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February 2019
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Adopting a Social Mindset: How Social Media Sparked a Content Transformation

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By David Kashak, CEO of Connatix At some point over the last few years, content stopped being just a narrative and became a conversation. Social media rewired our brains and fundamentally changed how we're programmed to receive information. Media consumption evolved alongside it, and readers have grown accustomed to interacting with a story beyond the […]The post Adopting a Social Mindset: How Social Media Sparked a Content Transformation appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 28-Feb-2019
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FBI, DA's Office Open Investigation Of Fatal Houston PD Drug Raid

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The Houston Police Department has a huge problem. A recent no-knock drug raid ended with two "suspects" killed and four officers wounded. The PD says no-knock entrances are safer for officers, not that you'd draw that conclusion from this raid.The problem the PD has is its drug warriors are dirty. The raid was predicated on a tip from a confidential informant who doesn't appear to exist. The warrant contained sworn statements about a heroin purchase that never happened and a large quantity of heroin packaged for sale that was not among the things seized from the dead couple's residence. The heroin central to the raid appears to have been taken from the console of an officer's squad car and run to the lab for some very unnecessary testing.Houston police officer Gerald Goines is the person behind this completely avoidable chain of events. After initially backing his officers, Police Chief Art Acevedo has reversed course in the face of contrary evidence he's unable to ignore. His initial defense of officers who participated in a drug raid that only turned up personal use amounts of cocaine and marijuana was perhaps understandable, given his position. But it went against the image he'd made for himself as a reformer -- someone who would clean up the department and repair its reputation.A leaked recording of Acevedo speaking to officers after the killing of an unarmed, mentally ill man seemed to make it clear there was zero tolerance for the usual cop bullshit. Acevedo criticized his officers for needlessly escalating interactions, bullying citizens for failing to show the respect officers feel is owed to them, and teaming up on post-incident paperwork to ensure most bad deeds went unpunished.But in the three years since that recording leaked, it appears little has changed. Officer Goines' willingness to fabricate a story to engage in a no-knock drug raid -- a narrative that included a nonexistent informant and drugs not purchased from the raided residence -- shows he had little worry of being outed by other officers, much less criticized for his lawless behavior. Here's how defense lawyer Mark Bennett phrased it after it was discovered Goines used a fictional informant and drugs from his own vehicle to craft a search warrant:

If you can't read/see the tweet, it says:
This doesn't happen if the cops don't feel safe doing it.
They don't feel safe doing it if there are honest cops around.
They always feel safe doing it.
Incidents like these aren't isolated. It's not a rare bad apple. You don't get to this point if you're surrounded by good cops. You get to this point because no one cares about smaller violations of trust or bent rules. The cops who get caught are the ones who have everything come off the rails at once. That happened to Goines: his drug raid produced death and injuries, resulting in a ton of public scrutiny and whole lot of questions Goines and the officers that enabled him aren't going to be able to answer satisfactorily.And there will be questions. The FBI has announced it will be investigating the fatal drug raid. If Goines doesn't want to go to jail for lying to federal agents, he's going to have to provide truthful answers that will possibly see him jailed for other charges.There's also a chance a whole lot of lawsuits will be filed against Goines and the Houston PD in the near future. The Harris County District Attorney says it's going to be looking into every criminal investigation Goines touched during his years as a law enforcement officer.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office has launched a review of more than 1,400 criminal cases spanning Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines' 34-year career.Twenty-seven of those cases are active.“Our duty is to see that justice is done in every case,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “Although the criminal investigation of Officer Goines is ongoing, we have an immediate ethical obligation to notify defendants and their lawyers in Goines' other cases to give them an opportunity to independently review any potential defenses."
One case may have already been dismissed simply because Officer Goines was present during the arrest. His fellow officers, who were unwilling to step up and report Goines for previous misconduct, will now see their work undone as the DA's office makes it way through Goines' three decade paper trail. Current prosecutions are likely to end up dismissed and any ongoing investigations he was involved in will probably be put on hold. Any one of the 1,400 cases being looked at could result in litigation that could drag his fellow officers into court to defend themselves against civil rights violation allegations.Does this mean everything Goines did was illegal? Of course not, but the ease with which he fabricated a narrative to support a deadly drug raid suggests he's been coloring outside the lines for a long time and receiving zero pushback or criticism for doing so.

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posted at: 12:00am on 28-Feb-2019
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Court Refuses To Allow Defendant In Copyright Trolling Case To Proceed, But Hints At Reform

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Over the course of the last year or so, coverage of copyright trolling stories turned up a common movie multiple times. That film was The Hitman's Bodyguard, and the outfits contracted to push for fees via settlement letters were both prolific and devious in trying to manipulate the settlement offer amounts to achieve the highest conversion rates. Whatever the level of intelligence that goes into these operations, however, there will almost always be a misfire, with a wrong target picked in the wrong court in such a way that makes the troll look like, well, a troll.Such appears to be the case when Bodyguard Productions went after Ernesto Mendoza in court, claiming that he downloaded the film via bittorrent. The problem with the case is that Mendoza is both very, very insistent on his innocence and also manages to cast about as sympathetic a figure as one might be able to find. Mendoza is in his 70s and has end-stage cancer. When Bodyguard Productions attempted to voluntarily dismiss the case when it became clear that Mendoza wasn't going to settle, he tried to push the court to force the case to go forward so that he could recover his legal expenses. Sadly, the court refused.

After hearing both sides, Illinois District Court Judge Robert Dow decided to dismiss the case, ordering both parties to pay their own fees. This was a huge disappointment for the alleged file-sharer, who now has to bear the costs for a case that he isn't allowed to fight. According to his attorney Lisa Clay, the Court should ensure that plaintiffs are ready and willing to prove their case.“Unfortunately, the Court’s recent order does not,” Clay tells TorrentFreak. “Granting the Plaintiff’s disingenuous motion to dismiss without penalty has the real consequence of strengthening the troll business model."
That's exactly correct. The fact that copyright trolls can simply back out of a case they aren't going to have settled -- the entire point of the troll's business model -- acts as an insurance policy against its efforts. By not forcing trolls to face the potential penalty of paying legal fees, there is essentially no consequence to firing off lawsuits with no regard to the facts. That's a truck-sized loophole in the legal system that clearly does an injustice to the accused party in copyright lawsuits.It seems that even the court in this case recognizes the problem.
On a broader scale, there’s a positive note for future defendants. In the order, Judge Dow notes that the Court should re-evaluate how it handles these cases. In addition, the potential for abuse may also deserve the attention of the Rules Committee.“[T]he points advanced by Defendant about the potential for abuse across the universe of peer-to-peer copyright infringement cases convince the Court that it should re-evaluate its own overall treatment of these cases and consider whether to suggest that the Rules Committee in this district look into the matter as well,” Judge Dow writes.
Which is great, except we still have a 70-year-old cancer patient out legal fees after a copyright troll cut and run from its own lawsuit simply because the troll was careless in filing its lawsuits. It's quite obvious that whatever that is, it sure isn't justice.

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Study: Nearly Half of SMB Marketers Say Amazon's Alexa Has More Marketing Potential Than Other Voice Assistants

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Uberall study finds that SMBs prefer Alexa over Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana Uberall, Inc., the location marketing solution for businesses competing to attract and win local brick-and-mortar customers, released a new study about how SMB (small- and medium-sized business) marketers feel about interactive voice technology. Interactive voice is the 2-way engagement that a consumer has […]The post Study: Nearly Half of SMB Marketers Say Amazon's Alexa Has More Marketing Potential Than Other Voice Assistants appeared first on Adotas.

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Judge Ruling In AT&T Merger Again Highlights Broken Antitrust Enforcement, Court Myopia

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Last year AT&T defeated the DOJ's challenge to the company's $86 billion merger with Time Warner thanks to a comically narrow reading of the markets by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. At no point in his original 172-page ruling (which approved the deal without a single condition) did Leon show the faintest understanding that AT&T intends to use vertical integration synergistically with the death of net neutrality and neutered FCC oversight to dominate smaller competitors and tilt the entire internet ecosystem in its favor.While the DOJ lost its original case, it was quick to appeal late last year, highlighting how within weeks of the deal AT&T had jacked up prices on consumers and competitors like Dish Networks, which says it was forced to pull HBO from its lineup because it could no longer afford the higher rates. Those rate hikes were directly courtesy of the huge debt AT&T incurred from both its 2015 merger with DirecTV (which eliminated a direct pay TV competitor from the market), and last year's Time Warner merger.None of this apparently mattered to a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which ruled this morning (pdf) that AT&T's latest merger would be allowed to stand. According to the Judges, the DOJ's claims that Leon failed to understand basic economic realities in the broadband and video markets were "unpersuasive." Much like the initial Leon ruling, the cornerstone of the Judges ruling centers around the idea that because there's more and more streaming competition, any anti-competitive problems from the deal would be mystically mitigated:

"Evidence also indicated that the industry had become dynamic in recent years with the emergence, for example, of Netflix and Hulu. In this evidentiary context, the government's objections that the district court misunderstood and misapplied economic principles and clearly erred in rejecting the quantitative model are unpersuasive. Accordingly, we affirm."
But, like the Leon ruling, the Judges failed to understand the bigger picture, almost to an embarrassing degree. In part with the DOJ's help, since throughout the entire case, the phrase net neutrality wasn't uttered even once in context.While AT&T does face more competition via streaming competitors, its control over wireless and wired broadband networks those services run over gives AT&T a distinct advantage. So in addition to making "must have" content more expensive for competitors (something the court just ignores), AT&T can also use its broadband networks to hamstring these emerging competitors. We've already seen that demonstrated clearly as AT&T imposes arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps on overage fees on its broadband users if they use a competitor like Netflix, but not if they use AT&T's own streaming service.It's not rocket science to see how AT&T's domination of broadband, control of essential content, and successful obliteration of FCC oversight all work synergistically to distort the market AT&T operates in. This is a company that effectively told the Ajit Pai FCC to go neuter itself, and the agency was more than happy to oblige. It's the same company that had so much political power, it was able to convince the government to retroactively change the law when it was found to be spying on Americans without a warrant. The problems with this type of power couldn't be more obvious.Meanwhile, the case continues to show how the steady lobbying erosion of U.S. antitrust authority is having a decidedly negative impact US market health. For decades we were told that the telecom industry should be deregulated to unleash brave new synergies and amazing innovation. This wouldn't be a problem, telecom giants and their allies insisted, because antitrust authority would help keep these natural monopolies in line.Yet here we are, with antitrust authority so comically eroded that lawyers are trapped within very narrow confines of economic theory, utterly incapable of proving even the most obvious of harms.The broadband industry is a broken, natural monopoly plagued by federal and state regulatory capture. When you obliterate what few consumer protections exist, giants like AT&T and Comcast don't just mystically start behaving thanks to a free market, they just double down on existing, bad behavior. That's because telecom isn't a free market, it's a broken mess. And free of both competition and meaningful regulatory oversight, it only gets worse. History has made this point time and time again, and the public's utter disdain of Comcast and AT&T is example A.In the wake of the telecom industry's successful attack on FCC authority, there are only a few things that can keep these natural monopolies in line absent meaningful competition. One, an FTC that lacks the authority, resources, or rule-making ability to actually police bad ISP behavior. Two, state regulators and AGs that ISPs and the FCC have working overtime. And antitrust enforcement that's been so neutered by lobbying that the government can't police even the most obvious instances of competitive issues caused by mindless merger mania.Anybody, Judges included, that can't see the obvious problem here isn't paying close enough attention.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Feb-2019
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The Powerful Benefits of Video Content Marketing

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  Many people who market content already know, that video content is becoming commonplace and a more popular way of marketing. Studies that have been conducted by Cisco have projected that videos will comprise 80 percent of all the internet traffic, by the end of this year. This statistic is very significant, and the percentage […]The post The Powerful Benefits of Video Content Marketing appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Feb-2019
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China Extends Its Censorship To Australian Books, Written By Australian Authors For Australian Readers

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News that China is extending its censorship to new domains barely provokes a yawn these days, since it's such a common occurrence. But even for those jaded by constant reports of the Chinese authorities trying to control what people see and hear, news that it is now actively censoring books written by Australian authors for Australian readers is pretty breath-taking. The Chinese government has done this before for single books whose message it disliked, but now it seems to be part of a broader, general policy:

Publishing industry figures have confirmed that the censors from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China are vetting books sent by Australian publishers to Chinese printing presses, even though they are written by Australian authors and intended for Australian readers.Any mention of a list of political dissidents, protests or political figures in China, including president Xi Jinping, is entirely prohibited, according to a list circulated to publishers and obtained by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
As the story in the Australian newspaper The Age explains, the reason why Chinese censors are able to impose their views on books designed for the Australian market is that it's cheaper to have books printed in China than in Europe, say, especially it if involves color illustrations. As a result, publishers can be faced with the choice of accepting Chinese demands, or not publishing the book at all because the costs are too high.The list of taboo topics is long, albeit pretty specific to China. It includes mention of major Chinese political figures, such as Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, as well as a list of 118 dissidents whose names may not be mentioned. Political topics such as Tiananmen Square, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Tibetan independence, Uyghurs and Falun Gong are all out. Pornography is completely forbidden, but even artistic nudity can be censored. The Chinese authorities are very sensitive to how maps are drawn, since they can involve disputed borders. More surprising is the ban on mentioning major religions.The Age article notes that the rules had been in place for some time, but largely ignored. Now, however, the censors are checking every page of every book, and enforcing the rules strictly. It's yet another sign of Xi Jinping's obsessive desire to control every facet of life -- even outside China, if he can.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Feb-2019
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Surprise: Uganda's New Social Media Tax Seems To Have Led To Fewer People Using The Internet, And Total Value Of Mobile Transactions To Drop

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Techdirt has been following the regrettable story of African governments imposing taxes and levies on Internet use. For example, Uganda has added a daily fee of 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) that its citizens must pay to access social media sites and many common Internet-based messaging and voice applications (collectively known as "OTT services"). It has also imposed a tax on mobile money transactions. When people started turning to VPNs as a way to avoid these charges, the government tried to get ISPs to ban VPN use. As we pointed out, these kind of taxes could discourage the very people who could benefit the most from using the Internet. And in news that will surprise no one, so it has turned out, according to official data from the Uganda Communications Commission, summarized here by an article on the Quartz site:

In the three months following the introduction of the levy in July 2018, there was a noted decline in the number of internet users, total revenues collected, as well as mobile money transactions. In a series of tweets, the Uganda Communications Commission noted internet subscription declined by more than 2.5 million users, while the sum of taxpayers from over-the-top (OTT) media services decreased by more than 1.2 million users. The value of mobile money transactions also fell by 4.5 trillion Ugandan shillings ($1.2 million).
Given the timing, it seems likely that it was indeed the newly-introduced levy that caused the number of Internet users in Uganda to drop dramatically, and the mobile phone-based economy to contract. Neither is good for the people of Uganda, its economy or its government. It's clearly time for the Ugandan authorities to rescind the tax before too much long-term damage is caused -- and for other African nations with ill-advised Internet levies to do the same.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Feb-2019
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Let's Talk About Fraud In Digital Advertising

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By Peter Koeppel Digital advertising has been simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to a lot of brands. On one hand, the reach that can be achieved would be absolutely impossible by pre-digital standards, but with that, marketers end up having to try to tease out how many of those visitors are really […]The post Let’s Talk About Fraud In Digital Advertising appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Feb-2019
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Florida Dept. Of Corrections Sued For Screwing Inmates Out Of $11.3 Million In Digital Purchases

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Last fall, the Florida Department of Corrections decided it needed to enrich itself at the literal expense of its inmates. It signed a new contract with new provider of jailhouse entertainment, instantly making $11.3 million in purchased digital goods worthless. You don't own what you paid for, even at inflated prison prices.The new contract with JPay rendered the purchased content unusable. Even the players purchased by inmates aren't technically theirs and must be returned to the vendor. Not that keeping the players would help much. The licensing agreements covering the content are only valid if the previous contractor is providing the service. Since it's not, the mp3s and ebooks can't be transferred to JPay devices.Unsurprisingly, inmates are furious. So are their families -- the ones who paid extortionate rates to give their imprisoned family members a little music to enjoy. The DOC recognized this was a problem and created a portal for the filing of complaints related to this disappearance of purchased digital goods. That portal is going to be very useful in the upcoming lawsuit against the Florida DOC for screwing inmates out of their purchases. (h/t Boing Boing)

The Florida Department of Corrections is facing a potential class action over recently forcing inmates to forfeit millions of dollars worth of mp3 and other multimedia files purchased under a since-axed media player contract.William Demler, a 74-year-old incarcerated man at South Florida Reception Center is the lead plaintiff in the case, which was filed in the northern U.S. District Court on Tuesday with the backing of the nonprofit legal firm, the Florida Justice Institute.
The lawsuit [PDF] says the Florida DOC violated its own contracting guidelines when it decided to prioritize its profits over the inmates' purchases.
As part of this bidding process, both the FDOC’s Invitation to Negotiate Contractual Services, as well as the FDOC’s Request for Proposal for Contractual Services, explicitly stated that compatibility with the FDOC’s prior vendor was a mandatory requirement of the contract, in order to ensure that prisoners would not bear the cost of the transition between vendors:[T]he proposed system must allow for inmates who currently have a device and/or songs purchased from the current Contractor to transfer and/or obtain updated equipment and/or music compatible with the successful contractor’s Digital Music Player Program. It is the intent of the Department that the implementation of a new Digital Player Program to have little or no financial impact on inmates presently participating in the Department’s current program.
Obviously, that's not what happened. A new contractor was picked based on prison profit margin, disregarding the standards the DOC set for itself. On top of that, the previous contractor offered up its own false assurances about the longevity of purchased digital content.
In addition to touting the qualities of the digital media players themselves, at least one widely-distributed advertisement, which appeared on the digital media player order form itself, also touted various qualities of the Digital Music Player Program, including the following representation:Browse, search and preselect songs from updated music catalogs holding millions of song titles representing a wide array of music genres. You have the ability to purchase and listen to unlimited music utilizing the re-download feature free of charge. Once music is purchased, you’ll always own it! (emphasis supplied).
The only concession the new vendor has made is one that solves none of the problems created by the new contract. For a fee, inmates can have their mp3s transferred to a new device or CDs, but those copies can only be sent to friends or family members who can hold onto the purchased content until the inmate is released. This means every inmate wishing to access the music and books they thought they owned will have to not only repurchase the content again, but the devices and accessories needed to access them.The suit is probably a long shot, but it does highlight the bullshit engaged in by companies selling digital media that relies on a thicket of licensing to make its way to the end user. Promising anyone that their digital purchases will be around "forever" is so out of touch with the reality of the situation it should be considered fraudulent on its face. In this case, the planned obsolescence was accelerated by the DOC's desire for a better profit margin. If there's any justice, those profits will go towards replacing the purchased goods it took away from the inmates it houses.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Feb-2019
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6 Ways To Use Nostalgia Marketing

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Have you ever stopped to think about why the social media hashtag Throwback Thursday became so popular? Or why Mad Men was such an instant smash hit? It's not out of sheer luck. Both the social media craze and successful show utilize the power of nostalgia to pique the interest of their viewers. Nostalgia marketing […]The post 6 Ways To Use Nostalgia Marketing appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Feb-2019
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Watch Oscars 2019 Live Stream 91st Academy Awards Online For Free

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Where can I watch the Oscars on TV? The 91st Academy Awards airs Sunday on ABC at 8 p.m.Oscars 2019. … the US, ABC is streaming the live broadcast of the Oscars on the ABC.watch the Oscars 2019 and where you can live stream the full show!Before the 91st Academy Awards, know where you can […]The post Watch Oscars 2019 Live Stream 91st Academy Awards Online For Free appeared first on Adotas.

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How to Watch Oscars 2019 Live Stream 91st Academy Awards Online For Free HD

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Where can I watch the Oscars on TV? The 91st Academy Awards airs Sunday on ABC at 8 p.m.Oscars 2019. … the US, ABC is streaming the live broadcast of the Oscars on the ABC.watch the Oscars 2019 and where you can live stream the full show!Before the 91st Academy Awards, know where you can […]The post How to Watch Oscars 2019 Live Stream 91st Academy Awards Online For Free HD appeared first on Adotas.

