the Defendant's position would have felt that he was not free to leave.

The government still records a win on most of the suppression motion. It's difficult to tell how solid the underlying warrant affidavit actually is since it -- along with several other filings -- are still under seal. It's also unclear how much ammo Martin's defense had when mounting this challenge. If the government was granted the opportunity to engage in ex parte presentations of evidence, Martin's team could be working blind.

His team may be working partially blind anyway. There's reason to believe the government is now a whole lot more cagier about its classified/sensitive evidence after accused CIA hacking tool leaker Josh Shulte was found to be leaking documents from prison -- documents he apparently obtained as part of the government's discovery obligations. It will likely be months before the public sees any part of the government's warrant affidavit. It may be years before anyone other than this court sees all of it. Still, an ambiguously-worded tweet seems like pretty thin probable cause, even if its timing seemed to align with the Shadow Brokers' actions at the time the warrant was sought.

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Antipiracy Outfits Routinely Claim Copyright Infringement Against Sites That Simply Report When Torrents Are Released

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Whenever we hear new or renewed calls for more ways for antipiracy outfits and copyright holders to extrajudicially get content and/or sites taken down, there always seems to be one curious omission in the discussion: that antipiracy outfits generally suck at identifying actual infringing content. This is a strange omission, considering that creating ways for content to be taken down without a court's oversight rests the entire reputation for this practice on reports of infringement being accurate. Those of us who have taken to screaming how ripe all of this is for abuse do so because of the collateral damage it causes. Claims to the contrary have to rely on reports generally being accurate.They aren't. In fact, they aren't even close. It's not going too far to say that antipiracy groups of all entities should be well-suited in identifying piracy. And, yet, they quite often target innocent sites that simply post factual information that does not include pirated files, including sites that do factual reporting on torrent availability. One such site is SweTracker, which focuses on detailing Nordic torrent releases, when they become available, and to whom they are attributed.

While many PreDb-style sites monitor for ‘Scene’ releases using information culled from IRC, SweTracker monitors BitTorrent trackers and publishes information on who won the ‘race’ to put content online first. It does not link to any pirate content whatsoever but anti-piracy companies regularly report the site to Google.
And, yet, SweTracker has been reported to Google hundreds of times in the past year alone as hosting illegal content. These reports have largely flooded in from antipiracy outfits, despite the simple fact that SweTracker hosts no infringing files and instead only reports on factual information. The site's operator mostly shrugs his shoulders at all of this, but also points the general impression he has that antipiracy outfits don't have a clue as to what they're doing.
“My personal experience with [anti-piracy companies] is that they don’t really know how stuff works. They often state that users can download or stream movies directly from SweTracker, but that’s simply not true,” he explains. “But, I try to make life easy and do remove the releases they ask me to remove. They have contacted me via email several times.”
It almost goes without saying that SweTracker isn't some outlier in all of this. It's also worth noting that this sort of harassment doesn't typically end with a sternly worded email. Instead, Google often errs on the side of delisting the links in its search results, and antipiracy outfits often times go to site host providers and try to get the sites taken down entirely.
PreDb.org states clearly on its main page that “There are absolutely NO downloads of copyright-protected works, hyperlinks to downloads, torrent files, magnet links, nzb files or similar content on any part of this web site” but that doesn’t prevent complaints.Google’s Transparency Report indicates that at the time of writing, PreDb.org has had 2,204 URLs reported by content and anti-piracy companies, with Google removing the links from its indexes approximately 65% of the time.
To be clear, antipiracy outfits are censoring simple factual data in the name of copyright. Whether or not you find the factual data in question interesting or useful is entirely besides the point and doesn't make a lick of difference in the validity of the takedowns. Here we are, fresh into 2019, with rightsholders and antipiracy groups waging a clusterbomb war against piracy as their precision in doing so goes largely unquestioned, all while very real collateral damage is endured by innocent sites.Keep that in mind whenever copyright maximalists ask for just a bit more power to censor the internet.

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Announcing The Public Domain Game Jam: Gaming Like It's 1923