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7 Guidelines for Extraordinary Web Design, Usability, and User Experience

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ByKenneth Sytian When you’re on the process of designing and redesigning your website, it’s easy to be caught up with the entire process especially when it comes to the aesthetics. But keep in mind that if you want to accomplish something, if you’re going to boost your brand awareness or you want to generate more […]The post 7 Guidelines for Extraordinary Web Design, Usability, and User Experience appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Feb-2019
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Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to Steal Treasure

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Yesterday, we announced the winners of our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1923. We had a lot of great entries that deserve to be played, so for the next few Saturdays we're going to highlight some of the winning in the various categories.This week, it's our winner for Best Digital Game: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to Steal Treasure by Alex Blechman.Most of you are probably familiar with the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which was published in 1923 and as of this year is officially in the public domain. Well, here's what the introduction of this tongue-in-cheek game adaptation has to say about that:

Robert Frost's classic poem about stopping in the woods for no reason is very well written, but it's also pretty boring.Not much happens. A dumb guy stops to look at some snow, and his horse gets weirded out by him. Dull. Yawn. Snoozeville.Maybe that was considered an action-packed poem back in 1923, when Frost wrote it, but it's overdue for an update.
That's where you, the player, comes in. In this simple browser game, you are tasked with updating Frost's poem to sate a modern audience's craving for action, adventure, and... treasure! Verse by verse, you are presented with the poem and given the ability to swap out various nouns, verbs and adjectives for more exciting alternatives. So this:
...becomes something like this:
With some prompting and encouragement, you'll edit the entire poem in this fashion, until finally gazing upon your finished creation. Yeah: it's a very simple game, but one that made lots of us crack a smile and give it a second playthrough to see if we could do an even better editing job. It's funny, well-written and succinct, and we're thrilled to call it our winner for Best Digital Game. Check it out now on Itch, and share your best poem in the comments!Next week, we'll take a look at another one of the winners, though you can always explore them all right now as well as all the other entries that didn't quite make the cut.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Feb-2019
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Bulma Lore and expanded set of transformations and hair colors

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Funimation | Goku and Vegeta in winter clothesThere are a few complaints to be had with the film as it uses CGI in its fights which can distract viewers as the art switches from hand drawn linework to a-little-too-smooth computer drawn lines and shading and that can make some scenes feel like they were lifted […]The post Bulma Lore and expanded set of transformations and hair colors appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Feb-2019
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Legislators Take Another Stab At Eliminating Fees For PACER Access

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An new annual tradition in the halls of Congress is being celebrated with the introduction of legislation targeting PACER fees.

Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) reintroduced the Electronic Court Records Reform Act as HR 1164 Wednesday with cosponsors Mike Quigley (D-IL), David Roe (R-TN), and Henry “Hank” C. Johnson, Jr. (D-GA).The full title of the bill is “To direct the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to consolidate the Case Management/Electronic Case Files system, and for other purposes.” The full text of the bill is not currently available, but it is expected to be substantially similar to HR 6714 from the second session of the 115th Congress last year.
Last year's bill died after being referred to the House Judiciary Committee, most likely trampled underfoot by Congressional hearings and wall-related legislation. Either that or it's tough to get Congress members excited about eliminating fees they already don't have to pay.There have been no successful attempts to curb PACER fees, much less turn it into a free service. We know this because PACER still charges $0.10/page for documents and dockets as if it were an aged librarian keeping close tabs on the Xerox machine.It has been nearly 20 years since PACER opened its doors to the public. Since its inception, prices have increased, fee collections have steadily ticked upward, and almost none of that money is being spent trying to lower access costs or update the archaic system that punishes the public for expressing an interest in court proceedings.The only thing PACER has really done over the last twenty years is attract legislation and lawsuits. While it did create an online portal for court documents that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, that's about all it's done with the time and money the US court system has had at its disposal. It's not that this step wasn't important. It was a huge step forward. Since then, the PACER system has been characterized by its inertia.Maybe this will be the year Congress finally decides to take this issue seriously. At least one federal court has suggested PACER is misusing fees. Another judge has decided to allow a class action suit against the US Courts system to proceed, stating that these litigants suffer directly from the costs imposed by the government's walled garden.At the heart of all this is the First Amendment and the presumption of openness the US court system is supposed to adhere to. Instituting a paywall allows only some people to exercise their right to access public court documents. Whatever arguments might be made about having to offset the (very minimal) costs of maintaining this portal ignore the obvious side effects of limiting access only to those who can afford it.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Feb-2019
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Photorealistic waves crashing and breathtaking landscape shots

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World strikes a tricky tonal balance between epic and silly. The animation is unbelievably stunning, with nearly photorealistic waves crashing and breathtaking landscape shots. Watch How to Train Your Dragon The Hidden World Online There is a painterly treatment to light and shadow, with watercolor sunsets and fire […]The post Photorealistic waves crashing and breathtaking landscape shots appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Feb-2019
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7 Groundbreaking Tips to Grow Your Business on Social Media

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According to the latest statistics by Statista, there are currently 3.5 billion social media users, out of 4.4 billion active Internet users. That's too great of a number to even consider not seizing social media opportunities. Social media can help you grow your business on a global scale, but you need to know how to […]The post 7 Groundbreaking Tips to Grow Your Business on Social Media appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Feb-2019
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YouTube Filters At It Again: Pokemon YouTubers Have Accounts Nuked Over Child Porn Discussions That Weren't Occurring

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It's clear at this point that the automated filtering and flagging done by YouTube is simply not good. Whatever legitimacy the platform might want to have by touting its successes must certainly be diminished by the repeated cases of YouTube flagging videos for infringing content that isn't infringing and the fact that the whole setup has been successfully repurposed by blackmailers that hold accounts hostage through strikes.While most of these failures center around ContentID's inability to discern actual intellectual property infringement and its avenues for abuse, YouTube's algorithms can't even suss out more grave occurrences, such as child exploitation. This became apparent recently when multiple Pokemon streamers had their accounts nuked due to discussions about child pornography that never occurred.

A trio of popular Pokemon YouTubers were among the accounts wrongly banned by Google over the weekend for being involved in “activity that sexualises minors”.As the BBC report, Mystic7, Trainer Tips and Marksman all found their accounts removed not long after uploading footage of themselves playing Pokemon GO.It’s believed the error occurred thanks to their video’s continued use of the term “CP”, which in Pokemon GO refers to “Combat Points”, but which YouTube’s algorithm assumed was “Child Pornography”.
That's pretty stupid and it certainly seems like the reliance for a ban of an entire Google account based on the use of an acronym ought to have come with a review from an actual human being. That human would have immediately understood the context of the use of "CP" in a way the automated system apparently could not. And, to be clear, this wasn't a YouTube ban. It was the elimination of each streamers entire Google account, email and all.Now, once the backlash ensued, Google got them their accounts back, but that simply isn't good enough. As there is more and more pressure to ramp up automated policing of the internet, at some point, everyone pushing for those solutions needs to realize that the technology just isn't any good.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Feb-2019
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Google Fesses Up To Hidden Microphone In Nest Home Security Platform

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Google this week found itself in luke warm water after Nest Secure users discovered that their home security system contained a "hidden" microphone the company had never publicly disclosed. The reveal came via a Google announcement sent to Nest customers earlier this month, informing them that their Nest Secure base stations (the motion detector and keypad at the heart of the system) would soon be updated to include Google Assistant functionality, essentially converting the hardware into another way to issue voice commands around the home:

"Starting today, we're adding a feature to Nest Secure to do just that: the Google Assistant will be available on your Nest Guard, so you can ask it questions like, Hey Google, do I need an umbrella today? before you set your alarm and leave the house. Nest Guard is the brains of your Nest Secure; it contains a keypad and all the smarts that power the system. It's usually placed in a spot with lots of traffic (like the front doorway) making it useful as you come and go."
On its face, this is certainly a welcome upgrade. Especially given the fact that we live in an era where the opposite often occurs, and companies have a habit of removing basic product functionality post sale, leaving you with less of a product, or in a few select instances no product at all. As such, that the Nest keypad for a home alarm system actually was upgraded to do more than users original thought is a good thing, at least superficially.The problem: more privacy-conscious Nest owners weren't aware that the Nest home security base stations had a microphone in the first place, raising questions about whether Google was using the microphone for data collection and monetization in some capacity. Given the fact that we can't go more than twenty minutes before another major privacy scandal breaks, and the general regulatory and government response to most of these scandals has been a collective \_()_/, the concerns are understandable.
Unlike some of its modern contemporaries, Google at least acknowledged that the company should have done a better job disclosing the microphone's existence simply by including it in the product hardware specs:
"On Tuesday, a Google representative told Business Insider the company had made an "error." "The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs," the person said. "That was an error on our part."
And it does look like the company was also quick to update its product specs to make it clear the microphone exists moving forward. Still, Google should have been clearer from the start, and many went so far as to insist Google was lying to its customers:
I would probably note that if privacy is your top concern, a company like Google with a long history of hoovering up personal information probably shouldn't be your top home security choice in the first place. And there's a litany of other products in the home that deserve the same level of scrutiny. Americans are connecting poorly secured crap to their home networks at an alarming rate, from televisions (with microphones) that have paper mache grade security, to Barbie dolls that can be easily hacked and converted into covert listening devices.While Google did the right thing here by coming clear, this episode also does a nice job illustrating the fact that whether we're talking about products getting better or worse, you don't really own the products you buy, and your agreement with the manufacturer in the firmware-update era can pivot on a dime, often with far less disclosure than we saw here, or none whatsoever.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Feb-2019
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Japanese Academics Issue The Tamest 'Emergency' Statement Over Proposed Copyright Amendment

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Recently, we discussed a proposed change to Japanese copyright law that would make literally all downloading of copyrighted material a criminal matter, rather than a civil one. This change would be fairly bonkers for an entire host of reasons. It has the potential to clog up the criminal courts with the same kind of minor copyright infringement cases that clog up America's civil courts. It would put a decisive chill on the sharing culture that brought the internet to its current state to begin with. And it would further the culture of ownership and protectionism already far too common across the globe.And, as states an "emergency statement" issued by nearly a hundred Japanese academics, it would possibly criminalize the kind of personal copying that facilitates research, education, and personal growth.

In an ‘Emergency Statement’ signed by 87 academics, researchers, lawyers, and other experts, the government is urged to think again about the scope of the proposed legislation. Under the current proposals, the group believes that private copying could be rendered illegal, even to the extent of outlawing screenshots for private use.“We believe that the limitation on the right of reproduction for private use purposes has the function of restricting the freedom of information gathering in the private domain. It is a legal foundation that supports the intellectual and cultural activities of individuals, and even Japanese industry,” the signatories write.The group believes that the proposed legislation has been rushed through in a very short time (five meetings in three months), without carefully considering the consequences. They want the authorities to think again, to protect the public interest.
It's as timid a statement as could be offered. And it's one that essentially amounts to, "Whoa, guys, take a breath, because you don't know what you're about to do." Given the timeline on which this has occurred, it's a wholly reasonable request as well, given the enormous stake the public has and its nearly complete lack of a seat at the legislative table. The chill on both expression and research that this cluster-bomb law would have can't really be overstated, as the kind of personal copying that it would seek to criminalize has become essential to both.And, to be clear, these academics aren't exactly against enforcing copyright laws generally, either.
Importantly, those calling for the proposals to be considered more closely appear to be broadly in favor of tightening up the law to protect rightsholders. However, there are serious concerns over the potential for collateral damage when even snippets of text could be criminalized.To that end, they suggest amendments to the proposals to mandate that it’s only a crime to reproduce copyright works when the act causes real financial damage to content owners, in the case of those who pirate whole movies, music, manga publications, books, and so on.
If you're looking for a silver lining in all of this, perhaps one can be found in this being a perfect litmus test for how government that bows to moneyed interests will react to the most modest of requests against those interests. In other words, the academics in this case are essentially asking that the law eventually do only 90% of what it originally aimed to do.If the Japanese government can't be bothered to take even that request seriously, then perhaps the public should give up on it entirely.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Feb-2019
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Digital Marketing Trends to Keep Your Audience Hooked

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By Smith Willas Many new developments have taken place in the last five year in digital marketing. In addition to helping businesses achieve their goals, digital marketing has a great impact on how we do business. From running a website and making that website visible on search engines to increase web traffic and offering better […]The post Digital Marketing Trends to Keep Your Audience Hooked appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Feb-2019
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One Of The People Suing Fortnite Over 'Stolen' Dance Steps Gets His Dance Rejected By The US Copyright Office

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A handful of semi-famous people rang in the New Year by bringing copyright infringement lawsuits against online gaming juggernaut, Fortnite. The plaintiffs all accused Fortnite's developers of swiping their dances to use as sellable "emotes" for players' avatars.There were several problems with these lawsuits, not the least of which were the claims Fortnite infringed on uncopyrightable dance steps. While the copyright office is willing to extend protection to choreographed dances with sufficiently complex steps, the dances at the center of these lawsuits hardly met the bar for protected creativity.That leads to one of the other problems: while statutory damages were threatened in the lawsuits, none of the plaintiffs appeared to have secured copyright protection for their dance steps before filing their lawsuits. The one filed by Alfonso Ribeiro -- targeting Fortnite's use of the "Carlton Dance" -- mentioned he had filed a registration for his dance but hadn't actually been granted any protection yet.Ribeiro spoke both too late and too soon. Can't seek statutory damages without a registration. And you can't use a registration as leverage for a settlement if the US Copyright Office doesn't find your dance sufficiently creative.

The U.S. Copyright Office is skeptical about Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro's ownership claim over the signature "Carlton Dance," which became famous after a 1991 episode of the Will Smith series.In correspondence last month that was surfaced on Wednesday in California federal court, Saskia Florence, a supervisory registration specialist in the Office's Performing Arts Division, told Ribeiro's attorney that registration must be refused because his claimed "choreographic work" was a "simple dance routine."
If you've ever wanted to hear the Carlton Dance dryly described in embarrassing detail, the correspondence [PDF] from the Copyright Office has you covered:
The work submitted for registration with this application consists of a simple routine made up of three dance steps, the first of which is popularly known as "The Carlton." See Compendium (Third) § 309.2 (noting that the Office may take administrative notice of facts or matters known to the Office or the general public). The dancer sways their hips as they step from side to side, while swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner. In the second dance step, the dancer takes two steps to each side while opening and closing their legs and their arms in unison. In the final step, the dancer's feet are still and they lower one hand from above their head to the middle of their chest while fluttering their fingers.
This recitation is too much. Ribeiro's dance is too little. Application refused.Ribeiro can certainly continue with his lawsuit, but this decision isn't going to make it any easier to win. The only leverage he might have had was a successful registration. If the copyright office doesn't find his dance protectable, it's unlikely a federal court is going to decide any infringement took place.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-Feb-2019
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Offers and Promotions on Social Media Don't Influence Millennials

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Offers and promotions influence baby boomers to click through to a website from social media, while millennials are most influenced by images. Millennials tend to engage directly with businesses on social media, and baby boomers prefer contact forms on a website, a newsurveyfinds. There is a generational difference in the content that influences people to […]The post Offers and Promotions on Social Media Don't Influence Millennials appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-Feb-2019
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The Latest In Trademark Abuse Is Registering Marks To Obtain Ownership Of Instagram Accounts

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When one thinks about an Instagram account being taken over by a malicious actor, one usually imagines some kind of hack or social engineering resulting in the theft of an account password. The refrain "It wasn't me, I was hacked!" that you hear from some whose social media profiles are the subject of social scrutiny relies on this impression.But there are many different ways to hack a cat. The latest in Instagram account takeovers appears to be done through the avenue of trademark law, interestingly enough. Motherboard has a fascinating write-up detailing an entire ecosystem of malicious actors who are abusing trademarks to convince Instagram to hand over access to accounts.

Scammers do this by creating fake companies and trademarks to convince Instagram they should be the legitimate owner of a username in question, with fraudsters using “trademarking,” as the technique is known, to get ahold of sought-after, valuable handles, according to posts and evidence of the process in action obtained by Motherboard. The scammers can then keep these handles as digital mementos, brag about their acquisition, or resell them at a profit in a thriving underground community.Instagram allows users to report handles that a person or company believes infringes on their trademark. For example (this is a hypothetical), if the creator of the @disney handle on Instagram was not actually associated with Disney, the company may want to appeal to obtain ownership of the username. If Instagram agrees, it may then hand over control of the account to the original trademark holder. Instagram told Motherboard it has a team that works on trademark and intellectual property issues, and as part of that process, the team reviews whether a complaint may be fraudulent.
Judging by the sheer volume of bad actors that are "trademarking" in order to fool Instagram, it seems the company's team is at best not fully up to the task of weeding out the fraudsters. And, to be clear, this isn't so much a problem with trademark law as it is a problem with Instagram putting so much weight on supposed trademark ownership that it acts as the linchpin for account takeovers. That said, while time consuming, the ease with which bad actors can spin up trademarks makes this problem more wide-spread.
Several users on the underground forum OGUsers, which focuses on the theft and sale of high value Instagram accounts, appear to engage in the practice.“I’m looking to get a trademark or fake trademark that will make it look like I own a word so I can get an insta username,” one user posted on the forum last year.“Need someone from the uk to file a trademark from me,” another OGUsers member wrote last year. “Willing to pay fees + 20% in bitcoin.”A previous Motherboard investigation found members of OGUsers often sell handles for thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, although most of those account hijackings likely rely on SIM-jacking, where a hacker takes control of a victim’s phone number.
Again, the ultimate culprit here is Instagram using a trademark, or supposed trademark, as the chief justification for handing over an Instagram account. There obviously needs to be more of a check in place to ensure that this exact tactic is not allowed to be abused. It's also something of a symptom of ownership culture that an individual is allowed to point to a trademark, then to an Instagram account, and claim ownership.It seems the only barrier to abusing trademark law for malicious actions is one of creativity.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-Feb-2019
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Are Nano-Influencers the Future of Influencer Marketing?

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By Lauren McGrath, VP Studio & Strategy, ACTIVATE A closer look at the power of niche followings If Fyre Festival has taught us anything, it’s that relying solely on megawatt influencers and celebrities for reach and exposure can backfire badly for brands that are not careful.In its wake, a new tier of creators has come […]The post Are Nano-Influencers the Future of Influencer Marketing? appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 21-Feb-2019
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Emerging Types of Innovative Visual Content to Increase Conversions

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The world of business has been changing lately. Some methods that used to demonstrate good results are no longer effective. According to statistics, only 10% of marketers consider their methods of lead and sales generation effective. The reason is that too many marketers have relied on the same methods for a long time so customers […]The post Emerging Types of Innovative Visual Content to Increase Conversions appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-Feb-2019
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David Assman Invalidates Canadian Government's Reason For Refusing Him His Name-Based Vanity License Plate

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It's been a source of confusion for me over the past few years how there can possibly be so much conflict in the realm of vanity license plates. While I can understand the need for something in the way of rules when it comes to government-mandated plates, it's still the case that such plates are a form of expression and, given the government mandate, one would think the government would tread lightly when it comes to overly restrictive rules for them. And, yet, stories about agencies disallowing Star Trek references because ignorant people think they're racist, about police being unable to have a plate that reads "O1NK", and about governments somehow thinking IT-related terms are sexual abound.At first glance, one man's request for a vanity plate that reads "ASSMAN" might appear to be outside of these types of cases. After all, even the vulgar among us might understand a government worker disapproving of such a request out of concern for the purity of all the other drivers out there. On the other hand, when the denial for an "ASSMAN" vanity plate leaves the Canadian government offices in an envelope addressed to David Assman, it seems we're right back in the territory of the prudishly absurd.

Assman first tried to put his name on a license plate in the 1990s. That application was rejected by SGI as “profanity.” His recent application was denied on the grounds that it was “offensive, suggestive or not in good taste.”“I think they are too worried that people are going to have hurt feelings about something that is complete nonsense,” Assman told the National Post by direct message last week. “Even if it wasn’t my last name who is it going to hurt?”
This decades long struggle by David Assman to get the Canadian government to acknowledge that his own last name is not vulgar in the form of a license plate must surely have been frustrating. Why should Assman have to put up with this shit? Regardless, even if you would come down on the side of the government denying him his vanity plate so as to prevent his vulgarity of a surname from showing up on the back of his vehicle, Assman has other outcomes in mind.
David Assman is the hero we need, not the one we deserve. Yes, this story's final arc is Assman completely invalidating the reasoning behind the Canadian government denying him his vanity plate in the first place. In case you cannot see the picture, he had an auto body painter put his own last name on the back of his truck in letters that would be, oh I don't know, ten or so times the size that they would have been on the vanity plate itself.And so we tip our hat to the Assman this day. And we remind bureaucracies everywhere that people should just be allowed their vanity plates.

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-Feb-2019
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Fatal Houston PD Drug Raid Apparently Predicated On Drugs A Cop Had Stashed In His Car

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The ugly Houston PD drug raid that resulted in four injured officers and two dead "suspects" just keeps getting uglier.Officers swore a confidential informant purchased heroin from 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle in the house he shared with his wife of 21 years, Rhogena Nicholas. They swore the CI told them the house was filled with heroin packaged for purchase.On the strength of this confidential informant's claims, officers obtained a no-knock warrant and raided Tuttle's house. The officers claimed Tuttle opened fire on them and that his wife tried to grab a shotgun from a downed officer. This was the supposed reason for SWAT team's killing of Tuttle and Nicholas.This was the narrative everyone was given. Not a single officer was wearing a body cam, despite the department possessing dozens of them. The only footage that survived -- captured by a neighbor's security camera -- was confiscated by the Houston PD.Even in this vacuum of information, the PD's narrative quickly fell apart. No large amounts of heroin were found during the raid -- just personal use quantities of heroin and marijuana. The inventory also included a few guns, which the PD has treated as inherent evidence of criminality despite the fact both Tuttle and his wife could legally own the weapons found in the house. The only criminal history either of them had was an old misdemeanor charge for a bad check.Now that the PD's investigation into this raid is underway, it's becoming clear the official narrative -- a daring no-knock raid that took out dangerous heroin dealers -- isn't going to survive. The new narrative already includes multiple lies by police officers and a lot of supporting evidence.First off, the raid inventory does not include the weapon officers claimed Tuttle fired at them.

The other four items in the inventory are guns: a 20-gauge Beretta ALS shotgun, a 12-gauge Remington 1100 shotgun, a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, and a .22-caliber Winchester 190 semi-automatic rifle. The list does not include the .357 Magnum revolver that police say Tuttle fired at the officers who broke into his home, shot his dog, and killed his wife.
It also doesn't include the money the CI paid for the heroin or the weapon he claimed Tuttle was carrying.
Nor does it mention the 9mm semi-automatic handgun that the C.I. supposedly saw in the house the day before, which apparently disappeared along with the heroin and the money.
The PD also claimed the investigation was initiated by an anonymous call claiming the couple were selling drugs from their house. Since that initial press salvo by Chief Art Acevedo, information has come out indicating the "tip" was neither anonymous nor did it reference drug dealing.
A 911 call from the mother of now-deceased suspect Rhogena Nicholas put 7815 Harding Street on police radar. Sources close to the investigation say her mother called reporting the 58-year-old was doing drugs inside her own home.
It only gets worse. According to statements from officers now under investigation, it appears the Houston PD raided a house, shot a dog, and killed two people over drugs a police officer had stashed in his vehicle.
In the original warrant - the one used to justify the raid - [Officer Gerald] Goines wrote that he watched the buy and, along with Bryant, identified the substance as heroin. But when investigators went back to talk to [Officer Steven] Bryant, he admitted that he'd actually just retrieved two bags of heroin from the center console of Goines' car, at the instruction of another officer.Though he then took the two bags of drugs for testing to determine that they were heroin, he eventually admitted that he had never seen narcotics in question before retrieving them from the car. That, the investigator noted, contradicts the search warrant affidavit filed before the raid, which indicates that Bryant "recognized the substance purchased by the CI as heroin."
This is absolutely terrifying. Investigators can't seem to locate the informant both officers claimed was a reliable source of intel, which suggests this person -- relied on in other Houston PD investigations -- doesn't even exist. None of the CIs interviewed by Houston investigators said they'd made the purchase detailed in the warrant affidavit.How do citizens protect themselves against police officers willing to fabricate every aspect of an investigation in order to perform armed raids of their houses? Legally owning weapons means nothing when cops (and many courts) consider homeowners defending themselves from armed intruders a crime in and of itself. Two people are dead and no amount of late-arriving indictments is going to change that. Officers took a concerned mother's call about her daughter's drug use and turned it into a criminal conspiracy involving heroin and dangerous drug pushers armed to the teeth.We have to grant law enforcement a massive amount of power in order for them to do their job. Time after time, they abuse the powers we've given them, wielding them like weapons against the same citizens they're supposed to answer to. Vast power has been paired with nearly nonexistent accountability to create an atmosphere where officers feel comfortable manufacturing evidence to support their adrenaline habits. This should be nightmare fuel for all Americans. Unfortunately, outside of those already attuned to the miserable state of American policing, this will appear to be nothing more than a couple of bad apples they can safely ignore.

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-Feb-2019
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6 Simple Tips to Increase Your Traffic During Website Redesign

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Brace for impact! The company wants a website overhaul. Even worse, you are in dire need to redesign your own website - the one you've built for years. What should you do? There are plenty of factors to worry about especially on the SEO department. It's not like redesigning a room or something. Website redesigning […]The post 6 Simple Tips to Increase Your Traffic During Website Redesign appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 19-Feb-2019
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Best Lead Generation Companies for your Startup

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By Ariba Niaz Manual lead generation is difficult for startup companies! there are different ways of lead generation for different companies. You can get a pipeline of qualified leads from best lead generation companies. One should Focus on Quality over Quantity when we talk about choosing lead generation company. Here is the checklist you should […]The post Best Lead Generation Companies for your Startup appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 18-Feb-2019
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6 Ways Brands Can Be More Authentic On Social Media Through Marketing

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By Kamy Anderson Social media platforms have become very attractive to brands. And why wouldn't they? There are more than 2 billion social media users around the globe. They use it to stay in touch with friends and read or watch a variety of content. Brands see social media as an opportunity to advertise, connect […]The post 6 Ways Brands Can Be More Authentic On Social Media Through Marketing appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Feb-2019
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Gaming Like It's 1923: Winners Coming Soon!

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Judging is almost complete! If you entered our public domain game jam Gaming Like It's 1923, or if you've been following along, get ready for the upcoming announcement of the winners in our six categories:

  • Best Analog Games
  • Best Digital Game
  • Best adaptation of a 1923 work
  • Best remixing of multiple sources
  • Best Deep Cut (use of a work not listed on any of the round up articles)
  • Best Visuals
If you haven't had a chance to try out any of the games, go check out the submission page where you'll find all 35 entries, with a mix of analog and digital games in a wide variety of genres and styles, all based on works that entered the public domain in 1923.Our panel of judges has finished trying out the entries, and now we're tallying up their scores and going through their reviews to determine the final winners, who'll be receiving prizes including Techdirt swag and copies our our game, CIA: Collect It All. We'll be announcing the results in the next week or two, so stay tuned for an announcement!Thanks to everyone who entered the jam, everyone who's tried out the entries, and of course our panel of judges!

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Feb-2019
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Super Bowl Advertising Recall

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ECI conducted 2 online studies among viewers of the NE vs LA championship football game. Each wave interviewed over 600 adults, 1 wave occurred immediately after the game and another a week later. Respondents reviewed a list of 69 brands, of which 35 had ads appearing during the game, and were asked which brands they […]The post Super Bowl Advertising Recall appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Feb-2019
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Wrestler Booker T Sues Activision For Copyright Infringement Over Fairly Generic Character Depiction

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It's old hat by now to point out that on matters of copyright far too many people are unaware of the nuances of the law as to what constitutes infringement and what doesn't. While this is generally true, it's all the more so when it comes to how copyright covers specific characters or settings. For instance, George Lucas may have a copyright claim on the specific character of Darth Vader, but he most certainly does not have any claim to the more generic black-armored space-magician with a laser sword and a bad attitude. Copyright covers expression, in other words, not mere ideas.Which brings us to ex-WWE wrestler Booker T and his lawsuit against Activision over a G.I. Bro character he created and a character in Black Ops 4.

Booker T. Huffman has filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision for allegedly stealing his “G.I Bro” character in the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 video game.Huffman filed a lawsuit today against Activision Publishing, Inc, Activision Blizzard, Inc., and Major League Gaming Corp.The lawsuit alleges that Booker T’s character G.I Bro was copied by the Black Ops character David “Prophet” Wilkes. Booker T used the G.I Bro character in the 90s as a professional wrestler, and also created a comic book based on the character in 2015.
You can read the entire filing below, but I will tell you right up front that this isn't a strong case. Booker T is asserting copyright infringement over a character that does not share a name with his, does not share a backstory with his, and does not exist in the same setting as his. Instead, it appears the only thing the two characters do share is that both are African American gunslingers in combat gear with long hair. Seriously, that's about it. The filing itself uses these side by side images to demonstrate the "blatant copying" that has occurred.
If you think there is any kind of unique identifier in Activision's image on the right that somehow makes it a clear copy of Booker T's character, you're a crazy person. Again, to put it bluntly, it's just an African American guy with long hair in combat gear. Complicating Booker T's suit further, this is an established character in the Black Ops ethos, with this supposedly infringing depiction being simply some imagery around when Prophet was younger. The character is Prophet, full stop. It's not G.I. Bro at all and nobody is going to think otherwise, except apparently for Booker T and whatever lawyers he convinced to file this lawsuit.And none of that even touches Booker T's own character's name, a clear homage and reference to G.I. Joe. One wonders if Hasbro wants to get involved at this point, given the stink that's being made over intellectual property rights.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Feb-2019
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Appeals Court Takes No Time At All In Rejecting Patent Troll's Ridiculous Lawsuit Against Cloudflare

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You may recall that back in May of 2017, a patent trolling operation called Blackbird Technologies picked on the wrong internet company to troll. Having built up some success blasting frivolous lawsuits at other internet companies, it chose to go after Cloudflare. That was a mistake. Cloudflare didn't just hit back, it promised to destroy the patent trolling firm, Blackbird Technologies. It opened up a campaign to crowdsource prior art not just on the patent at issue in its lawsuit but on every patent that Blackbird Technology claimed to hold.Almost exactly a year ago, Cloudflare won its case with the court invalidating the patent. It was such an easy decision that it took US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria barely over a page explaining why the patent was so clearly invalid and the case was dismissed.Blackbird, for reasons that escape me, decided to appeal to the Federal Circuit. Now, we've spent the better part of two decades mocking the Federal Circuit and its history of nutty decisions, but there are some cases so obviously bad that even the CAFC can't fuck them up. This is one. A CAFC panel heard the case last week and found the situation so utterly stupid that it only took a few days for it to affirm the lower court ruling. Indeed, its ruling is even shorter than the district court's ruling. The CAFC opinion doesn't even say anything other than: "Affirmed."Ouch.According to Cloudflare's General Counsel, Doug Kramer, in a blog post on Cloudflare's site, the CAFC panel didn't have a single question for the company's lawyers (which is nearly unheard of), leaving him with tons of extra time:

A panel of three judges from that court heard arguments on the appeal last Friday, but didn't ask our attorney a single question about the substance of our argument on the abstractness of the patent. He sat down with almost half of his 15 minutes of argument time left because there was nothing more to say. Yesterday, just three business days after that hearing, the court affirmed the lower court's decision in summary fashion, which means they didn't even write about the claims or arguments, they just said Affirmed (see below).
Of course, as Kramer further notes in the post, even "easy victories" take a ton of time and resources, not to mention other kinds of costs that can impact a business in lots of ways:
Blackbird filed this case in March 16, 2017. For nearly two years, anyone doing due diligence on Cloudflare might have had questions about whether there was a cloud over our rights to our technology. And we had to go through a lot of briefing, and the related legal expenses, to get to this point. Blackbird's combined legal filings at the district court and appellate court amounted to more than 650 pages, our responsive briefs were more than 900 pages.The two courts spent less than two pages describing a result that was obvious to them, but it took us two years of uncertainty and cost to get there. Federal court litigation doesn't make anything easy. Even if Blackbird had won the case, it is not clear they would have been able to collect significant damages. Our allegedly infringing use was not a product or feature that we charged for or made money from - it was essentially posting interstitial messages for various errors. Even though we were able to win this case early in the legal process and keep our costs as low as possible, it's possible we spent more money resolving this matter than Blackbird would have been able to collect from us after trial.
This is why trolling works. This is why so many plaintiffs use the judicial system as a weapon, even when their lawsuits clearly have no merit. Even to get an "easy win" you can lose, big time.

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Report Shows Why Video Won't Kill The TV Star

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Advertiser Perceptions finds more advertisers increasing video advertising across all platforms, despite persistent concerns over measurement and safety. A new report fromAdvertiser Perceptionsconfirms the complementary nature of TV and digital video as advertisers pour more money into sight, sound and motion strategies. According to the report, 51% of advertisers intend to increase spending on video […]The post Report Shows Why Video Won’t Kill The TV Star appeared first on Adotas.

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How Technology Helps your Business go Global

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By Jeff Jones Technological advancements have made it easier and more rewarding to take your small business to the global stage as opposed to confining it to the local market. That is without mentioning how most economies across Europe, Africa, and Asia have grown in the recent past, increasing your chances of succeeding overseas. If […]The post How Technology Helps your Business go Global appeared first on Adotas.

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7 Research-Based Actions to Improve Your Content Marketing Business

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By Becky Holton A recent HubSpot survey concluded that 53% of all marketers deem content marketing to be their most reliable inbound strategy. The main reason for such a hierarchy of priorities is due to the unique nature of content marketing. More than anything, it's both free and sustainable, making it the favorite method of […]The post 7 Research-Based Actions to Improve Your Content Marketing Business appeared first on Adotas.

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Sony: We Are Totally Open For Crossplay, Game Developers: No, You Totally Are Not

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It's a really dumb saga that has gone on for far too long, but Sony has built for itself a public history of not allowing gamers to cross-play multiplayer games on their Playstations with players on other consoles. This is all an attempt to get Playstation owners to convince their friends to also buy Playstations so that they can game together, which is exactly the kind of protectionist hardball that makes Sony, you know, Sony. The backlash against Sony last summer was bad enough that Microsoft and Nintendo, rivals in the console space, decided to put out joint advertisements together along with a social media campaign essentially trolling Sony over the issue, while pointing out to gamers worldwide that owners of Nintendo and Xbox consoles very much could play with one another.In one of the all-time underwhelming responses to a PR crisis in the history of gaming, Sony did enable crossplay... for exactly two games. Fortnite and Rocket League have crossplay enabled, but literally nothing else. Which made it somewhat baffling that the Chairman of Sony Interactive managed to claim in a recent interview that the lack of crossplay at this point was all the developers' fault.

“People keep saying, ‘Why doesn’t Sony allow more people to have it,’” Sony’s Shawn Layden told Game Informer. “All it takes is for publishers and developers who wish to permission it. As ever, just work with your PlayStation account manager, and they will walk you through the steps that we’ve learned through our partnership with Epic on how this works. I don’t believe right now there is any gating factor on that. I think they’re open to make proposals, because the Fortnite thing worked pretty well.”
It's a striking claim in many ways. First, the inclusion of a phrase like "as ever" must surely be infuriating to any developer or gamer who knows the history of crossplay on Sony's hardware. It's not "as ever." At best, it's "as very, very recently." Second, the claim makes no sense. Developers and publishers across the spectrum have managed to get crossplay enabled on Xbox and Nintendo hardware, but the claim is that they've just been too lazy to do so with Sony? All while they're screaming that they want their games to be crossplay enabled? Come on.And it's not just me saying so. Layden's comments were met with immediate backlash from developers.
Finn Brice, the CEO of Chucklefish, which developed and published the recent Advance Wars-inspired hit Wargroove, took issue with Layden’s characterization in a thread about the interview on the gaming forum ResetEra.“We made many requests for crossplay (both through our account manager and directly with higher ups) all the way up until release month,” Brice wrote. “We were told in no uncertain terms that it was not going to happen.”Wargroove is currently available, with cross-play, on Switch, Xbox One, and PC. The game is slated to launch later this year on PlayStation 4. Brice added that while it might be more complicated from a policy standpoint on PlayStation’s part, for Chucklefish, implementing cross-play is as easy as flipping a switch, something people have speculated about ever since Fortnite maker Epic Games accidentally enabled cross-play between Xbox One and PS4 back in September of 2017.
In other words, Sony is Sonying all over this. Why in the world this kind of comment should be thought to do anything other than anger both gamers and game developers alike is beyond me. Blame developers for your own protectionist behavior that refuses what your own customers want? That's ballsy, even for Sony.

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FBI's Internal Investigations Of Shootings By Agents Clears Agents 98% Of The Time

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An agency that investigates itself will almost always clear itself. The FBI, which still allows interviews of suspects to be "memorialized" with pen-and-paper recollections by the interviewer, is allowed to handle its own internal investigations of deadly force deployment. Unsurprisingly, FBI agents are rarely found to have acted inappropriately.

New FBI data obtained exclusively by NBC News shows the bureau found fault with the actions of agents five times in 228 shooting incidents from 2011 to the present. Eighty-one were intentional shootings involving people or objects, 34 were intentional shootings of animals, and 113 were accidental discharges.
The large number of cleared incidents quite possibly includes this list of questionable shootings:
  • In August, an FBI agent was acquitted of federal criminal charges that he lied about firing his weapon in a 2016 standoff with right-wing extremists in Oregon. The FBI declined to comment on any disciplinary investigation.
  • In June, an FBI agent — off-duty but armed with a handgun — accidentally shot someone in a Denver nightclub after he did a backflip that dislodged his weapon. He pleaded guilty to third degree assault and was sentenced to two years probation. The FBI would not discuss his status at the bureau.
  • In 2016, an FBI agent shot a 31-year-old man during a military-style raid to serve a warrant on a different person. The FBI says the man was armed; his family, which has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, disputes that and adds that he was blind in one eye and disabled. The FBI declined to comment on the case.
  • In 2015, the FBI terminated an agent who fired his weapon from a second-story apartment in Queens, shooting an unarmed man as he tried to burglarize the agent's car on the street below.
It's impossible to say if any of these might be one of the five incidents the FBI found problematic. The agency refused to comment on any of these shootings when questioned by NBC.Very little information can be obtained by those seeking to hold the FBI responsible for wounding them or killing their loved ones. Even as the FBI has tentatively encouraged other law enforcement agencies to be more proactive in releasing information about officer-involved shootings, it hasn't applied the same level of transparency to its internal investigations. What has been released is heavily-redacted, giving readers little to work with but a few raw numbers.This is especially of concern to Junior Valladares, whose father was shot by an FBI agent during a hostage situation in Houston, Texas. His father was the hostage. According to the FBI, an agent poked a gun through a window to try to shoot the man holding Junior's father hostage. The gun was grabbed by someone in the room, resulting in the agent firing two shots into the room. One of those two bullets struck and killed Ulises Valladares, who was tied up on the couch.The hostage was the only person in the room, and the FBI went on record as stating it was the hostage who grabbed the rifle. It seems like an unlikely thing for a bound hostage to do, but the FBI has stuck to this story. Houston police chief Art Acevedo -- who is dealing with the fallout from a botched raid himself -- stated at a news conference last fall he no longer believes the FBI's narrative. It's unclear what Acevedo has seen that has changed his mind, but at this same news conference he called out the FBI for allowing the investigation to drag on for months, denying Valladares' son any closure.Law enforcement agencies have proven time and time again they can't be trusted to police themselves. The FBI is no exception.

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Latin Lovers? New Liftoff Report Reveals Dating Apps Surge in Latin America as North America Registration Rates Plummet 485 Percent

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The all-new data also shows that men now outpace women in dating app engagement and summer months drive mobile dating subscriptions Liftoff, a leader in mobile app marketing and retargeting, today released its third annual dating apps research and analysis. The most comprehensive and longitudinal study of its kind, the data reveals sweeping demographic and […]The post Latin Lovers? New Liftoff Report Reveals Dating Apps Surge in Latin America as North America Registration Rates Plummet 485 Percent appeared first on Adotas.