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Gaming Like It's 1923: The Newly Public Domain Game JamHappy new year, everyone. Every year, soon after the new year, we post a somewhat disappointing post describing how, once again, no new works have gone into the public domain in the US, because various lobbying interests have continued to extend copyright over and over again, with the last such extension coming in 1998 (the last time old works automatically entered the public domain in the US), better known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It's been 21 years of nothing, and that's been quite sad. But this year is different. Thanks to public interest in copyright and people getting increasingly angry about our locked up culture, Hollywood didn't even make a serious attempt to extend copyrights again (to be fair, they put out some feelers, and when they realized it would be a total disaster, they let it go).So this year, we've been seeing tons of celebratory articles, highlighting how works from 1923 are finally entering the public domain (WAY later than they should have, but not much we can do about that now). So, it's time to celebrate. And what good is a public domain if you don't do anything with it? So, today, now that these works are in the public domain, we're announcing the Gaming Like It's 1923 Newly Public Domain Game Jam. We've teamed up, once again, with Randy Lubin from Diegetic Games, who was our partner on the (public domain) CIA: Collect It All card game, to run this game jam.If the idea of a game jam is new to you, it's pretty simple: it's just a month-long contest for you to create games: these can be video games, board games, card games, RPGs, interactive fiction, etc. The one key requirement: it must use something from 1923 that has just entered the public domain. Those works are free for anyone to use, and we should celebrate that by actually making use of them to do something fun. So go create a game and submit it. There are some more details on the rules/restrictions and some pointers on the game jam page. Go make Sonny Bono proud (despite the fact that he believed that, contrary to the Constitution, copyright should last forever). We're offering up copies of our CIA game and some of our copyright-related t-shirts as prizes.If you need some source material for inspiration, Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain already has a nice page of highlights of newly public domain material, as well as a nice spreadsheet with even more works. Also, there have been a ton of news articles in the lead up to this first US public domain day in twenty-one years, that might also get you thinking. Here's ones from the Smithsonian, the NY Times, BoingBoing, NPR, Quartz, Motherboard, The Stranger and Slate, so start hunting around for great cultural works to build on...We've already put together an all-star cast of judges, mixing folks from both the worlds of gaming and copyright/public domain, including folks like Cory Doctorow, Whitney "Strix" Beltran, Dan Bull, Rebecca Tushnet, Nicky Case, Mark Lemley, Daphne Keller, Jason Scott, Jason Morningstar, J Li, Eric Goldman, Carolyn Homer, Albert Kong and we'll likely be naming a few more judges over the course of the month. Stay tuned.

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New Year's Message: Do Something Different

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Techdirt has been running since 1997 in one form or another, but since 2008, each year for the last post of the year I've written something where I do a little reflection on the year. The initial reasoning behind this was in response to some questions about how I could possibly stay happy while so frequently writing about depressing stuff, and that's what many of the posts have been about: the general optimism of the forward progress of innovation, despite the annoying hurdles and roadblocks that get in the way. Rage all you want at the unfortunate impediments to bringing about a better world, but don't become so cynical that you miss out on celebrating all the wonderful things that have improved lives around the world in the meantime. If you want to view those older posts, here they are:

This year, I'm going to focus things a bit differently. Last year, I talked about the struggles of 2017 and the importance of hanging in there in the face of adversity. And, really, 2018, was a lot more of the same.. But, it also had some really fun highlights -- including our successful Kickstarting of a card game, based on a public domain internal (formerly) top secret CIA training game that came to light following a FOIA request. That game recently shipped out to all backers. We also got involved in another game -- a big election simulation game that got all sorts of attention based on confusion over what it was about... though, even that resulted in a fun opportunity to run that game again as well. Those two instances both took me out of my comfort zone and into something entirely new -- and has left me thinking a lot more about being proactive about doing new and different things.After writing Techdirt for more than two decades, everything I do here is still my number one focus and passion, but it's been interesting to see what can be accomplished by branching out and trying something a bit different. So, for this post, I want to look forward to 2019, and trying some different things -- branching out and figuring out new ways to actually make good things happen. We've got lots of plans, some of which are well in progress (stay tuned), others of which are half-formed and hopefully will grow to reality, and some of which are still just inklings in the back of my head (or in the heads of my colleagues).One of the most powerful aspects of watching how Techdirt has grown and evolved over the years is seeing how much of an impact it has had on various discussions and debates of importance. But we can, and should, do more. And you should to. One of the big complaints we hear about social media these days, is that it's just people sounding off, rather than doing anything. That's a ridiculously unfair criticism if you have seen at all the kinds of things organized thanks to social media, but there is still an important underlying issue there. If you believe in something: see what you can do to make it happen.So, that's my focus for 2019: to do more and experiment with different ways of pushing the ball forward. Not everything will be a success (and many things may crash and burn), but if we want to make the world a better place, we might as well take every shot we can get. So stay tuned for hopefully some exciting announcements and plans this year (including, just maybe, one that will be announced, let's say... tomorrow).Of course, we can't continue to do what we do -- whether it's keeping Techdirt going or experimenting with these other ideas -- without your support. We've put together a handy-dandy page on all the different ways to support us so you can just go check that out (though, I'll call out special attention to picking up our CIA card game, as that's available right away and is only available while supplies last).And, as I say each and every year, what makes Techdirt so exciting and wonderful to me, personally, is that it truly is an amazing community of people. I still think too many journalism operations get things wrong by pushing off their community, but this site only exists because of the community that has built up around it. I wake up every day excited and energized by this community and the discussions and ideas shared around here. This goes beyond just the commenters (who make up one fun aspect of that community) to everyone who reads and who shares what we do. Thank you, again, for making Techdirt a special place this year, and we look forward to you joining us as we explore new areas in 2019.

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