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US Marketers Increasingly Targeting Animal Lovers & Hispanic Audiences; Parents No Longer a Top Target

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New data from Lotame releases the top audience data segments from 2018 Lotame, a real-time data solutions company that empowers clients to turn data into actionable audience insights and positive ROI, today released statistics looking at what prepackaged data audience segments U.S. marketers purchased from January to October 2018 compared to the previous year. The […]The post US Marketers Increasingly Targeting Animal Lovers & Hispanic Audiences; Parents No Longer a Top Target appeared first on Adotas.

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Ido acts as her father figure and bids to keep her out of trouble

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In the junkyard slums of Iron City (which lays beneath the wealthy sky city of Zalem) our window to this world opens with Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovering a disembodied female cyborg with a fully intact human brain. He rebuilds her and gives the teenage girl the name Alita.Unbeknown to him, Alita (an unrecognisable […]The post Ido acts as her father figure and bids to keep her out of trouble appeared first on Adotas.

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Interested In Helping Advance Tech Policy In The Right Direction? Here's An Amazing Opportunity

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There are a few common themes around Techdirt: (1) the lack of tech understanding among people crafting policy these days, and (2) our general annoyance at the cynics who insist there's nothing to be done to stop bad policy making. Well, here's an opportunity to actually do something, and to help be in a position to craft better, knowledgeable tech policy. The Aspen Institute recently launched a new Aspen Tech Policy Hub out here in the Bay Area, with a program designed to "train the next generation of policy entrepreneurs." The approach they're taking is a good one. I've complained many times in the past that the way that most DC folks try to "bridge the gap" between tech and policy is to come out to Silicon Valley and wag their fingers at annoyed entrepreneurs and technologists, lecturing them on how they need to care about policy -- when so many of those entrepreneurs and technologists believe the answer is just for policymakers to "stay out of the way."Of course, if anything has become clear over the last few years, it's that folks in DC (and Brussels and lots of other places) have no interest or intent in staying out of the way, and much of the rest of the world also wants them to get more and more engaged in directing and regulating technology. And if that's going to happen, we'd all be a lot better off if the folks making the decisions actually knew what the hell they were talking about.That brings us to the new Fellowship Program that the Aspen Tech Policy Hub is launching. They're comparing it to a startup incubator like Y Combinator, but for getting technologists and entrepreneurs (and journalists) up to speed on tech policy.

Incubator fellows will spend a minimum of 2 months with us for mandatory programming in summer 2019, from early June to mid-August 2019. The fellowship is tentatively scheduled for June 10 through August 9, 2019. The exact start date for this pilot cohort is still tentative based on space availability and fellow scheduling....This is an intense, full time program, and we expect fellows' full attention while they are participating. Fellows will be paid a stipend of $7,500/month for 2 months to defray their living costs in the Bay Area, with an option to apply for a 3rd month of stipend funding if the fellow is available to remain in residence for an additional month after formal programming concludes. (We will provide office space, but fellows will need to find their own housing if they are not already local.) We also have limited funds to assist with relocation to the Bay Area if needed. So long as space is available, fellows are eligible to continue to work out of our facility for an additional three months free of charge, through November 2019.During residence, fellows will be required to create at least one practical policy outputfor instance, mock legislation, toolkits for policymakers, white papers, op-eds, or an app. Fellows have to propose a possible project in their application for the fellowship, but they are not tied to working on that project once in residence. In fact, we encourage fellows to work together to identify new ideas for projects on arrival.
I have no association with the organization. I just think it's a great program concept. The tech policy world is quite small, and right now the vast majority (though certainly not all...) of the people who end up in that world tend to be lawyers, rather than technologists and entrepreneurs. Nothing against the lawyers, but the tech policy world could use some other perspectives as well. So if you've always complained about dumb policy makers and you're actually interested in breaking through the cynicism and actually doing something, check out the program and apply.

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Movie Torrents Shown To Actually Boost Box Office Sales For Post-Release Movies

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With what is now many, many years covering issues of piracy and intellectual property, it will come as no surprise to you that we've specifically dived into the intersection of copyright infringement and the film industry over and over. What is something of a counter-intuitive notion, however, is that we also have a decade-long post history pointing out that, despite all the fear-mongering about how piracy is killing the movie industry, box office records keep getting broken on the regular. The easy point to make is that obviously piracy is not killing the film industry, given how many movie tickets are being sold. But perhaps, according to a recent study, we should have gone one further and explored whether box office records were being broken in part because of piracy.Researchers from the University of Houston and Western University dug into the effect of The Pirate Bay's offline status in part of 2014 and came away with some surprising findings.

Movies shared on The Pirate Bay are the main focus. The researchers use the Pirate Bay downtime following the 2014 raid to measure its impact on word-of-mouth promotion and box office revenues.Based on a sample of hundreds of movie torrents and data from most popular movie review sites, Lu and his colleagues estimated this effect. Their results are rather intriguing.
And, as you might expect, those results are also more nuanced than either "Piracy bad!" or "Piracy fine!" mantras. Instead, the research suggests that having pirated copies of a film prior to release has a definite negative impact on box office numbers. But, importantly, the opposite is true when a film is made illicitly available after release.
This changes when the researchers look at post-release piracy. That is, piracy which occurs after a film has premiered at the box office. In this case, there’s a positive effect on box office revenue through an increase in word-of-mouth promotion (WOM).“We find that the volume of online WOM mediates the impact of piracy on the box office. Based on counterfactual simulations, the WOM-effect from post-release piracy on the box office increases revenue by about 3.0%,” they write. In other words, when The Pirate Bay went down, box office revenue dropped as well. This effect is significant and not linked to seasonal changes, as it wasn’t there in previous years. The positive effect is strongest during the beginning of a movie’s release and differs per genre.  Action movies, comedies, and thrillers, benefit more from a positive piracy “buzz” than dramas, for example.
So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that the MPAA's myopic notion that piracy is always bad, full-stop, is refuted by the data. Instead, the data suggests that movie studios could make very good use of piracy in the right circumstances, or at the very least they could focus their enforcement efforts only in the areas where piracy appears to cause actual harm, rather than where it helps sales numbers. This would be the logical course to take, given that post-release piracy appears to be a boon to box office revenue.
“Pre-release piracy can have a substantial negative effect, in our data this overwhelms the positive effect we look at. That is, the overall effect of piracy is still negative,” Lu tells us.That said, there is an interesting lesson to be learned. Based on this study, copyright enforcement should be mainly targeted on early leaks. If these are dealt with, the main problem is ‘gone.’“Our findings suggest approaches to target scarce anti-piracy resources, such as focusing on tackling damaging pre-release piracy,” the researchers write.
Makes sense. Hollywood, however, has never shown itself to be capable of this kind of nuance. Instead, sledgehammers are preferred over more precise approaches, with lobbying power dedicated to broad policy statements that apparently would at least in part be a detriment to sales revenues. And if that isn't stupid, I don't know what is.

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Owner Of Harry Caray's Restaurants Finds You Can't Just Trademark A Widely Used Hashtag

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As someone who spends a great deal of time writing about trademark law and trademark disputes, I am often repeating that trademark law was put in place specifically to keep the public from being confused as to the source of affiliations of a particular good or service. This is a necessary repetition, as far too many people think that trademark law was designed to allow opportunists to lock up language for commerce simply because they thought to do so. While the USPTO has historically been far too lenient on trademark matters, it is a fact that a mark that doesn't function to inform the buying public as to the source of a good or service is an invalid mark.This is a lesson recently learned by Grant DePorter, owner of Chicago's Harry Caray Restaurant Group, who attempted to register the hashtag "#MAGICNUMBER108", a reference to the Cubs long-held World Series drought.

Initially, the examining attorney assigned to DePorter's application said that the trademark application was not worthy of registration, because #MAGICNUMBER108 is informational matter that fails to function as a trademark to indicate the source of DePorter's goods and to identify them from the goods of others. The TTAB affirmed the examining attorney's opinion. The main issue with DePorter's application is that the mark is a commonly used term or expression, which means that it is less likely for the public to use it to identify only one source. As such, it would deem the mark as being unworthy for registration status.
In other words, as this was a hashtag already in wide circulation when DePorter decided to apply for his trademark, the hashtag wouldn't serve as a reference for anything to do with Harry Caray's restaurants. One cannot simply witness something trending widely and then decide to lock that language up for themselves. Even if, as is the case with DePorter, one is in fact using that phrase or hashtag in commerce. Directly from the ruling:
Any evidence demonstrating widespread use of the wording is relevant, including, in this case specifically, social media tweets and posts of the type the Examining Attorney made of record in this application. The evidence provided by the Examining Attorney shows wide use of the proposed mark in a non-trademark manner to consistently convey information about the Chicago Cubs' World Series appearance and win after a 108-year drought. This evidence is competent to suggest that upon encountering Applicant's 'mark,' prospective purchasers familiar with such widespread non-trademark use are unlikely to consider it to indicate the source of Applicant's goods.
Again, for those of us who have some working knowledge of trademark law and its purpose, this is all plainly obvious. That it isn't obvious to the public writ large is the result of a permission culture fully out of control coupled with a USPTO far too often found sleeping at the wheel. This is obviously a case of attempted opportunism.And it's a breath of fresh air to see the TTAB get this one right.

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EU's New 'Open By Default' Rules For Data Generated By Public Funding Subverted At The Last Minute

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The EU's awful Copyright Directive is rightly dominating the news at the moment, but there are other interesting laws being debated and passed in the European Union that have received far less attention. One of these is a revision of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive. Here's the background to the move:

The re-use of data generated by public sector bodies (e.g. legal, traffic, meteorological and financial etc.) for commercial and non-commercial purposes is currently governed by Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, which was reviewed in 2013.On 25 April 2018, the Commission adopted the 2018 Data Package, addressing for the first time different types of data (public, private, scientific) within a coherent policy framework, making use of different policy instruments. As part of this package, the review of the PSI Directive was the object of an extensive public consultation process.
The basic idea behind the revision, which was agreed on at the end of January by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, is sound:
All public sector content that can be accessed under national access to documents rules is in principle freely available for re-use. Public sector bodies will not be able to charge more than the marginal cost for the re-use of their data, except in very limited cases. This will allow more [small and medium enterprises] and start-ups to enter new markets in providing data-based products and services.
In December last year, the European Parliament proposed a version of the text that would require researchers in receipt of public funding to publish their data for anyone to re-use. However, some companies and academics were unhappy with this "open by default" approach. They issued a statement calling for research data to be "as open as possible, as closed as necessary", which would include some carve-outs.According to Science|Business, that view has prevailed in the final text, which is not yet publicly available. It is now apparently permissible for companies and academics to invoke "confidentiality" and "legitimate commercial interests" as reasons for not releasing publicly-funded data. Clearly, that's a huge loophole that could easily be abused by organizations to hoard results. If companies and academic institutions aren't willing to share the fruits of their research as open data, there's a very simple solution: don't take public money. Sadly, that fair and simple approach seems not to be a part of the otherwise welcome revised PSI Directive.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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What publishers can offer brands against any advertising -opoly

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Advertising revenue has long been dominated by Facebook and Google, and now Amazon has proven itself a ready, and more than willing, third player to offer programmatic adverting opportunities through its Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP). More than an emerging player, its ad business reached $1.65B in 2017, which is more than both Twitter or Snapchat. […]The post What publishers can offer brands against any advertising -opoly appeared first on Adotas.

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The Most Popular Make Landing Page Provider

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Take what feedback you can get and enhance the webpage until to get happy by it. Simply take a notion you have and acquire a landing page for that a product based on such an idea. With Google Varieties, you are able to without difficulty create a completely free landing page and begin collecting data […]The post The Most Popular Make Landing Page Provider appeared first on Adotas.

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Monster Energy Loses Appeal On Monsta Pizza Trademark Ruling

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Monster Energy, maker of caffeinated liquid crank, has a long and legendary history of being roughly the most obnoxious trademark bully on the planet. It faces stiff competition in this arena of bad, of course, but it has always put up quite a fight to win that title. The company either sues or attempts to block trademarks for everything that could even possibly be barely linked to the term "monster" in any way. One such case was its opposition to a trademark registration for Monsta Pizza in the UK. Pizza is, of course, not a beverage, but that didn't stop Monster Energy from trying to keep the pizza chain from its name. It lost that opposition, with the IPO pointing out that its citizens are not stupid enough to be confused between drinks and pizza.And that should have been the end of the story, except that this is Monster Energy we're talking about, so of course it appealed its loss. Its grounds for appeal amounted to "Nuh-uh! The public really might be confused!" Thankfully, Monster Energy lost this appeal as well.

However, the bid was rejected "in its entirety" at the Court of Appeal.Chris Dominey, who founded travelling pizzeria Monsta with Christopher Lapham in 2017, said he had been "immensely relieved" to reach the end of the battle but the business remained in debt due to legal fees which could not be recouped.He said: "It feels great, I have got my business back, and it does feel good to beat a 'big bully' so to speak. If you are confident that you are right you should go for it, but but I would tell other small businesses to beware that it does cost a lot of money."
He's not kidding. In all, Dominey's business is out over eight thousand pounds in legal costs, having only been able to recover a fraction of what it cost him to defend his business against what appears to be a completely frivolous trademark opposition. That's how trademark bullying works, of course. Large companies like Monster Energy rely on that onerous cost to be able to get away with its spurious demands. That simply is not how trademark law is supposed to work.But in the modern age, there are ways a business can get its customers to help fight back against such bullying.
The business uses a monster-shaped pizza oven, which its logo is designed to represent, meaning a name change would have required considerable upheaval. Mr Dominey thanked people who contributed to a crowdfunding campaign which helped pay for some of the legal costs, and those who "gave us support and told us to keep fighting".
The world needs more companies like Monsta Pizza fighting back against this kind of bullying to have a more global impact on trademark bullying. For now, we'll just have to enjoy another Monster Energy loss.

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Report Shows ICE Almost Never Punishes Contractors Housing Detainees No Matter How Many Violations They Rack Up

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ICE continues to make its own case for abolishment. The agency busies itself with neglecting detainees when not acting as the extension of major corporations to shut down infringing panties/websites. ICE is too big and it's getting bigger at a rate it can't sustain. To achieve the ends the President has set down for it, it's wearing itself thin trying to find the dangerous immigrants Trump keeps talking about or the bound-and-gagged women he insists are being brought across the border by the truckload.It seemingly doesn't have the manpower to even capture just dangerous foreigners. Instead of using its resources more carefully, it's doing things like setting up fake colleges to capture dangerous criminals immigrants seeking educational opportunities. And it's continuing to outsource its responsibilities while taking an apparent hands-off approach to third party detention.ICE's Inspector General released a report last summer stating the agency was failing to inspect detention facilities often enough or well enough. It found contractors performing government work were doing the job poorly. Detainees weren't being interviewed properly or given translators to overcome speech barriers. In some cases, detention personnel were not giving detainees access to services like phone calls to the ICE officers handling their cases. In some facilities, dangerous detainees were intermingled with non-criminals. In almost every case, ICE issued a waiver for deficiencies it actually observed. As far as the OIG could tell, dozens of deficiencies went unnoticed thanks to ICE's inability (or unwillingness) to perform mandatory inspections.There's more bad news coming from the OIG's office about ICE's use of contractors to handle detainees. The latest report [PDF] delves into ICE's apparent unwillingness to hold anyone accountable. ICE can't be trusted to police itself, so it obviously can't be trusted to police its contractors.This is the Inspector General's ultra-dry summary of the problems it discovered:

ICE does not adequately hold detention facility contractors accountable for not meeting performance standards. ICE fails to consistently include its quality assurance surveillance plan (QASP) in facility contracts. The QASP provides tools for ensuring facilities meet performance standards. Only 28 out of 106 contracts we reviewed contained the QASP.
That's only the beginning of it. From this missing paperwork, ICE moves even further away from anything resembling accountability. As was detailed in the last report, the IG points out ICE's "solution" to the few deficiencies it does decide to do anything about is the issuance of waivers, which magically make deficiencies acceptable protocol. ICE calls this a "multilayered" approach. The IG calls it nonexistent.
Between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2018, ICE imposed financial penalties on only two occasions, despite documenting thousands of instances of the facilities’ failures to comply with detention standards. Instead of holding facilities accountable through financial penalties, ICE issued waivers to facilities with deficient conditions, seeking to exempt them from having to comply with certain detention standards. However, ICE has no formal policies and procedures about the waiver process and has allowed officials without clear authority to grant waivers. ICE also does not ensure key stakeholders have access to approved waivers.
To be more precise, ICE only imposed financial penalties twice, despite observing a jaw-dropping 14,003 deficiencies over the course of three years. ICE is blowing taxpayer money and expecting nothing in return. What's detailed in this report -- along with the IG release from last year -- is an agency repeatedly abusing the public's trust.
Our review of the corresponding payment data identified about $3.9 million in deductions, representing only 0.13 percent of the more than $3 billion in total payments to contractors during the same timeframe. ICE did not impose any withholdings during this timeframe.
When the agency whitewashes bad behavior by contractors, there's no paper trail. There's no follow up. And everyone involved seems to have no idea what's going on other than no one's going to be held responsible for their actions.
We analyzed the 68 waiver requests submitted between September 2016 and July 2018. Custody Management approved 96 percent of these requests, including waivers of safety and security standards.Despite this high approval rate, ICE could not provide us with any guidance on the waiver process. Key officials admitted there are no policies, procedures, guidance documents, or instructions to explain how to review waiver requests. The only pertinent documents that ICE provided were examples of memoranda that Field Office Directors could use to request waivers of the detention standards’ provisions on strip searches. However, the memoranda did not acknowledge the important constitutional and policy interests implicated by a facility’s use of strip searches. ICE officials did not explain how Custody Management should handle such waiver requests when a contrary contractual provision requires compliance with a strip search standard.
ICE is handing out waivers for private companies to violate Constitutional protections afforded to detainees. These waivers are almost always indefinite. Each waiver is supposed to be followed up on to ensure the "deficiency" has been eliminated by the contractor. ICE has performed zero reviews or reassessments of these waivers.The waivers have approved unconstitutional strip searches, as detailed above. They've also approved the commingling of violent criminals in general population, and the use of a chemical ten times more toxic than pepper spray to subdue detainees. As the report notes, detainees are being seriously harmed by the lax standards deployed by contractors, and ICE's response has been to shrug and issue waivers.ICE is an active partner in the dehumanizing of immigrants, allowing private contractors to treat the human beings they're supposed to be taking care of like pieces of meat to be exchanged for cash. It's no better than ICE treats detainees itself, but a federal agency should be ensuring its very existence isn't a cancerous growth on the soul of this nation.

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How to Properly Optimize Your Images for Your Social Media Channels

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By Lili Griffin Images can play a crucial role in different types of social media posts. Whenever a person reads or skims a text, highly compelling visuals always tend to stand out. For instance, if you own a business, you can use the type of product photography that makes an impact, the one that effectively […]The post How to Properly Optimize Your Images for Your Social Media Channels appeared first on Adotas.

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The Wrong Ways to Boost Publisher Revenue in 2019

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By Kabir Mathur, Head of Business Development, Kiip Improved monetization will be a top priority on every mobile publisher's roadmap in 2019, but the path to that revenue boost can take a variety of turns. The in-app environment is lucrative and the promise of short-term revenue boosts can seem very appealing, but it's important that […]The post The Wrong Ways to Boost Publisher Revenue in 2019 appeared first on Adotas.

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Three Tips for Writing Effective Email Copy

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By Tom Wozniak - Executive Director of Marketing -OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC Email marketing continues to be arguably the most cost-effective digital marketing channel for a huge number of companies. But, just because it is often successful doesn't mean that marketers can rest on their laurels, send out quickly pulled together email creative and wait for […]The post Three Tips for Writing Effective Email Copy appeared first on Adotas.

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

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2014, the Snowden revelations continued with information like the NSA and FBI getting access to 40,000 Yahoo and Google accounts in the first half of 2013, and the GCHQ trying to hit Anonymous with a DDoS attack, while some new FOIA documents got us a closer look at how surveillance info is laundered via "parallel construction". Germany's Chaos Computer Club filed a criminal complaint against the German government over mass surveillance, while a Belgian prosecutor began looking into reports that the NSA and GCHQ hacked a well-known Belgian cryptographer. Meanwhile, Mike Rogers was trying to argue that Glenn Greenwald should be prosecuted for 'selling stolen material', Benjkamin Wittes was arguing that it's okay for the agency to deny spying on Americans, even if it does, and the DOJ was admitting that the NSA's phone record collection probably included congress.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2009, a researcher predicted that technology was going to render copyright completely obsolete within a year or so. This did not, of course, come true — but it's easy to see where it came from, even just given the copyright absurdity happening that very week. The EU was considering a draconian copyright proposal not unlike today's reform directive, the RIAA hired a new litigation boss with a history of 'misstating facts' in court while the DOJ was packing its ranks with entertainment and software industry lawyers, there was a proposal for new ACTA provisions that would criminalize non-commercial infringement, Blizzard successfully abused copyright to go after World Of Warcraft bots, and the Associated Press began demanding money for the photo that was the basis of Shepard Fairey's famous Obama poster.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2004, the EFF and other groups had noticed some dangerous corner-cutting in the RIAA's latest round of mass lawsuits, while the agency also appeared to be struggling to force its narrative about piracy onto the Morpheus/Grokster trial. The MyDoom virus was wreaking some havoc, causing Microsoft to set up an alternative website and, of course, causing antivirus companies to push massive damage estimates for reporters to uncritically repeat. One prediction piece about 3D printers may have jumped the gun slightly by saying they were closer than most people thought, but another was prescient in predicting that user-created video is the killer app for broadband, or at least wise to catch on to the fact that the internet is about connecting and communicating, not consuming a broadcast.

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Email Marketing by the Numbers: A Smart Investment

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No matter where your business is located, email marketing is one of the best channels you can use to increase the visibility of your brand, drive conversions, and boost revenue. It's important for any business to master email marketing. The question is: how do you do so? Just like any other marketing strategy, the first […]The post Email Marketing by the Numbers: A Smart Investment appeared first on Adotas.

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ChooseCo Inks Lucrative Deal With Amazon, Possibly Thanks To Netflix's 'Bandersnatch'

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When we discussed Chooseco, the company behind the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books from decades past, and its lawsuit against Netflix for having content that allowed watchers to choose paths within the narrative, we focused mostly on how silly the lawsuit was purely from a merit standpoint. The trademark suit rested mostly on a throwaway reference or homage made by a character in the Netflix work, and the claim that Chooseco has licensed its name in the past but lost the opportunity to do so for this work. None of that makes the public at all likely to be confused into thinking that Bandersnatch was somehow a Chooseco product, nor does such a reference somehow cause the work to be trademark infringement.But there's another angle in all of this. The homage made in Bandersnatch was truly an homage, meaning that it called to mind for many of a certain age the fondness we had for these Choose Your Own Adventure books. Despite the films dark themes, the reference itself is a positive one. And, frankly, it probably caused many to think about the series of books for the first time in a long time, making it something of an advertisement for Chooseco's products.And that buzz surrounding Bandersnatch certainly coincidentally occurred alongside the more recent announcement that Chooseco has agreed to partner with Amazon to produce Choose Your Own Adventures for the Alexa.

You may remember ChooseCo from its lawsuit with Netflix over the Black Mirror episode. The company claims that Netflix never acquired the proper license to use the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark.But clearly, ChooseCo still aims to benefit from the attention, and from Netflix’s ability to make this storytelling gimmick popular with a younger generation of tech-savvy consumers.In collaboration with Amazon’s  Audible division, the two companies are together releasing an Alexa skill (properly licensed) that will bring ChooseCo’s Choose Your Own Adventure stories to life on Alexa-powered devices, like Echo smart speakers, which are controlled through voice commands.
Should Chooseco actually have thanked Netflix for its nod in Bandersnatch rather than suing over it? I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem unlikely that the huge amount of buzz surrounding the film contributed to, if not created, the Amazon opportunity for Chooseco.And that's often the point when we talk about intellectual property lawsuits. There are often other ways to look at what is being sued over, with the relinquishing of a bit of control actually resulting in free promotion, free advertising, and the kind of word of mouth buzz that simply can't be bought as part of a media campaign. It would be immensely interesting to be on the inside at Chooseco, in order to get a sense of the sequence of events in which all of this occurred.Regardless, it seems Chooseco at least had the option of choosing to be less litigious.

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California AG Steps Up To Help Cops Pretend New Public Records Law Doesn't Apply To Past Misconduct Docs

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The bullshit debate over California police misconduct records continues. A new law granting the public access to police misconduct records for the first time in decades has resulted in a slew of public records requests. It's also resulted in a slew of refusals and legal challenges.Some law enforcement agencies (and their unions) have chosen to believe the law erases their past misdeeds. Although the law says nothing limiting access to records created prior to January 1, 2019, some agencies have decided the lack of specific language allows them to draw this inference from the missing words. Multiple lawsuits have hit the California court system, which may soon force the state's Supreme Court to deal with this miss, even if it took a hard pass on one law enforcement union's attempt to get a preemptive declaration that past misconduct records are off-limits.If these law enforcement agencies were truly seeking clarity, they were given a crystal clear explanation of the legislative intent from none other than the law's author, Senator Nancy Skinner.

[I]t is my understanding in enacting SB 1421 that the change in the law applies to all disclosable records whether or not they existed prior to the date the statute went into effect…
This isn't the answer cops wanted. They wanted someone to tell them they could whitewash the past and stonewall the future. Instead, the law's author told them the law applies retroactively. If they missed their opportunity to destroy these records prior to the law's enactment, that's on them.But they're getting a little help from the state's top cop. State attorney general Xavier Becerra has decided retroactivity is still an open question, despite Sen. Skinner's statement on the issue.
The attorney general's response to a public records request seeking that information references some superior court challenges to the law's application to past records brought by police unions."We will not disclose any records that pre-date January 1, 2019 at this time," Mark Beckington, supervising deputy attorney general, said in a response last Friday to a request from freelance reporter Darwin BondGraham.
This sentence follows a very dubious assumption by the attorney general's office.
[U]ntil the legal question of retroactive application of the statute is resolved by the courts, the public interest in accessing these records is clearly outweighed by the public's interest in protecting privacy rights.
Oh, really? But whose privacy rights? The public may want to protect their own privacy rights, but I doubt they're more concerned about protecting the "privacy" of public servants who committed misconduct on the public's dime.AG Becerra is deliberately confused by the retroactivity non-question. Sen. Skinner, the law's author, is honestly confused.
"I find the AG's interpretation puzzling considering that we have law enforcement agencies up and down the state, including our California Highway Patrol, releasing records..."
Also confusing: the AG was sent a copy of the same letter Skinner sent to the Senate Rules Committee clarifying the law's retroactive powers.Cops have a friend in high places. With this action, he's the best friend a bad cop could have. But he's only delaying the inevitable. These records will be in the public's hands. If the courts somehow find in favor of law enforcement agencies, this only keeps the past a secret. Unless police misconduct is somehow also only a thing of the past, California cop shops will still be generating a whole lot of publicly-accessible documents.

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Lack Of Internet Access Threatens 2020 Census Success And The Future Latino Voting Power

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American elections are threatened by more than just Russian hacking; the lack of internet access for the growing Latino population undermines our democracy thanks to a shift to online counting for the 2020 census.Russian agents have and can again hack algorithms and voting systems -- but it matters little in the grand scheme of things if Latinos (the largest minority group in the U.S.) are blocked from participating in the election process before they even get to the voting booth. Without home internet access, the online 2020 census will be another modern civic duty millions of American Latinos won’t have the luxury of participating in, and Congress needs to do something about it.In 2015, 44 percent of Latinos did not have a broadband connection at home. Connecting to the internet is essential to participate in the 21st century economy. Without internet access, Latinos are shut out from many government benefits and responsibilities -- including the 2020 census. With so many Latinos on the wrong side of the digital divide, the census moving online could cause a domino effect for policies that rely heavily on census data -- like drawing voting districts.Moving the 2020 census online will make it harder to count Latinos, who have been undercounted in the U.S. census for decades. Particularly, the Census Bureau reports that 1.5 percent of the Latino population was undercounted in 2010. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights cites barriers such as language, poverty, education, and immigrant status as continuing causes to the undercount of Latinos.To be sure, those who cannot self-report online will have a paper option similar to the paper options of past censuses. However, the Census Bureau will no longer be conducting door-to-door surveying en mass, and will rely heavily on online marketing. The paper option alone will not be an adequate replacement for those without broadband so long as the Bureau also eliminates its door to door survey -- a necessary component to ensure more accurate counts.It is also true that the Bureau plans to make the 2020 census form available on mobile devices. However, this is not an equivalent option for those who are smartphone reliant. Not to mention smartphone data plans can be extremely limiting and are often the first thing to go in a time of financial hardship. At least 23 percent of smartphone owners report cancelling or suspending their service because of financial restraint.The online shift in the 2020 census is particularly troubling for a population with a history of census problems. Although there was a one-time “Mexican” option on the 1930 census, the U.S. didn’t make its first real attempt to measure the Latino population until the 1970 census. It wasn’t until the 2000 census that the U.S. even started using the term “Latino.” Before this, mix-ups or exclusive terminology made tracing data from decade to decade problematic.To worsen matters, the Census Bureau is making this drastic change based on inaccurate, or missing, data on exactly who has internet access -- and who remains unconnected. A lack of Congressional funds and problematic methodologies have slowed processes and produced over-exaggerated maps. Where connection is available, it’s worthless if a household doesn’t have a computer or (in the very least) a mobile device to utilize that connection. Even more troublesome is when families can’t afford to connect; a growing familiarity as cost remains the number one barrier to broadband adoption.With 21.9 percent of the Latino population in the U.S. living in poverty, more needs to be done to address the digital divide -- both where broadband is already deployed and where it isn’t yet. Closing the digital divide starts with preserving and expanding programs like Lifeline (an FCC program that provides a subsidy for low-income families to access communications services), to expanding municipal broadband, and to encouraging competition in existing broadband markets -- all things Trump’s FCC is actively working to gut.Despite showing up to the voting booth for President Obama in 2008, Latinos face trouble with voting. If undercounted, Latino voting power will be diminished even more by efforts to gerrymander congressional districts or concentrate Latinos into one or two small districts. Solving these voting rights issues is not likely before the 2020 census, but an undercount of the Latino population due to the digital divide certainly will worsen matters.As the 2020 census goes online for the first time, the digital divide is a threat to the future voting power of Latinos and other unconnected communities, including disconnected urban areas as well as rural America. One thing is for sure, we will continue to see an undercount and underestimation in political districting if large swaths of Americans can’t effectively participate in the new census. The digital divide’s impact on the 2020 census poses a significant problem that Congress should be invested in solving now instead of when it’s too late.Daiquiri Ryan is Policy Counsel for the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)

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Steam Responds To Epic's Competition By Weaponizing The Steam Community

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Despite the occasional criticism over how it communicates to the public, I've generally been a fan of Valve's Steam platform. Valve's not perfect, of course, but the company has generally tried to make Steam a place that is friendly to both major publishers and indies, all while taking steps that have been quite good for the average gamer as well, especially when it comes to policing games and reviews to ensure everything is on the up and up. It's probably for this reason that Steam hasn't had to endure much in the way of competition for some time. Yes, GOG.com exists, but the two game stores generally cater to different audiences and for different reasons.Well, if you're someone who pays attention to the games industry, you will already know that Epic Games has made a great deal of noise by pushing its own online marketplace to compete with Steam. Coverage of Epic's platform peaked this past week, when Epic managed to lure the latest iteration of the Metro game franchise to being an Epic exclusive for a year, even after pre-orders were available for the game on Steam's store for the past several weeks.

Yesterday's news that Deep Silver's Metro Exodus is moving from Steam to Epic's Games Store was notable for what it says about Valve's position running PC gaming's dominant online storefront. But for consumers, it was perhaps more notable for the impact it had on the game's pricing.If you pre-ordered Metro Exodus though Steam before yesterday, you paid $60 (and will still receive that preorder on Steam). If you preorder the game today on the Epic Games Store or buy it there after its February 15 launch, you'll pay just $50.
The driving force for the price difference is the more generous split Epic is offering publishers on its site compared with Steam's. In fact, despite the price reduction, Deep Silver will actually make more money per copy sold on Epic's site compared with what it would make on Steam. Pre-orders that had already been made on Steam will still be fulfilled, but that has to be plenty annoying for gamers who are suddenly finding the game $10 cheaper on another site. Still, platforms competing for publisher business is going to drive down prices and increase the revenue splits for creators. This, it should be said, is a benefit of competition that Steam has avoided for far too long.And perhaps Valve doesn't really know how to handle it, because it sure seems like the totality of its response to the Metro story is to try to weaponize its community against the publisher.
On Monday, the latest game in the series, Metro Exodus, became an Epic Games Store exclusive, prompting Valve to call the sudden departure “unfair to Steam customers.” For some Steam users, that’s served as a rallying cry.  This has led to sustained outcry in the form of everything from review bombs of previous series entries Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light to irate comments on every possible social media post associated with the game.
The review bombs don't make any bones about what they're trying to do. Many of them mention that the games being "reviewed" are actually great, but the review still has a low score as a way to protest Deep Silver's having shoved off to Epic for a year. And, while Valve didn't specifically ask Steam users to do this, it knew what would happen when it decried Deep Silver's business decision as "unfair to Steam customers."Which is stupid. Gamers railing against Steam having competition is ultimately working against their own interests. The more competition out there, the better. And while I certainly wouldn't want to see the kind of fragmentation in game marketplace platforms that we've seen in, say, video streaming services, it would undoubtedly be a good thing for games to have multiple venues for release, all competing for their business.Valve knows this, but it decided to coyly unleash the trolls instead.

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Brand Loyalty in 2019: What Companies Need to Know

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As most businesses are making the transition to be completely consumer-oriented, you might assume that overall brand loyalty in America has increased. Added customer care is sure to make them dedicated, right? Not necessarily. We have actually seen a decline in brand loyalty. Consumer-facing business models can inspire brand loyalty, but to match the consumer-first […]The post Brand Loyalty in 2019: What Companies Need to Know appeared first on Adotas.

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BrandTotal Super Bowl LIII Campaign Analysis

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Today, 90% of Twitter ads, 85% of Facebook ads, 60% of YouTube ads are dark or hidden from public view. Instead, the ads are only shown to targeted audiences. This means that no one can truly understand a brand's campaign strategy. This is especially problematic during prime advertising times for brands like the holidays and […]The post BrandTotal Super Bowl LIII Campaign Analysis appeared first on Adotas.

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What's Trending in Email Marketing

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By Courtenay Worcester, U.S. Director of Marketing, GetResponse Email remains the stalwart channel in the digital marketing toolbox. That's because it's based on customers opting-in to hear from businesses, it allows you to engage your audience one-on-one, and it continues to deliver a high ROI. Though some recent changes in the industry, along with the […]The post What's Trending in Email Marketing appeared first on Adotas.

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The 3rd Party Doctrine: Or Why Lawyers May Not Ethically Be Able To Use Whatsapp

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In December I went to install the Flywheel app on my new phone. Flywheel, for those unfamiliar, is a service that applies the app-dispatching and backend payment services typical of Uber and Lyft to the local medallion-based taxi business. I'd used it before on my old phone, but as I was installing it on my new one it asked for two specific permissions I didn't remember seeing before. The first was fine and unmemorable, but the second was a show-stopper: "Allow Flywheel access to your contacts?" Saying no made the app exit with passive-aggressive flourish ("You have forcefully denied some of the required permissions.") but I could not for the life of me figure out why I should say yes. Why on Earth would a taxi summoning app require access to my contacts? Tweets to the company were not answered, so it was impossible to know if Flywheel wanted that permission for some minor, reasonable purpose that in no way actually disclosed my contact data to this company, or if it was trying to slurp information about who I know for some other purpose. Its privacy policy, which on the surface seems both reasonable and readable, was last updated in 2013 and makes no reference to why it would now want access to my contacts.So I didn't finish installing it, although to Flywheel's credit, a January update to the app seems to have re-architected it so that it no longer demands that permission. (On the other hand, the privacy policy appears to still be from 2013.) But the same cannot be said for other apps that insist on reading all my contacts, including, conspicuously, Whatsapp.Whatsapp has been in the news a lot lately, particularly in light of Facebook's announcement that it planned to merge it with its Messenger service. But the problem described here is a problem even as the app stands on its own. True, unlike the old Flywheel app, Whatsapp can currently be installed without demanding to see the contact information stored on my phone. But it can't be used effectively. It can receive an inbound message from someone else who already knows my Whatsapp number, but it refuses to send an outbound message to a new contact unless I first let Whatsapp slurp up all my contacts. Whatsapp is candid in its privacy policy (last updated in 2016) that it collects this information (in fact it says you agree to "provide us the phone numbers in your mobile address book on a regular basis, including those of both the users of our Services and your other contacts."), which is good, but it never explains why it needs to, which is not good. Given that Signal, another encrypted communications app, does not require slurping up all contacts in order to run, it does not seem like something Whatsapp should need to do in order to provide its essential communications service. The only hint the privacy policy provides is that Whatsapp "may create a favorites list of your contacts for you" as part of its service, but it still isn't obvious why it would need to slurp up your entire address book, including non-Whatsapp user contact information, even for that.The irony is that an app like Whatapp should be exactly the sort of app that lawyers use. We are duty-bound to protect our clients' confidences, and encrypted communications are often necessary tools for maintaining a meaningful attorney-client relationship because they should allow us to protect the communications secrecy upon which the relationship depends. But that's exactly why I can't use it, didn't finish installing the old Flywheel app, and refuse to use any other app that insists on reading all my contacts for no good, disclosed, or proportionally-narrow reason: I am a lawyer, and I can't let this information out. Our responsibility to protect client confidences may very well extend to the actual identity of our clients. There are too many situations where if others can know who we are talking to it will be devastating to our clients' ability to seek the counsel to which they are Constitutionally entitled.I wrote about this problem a few years ago in an amicus brief on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for the appeal of Smith v. Obama. This case brought a constitutional challenge to the US government's practice of collecting bulk metadata from Verizon Wireless without warrants and without their incumbent requirements of probable cause and specificity. Unfortunately the constitutional challenge failed at the district court level, but not because the court couldn't see how it offended the Fourth Amendment when so much personal information could be so readily available to the government. Instead the district court dismissed the case because the court believed that it was hamstrung by the previous Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. Maryland. Smith v. Maryland is the 1979 case that gave us the third-party doctrine, this idea that if you've already disclosed certain information (such as who you were dialing) you can no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this information that the Fourth Amendment should continue to protect (and thus require the government to get a warrant to access). Even in its time Smith v. Maryland was rather casual about the constitutionally-protected privacy interests at stake. But as applied to the metadata related to our digital communications, it eviscerates the personal privacy the Fourth Amendment exists to protect.

The reality is that metadata is revealing. And as I wrote in this amicus brief, the way it is revealing for lawyers not only violates the Fourth Amendment but the Sixth Amendment right to counsel relied upon by our clients. True, it is not always a secret who our clients are. But sometimes the entire representation hinges on keeping that information private.Thus metadata matters because, even though it is not communications "content," it can nevertheless be so descriptive about the details of a life. And when it comes to lawyers' lives, it ends up being descriptive of their clients' lives as well. And that's a huge problem.As the brief explained, lawyers get inquiries from uncharged people all the time. Perhaps they simply need advice on how to comport their behavior. Or perhaps they fear they may be charged with a crime and need to make the responsible choice to speak with counsel as early as possible to ensure they will have the best defense. The Sixth Amendment guarantees them the right to counsel, and this right has been found to be meaningful only when the client can feel assured of enough privacy in their communications to speak candidly with their counsel. Without that candor, the counsel cannot be as effective as the Constitution requires. But if the government can easily find out who lawyers have been talking to by accessing their metadata, then that needed privacy evaporates. Who a lawyer has been communicating with, especially a criminal defense lawyer, starts to look like a handy list of potential suspects for the government to go investigate.And it's not just criminal defense counsel that is affected by metadata vulnerability. Consider the situation we've talked about many times before, where an anonymous speaker may need to try to quash some sort of discovery instrument (including those issued by the government) seeking to unmask them. We've discussed how important it is to have procedural protections so that an anonymous speaker can find a lawyer to fight the unmasking. Getting counsel of course means that there is going to be communication between the speaker and the lawyer. And even though the contents of those communications may remain private, the metadata related to the communications may not be. Thus even though the representation may be all about protecting a person's identity, there may be no way to accomplish it if it turns out there's no way for the lawyer to protect that metadata evincing this attorney-client relationship from either the government helping itself to it, or from greedy software slurping it up - which will make the app maker yet another third party that the government can look to demand this information from.Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this problem. First, just as it's not really possible for lawyers to avoid using the phone, it is simply not viable for lawyers to avoid using digital technology. Indeed, much of it actually makes our work more productive and cost effective, which is ultimately good for clients. And especially given how unprotected our call records are, it may even be particularly important to use digital technology as an alternative to standard telephony. To some extent lawyers can refuse to use certain apps or services that don't seem to handle data responsibly (I installed Lyft and use Signal instead), but sometimes it's hard to tell the exact contours of an app's behavior, and sometimes even if we can tell it can still be an extremely costly decision to abstain from using certain technology and services. What we need, what everyone needs, is to be able to use technology secure in the knowledge that information shared with it travels no farther and for no other purpose than we expect it to.Towards that end, we - lawyers and others - should absolutely pressure technology makers into (a) being more transparent about how and why it is accessing metadata in the first place, (b) enabling more gradated levels of access to it, and use of it, so that we don't have to tell any app or service more than it needs to know about our lives for it to run, or that it might ever have to ask for any more than it needs in order to run, and (c) being more principled in both their data sharing practices and resistance to government data demands. Market pressure is one way to affect this outcome (there are a lot of lawyers, and few technologies can afford to be off-limits to us), and perhaps it is also appropriate for some of this pressure to come from regulatory sources.But before we turn to regulators in outrage we need to aim our ire carefully. Things like the GDPR and CCPA deserve criticism because they tend to be like doing pest control with a flame thrower, seeking to ameliorate harm while being indifferent to any new harm they invite. But the general idea of encouraging clear, nuanced disclosures of how software interacts with personal data, as well as discouraging casual data sharing, is a good one, and one that at the very least the market should demand.The reality of course is that sometimes data sharing does need to happen - certain useful services will not be useful services without data access, and even data sharing among partners who together supply that service. It would be a mistake to ask regulators to prevent it altogether. Also, it is not private actors who necessarily are the biggest threat to the privacy interests we lawyers need to protect. Even the most responsible tech company is still at the mercy of a voracious government that sees itself as entitled to all the data that these private actors have collected. Someday hopefully the courts will recognize what an assault it is on our constitutional rights for metadata access not to be subject to a warrant requirement. But until that day comes, we should not have to remain so vulnerable. When we turn to the government to help ensure our privacy, our top demand needs to be for the government to better protect us from itself.

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Report: 80% of Organizations Agree Account Based Marketing Improves Customer Lifetime Value

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Research shows more companies invested significantly in account based in 2018 and investments will continue to rise in 2019 B2B organizations are doubling down on Account Based Marketing in 2019, according to a report released today by research and advisory firm,TOPO. The Account Based Benchmark Report analyzes the strategies of account based organizations, specifically identifying […]The post Report: 80% of Organizations Agree Account Based Marketing Improves Customer Lifetime Value appeared first on Adotas.

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Italy Tells Rest Of EU To Drop Articles 11 And 13 From The Copyright Directive

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Italy, which under its previous government had been supporters of Articles 11 and 13 in the EU Copyright Directive, has now made a pretty clear statement that if the country is going to support the latest directive, it needs to protect the users of the web, and the only way to do that is to remove Articles 11 and 13:

"The priority for Italy is the elimination of the link tax and direct or indirect filters on the content uploaded by the users of the platforms, together with an extension of the exceptions to copyright allowing the development of the data economy. Under these conditions, Italy is ready to adhere to a proposal that should come from the Romanian Presidency "."We are calling for change at the European level - concludes the Minister - of the famous articles 11 and article 13 of the directive. The network must be kept free and neutral because it is a fundamental infrastructure for the free expression of citizens as well as for the Italian system and for the European Union itself ".
That's a pretty clear and direct statement. Italy is not looking for yet another round of negotiations on this. It thinks that a link tax and mandatory upload filters are clearly bad for the public. Good for them. Of course, getting other countries to agree with them would help.

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How Automated Live Chat Support Service Reduces Your Customer Support Cost

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What's the fun in spending a huge chunk of money on a customer support team that struggles to provide customers optimal support other than standard working hours. In the end, losing customers by keeping them queued for long! You need to automate your Live Chat Support Service! Here are the3 ways AI Chatbots reduce your […]The post How Automated Live Chat Support Service Reduces Your Customer Support Cost appeared first on Adotas.

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Author Of California's Public Records Law: The Law Covers Old Police Misconduct Files, Not Just The New Ones

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For the first time in years, California police misconduct records are accessible by the public. There's a huge asterisk on that sentence because, so far, law enforcement agencies have been unwilling to hand them over.One police department decided to purge all of its old records before the law went into effect, mooting the question with a questionable memory-holing. Other agencies have told requesters the law isn't retroactive, pretending the law says something it doesn't. A sheriff's union tried to force the question by petitioning the state's supreme court, but the court declined the opportunity to clarify the law's ability to open up records of past misconduct.At this point it's clear PDs aren't interested in complying with the new law. They'll sit on records until they're forced out of their hands by lawsuits. This isn't how transparency is supposed to work. The law wasn't a History Eraser button for old files and it certainly isn't there to assist PDs in withholding documents they're definitely obligated to turn over to the public.Most law enforcement agencies appear to believe the law hit the reset on misconduct records, ordering them only to release records created past the point the law went into effect (January 1st, 2019). Again, the law says nothing about it only affecting records going forward, but since it doesn't say anything specifically about past misconduct records, law enforcement agencies will continue to pretend it doesn't affect those until courts tell them otherwise.Whenever the courts take up the question, they'll have to examine the bill-making process and the law itself to determine its legislative intent. The law doesn't have to specifically order the release of pre-2019 documents if it's clear legislators intended the law to be retroactive. Fortunately for those suing PDs over withheld documents, the legislation's author has decided to clear the air on the law police departments are conveniently and deliberately misunderstanding.

In a one-page letter to the state Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), sought to clarify the intent of the law, which opens up records of shootings by officers, severe uses of force and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers.In the letter obtained by The Times, Skinner said any relevant discipline records kept by a government agency should be disclosed under the new law, which was approved last year.Therefore, it is my understanding in enacting SB 1421 that the change in the law applies to all disclosable records whether or not they existed prior to the date the statute went into effect,” Skinner wrote. “This is the standard practice for public records legislation in California.”
We'll see how quickly this letter results in the lifting of the temporary restraining order secured by Contra Costa law enforcement agencies, which are being sued by California newspapers for refusing to turn over historical misconduct files. There doesn't seem to be any room for misunderstanding in Skinner's letter. But if anyone's incapable of understanding crystal clear laws, it's law enforcement agencies.

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Initial Fallout From McDonald's Losing Its EU 'Big Mac' Trademark Is Mockery From Burger King

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While trolling online is something we generally have to suffer through rather than enjoy, I, for one, am absolutely here for the brand on brand trolling that occasionally sparks so much fun. Especially when done cleverly, this business on business violence is absolutely delicious. I was therefore very much delighted to learn that the initial fallout after McDonald's losing its trademark rights to the "Big Mac" in the EU is that some European branches of Burger King are delighting in rubbing McDonald's nose in it.

Burger King's Swedish operation recently revamped menus to poke fun at McDonald’s loss. Under the header Not Big Mac’s (sic), the sign listed meal options like “Burger Big Mac Wished It Was”, “Like a Big Mac, But Actually Big” and “Big Mac-ish But Flame-Grilled of Course”.The chain released a video showing customers tentatively ordering from among the unusual choices, while a staff member appears unfazed as he calls out for Anything But a Big Mac.
And here is the video.
All fun aside, there are a couple of things to notice in all of this. First, it's likely that everything Burger King did with this campaign ought to be considered Fair Use even if McDonald's had never lost its trademark. After all, the entire point in calling out the "Big Mac" name in all of this is squarely to differentiate it from Burger King products. And, of course, there's roughly zero chance of anyone in the public being confused in any way here.Separately, this again calls to mind our mantra that content is advertising and advertising is content. The reason this campaign is a success goes beyond watching one giant fast food company mock another. Instead, this works because Burger King is clearly having so much fun with it. And it's having that fun in a way that's approachable, snarky, and quite funny. That's all advertising gold, in that it both grabs attention and generates positive reactions with the public, all while messaging a positive difference between Burger King and McDonald's.So, if the primary fallout from a giant company losing its trademark is this kind of fun, I'm very much here for it.

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Super Bowl LIII - The Numbers

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Kantar Media's preliminary estimate of in-game ad expenditures for Super Bowl LIII, subject to revision, is $382 million. This would be the third largest amount in history, trailing only the 2017 and 2018 games. There was a total of 49 minutes, 45 seconds of national commercial time from paying sponsors, the NFL and CBS-owned networks. […]The post Super Bowl LIII – The Numbers appeared first on Adotas.

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After Plan S, Here's Plan U: Funders Should Require All Research To Be Posted First As A Preprint

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Preprints are emerging as a way to get research out to everyone free of charge, without needing to pay page charges to appear in a traditional open access title. The growing popularity is in part because research shows that published versions of papers in costly academic titles add almost nothing to the freely-available preprints they are based on. Now people are starting to think about ways to put preprints at the heart of academic publishing and research. In the wake of the EU's "Plan S" to make more research available as open access, there is now a proposal for "Plan U":

If all research funders required their grantees to post their manuscripts first on preprint servers -- an approach we refer to as "Plan U" -- the widespread desire to provide immediate free access to the world's scientific output would be achieved with minimal effort and expense. As noted above, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists have been relying on arXiv as their primary means of communication for decades. The biomedical sciences were slower to adopt preprinting, but bioRxiv is undergoing exponential growth and several million readers access articles on bioRxiv every month. Depositing preprints is thus increasingly common among scientists, and mandating it would simply accelerate adoption of a process many predict will become universal in the near future.There is a precedent for mandating preprint deposition: since 2017, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has mandated that all grantees deposit preprints prior to or at submission for formal publication. This requirement has been accepted by CZI-funded investigators, many of whom were already routinely depositing manuscripts on bioRxiv.
The proposal goes on to consider some of the practical issues involved, such as how it would fit with peer review, and what the requirements for preprint servers might be, as well as deeper questions about guaranteed long-term preservation strategies -- a crucial issue that is often overlooked. The Plan U proposal concludes:
because it sidesteps the complexities and uncertainties of attempting to manipulate the economics of a $10B/year industry, Plan U could literally be mandated by funders tomorrow with minimal expense, achieving immediate free access to research and the significant benefits to the academic community and public this entails. Funders and other stakeholders could then focus their investment and innovation energies on the critical task of building and supporting robust and effective systems of peer review and research evaluation.
Those are all attractive features of the Plan U idea, although Egon Willighagen has rightly pointed out that using the right license for the preprints is an important issue. At the time of writing, the Plan U Web site is rather minimalist. It currently consists of just one page; there are no links to who wrote the proposal, what future plans might be, or how to get involved. I asked around on Twitter, and it seems that three well-known figures in the open science world -- Michael Eisen, John Inglis, and Richard Sever -- are the people behind this. Eisen has been one of the leading figures in the open access world since its earliest days, while Inglis and Sever are co-founders of the increasingly-popular bioRxiv preprint server, which serves the biology community. That augurs well for the idea, but it would still be good to have the details fleshed out on a more informative Web site -- something that Sever told Techdirt will be coming in due course.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Federal Court Approves Reforms Targeting The Chicago Police Department

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It's not much but it's a start. Chicago's police force has spent several years vying for the title of "Worst PD in America." Between its routine deployment of excessive force to its off-the-books "black site" where arrestees are separated from their humanity and their Constitutional rights, the Chicago PD has been a horrific mess for several years.A federal judge has approved a consent decree that would enact reforms aimed at repairing the trust the PD has damaged for decades.

In a 16-page motion, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow stated that while it’s not perfect, the historic decree is “an important first step toward needed reforms of the Chicago Police Department and its policies.”“As noted above, the Court is under no illusion that this will be an easy process,” Dow wrote. “It took a long time to get to this place, and it may take a long time to get out of it. With that said, there are good reasons to think that the conditions and incentives may be in place to start making progress right away.
The consent decree contains a long list of reforms that cover everything from enhanced use of de-escalation techniques to breaking the PD's unofficial "code of silence." The numerous changes will be overseen by a federal monitor to ensure they're being followed.The consent decree was met with the expected resistance from the Chicago PD and its union. A bit more unexpectedly, the consent decree was met with very vocal opposition from the federal government. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly claimed the decree would result in more dead bodies piling up in Chicago, pointing to a single study with questionable findings of increased violent crime following the imposition of consent decrees. Sessions termed this violent crime increase the "ACLU effect," attempting to portray greater respect for communities and their residents' Constitutional rights as the flash point of upticks in criminal activity.The City of Chicago disagreed with Sessions and stated it was uninterested in rolling back the proposed changes. It pointed out the DOJ agreed with the proposed consent decree all the way up until Sessions took office and didn't see any reason to back out of it just because the new AG was more enthralled with locking people up than respecting their rights.Opponents of the consent decree claim the city can't afford to have better cops. In his order [PDF], Judge Dow says this is nonsense.
Other commenters have focused on the financial burden of the decree going forward, as evidenced by the $2.85 million maximum annual budget for the monitoring team. This is a large expenditure of public money by any measure. Yet is is a tiny fraction of what the City has spent paying out judgments and settlements, not to mention lawyers (both outside and inside counsel), for civil rights litigation over the past few decades. See [158] at 9. Indeed, had a monitoring team been billing the City at the rate of $2.85 million per year since 1790, when Jean Baptiste Point du Sable first set up camp at the mouth of the Chicago River, the total bill of $652.65 million would not equal the City’s litigation-related payouts in civil rights actions since 2004.
Will these changes be sustained and result in better policing in Chicago? That's tough to say. The people it affects most (police officers) want it the least and, historically, PD brass has been slow to roll out changes and extremely reluctant to hold officers accountable for violating internal policies, much less federally-ordered consent decrees. This time around, the city will have zero support from the DOJ, which, as a matter of policy under this administration, will not act as an enforcer for federal consent decrees or open investigations of law enforcement agencies found to be perpetually violating the rights of the people they're supposed to be protecting.

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Do VPNs Affect Digital Marketing Practices?

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VPNs or Virtual Private Networks can be used for a wide variety of purposes. They allow you to create a secure connection between your device and a private server, which will encrypt your online activity and keep you safe while browsing the internet. VPNs can also be used to access content that would otherwise be […]The post Do VPNs Affect Digital Marketing Practices? appeared first on Adotas.

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The risks lurking in the shadows of your marketing tech stack

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By Sean Brady, President ofEmarsysAmericas When did technology become a total focus, rather than the means to an end, for marketers? The influx in both availability and quantity of consumer data over the past two decades has pushed us as marketers to become more data-driven in our strategies and tactics. However, over time, more data […]The post The risks lurking in the shadows of your marketing tech stack appeared first on Adotas.

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How is Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizing the Digital Marketing?

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AI and digital marketing go hand in hand. AI is transforming digital strategy with the ability to collect data, analyze it, apply it and then learn from it. Digital marketers immediately think of the RankBrain algorithm whenever we hear the term artificial intelligence. All the non-digital marketer people reading this article, are you thinking of […]The post How is Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizing the Digital Marketing? appeared first on Adotas.

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Article 13 Is Back On: Germany Caves To France As EU Pushes Forward On Ruining The Internet

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When last we checked in on the EU Copyright Directive it had been put on hold when the European Council (with representatives from all the member states) didn't have enough votes to move forward on a so-called "compromise" draft. Most of the council rejected it for the right reasons -- though a few (including France) were holding out to make the law worse. Since then there has been an ongoing back channel negotiation between France and Germany over whose vision would win out. Both of them support very problematic versions of the Directive, though France's is worse. Specifically, France doesn't want any exemptions for smaller internet websites in Article 13 (which will effectively make internet filters mandatory), while Germany wanted to include at least some safe harbors for smaller sites. After a bunch of back and forth, it's now being reported that Germany has caved to France and will now support the Directive, with very little in the way of protections for smaller sites. This is on top of all the other awful stuff in the Directive, including mandatory filtering (that they pretend is not mandatory filtering), huge fines, and liability for any site allowing infringement. The draft apparently still includes a weird and mostly useless safe harbor for sites hosting user-generated content -- which is what made the legacy entertainment industry bail out on its support of the Directive.So, to be clear, there is now a draft that is worse than the draft that couldn't get the Council's approval a few weeks ago, and that will have an even bigger impact on the internet by sweeping up tons of smaller sites as well as the larger ones, which will do serious harm to any sites that host user-generated content. And you can't find anyone -- outside of the company selling internet filters -- who supports this. The internet companies are all still against the bill. The legacy entertainment companies are whining that it doesn't go far enough.And, yet, this draft is likely to be added back on the schedule for a meeting this Friday.There is nothing good about this. The EU bureaucrats negotiating this get really, really annoyed by anyone suggesting that this bill will kill off "memes," but that's not an exaggeration. The bill is literally designed to make it impossible for a site that has not purchased licenses from everyone to allow users to post new content. Meme culture was built almost entirely on free and open message boards and social media, without licenses. But hosting such a site in the EU will now be effectively impossible -- or very, very expensive, with massive restrictions, filters and lockdowns. In such a world, it is difficult to see how new memes can take off, outside of a narrowly prescribed set of "officially sanctioned/licensed" memes -- and we all know what kind of quality that will bring.This whole thing is an exercise in stupidity, brought about by a cynical legacy entertainment industry that made up a fake concept called "the value gap" that they insisted needed to be closed. And the only way to "close" it, according to the very same lobbyists, was to effectively turn off what made the internet great: the fact that it is, and has always been, an open medium for communication and sharing.This can still be stopped, but it's going to rely on the EU Parliament actually having a backbone and saying that this is not acceptable. And that is going to require people in Europe to contact their MEPs and telling them not to wreck the internet.

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FCC Accused Of Colluding With Big Carriers On 5G Policy

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So we recently noted how the FCC pushed through some policy changes it proclaimed would dramatically speed up the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology. According to the new guidance, cities will be limited in terms of how much money they can charge carriers to place cell technology like small cells on government property in public rights of way (traffic lights, utility poles). The policy changes also impose strict new timelines and operational restrictions making it harder for localities to stand up to giant nationwide cellular carriers.But cities like Philadelphia, numerous small counties, and consumer groups disagreed, stating that the FCC's policy changes were little more than a hand out to large carriers, with the price caps barely covering local government costs to study, support and maintain the numerous small cell placements needed to fuel 5G. In some instances, the FCC's new order invalidated existing contracts local governments had already taken months or years to negotiate with wireless carriers.Consumer groups say the FCC's order also ties local governments' hands in instances where they might need to actually hold AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile accountable for doing something wrong.While the FCC's decision was already being criticized as an over-reach, that controversy just got much louder. This week, the heads of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (Frank Pallone and Mike Doyle) fired off a letter to the FCC effectively accusing the agency of colluding with carriers to help ensure the industry's favored policies had a better shot surviving a court challenge. The letter strongly implies that the Representatives already have whistleblower evidence of said collusion:

"It has come to our attention that certain individuals at the FCC may have urged companies to challenge the order the commission adopted in order to game the judicial lottery procedure and intimated the agency would look unfavorably towards entities that were not helpful. If true, it would be inappropriate for the FCC to leverage its power as a regulator to influence regulated companies to further its agenda in seeking a more friendly court. To date, four FCC licensees have petitioned the federal judiciary for review of the order in separate filings and separate circuits."
Municipalities have been grumbling about something fishy at the FCC on this subject for a while. They've pointed out that when the FCC passed what's effectively wish-list policy aiding incumbent wireless carriers, the carriers mysteriously and collectively sued to challenge the order. Why? It appears they, at the FCC's guidance, challenged the order itself as part of a gambit to keep the challenge from being heard by The Ninth Circuit, which has historically liked giving the FCC a wrist slap for over-reach, especially when it tries to pre-empt more local government authority.Short version: the lawmakers are alleging the FCC actively worked hand in hand with carrier lawyers to hamstring court challenges to the FCC's latest 5G order, an allegation that's not particularly outlandish if you've actually watched the Ajit Pai FCC do business. And again, the letter's phrased in such a way to suggest the lawmakers already have this information and are just waiting for the FCC to try and mislead them about it or withhold evidence the staffers know the FCC has. It's just one of a growing roster of challenges facing Ajit Pai's FCC under new House leadership.We've talked at length about how the solution for the terrible state of US broadband needs to be a creative, comprehensive solution that involves both the industry and local governments -- since private industry alone is turned off by the low return on investment into rural markets and less affluent city centers.But wary this could result in actual competition, the telecom industry's incumbent players (and the politicians and revolving door regulators who adore them) go out of their way to instead demonize local towns and cities, pass protectionist laws preventing the exploration of creative solutions, and gut state and federal oversight of big telecom wherever possible in the false belief this will magically fix a very, very broken market. When critics point out that mindless fealty won't fix American broadband, the Trump FCC simply dismisses said criticism as unfair partisanship.Ajit Pai is already facing a pretty ugly 2019 thanks to the challenge of his historically unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules, and if this allegation has wait, things just got even more complicated for the "internet freedom" lovin' agency boss.

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UK Forum Hands Out Public Records Request-Dodging Guidance To Over 100 Government Agencies

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Freedom of information laws have given the public a peek inside the government agencies that were always supposed to be accountable to the public. Obviously, these laws have never been welcomed by government agencies. Plenty of documents have been released showing just how much of your tax dollars governments are wasting. But some of the most frustrating wastes are the tax dollars expended to keep documents out of the public's hands.Most of that spending takes the form of playing defense against public records lawsuits. But some of it comes from preventative steps taken to keep as much information away from citizens as possible. Andrew Norton points us to a document leaked to a Kent (UK) press outlet which instructs Kent government entities how to keep the public as unaware as possible of the government's Brexit contingency plans.

The report - marked as ‘sensitive’ and updated last month - cited guidance issued by DExEU that councils and other organisations should refuse Freedom of Information requests about emergency planning and in some circumstances should not even confirm whether they hold information.In a section headed “How to respond to Brexit-related FOI Requests” the report says Local Resilience Forums or individual partner organisations that receive FOI requests should respond by saying disclosure would not be in the public interest as it “would undermine the effective conduct of public affairs.”Where requests were about specific details about plans on a particular subject or relevant to an area, the authority should refuse to even confirm or deny if it held information.
Included in the non-transparency packet were fill-in-the-blank boilerplate FOI reject forms, giving agencies a more efficient means of walking away from their obligations to the public. If vague wording about "undermining effective conduct" might appear to be insufficient to guarantee opacity, the template also contained blanket statements to justify the deployment of a UK Glomar.Considering the percentage of the Kent public affected by the Brexit (roughly 100%), details about contingency plans would be the very definition of "public interest." And yet, the Kent government figures the less people know, the easier it will be to do things the public possibly wouldn't support. The blanket of opacity the Kent Resilience Forum has spread is impressive. According to Kent Online, the Forum consists of over 100 government organizations, including law enforcement, emergency services, and national security agencies. That's a lot of people implicitly agreeing to lock the public out of the Brexit discussion -- none of which felt compelled to speak out against the Forum's guidance.

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Gaming Like It's 1923: The Entries Are In

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At the beginning of the year, we launched our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1923, with a one-month time limit — and now the entries are in! We figured we'd get a dozen entries, maybe two, but we're with a bunch of last minute entries slipping in under the deadline, we're thrilled to say we've got 35 games based on works that entered the public domain this year.We've begun the judging process, with our huge panel of great judges. They need a little time with the games, but until we announce the winners in you can try out all the entries for yourself. There's a mix of card games, narrative roleplaying games, browser-based video games and all sorts of creative takes on classic (and not so classic) works. We haven't finished exploring all the entries ourselves yet, and we hope you enjoy discovering them with us!Stay tuned for an announcement of the winners later this month. We're awarding prizes in six categories:

  • Best Analog Games
  • Best Digital Game
  • Best adaptation of a 1923 work
  • Best remixing of multiple sources
  • Best Deep Cut (use of a work not listed on any of the round up articles)
  • Best Visuals
A huge thanks to everyone who entered, and to all the folks helping us out as judges. Given the positive response to this game jam, and the fact that the public domain is set to continue growing (finally), we're definitely going to consider running another one in the future.

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posted at: 3:02pm on 02-Feb-2019
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The Greatest Trick The NFL Ever Pulled Is Convincing The World It Holds Trademark Rights That Don't Exist

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It's nearly my birthday again, which of course can mean only one thing: we have to write up a post trying to explain to people that the NFL is completely full of shit in what it thinks its trademark on "Super Bowl" allows it to restrict. This has been something of an annual series for us, since the NFL really enjoys pulling out legal threats to bully businesses and churches over using factual phrases that do not in any way represent actual trademark infringement. The NFL certainly can restrict who claims to endorse the Super Bowl, or who can vaguely indicate some affiliation with the NFL or an NFL team, but the league instead likes to pretend that nobody can factually state that there is a thing called a Super Bowl and that it occurs at this time of year.The output of this game of make believe is the world being a dumber, more cynical place. Businesses everywhere use euphemisms for the Super Bowl, such as "the big game." Everyone knows what the euphemism means, yet the NFL usually lets this kind of thing slide. This myth about what is and is not infringement has in part been perpetuated by non-Techdirt media outlets that parrot the NFL's claims, or at least warn everyone that the NFL is litigious. Which... thanks.Most recently, this type of parroting comes in the form of articles such as this one, unhelpfully titled "Fear The Shield." To be fair to that post, the whole thing is fairly full of comments from exasperated business owners being confused as to how the NFL can trademark facts when it cannot.

Eithnee Carline is the co-owner of DJ’s Wings in Falmouth and Hyannis. The Hyannis restaurant has been in business for 30 years, she said. She recalled back when some newspaper accounts referred to the establishment as “Super Bowl Headquarters.” Ms. Carline said she is aware that no such verbiage can be used in the business’s advertising for this weekend.“We use ‘The Big Game.’ Can’t even use Patriots, our favorite football team! Isn’t it crazy?” she said.The sandwich board in front of the American Legion Post on Shore Road in Gray Gables announces a “SUPERBOWL PARTY.” Similarly, the marquee in front of Dino’s Sports Bar on Route 151 in Mashpee invites people to come watch “PATS-RAMS” this Sunday. Asked about the NFL’s trademark protection of the team names, owner Constantinos (Dino) Mitrokostas said that is why he phrased it the way he did, not using the full name of the Patriots.“That’s why it says Rams Pats, that answers it all!” he said.
Indeed, except that this is all stupid. Venue owners somehow think that a sandwich board telling patrons to watch the Super Bowl at their establishment is infringement, but it very, very much is not. Business owners think that advertisements that make mention of the Super Bowl's existence without implying endorsement are infringement, but that absolutely are not. And, yet, this has been the un-reality that the NFL has successfully willed into existence with its legal team, aided by paragraphs in media outlets such as this.
Sunday, February 3 is the Super Bowl. As every sports fan knows, the New England Patriots will take on the Los Angeles Rams in what has also come to be known as Super Sunday.Fortunately, everything written above appears in a newspaper article, and not an advertisement for a business, such as a restaurant or a sports bar. Placing any one of those phrases—Super Bowl, Super Sunday, Patriots, Rams—in an ad of any kind could land the business owner in a heap of trouble with the National Football League. They are all NFL trademarks, and the league charges substantially for the right to use what has been registered for intellectual property protection.
That is the opening frame for the entire post at The Bourne Enterprise (um, the name, guys?), a local "paper" in Massachusetts. And it's at best incomplete and at worst horribly misleading. Using those phrases in an advertisement would not land real legal trouble except under certain circumstances and in certain contexts. In trademark law, the linchpin is public confusion over to the source or affiliation of a good or service or brand. Without that confusion, there's nothing to worry about, and there is nothing confusing about a bar saying that it would be an appropriate place to watch the Super Bowl.But every year, this is how I spend the run up to my birthday. I'd like to think that this some day will not be the case, but it's more likely that I can expect to be writing this post when I'm old and gray.

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Hollywood's Kinder, Gentler DRM Didn't Even Last A Decade... And Is Still Screwing Over Movie Fans

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Stop me if you've heard this one before: the legacy entertainment industry embraces a "new" DRM that it insists will change everything, and everyone will love it. And then, because of various reasons, they kill it off and people get screwed. Yeah, it's happened over and over and over and over and over and over again. It's one of the points we've raised from the very beginning on this site: buying into DRM means that you are relying on a company to continue to let you have access to the content you legally purchased a license to, and there's no requirement that they have to continue giving you access.And here we go again, with Ultraviolet. If you don't recall, we first wrote about Ultraviolet in 2010, when most of the major movie studios (notable exception: Disney) stepped up to support what they tried to pitch as a kindler, gentler DRM that wouldn't be so damn annoying. Of course, from the beginning it basically sucked and the studios started trying to give away bad movies to get people to sign up. And then, a few years later, they tried giving away more movies. The only other time in the last decade we mentioned Ultraviolet was that time that it pissed off the backers of a super successful Kickstarter project by making it difficult for thousands of people to watch the movie they'd backed.Anyway, Ultraviolet is now dead. The studios are killing it off and most people won't miss it. Of course, as with some of those previous stories, there is a half-hearted effort under way for the few people who actually used Ultraviolet to have a method of retaining access to the films they purchased, but you have to keep them tied to a specific retailer now. Of course, part of the reason for the shutdown of Ultraviolet is that Disney (who, as you recall, never joined UltraViolet, and went its own way) has built up its own system, Movies Anywhere. However, as the article above notes, Movies Anywhere is a bit of false advertising, as it's only available in the US. People outside the US are... pretty much screwed as of right now.As with many past DRM shutdowns, this really won't impact that many people, but that's kind of besides the point. It will still be a pain in the ass for the people who actually "did the right thing" according to the industry, and paid up. And they end up paying for a really annoying experience that could possibly even end with them no longer having access. Punishing the people who actually want to pay and want to support you seems like a really dumb way to run a business -- but here we are. This is yet another reason why some people who would otherwise want to pay end up pirating works anyway: they don't have to deal with this shit because they're not reliant on big, dumb studios deciding to keep DRM servers up for more than a decade.

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Court: Qualified Immunity Protects District Attorney Who Lied To State Legislators About A Wrongfully-Convicted Man

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Qualified immunity has taken the court system as far away from justice as any one doctrine can. Rights can be freely abused so long as the abuser does it in a novel way or can mumble something about "feared for my safety" while under oath. For the most part, it just sucks to be an average citizen whose rights have been violated. Unless you can show a court held this specific violation -- under very specific circumstances -- to be unlawful, you're stuck with zero recourse for obvious wrong perpetrated by the government.It's not just abusive cops that benefit from qualified immunity. It's also vindictive district attorneys, like the one in a recent case [PDF] reviewed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A man falsely accused of kidnapping and rape spent seven years in prison for a crime he didn't commit before being exonerated by a DNA test. The results of this test were given to district attorney Spencer Lawton, who confirmed the results. The conviction was vacated and the state wisely decided not to take another prosecutorial pass at the falsely accused man.So far, so good, except for the seven years of freedom wrongfully taken from Douglas Echols. When lawmakers introduced a bill offering compensation for Echol's wrongful imprisonment, Spencer Lawton decided to start lying.

Four years later, after the Georgia Claims Advisory Board recommended compensation for Echols, a legislator in the Georgia General Assembly introduced a bill to compensate him with $1.6 million for his wrongful convictions. But before the General Assembly voted on the bill, Lawton sent a letter and memorandum to several legislators opposing Echols’s compensation…[...]Lawton also told the legislators not to presume Echols innocent of kidnapping and rape because the vacatur of his convictions did not establish his innocence. Lawton urged the legislators not to compensate Echols unless he proved his innocence. And Lawton told the legislators that Echols remained under indictment for kidnapping and rape even though the indictment had been dismissed four years earlier when the state entered a nolle prosequi on the charges.
This lie -- specifically claiming Echols remained accused of two felonies -- was libel per se. Echols sued Lawton for violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The First Amendment claim alleged retaliation by Lawton for Echols' protected speech, namely advocating for a bill that would have compensated him for the seven years he spent in prison. The lower court said DA Lawton was entitled to qualified immunity. After review, the 11th Circuit, unfortunately, says the same thing:
Although we conclude that Echols’s complaint states a valid claim of retaliation under the First Amendment, we agree with the district court that Lawton enjoys qualified immunity because Echols’s right was not clearly established when Lawton violated it. We affirm.
Since the claim Lawton falsely made was libel per se, it should have been easier for Echols to clear this bar. The appeals court agrees wholeheartedly with this assertion. The defamation of Echols by the district attorney was made with actual malice, since it was the DA himself who verified the DNA test results and decided not to retry the case. Lawton knew no criminal charges were pending against Echols but told state legislators the exact opposite. Somehow, this petty bullshit Lawton performed for seemingly no other reason than to prevent someone else (i.e., taxpayers) from paying Echols for the years he spent wrongly imprisoned was not clearly established enough for the 11th Circuit to find in favor of the plaintiff.
Although Lawton clearly would have had fair notice that his alleged writing constituted libel per se under state tort law, he would not have understood that his alleged libel would have violated the First Amendment. No controlling precedent put Lawton’s alleged violation beyond debate.
In essence, state officials were free to libel former inmates in order to deter them from exercising their First Amendment rights up until the moment this opinion was published. Even though the court says Lawton had "fair notice," it still gives him a pass for engaging in retaliatory defamation. This isn't mitigated at all by the court's "we wish we could but our hands our tied" sentiments offered as a consolation prize to a man who spent seven years in jail for a crime someone else committed.
[W]e too condemn Lawton’s alleged conduct. But the Supreme Court has long ruled that qualified immunity protects a badly behaving official unless he had fair notice that his conduct would violate the Constitution…
Great. The court condemns it but refuses to punish it. The concurring opinion is just as uselessly disappointed in the outcome reached, but at least is a bit harsher in its assessment of the lying, defaming DA.
I further agree with the lead opinion’s conclusion that clear Supreme Court precedent prevents Echols from invoking the rubric of substantive due process as a basis to hold Lawton accountable for a First Amendment violation. But for this binding precedent, I would have concluded that Lawton’s statement “shocks the conscience.” An official’s conduct most likely shocks the conscience—and thus violates an individual’s substantive-due-process rights—if the conduct was “intended to injure in some way unjustifiable by any government interest.” Davis v. Carter, 555 F.3d 979, 982 (11th Cir. 2009) (emphasis added) (citation omitted).As applied to the present case, there can be no doubt that Lawton’s false statement to the Georgia legislature that Echols was still under indictment for kidnapping and rape was intended to injure Echols. This leaves the question of what possible governmental interest justified Lawton in making that libelous statement. I can think of none. Nor has any such justification been articulated by either Lawton or the district court. I suggest that this total silence is due to the fact that no such justification exists.
I guess we'll have to settle for being happy the next time a DA defames a wrongly accused prisoner while speaking to legislators about possible reparations in the Eleventh Circuit, the court will finally have some precedent on hand to punish state actors for adding literal insults to sustained injuries.

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US Newspapers Now Salivating Over Bringing A Google Snippet Tax Stateside

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As the EU is still trying to figure out what it's going to do about the highly contested EU Copyright Directive, it appears that at least one of the controversial parts, the ridiculous Article 11 link tax, is spreading to the US. David Chavern, the CEO of the News Media Alliance (a trade group representing legacy news publishers), is agitating in the NY Times for a US version of Article 11. The article if is so chock full of "wrong" that it's embarrassing. Let's dig in.

Facebook and Google have been brutal to the news business.
Citation needed. Seriously. Nothing in this piece explains how this is true. I know that lots of journalists claim it to be true, but they are lacking in evidence. The truth is Facebook and Google have been very good for some news operations, very bad for others, and all over the spectrum for others. It kinda depends on the news organization and the choices of those news organizations specifically. In other words: it's the news organizations' fault if they're suddenly having trouble because their traffic has dried up.
But this primarily reflects a failure of imagination. The tech giants are the world's best distribution platforms and could be an answer for journalism instead of a grave threat.
Again, for many news organizations, these platforms are an answer: an answer that drives traffic.
As readers have shifted to digital sources, the two companies have taken a large majority of online advertising revenue.
Note the verb choice: "taken." As if it was snatched away from the rightful owners: the legacy news business who did fuck all to adapt to the internet. No, the large majority of online advertising went to those platforms because those platforms provided a better result for advertisers. We can discuss whether or not that's a good thing, and whether or not advertisers are silly to focus on those platforms (indeed, I'd argue, they are!). But to blame Facebook and Google for making advertisers happier seems weird.
More important, the platforms now act as regulators of the news business determining what information gets delivered to whom, and when. With the flick of an algorithmic finger, those two companies decide what news you see and whether a publisher lives or dies.
They only do that if the news publications focused solely on chasing traffic, rather than building up loyal audiences who come directly to their sites. Nothing Google or Facebook do really has that much of an impact on our traffic. Because we don't rely on them for traffic. They send us some -- which is great -- but our strategy has always focused on loyal readers, not drive by traffic. So, no, Techdirt readers don't rely on those platforms to get our content. Nor should they.If your entire business strategy is based on some third party you can't control, it seems a little, well, dubious, for you to whine that they don't act the way you want them to.
The impact on journalism has been clear. Just within the past week, we have seen over 1,000 planned layoffs at Gannett, BuzzFeed and HuffPost, and no one thinks we are anywhere near the end.
This is also misleading. While, yes, there were some high profile layoffs that included a bunch of journalists -- and that sucks -- the 1,000 number is greatly exaggerated. As Peter Sterne pointed out, the vast majority of that 1,000 number (~800) came from "Oath" the Verizon-owned Frankenstein's monster made up of various properties from HuffPost to Yahoo to AOL -- and the majority of them were not journalists. So, yes, it's still bad to see these layoffs. But using this 1,000 number to imply that that many journalists lost their job is highly misleading, and pretty shameful for a guy who represents news publishers.
We can start with the fact that free isn't a good business model for quality journalism.
Free is not the fucking business model. Free has never been a business model. However, free can very often be a key part of a very compelling business model.
Facebook and Google flatly refuse to pay for news even though they license many other types of content. Both companies have deals to pay music publishers when copyrighted songs play on their platforms. And the companies also aggressively bid to stream live sports and entertainment content to run on Facebook Watch and YouTube. These deals are varied and often secret, but none of them are based on free.
And this may be the dumbest thing that Chavern has written in this entire article full of bad ideas. Google and Facebook pay licenses for that other content because they host that content full on their sites. They don't pay for news because they're not hosting the news, but rather sending traffic to those news sites. For free.
Why are the platforms so unwilling to pay news publishers for access to the quality journalism that users need and value?
Again, because you're comparing apples to oranges. This is comparing totally different situations in a way that makes no sense.
There's no reason those who produce the news shouldn't enjoy the same intellectual property protections as songwriters and producers (regulators in Europe are looking at replicating some of these safeguards for journalism).
These are not "the same intellectual property protections as songwriters and producers." News already has the same "intellectual property protections as songwriters and producers." It's called copyright and it applies to news as well as songs. The issue is that what's happening here is entirely different. Google and Facebook pay for hosting music. They're not hosting news (other than in very minor ways where news orgs choose to host on their platforms for specific purposes). Instead, Google and Facebook are sending people off to the news sites themselves, which should be a better deal, because then you have those people on your own damn site where you can offer all sorts of other things -- some of which might even make the publishers some money. Or, build a loyal fan base who won't need to go through those dastardly platforms in the future.And, yes, it's blatantly misleading to claim that the EU's ridiculous Article 11 is the EU "replicating some of these safeguards for journalism." Hell, this is close to journalistic malpractice from a guy who pretends to represent journalism. Remember, we already know what happens with an Article 11 type setup: it didn't magically lead to the big platforms paying news publishers, and it actually did significant harm to news publishers, in particular the smaller ones.
The tech giants are also run as walled gardens that minimize brands and separate publishers from their readers even while hoarding information about those same readers.
I don't think he knows what a "walled garden" means. And, again, these services work by sending readers to the news publication sites themselves. That's not "separating publishers from readers" unless the publishers are so clueless they do nothing to build a loyal community.
Imagine trying to build a trusted relationship with an audience when you can't even know who they are.
That's how every community works. You don't know who they are at first. You build up trust and maybe they tell you. But you need to work on building a direct relationship yourself. You don't sit there and just wait for the audience to magically find you and then blame Google when they don't.
Publishers need new economic terms that include more revenue and more information about our readers.
So, uh, build the new revenue models that involve building up a loyal community who chooses to share info and you get that. And Google and Facebook don't.
Facebook and Google also need to be willing to acknowledge investments in quality journalism through their algorithms. They are constantly on the defensive about spreading false and misleading news that hurts people. They could start to address the problem by simply recognizing that The Miami Herald is a much better news source than Russian bots or Macedonian teenagers and highlighting original, quality content accordingly.
Um, both Facebook and (especially) Google already do that. How does he not know this. Indeed, the entire point of Google is to promote the more trustworthy content. It fails sometimes, but this paragraph misleadingly suggests that Google treats Macedonian teens at the same level as it treats the Miami Herald and that's laughably wrong. You can't make good policy decisions if you simply are spouting off nonsense.
Recognizing and promoting publishers that have consistently delivered quality news content can't be that difficult for sophisticated tech companies. And there are a range of qualified independent ratings organizations, such as NewsGuard, that could help them separate the wheat from the chaff.
Again, that's exactly what Google already does.
Whether they like to admit it or not, Facebook and Google are at real risk when it comes to the news business. Under the adage You break it, you buy it, the platforms now own what happens when quality journalism goes away.
Facebook and Google didn't break news. Newspapers failed to adapt and now they're whining about it.A true leader for the news publishers wouldn't be begging platforms like Google and Facebook for money like that. He'd be helping those platforms adapt and build more loyal audiences, and experiment with more sophisticated business models. And, really, the most incredible part of this strategy from Chavern and the News Media Alliance is that it would only serve to do one thing: making those news publishers more reliant on Google and Facebook, giving them even more power.News organizations deserve better than to have a trade organization spewing such utter nonsense.

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Daily Deal: The Complete MySQL Bootcamp

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Whether you work in marketing, sales, or app development, chances are you'll have questions that only data can solve, which is why virtually everyone can benefit from learning MySQL. Based on SQL (Structured Query Language), MySQL is the world's most popular open-source SQL database and is used by the likes of Amazon, Apple, Twitter, many other top companies. The Complete MySQL Bootcamp serves as your SQL and MySQL primer, walking you through the basic syntax, queries, and more so you can add this data-driven tool to your workflow. It is on sale for $11.

Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team.

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Bogus Net Neutrality Comments Linked To Trumpland

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As we mentioned last October, there's several state AGs now investigating who was behind those bogus comments that flooded the FCC's website during its controversial net neutrality repeal. Millions of those fake comments used the identities of dead or otherwise oblivious people, and were posted by a bot pulling from a hacked database of some kind. The goal appears to have been to flood the zone with bullshit, undermining trust in the public's only chance to comment on what may just be the least-popular tech policy decision in modern internet history (though SOPA/PIPA got pretty damn close).Gizmodo's Dell Cameron, who has been an absolute marvel at digging through this bog, has dropped an impressive bombshell that fills in a lot of longstanding gaps in identifying who was behind this astroturfing effort. The subject is weedy, so here's the pertinent bit:

"An organization run by a former Trump campaign statewide director is being investigated by the New York attorney general's office for its role in submitting potentially hundreds of thousands of fraudulent comments to the Federal Communications Commission during the agency's 2017 efforts to rollback Obama-era net neutrality rules."
NY's AG had subpoenaed all of the companies that submitted bulk comments to the FCC during the repeal, including consumer groups. Many of these folks used what I affectionately like to refer to as "outrage-o-matic" form letter systems, which simply let users send a form letter complaint to government. That's perfectly legal. What may not be legal is identity fraud, as well as a lot of this murkier, coordinated behavior Gizmodo uncovered by astroturfing organizations like "Free Our Internet," a fake consumer-advocacy firm specifically built to apparently con the gullible into thinking net neutrality was some sordid "globalist" cabal:
"What's remained unreported until now is the source of the 37 identical Sharpsburg comments, which match those submitted on behalf of more than 300,000 Americans nationwide. That comment, which rails against Google, its former chairman Eric Schmidt, and global billionaires like George Soros, was authored by a group known as Free Our Internet, according to a page on its website, which has since been deleted.Free Our Internet's campaign against net neutrality, which it presents as a conspiracy by liberal globalists to take over our Internet, was first announced in a now-deleted press release on the website of Raven Strategies, a political consultancy whose client list includes, among others, Donald Trump for President."Christie-Lee McNally, the president of Raven Strategies and the executive director of Free Our Internet, was tapped by Trump two years ago to become his statewide director in Maine, where she formerly served as executive director for the Republican Party. According to the bio on her firm's website, she also served on the 58th presidential inaugural committee, working with cabinet-level nominees on the day of Trump's swearing-in.
Free Our Internet was just one of several Trump-linked organizations Gizmodo discovered flooded the FCC comment system, social media, and the newswires with bogus support for the FCC's historically-unpopular handout to big telecom. The utter nonsensical claim that protecting the health of the internet from Comcast and AT&T is a Soros-fueled globalist cabal was then in turn parroted by none other than Roger Stone:
Who had also been seeding the field with intellectually incontinent editorials on the subject:
"The Tech Left, funded largely by George Soros, had decided to champion under the banner of a benign-sounding Net Neutrality campaign and seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab the moral high ground in their determination to allow the giant edge providers to censor the Internet to suit their ideological preferences ridding the Internet of conservative and libertarian content."
A claim that is, if you have even a fleeting understanding of net neutrality, complete and total dog shit. It should be clear by now that one of the more favored tactics of Trumpland is to flood the zone with absolute bullshit in a bid to shake the very foundations of truth itself, distracting the easily distracted from what, more often than not, winds up being a ham-handed handout to giant, unpopular corporations. It's a pretty basic but effective disinformation tactic. Especially a country already rendered intellectually mute by years of facts-optional, intentionally-divisive partisan infighting.In this instance, the supporters of killing popular consumer protections (partisans, ISP lobbyists) knew that killing net neutrality would result in a massive wave of anger by the bipartisan majority of Americans who (quite correctly) understand the move was little more than a grotesque handout to predatory telecom monopolies. So Trumpland crafted "alternative" messaging, completely unhinged from the truth, and flooded the internet with it in the hopes this would diminish the impact of the real public backlash. It seems that may have been the motivation for the FCC's decision to make up that fake DDOS attack (which you'll note tried to claim angry John Oliver viewers were "attacking" the FCC website) as well.What's very clear is there's still a lot of information to come on this as numerous state AGs and the GAO continue their investigation into this ouroborus of bullshit, and a lot of these policy shops and lobbying outfits should be very nervous right now. What's also clear is FCC boss Ajit Pai, with his own links to many of these Trumpland allies, went well out of his way to stop law enforcement from learning more. That's not going to be a great look as more details are uncovered, and the court system tries to determine whether Pai's decision to obliterate federal and state oversight at Comcast's behest violated the law or FCC rules.

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Canada's Bell Tried To Have VPNs Banned During NAFTA Negotiations

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Countries around the world continue to wage a not particularly subtle war on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and encryption. In Russia, the government has all but banned the use of VPNs by layering all manner of obnoxious restrictions and caveats on VPN operators. The goal, as we've seen in China and countless other countries, is to ban VPN use without making it explicitly clear you're banning VPN use. The deeper goal is always the same: less privacy and online freedom for users who use such tools to dodge surveillance or other, even dumber government policies.Of course there's plenty of companies eager to see VPN use banned as well, whether it's the entertainment industry hoping to thwart piracy, or broadcasters trying to hinder those looking to dance around geographical viewing restrictions. Lost in the hysteria is usually the fact that VPNs are just another security tool with a myriad of purposes, most of which aren't remotely nefarious and shouldn't be treated as such.Apparently, you can count Canadian telecom incumbent Bell among the companies hoping to ban VPN use. Anja Karadeglija, the editor of paywalled telecom news outlet the Wire Report, obtained documents this week highlighting how Bell had been pushing Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for a VPN ban to be included in NAFTA negotiations. Why? It doesn't want users using VPNs to watch the US Netflix catalog:

"In its submission, Bell argued that Canadians accessing content from a US service with a VPN unjustly enriches the US service, which has not paid for the Canadian rights but nonetheless makes that content available to Canadians. Bell's media arm reportedly spends millions on content for it streaming service, Crave TV, which allows Canadians to stream content from American networks such as HBO and Showtime."
Again though, it's not the VPN doing that. And if you want to stop users from flocking to better content catalogs elsewhere on the continent, you should focus your ire on the things causing that to happen -- like increasingly dated and absurd geo-viewing restrictions, and your own substandard content offerings that fail to adequately match up. That message was lost on Bell, however:
Canada should seek rules in NAFTA that require each party to explicitly make it unlawful to offer a VPN service used for the purpose of circumventing copyright, to allow rightsholders to enforce this rule, and to confirm that it is a violation of copyright if a service effectively makes content widely available in territories in which it does not own the copyright due to an ineffective or insufficiently robust geo-targeting system, the submission stated."
How exactly you're supposed to determine that somebody is using a VPN to not watch Bell's own television services isn't really explained, and the fact that enforcement would likely be technically impossible appears to have been an afterthought. As Canadian Law Professor Michael Geist was quick to note, trying to ban VPNs just as they're reaching critical mass as a partial solution to raging North American privacy scandals suggests Bell may not exactly have its finger on the pulse of common sense on this particular subject.

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EU Drops Corporate Sovereignty For Internal Bilateral Agreements, But Top Court Adviser Says It Can Be Used In CETA

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As Techdirt noted last September, corporate sovereignty -- the ability of companies to sue entire countries for allegedly lost profits -- has been on the wane recently. One important factor within the EU was a decision earlier last year by the region's top court that investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) -- the official name for corporate sovereignty -- could not be used for investment deals within the EU. The reasoning was that ISDS courts represented a legal system outside EU law, which was not permitted when dealing with internal EU matters. As a direct consequence of that ruling, the Member States of the EU have just issued a declaration on the legal consequences (pdf). Essentially, these are that all bilateral investment treaties between Member States will be cancelled, and that corporate sovereignty claims can no longer be brought over internal EU matters.However, that leaves an important question: what about trade deals between the EU and non-EU nations -- can they include ISDS chapters? In order to settle this issue, Belgium asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) whether the corporate sovereignty chapter of CETA, the trade deal between the EU and Canada, was compatible with EU law. As well as clarifying the situation for CETA, this would also provide definitive guidance on the legality of ISDS in past and future trade deals. As is usual in cases sent to the CJEU, one of the court's top advisers general offers a preliminary opinion, which has just been published (pdf):

In today's Opinion, Advocate General Yves Bot holds that the mechanism for the settlement of disputes is compatible with the EU Treaty, the [Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union] and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
His argument is that ISDS courts can't bind national courts, so the latter's autonomy is not threatened, and thus corporate sovereignty chapters are compatible with EU legislation. That may be true as a matter of law, but ignores the political reality of corporate sovereignty. If huge fines are imposed by ISDS tribunals unless proposed changes to laws are dropped, governments frequently roll over and do as the corporations wish, because it seems the easier, cheaper option. So even though in theory corporate sovereignty cases can't override national laws, in practice that's often the outcome.However, this is only the Advocate General's view, which isn't necessarily followed in the main CJEU ruling. It will be interesting to see whether the EU's top court extends its earlier ruling on intra-EU investment agreements, and throws out ISDS for all trade deals, or whether it agrees with Advocate General Bot and permits corporate sovereignty chapters for things like CETA.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 6:18am on 01-Feb-2019
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Appeals Court Says A Person Driving A Registered Vehicle On A Public Road Is Not 'Reasonably Suspicious'

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Well, let's see what government agents are claiming is reasonably suspicious these days. Ah, here it is: driving a registered vehicle on a public road. The streets are clogged with scofflaws, apparently. Thanks to the skill set of one Carlos Perez of the US Border Patrol, we can finally start putting these people away.This ultra-ridiculous assertion comes courtesy of an appealed motion to suppress that has made its way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The government is the party doing the appealing, having come out of the losing end of Jeffrey Freeman's request to have evidence obtained during two stops by the Border Patrol tossed out.The suppression of the first stop isn't at issue as the government isn't challenging that particular suppression. But it wants to keep the evidence obtained in the second stop. The problem is Agent Perez's definition of "reasonable suspicion" isn't anywhere in the neighborhood of "reasonable." According to Perez, he stopped Freeman because he turned onto a public road that happened to bypass a Border Patrol checkpoint near Freer, Texas. Freer is 50 miles inland from the border, but the government has declared anything within 100 miles is under the control of the Border Patrol.But the road Freeman turned onto (FM 2050) is more than a detour around BP checkpoints. According to Perez's own testimony, a dozen homes and a handful of businesses can be accessed via FM 2050, making it far more than a way to avoid being hassled by the Border Patrol. Still, Perez insisted the road was only used by those transporting illegal immigrants or contraband, turning residents and business owners (along with their employees) into criminals that just haven't been caught yet.According to Perez, the BP stops almost every vehicle that turns onto FM 2050, reasoning that the very act of driving a public road is suspicious enough to justify a stop. Even Perez's own experience contradicts the narrative he's pushing. From the opinion [PDF]:

Agent Perez estimated the Border Patrol made approximately ten to twenty roving stops per week on FM 2050. He estimated that he had only conducted approximately twenty to thirty stops throughout his eight years there, and only two or three of those stops resulted in seizures.
During the stop, Agent Perez discovered Freeman's passenger was not a legal resident of the US. Freeman moved to suppress. The lower court found Perez's assertions about suspicious behavior ridiculous and stated his stop of Freeman was nothing more than a "fishing expedition."The Appeals Court is no more impressed with Perez's claims, even when the Wild West aspects of the "Constitution-Free Zone" are taken into account.
At this point, we are left with the following facts to be viewed from Agent Perez’s limited experience in detecting illegal activity: Freeman’s truck, a type commonly found in the area, was seen less than 50 miles from the border, it turned right onto a road known for smuggling, and his truck was registered to an individual. We conclude that these facts, without more, are not enough to support reasonable suspicion, especially when viewed through the eyes of an agent with minimal experience detecting illegal activity. Courts that have found reasonable suspicion, even in cases in close proximity to the border, have generally required more.
Suspicion isn't "reasonable" when it has the ability to sweep up almost every driver on the road.
If the facts of this case constituted reasonable suspicion, virtually anyone who drove a car registered to an individual and turned right onto FM 2050, a public road, would be subject to being stopped by Border Patrol agents. As the district court pointed out, had Agent Perez waited a little longer, he may have been able to develop reasonable suspicion; he did not.
Agent Perez said his extensive experience led to him drawing these unreasonable suspicion conclusions. The Appeals Court points out the opposite is true: Perez may have eight years experience as a Border Patrol officer, but he only participated in 20-30 stops on the road where he stopped Freeman. And he was only successful about 10% of the time. The only thing Perez can sufficiently claim expertise in is fishing expeditions. Even with all the leeway granted to border enforcement, he still only managed to rack up three wins. This isn't someone who knows the ins and outs of observing human behavior to spot immigration violations. This is someone hopping from traffic stop to traffic stop hoping to get lucky.

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posted at: 12:00am on 01-Feb-2019
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Stupid Patent Of The Month: IBM's Software Patent On Texting And Driving

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In the smartphone era, "distracted driving" is a serious, and well-known, problem. Official warnings about poor driving habits are as old as the automobile itself. The New York Times published a Pulitzer-winning series on distracted driving back in 2009.Increasingly, technological assists are available for those seeking to manage their smartphone's distractions while in the car. Apple integrated a "do not disturb while driving" mode into iOS 11, and Google has long had similar functionality in its Android Auto app. Multitudes of third-party smartphone apps exists to address the issue. Finally, more than 50 companies are working on what may be the ultimate solution to distracted driving: autonomous vehicles.Unfortunately, the U.S. patent system creates warped incentives for emerging software fields like road-safety features. Rather than competing in a challenging space, some players are seeking broadly-worded patents, then hope to sit back and extract profits later.That may be the strategy of the International Business Machine Corp., which has acquired more U.S. patents than any other company for decades now. This week, IBM was awarded U.S. Patent No. 10,191,462, describing a "Vehicle electronic receptionist."IBM likely has the resources to make technology to manage communications while driving. But the '462 patent describes nothing of the sort. Instead, IBM's patent simply describes a computerized decision-making process.The patent's Claim 1 describes a computer system that determines the "driving context" of a vehicle; analyzes an incoming communication; and then determines an "electronic action" in response, considering various weights and risk factors. The electronic action could be "taking a message, providing a silent or audible notification [or] providing an automated response."Other claims add more layers to the analysis, like considering road conditions, doing voice analysis on a voicemail, or considering whether a passenger is sleeping before deciding to put a call through.Essentially, IBM has described a futuristic car computer system that will analyze the driving conditions and the context of an incoming text or call, then use some unspecified type of AI to decide what to do about the communication. The specification is filled with empty platitudes typical of software patents, like "[t]he computer system may be described in the general context of computer system executable instructions, such as program modules, being executed by a computer system." Aside from hand-waving like this, the patent has essentially no information about how one would actually create the claimed system.

IBM: Ignore the "Troll Scare"

Some of the claims describe good ideas that could be useful parts of automotive software in the future. But the patent is just thata list of ideas, not instructions for executing the ideas or creating anything. IBM's patent offers no code, no algorithms, not even a vague description of how the rules might work.We've seen this problem before, in which the Patent Office awards a patent not to the first proven inventor, but to the first applicant who describes a task using technological and legal jargon that patent professionals respect. The Patent Office and the Federal Circuit have been far too willing to approve patents that merely state the idea of applying rules without even specifying what those rules are. The public gains nothing from companies getting patents on the mere idea of using an algorithm to solve a particular problem. Patents like the '462 patent leave all of the hard workactually writing, debugging, and deploying software that solves the problem under real-world conditionsas an exercise for the reader. And they allow IBM to exclude the public from making or creating any of the wide range of algorithms that these broad patent claims could ensnare.In our view, IBM's new patent should fail under the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank decision, which holds that you can't patent basic decision-making processes by adding references to generic computer hardware and software. Given that, it may come as no surprise that IBM is lobbying to throw out the Alice precedent. In a recent interview, top IP executives from IBM explained their plans to demolish Alice by getting Congress to re-work Section 101 of the patent laws, which bars abstract patents. "Every time we try to enforce a patent, we get a 101 defense that comes back at us," said IBM Chief Patent Counsel Manny Schecter. IBM VP Mark Ringes said he's hearing "positive messages from Congress" about changing Section 101 to better suit big patent owners.Ringes went so far to claim that the "troll scare is largely just noise now." That assertion flies in the face of the patent litigation landscape. By one estimate, about 90 percent of patent lawsuits filed last year in the tech sector were filed by non-practicing entities. IBM appears to be downplaying the damage done by patent trolls because its business interests have become aligned with them. IBM collected more than 9,000 patents in 2017 alone. It uses that massive storehouse of IP to fuel a licensing business that earns more than $1 billion per yearIn some cases, that means IBM can let other companies battle for dominance in a particular sector, then step in and demand licensing payments when it's clear who can pay. There's less need for IBM to build new social media apps, when the company can use a patent threat to collect $36 million from Twitter right before its IPO. There's less need to build an e-commerce business, when IBM can sue Amazon over an "electronic catalog" patent that dates back to 1994.Make no mistake: IBM has an incentive to pile up overly broad patents like this one because these patents might allow it to extract revenues from other companies' future products. A broken patent system encourages companies to use patents, rather than products, to assure dominance in key sectors like driving communications and autonomous driving. Getting rid of Alice would only make the system worse and lead to another flood of do-it-on-a-computer patents. We hope Congress agrees.Reposted from the EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month series.

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posted at: 12:00am on 01-Feb-2019
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